Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Birthday America!

Happy 243rd Birthday to the greatest nation ever conceived on God's earth. Sometimes you would not know it from the protests, and frankly the whining, but I have been to over 20 foreign countries and there is not a country that ever existed, nor exists today, that offers the freedoms and chance to pursue happiness like the United States. All it takes is a sense of gratefulness and individual responsibility. God Bless America!

And for those who are younger and have not been taught American history, I offered the short timeline below on the beginnings of what would come to be called the United States.

1754–1763: French and Indian War
The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War, the American phase of a worldwide nine years’ war fought between France and Great Britain.  As a result of the war, France ceded all of its North American possessions east of the Mississippi River to Britain. The costs of the war contributed to the British government’s decision to impose new taxes on its American colonies.  The experience gained by the American Colonialists fighting against the French and their Indian allies, would prove to be invaluable in the coming revolution.

March 22, 1765: Stamp Act
Like the Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act was imposed to provide increased revenues to meet the costs of defending the enlarged British Empire. It was the first British parliamentary attempt to raise revenue through direct taxation on a wide variety of colonial transactions, including legal writs, newspaper advertisements, and ships’ bills of lading. Enraged colonists nullified the Stamp Act through outright refusal to use the stamps as well as by riots, stamp burning, and intimidation of colonial stamp distributors. This is a hint to American governments of the future to avoid over taxing the population.

March 5, 1770: Boston Massacre
In Boston, a small British army detachment that was threatened by mob harassment opened fire and killed five people, an incident soon known as the Boston Massacre. The soldiers were charged with murder and were given a civilian trial, in which John Adams conducted a successful defense because he believed in legal representation for all and was a fine lawyer.  Of course John Adams became a leader in the revolution and 2nd President.

December 16, 1773: Boston Tea Party
Protesting both a tax on tea (taxation without representation) and the single source monopoly controlling prices of the East India Company, a party of Bostonians disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships at anchor and dumped thousands of dollars (actually British pounds at the time) worth of tea into the harbor, and this became known as the Boston Tea Party.

September 5, 1774: First Continental Congress convenes
In protests to the Intolerable Acts, the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. Fifty-six delegates represented all the colonies except Georgia, who were likely too busy with their peach harvest.

March 23, 1775: Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech
Convinced that war with Great Britain was inevitable, Virginian Patrick Henry defended strong resolutions for equipping the Virginia militia to fight against the British in a fiery speech in a Richmond church with the famous words, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  Patrick Henry would go on to serve two separate terms as Governor of Virginia and died in 1799.

April 18–19, 1775: Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord - the Shot Heard round the world
On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode from Charlestown to Lexington (both in Massachusetts) to warn that the British were marching from Boston to seize the colonial armory at Concord (gun confiscation as an unarmed population is a compliant one). During the march, the British force of 700 men were met on Lexington Green by 77 local minutemen and others. It is unclear who fired the first shot, but it sparked a skirmish that left eight Americans dead. At Concord, the British were met by hundreds of militiamen rallying to their countrymen. Outnumbered and running low on ammunition, the British column was forced to retire to Boston. On the return march, American snipers took a deadly toll on the British. Total losses in the Battles of Lexington and Concord numbered 273 British and more than 90 Americans. The Americans learned to use cover and concealment from the French and Indian Wars however would not always use unconventional tactics against the British and suffered dearly in set European style battles against the British in the coming years.

June 17, 1775: Battle of Bunker Hill
The battle of Breed’s Hill in Charlestown, mistakenly named the Battle of Bunker Hill, was part of the American siege of British-held Boston. Some 2,300 British troops eventually cleared the hill of the entrenched Americans, but at the cost of more than 40 percent of the assault force. The battle was a moral victory for the Americans.

January 1776: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense published
In late 1775 the colonial conflict with the British still looked like a civil war, not a war aiming to separate nations; however, the publication of Thomas Paine’s book (actually a pamphlet - but you should find a copy and read it) Common Sense put independence on the front burner. Paine’s 50-page document, couched in a direct language, sold more than 100,000 copies within a few months. More than any other single publication, Common Sense is credited to pushing the path for the Declaration of Independence.

July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence adopted
After the Congress recommended that colonies form their own governments, the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and revised in committee. On July 2 the Congress voted for independence; on July 4 it adopted the Declaration of Independence.  For entertainment on this whole process watch the musical "1776".

November 15, 1777: The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation
Although ratification of the Constitution by all 13 states did not take place until March 1, 1781.

September–October 1781: Siege of Yorktown
After winning a costly victory at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, on March 15, 1781, Lord Cornwallis entered Virginia to join other British forces there, setting up a base at Yorktown. Washington’s army and a force under the French Count de Rochambeau placed Yorktown under siege, and Cornwallis surrendered his army of more than 7,000 men on October 19, 1781, effectively ending the war.

September 3, 1783: Treaty of Paris officially ends the war
After the British defeat at Yorktown, the land battles in America largely died out—but the fighting continued at sea, chiefly between the British and America’s European allies, mainly France but also later included Spain and the Netherlands. The military result in North America was reflected in the preliminary Anglo-American peace treaty of 1782, which was included in the Treaty of Paris of 1783. By its terms, Britain recognized the independence of the United States with generous boundaries, including the Mississippi River on the west. Britain retained Canada but ceded East and West Florida to Spain.

June 21, 1788: Constitution Ratified
The Constitution was written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia by 55 delegates to a Constitutional Convention that were called to amend the Articles of Confederation (1781–89), the country’s first written constitution. And on June 21, 1788 it became ratified when New Hampshire became the 9th State to ratify it.  Remember all documents and communications had to be carried on land by men on horseback.

September 25, 1789: Congress adopts the Bill of Rights - the first 12 Amendments to the US Constitution
The first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Some Thoughts on Backing

A common question I receive is on backing horses. The questions "How do I get a horse to back up" or "How do I get my horse to back up better" are consistently common questions. Unfortunately I also get questions pertaining to what bit to use to get a horse to backup.

In the Arena Challenges I run, I always have one or more stations where the competitor has to back a horse straight, or back while pulling a log, or, back up in a "L", Serpentine or Circle. With respects to my competitors, few do backing well.

In my opinion, backing well actually starts on the ground when you are gentling your horse getting him sacked out and giving to pressure, getting his head soft. In the beginning we usually use a light but steady pull backwards on the lead rope to get the horse to back up. It's common to do this when leading a horse and the horse begins to get too close or even forward of your position. This rear ward pressure on the lead generally works if you provide a release when the horse takes a step. This can be refined to giving the release as a front hoof comes off the ground, and even as we are just starting to introduce the horse to backing, giving a release when there is even a weight shift off a foot, as the horse prepares to take a step. Because a horse can brace pretty easy against this rearward pressure, sometimes combining the rear ward pressure while moving his head left and right will often break a foot loose easier and get a step to the rear, where you can give a release and build on that.

