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,..you'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.   



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Western Wildfires


With the nation's focus on Hurricane Harvey's historical destruction and flooding in East Texas and parts of Louisiana, and the impending category 5 Hurricane Irma ready to hit Florida - all of Florida, there has been scant coverage of the wildfires in the West. No place has been hit as hard as Montana, although Idaho, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California have suffered huge outbreaks of wildfires.



The largest fire this season in Montana was the Lodgepole Complex Fire with over 270,00 acres in central/eastern Montana burned. Thankfully this fire is out, however many others are not. Currently there are approximately 167,513 acres on fire with 105 days longer for western wildfire season. Over 1 million acres have been burned so far. This information is from late afternoon Monday 4 September 2017. And this week's weather forecast calls for minimal to moderate winds with temperature's rising and low humidity plus a low chance of rain through the week does not provide much hope to reduce the fires......it's going to get worse.

Glacier Park is on fire - the historic Sperry Chalet, built in 1914, has burned to the ground. On Monday the Rice Ridge Fire grew on the south, east, and north sides adding another 6,701 acres, and has now burned 108,126 acres. It merged at Otis Creek with another fire to the north, the 10,424-acre Reef Fire. Combined, these fires have blackened 118,550 acres, well beyond the 100,000 threshold of becoming a “megafire” and as of yesterday is showing no signs of slowing down.

Some of the larger Montana Fires, there are currently 26 and mostly started from lightning strikes are:

Alice Creek Fire. 16 miles northeast of Lincoln, MT. 21,393-Acres and 0% contained.
Caribou Fire. 18 miles NW of Eureka, MT. 15,142 acres have burned.
East Fork Fire. Burning south of Harve, MT. 21,518 acres have burned and the fire is 85% contained.
Liberty Fire. Burning 17 Miles SE of Arlee Montana in the South Fork Primitive Area. 21,388 acres have burned and the fire is 17% contained.
Lolo Peak Fire. 10 miles SW of Lolo, MT. 45,012 acres have burned and the fire is 31% contained.
Meyers Fire. 25 miles SW of Philipsburg, MT. 53,737 acres have burned and the fire is 5% contained.
Park Creek Fire. Burning 2 miles N. of Lincoln, MT.14,985 acres have burned and it is 56% contained.
Rice Ridge Fire. Burning north and east of Seeley Lake, MT. 108,126 acres have burned and the fire is 2% contained.
Sapphire Complex Fire. 25 miles east of Missoula, south of I-90 in the Rock Creek drainage. 41,904 acres have burned and it's 53% contained.
Sartin Draw Fire. Burning 20 miles NE of Ashland. 99,735 acres have burned and the fire is 85% contained.
Sprague Fire. 9 miles NE of West Glacier, MT. 13,343 acres have burned and it's 35% contained.

Idaho is suffering from wildfires as well with the largest being the Highline Fire 23 miles east, northeast of Warren, Idaho with 67,942-acres burned and 0% contained, and the Payette Wilderness Fires burning 65,611-acres. There are 16 other wildfires burning, five of those well over 10,000 acres each.

Washington has 11 wildfires on-going. The Diamond Creek Fire around Winthrop, WA, is the largest with 95,000-acres and 65% containment.

Some of the ways you can help are:

Garfield County Go Fund me site.

https://fundly.com/garfield-county-fire-foundation Northern Ag Net list of supporting efforts.

http://www.northernag.net/AGNews/AgNewsStories/TabId/657/ArtMID/2927/ArticleID/8283/MT-Wildfire-Relief-Heres-How-you-Can-Help.aspx

Monetary Donations:

Checks can be made to Garfield County Fire Foundation c/o Garfield County Bank PO Box 6, Jordan, MT 59337 (406-557-2201) or send to Circle c/o Redwater Valley Bank, PO Box 60, Circle, MT 59215 (406-485-4782). NOTE: Applications for Short term and long term funds can be made to Garfield County Fire Foundation and will be distributed by their board. Call the Garfield County Bank for more info.

Stockman Bank is also accepting donations to the Garfield County Fire Foundation at ALL of their branches and is generously providing a match of up to $10,000 for all monies collected through their branches.

Cash donations for fencing, hay and grazing are accepted by Petroleum County Stockgrowers Relief Fund PO BOX 147 Winnett, MT 59087

Y Cross Feeds in Jordan is collecting donations.This money can be used by producers affected by the fire for anything they need: fencing supplies, feed, vaccine, etc. Any unused portions remaining by September 1, 2018 will be donated to the Garfield Volunteer Fire Department. Call Larry at (406) 977-6228 for further details.

With a little computer research you can find other ways to help those in different states. Please help if you can.



Friday, August 25, 2017

How Do I get My Horse Thinking More


Louisa wrote to ask: " I really like the concept of reaching a horse emotionally as opposed to changing the way they instinctively act. I watch Clinton Anderson talking about the two sides of a horse's brain, but sometimes he moves too fast for me to understand when demonstrating what he is doing to get the horse's thinking side of his brain engaged. Do you have some exercises or drills where I can help my horses with this?"

You were likely watching Clinton Anderson working a horse from the ground, perhaps with a flag and once the horse showed signs of acceptance such as licking and chewing and preparing to stop or actually stop moving his feet, you would hear something to the effect that "now he is thinking". The television programs are restricted for time, so sometimes I reckon you have to put two and two together to gather an understanding on what the clinician is doing. But one way I would sum up getting your horse to think rather than react is to challenge the horse with as little pressure as you need to get the reaction you are looking for, and when the horse  accepts that pressure, quit the pressure.  In the beginning release the pressure upon the horse beginning to try to go what you are asking, then build on that by asking for more.    
 
