Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dave Stamey- Cowboy, Musician and Master of Words

If you don't know who Dave Stamey is, you ought to get acquainted. He is an accomplished cowboy and musician. I am going to include one of my favorite songs of his (The Circle) at the bottom of this post. While you can download many of his songs via the phone music apps, I prefer to buy his CD's for my truck from Eclectic Horseman.

Dave appears in the excellent documentary "The Gathering" by Vaquero Films and his songs are featured in the Horseman Gazette series by Eclectic Horseman. Anyway, the following is a post Dave wrote on his Facebook page. I was reading it at Supper and had to stop eating otherwise I would have likely choked to death.

How to Write Songs

I have on my desk here a letter sent by Mr. Roscoe Dimmler from Squirrel Foot, Idaho. It appears that Mr. Dimmler lives in a sheep camp up there in the flat part of the state. It’s difficult to make out just what he wants, as the letter looks as if it were scrawled with a sharp stick dipped in charcoal, but in the lines I can read he’s asking about how songs get written, and in particular how I go about writing mine.

He says:
“Dear Mister Stamler, cud you tell me how you rite yer songs. I have seed you many times and herd you, and I think if you can do it probly anybody can.”

The rest of the letter drifts off into a description of how many sheep he runs on his place, and some trouble he’s having with a pesky neighbor. After that it gets smeary and unreadable. As I, proudly, know nothing about sheep, and have never met his neighbor, I can’t help him with those issues, so I will limit myself to his question about songwriting—though I know nothing about that, either.

I wish I did know. I pretend that I do, but that’s just empty posturing, easily seen through. I’ve written and recorded a bunch of them, somewhere around a hundred, I would guess, but that doesn’t mean I know how to do it. There is a story that Irving Berlin, even in his nineties, would write a song every night before going to bed. Every night. A whole song. Every goddamn night. I imagine him there, sitting at his little desk with a pencil, lamplight shining off his old bald head, humming and scribbling, humming and scribbling.

Churning out these glittering lyrical jewels as easily as swatting a fly, and I kind of hate him for it. It seems wrong to hate the man who wrote “White Christmas,” something you might even go to hell for, but I can’t help myself. Irving wasn’t all that great as a musician, by the way. Allow me to point that out with only a smidgen of snarkiness. He played piano, but just barely. He could play in only one key—I think it was B-flat—and yet there he sat, every night, popping out a finished song before shuffling down the hall to brush his teeth. If he still had any. I’ve heard no stories about his teeth, but that’s not important. Even letting him have a weekend off every now and again, that’s still over three hundred songs a year, just in the evenings, let alone what he might accomplish during daylight hours. Such a massive output almost shames me. I’m lucky if I get ten or fifteen songs in a whole year, and some years it’s as few as five or six.

The nerve of the guy. I mean, really.

Diane Warren, who has written, I believe, a gazillion songs, most of them hits, and won Grammys and Tonys and Emmys and every other award ever dreamed up, says that she works at songwriting twelve hours a day, every day. She has a room she works in, like a little nest, and she claims it’s never been cleaned. That’s a bit scary, but not as scary as working for twelve hours, no matter what room you find yourself in. I can’t think of anything I’m capable of doing for that long. Once in a while I can run a weed eater for two or three hours, but then I have to quit and drink a Fresca. I’ve never met Ms. Warren, and while I’m sure she’s a very nice lady and I like some of her songs, twelve hours of anything is too much, I don’t care what it is. Twelve hours of trying to write a song will just make you nuts.

Writers like Irving and Diane have their tried and true methods, their routines. It’s called process. Writers talk about their process a lot. It’s what writers do, often instead of actually writing something, when they’re not being petty and resentful of other writer’s successes. They fixate on it, and worry about it, and obsess over it, and brag to their friends how faithful they are to the process, how well it works for them--and fret and fume when the process stops working for them, and must tinker with it and bang on it until the process starts working again. It consumes writers, much the way our medical conditions and digestion consume us when they don’t work properly. You have to trust the process, they say.

The word process indicates a series of actions, all pointed toward a specific goal. To even write a sentence like that makes me tired, and I want to find a dark room somewhere and lie down. I don’t seem to have a process. I have a goal, but no specific actions—not even one, let alone a series of them. What I do is sit around and hope a song arrives sooner or later, and you can’t call that a process because it’s too gradual. Almost glacial. At the end of the week I find I’ve written a total of two lines, neither of which seems to belong to the same song.

All that being said, for those who insist on learning the craft, and sowing discord and tension into your family life, along with financial uncertainty and general depression, here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years, tricks of the trade I’m happy to pass along:

Always begin your song with “Well. . .” as in, “Well, here I sit,” or, “Well, I ain’t never,” or, “Well, she was a large woman. . .” It’s effective if you can drag it out for several measures, and even more effective if you shout it—the louder the better. This is the equivalent of tapping your baton against the lectern, or clearing your throat, or throwing something, a way to capture your audience’s attention and let them know they’re about to have a song inflicted upon them. If you can’t get their attention they’ll never stop chatting and ordering drinks and smoking cigarettes, and you’ll have to abandon your dream of a life behind the footlights and go back to your dreary job in the toy factory.

Long, smooth vowels are preferred, as opposed to short, sputtery ones. Avoid consonants, if at all possible. Never use words with the letter K in them, or P. “Oooh,” is a fine choice for a vowel, the favorite of many songwriters, and the longer you stretch it out the finer it is. Some songs have nothing but “oooh” in them, though I don’t advise going down that road. It grows tedious and people stop listening, or get the feeling they’ve stumbled into a meditation class. “Oh” is also a good vowel, and can be used interchangeably with “well” to begin a song, as in, “Oh, my my,” and, “Oh, say can you see.” “Ah,” however, is not recommended, as it makes people think there is a doctor with a wooden stick looking at your tonsils.

Use the word “baby” every chance you get. Do not hesitate. Throw it in there willy-nilly, like seasoning in a meatloaf. It can’t be used too often—in fact, every hit song that ever rocketed up the charts contains the word “baby,” as in, “Baby, I miss you,” and, “Baby, come home,” and, “Baby, don’t take the television.” Combine it with one of the longer vowels and you now have the recipe for a million seller, and can start thinking about paving the driveway. “Oooh, baby,” and “Oh, baby,” are timeless lines that echo throughout history. Elizabethan minstrels and troubadours used them, Druids chanted them under the trees, Australian aborigines employed them in their ceremonies, and I believe they can even be found in the Talmud.