However, we are not always going to be positioned on the ground, at his head, to use rearward pressure on the lead rope, or it could be the reins, to effect a backup. The previously mentioned side to side movement of head makes it easier to transition to just wiggling the lead rope which comes in handy when you are in front of the horse and want the horse to backup. This is handy if you are on the ground repositioning a loop on a calf and need the horse to come forward to give slack and then to backup to get the rope taunt. Another situation may be that you are dismounted fixing a fence and horse gradually move up next to you - if you can back them up with a wiggle of the lead, or reins, you can keep him out of trouble with the barb wire. Again, it's just handy to be able to back your horse from the ground. In the last Arena Challenge I ran, one of the tasks was to dismount, stand inside a 2' x 2' PVC frame and stay in that frame while the rider had to back the horse away from the feel transmitted through the reins or the get down rope.

Everyone has seen horses being pulled back with their head raised and mouth gaping. Occasionally I get the question on what bit works best for backing a horse, and, equally unfortunately, at various events I have heard comments like "I need to find out what kind of bit that guy is using, as his horse backs so well". This kind of question or comment exposes the thinking that backing is achieved and maintained by pulling the horse back using pain or the horse's response to avoid pain to get the horse to back.

Watching a horse being backed with his head thrown up and mouth gaping open - it is not only inefficient and frankly, ugly, it is not fair to the horse. The horse's puts additional weight on the front end, where about 60-65% of his weight normally is anyway, and ends up off balance pushing with his front end. It's like falling backwards almost.

I used to do something like this: ask the horse for softness (to break at the poll), sit on my pockets deep in the seat, then apply alternative pressure on the reins, as gently as I could but firm enough to signal the horse to take a step back, and I would use leg pressure on their belly with my calf, heel or spur. The problem with this is that when we are trying to collect a horse with forward momentum, we are doing the same thing - asking them to break at the poll and using our legs to bring their belly up rounding the back and driving the back end underneath themselves. It's confusing to me, then again I'm not known as a particularly smart man, but it has just got to be as confusing to the horse - we are asking the horse to differentiate the different between a backup and collection at forward momentum with only with a slight weight change in the saddle.

So it was only when I started not using my legs on their barrel that I had the desired action I was looking for. You still have to ask the horse for vertical softness, and a slight weight change in your seat as you put some feel into your reins in an alternating fashion. Give the horse a release and build to where you are giving that release on the same side rein that the front foot is coming off the ground.

Working on this timing will help with us with connecting the reins to the feet in other things we do. I do use my feet, but off the barrel, in a wiggling motion (for lack of a better word) which creates energy that the horse can feel. I work on all these cues with a voice command, so that when I am in a position where I can't use my reins or seat to effectively signal a backup, nor maybe even my seat sometimes, I still have a voice command with the energy created by moving my feet in the stirrups to get the horse to backup. I hope this helps someone else.  Safe Journey.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Randy Rieman Horsemanship Clinic El Paso 2019

What do dressage horses, barrel horses, team roping, pleasure and ranch horses all have in common? It was that they and their riders were much better after participating in a Randy Rieman Clinic I hosted on 4-5 May 2019. Randy, who rode with Tom and Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt, and roped with Bill Dorrance including learning how to braid rawhide from him, came in from cold Northern Montana to 90 degree West Texas heat to work with everyone on their specific problems. Thirteen total riders over 2 days gave everyone plenty of individual attention.

For some riders it was how to give the horse the freedom to find what you are asking for. For others it was a subtle way to ask for lead departures. And for everyone it was asking for a bend, and using more of your legs and being less reliant on your hands for that bend.

While all of the clinic participants said they came away with much more than they expected and thought the time and money they spent was a bargain for what they received,.... two of the clinic participants told me they were hesitant to come and pre-disposed to think it wasn't going to be worth it as they came from very specific uses for their horses - dressage and team roping, but Randy proved to them and everyone else for that matter that no matter what discipline you ride, no matter what breed of horse you are sitting, you can get better performance by putting together willingness and balance.

As good as Horseman Randy Rieman is, I suspect he is an even better man having to get to know him over the span of two clinic in two years. He stayed with me and had but to walk out the back door less than 100 yards to his classroom - my arena. Before and after the sessions gave me plenty of time to pick his brain across a wide range of topics. His insight into what Tom and Bill Dorrance were trying to impart, with understanding and communicating to the horse, was insightful to say the least.

Randy is close friends with Bryan Neubert and Joe Wolter and said more than once that there are no better horsemen then these two. I'll just bet that if you asked either of these two who the two best were, either one of them would put Randy on that list.   And if you haven't heard of Bryan Neubert, Joe Wolter or Randy Rieman it's likely because they are as least commercialized as they come. They do not benefit from the movies, television and magazines highlighting the already well known clinicians on a weekly and monthly basis, nor do any of them market a long line of logoed products. You also won't likely see the flash, smoke and music of a DownUnder style event either. Randy fit his El Paso visit in between his foaling season and his annual clinic tours in Germany and Switzerland where there is a large following of the Californio style horsemanship (that's the term I think of - Randy may think of it as something else), but in any account Randy is carrying on what Tom and Bill Dorrance brought to the public.

Randy Rieman is easier to book and cheaper to host for a clinic than some of the more common names everyone is going to, or watching tapes on. I can't imagine anyone not getting their money worth having Randy sort out their issues with their horses. He will simply make everyone better, and make you want to get better - learning to learn as he said. Give him a call. Put him on your calendar and host a clinic, you won't regret it, and I'll just bet you will come away with at least a yearning to learn more.

Randy Rieman
472 25th Rd NW
Choteau, MT 59422

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cowboy Up

If you are reading this then the term "Cowboy Up" likely means, to you, things like enduring discomfort to get the job done and being loyal to who you work for (riding for the brand) and getting the job done.

In the book, "Cowboy Ethics" by James P. Owen there is a Code of the West which is similiar to what others publish as the Cowboy Code and that simply states:

~ Live each day with courage.
~ Take pride in your work.
~ Always finish what you start.
~ Do what has to be done.
~ Be tough, but fair.
~ When you make a promise, keep it.
~ Ride for the brand.
~ Talk less and say more.
~ Remember that some things aren't for sale.
~ Know where to draw the line.

I can't find much fault with that excepting I would have added:

~ Treat people and animals with respect - especially the eldery, women and horses.
~ Stand up for those who need standing up for.
~ Love the land, this country and respect the law.

When I was in the military it always stuck in my craw when senior leaders would say things like "Don't cowboy this up", or, "Were not cowboys so stick to the plan", and a host of other things that were disparging to Cowboys but not said in disrespect, but from a point of ingorance,.......but irritated me anyways.

Fast forward to today and I saw on the news that the University of Wyoming, whose mascot is a Cowboy riding a Bucking Horse with Hat in hand, is under fire for their their latest marketing slogan which is "The World Needs More Cowboys".  A spokesman for the University said "A Cowboy is not what you are, but who you are."

However, people have taken offense to the Universty's slogan. In my mind these are the kind of people who take offense to many things, but I digress. A native American said words to the effect that 'if you are not a white person and especially a native American, then the image of a white cowboy on horseback does not present a good image.' Okay, fair enough. But lets re-live the shameful history of how native Americans were treated. Nobody from that time period is alive today. But we could sure do good to take the work ethic from the 1800's and apply it today.

