I have ridden and worked with horses my whole life. I was born & raised on what was then a large dairy farm with 90 milk stalls and 150+ head of dairy cattle. Our mom had a love for horses & our dad helped us live that dream. Our journey with horses took us from grade horses to sons and daughters of World Champions and from trail rides in the fields to breeding, raising, and showing in the AQHA.
Although we still had horses, our journey with them was uncertain in the 2000's as our family had both changed and grown...
Then, In late 2009 I found Natural Horsemanship and it changed our path forever...
With it I began redirecting myself and our horses on a path that I wish to continue for what I hope is a long life - Sarona Bruder
I have 2 sisters and a brother and we all started riding horses since we were very young. I trained my first horse to ride at age 13. Quaker (Zippos Minnie Dee) was then 2 years old and a daughter of World Champion Zippo Pine Bar and out of an own daughter of Sonny Dee Bar. She was a mare that my parents bred and raised from Texas. Although we didn't know anything about Natural Horsemanship my mom was a very good horseperson and we spent allot of time with our horses so they were, to a degree, desensitized by default. We used gentle but conventional training methods and I started out many of my mom's horses for the next 10 years.
We stopped breeding horses in mid-2000 and in the summer of 2009 I found some great teachers that showed me part of what was possible with Natural Horsemanship. Although I wish we had found it a decade sooner, I will forever be thankful in what I have learned by working with these methods and our horses. By learning the bit I have, I have started to see how much I didn't know and am excited and passionate to continue learning as I know I have not even scratched the surface on what it can offer to horses and humans alike. I am certain that my ability within myself and my horses is many times more what it was conventionally/before I started with Natural Horsemanship and I try to expand it everyday.
Good horses needing good homes...
I am sure there has never been a shortage of horses in need of a better matched home, a good home, or a second chance, but with the economic downturn and ban of US Slaughter both in the late 2000's it was abundantly known and painfully evident there was no shortage at all...
More info: Q and A
. . .
From Part of the Problem to Part of the Solution: My family has always been into horses. My mom's dad worked draft horses and he had a very gentle and able hand with them. He taught mom allot about patience and respect. As mom got a bit older she got into barrel racing. She remembers her mother (who is to this day still afraid of horses) taking her to the MN State Fairgrounds in the late 1960's to see a trainer named Monte Foreman. Monte understood and explained allot about horse body mechanics and movements. It seems funny today, but the concept of leads/lead changes in horses wasn't always universally understood. At the event mom learned allot about both as well as riding body position/weight distribution to assist your horse with them. In the 60's and 70's this understanding gave her an edge on allot of her competition at local and even state barrel events. That knowledge and understanding aided with talented ex-racing Quarter Horses who had the natural ability to run but who's heart and try weren't burned out or soured from repetitious patterns/running got her some pretty good times and some pretty impressive trophies that are in the attic now to show for it. Moms barrel horses were never ring sour though, mostly because her barrel horse/s were also her trail and everyday riding horses that they checked fences with and on more than one occasion brought back newly born calves from the pasture on. It was her barrel horses that taught her (and thru her experience that she taught us) about just how much a horse feels from their rider. She tells of how she would be lounging on her horse, knee hooked over a horn, talking at late night rodeos with friends and other competitors and when the announcer called her name "in the hole" (or third up to run), how instantly her horse who had been relaxed or even sleeping afoot moments before was brought to life and totally alert without her moving or any intended contact or direction to him. She said it was just hearing her name that made her tense up with adrenaline and readiness and that, even un-astride, her horse felt his riders body change and he mirrored her response with that same energy and readiness. I vaguely remember mom's last barrel horse, Rabar. He was a golden palomino with natural pure white mane and tail. When old age and arthritis caught up to him, my dad said he knew that not having horses was not an option married to mom but he didn't want his young family barrel racing or riding speed horses, so they aimed at Western Pleasure. For years mom and dad bred and hauled across the country (we were breeding before AQHA allowed for Shipped or Frozen Semen) for Western Pleasure horses and studs. We bred horses as a family thru the early 90's and continued into the mid 2000's. When it was just mom and I left at home the demands of the farm beat the fall of the horse industry and market with the economic recession in the late 2000's by only a few years. We had stopped breeding but still had a large group of broodmares and young stock when I was physically unable to do any starting for a good time and the general horse future was very poor. It is in this context that we eventually found Natural Horsemanship. I know we were very fortunate to make it through some very rough times. I also know that leading up to it and breeding, even with a good program, we were one of the many that brought horses into the world who could not be supported during a national economic loss. Because of that, many horses paid the price of this loss far too often with their own lives to no fault of their own. Hard as it is, I know that I was part of the problem, even if inadvertently and absolutely unintentionally...
