Ride and See natural horsemanship blog and fine art photography


Testing your horse for sand

California is facing a serious drought. Water restrictions are in place everywhere. In a town near mine, you can face jail time for not adhering to the restrictions. Where I live, I'm only allowed to water my lawn on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Everything is dry dry dry, including our horse pastures, causing us a renewed concern about sand colic.

What is sand colic?


Horses who are fed on the ground in sandy areas can accidentally ingest sand with their hay. The sand collects in the colon. If enough sand collects, it can cause an impaction. Even small amounts of sand can cause problems though. The sand can rub and irritate the mucosa, causing inflammation and diarrhea. How can you know if your horse is ingesting sand? And if he is, is there a way to measure the amount of sand passing through his digestive tract? We can't measure the amount of sand in the intestines at home (this can be done with radiography by your veterinarian), but we can measure how much is passing though with a simple test. I took my camera to the barn with me this morning and took photographs of my sand test that I performed on my own horse.

Testing for Sand

1. Tools needed


  • clean plastic bucket or container
  • permanent marker
  • gloves or clean manure fork for collecting the manure
  • water

2. Mark container and add water

Fill your container about 2/3 full with water and mark the container at the top of the water level. If your container is somewhat transparent you can make your mark on the outside of the container which is considerably easier. I made my mark first and then filled my coffee can with water to the line.

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3. Add manure

Find a fresher pile of road apples so that they will dissolve in the water more quickly. Choose about 6 fecal balls from the top of the pile. Remember, you're testing for sand. Any sand on your equipment, or on the manure from the ground it's sitting on will give you a false positive. Add the manure to the bucket and then mark the fluid level.

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4. Let it sit

Allow the manure time to dissolve, and the sand time to settle. I did my chores while my manure sat, 10-15 minutes. Give it an occasional stir to break up the fecal balls. You should have a nasty green sludge.



5. Pour off manure

Carefully pour the manure out of the container, watching for sand. Swirl the container some as you pour to keep pushing the sand back to the bottom. Once you see sand, add water to dilute the manure, swirl to push sand to the bottom, and pour off more liquid. Repeat this step until you have a nice pile of sand at the bottom of your container.

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6. Measure

Learn to estimate the amount of sand you collect. I took some photos to give a visual reference.



The pile on the left is what I collected from my sand test. The pile on the right is a 1/4 teaspoon of arena sand. I estimate that my horse passed 1/4 teaspoon of sand. This is considered a positive test result, which is not surprising because that's him eating on the ground in the very first photograph. My test is not finished yet though. I need to retest every other day for two weeks to get a more accurate result. We marked the levels on our container so that we can use the same ratio of water to manure each time to keep our results consistent.

Now what?

If my horse continues to pass 1/4 teaspoon of sand in the majority of the tests over the next two weeks, then I have a problem that needs to be addressed. What should I do differently?


First things first, stop feeding on the sandy ground! Horses were designed to eat at ground level, and slowly. I like to scatter piles of hay around the paddock in order to mimic grazing. I can still do that, but I need to find something to put the hay on.  Rubber mats are ideal. If you can't afford mats, get creative. What about carpeting? Be safety conscious. Don't use anything slippery, that your horse can become tangled in, or that your horse might try to eat.


This is Ramber eating on rubber mats

Ground level feeders are also a good idea. Find a feeder that is big enough that your horse doesn't end up tossing all his hay out and then eating off the ground anyway. Slow feeders look awesome. I want one. A lot of creative types even build their own.  Other feeders I like include tractor tires, old water troughs, and crates from orchards.

4x4 box no lid loaded with hay


Check out what this creative person came up with!




Psyllium is a commonly used supplement for the prevention of sand colic. It is very high in fiber. When fed, it swells in the horse's colon, picks up sand, and carries it out. If fed regularly for more than a week or two, the horse will adapt to the fiber levels and it will no longer be effective in removing sand. It has to be fed intermittently, perhaps for one week out of each month. Supplementing with Psyllium is not a bulletproof way to prevent sand colic. Please don't feed your horse on the ground of your sand covered arena and think you're fine because you feed Psyllium. A lot of horses on Psyllium end up in surgery. Research has found that not all horses respond equally to being fed Psyllium.

A sand test is a good place to start if you suspect that sand might be a problem for your horse. Please be wise and consult your veterinarian before performing your own diagnosis and prescribing your own treatment. I am all for being well-informed, independent horse owners. But there is a reason your veterinarian gets to have those three letters behind his/her name.


Horse terminology: ads decoded!

Have you ever read a horse ad and thought, “Huh? Is that English?!” I recently spent hours browsing horse ads and writing down horse jargon as I came across it. Here is a beginner’s guide to maneuvering horse ads.



 Equine Advertising Terminology

Ready to take in any direction: The horse is trained but is lacking experience. He may only have a small amount of training, or is trained but hasn’t been to many new places such as shows, trails, playdays, etc.

Willing: The horse has a generally good attitude about working and doesn’t pitch a fit when you ask something of him.

Smooth: This refers to the horse’s gait (not his lady skills), it should mean that he is comfortable to ride.

Mareish: Female horses that are cranky and moody and exhibit obvious signs of heat every 21 days (hold their tails high to show the world their lady parts while peeing a lot and “winking”).

