Captain Courageous first chapter!

Here’s a taste of what’s going to happen in book two of the Marla Mesconti Mysteries! If you haven’t bought the first one (Ritzforg 127) don’t miss out! They are available on,, and many other fine e-version web sites. You can buy the paperback right here:

Here ya go!

Chapter 1


“Whoa…whoa…WHOA!” Officer Daniels cried out as he desperately tried to control 2000 pounds of pissed-off Percheron. Already de-seated and slipping off the side, the officer flailed at the reins and grips of the saddle just before the prancing black gelding did an electric slide to the right and dumped him on his backside. The horse gleefully trotted off to a patch of grass in the middle of Military Park and nibbled while giving the un-mounted police officer the evil eye.

          Officer Pete Daniels lay out on the grass like a bum on a three-day drunk, a stark contrast to his usual six-foot-one, tall, dark, and handsome visage. He rolled slowly to his side and stared over at the black menace he’d been trying to ride.

          “You miserable prick,” he seethed.

His partner Jake Colby rode up to his fallen buddy and climbed down off his own Percheron gelding, Maximillian.

          “Are you OK?” he enquired.

          Pete groaned as he rolled onto his back again, “Ugghh….no, not really. I think I hurt my hip. What do you suppose is wrong with that bonehead?”

          Jake stared at the black beast as if expecting the answer to come straight from the horse’s mouth.

          “I don’t know, Pete. I think we got taken on this guy. He’s nowhere near as quiet as the guy said he was. What got him going? I was standing over at the sidewalk with the group of girls and didn’t see what happened.”

          “The truck went by with the landscape trailer on it and hit a pot hole. That big metallic clunk you heard? I think that’s what he doesn’t like because he came right off the ground and started bucking. I wasn’t really paying attention enough and he came right out from under me,” Pete replied.

Jake approached Duke slowly and gathered the reins. “Can you walk?” he tossed over his shoulder at Pete.

Pete rolled to his knees and crab-walked his way up to his feet. He couldn’t put weight on it so there was no way for him to ride back to the police stables more than a mile away.

“I don’t think I can get back on him. My hip really hurts,” Pete replied while checking out all the body parts to see what was missing.

“Stay over there on that bench. I’ll lead him back and call for a cruiser to pick you up and get you to the hospital. Will you be OK, or do you want me to call for an ambulance?”  

“NO! No ambulance ride for me, just call for back up and I’ll ride in with the Unit 12, they aren’t that far from here. I landed on my damn radio when I fell,” Pete dangled what was left of his microphone for the portable radio.

Jake smiled a little out of the corner of his mouth, “Nice job, numb nuts, you couldn’t just land on your feet. Not just breaking the radio but probably broke your ass, too. Take it easy and Unit 12 will be along in a minute. I’ll get Duke back to the stable. I’ll take care of putting him up too, you owe me!”

Pete just groaned and hobbled toward the park bench at the edge of Military Park, a beautiful green oasis in the middle of one of New Hampshire’s biggest city. As he made his way out of the park he couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing wrong with this horse. Why does he always bolt when he hears a loud noise? Not just any noise, but it seemed like certain noises. The Manchester Police Department purchased the horse a month ago and Duke was painted as the perfect candidate for crowd control. Pete couldn’t imagine what would happen if Duke bolted in the middle of a parade crowd. He shuddered at the visual.

Unit 12’s black and white sedan rolled into view and stopped in front of the bench. The driver rolled the window down and said, “You need help, Granny, or can you get in the car by yourself?”

Pete just shook his head as he creaked up slowly off the bench. No sympathy from these guys. It was well known that most of the police crew thought the mounted unit was all rainbows and chocolates.

Meanwhile, Jake rode back to the stables at a brisk walk with Duke in tow. His own horse, Max for short, was a tried-and-true veteran of riding the city streets, schmoozing with people, being a goodwill ambassador to thousands of school kids, and a formidable presence during crowd control situations. Max seemed to resent Duke tagging along at his hip and occasionally did a “look back” to make sure Duke stayed where he was.