So is a Cowboy an racist or sexist stereotype? I think not. Some of the bests Cowboys, most unknown but some known by their Rodeo successes, are Black Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans. And some of the best hands on any ranch are women. In fact women likely have the advantage of possessing a higher compassion and the lack of a male ego to burden them. Western Horseman magazine publishes a column each month titled "Women of the West" where they showcase modern women in the ranching industry. I doubt they think the slogan "The World Needs More Cowboys" is sexist or even any bit inappropriate.

Fox News is reporting that Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said ranchers are worried that the dispute may cast “aspersions on a time-honored way of life and work. We are proud of the true image of the real cowboy or cowgirl, often of very diverse race or ethnicity, riding the range on a well-groomed horse while sporting a cowboy hat, chaps, spurs and a rope.”

Sometimes when I'm riding along a road a car will stop and children will pile out excited to see a horse (they ain't excited to see an old guy that's for sure). I enjoy talking to them about horses, putting them on my horse for pictures (I think my horse likes it too) and one will invariably ask "Mister, are you a Cowboy?" and I respond "Who wouldn't want to be a Cowboy? Me? I'm still trying."  And that's true.  I'm not ashamed for what I am working for no matter what some person who hasn't stepped on dirt lately thinks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Race Horses dying at Santa Anita Park

I've never been a fan of horse racing, or for other futurity competitive horse events where young, physical immature horses are rode. You may think a three year old if mature enough to race or compete in physical tasking events, but that 3 year old began training well before becoming 3 in order to be competitive and therefore incurring damage, sometimes long lasting, or the injuries, sometimes life ending that a immature body can't handle. I don't think anyone wants to break down and hurt horses, but the pressure to get these horses on the pay roll (to earn money for the owners) is great.

Repetitive impact at a gallop with 3 times (or more) the load of a horse's body weight can cause skeletal fractures, connective and soft tissue injuries, such as ruptured tendons, development of painful bone spurs, and inflammation of the tendon endings and stress on the joints (creating arthritis) which will plague a horse throughout his lifetime.

When I ran a large public barn the local race track would call me and ask me to post notices on horses being given away, as it's much cheaper to give a horse away than it is to euthanize it or get it transported to a kill facility. These horses were almost always injured in some way. There was one horse, an older TB gelding who was a companion horse, that was the exception. But the rule of thumb was that there was a hidden reason for trying to home a horse. In one severe case, one of my boarders brought in a free three year old TB who had collapsed suspensory ligaments on his front left leg where the fetlock was set well behind the heel of the hoof - so apparent it was mind numbing that the boarder took him to make into a team roping horse.

The racing industry is well known for using anti-inflammatory drugs so a horse can continue training or even race. Pin firing, to burn a horse's injured tissue and therefore create a more serious inflammatory response to aid healing, can be used legitimately, but it is used when the horse is already injured and in the case of a bowed tendon, it is likely to come back again. The chances of sustaining suspensory ligament damage, soft connective tissue injuries, not to mention other physical aliments that comes with intense training on physically immature frames is just too big a risk for me to ask a horse to accept. So makes me angry when I read a news feed that 21 horses, that's twenty one, have died since Christmas time at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, California. It appears that most, if not all of the horses, were put down after sustaining bad injuries. Some of the race track people are attributing the great increase in injuries (and deaths) to the condition of the track caused by excessive rains. Well, those horse's didn't ask to be ridden and trained on less than safe ground. Again human's fail horses.

I am also no fan of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who is protesting for the closure of the race track, but I hope something is done. I would rather there be some organizational self correction where a older age for racing horses is adopted and strictly enforced, something like the Endurance Racing organization use.

I am linking an article from the Washington Post here.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Randy Rieman Clinic 4-5 May 2019

We are fortunate enough to host a Randy Rieman clinic this coming May 4-5, 2019.  In fact, I just announced this and we have filled 10 of the available 40 slots for four 1/2 day sessions.

Randy, based out of Choteau, Montana, is fitting us in during the beginning of his foaling season and just before his annual trips to Europe to conduct clinics.

He came down two years ago to neighboring Las Cruces to give us a two day clinic and demonstrated why he is highly sought after a Horsemanship, Stockmanship and Ranch Roping clinician.

Not only is Randy known for his horsemanship, but he is a noted Cowboy Poet, performing at events like the annual Cowboy Poet Gathering in Elko, Nevada, as well as being a renowned rawhide braider crafting Reatas and San Juan style hondos. Randy learned to braid rawhide from Bill Dorrance and produced a two DVD set called "Four Strands of Rawhide" with Bill Dorrance. He also conducts Rawhide Braiding schools for those interested in carrying on this old cowboy tradition.

Check out Randy at his website to learn more.  His DVD "Four Strands of Rawhide" is available through Eclectic Horseman.

The Randy Rieman Clinic location will be 17 miles East of downtown El Paso, Texas.  If you are interested in riding in one of Randy's clinic sessions, text or call me, the sooner the better, at 915 204-7995.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Horse Trade

Cowboy poetry is one of the purest American forms of entertainment and really is actually an art form. Hope you will enjoy Cowboy Poetry Cowboy poet Ross Knox reciting "The Horse Trade", by Sunny Hancock, at the 28th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on February 4, 2012 in Elko, Nevada.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Backing and Drawing a Horse from the Ground

Why might you want or need to back a horse from the ground? By this I mean the handler standing still and moving the horse back using a voice command or a feel of the rein. Why would you need to be able to drop the reins and have your horse stand still while you walked away a bit? And why might you need to draw or bring the horse towards you using a voice command or a feel of the reins?

In the annual arena competition I have hosted for the past four years, this year I had a task where the rider had to dismount, step into a 2x2 foot box and ask his horse to back. Riders could use their reins, get down rope, the lead end of a mecate or even just a voice command to get their horse to back but they had to stay in the box. Then the rider had to drop the reins or get down rope and walk around a barrel maybe 20 feet away, demonstrating the horse's ability to ground tie (even if it is momentarily), then walk back to the box, pick up the rein and draw their horse to them. The riders had the option of tying the reins up after they dismount and solely use voice commands if they wanted.

There were 42 entries in this competition and I believe only 3, maybe 4 riders/horses could do all three - backing the horse; horse ground tying and not moving off; and drawing the horse back to you. No offense to the competitors, but a few of these tries were not pretty. Horse's flying backwards with head's high and pushing with their front end; horse not ground tying even for a moment; and even a few horse's not wanting to come back to their rider having the reins jerked to get them to back up. I didn't see alot of jerking on the reins but even once is too much and I'm going to address that in a different article.

The reason for not doing these things well is that some riders don't have a use for their horses to do this. While I consider it an extension of being broke to lead and necessary for my horses to stand still as you dismount and move forward, move to you on command or through the change in feel of a rein, and back up on command or through the change in feel of a rein when you have a loop on a calf and have to dismount to reposition the loop needing slack on the rope then having it re-tightened.