Part of the Solution: We had not bred in a number of years, have gelded our stallions, and are proud to say we never dumped any horse- broodmares or unbroken / un-promoted horses etc. into a market that could not support them. Now with Natural horsemanship and the ground work, riding, exposure, confidence and guidance I try to offer all of my horses, both those bred on our farm who we hope can have a different career and better future outside of a breeding farm, and those I have taken in to work I am trying to be as much of- if only a little- part of the solution.
Q&A- Please note, in many of the following sections, I give perspective and personal opinions on horses/purchasing/and how I find a horse might try to reason with it. It is my opinion alone and not meant to be offensive.
Where do your horses come from? Our breeding program centered around Zippo Pine Bar, Zips Chocolate Chip, and Zippos Mr Good Bar with several broodmares with Sonny Dee Bar and Scotch Bar Time lines and some of our horses are younger or mid-aged would-have-been broodmares or young stock from the 2000's before we stopped breeding. However allot of my horses are good horses that have fallen on the wayside for one reason or another that I have purchased from either a private party or from a sale or horse auction to try to help further their training and find better homes for. Sales or horse auctions are always hard because there are always more deserving horses then deserving homes looking or able to buy. I worked backwards for several years buying good horses with good hearts and good heads and putting more time or training on them, finding them good homes, and in doing so helping support our own horses that needed more time and work to find those same good homes someday. I wish I knew what I do now about Natural Horsemanship when we were breeding. There would be allot less work left for us now. It is not very fast working backwards, but at least we are doing it with better knowledge, proven success, and hopeful futures. Horses I take in come from many different walks of life. I will tell you where I got any or all individual horse/s as well as the circumstances around it and anything else I know. My goal is to find good horses good homes and I know that is done best with full disclosure. Many people frown on a horse from a sale but hash as it may sound, in my opinion, more horses end up at sales due to human faults and short comings then to equine ones. If horses could choice their fate they would never end up in the jeopardized state that far too many do with only a minute or so of frantic ring-time to decide their final fate... often that ring time decides life or death. I do not recommend inexperienced horsemen try their luck unaided in picking out a partner at a sale, but I do not recommend inexperienced horsemen picking out their partner unaided anywhere. That said, I have gotten some truly amazing horses at sales who have gone on to truly amazing homes.
Do you have beginner/kid safe horses? A problem with naming a horse beginner or kid safe is that there is with horses and humans (as with anything else in this world) always a constant and changing range of variables; some controlled, some uncontrolled, some known, and some unknown, etc. A car seat can be kid safe, but in the event a driver gets the car in a bad situation or driving conditions change unexpectedly seat belts and car seats it will aid in a safe outcome, but they cannot guarantee it. There is no guarantee either that any safety feature will be used as intended, etc. There are no guarantees in life and such is the same with any horse. Most of my horses sell to people with at least some horse experience, however many sell to people with a good deal or allot of horse experience and who know what they are looking for. Part of the reason is that I do not try to turn horses quickly at the expense of an inexperienced buyer and ultimately at the expense of the horse by claiming a horse is bombproof or kid safe, etc. or by selling a horse unknowingly into a bad matched home by selling a horse that I do not know well enough to try to help match (which is done repeatedly when horse jockeys/traders etc. buy and sell horses at profit a week, a day, or an hour after purchasing it). Another part is because on more than one occasion I have turned down full cash offers to individuals or families that I don't think a horse will be a good match for.
Successful horse ownership has to work out for the people if it is going to work out for the horse. I would rather help educate and direct people to a good match then sell them a bad one. That said I have had, may now, and/or will have in the future horses that will make or are good kid-safe or beginner riding horses but that does not mean that as their caretakers and leaders that we should not be obligated to know at least enough to help set them up for success. In a way, it is like making sure we at least know how to buckle the safety features in our cars correctly.