The example I always use first to explain this is standing to the side of a horse's head and placing one hand on his nose and the other hand on his poll (behind his ears). Applying as little pressure as possible push his nose down and in slightly, and push his poll down - I always use a voice command of 'head down' as well - but the first time you do this the horse will likely not drop his head. If he drops his head ever so little and slowly, then I would release the pressure, wait a few seconds then do it again. Within a very short time period you will see rapid understanding where you get him to drop his head as he begins to feel the pressure of your hand on his nose and poll. This has to be a product of the horse thinking and realizing that dropping his head to gain a release of the pressure no matter how benign. And in this case you can call this type of pressure - physical or direct pressure if it helps your understanding of it.

Another example may be going to feed a horse. Many people will move to feed a horse not noticing that the horse is crowding, or pinning his ears, or poking his nose out trying to get to the feed.....some may notice and think it's funny. If you drop the feed and walk away, the horse likely thinks he is bullying you away from the feed. Instead, if he crowds you, or pins his ears and pokes his nose out at you when you are approaching the feed bin to drop his hay, stop and wait on him to change..... it will come.
 
It will take awhile and you may have to back him up if he crowds you, but eventually this non-direct or mental pressure will have him seeking the release, which for me is for him to take a step or two backwards. He will likely start to move forward again as you begin to move to drop the feed, so stop again and repeat. I had one horse who when crowding me so I took a step backwards. There was a stall gate between us which helped.  He learned in about 15 minutes that every time he approached me, I stepped back with the feed. If I would have given up and just threw his feed, he would have learned that he can bully people for his feed. I kept at it and he eventually would approach then stop on his own and back a few steps. This is as good as it got with his horse.  However, I much prefer to stand my ground and have the horse back away.
 
It's fascinating looking at a horse's face when they are searching for the answer. They'll usually look left and right, then back at you, and when they do for the signal in his eyes, the blink, and the ear set when he tries backing away as the solution. Heck, I may be imagining it....I just don't know. But I do know that if you give him the time to search for the right answer the horse will usually do so and that, again, has got to be helping the horse develop thinking.

Yet another example would be when you are in the saddle and you ask your horse for lateral flexion. When we normally do this we try to give the horse a release the exact moment he gives or gets soft meaning there is slack in the rein. Try this a few times, then ask for lateral flexion again but hold. The horse will try to pull away, but continue holding. Eventually seeking another solution he'll disengage his hind end - be ready for that and as soon as he changes his weight and begins to step over, give him the release.

When I work with a horse to get him to side over to me when I am on a platform such as a fence, so I can mount, this becomes another exercise in setting it up for the horse to think. I'll sit on the top rail and most horses will face you up. I'll bump his lead in a rhythmic motion until he moves his feet and when he moves his feet....just takes a step to one side or the other....I'll release and give him 10 seconds or so to think on it. Then I'll begin again. Eventually he'll side up to you where you can mount. And when I say eventually, this whole process usually takes just a few minutes, but don't rush him, give him the time he needs to think on it. Don't worry about him moving to the wrong side.  If he naturally sides up to you on the opposite side you want to mount, this is a great opportunity to get him thinking again by bumping until he takes a step in the direction you need him too.

As far as having a list of exercises, I don't have a list, it's really as simple as just giving the horse time to search for what you are asking him to do. I think we can agree that we would like the horse to stand until we asked him to move. If I dismount and walk out in front of the horse a few steps, I need him to stand. I start this with ground training. I lead a horse on the ground, halt, keep slack in the lead line and walk forward a few feet. If the horse steps forward without me asking, I use pressure on the lead to back him up, then step forward again. I may have to repeat this several times to get to the point where I am out in front of him with him standing. I'll then lightly take up the slack in the lead and he'll feel the change of pressure on that lead. It may come to a pretty taunt lead line before he steps forward and gains a release. I usually use a verbal command such as a whistle to come to me. Sometimes,.....wait, who am I kidding,...most of the time the horse will get distracted looking left or right. If so, I just bump the lead to get his head back facing me.
 
That's pretty much it, but everything you ask the horse to do, if you give him the time, he'll begin to think.  That's my belief and I'm sticking to it! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Curt Pate Stockmanship Clinic

Curt Pate Stockmanship Clinic
The El Paso, Texas- Las Cruces New Mexico region was fortunate enough to have a Curt Pate Horsemanship for Stockmanship clinic hosted by Marcy Ward of nearby New Mexico State University on 2 August 2017. Curt has been doing stocksmanship clinics for more than a decade teaching emphasizing stockmanship practices and methods that benefit the cattle and in turn benefits the rancher or feed lot owner. He also starts colts and brought along his Hawaiian tree saddle that he picked up in Hawaii starting colts years ago. That Curt in the picture at right wearing that Greely Hat he's pretty happy with. 

From 8 to noon eight of us rode with Curt concentrating on hooking our reins to our horse's feet and paying particular attention to where our and our horses' balance was going through forward movement with emphasis on straightness, backing, and turns on the hind end and fore end. One thing Curt did that was new to me was sitting with quiet horses and using our seat and body position to subtly shift the horse's weight from his front feet to his back and to the front again.

Halfway through we brought some of NMSU's cows into the muddy arena (this is the rainy season down here) and worked on holding them a rodear, and adjusting that rodear using subtly pressure by gradually closing on the group, as well as facing up with the cows and backing away to get the cattle hooked on to our horse.

Rodear is a Spanish term meaning to surround.  It is used to hold cows in a group when fences are not present or used to keep cows separated from others.

Curt had each rider ride a circle around the rodear to experiment with just how much distance was enough to get the cows' attention and how much was enough to push them back or turn away. It was interesting to see the cow's curiosity with a couple of the younger horses who had never worked cattle before.

