Thursday, August 25, 2016

Zoonosis - Disease Threats from Horses to Humans

The other day I noticed one of my horses with a snotty eye - you know, the thick white mucus type discharge.  He hadn't been around strange horses for the past two weeks, so I got to thinking maybe I passed something onto him that I got from another horse.  In any event, a couple of days of treating his eyes with Vetericyn Ophthalmic Gel and my horse's eye cleared right up. But the whole thing got me thinking about horse to human and human to horse transmitted diseases. 

Diseases passed from animals to humans are called Zoonosis. Zoonosis may be bacterial, viral, or parasitic (from parasites). There are more than three dozen we can catch directly through touch and more than four dozen that result from bites.

In a tragic event from earlier this year, an elderly woman in Seattle died from an infection that she appears to have contracted from a horse she rode, according to a new report. The 71-year-old woman had visited her daughter, who operates a horse boarding and riding center in King County, Washington, the report said. During the week of Feb. 21, 2016, one of the horses developed nasal and eye discharge, suggesting the animal had an infection. The daughter treated the horse with antibiotics, and the animal recovered.

But that same week, the daughter developed a mild sore throat and cough, and her mother also showed symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Both the mother and daughter had been in close contact with the horse, with the mother petting and riding the horse on at least two days, Feb. 25 and 29.

A few weeks later, on March 2, the mother experienced vomiting and diarrhea, and was later found unconscious. She was taken to the hospital, but died on March 3, the report said.

Officials collected a nasal swab from the previously sick horse, along with a swab of the daughter's throat and samples of the mother's blood. All three samples tested positive for the same strain of bacteria, called Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus (or S. zooepidemicus for short.) This type of bacteria is known to infect animals, including horses, pigs and cats.

It's rare that people get sick from S. zooepidemicus, the report said. When infections in people do occur, they can cause a variety of symptoms, including chills, weakness, difficulty breathing, fever, kidney inflammation and arthritis.

People can become infected with S. zooepidemicus by consuming unpasteurized dairy products. But the daughter said that she and her mother hadn't consumed any unpasteurized dairy products, nor did they have contact with other animals, except one healthy cat. "The evidence from this investigation linked a fatal S. zooepidemicus infection to close contact with an ill horse," the report said.

The mother may have been at increased risk for infection because of her age. It also remains unclear if the woman's respiratory symptoms preceded or followed her infection with S. zooepidemicus. (It's possible that the respiratory symptoms were from a separate infection, which in turn could have made the woman more vulnerable to S. zooepidemicus, the report said.)

The researchers recommend that people thoroughly wash their hands after contact with horses or other animals. More research is needed to better understand factors that put people at risk for catching S. zooepidemicus from animals, as well as the different symptoms people who get infected can experience, the report said.

The original article was published by Live Science. Some common Zoonotic Diseases transmittable from Horses to Humans:

Rabies. Although the incidence of rabies in both horses (45 to 50 cases annually in the United States) and humans is low, it is highly fatal, and difficult to diagnose. Rabies is transmitted from horses to people via saliva, and any small cut or abrasion can serve as an entry point. Veterinarians often include at least an examination of the oral mucosa as part of a diagnostic work-up and can easily become infected. Unusual clinical signs, especially if associated with any degree of neurologic abnormality, should be a warning for potential rabies risk, and appropriate precautions should always be taken.

Brucellosis. Brucellosis, normally associated with Cattle, occasionally occurs in horses. The bacteria usually localizes in muscles, tendons and joints, though it is most commonly seen in cases of infected withers in horses. Drainage from areas infected are very infectious.

Anthrax and glanders. Anthrax can infect virtually all animal species and can cause local carbuncles and pustules in humans from direct lesion contact along with pneumonia from inhalation of the infectious agent. Higher incidences of anthrax occur in Arkansas, South Dakota, Louisiana, Missouri and California, and sudden equine death in these areas should especially place this disease high on the differential list.

Glanders. Occurs in horses, donkeys and mules, and it also has cutaneous and pulmonary forms that are usually fatal to both horses and humans. Use of a mask is commonly overlooked by practitioners examining horses presenting with a cough and an elevated temperature but could be the difference between making a diagnosis and needing one yourself.

Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is considered to be the most widespread zoonosis in the world and is caused by highly invasive bacteria transmitted between species by infected body fluids (commonly urine) as well as contaminated water and soil, and it can enter the body through even minor skin lesions. The disease in humans can range from mild to severe and can result in death.

Lyme disease. Once thought to be exclusively caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, it is now postulated that other strains of bacteria as well as many species of ticks may harbor and transmit Lyme disease or other similar variations of this condition. Lyme disease in horses can manifest as a generalized body stiffness or soreness; reluctance to move, vague, transitory lameness; or transitory joint swelling. Infected horses have also exhibited nervous system disorders including blindness, head pressing, circling and seizures.
br> Ixodes species ticks carry these bacteria and are commonly found on deer but will also feed on other species such as dogs, humans and horses, which is where the zoonotic potential, as vectors, exists. Lyme disease symptoms in humans vary dramatically among patients, so it can be difficult to diagnose. A slowly expanding skin rash after a tick bite is the classic sign for Lyme disease and is seen in 60 to 80 percent of human cases, but many cases are more subtle and include abnormalities of the musculoskeletal, nervous and cardiovascular systems including arthritis-like symptoms, irregular heartbeat, and central nervous system or spinal cord issues. Lyme disease.
br> Lyme disease has not been considered especially relevant in the southern United States, but a recent variation of this condition, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), has been attracting attention. It is attributed to infection with an as-yet-uncultured spirochete tentatively referred to as Borrelia lonestari. The Lonestar tick has been implicated as the principal vector.
br> Diagnostic testing for Lyme disease, or any other new variants, is currently difficult because blood tests do not differentiate between exposure and infection. Substantial research is ongoing in this area, and newer, more helpful diagnostics for both horses and people should be forthcoming.
br> EGE and HGE. Two tick-associated diseases that mimic Lyme disease are equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis (EGE) and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), both of which are caused by Ehrlichia equi. EGE causes elevated temperature, depression, jaundice, limb swelling, ataxia and blood abnormalities. HGE produces flu-like symptoms in people including fever, headache, chills and nausea. Both infections can, if not recognized and treated with antibiotics, become systemic and result in death. Blood tests can identify E. equi in white blood cells and should be used whenever clinical signs in horses and people, along with any type of tick bite or tick exposure history, make clinicians suspect these diseases.
br> Equine encephalomyelitis, Mosquito-borne diseases pose a zoonotic threat for veterinarians, though the horse, in these cases, acts as a reservoir or vector. Eastern, Western, St. Louis and some subtypes of Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis can affect humans. Clinical signs in people vary from mild flu-like symptoms to severe central nervous system signs. Human deaths occur primarily in children and the elderly. Postmortem examination of infected horses puts veterinarians at risk of direct disease transmission through infected blood and cerebrospinal fluid, so always take appropriate protective measures.
br> Fecal-oral transmission. Diarrhea commonly occurs in horses, and many diseases in this category can be transmitted to humans via the fecal-oral route. Good hygiene control measures are crucial when veterinarians are working on cases involving diarrhea in horses. Also keep in mind that any human, or other horse, that is receiving antibiotics (especially orally) is at increased risk for developing an enteric infection from a horse with diarrhea.
br> Salmonellosis is a common form of enteric infection in both horses and humans. Stress-induced diarrhea (transport, training, competition, hospitalization) is common, and Salmonella species are often reported after fecal culture in these cases. Fecal-oral transmission is the prominent route of zoonotic spread.
br> Horses also shed Giardia species in their feces and, though it is unclear if Giardia intestinalis is a pathogenic organism in horses, it is parasitic in humans.
br> Crytoporidium parvum is another protozoal organism with the potential of horse-to-human spread. Research has shown higher levels of C. parvum in foals, so exercise caution when handling young horses with diarrhea — wear gloves, change clothes after handling affected individuals, wash hands and use foot baths when entering and leaving affected areas.
br> These hygiene principles also apply in cases of dermatologic diseases of zoonotic potential in horses. Ringworm can be easily transmitted to people through direct contact. Always keep in mind that many equine skin lesions may be potential sources of disease transfer.
br> Hendra virus. Hendra virus is a paramyxovirus first isolated in 1994 from an outbreak of respiratory and neurologic disease in horses and humans in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia. This virus is thought to be carried by bats of the genus Pteropus. Horses become infected through contact with bats and their droppings or secretions.
br> Hendra virus infection in horses produces an initial respiratory infection and can progress to neurologic signs and total systemic failure. These clinical signs are mirrored in human Hendra infection. The three cases reported in humans to date include two veterinarians and a trainer, two of which died. Humans caring for infected horses are exposed to body fluids and excretions and can easily become infected. Severe flu-like symptoms quickly develop. The globalization of the equine market makes disease transmission across continents, including the Hendra virus, a more serious threat.
br> MRSA. Infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be transmitted from horses to humans and vice versa. This bacterium can be found in skin wounds and various locations in the respiratory tract. Many studies indicate that MRSA is becoming increasingly prominent, especially in veterinarians, farm workers and others who have increased contact with animals.
br> In a study at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands from 2006 to 2008, 43 percent of all horses that entered the hospital clinic, for whatever reason, cultured positive for MRSA at some point during their hospital stay. Over 9 percent of horses were carriers based on positive cultures done when they first arrived at the clinic, and 15 percent of hospital employees who handled equine patients were also identified as MRSA carriers, though less than 1 percent of the general population of the Netherlands is MRSA-positive. Clearly horses and those who work around them are at higher risk of cross-transmitting this potentially serious infection.
br> Disease list from DVM360 Magazine