My Natural Discounts (new in 2013) offers qualified Natural Horsemanship persons a discounted price on my horses as well as people who buy a horse from me discounted lesson rates so I can help them help their horses be the riding partners they want them to be. I am happy and excited to provide both and hope it helps keep good horses in good homes.
Side note on Bombproof horses: I never claim a horse is bombproof. I do allot of desensitizing and confidence building etc. and I learn more every day. That said, in my opinion, there is not a single 'bombproof' horse out there. Horses are living breathing individuals with emotions, feelings, insecurities, pains, and fears-some rational and some irrational (just like us). To say that there is a horse that is Bombproof implies that it could be standing next to a bomb that goes off and even that would not phase it. However to validate that claim it would need be tested time and again, and it is obvious that is not a test that can be done. Realizing that analogy is rough, it is important to know every horse like every person has the potential to have a time, situation, or experience, that is more than they might be able to handle with the same composure they may be known for. Obviously some are far more predictable and reliable than others and some are more forgiving of rider errors, learning, and even mistakes. However it is unrealistic and unfair to assume that a horse is a machine with a warranty.
What area(s) do you specialize in? My goal and hope is that I might be specializing in foundation. I was raise riding Western Pleasure horses and will always appreciate a quiet, easy going horse with a nice little jog, slow easy lope, low key disposition, and willing trail partner. But every horse I have had the pleasure to work with has something great to offer and I have enjoyed learning from their differences. I still like Western Pleasure, however that is not every horses calling. I do ground work with everyone and once I feel comfortable I trail ride all of my horses alone until they are comfortable trail riding alone before ever riding out with anyone else. I think that helps build allot better trust and communication between horse and rider then just hauling to a big group trail ride or letting a horse get his confidence from the tail of another. That isn't riding as much as it is following. I try to find and work a horse towards what I think he or she has a natural aptitude for and enjoys, however what I do still basically (hopefully) just helps set them up for success in their next chapter of life.
Do you continue your training? If so how and with who? I have a pretty big collection of videos/DVDs from some amazing horseman and women that have taught me allot. I was also privileged enough to ride with Buck Brannaman in 2012 and under direction of 5 star Parelli instructor Dave Ellis and Jody Grimm) in 2013. In 2014 I will be riding with Ryan Rose, a 4 star Parelli instructor in Eau Claire, WI in March, again with Dave Ellis and Jody Grimm in Algoma, WI in August, with Buck Brannaman in Bristol WI in September and with Julie Goodnight in October. Beyond that I would love to go to Flag Is Up, for a chance to work with Monty Roberts.
What vet work is done before you sell your horses? I am a huge advocate for equine dentistry. Every horse I place has had his/her teeth not just checked, but power floated. It is horrific what you can find in a seemingly healthy young horse when you are able to really see inside their mouth (both sides, front to back, and see/feel their teeth/sharp points, and cheeks etc.) To be able to do this well it is only possible with the help of tools and resources available to a qualified veterinarian or equine dentist. I started making a routine of power floating every horse several years ago when I brought in a 4 year old filly (who tossed her head with the bit) a 7 yo gelding who had wolf teeth that I wanted pulled, and a 21 yo mare who likely had never had her teeth done. I was shocked when the 4 year old filly had (by far) the worst teeth of the group. It is amazing how much pain horses will and do put up with when they have teeth issues that go about unknown and/or untreated because they seem to hold good weight or their front tooth feels OK (there is allot of mouth behind the only tooth you can feel). I couldn't imagine how bad that little filly's teeth would have been had she not been helped before she turned 21, but then again, she likely would not have made 21 at least in any health without it. I think allot of horses are ridden with allot harder hands and harder bits then they need/deserve for the simple reason that people overlook their need for dentistry by falsely attribute their riding difficulties or faults to behavioral issues not pain issues. Every horse, no matter their age deserves at least a check up and likely a power float by a good equine veterinarian or dentist I believe. Especially if we expect them to be good when we put a piece of metal to rub push and pull in their mouths too- no matter how light our hands. I caution too about using a vet that does not have all the tools or experience they may need to do a good job on the farm with a dental float. We had in the past used more rural/local vets for floats however upon rechecks have found issues that went unaddressed by them (including one horse having an actual hole worn in her tongue by a jagged tooth that was not seen during exam and float). We have since started and will continue to use Stillwater Equine. They have a good facility, excellent equipment, tons of experience, and reasonable pricing. They are also able to follow up with x-rays should we ever need one (i.e. abnormal tooth alignment, when pulling a tooth, etc). Any horse with Wolf Teeth also has them removed. Our horses are on a worming schedule and all sell with Neg. Coggins test. We vaccinate 5 way including West Nile and often times our horses are vaccinated for Rabies (check for dates/types on any horse you may decide to buy). If we suspect issue on any of our horses they are vetted to determine nature/cause and impact on usability, if any. In the past this has included ultra sounds of old bumps or blemishes, physical exams (included x-rays if needed) on scar areas, flex tests, and/or biopsies. Obviously each of these were for different reasons, and new ones will occur at some point I am sure. Many babies are born perfect but after that we each start to accumulate our own stories and battle scars and many of them are cosmetic only. Such is the case with horses. Many of my horses have had no additional vetting as none has been required. All of my horses are however available for any and all vet checks a potential buyer would like done. These checks will be done at potential buyers expense/billed to potential buyer by vet directly. Hauling to exams is available.
I am new to horses... Any tips? There are some things in life that require allot of knowledge just so one can begin to grasp how much they don't know. Unfortunately I think this is the case with horses. Granted it is not always the case, nor is it always so black and white, but in my experience beginners going into horses without help or guidance often start with one of the following two horses: Horse #1) They somehow find an absolute saint of a horse but they don't know it. It is often, but not always, older who helps them in more ways than they can begin to identify at the time. Everyone in the family can ride this horse without any lessons or prior knowledge/experience with horses and no one ever gets hurt. The horse can be miscued repeatedly and without being anxious or overly adjudicated and the rider can unknowingly ride or put the horse in dangerous situations where the horse has to take the driver's seat and gets the pair out safely- often times without the rider even knowing. He or she can sit in pasture for weeks if not months and then come out and do a day long or weekend long trail ride in a new area without conditioning, preparation, or problem or give pony rides to the kids' friends (also horse inexperienced) during a birthday party without making one missed step. These horses may have some physical limitations brought about by age or injury and may not be a calendar photo candidate but who have a heart of solid gold. Since many are older when beginner riders/families acquire them, their years with them are often numbered either due to the horses natural passing or because the rider/family thinks it is time to 'step up' to a younger, faster, or more able horse since the first horse has 'taught' them how to ride... It is always hard for me when an acquaintance or someone who hears I have/work with horses tells me they just want the above horse... but who refer to it as any old thing- doesn't have to be special- just so that they can throw their kids on and not worry about them and who can teach them how to ride because the parents or caretakers don't know how to. It is sad that they don't realize how special that this kind of horse is and often times if they do get lucky enough to find one, they will not appreciate the horse for the treasure it is nor the time and love that someone else has put into him or her so that they can offer what they do. Often times too, since this is just a starter horse, they don't have the ability or desire to afford the maintenance that special horses like these may need and should be afforded so they can live their lives out as long and comfortably as possible but are rather viewed as disposable or simply replaceable. Sometimes these people and families are lucky enough to find a replacement like the horse they had... or often however they replace horse #1 for horse #2... Horse #2) either a young green or unbroken horse that the family/rider wants to learn together with (so they can teach each other) or a well started younger or even mid-aged/older horse who rides well for people who know how to ride but whose skills and thus safety will not maintain when the horse is left unsupported by a beginner family/home. These horses may need additional training, exposure, and confidence building, etc. as well as possibly continued guidance and support, consistent riding and/or pre-riding preparation or any combination of the above that many beginner riders/families don't have the experience, ability, or desire to do. It does not make them bad horses, but it usually does make them bad (and often times dangerous) matches. Even if a horse acts or reacts in ones eyes as dangerously however, it is often times not the fault of the horse. Many times a bad situation has escalated to the point of breaking only after the horse has given many subtle or even not so subtle cures about their uncertainty of the situation that have been missed or falsely read by inexperienced handlers or eyes. I think of it as the same as if I didn't know how to drive a car and have never ridden in one, never studied any driving material or traffic laws, etc. If I just get in, hold on, and go, I'm likely to get hurt or to hurt someone else or crash. It is simple operator error. There is too much going on, too much power, and too much to control to do it safely without any experience. Top that with the fact that a car is an inanimate object that does not have their own safety concerns, fears, desires, securities/insecurities, potential holes in their foundation or training, past bad experiences, etc. I think allot of people that start out with Horse #1 and move too quickly to Horse #2 learn pretty fast to appreciate how special a horse their first mount was and likely may have had a hard awakening to the difference between riding a horse and sitting on one, if they got to the point they rode at all. Most horses need some support sometimes. Some horses need allot of support most of the time. I also think if people cannot appreciate how special horse #1 was, then they will likely overlook their riding/handling inability and say Horse #2 was a 'bad horse', was suborn, buddy soured, drugged, or needs an experienced rider ONLY. It is in my opinion that Most horses need an experienced rider. I think all horses deserve one.