We also split the group up into two groups of four riders each with four cows, and each group managed their half herd and moved them from one spot to another in the arena holding them at Curt's direction.

Photo at left is Curt discussing the little roan mare of Dr. Ward's he was riding.  I have no pictures on horseback as Curt keep us pretty busy and I had no time to shag my camera. 




I have read about Curt Pate for over a decade now. He is the author if the Western Horseman book "Ranch Horsemanship".  It certainly was to our benefit to ride with him and listen to what he had to say. To read some of what Curt Pate has to say about horsemanship, stockmanship and good stewardship of the land and cattle, visit this site - Curt Pate Stockmanship. The latest, posted on 3 August, talks about stewardship of the land we are entrusted with. You can also see Curt's schedule for upcoming events for the Beef Quality Assurance program.
 

Monday, July 31, 2017

On a New Horse - Correct all Bad Habits at Once?


Kelsey wrote to say that she was just given a new horse, a 15 year old QH gelding who was used for team roping the past 8 years as her friend bought a new horse. She asked ".....Sam is a great horse, but he has only been in arenas and used for team roping for the past 8 years and he has several bad habits. Would you suggest correcting all bad habits at once or try to, or to address them one at a time?"

Kelsey did not elaborate on your horse's bad habits, but that's okay, even if she sent a list my answer would likely be the same. Come to think on it, it would be nice for our horses to give us a list of our bad habits now wouldn't it? But your question is a really good one as many horses change hands several times through their lifetime and are a compendium of all the handler/rider's traits, good and bad, that they have learned. I know you are thinking that if I am always correcting my horse then what can I expect out of him if I am always nagging him to change? Will I take away his confidence and make him a hesitant horse? If you were to prioritize the necessary corrections then the most dangerous habits would be the first to fix, but I'm of the mind that you can correct all bad habits as they present themselves. Not every bad habit is going to be a federal offense nor does your correction is going to cause him anxiety. You are just asking him to do something different. You should simply be asking him to change and you'll likely be doing it several times over many days to get that set in his mind.

An example would be leading. If he is crowding you when you lead him, then you use as little pressure as required increasing to as much as necessary to get him to maintain adequate spacing - walking to your rear and offset some - whatever you are comfortable with. While my horses normally lead up just fine, occasionally one of more of my horses will crowd me, I'll just simply apply a little drag or reward pressure on his lead rope to remind him of where I need him to be. They will respond in kind, almost like they are thinking "Oh yeah, I forgot for a moment." If a horse continued to creep up on me when leading, I would continue to correct him in the same manner. If he didn't respond I'd stop and back him with enough energy so that I was directing his feet backwards - so it was my idea for him to go backwards - then I would lead off again.

I have pulled a border's horse to lead him to turn out and taken 15 minutes to get there because of correcting little things, but not correcting them with a mad on. For instance, if I halter a horse and lead him out of his pen and he runs out, I'll bend him and send him back into the pen and ask him to try again to exit the pen at a walk. If he crowds me when leading, we'll correct that. If he spooks at something like a new feed bucket or coat on the rail, we'll spend some time getting him sacked out on that. Eventually we'll get to the turnout gate and I'll wait until he stands quiet and drops his head when I ask to get the halter off. If I didn't do all this calmly and in a matter of fact manner then I can see how the horse may get troubled. So I'd say much of your question can be answered by saying you can correct all you want, when you want, just go about it in a manner that's going to cause the least trouble with your horse.

Now let's take backing as an example. We all want a horse that backs soft, head down and vertical, feet moving on cue and backing in a straight line if that's what we are asking. But if your horse doesn't back well, then my priorities would be first getting his feet to move, making sure he gets a release with each step, then getting him soft in the face as we back, and thirdly backing in a straight line. This is the sequence I try for when I teach a horse to back. Once he can back in that manner well, but at some point gets sloppy at backing, I have no issue with correcting everything at once. And as sure as the world is round, my wife sure has no problems in trying to correct my bad habits all at once either, but sometimes she goes about it with a mad on.

Hope this helps, Kelsey. Good luck and Safe Journey.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The National Day of the Cowboy - 22 July 2017


Today is the National Day of the Cowboy, a day observed annually on the fourth Saturday in July. According to the National Day of the Cowboy Organization, this day “…is a day set aside to celebrate the contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.” The NDOC continuously pursues national recognition of National Day of the Cowboy. Currently, 11 states recognize this day. The first celebration was in 2005.

Communities, large and small, have events highlighting Cowboys and the western lifestyle. Perhaps on the larger events is the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) international headquarters and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum hosted event in Amarillo, Texas. AQHA is partnering ith American Horse Council and the initiative called the 100 day Horse Challenge which the intent is to increase awareness of the benefits of horse activities across the United States by aiming to engage at least 100,000 new people with an introductory horse experience.

There is nothing in American history that can compete with a image of an American Cowboy as an example of the courageous, never quit American spirit. Although the example of the Cowboy working from before dawn to sunset, and doing without comforts others take for granted most of his life, is the image in the mind's eye of the Cowboy code, it doesn't take drawing a cowboy's wages to live those ideals. Anybody can - and the country would be better off for it.  The book COWBOY ETHICS: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, which outlines 10 principles of Cowboy ethics:

1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things aren't for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.
 
Maybe the only thing I would add would be to take care of your horses and your family before you do for yourself.

Former President Bush and it right when he said: “We celebrate the Cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West. The Cowboy’s love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans.”



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Horses and the Heat: Too Hot to Ride?


Charlotte wrote to ask about how much heat can her horse handle being ridden in. " I've found a couple of your articles about horse dehydration and people getting heat stroke but my question is how hot can it be where I can still reasonably ride my horse. I know her health is important but she seems so sluggish in the really hot weather like high 90's and I don't want to hurt her but only my riding times are generally in the late afternoon when it is still very hot."

I think horses generally do much better than we do in the heat and much better than we give them credit for. However, I would never fault anyone for being too cautious considering their horse. I have cut short trail rides when someone thinks their horse is off - better to be safe than sorry. But again, horses do pretty well in the heat, given a horse in good health and condition, and acclimatized to that environment. Horses will lose fluids and electrolytes by sweating, same as humans do, but horses drawing fluids away from their guts is a bigger concern for them than the human. I know some people who clip their horses in the Spring when temps are in the 70-'s to 80's thinking a lighter coat of hair will minimize over heating. Heck, my horses generally don't start shedding their winter coats until temps are in the 90's and I ride them without worry, but they are acclimatized to this environment. The biggest problem I have is that hair shedding season coincides with the windy season here in West Texas, so much of the shedding hair is blown into my face and mustache.....pretty much like the universal rule that all spider webs are mustache high.

We generally find our limits, and therefore our horses limits, by experience. Years ago, I have taken horses, maybe as young as 5 years old and as old as 14, out in 100 heat and covered 15-20 miles over 6 or 8 hours without access to water and did not have issues - I wasn't doing this for pleasure, it was for work. These days I'd have to have a reason for pushing a horse that hard. Not having a drink all day, the horses were obviously all in some state of dehydration when we finished. I'd always pull the saddle and let the wind coming through the trailer on the ride home evaporate cool them somewhat. My practice is to cool them off then put them back into a pen where they would always roll first, then look in their feed bin second, before they would seek water. If a horse is not finished with their feed before I pull them for a ride, it's usually a good indicator that they haven't gotten a drink, so when I return from a ride I'll pull their feed so they can get a drink before resuming eating. Sometimes I'll wait for 20-30 minutes as well. I'll also use a wet brush, sponge or rag and wipe my horse's neck, chest and legs down which helps, or at least I think it does, with some evaporative cooling effect.

This time of year in the West Texas desert, it'll still be 100 degrees at 7 pm. I have no problem riding my horses for an hour or two then. If I was riding a few hours earlier in the same temperature range, I'd likely be a little more concerned as the Sun is closer to being directly overhead and the solar radiation is stronger, so you'll feel the effects quicker. Intensity or work and duration will be a key factor - the harder and longer a horse has to work, the hotter the horse will get, and therefore the sweating rate will go up to regulate body temperature. The horse's body will send more blood to the skin, depleting blood and water from the internal organs and gut. That's why excessively walking a colicing horse can have adverse effects. A horse with a over heating issue will have more rapid breathing and a higher heart rate, and likely an increase temperature. Just like a human, once a horse gets a heat injury, the easier or faster it will come next time.

If you have read other articles on riding in hot weather then you pretty much know how to check your horse for dehydration, with the skin pinch or capillary refill test, or can see when a horse is drawn up and tight. Plus the more you ride a particular horse the better you can tell when he is a little off. I would suggest checking all your horses at rest and after moderate exercise to get some baseline observations and numbers for each. You also don't want to take his temperature for the first time when he is heat stressed. Just know before hand what a normal horse looks like. Ask the same questions to your Vet the next time you have the Vet out, and maybe some other riders in your area.

Feed can have an impact on how hot a horse gets. I feed a mix of Bermuda grass, sometimes timothy grass, and alfalfa hay. My horses also have free access to plain white salt blocks, mineral rocks and fresh clean water. I used to give wheat bran mashes to help counter the ingestion of sand but since I obtained big box feeders my horses rarely pull or drop alfalfa onto the sandy ground. If a horse eats off the ground in sandy environments a lot of sand can be ingested. You may see watery piles as the body pulls water and blood to the gut to help push it out. When I get called to help someone and a colicing horse, because it's usually Friday night and Vet's are hard to find, it's almost a sure thing that their feeding program has some sort of negative influence....it's just hard to pinpoint it as there are many ways to prepare feeds and every horse is different. Running a public barn for years, I saw quite a bit of strange feeding habits and the resulting issue on a horse......feeding beet pulp and not soaking it sufficiently (I will not ever use beet pulp - nothing against those who do, I just don't have a need to feed it); a straight alfalfa diet; 17 quart buckets full of dry alfalfa cubes; dirty stock tanks that even a old catfish wouldn't swim in.

Again, I think you are doing the right thing on considering the well being of your horse, and you didn't say how old your horse is. Maybe riding her with an increase in intensity over time can set some boundaries for you and her. Are you feeding your horse just before you ride her? She may resent coming off her feed, or feel lethargic with a full belly.  If your horse is healthy and well broke, her sluggishness just may her trying to get away with doing as little as required.......my wife accuses me of that quite a bit.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 3rd Annual Red Bird Ranch - Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge



This years annual Arena Obstacle Challenge will be on Saturday 30 September 2017 at the same location - Red Bird Ranch, 13999 Fort Defiance, El Paso, Texas 79938.

The times have changed just a bit from the earlier versions of event flyers, as my phone calls and e-mails indicate a larger pool of rider necessitating a slightly earlier start.

Here's the final schedule:

08:00 am - Rider Check In – Will need to present current negative Coggins or Health Certificate
09:00 am - Rider's Briefing/Course Walk Through
09.20 am - First Rider competes in the Arena
12:45 pm - Lunch, Awards and Prizes
2:00 pm - Arena Open for Obstacle Schooling

Conduct of the Event: This AOC is not affiliated with ACTHA or ETS, however the conduct of the AOC, the obstacles and scoring will be similar to you if you have ever ridden in those associations.
We have four division of competition - Stockhorse, Open, Intermediate and Novice:

Stockhorse Division would require handling a lariat while horseback, throwing a loop and likely dragging a static object.

Open Division is for advanced riders who likely have won or placed high at ACTHA or ETS events.

Intermediate Division, similar to ACTHA Pleasure Division, is for experienced riders, maybe on greener horses, who have competed before at arena or trail challenges or even AQHA Trail Class events.

Novice Division, similar to ACTHA Scout Division, is for riders who can safely ride and attempt obstacles and likely do occasional trail rides on their horses.


While it would not be such a great advantage knowing the obstacles before hand, I will not publish the course until the rider's brief just before competition begins.  Many of us have experience our horses flawlessly crossing bridges and tarps, etc., only the have them balk at the same obstacle at a different location.

There are no time limits associated with an obstacle. We prefer that a horse and rider complete an obstacle even after many attempts as this is much better for the horse, as opposed to only one or two short failed attempts then being pushed to move on to the next obstacle, so the judges will be generous in this regard only asking the rider to give up and move on if in the judges opinion completion of that obstacle isn't going to happen. At the conclusion of the event, if anyone wants to re-enter the arena and work on any obstacles with their horse they are welcome to and I'll be there to offer help.  Not all of the obstacles will be physical obstacles - likely somewhat less than half will be tasks such as a lateral movement, or half turn on the fore end, or gait transitions. 

Entry fees are $45 per run. Each rider enters the arena, one at a time, and completes a series of obstacles – usually no more than 14 total. Two judges will score each obstacle for a combined score for placement within each Division. One rider can ride different horses in the same or different divisions. The same horse can be used by several people in the same or different divisions as well. One entry fee also include lunch - a pretty good lunch by the way.


Awards and Prizes:  Aside from the plaques for the Champions in each Division and ribbons for 1st through 6th Place in each division, we have special awards not limited to highest scoring horse and rider from a Rescue organization, highest placing youth under 16 years old, and longest haul to competition. The prize table is really decent by AOC standards. I don't think we have had a competitor, even with the lowest score, leaving without prizes and awards that were not more valuable than the entry fee. I am still receiving this year's contributions and donations from our industry supporters. A full list of supporters will be included in the competitors' entry bags as well as the final AOC results article, but in the past we have enjoyed support from many including: Smart Pak, Cashel, Hoof Wraps, Noble Outfitters, Manna Pro, Eclectic Horseman magazine, Camel Bak, Chaff Hay, Sanctuary Leather, Riders Tack and Feed, Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing, One Stop Horse Shop, and Starr Western Wear.

There will be a raffle with all proceeds going to a horse rescue. This year the designated rescue is: Perfect Harmony Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) organization out of Chaparral, New Mexico. We already have several other vendors committed to attending and putting up product displays and sale items. And lastly a tack table will be available for people who want to sell or trade, new or used tack and related items.

How to Sign up:
~ By Phone: Call Brad at 915-204-7995. I will enroll you and your horse over the phone and take payment via a Credit Card.
~ Electronically: Send an e-mail to clinics-events@functionalhorsemanship.com and provide Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Horse Name and Competing Division and pay via PayPal to brad@functionalhorsemanship.com
Either way you will receive a confirmation on entry via e-mail and an event flyer with directions.

Questions: Call Brad at 915.204.7995 or e-mail questions to:
clinics-events@functionalhorsemanship.com



Monday, June 19, 2017

Lateral Flexion - How Much is Enough?


I gave a client a series of things to do with her horse as a warm up or pre-ride check, not only to check to see if her horse with her before she rides but to continue getting her horse softer and more responsive. One of the things was to ask her horse for lateral flexion. I showed her how to ask it for it during ground training while her horse is in a halter, and when that gets good it transfers to when in the saddle, however from horseback she'll have to ask for lateral flexion with the reins, whether she is riding in a bit or a hackamore.

After working with her horse she got back to me with some questions which are likely pretty common so I am including them in this article.

"Why does my horse do well (giving softer to the feel on the rein asking for lateral flexion) for a couple times, then start to be harder to pull around?"   While you want to get to the point that you can barely pickup the rein to get your horse to give laterally (or vertically when asking for that), sometimes in the beginning when you pickup the rein, if he doesn't bend, you will have to bump him (short tugs)  as a stronger suggestion to get him to give. As soon as he gives and is not pulling on the rein then release, but you need to hold until he does give - meaning no tension on the rein.

I like to wait a few seconds before asking again even if asking on the other side. This gives him time to absorb the lesson about giving and getting a release. If you rapidly ask and release, ask and release, ask and release, then there may as well be no release because that's likely the way he see's it.

"How far should I bend him (how much lateral flexion is enough?)"   I know some people want the horse to give all the way so his nose is touching your stirrup or leg. All horse's are different so there are some that this would be physically hard to do. I don't see the point in it anyway. I can't think of anything I do with my horse where I need this over extended flexion. If a horse gives you, say around 100-110 degrees each and every time you ask, then how much more do you need?  In the photo at right, my horse is giving me well over 90 degrees. I can use that much lateral flexion.  In the photo at the top right of this article, the horse is giving me somewhat less than 90 degrees - I need a little bit more than that. 

I know some people are going to write me and say horse's should be able to give all the way so their nose is touching their barrel.  Yep, I see horses bite their sides and do other feats of equine gymnastics all the time, but that doesn't mean I need for them to do that when I'm in the saddle. 