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2nd Annual Functional Horsemanship - Red Bird Ranch Arena Obstacle Challenge

The 2nd Annual Functional Horsemanship -Red Bird Ranch Arena Obstacle Challenge will be held on Saturday 24 September 2016. This event is not being conducted under any national organization but will be similiar to the Arena Obstacle Challenges (AOC) conducted under the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA).

Although this will not be a timed event like the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) events, the 13-14 obstacles riders will face are intended to be negotiated one right after the other as opposed to doing them as all separate obstacles.

A horse and rider will enter the arena and perform back to back tasks that are either demonstrating basic horsemanship skills or an ability to complete an obstacle.  Examples would be: open, go through and close a gate; retreive a slicker from the fence and put the slicker on; side pass over a pole; execute a 360 degree turn with forward movement while inside a 6' x 6' box; demonstrate a turn in the forehand or on the hocks; retrieve a rope and drag a bag of cans a short distance.    You can go to this link  to read about last year's AOC, see the results, and watch the demonstration video of last year's 1st AOC to get a better idea. 

We will have a great prize table this year as we did last year. There will be only one fee ($45) which covers entry and lunch for competitors. We will have three competition categories: Open, Intermediate and Novice. These would be basically compatible with the Open, Competitive and Scout division under ACTHA. There will be no loping/ cantoring requirements for the Novice and Intermediate Divisions. I am going to limit number of competitors to 20 due primarily to space and time considerations.

For information you can e-mail or call me at (915) 204-7995. Entry fees for the AOC are $45 payable by credit card over the phone, through e-mail, or by pay-pal.

Travis Gonzales from One Stop Horse Shop out of Las Cruces, New Mexico will be on hand to demonstrate and provide vertical vibration therapy (TheraPlate). He is also a certified equine massage therapist, certified equine dentist and does non-sedation teeth floating and trims/shoes as well. Travis' prices are approximately: TheraPlate session $45; trims $45; shoes (all the way around) $90; and, teeth floating $100.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Abused Horses Rehabilitated to help Veterans with PTSD

This article took my interest since it involved rescued horses being given a fair life and Veterans being helped. I have seen more than my share of abused or neglected horses and it breaks my heart and about makes my head explode as well.  This is something that worked out well for all concerned, especially the horses who deserved better and are dependent upon humans from making a fair life possible and to wounded and disabled Veterans who deserve much more than we can give them.  Pretty much can be summed up by that old saying, attributed to Winston Churchill, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."        

Article from
After losing sight in his right eye from a 2013 rocket attack in Afghanistan, retired U.S. Army Maj. Dan Thomas recovered with help from an equine therapy program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Hoping to help other veterans, he and his wife traveled from their home in Alabama to Connecticut last week to purchase two massive, jet black carriage horses, animals that were put up for auction by the state after they were seized from a breeder in February as part of an animal abuse investigation and rehabilitated through a state program involving female prison inmates who help with the care. Photo at right is Dan and Amy Thomas try to calm the two Friesian horses they were picking up at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's large animal rehabilitation center at the York Correctional Center in Niantic, Conn. The horses were among others seized in February as part of an animal-cruelty probe, that were later auctioned off. Photo by Susan Haigh - Associated Press.

Thomas said the two Friesian mares, among 32 emaciated and depressed horses taken from the farm, are the perfect animals to help veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"They know what it's like to go through hell and come out the other side," said Thomas, who plans to create a program similar to the one he experienced at the couple's 160-acre ranch in Black, Alabama. The Friesians, 1,400-pound Francisca and 1,000-pound Rosalind, will join seven other horses the couple previously rescued.

Considered a "war horse" in the Middle Ages, Friesians are a highly sought-after breed, recognized for being gentle and intelligent. Thomas knows firsthand that such a demeanor in a horse can be a calming influence for returning combat veterans.

"I've been through lots and lots of things. After being blown up, it's quite a traumatic experience for you. The horses are what works for me. So I know it's out there and works for other people because I've seen it," Thomas said, explaining how there's peace in being around such a powerful creature that could hurt you but doesn't.

The 32 horses seized by Connecticut officials in February from the Fairy Tail Equine breeding center in East Hampton have attracted great attention from across the country because of the type of horses involved. The Department of Agriculture received inquiries from as far away as Alaska about the sealed, month long auction. Besides Friesians, Andalusian and Gypsy Vanner horses were also seized. Photo at left is a Friesian horse known as Francisca peeks her nose out of her stall at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's large animal rehabilitation center at York Correctional Center in Niantic, Conn. She is one of the horses seized in February as part of an animal-cruelty investigation, later purchased by an Alabama couple that plans to use horses to help veterans with PTSD. Photo by Susan Haigh - Associated Press.