It’s a good idea to come up with a melody for your song people can hum, a catchy tune that gets into their heads and stays there for days and drives them crazy, like “The Flintstones,” or, “Gilligan’s Island.” The official songwriting term for such a melody is ear worm, and an ear worm is always a good thing to have. Make sure you get one. I don’t know how. If you can cobble together a rousing chorus that everyone wants to sing along with, that’s another big plus, as long as you avoid making it a singing-in-the-round chorus, such as “Frere Jacques,” or, “Row, Row Your Boat.” This would be a mistake. Round singing has been declared illegal in every nation of the world, except France. They still like it over there, but they also like to eat snails and horse meat.

I’ll bring this discussion to a close with a few frequently asked questions:

Q: What comes first, the words or the music?
A: Yes.
Q: I’ve written a song. What do I do now?
A: I have no idea. Be happy about it, I guess. Some people keep them in a drawer.
Q: What’s the proper way to pitch a song?
A: I’ve found the best way to pitch one is to make sure it’s wadded up into a very tight ball. That way it won’t come uncrumpled and lose velocity on the way to the trash can.
Q: Do you have a list of publishers looking for material?
A: I suppose there are publishers out there looking for new songs, but they certainly haven’t been looking for mine. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
Q: How do I get my songs to Garth Brooks or Snoop Dog?
A: I don’t have a clue.
Q: Should I get an agent?
A: This is not a “should” question. It’s a “can you?” question, and the answer is no. Agents are interested in making money, and as a species they gave up on songwriters early in the last century.
Q: How do I get a record contract?
A: The Columbia Record Company used to have a deal where you paid full price for the first album and got the second one for a penny. You might call them and see if they’re still offering that.

I hope all of this has been of some help. My plan is to stick it into an envelope and send it to Mr. Dimmler and his sheep up there in Idaho, and hope it satisfies them. If any of you have further questions, I suggest they be sent to the estate of Irving Berlin. Or, if you can find an address for Diane Warren, perhaps she can help you. Personally, I intend to get out of this songwriting racket and start playing clawhammer banjo instead. It’s more socially acceptable.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Mañana - The idea that there is always another day for the horse

Mañana is the Spanish word meaning tomorrow, such as Hasta mañana- 'Until tomorrow' or commonly interpreted as 'See you tomorrow'. With horses or more appropriately working with horses, it basically means not to push something, but to work on it the next day.

This came to mind as Elizabeth wrote to tell me that her 8 year old TB mare, which she has had for two weeks and hopes to rides in Western dressage, seemingly begins to pick up what she is trying to teach him, vertical and lateral flexion for instance, but as she said the mare soon seems to lose the understanding, gets bracy and regresses in his training.

Well there are lots of reason while horse seemingly starts to understand and perform something then degrade in performance. You can ask too much. You can ask too fast. You can forget to give the horse a release and pause to learn and a lot of other reason I'm sure. In the old days I would try to push the horse through it, rarely if at any time succeeding. It seems that I would get a resentful horse out of it. I really have no idea if a horse can resent something, but I think a horse can certainly get confused and seemingly shut down in willingness or softness. Took me a while, probably much longer than most people, to recognize when to stop. And not just to stop but to move on to something the horse can do - sort of like re-establishing communications between you and him, and his confidence as well.

I have a new horse in, Jake - a dual registered QH - Palomino (he's in the photo above). I learned long ago to re-start any new horse so you can see what he knows and not leave any holes, and to do so quietly because this is the beginning of your relationship with him. Jake was bred and trained for western pleasure and AQHA type events but hadn't been ridden more than a handful of times in the past 5 years. So we had a lot to work on besides spoiled pushiness and avoidance behavior that worked for him in the past. He came right around in 2 days of ground training, picking up the feel of the lead when I wanted him to come forward, backup, stay put-ground tie, or bring his left or right front end over.

In the saddle he was doing well learning to soften when I asked for it. Moving his front end or back end independently when I asked with my legs. Moving on to asking for lateral movement with forward momentum, he initially did good, allowing me to laterally adjust him for bigger circles but then he just stalled, instead slowing and moving his backend out. Asking again a couple times did not bring better results, so we just moved onto something else he was successful at doing.

So my advice to Elizabeth and her mare was to approach it in the mañana view. It's like you are addressing the horse - "It's okay you don't understand what I am asking, or you are not confident in doing it right now. We'll move on to something else and try this again tomorrow, or the day after that."

A couple days later I ask Jake for some lateral movement while trotting a circle and he's expands the circle and does so in much better balance. My job? Quit asking so much.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Randy Rieman May 2020 Clinic - Cancelled

Sorry to have to inform everyone that the Randy Rieman El Paso Horsemanship Clinic, previously scheduled for 2-3 May 2020, has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. We are being ultra cautious in cancelling the clinic which we think it just the right call given many unknowns, especially how the pandemic environment would look at the beginning of May.

Since many were looking forward to Randy's clinic, I thought I would include a video of Randy and his horse Chewbacca, a really nice travelling Buckskin gelding, from three years ago. This will have to tide you over until we can look at a Fall 2020 date.  Regards all.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Cinchas and Cinchas Ties

I received the following questions from a gent concerning cinchas and latigo straps: "I looked at several of your videos and photographs and I am trying to determine how you secure your cinch. I have a hard time with my cinch strap and the belt buckle on the cinch. Also what type of cinch(s) do you prefer or recommend? I used to have a cotton rope traditional cinch but have since went to a neoprene cinch as my saddle keeps slipping. thank you in advance for answering my question. Lawrence."

Hello Lawrence, I am assuming that the problem you mention is finding the right hole in your latigo where the tongue of the buckle can keep the cincha tight enough but not too tight. I haven't used the buckle tongue on a cincha for decades now. I just use a friction tie from the cincha buckle through the saddle D ring to the keeper. In fact, on many of my cincha, I cut the tongue off the cincha buckle. Once I was doing a demo in a indoor arena and one of the ladies got my attention to tell me my cincha latigo was not secured through the buckle tongue. I replied "I cut the tongue off the buckle, I don't ever use it." She looked at me like I was a heathen. Anyway, the pictures below are closeups of the 'cowboy knot' and the fleece cincha buckle.

I am not, by any means, saying that this is a better method. I've ridden with a bunch of people, much better than I'll ever be, and they use the cincha buckle as designed. I was just tired of chasing the right hole to get the right cincha tension. The way I secure the cincha, which I have heard people call a 'cowboy knot', works for me, at least in part, as my saddles fit my horses very well and all of them have at least a little bit of withers to help the saddle stay positioned.

Years ago I used to secure the cincha latigo with a girth knot. I see people do that all the time and its a legitimate way, but for me it place too big of bulk under my leg. The pictures below show that method of securing the cincha.

For the past twenty or more years, I have used mostly fleece lined cinchas unless I was riding someone else horse and equipment. I have a couple Mohair cinchas and felt cinchas, but again I prefer fleece lined. I am just not a fan of neoprene cinchas or saddle pads for that matter. I think they build up heat too much.