In the diagram below,  I tried to draw a horse display straightness and then lateral flexion - BTW I'm not artist and I know that surprises few people, but if we can't agree that the picture below looks like a horse from above, then we simply can't be friends - anyway in Figure 2 below, it's supposed to show the horse giving to around 90-100 degrees of lateral flexion. Figure 3 shows a horse gives much more than that, somewhere around 150-160 degrees lateral flexion and again, some people actually want their horse's to touch their nose to the rider's boot or the horse's shoulder. While I'll admit I don't ride high end performance horses, I can't see any point to asking for such lateral flexion.  Let me re-phrase that,......I see some trainers really cranking on a rein to get the horse to give laterally as much as physically possible.... I while I can see asking for as much as the horse can give, I just don't see the point in demanding it. 


      




Friday, June 2, 2017

More on a Horse That is Suddenly Spooky



Dinka D wrote a comment on Horses that are suddenly spooky. "I hope you don't mind me posting another question on spooky horses. I have an 8 year old Arabian who is usually bold and inquisitive out on the trail. Not much phases him, but there are times when he seems to check out mentally. I work with him on the ground and I ride him several times per week. I have noticed that he is particularly spooky in the late afternoon, both on the trail and in the sand arena. He can be downright dangerous in the arena. Last night I was forced to up my energy and ask him to gallop around on the lead line, because it was obviously what he wanted to do. His eyes were on stalks as he stared at a couple of children playing in the distance. It was just ridiculous. He worked up a lather and still wanted to spook, but I got him to calm down somewhat. I then rode him, asking for only a walk, since this was the most challenging thing for him. I managed to walk him for a good 20 minutes or more, even to relax his frame and lower his head. Yet he still kept trying to look over to the side of the arena where he obviously felt there was danger. I could not get him to focus properly or to bend his body, mainly because touching him with the lower leg set him off into a jog. Speaking of jogging, on the trail at dusk he will jig jog like an idiot. I have used different methods to cut out jigging in the past, but it seems it all goes out the window at a particular time of day. My problem is, with full time work dusk is often the only time I can ride.. and I am tired of dealing with a nervous wreck. I wonder what else I can do, besides what I've done so far."

Right off I think there are two main reasons for horses mentally checking out, demonstrated by looking away or not paying attention to the handler or rider, or not taking cues in a timely manner like they usually do. First of all in a new area, like trailering to a new arena or trail head, it would be common for many horses to be curious or outright concerned about the different environment and events around them, especially if there is lots of activity. I was riding a horse the other day who I have had on cattle many times. He was routinely drawn to a fence line with signs, where he could only see the feet and lower legs of the cows on the other side. So when loping circles closet to that fence I had to keep redirecting his head to the inside.  Second, if you are doing the same thing over and over, the horse may be getting bored. It will usually be evident as your horse will be late on cues and dull in gait and speed transitions, and turn arounds. The difference in the first and second reason is that when the horse is bored you will be able to feel and see a lack of body tension and mental tension.

With you horse having issues seemingly only in a certain time of day, like the late afternoon as you describe with the lower direct sunlight, he may have a eye condition. One of these would be Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU), which many people call Moon Blindness, which is an immune response type condition where the horse body's own immune cells may attack eye tissue. These attacks produce signs such as squinting, tearing, "red eye," a cloudy eye, swelling and sensitivity to the sun. Horses can get it from a bacteria infection caused by dirt or dirty water, or a viral infection, and flies can bring in a disease. And obviously any visual impairment could cause a horse to be more easily spooked.  I have an older horse, around 20, who we thought had ERU or otherwise an eye condition which clouded up his right eye and make him spooky on things to his right (blind) side. Many tubes of Opthalmalic ointment did nothing. Later I went though a bottle of Vetricyn eye ointment and ensured he always wore a fly mask when he could. Much to our surprise his condition cleared up. Much of his anxiety with things on his right side (his bad side) went away.  So I would think any eye or vision problems is something you have to look at to rule out.

Something may spook a horse at a specific location, which could have that horse looking for it to happen again until that current expectation dulls with time. I'd make it a point to set up a rest at that location.    

It can be really frustrating correcting a horse who is continually buying into to his own fear.  I would make doubly sure that my frustration is not apparent or otherwise contributing to his anxiety.  I would be inclined to do a lot of things to keep that horse focused on me and what I was asking.  I am not saying to wear him out physically - there is a perception, really a misperception, that a person can work the buck or spook out of a horse through sheer density of his workload, as you need to change his perception not get him head dropping worn out.     

But what I would do is set things up for him to think or search for the right thing.  I think the thing to do or a least to try on your Arab is to get his mind engaged.  After all we're trying to put a thinking pause before that fear reaction.  So I think it's key to give our horse's a pause to learn. An example may be when you ask for lateral flexion and when he gives it don't release. He may likely try to pull his head away, but just maintain that hold.  It may take him 5 seconds or 45 seconds but he'll look to do something else to get the release.  Since his head is bent, it is likely his move his back end away from the bent, and just as soon as he tries, give him a release, a rubbing on his neck, a 10-15 second pause to absorb that lesson before you do it again.            

If I'm doing turn arounds on the fence, after getting it right with a good effort, I may stop and let my horse rest.  I may set it up so the rest spot is the location where he has the most trouble with spooking.  If I'm loping circles and changing speeds (sitting trot to a posting faster trot) and he puts effort into doing that, again I'll stop him recognizing his effort and stop him again at the point where he has the most mental trouble at.  In the beginning he's likely to still have happy feet - showing his anxiety by moving his feet.  I would correct him immediately by directing his feet such as trotting or loping tight circles, or even backing in a circle then offer him a chance to stand again. 

I fear I haven't been much help but I really hope you can get your horse to quieter place as you have many years ahead with him.  As an Arab he is more hot blooded then say an average Quarter Horse, but I've seen too many good Arab not to know its possible.  Good luck and safe journey.      
    

