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> Pet Peeves



Editor's Note: This column features tips from professional equestrians about their "Pet peeves" around the barn. These tips offer insights into the day-to-day operations of a riding stable and the little things that people do that may present a potential safety hazard to horses or riders or damage to equipment. Read this column regularly to figure out how to keep the head-honcho at your barn happy. We welcome your input for this column, please fax or email your comments to (719) 530-0939.


Pet Peeves Articles Printed in The Instructor Magazine:







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Online-Only Pet Peeves:


It can be dangerous and annoying when people do not teach their horse to respect the handlers' space. Do not let a horse rub their head on you after removing their bridle. You can give them a rub on your terms, but allowing them to rub on you shows a lack of respect. I have seen people knocked over when their horse head-butted them after removing the bridle. This can be especially dangerous with children. When handling your horse, do not allow them to come too close into your personal space unless you invite them in. If they get too close, ask your horse to back up or move over. Your horse will start to see you as the leader instead of someone they can literally walk all over. - Tabatha Gullikson - WI


The barn manager where I teach has a terrible habit of leaving candles burning in her office and it drives me crazy! First, we all know that fire is a significant hazard in a barn and the consequences are dire. Secondly, what kind of example are you setting for your clients and students if you so blatantly disregard the fire danger for your own sense of pleasure? If it is okay to light a candle and leave it unattended in your office, why isn't it okay to smoke in the barn? In my book, the risk is not worth the gain and the example you set is potentially deadly. Please, use your candles at home and use good sense in the barn! - Cheryl Lee ' Salida, CO


As someone who used to do this, it makes me cringe when I see people run the chain on a chain shank through the bottom ring and clip it back on the chain creating a loop. If your horse puts his head down, he could get a hoof through the loop which would be a very dangerous situation. Clip the chain onto the bottom ring when you are not using it under or over the nose. - Tabatha Gullikson - WI


English stirrups must be run up when there is not rider on the horse's back. It is very unsafe to have them just hanging down at the horse's side, as the horse could go to scratch its belly with a hind hoof and get caught in one! - Christy Landwehr, Aurora, CO


I consider it rude and unprofessional when instructors, facility or program managers don't return phone calls or emails in a timely manner. It is good business practice to respond with 24 hours, if at all possible. - Polly Haselton Barger, Lexington, KY


It's a little thing, but it drives me crazy when I see a lead rope snapped onto the halter ring on the between the pieces of the halter, rather than below the chin pieces in the center. When the snap is improperly hooked between the chin piece and throat piece, it causes the sides of the halter to turn in, putting the edges toward the horse's jaw, instead of the pieces laying flat against the jaw. This can cause unnecessary discomfort to the horse. - Julie Goodnight


Good horsemanship and CHA recommends adjusting a throatlatch to fit three fingers width. A novice rider might wonder why there are any recommendations at all on the looseness or tightness of certain parts of tack. They all have reasons. My pet peeve is throatlatches that are too loose and hang under the cheek of the horse. This is a disaster waiting to happen horse goes to scratch its head and gets his foot catch there. Not a good scene! Always adjust those throatlatches to CHA recommendations! - LESLIE POOLE, CHA INSTRUCTOR, PEYTON, CO


Many people mount up on their horse and no sooner is their seat in the saddle and their foot in the stirrup than the horse just walks off, with no cue from the rider. In short order, the horse, which is by now used to making decisions unauthorized by you, is walking off before you sit down and then when you put the foot in the stirrup to mount. We tend to want to blame the horse at this point: my horse won't stand still for mounting, when we have effectively trained the horse over time to not stand still for mounting by condoning his unauthorized decisions. A horse should stand perfectly still when you mount, as you adjust the saddle and get settled and should wait for you to actually cue him to walk before he goes any where. Allowing a horse to walk off at any time without a specific cue to walk, is teaching the horse that he can do what he wants, when he wants. When I am teaching a group lesson, I like to explain to the riders that your horse may try to walk off when the horse in front of him walks, but to make him stand until he is patiently awaiting y our signal. This is a great exercise for both the horse and rider. If you ride your horse with awareness and control, he will learn that he has to wait for a directive from you in all things and at all times. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, MASTER INSTRUCTOR AND CLINICIAN, PONCHA SPRINGS, CO