Jake hooked the two horses to separate cross ties and began the un-tacking process. Each horse had bridle and saddle removed then, vigorously rubbed down with a curry comb. Once the post-ride massage was finished, each horse was wiped down with a fluffy towel and then turned out into a pasture for the rest of the day. Jake locked the gate behind him after he turned out both horses and stopped to watch them roll in the dirt. He also wondered what was wrong with the horse and why he was such a miserable brat. Finding no answers, he got into his car and headed for the hospital to check on his best friend and PD partner.


What will happen when Marla Mesconti mixes it up? Find out soon! Captain Courageous will be in print very soon!


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“Denier” the new catch-phrase in buying a blanket for your horse

“What denier is it?” The most common question now asked of tack shops, online sellers and e-bayers alike. Horse blankets are made of many fabrics but the strongest is nylon. Nylon comes in many different thicknesses, styles and weaves but the word “denier” refers to the threads weight, not strength.

Duh…what did you say?

I know, it’s confusing but to make is a simple as possible, denier can be a misleading purchase point of a blanket. You can make a 600 denier blanket out of a thread as light and wispy as grandma’s sewing machine thread or make it out of ballistic thread. They weigh the same. Which do you suppose will last longer and take more games of blanket-tag?

Manufacturers have now listed deniers on the tags so unknowing consumers will buy a blanket that is 1200 denier over their competition’s 600 denier. The consumer doesn’t know that the 1200 denier thread is spider web and the 600 is Kevlar. Which one will do a better job? The Kevlar of course, but unfortunately it is a common misperception that the higher the denier, the stronger the blanket.

Reality is the cost will probably be the best “tell.” If company A is selling a 1200D turnout sheet for $89 and Company B is selling an 800D for $129, chances are good the 800D will outlive the 1200D. Not always is this the case, as some companies just love to make oodles of money! But most companies I’ve dealt with are competitive with their pricing.

What’s the difference between a 600D and a 600D ripstop? Ripstop is made with cheap thread and they weave a mesh of nylon line into the fabric to help stop a long rip once a horse snags it on something. Again, the question should be what is the 600D made of?

Bottom line is, don’t buy a blanket on the denier number alone. Look for warranties, that’s a good sign the blanket is made for the tough life. Listen to what the MAJORITY of folks have to say about a brand, not one or two friends. See if there are any notations on how it is woven. Single weave, double weave, 2×2, ballistic, etc. That will show a stronger sheet or blanket is being made for you and they are proud to put that information on the tag.

“What is the denier?” Pllttthhh……keep looking!

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Ritzforg 127

I’ve spent a lifetime working with the written word in the form of zillions of articles on horses, my favorite subject, and oodles of kid’s stories. I’ve finally had the opportunity to turn my pen to the full-length fiction that I’ve yearned for!

Ritzforg 127 is a mystery/crime novel that is set in New Hampshire and Kentucky. It has crime, mystery, twists and turns and everything you want in a good read! The story starts with the theft of Ritzforg 127, a popular Friesian stallion of Brandywine Farm. Marla Mesconti is the owner of a neighboring farm and her mentor Bill Reynolds is found dead at his farm days after the horse was stolen. Inept and understaffed police have no clues to either crime and quickly the stolen horse case is shelved. Marla cannot stand by quietly while the perps get away with this tragedy.

Follow the story and get in touch with the colorful characters as they unwind the mystery surrounding Ritzforg 127. The story traverses the horse show world and wings from New Hampshire to Kentucky.

The book is currently available in paperback at and will soon be available on line for every type of electonic reader out there! Check back here for links to the e-publication of Ritzforg 127! Here’s the Kindle link:

Here’s the Nook link:


Book 2 “Captain Courageous” is underway and the story is about the mounted police horses of a local PD. Marla gets involved as trainer and quickly becomes a suspect! Watch for the release of Captain Courageous in summer of 2014!

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Fly Sprays for Horses, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!