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Randy Rieman Horsemanship Clinic 13-14 May 2017


My wife and I were very fortunate to ride in both days of a Randy Rieman Clinic in neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico this past weekend. I had never met Randy before, but had talked to him on the phone about the rawhide reata my wife bought from him for a birthday present to me years ago (my wife is awesome) and about Montana history - my Granddad built a ranch North of Livingston in the early 1900's. Randy is a noted rawhide braider having learned that skill from Bill Dorrance.

 Las Cruces area horseshoer, James Eguires met Mr Rieman in Hawaii while Randy was there starting colts for the famous Parker Ranch on the Island of Oahu, and arranged for the two day clinic. The night before the clinic, James and his wife Ja-Kee, hosted Randy and clinic attendees at their home in Mesilla Valley for a meet and greet with Randy, who after a dinner treated us to a couple Cowboy poems, including 'The Man in the Glass'.


When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.


We appreciate that Randy took eight days out his schedule, six of those were driving days, back and forth from Montana, to come to all the way down here to help less than 20 riders. However, that worked out well for those who attended as Randy gave individual attention when asked and where needed - those are not mutually inclusive. Randy travels all over to give horsemanship and problem solving clinics including travel to Germany and Switzerland.  If he comes to your area, don't miss seeing him.

As James was planning this clinic with Randy, we advertised the clinic to the local West Texas - Southern New Mexico horse community, and were surprised to learn that many people have not heard of Randy Rieman. I did not ask but those same people likely haven't heard of Buck Brannaman, Brian Neubert, Martin Black, Joe Wolter, nor the late Peter Campbell either. These are truly great horsemen who are not going to seek you out through the over commercialization of school, clinics and products but exists to bring us the lessons of Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt. It was the best two days of riding I've had in years.

Right off the bat Randy had us jog circles. I rode like I always do, and tell others to do as well, by using my outside leg to push the horse and my inside leg to get a bend. In other words bending the horse around my inside leg. Randy had me try using my inside leg to get the bend by getting my horse to put his inside back foot underneath his body and in front of the outside rear foot. So from the start he had me changing what I have been doing for years. I'm glad I did not resist doing what he asked as I was surprised to feel my horse moving more relaxed in those circles. Still using your reins to tip the head slightly to the inside, Randy also had us use rhythmic lateral pressure to get the horse to find the middle and drop his nose where he got a release. My horse found that right off. And all of this in the first hour.

Randy helped others discover this as well. And with a rider who's young horse was troubled with somthing, Randy would say "stay with him,....it's always darkest before first light."  A few times Randy would take a horse, like the Palomino in the photos below, a get a change in that horse to underscore a point.   



Randy is a humble man, leaning to "let's both of us see what works with you and your horse" rather than telling you what to do. That's what I call putting the "why" into instruction which is often over looked by some clinicians. 

He mentioned that Bill Dorrance, who at 93 years old, got up each day eager to see what he can learn that day. Randy said he wants to be that guy.....don't we all want to be that guy.  Before Randy left for the long drive back home, I said to him, as humble as he is, that he may not fully understand what value he brings to us, not just in his teaching from his experience working with thousands of horses, but in his inspiration - how he approaches working with a horse.

More Randy Rieman and Bill Dorrance in Lessons from a Legend below.  Horseman Bill Dorrance shares horsemanship and roping lessons with Randy Rieman in this segment from Four Strands of Rawhide.




Monday, May 8, 2017

Riding in Hot Weather


Every year I usually write a reminder on the dangers of riding in hot weather which are primarily dehydration for you and your horse. Dehydration is simply consuming less water than you are expending through sweat. It (dehydration) sneaks up on people in climates with low humidity, such as the desert Southwest where I live, as the Sun evaporates your sweat quickly, but it is a danger anywhere. Absence of thirst is no indicator of being hydrated.

If you typically go to sleep at 9:00 pm at night then get up around 4:00 am, drink a cup of coffee then get to work. You are very likely dehydrated to start the day.  You have been without water for 7 hours, then drank a diuretic - something that will make your urinate but will also remove essential electrolytes as well. One thing you can do to ensure you start the day hydrated is first of drink a large glass of water before you have your coffee.

You need to protect exposed parts of your skin from the Sun. In the picture at top right, it is 96 degrees. I am pretty much completely covered up from the Sun.  Direct sunlight evaporates water from your body faster and the elevated temperature of your skin forces the body to send more water to maintain cellular and skin health, further dehydrating you faster. Sunburns can, over time, change the structure of skin cells and bring about skin cancer, such as Basil Cell Cancer and worse yet, Melanomas. Even though I have routinely covered all body parts, even my hands, at 58 years old I have had eight spots cut off my body, from BB size to quarter sized, thankfully all Basil cell cancer - the lesser of the skin cancer evils.

Don't save your water - drink it. Not alcohol, not soda pop, but water or water products such as flavored water drinks or Gatorade type drinks. Gatorade and Powerade also have electrolytes such as sodium, potassium in Gatorade and sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in Powerade to replace the electrolytes that are again lost when you sweat, and through normal metabolism. Both companies sell liquid and powder products.

If you become dizzy or have blurred vision, or get the beginnings of a headache then chances are virtually certain you are dehydrated. My daughter will forever remember coming to me and saying "Dad, I have a headache" and my reply was always "drink a big glass of water and see if it goes away in 20 minutes" and her reply was, "you always say that!" and my reply was "Yes, I always do because lack of water is the likely cause of your headache and drinking water is the easiest and fastest way to see if that was the problem in the first place".