Needs a job/needs someone with time to spend with him/needs consistency: This is not a horse for weekend riders. Generally when horses are described this way, they are energetic and their training will digress when they’re left to sit for more than a few days. If you’re looking for a horse with stamina that can hold up to a rigorous training/working schedule then look for this phrase.

Sensitive/responsive: Sensitive horses are those that respond quickly to cues. They are fun for intermediate and experienced riders but can be frustrating or dangerous for beginners because they will respond to cues that you don’t realize you are even giving. When I was 5, I was riding my dad’s rope horse. The horse was trained to take off at a gallop when the reins were moved forward. That’s the first time I had the wind knocked out of me. My hand went up and he left and I stayed.

In your pocket/ friendly/loves attention: This is fairly self-explanatory but I added because I see it a lot. It can mean what it says, or it can be code for rude and spoiled.

Natural horsemanship techniques used: This can mean so many different things. Expect to see rope halters and macates. It can also be accompanied by barefoot horses. It’s generally a good thing though as natural horsemanship advocates expect more manners from their horses. The horse has not been forced into things with mechanical devices, his training is based on trust and connection.

Easy Keeper: An easy keeper doesn’t require as much feed as the average horse to stay at a healthy weight. This of course is a wonderful thing, but watch out for overly fat horses and laminitis.

Broke: Maybe “fixed” would be a better term. Broke is a good thing, it means that his training is advanced. A horse that is truly broke should be easy to ride by riders of many levels.

Sweet/nice disposition/good attitude: Honestly, most of the horses I see advertised are described as sweet. Take this with a grain of salt. A wise old cowboy once told me to watch our for mares named “Sweety”, “Sugar”, “Cookie”, etc.

Green broke/started/coming along nicely: All of these terms mean that the horse is not trained and is not for beginners! As people have varying degrees of honesty, the terms have varying meanings. This horse could have had a saddle on him once or he could have 90 days of training with a professional. Unless you’re experienced, keep looking.

Needs experienced rider/needs confident rider/not for beginners/not for children: AKA there is a problem there somewhere. He may be greenbroke, ill-mannered, or half wild. Something is wrong. Find the problem BEFORE you buy him (I should take my own advice on this one!)

A lot of horse/energetic/powerful/forward: This horse is fast and strong and he likes to go go go. These horses generally fall into the “needs a job” category as well. They make great performance horses but not so hot trail and pleasure horses. I know it sounds fun, but trust me, it will get old. You’ll be making hundreds of little circles to keep your horse from running off while everyone else’s horse is nicely walking down the trail.

Broodmare: This is a mare that is only used for breeding. Some of them have been trained at one time but haven’t been ridden for a while and others may have no training at all. Heck, she may not even be halterbroke. Not sound enough for riding is NOT a good qualification for breeding. A good broodmare is so much more than just female.

Companion/pasture pet: This horse is very old, has health problems, or is wild and crazy. (Personal rant: I hate these ads. This is where high maintenance horses end up in inexperienced homes. A lot of horses suffer at the hands of these ads.)

Done it all/been there done that: These horses have been exposed to a lot of different environments and they take it all in stride like old pros. Be sure to ask what “all” is and where “there” is though. You might be surprised by the answer.

Not spooky: Spooking is when a horse runs, spins, kicks or bucks when he encounters something he considers a threat. Horses have different levels of bravery. Some can be shot off of, can calmy march in a parade behind the band or fire engines, and carry flags while others, well, I saw one spook at his own poop once.

Calm/gentle/easy going/laid back: Here is your trail/pleasure horse. These terms may or may not be accompanied by laziness. Don’t assume that the horse needs an act of God to get him to move because he’s described with these terms. On the flip side, don’t assume that he’s well trained. “He’s very laid back until I get on. Then he runs and bucks and snorts”.

Athletic: A performance prospect. It can also mean lots of energy.

Ready to start: Not even green broke. This horse has not been ridden. The phrase usually indicates that ground work has been done.

Husband horse: This is a term created by women who are horse crazy and occasionally drag their husbands along on trail rides. A husband horse is one who can go for weeks without being ridden and still be polite and well-behaved when you finally do ride him. He is good for beginners. I’m still waiting to see an ad for a “wife horse”. I know plenty of men who ride a lot better than their wives.

Sound: Soundness refers to the horse’s health, and more specifically, to his musculoskeletal system. If a horse is sound he doesn’t limp and requires no special care. It’s certainly not a guarantee that the horse is in perfect health, but it’s a good thing to see in an ad. Red flags should go up if it’s not there. Personally, I would have a vet check done.

Prospect: This is an opinion that the horse will be well-suited to a specific discipline.

12-14 years old: Beware of horses that are not registered and are 12-14 years old. These are the ages that are hardest to identify by the teeth. Not so honest people will shave years off of horses.

You will also commonly see a whole list of attributes listed somewhere in the ad such as: no bite, kick ,rear, buck; bathes, ties, loads, clips, stands for farrier, easy to catch, gets along well with other horses, stands for mounting, saddles well, easy to bridle, etc. Pay attention to what’s NOT there. If someone goes to the trouble to list off all of these things but fails to mention that they tie, it could be an oversight or it could be that the horse pulls back.