English bridles have keepers on them for a reason. It drives me crazy when riders don't bother putting the end of the leather straps on the cavesson, throat latch and cheek pieces in the keepers. They keep the leather from flapping around and irritating the horse and they present a much cleaner picture when properly done up. - CHRISTY LANDWEHR, MASTER INSTRUCTOR AND CLINICIAN, AURORA, CO


Anyone who has ever worked with me in the barn will know that my pet peeve is bailing twine being left around. It is not only untidy but a huge health and safety risk. - JENNIFER DIGGLE LEVEL 4 ENGLISH HERTFORDSHIRE, SASKATCHEWAN


There are many ways to anti-train a horse, that is, teach him to do something we don’t want him to do. I see examples of this every where I go to work with horses and their humans. One of the worst things you can train a horse to do is to rip his head out of the halter and run off when you turn him out. Not only is this extremely rude and disrespectful on the horse’s part, but it is highly dangerous and can be downright deadly, because the horse is programmed to kick out when his flight response is triggered. This is learned behavior that only occurs because we allow it and condone it, and therefore train it into the horse’s routine. All horses at all times should stand quietly with their head down as you take off the halter. If he is not, wait to release him until he is. Keep the lead rope around his neck and hold him there once the halter is off; rub him a little to make it worth his while to be patient. While this may take a minute longer in the beginning, the horse will quickly become patterned in this new behavior instead of ripping and running. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, SALIDA COLORADO


If using a coffee can to measure grain, make sure that you know weight-wise how much you are feeding and if you want to be feeding a full can make sure that your staff is filling that can all the way to the top. So many horses get shorted a little bit each day and over several days it adds up. - BO WINSLOW TRAIL CI ESTES PARK, CO


I just hate it when people allow knots to form in equipment such as lead lines, longe lines, whips, driving lines, etc. With normal use sometimes knots are formed, but they should be removed immediately. To leave the knots in the equipment ruins the equipment for longevity, feel, ease of use, and the hopelessly knotted spot becomes a point of wear that will eventually break, usually at the most inopportune time. Even when knots are intentionally used, like in tying on a lead to a rope halter or to temporarily shorten a length, the knots should always be loosened so that they may be removed when not needed. In short order a horse can render a knot into a permanent fixture; so knots should always be used with discretion. - JULIE GOODNIGHT CHA PROGRAM DIRECTOR SALIDA, CO


It drives me crazy when I'm riding in the arena with a bunch of other people and we are all doing our own thing. Some people are warming up, some are doing patterns, some are jumping and no one communicates. When riding with others it is always good to say "coming around you on the inside" or "heads up, doing the yellow outside line." Let people know what you’re doing. Horse collisions are preventable. Always communicate with your fellow riders. - KIRBY DALTON BOSSIER CITY, LA


Interruption of a lesson, for me, is almost an unforgivable sin. If there is a dire emergency, feel free to interrupt, but otherwise let me carry on with my lesson giving my students the full attention they deserve. When side-walkers or horse handling assistants are chatting with each other, it is not only rude and distracting to the student and me, but can impact safety as well. Surely there is enough time in the day to chit-chat, other than during the lesson. It always amazes me when I visit other facilities and see instructors chatting with others or, worse, talking on the phone during a lesson. Your students have paid for your time and they deserve all of it! - POLLY HASELTON BARGER CHA CLINICIAN, STANDARD, IRD, EFM, ACCREDITATION


My pet peeve is when someone is finished lunging and leaves the lunge line and whip on the ground. Not only can a horse get his hoof stuck in the lunge line, but it would also be very dangerous for a horse to step on a lunge whip and have it pop up and hit them in the stomach or for that matter get the whip wrapped around his leg. This equipment can also get damaged by laying in the dirt and mud. Pick them up and tell others at your barn that it is not safe to leave them lying around. - ANNE ARISMAN, CHA INSTRUCTOR, PETALUMA, CA


It is very important regardless of what saddle you ride in that the pad it put up into the gullet of the saddle before being cinched up. This will allow for the saddle and pad to not press down on the withers of the horse too snugly. Also, with English pads please make sure to attach them to the saddle correctly – billet straps need to be placed through pads that have straps for them before the girth is attached and flaps need to be lifted and pads attached to them as well. - CHRISTY LANDWEHR, CHA CLINICIAN, AURORA, CO