Adam and Tracy Erickson, owners of Skywalker Stables in Jamestown, New York, were visibly thrilled to take home Voruke, another Friesian. The couple has rescued horses from the slaughterhouse, buying the animals from meat buyers at the eleventh-hour. They rehabilitate the horses and find them good homes. Tracy Erickson said she's never come across a Friesian and plans to keep Voruke.

"It's just a wonderful, gentle breed of horse," she said. Money raised from the state's auction will help offset the cost of caring for the horses, which has exceeded $100,000, not including staff time. Raymond Connors, supervisor of the department's animal control division, said winning bidders were screened to make sure the animals will go to a suitable place.

As the buyers coaxed their new horses into trailers, Connors remarked how the animals look "1,000 percent better" than the day when they were seized. The owners of the breeding center were arrested on animal cruelty charges. Their case is still pending in court.

Dan Thomas saw photos of Francisca and Rosalind after they were seized. "I'm just really impressed with what the state of Connecticut has done here because these horses are beautiful now," he said. "It looks like the state of Connecticut has saved some lives."

Article from

Monday, August 1, 2016

Horse Anticipating turns

Courtney wrote to ask,.."What can I do about my horse who sometimes decides which direction to turn on his own. He is very well behaved, but sometimes he will preempt me by turning in a different direction than I am planning on."

Hi Courtney, there are a few things I would look at with your belief that your horse is anticipating you. First, I would make sure I'm riding the horse as opposed to just be a passenger. If the horse perceives a lack of leadership, he'll step up and take over, especially if you are always riding the same pattern and your horse kinda just goes into auto pilot. 

I would look at how you are riding and if your seat and your balance, or even an inadvertent cue may be sending him in the direction it looks like he is anticipating. Not being in rhythm, being off balance or leaning all could affect this.

I would go about making sure your horse isn't always turning towards the gate, as in being barn sour and wanting to go back to his feed bin and the safety of his stall and his buddies. Does he sometimes drift towards the gate? If this is what he is doing, maybe you can try making it work for him to be close to the gate, and give him a rest away from the gate, at the farthest point away from it.

Doubling him or riding circles close to the gate, backing him and such would be work. Giving him a rest, away from the gate, would be giving him a break. Sometimes if I think a horse is getting barn sour, I'll finish the arena work with a bunch of circles or doubling around the gate end of my arena, then ride him to the farthest part of the arena (away form the gate), give him a chance to stand and take a break, maybe even dismount and loosen his cinch, before I walk him out.  He learns to think the gate end is the working end and not necessary where he wants to be of his own volition. 

Make sure you are not inadvertently giving him the wrong cues, even something like looking towards something or looking in a direction can cue him. But if he is anticipating your turns, such as riding in several circles then you are planning on turning into a figure 8 but he is anticipating keeping the circle, then what I might try would be this exercise describe below and in the video.

I saw Craig Cameron demonstrate this exercise, and I believe he called it "North, South, East and West". Eight traffic cones or similar objects (I have seen some people use empty feed buckets) are placed in pairs, about 6 feet apart and in a cross pattern like in the diagram below.

I have this pattern of cones set up year using it for many different patterns, even just trotting and loping circles. The idea is to trot circles around all the cones then enter the circle through a pair of cones, exit through another set of cones then turn in one direction or another.

The idea is keep the trot through the turns, keep your horse between your legs, keep changing the direction of your turns in a random pattern (see the diagram below), but be clear in your cues. I'll lift the inside rein, the rein in the direction of the turn, and use my opposite leg to push the horse in that direction.

This placement of cones allows for many different patterns. Sometimes, I'll stop in the middle then back my horse out though the cones I enter through, then do a trot or lope departure in one direction or another.

Sometimes, I'll stop between the cones when exiting and maybe back the horse in a circle around one of the cones, or a figure 8 around both cones.

It will likely help if you look ahead at where you are going rather than looking at the horses head and ground immediately in front.

The video below is a pattern like I have described above.  If you ride as particularly as you can, ensuring your cues are clear, and keep mixing up the turns, L or R, or even a stop and back then double, this can make it necessary for him to listen closely to you.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the Cowboy is both a organization and a day of the year to honor and preserve the pioneer heritage and Cowboy culture. The mission of the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization is to contribute to the preservation of America’s Cowboy heritage so that the history and culture which the National Day of the Cowboy bill honors, can be shared and perpetuated for the public good, through education, the arts, literature, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos, and community activities. National Day of the Cowboy is observed annually on the fourth Saturday in July. The
12th National Day of the Cowboy is today, Saturday, July 23rd, 2016.

From the National Day of the Cowboy website:  "The era of the cowboy began after the Civil War in the heart of Texas. Cattle were herded long before this time, but in Texas, they grew wild and unchecked. As the country expanded, the demand for beef in the northern territories and states increased. With nearly 5 million head of cattle, cowboys moved the herds on long drives to where the profits were. Former President G.W. Bush said it well when he stated: “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.”

From my point of view we can't lose sight that American Cowboys developed much of their skills from examples of the Spanish Vaqueros whose unique brand of horsemanship is evident predominantly in the Californian and Great Basin Buckaroos.

Cowboying is alive today with full time cowboys, day workers and itinerant cowboys who gladly accept a low paying existence for the freedom of working outdoors on horseback. Cowboys are also exemplified by the professional horsemanship clinicians to work to enhance an understanding of the horse for all of us,....especially for the average backyard horse owner who may only ride a few times a month but dreams of riding in vast pastures and living by a simple but powerful code of conduct, one version which can be found in the book "Cowboy Ethics" by Jim Owen.

1) Live each day with courage. 2) Take pride in your work. 3) Always finish what you start. 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.

Bethany Braley, Executive Director & Publisher for the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization, is available for interviews or to speak to your group or organization regarding the history of this campaign and the challenges we face in achieving permanent passage of the Day of the Cowboy Bill. She has been working continuously on the effort since November 2004, and offers key information on how you and your community or organization may become actively involved in contributing to the success and celebration of this historic grassroots quest. She can be contacted at or by calling 928-795-0951

Friday, July 15, 2016

More on the CSI Saddle Pad

The more I use my CSI Pad, the more I like it and doubt I'll be using anything else.
The CSI Pad is actually a two piece saddle pad. The bottom piece, either 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick, is wool felt and combines with a thinner top pad, which is the CSI flex plate sandwiched between two layers of automotive carpet, to make the complete pad.  
The flex plate is a flat plate of polycarbonate that the bars of the saddle rest over, dissipating the pressure, often the uneven pressure of a saddles bars and rider's weight.

The pressure displacing plate, sandwiched or sewn between two sections of automotive carpet has a narrow strip of Velcro which mates to the felt pad.
Both have pads have holes in the spine to vent heat off the horse's back. I admit that if you separate these two pieces, it takes a little patience aligning the holes, but the concept of a replaceable wool felt pad is a really a great idea and allows you to separate the pads for cleaning. I have two CSI pads, one with a 1/2 inch felt liner and the other is a 3/4 inch felt liner, which are natural felt. I haven't had the need to replace a liner yet and will likely being buying another CSI pad this year.