That said- horse buying tips? When a long awaited OK has been given to look for or purchase an equine friend or a 7 year itch tells us we should ride horse again, the idea of paying someone else to learn to ride and handle a horse that may or may not start with grooming on a horse that isn't even for sale by taking lessons, likely doesn't sound like much fun or very adventurous. However many beginners can attest that inexperience and adventure with horses can quickly become a misadventure, at best. I would suggest finding a good trainer with a safe facility and quiet low key horses and have them help get you started on a lesson horse. This is not only a good idea for safety reasons, but if you are truly new to horses you might be looking for something you don't really want (i.e. you maybe envisioning yourself on a horse galloping through open fields but realize when you're sitting on a 15 hand lesson horse and your butt is 5' above the ground you may never want to go faster then a slow jog trot Lessons for kids are a good way to access their true interest and dedication as well as ability/skill and/or potential desired disciple (trail riding, riding around the yard or farm, showing, barrel racing, jumping, pleasure, etc.). Knowing this, you will be better able to find a good match for your child when you feel he or she is ready. Even a kids or youth horse is a huge commitment of time, finance, and resource for adults. Additionally, fear is a human safety mechanism and even the best little pony will likely have a little one questioning or uncertain at times. It is good to have a 'go to' for help, suggestions, and support.
Horses are always learning something from you- you are either training, maintaining, or un-training. Every single contact you have with a horse teaches them something about you, your ability to keep the two of you safe, and your overall ability to be a fair leader.
Do you help people look for a horse or evaluate them before purchase?
Yes. I have helped barns find lesson horses and families find youth horses. I can also come with you to help evaluate a horse to see if it might be a good fit for your needs as well as access the horses soundness, training level, conformation, and riding abilities, etc. Horses/cars
Why is it so hard for someone people to find a good horse that fits? Horses are like cars. If you don't know how to drive them, you will likely get in some sort of accident, and even if you manage not to, if you don't know how to maintain them, they will eventually break down anyway. You wouldn't had over the keys to a youth that has never driven before and has no idea what traffic laws are. Same goes with a horse and a total beginner. There are few horses that will continue day in and day out to be absolute safe beginner horses. And it is never really fair for the horse. It is my opinion that one should never throw all their faith and safety in a 1000 or 1200 lbs animal that has 4 legs and amazing sprinting speeds. They, like us, have fears, loves, passions, desires, worries, pains, bad days, etc. I am no thrill seeker, so I try to choose knowledge and practice over luck. If we try horse after horse after horse, and none of them work, it is possible that we are doing something wrong, not the horse. One of the best ways to find more horses that will work is to expand our own knowledge and ability.
For Sale through a Horses Eyes:
Horses don't understand the concept of for sale or sold. When a horse is sold, ownership and responsibility transfers immediately but trust, respect, and confidence all have to be earned and cannot be purchased, aside from in the form of lessons. I have heard the classic story of "so and so bought a horse from a sale, must have been drugged. Was a perfect angle when they bought it, but brought it home and it was a totally different horse. Many horse clinicians and professionals claim horses have the mental ability of a 3-8 yo human. If that is true, even the best horse would basically be a well behaved 8 yo that felt it might have been kidnapped and is just politely hoping he or she might be able to go home soon and hoping the people that have me now will be nice to me until I can go home. It is understandable for a horse that is stripped away from his family or friends to be somewhat emotional about it. I always recommend people giving the horse a chance to settle in before working with him / her so that they can set themselves and horse up for success, not failure.
"Horses are always learning something from you- you are either training, maintaining, or un-training. Every single contact you have with a horse teaches them something about you, your ability to keep the two of you safe and your overall ability to be a fair leader." -Sarona Bruder