Monday, May 31, 2010

Why I do this site – Backyard Horse Owners

A few days ago a young man who I know from the horse crowd asked me to come by his facility and look at several horses he just acquired. He was asking me what I thought of them and how much he thought he could get for selling them.

When I got there I saw two grade sorrel mares, one in fairly poor condition and the other in decent body condition. Both were about 14 hands. I went into the pen with them and the heavier mare ran away and I never got up close to her. I was able to handle the skinnier mare and determine she was probably no older than 4 years old and had already been bred once. Both had hoofs that needed attention,...maybe 3-4 weeks over past due for trimming. Both also had rings around their hoofs near the coronet band indicating inconsistent feed over the past several months.

I went to the other pen and took at look at a grade stud horse, who was also a sorrel. Possibly not older than 4 years old and couldn’t have been bigger than 14.1 hands. He was a little skittish and was not broke to handle his feet, as I found out. I pressured the horse to move around and he was giving significantly to his back right and it appeared to be a problem in his stifle (hip). He also loked to be cow hocked in the front end.

The young man had no health records on any of the horses. But told me that he was pretty sure they had their vaccinations. I asked which one’s he thought they had, and he couldn’t answer because he doesn't know what is required.

The young man told me he was thinking about keeping the stud and breeding him. Then asked me what I thought about them all.

I told him "my opinions are free so I’m not worried about hurting your feelings. You need to get a vet out here to look at all horses, give them their vaccinations and a Coggins test. Have the Vet bring a farrier. The length of hooves on the front end of that stud horse looks like he hasn’t been trimmed in a year...big splayed out duck feet. And it’ll take about 4 to 6 months to get his feet straighten out. When the Vet is here have him geld the stud horse. He’s a grade horse,… ain’t got any papers on him,….and there is too much indiscriminate breeding going on to bring another grade foal into the market."

"Dump the mare’s water bucket and clean it out. Get a salt block for both pens. Get some overhead cover for the mare’s. Start feeding them some longer stem forage rather than the residue alfalfa leaves you’ve been picking up off the ground with a shovel."

"Oh, by the way – you ain’t getting anything but killer prices for all three, if you go to sell them."

I told him that I would be wiling to work with him on any he keeps, if he takes better care of them....that was sort of like a bribe, I reckon.

This is why I do this site, trying to help people who have horses and don’t know what they are doing. It’s a tough life to live through on the job training, but dang it, a person should look to educate themself. I’m going to start asking some pictures of how people keep their horses to better show what I am talking about.

I’ve seen one eighth acre lots with a trailer home and chain link fence; junk and trash thrown about, and two horses’ picking through everything.

I’ve seen two horses, each in a ten by ten stall, almost up to their hocks in manure; filthy water bucket. God knows when they last left their stalls.

My wife and I have stopped by several of these types and mentioned as calmy as we could that their horses need better attention. Much of the time it’s to no avail and in the worst cases we call Animal Control. The problem with Animal Control is that there are no horse people in that organization.

I just wish some people would figure out what they don’t know and try to fix it,….that horse’s life hangs in the balance, …... and if not his life, then certainly his quality of life. Give him a fair life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Marrying a Texas Girl

Don't mean to disparge any group of women, but women from Texas are just,.......different.

From time to time we have to have fun which sometimes ends up burdening viewers with our video skits. This one's on marrying a Texas Girl and trying to tell her what you want to see when you get home. It you don't have a sense of humor you'll find it a hard row to hoe working with horses.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Horse Training – One Rein and Two Rein Cavalry Stop for a Bolting Horse

How many times have you heard the phrase,..”if he gets away from you, then just pull on one rein and bend his head…..hell, that’ll bring him to a stop”.

Yeah, probably will stop if he doesn’t get the bit between his teeth and if he’s in a full gallop you probably also have a wreck.

I watch a teen age hunter jumper in training, riding too much horse that suddenly spooked and took off. I watched the horse jump the arena fence, land side ways on a very hard dirt road breaking the girl’s upper arm bone (think they cal it a humerus – however nothing humerous about the accident) and she separated her shoulder as well. She was very lucky she did not kill her self. As remarkable as it seems, the horse was fine and the girl was mucking stalls two weeks later, one handed because one arm was in a cast and a sling.

I have another story that in no way deserved to turn out good as it did when a large cargo helicopter hovered over me and two of my partners just shy of a narrow steep canyon trail. I talk about this in the video, but one of my partners, the least experienced horseman, had his horse bolt and take off back across some rough, rocky ground inter mixed with small arroyos (dry river beds). The horse finally stopped running and my partner explained he knew enough not to jerk her head around at speed and cause a wreck. It ruined out pretty damn funny as he lost his hat early on and we saw his bald head popping up now and then and the horse came out of the arroyos.

The one rein stop can be dangerous if you are not an experienced rider. Twisting the horse head around can cause him to cross his front legs, trip and roll –often with the rider on bottom.