These are high dollar saddle pads. If you are like me, you'll be eating bologna sandwiches for a month in order to afford one, but you won't be disappointed. In the picture above you can see from the wet spots on the horse's back how the CSI Flex Plate disperses pressure from the bars of the saddle and the rider's weight, keeping pressure off the spine. The CSI Pads are contoured for the withers which make it easy to position and comfortable for the horse.

CSI also offers a Western round skirt and English cut Saddle Pads as well. CSI also has shims available for horse's with anatomical issues. CSI counsels that most horse's do not need the shims and you should consult with one of their saddle fit experts before buying.
While I clean my CSI felt liners using a metal curry brush being careful not to tear up the felt in the process, CSI does offer a rubber cleaning brush which, to be truthful, doesn't work very well for me, hence the metal curry brush for scraping away the built up of hair and dirt before I wash the pad.
Again, if you end up buying one of the CSI pads, you won 't be disappointed......more importantly, I don't your horse will either.      

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Getting your Horse Coming Over for Saddling - Unsaddling

If I'm in an arena throwing loops or otherwise dismounting and having to mount again and again, I'll often just get on the fence and have my horse side up to me so I can mount easily and with less stress to the horse. I've had many people ask me  "How did you get your horse to do that?"

What I tell them is that in the beginning most horses will want to face you up if you are on a platform. In other words they will stand perpendicular to the platform or fence. And, if you lead a horse to a platform, most will stand until you get up on the platform, then they move their back end away to see you, which takes them away from you and makes it harder, if not impossible to mount. This comes mainly from the horse's discomfort with seeing something or someone above them and in the beginning not understanding what you are asking of them.

Then I'll continue explaining, that I'll start with halter and lead line, and while I'm sitting on a fence rail, or even standing on a platform like a mounting block, I'll rhythmically bump on the lead rope giving a verbal cue such as "come over" and just when the horse begins to move his feet, I'll stop the bumping. I'll pause for 5-10 seconds then begin again. Doesn't matter if the horse moves one way then the other,...... with a little patience the horse will eventually side up to you so you can mount. Pet on him first.

I believe I heard in an interview with Margaret Dorrance, wife of the late Tom Dorrance, that Tom was teaching her horse, or teaching Margaret to teach horse, to come over to the trailer step or mounting block so she could more easily put a saddle on the horse's back and also mount from the platform. Margaret asked "why do I need to do be able to do that" and Tom replied to the effect that "you'll need this when you get older". That stuck with me over the years. And if you are the one in a thousand who have not heard of Tom Dorrance you should be going to this site.

Anyway, when I ask a horse to come over and get parallel with me while I am on a platform, some horse's will like to put their left side to you and some their right side. So remembering the interview one day when I was in my trailer, I asked my horse tied to the trailer to come over to me so I could take his saddle off and he did lickity split. It was the same side he always presented to me to mount and he did it right away. 

On another horse, the horse in the video below, I wanted to try the same thing, asking him to come over giving me his right side, when he always gave me his left side as I asked him to come over to mount. I wanted to see how easily he could discern what I was asking him and why. So from the trailer tack room, I ask him to come over to unsaddle and I could see he was not understanding what I was asking. So I used a flag and tapped on his off side, the left side, as I asked him to come over. As soon as he moved his feet. I stopped tapping and paused for 5-10 seconds then started again. Within a minute he understood and sided up to me so I could reach the saddle from the platform of the trailer tack room.

Now I'd like to think that I really won't be needing to use a platform to saddle or unsaddle for the next decade or two, but I'm just a couple of years away from 60 and have seen many of my friends go to lighter saddles or not ride as much due to the toll of cumulative injuries or just plain aging physically. But getting the horse to think and learn is always a good thing. Safe Journey.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Independence Day

240 years have gone by since 4 July 1776 when the Declaration of Independence, written largely by Thomas Jefferson, was unanimously approved by the Continental Congress, marking the beginning of the a new nation, comprised then of 13 sovereign states, and called the United States of America. Since then America has been a beacon for freedom for individuals and nations across the world. No other Country is as charitable with it's blood or treasure.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence was preceded with hostilities between England and the Colonies in which the shooting war began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775 when the British marched to seize colonialist cannons, shot and powder.

The War for American Independence from England effectively ended in October 1781 with the surrender of General Cornwallis' British Army. During those 6 1/2 years of fighting, it was often in doubt if the fledging nation would win it's independence - but the Colonialists won their freedom, not for themselves but for every generation since. That just may be why American's love underdogs.

Happy Independence Day and safe journey!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wild Horse Issue: Agency to Sterilize Mustangs for First Time

As with most complex problems with high emotions on both sides of the issue, the over population of Wild Horses and Burros, both on the range and in BLM holding pens, is not likely to be resolved just with birth control of existing bands of these animals. I am not an advocate of the Federal government owning so much of the western lands. The intent of the Framers of our Constitution was for the Federal government to actually own minimal land and then only through negotiations with the states. However, complete management of the land by the states and likely the selling of much if it for energy and agricultural purposes would no doubt result in a campaign to largely eradicate the Wild Horses and Burros who compete with cattle for grazing. I've received hate mail from both sides for my middle of the road approach to the Wild Horse issue...from rancher friends of mine which despise Mustangs and animal rights advocates who can't see the burden on ranching families. I like to think there are moderates on both sides, and hoping that a moderate solution would be come upon. Birth control has got to be part of that solution. The people not wanting birth control or sterilization to be used on a portion of the total numbers of Mustangs and Burros are not moderates in my book.

A federal agency is on a path to sterilize wild horses on U.S. rangeland to slow the growth of herds — a new approach condemned by mustang advocates across the West. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management also continues to resist calls from ranchers and western Republicans to euthanize or sell for slaughter the animals overflowing holding pens so as to clear the way for more roundups.

Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis delivered those messages at an emotional congressional hearing this week. He offered a glimpse of the challenges facing the agency that has been struggling for decades with what it describes as a $1 billion problem.

Highlights of the hearing included Nevada's state veterinarian calling for the round-up and surgical sterilization of virtually every mustang in overpopulated herds, a protester who briefly interrupted with shouts denouncing "welfare ranchers" turning public lands into "feedlots," and an Arkansas congressman whose puppy is about to get neutered.

Rep. Tom McClintock, chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands, took aim at those who object to euthanizing mustangs "and yet seem perfectly willing to watch them succumb to excruciating death by starvation, dehydration and disease." "That is the future we condemn these animals to if we don't intervene now," the California Republican said.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, emphasized the 1971 law protecting mustangs allows for their destruction if they go unadopted. But since 2012, Congress has required horse purchasers to sign documents promising not to resell them for slaughter, and the Bureau of Land Management opposes lifting those restrictions.

Ellis said the estimated 67,000 wild horses and burros on federal land in 10 states is 2.5 times more than the range can support. However, there's no more room in government corals and leased pastures, where 47,000 horses cost taxpayers about $50,000 per head over the course of their lifetime. "Quite frankly, we can't afford to feed any more unadopted horses," Ellis said. "I understand your frustration. We are frustrated too."

