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 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,'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.

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.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Message

Through the daily pace of our hectic lives it is easy to lose perspective on our blessings. A water line breaks requiring immediate repair; working a horse in the arena being cut short even before you get started because a neighbor has a sick horse he wants you to look at; your wife calls from town with a dead battery in her truck;....I could give many examples. But it's important to stop for a minute or two and actually reflect on our blessings. I have many, much more than I deserve, even though I'm found of half jokingly saying "I'm thankful that nobody has killed me yet."

I'm grateful for being born an American. When I was an Army Range Rider, I would go to Middle and High Schools for career day. Why I kept getting invitations to do so is beyond me as I'm sure my job didn't appeal to most people,...maybe it was my horse who always generated interest. Anyway, I would tell those kid's, particularly the high school kids, to be grateful that they too were born or residing in the United States. My travel all over the Middle East and Africa taught me that there is no other country with as many opportunities as the U.S. I also told those kid's not to squander those opportunities....honor your blessings by maximizing those gifts.

I'm thankful for that morning cup of coffee in a quiet house. I'm grateful for every morning that I find the horses hungry, curious and looking for me. I'm thankful that every day my dogs act like they haven't seen me in months and run up to me hoping to get petted. While I am still sad I lost my first wife 19 years ago, I am grateful each and everyday that she left me with a daughter who has become a beautiful, talented and healthy adult. I am thankful for having a second chance with a new wife who is amazingly resilient at besting cancer despite all the poking, prodding, surgeries and radiation.

And even though it may pale in comparison to the family blessings, I am grateful for being physical able (maybe not so mentally able) to continue a journey in developing my horsemanship as best as I can. I am conflicted living in a complicated age with technology seemingly changing every day, but without some of the modern communications tools, many of us would miss out on hearing or seeing what the best horseman have to say or do. So I'm grateful for all those top hands who willingly share their hard earned knowledge. That knowledge was hard to come by a short 30 years ago.

So I guess my message is for people to think about letting themselves be thankful for their blessings, large and small. Let yourself be amazed at all the little miracles we experience each day. I'm thankful that I still find great joy in a horse making the smallest improvement. And like a friend of mine said to me years ago, "be thankful that the horse doesn't hold a grudge!"

Happy Thanksgiving and a hope for continued blessings.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Riding is Riding: Observations from a Dressage Clinic

I was asked by a local Dressage Organization to film riders working with a Freestyle Consultant in developing individual dressage routines to music. I thought it would interesting so I said I'd do it, setting up early on a Sunday morning at one end of the Dressage Court - by the way, don't call it an arena - and started filming riders as the consultant matched up dressage maneuvers with the music. Right off the bat it was pretty neat as I had a lady rider coming towards me at a long trot to the music of Cherokee Nation by Paul Revere and the Raiders. This lady rider actually does this routine wearing a Indian feather bonnet and buckskins. 

Even though the riders, both english and western dressage, rode in contact with their horses - meaning the reins were taunt as opposed to riding on a loose rein as many of us try to achieve - the horses I saw were all in a vertical head position, broke at the poll and nose perpendicular to the ground and the riding I saw exhibited was pretty precise. The riders all demonstrated that they had achieved a good level of communication between themselves and their horses as they went through their leg yields or forward momentum with lateral movement (what I know as two tracking), counter cantering which is riding a circle at a lope on the wrong lead (yes, on purpose), doing turns on the front end and then on hocks, simple and flying lead changes, and showing straightness in riding diagonally from one end of the court to the other. All what anybody would recognize as excellent riding. 

So at some level, riding is riding, be it English/Western dressage or trail riding, or even working cows in a sorting pen. Many of us trying to develop communication with our horses where we can move the front end over independently of the back end and vice versa, or getting a lateral side pass (again, two tracking) and are all doing pretty much the same things with our horses.

In the annual Arena Obstacles Challenges I put on, I always have tasks that require much of the same. Many rider and horses who compete in equitation type events do well when asked to demonstrate a 360 degree on the hocks but maybe not so well when asked to retrieve a slicker off a fence and put it on. The reverse is true for the trail riders having not so much difficulty in riding their horses through a rope curtain but are challenged when asking to two track a short distance.