People often ask me, “What is the best fly spray?” That is not an easy question but if you ask 50 people, you’ll get 50 different answers! Let’s see if I can demystify the question some.

To start with there are probably 200 or more brands of fly sprays. Each touting its efficacy with claims of “24/7 protection,” “Kills and protects for up to 17 days!” “Repels and controls biting flies for up to 8 hours!” There are claims on every bottle. Let’s look at those claims and how they can put such outrageous things in print. First and foremost, a company must do clinical trials  before a product is released to the public. Most companies hire a testing facility where they put a white square in a box full of flies and spray it with their product. The box is closed and weatherproofed so the flies have every opportunity to land on said square. Then they set the timer and see how long it takes for a fly to land. The product is fresh as a daisy the whole time it is in there so it can take days or weeks before the fly population decides to land there, there are no blood hosts living in the box, and there are plenty of other places for them to rest! Now the product has been “proven” to be effective for two weeks. Reality check. The first time your horse rolls in the dirt most of what you put on in the morning is now on the ground. Bathe, ride, work your horse sweaty, or a dozen other environmental happenings and your fly spray is gone. So be aware that claims on the bottle do not reflect real-life situations. Another fun fact is the types of flies they claim to repel and kill are those that land on the white square or die on the white square. In real life, the B-52’s don’t die after they bite your horse, they just leave a trickle of blood and a hearty thank-you for the meal.

The next thing to know is what’s in it. You can claim whatever the test facility “proved” for your product but the sin of omission is a grey area with labelers. There are many things that can affect your main ingredient. For instance, the UV rays from the sun can make your active ingredient inert in a matter of minutes, especially the chemical-based kill ingredients. Therefore a sunscreen in the mix would indicate a longer-lasting product. A waterproof (no such thing) formula will last longer but there is nothing you can’t wash off your horse. If it was truly waterproof, gosh we wouldn’t have to spray ever again! Again, in controlled experiments it probably sheds water like a duck. Note the following excerpts taken from the MSD sheet on permetherin:  (

Pyrethrins and permethrins:

· are unstable in the presence of light, heat, moisture and air

· are hydrolysed by oxygen and/ or sunlight

So it pays to look into the label further than the claims and see just what is in it and any chemical-based product with sunscreens in it will be preferred over those without.

The ingredients found in fly spray are the important items on the label, not who made it, how fancy the label is or how outrageous the claims. There are two classes of fly sprays, I call them “Knockdowns” and “Herbals.” The Knockdowns will contain permetherins, cypermetherins or pyrethrins. The remaining active ingredients perform the “repel” function or “supersize” function and are generally piperonyl butoxide (your super sizer), citronella, and other scent repellers. The key to efficacy is reading the ingredient labels. Here’s a perfect example:

Ultrashield EX contains: .50% permetherin, .10% pyrethrins, 1% piperonyl butoxide, and 98.40% inert ingredients (generally alcohol and/or water) It sells here for $24.91 in the RTU spray quart bottle.

Bronco contains: .03% prallethrin (a synthetic pyrethroid) .10% permetherin, .50% piperonyl butoxide and 99.367% inert ingredients. It sells here for $6.85 in the RTU spray quart bottle

So why the huge disparity in price? Ultrashield has higher-quality ingredients and much more of them as well as a healthy dose of super-sizer. Bronco is essentially a bottle of water that they waved a fly repellent over the top. In our tests at several different farms we found Bronco to be as effective as a bandaid on a severed artery. The bugs literally licked the stuff as it came out of the bottle. The Ultrashield worked on the one or two hour trail rides and the first half of the day in turnout but by 5:00 the horses were running for the gate. We didn’t find any dead bugs around the horses either, yet it will kill it if you spray the bug directly (so maybe carry a holster with you and zap them as they buzz you?) But even armed with this information from the label and multiple on-site tests with real horses, people will swear to you that Bronco works great. Some people just feel better thinking they are doing the right thing by offering a few minutes of protection. There are a couple of skin and hair moisturizers that people swear by as well and you know what? They do work on mosquitos and gnats because they are mostly made of marigold oil (pyrethrin’s home) and the scent does discourage those types of flies (and many of your friends!).