A big pet peeve of mine is when riders tie their horses to insecure places. Sometimes I see riders not latching a box stall door before tying, or tying to a plank of the fence rather than to one of the posts that is anchored into the ground. The safest places to tie are to posts anchored into the ground if tying on a fence, a hitching rail or specified areas designed for tying. If you are tying to a box stall door, remember to close it first so that the horse can not pull the door off of its hinges if they pull back. Also remember to tie at withers height or higher so as to eliminate the possibility of a leg going over the lead rope, which could result in a tangled wreck, and use a halter and lead rope to tie up. Just last week I was at a sorting and cattle penning event and saw some people tying to metal panels (stuck up in the sand of the arena) with their reins – potential for big trouble! - LORI HALL-MCNARY - OWNER AND TRAINER ROCKIN’ L & D RANCH 


It drives me crazy when I see riders with a twist in their reins or when people allow ropes, leads and longe whips to develop knots. Knotted equipment is dysfunctional and will cause damage to the fibers that will lead to premature breakage. Once a knot has been in a rope or line long enough, it is nearly impossible to remove and if you get it untied, the rope or leather is terribly misshapen. Take good care of tack, especially when it belongs to someone else and take the time to remove knots and twists as they develop so that the equipment works better and lasts longer. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, SALIDA CO


I can’t stand the people that think that they are too good to clean up after their horse…they just leave all their dirt & manure in the wash racks. They leave the hose dangling, and when they do put it up, they do not take the time to wipe the dirt off of the hose. People should only tie their horses in the cross ties or in their stalls. Do not tie your horses to ladders (even if they are attached to the wall), bridle and blanket holders, etc… Clean up your manure in the arena also! And last but not least, always wear closed toe shoes when handling horses, preferably boots. - AMY BENNETT CHATTANOOGA, TN CHA MEMBER


When you saddle any horse, English or Western, before fastening the girth or cinch, the saddle pad should be pulled well up into the gullet of the saddle (the channel on the underside of the saddle that creates space over your horse’s spine). This will create airspace over the horse’s spine and prevent problems. Even the weight of the pad against the horse’s withers can create too much pressure on the sensitive bony spine. Once the rider’s weight is added, the pressure from the pad can be intense. Plus, when the pad is pulled up into the gullet, the saddle is less likely to slip since it has a V shape, rather than a rounded shape. You should be able to stick your whole hand in over the horse’s withers, to make sure that the horse’s withers are protected. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, SALIDA CO


A pet peeve of mine is the abundant use of tranquilizers.  Parents have the misconception that the use of drugs will keep their children safe.  Whatever happened to the training of the horse and teaching the child to ride?  I use tranquilizers in treating injured horses, but I never fall into this false sense of security.  I have seen horses "blow" while under the influence.  I worry that these people will not only get their children hurt, but other innocent bystanders. - TERRY JONES REGION 4 DIRECTOR


How many times have you seen a rider show up for a lesson with boots that are not designed for riding - the "fashion" boot? It has heels and surely the foot won't slip through the stirrup, but the rider will never be able to get her heel down properly. If you examine a regular riding boot, although it has a heel, the foot is almost flat, allowing the rider's heel to sink. With a fashion boot heel, the foot takes on the form of a Barbie doll's foot. The rider will never truly obtain the best riding form possible because only the heel of the boot sinks down. The foot itself remains in the high heel position. - KATHY MARTIN CHA INSTRUCTOR BRIDGEWATER, NY


One of my pet peeves is when people loosen the girth too much when the horse is in its stall. People need to be sure to check and make sure that the saddle is loose enough to give comfort to the horse, but tight enough so it stays on their back. Many times I'll walk in the barn and see a saddle underneath a horse's stomach. I'm sure this isn't very comfortable to them, so please check yourself. - ANGELA ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA


My pet peeve is when people leave horse manure in the aisle. The person is tacking up the horse, the horse decides it needs to use the restroom right there, and the handler doesn't pick up after the horse. It looks dirty and unprofessional. It could leave a bad impression of your barn on somebody. Clean up after your horse! - JASON P. KNARR