Feeling intimidated? Good! Buying a horse is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re inexperienced, get help. Even if you have years of experience, it’s always a good idea to take a second set of eyes along.

Placing an ad? A picture is worth a thousand words! Read my photography tips for horse sales.


Blocker Tie Ring Review

I recently searched for a review on the Blocker Tie Ring. All of my results were from companies who are selling them. Funny thing, all of the attributes they list are positive. Does that mean that the "BTR" is perfect?

What is a Blocker Tie Ring?

If you're like me, you assumed that the use of the word blocker in the title refers to how the mechanism works. Not so. The BTR was invented by a Mr. Ted Blocker. Mr. Blocker is a natural horseman who saw a problem and came up with a solution. He says on his website blockerranch.com, "After years of watching and hearing of horses injuring and even killing themselves, from being tied solid as well as people getting hurt trying to get them loose. I decided that there must be a better safer more humane way to tie a horse."  This is what he came up with:


Original, more permanent BTR and the newer BTR 2 which is more portable.

How does it work?

Basically, you have a ring with a post that swivels attached to it. The swivel allows you to easily "tie" your horse up by folding your lead rope and slipping it around the post. That post then creates tension on your lead rope making it so that your horse has to pull pretty hard to get the rope to slide. That is the whole idea. The BTR should keep your horse secure unless he panics and pulls back creating enough pressure to make some of the rope slide. Having some give in the lead rope during a panic attack helps the horse to calm back down.  Blocker Ranch does an excellent job explaining how to use their product here. There are several different ways to wrap your lead rope around the post in order to create different levels of tension and meet the needs of individual horses. Level one is pretty straightforward. Levels 2 and 3 make my head spin from just looking at the instructions. I guess if I had to I could figure it out. We all figured out how to tie a quick release knot after all.

I recently posted in a Facebook horse group, asking people to share their thoughts on the Blocker Tie Ring with me. I think I opened Pandora's Box. I got a huge response and the opinions varied from, I own six of them and would never tie a horse without it to, horses get loose and get hurt because of them. In addition to talking to people via social media, I scoured sales sites for reviews from people who had purchased the BTR. I've compiled a list of pros and cons for you from real horse people like you.


Prevents injury to horse and horseman: no sling-shotting quick release snaps, no bounce back from horses tied fast, no getting trampled as you try to free your panicking horse, no horses hanging from the halter.



Valuable tool for training horses with pulling back issues. I heard several stories of rescued horses who couldn't be tied until they used a BTR. I have personal experience with this.
Less broken equipment! Anyone who's ever owned a horse who learned he can pull back to get loose knows that replacing all those halters, buckles and snaps adds up.

Appropriate for all kinds of settings: hitching rails, cross ties, inside and outside of trailers, take to shows or on trail rides

Improves trailering safety: if a horse falls in the trailer, the BTR will slip and give the horse enough slack to be able to get back up, or at least not hang. Ann told me a story about how the BTR saved her gelding's life in a trailering accident.


Horseman safety: the BTR  boasts of being safer for the human  but I encountered stories of injuries caused by the BTR. One review I found tells of someone breaking their finger in the BTR. I'm not really sure how that happened, you're not supposed to stick your finger in the ring. One lady told me a story about how the wind blew her long hair into the ring right as her horse pulled back. He hair got tangled in with the lead rope and she almost had quite a wreck.

Horses can learn to work the system and escape, putting themselves in danger. Julie tells a story of a horse who pulled free from a BTR at a horse show and wandered into traffic and got killed. (Where was the owner?!)

Value: most agree that the $25 is well worth it, but that is a fair bit to shell out for something that you're used to being free. Also, I was told that after a while the magnets come off of the post.

Convenience: Its not as easy as just tying your horse, especially if you're traveling. Snapping the BTR 2 onto the tie ring is not hard, you just have to remember to have it with you. Occasionally you will encounter something that you can't attack a BTR to. The rings on the hitching rail at my wash rack are too big around to snap to. Or what about a tree on a trail ride? One user suggested using baling twine to attach the BTR. You would certainly need some kind of a backup system in place for these situations.

Other considerations

Is the BTR simply a training tool to teach your horse to tie so that you can eventually graduate on to "real" tying? No. That's not the intention of the inventor. The BTR is a safety tool intended to be used on horses of all training levels in all types if settings.

Does the kind of lead rope you tie with matter? Yes. Users report that lead ropes that are too small in diameter slip through the ring too easily. It's also important to make sure that there are no knots or kinks in your rope.

Is it okay to leave my horse unsupervised when tied with the BTR? No. It's never okay to leave your horse unsupervised when tied no matter what method of tying you use.

Why not just loop the lead rope around the post a few times, isn't it the same thing? I think in some situations its okay to do this. I've found that this method works okay on the smooth metal pole of my hitching post but that's really the only surface I like it on. And it's still not as good. My horse gets loose from loops and not from the BTR. If you do try the looping method, make sure that your loops don't cross each other at any point.

My final thoughts on the BTR:

Is it perfect? No. We still have  to be aware and use our heads. Is it better? Yes, I believe so. I think that as the BTR gains popularity, the number of tying accidents will diminish. The BTR is a valuable asset to the horse community, and like other natural horsemanship tool, it makes happier horses and happier owners. To learn about more natural horsemanship tools, check out my article: Natural Horsemanship Training Tools.