On to the herbals. They consist of two types, the ones that actually are herbal and those that sneak under the federal guidelines and put a bunch of flowers on the label to make you think they are herbals. The true herbals are essential oils such as thyme, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary, citronella, clove and geraniol. These are very effective on mosquitos and gnats (just like their smelly cousin Avon Skin So Soft) but are fairly useless when it comes into July and August and the B-52 bombers and their ugly red-headed step-children, the deer fly, come out to play on trail riders and pastures. The “fakers” in the herbal world are those that carry a large quotient of pyrethrins. In large quantities, it is a neuro-toxin to flies, in small quantities it acts as a repellent. Pyrethrins are gathered from marigold flowers, hence the “natural” labeling. But as I say, poison ivy and uranium are naturals, too, and not necessarily something I want to spray on my horse. If you want a true herbal, stick with the ones that are made of essential oils and keep your trail riding to the evening hours or early mornings during the peak of biting-fly season.

Your choices of brands may be hundreds but your main ingredients remain countable on two hands. Therefore, knowing the type of bug you want to repel will help you choose the right spray. Gnats, no-see-ums, and mosquitos all respond well to scent-type citronella or geraniol-based sprays. Big biters respond well to permetherins. The higher the percentage of permetherins the more efficient the spray. ProZap makes a product called War Paint in a stick form and it contains a full 7% permetherin, thereby making it a favorite for bellies and necks in pastured horses. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that permetherin comes with a stern EPA listing as “likely to cause human cancer.”  That said, you should never inhale it, spray around children and wash your hands after working with your horse. Also, be a dear and inform your farrier and vet so they are aware of the carcinogen sprayed all over your horse.

A little word about the “super-sizer” piperonyl butoxide. It’s not a repellent or kill ingredient at all but instead it is added to the premium brands because it causes the permetherin to work harder and faster. Check out the warning on that fun product below:

A 2011 study found a significant association between piperonyl butoxide in personal air collected during the third trimester of pregnancy and delayed mental development at 36 months. Children who were more highly exposed in personal air samples (≥4.34 ng/m3) scored 3.9 points lower on the Mental Developmental Index than those with lower exposures. The lead researcher stated, “This drop in IQ points is similar to that observed in lead exposure. While perhaps not impacting an individual’s overall function, it is educationally meaningful and could shift the distribution of children in the society who would be in need of early intervention services.

One other alternative to sprays against the miserable stable fly (you know the one… looks like a house fly but bites the ankles of you, your horse and dog incessantly) is the fly predators. These little buggers eat the larval stage of this fly (a carrier for EIA and a host of farm animal diseases) and if done religiously, in two seasons you will have almost no stable flies.

The final choice is yours. Do the health risks of the premium brands outweigh your horse’s comfort? Or can you do alternative horsekeeping such as night turnouts, dusk and dawn trail riding at peak season, sheets and hoods, and good housekeeping in the barn? Some folks worry about West Nile virus but herbals do a great job keeping the mosquitos at bay. Ultimately, your home area will lay down the final verdict on which one works best because you may have different environmental influences and different bugs than your friend who might live only two miles away! When I’m asked which one is best, I shorten the spiel above and tell people to always start with the herbals to be safe and then if you really can’t live with the bugs, work your way up to the “canned cancers.”

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How many classes should you go in at a horse show?

Why is it that when people circle 20 classes they qualify to go in on the horse show prize list, they can’t seem to whittle it down to 4-5? Just because you CAN go in all those classes, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve judged countless shows where I see the same horses in 10-15 classes. That borders on inhumane! These poor horses are brought in a hot trailer, continually fed hay to keep them quiet while they wait for their classes, then are “warmed up” before almost every class with a belly full of roughage. It amazes me that more riders aren’t tossed into the pucker brush. What possesses a person to ride these horses for class after class like that? A 99-cent ribbon? Bragging rights?