Ellis said the agency's "roadmap to the future" includes use of temporary contraceptive vaccines as well as sterilization. "We feel that before we can implement a spay-neuter program on the range, we've got to do the research to make sure we can do it efficiently and safely," he said. "It is going to take a little time to do that."

Rep. Rod Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said it's time to have "that real tough conversation about something more permanent."

Other Republicans turned on the lone horse advocate called to testify — Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and member of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse advisory committee. But Kathrens said most Americans want to see mustangs "roam freely on their native home ranges as intended." "Castration, sterilization and long-term confinement of horses in holding facilities ... is unnecessary, cruel, unhealthy and fiscally irresponsible," she said.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, noted, however, that "thousands of domesticated animals are spayed and neutered every day." "I've got a new puppy and he's got his day coming soon," he said. That prompted an outburst from Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director for Friends of Animals. "They are wild animals. They are not cats and dogs," she shouted as McClintock banged the gavel and called for Capitol Police. "The solution is getting welfare ranchers off of our public lands, which have been turned into feedlots."

J.J. Goicoechea, the Nevada Department of Agriculture's veterinarian and longtime rancher, urged the gathering of "as close to 100 percent of horses as we can" in overpopulated herds for surgical sterilization before returning some to the range. "Those of us who truly make a living caring for animals ... have a moral obligation to manage populations in balance with natural resources," he said.

From an article by the Associated Press, 26 June 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Water Needs for Horses and Humans

Recent headlines: Yuma Arizona - Temps reach 120 degrees....115 in Phoenix; 107 in El Paso. Four hikers die of dehydration in Arizona........yes, the summer heat is upon us.  I usually write an article on avoiding dehydration and the importance of drinking water about once a year as we get into the heat of the late Spring because it's important and an often over looked fact about life - that we need water, lots of it, and so do our horses. And everyone has heard of the old adege "You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."....truth be known, the same is true for humans as well.

A close friend of mine and I joke from time to time about how our wives and children sometimes  complain about being tired or having a headache and how we always respond with "drink some water".  They'll always  respond "You always say that!".  There's a reason why I always say that, because most people go around all day in some level of dehydration. Drinking water should be the first thing you try to alleviate symptoms.  

People normally quit drinking fluids a few hours from going to sleep, then after sleeping 5 to 8 hours, wake up in some sort a dehydrated state. The first thing you should do upon waking is to drink a glass of water! But most won't, and many horse owners put more thought and anxiety into ensuring that their horses have water than they do themselves. Some people even work their riding schedule around their horse's feeding times taking great care to ensure their horse has had a chance to eat and drink. This is not a bad idea, it's just it can be limiting. Feed earlier, feed lighter before a ride, measure the water tank to determine if the horse had a chance to drink,.....I usually rake smooth the area around a stock tank after throwing feed so I can tell if the horse has drank when I come back to pull the horse to saddle.

Many times I have had to pull a horse and put him in a trailer before he had a chance to eat, so I'll hang a hay net in the trailer, after soaking the hay in water so he gets a chance to get something into his gut and some moisture before being ridden.

I don't give horses measured amounts of water, I just ensure they have fresh, clean free choice water. People on the other hand don't drink the recommended daily amount of water which is about one ounce for every two pounds of body weight. For an 180 pound man, that equals about 6 bottles of water a day, and this is for body maintenance. When you are sweating (losing water) or doing hard work, the need for water goes up quite a bit. I know there is advice being given that recommendations for water intake are exaggerated and that you only need to drink when you are thirsty, but this is simply not true. You can be dehydrated, and pretty severely dehydrated without being thirsty.

Not drinking water because of the inconveince of having to urinate often is just not, repeat, not a good idea. In fact, if you are not peeing fairy often, maybe once every 3-4 hours, then you likely need to drink more water. Same if your urine is dark in color. If you take supplements, you may have yellow or green urine, but after a few hours, maybe four to six hours, after taking your supplements, your urine should return to normal.

I am not going to list all the symptoms of simple dehydration, but certainly if your mouth is dry, if you feel sluggish,...... or stand up from a sitting position, or dismount from your horse and you feel dizzy - then you need to get some water.  Here's a tip - diet soda or beer, is not a replacement for water. 

Protect exposed parts of your body from the direct Sun; a cotton wild rag or neckerchef soaked in water and worn around your neck can help evaporative cool yourself. Silk wild rags don't hold the water well, but their are other fabrics available, as well as cooling scarfs available at most major hardware stores.  

As far as your horses, most of them are good to go for substantial part of the day after eating and drinking in the morning.  If I work a horse in the heat, I let him cool off before I hose him off.  I'll put him in a pen with water for awhile before I ever offer him feed.  Again, I make use of water soaked hay in nets quite often in the summer months.   

Take a look at your horses' water tanks.  Is that something you would drink out of?  I have been to some high end training facilities and some of those stock tanks haven't been dumped and cleaned for quite a while by the looks of it. Sure a horse will drink dirty water when it needs to, but if that horse is in your care, why should it?  Providing free choice clean water for each horse goes along way towards reducing chances of dehydration and colic.   

Saturday, June 18, 2016

RIP Legendary Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson

Legendary former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, passed away on 15 June 2016 at the age of 80 at his home in Alpine, Texas.

Joaquin Jackson served as a Texas Ranger for 27 years in Uvalde and Alpine, Texas. When he retired in 2003, he was the senior member of this storied agency. The Texas Rangers were established in 1823, fought in the Mexican-American War, campaigned and protected settlers against the Commanches, are currently heavily involved in the drug wars along the Texas-Mexican border while continuing this day to investigate crimes and corruption across the state. The Texas Rangers are the oldest and most respected statewide law enforcement agency in the United States.

In 2005, Jackson published his memoir, "One Ranger", followed by a sequel titled "One Ranger Returns".  Jackson has appeared in numerous films and television productions including The Good Ol’ Boys with Tommy Lee Jones, the TV movie Rough Riders, and the TV mini-series, Streets of Laredo.  Actor Nick Nolte used Joaquin Jackson as his role model for the film Extreme Prejudice.
Joaquin Jackson was born in 1935 in Anton, Texas. He attended Texas Tech University and was a graduate of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Jackson served in the United States Marine Corps prior to embarking on a career in law enforcement and was a director of the National Rifle Association.  
Joaquin lost his first wife Shirley in 2012, remarried and is survived by his wife Jewel, three grown children and four grandchildren.  On 25 June 2016 a memorial service is to be held at Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fixing Horses Who Pull Back

In the last 10 months or so, I have witnessed several horses who have pulled back from being tied hard and fast either breaking a lead rope snap, or having their feet go out underneath themselves and even pulling neck and back muscles in one case.

In one incident a young women who billed herself as a horse trainer tied her mare right next to my gelding. Her horse was not sacked out on being hard tied, especially in a strange arena, and soon pulled back getting that threatening pressure on her poll (behind the head) breaking the lead line snap. The young woman tied on the lead line and proceeded to lunge her horse thinking that if she gets tired or loses some energy she will be better. The way she went about lunging that horse just reinforced that mare's level of anxiety. Then the woman re-tied her horse, hard and fast, to a 30 foot gate that was on a wheel. Well, the horse pulled back again, this time pulling that gate on the wheel herself...repeating the process of pulling back, the gate chasing her, then pulling back again, and the gate chasing her, etc. I started walking over to the horse with the intent of disengaging her back end, while the young woman ran to a position between the horse and the gate, further spooking the horse who pulled back again slamming the gate into the back of the woman in a process that repeated itself until the horse paused long enough so the woman could get the lead rope untied. Then to make things worse for that mare, and likely in a fit of embarrassment and anger, the woman she started jerking on the lead rope yelling at her horse. All this could have been avoided if she had her horse good at tying in the first place,......oh yeah,..........and not tying to a gate!

