All posts by Jackie

The training of a horse begins at birth and continues throughout it's life. Jacqueline A. Brittain is responsible for the day-to-day care and training of our horses. She is a life long equestrian who truly puts the welfare of the horse first. Because of her many years of caring for and training Thoroughbred race horses, she also has expert knowledge in equine conformation, nutrition, injuries and medications. Her many jobs at MWM include all aspects of horse management, care, training, breeding arrangements and total farm management. Her particular specialty is in developing a young horse to it's best capabilities in performance and as a pleasurable equine partner.

Weighing and Saving Your Hay, by Jackie Brittain

Training Tips for your horse by Jackie Brittain

“A tip for weighing and saving your hay”

How to weigh hayPerhaps I am a bit off the subject of training tips, but I would like to share a method for weighing and saving your hay.

Today’s hay prices make it necessary to shop smartly for your next load of hay.

Transportation and delivery of hay drives up the price per bale.

And many times you have to settle for lower quality due to these costs.

So I want to share a method of feeding hay that will not waste the hay and will also be a benefit to your horse’s health.

Once you have made the decision of the type of hay or hay mixture you prefer for your horse in accordance to the metabolic needs for the work load, you should begin the practice of weighing each feeding.  It is simple to do and anyone can be shown how to weigh hay rather than guessing the weight of each flake.  And if you have someone feed your horse while you are out of town you can be sure that your horse is being fed the proper amount.

Taylor #3470 hanging scaleFirst you need to purchase a scale.  I have a Taylor 70 pound high capacity Dial Hanging Scale model #3470.  They cost about $40.00 and last for years.

Secondly you need to purchase a large laundry basket, the heavy duty ones cost around $15.00.

Thirdly you need to purchase a bungee cord and an “S” hook.

Scale and basket setup to weigh hayYou can mount or hang your scale so that you can load the hay into the basket and read the scale.

To begin weigh the laundry basket.  The ones I use weigh three pounds.  Then fill you basket with your estimate of a normal feeding portion.  Write down the total and you have a onetime feeding amount of hay.

Hay feeding chartI would suggest a feeding chart of morning, midday and evening feedings.  Portions can be made ahead and be ready for the next feeding and is not so messy for the person feeding.

You will be surprised at how the flakes of hay vary in weight from bale to bale and that is due to the hay baling machine.

You will be amazed at how much less waste occurs.  It is also a valuable tool in maintaining good health and aids in determining health changes through weight loss.

I only wish I had practiced this method many years ago.  It is a simple solution to having an accurate amount of hay fed consistently and that is the bottom line for a happy, healthy horse!

Jackie Brittain
Merriewold Morgans Trainer


Bits and Bridles, by Jackie Brittain


(Bits and Bridles)

Tips on Bits & Bridals by Jackie BrittainBits are truly an art form and can be traced throughout the history of mankind and the taming of the horse.  The shapes and purposes of the bit reflect the intended use for the horse for the battlefield, farming and transportation.

Many books have been published depicting the forging of bits through the centuries.  Interesting shapes and designs often seemed barbaric at times but had specific purposes to control many sometimes wild horses in situations that were very critical to a man’s survival in war.  Thankfully man has progressed to designing bits according to the anatomy of the mouth of the horse for comfort and effectiveness.

Modern day horse bits and bridalsModern metals have completely transformed bits for horses.  Plastics, rubber, German Silver, Aurigan a nickel free alloy, Sweet Iron, copper, just to name a few.  I think one of my personal favorites is the Sweet Iron.  It is  not shiny and is rather dark and dull looking metal but it is not reactive and the horses really like bits made of this metal that is often inlaid with copper.  Most of the new metals used today are nonreactive to a horse’s saliva and are quite pleasant to the taste and warm quickly.

Modern bit designs take into account the tongue and edges of the mouth.  Bits now are rotated 45 degrees forward to lay more comfortably in the mouth and the outsides are designed not to pinch the corners of the mouth at the attachment of the ring of the bit.  Also bits come in different widths in millimeters and therefore fit the size of the mouth.

Selecting the right bit and bridleI enjoy learning about all types of bits through the reading and studying of tack catalogs.  There are so many choices for each discipline designed to encourage most horses to chew and salivate, leading to a soft mouth and acceptance of the bit.

Once you have selected the correct bit for your horse, it is time to select a bridle with the correct fit for your horse’s head size.

Leather bridles should have good construction, quality leather and stitching for longevity.  Make sure all parts fit your horse’s head size.  Often the brow bands are too small and it can be very uncomfortable and pinch the ears and puts pressure on the poll.  It is all about size, fit and comfort for each individual horse.

We are fortunate to have a great selection of bits and bridles available to us that have the horses comfort in mind.  In my collection of “keep sake” bits in my tack trunk, I am amazed at the progress in design and yet the “art” of bits still fascinates me.  I would encourage everyone to look into the history of bits.