Backing a horse on the ground comes in handy when leading a horse to a gate and it opens towards you so you have to back the horse up. Or when you are throwing feed and the horse wants to hang his head over the feeder. Or when you are on the ground and checking someone else's saddle or bridle and don't want your horse pushing you into the other horse.....and there are dozens of other situations.

Having a horse ground tie is very handy when you are changing bridles or have to dismount to do something like check on a float valve. It is just a natural follow on from having your horse lead up well. In the video below I brought out a horse towards the end of a session with some riders that we were filming and one asked me if I could show her how I get my horse to back, ground tie and come to me on command. Getting a horse to back away from you on a lead line, or rein, is the easier part. Having them stand still - stay ground tied, and drawing them towards you on the change of feel on the lead/rein is just a bit more difficult. Young horses will want to come to you before you ask them. Don't make it federal offense if they come before being asked, just back them up and ask them to stand again. When drawing the horse towards you, try to see just how little pressure or difference in feel of that lead or rein it will take to get that horse to come to you. As with everything, reward the horse's beginning of that effort - don't give the horse a pause between your asking so he can absorb the lesson.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to Everyone. I hope that 2019 grants you all success with your horses and other pursuits. I have high hopes for the coming year and I wanted to share two things that underscore the promise of a new year.

First was a quote that a really nice lady sent me and it goes like this - "January 1st is the first blank page of a 365 day book. Make sure you write a good story."

And second was reading a story from World War II that I had not previously heard of.

This little known bit of history at the very end of World War II was Operation Cowboy, where American soldiers partnering with their current enemy, German Soldiers, and including several nationalities of recently liberated allied prisoners of war, AND, with the help of anti-Communist Russian Cossacks, all  joined forces to fight out-numbered against German Waffen SS troops in order to save stolen Lipizzaner horses before the arrival of the Soviet Army who would certainly kill the Lipizzaner foals and press the mares and Stallions into service hauling wagons or pack loads. Who knows, some may have been eaten by the notoriously under fed Russians conscripts.

Author Mark Felton wrote a book on this titled "Ghost Riders: When US and German Soldiers Fought Together to Save the World's Most Beautiful Horses in the Last Days of World War II."

Again, all this occurred in the very last days of World War II where American soldiers and the liberated POW's all could have played it safe, but when faced with the savagery of what would happen to the famed horses and the fact that the German unit guarding the Lipizzaner's surrendered to the Americans just to have a chance to save the horses,..well, you have an epic story.

General George Patton authorized the mission, himself a horseman, utilizing a Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron basically equipped with gun jeeps, trucks and a few supporting light tanks.  Many of the men were not new to horses and some had served in horse cavalry units, and all saw that risking their lives to save the white Lipizzaner horses, who are among the purest bred and highest trained horses in on the planet, was the right thing to do. In the end, during these very last days of April 1945, this unlikely joint force rode, drove and trucked the Lipizzaner's to safety. They were eventual returned to back where they originally came from, the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Comments on Loading a Horse Using a Butt Rope

I have received a few e-mails and comments on a previous article I did about loading a horse into the trailer using a butt rope. So I reckon I need to clarify some things. First, using a butt rope has specific applications and is not intended to be a everyday trailer loading method. It is basically a last ditch method. It should not be used as a short cut. I hesitated even writing about it as I did not want someone to think it would be easier to train a horse to load that way.

When I was a Range Rider, there were a few situations where I had to unload and load a horse from a narrow road with a steep incline on one side and a sharp decline on the other. This situation did not lend itself to anything other than leading or sending the horse straight into the trailer. The terrain simply did not lend itself for re-training a horse to load. The fact that I was up in rough country meant that I had a well broke horse but after a trailer ride on rough dirt roads and trails, to get me close enough for work on horseback, would make some horses think twice before loading for a repeat ride. So yes, I have used a butt rope a couple times in situations like this.

I have hauled horses for other law enforcement or rescue organizations with confiscation orders, and a few times it was just safer to load an unsafe horse using a butt rope and not to loiter around the premises. I never liked confiscating people's livestock, but I got over it when faced with a horse in body score 1 or 2, or calves that were nothing but bones and skin. There may also be an alike situation when you may be evacuating horses from a natural disaster such as a wildlands fire or a incoming hurricane, and time is a factor. One time I loaded a less than friendly bull using a butt rope - it was just the safest way to get it done.

Years ago when I ran a large public stables one of the boarders was trying to load a horse to take to a roping. He kept at it for an hour or so, until my wife who was looking on for the sake of the horse couldn't stand it anymore, took over and got the horse to step in and load in about 2 minutes. Which in hindsight was probably not the thing to do as the next morning someone told me that I should look at the horse that was took to rope off of. I found that horse in his pen with rope burns on his back legs as these boys tried to use a butt rope to get the horse to re-load after roping. This is an example of someone who had no business trying to use a butt rope to load a horse.

The basic technique of using a buttrope is to secure one end of the rope on side or end of the trailer with the handler holding the free running end, then leading the horse over the butt rope, then picking it up off the ground and uses the rope laying across the horse's butt to provide some pressure to get the horse to move forward into the trailer. This takes awareness and can be dangerous as the handler has the lead rope in one hand and the buttrope in the other hand. It's easy to get the rope underneath the horse's tail. If this happens the horse will clamp down on the rope and back up quickly and it cause some rope burns. In fact, some trailer's don't really allow a butt rope to be used very well and others may force the handler to be leading the horse on the off side. The bottom line on using a buttrope to load a horse is that it is a technique for your toolbag, but not one that most people will ever use and should never use. Your timing on pressure, and releasing that pressure has to be accurate. I would caution people not to try this method unless they are trained by an experienced hand in person, and then only when they will likely have a specific need such as wildlands fire evacuations of livestock. Please don't do this just to do it. It's like laying a horse down. Don't do it just to do it. You have to have a good reason, some skill and the purpose to help the horse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Changing Feeding Routines for Older Horses

I try not to give too narrow of advice about feeding horses as there are just too many factors to consider. There are cases were something needs to change and this usually pertains to the amount of feed a horse is getting - much too little, or too much. Over the years, with my horses and managing a public barn for 6 years where we had an average of 40 horses, I saw just about every problem you could think of concerning feeding programs. When I was running that barn I contracted for a Equine nutrition doctoral student at nearby New Mexico State University to some in and give a seminar on nutritional requirements and developing a sound feeding program based on the individual horse. He too was careful not to give too narrow of advice, but he succeeded in reducing the incidences of colic and founder. Perhaps the best advice he did give was routine dental exams on all horses, especially the older horses.

Horses have individual needs based on their age, health, condition of teeth, and activity so those needs to be taken into consideration in their feeding program. And older horses can have rapidly changing conditions and nutritional requirements. Long ago, we started feeding a mix of alfalfa and grass hays. Some horse's get 70% alfalfa and 30% grass (in weight) and others the reverse ratio. Horse's generally don't need that high of a protein content that comes with alfalfa, and the grass helps balance out the minerals. So the horse I am describing below, Charlie, was getting about 6 lbs of alfalfa and 14 pounds of grass (Bermuda) each day.

