special equestrians, therapy horses

Special Equestrians – Guinness The Rescue Pony

Guinness The Rescue Pony

Special Equestrians has written and published their very own special book about two of the dedicated therapy/program horses, Guinness and Lacey.  This book was written by Julia Haring and beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Kauffman.  One of Florida Gulf Coast University’s  senior classes was instrumental in helping write this heart warming story. The book was graciously published with a grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida. This book will be used as part of the outreach visits for Special Equestrians’ Special Partners Literacy Program.

What’s Inside

The story is about Guinness who is a miniature horse that feels lonely and different. A wonderful family who owns Lacey, a beautiful Haflinger horse, adopted Guinness. Lacey is a pasture mate of Guinness’, who gives lessons to children. Equally important, she is also a role model for Guinness, and she quickly teaches him all she knows.

Unfortunately, one day while out trail riding, a tree fell right in front of them and blocked the path.  Guinness was small enough to crawl under the tree and run for help.  The children and Lacey were saved!  Guinness learned a valuable lesson, it’s ok to be different.

special equestrians

Beautiful illustrations throughout the book.


About Special Equestrians

Special Equestrians is a nonprofit organization located in Fort Myers, Florida.  They are a United Way Partner Agency serving children and adults with special needs in Southwest Florida since 1987.  Special Equestrians enhances physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioral and educational skills through equine-assisted activities and therapies.  They strive to live by their motto of “Making Miracles Happen.”

Lacey is a beautiful Haflinger horse who I donated to Special Equestrians in 2011.  She had been a wonderful addition in my life, but her amazing skills and talents were going to waste as a pasture ornament. Thus, I decided to donate her as a therapy horse to the Special Equestrian program.  She has been a wonderful addition to the program, teaching children balance and giving them confidence.

Recently, Lacey has become a certified cart horse, teaching children and adults how to drive a horse.  People tell me all the time that she has touched so many lives, nothing could make me happier than to hear this.  Conveniently, Special Equestrian’s beautiful facility is only 1.5 miles down the road from my farm, so I can go and visit her anytime I want!

Lacey, the gorgeous Haflinger girl!


How have horses touched your life? I’d love to hear your stories, please share!


In the meantime, Love your horse!

Natasha & Xapado



laminitis in minis
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Summer Sore Treatment

Recipe For Disaster

What do you get when you combine lush summer grass in Florida, a pudgy mini horse, and steroids?…laminitis.

My miniature horse Guinness had a scary bout of laminitis recently after being on the steroid Dexamethasone for a week to treat a summer sore. Guinness has always been healthy and never caused any problems. He had a large summer sore on his sheath and after taking him to get it checked out by my vet, they prescribed Dex to help him also heal internally.

Course of Therapy

About a week into his treatment, I noticed he was tender on his front feet when he got up from laying down. My heart instantly sank, thinking the worst. I led him around to make sure I wasn’t seeing things and overreacting, but my fears were right. He was very tender when turning left or right, as if he was walking on egg shells.  This is a classic symptom of laminitis. I immediately called my farrier who came and checked him. He told me Guinness was positive with the hoof tester. After speaking with my vet, they both agreed we needed to be very proactive and get the inflammation down quickly.

I took Guinness to the vet where they gave him Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) through a nasal tube. As many horse people know, the DMSO makes your horse have stinky garlicy breath for a couple days, but I’ll take it if it helped him. My farrier also told me to ice his legs. Guinness was so patient and wore tall socks with ice packs against his legs and pasterns for at least 20 minutes, twice a day. The goal was to help cool the blood as it went down into the hoof where the inflammation had started.

Summer Sore Complication

Applying ice packs to relieve inflammation


After two days, Guinness was tubed again with another round of DMSO. The vet and farrier could see marked improvements in his walking and the digital pulse that had been strong in his legs was starting to relax, indicating that the inflammation had been reduced.

We all know that mini horses are extremely easy keepers, but Guinness was always on the heavy side. It baffled me what caused this acute case of laminitis. I’ve always known that the use of Dex could cause laminitis, but I thought that was in high doses, or for extended periods of time and Guinness had neither. The vet and farrier could not confirm it was the Dex, but said that was the likely suspect.

In researching this subject, I did come across a good explanation of what I imagine happened. The use of Dex in insulin-resistant horses (aka easy keepers) can cause a spike in their blood sugar. This causes the pancreas to flood the body with insulin. Excess insulin is one cause of laminitis. I took this as an opportunity to not add insult to injury while Guinness’ body was in turmoil, and took him off  his regular grain. He was only getting a small handful of Seminole Equalizer, but I switched him to Seminole Wellness Equi-Safe which is a low starch forage-based feed.

Duchess Healing Cream

Meanwhile, topically I was applying a compounded medication I received from the vet.  Unfortunately, this prescribed medication melts off and flies are still able to land on the open summer sore.  This is where Duchess Healing Cream was able to help in the recovery of this terrible wound, located on a very delicate area. First, I would apply the prescribed medicine. Next, on top of that, I would apply Duchess Healing Cream.  This insured that the ointment from the vet would not melt off and flies were not able to land on his sore.

My strong little mini has recovered well and I’m very thankful that we were able to catch it in time. Lesson learned, be very vigilant in the medication that is given to your horse. Furthermore, closely watch for any subtle signs of changes to their bodies!

Amy and Guinness

Equestrian Roulette – Flip flops, horses and gators, oh my!!!

flip flops, horses, equine safety


bruised foot, horse related injury

Horse related injury!

This is how you play equestrian roulette, and this is what happens when you don’t put safety first!!!  Believe me, it’s so much easier living in a hot, and humid climate such as Florida, to put on a pair of flip flops and go feed the horses.  It’s early, it’s already 95% humidity at 6:30 in the morning, and my horses are neighing in their stalls for their breakfast.

Without thought, I quickly slip into my flip flops conveniently sitting right outside my front door and go feed my hungry boys.  Furthermore, since I take my shoes off before entering my house, I find that flip flops are guaranteed to not provide evening shelter to spiders, frogs, lizards or other potential creepy-crawly insects that may have sought refuge inside my boots during the night.  Who wants to stick their feet into that first thing in the AM?

After my boys are done eating, I put their fly masks on, thoroughly spray them with Duchess Natural Insect Repellent, Citronella Blend, and walk them out to their pastures for a day of grazing.

At the end of my barn aisle, about 50 feet away is a 1/2 acre pond, and there lying stealthily in the grass at the water’s edge was a 6 FOOT ALLIGATOR!  I’m not sure if my horse saw it first, or if I did, but after the gator saw us, he instantly submerged himself back into the water! At that exact moment, my horse too thought he should swiftly retreat from the scene. Unfortunately, my foot was in his way!

Luckily for me, it was NOT a flesh wound, nor did I break any bones!  I used crushed ice throughout the week to lessen the swelling, bruising and pain.  I also judiciously slathered on arnica cream to speed the healing process!

Now, when walking the boys out to their pasture’s, I am on a vigilant watch for Mr Gator. Although, I think he has left for greener pastures, (haha) there is not enough fish for his appetite in my small pond. Needless to say, yes, I am wearing protective footwear when turning out my horses.  Confidence can breed complacency, but remember, SAFETY FIRST!

alligators and horses

Florida alligator











Do you have a story like this??  Have you ever in haste done something that you know you are taking chances by not practicing proper safety?

Love your horse!

Natasha & Xapado

horses in barn, horses in stalls

Xapado & Eros waiting for their breakfast!












Duchess Healing Cream Before and After

This is a  Duchess Healing Cream before and after testimonial.  I am given ample opportunities to heal their wounds since my horses always seem to have some kind of scrape, bump or bite.

I brought my horse inside the barn from his pasture.  Noticing his foot was covered with flies,  I proceeded to take him over to the wash rack to have a closer look.  After washing off his foot thoroughly,  this is what I found…

summer sore, sore on a horse's foot, blown abscess

Sore on my horse’s foot

Really? OMG!!!  I was so focused on the wound, and what I thought may be a summer sore, I didn’t even notice the gash/explosion on his heel…what, you say?  Yes, it’s true…summer sores are a huge problem down here in Florida, and if not treated properly and quickly, they can turn into a nasty problem.

Luckily, I was able to quickly resolve this wound, and here is what I did.  First, I assembled from my first-aid cabinet these necessary barn essentials:

first aid supplies, duchess healing cream, butadiene, 4x4 guaze

First aid supplies for horses

  • 10% Betadine Solution
  • 4×4 gauze pads
  • 2×2 gauze pads
  • Vet-Wrap or sometimes called Coban
  • Duchess Healing Cream

After washing his foot thoroughly with water, I soaked a 4×4 gauze pad with Betadine Solution and gently cleaned the wound.  The best practice is to start cleaning from the center of any wound and work your way out. Do not re-use the dirty gauze pad on a previously cleaned area.

horse hoof sore, summer sore, clean hoof wound

Scrubbed and cleaned ready for Duchess Healing Cream

I then applied a generous coating of Duchess Healing Cream, covered the wound with a 2×2 gauze pad and securely wrapped his foot with Vet-Wrap.

applied duchess healing cream, ready for vet wrap

Duchess Healing Cream

gauze pad before wrapping

2×2 gauze pad

vet wrap, horse hoof with vet wrap

Duchess Purple Vet Wrap!

Most importantly, I kept his foot as dry as possible and repeated the above steps daily for one week.

healed hoof, hoof abscess site

Healed hoof

Progress, after two weeks his wound was healed and his foot is growing out nicely.