I think what hampers some of us is that we practice what we can do okay on horseback, but neglect the things we don't do well because we have difficulty in making progress on those things and it's natural to avoid frustration or the ever present reminder that we just ain't having success. But it's important to keep at it as it makes us and our horse's more handier.

I was reading in Eclectic Horseman magazine that a some readers stopped their subscriptions as they don't find value in some of the articles that are outside what they perceive as their riding discipline. Actually, it's pretty challenging to try and understand some of the concepts of dressage and other theories. And while I'm not about to wear a set of tight pants, I enjoy not only those written articles on dressage, technical riding and even bio-mechanics, but also the videos of Jim Hicks, Wendy Murdoch and others in the Eclectic Horseman's Horseman's Gazette DVD quarterly series.

Rider's tend to be cliquish,...ropers only roping, barrel racers only running barrels, dressage riders only in the lettered court, and if we stay that way we're risking missing out if we don't explore other riding concepts and lessons. The lady, Martha Diaz, on the buckskin in the photo at left is a well respected dressage trainer and competitor. I've contracted her before to come in and watch me ride to correct what I can't see. Not only worth it, but kinds of frees up your mind to understand that if you are open to it, you can learn from other disciplines, after all riding is pretty much riding.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Horses with Trailer Confinement Issues

Several people in the last couple of months have sent e-mails with the same basic issue that they are having a hard time resolving - horses who are okay at trailer loading but are anxious when the trailer is stopped. Some just move around and others kick and paw, and when unloading - some try to leave the trailer in a fast manner.  The common question is "should I leave my horse in the trailer until they calm down?"  

Different trailers and different circumstances, such as trailering with or without other horses, are going to affect some horses. A small, two horse straight load trailer may be too confining for horses used to a open stock trailer. Slant loads with the panels may seem too confining to some horses, especially larger horses - you may know horses like this.  If you have the chance to load your horse in different trailers, by all means do so. Doesn't mean you'll resolve problems down the road, just gives you a better chance at it.

Some horses are fine by themselves, or loading with other horses, and others get anxious when in a trailer next to others. The good news is I think you can minimize all these issues by loading and unloading, and/or trailering to some place over and over. I had a three year old Paint horse who took some time getting him to load. I hung a hay net up so he could pick at it once he loaded.  Once I had him loaded, I had him back out. Then I loaded him and kept him in the trailer for increasing amounts of time and we're talking about starting at around 10 seconds once his feet stopped moving.  When he was good with that, standing still for a few minutes, I loaded him and drove a few minutes in a wide circle, stopped, unloaded, mounted and rode for a couple minutes, then dismounted and loaded the horse and did it all over again for almost two hours. After that his first trailer ride was over an hour and I never had another problem with him - but all horses are going to be different. What is the same with all horses is that repetitions loading and unloading are good for all horses.

On a horse who loads good but is anxious about just being in the trailer, increasing the amount of time staying the trailer is also good for him. The first few times you may not get him relaxed, but my rule of thumb is to wait until there is some sign of relaxing, even momentary, and capitalize on that moment - timing is important. If you can safely be in the trailer with the horse and he is comfortable with your presence then sometimes that helps. I did this to my horses, talking to them softly, asking the horse to drop his head, rubbing on him, asking for one step backwards then one step forwards, but these were horses experienced in other trailers.

While you may enter a trailer with the horse, leading him or sending him in order to close a slant load or tie his lead up, please don't loiter in the trailer unless you can do so safely and have a reason to do so. A buddy of mine was loading a fairly bomb proof horse and lost half his finger then tying the horse's lead and the horse spooked and back off quickly, tightening the rope on his finger - and you can imagine the rest.

Another thing common to all horses is that if the horse really isn't broke to lead and can't back off a lead rope then he ain't going to do well backing out of a trailer. Some people I highly respect allow a horse to turn around in the trailer (if it can) and go out head first the first few times. I've done that before and I'm good with that, but eventually he needs to back out, calmly, and the sooner the better.

