Cowboy Distress – by Jeff Wilson

“My horse is irreplaceable, there isn’t another like him,” are thoughts that can echo through our minds whenever we face losing them. Yes, I hate that topic too. Our fantastic riding partners are so unique, that without them, we have a void. Make sure you enjoy your own extraordinary horse today.

I was greeted by my horse, Black Willow Orion, as he emerged from the pasture the other morning. He looking as if his belly was saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” I reasoned with him that it was just a little too much grass as I led him back to the barn. I finished feeding everybody else and returned to him. I could see his distress, and his coat had begun to glisten with sweat. “OK, tough dude, you’ll be fine.” I murmured, trying to convince myself. But I knew, yes I knew… that hated killer, Colic, was payin’ us a visit today.Cowboy Distress - Jeff Wilson

Orion just stood there, motionless, dealing with it. My mind began to whirl, “This can’t be happening on the threshold of releasing our new promo video,”—a video that featured Orion. In my mind’s eye, I could see the video ending with his epitaph. I moved into his stall, the same stall he had been born in 17 years ago, and snapped a lead to his halter. “Let’s go walk around the arena.”

Some days it’s hard to rise to the occasion, it’s just easier to slide over to deal with it. Trying to keep my own guts from twisting, I hurriedly called my medical team. “It’s Orion,” I blurted, I had no words to downplay it. My team is exceptionally good, but serious challenges stomped in right along beside them. Orion’s veins would not stay open to administer fluids. He refused to swallow any mineral oil, and we weren’t able to tube him successfully. Did you know banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour? Did I mention that by this point that I was outta my mind and not coming back soon?

There aren’t words to describe your feelings towards people who stand with you; I was fortunate and grateful to have competent people working all day to evict that dirty, ole’ rotten scoundrel, Colic, from the premises. Despite their efforts, Orion’s temperature dropped, his body cold to the touch, and his gut sounds on the right side remained deadly quiet.

By the end of the day, there was nothing more for us to do. Facing the next tier of care, I recognized that he and I were heading towards our last moments together. As surreal as it was for me, I prepared myself to do what was necessary—for him. I wasn’t going to allow his suffering to escalate.

You can picture that moment, can’t you? What do you say and do to make everything better? Nothing. It was in that moment—with nowhere to run—that someone had the conviction to bring me a single dose of a product called SayWhoa which is the focus of this article. SayWhoa is a relatively new product designed to clear impactions using the power of osmosis—sending water back into the digestive system to clear the impaction and relieve the gas.

We administered the bottle, in truth, without much hope of recovery as Orion was so far gone. Time had been against us. Strangely, the SayWhoa was the only thing he cooperated with and swallowed. We waited; by now there was a small crowd of concerned people standing with us awaiting the outcome—the tension in your belly really does make you hold your breath.

Within 15 minutes of administering the product, Orion’s temperature began to rise and, like turning a switch, his temperament returned. Within a half hour his guts sounds returned (strongly), and, after drinking a half bucket of water, he strolled to the other side of the arena and began eating hay. Within 45 minutes he passed manure. Yes, a miracle occurred.Cowboy Distress - Jeff Wilson #eliteequestrian

We all stood stunned, in disbelief, at what we just witnessed. The transformation, had it happened any other way, may have left some skepticism behind in us (we are all so marketed to), but we were unanimously convinced. This product actually had done what it said it would do.

If you want to keep your horse around, you need to have a bottle of SayWhoa on hand all the time. The makers of this product are very accessible and willing to help you through your 911 emergency colic squatter eviction situation. You can find SayWhoa here: or their website

Check out this fantastic horse of mine on YouTube. Search ‘Orion the Star Morgan Stallion’ and thank you SayWhoa for making this video not an ‘in memoriam.’

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted. Fortunately, this time, I got both. (Keeping Orion actively moving continued on that day, maybe to make us feel better. Moving around me in a circle, I did not ask for a routine, but Orion swooped in with all his big moves. He absolutely felt great.) Hi Ho Silver!

If you want to learn more about what I talked about here, or wish to ask a question, you can contact me at: Jeff@JeffWilsonCowboyDressage. com  or on FACEBOOK. I have been training horses for over 30 years and valued the western horse lifestyle in my approach to training. I give clinics and seminars on how to reach your full potential with your horse through the training foundation of Cowboy Dressage.

Trail Riders, Here’s Your Blessing

Jeff_Orion_7-6-15_0336If you don’t read more than one article per month, you’d be well advised to let it be the column by Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage featured in each issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.  Jeff writes for YOU, the trail rider, in each issue.  These aren’t articles he’s got stockpiled and sends to dozens of magazines each month.  No.  Each one is written especially for the trail rider, analyzing a different ACTHA obstacle in each issue, providing tips, advise and his wonderful way of looking at things through the eyes of the horse, a seasoned horseman and his brilliant sense of humor.  We are indeed so greatly blessed to have him as one of our contributing authors, and we just had to take a moment to say it to the world!  Thank you Jeff!

4The August Issue of the ACTHA Monthly discusses the DRAG obstacle.  In the article, Jeff discusses performance tips, gives suggestions on potential issues while training or practicing and even tips on how to train the horse who is new to obstacles.  There’s even a great tip provided by one of our members, Nicky Frechette (left) and her horse Lundi, about what NOT to do, based on a recent experience they shared at an ACTHA event.  If you haven’t read the article yet, click over and git’r done!  And be sure to watch for Jeff’s articles in each issue.  You’ll be glad you did.