Buy One

2013 Remembered

Hello Friends,

I'm on vacation from my day job for two whole weeks. This has given me time (finally!) to make some much needed changes to my website. My poor neglected website :-/. Honestly it's been so long that I struggled with where to even start. Part of me wanted to throw the whole thing away and start all over! I decided on a fresh new logo and some simplification instead. I've removed the Farm Collies, and event photography. Also, all wedding photography and portraiture not involving horses can be found at my husband's site: ericleslie.com.

Simplification is my word of the year. It has been a hard lesson for me to learn. I try to take on way too much, and you know, the whole jack of all trades master of none thing.  2013 has seen some major changes for me. I guess the biggest thing is the sale of our little rancho. 1200 square feet is just not enough for seven people, let me tell you! Of course we had hoped to build our dream house, but then reality set in. Our oldest became a teenager this year and these kiddos just get more and more expensive as they get older. It's funny, they aren't satisfied with NERF sports equipment anymore. They want $300 baseball bats. And man can they eat. The sale of the ranch meant cutting back (way back) on our assortment of animals. Bye bye chickens, bye bye barn cat, bye bye horses. I live in a country feeling suburbia that is situated in the middle of nowhere. It's kind of an okay place to live. It would be gorgeous if all these houses weren't here ;-). My house is beautiful and 500 times better than the old one. And come summer when it's blazing hot, come see me, we have a huge swimming pool and a lake now! They do in fact have very nice horse facilities here that can be rented for a very reasonable price, and a waiting list that can take years to get through. Selling my horses has been extremely hard to swallow. I've cried, a lot. If you aren't a horseman, then you don't understand. Can I get an amen?! It's only temporary Crystal, temporary... Big change #2: hubby is now self-employed as a full-time photographer. I suspect a lot of people are wondering how I'm dealing with this. Someone famous once said that behind every good man is a good woman. My husband is a very good man, I'm trying to be a good woman. Business hasn't exactly taken off, and I'm not much of a gambler, but this is one bet I am willing to take. I am 100% confident that he is going to take really good care of our family. I'm so proud of him and happy for our family. Life is short people, maybe it's not cool to be stuck at a job that makes you crazy? Also, life is too short to not have some really nice artwork hanging on your wall...

Here are some of my favorite shots from 2013, enjoy!











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Happy New Years!!!



I had the pleasure of working with the lovely Cassy on some senior portraits. My horses were kind enough to model with her.

Photography Tips for Horse Sales Part 1

Equine Advertising 101

For one reason or another, you have to sell your horse. Sometimes you can connect with a buyer via word of mouth, but usually this means advertising. There are a lot of places to advertise your horse. Newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. (Or are they completely extinct already? I don't know.) Online advertising is pretty much the way to go these days. Hmm, pay for a text ad in the newspaper and have a few people see it, or place a color ad with photos online for free and have thousands of people see it? Not a tough choice!

Choosing to advertise on the internet vs the newspaper may be a no-brainer, but choosing a site online can be overwhelming as there are so many choices. Let me simplify the choice a lot for you. There are really only four websites you need to know about.

If you would like to place an ad for free, you have two choices: Craigslist or EquineNow. These are cheap ads, looked at by people wanting cheap horses. By cheap I'm strictly talking dollars and cents. (There are a lot of treasure to be found on these sites if you're willing to patiently dig through the hundreds of ads with poor search filtering capability.)

If you would like list your horse somewhere a bit more elegant, then choose Dream Horse or Equine.com. Both of these places allow you to place text only ads for free, but if you want to add photo/video then you have to pay. In my opinion, these sites give you your money's worth. If a buyer specifically knows that they want a three year old, bay gelding who's 14.3 hands tall and a descendant of Poco Bueno, they can sort the ads to show them just that. And there are a lot of horses on these sites so they will probably get several horses to choose from with those search terms. If you don't really don't know what you want, but you know you don't want to travel, search within so many miles of your zip code. The search options are abundant.

Why Does a Photo Matter?

I'm a browser. I browse Craigslist in the morning when I'm drinking my coffee. Sometimes I'll browse other sites just to see what's out there, and how much they cost. This is how I know that I need to write this.


This (above photograph) is what I see, again and again and again! A dirty horse, behind a crappy wire fence, eating off the ground. This is actually a "good" photo though because you can see the whole horse, there's not another horse blocking half his body and leaving you to say, "Which bay?" It doesn't usually bother me very much when I see a photo like this for a free horse, or a $500 horse. When I see a headline for a "Fancy, Perfect Horse ~ $3500" and then open the ad to find a "pasture" photo, I choke on my coffee. $3500 is an expensive horse for this location and economy.

I imagine the thinking behind a photo like this is, "I'm busy and in a hurry, I'll run out and snap a pic of him so I have something to put in the ad." Don't. You're better off with no photo at all. No one will take you seriously with a photo like this.

#1 important ingredient to an effective ad: a descriptive headline. This is what is going to get people to open your ad, and how they will find your horse when searching. #2 important ingredient to an effective ad: the photograph! This is the first thing people will look at when they open your ad. It will cause them to either read your ad or move on. #3 important ingredient to an effective ad: your description of your horse. But the photo will set the tone for how they read this. If you've already made them fall in love with your horse with your great photo then they will read your ad with rose colored glasses on.