First and foremost, there was not a definitive diagnosis done by a licensed veterinarian, but I think it’s safe to say my horse had blown an abscess through his heel. With prompt attention and conscientious care, I was able to effectively treat my horse’s wound. Furthermore, I have more than 30 years of horse ownership and an extensive human surgical background.

As with any equine injury, use common sense and seek the advice of a licensed medical professional if you are unsure of your horse’s injury or the wound is non-healing.  Everyday my horse’s wound looked better, and he never took a lame step, therefore, I was confident in the care of his wound.

Love your horse!

Natasha and Xapado

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Mosquito, No See-ums & Fly Sheets

Which One Do I Buy

Over the years I have tried almost every brand of fly sheet for my horse.  However, I have finally found the magic sheet, and I will tell you why.

First, I live in SW Florida, it is hot here, and loaded with all sorts of biting insects basically throughout the entire year.  Since my poor horse is allergic to mosquito bites, and especially no-see-ums, battling his constant skin issues and allergies actually led to the birth of my company, Duchess Elite Equine Products!!

fly sheet rub preventer

Xapado in his sexy Robin Hood

Body Conformation

My horse’s ample chest posed to be a challenge in finding a fly sheet that fit across his chest comfortably, and not cause significant rubbing or hair loss. I had originally thought I had found a great sheet with the Smart Pak Rockin’ SP Quarter Horse fit, but it did not fit the chest on my Lusitano! I ended up having to buy a Robinhood neck protector to stop the rubbing on his chest.  Also, I found that the hole size of the fabric was too big, and he was still getting bitten! In addition, the fabric seemed a bit too thick, and did not provide enough ventilation.  You can imagine how awful I felt putting a blanket on my horse when it was 98 degrees outside!!!! Lightweight and breathability is a must!

Built for Florida

Then, I found the Fly Turtle…The Fly Turtle is constructed of a unique thermoset nylon mesh that combines extreme lightweight with incredible durability.  It is almost like my horse is wearing nothing at all.  Constructed with a very fine mesh that prevents the smallest of insects from biting through. It does not cling to the horse like other brands, this allows the air to flow through freely.

Xapado modeling his Turtle

If your horse is allergic to bites from gnats, midges, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, or other flying insects then this fly sheet is an excellent choice.  The Fly Turtle has long sides with a belly flap on each side that can be wrapped underneath and secured with elastic straps for more protection.  The mesh fabric is waterproof and will not retain moisture.  The sheet washes well, and I am going on my second summer of its use.



Love your horse!

Natasha and Xapado

Eros & Xapado modeling their Florida summer wear.

A Miniature Horse at the Bar?

With hooves polished, a fresh bath, tail and coat brushed, and gold glitter sprinkled in his mane for some added sparkle, my miniature horse, Guinness, was ready for his night out on the town at the 2017  Taste of Love fundraiser for Special Equestrians, Inc. http://www.specialequestrians.net/.  This annual fundraiser is a food and wine pairing, with silent and live auction items all to raise money for the riders and horses at Special Equestrians. As a therapy horse, Guinness is comfortable with different environments, but putting his head up on the bar and “requesting a drink” was a new one. The venue let us bring Guinness inside and he could walk around and visit all the guests. He handled it all like a champ. Many people petted him and he stood patiently for many pictures. I’m pretty sure he now has a standing date for the event each year!


To Whip or Neigh?

I recently started riding with a dressage whip while working with Eros and have had great results.  I found that it doesn’t take much – if any – contact to get him out of his semi-sleepy state and in tune with the day’s lesson.
Unfortunately, I dropped the whip just before entering the show ring when I went to ride my first test. I foolishly thought that I didn’t need the added distraction. But I wish I had held on to it, and have since spent some time learning how to hold and use a whip for optimum results.

With thanks to www.dressagedifferent.com, here are some edited and condensed tips for holding a whip. My next post will focus on how to properly use a whip.

The whip should lay in the center crease of your palm.








Many riders new to whips use their thumb to hold the whip, but they will then lose the integrity of their rein length.   As a rider, you want to be able to shorten and lengthen your rein length throughout your ride.  If you use your thumb to grip the whip you lose the ability to bring your rein up and down quickly and easily.








Place your whip in the crease running along the center of your palm. Because your thumb and top three fingers are busy with holding the reins, the responsibility of the whip moves primarily to your pinky. If you have the whip follow the crease along the center of your palm then when you turn your hand over, the angle of the whip should match the angle of your knuckles.  Problems can occur when a rider runs the whip at an angle that does not match their hand’s “lines” – this can lead to accidentally touching your horse’s flank and who knows what will happen then.








Just practice, practice, practice, and the feeling of holding the whip will become second nature.

Happy riding!

Tim and Eros