The trailer - staying quiet in the trailer - has to be a good place for the horse. He has to see and feel it as a place to rest. It's the same process we use when we get a horse to load, making the area outside the trailer work and at/in the trailer a rest spot - or a release from pressure. Many people, and I do this as well, will lunge the horse in a circle where the edge of the circle is close to the trailer, then stop him here and ask him to load. It's kinda like standing tied. Tired horses will stand tied better than fresh ones.

As far as leaving a horse in a trailer until they calm down - I would think they ain't likely to calm down over time if they are too amped up to begin with. That mental pressure is more likely to increase until maybe the horse hurts himself. Remember the horse has a soft spot just forward of his poll and some horse's have hit the trailer roof hard enough to kill or badly injured themselves. They make little padded hats for horses to protect themselves from hitting their head. I have never used one instead relying on having the horse totally comfortable with loading, staying in the trailer, and backing out. This just takes time, that's all.

Make sure your trailer is safe as well.  I was asked to help a gent get his horse loaded.  I told him I would teach him how to do it and showed up only to discover his trailer floor unsafe.  If  person can see that the trailer floor is unsafe, then the horse is certainly going to feel it and this will erode his confidence and will result in him having "trailering" problems when it really is "owner and  maintenance" problems.     

A final note:  If you drive with quick accelerations, fast lane changes and/or hard braking on stops then you are likely to undue much of the trailer work you put in on your horse.  I heard a long time ago that a horse is only has good as his last trailer ride. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Don't get your horse snake bit

I have always thought that since a horse tolerates us being on his back, it's only fair that we are responsible for keeping that horse out of trouble. If your horse gets kicked by another horse, it's usually your fault for getting too close. If you can't see where you are riding and end up with the horse's front legs in a bog - then it ain't his fault now is it? The same with walking on top of a rattlesnake in most cases, and certainly in case where you are riding on a trail.

This time of year as the weather gets cooler, rattlesnakes are more active in the day time than they are in the heat of the summer. In a couple months they will be denned up, so they are hunting more often to sustain themselves when they brumate (sort of like hibernation). Always the exception though. As a Range Rider I've had been called in cold winter months to remove rattlesnakes posting a threat to work crews, but it was likely the construction drove them from their dens - in a less than happy state of mind after being disturbed from their brumation I reckon.

And also this time of year, the baby rattlesnakes, aren't much bigger than when they were when born alive, are a particular hazard as they are born with a full venom sack and can't control the amount of venom they put into a target thereby releasing a full load, and they don't have a rattle, just a button so they can't deliver a warning. In fact, my wife and I were riding out to meet some people on the Butterfield Trailhead and talking about rattlesnakes as our horse shoer was struck in the ankle last week, fortunately he had hiking boots ankle high and his bunched up wranglers provided a barrier that the rattler's fangs did not get through. Anyway, I told her that it is common for someone to be bit without the snake first giving that tell tale and hair raising rattling warning. I said many times I've walked or rode through the desert only to have the first 2 or 3 people go right past a rattlesnake and nobody knew any better until the snake rattled at the 4th person.

My wife knows that they don't always rattle as she has almost walked on top of a rattlesnakes in the past couple of years. I've also watched several people do the same. Not going to happen to me, or so I thought. With several riders ahead of me on a fairly wide trail about 2 horse's wide, I was talking to someone else about the fires that have devastated the West and how the smoke from Montana fires are blowing into Northern Colorado, when my wife calls out "Snake,'re on top of him!" I goosed my horse into an immediate lope departure for a few strides then turned to look back. Sure enough, a Prairie Rattler was slithering away then coiling to face us. My wife thought my horse's immediate jump into a lope indicated he was bitten, but thankfully not so. And doubly thankful so as our lope departure was not particular well executed.

My wife later said that it looked like my horse's back foot either stepped on or just over the snake and flip him over as we moved forward. Again, thankfully not bit. So I checked the other riders position, gave them a warning and shot the snake with a .45 Long Colt Snakeshot round. Killing rattlesnakes puts me at odds with my wife when it is off our property or they are not an immediate danger to someone. It gives me no pleasure to kill anything, but many riders use these trails and bring their dogs with them, so I did what I did.