You did not mention what type of saddle pad you are using. While you likely can't fix a really poor fitting saddle by using pads and blankets, I think you can make it better and the horse more comfortable. I use CSI pads that are formed for the withers and have vent holes, as well as plastic pressure plates to even out the pressure from the bars of the saddle. The pads are two piece, felt on the bottom and automotive carpet on top. However, there are several different makers of formed pads like 5 Star Equine. I would start by setting the saddle of your horse's back and see how it fits his back conformation, and go from there.

I hope this helps, good luck and safe riding.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

2020 Randy Rieman Horsemanship Clinic

Again this year we were able to get Randy Rieman to come down from Montana to do a Horsemanship clinic. This years clinic will be on Saturday and Sunday, 2-3 May 2020. His current prices are $150 per session which is a bargain in today's clinic costs.

Each day is two separate 3 1/2 hour sessions - one morning and one afternoon. I already have riders signing up to ride one horse on one day then a different horse the next day.

Randy rode with Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt, bringing that sort of approach to horsemanship. I meet and talk to horses owners a lot and it continues to surprise me that so many people have not heard of the Dorrance brothers, Ray Hunt nor all the top clinicians that their teachings have spawned, like Randy, Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert, Martin Black and many others. It just seems to me that if you are going to own and ride horses, even just for pleasure, then you would embark on a journey for knowledge which would led you to these gentlemen at some point.

In last years clinic, which was Randy's second visit to the El Paso, Texas - Las Cruces, New Mexico area, I think only one rider knew who Randy Rieman was prior to the first session. The others showed up on faith, and hope, that someone can make them better. Many of these riders were fairly accomplished in their own right - barrel racers, dressage competitors and team ropers.

Randy's clinic format's are such that there is no set format. He helps the horse and rider from where they are at, with what they need. It's problem solving at it's base. The education you can get from being helped, or watching someone with Randy's experience helping someone else, is priceless. A smart person never stops learning and a humble person knows it'll take a lifetime to learn what you want to know. These top shelf clinicians help speed up the learning curve. And as John Lyons told me one time, "People need to do less buying gear and more buying knowledge."

Two moments from last year's clinic are always fresh on my mind. One was a barrel racer who had issues backing her horse and opening gates. Randy helped her and her horse achieve those things, and at the end of the session with tears in her eyes, the rider commented - "this morning my horse was for sale, not anymore!" The second was a dressage rider whose horse does well being ridden in contact, but had the habit of speeding up just a bit - just wouldn't be consistent in keeping the same speed within that gait. Randy rode her horse and showed her how she could make her horse responsible for keeping the same gait and speed, and do so on a looser rein.

Anyway, if anyone is in the commuting area and wants a clinic slot, just get ahold of me. Or if you want to host Randy Rieman at your location, give Randy a call.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering -Alpine Texas 2020

My wife and I headed to Alpine, Texas this past Friday to enjoy the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering being held at Sul Ross University where 30+ well known poetry and music performers would be entertaining. Red Steagall, Randy Rieman, Dale Burson, Trinity Seeley and many others were performing. This is an annual event, previously known as the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and is held the third Friday and Saturday of February. The big draw to Cowboy poetry and songsters, are performers speaking and singing with a deep feeling for life style they lived to listeners who have experienced much the same, but the verse can be appreciated by anyone.

The Alpine - Fort Davis area is in the heart of West Texas ranching country, including the famous Kokernot O6 ranch. Many good cowboys and good horses were made in this part of the country. The area is a short distance away from Big Bend National Park. A visitor could spend a couple weeks exploring this area including Marfa, just Southwest of Alpine.

A nice surprise for us was listening to and meeting a young guitarist and singer named Andy Hedges from Lubbock, Texas. He performs using nothing other than his voice and his father's old guitar. Many of the older Cowboy poets are placing a lot of faith in Andy Hedges, and rightly so, to carry on the tradition.

Andy's last performance of the early afternoon session was putting music to S. Omar Barker's poem "Into the West". We enjoyed this poem put to song so much we purchased Andy Hedge's Cowboy Songster Volume 2 which has this song and 10 others. It made for an extra pleasant trip traveling Hwy US 90 back to El Paso. I am putting a video presentation of Andy performing this song below so others could enjoy it also. And I don't think anyone would regret buying any of his CD's either.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Comments on the Functional Tie Ring and Horses Pulling Back

I receive e-mails when comments are posted on any videos I upload. Rather than answer each individual comment on YouTube, I'm choosing to use this website to answer many of the comments concerning using my Functional Tie Ring (FTR).

About 20 years ago I ran a large public barn, next to a military airbase with lots of activity including dogs, children, vehicles, hay deliveries, horse shoers, get the idea.  That's where in helping people with their horses I encountered many horses who pulled back, a lot due to unpredictable or controllable activity.  There was even a horse who flipped over on the shoeing stand when hard tied to cross ties.  So I started using a tie ring that became the FTR with these horses.  With many people wanting it, I started offering it commercially.  Even then, I made people aware that the FTR isn't designed to replace ground work or train your horse to stand. Your horse has to have learned how to give to pressure.

In a perfect world, the FTR is a solution to what is essentially a non-existent problem......for most horses,..........if sufficient ground work is done. Even then, the most bomb proof horse really isn't.  The whole idea is to give the horse the tools and experience to make that spook as benign as it can be.  However, most people can't or won't devout the time to establish solid ground training. A horse needs to know where "neutral" is on the lead rope - no feel on the lead at all and he learns that by accepting the changing feel of the lead to be able to move forward and back up. If you extend the ground training, which is really just a logically place to take it, a changing feel of the lead rope can further connect to the horse's feet and you can move his front end over in each direction and even draw his back feet to you. But before I would tie a horse, that horse has to be able to give to pressure.

The comments below were concerning a video where I tied a horse using a Functional Tie Ring and used a flag as a stimulus to spook him so he would pull back. The lead rope I was using starts to feed through the FTR at 15 lbs of pressure (pulling back), even then I didn't like doing this, and only did it once - no rehearsals or retakes, because basically that red roan horse in the video is never used, never tied and he is just living out his days with us after having been left by the owner.  He gets handled every day, but not ridden, although years ago I checked him out for the owner and ended up sacking him out to flag, among other things and riding him.

Anyway, Here are some of the comments, both good and bad, and my response:

"I can't get past him even THINKING of doing this without knowing how his horse handles a flag"
I pretty much knew how the horse would react to a flag, but more importantly how I presented it. That's why I used it, and used it only once in this case. Clinton Anderson demonstrates this often (with the Aussie Tie Ring), flagging a horse so the horse spooks and backs away. However, he carries this through many repetitions, each time with the horse reacting less and less.