Charlie is a big stout Quarterhorse type, 15.1 hands and around 1,300 lbs. In the picture above right, he is the sorrel horse with the white socks and one stocking. Although the young man I bought him from couldn't produce papers, Charlie came from substantially good breeding and had really good feet. Despite my advice to this young man, Charlie was on a straight alfalfa hay diet, also receiving one large coffee can of dry wheat bran on odd numbered days and a large coffee can of Strategy pelleted feed on even numbered days - see? I told you I have seen quite a bit of different, if not odd feeding programs. This young man never succeeded in being able to load him to take him to any ropings, which he had his Pa send Charlie to him for. He never asked me for help nor did I I kinda liked that horse.

Eventually this young man approached me about buying Charlie. He started asking $2,700 and ended over a few days settling for $800. He tried to pass Charlie off as an 11-12 year old, but I could tell he was near to 20. But knowing how resilient that horse was by surviving the odd feeding program and his obvious excellent conformation and good nature, I bought him for my wife.

Fast forward 12 years later, Charlie is near to 30 years old. My wife rides him often and even rode him in a Randy Rieman clinic where Randy called Charlie the Old Campaigner. He is animated as ever, especially at feeding time, trotting around with is head shaking wanting you to hurry up with the feed, but never aggressive or disrespectful when you are in his pen with the feed.

Lately Charlie would drop bolts of partially chewed hay and his manure was pretty loose as his gut absorbed more water trying to move the bigger pieces of lesser chewed hay through his system. We feed in huge box feeders, but it doesn't stop Charlie from throwing his feed out onto the ground most of the time. Thinking that the symptoms were a result of ingesting too much sand, I just upped the interval on him getting Sand Clear. Half the time this would clear up his less than formed manure. But the years have taken their toll. Despite dental exams and teeth floating every 12 months his molars are worn down where he can't masticate the longer stemmed hay anymore which causes some distress in his gut and sometimes, colic type symptoms. In the last couple months we changed his feed where more than half his grass hay needs are received using Standlee Timothy grass pellets soaked pretty good in warm to hot water to avoid so much of the long stemmed hay that he has a hard time chewing. We had other older horses but none of them had the problem with the longer stemmed forage that Charlie had, so this was a new problem for us.

Since we made the feeding change, Charlie's manure is well formed and moist. He has lost just a little weight, which he needed to do anyway, and his energy level is much higher. He gets about 3 lbs of alfalfa in the morning, along with 5 lbs (dry weight) of soaked Standlee Timothy grass pellets. Around noon he gets about 6 lbs of mixed Bermuda and Timothy grass. In the evening he gets about 3 more lbs of alfalfa, following by another 5 more lbs (dry weight) of soaked Standlee Timothy grass pellets and his Glucosamine supplement.

So really the whole purpose of this article is to pass on a lesson learned or maybe just a reminder that older horses can have rapidly changing conditions and needs, including routine or even a shorter interval for dental exams. And never having been a big proponent for pelleted feeds being a large part of my horses diet, I am very much pleased with the quality of the Standlee products. They make a wide variety of products from compressed bales of alfalfa and timothy hays; pelleted and cubed timothy and alfalfa-timothy blends; and much more. Plus their web site offers a ton of good information on equine nutrition which we all could benefit from.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Passing of Margaret Dorrance

It was sad to hear of the passing of Margaret Dorrance, 16 October 2018, wife of Tom Dorrance who we revere as the founder of the "Natural Horsemanship" movement.

Tom preceded Margaret, passing in June 2003, but not before he and his brother Bill Dorrance brought forth their observations and lessons on communicating and working with horses that will live on through the ages through their mentoring of people whose names are fixtures in modern day horsemanship like Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert and many, many others. They simply show us the way, and Margaret was a steadfast fixture in this movement, managing Tom's legacy until the end. Now they are united in Heaven, where we hope God saw fit to include horses as well.

Both Tom and Bill Dorrance has several products, DVD's and books, still available. These are available from Eclectic Horseman. Perhaps the best lesson you'll get from their knowledge is just how big of holes you have in yours - that way for me anyway.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Results of the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge

We have concluded the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge which saw another rise in the level of  competition, both numbers of riders and skill demonstrated, with 43 entries who competed over 6 different divisions.

Trotting circles and squares; negotiating hairpin turns around upright roles; transitions at different gaits; turning with forward momentum in an 8 foot turn around box; doing roll backs; turns on the hocks; side passes; backing straight or in a "L fashion; backing a circle; opening a gate; throwing head and heel shots on a dummy; dragging a heavy log; pulling a bag of cans; passing through a cowboy curtain; retrieving a tennis ball and placing it on a traffic cone; demonstrating backing your horse from the ground; and ground tying your horse and walking away were most of the obstacles each rider and horse had to perform.

Photo at left  - Mark Schleicher closing the gate.

The winners of the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge, their home state and point total are as follows:

Stockhorse Division
1st - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 423; 2nd - Don Carpenter (TX) 415; 3rd - Mark Schleicher (CO) 399; 4th - Linda Seeds (TX) 392; 5th - Trudy Kremer (CO) 372; 6th - Laurie Esparza (TX) 370.

Open Division
1st - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 557; 2nd - Kit Tielker (NM) 539; 3rd - Laurie Esparza (TX) 516; 4th - Trudy Kremer (CO) 504.

Intermediate Division
1st - April Salazar (TX) 565; 2nd - Mark Schleicher (CO) 559; 3rd - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 521; 4th - Marianne Bailey (NM) 515; 5th - Gena Blankenship (NM) 498; 6th - Jessica Bailey (NM) 489.

Novice Division
1st - Angelina Joseph (TX) 492; 2nd - Nikol Endres (TX) 475; 3rd - Rachel Meza (TX) 461; 4th - Melisa Gardea (NM) 422; 5th - Angela Beltran-Flores (TX) 407; 6th - Imara Jackson (TX) 364.

Youth 13-16 years old
1st - Paige Arthur (TX) 330; 2nd - Abigail Hinkle (TX) 328; 3rd - Glaive Arthur (TX) 307.

Youth 12 and under
1st - Viviana Garza (NM) 421; 2nd - Izabel Garza (NM) 413; 3rd - Marius Herbin (NM) 411; 4th - Lilliana Garza (NM) 373; 5th - Teagan Arthur (TX) 366; 6th - Calysha Jackson (TX) 240.

The Horsemanship Award awarded to the rider and horse who best exemplified unity between horse and rider, and voted on by competitors and the judges, was awarded to Linda Seeds. She could have been giving clinics on doing roll backs along the fence she was that good riding her mare Annie in rommel reins. Linda also makes tack and repairs saddles and tack. She made several braided para-cord reins for bridles and also a beautiful set of spur straps for the prize table. The photo at right is Linda starting to transition from the trot to a stop before she executes a roll back along the fence.