Military and other organizations will often implement a "mandatory drink" policy where someone is responsible for making a periodic announcement to the group to drink water.....say, every 30 minutes the drill would be to drink 6 ounces of water. To drink water you need to have some with you. I always have a canteen of water with me when I ride out. Sometimes I also wear a hydration pack - CamelBak makes the best ones - which allows me to maintain a pace without stopping or slowing to drink from the hydration pack tube and bite valve. The two most common sizes of hydration packs are 70 ounce and 100 ounce. I like the ones with the external fill hole so you can fill the bladder of the hydration pack without removing it from the carrier. If you think that wearing one is bulky or heavy, you would be surprised to learn how quickly you forget you are carrying it. See the picture at the top and note how compact the CamelBak is.  And the advantage of wearing a hydration pack is that if you are thrown or otherwise on the ground and your horse runs away, you still have a source of water with you.

I sometimes teach tracking classes to Search and Rescue (SAR) teams, both government and civilian volunteer. I advise both types to invest in buying the Hi-Viz 70 ounce Camel Baks for each member. The rescue orange and reflector strips on the Hi Viz Camel Bak allow for the search and rescue teams to be easily spotted from the air or ground by other search teams and this would be especially important if you became injured and the SAR focus became you! Look at the picture above left and you can see how well the Hi Viz Camel Bak stands out.


Organizations, private and public, can contact Marisa Williams at CamelBak to get organizational pricing on CamelBaks.  Marisa Williams, phone 800 767-8725 x 9227 or e-mail at - mwilliams@camelbak.com

Individuals can purchase CamelBaks virtually anywhere - check with Amazon.com

You need to be considerate of your horse when riding in hot weather.  Horse's generally do well and don't drink as often as we do.  Know your horse's routine and feed your horses early enough so they can finish eating and get a drink before you pull them for a long ride.  When you get back from a long, hot ride horses will eat if you give them the chance.  I like to put my horses back in a pen with access to clean water, after they have cooled downed, for a good period of time before I feed them, so they can drink.  Know how to check your horse's skin (skin rebound test) and gums (gum blanch test) which are both capillary refill tests to check for potential dehydration.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Obstacle Preparation Clinic


I did a demonstration for a Horseman's Association Expo a few weeks ago, talking and demonstrating how one may go about preparing a horse for an obstacle challenge. I posted a pre-event article on the basis for the demo and mini-clinic.  As I began, I said most of us have came to understand the process called desensitization and while some people don't like the word desensitization (I'm not sure I do after all these years) as it connotes dulling a horse, but I asked everyone to think of it as not taking something away from the horse, but instead giving the horse some time - just trying to put a pause in the fear reflex.

We go about desensitization through use of Pressure, Release and a pause in between before starting to apply pressure again. I went about explaining that the pressure we put on a horse is usually physical but it's always mental pressure as well. That's just fine because what we are trying to do is to get through to the horse on a mental level, to get him to think - again a pause, in between receiving a stimulus and acting out of pure instinct which is usually to be wary if not outright fearful and sometimes that results in spooking or bolting. And the timing in the release is critical to getting the horse to understand what he did in order to get the release, and a pause after the release of pressure is critical as well for the horse to understand that lesson.

One easy way to explain pressure, the release, the timing of that release, and a pause to get that settled in a horse is though getting a horse good about handling his head and dropping it on cue. On a halter broke horse it only takes a minute or two to see a big difference in the horse and that's something observers can understand pretty quick as well. This keeps their interest while I can get horseback and demonstrate asking a horse to drop his head - get his nose vertical. I ask for softness a couple times showing an accurate timing of the release then explain that if the release wasn't timed right the horse won't understand how he got that release.

Then I ask the viewers to watch what happens when I don't give a release. So I'll ask the horse for vertical flexion again and stay in contact with the horse's nose (or it can be the bit if you are using a bit - I was riding a hackamore). Most horse's not well acquainted with vertical flexion will root their nose out. If that happens I'll release contact and ask what the horse learned, and that of course was that he can root his nose out to escape the pressure. Then I ask the horse for vertical flexion again, staying in contact, and even if the horse gives at some level I don't give him a release and make him search for the answer.  Usually horse's will start to back out of the pressure.  I release then then ask again what the horse learned. Obviously the horse thinks that backing is the right answer - that's where he got the release.   One more time I'll ask the horse for vertical flexion as he tries to root his nose out then backing to escape the pressure.  I'll stay in contact, he will eventually stop backing and seeking the right answer will drop his nose to some degree - that's where I'll give the release.  I explained I'll give him 10 seconds or so to think about it and try it again a few times, each with a pause in between, and have the crowd watch closely as the horse rapidly gets better about getting soft when I ask him for it.  I think is a effective way to demonstrate pressure and release.    

I explained that it is common problem where people are handling horses to put pressure on a horse and when they get a different reaction then they want they'll release the pressure to get a better position or to choke up on a rope or reins, only to not realize that they have already began getting the horse to learn something wrong.

It's helpful to demonstrate lateral flexion as well in the same manner as vertical flexion.

Overall I spent about 90 minutes demonstrating how pressure, release and a pause may be used and I went into initial rope training a halter broke horse; introducing a slicker to a horse; getting a horse to accept something draped across his head blocking his vision (blindfold training); crossing a ground tarp' and dragging a nylon bag full of tin cans. I spent some time explaining that before you go about dragging things, the horse has to be good about the feel and friction of ropes across his butt, hocks and heels.

All along I thought that most of the people attending the Expo would have heard about Pressure and Release at some point, and have their own opinions on desensitization.  I thought that I would likely be just presenting a slightly different way to look at it and just maybe some methods they could use, but the amount and type of questions I received afterward as people came into the arena made  me think that the foundations of natural horsemanship still have a long way to go before they are common knowledge for average horse owners.

I left the crowd with asking them to never to punish or jerk on our horses for spooking or having fearful behavior - they are just doing what they think they need to, and that we all owe it to our horses to give them the time to necessary to accept things. In the long run it's going to make a better, more confident and safer horse.