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The horse industry in Wyoming is like many across the country – fragmented among individual breed associations, performance groups and other segments, and Judy Horton, Wyoming Horse Council vice president, says that it is important for horse owners to unite under a common umbrella to focus on legislative efforts in the state.

“The Wyoming Horse Council is a legislative voice for the horse industry,” Horton comments. “That is our main goal and objective, and we mirror what the American Horse Council does.”

While many in the horse industry look for the horse council to get more involved in education and events, Horton notes that they spend their time strictly on legislative and policy efforts affecting the industry.

“We have three physical meetings a year and conference calls to talk about issues if needed,” she says. “We also help with the Big Wyoming Horse Expo, and we try to support the industry.”

Legislative issues

When the Wyoming Legislature convenes in Cheyenne, Horton explains that the Wyoming Horse Council actively monitors legislation that moves through the body, and they take a position on those important issues that affect their members.

“If there is a legislative issue, we keep in touch, keep our contacts together and keep them informed during the session,” Horton notes. “If there is legislative issue, we let our members know so they can get ahold of their legislators and let them know how we feel.”

Bill Gentle is the Wyoming Horse Council lobbyist. Over the past several years, Horton notes that the Wyoming Horse Council worked diligently to help pass historic horse racing legislation, which revitalized the racing industry in the state.

“Over the last three years, the Horse Council really tried to promote the legislation that would enhance and further grow the racing industry in the state,” she says. “Rep. Sue Wallace and Sen. John Schiffer were sponsors of the bill. They have both passed away, and we now hold races to honor them and their work.” Horse racing is scheduled to take place this summer.

New issues

Currently, the biggest priority for the Wyoming Horse Council is the implementation of an equine passport.

“We are trying to get signatures to support an equine passport program in Wyoming,” Horton says. “After we get enough signatures, we’ll turn that over to the Wyoming Livestock Board so they know that we would like them to pursue the program.”

An equine passport would replace the 30-day health certificate that is currently required for equine movement.

“In Montana, the horse owner obtains a health certificate from their veterinarian and then submits a form to the Montana Livestock Board for the passport,” comment Bill Gentle and Candice Carden, both Wyoming Horse Council members. “The passport is valid for six months. A lifetime brand inspection and a current Coggins test is required, along with a five dollar fee per horse.”

The passport then allows horse owners to move throughout the state and passport region without requirements of a new health certificate.

Carden and Gentle explain, “When a horse with a valid passport travels to a state in the passport region, they are required to notify the state the are entering, and in Montana, the owner calls the Livestock Board on a 24-hour hotline number to obtain an import number.”

Montana is also currently working to implement an online import number program.

“The Wyoming Horse Council is proposing that the Wyoming Livestock Board join the other four states in the Northwest Region, so Wyoming equines can travel to those four states under a passport,” Carden and Gentle add.

Horton comments, “More recently, there have been fewer major legislative issues.”

Membership

Members of the Wyoming Horse Council are spread statewide, and, as with many other commissions and associations, they strive for leadership on their board of directors from each region.

“We have a volunteer board, and we don’t have an executive director,” Horton says. “All the work we do is through the work of dedicated volunteers.”

Nearly 50 active and inactive members currently support the association.

Membership in the Wyoming Horse Council is available to individuals for only $15 or to families at a discounted rate of $25. Additionally, commercial businesses, organizations or associations may become members for $35 a year.

Membership forms are available on the organization website at wyominghorsecouncil.com.

“Dues-paying members also receive a free one-year subscription to The Wrangler, which is also nice,” Horton says. “Members also receive news blasts from the American Horse Council and information about issues that we need to be aware of.”

“We, as the Horse Council, are always working to generate interest in our organization,” Horton says. “We would love to have more people involved and to be active in our organization. It’s important to be involved so the horse industry has a voice when issues come up. Someone needs to speak for the horses and our industry.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Douglas – Patience is the key to working with horses, according to several clinicians who worked with students during the Seventh Annual Big Wyoming Horse Expo on April 22-24 in Douglas.

Colt starting

Mike Anderson, who demonstrated colt starting and groundwork, explained that colts learn by the release.

“If we don’t teach the colt what release is, it is in trouble,” he said. “It is the key to making the mind work on these colts.”

“The closest thing to the brain is the eyes and ears, so make him think with them,” he said. “Be patient and give them time to process what we want them to do.”

Anderson uses one of his own saddle horses to help teach the new colt what he wants it to learn. He uses the saddle horse to teach the colt how to move its hindquarters around, so the colt is soft.

“Patience is important in colt starting,” Anderson said. “Never rush a colt to saddle because it could get someone or the colt hurt.”

Repetition

Repetition is also a necessary part of the training process.