I know it's cliche, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. These two photos are of the same horse, and were taken only minutes apart. He looks like he magically gained a hundred pounds and became ten years younger. Check back in with me. Next time I will tell you how to use the camera to bring out your horse's best. For now, no more pasture photos!

Read more in Photography Tips for Horse Sales Part 2

Natural Horsemanship Training Tools

There are certain tools of the trade that are essential for the natural horseman. Probably the most popular tool is the rope halter. It is irrefutably the most essential piece of equipment that you'll need once you decide to become "natural". I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail about halters right now. Just choose a nice soft halter like the 1/4" Double Braid Polyester Yacht Horse Rope Halter (Blue w/ White and Red Tracer, Yearling) and soft lead rope that is 12-15 feet long 12 or 14ft Premium 9/16" Double Braid Polyester Yacht Rope Horse Lead Rope with Eye Spliced Loop (Blue, 12 ft.). Aside from halters, there are several other tools that can aid you in your natural horsemanship endeavors. But which ones do you need?!

It seems these days that every well known natural horsemanship trainer has their own line of essential training tools. Which tools do I really need? Who's products are the best? You could spend a small fortune trying them all out!

Let's review some of the training tools that you'll find in your favorite catalogs.

Training Sticks


If you are a Parelli fan then you will be familiar with Carrot Sticks and Savvy Strings. The Parelli store says, "Our light-weight Carrot Stick with non-flex design has an attachment for a 6’ Savvy String and acts as an extension of your arm both in the saddle and on the ground, providing you with a longer reach for closer communication." A set up like the one shown here will cost you $61.27 (or $45.95 if you are a member).



Buck Brannaman has the Horsemanship Flag. The store that sells them says, "Horsemanship Flags have been used for years by top horsemen such as Tom Dorrance, Buck Brannaman and Ray Hunt. It is highly durable, weather resistant and is incredibly lightweight and well balanced.  At 44”, the shaft is long enough to expose your horse to the movement and feel of the flag from a safe distance." One of these will cost you $49.95.

Stacy Westfall has a Stick and String that is very similar to a Carrot Stick for $34.95. There are also several generic varieties of sticks out there like the Abetta Carrot Stick Training Whip available on Amazon for a mere $15.99. It comes in nine different colors including pink and lime green. Natural Horse Supply is a fun place to shop because they have all sorts of training tools specific to natural horseman all in one spot.

So which one is the best? This is the part where I'm supposed to get all opinionated (that's the whole point of blogging, right?) So here it is, are you ready..... I like none of them. And that's because I own none of them. I'm sorry, but I'm  not shelling out $50 for a silly stick. Come one, that's like two weeks worth of hay! I'm a total DIY chick (aka cheapskate).  A string on the end of a stick doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I find that I get what I need to done with just a loose piece of rope. I tie my own rope halters so I always have extra rope around. A flag on a stick however, is extremely useful to me. I'm a walk softly, carry a big stick kind of a person (soft-spoken) and flags keep me in one piece. When you wave that sucker you're saying, "HELLO! I'M STANDING HERE! DON'T RUN ME OVER PLEASE!" DIY flags can be made out of plastic bags or bandannas, it all depends on the horse. A plastic bag will send some horses over the fence, but a bandanna may may not be enough to keep you from getting run over by others. Use your best judgement. As far as the stick to attach it to, be creative. You could use, literally, a stick. Or I've seen buggy whips used (they're a little flimsy in my opinion) and even ski poles. Don't forget that you can use the stick by itself as well for a handy tool on the ground or in the saddle.

Other Cool Tools

The Lariat 


This is a tool that I use all the time. I could write a whole article just about using one of these. Bottom line, if you don't have one get one. The longer and softer the better.

Activity Balls


Stacy Westfall sells these in three different sizes. Prices range from $25-$50. You can also  buy nifty covers for them. Parelli has a large green model for $49.95 I would love to try one, they seem like a lot of fun. It doesn't seem like a good idea right now though since my arena is not fenced, and is situated on a hilltop.



Cones are popular with all types of horseman, not just those of the natural inclination. There are many styles, sizes and colors out there so what you choose is a matter of personal preference. They are a wonderful visual aid and a tremendous help for patterns or riding straight lines. You can go DIY here too. I once used the new plastic Folgers coffee cans filled with rocks.


You will hear natural horsemanship trainers say to use hackamores, mecates, or to just ride in your rope halter. My advice on this is, YES. Yes, do all three or choose whichever one your horse likes the best. They are all great tools.

Please know that when I say hackamore I'm referring to the bosal variety and NOT mechanical ones. A mecate is a long rope that gives you reins and a lead rope. You can attach it to your bosal, or you can use slobber leathers to attach it to a snaffle bit. Choose your snaffle wisely.

You can modify your rope halter to make it easier to ride in. I always add nose bands to my halters, I just like them better like that. I've also seen "loping reins" for rope halters, which is basically just two lead ropes giving you split reins.

Weaver Harness Leather Mecate Bridle Western Show

Weaver Mecate Bosal Training Headstall Set


30 Day Standlee Feed Trial

The Deal

I was recently asked by Standlee Feed Company to feed their products to my horses for thirty days and then blog about my experience. The Idaho based company sent me a $120 dollar gift card to purchase their feed from a local supplier here in northern California.


In mid-April I headed down to my local Tractor Supply store, which carries Standlee products. For $120 I was able to buy three 50 pound compressed mini bales of  grass/alfalfa hay, two 40 pound bags of timothy pellets and two 40 pound bags of beet pulp pellets. Tractor Supply's customer service was awesome as usual, but their selection left me wanting. I wanted to get compressed Timothy, but had to settle for the grass/alfalfa combo instead.


Hay! It's compressed!


The next day I started working the Standlee feed in with my timothy hay that I'm currently feeding. I started out by adding a half of the little flakes from the compressed bales. The bales are supposed to spread out once you remove them from the plastic. I took measurements in the plastic, and then again after about ten minutes. I noticed only very little "growth". What I did notice was a cloud of dust when I pulled apart a couple of flakes. It's not dirt, it's alfalfa dust. My horses never coughed but I did. I also found a little rock, and a little piece of baling twine. I'm not sure why there would be twine in the bale since it was secured with plastic bands. It happens. Always look your hay over before you throw it into the feeder.

I was on the fence but my horses loved it. They immediately scarfed it up the first time I fed it. On day two they were waiting for me eagerly. I had to do some training in personal space in order to get the hay to the feeder. My guys are normally pretty polite, but they were so eager to get that hay that they forgot their manners. I guess they like alfalfa as much as I like chocolate.

Standlee's compressed hay is certified noxious weed free. Weed free programs are becoming more and more common. Certain wilderness areas, and some counties require that hay be certified as weed free before you can bring it with you. I can definitely see the value in using these compact, easy to transport bales for travel to the mountains or horse shows.


To soak, or not to soak: that is the question!


Beet pulp is awesome. I use it every winter to keep weight on my Thoroughbred. It's a good way to put weight on without making my horse hot. And it's very affordable. Beet pulp is easily digestible and low in sugar. Natural balance farriers will recommend beet pulp or rice bran, but the beet pulp is about half the price. You can feed it in addition to your hay or as a substitute.

It's an acquired taste, so not all horses like it at first. I introduce it slowly to my horses with some grain to get them used to it. After a while I can feed it plain.

How to feed beet pulp is an area that is highly debated. You'll hear advice ranging from, soak it for four hours or your horse will explode to don't soak it at all.  Standlee recommends that you soak your beet pulp. (Shreds for 30 minutes, pellets for two hours.) I chose to feed the pellets this time because they are lower in sugar (7% vs 10% in the shreds). Soaking feed for two hours is a major pain when you're a working mother juggling your kids between baseball and 4-H. After putting off feeding the beet pulp pellets for a while because I couldn't work out the time needed to soak it, I decided to do some research. I went straight to AAEP for my information. According to the experts who conducted the experiments, no horses exploded from eating unsoaked beet pulp. Not only did they not explode, but they suffered no ill effects at all (Feeding Beet Pulp). It seems to soak or not to soak is a question to be answered by you and your horse. Ask him how he prefers it.


Well it's pellets.


When I brought out the pellets my horses got very excited! Pellets sound like grain. The sound of the scoop crinkling the bag, the rattle in the bucket as I pour them in. The anticipation was intense. As was their disappointment when they rushed to their buckets only to discover that their "grain" tastes like grass hay. Poor boys. They turned up their noses and went back to their hay (orchard grass). Only after the hay was gone and there was nothing better to do did they finally eat the pellets.

Pellets are handy. They are easy to haul and easy to feed (No more hay down the bra! Woohoo!). But horses tend to eat them too quickly, which could cause digestive problems, but will more likely just cause boredom. I am a promoter of good old fashioned grass hay for horses. If you do want to supplement a small amount of alfalfa in your horse's diet then pellets can be a good way to go.

In conclusion:

Standlee's products are:

  • fairly priced
  • packaged well
  • well described on the package and on their website
  • readily available

Standlee provides an online forage finder and feed calculator for their clients. This is new along with the recent face lift they have their website.

I love that the company is family operated. They don't feel like a giant corporation, they feel like a family that cares that I'm happy with my product.

I will definitely continue to purchase my beet pulp from them each winter to keep my Thoroughbred fat. I will also buy alfalfa pellets from them if I ever have time to ride enough that I feel my horses could use the extra energy in their feed. As for the compressed hay, well, I live in an area that is covered with hay fields. Hay is so easy to get here, and it's really good hay. Hay from this area gets shipped all across the country to top racetracks and dairies because it is so nutrient rich. And it's cheap and easy to get, so how could I justify paying $18 for 50 pounds? I couldn't for every day use. I do have some uses in mind for it though. If I ever travel somewhere that requires certified weed free hay, I'll pick some up. If my kids decide to show livestock in 4-H, the little bales of alfalfa will be perfect!

Custom Rodeo Posters

Showcase all your events on one photo! These are handmade, fully custom posters made by me. You can choose which photos to use. 16x20 high definition image printed on high quality photo paper. $115Rodeo Poster

CHSRA Etna, CA 5-4-13

To view my gallery and order prints please go here.

If you would like me to be at an event please contact me! I would love to help you out.