Special mentions:

Don Carpenter impressed everyone with his flawless and quick gate opening and closing, then throwing a heel scoop loop - rapidly recoiling his rope - then throwing a head shot on the roping dummy. He followed that with an impressive log drag where his horse collected up nicely and pulled with his back end in a textbook fashion. It was nice to see that. Although there are rumors that his daughter Debby Hale named the roping dummy after one of the judges - I'm still trying to track that down.

Jessica Dixon entered with an Arabian mare who was kicked two days before the competition and still had a hematoma on her belly which precluded a cinch. So she rode bareback and impressed everyone.

The Gardea-Garza family, with three young girls competing, has to be mentioned for raising the absolutely most polite children in the world, and they can ride too - Viviana won her division. That's a photo pf her at the top of this article.

Imara Jackson, who at 17 years old, rode with the adults and just performed well taking 6th place in Novice division. That's Imara in the photo at right performing a turn around with forward momentum in the 8 foot around box. Jessica Bailey needs to be mentioned as she took 6th in Intermediate and also competed in Stockhorse on Harri, a Gypsy Vanner horse.

One of the big draws to this competition is the lunch that is provided after awards, although it was closer to supper time by the time the competition ended. Street tacos, rice, beans, chile verde queso, deserts and a special treat as Rita and Tanya Benally came down from the Navajo Nation to make Indian fry bread. My wife Susan, the ramrodded the feeding efforts, also told me that we went through almost 300 bottles of water and several gallons of ice tea and orange juice.

Photo at right is LuAnne Santiago who cleaned up with first place finishes in both Stockhorse and Open.

The prize table was the biggest we've had with over $3,000 of prizes going to the competitors. The Cashel Company by far provided the largest donation with some exceptional headstalls, reins, sports boots, fly masks and other items. Other supporting companies included Tractor Supply Company on TX Hwy 20; Hoof Wraps; Eclectic Horseman; and, Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing. We finished the day with a raffle that supported Perfect Harmony Horse Sanctuary and Rescue. We raffled off a framed Karmel Timmons print which was won by Cindy Lang of Cashel Company which was appropriate due to their support. Charlie Walker Iron Artworks and local artist Marta Nelce donated items for the raffle as well.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we could not have held the event without Chief Judge Vicky Maly of VCM Equine Management presiding over the judging.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Secret about Horsemanship Clinics

Years ago I was talked into attending a reining clinic - they needed one more person to attend to make the minimum number of paying riders. When the clinician showed up he asked everyone want they wanted to work on. I laughed because I knew him and knew that we would be doing whatever he thought would benefit the majority of riders. It didn't matter what each rider wanted to do, or thought they needed to get better at. The next few hours was basically solving problems - correcting fundamentals we were doing badly, which in turn prevented each rider from accomplishing what they wanted.

I often get asked if I can run a Horsemanship 101 clinic or an Obstacle clinic or even asked for a list of what type of clinics I could do for a group. Rather than ask the obvious question of "what is your definition of horsemanship 101 or an Obstacle clinic?", I mostly answer that I don't do clinics or ride horses for the public for a living, but if I was to work with you or your group, and you needed a title for the day, then call it Problem Solving.

I think all clinics are problem solving. My apologies to the exceptional clinicians making a living conducting clinics who have titles for the various clinics they do. I don't have enough time left on this earth to gain the level of skill of this long list of horsemen and women, but I just can't help but think what they do is problem solving regardless of course titles.

If a clinician has a group of people riding the perimeter of an arena then stopping and backing, what that clinician is going to end up doing is correcting fundamental mistakes such as seat, balance, leg position and rein management for the stop and the back; getting the horse soft when you ask for vertical flexion; and even providing a release which are all too common issues needing to be addressed. There may be a horse who needs to get unstuck and sometimes a flagging a horse to get some momentum (and reason) to back. Some of the riders may think "what does this have to do with backing a horse", not realizing that backing a horse with his head high puts him off balance and causes the horse to push with his front feet and not get engagement from the back end. I think it all boils down to that there are no secrets to doing something, just the fundamentals executed well.

The same about doing an obstacle clinic. It's not getting a horse sacked out on a ground tarp or approaching a slicker on a fence, or even going through pool noodles. Although it is useful to use an obstacle to work on because the rider can learn to wait on his horse and these are good learning events for a horse - causing him to think. But even if in the course of a clinic you end up with your horse moving through each obstacle willingly, on a loose rein and without a moments hesitation, the next thing you face outside of that clinic be it a garbage can, a flapping bag in the branch of a bush, or even a monkey grinder (if you don't know what this is - google it) will be totally new. What obstacles are all about is you being the leader of the pair. The rider being able to move the horse's feet as needed; the horse being soft; the rider learning to wait on the horse, and the horse learning to think before reacting. These are the likely problems many riders have. They have to be addressed, not only for going through obstacles but to advance in anything you do on a horse's back.

I recently ran an "obstacle clinic" for 6 adults and 5 youths. I'm sure they did not get what they expected when I had them work on vertical and lateral flexion, moving the front end independently of the back, and the back end independently of the front end which all leads to being able to control the horse's barrel and move the horse laterally for a side pass or to two track (lateral movement with forward momentum) - something horse's just don't do on their own. Hopefully, I demonstrated that these basics are all necessary to be able to position up on an obstacle; making balanced turns; correcting backing when you get off angle or even intentionally backing with an angle or arc. Some of the time was spent correcting rein management - too tight of outside rein in a turn causing the horse's momentum to slow or stop; relying totally on the reins and not using leg cues; staying in contact with the horse's mouth - not giving any release- where the horse starts moving as he gets anxious. In any event, what we were doing by any other name was problem solving.

Speaking about Problem Solving, Marty Marten has written two excellent volumes on Problem Solving common issues with horses. Eclectic Horseman offers this two volume set for a very reasonable price.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Arena Challenge Charity Raffle

Every year at the Functional Horsemanship-Red Bird Ranch Arena Obstacle Challenge (AOC) we have a raffle to support Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a local 501 (c)3 charity. The highlight item on the raffle table for this year's AOC on 29 September 2018, is a print of a pencil drawing by noted Western artist Karmel Timmons.

The print is approx 11x14 framed to approx 15x18 and is titled "In the Rodear" capturing Buck Brannaman's horse being ridden in the two rein.

Raffle tickets are $2 each. Drawing will be held right after the awards ceremony on the afternoon of 29 September 2018. Need not be present to win.

Text me at 915.204.7995 or e-mail me at if you would like tickets. We do pay pal, credit card or checks. Many of you know the people behind good horse rescues. They often see the worst behavior of human handlers reflected in the condition of horses they receive. They can use any help we can provide.

I will pay for shipping and insurance is the winner is out of town or I otherwise cannot deliver in person.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

MagnaWave Therapy for Horses

Although I have had many forms of alternative medicine and therapy - chiropractor, massage, and ultra sound mainly, it took me awhile to accept these types of therapy for horses.

At my wits end concerning a severe lameness issue on one horse years ago, a chiropractor and a massage therapist resolved this debilitating issue and since then I'm more ears and less mouth when approached with alternative methods to help horses.