One of the worst cases I saw was a horse being tied with a lead rope and a chain around the horse's nose. While the pressure, when pulling back, is on the horse's poll, if the horse get's his head up or has his feet go out from underneath him, substantial damage on the nose can occur. While I have used nose chains in the past, I won't ever use them again. I cringe when I see them and if I have a horse that can't be handled without a nose chain, well, I don't need to handle him then.

I have also had riders and their horses at my place asking for a pen for their horse as their horse won't stand tied. I always think "why don't they stand tied? Kind of minimizes what you can do and where you can go, now doesn't it?" I've had horses like that, and I've worked with the horse through most of the issues because I had to. And even if they are hobble broke, I'd still want my horses to be able to stand tied.

Horses are not born ready to tie. They must be taught this, or more appropriately they must have the time to learn that standing tied is a good deal - it's a resting spot. But all horses can be spooked and if spooked, can pull back, and if hard tied, will get that overwhelming pressure on their poll from either a webbing halter or a rope halter. This causes many of them to panic and pull back harder usually breaking a lead line snap, and if on a lead line tied into a rope halter, they can break a rope halter. This can be particular bad if inside a hard roofed trailer where the sudden release of a broken lead can send their head into the roof - and in some cases kill or badly hurt the horse.

17 years ago or so, in what later became my Functional Tie Ring (FTR), I started using a friction device in order to provide a measured friction release for a horse pulling back, with the lead line being fed by the horse's body weight through a ring. There have sure been some funny moments when a horse of mine, that was hooked through the tie ring on a 25 foot line continually pulled back while turning in a circle and ended up wrapping the lead line around his legs two or three times - unconcerned about the rope wrapping him up, it did not deter him from biting the value stems off two trailer tires. He stood for being wrapped up as I had sacked him out on ropes around his feet, hocks and legs....and was able to get him to lead with a rope around any foot.

So now days, while I occasionally hard tie a horse, I use the FTR when grooming, saddling or unsaddling, trailering someplace, and, I use cross ties with FTR's when I have horses on the shoeing stand or wash rack. But I only use the FTR when I have sacked that horse out on pulling back so they can learn they don't have to pull back or if they pull back, a pause in pulling back will give them that release from pressure, primarily on their poll, then they quit pulling back.  Boy, that's a mouthful.  

I'll hookup a lead line with the FTR, ensuring the halter is properly fitted and the lead line does not have much slack in it (to minimize the jerk when the horse pulls back initially). Then I'll back away then re-approach the horse with some stimulus such as a flag to get the horse to pull back so he finds a release when there is a pause in pulling back.  It's important to cease the spooking stimulus when the horse stops pulling back.  This is his reward.  Then I'll give him a break, rubbing on him, and when he is ready I'll cinch the lead rope back up and doing it all over again. Each time, the horse will react less and if done repeatedly, again giving a break and rubbing in between, the horse will eventually not pull back at all, or maybe just a slight head toss. This whole process may take 5 minutes or it may take 15 minutes. I can't remember a horse ever not getting a profound reduction in his pulling back behavior ever taking more than that.

In the video below I have a older horse, a pony really, who was left with us and has not been handled much in the past several years. His first encounter with the FTR was when we pushed the record button on the video camera. I had no idea on how he would do when tied with the FTR and given some horse spooking stimulus.

There are many tie rings on the market. The Clinton Anderson tie ring is a good tool as well, I just like my FTR better because you don't have to use a swing arm to keep the rope in place. If someone doesn't want to buy any particular tie ring, I'm sure an alike device can be fashioned and you may even save a few bucks. Make sure the rope you are using feeds easily through whatever tie ring you are using.

I hope this helps some of you.  I caution you if/when you try this.  Go slow. You can always increase the pressure, incrementally as needed. Better yet to get some help from someone who has done this before.  And it is always better to take all day getting it done as opposed to trying to get it done on some arbitrary time schedule and end up getting you or your horse hurt.  Don't do that. Please!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fundamental Ground Training For Horses Often Forgotten

A client was bringing a horse over to work on putting a better handle on the horse. The horse was an older rescue horse that has likely seen many owners over his life. The client had owned it for just a couple years. When the horse showed up, his toes were as long as his heels so I remarked that he looked like he was overdue for a trim. The client told me that the horse had to be sedated for the shoer to handle and trim his back feet. From what I understand from the current owner that this was the last time the feet were trimmed.  I can see sedating a horse once or using Scottish hobbles once to get the feet trimmed, but before the next time the horse is due, he ought to good at having his feet handled if he is to be a riding horse, otherwise you are just putting off the problem. 

There are a few horseshoers that I have either known or heard of that horses, but Texas requires a Veterinarian do the sedating. But the problem wasn't legal in nature or getting an over worked Vet out to sedate and trim the feet, the issue was with people in this horses past trying to pick up the back feet and having the horse pulling his feet away or trying to kick, and learning in the process that he can do just that to get people to leave his back feet alone. How many times have you heard someone say "the horse don't like ____________." Insert, 'being tied', 'wearing a back cinch', 'swinging rope around him', or in this case - 'having his back feet handled'. 

So back to the client,....I said "Let's get a halter and lead on that horse and see if we can't get him good at his back feet being handled." Once we got a halter and lead on, it was apparent in about 3 seconds that this horse, although was rideable, was simply not broke to lead.

I actually think this is common. I've seen many horses who were ridden in competition but who were less than adequate when being handled from the ground.  So you see it in horses that start to walk off without a cue, can get them to stop, but then again they want to move off.  Sometimes you ask them to stop and they just gotta move their feet, always appearing distracted.  My client's horse was the same way and when I got a halter and lead line on him then tried to direct him with the lead he would put his shoulder in, swing his butt over the try to kick me.

I explained to my client that the horse needed to be able to walk on a loose lead, keeping pace when you change the tempo of your walk up or down, and stop when you stop. That you should be able to back him up using the lead, direct him towards you or in a different direction, move his shoulder in or over, or disengage his hindquarters all before much else is done. He need not be perfect, as you can work on that, but he should be pretty functional at all those things before you get on his back. This horse wasn't.  You have heard the saying that all new horses should be started over? Well, it's true. I still have one horse that I try to plug holes in because I did not start him over from the beginning.  Apparently I still haven't learned by lesson!  
Anyway, I lunged the client's horse on a 16 foot lead, keeping him at a trot, popping him on the shoulder or rear end with the poppers on the end of the lead rope as I needed to when he tried to either run into me or start to kick me. When he tried to break down (slow down and change gaits), I drove him on and it wasn't more than 5 minutes that his body language softened and he started licking and chewing. Sure, he still looked at me side ways since he previously had gotten away with his shenanigans.