When I’m working with novice riders I always teach them the two rein Cavalry stop. I check them out on this before I ever let them on the open trail.

The Cavalry stop is basically one rein held lower than the other. The lower rein consistent with the normal stop and the upper rein keeping the horse’s head more or less straight. I find this works better for a bolting or panicking horse more so than the normal two rein stop where both reins are held even.

Hope the video helps. Safe Journey.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Second Annual Bluebonnet Rescue Horse Training Challenge

Last year was the first year Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society (BEHS) held the Bluebonnet Rescue Horse Training Challenge – and it was a great success! Half of the horses who participated in the Challenge were adopted not long after the Challenge. Too often we hear that horses in rescues are “used up” or “useless” and the Challenge lets us show just how wrong those claims are.

The Bluebonnet Rescue Horse Training Challenge is a competition in which volunteer foster homes and professional trainers work with a Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society foster horse for three months (starting in mid-July 2010) and will show off at the Challenge at the 2010 Bluebonnet Horse Expo on October 16, 2010.

The goals of the Challenge are to:

* Introduce the public to talented rescue horses
* Showcase the training abilities of Bluebonnet foster homes
* Produce horses who are ready to go to work for their adopters

The Challenge is open to any BEHS member who applies to foster and is approved, as well as professional trainers whose property is inspected and approved. If you are not currently an approved foster home or BEHS member, you can join the rescue at and download a fostering application at and we’ll get you set up to go.

The Bluebonnet Fostering Coordinator and the Challenge organizers will select a pool of eligible horses. Participants will apply to compete in the Challenge by July 10, 2010 and will be able to list their top three choices of a horse to work with. BEHS foster homes may compete with a foster already in their possession as long as no professional trainers have handled the horse in the six months preceding the Challenge Competition (held on October 16 at the Bluebonnet Horse Expo in Austin, Texas). If you wish to compete with a foster horse already in your possession, note that on your application.

Horses will be assigned on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Each participant will be responsible for picking up his or her horse from its foster home between July 1 and July 15, 2010. A list of horses available to compete in the Challenge is available at

Each eligible horse will come with a current, negative Coggins and have current vaccinations. His/her previous foster home will also complete an evaluation sheet assessing the horse’s abilities and training to the best of the foster home’s ability.

When the participant picks up his/her horse, he/she will have one week to turn in an evaluation worksheet to the Challenge organizers. He/she will have up until the competition on October 16, 2010 to work with the horse.

The Challenge will include the following divisions:

* Professional trainer - anyone who is paid for their training services
* Experienced foster home – someone who has been a foster home for at least two years
* Novice foster home – someone who has fostered less than two years
* Youth – participants 17 and under as of January 1, 2010.

If a foster home chooses, he/she may pay training fees to a professional trainer for a Challenge-eligible horse. That horse and trainer will then compete in the professional trainer category.

Horses in the professional trainer division will compete under saddle. All other divisions will compete in either an under saddle subcategory or an in-hand subcategory.

At the Challenge, all horses will compete over an obstacle course and will be allowed an additional five minutes for a freestyle presentation. This may include tricks, presentation of “before and after” history, etc.

The contest will be judged by a panel of equine professionals. Each horse/trainer combination will be scored on:

* Improvement from initial assessment
* Condition of horse
* Obstacle course
* Presentation/freestyle

Scores will be tabulated. The highest two scoring horse/trainer combinations in each division will be named Champion and Reserve Champion for their division.

The division Champions and Reserve Champions will then do another five minute presentation, after which the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion will be chosen.

Each person competing in the Challenge will be allowed to delay any adoptions of their horse until after the Expo. Many Challenge participants prefer to let their horses be adopted if an adopter comes along before the Expo, but we don’t want anyone to feel they might put work into a horse only to have him or her adopted and miss out on the ability to show off the horse. All horses will go up for Adoption the day of the contest. Horses who are not broke to ride will be offered for adoption for $300. Horses who are broke to ride will be offered for adoption for $750. Pre-approved adopters may adopt and take home the horse after the Challenge. If more than one pre-approved adopter wishes to adopt the same horse, they may bid up the adoption fee and the highest bidder will adopt the horse. Adoption applications will also be accepted the day of the Challenge but those adopters will not be allowed to adopt until their property is inspected and approved.

Additional rules:

* All participants must be professional trainers or current members of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in good standing.
* Foster horses may not be handled/trained by any other individual or trainer from July 16 – October 16, 2010.
* All foster homes who compete must sign a contract stating that they agree to foster the horse for three months after the Challenge is complete (unless he/she is adopted beforehand) or forfeit their winnings. (This condition is waived for professional trainers. Professional trainers who compete may ask that their horse be moved to a foster home after the Expo).
* Competitors will be responsible for the cost of feeding their horse, shavings/bedding, and farrier work during the Challenge and the foster period after the Challenge. Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society will reimburse $10 of every farrier visit, paste de-wormers, pre-approved veterinary care, and pre-approved corrective farrier work and medications.
* There must be at least two people signed up per division in order for that division to be offered.