The latest new method I was exposed to is called MagnaWave Therapy. Claudia Lukason, a lady who I have known for years and who has decades of experience training and running barrel horses as well as managing her own boarding stables, told me about her therapy business treating horses using MagnaWave. Since she has a ton of credibility with me, and the fact that I have learned that my ignorance is generally a weakness, I consented to her offer to first come out and see one of my horses who has the occasional problem of falling out on the back end.

So Claudia comes come, gets out of her truck and from 40 yards away say's "I can see one isue with him right now where his back on the left side ties into his hip." This was an area I thought he may be having problems with, but I've been riding him for 13 years, and she just saw him for the first time. She went around him using her hands to manipulate several points where the horse had discomfort and said he would likely benefit from MagnaWave, so we set the next weekend for a session.

Come next weekend, Claudia shows up and sets up her machine which transmits pulsed energy, through what looks like garden hoses, generating an pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) which are designed to energize the cells, increase cellular metabolism of the body and stimulate the body’s own natural healing process through increases of oxygen in the blood, which allows for quicker recovery and less inflammation.

Since the electromagnetic pulses coming out of the hose type tubing can be uncomfortable if on high levels, the therapist has to be able to read the horse in order to know when the pulse is too much or not enough. That may be a misnomer saying that the pulse could be not enough. From what I understand, the lower pulse settings just require a longer session. In any event, when you see a horse with his head down, drooling and lip quivering, something good is going on.

A few days later when I rode this horse, he trotted easier and loped without falling out on his back end like he previously did before. Since then I had had a repeat session on him and plan on having a few more. The misperception on alternative therapies like MagnaWave or massage therapy is that you have to do it for the rest of your life. This is not true, treatment is often culmaltive, each session building on the previous one to produce longer lasting effects.

Claudia discovered MagnaWave after being injured time and time again, with multiple surgeries, and one of her barrel racing friends treated her with positive results. I had the MagnaWave therapy on myself with the same positive or even better results that I have received with massage therapy, Chiropractor adjustment or pain meds. She also treats dogs. My friend's heelers are happy that she does!

If you think this is something that may help your horse, you can go to the MagnaWave website, and look for the "Find a Treatment" tab a the bottom, or call Claudia if you are in the West Texas- Southern New Mexico area.

Claudia Lukason, The Edge Canine and Equine Solutions
(915) 487-7231

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hammonds Pardoned by President Trump

President Trump, on yesterday 10 July, issued full pardons to Dwight Hammond Jr and his son Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment strained already low confidence in how some Federal land management agencies treat some ranchers bordering federal land or have grazing permits for federal land. I have served as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer for a Land Management based agency and am ashamed at how some ranchers are treated by Federal agencies and their law enforcement arm, but this is not across the board. Some ranchers have good relationship, even partnerships in land stewardship with their Federal counterparts. Sadly, this was not the case in Harney County, Oregon.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 on charges of arson, after federal prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires (one in 2001 and one in 2006) that spread to government-managed land bordering their ranch, which they purchased in 1964. The Hammonds’ case was controversial for many reasons. First, the Hammonds were convicted under an antiterrorism act which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. This was a fire caveat in the anti-terrorism act intended for intentional acts of sabotage or arson from eco-terrorists or political-religious terrorists intent on destroying infrastructure or human life.

The fire in 2001, was an intentional prescribed fire, used to burn off invasive species of vegetation and otherwise increase the post fire growing of good grazing grass. The fire set on Hammond property, got away from Steve Hammond and burned around 120 acres of Federal land. Hammond made the necessary pre-burn notices and the Hammonds were able to put the fire out themselves. The fire in 2006, was due to a lightening caused fire moving across Federal land towards the Hammonds Ranch. The Hammond started a backfire on their property that was successful in putting out the lightning fire that had already covered thousands of acres within a short time. The Hammonds backfire saved much of their property and grassland needed for their cattle. This backfire however burned approximate one acre of Federal land.

Second, the federal prosecution of the Hammonds followed decades of harassment by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) where these agencies, one of the other, filed false charges leading to the arrests of the Hammonds 20 years earlier; blocked state roads to keep the Hammonds from accessing parts of their ranch; built fences to keep Hammond cattle from water; conducting searches of the Hammonds property and home; and, further filing false charges with local law enforcement against the Hammonds. The intent of the harassment was pretty much apparent as those Federal Agencies has bought up other local ranches and needed the Hammonds Ranch (who refused to sell) in order to expand the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Manager for the local field office of the BLM was a woman named Rhonda Karges. The Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was Chad Karges - this was a husband and wife team. The Malheur Wildlife Refuge is a horseshoe shape around the Hammonds Ranch. Converting the Hammond's ranch, with it's coveted water source, to a cohesive refuge property was the objective.

Thirdly, while convicted of charges in 2012 and serving time in jail - Dwight Hammond served a three-month sentence while his son Steven served a year in jail - the US Department of Justice challenged the sentences which were shorter than the mandatory minimum, and a Federal Judge resentenced the Hammonds forcing them back to prison to complete five-year terms.

Anyway, good on President Trump for partially righting this wrong. Dwight Hammond is around 76 years old having served 3 years in prison and son Steven is close to 50, and served around 4 years in prison. I'm sure they are happy about the pardons and freedom, but they'll never get that time back nor the $400,000 they paid to settle a civil suit brought on by the Justice Department.

If you read this story elsewhere, where writers link the injustice to the Hammonds with the Ammon Bundy led occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Center, just be aware that the Hammonds did not ask for nor condone for supporters to occupy the Wildlife Refuge center which led to a stand off with local, state and Federal Law Enforcement that included the controversial shooting death of Levoy Finicum, a refuge occupier, by Federal agents.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th Independence Day

Much like many other American holidays, culture, tradition and practices have somewhat dulled the original meaning of what we celebrate. Today we celebrate the 242nd birthday of this Nation - when the thirteen colonies united to declare independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy and to stand for a God given right to self rule.

Like any rebellion, the roots began much earlier, decades earlier in our case, with the British Government looking at the Colonies as a source of revenue, and without allowing representation from the Colonialists, began to unfairly tax the colonies. The Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), the Quartering Act (1765), the Revenue Act (1766), the Townshend Acts (1767), and, the Tea Act (1773) all increasingly fanned the flames of that familiar phrase - "taxation without representation". The writers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights disliked the Quartering Act so much that they ensured through the Third Amendment that "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party, comprised of colonial men dressed like Mohawk Indians, boarded the tea laden ships from England that arrived in Boston Harbor, and threw over 300 chests of tea into the bay. Great Britain responded with the Coercive Acts (1774) and additionally, beginning in Massachusetts, which was pretty much the center of gravity for the rebellion, restricted community meetings in a measure to curb a quelling rebellion.

England appointed the Commander of British Forces in the colonies, Army General Thomas Gage, as Governor of Massachusetts. Through 1774, the idea of a Continental Congress was conceived and in September the First Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia. Though this first Congress debated many solutions to the tyranny of British rule, this first Congress ended up with a petition to King George III for a redress of grievances, which had no effect but to birth a Second Continental Congress in 1775.

