Monday, January 16, 2017

Riding Better Circles


Riding your horse in a good circle, not necessarily a perfect circle, but a circle where your horse's foot falls are reasonably on top of each other is pretty hard to do for most riders and so it is always a good exercise to work on. Carol thinks so so she wrote to me asking: "I am having troubles doing a circle on my horse as she always wants to cut the circle so it becomes a curly cue. Any suggestions would be appreciated."

Circles is a tough thing for me to do well too, Carol. The first thing I'd look at is my riding posture. I have a tendency to slump rather than ride upright with a straight back,...in fact, I've been told I look like a hung over monkey when riding. But leaning, especially when doing circles or making turns is a more common issue.  
 
In may appear in the photo at right that I am leaning inside the circle, but if you draw a straight line from the horse's back, up the center of the cantle it should go through my head.   I am looking forward where I want to ride to and through.    
 
 
 It is easy to lean inwards towards the inside of the circle when riding circles. A horse will compensate when the rider is leaning. And although it would seem that leaning inside of the circle will push your horse to the outside, sometimes a horse will compensate by trying to move under the weight.
 
Just make sure that you are upright and centered over the saddle. It may help to have someone watch you or even video you so you can eliminate posture or balance as a problem.

It may help to use a ground aid such as traffic cones to mark a circle. A couple other ways to mark a ground circe would be to mark a circle in flour or even use a stake with a string tied to it and a stick on the other end to mark a circle on the ground. Any method will give you a ground reference on maintaining a circle.
 
 In the photos for this article, I am using a barrel in the center of my circle. The problem you may find using just a marker for the center of your circle, such as my barrel, is that you may tend to look inwards toward it and inadvertently give your horse a cue to cut the circle towards the center as looking inward will shift your hips, even slightly, and your horse can feel that change in your seat.
 
 
When I ride circles I try to tip my horse's head to the inside of the circle just enough so I can see the tip of his inside eye. My inside rein is slightly higher than my outside rein.  On the photo at left you can see my horse's head just tipped inside slightly so I can see the tip of his inside eye from my position in the saddle.
 
 
 
My outside rein is a supporting rein to keep my horse's head from tipping too far inside, but it is common for a rider to have the outside rein too tight so it retards the horse's momentum, or just tight enough so that when the horse's head dips with his stride he gets intermittent bump in the mouth through the bit and may raise his head - I'd watch for these things as well. 
 

I use my outside leg to give and maintain my horse's forward momentum while my inside leg is basically in neutral. A way to think about it is that your are trying to ride your horse around your inside leg getting a slight bend.
 
 
You would use more pressure on your inside leg if your horse's starts to cut the circle. Just like you would use pressure with your left leg to ask your horse to make a side pass to the right. 
 
At the photo (right) you can see my horse's inside rear foot (his left rear) stepping inside and forward of the right rear.  This is because we are cutting the circle - the problem you describe - and I am using inside leg pressure to push him back outside onto the circle.  It may also help to  slightly bend his head inside so that maybe you are seeing the entire inside eye rather than just the tip of it.         

One thing you can do to work on controlling your horse's barrel or otherwise getting some lateral movement during forward momentum is to ride your circles and intentionally expand them using inside leg pressure.  
 
Riding alongside a fence, like in the arena, and practicing small and larger circles ending back on the fence where you began is a good way to judge how decent your circles are, absent of having a ground circle to ride around.  And finally, just make sure your horse isn't cutting the circle because it's the most direct route back to his pen.  Good luck and safe journey.      
 
 

Friday, December 30, 2016

What to do about a Jiggy Horse


Samantha wrote to ask what she can do about her jiggy horse, "Hi. I was hoping you could help me with my horse Ulysses who just cannot walk or trot at a slow pace. When I take him out on the trails he walks very fast and when I turn around and start to come home he continually breaks into a trot. Please don't tell me to trot circles because I have done that and he just gets all sweatty and never walks. He does this when I ride alone or with friends so he is not buddy sour. He makes riding such a chore and I know he is not having a pleasant experience either. " 

Hey Samantha.  This issue of a horse wanting to set his own gait and speed has been one of the tougher problems to address for me trying to help a few riders with that issue. One of the reasons it is tough to address is that the horse is anxious and feels the rider's anxiety or frustration combined with the rider who usually maintains contact with the bit, maintaining tight reins, with further aggravates the horse.  Another reason is the rider is just a passenger and has not established any leadership over that horse, which is likely the primary reason and what fuels the rider's anxiety and therefore the horse's. 

Many of my horse will want to increase his speed at any given gait on the way back home, but I've really only had one horse who, when he was young, would constantly break into a trot from a walk.  He was around 4 years old and I was still building a relationship with him. What I did on him was ride him alot, going out on a long straight dirt road 13 miles long. When first heading out when he would try to break into a trot, I would stop him, back him with some energy then offer to let him stand on a loose rein. At first, I only had him stand for a few seconds before I picked up on the reins and cued him to move out.  At first you may only ask him to stand for two seconds; then 3 seconds, etc.   The idea is that you are trying to set him up to succeed, so don't ask him for more than he can give. 

When I'm offering the horse the chance to stand after backing, all pressure was off. The reins are loose and my seat is neutral.  Your timing has got to be good. As soon as the horse stops when you ask him, he needs to get that release. Or maybe think of it as 'as soon as he is stopping - meaning you can feel his momentum and feet slow, the reins should go slack'.



When he decided to increase his gait into a trot, I would repeat the process. Basically, I would not let him pick his own speed or gait. The best horseman out there call this "making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy." After a few time at this, I would cue him into a trot and we would trot sometimes a couple miles or so until he decided he wanted to walk, and when he would break gait (transition down) on his own, I would cue him into the trot again for maybe 50 more yards then stop him and offer him a chance to stand on loose reins. I would give him some time at the halt - maybe even a minute. But again, not letting him set his own speed or gait.

Sometimes if he broke into a trot from the walk, I would trot him in circles off the road onto the soft shoulders with deeper sand - more of a chore for him picking his feet up, therefore more work for him. If he slowed during these circles I would cue him to maintain the trot, until I was ready to stop.  These are the circles you are preferring not to be told to do!  The difference maybe is that I just did not turn my horse into a circle. I rode him with some energy in a circle.  It was my idea.  Then when I asked him to stop, that was my idea.  Then the standing with a loose rein was a rest for him.    