Venomous snake bites can kill a horse depending upon the type of snake, amount of venom injected, and health of the horse, but will certainly cause pain, likely swelling and will require immediate Veterinarian treatment which may include cleaning and caring or the wound, pain meds, a tetanus booster, anti biotics and even anti-venom. Horse's are often bit on the nose as they try to investigate the small creature in front of them. As horse's breathe through their nose, the usual swelling from a bite on the nose can occlude their airway so it is vitally important that the airway is maintained. If you get and your Vet get your horse through a snake bite, you will likely face complications down the road which you'll have to treat symptomatically. Hope you don't experience that. Hope I don't either so I be doubly careful from now on, hope you are too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Results of the 2018 Red Bird Ranch-Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge

We concluded our 3rd Annual Red Bird Ranch- Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge this last weekend, seeing 28 entries and around 40 spectators to watch riders and horse compete in five divisions.

Competitors in the Stockhorse Division were required to demonstrate trotting in circles and straight lines, also doubling against the fence like boxing a cow; putting on a slicker; opening and closing a gate; roping a static calf dummy; dragging a short log;  backing your horse from the ground like you would when you reposition a heel loop on a calf, then asking your horse to back to put tautness back in to the rope.

The Open, Intermediate and Novice divisions had to negotiate various obstacles or complete maneuvers on horseback, at different levels of competency, including weaving through narrow upright poles; riding through pool noodles; weaving around ground cones; two track one direction then the other; opening and closing a gate; demonstrating gait transitions then a halt; backing straight or in a L shaped fashion; turning on the fore end and also demonstrating a turn on the haunches; circling in a small box; and the straight or L shaped side pass.

The 1st through third place Division winners were:

Stockhorse Division: 1 - Trudy Kremer; 2 - Luanne Santiago; 3- Lewis Martin
Open Division: 1 - Robin Lackey; 2 - Luanne Santiago; 3 - Gena Blankenship
Intermediate Division: 1 - Sharon Smith; 2 - Marianne Bailey; 3 - Jessica Bailey
Novice Division: 1 - Luanne Santiago; 2 - Mark Schleicher; 3 - Vicki Hall
Youth Division: 1 - Jenna Mendez; 2 - Caitlyn Hinkle; 3 - Teagan Arthur

A tradition we have is to present forged hoof picks made by Diamond Bar V Horsehoeing out of Silver City, New Mexico to competitors who stood out in the judges minds, not necessarily for how well they rode or what place they attained, but it could have been for a positive attitude, controlling a spooking horse or maybe just demonstrating good horsemanship when a horse refused an obstacle. The Judges Picks were: Gena Blankenship, Jessica Dixon and Teagan Arthur.

For this year's Arena Obstacle Challenge we invited artists to display their work including painting of horses and landscapes, iron art and other craft type work. Artists displaying work included: Pat McDermott, Susan Guile, Jane Vance, Greg Brown and Charlie Walker.

We also invited vendors in to display their products for sale and these included: Claudia Lukason of The Edge Canine & Equine Solutions representing Midcontinent Livestock Supplements - Clarify and Mineral Plus lick tubs; Sylvia from Tierra Mia Organics, maker of Goat Milk soaps and lotions; and, Charlie Walker of Walker Ironworks and Arts.

Every competitor from 1st through 8th place received a trip to the prize table, thanks to our great supporters, most garnering merchandise equal to or greater than their entry fees. A portion of the entry fees went to a local horse rescue as usual - Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, who also provided several competitors. A list of our biggest sponsors and supporters included: Tractor Supply Company - Hwy 20, El Paso; Cashel Company; Hoof Wraps; Webb Feed -Socorro Texas; Eclectic Horseman Magazine (who publishes the best horse magazine available); Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing - Silver City, New Mexico;

And lastly we had a raffle of donated items wit hall the proceeds going to the above named horse rescue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Giving a Horse a Job

It's often been said that a horse needs a job. In fact, he wants a job and the best job for a horse is working cattle. After a couple years of not being available to day work on neighboring cattle ranches, I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend working for a friend of mine gathering a four section pasture.