What happened between the first and second Continental Congress' was, of course, the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts), where on April 19th, the British Army units moved to seized Colonial military supplies to prevent means for an active armed rebellion, and to arrest the burgeoning rebellion's leaders. The British were initially successful in driving away the armed Colonials, but took a toll in casualties as they were driven back to Boston by a mounting number of Colonialists called to arms, then shortly Boston became surrounded by a Colonial militia force.....and the armed American Revolution began. The will and means to resist tyranny and the British attempts to seize firearms so prompted the Founders evident in their writings of the Second Amendment - "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Throughout the founding and settlement of the Colonies, militias were formed for mutual defense, initially against hostile Indians. This began the tradition of the American Citizen-Soldier. One of my favorite stories is of the Culpeper Minutemen of central Virginia, which was basically the frontier in those days, who formed a unit under the famous white 'Culpeper Minutemen - Liberty or Death - Don't Tread on Me' flag, and in late 1775 began the fight for independence by marching to the east coast to engage the British attempting to land troops. The rifle marksmanship of the Culpeper Minutemen stopped the British attempt, continuing the already well known reputation of the marksman ability of American Frontiersmen.

The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration proclaimed that the former Thirteen Colonies then at war with Great Britain were now a sovereign, independent nation and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. By signing the declaration, these 56 Americans pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor - it was no idle pledge.

Nine signers died of wounds during the revolutionary war; five were captured or imprisoned; wives and children in some cases were jailed, killed or left penniless. Twelve signers houses were burned to the ground; seventen lost everything they owned. No signer defected, despite intense pressure to do so, their honor like their new nation remained intact. Future presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among the signatories.

So when you celebrate the 4th of July take a minute and reflect on what it took to give us this holiday. It took the will and sacrifice of men better than us.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Warming Up a Horse Before you Ride?

I recently went back and forth on e-mail with a friend of mine living up North who attended a horsemanship clinic where she was lunging her horse on a lead line and the clinician brought that up to the group as an example saying "you shouldn't need to warm a horse up before you ride him." My friend thought what the clinician said wasn't necessarily true all the time and wanted my opinion, and this is pretty much what we discussed.

I hope that what the clinician wanted to convey was that you are not going to get bad behavior out of a horse just by lunging him before you ride him. The old saying that you can't get the buck out of a horse by lunging him beforehand is pretty much true. But then again there certainly are cold backed horses who can wind down mentally by lunging, checking on the extent he's with you, and otherwise benefit by warming him up before you ride.

For the last several years, I seldom leave my house without a cup of coffee and going through a stretching routine. It makes walking and climbing onto a horse less painful. I think it may be the same for an older horse - get him moving without a load on (a rider in the saddle) so he can get the blood circulating, warming the muscles up and getting the joints to move more freer, making it easier for him to carry a load. If you wouldn't saddle a horse then immediately gallop him for fear of injury, why wouldn't you warm him up first before mounting?

So what are you really doing when lunging a horse before you ride him? For one thing, you are moving his feet at your direction re-establishing that leader to horse relationship, especially through changing directions. Moving the horse also lets you look at his gait to detect any problems and gets the muscles warmed up, reducing chances of injury. A couple days ago I was preparing to ride with my wife and I asked her to look at my horse's rear left fetlock because it looks just a bit swollen to me, she concurred, so I palpitated it getting no reaction from my horse such as a flinch or tail swishing, so I lead him forward at a trot to see if he was giving to it, and he wasn't, so after I mounted, I walked him for over a mile before I dismounted stretched him out, made sure he was good, then mounted again and felt better about it when I asked him to trot and lope. So again I ask, why wouldn't you warm him up?

In fact, once I mount a horse, unless I'm in a hurry to catch the Ice Cream truck before he leaves the area, I'll also do what I describe as a pre-ride check. Ask my horse to get soft and give me vertical and lateral flexion; back up; move the front end over independently from the back end and vice versa. It's like saying "Okay, it's time for business, just checking to make sure you're with me."

At my age now, I'm never going to get someone to cajole or harass me into riding a horse that I don't think I can likely get a safe ride out of - for him or me. And, I suggest that if you think you and your horse would benefit from warming up, whether it's on a lead or lunge line, or doing something else, by all means do it. No matter what a visiting clinician or anybody else thinks. Because after they leave, it's going to be just you and your horse.

Monday, June 25, 2018

142nd Anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, began 142 years ago, as Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, almost completely annihilated the U.S. 7th Cavalry under Lt Col George Armstrong Custer. Almost 270 of Custer's command of 700 men were killed with another 55 wounded on June 25th 1876. Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota Sioux foretold the victory in his visions, which inspired the Indians to an overwhelming victory in this battle which became known as "Custer's Last Stand", and called the Battle of Greasy Grass by the Native Americans.

Custer's scouts found the village of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho on the morning of 25 June 1876 but failed to convince Custer of the size and scope of the Indian encampment. Fearing discovery, Custer decided to not wait on the arrival of another column of U.S. Cavalry and Infantry, under Generals Terry's and Gibbon, and divided his forces into 3 separate elements. Custer took 5 companies of Calvary in an attempt to swing around to the rear of the Indian camp to cut off their presumed escape, while 3 companies under Major Marcus Reno attacked the mouth of the camp from the East. Upon seeing the beginnings of the camp, Major Reno reportedly stopped his assault and formed a skirmish line. When attacked by a large Indian force, Reno forces executed a disorderly withdrawal to a position where he was joined by Captain Frederick Benteen and the remaining 3 companies of the 7th Cavalry.

Lt Col Custer force of 210 men were eventually pinned down on a hill, which became known as Custer's Hill and alternatively as Last Stand Hill, where mounting Indian forces eventually overran Custer's remaining forces killing all. Accounts from Indian warriors indicated that Custer's companies were completely routed within an hour. The Indian warriors then concentrated on Major Reno and Captain's Benteen's companies through out the rest of the day and into the 26th of June until withdrawing after their scouts reported the advancing columns under Generals Terry and Gibbon who arrived on the morning of 27 June.

Without a doubt, the best book I have read on this battle was "The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and The Battle of The Little Bighorn" written by Nathaniel Philbrick, and published by Viking Press in 2010. One of the first books I read on Custer's Last Stand was a book, my Pa gave me when I was around 8 years old, detailed the account of Captain Miles Keogh's horse Comanche, labeled as the only survivor of Custer's companies. Comanche was wounded, treated, and became the mascot for the 7th Cavalry finally dying in 1891. There were likely other horses who survived as well, but only to be captured by the victorious native's. Comanche was stuffed and still remains on display in a environmentally controlled display case at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Another sad, but interesting fact was when the bodies of the fallen men and horses from Major Reno's initial attack were recovered, a clean of arc of dirt was apparent around the heads and necks of many of the wounded horse's as they lay dying from wounds but continued to graze the ground clean.

If you are traveling on Interstate 90 east of Billings, Montana it would be worth your time to stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, walk some of the terrain and read the memorials on the Native Americans and Cavalrymen who died that day.