CHSRA District 1 Cottonwood, CA 4.13.13

Rodeo Highlights



Welcome rodeo contestants and their families. Congratulations on an awesome 2012-2013 season!

I'll be adding more and more photos as I get them ready to go. Every single photo I add to the gallery is hand edited by me. I'll also be adding some special deals soon so check back in with me!

Contact me to find out how to get a free photo!


Trail Obstacle Challenge

I decided to head down to the Tehama County Fairgrounds to photograph the California State Horseman's Association Trail Obstacle Challenge. I confess I had ulterior motives on this one. I am planning to compete in a series of trail challenges myself this summer and I wanted to go scope out the competition! It was a wonderful program with creative obstacles, organized management and friendly competitors. I'm looking forward to joining them on horseback next time!

Here are some photo highlights from the day. To view the whole series or purchase prints please visit my gallery.


Finding Horsemanship Beyond Mechanics

Barn Timelapse-2031
Copeland Ranch

On a beautiful ranch in a tiny town in California, way up north, lives one of the greatest horse trainers I've ever known. You've probably never heard of him. But I am out to change that, because he's too valuable to keep to myself.

So who is this mystery horse trainer? He is a quiet man who lives a somewhat secluded life. A man so passionately dedicated to respectful relationships with horses that he rarely goes to horse events because he can't bear to witness the rude, mechanical ways in which many people relate to their horses. A man who's understanding of horses is so deep that he struggles to find words adequate to explain it. He would just as soon grab you by the arm and show you what he means rather than try to explain it. Many times I have been the "horse" in his demonstrations. I've gotten bits and pieces of time with him over the years, but I always leave feeling like there is so much more to learn from him. Next week I will be spending five days working with him on many different projects and I am so excited! I've never been able to spend so much time at once. Oh, and did I mention that this guy happens to be my uncle? That's right, Uncle Bill. Bill Copeland.


Bill Copeland was born a cowboy. His father, my grandfather, was a true cowboy in the sense of the old west. Grandpa was a hard man with high expectations for his sons with no exceptions or excuses. But there was a softness in him that was apparent through the respect he showed his horses. A respect that was demanded of his sons, and me as well, from the time we were small children and didn't really even understand it. I think ultimately it was Grandpa's influence that led us all to gravitate toward natural horsemanship. But Uncle Bill was the first to make the conversion.

Bill started training ponies at age eight, then graduated to starting two year olds at ten. He jokes, "I would just get a horse going good, then Dad would sell him and hand me a new one." He competed in horse shows as a kid and excelled in showmanship. When he was in his twenties he worked on a cattle ranch, daily cowboying for his living. He moved into competing in team roping, calf branding and team penning where he won his share of trophies, ribbons and money. And then — he attended a Ray Hunt clinic, and like so many others, it changed his life.

Inspired by the methods of men like Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, Bill began to do everything in his power to gain a greater understanding of horse behavior, and a horseman's impact upon this behavior. He learned the power of precise timing, feel, and balance and began to shun mechanical methods. He worked with many well-known clinicians, and countless "problem" horses along his journey beyond mechanics. Bill says that over the past twenty years he has never worked a horse that he was not able to find the good in. Even the horses that were written off were able to become relaxed and willing partners through Bill's kind and relational approach to horses. But if you ask him, Bill will tell you that it was the horses that were teaching him.

Another extremely important aspect of Bill's horsemanship evolution is his vast experience with BLM Mustangs. His job with the Forest Service led him to eventually work with the Red Rock Lakes Herd Management Area. Over the past 15 years he has worked with over 350 Mustangs. He has taken them through every level of handling, from observing them on the range, to trapping them in the wild, to gentling and training them into finished riding partners. This awesome opportunity to work with the purest of horses was an invaluable piece of Bill's education.

Bill has given many lessons, clinics and demonstrations and is available on a limited basis for further events.

Bill Copeland
Beyond Mechanics
A kind, relational approach to horsemanship
Grenada, CA


Latest Photos-- The Silhouette Series

I recently started working as a special needs assistant at a nearby elementary school. (As if I didn't have enough to do already!) It is as rewarding as it is tiring! I find that I need my photography time to unwind my mind and body more than ever. Soviet Party aka Roamin', the off the track Thoroughbred, was kind enough to pose ever so beautifully for me.

I call this one "Animate".




Photography Tips for Horse Sales, Part 2

The Elements of a Good Horse Photo

As promised in Part 1 of this series, I would like to help you bring out your horse's best with your photographs. Whether for sales, or just showing off on Facebook, nice photos that well represent your horse's features are important. Maybe you've noticed that when you take pictures of your horse some of them don't even look like your horse and you're like, "Ew, gag!" But others are nice, really nice. I'm going to take you through what I've found to be four important elements to equine portraiture.

1. Grooming

I think I'll let the photos do the talking for me on this one. Take a look and see the difference for yourself. These two photos were taken moments from each other.



2. Background/Setting

Don't go getting all crazy on me and set up backdrops of fairies and butterflies and stuff, but do use some common sense on this one. The fewer distractions the better. If your photo is of a horse, then we want to see the horse, the whole horse, and nothing but the horse! I hate sales photos of horses in pens. As a potential buyer, this says to me "My horse is mean and unbroke and I'm too scared to catch him". It's also puzzling to me when I see junk laying around in the background of the photo. You would be amazed at what you can see sometimes! Learn to notice the little things. Photographers need to be very aware of every little detail.