I brought the client, who had never lunged a horse on a line, into the round pen and coached on how to lunge the horse and drawing the horse to a stop, so he disengages his back end and puts both his eyes towards you. Then changing directions and changing directions while moving.  So I sent the client's home with the idea that the ground work needed to be reinforced and done as often as could be during the coming week then to bring that horse back to me where I would show, then have the client, work the horse from the fence, get the horse sacked out to a rope, leading by a roped foot, having a line come across the butt and hocks, then get on with getting his back feet safe to be handled.  This is the best way I know how and when the horse is brought back over we'll work on getting a video of it.    

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Birthday U.S. Border Patrol

Happy 92nd Birthday to the United States Border Patrol. Founded on 28 May 1924 to patrol the border mostly on horseback to prevent illegal entries across the border.  Earlier on, there were  mounted inspectors as early as 1904 operating out of El Paso, Texas and actually had the primary duty of preventing illegal immigration by Chinese immigrants. While the first Border Patrol station was built in Detroit 1in 1924, a second Station in El Paso Texas built one month later is known as Station One.

Being the largest uniformed Federal Law Enforcement Agency in the U.S., Border Patrol agents exercise a wide range of missions across many environments including manning a few internal checkpoints on U.S. Interstate and Highways. Specialized Border Patrol units conduct arrest warrant service and manhunts like the missions hunting the escaped prisoners in New York; perform search and rescues; are often the first law enforcement officers in devastated areas such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to provide law enforcement presence, search for missing and injured people and perform first responder and subsequent emergency medical treatment.

The Border Patrol, first under the Department of Labor then later under the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and lastly, now under Department of Homeland Security, continues to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico and Canada as well as some coastlines and waterways.

While aerial patrols now fall under another agency, Border Patrol agents to this day patrol the border in trucks, ATV's and on horseback. In fact, there are several hundred horses in the U.S. Border Patrol performing daily duty protecting this country's borders from illegal entry not just from immigrants, but from narcotics smugglers and potential terrorists.

Since 1904, counting the original mounted inspectors, the Border Patrol has lost over 120 agents in the line of duty, more than any other federal law enforcement agency. The most publicized line of duty death was Agent Brian Terry killed December 2010 in Arizona by heavily armed bandits who were out ripping off dope loads being smuggled across the border. Some of the guns used by the bandits were traced to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) 'Fast and Furious" gun selling scheme.

It is not uncommon for narcotics smugglers to bring drugs across the border on pack horses, often traveling for a few days to get to a "load up" site to transfer the drugs, then turn the horses loose when they haven't been watered or fed for a couple days. At least the horses in the Border Patrol mounted unit, usually Mustangs, are very well cared for and have a legitimate job getting agents into remote areas, best patrolled on horseback, to detect and intercept illegal activities.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Becoming a Better Rider

April wrote to say "I am trying to become a better rider, realizing that riding only 2-3 times a week makes it difficult to be even marginally better. I really can't go to clinics as they are too far away and too difficult to do. There is a local dressage club, but that does not appeal to me. My question is what do you work on or what can you do by yourself to refine your riding skills? Thank you. "

I think you an get some improvement by limited riding - it's likely how you approach it. As far as clinics, they can be really useful but if they are not possible for you right now then there are many DVD's from tophands available and they can help. Having someone watch you or even video taping you for later review can help as well.

Dressage may not appeal to you, me either, but auditing a schooling session or, better yet, riding with some of those folks may help you become a better rider. The way I look at it, dressage riders have to know what they are doing to sit in those tiny saddles! Some dressage clubs also offer Western dressage. I don't know much about it though, so I might be negligent in saying it's just dressage in a western saddle,....likely it's a little more than that, I just don't know. If the competition aspect of dressage (or other events) bothers you, so could just approach that work from a training angle as opposed to just competing for ribbons or buckles. I know that competition sometimes brings out the worst in some people, but it can also serve to illuminate shortcomings and motivate others.

As far as becoming a better rider, I think I've always wanted to become a better horseman and never much thought about just the act of riding until a fairly short time ago. I remember about 12 years ago I was riding with some cowboys on a gather in a BLM managed grazing unit. One of the older cowboys said to me something to the effect that I have slow hands - meaning that I was not trying to man handle my horse through the reins. It was meant as a compliment and I took it that way. He also said something to the effect that he was happy to cowboy with me. I replied that I was just trying to become a better horseman. He thought I was trying to funny or something. I'm not saying that cowboys can't be horsemen or vice versa, just that my focus was getting better at communicating with horses and riding is just a part of that.

I always thought I had a pretty good seat and rode in a balanced manner. I've been on some broncs (by accident mostly) and have other horses bolt and take me for a ride. But now I realize that I could use some improvement when it comes to simply riding horses as it pertains my seat, posture and balance. On that thought I brought in a noted area dressage rider and teacher, Martha Diaz, to give a private clinic. We worked simply on circles and straight lines where I was critiqued that I had a tendency to ride with my back a little too rounded, needing to be straighter; that I was dipping my right shoulder when riding circles to my right; and when riding circles to the left I was not riding the outside of my horse and also letting his outside shoulder drift.

I was basically unaware of these faults but now am cognizant of looking to correct these faults when riding. Maybe an option for you April is to have one of the better dressage riders work with you one on one once a month or so. Another option would be to video tape yourself riding which may help you see things in a different way than from the saddle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Politics,...Not Horse politics, just politics

I'm sure this will be my first and last article on politics but I thought it appropriate to say just a couple things about politics since this year is just plain crazy for politics at the national level. And at the local level where I live, I have become involved to support a friend of mine running for County Sheriff...his name is Tom Buchino.

Tom, like many of us, had very little desire to get involved in politics excepting to vote which is really just a basic obligation. Many current El Paso County Sheriffs office employees, county citizens and neighboring law enforcement officers had been asking, even pushing Buchino to run for the office for the past 18 months. Tom is a retired Green Beret Sergeant Major and like the culture he served in and the men he led, when asked "who will go?", Tom replied "send me" and stepped up to run a campaign, win the office and make the necessary changes to right a declining agency.

While I am not advocating sending money to politicians, I am advocating that everyone at some level needs to get involved to help determine who we elect to office. Write letters or e-mails to your elected officials about the issues that concern you and the solutions or platforms you would like to see them take. Get your family and friends involved as well. Talk about the issues and get to the polling stations and vote.