I would like to suggest a couple of books.  One of my favorite books is “Bit By Bit” by Diana R. Tuke.  She goes into great depth of the history  of manufacturing, purposing and fitting.  Amazon carries this book and another called “The Ultimate Book of Horse Bits” by Emily Esterson.

Another source for the study of bits can be your tack catalogs.  For example “Dover Saddlery” has a large selection of bits for English riding.

Keep in mind that a properly fitted Bit and Bridle can make a tremendous difference in your horses comfort and responsiveness.

Jackie Brittain
Merriewold Morgans Trainer


Horse Health Care for Optimum Training Results, by Jackie Brittain

Honey, 7-2010Observation is our best tool for establishing a horse health regimen.  I find that basic care practices along with keen observation of the horse can make a huge difference in the condition of your horse and save on veterinary bills and heartache.

I like to establish a basic care program which includes the following:

1.   Grooming:  Hoof care:  daily or at least biweekly cleaning of the hoof checking for thrush, foreign objects or abnormalities such as cracks or wounds.

Skin and coat:  grooming for a healthy, clean coat maintains shine and bloom.  It also means touching and you can learn of sensitive areas which could indicate an injury with swelling.

2.   Veterinary:  Schedule Vaccinations for fall and spring according to your Veterinarians guidance.

 Deworming:  recommend fecal exams and treat according to results to determine frequency of deworming.

3.   Dental:  I prefer hand teeth floating every six months.  Your horse will greatly benefit in overall health and issues with the bridle.  Sharp teeth can cause terrible ulcers on the sides of the mouth.

4.   Digestion:  Many feeds are available on the market. They are tailored for the age and type of work your horse performs.  I think protein is a good indicator to watch along with sugar demeanor.   Also check the fat source and make sure it is easily digestible and reflects the amount of energy your horse requires for training.

Supplements:  Digestive problems such as stomach ulcers are found to be very common.  Many horses that exhibit troubling vices may be the result of ulcers.  Also, changes in fecal consistency are signs of a gut under stress.  Check with your veterinarian about concerns with this possible condition which can be managed with supplements and treatment.  It can really make a difference in your horses training and attitude

5.   Kirin's first trimFarrier:  A capable farrier is vital to the soundness of your horse.  Improper hoof angle and toe length are two items that contribute to injury.  Each horse is unique in its conformation and you must have a farrier that shoes or trims according to the individual.  I like to keep my horses on a five week schedule mainly to rebalance the angle and keep the toe in check.  Frogs and soles should receive minimal work in order to maintain the natural function.

If you can implement these five basic care points into a regular routine for your horse, you will see amazing results in health which transmits directly into performance.

Kandie, 4-2013Routine is vital to your horse whether it be care or training.  It is very important to feed your horse at scheduled times to prevent colic or digestive issues.       A training routine contributes to fitness and performance.

Practice will produce a partnership to achieve the goals we have in mind and result in the great pleasure of owning a horse.

Jackie Brittain, Merriewold Morgans Trainer


Fall Season Thoughts for Horse and Rider, by Jackie Brittain

 Fall Season Thoughts for Horse and RiderThere are many signals we can see and feel that soon fall and winter will be upon us.  It is good to prepare for the cold weather issues before they arrive as it is easier to do so during good weather versus winter conditions.

You will first notice your horse is shedding out the old summer coat even before the cooler nights begin.  I think this is a signal that your horse is preparing for winter and I like to support this with practices that will keep your horse in good health during these months.

Your horses’ age is a primary consideration in the overall management and care for the winter.  Young horses are more hardy in cold weather conditions but poor conditions can still have an effect overall health and future growth. Therefore, I really manage all ages similarly in terms of care practices:

1. Vaccinations: Flu, Tetanus, Encephalitis E.&W.

2. Deworming: Fall rotation: I use Ivermectin

3. Teeth Floating: All ages checked and floated for optimum mastication of feed.

4. Feeding: Observe changes in pasture grass and adjust hay types (i.e. protein levels) and amount allotted per day.  Weighing your hay feeding portions is an excellent practice.

5. Check for consistent hay sources for winter. Have dry and clean storage making sure all old and possibly moldy hay is disposed.

Kandie trots 1-2012Take notice of your horses living area, stall or corral.  Add flooring material and level areas to prevent standing water.  If possible provide wind and rain protection depending on type of climatic environment.  Check all water pipes and wrap exposed pipes and fittings with winter foam and tape.

Blanketing your horse is a personal preference.  All blankets should be clean and in good repair from the previous winter.  I prefer to let them grow a winter coat.  It is interesting how in nature, rain sheds off a horses long hair tips leaving most of the sides and underbelly dry. I am a bit skeptical of the so-called “all weather” blankets abilities during heavy cold rains.  I also think a horse must adjust their body temperature when a blanket is removed for riding.

As with all aspects of horse care, consistent and common sense practices can make all the difference for your horses’ health in your specific climate.   A little preparation can go a long way.

Jackie Brittain, Merriewold Morgans Trainer