"What I got from this video is someone teaching his horse to back up while tied. Not something I would want to teach my horse just so a video could be taken."
Teaching that horse to back up while tied, however not hard tied but tied with the FTR, that provides a controlled friction release, was what I was seeking. When a horse is spooked, his head come ups to gain elevation for observation to see the threat - it's akin to our startle reflex. If he is tied and the halter strap behind the poll becomes taunt (putting pressure on his poll) he will panic and pull back harder. With a tie ring, depending upon the diameter of the tie ring and the lead rope used, a horse spooking or backing away will get a greatly reduced presure on his poll. See my response to the comment below where I explain where and how the horse's find the release.

"The cowboy has his timing off. I agree with many others. You stay where you are and keep waving the flag (stimulus) until the horse relaxes.He is releasing the stimulus too soon. "
Actually, the comment about my timing is correct, however my intent was spook the horse into backing so the viewer could watch the relationship between the lead rope and halter and the point of suspension in the horse's feet. While some horses will back in a walk, a spooking horse will generally back at a trot which is a 2 beat footfalls on his diagonals. Momentarily, in between those feet hitting the ground and the next ones pushing off, there is a moment of suspension of the feet and reduced pressure to the horse's poll from the halter. When the horse back's and slows a bit, that reduced pressure is accentuated.

When I say that a horse should to give to pressure during ground training, he learns this by the handler getting into contact with the lead rope - in other words, the lead rope is taunt - then the horse leans into the lead rope reducing the pressure of the halter on his poll, and you build on this on. When I back one of my horses up from the ground using the feel of the lead rope, when that lead rope goes taunt the horse steps forward one step alleviating that pressure. That is giving to pressure.  In the beginning, once you get in contact with the lead rope, the horse will resist.  His head will go up. There is where people lose their temper and jerk on the lead rope, just making things worse.  If you start with very light contact and when the horse drops his head or nose then give him a release, you are teaching him that when he gives to pressure, he gets the release.  Your timing has got to accurate and you build on this.    

"very dangerous method I Will never use that EVER."
I hope the only people who use the FTR, or any tie ring for that matter, do their ground work and get the horse giving to pressure first. On a green horse once the lead goes taunt and the horse feels the pressure on the poll, the horse's head goes up increasing that pressure if the lead remains taunt. In an extreme case, some people leading a horse into a trailer will try to hold a horse when he trys to back out. Well, not even the Hulk can hold a lead line and keep a horse from backing away, and once that horse pulls the leads from your hands, his head jerks up and can hit the trailer roof. Some people even put those padded hats on horse's to keep them from hitting their head, when they should just get their horse's more soft and giving, and, broke to lead.

Anybody who has been around horses for a minute has observed, or maybe even did it themselves - as I have did - to my shame - a handler pulling and jerking a lead rope, which causes the horse's to learn to expect something bad when he feels pressure on the poll and then panic. Now, if my horses feel pressure on their poll they will drop their head a bit, or they will lean into the pressure (just a shift in their body weight) both relieving the poll pressure.  If those horse's were still alive, I'd formally apologize to them for ever jerking on the lead.  

I have had three local clients that told me the same thing: that "they would never use a tie ring'. That stayed true until their horse's spooked while being tied solid at events, one of them being hurt so he couldn't be ridden for a year. They all started using the tie ring. One of them bought seven of them. I have a client that competes at AQHA shows and every time I see her, she thanks me that the FTR she bought years ago. I was just on the phone with yet another client, who called and ordered his third FTR.

"Get a rope the same as you have there; put a Honda in one end; put the lasso around his girth; tie him up to a solid post or rail; give him a good tap on the nose; then watch him grunt when he tightens the rope right up around his girth (just make sure that the rope can readily loosen The pressure comes off); Do that a few times and that’ll stop his farting in church!"
I have had someone tell them they used a method similiar to what is described. I would not be comfortable doing something like that. The whole thing would end up with me being drug across the open desert.  I'd be digging cactus spines and goat heads out of my back and butt for weeks.  

"EXCELLENT teaching tool - gonna get a double ring asap"
I have had only one FTR returned. A lady bought one for her husband. He said "I don't need it." She sent it back and I refunded her plus the cost of shipping it back to me.

"Thank you for this video. I have several horses but one mare that sits back. The "sitting back" is a serious and dangerous problem. I use the blocker tie ring for saddling but need something more secure for trailer tying. I will be ordering one. Thanks again! "
I have been using the FTR to tie horses to the outside trailer D ring and inside the trailer when hauling. One of the questions I get about using the FTR is that - "if someone uses it for a long period of time, will their horses be un-learned or unable to be hard tied?" No, not in my experience. I reckon that one of my horses has been tied using the FTR for 6 or 7 years, pretty much exclusively, just because it easy to use. When I hard tied him for over 3 hours in a pen with a bunch of recently branded calves, he stayed tied, did not pull back despite all the commotion. I wasn't watching him the whole time, as we had bulls to haul to the next pasture, but I imagine he pulled back a little, a time or two, then step forward to relieve the pressure - after all that's what ground work and the FTR taught him. On another horse that I hard tied...he bent his head down to search the ground and when he brought his head up, the lead rope snagged on something. Feeling the pressure on his poll, he pulled up hard, but then dropped his head to reduce the pressure and waited for me to unhook the lead rope.

"I've got a horse no one on earth can fix. When tied, his eyes get three times normal size, and he shoots back like a Howitzer shell going off. Everything a horse can muster in a thousandth of a second. BAM!!! surprised he hasn't broken his own neck. it is not defiance or he doesn't want to work, it is sheer Terror that he is feeling. he thinks he's going to die horribly Untie him and all the fear of evaporates that moment and it's like nothing ever happened. it just shuts off like a light. I've had him four years and I tack him up just holding the lead rope. He's fine that way. I've tried at length to cure him but nothing will work. "
Had a couple horses like that. If I was to try to help your horse, I would use a halter and lead and while standing in front of him but off line a bit about 10 feet away, I would quietly and slowly take in the slack of the lead rope until it is taunt but not pulling on him. He may pull back. I'd begin again. I'd be looking for a change, however small, and at one point he would shift his weight forward and I would put slack into the lead rope and give him a pause to think about it. I'd start all over again.  At some point once you take in the slack of the lead rope the horse's head won't go up or the movement will be reduced. That progress is real evident.

The horses I worked with all got better. This does much more for a horse than just getting him giving to pressure.  As you continue a common issue will be the horse starting to buddy up (move to you) before you ask. Then you need to start working on him backing of a feel of the lead rope. On one difficult horse I was working with, rather than throw his head up and try to escape, he lunged forward and knocked me aside - good thing I was not standing directly in front of him, but off to the side a bit. I got him turned as he went past me. Then I started again. He was more of a difficult horse than normal, but in maybe 20 minutes he was giving to the lead, coming forward on and backing off a feel of the lead rope.