 Leaving at 5am for a 50 minute drive on the highway to get to the ranch road and another 50 minutes of rough dirt road, put Junior at me at the South end of the pasture. The Sun was just beginning to crest above the hills to the East with very little clouds in the sky, and the forecast from the normally lying weatherman promised a hot, sunny day which I looked forward to and the prospect of working a bunch of cows outside of my normal routine of arena sorting. As singer/songwriter Dave Stamey would say "my heart rang like a bell" as we got horseback. Heading into the pasture my partner Truitt said "you gotta watch out here,...there are more rattlesnakes in this pasture than any other." Thirty feet later we encountered our first rattlesnake of the day, but I didn't see another one until towards the end of the day where I had to kill one at a gate.

The late Spring and Summer rains in West Texas, more than double (close to triple) our seasonal average made riding up the numerous draws in the pasture difficult as the vegetation was at times higher than my horse's head. Junior and I often got caught up in Buffalo Gourd vines hidden in the grass and weeds. After it was all said and done, I was glad to have put boots on Junior's front legs and I pulled tons of cactus spines out of these protective boots that would have been in his legs.

We were working for the owner who gave us a rough count of 136 head to account for, and no matter what the number was, every draw and back hill had to be checked. The plan was to push the mothers, weanlings, calves and bulls (if they were so inclined to participate) to pens at the North end of the pasture where we would seperate the bulls and weanlings for another pasture, and, brand, ear tag, vaccinate and castrate the calves.

Radios were pretty invaluable as Truitt rode up on the ridges and was able to glass for cows that I couldn't see from the ground and direct me to where they were. Driving the cattle to the center of the pasture and moving them North allowed us to pick up groups that were spread out, including the Bulls who most of them wouldn't go on my accord, but in the end decided to follow the momma's and calves along. At one point I was having a conversation with a recalitrant bull who was not wanting to move when a Mule Deer Buck stood up in the brush about 20 yards from me and bounded off, kinda breaking the spell.

It was alot of work for two Cowboys to keep the herd together and moving, rarely did we have a squirter, but we were successful in getting those turned around. I'm thankful that Truitt believed in low stress stockmanship. We both have worked with those who don't, so while I did alot of trotting back and forth at drag keeping the herd together, I never broke into a lope,....neither one of us did.

Some of the calves never seen a human before. One little red calf in particular seemed really curious about Junior and I, neglecting her momma to stay close to the drag end where she could watch me. When we had a lull to give the newborns a rest, I would ride up real slow to the little red calf, stopping when I saw her ready to break, then I would stop and look at her for a bit, then I would back up. After 10-15 seconds of thinking about it she would begin to approach us. This is what Curt Pate calls drawing them to you. I'd walk off slowly and that red calf would follow. 

After five and a half hours of gathering and moving we had them at the pens at the North end of the pasture. We separated the bulls, all eight of them, ran them through the chutes to pour de-wormer on them, then loaded and trailered them to different pastures. Getting a head count of the remaining cows gave us 152 mommas and weanlings, and 38 unbranded calves.

The next day we separated the weanlings, then separated the calves. We moved the calves into a trap so we could get them into a squeeze chute table where they could be branded, ear tag, vaccinate, and castrated if they were a bull calf. My wife Susan and Truitt's wife Lauri worked the table efficiently and all the calves were finished by lunchtime. At the end of the day, the calves were put back onto their mommas and released in back into the pasture but not before the weanlings broke the pen latch and got mixed back up with the mommas. That turned out pretty well actually as we had to re-sort the weanlings from the mommas,..more work for our horses.

The opportunity to work my horse Junior a couple long days on cattle helped put all the things we work on in perspective....immediate transitions from a halt to a fast trot to step in back of a momma to get her following calf stopped,....stepping over on the front end and slowly working two weanlings and a calf until there was a space where we could step in and separate the calf to another pen,......walking real slow through the herd to check ear tags,......drawing a calf, that was face first in the corner, to us so we could get it turned in the right direction,....and just keeping Junior focused and positioned during the lulls in action where all worth a weekend totaling seven hours of long trailer rides over rough roads and all the things I had to push to the back burner of life in order to get out there.  Even tying the horses for a couple hours as we branded calves was good for them. And the calves as from the calf table they were turned out into a pen were the horses were tied which is going to make those calve easier to handle as weanlings.  Giving a horse a job,... I was glad to have it.