After watching one Paint horse go around in circles for 14 classes at a one-day show, I spoke to the rider: “I think your horse has done as much as he can for today. Perhaps a rub down, an apple and a quick ride home is what he deserves now?” Answer: “I still have the colorbreed division to go.”
I just don’t get it. The horse was standing in line with his eyes shut. Imagine what his muscles must have felt like?

Generally, show horses are not as fit as trail horses. But showing a horse in 10 or more classes in a day is the equivalent of riding 2 1/2 trail hours at a brisk trot. You wouldn’t do that on a trail horse that only had 15-30 minutes of exercise a day 3-4 days a week. You’d take it easier, maybe a brisk walk for 1 1/2 hours until they were up to the longer trotting trails. But yet, these people do it to their show horses! Worse yet, they are spoken to by stewards, judges, show management and friends, and still do it! Is the bloody ribbon worth hurting your horse over?

In my experience, the people showing with me would pick 2-3 halter classes and then they would have to pick a total of 4 classes to ride in and that’s it. If the horse had a long rest in the afternoon, I’d let them pick a game class at the end of the day.
It is a double-edged sword as show committees need lots of entries to pay for the show but people should not enter more than 6 classes at a one-day show. How about getting your friends to attend the show with you and then everyone wins! Show committees get lots of entries and judges get to see more horses, and horses are not overworked! Win, win, win!

But how do you get people to understand that theory without ticking them off? If you see someone showing their horse over and over to the point where the horses are dragging their heads, say something to the show management, it’s a start. If they’re your friends, mention that their horse looks dog tired and maybe you’ll get through their thick skull!


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Unstupify the stock halter horse!

I just finished watching two different shows at two different geographical locations and I am completely amazed at the “dumbing-up” of the American stock horses (QH, Appys and Paints). When did they forget how to place their feet by themselves? Somewhere in “World Championship World” a trainer decided it was cool to walk around to the four corners of his horse and pick up each foot and place it where it belongs, then reach behind and pull apart the not-so-perfect hocks. At which time, every underling in the world copied him. And now, as far down as the local shows we have people doing the same thing. They really need to see themselves on video. The horse is doofing around, licking his lips and thinking…”Duh, what’s he doin’?” While the handler, mostly oblivious to the judge, continues to fiddle and fool around with the feet and legs as if the horse was SO STUPID he couldn’t figure it out himself!

As a judge, I am completely struck why a handler would make their horse look stupid in the ring. Isn’t the idea to “show your horse to the best advantage at all times?” So showing how stupid your stock horse is is an advantage? Hmmm…I can tell you (and I’m not alone in the judging world) that it’s about time to put a stop to dumbing-up the stock horse. The best-looking stock horses come in the ring at a strong, meaningful walk, snap to attention with all four feet planted where they belong (all by themselves) and raise their heads slightly and wear their ears to show interest in the class and their handler. When asked to jog, they should put their hindquarters into gear and jog in an alert, ground-covering manner while maintaining the true, two-beat western jog, ears above the withers.

When you bring the horse to the judge for inspection, the last thing she wants is to see a doofus stock horse stand with his head hanging down while the handler shuffles back and forth between legs. The judge is tapping her foot for a reason! Get the job done in the least amount of time and please stop making your horse look so foolish in front of the judging panel! As a judge, the show committee requests that you keep the show moving along. Do you know how long it takes to wait for 6 doofus horses to “show” themselves in a halter class?? TOO LONG! This may be where the line, “How many Quarter Horses does it take to change a light bulb?” came from. Answer…”Duh, the light is out??”

The reason AQHA sent out the video on what a proper jog and lope is was to enlighten the then “current fad” of peanut-pushing, hoof-dragging, tree sloths that were showing up in the stock horse shows pleasure division. It essentially stated that if the ears drop below the withers you’re OUT! Perhaps it’s time to remind handlers that making the breed look stupid is not conducive to the grassroots activities of getting people interested in owning and showing a stock horse. Can you hear the sales pitch at the ringside? “Wellllll, Zippo’s Sammy Two String White Shoes is a great hoss. He rides nice but just can’t seem to get the ribbon he deserves in halter.” Meanwhile Zippo’s handler has him bent like a pretzel so he can watch while the doofus handler tries to place those feet just so. Funny thing is a lot of handlers can’t get a good perspective that close up and end up making the horse look sickle-hocked because he’s standing too close underneath!