"You gonna get somebody hurt. All your doing is teaching him to be scared of your flag."
I used the flag in a manner to get a desired reaction. All my other horses would not give me a reaction of backing away like the little red roan.  Regarding flags, another common question I get is  - "I see you using a flag but how does the horse know when you want him to move his feet or stand still?" When I use a flag, I am either directing a horses feet to move or asking him to stand and accept the flag for which the movement and noise is scary in the beginning. The difference is the feel of the lead rope, your demeanor and body position relative to the horse. If the lead rope is in neutral (slack in the lead) I am asking the horse to stand. If the horse is moving when I want him to stand, I would maintain the movement of the flag until you get a change from the horse - that is standing, even momentarily, and build on that until he stands and accepts the flag. If you put a feel in the lead rope directing him forward or obliquely, the flag helps drive the horse in the direction.

For the record, I don't want anyone buying a Functional Tie Ring unless they have a need for it; are competent enough to use it; have a plan to use it; and, do the required ground work that every horse needs - most of the horses that receive good ground training won't need an FTR or other tie ring.
Safe Journey to everyone.    

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Going Into The New Year

Going into the New Year with all the promises and good things that it portends, just like the Sun cresting the mountain in the morning, I thought people would like to see more about Curt Pate. Best case it'll bring some inspiration and likely a smile to a person.

Curt Pate is a Montana based Stockman and Horseman. I use both of these terms knowing that they mean different things to different people. Probably one of Curt's callings in life is to impart what he has learned about cattle handling and stewardship through clinics in Canada, Mexico and the United States, sponsored by firms such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Zoetis, a leading animal health company.

Curt hosts a column called the Scoop Loop which you can find on his website, enter your e-mail and receive his articles which I look forward to reading for his wisdom, inspirational words, of course the music.

I had a chance to ride with Curt in Las Cruces, New Mexico at a clinic he was running for New Mexico State University. Even with him riding a borrowed and unfinished horse, watching him demonstrate his concepts for low stress stockmanship, I learned much and took that with me day working for some ranches after that. I look forward to him starting back up his traveling clinics again, after he has his fill of much needed (and well deserved) down time with his wife, Tammy Pate, on their own property.

Tammy Pate, incidentally,.....let me rephrase that as wives' are "never incidental",.....Tammy Pate, an artist in her own right, founded an event called the Art of the Cowgirl. In it's second year, it is being held again at Corona Ranch outside Phoenix, Arizona.

I hope everyone enjoys the short film below on Curt and Tammy Pate, produced by Eric Grant. Happy New Year to all.

True steward: Curt Pate from Grant Company on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Spooky Horse? Teach them to think

Melissa wrote to me about her 10 year gelding who is always spooking and what she could do as he is not getting better at it. I wrote back to her to find out more specifics and she elaborated that her horse is very sensitive to all new things, particularly loud noises, and, vehicles and horses coming into his view. She asked what desensitization methods should she try. It's always hard to give advice on a horse you haven't seen but this is pretty much what we talked about.

It's tough to have an overly sensitive and spooky horse. Sometimes we when we handle those horses we get anxious about their new big spook, expecting it at any moment, and the horse can feed off of our energy, making it more likely for them to expect something to scare them. I can't emphasize this enough - if you think he's going spook, he most surely will.

On desensitization of horses, there are as many different views as their are people. And I'm not really fond of that word to describe what I do, but it's pretty much accepted that desensitizing is exposing the horse to stimuli that would create fear or anxiety in the horse and letting him work through it.  I'm also not really happy with the title of this article "Spooky Horse? Teach them to think" because we are not really teaching then to think, just allowing them the time to find another way.  Desensitization is not about getting a horse to walk over a ground tarp then having that horse desensitized for all ground tarps in the future, anywhere you go. I like to think that exposing your horse to anything scary is just a opportunity on setting it up for that horse to learn to think before reacting.

It may be correct to say that if something scares a horse, they need more of it not less, but it is also correct to say it's how you go about exposing the horse to that scary thing that'll either help him or make it worse.

The sometimes a human's first instinct when something scares the horse it to take the scary thing away or to remove the horse from that environment. You see this with people flagging a horse where if a person shakes a flag and the horse shies or moves away, the human removes the flag from the equation.

I recently demonstrated this at a clinic I ran a few weeks ago where I had a horse in hand who had never been flagged. I was using a rope halter and a 12 foot lead rope. I stood holding the horse about one foot away from the halter and used my outside hand to shake a flag with a lot of energy. The horse spooked and I stopped shaking the flag. I told the attending riders that all I did was teach the horse that getting away from the flag was the right thing to do.

Then I again started shaking the flag with energy and the horse tried to get away. I kept shaking the flag as we moved around for about 20 seconds ago. I stopped moving the flag while the horse was still trying to get away and once I stopped shaking the flag the horse stopped, but this body position and head set was real obvious that he expected me to start back up again. I told the riders that if I quit now, I would have done nothing to help that horse, instead just reinforced to the horse that trying to get away removes the scary stimulus.

Then I demonstrated what I thought would be a better approach. I gave the horse about 8 feet of slack in the lead rope and started shaking the flag in a slower fashion. The horse was at first stationary but the mental pressure in him built up pretty quick and he started moving away. I kept shaking the flag until the horse had all four feet momentarily stopped, then I immediately quit shaking the flag giving the horse a release as I explained to the riders that once the horse gave me the response I was seeking, all four feet stopped, I gave him a release from that pressure, and most importantly, I am giving him a pause to think about what just occurred, which was his acceptance of the flag. But this is not a conclusion - it is the very beginning.

I started back up again and the horse moved off like just before, but he got stopped quicker than before and was licking his lips. I gave him 10-15 seconds of pause then continued and I gradually took in the slack on the lead rope until I was at the horse's shoulder and was moving the flag with energy off his body and touching the horse on the belly, back, neck and rump with the flag. So the difference was not going from 0-60 in seconds but instead taking the time it took for the horse to accept what you are asking. And if anyone had a stop watch on us they would see that really only maybe 10 minutes had passed. It you can't give your horse 10 minutes then what can you give him?

The exact same philosophy would help Melissa's gelding. If she is riding or leading him past some barrels or trash cans, or plastic bags, or a car, or even a bushel of dead racoons and the horse snorts, shies or backs away, then don't avoid that - instead use that and as much time as necessary to get the horse accepting of it. Just stand with the horse. Within 10-20 seconds or even 2-3 minutes the horse will take a step towards the scary thing - it seems like their curiosity trait just won't let them do otherwise. But the horse will stop again on it's own. But don't ask him to go forward, he likely will on his own accord - when he is comfortable. Repeat and soon the horse is all over the object understanding it's okay, building his confidence. You may have to do this 100 times,...maybe a thousands times on lots of different things, but it'll be worth it.