Anderson uses a blue tarp, which he holds alongside his saddle horse to get the colt used to strange noises. Once the colt stops reacting to the tarp, he covers the colt with the tarp and rubs him with it.

When the colt is ready to have a saddle on its back, Anderson told the crowd that it is important to be patient.

“When we put the saddle on the first few times, it is not important how far the saddle goes on. It is just important to get the colt used to the feel of it,” he said. “Put it on, but take it off right away. Do it several times until the colt seems comfortable with it. Rub the saddle up and down its back up to its withers. Once he’s comfortable with that, switch sides and do it again.”

The next step, according to Anderson, is to tighten the cinch and then put a foot into the stirrup.

He encourages the rider to step up on the horse and then step down, allowing the horse to get used to the rider’s weight. He encourages the rider to take a moment to rub the horse over the withers and over the butt to help him get comfortable.

Horsemanship

Jim and Sandy Jirkovsky taught their students how to improve their horsemanship skills.

“The seat may be different,” Sandy explained. “But the basics are all the same. Horsemanship is an important part of riding the horse.”

Sandy said the horse only serves as a prop in horsemanship. It is up to the rider to sit up straight and form a straight line from knee to hip to shoulder.

“When we trot the horse, do it slowly so we can maintain a good seat,” she said.

“Part of being a good horseman is making the horse execute the gaits correctly,” she continued. “Try to use minimal cues with the horse. There shouldn’t be a lot of visual movement. Everything should be as a team. Work in harmony.”

A good rider will learn to stay as one with the horse when performing different patterns, she said. When changing from a trot to a lope, the horse should be able to smoothly change leads within two to three strides, she explained.

“Lead changes tie into reining. They need to be smooth, not drastic or sudden,” she added.

Saddle fitting

John Blair of Blair Saddlery showed participants how to determine if their saddle correctly fits their horse. Blair explained that if the saddle fits properly, only a thin saddle blanket or pad should be needed beneath the saddle.

“Too much padding distorts the saddle fit and will cause the saddle to rock from side to side,” he explained.

Blair said people sit in the saddle different ways. While sitting in the center of the saddle is ideal, some will sit too far forward, and others will sit too far back.

“If we sit too far back on the saddle, it is hard on the saddle and puts a lot of dead weight on the back of the horse. It will tire him out sooner if we ride him that way all day,” he said.

Blair showed the group how he uses an empty thread spool and lets it loose behind the horn so it rolls into the seat of the saddle. If the spool stops in the center of the seat, the saddle is ideal.

When the saddle is placed on the horse, Blair says the rider should take their hand and rub between the saddle and horse to see how the saddle fits. Ideally, the saddle should fit snug, but it shouldn’t dig into the horse, he explained.

Nutrition

Harry Anderson, a veterinarian, discussed equine nutrition with Expo participants.

Anderson has developed an equine feed that can be used for all horses, from foals to senior horses. During this process, Anderson said he had to develop a feed that is efficient.

“Feed efficiency is the one number thing that tells us how much we get out of what we put in,” he explained. “What is important in equine nutrition is to meet the nutritional needs of the horse and how to most effectively get those nutrients into the equine body.”

Anderson explained how a horse’s digestive system works. Most feed products won’t digest in the small intestine and travel into the cecum and colon to be further utilized. 

Many people don’t consider the importance of minerals and vitamins in the horse’s diet, which aid in digestibility.

“If we want the best performance and health of an animal, nutrition may not be cheap,” he said. “The challenge of developing a balanced feed product is meeting the needs of a baby, working horse and geriatric horse with one set of nutrients,” he explained.

His product can be fed to all horses by just varying the amount of formula they eat.

During the Horse Expo, participants also learned about several riding disciplines, horse shoeing, massage and loading a horse in a trailer.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie – The University of Wyoming (UW) has a pony mascot in Cowboy Joe, a bucking horse logo and a new charge to expand its equine studies program.

Enter Jennifer Ingwerson. Ingwerson joined the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences in August 2014 to take the reins of the equine program within the Department of Animal Science.

The program encompasses academic teaching, UW Extension and coaching the Collegiate Horse Judging and Ranch Horse Versatility teams, activities that roughly define the seasons.

Competitive teams

“Fall is competitive season,” said Ingwerson.

The Ranch Horse Versatility competition raises awareness and appreciation of the working stock horse with ranch trail, reining, ranch pleasure and working cow horse events. 

This year, UW Ranch Horse team members compete against other collegiate teams in two shows in Colorado.

Unlike the Ranch Horse team, which is a club, Collegiate Horse Judging team members enroll in the advanced equine evaluation and selection course. Ingwerson coaches students to evaluate horses on breed standards for conformation and performance.

The ideal is not, however, a collection of standards. Students learn how conformation relates to overall function and longevity of the animal.