We had a little fun and shot the short video below to support the Tom Buchino for El Paso County Sheriff campaign. We did another one which I won't be posting as I am opinionating about some of the issues and this site is about horses. Well shoot, you talked me into it........What the hell is going on in this country? The absolute craziness of biological males using female restrooms with 7 year old girls in attendance? Does anyone really support that? What about the segment of the population who has chased God out of our school rooms and are now trying to run Him out of the country like a common horse thief. Please get involved and get in touch with your representatives at what ever level. After all, these politicians work for us.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Horses Too Young

I'm not a horse racing fan, nor a fan of any equine competition where young horses are stressed through training and performance before they ever mature. I understand that for many there is pressure on performing and earning checks to keep everything from food on the table to hay delivery coming through the gate so it's necessary getting horses performing as soon as possible, but I just think there needs to be some regulating of putting stress on young horses. 
Think about it.  Horses competing as three year olds may only have a true age just over 2 years as they may be coming 3 years in the competitive year. That means they have to have been started (in training) well before becoming a true two years of age.  So I was pleased to see a message posted from Cowboy Dressage World Switzerland that stated "Fantastic news for the welfare of horses coming out of Switzerland and Germany yet again! Their respective Quarter Horse associations have resolved to prohibit 3 year old horses from ridden competitions and futurities as of March 2016. Horses must be at least 4 years old before they are permitted to compete under saddle. The article states this is following a global trend and questions being raised about horse welfare. They also resolved that 4 year old and older horses can be ridden 2 handed in a snaffle or hackamore.  Well done Europe!! Come on rest of the world!"
I ran a large horse facility for six years or so and we would get calls from several racing stable owners at the local racing track offering free horses, mostly always Thoroughbreds.  Some of these horses weren't working out very well on the racing circuit and the owners just wanted to get these horses off their feed bill.   More often than not, these free horses were young and had some sort of injury.  I couldn't keep some of the novice horse owners from jumping at the chance of a free, well bred horse.  Often I would often go down to quarantine to check in a new horse only to find it lame.  Bowed tendons, damaged suspensary ligaments, non-specific problems in the stifle were common and would get worse once the anti-inflammatory and pain management drug protocols were no longer being given. Some of these horses had been pin fired as well.       

Often other problems wouldn't become apparent for years such a detioriating joints, bog spavin in the hocks, or just odd footfalls at certain gaits. 
The deal with starting horses in intense training while they are not physically (nor mentally) mature is that not only are injuries more common but physical stress and damage on developing bones and joints may create conditions that may not be apparent or become chronic until later years.    I really like the idea of starting horses at two or even three years of age.  Even though you may have been handling that colt since he was born, letting him learn pressure and release from a lead line, which is good for him, I mean starting in getting him broke to a saddle and getting a few short rides in the round pen.  Turning that colt back out and starting again the next year continuing his training and starting to put a handle on him.  Then at four maybe five he's being ridden a lot, and is what you call a using horse.
I am not going to change the industry, nor am I going to thin bad of all the trainers in those disciplines where horses are started, trained long and used hard while they are young.  I think just in a perfect world horses are allowed to mature before we ask too much of them. 


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wondering About Proper Head Set on a Horse

Jennie wrote to ask about fixing her horse's high head set: "Hi, I wonder if you have any experience or ideas for a horse who has a high head. It's like he is stretching out to see over the top of something, not really at the walk but at the trot. Other riders have given me various advice such as to use a tiedown or a head setting device that goes over their neck? My research has also made me consider a martingale. I have also seen competition where a horse is ridden and his head is down close to the ground. Is this called collection? What is the advantage of teaching a horse to ride like that? Any ideas or food for thought would be appreciated."

The competition you are likely talking about is reining and those horse's are being ridden with true collection - nose vertical to the ground, the poll is flexed, and the horse's back legs up underneath their body's, the stride is short and quick, rounding the horse's back. Basically this lightens up the front end where normally greater than 50% of the horse's weight is carried and transfers weight to the rear end in order to work on the back end which helps for better stops, transitions, lead changes and more.

Along with the reining you saw, you will also dressage horses ridden displaying vertical flexion. Sometimes you will see horses ridden with exaggerated flexion where their nose is very close to their chest. But just because a horse is flexing at the poll doesn't mean it is collected.  In the picture above left I am riding at a walk and am asking my horse to soften his face, flex at the poll.    

All this begins with the horse giving to pressure during ground training then progressing to vertical flexion in the saddle, then flexing at the poll during the walk from very short moments to longer times as he gets soft.  Then begin again at a trot and so forth.  You get collection when the horse's flexes at the poll and you drive the horse's back end up underneath him rounding the back.

For most people to enjoy their horses, pleasure and trail riding and even local competitions, it is likely not necessary to ride your horse with collection.  However, getting your horse to soften and giving to vertical flexion has got to make a better horse and partner.    

With your horse's high head set his back is hollowed out and the majority of his weight is on the front end. The center of his eyes are higher looking more further and forward.  He can still see the ground and obstacles to his front as he travels as horses have great peripheral vision, but not as good as if he had a more horizontal head set. 

In the photo at right, I am riding at a jog and my horse has a natural head set.  There is a reason it is called a natural head set - it is simply natural for the horse.  Watch a horse in a pen when something attracts his attention.  His head goes up to the necessary height where he can look out of the center of his eyes to determine the threat. 

So while you may likely need to work on getting your horse soft and giving in the face, working on vertical flexion, there is nothing wrong, and everything right about riding with a natural headset.  But I'll give you my opinion on the rest of your question, concerning tie downs and other devices.   
I'll assume you have eliminated your horse's teeth, the bit and how the bit is seated as a source for your horse's high head. But I am not a fan of, nor a user of tie downs or the head setter which is likely the "head setter device" that you were advised to try. A tie down is basically a type of cavason around the horse's nose and tied off to the breast collar, or through the breast collar ring to the cincha. The tie down limits how high the horse can raise his head. It is typically used in arena roping and thought to give the horse something to brace against upon the jerk of a steer on a rope. Virtually every team roper using one. I will defer to their experience as to the necessity of a tie down for roping.

The head setter is a combination nose band and rope over the poll which if the horse raises it's head or nose pressure is applied to the nose and/or poll. Some of the head setter devices are rope and some are even plastic coated cable. Effectiveness is dependent upon the horse bringing his head and/or nose back down to release or escape the pressure.  Mikmar makes a bit with a rope tied from one shank of the bit, up over the nose of the horse then connects to the other shank.  When the shank are activated, pulling on the reins, the rope over the nose tightens and the theory is that it provide a signal that is spread out fro the bit, to the curb and nose band tightening to the headstall applying poll pressure to the horse to drop his nose and lower his head to get relief.  I have no experience using Mikmar bits, but their are obviously some riders who believe in them.    

As far as Martingales, there are two basic types - a German Martingale and Running Martingale. I have never used a German martingale, but have used a running martingale which is a strap connected to the breast collar, or through the breast collar to the cincha, and has two legs, each with a ring for the respective rein to pass through then connect to the bit. See my diagram below and no wise cracks on my artistry please.  There is usually a rope or a loop that goes over the horse's head and sometimes a strap that connects to the gullet of the saddle prevents the neck rope from running up towards the ears.

The running martingale is adjusted so that it provides a fulcrum (through the rings) when the horse head is at a certain height encouraging the horse to drop his nose. I made a German Martingale for a client and was asked to do a couple extras, but then I changed my mind about offering them to people as I think there was potential for people to get into trouble using them as a short cut to getting their horse soft.
So what I might do with you horse who has a higher natural headset, is to work on getting your horse soft and giving in lowering his head.  Again, first on the ground, then in the saddle, then at a walk all before you ask for vertical flexion at the trot.  There may not be anything wrong with riding a hors with a natural headset, but getting your horse soft and giving can only help both of you. 
Now that I have used up my annual allocation of words, see if this helps you and let me know ho you and your hose are doing.  Safe Journey, Jennie.