Something I heard Craig Cameron say 20 years ago sticks with me - he said that our job was to take the fear out of the horse. We can't do so by avoiding everything we think will scare him.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving - Renew your thankfulness

This morning on an early phone call with an old buddy of mine, which was a pleasant surprise, we talked about horses, but the conversation inevitably turned to our physical challenges and we both agreed that getting old isn't for sissies...he's 70 and I'm 60.....but we both also agreed that we are thankful of the blessings that are bestowed upon us when too many we know don't have those chances anymore. These blessings are too many to list but each of us have to count them nonetheless.

He told me words to the effect that "Hell, we don't need Thanksgiving Day to be thankful,..we need to be thankful every day and that starts with the Liberty this country provides and the opportunity to do something, like sit a horse. So I reckon how we honor our blessings is to not squander those opportunities."

I replied with something less poignant "well, I'm thankful that nothing or nobody has killed me yet, even when I deserved it." But to my credit, I am thankful that horses allow me to be in their lives and are agreeable creatures for the most part. And when they are not, it's almost always my fault.

George Washington's says it better. He was the first President to proclaim a day of Thanksgiving. It took Congress 152 years later to make it official. Some complain they (Congress) don't do anything quickly. I beg to differ - look at how fast they get in front of cameras, campaign for office and vote for their own pay raises. Anyway, here is George Washington's first Thanksgiving proclamation:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us."

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go. Washington

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

More on Barn Sourness

I received another question on barn sourness. A reader wrote - "I have a really good trail broke gelding, but he has one vice and that is whenever we go out at some point he decides its time to turn around for home. I have been always able to work through it easily and we continue on, just wondering if you have a method or tips for stopping the behavior completely. Thanks!"

​ I have known some barn sour horses over the years. As far as a horse taking over and refusing to go forward or turning for home on his own, it's a lot more common to have a horse who jiggs on the way back to the barn. And some people add to this by not controlling the gait or speed going back. I've always tried to look past this as I need a horse to go the direction I want at the gait and speed I want.

As far as your horse, just deciding it's time to turn around, well, first I admire his initiative! It's likely some mental pressure builds and he gets his relief by turning for home. The fact that you can work through it is good, and that likely his thinking shares equal if not more so with his instinct.

The worst cases of barn sourness are when the horse just stops and will not go forward in a direction away from his home barn. And I had another case of a rider I know who's horse would brace against the rider and reins, always turning towards home.<br><br>

In first case this rider would really bang on the horse to try to go forward then spur him which caused the horse to come off his front end - that's when he brought the horse to me. I only had him a couple of days and rode him in the arena where the horse would eventually want to move to the gate which was close to the other horses, so I made that end of the arena (the gate end) the hardest work for him, letting him take a break at the far end. This is likely a common interpretation of Tom Dorrance's advice 'to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult (or work)'.  And in a couple sessions this horse was much better and did not try to move to the gate. This rider picked up the horse and I did not see him again. I doubt he had much success with that horse as this particular rider only wanted the horse to see his perspective and not look at the way the horse saw things.

I would try this - once your horse decides it's time to turn around and go home, don't let him turn, instead back him then turn him (make backing and turning your idea) then go ahead and go in that direction towards home making it work,..stopping, backing and jumping out; trotting small circles. You'd be doing this with the horse heading in the direction he wants to go, but it's you that is directing his feet and I'd do this for a couple minutes.

I wouldn't double him because as you make those turns he'll be facing away from home. I think the circles are okay because as you ride a circle away from him, his head will be bent a bit towards home.

So after some work facing home, turn him and walk him away from home. He'll likely be fairly quick to stop and turn around for home again, so repeat the work facing home for another minute or two, then turn him away and walk him away from home. You'll likely need to go this several times. At some point when you are walking him away from home, turn him and walk him back home. It has to be your idea to turn for home at this point - don't let it be his idea, but don't ask for too much in the beginning.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

RIP George Bankston, Chief of Range Enforcement

This past week we said goodbye to my old Boss, George Lewis Bankston, retired Chief of Range Enforcement. George crossed over to be with our Lord 82 years after he was born in Tahoka, Texas. Prior to me knowing him as Chief of Range Enforcement, where he hired me on as an Army Range Rider, George served in the US Army as a soldier, fighting in Vietnam and earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, retiring after 22 years of service as a Master Sergeant.

Serving for 18 years as Chief of Range Enforcement, George always balanced the Government ownership of 1.2 million acres of Fort Bliss military reservation with stewardship of the land and animals, and the needs of the ranchers grazing cattle on BLM managed grazing units.

El Paso, Texas sits in the South end of the Tularosa Basin where the Franklin and Hueco Mountains make up the West and East borders of the basin respectively. About 70 years ago, family ranches were bought up, or the government used other tools such as condemnation and/or imminent domain, to force families to move in order to create the Fort Bliss military reservation. George Bankston understood the distrust of the government these families and their descendants still had and he took great care in ensuring they had a voice and were treated with respect.

George took the Army's Range Enforcement Agency from a group of Cowboys removing trespass humans and cattle to a professional Law Enforcement Agency trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Georgia with increased responsibility and authority for enforcing Wildlife, Archeological and Natural Resources law, while maintaining the origins of the agency in gathering trespass cattle and moving them to their home pastures. 

The photo at above is George with his six Army Range Riders at an awards ceremony. George not only towered above people physically, his intelligence was equal to his stature.

None of this would have been possible without George Bankston having a vision and lobbying the Army for funding and authority to create what he knew to be necessary to protect and be good stewards of the land and resources we were blessed to have.

After retiring from Range Enforcement, this great big bear of a man took great pleasure in teaching Sunday School and sharing the gospel of Christ at Waddill Street Baptist church in McKinney, Texas. No doubt George is with his children Mark and Jackie who went before him, and he left this life entrusting his four adult children, sixteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren to Tina, his wife of 63 years. I wish I had one more phone call with George. He was interned at Fort Bliss National Cemetery with Full Military Honors befitting man who served his country and the people so well in life. God Bless.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

2019 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge Results

On 5 October 2019 we finished the 5th Annual Arena Challenge. West Texas had received quite a bit of rain in the weeks and day before the event, but we were blessed with clear skies, a light wind and 85 degree temperatures to see riders compete in the four divisions of Stock Horse, Open, Intermediate and Novice. Riders entered the arena and executed horsemanship tasks and negotiated obstacles while being evaluated by two judges with diverse horsemanship backgrounds - Martha Diaz, a noted Dressage competitor and instructor, who combined with Sara Tyree, a Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) judge and horse trainer, to evaluate each rider.

My goal for this annual event is to promote horsemanship and motivate competitors to never stop learning, and I try do that by putting some tasks and obstacles together that will challenge them. Such as small box turnarounds, tight switchback turns around upright poles, barrel patterns and other riding that requires the rider to get and maintain a good bend to their horse.