Outta My Face

It drives me crazy to see people reach for the face of a tied horse. Moving suddenly into a horse's face can easily startle him since his vision is very poor up close. Startling a tied horse often leads to the horse pulling back in a dangerous panic attack when he becomes frightened and suddenly discovers his flight response is not available to him. So often this results in a horse that pulls back in panic when tied. Whenever you are handling a horse's head, bridling or unbridling, or even doing something elsewhere on the horse that might startle him, be sure to untie him first. This will help keep you and your horse safe and protect your horse's training. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, CHA CLINICIAN AND PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALIDA, COLORADO

Clever Reasoning

As a CHA clinician [one of the most active], I have the opportunity to work in many different group riding programs across the U.S. and Canada. One of my major pet peeves is when I ask someone why they use a certain procedure and the answer is, "Because we've always done it that way." All procedures in your barn should have a specific purpose. If you do not have a justification for a certain way of doing things, then perhaps you should question its validity. - STAN LOEWEN CHA TRAIL AND MASTER CLINIC INSTRUCTOR, BRANSON, MO

Letting Loose

It is very unsafe and instills terrible manners in a horse to walk him through a gate and then just turn him loose as he walks off. When turning horses out, this may lead to the horse taking off as soon as you go through the gate and he may kick up his heels as he departs, kicking right toward the handler. Whenever a horse is led through a gate, he should be turned around toward the gate the before letting him loose. This will prevent him from running off as soon as you enter the gate and also turns his rear-end away from you before he is let loose. - ARDITH TURPIN, CHA INSTRUCTOR, HORSEMANSHIP, DIRECTOR YMCA CAMP MANITOU-LIN, MIDDEVILLE, MI

Such a Drag

It really makes me mad to see lead ropes laying in the dirt or allowed to drag on the ground. Nylon lead ropes are soft and flexible when they are new. By letting the ropes drag on the ground and pick up dirt and stickers, it makes the ropes stiff and difficult to handle. If you keep lead ropes clean, they will last much longer and stay soft and flexible. - POLLY HASELTON BARGER, CHA CLINICIAN, ASHLAND CITY, TN

Don't Open that Door!

My pet peeve has to do with opening the door to the arena without announcing plans to do so. There have been times when I was riding and someone whips open the huge sliding door right at the moment when my horse and I were riding past it. I have a sign on the door that says to announce your presence before opening the door by shouting "AVOID THE DOOR". It is amazing that people still won't do this. They feel "funny". Will they feel funny when my lesson horse spooks and that child falls off? It is common courtesy as well as a safety feature to announce that the door is going to be opened, so who ever is in the arena can say "Wait" or "OK". - STEPHANIE DOBISS, CHA INSTRUCTOR, TYRONE, PA

Saddle Rack Wrecks

In my barn we have the saddle racks that you pull out. We have a rack by each of the stalls in the barn. My biggest pet peeve is when the riders leave the racks out into the aisle. If you are turning the horses out at night or during the day, they tend to run into the racks leading them to spook or bruise the sides of the horse. It is NOT too hard to put the racks back down when finished saddling. - CRYSTAL BININGER, FROM CHA WEBSITE

Spit it Out!

My pet peeve is when students pull the bit out of a horse's mouth when unbridling, instead of letting the horse drop his head and spit the bit out. Pulling the bit out of a horse's mouth will cause the bit to get caught in his lower teeth and to throw his head up. Sometimes it can even lead to serious bridling problems. The correct way to unbridle is to pull the crown piece over the horse's ears, hold upward pressure on the bridle until the horse lowers his head, opens his mouth and spits the bit out. - JORINE SEALE, CHA CLINICIAN AND BOARD MEMBER, MAGNOLIA, TX

In Your Face

When I'm riding or handling a horse on the ground, I work very hard at establishing and keeping the horse's respect and attention on me. When someone else gets in my horse's face it is annoying because it distracts or even startles my horse. People just seem to have to stick their hands on the horse's nose or on the muzzle. They may even grab the halter or bridle, pulling the horse's head, and think the horse should stop everything and nuzzle them. It's best to be respectful and keep a safe distance of at least four feet when approaching someone else handling or riding a horse. Ask permission to touch the horse before reaching out. The rider or handler may be asking the horse to do something, even if you cannot tell, or may have instructions on how he or she want you to approach the horse. Treat the horse and rider with politeness and respect and it may mean the difference between an invitation to return... or not.  - ANN STREETT-JOSLIN, CHA CLINICIAN, RANCHO VISTA EQUINE THERAPY CENTER, FORT COLLINS, COLORADO