Let’s make a pact to show home videos on You Tube of people doing the “doofus” thing to the stock horse halter horses and maybe, just maybe, we can swing this around to where the stock horses look like the sharp, well-dressed ambassadors they are! Stock horses have always been a favorite of mine, especially big, honest geldings. But to look at them now, I’d be afraid to ride one fearing they might tip over, or stop breathing, or some equally disastrous thing. Even the wildest, carziest Arab I showed in hand could put all four feet into place by himself!

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Changing feeds

There’s no doubt that a horse’s feeding program needs to be revisited once or twice a year or if you see signs of change that may be feed related. Doing your homework first makes change fairly simple. My biggest gripe as a horse feed consultant is people, in general, just take a stab at what to feed. There is a science to feeding that doesn’t require a doctorate, it simply requires a few tools and a good eye!
Start with knowing what your horse actually weighs (tapes are free at most grain stores) then look at your horse with a sharp eye and determine where he falls in the body conditioning score sheet. If he’s lighter than you want, how much bigger do you want to get him (target weight) Then do some simple math, figure out how much hay he gets (give him all he’ll eat first before adding more grain to the diet.) If that 1000 lb horse is eating 25 pounds of hay a day and you’re still not getting him to weight then first check his teeth, then worm him once more, then think about adding grain. Horses are meant to eat hay and grass and adding a high-grain diet can upset the digestive apple cart! Your feed store can provide a table of how many calories your horse needs and how many he’s currently getting. Take the difference and adjust his hay intake first. Most grass hays tag in at around 600 calories per pound. If your horse needs 5000 more calories a day you would add about 9 more pounds of hay. Extruded fat supplements tag in at around 2000 calories per pound so you would have to add 2 1/2 pounds per day! That gets expensive!
Start with the obvious, more hay. If he’s eating to capacity or wasting it, add a little beet pulp for high-soluable fiber but don’t go crazy with it, beet pulp is good in moderation but too much can leach minerals from the horse creating joint and muscle issues. Speedibeet is by far a superior source of beet pulp. It is ready in 10 minutes (no soaking buckets all over the place all day!) It’s cleaner, greener and the horses never turn their noses up at it. One 40 pound bag equals almost three 50 pound bags of regular beet pulp so it is cost-effective as well.
If the beet pulp doesn’t add enough weight take a look at your horse’s activity level and then choose a grain that is high in fat and low in non-structural carbs, doesn’t have distiller’s grains in it and add at a low rate until the horse reaches his weight goal.
There’s nothing worse than chucking loads of grain into a horse and not knowing what you are giving him. Don’t buy the grain at the cost per bag, find out the feed rate for that particular grain and your target weight and do a cost-per-day analyses instead. You might find that a $25 bag of grain is cheaper to feed than a $15 bag!

Alternately, if your horse is an air fern and requires little grain, look at the bag and see what he’s “supposed” to get. Most feeds are meant to be fed in volume so if the bag calls for your horse to eat 5 pounds a day to get his nutrition and you’re feeding 1 pound, it’s time to move from a volume feed grain to a vitamin supplement like Buckeye’s Gro-N-Win or Purina’s Enrich 12 or 32. Both of these products can be fed at 1 pound a day for 1000 horse and add no additional calories but give them a full day’s nutrition.

If you can’t take the time to weigh, evaluate and adjust your horse’s diet from time to time, perhaps you might want to trade him in for ice skates?

Also bear in mind that if you frequent a feed store and they are keeping a grain in stock for you, use up the balance of what they have before you switch so they don’t get stuck with a feed no one else wants. Changing grains is inevitable with some horses but you don’t need to be “one of those” customers to your feed store!

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