I also intend for this annual competition to allow rider's across disciplines to compete equally, build respect across disciplines and share horsemanship by demonstrating what do they do and how they handle their horses. It is eye opening when a Dressage rider say's "what do you mean when I have to ground tie my horse, or back him up with the reins while standing in a box?" Or when a Pleasure or Trail rider states that they "don't know what leg yield or shoulder's in movement is." And even when a Team Roper say's "Backing in a circle? Why in the world would I want to back my horses in a circle?"

Most years I include tasks from competition the year before that rider's had trouble with as well as trying to introduce new things. This year I had the rider's dismount at the end of their run, blindfold their horse and lead out. I do not have a time limit on tasks or obstacle, as it doesn't do a horse any good to attempt sometime for 60 seconds then have to move on without success. Really just teaching them that they can or should avoid things that initially bother them. Not allowing the time for the horse and rider to sort it out doesn't help them developing their thinking and build their confidence. So we give as much time to the horse and rider as they rider needs.

With the blindfold tasks this paid off as several or even most of the horses had trouble with a shirt being draped over their head blocking their vision, but with the rider letting the horse know they were there and not putting pressure on the horse until they were ready, almost all the horses ended up leading out after just a bit of sacking out. I got onto the blindfold thing when I was stuck in a grazing unit when a hail storm hit. I ended up taking my shirt off and covering my horse's head to minimize the effect of the hail hitting him, until the storm abated. Blindfold's have use when moving horse's through fire and smoke such as a barn on fire or evacuating for a wildlands fire.

One task that I almost always include is lead departures but this year I had the rider's announce what lead they intended on departing on. As they rode to the end of the arena, the turned then executed a shoulder in movement halfway back before transitioning to a leg yield (forward momentum with lateral movement) around a barrel.

This year in the stockhorse division I added a task that required the rider to throw a long, flat loop around and barrel and trot their horse around the barrel feeding out their rope, stopping, reversing and trotting around the barrel while they re-coiled their rope. Sometimes you get a loop on a calf and need to give him slack as he moves, especially if he's moving on his own accord closer to the branding fire or spot where you doctoring the calves. This was the first time many performed a rope management type drill and several told me they were going to practice it as they saw the usefulness of it.

This article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the winners, so when final scores were tallied, the results were:

Stock Horse Division: 1st Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM); 2nd Place - Laurie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Open Division: 1st Place - Robin Lackey (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Lauie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM).

Intermediate Division: 1st Place - Marianne Bailey (Chaparral, NM); Kay Lee (Las Cruces, NM); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Novice Division: 1st Place - Joyce Getrost (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM); and 3rd Place - Mark Schleicher (Carr, CO).

The Horsemanship Award, voted on by the competitors and the judges was won by Debby Hale of Deer Mountain, Texas.

The prize table was again robust and it wouldn't have been so without generous support from our major sponsors: Cashel Company (Cindy Lang); Starr Western Wear (Edie Zuvanich); Spokane Traffic Control (Tammy and Mike Beggs); Animal Health International (Adrian Morales); Tractor Supply Company (Ben Lucas); Linda Seeds Tack and Repair; and VCM Equine Management.

We also thank Claudia Lukason, owner of The Edge Equine Solutions and lifetime barrel racer, who was on hand to donate several Mineral Lick Tubs and provide Magna-Wave treatment on 4 horses and several humans. Claudia has an uncanny ability to find a problem spot on a horse very quickly, let the owner know what she thinks is going on and treating that issue with her Magna-Wave therapeutic unit.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Riding to End Veteran Suicides

I hope that most people don't have anyone close to them commit suicide. The thought of that person having no hope, no possibility of light at the end of the tunnel is hard to deal with for the survivors. You wish they called you or talked to anyone. It is difficult thinking of someone close to you sitting there believing that they have no place to turn and the only alternative to rid the pain is to kill themselves. Any suicide is difficult.  Veteran suicides most troubling because their problems, that have descended them to a dark place, occurred in the service of their country. I have two close friends who decided they were better off dead. They simply saw no hope and ended their pain with self inflicted gunshots. See you on the other side Albert and Mitch.

The good news is that veteran suicides is a recognized national problem. There are several organizations trying to stem the tide of Veteran suicides, each in their own way. Perhaps one of the most unique ways is an organization call Trail to Zero, using the healing power of horses to bring awareness to veteran suicides.

The BraveHearts Story

In 2017, BraveHearts pilot program for Trail to Zero began in NYC. Since then, BraveHearts has taken the ride to the next level by being able to bring more veterans into two cites (NYC & DC in 2018) to bring awareness to veteran suicide while also helping the veterans on the ride to heal and advance their horsemanship. In April 2019, BraveHearts presented at the N.A.M.U.C.A conference where hundreds of mounted police officers heard veterans stories from Trail to Zero. The response from the units were overwhelming and brought forth the opportunity to add a third city, Chicago, in 2019.

BraveHearts will be in Chicago on 28 September 2019 and Houston on 2 November 2019.

BraveHearts rides will bring the overwhelming statistic of 20 veterans committing suicide per day to the forefront of Americans’ minds while also helping to educate veterans and Americans about equine assisted services and the benefits that it has as an alternative approach to healing. It is our greatest hope that we may reach at least one veteran who is currently battling suicidal ideologies, letting them know that they are not alone, that their community cares, and that equine assisted services may help. We are forever grateful for the NYPD Mounted Unit, US Park Police Mounted Horse Unit and the Chicago Mounted Unit for standing behind us as we continue to ride until 20 becomes ZERO.

BraveHearts is the largest and most innovative PATH International 501c3 organization in the country serving veterans through equine assisted services, serving 834 veterans through 19,609 sessions in 2018, at no cost to any veteran.

Learn more about BraveHearts and Trail to Zero, and/or to donate to their cause, you can go to the websites, Trail to Zero and BraveHearts Riding, and please watch the video below on how horses have helped many veterans. God Bless this Republic and the Veterans who paid terrible prices for their service.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge

The 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge is scheduled for 5 October 2019.   The main purpose for this event is to challenge riders so at the end of the day each rider can say it was worth their time competing and they have discovered some things to work on.  

In fact, one lady who rode the first three years told me that the challenge format became her practice list for the year.

In last year's (2018) Stockhorse course, the rider entered the arena and rode two full 40' circles at the trot; then transitioned to the arena fence trotting back and forth along the fence demonstrating a roll back in one direction then the other; trot to a cone and demonstrate a stop, then side pass Right over a ground pole, back straight up for 12 feet then side pass Left over a ground pole;  move to a gate and open the gate, ride through, then close and latch the gate; throw a heel or hip shot at a roping dummy, then throw a head loop; drag a heavy log backwards, then forwards; pickup a rope anchored low on the fence and spin their horse underneath it; dismount and back their horse up without the rider you moving; and finishing with walking away from their horse demonstrate ground tying.   If I had to describe a trend, the riders who roped, dragged and ground tied well, had problems with the side pass and backing.  The riders who side passed and backed well, did not do so well in the roping, log drag or ground tying.