For example, team members must know arm from elbow, pastern from poll and be able to recognize a trappy or rope-walking stride, both undesirable traits. Competitive horse judging develops skills in observation, organization and verbal communication.

The team represents UW at the American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, and the American Quarter Horse World Show in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Coursework

Ingwerson admits her favorite fall course is advanced equine welfare and behavior. By the time students enroll, they’ve been immersed in science-based equine studies and are familiar with the equine industry.

Students choose topics and engage in debate. They are assigned a position and evaluated on their preparation – not who’s right or wrong.

“Horses are different from other livestock,” said Ingwerson. “They walk the line of livestock or pet, depending on the person. Horses stir people’s emotions and are often seen as a symbol of the American West.”

As students examine the morals, values, ethics and thorny realities of human-equine relations, not even the university’s signature bucking horse escapes the scrutiny of Ingwerson’s students. They debate the welfare of rodeo stock at events such as Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Returning to teaching

For Ingwerson, though, there is one certainty.

“I worked in industry for a while, and I missed teaching. I love the intellectual challenge, learning, growing and giving back to the state and nation,” she noted.

Ingwerson grew up in eastern Nebraska, where her family raised Quarter horses. She earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in equine reproductive physiology at Iowa State University.

Ingwerson noted that, in Wyoming, the equine program enjoys broad support.

“We really see that at UW’s spring rodeo,” she said. “It is a community event with standing room only.”

Extension mission

Ingwerson also travels the state as a UW Extension specialist.

She hosted four clinics last summer and taught at the annual horse camp in Douglas, where 4-H equine members learned showmanship and horsemanship. One of her goals is to assemble a state advisory committee with Wyoming 4-H to help expand the program.

Ingwerson said she has seen strong support for all equine activities from youth, parents, community members and UW students and administrators. Still, Ingwerson sees the need to build horse education in Wyoming and make it more widely available.

“We want to keep up the momentum,” she said.

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Douglas – The Seventh Annual Big Wyoming Horse Expo has something to offer for the entire family. This year’s event will be held in the indoor Wyoming Pepsi Equine Center in Douglas on April 22-24.

During this long weekend, horse lovers can compete in a horse judging contest, stallion row, a parade of horses, a private treaty horse sale, a variety of clinics and a large trade show.

Horse gathering

According to co-coordinator Tanna Rodeman, the Big Wyoming Horse Expo is an opportunity for horse lovers to get some one-on-one help with training techniques by some very experienced clinicians.

Admission to this three-day event is free for those auditing the clinics.

If they bring a horse, each session costs $50 or $150 for four sessions.

Stalls are also available at the Expo for $25 a day. Participants in Wyoming bringing horses to the event need a 30-day health certificate. Out-of-state participants need to provide a current Coggins test from within the last six months for their horses.

“If a participant wants to bring a horse, we usually find a way for them to participate,” Rodeman says.

However, if participants are interested in attending a particular session, they should contact Rodeman at 307-351-4275, so she can reserve their spot.

Clinics

Clinics taking horses and riders include fitting horse tack, horsemanship, ranch horse pleasure, ranch horse trail, reining, roping, two bomb-proofing the horse courses, hitching a single horse, obstacles, and three horse agility courses.

Several clinicians will be teaching at this year’s event.

Sue Apel will teach horse agility classes. Agility is a non-mounted, competitive sport where the horse and handler work together to complete an obstacle course.

Leanne Hoagland, who has professional certificates from the American Riding Instructor’s Association in reining, western pleasure, English and driving, is another clinician slated to present. She is also certified in equine reproduction with Colorado State University (CSU) and with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association in equine-assisted therapy and learning. She has shown and judged horses most of her life.

During this year’s expo, Hoagland will be teaching classes in bomb-proofing a horse, in hitching a single horse and obstacles.

Jim and Sandy Jirkovsky of J/S Training will be teaching clinics in reining, roping, fitting horse tack, horsemanship and ranch horse pleasure and trail. This couple has judged horses for over 20 years in six different countries and 46 states.

Other clinicians are Krystal Paley giving a demonstration on equine-assisted therapy and confident rider foundation, Mike Anderson on colt starting and ground work, John Blair on saddle fitting, Harry Anderson on equine nutrition, Doug Powers on horseshoeing, Bill Fitzhugh on brand inspection laws regarding horse ownership, Jenna Anderson giving a demonstration on the equine raindrop technique and Sue Schomberg on endurance riding.

Other events

On April 22, a youth horse judging contest will be held beginning at 8:30 am. This contest is free and open to all 4-H, FFA and college students.

Students can compete as a team or individually.

For more information on the contest, contact Stacey Etchemendy at Converse County Extension 307-358-2417.

During all three days, horse lovers can watch the Parade of Horses, which includes breed demonstrations, stallions, private treaty sale horses and more.