It wasn't all riding either. Alot of ground work too, so he experienced many chances to understand and do what I was asking of him where he was rewarded with a release of physical and mental pressure,....... and alot of rubbing, too.  He was one of the taller horses I've owned, at 15.2 hands, and seemed to be all legs and maybe part of his habit of picking his gait and speed problem were associated with his young age and his half Tennessee Walker, half Quarter horse breeding, but the bigger end of things changing had to do with him accepting that I was the leader .

I was riding out a couple weeks ago with a lady whose horse also had this problem, like yours of walking fast then breaking into a trot whenever he felt like it. So I had her do like I described earlier. When he was walking, try to rate his speed not just using the reins but with your seat and rhythm.  Not using the reins by pulling on both of them as the horse will usually just get bracey and push through it, but changing the angle of the reins.

When this woman's horse he would break into a trot, I had her stop him, back him with some energy then offer to let him stand. At first, only letting him stand for a second before cueing him to move out at a walk. If he tried to move off before she gave him the cue, I had her stop his forward momentum and back him again, with energy, several steps then repeat the offer to stand. The problem she was having was that she tried to back him slowly where her horse would be inclined to stop on his own.

Another problem was that the rider would not give a timely nor complete release when she stopped her horse, and also allowing her horse walk off before she cued him. All of this was diminishing the control and leadership she needed to build with this horse. When a horse decides to pick his own speed or gait, you just can't think "That's okay, I wanted to trot anyway." - it has to be your idea and he needs to respond to your cues.



When you do ask him for a trot, I suggest you do make circles and serpentines, therefore having him respond to your control. It would be important that if he did try to break down, then to cue him back to where you want him, then make it your idea to slow or change gaits. When you do offer him a chance to stand, there has to be a complete release - put slack those reins, and make sure your timing for that release is particular.

Much like some horses that need to bolt once or twice to understand that they don't need to run away, some horses need a lot of work to appreciate a break through a slower gait, or stopping and standing.

When you get back to your home stables, don't always take him straight to unsaddling. This is going to be a release for him and therefore he will seek it and be jiggy on the trail...wanting to get home and get that release.   Instead do some work on him when you get back and do it with some energy. In fact, you can ride him out a short distance, and bring him back and if he is jiggy then do some work to get him to associate going back home isn't always associated with a release.  This is much like what you would do with a horse in the arena who was always wanting to move to the gate - make being close to the gate associated with a lot of work, and make away from the gate where you give him a break.

Trying what I am recommending is going to wear you out in the short term. You may not fix it totally, but you should be able to make it much more acceptable and certainly more acceptable than riding a horse that just picks his own speed and gait.  Because if he does so, he is being allowed to do so, and you are really not a rider anymore,..... you are just a passenger   Safe Journey.
                           

Monday, December 26, 2016

Keeping Horses Healthy in the Winter



We're pretty lucky here in the Tularosa Basin as it is a rare winter, and really only short parts of it, that provides a challenge to managing our horses. Mostly it's keeping water lines from freezing and ensuring the horses have free access to fresh water, but that's not the only thing they need.

If you keep horses stabled in the winter and you are subject to bad weather, or just weather too cold for you to ride in, it is easy to over look the exercise needs of your horses. It isn't just about physical exercise, either,....horses that don't get ridden, turned out or even exercised on a line or a walker are more susceptible to mental issues. We all know that horses get fearful, and I think they get depressed as well and there's nothing like being confined for long periods of time to create that.

I see too many horses spending virtually their entire lives in small pens and that saddens me greatly. If you happen to be one of these owners, then please take a moment to look at your horse's life from their perspective.

Maybe being too cold to saddle up and ride out is a blessing as it can creates short blocks of time where we can pull a horse and do some ground work: Backing off a slight feel or vibration in the lead line; coming to you with a slight tension in the lead; getting your horse to side up over to you like you are on a platform and want to mount; sending your horse in a straight line; sending him into the trailer; doing half circles with forward momentum; turning a horse who is okay about having his feet handled into a horse that is very good about his feet; sacking him out on a flag, or a tarp or really anything that he may be fearful of; and the list of things you can do in short sessions just goes on.

If you do ride or exercise your horse then remember that he still needs an adequate period of cooling off before you give him access to feed and water.

I know some of you are looking at national weather reports and thinking that "Boy, those folks in the desert Southwest have it easy with relatively high temps" and you would be right, and we are grateful for not breaking ice everyday. This week's national weather map showing 15 degrees in Minnesota and 7 degrees in Southern Idaho making West Texas at 34 degrees this morning seem pretty tropical, but you add in a 20 mph wind and the wind chill factor makes it 24 degrees. Sometimes that wind just cuts through to the bone. So consequently a wind break for the horses, such as a three sided shelter, will help keep your horses warmer and more blood in their system going to the digestive tract rather than the legs and neck to warm them helps lessen the threat of colic.

I not big blanketing fan, but don't hesitate to using the appropriate blanket when the temps or weather conditions warrant this. I get sent a lot of questions asking for guidelines, but the horse's age and overall health have a lot to do with a decision to blanket, so that question is hard to answer. All I can say is that on my thin haired horses, I'll blanket when the temps are in the high 20's, sometimes the low 30's,  most of the time.

I have an enclosed 18' x 14' brood mare stall, which doubles for a hospital stall as well for any horse recovering from an injury or illness that necessitates that. I have to be careful to ensure the accumulated ammonia from horse urine and the dust isn't a health hazard. I have a wide vent all the way around the top of the brood mare stall to help with the ventilation and therefore the horse's respiratory health.

The winter months can actually increase feed requirements as your horse burns more calories to stay warm. We usually throw extra grass during the cold winter days to keep the horses gut moving and give them something to do to reduce boredom. So just a reminder to be conscious on your horse's body condition in case he starts dropping weight.

Most people reading this hopefully know better and this serves either as a reminder or to just take up space.  Besides already knowing something has never kept my wife from telling me again,.....and again. Hope everyone' post Christmas is peaceful and blessed. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016


Merry Christmas to everyone from Functional Horsemanship and the Red Bird Ranch. Last weekend we did our annual Christmas Ride, with horse back riders, truck and hay trailer, tractor and wagon delivering Christmas cheer and candy bags to anyone we met along the route - then back to the property for Chili and Tamales around a fire pit.

There's a saying to the effect that bringing joy to others is good for the soul,...and if you can do it on horseback even better. We halted often to let parents get pictures of their children in the saddle and of course, with Santa Claus.
 
 The best thing is seeing the smiles from children and adults alike when they get up close and are able to rub on a horse. Again this year we had a little boy waiting on us who had such a hard time keeping his thick, heavy eye glasses on his nose...just waiting in the chilly afternoon for a chance to hug a horse.



I hope everyone has a peaceful Christmas and gets to spend it surrounded by family and friends,....and good horses. There are many Americans away from home serving this country who wished they could be home - please think of them, as we honor their sacrifices and celebrate Christmas as a joyful time, as we are the most blessed people on this earth, being given the gift of Christ. God Bless and Safe Journey.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Laying a Horse Down and other Gentling Methods


Martha wrote to ask about trying to get over the hump on a real anxious horse. "Dear Sir, I was in a clinic watching a trainer laying a horse down onto the ground on his side to get the horse to trust him. One of my friends said that you can do the same thing with draping a towel over the horse's head so it can't see and has to learn how to trust the person. I have a horse that is always being hyper and can't hardly stand still and was wondering if laying him down on the ground or doing the towel training with my friend's help would help. Sincerely, Marta."

I've laid a few horses down and am ashamed to say the first few times I did it, it didn't need to be done. In other words laying the horse down was for me and not for the horse. In fact, it is likely it did some good only once. One time it took me 20 minutes from start to getting him to lay down. This was about 10 years ago and once I got started and I couldn't just stop and allow that horse to understand his resistance was successful. I remember hoping nobody saw me. Not that I was embarrassed about taking so long, but just embarrassed because I realized I was doing this just for me - that the horse did not need this at this point, nor really ever would benefit from laying down.

So I have to say that laying a horse down is not something I would suggest unless I was there in person to see the horse and the issues with the horse and even then it would be a high probability that I would recommend against it.

As far as what you mentioned on 'towel training', I have used a shirt to do blindfold training so the horse would allow me to have control on the ground, leading him with a shirt wrapped over his head. I was doing this so I could do it again if I had to lead him through smoke or a fire, or to cover his head to protect him from hail during a storm.  It came in handy a few times, actually.

What I found out was that this helped the horse mentally quite a bit, making him more soft and accepting, so there is some merit or use to your described towel training, however my primary motive was to prepare him when I needed to cover his head.


You do have to have an element of trust with your horse when you can drape a cover, like a rain slicker in the photos, and lead him on the ground or ride him.

 His steps will be tentative as, of course, his sight is taken away, his sense of hearing is somewhat degraded and some horses will have to gentled in handling their head and particularly their ears before you can start....but all goods things for the horse. But I don't think it's going to replace laying a horse down, when that is necessary, because when laying down a horse his flight ability is taken away.



There are some other issues that can contribute to a horse appearing to be what you call hyper-active: Excessive feed and/or high sugar content in feeds; horses not being ridden much.  You have to teach him through pressure and release, what you expect of him. Sometimes I have started of with a horse that can stand quiet by working him with some energy (this is the pressure) then offering him a chance to stand quiet (this is the release).  Sometimes standing quiet will only last a short time, but if it is an improvement, then take it and build on it.

Now I want to be real clear on this next point as it is just my observation and I mean no offense to anyone................Most people I work with are ladies. The issue with ladies is that a much larger percentage of women have more empathy for their horses than men have for their horses. But women are more likely to let their horses get away with behavioral issues perhaps viewing their horses as equal partners, as opposed to being the leader of the team.  In some cases this contributes to the horse being non-respectful such as moving his feet anytime he wants to, or pushing into the handler's space, and pulling on the lead line or reins.
  
On the other hand some men just seem to have too much ego, some of the time, wrapped up into horses, taking non-compliance from the horse personally, and are more likely to see the horse as a replaceable tool.  I used to be that way, and frankly, like an alcoholic, am always cognizant that I likely have the personality where I can still regress to that.    

There is no doubt that some of the best horse people are women and I have no doubt there are thousands of women who are a better horsemen than I am or will be.  What I can't understand is that generally women have no problem telling men what to do - my wife sure doesn't.  So  an example is putting the toilet seat down - so  I know ladies have it in themselves to be the boss of a partnership.  It doesn't mean being unfair, just means being in charge.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

National Day of the Horse - 13 December 2016


National Day of the Horse, never knew this existed until I started getting e-mail feeds from tack shops and suppliers on deals commemorating today. A quick google search brought me to Dennis Reis' site, Reis Ranch, where an article said that Dennis and Deborah Reis were the sponsors and authors of the 2003 National Day of the Horse. On November 18, 2004 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 452, recognizing December 13th as the National Day of the Horse.

The National Day of the Horse encourages the people of the United States to be mindful of the contribution of horses to economy, history and character of the United States. You can go to this link, Reis Ranch National Day of the Horse post, and read the legislative sponsors and co-sponsors as well as those in business and media who supported this effort.

There is a Facebook page supposedly dedicated to the National Day of the Horse. I haven't looked at it, but here is the link - Facebook National Day of the Horse.



I am grateful on a daily basis for being able to own horses, if owning is the best term for it. I am aware that there must be some people who sometimes see horses as a burden. I hope I am never one of those people. As most of us spend too little time in the saddle, comparatively speaking, I'll have to remember the blessing of just sitting there on a rail fence and watching them eat or interact with each other, or smelling their breath after eating hay - both are remedies for most ills. And sometimes on a cold day, I'll just press my face into a horse's neck and enjoy the warmth of their soft hair.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Hammonds and the Heavy Hand of Federal Land Management


One of the biggest political issues in the Western United States is Federally owned and managed land as it pertains to use by the public for recreation and by ranchers who lease Federal lands, often adjacent to their own private property, in order to graze cattle and other livestock.

It give me no pleasure to write derogatory comments about the US Government or it's agents. I was once a soldier and later a Federal Conservation Law Enforcement Officer and worked with various Federal Law Enforcement agencies and State game law and land management agencies including the BLM, all of whom I got along with well and thought highly of. The BLM office I worked with always struck a balance between helping the ranchers who won grazing bids and performing effective management of the grazing units.

Most of us either have a passing knowledge of, or have seen news coverage on the Bundy standoff in Southern Nevada as well as the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Central Oregon, where in January 2016 where armed men, one of them Ammon Bundy - son of Cliven Bundy the central figure in the Nevada BLM standoff, did what they did in order to get a platform for their views that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies are constitutionally required to turn over most of the federal public land they manage to the individual states. This group (referred to as militants in most news media) believed they could help their cause as well as protest the government's prosecution and sentencing of the Hammonds, two Central Oregon ranchers convicted of terrorism through federal land arson, even though the Hammonds publically stated that they did not want their help.

I am not writing about the Bundy's, the Nevada standoff nor the Malheur Refuge occupation. I am however writing about what I think is a much clearer cut version of injustice - and that is what happened to the Hammonds.

Dwight and Steven Hammond own the Hammond Ranch which is reported as 13,000 acres surrounding by State and Federal land, some of which the Hammonds leased for grazing rights. In 2001, the Hammonds conducted a controlled burn to mitigate an invasive plant species from taking over, and in 2016, set a back fire to protect their private property from a huge wildlands fire that was on federal property heading towards them. Both fires combined, burned less than 150 acres. While 150 acres may sound like alot, I assure you that while any fire is a concern due to it's potential to rapidly expand and threaten resources and life, 150 acres is a pretty small fire. I have been on crews of less than 6 men working much larger fires, so I know that smaller fires can be effectively and safely managed by two men. Men, I might add, who had an interest in seeing the land managed efficiently, and protected effectively, as their very livelihood rested on it.

Anyway, the Federal Government brought criminal and civil charges against the Hammonds, charging them under 18 USC § 844, the penalties section of 18 USC Chapter 40 - Importation, Manufacture, Distribution and Storage of Explosive Materials, or often called the "Anti-Terrorism Act" which was designed to prosecute terrorists targeting infrastructure.

18 USC § 844 (Penalties): Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or agency thereof, or any institution or organization receiving Federal financial assistance, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.




In the criminal case against the Hammonds, the presiding Judge evidently understood what the intent of the law and penalties were for, and reduced the minimum sentence for Dwight and Steven Hammond to 90 days and 366 days, respectively.

The BLM and the Malheur Refuge Land Manager appealed the "short" sentences to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco,...sentences that really should have never occurred in the first place, which resulted in harsher sentences of five years for each and a large fine - in the area of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the Hammonds had to agree to offer their ranch to the government first if they ended up selling out.

There are several things that will bring more perspective to what most people would already see has a transgression of justice:

~ The Hammond Ranch has been planned for acquisition by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under their future planning processes, showing desire and intent to obtain the Hammond Ranch even though the Hammonds had no intent to sell. Look at the map and you can see why the Hammond's ranch is desirable by the Government;
~ That the BLM manager and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Manager, both who represented their respective local organizations within the federal government, in appealing the Hammond's earlier shorter sentences in favor for longer sentences, are a couple, married or otherwise - this is what the FBI calls a "clue", and in this case a conflict of interest;
~ The Federal Government offered to drop the, basically trumped up charges, if the Hammonds would give the government their private land;
~ The Hammonds Grazing Permit is being challenged by the BLM and has not be released to the Hammonds;
~ The most conspiratorial views would think the government initiated a thinly veiled blackmail threat - threat of prosecution and imprisonment, or land sale. The Hammonds elected to bow up against the government, standing for their rights,......they paid a price.

I think that no matter what your views are on grazing or land conservation, or politically, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, I just think that most people would agree that the intent and sentences under the Anti-Terrorism Act were not meant to punish ranchers who were just, in the absence of proper government land management, ended up using common practices to decent land management and protection goals. I am asking all readers of this site to take a moment and send an e-mail to their House and Senate representatives asking to remedy this.

There is a bill introduced by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) on 14 July 2016, titled - H.R.5815 - Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2016, that would prohibit what happened to the Hammonds from happening to other law abiding hard working ranchers, by barring prosecution under 18 USC § 844, in certain cases such as: the damage or destruction, or attempt to damage or destroy, by means of a fire that is set by a person to property owned by the person to prevent an imminent threat of damage to that property; or as part of any other generally accepted practice for managing vegetation on timber, grazing, or farm land; and it (the fire) does not pose a serious threat of injury to any individual or damage to any building, dwelling, or vehicle of the United States; and does not result in death or serious bodily injury to any individual.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Horses Need Salt All Year Long


I was at several cow horse events recently at different large horse facilities and as I walked around I noticed none of the stalled horses had access to a simple plain white salt blocks. It's true these horses could be getting electrolytes or salt dressed in their grain or pelleted feed, but not likely. Maybe the owners or barn managers thought that since the hot weather is gone so is the need for salt.

The lack of Sodium, or what most of us just call salt, can result in poor performance in horse speed or athletic events; make it more likely that a horse's muscles will get sore and stiff - referred to as tying up; or even affect the horse not being able to sweat adequately which is part of their evaporative cooling system. A lack of salt in the horse's diet can aggravate dehydration as it could cause a horse not to drink an adequate amount of water,.....and drinking less water is a factor for colic.

As with about anything related with a horse's nutritional needs and feeding programs, a person can go crazy trying to balance nutrients, electrolytes and minerals. A friend of mine used to keep a large tray of loose salt for horses' free consumption believing that a salt block couldn't provide was the horse needed because it was too hard to lick. He had to keep that salt tray out of the weather, inside the covered portion of the horse's stall, and as I remember, it collected a lot of dirt and sand.  And I have tried adding powdered or granulated minerals to my horse's feed only to have them get adept at eating around it.     

My horses are on dry feed, as pasture is hard to find here in West Texas. I choose to feed both grass (coastal Bermuda) and alfalfa for several reasons: 1 - I don't believe my horses need that high of percentage of protein in their feed as alfalfa is around 18-20% protein (grass hay is usually around 10-12%; 2 - the grass hay is usually in longer stems which slows down the horse eating, and provides good roughage; and 3 - the grass and alfalfa mix maintains a good ratio of Calcium and Phosphorus in the diet.     

Horses also need other minerals and it's hard to get all the minerals in dry hay. A mineral block is often suggested as an alternative, when pasture can't be accessed, but I have yet to have or even seen a horse who will lick a mineral block.

There are solutions other than a standard mineral block - which you find in your local fed store's as a trace-Mineralized block. Redmond Equine offers a rock shaped salt block that is advertised as containing over 60 minerals. I have one of these in each of my horse's feeders. I hope that the horse's will lick on it from time to time or have the movement of the rock in the feeder wearing minerals off the rock as it gets moved around with the hay. I can't say that any of my horse's lick these rocks, but at least it gives me alittle peace of mind that's it there. You can always topdress your horse's grain or hay with Redmond Crushed Rock loose mineral salt supplement, but again I have not had much luck in getting horses to like loose minerals crushed or not.  

I also feed a pelleted feed, now feeding about 2 lbs of Standlee mixed Timothy Grass - Alfalfa pellets in the evening which really just provides an additional source of dry, compressed hay, but the Timothy hay is different than the Bermuda I feed in bulk. It also keeps my horses used to that pelleted feed in case I have to feed more of than because of a lack of availability of hay for trips into the mountains. Pelleted feed is also handy for using it to introduce supplements which I have one horse on a hoof and joint supplement.

My mainstay is that throughout the year I ensure each horse has a standard white salt block. I leave them out in the open exposed to the rain and dirt, so I have to routinely clean them which only takes a few minutes once a week or so, if that.

The bigger issue I have with salt blocks is the holders in which I place them. I have several types of holders, some without drain holes and others with drain holes underneath the salt block so that the block doesn't allow them to drain water.




And if they can't drain water then the accumulated sand and dirt builds up and makes it difficult to clean. I resolved that problem by drilling a bunch of holes in the bottom and sides of my salt block holders. See the picture below of the salt block holders I drilled more drainage holes in.



I think that if you are unsure what to do, consider at a minimum providing your horses with a white salt block as this is an easy and cheap solution to provide adequate sodium into their diet. Some horses, likely not the majority of them, will chew on the salt block out of boredom.  And while horses generally have a high tolerance to excessive salt, if you have a horse that appears to eating or biting of large chunks of the block then I would remove it until you can talk to your vet about it with an idea on how much the horse is digesting.  You may notice the horse drinking a lot of water and there may an excessive amount of urine in the horse's stall. This habit is generally because of the horse being bored.   



Saturday, November 19, 2016

How do I choose the right bit for my Horse?


Jessica wrote to say "I have a new horse and she is four years old. I have been riding her in a halter but I need to put a bit in her mouth. What should I be looking for when I try out different bits, so do you think there is a particular type of bit that I should be using on her? I want to start right and go slow so I don't have any problems down the road with her. Thanks, Jessica."

Generally horses are started, which means their training begun, with a snaffle bit. Training really begins much earlier upon the first time the horse is handled, and continues into ground work and all the things you do to prepare a horse to accept a saddle and rider. Since you can ride your mare in a halter then you are doing something right, and your plan to go slow and do it right is certainly the right approach - good for you.   

The snaffle bit is a non-leverage bit that it broken (or what you may think of as hinged) in the center of the mouthpiece. The snaffle bit works by providing a signal on the horse's tongue, bars of the mouth (space between front teeth and molars), and/or the corners of the mouth depending the mouthpiece of the bit, how it is seated or fitted to the horse, and of course how the rider handles the reins. Pressure applied by tension on one rein also has a pulling effect on the other side of the mouth through the snaffle bit.
 
While a rider can certainly begin a horse to neck rein on a snaffle bit, the snaffle bit is generally used through a direct rein. The picture above left is a typical snaffle bit.

The snaffle bit, not having a lot of leverage like a shanked bit, can be more forgiving to a horse's mouth on a horse, who for the first time, has to carry it and to the rider who may have quicker of harsher hands than is necessary.
 
Two things about the snaffle bit that riders sometimes do not understand are that the broken mouthpiece of snaffle bit can pinch the horse's tongue - even cutting it, and that the broken mouth piece can "tent" - making a peak and poke the roof of the horse's mouth causing a lot of pain.
 
 Sometimes a horse will accept or be more comfortable with a snaffle bit that is connected in the middle with a short piece which can be a roller or dog bone shaped, hence the name "dog bone snaffle".  See the picture above right. I like the copper roller for one of my mouthy horses - it also keeps his mouth moist.    

Snaffle bits, being non-leverage bits, do not provide much control on a run away horse or a horses in speed events like barrel racing.
 
Leverage bits have a shank that the reins connect to providing more leverage for the rider on the horse's mouth and also by activating or tightening the curb strap or chain under the horse's jaw.  Could have a nut cracker effect if the curb chain is too tight when the reins are loose and the rider pulls harshly.   
 
The picture above left is a broken bit with shanks, or you can think of it as a leverage bit with a snaffle mouth piece. In fact some people call this an Argentinian Snaffle.
 
Pretty much all the bits I have bridled up right now are snaffles and the lone leverage bit with the broken mouth piece.  I have several medium port solid bits but haven't used them recently. 
 
 
I guess what I am trying to write is that all bits can cause pain if used incorrectly.  I winch when I am at an event and I overhear someone saying "Did you see the way that horse stopped?  I've got to find out what type of bit he is using."  What I saw was the horse's head flying up trying to escape the pain of the bit pulled quickly and harshly in his mouth.
 
The idea is to use bits in such a manner as to signal the horse before that pain is applied. It's not the bit that creates the pain, it is the rider's hands. I hear too many comments from rider's that suggests a false understanding that when your horse is not performing right then you need a more severe bit. What is usually needed is a different approach. So I really can't suggest a bit for you and your horse other than a snaffle is a good place to start, but don't fall into the trap of continuously going to a different bit hoping to solve your training or performance problems.  I've been there and I would like to forget I was that guy.    
 
Another place to start would be if you buy a horse then find out what bit he has been used with and maybe start from there, but again, it's going to be the rider's application of the bit and the relationship he/she establishes with the horse that is going to make the difference.

I would highly suggest attending all the clinics you can, even just auditing the clinics. Horse's aren't born knowing how to understand what a human handler wants, nor are humans born capable of understanding and communicating with prey animals. So it is the human who must adjust and help the horse.  One of the coolest things is to see a horse try with the slightest pressure then see that horse demonstrate he accepts and understands what you are asking by giving more and doing it quicker.  I wish my wife would appreciate the subtlety of my efforts as I try to do with a horse.....week by week I am getting closer to getting honey-dos done.                     



Saturday, November 5, 2016

How Do Horses Think?


Melanie wrote an e-mail to ask "I love my two horses, both are distinctly different in their temperament, spookiness and just general behavior, just as my kids are vastly different too. I am also a elementary school teacher and it is fascinating to see the differences in how 6 and 7 year old children process information and make decisions. I know I am missing something by not understanding the mental processes of my horses. What do you make out of the left brain-right brain theory and how to approach certain horses in manner for them to learn? More importantly to me is how does the weekend rider use some of these esoteric concepts."

Hi Melanie, I don't have a good understanding of theory of what parts (left or right) of a horse's brain drive what emotion or action. Your question actually sparked an interest in looking further into this area that I first heard Pat Parelli describing years ago. Clinton Anderson also routinely discusses horses' right brain - left brain, how that impacts on how they learn, and how a handler approaches asking something of a horse but maybe not in as much detail as Parelli. My limited understanding is that horses will demonstrate characteristics or traits, that categorize them into a "left brain dominant or right brain dominant horse", including, but certainly not limited to traits like calmness or nervousness; more curious as opposed to reactive; and, dominating as opposed to being more submissive.

I'm all a better understanding of a horse, how and why the horse thinks, if it helps two way communications between horse and handler. I've just never had a formal checklist or a process for analyzing how horses think so I rely on what I know or think I know to be facts when dealing with horses......which for the record, is much tougher than figuring out women.

We know that some horses are just more reactive than others. We all accept that horses are naturally wary - that they are prey animals and come into the world ready to flee to avoid perceived dangers. I think that the environment and experiences that a horse accumulates has alot to do with just how reactive they are. Imagine the horse that has been ridden, since the first bit in his mouth, by a heavy handed rider. They learn to associate any pressure from the bit in the mouth with discomfort and pain and get bracey or throw their head in avoidance of what they are thinking comes next....like a flinch response.

I believe that with patience and training we can influence a horse to think or reason something out before they physical react to that instinct to avoid perceived danger or even bolt and run. I try to give a horse a chance or time to think, to absorb a lesson. So on the concept of pressure and release, you can add the word pause, as opposed to pressure, release then rapidly applying pressure again, then release. I think that while you are giving the horse a release when he gives you the requested behavior or movement, the rapid, continued action of pressure and release with the time in-between to absorb that lesson can build mental pressure in the horse, confusing him and working against what you are trying to achieve.

As wary as horses naturally are, they are curious as well as we use that in many situations as well, again if you give them time. An example would be approaching an obstacle on horseback and your horse alerts, stops, tenses up, feels like he is close to turning and bolting, moving his head up and down, left and right and likely snorting too. We've all seen this too. Ten seconds seem like 5 minutes and if in some sort of obstacle competition too many riders will get impatient and try to push their horse forward before he accepts it is safe. Given adequate time to accept it on his own, and you are likely going to have to keep the horse from turning around or backing out, a horse will usually move forward and eventually drop his nose on the obstacle. Whether this takes 5 minutes or 10 minutes, the horse has just replaced his instinct with a deliberate thinking process. I think this is what we are trying to achieve and the heck if I know it comes from his left brain or right brain.

Handling different horses often reminds me of a leader I had in the service who admonished me to treat all my men the same. This is a concept I just could not adhere to. Everybody's different, like horses, so in my book as long as you treated each one fairly everything would turn out alright. So with horse's I think if you give them the time they need to develop that thinking response you'll be a lot more successful in getting them to accept and perform. Setting up situations where the thing you are asking for them is easy and avoiding what you are asking is difficult, but giving them the time to find that right answer. Giving a horse sufficient time is just not sticking with something until he gets it, it's making sure the timing of your release is particular for the horse to associate that release (or absence of pressure) to what he did to earn it that release.

I often see riders working on lateral flexion where the ask their horse for lateral flexion and when the horse gives it, they get a release but get immediate pressure for lateral flexion again. This is another example where if you gave the horse some time, often no more than 5 to 10 seconds before asking again, will be a much more understandable lesson for the horse.

Another example is when I throw feed for my horses. I won't drop the hay into their feeder until they step back and be respectful of my space. Occasionally one of my horses will stand too close waiting at me to drop the hay. I just wait and watch their expression. Then the understanding takes place, they'll back a few steps and stand while I drop the hay and give them a signal to approach. I don't know how to describe it, but it's rewarding to watch the change of expression as they figure out why I am waiting to throw feed and what they are supposed to do......"Oh yeah, I almost forgot,..I have to back up and wait".

Another example may be in the saddle and getting in contact with the bit or bosal asking them to soften and drop their head and nose. Initially the horse will likely start backing and if you maintain that same contact, they will soon stop because the pressure was not released. Sooner or later they will drop their head, maybe only a tiny bit, and as they do you release the contact with the bit or bosal. Your timing on the release has to be pretty exact so the horse relate getting soft with the release of that pressure. Some riders, I've seen them and likely you have too, will pick up the reins and get in contact with a horse asking him to get soft and break at the poll, but while in contact before the horse drops his head and nose, they will release the contact to get a better grip and in effect giving that horse a release for not doing anything. That has got to be confusing to a horse.

And yet another example is when I am helping a new rider or new horse in a sorting pen. Knowing that either the horse or the rider, or both, will be timid of a bunch of cows and that pushing a horse too fast will have negative consequences for the mental state of the horse and his confidence, I'll have the new rider/horse stay on my outside flank as I ride a slow circle around the cows a couple of times, then switch directions so the horse can see the cows out of both eyes. As the cows move away, the horse and rider gain confidence. For the life of me, I can't figure out if that would be their left or right brain working the problem out and I don't know if knowing that is really necessary for me to to do what I what to do with my horses.

Another thing I think I know is that when things aren't going well you can either go much slower, break what you want to do down into steps and begin there, or do something that your horse does well and stop on a positive note.

Thee is a project by highly respected clinician Martin Black and Dr. Stephen Peters, a neuropsychologist which resulted in a DVD titled "Exploring Evidence based Horsemanship", which is advertise to give the viewer the benefit of understanding equine brain function. I ordered the DVD after struggling with your left brain, right brain question. I hope to watch it soon and see wht I can learn from it.

Anyway Melanie, I did my best to answer your question. Maybe I just gave you more questions rather than answers, but that's not always a bad thing as I see it. Good luck and safe journey.



Monday, October 31, 2016

Choke in a Horse


The other night one of our horses, an 25 year old QH Gelding, developed choke. Choke in a horse is when something, usually pelleted feed, gets lodged in the horse's esophagus. The most likely cause is by and far dry, pelleted feed and this was the cause with our horse who was eating a small amount, maybe 1.5 lbs, of small pelleted feed. Dry pellets can expand so that's why most people who feed large amounts of pellets usually soak them for a bit before feeding. Horses who have dental problems or needing their teeth floated are at risk for choke as are horse's who eat their feed too fast. Horse's who did not completely chew their feed can swallow larger pieces of pellets and make it more likely that a pierce will get lodged in their esophagus.

While I have only seen maybe five horses with choke, all the symptoms were the same - the horses appear to be choking - imagine that. The horse will extended his neck and emit a deep cough or appear to be having a gagging reflex, usually followed by colored discharge from his nose and mouth. The horse can also sweat in the exertion of trying to get the offending piece dislodged from his esophagus. The horse can breathe but cannot swallow, but immediate Veterinarian care is needed.



Our Vet, Amy Starr DVM owner of Paws n Hooves Mobile Vet services, arrived, sedated the horse, then tubed the horse with a nasal gastric tube, going through the horse's nose then down into the stomach. The tube hit the blockade in the esophagus so we pumped several ounces of warm water into the tube trying to soften the offending pellet, then let drain, repeating this several times until the Vet was able to pushed the tube into the stomach and we could smell the recently eaten grass hay through the tube.

I could not get a good picture as I was the one pumping the warm water through the nasal tube so the picture at bottom right is just after out Vet pulled the tube and the horse was still sedated.

The need to get the Vet out right away is something you should not dilly about on, The horse can aspirate some of the saliva and bits of feed into their respiration tract and develop feed pneumonia and that is bad news.

Post tubing care was to not feed for at least 12 hours then feed wet hay only, no pellets, for a couple days giving the esophagus a chance to heal from any trauma to the esophagus caused by the tubing - which can occur no matter how careful it is done.  Best case is that the esophagus is mildy irriated and worst case is that you can tear the esophagus building scar tissue and making it further restrictive. And even though it was the first time that this horse choked and we have his teeth floated once every 12 months we stopped feeding him pellets.  Sometimes once a year is not often enough for some horses with floating.  After a couple times floating a horse's teeth, the Vet will have a good idea on what timeline will work for any particular horse.    

You can give the horse Banamine to help him relax or Bute to help with any pain issues. We gave our horse Banamine once that night and decided not to continue it in the morning when it wore off.

Again choke prevention includes feed pellets after soaking them first so they are easier to chew and break up, as well as expand with the liquid before the horse swallows them. Rather than feeding pellets in small bucket where the horse can get a mouthful at a time, spead out the pellets in a larger feeder, slowing his eating, and making it harder for the horse to choke on a mouthful of pellets.  And please don't waste time getting the Vet out if your horse develops choke. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bad Habits?


I have had several readers either write comments on my You Tube videos or send me e-mails notifying me of my bad habits. While somewhere I appreciate that, I'm also actually surprised people take the time to address my peculiarities. I don't take offense to these comments, but for a sense of accuracy I'm taking the time to address these bad habits here.



Wearing Spurs. I don't always wear spurs and rarely on a horse I'm riding for the first time, like a young horse. But comments like "you'll never achieve the next level of horsemanship with spurs - get rid of them!" just don't consider the fact that it's not the tool, it's how the tool is used. If you don't know how to use spurs then by all means, don't wear them. Sometimes I even suggest that a particular rider ditch the spurs so they can have some more freedom trying to use their legs as aides without worrying about gouging their horse. Besides I don't know what the levels of horsemanship are,.....I'm just trying to get to be adequate.



Always Wearing Gloves. These comments have ranged from "Why do you always wear gloves" or telling me that "if I had any skills I would not be wearing gloves". Well, my lack of skills has nothing to do with wearing gloves - it may likely be associated with a general lack of intelligence, but my lack of skills certainly ain't because I'm not trying. I pretty much always wear thin pigskin gloves and I don't think I give up any feel by riding in them or working a horse from the ground. I ride, throw a loop (not well but I try), tie knots and practically have gloves on anytime I'm outside the house which is a consider time. Heck, I even tried to eat supper one night with my gloves on, but my wife pitched a fit so I took them off. In my near 60 years I have had many weeks and months of down time with a hand injuries such as rope burned palms, broken fingers, or, cut and badly chapped fingers. Wearing gloves greatly reduces this, in fact, I'd recommended it.



Holding a Lead Rope in a coil. While I never teach people to coil a lead rope when walking or working a horse from the ground, but I pretty much always do myself. Sure, carrying the lead rope in coils, especially small coils, can be dangerous if the horse bolts, and that's why I don't let youngers do it. I'm used to coiled ropes and it's easier for me to manage and feed the rope out of my hand when I am sending a horse or otherwise needing more slack in the rope.

And many ropers every day across America carry a coiled lariat rope when roping and have learned to be safe with it. Bottom line is that if you don't believe something is safe, then please don't do it.

Dismounting. When I dismount, say coming off the left side, my right leg swings over the cantle then plants on the ground then my left foot slides out of the stirrup. I do not lay across the saddle, with both feet out of the stirrups then slide down so that both feet hit the ground at the same time. People who write to tell me there is a better way to dismount,....well, I don't know, maybe if I was riding an 18 HH horse then I may dismount that way - both feet out of the stirrups and sliding down, but I kinda limit myself to horse's I can mount from the ground,....without a ladder. I was at odds with competitive organizations who penalized the way I dismounted with their rules that both feet have to hit the ground at the same time. It's likely more important to have control of the reins, slightly tipping your horse's head to the side of the dismount - to keep him from moving into you as you dismount. And it's likely as or more important to have a horse that stands still during and after the dismount. Some other things also come into consideration for dismounting safety, like how much foot you keep in the stirrup, what material the stirrup surface and the sole of the boot are. I always ride in leather covered stirrups and leather soled boots. This is more slippery than a rubber soled boot and easier to adjust foot position while riding, as well as easier to get your foot out of the stirrup. The weight of my foot in the stirrup pretty much keeps it in place and my riding heel keeps my boot from sliding forward through the stirrup.

While I have many more bad habits I think I'll stop here even those its against my wife's urging to come fully clean. But I told her that leaving the toilet seat up was not necessarily a bad habit nor had much to do with riding horses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Breast Collar Fit Question


I received a YouTube Video Channel comment from 3d3nd3n1 regarding a video on Breast Collar fit saying, "Hi, great video. I just purchased a pulling collar but am not sure how to affix it to the swell of the saddle. Can you do another video and explain that? If it isn't too much of a bother."

I don't have a fixed, U shaped Pulling Breast Collar currently in my tack room. But the one you have is likely attached through the gullet and around the swell of the saddle with a strap that has a O or D ring at one end. You feed the strap through the gullet around the swell then back through the D or O ring, tighten it up then take the running end of that strap to the D ring or buckle attachment on the breast collar.  Similiar to the picture below. There may be different attaching point on your breast collar. Some of the attachment straps (the ones running through the gullet of the saddle) may have a snap hook to clip to the D ring on the Pulling Collar and a buckle for adjustments somewhere on the attachment straps, rather than a buckle on the breast collar like the one on the photo.  



You can see that the saddle above does not have breast collar attachment D rings. Many saddles have D rings that are positioned too low to keep the breast collar off the chest and positioned in the natural "V" between the horse's chest and the neck. If your saddle has Breast Collar attachment D rings that are high enough on the saddle, like on the Wade saddle in the photo below, you may be able to attach your Pulling Collar at these points if that still allows the breast collar to be high enough off the chest, but low enough not to choke the horse.



If you do have Breast Collar attaching D rings on your saddle that you want to use but the breast collar position is still too low, you can run a strap from the breast collar D rings over the horse's withers to bring the breast collar up and into the correct position which is more comfortable to the horse, doesn't affect his stride nor rub his chest, and isn't high enough to put pressure on his throat.

Some makers offer straps for just this purpose (breast collar over the withers) but you can certainly make an expedient strap. While I have seen riders use hay twine for this purpose, something flatter like a saddle string or a wider piece of leather would work better I would think.



Once you have your Pulling Breast Collar fit just right, check to see that there is some play in the breast collar at the point of the chest where the breast collar comes together. I like to have 2-3 fingers width play or looseness here. See photo below.  I reckon if you had really thick fingers, you may be able to use one finger. Don't laugh, I used to know a gent whose fingers were so thick we called him "sausage fingers".



I hope this helps you fit your Pulling Collar in the absence of a video. Safe Journey.



Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cowboy Humor - Looking for your Wife


At a local rodeo the other night two Cowboys, one an older man around 60 years old and the other a younger man around 30 bumped into each other, almost knocking each other down, while walking through crowd and the pens, each looking for their misplaced wife.

"Excuse me young fella, I wasn't paying attention, sorry I almost knocked you over, but I lost my wife and I was looking for her."

The younger Cowboy replies, "Same here Sir, I wasn't looking where I was going either, and I am also looking for my wife."

The older Cowboy asks "Well, what does your wife look like?  I may have seen her."

'Well, my wife is in her late 20's, small waisted, long blonde hair, very pretty,.....oh, she has a really big,..err.,,chest."  say's the young Cowboy.  Then he asks the older Cowboy, "What does your wife look like?" 

The older Cowboy replies, "Never mind that, let's go look for your wife!"
 

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 Functional Horsemanship - Red Bird Ranch Arena Obstacle Challenge Results


In between uncharacteristic days of windy and rainy September weather, we lucked out and had perfect weather for our second annual Arena Obstacle Challenge. Some competitors drove over 100 miles to compete and I hope they were challenged, and likely so, as new locations will often make the best horses a little hinky.

I tried to find a good mix of prop related obstacles and basic horsemanship maneuvers to give each rider and horse a challenge within their respective divisions.    

The competitors entered the arena and proceeded over ground poles then through a funnel with plastic arms. Next they were required to trot through traffic cones placed 10 feet apart, stopping past the last cone, Open Division riders had to back in a circle, Intermediate riders backed in a 180 degree arc and Novice riders back straight for 10 feet.   The full AOC arena diagram is below:



The Garoucha pole was next were Open Division retrieved the pole and jogged a complete circle around the pole while other Divisions were required to retreive the pole and ride their horse between the pole and the fence. This seemingly easy tasks proved to be much harder than you would imagine for several of the horses as they viewed the dark hard wood pole leaning up against the fence with suspicion.

Next, all rider were required to two track about 30 foot, traveling laterally about 15 feet. Two tracking is forward movement combined with lateral movement where the horse's outside front foot stepped over and forward of the inside front hoof while the horse has forward movement. Open Division did this at a trot, while the other Divisions could do it at a walk. This proved to be the singular most difficult task for most all of the competitors.

Obstacle 7 was gait transitions - Novice a walk to a trot transition; Intermediate - a working trot to a extended trot; and Open was required to do a canter departure.  Photo below left: Angela Beltran-Flores on Starbuck.



The next obstacle was a 32 inch wide, 8 foot long bridge which the majority of horses navigated okay.

And this led to side passing ground poles where Novice Division had to side pass a 6 foot ground pole; Intermediate was required to side pas a longer 8 foot ground pole; and Open had to side pass both ground poles.

Navigating vertical poles placed 4 1/2 feet part was next to challenge the rider. This required riders to be pretty careful as they moved through them not to knock over the poles with their stirrups or their horse back end.

The riders next had to dismount then send their horse though a couple barrels like they would if they were sending a horse into a trailer. The rider followed their horse through then re-mounted from either a mounting block or the fence. All rider's chose the mounting block - a couple competitors did this for the first time, trying to opposition their horse in order to step up and mount.

From here the rider's moved to a rope and while holding onto the rope they backed their horse's pulling a bag of cans up to the top of the arena bow gate. I thought this would be the most difficult obstacle for horses but the majority of competitors and their horses did just fine.  Photo below right is Lynn Gonzalez, riding Sonny, from High Rolls New Mexico pulling the bag of cans over the bow gate. 

The final task was to demonstrate control of the back end or fore end. Novice Division had to do a 180 degree turn on the front end; Intermediate - a full circle on the front end; and Open - a 360 degree turn on the haunches.  







2016 Functional Horsemanship - Red Bird Ranch AOC Winners:


Open - Luanne Santiago, riding Tippy, won Open for the second year in a row.
Intermediate - Luanne Santiago, riding Nutmeg who narrowly beat Marianne Bailey riding Apache.
Novice - Lisa Rains, riding a borrowed horse as her dressage trained draft horse was held out for a cautionary health issue.

Just a notable few of the other competitors were Gina Blankenship from Deming, NM riding Dee, a Buckskin mare who will appear tonight on Julie Goodnight's program; Jenna Mendez, a nine year old riding Harley a Palomino gelding, and Jenna was competing for the first time in an AOC format, nevertheless securing 4th place in Novice; and Angela Beltran-Flores, last year's Novice winner, riding a fearless old horse Paint horse called Starbuck.

All competitors made a trip to the prize table and a Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue was the receiptant of part of the entry fee proceeds as well as the money made from the raffle. After an enchilada lunch, some of the competitors took their horses back into the arena for further schooling on the obstacles.  We also hosted a couple ladies from the Netherlands who are visiting dressage riders and attended to watch their first AOC.   Next year's annual AOC will probably be held on the last Saturday in September as well.  And lastly a big thank you to Arden Evans who helped judge the event.