Last year's Open Division course was to enter the arena then step into an 8’ box, perform two circles with forward momentum - as simple as this sounds it proved to be difficult for many; exit the box and trot two complete circles around 4 cones demonstrating square turns - another difficult task as who practices square turns?; walk through serpentine upright poles - these poles were close together and required well over 90 degree turn backs; perform a lope/canter departure; demonstrate a stop; demonstrate a 360 turn on the hocks; side pass Right; back straight, then back a circle around a traffic cone; side pass Left; open and close a gate; place their horse’s front feet on a 3' x 3' platform and walk the horse's back end around the platform keeping the front feet on the platform (turn on the front end) - yet another difficult task for most; pick up a tennis ball from a bucket – move and place the ball on a traffic cone; move through the cowboy curtain; drag a bag of cans backwards and forwards; and finally, walk through two barrels close together without touching the barrels.

This event is also unusual in that it is not time driven for score, no time limit on an  obstacle. I 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.

Entry fees are $45 per Division entry. Each rider enters the arena, one at a time, and completes a series of horsemanship tasks and obstacles – usually no more than 14 total. One or 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. We are working out the lunch as this is written. Be prepared to pay a nominal fee for lunch as we will likely bring a vendor in to cook street taco plates. However, entry fee does include coffee and pastries at check in and drinks throughout the day.

I am just less than 60 days out from the 5 October 2019 Arena Challenge and still receiving support from the industry - a full list of supporters and contributors will be posted in the post event article, but I can't say enough about Cashel Company who always comes through with some really nice items for the prize table, and Starr Western Wear who provided significant support.  

Starr Western Wear will be coming to shoot stills and videos for commercials -so ladies, look your best as usual. 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 offering items for sale. And lastly a tack table will be available for people who want to sell or trade, new or used tack and related items.

Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary:
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.
~ E-mail/PayPal: Send an e-mail to and provide Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Horse Name and Competing Division and pay via PayPal to Either way you will receive a confirmation on entry via e-mail and an event flyer with directions.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Assistance asked for the family of Bob Melson of Double Diamond Halter Co

I received an e-mail from Double Diamond Halter Company on the sudden passing of Bob Melson and set up of a Go Fund Me account to assist his wife and son. If you can, please visit the site and make a donation - anything helps. While I did not know Bob, I certainly know Double Diamond as I have a ton of their excellent halters and paracord mecates. Anyone who is part of this company is pretty high on my list to help if you can.

Bob Melson passed away, from a sudden heart attack on May 2, 2019, while on the way to work at Double Diamond Halter Co. He is survived by his wife Suzy and son Tyler. Bob was employed by the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon south of Bozeman, MT for 14 years. He was the corral boss and his wife Suzy was the main chef during that time.

In 2002 Bob joined the Double Diamond Halter Co. where he worked for 16 1/2 years. At Double Diamond Bob was in charge of many areas of production including all of the lariats, sewing the leather nosebands, meticulously braiding pineapple knots and the development and design of new products. A very valuable employee he was a friend and teacher to his coworkers.

Cowboy Bob, as he was known, was a skilled leather worker who repaired saddles and made numerous leather products at his shop in Belgrade. He will be greatly missed by family, friends and coworkers. His pleasant and cooperative attitude made him a great friend and employee. Currently, Pete Melniker is ram rodding a effort to raise money to help Suzy and Tyler with expenses since Bob's income was very important to his family. Join us in our support of Suzy and Tyler. All contributions will be greatly appreciated by Bob’s family.

Go Fund Me link for Bob Melson's family

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ranching on the US-Mexican Border

This short story was posted by the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and asked to be shared with readers. I am gladly including this border ranching account on this page as very few people actually know the day in and day out dangers of living so close to an over run and sparsely enforced border. And it is not just the ranches abutting the border. Families and ranches 50 miles inside the border often find their gates left open or damaged, fences cut, piles of trash, houses broken into, and employees threatened.

The Border Patrol is taking daily insults and untruthful allegations about a perceived lack of enforcement coupled with an abusive manner towards detainees. With a huge number of Border Patrol agents being diverted to care for aliens in detention centers, the border is much less patrolled than is was in past years. And make no mistake about it - every group of illegal aliens coming across the border are controlled by the Drug Cartels using the aliens and the diversion to US enforcement response for their narcotics smuggling operations. This also leaves the ranchers even less protected.

Don't let their politicians tell you different. I live on the border...I know the deal. I have worked on and know ranchers from West Texas through Arizona. They are both fed up and fearful with a lack of response from Legislators. Read the below account and put yourself in the boots of Ms Johnson-Valdez.

Erica Johnson-Valdez's ranch is 25 miles north of the US/Mexico border, but at ground zero for drug smuggling activity. She shares a typical day:

"It's 6 am and the sun has just started to break over the Pyramid Mountains. My husband and I drop off our 13 year-old daughter and a friend of hers (10 years-old) to trail cattle to the bottom of a canyon about a mile and a half away. We've already been trotting for about 30 minutes and we're far from the trucks and completely out of cell phone service. I say a little prayer as I follow my husband up over the top of a rim and lose sight of the girls.

This has become the norm, silently saying prayers and nervously waiting until the drive comes together and I see that everyone is alright. He drops me off one canyon over from the girls and he heads to the north fence. As I'm putting cattle together and starting them down my canyon I keep topping out to see if I can see the girls. It wasn't always like this, I used to never worry about not seeing them for a couple of hours because I was confident in their abilities and knew they knew where to go, but as the ever present danger of drug smugglers and illegal traffic increases I find myself more and more worried.

As the morning goes on, I continue to climb to the top of each peak hoping for a glimpse of the girls and scanning the horizon for anything that looks suspicious. Three hours later the drive has come together and for the first time, I take a deep breath when I hear the girls giggling and telling stories, long before I ever see them. Today was a short day and the gather came together quickly. We start back up the canyon toward the trucks and I'm reminded how blessed I am to live this amazing life and share this with my amazing family. The girls are telling me a story about a rattlesnake they saw and how they got chased by a cow that was "crazy." I silently say another prayer for keeping my family safe today.

This is just a glimpse into my life and what life is like trying to earn a living and raise a family on the southern NM border. Lawmakers and politicians don't understand the danger and can't understand why we continue to stay here. There's no use explaining something to someone that doesn't really WANT to understand. I'm going to keep telling my story and eventually the truth will come out. In the mean time, there are real people, real families, real mothers, just like me, raising families, making a living, helping neighbors and paying taxes on land our government won't protect.