Grab Hands

It drives me crazy to see people lead a horse by holding onto the halter, instead of using a lead rope. This action is both dangerous and poor horsemanship. Wrapping your fingers around a halter can very quickly and easily turn into a dislocated shoulder, by the horse throwing his head or spooking. Additionally, horses don't much care for hands in their face and grabbing the horse by the halter positions the handler far too close to the horse's head and front feet. This close proximity to the horse's head can lead to claustrophobia on the horse's part (which may in turn lead to a pull-back problem) and puts the human in a dangerous position which may lead to being butted by the horse's head or run over. Not to mention how easy it is for the horse to throw his head and get loose. Whenever you handle a horse, use a lead rope and hold the rope 6-8" below the halter, so as not to crowd the horse's head and front end. - JULIE GOODNIGHT, CHA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALIDA, COLORADO

Bit Grunge

One of my pet peeves is when riders put away a bridle without cleaning the bit off. When the bit comes out of the horse's mouth it frequently has slobber and food particles, combining together to form a lovely green slime. The slime will come off the bit quite easily when you first take it out of the horse's mouth, by rinsing the bit and wiping it off. If the slime is left on the bit, it will dry and crack and cause significant discomfort to the horse the next time it is used. Take a few extra seconds when unbridling to clean the bit before hanging up the bridle. - CHRISTY LANDWEHR, CHA DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR- DENVER, COLORADO

Help Yourself!

My pet peeve is when boarders use the supplies intended for the school horses on their private horses. Periodically, we order supplies such as fly spray, ointments, and medications, which are intended for use in our riding program. Sometimes boarders feel these supplies are available for anyone and help themselves, leaving our inventory low or depleted when we need it for the school horses. We all should be helpful to our neighbors and willing to lend supplies when necessary, but consideration should be given to the limited supplies and budget of the riding program. - HOLLY FOX, CHA CLINICIAN - DAVIS, CALIFORNIA

Not putting equipment back where it belongs is a huge pet peeve with me. Along with a camp we also have an on-site training center so people are always in and out of the tack rooms. Even though there are separate tack rooms for the 3 different horse programs, equipment is always missing. The equipment is marked for each area and horse, we lock it up at night and we still have to waste time looking for bridles, over reach boots, halters and lead ropes. Honestly, we don't mind when other areas "borrow" equipment as long as it gets put back in a timely manner. - MAUREEN TATE, HORSE PROGRAM DIRECTOR, RAWHIDE RANCH


When saddles with too wide a tree are used on horses, it causes the pommel to rest on the horse's withers and in extreme cases of poor saddle fit, may also put extraordinary pressure on the back of the horse's spine. In a properly fitted saddle, there is plenty of room over the horse's spine so that no pressure is put directly on the horse's spine. An ill-fitted saddle can cause permanent injury to the horse's spine and white hair scaring on the horse's back. An ill-fitted saddle is also a safety hazard since a horse in pain can quickly an unexpectedly revert to instinctive behavior and try to buck the pain away. - Laura Elliott, Trussville AL


Nothing is more irritating than to see a person dragging reins, girths, latigos, etc. through the dirt as they carry equipment to and from the tack room. Keeping tack clean and in good repair is a difficult enough chore when you handle the equipment correctly. Dragging tack on the ground is a good way to break things and also poses a hazard since it may cause the person to trip and fall or let the horse to step on the tack and cause a wreck. Please take the time to organize your tack so that nothing hangs on the ground. - TAMMI GAINER, NEWCOMERSTOWN OH

Please ALWAYS lead your horse properly at your right-hand side. So many experienced horsepeople walk along casually holding the end of the rope, letting the horse lag behind them or wander along. Many accidents happen this way when a horse in such a situation is startled and jumps into the human. It is also very inconsiderate around others, because the horse can easily bother other horses when the handler isn't paying attention. It doesn't matter who you are, you are setting an example for others by your good or bad habits. - BREE LISEWSKI 

How Many Fingers am I Holding Up?