3. Lighting

Harsh lighting creates harsh shadows. Those shadows can create optical illusions. Do you best to avoid photographing your horse in the middle of a sunny day. You are better off finding some shade, or waiting for an overcast day. The diffused (shaded) light will give you a nice even exposure over your whole horse. Exposure is basically how light or dark your photo is. Your camera will do its very best to properly expose your horse, but it isn't able to process light as well as our human eyes. When you have very bright and very dark areas in one photo the camera has to make a choice. It can properly expose the bright areas, leaving the darker areas way too dark, or it can expose for the dark areas and the bright areas will become "blown out", or white blobs of light with no detail.

The prettiest light is found very early or very late in the day when the sun is low in the sky. The light is not as harsh, and it's full of warm, golden color that will make your photos vibrant and awesome. All the pros know that you have to be morning person AND a night person to be a good photographer and catch the good light. If you choose to take advantage of this delicious light, be aware of where you place the sun in relation to your horse. If your horse is between you and the sun he will be silhouetted. If you are between the sun and your horse then you should see him illuminated in awesome light. If you're brave, you can play around with side-lighting for some creative effects.

4. Posing

This may very well be the trickiest part. They say that if you ask 20 different horse people the same question, you will get 20 different answers. We all like things a little different. Take a moment to think about what you like about your horse. What breed is your horse? What type of riding do you do? Now think about some of the photos you've seen of your role models. How were they positioned in the photos? I'm not going to cover every single breed of horse and riding discpline right now, but I will do my best to give you some basic pointers. (If you have questions of a more specific nature, please feel free to email and ask!)

Still Shots

This is a basic conformation shot, a side view that allows you to really see how a horse is put together. Make sure your horse is on level ground and that he is standing mostly square. In this photo I have one hind leg forward to make his hip appear fuller and to smooth out his topline.


Accentuate the hip by angling the rear toward the camera.

A little...

Or a lot... (Did you notice the bad grooming in this shot?)

Accentuate the shoulder

And show off that pretty face. This pose looks great on big, muscle-bound Quarter Horses. I don't care for it on my Thoroughbred.


Where a horse is in his stride when you snap the shutter makes a big difference in how your photograph will turn out. Do your best to pay attention and to time your shots. Until you get the hang of it, you may want to employ the "pray and spray" method. Put your camera on rapid fire and snap away!

Horrible and embarrassing! Never post a photo of me and my horse like this please!

Nah. Not embarrassing but not great. Notice how small the hip looks here, not a good look for a Quarter Horse. His head is a little high and he doesn't look very relaxed either.

Much better. I would feel my horse was well represented with this shot.

I know this is a lot to take in, don't be overwhelmed! Just grab your camera and go out and get started!

Question? Hoping I would cover something that isn't here? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email! I'm happy to help.

Equine Photographers On Google+

10 Equine Photographers Worth Following on Google+

Google+ just celebrated it's one year anniversary. The latest big thing in social media is now well established, and many interesting people are there to be discovered. Somewhere...

I'm not gonna lie, it took me hours to find these 10 equine photographers. What's the deal Google? You're constantly on the cutting edge of technological advance. You can do better... cough.

So without further ado, here are some folks that take really nice photos of horses. If you're into equine photography then you'll want to follow them for sure. (If  you're wanting to buy some nice horsey fine art then you're of course going to buy one of mine. Right?)

Kelly Coultas

Kelly is extremely talented and her work is very inspirational to me. I can't wait to see what she posts next.

Christine Hauber

Christine is in my equine photographer circle and my favs circle. She doesn't shoot horses exclusively and all of her work is really cool.

Terri Cage

Terri goes to some pretty fun places. She has photos from all sorts of different equestrian events and they are quite good.

Nico Morgan

Nico is an equestrian event photographer from the UK. I wish he would post more of his work on G+. He has some amazing jumping shots!

Katerina Morgan

Katerina is from Buenos Aires. She only shoots polo. Her work is absolutely spectacular!

Andrea Vallejos

Andrea has some very nice horse shots in her portfolio. She focuses on English riding disciplines. Her work is sharp, vivid and creative.

Mark Beaumont

I like Mark's tagline, "I photograph stuff, but mainly horses." Me too Mark! It's the only way to be. Mark has mastered his equipment, his photos are technical perfection. I really enjoy his work. Please post more photos on G+!

Wendy Lilygreen

Wendy's photos are masterpieces! I can't get enough of them. She is another one I go to for inspiration.

Jillian Chilson

Not only is Jillian an excellent photographer, but she may be the nicest person on G+. She always has kind things to say about your photos, and is never to busy to say thank you when you comment on hers. Jillian is also the curator of the very famous #EquineTuesday hashtag.

Deanna Sparks-Kjorlien

Deanna is so obviously talented, but she is so humble. She definitely has an eye for natural lighting and works magic with it.

And don't forget to add me, Crystal Leslie. I would love to be in your equine photographer circle! 🙂

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Crystal is a horseman first and then a photographer. She has a unique approach to photography, and an artistic vision cultivated through a lifetime of real horsemanship experiences.


I'd love to hear from you!