A final note, we are very excited to be able to present Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage at the upcoming ACTHA hosted Great American Trail Horse Festival, November 5-8 in Mora, Missouri.  Jeff will be one of the fifteen renowned clinicians who will be presenting, teaching, offering private lessons, and celebrating the wonderful trail horse!

Meet the Top Ten Open & Pleasure Champions

13-72For the first time in ACTHA’s history, we have the opportunity to give a full showcase of our nation’s top ranking horse and rider teams by featuring each of them in our monthly publication; The ACTHA Monthly.  We are so proud to be able to do that!  The July issue features a full ten pages of photos dedicated to each of the top ten Open and Pleasure winners, with commentary from several of those riders.  It is very exciting for us to be able to feature them this way, allowing the public an opportunity to ‘meet’ these wonderful teams who have worked so hard to achieve so much over the year long ride season.  Take a moment to visit the publication and meet some of our nation’s top achievers.  Click to Open the July Issue > 

Even before the July issue of the ACTHA Monthly was launched, we had begun gathering photos and bios from our nation’s top ten Junior Riders who will be featured in the August issue.  Be sure and watch for it and join us in congratulating the next generation of stewards of the horse, those whom we will be relying upon for keeping the noble trail horse safe and cared for in the future!


In the photo above: Kathie Norman and Dulce of Texas, ACTHA’s #1 Open National Champions, and Dr. Susan Wingo and Cat, ACTHA’s #1 Pleasure Champions, also of Texas.

The ACTHA Monthly is published each month featuring stories about Ride Hosts, horse and rider teams, their achievements, and many contributed articles from some of the greatest sources of equine information and training including; Pat and Linda Parelli, Barbra Schulte, Joe Camp, Lisa Wysocky, Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage and our newest contributors, Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).  Click here to choose from current or archived issues of the ACTHA Monthly >>

Obstacle Tips by Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage

The Wildlife Box
As seen in the June Issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine

Rebecca Stair Kyle and her Spanish Mustang, Chisto Photo by Aponi
Rebecca Stair Kyle and her Spanish Mustang, Chisto
Photo by Aponi

Create a 12 foot square box using logs or poles. In the center of the box, place flowers and simulated wildlife.

Judging Criteria: The horse and rider team should demonstrate their ability to navigate a small area in unfamiliar surroundings. Horses will be penalized for stepping on the rails, the simulated wildlife, or stepping outside the box. Horses will be judged on performing a smooth, supple arc around the centerpiece with the rider’s aids remaining soft and subtle. Riders should stay centered, balanced, and looking where they are going.

Tips: This obstacle reminds me of the game “Operation” where players operate with tweezers on a little, red nosed character named Cavity Sam. If you touch Sam’s sides during the operation, his nose lights up, a buzzer goes off, and you are out for that turn! The game tests your fine motor skills.

The Wildlife Box obstacle tests your level of FINESSE. It may look easy, but you will need three important operational tools sharpened and honed to succeed as you travel into the box and pass by the wildlife in a confident way. First, you will need to pull up and utilize a refined degree of forward. Keep in mind that a horse can be very claustrophobic, and an obstacle like this can pull out those fears. In other words, he won’t want to enter the box.

Forward is a decision made by your horse, requiring him to listen to your leg and move forward when you ask. Having a relaxed seat and leg when he complies separates the surgeons from the hacks. Patience going in is the key. Sometimes it feels like poking a cat out from under the porch.

The next operational tool you’ll need in this procedure is your ability to focus on steering the shoulders of the horse, and not the neck and head. Here’s the “bull in the china shop” routine for many. If you can’t steer the shoulders of your horse, he’ll be over the sides of the ground rails to get away from the wildlife. Again, patience is the key (even the chickens under the porch know that). Focus on keeping the shoulders soft and between the reins.

If you can’t steady the hind quarters, you might get the buzzer! Our third surgical piece in our tool kit is to keep a soft, steadying leg to help the horse stay forward as well as travel quietly around the square. Controlling the hindquarters is really about controlling movement.

Little minor challenges here will show you areas that you need to work on with your horse. Evasions occur when the rider and steed can’t decide whose controlling the movement. There is never a mistake too far gone when riding forward. Remember, ride through this obstacle with a very relaxed seat (there’s no bee in the outhouse), with steadying legs and soft reins, and you’ll do very well. If you have trouble, you’ll know your homework. Unfortunately, if our foresight was as good as our hindsight, we would be better by a far sight. Have fun with your “operation!”


Jeff Wilson of Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage
Jeff Wilson of Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage

Jeff Wilson hosts and teaches Cowboy Dressage clinics in the Northeast with great success. He has worked professionally for over 30 years with problem horses, training horses of all breeds as well as specializing in starting horses. For several years now Jeff has turned most of his training program into liberty work, trick training, as well as teaching classical dressage movements in a fun and easy to understand way.

To our great benefit in the competitive trail sport, Jeff is also an ACTHA Ride Host. Look forward to Jeff’s tips to help the horse and rider best perform official ACTHA obstacles in each issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine!  

Learn more about Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage >