Thursday, June 14, 2018

4th Annual Arena Obstacle Challenge - 29 September 2018


The annual Arena Obstacle Challenge, our 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship - Red Bird Ranch AOC, is scheduled for Saturday 29 September 2018. This years format will be the same as last years with five competitive Divisions - Stockhorse, Open, Intermediate, Novice and Youth (15 years and younger).

The Stockhorse Divison will require throwing at least two loops on static roping dummies and performing other tasks you would normally expect to encounter while working on horseback. Each Division can expect 12-14 Obstacles or tasks.

The Open Division is likely be just a bit more difficult this year, while the Intermediate and Novice difficulty levels will remain essentially the same. If you have ridden in one of my events, then you will know that many of the obstacles or tasks are basic horsemanship tasks and not necessarily riding your horse through carnival type obstacles.

The AOC will be followed by a lunch, awards and prizes. We will have some vendors displaying products as well as a equine Therapist providing equine massage, magna-wave PEMF and Equi-Vibe plate therapy.

Schedule

08:00 am - Rider Check In – Will need to present current negative Coggins or Health Certificate
08:45 am - Rider's Briefing/Course Walk Through
09.00 am - First Rider competes in the Arena
12:45 pm - Lunch, Awards and Prizes
2:00 pm - Arena Open for Obstacle Schooling

I will put up a link on he right hand side in the near future. But for now, if you questions? Shoot me an e-mail: brad@functionalhorsemanship.com

Monday, May 28, 2018

Arena Patterns - The Basic Square


Leslie asked about some ideas for Arena Patterns and I e-mailed her back saying that I really think given her imagination combined with what she thinks may help your horse, she could develop several patterns and drills, but I think that way of thinking will bring her back to the basics with her horse.  What I have set up in my arena presently is just four traffic cones set up into a 40 foot square. I favor using props to set up patterns that give you many different options. 

I recently finished  giving a clinic on preparing your horse for an Arena Obstacle Competition where I encouraged those who attended not to get focused on training on carnival type obstacles, but instead to focus on controlling the four parts of the horse through basic maneuvers.  Some of you immediately are taking issue with my "four parts of the horse" statement, believing that the head and neck are separate parts, combined with the front end, the barrel and the back end - making it five parts of the horse.  And I am aware that my betters think differently, but in my experience, anything the head does effects the neck, and vice versa -  I just don't think you can move the head independently of the neck, nor the neck independently of the head.  I'll post an article in the near future on this.  

Back to the Basic Square. I can get straight lines out of the sides of the square and bending out of the corners. I can ask a horse for softness in the straight lines, even a stop, back then forward movement again. I can use the corners to do 180, 270 or 360 degree circles - the 270 degree circles would be when you cross the diagonal. And sometimes, I'll add a stop, move the hindquarter 180 degrees, maybe a back up a few steps, then move the front end over 180 degrees facing the original direction of travel. So really what you can do is limited by your imagination.  Having a pattern, and it's really just a guide,  helps you focus, but a key to using it effectively would include be able to change up how you use it to keep your hose lively.    

Figure 1. Using the square just to get the horse travel in a straight line, then bending around the corners. Variations could be: squaring off your corners; stopping and/or stopping with an immediate back up (this really helps your stop on your horse); or, leg yield to push the horse over to an inside line of travel;



Figure 2. Making a circles around a traffic cone the traveling across the diagonal.




Figure 3. Making complete circles around each corner cone. A variation would be to make a 180 degree forward circle, stop then back in 180 degree arc facing the original direction of travel then continuing.




Figure 4. On each straight line, stopping and disengaging the backend 180 degrees, backing up 3-4 steps, then bringing the front end over 180 degrees facing the original direction of travel. For the first time, be very deliberate and even slow it down, and maybe even pausing before each separate maneuver.  This will help you horse get pretty handy as you are exercising control all parts of the horse.  




Again, I would consider changing things up to keep your hose from getting dull or anticipating.  example would be if you are doing full circles around each cone then maybe the skip the next cone just to keep your horse honest.  Stopping between the cones and doing a roll back or doubling to the outside is another example of changing things up.  
        

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Evolving Feed Programs


I get the occasional e-mail from people with questions on previous articles I've posted on what I fed my horses.  More questions are specifically asking about prevention of sand colic. Katie and BL would be the last two I received - this article is for you.  It is intended to show you want I do.  You would be well advised to work with your Vet on what is going to be best for your horses in your specific area.

A significant portion of horse owners have the benefit (and sometimes the dangers as well) of keeping horses near yearly on pasture. In West Texas and the desert Southwest, putting your horses on pasture is rarely an option. And if you own horses long enough you will see a case or two (or three or ten!) of sand colic.  I saw a lot of it when I ran a large public barn.  And, in my observation, the rates of colic increased when horses were fed straight alfalfa and consumed much of it of the ground.    

Sand colic of course is distress or even an impaction of the gut caused by the digestion of sand. If you want to get concerned about sand colic, goggle the term and look for x-rays and pictures of necropsies showing just how much sand a horse can accumulate in their gut. 

While for centuries, horses grazed off the ground, it has usually been plants and scrub. The tendency of a horse to pickup sand in his feed increases greatly when small alfalfa leaves or grain is dropped onto the ground and the horse cleans up every bit of it. Generally, horses can eat long stemmed forage, such as grasses off the ground without a problem, but feeders, and mats, that will contain the feed of the ground is generally safer.

I used to feed in tubs that were small enough where the horses would pull out their feed and distribute it on the ground, where they would pickup sand while cleaning up. As a preventative step, I used to routinely feed a wheat bran mash, usually mixed with Sand Clear - a pelleted psyllium supplement, to help remove sand from the gut. This also presented it's own issue with horses (some more than others) dropping mouthfuls of the mash onto the ground then cleaning it up digesting more sand. It was only when I went to using large box feeders, where the horses would drop very little feed outside of their feeder, where I could cease the routine feeding of bran mashes.

This is the evolving part of a feeding program for horses. As factors change, so does what and how you feed.  Many factors would influence changing types and amounts of feed- these are just of them:

~ As horses get older their dietary needs will change. We've kept horses rideable into their late twenties and even early thirties by adding judicious amounts senior type feed to ensure these great old horses obtained a healthier amount of vitamins, minerals and pro-biotics their aging bodies need.

~ Teeth issues, causing pain to chew or inability to chew food small enough is a big facto.  Older horses will generally have teeth problems.  And in fact, all horses can have teeth issues so nothing better than an annual exam and floating to eliminate teeth as an issue.  While you are at it, have a conversation with the Vet on what types of feed will benefit the changing health of the horse.

~ Changing sources of alfalfa and grass hay, with changing quality and nutritional value, will also likely move you to change your feedings. we feed a mix of alfalfa and grass hay and that ratio changes as we detect quality changes in the hays. First cut alfalfa, with it's normally rich leafy and higher protein values, direct us to feed less alfalfa and more grass.  While you can normally find a nearby asset to send feed samples to for diagnosis, the horse owner usually develops a feel for the feed quality through sight, touch and smell.
 
~ Several of our horses receive a periodic dose of pro-biotics and when we change alfalfa sources, all the horses get another dose even though we mix old and new alfalfas for 7-10 days. We also give them an out of cycle dose of Sand Clear as well.

I do routinely use Sand Clear. Some people have commented that it's expensive, but having a Vet respond to a colicing horse is more expensive. Horses are going to be different - some get along just fine without the intervention of added psyllium. I have three horses who get one scoop (5 ounces) of Sand Clear once a week. Nothing indicates that they digest much sand, but Sand Clear isn't just helpful to prevent sand colic, it's helpful to keeping a healthy gut. And two other horses get Sand Clear two to three times week depending upon the condition of their manure.

As a rough 'sand in the gut' check, You can collect five or six balls of manure that haven't touched the ground and put them into a mason jar.  Cover the balls of manure with water; shake the jar up, and let the sand settle to the bottom.  While I have done this dozens of times, I no longer bother to do.  I can usually judge by changes to the horse's manure piles on the ground.  Wet, partially formed manure can indicate sand in the gut. We have been able to keep two of our older horses pretty well balanced this way for years, and actually eliminated the periodic colicing of one of these horses when we first came to us.

My Vet runs a large stables and her practice is that all horses receive Sand Clear once a week. The fact that she recommends it should be good enough for most of her clients. I do still believe wheat bran has a place in the barn. A sloppy wheat bran mash with a bit of molasses (and I usually put in some corn oil) is a good way to get fluids and nutrition into a horse.

So to answer several questions over the past few months, and those from Katie and BL, I obviously recommend Sand Clear.  However, not all psyllium products are the same. I would be hesitant to use psyllium products intended or humans, and would not use any of these products that had artificial sweeteners added to make it palatable to humans. Metamucil for instance contains Aspartame. No human could consume Aspartame, and neither will my horses.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

50 Dead Horses, others found malnourished at Texas Rescue


Another sickening story of horse abuse as authorities in Texas on Tuesday 10 April 2018 discovered 50 dead horses on a self-described ‘sanctuary’ in Canton, Texas, and seized custody of 87 allegedly mistreated animals. “It was just a sea of dead horses,” Victoria Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It was just heartbreaking.”

The allegedly mistreated animals included 70 horses, nine donkeys, six pigs and one longhorn, authorities said. The dead horses were found scattered and decomposing along a creek on the property.

The malnourished horses resorted to eating trees clean of their bark, while the pigs were confined to a single pen without access to food, authorities said. Most of the animals were found roaming the fenced-in property with varying health problems, including overgrown and cracked hooves and open sores.



The agency said it first visited the property on March 3rd, 2018 after receiving a complaint of suspected animal cruelty. Officials then began to work with the owners, educating them on proper animal care and entering into an agreement with them to bring the animals’ conditions up to Texas' health and safety code. Officials didn’t know about the dead horses at that time, the statement said.


SPCA investigators checked on the animals two more times before receiving a second complaint on March 30—this time of more than 50 dead horses on that same property. Police and SPCA officials then worked together to gather evidence and take custody of the animals. A deceased horse was taken so its cause of death could be determined by a necropsy, the statement said. The living animals were examined by a medical staff and will receive care until a custody hearing on April 19.

Shamefully, the owners have not been charged. While I fully understand that some people take in animals with full intent of providing a good, fair life to that animal to a natural death, some people just get in over their heads - their abilities and resources, despite their best intent, are just not up to the task. But there is no excuse for not calling someone for help and continue searching for a solution. But people are people and some are capable of horrendous cruelty. All decent people need to report neglect and abuse; and, law enforcement needs to do their part. Violators should be charged and prosecuted.

Texas Penal Code, Section 42.09 Cruelty to Livestock Animals

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:
(1) tortures a livestock animal;
(2) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, or care for a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(3) abandons unreasonably a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(4) transports or confines a livestock animal in a cruel and unusual manner;
(5) administers poison to a livestock animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner's effective consent;
(6) causes one livestock animal to fight with another livestock animal or with an animal as defined by Section 42.092 (Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals);
(7) uses a live livestock animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack;
(8) trips a horse; or
(9) seriously overworks a livestock animal.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Abandon” includes abandoning a livestock animal in the person's custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.
(2) “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.
(3) “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of a livestock animal subject to the person's care and control, regardless of ownership of the livestock animal.
(4) “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.
(5) “Livestock animal” means:
(A) cattle, sheep, swine, goats, ratites, or poultry commonly raised for human consumption;
(B) a horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny;
(C) native or nonnative hoofstock raised under agriculture practices; or
(D) native or nonnative fowl commonly raised under agricultural practices.
(6) “Necessary food, water, or care” includes food, water, or care provided to the extent required to maintain the livestock animal in a state of good health.
(7) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.
(8) “Trip” means to use an object to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2), (3), (4), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092. An offense under Subsection (a)(1), (5), (6), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092.
(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(8) that the actor tripped the horse for the purpose of identifying the ownership of the horse or giving veterinary care to the horse.
(e) It is a defense to prosecution for an offense under this section that the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.
(f) It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:
(1) form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:
(A) fishing, hunting, or trapping; or
(B) wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or
(2) animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.
(g) This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of this section.

Article from Fox News



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ground Tying Your Horse


I was talking to a client on the phone about tips using the Functional Tie Ring when he asked me about also teaching a horse to ground tie. Ground tying is simply looping the reins over the saddle horn or neck of the horse, or dropping the lead line on the ground (or both if you using a mecate) and walking away with the horse standing still and not following you or wandering off. Some will loop the mecate over the saddle horn as well when ground tying. This works and would likely be the preferred method if you were using horse hair reins or if the ground was muddy.

Ground tying obviously has many concerns - your horse running off and getting the reins caught on something and jerking the bit through his mouth, often cutting his tounge; the reins slipping so the horse gets a front foot through them with the same results - okay you get the idea. So there are some things my horses need to do well before I start ground tying.

Your horse has absolutely has to be broke to lead and this is where the beginning of ground tying are anyway. Your horse should lead up where you want him at a slow or fast walk; stop when you stop; back off a feel on the lead and move to you on the feel of a lead rope when you ask. What I mean by feel of the lead rope is a change in what the horse feels. If my horse is standing 10 feet away from me on a loose rein, I want to be able to slightly pickup the lead rope, changing the weight slightly on what he feels through the halter. I'll click or whistle as a verbal signal as well, and coil the lead rope up, keeping it slack, as he approaches me. In the beginning the lead line may be taunt, not pulling - just taunt, the horse will eventually step forward releasing the pressure on his poll and this is beginning of himself learning to get the release of pressure on his poll. In some cases, if the horse does not step forward to get a release from the taunt lead line, it helps to have someone stand behind the horse (out of kicking distance) and when you ask him to come forward your helper will put a little pressure on the horse - often it is enough just to step towards the horse. See Figure 1 through 4 below. You can see the difference in the still slack lead rope as the horse moves forward.



I need him to back off a feel as well, and I do that by shaking the lead rope in a back and forth, side to side motion, feeding the rope out as he backs. I use the verbal cue, "back", as well. This is something they learn quick. I'll start up close to the horse and shake the lead rope and when the horse changes his balance as if he preparing to back, I'll stop and give him a few seconds before asking again and building on that asking for one step, then two. The verbal cue comes in real handy when you want to back a horse off the feed bin when you are throwing feed or really anything where you hands are occupied. See Figure 5 through 8 below.



The client from the beginning of this conversation asked what does standing still have to do with moving forward or moving back? Its the feel of the lead rope when asking him to move forward or move back, and the inbetween or the absence of that feel associated with not moving or standing  ground tied. Kind of like not being able to teach a horse to stop, until you have him moving forward.

If my horse leads well then I need him to stand tied well before moving on to ground tying. This is where I use the Functional Tie Ring and stimulating the horse to pull back and getting a release from the pressure of the halter on his poll when his feet are moving in temporary suspension. Once my horses are good with that, I leave them alone tied, using the tie ring, for increasing longer period of time. One minute the first time is not too short. If I'm moving off out of sight, I often put a daisy chain or a simple slip knot in the lead rope so the lead won't pull through.

I think a person will know when the horse is ready for ground tying. It's basics in ground work, so the horse's will be learning it in the round pen or the arena at first. Same deal as being tied,......let him stand ground tied for a short period in the beginning and increasing that time. One time I had a client working on my obstacle course and he called to me for help getting his horse to cross a bridge. I dropped the lead line and left a horse in the round pen and went to help. Thirty minutes later I returned to the round pen and the horse was standing in the same spot. And why not? Nobody was asking anything of him, so he just took a break. So what do you do when the horse starts to walk off when ground tied? I use a voice command to disrupt his thought and focus on me. I won't wait too long before I approach him, rub on him and ask him to stand still again and walk off.

Being broke to ground tie also comes in handy when I have to dismount for a short period of time and be out of range of the lead rope of my mecate even if it's just in the arena so I can change up some poles, cones or barrels. And even though my horses do well ground tying, it just doesn't make sense to me to ground tie them in an uncontained area, at least not walking away from them where is no fence or barrier to contain them if they do run off. That's what using hobbles are good for. This is a story I'm not proud of - I was up in the mountains riding to a historic site, two buildings and cemetery, to check out sign of vandalism. I let a guest ride my good Sorrel horse Junior. When we got to the first old structure, we dismounted and tied the reins to the saddle horns and let the horse graze while I walked around cutting sign for trespassers. We spooked a small groups of Mule Deer in the brush and they in turn spooked the horses who ran down the trail. After a three mile jog, I got to the horses to discover the reins has slipped off Junior and he had stepped on the bit cutting his tongue badly. That happened about 10-11 years ago, and ever since I haven't ridden him in anything but a hackamore - by the way, Martin Black makes great hackamores, most of mine I bought from him.

Getting a horse to ground tie, even for short periods of time, while you walk off and right back, is just a good thing to get a horse to do.     

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hunting Easter Eggs and Eating Frito Pie




Getting friends together for an Easter Weekend Ride to hunt eggs is something we have been doing for a couple years now. I go out in the desert and hide small, medium and large plastic eggs with prizes such as grooming items, halters, socks, stuffed animals - you get the idea. This year, I finally did it in a smart manner. Rather than ride out with four huge bags of eggs burdening my horse and making riding uncomfortable, this year I drove out into the desert and dropped the bags off, then returned to my property to trade truck for horse and rode out.

About two hours later, I had finished hiding all the eggs and waited on the group of 14 riders to meet up with me. As they approached, they were greeted by a horse and rider with a giant bunny head,.......I regret letting my wife talking me into wearing that uncomfortable and ridiculous thing. Next year, I'm talking my buddy Dave in wearing it.





One of the riders was a 7 year old boy, named Marius, who was riding his minature horse Thunder. Twenty seconds after mounting from the start point, Thunder threw Marius, but he gamely got back on the rode that little horse. What impressed me about little Marius was that he occassionally dismounted and walked his horse to give that short legged minature a break.

The rule was that each rider could only keep 3 eggs. If someone found a fourth egg, they would have to give one of the eggs to someone who had less than three eggs. While some people may think this was communist ideology in nature, each rider did have a choice in what eggs they gave up - hopefully keeping the eggs they thought had good stuff inside.

After all, or what we hoped were all the eggs being found, we rode back to my property for Frito Pie and assorted side dishes. Eggs were opened and trading prizes commenced. Pretty nice day here in West Texas with the temps pushing 80 degrees. Nice folks to ride and eat lunch with, except for the aforementioned Dave - nobody really likes him.

If you have never had Frito Pie, then you are missing a classic Texas favorite. Here is the recipe my wife used:

Frito Pie Recipe
1 Pound lean Ground Beef
1 Medium or Large chopped Sweet Onion
1 Clove of Garlic, minced
1 eight (8) ounce can of Rotel Mild Dice Tomatoes & Green Chiles
1 eight (8) ounce can of regular diced Tomatoes  
1 sixteen (16) ounce can of Dark Red Kidney Beans (drained)
1 eight (8) ounce can of tomato sauce
1 four (4) ounce can of black Olives, drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 Large bag of Frito Chips, regular size

Brown beef, onion and garlic - My wife uses Great American Land & Cattle Co. Steak and Meat seasoning. Cavenders All Purpose Greek seasoning is a good alternative.  Drain fat. note:  you can save the drained fat, and later put in someone's toothpaste tube for next year's April Fools Day.

Put browned beef, onion and garlic in crock pot.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, drained kidney beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, basil and drained black olives. Salt and pepper a bit.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. 

If you use small snack size bags of Frito Chips, people can cut the tops off and dish Chili on top of fritos - otherwise put frito chips in bowl and cover with chili for individual servings.  Above recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Bothering Horses During Feeding


Walt wrote in the ask about interacting with horses while they are feeding. "Someone told me that I shouldn't bother my horses while they are eating. The subject came up when I was using a brush to get stickers out of her tail when she was eating and a friend of mine said I should refrain from it and just let the horse eat. Is there a reason I cannot be around or touch my horse when she is eating?"

The bottom line Walt is no, I don't think there is a reason you can't groom or pet on your horse while she is eating. I know others have a different opinion as I have heard people, even one well known clinician, say 'do not bother your horse's when they eat, but let them be'. The horse would certainly be good with being left alone to eat, as the act of feeding is where I understand endorphins are released creating a positive feeling for the horse. But, I don't pretend to understand any of that, but I do believe the horse really only thinks about one thing - feed, but thinks about it in two ways: where to get it, and how not to become it. So, I can see where someone thinks that anything that interferes with feeding can put pressure on a horse and increase it's anxiety...and if you go about it in a wrong manner you would cause the horse to be troubled.

However, I can see positive things resulting with you being around and touching your horse while she eats. I do it to my horse's all the time. In the photo at top right, I am lifting a horse's tail while he has his head in the feed bin. I also rub on them, groom them, clean their feet and recently I had to put anti-fungal cream on a horse's sheath. The act of grooming while this horse was eating relaxed him where he dropped so that was useful to getting the anti-fungal cream where it need to go, but was also an indication (the FBI calls that a clue) that being groomed while he ate was no concern at all to him. You see a wet area on the horse's back where a saddle pad went - I just finished washing sweat off his back after a ride. A horse will normally roll and end up looking like pig pen with the sand sticking to his wetback, so feeding will allow his back to dry before he rolls.

Actually, I think interacting with your horse, and the process of getting them good at being interacted with while feeding, makes a softer horse. If you had a horse who showed some agitation when you were near him or touching while he was feeding (evident by tail swishing, ears pinned, moving away from you) working on being able to groom him, pick up a foot, rubbing on him, lifting his tail, etc....... by starting slow and light then building on that progress, will make a softer, gentler horse. In the beginning you may just stand there near him while he ate, then progress to rubbing him a second or two, then eventually build to brushing him all over, picking up feet, and so on.

Your horse will tell you if she has problems with you messing with her while she eats. It's hard to brush out a tail when there is tension in the tail or the horse is swishing it around. Since you wrote that you were brushing her tail out while she was eating, it is likely your horse is good with human interaction while feeding.

Thanks for writing and safe journey.



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Veterans with PTSD helped by Horses


Therapies using horses and providing benefits for individuals with physical disabilities, behavior issues or cognitive disorders is really nothing new, just under reported and certainly under funded. I have the priviledge of knowing USMC Col John Mayer, former Commander of the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, whose unit provided many different avenues of therapy and transitional assistance for wounded, disabled or transitioning Marines. In fact, the Marine Corps is far and away heads above the other services, especially the Army who has shut down or minimized horse stables on Army Installations. The article below, by Andrea Scott, Managing Editor of the Marine Corps Times, was posted on the Military Times. The article reaffirms what many of us know, and that is the old quote from Winston Churchill is true - "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man (or woman).”

It took decades for Jeannine McDonald to finally admit she was struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. When she did, that itself was devastating. The Air Force veteran said she tried everything — counseling, medication, acupuncture. But nothing seemed to help. “I was at that point where I was numb to everything; I didn’t enjoy anything,” McDonald said. She had only ridden horses a few times as a child, but the magic of it had stuck with her. When a friend asked her what she would choose if she could do anything, McDonald knew. “The only thing I could think of was to ride.”

As clinicians seek innovative ways to heal veterans struggling with PTSD, equine therapy has been growing in popularity. It is still medically controversial — part of that reason being that there hasn’t been much data or research on it, especially with veterans. But a team at Columbia University in New York City has set out to change that.

The team is finishing up a yearlong study of veterans struggling with PTSD and the effects of horse therapy. The Virginia facility where McDonald rides serves children with disabilities, such as autism or Down Syndrome, and has a separate focus on active-duty military and veterans. A partnership with a local military installation brings out active-duty riders twice a week. Many of them are struggling with substance abuse, depression or PTSD.

Finding healing through horses



Tessa Hassett has a background in clinical psychology, and has been a riding instructor at the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program in Clifton, Virginia, for three years. “A lot of them have said that whatever they’ve been through with their PTSD and depression that they never thought they’d be able to bond with someone again and feel that personal connection,” Hassett said. “But with their horse, they’re feeling that connection. They’re able to take that into the rest of their lives and into their other relationships.”

McDonald said that after learning to control a huge horse — she usually rides Booker, a Clydesdale/Hackney cross — she has learned to be gentler with her four children and her husband. The hardest part about equine therapy? For McDonald at least, it’s getting there. But she’s happy once she arrives, she said. Riding gets her outside, and helps her build core strength that she lost after an accident and spinal surgery in the Air Force. “It’s different when it’s not a human being,” she said. “You can’t replace that, but there’s something also about animals, like therapy dogs. How many people have just been transformed or changed or just come out of the pain because they have something that loves them back and doesn’t ask questions?”

The Washington Post reported in June that veterans participating in Columbia University’s study are spending 90 minutes once a week for eight weeks interacting with the horses. Prudence Fisher, Columbia University professor of clinical psychiatric social work, told the Post, “One of the things we’re optimistic about is how much the veterans like the treatment.”

Such trials usually have a 30 percent dropout rate, Fisher told the Post, but that’s not happening with this trial, which ends in December. The veterans enjoy being there, she said. And McDonald knows why, and recommends equine therapy to all struggling veterans. “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man,” she said. “I have not seen or known of anyone who hasn’t been saved in a certain way by being around these horses.”

Support your local equine therapeutic organizations with your time, resources or money - they do good work.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Saddling Routine


EJ wrote to ask about a proper saddling routine,.."Hello, I was wondering if you have a routine or a process on saddling most horses. One of my girlfriend's told me she watched a trainer who said to first secure the breast collar. This is in case the horse takes off running so the saddle won't go under the horse's stomach and I guess trip him up. Then you secure the belly cinch. My Dad taught me to first tighten up the belly cinch, then do the breast collar. What do you recommend?"

I hope EJ is a woman talking about her friends who are girls. If you are a young man with multiple girlfriends, then saddling a horse the wrong way will be the least of your problems. In fact, if you are dating multiple girls, then now might just be a good time for a packing trip to the Yukon.

I know exactly what EJ is writing about where a noted trainer, who I think highly of, demonstrated saddling a young horse and said that he prefers to secure the breast collar first, rather than the front cinch. He was talking about a getting a young horse to accept a saddle, not your trusted trail horse who you have saddled for years. His (the trainer's) reasoning was that if the young horse bolted mid way through saddling, if you only had the front cinch started, it was likely that the saddle would roll under the horse's barrel and spook him further - not to mention tear up a saddle. He said he secures the breast collar first so if the horse bolted or spooked the saddle would rotate to a position hanging under his head/neck and not further spook him or tear up the saddle.

While I respect this trainer's work throughout the years, I do not fasten the breast collar first then the front cinch. First of all I would not begin to saddle a horse until I was sure he had a good chance in accepting it, granted with a little bucking you could except until he figured out he didn't need to buck. Granted, there is a point in securing the front cinch where you are committed and need to get it cinched up snug to prevent the saddle rolling if the horse bolts or bucks. Most of us work a horse's barrel with a rope to get him to accept the feeling and pressure of a cinch underneath himself. Again, just so there is no confusion, I do the front cinch first then the breast collar.

If a saddle was hooked by only the breast collar and it did rotate underneath his head/neck,...something I have never seen,...I would suspect it would trouble a horse, certainly a young horse. A horse's vision blind spot is down there in front of their chest. I would also think that he could step through a hanging rope, or on the stirrup leather and tear it up.

Sometimes, I have saddled a young horse for the first time with just the saddle, absent a pad, if I suspected he might go to bucking even with the ground work I put in. It is easier to get that saddle snug that way. As far as using a breast collar on a young horse for the first time you saddle him - well, that's a judgment call. As I think back, I can't specifically remember when I have not used a breast collar on a horse I am saddling for the first time. All my saddles have a breast collar rigged.

All your ground work is going to not only get him good about being touched everywhere, but you'll get a feeling about where his trouble spots may be. It would be your job to get him good where those trouble spots would be.



Friday, February 16, 2018

Ossian Flipper - First Black West Point Graduate


February is Black History Month and I wanted to honor Black American soldiers and the story of Lt Flipper came to mind. Henry Ossian Flipper, born in March of 1856, was a former slave who became the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877, earning a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army and being assigned as the first nonwhite officer to lead buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. By all accounts Lt Flipper was an outstanding officer who led troops in the Apache campaign against Victorio.

In 1881, while assigned to Fort Davis in West Texas as the post quartermaster and commissary officer, Lieutenant Flipper's commanding officer, Colonel William Rufus Shafter - who was well known to hate the idea of Black Army Officers, accused Flipper of "embezzling funds and of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." As a result of these charges, he was court-martialed. He was acquitted of the embezzlement charge but was found guilty, by general court martial, of conduct unbecoming an officer. On June 30, 1882, he was drummed out of the Army.

After his dismissal from the Army, Flipper worked as a civil engineer in El Paso. In 1898, he volunteered to serve in the Spanish–American War, but requests to restore his commission were ignored by Congress. He spent time in Mexico, then returned to the United States where he served as an adviser to Senator Albert Fall, from New Mexico, on Mexican politics. When Senator Fall became Secretary of the Interior in 1921, he brought Flipper with him to Washington, D.C., to serve as his assistant.

Later, Flipper went to work in Venezuela as an engineer in the petroleum industry. He retired in 1931 and moved to Atlanta where he died in 1940. Flipper was also an author, writing about scientific topics, the history of the Southwest, and his own experiences. His most prolific piece was likely "The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878)" where he detailed his experiences at West Point.

In 1976 Flipper's descendants and supporters applied to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records receiving a finding that his conviction and punishment were "unduly harsh and unjust" and eventually a good conduct discharge was ordered corrected in Flipper's records. In 1997, a private law firm filed an application of pardon with the Secretary of the Army on Lieutenant Flipper's behalf and after making it's rounds through the Army bureaucracy, then President William Clinton officially pardoned Lieutenant Flipper on February 19, 1999. A bust of Flipper resides at West Point where there is also an annual Henry O. Flipper Award that is granted to graduating cadets who exhibit "leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties". A fitting tribute for Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper.

There is a one act, one man play by El Pasoan Robert "Bob" Snead available on Amazon that is truly an amazing thing to watch. However, it is only available on VHS tape. The below You Tube video produced by West Point on Lt Flipper is the next best presentation on Henry Ossian Flipper.



Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fundamentals of Search and Rescue Book Offer


Fundamentals of Search and Rescue is a 327 page manual written by the National Association for Search and Rescue, published in 2005 by Jones and Bartlett, that I use to help put together our SAR Standard Operating Procedures when I was a Army Range Rider, and I also provided this manual to SAR groups I taught tracking and mounted search and rescue to.

The Chapter contents are:

1 - Overview of Land Search and Rescue
2 Search and Rescue Systems
3 - SAR Incident Management and Organization
4 - Legal and Ethical Aspects of SAR
5 - Physiology and Fitness
6 - Survival and Improvisation
7 - SAR Clothing
8 - Safety in SAR Environments
9 - The SAR Ready Pack and Personal Equipment
10 - Navigation
11 - SAR Resources and Technology
12 - Travel Skills - Foot Travel for SAR Personnel
13 - Tracking
14 - Search Background and Related Issues
15 - Search Operations
16 - Rescue

Appendices include: Task Force Structure Marking System; Search Urgency; Track Identification Form; Briefing and Debriefing Checklists; Missing Person Questionnaire; Equipment List; Forms; SAR Resource Typing; and Incident Command System (ICS) Glossary.

I have a limited number left of this book for those who want a copy. These are well used books with dog earred pages, but in good condition.

Send me an e-mail at brad@functionalhorsemanship.com with your mailing address and let me know you would like a copy. I'll respond if I have any left on hand, and how to pay the $21.20 for each book which includes shipping.  I'm going to limit this to one book per respondent.



Saturday, February 3, 2018

Time to Say Goodbye


It can be tough to decide to put a horse down. The question on 'when is it time?" cropped up twice in the past month with me. A horse of a friend of mine, and closer to home, my wife's 29 year Quarterhorse mare, of the Peter McCue bloodline, who she raised from birth. We're the kind of people who keep horses until the end of their natural life. Wasn't always this way. It becomes a financial as well as emotional burden at times.

I've likely caused pain and suffering, especially in the earlier years of my life, and for that I'm very sorry. It has probably shaped the way I feel about animals these days, finding sadness and anger when I see animals mistreated. So I am pretty well finely tuned mentally not to let any of animals experience suffering from failing systems and old age, but still it can be a difficult call on an aging animal.

Most of us have been told that "we'll know when it's time", but that's not always clear. A broken leg is one thing, but a fractured coffin bone wing or a bowed tendon is another. I've had horses come back from both to be sound and useable. When I ran a large public stables years ago I experienced many cases of owners hoping for a miracle turn around on a twisted gut or a case of founder and it was difficult watching the horses suffer just because the owner wished for better. But the ravages of age bring about a whole difficult set of circumstances to consider.

Your Veterinarian has absolutely got to be part of the process when deciding when it is time. It's likely hard on the Vet too, to deliver such advice. While the Vet to owner relationship is important for that honesty to be present, I've found that most Vet's just aren't in the business of giving anything close to false hope so some may advise to go to the final solution a little quicker.

In the past month my wife's 29 year old mare has difficulty getting back up once she lays down.  When I'd found her that way we'd have to roll her over so she can get her better back leg underneath herself. We'd worry about her laying down early in the evening when it'll be 6 or 8 hours before we see her again, and within that time circulation problems would likely occur. Recently, she will go several days before laying down. But during the day we see her doing short trots across the turnout and nickering at us when she see's us approaching with sweet feed and she has free choice alfalfa and grass hay 24/7. We enjoy pretty decent winter weather here in West Texas, certainly much better than Montana, yet my wife hauls bucket of warm water with molasses several times a day to her mare so often drinks a 17 quart bucket down at one time.


Four days ago My wife flew out to Houston for cancer tests and while she was gone her horse went down again at 9:00 at night.  I made the call to my Vet who came in the early morning and I had her put her down.  I told my Vet, "I'm not asking you to make the call,...it's my responsibility, so lets put her down", she said "yes, it's time". 

Andromeda McCue, aka Ande, born April 7,1990 - died Feb.1, 2018, now can rest with those special horses who have gone before.  She left a legacy of a long line of children who learned to ride on her. 


 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Riding One Handed in a Snaffle Bit


Suzanne wrote to ask about my friends, ".............. who are more experienced riders than me all ride one handed and tell me that I need to learn how to ride with one hand as opposed to two hands on the rein. I am using a snaffle bit and I am also told that I need to get a different bit so I can ride one handed. So my questions are where to go (what bit) from riding with two hands on a regular snaffle bit? By the way I use a loop reins and I really don't want to use separated reins. Thanks for any suggestions. Blessings, Suzanne." Linda and Abel also wrote in with much of the same question - where to go after a horse moves well off a direct rein.

That's a good question Suzanne. While the snaffle bit is really designed to be ridden with two hands I would not necessarily say that you can't ride one handed in this and depending on what you are doing, say trail riding, you may even now be riding one handed some or most of the time. In fact, it's going to be necessary to ride one handed in a snaffle bit at times when you need your other hand free such as opening a gate, scratching your ear, pulling your hat down on your head, and checking your phone as everyone seems to be doing these days. Another reason to be able to ride one handed, which became apparent to me recently, is that you may have an injured arm. After I started this reply, I was helping brand cattle and we had a mechanical problem with the squeeze chute which required a partial disassembly to release the over 1,000 pound bred back Red Angus momma. A miscommunication between me (out in front of the chute, heading to a gate to get a tool) and the person operating the squeeze chute led to the release of the side panel. She had been in the chute for 20 minutes and was mad as hell (which, let me assure you, is an understatement). When she cleared the chute, I was the nearest target. Getting repeatedly slammed into the corner of a pen, bruised me up on the ribs and back some, but re-aggravated an old injury to my left arm and elbow, which made riding one handed in a hackamore necessary the next few days.  Sure glad my hackamore horse work okay on neck reins and leg cues.   

I have heard the perception that riding with two hands is for beginners (in fact some people derisively call it plow reining) and riding one handed shows a more experienced, capable rider, but this is simply not true. It's how you use your hands, not the fact that you are using both of them. In fact, if you are roping a calf and tying off, the thought may cross your mind that it would be nice to have three hands.

Even with one piece loop reins and a snaffle bit, you can get your horse to neck rein. The bit becomes much less to do with neck reining as the horse learns to turn his head and neck from the pressure or weight of the rein on his neck. Horse hair reins, which have a prickly feeling so the horse can learn that feel early on in neck reining training, are traditionally used. But your leather or rope reins will work. I ride in a parachute cord mecate which is like what you are calling loop reins - others call them roper reins. The mecate is a continuous rein, normally 22 feet in length although I have used slightly shorter one. The mecate reins begin on the right side of the snaffle bit, usually connected to the bit by a slobber strap, then looping over the horse's neck then running through the left side of the snaffle bit or bosal (again through a slobber strap) and using the excess portion of the mecate to be a lead rope that can be tied to the saddle or tucked into your belt for a quick release, giving the rider a lead rope when they dismount. You can see the slobber strap and how a mecate is rigged in the photos below.

Some rider's don't want the excess rope of the mecate so an 8 or 9 foot loop or roping rein is attached via slobber straps to the snaffle bit. Works the same for the rider, you just don't have a lead rope if you dismount nor the excess rope to worry about.

Anyway, you can ride with a direct rein one handed in the snaffle bit or bosal. The thing to watch out for is not to activate or make the in-active rein taunt otherwise the horse will perceive conflicting signals. This would be evident as the horse slows his momentum or stops and his head normally comes up seeking a release from the pressure. Once you are comfortable manipulating the reins with one hand to use a direct rein, you can start getting him sacked out on neck reining.



Most horses can understand the ask of neck reining within short order and get functional at it quickly. The place to start is to place the rein on his neck (it has to be loose and not in contact with his mouth or nose if you are riding in a bosal), then ask for a change of direction, a tip of his head with the direct rein. In  Figure 1 above I am placing the outside rein (the rein opposite of the direction you are turning) on the neck. Again the rein is slack enough so it doesn't pull on the snaffle bit. If I think it will help a horse, I'll actually have my fingers pushing the rein on the neck.



In figure 2, I am exaggerating a direct rein in the direction I want to turn. You can see the horse's left front foot moved a little to the right feeling the neck rein. In Figure 3 below, the horse stepped to the inside with his right front and the photo shows the left front stepping across. At this point in introducing neck reining, I am not using any leg pressure or cues. So again the sequence is the neck rein, then direct rein. Be sure to release both when the horse shows some understanding (a weight transfer or better yet a step to the inside - the direction you want to turn). Give him a pause, then build on that.



In the beginning, don't be too concerned about having your hand with the neck rein across the horse's neck - but do be watchful that you are not using the neck rein to pull the head over because it will unbalance you to some degree, and if you do this, you will likely make that neck rein taunt and give the horse a confusing signal. So you are likely going to exaggerate to make the signal clear, then you can refine your signals as you go.

Once you and your horse are good with this, both standing still and at the walk and trot, then you can add a leg cue to re-enforce the neck rein. You will find that it will increase the promptness or sharpness of the turn of direction. You need to be able to control your horse's front end, barrel and back end with your legs anyway, so this will be a tool you will practically always use. Use your outside leg - the same leg as the neck rein - to apply pressure with your calf or toe to the horse's barrel at the front cinch or just forward of that, ....just like you would if you were asking your horse to move his front end over, or continuously moving his front end over for a turn on the hocks.

Now you should be able to start using the reins one handed with the neck rein and the leg cue in support, to move him in the opposite direction.

I ride two handed with a loop in the reins held by one hand (in my left hand in Figure 4 below), and the other hand holding the rein on the other side. If I want to switch to one hand, I bring one hand to the other transferring control of both sides of the rein to one hand (see the arrow in Figure 4) and dropping the loop. Then I have control of the reins in a single hand (Figure 5).
 


Many of the best horseman will ride mecate reins one handed always with a loop in the reins to hold the excess. I'm not one of them, so I pretty much have to hold the reins one handed, as described and shown above, to keep myself out of trouble. Just by sitting on the horse and not moving, you can manipulate the reins back and forth, figuring out what works for you, and getting handy at it. So really, my advice is just get on your horse, practice manipulating the reins and transferring control from two hands to one hand and back; then experiment with a neck rein - remember the neck rein then direct direct in that order - exaggerate in the beginning and reward the slightest understanding shown by the horse with a release and pause; progress next by using the outside leg with the neck rein; then I think you'll b able to ride on handed using the neck rein and leg cue to turn your horse.

If you plan on working gates, it will pay off to be able to use a leg cue to move the horse's back end, disengaging the back end.  You are likely doing this now.  Controlling all parts of the horse, and being able to do that one step at a time will help you position up on a gate and be safe about it.  And lastly, before anyone leaves a comment about it below - I don't think I'm as fat as the photo tends to relate, but then again I sure do like my ice cream.  Good luck, safe journey.   


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Questions on Trailer Loading


Everett wrote to clarify some things on trailer loading. "I have several questions on trailer loading if you have the time to answer me. I own and have watched several videos on trailer loading and generally have no problems with my two horses, but encounter some problems when helping friends of mine with their horses getting in the trailer. Videos are great and have been my primary outside learning experience but you can't ask questions! (1) I've seen different trainers work their horses in different patterns before trying to load them such as circles or just going back and forth. Is any pattern okay or are their advantages and disadvantages with each? And if you are lunging a horse around a trailer then try to load her and she stops at the trailer and refuses to load, isn't she being rewarded with a rest anyway? (2) One problem I almost ways have with other's horses is a when you are asking the horse to get in the trailer she will move around the side of the trailer sort of hiding so how do you keep them straight? (3) Have you encounter a horse who won't step into the trailer because the trailer is too high? Will a ramp work better? Any answers you can give would be appreciated. Thank you for your site and videos as well. Respectfully, Everett".

Good questions Everett. The pattern that you lunge a horse in prior to asking him to attempt to load is really not important. What is are the reason for doing so and how you go about doing it. See diagrams before on two common patterns - although some people will lunge their horses in ovals on all sides of the trailer or lunge them from one side to the other - whatever you are comfortable with. I look at it these ways:

Although it often said or thought that the reason for working your horse outside the trailer prior to loading is to get him seeking that rest in the trailer. While this is pretty much true, I believe the primary reason for working the horse outside the trailer is to direct his feet therefore establishing leadership with him and getting him focused on listening to you, so when you ask him to enter the trailer it is an extension on what you just had been doing. Moving around the outside of trailer is useful on getting him sacked out on any anxiety with the trailer he may have. See figures 1 and 2 below - they are common patterns I do when working a horse into wanting to load.



I understand your point about working a horse then letting it rest at the trailer refusing to load. While it may be a physical rest for the horse (for a moment), as you are asking it to load it becomes mental pressure as the horse realizes you are asking it to do something it is wary of doing. Besides, you are not going to stay at this point for a long time. A few moments without an effort to load before you are back to working it. As long as the horse makes an effort, I'll stay at this point in the process.

As far as the trailer being too high for the horse to step into,....I think can't and won't are too different things, with can't stepping that high being a rare thing. The height of the trailer can add anxiety to the horse and the horse may leap into the trailer. This is why we don't stand in front of the horse leading them into the trailer. This can also cause additional problems if the floor is too slippery or not stable. I once refused to work a client's horse on trailer loading into his trailer because the floor would have likely cracked and it was looking possible for a horse to get his hoof through that floor. Can you imagine the damage if that happened on a moving trailer? All possible for want of a few dollars worth of 2x6 planks.

Anyway, before I forget, even if you have a trailer you can walk into leading your horse, it is a good idea in my book to also be able to send your horse into the trailer while you stay outside. On sending, sometimes the horse will turn around because it's hard to stop him from turning around while you are on the outside, so it's good to be able to back him out after sending him in. All good experience for the horse - makes him safer and more handier.

I don't have a trailer with a ramp nor have used a ramp much. I don't prefer them as you kind of need level ground behind the trailer for loading and un-loading. If you fashion a ramp for a ramp less trailer because you think your horse needs it to load, just make sure it is stable - won't move and will take the weight. A horse around 1,200 pounds becomes much more than that when stepping hard onto the ramp. I would think the 'sponginess' of some ramps may increase a horse's fear of loading.

I think your last question is what to do if your horse steps to the side of the trailer avoiding loading. If you are in the trailer (but off to the side) it's hard to keep a horse straight for loading that doesn't want to stay straight. I would likely go back to working the horse in circles or half circles, then going back to asking to load. Or you can use a lunge whip or just a stick to tap the horse on the outside of his barrel or butt to get him to move over and become straight again. Sometimes, I'll step out of the trailer and back the horse with energy, then walk back around to the trailer and ask him to load again. See figure 3 at left.

Some other important things are going to be:

When you lead a horse to a trailer to load, expect him to load just fine, otherwise he may sense your hesitancy and not load;

Remember that you can't pull a horse into the trailer - you can put a little pressure or hold on the lead rope momentarily so he understand you want him to come forward, but he needs to load on a loose lead - Good Lord this is likely the most common mistake - continue pulling on the horse trying to get him to load;

If he load's then back him out before he backs out under his own decision - then build on the amount of time he can stand in the trailer. It's okay to turn around if you can do it safely in the beginning but eventually he needs to be able to back out. I like to back a horse out under a loose lead when I'm inside the trailer and use the verbal cue "step" to help him identify the edge.      

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Arena Patterns: Ground Poles and Box


This is another easy pattern or obstacle for your arena, consisting of ground poles and a box, that everyone can use and use in multiple ways so you and your horse and can get a lot out it. While it can just be used as ground poles to go over and over with your horse to help him learn to pick his feet up, and to help you with the timing of the feet, it can also be used for turns, backing, side passing and tight turn arounds with forward momentum, which judging from the Arena Obstacle Challenges I run each year, seem to be a problem area for many horses and riders.

I had a client in my arena riding a horse who was half draft horse - pretty tall maybe 17 hands, but short backed actually. The pair had a problem with turning tight circles. We weren't going to get everything solved that day, but after working on lateral and vertical flexion, and controlling the head/neck, front end, barrel and back end - which I advocated doing everytime that horse was pulled to ride, we moved onto the drills you see in the diagrams below. As I demonstrated the many various things you can do with ground poles, the client said words to the effect that she "would have never thought about doing anything but riding over the ground poles like cavalettis, like in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Riding over the ground poles really helps the horse pick his feet up. The change of interval from the first five poles to the last ground pole on the far side of the circle adds a challenge in concentration. I think this exercise also puts a reason into asking the horse to get soft, drop his nose vertical, as it helps him see the ground poles.  You can also change up the interval from pole to pole.

  
Figure 2. This is pretty much the same exercise as Figure 1 but adds a small circle under forward momentum in the box. I have my box with 6 foot long sides, but if you have a really large horse you can extend the box somewhat. I do that for big horses competing in Arena Obstacle Challenges. The idea is to do this circle smoothly without it looking like a narrow turn on the hocks, then a step forward, then another narrow turn on the hocks. It helps if the horse is soft and can follow his nose keeping the bend without fading out - which requires forward momentum. The follow on to the circle in the box is to do the circle using only a neck rein and once you can do that, do it using only leg cues and pressure.
Figure 3. This exercise is riding between the ground poles, doing a turn around after you get through the poles in order to get lined up and go through the next set.  The basic idea is to do a 180 degree turn with forward momentum.  You can turn on the front end or on the hocks which will likely require re-lining up a bit to proceed forward through the next ground poles.  After four trips between the ground poles, you enter the box and execute a 360 degree turn with forward momentum.
Figure 4. This is pretty challenging - riding forward between two poles, side passing to get lined up for the next set, then backing up. Repeating this until you can side pass over then step into the box for a tight circle.
While you could ride over this pattern and these obstacles for a while before ever doing the same thing, if you change up the way you enter the poles, or doing it in reverse, I would consider sticking to a particular pattern until you horse gets comfortable with it and improves quite a bit before you change it up.  You can also side pass over the poles - in fact, another way I use ground poles is to trot over them and stop my horse so he has his front feet on one side of a ground pole and the rear feet on the other side of the pole, then side pass him one direction or the other.    

You are only limited by your imagination and what's safe for you and your horse to perform.  One more variation is that once inside the box, position up and do turns on the hocks or on the front end rather than doing a circle.           

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Ideas for Horse People


There are my ideas for some good Christmas gifts for horse people.  Aside of not having a pair of Carlos Macias (Buckaroo Gear) Armitas, everything else I have and put to good use. 

Air Compressor for Truck and Trailer Tires. ARB 4x4 Accessories offers several different on-board (mounted to a vehicle) and portable air compressor kits. These are not your cheap K-Mart type units that don't have the guts to inflate larger tires such as load range E tires or even the tires commonly found on most horse trailers. I don't remember how many times I have people pulling trailers with under inflated tires or tires that were damaged, dry rotted or about to blow out.

I have a portable unit since I use three different trucks to pull four different trailers - I can store the ARB portable High Performance 12 volt air compressor in any truck I am using that day. If you think the same then you have two basic options considering what you are willing to spend - the ARB Twin High Performance 12 volt portable air compressor (MSRP $875.00) r the smaller ARB Portable High Performance 12 volt air compressor (MSRP $352.00).

ARB also makes a tire repair kit. This is not your cheap truck stop kit, but a well made kit and includes pencil type tire gauge with dual pressure range and dual chuck, insertion and reamer tools, needle nose pliers, lubricant, additional valve accessories and 30 self vulcanizing repair cords for complete air sealing. MSRP at $42.00



Buy Knowledge Not Gear. That's what John Lyon's told me earlier this year. I cannot more highly recommend a subscription to Eclectic Horseman magazine and their DVD series The Horseman's Gazette. The eclectic Horseman magazine, which is published six times a year, presents information from well-known clinicians and trainers including Buck Brannaman, Martin Black, Joe Wolter, Wendy Murdoch, Bryan Neubert, Paul Dietz, Deb Bennett, Jim and Donnette Hicks, Mindy Bower, Scott Grosskopf and a host of lesser-known clinicians, trainers and cowboys who get up and work with horses and students every day. https://eclectic-horseman.com/magazine/

You can watch short previews from the Horseman's Gazette DVD series at this link.



But if you need Gear, then here are a few of my favorites makers and providers:

Martin Black. Martin is a highly regarded clinician but also offers quality gear including Rawhide and Kangaroo Hackamores. He offers DVD's ranging from ranch roping to starting colts. He also offers the famous Ed Connell horsemanship texts - "Hackamore Reinsman", "Reinsman of the West" and "Vaquero Style Horsemanship", as well as many others. I have a 1/2 inch Kangaroo Hackamore, which is very soft. All his hackamores come with leather hangers and you will not find any higher quality gear.



Buckaroo Gear. Formerly known as Lost Buckaroo, Carlos Macias is well known for his custom chinks and armitas. He makes chaps and other leather gear as well. It's his armitas you hear being referred to when Trinity Seely sings her song "Low Maintenance". For everything from bosals, to saddles, ropes, bits and spurs to many other items, go to Carlos website - Buckaroo Gear.



Craig Cameron. A famous clinician and founder of the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA), Craig offers a great selection of gear. Some of my favorite items are his hobbles. Offering soft cotton training hobbles, sideline hobbles, to adjustable and no buckle leather hobbles you will be able to find the hobble(s) you need. Craig's No-Buckle hobble is a constant companion on my saddle.



Consider Your Horse. Right now as I write this it's snowing just west of El Paso, Texas. Temperatures in the mid 30's and forecasted to be in the low 20's. Time to put blankets on the horses and they need to be water resistant. We're pretty happy with the Weatherbeeta line of blankets. Weatherbeeta has a page on their website that helps you select blankets if your horse is a,....Blanket Wrecker, Blanket Houdini or is just plain blanket friendly. I've got some of each actually. Weatherbeeta offers all sorts of turnout blankets and cooling sheets, but I have several of the medium and heavy weight blankets made from 1200D ripstop nylon with 220grams of insulation and 1680D Ballistic Nylon with 360 grams of insulation respectively, with MSRP's of $114.99 to $349.99 - although I've never had to pay that much even buying retail. Those two blankets covers my horses' needs in West Texas.

Don't Ride Naked. That means wearing suitable clothing. Some of what I wear is from Schaefer Ranchwear and since it's cold weather time, I'm normally wearing a wool vest over a shirt and under a coat. The 805 Cattle Baron vest at an MSRP $130.00 is something that will last you a long time and provide some comfort when riding on those cold days. I like the vest not only because of it's thick wool (24 oz. Legacy Melton Wool) but it has actual pockets - four outside and two inside.

Schaefer's RangeWax version of outer wear is also premium items. The Schaefer 230 RangeWax Drifter Coat at an MSRP $240.00 is a great coat to break the wind and keep you dry. The Schaefer RangeWax is a non-sticky version of the old Australian waxed outback clothing. The RangeWax Drifter coat has a heavy duty front zipper, two 2 way pockets, and two slant pockets, and snap out side vents for riding. My only complaint about this coat is the velcro cuffs rather than brass snaps, but I can live with that.