The hand feeding of horses is a popular past time of amateurs, but something you'll rarely see done by professionals. Horses are mouthy by nature, since their sense of touch, smell and taste all help them to categorize objects, making them constantly wanting to place their mouth on things. Hand feeding treats teaches horses to put their mouth on you and leads to a lack of respect from the horse. A submissive horse in the herd would never consider placing his mouth on the dominant herd leader. Horses are prone to nip and bite already, by hand feeding them treats, we only encourage this behavior. More than one individual has lost a finger this way. Your horses will be just as happy to eat his treats from a bucket; he will enjoy them just as much and it will not lead to rude and dangerous behavior. - TAMMI GAINER, NEWCOMERSTOWN, OH, CHA ASST. CLINIC INSTRUCTOR

How's It Hangin'?

Western saddles are great for many things and one of the things we love the most about them is the horn. It is so handy for hanging your bridle on or hanging on to when your horse goes south on you. And isn't it handy to hook the stirrup over the horn while you fiddle with the cinch? But PLEASE don't leave the stirrup hooked on the horn while the saddle is sitting on the saddle rack. As saddles break in, the stirrups leathers twist and bend to the shape of the rider's leg, making it easier to keep the foot in the stirrup and giving support to the rider's leg. When you leave the stirrup hooked on the horn while it is in the rack, the leather will twist the wrong way and the short flap that covers the stirrup (the seat jockey) will curl up and be uncomfortable. Make sure when saddles of any kind are placed on the rack that all the leather is straight and hanging down [but not on the floor- a subject for the next installment of "Pet Peeves."] - LAURA ELLIOTT, TRUSSVILLE, ALABAMA, CHA ASST. CLINIC INSTRUCTOR

Loopy Stirrups

Don't leave Western saddles on the saddle rack with the stirrups looped over the horn or laying over the seat. If leather is allowed to dry and set up in this position, it will cause horrible twists and bends to the leather and may contribute to cracking. Stirrups should break in to shape around your leg and should always hang at an angle that best simulates your leg position. - LAURA ELLIOTT, TRUSSVILLE, ALABAMA, CHA ASST. CLINIC INSTRUCTOR

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Archived Pet Peeves Articles:

  • Coaching from the Rail
  • Halters left around necks
  • No rubbing
  • Correct use of chains
  • Halter and lead rope snaps
  • Get back to People
  • Irons up
  • Crocked brow bands
  • Arena passing
  • Saddle Sores
  • Keepers Please
  • Horse walking off while mounting
  • Throatlatches
  • Never park your car in a pasture
  • Walk off when mounting
  • Leaving halter in cross ties and grooming bucket in barn aisle
  • Reining in Parents
  • Bailing Twine left around
  • Rip head out of halter and run
  • Grain portions
  • Arena spacing
  • Knots in Equipment
  • Interruption of a lesson
  • Pad Position
  • Tying
  • Equipment left out in cold
  • Western Dismount
  • Hitching Post Dipping
  • Tranquilizers
  • Pull pad into gullet of saddle
  • Twist in reins and other tack
  • People cleaning up after selves
  • Hanging Halters
  • Hanging Blankets
  • Clean Bits
  • Feeing in Hand
  • Feeding Horses Acting Aggressive
  • Boots
  • Too Loose Girth in Stall
  • Manure in Aisle
  • We Have Always Done it that Way
  • Reach for Tied Horses Faces
  • Sweat Marks on Backs
  • Eating Grass in Hand
  • Cross Tie Mess
  • Hoses
  • Tie Downs and Drinking
  • Disabled verses Handicap – Terminology
  • Arena Safety Etiquette
  • Leading Through a Gate
  • Lead Ropes Laying Around
  • Announce when Opening Arena Door
  • Saddle Racks
  • Pulling Bit out of Mouths
  • In Your Horses Face
  • Lead Horse by Halter instead of Lead Rope
  • Bit Grunge
  • Using School Horse Supplies instead of Your Own
  • Tack on the Ground
  • Wide Saddles – Back Sores
  • Halters left on hitching rails
  • Loose Hay Waste
  • Head forward when cinching
  • Western Stirrups looped over seat when put away

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