Miss Rodeo Wyoming Nicki Seckman will take part in the April 22 festivities. She will present the colors during opening ceremonies during the national anthem.

The Wyoming National Guard will present the colors during the opening ceremonies on April 23.

Beyond the horses

According to Rodeman, a 50/50 raffle and drawings for prizes provided by vendors in the show will be held daily.

Currently, more than 40 vendors have signed up to take part in this year’s event. Rodeman says there are a few more openings in the trade show. If someone is interested in setting up a display, they should contact her right away for more information.

The host hotels for this year’s event are the Hampton Inn and the Douglas Inn and Conference Center. Both hotels offer special rates if a participant mentions they are with the Big Wyoming Horse Expo.

Camping spots with electricity are also available at the fairgrounds for $25 a night.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Worland – “We need to be careful how we populate small areas,” warned Veterinarian Steven Tharp during WESTI Ag Days in Worland on Feb. 20.

“There are ranches with horses spread over thousands of acres, but most of us aren’t that fortunate. We are going to be confined to a small parcel,” he added.

Describing both the nature of humans and horses, Tharp explained that many typical situations are not ideal for keeping horses.

“There was a time in this country when the relationship between mankind and the horse was much different,” he stated. “They had a daily interaction, and they had a profound understanding of one another.”

Used as work animals, they were harnessed and utilized regularly, receiving exercise and mental stimulation.

“Fast forward to today’s world. The stewards of these animals have to work in town to be able to pay for their ranchette. We have them, we own them, but for what end?” he asked.

Pets

Although most ranchers have a better understanding of their horses, as well as larger spaces and useful workloads for their animals, Tharp expressed his concern for the pet mentality that some owners seem to have.

“A cat and a dog are very commonsense pets,” he remarked. “A horse is much larger and a very powerful animal. A horse can very easily hurt us.”

Often, horses are handled infrequently, leading to fear in both people and animals because neither party fully understands their role in the relationship or how to communicate with the other.

“I would expect probably seven out of 10 horses that I deal with on a daily basis are in a very dangerous situation, and the owners themselves are in a dangerous situation,” he noted.

Hunting season is one time of the year that Tharp often sees the dangers play out. A horse that hasn’t been ridden all year is taken up into the mountains for hunting and expected to perform at a top level.

“He might be a wonderful animal, but he comes back off the mountain and can’t walk. The horse is probably in the same condition as the guy who took him up there, and both of them drag themselves off the mountain, sorely disappointed with the experience,” he commented.

Confinement

The small areas horses are often kept in can also be a problem, especially when people buy small plots of land and immediately add too many animals for the area.

“A cow is a cloven-hoofed animal. She plows the ground. We can have too many cows, but a horse has no clove to its foot. It has a sole – one large foot that packs the earth,” he explained.

Too often, Tharp sees examples of what he terms the “urban enclave horse,” where a person buys one or two acres and confines a number of horses in that area year-round.

“What happens to the once-beautiful clover and brome pasture that once grew? It turns into a dust pile, forcing the owner to then buy and feed hay 12 months of the year,” he described.

Left unattended in a small pasture, the animals also become bored and destructive.

“They begin to revolt by eating the corrals. Round poles become splintered toothpicks,” Tharp mentioned.

They also begin to build manure piles in one area, and if left alone, the piles can build up high enough for the horses to walk up and over the fences of the corral.

Health issues

“If they’re well fed, and the majority probably are, they become overfed and obese,” Tharp added.

The state of their hooves can also become a problem, as they are not worn down in soft dirt  like they would be out on the rocks and rough ground of wide open pastures.

“Every time we make an appointment to see our hairdresser, we should make an appointment for the farrier to come out and trim the horses,” recommended Tharp.

Health issues also begin to arise when horses are kept in inadequate conditions. For example, hay that is being kept for feed throughout the summer can begin to get dusty.

“I’ve had calls about horses that are wheezing like they’d smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years. They have respiratory issues,” he noted.

Expenses

Feeding hay throughout the year can also become very expensive, easily costing $1,500 to $2,000 annually for one horse.

“If we have six or eight horses, that’s a lot of hay to haul, a lot of hay to feed and a lot of hay to keep covered,” he continued.

Additional costs also begin to build, such as those for structures to keep hay dry or other amenities to serve the animal.

“Cost may be the limiting factor, eventually,” guessed Tharp.

Acknowledging the challenges of modern-day responsibilities, he concluded that some people simply might not have the means to keep horses.

“If we have a horse, we have to have an objective, and if we can’t meet that objective, we probably shouldn’t have that animal. There are impacts on soil issues, overgrazing and overpopulation. There are also health issues and boredom issues,” he stated. “Those are all a reflection of putting an animal in environment that is unnatural.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..