The Champion in the professional trainer category will receive at least a $100 cash prize as long as there are at least 3 participants in that category. Prizes for the Champions in other categories are TBA. The Grand Champion will receive a $500 cash prize, and the Reserve Grand Champion will receive a $250 cash prize.

If you are interested in participating in the Bluebonnet Rescue Horse Training Challenge, please email Jennifer at for an application.

PS. Only sound and healthy horses will be used in the Challenge. Additionally all participants must be approved as foster homes for BEHS and follow-up visits will be conducted to make sure the horses are doing well in their foster homes and with their training.

For more information:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Listen to this Young Cowboy

Listen to this recording and see if it doesn't give you some faith in our young people.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Horse Training - Leading a Balky Horse

Justin from North Carolina e-mailed me and asked what to do with a horse that balks moving forward when he is leading it. If you lead a horse to the same lace each and every time and make him work or do something he ain't comfortable with, then he may be balking because he gets away with it and/or gets put back in his pen.

One sure way to get the horse to move is to move him off center, as in turning him, however this does not get him moving forward.

In the video I show Justin how to use a short crop or cue stick to tap the horse in the barrel like when you are in the saddle and giving him a cue to move forward. Tapping him with a longer cue stick on the rear end or above the hocks will also work, but it's not the same cue as you would give the horse (pressure on the barrel with your leg, calf or spur) if you were in the saddle. Hope this helps Justin. Safe Journey.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Horse Training – Developing a Side Pass to Open Gates

Developing a side pass in your horse is not only for the function of being able to open gates on horseback, it allows you to better control your horse in all aspects of riding even at the lope and gallop. Plus I reckon I could always use the side pass to move the horse sideways to where I left my beer.

Anyway the side pass is the same with any other skill or task you ask of your horse,…it starts on the ground and it is based on the horse learning from pressure and release.

I start on the ground and using finger pressure on the horse’s flank (where the barrel and the butt come together), I ask the horse to move his hind end away from me. I also use the voice command “over”. Even if my horse moves just a little, I take the pressure away rewarding his effort. Then I try again until he moves by crossing one foot over the other.

I do the same on the front end. It may take several tries until he steps over the other foot. You probably need to hold onto on side of the reins to keep his head straight, but real quick like your horse should figure out what you want of him and be sure of what you are asking as you remove the pressure as he moves.

Once the horse can disengage his front and rear ends, I hold him up close and perpendicular to a fence to block forward movement and, using a short lunge stick or crop, I ask the horse to move sideways crossing both the front and back feet together in a side pass. Initially you may have to use the crop stick to put pressure alternatively on his back end then front end, but this will soon lead to just pressure on his barrel where your leg, calf and spur are going to be cueing him to move in the opposite direction.

One of the reasons I think all riders or horse owners should develop a side pass on their horses, even if you have no gates to open, is your horse just becomes a better horse being able to disengage both front and rear ends independently and at the same time. It is useful when moving forward to “push” the horse laterally, and is a skill that doesn’t require a rider to be jerking or pulling on the reins forcing the rider to use the idea of pressure and release.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tack and Horse Equipment – Saddle Pads

There are many different types of saddle pads. People buy them sometimes just to match their saddles, bridles or horses, and sometimes making a mistake of trying to compensate for a poor fitting saddle. Saddle pads should be chosen for their fit and functionality – how they fit the horse and what level of comfort it provides.

Saddle pads can come in many different types materials and thickness. Common types are wool felt (top left), neoprene, and wool blanket with fleece liner (bottom left) with real or synthetic fleece). I like a wool felt pad as they can breathe and also wick away heat and moisture from the horses back.

I won’t use neoprene as I don’t believe it allows the horse’s back to breathe very well and traps heat and sweat. However, I have also used wool blanket with a fleece liner (combination pad and blanket), either real and synthetic fleece, and that seems to keep the horse comfortable as well as Wool Felt.

Pads come in different thickness. Common Wool Felt pads are ½, ¾ and 1 inch thick. You can purchase Wool Felt Pads with cutouts for low withered (mutton withered) horses and contoured centers to protect the horse’s backbone. I use Wool Felt pads with Impact Gel pads built in-between the layers of Wool Felt to aid in absorbing or dispersing the weight of the rider and saddle. I also use a thin wool blanket, doubled up, over the saddle pad.

But what I wanted to talk about today was two overlooked tips on saddle pads.
The first tip is to regular clean the Wool Felt saddle pad using a grooming brush to remove excess hair and to scrap away crystallized sweat that, if not removed,, can scrap up a horse's back cause hair loss and discomfort.

The second tip is to always “tent” your saddle pad over the withers and brush away any mane hair so as you cinch the saddle down you don’t end up pulling on the mane and making the horse uncomfortable.

Tip #1

Tip #2

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tack and Horse Equipment - Get Down Rope

In response to a reader question on Get Down ropes and how I use one:

Get Down Ropes are a pretty traditional piece of equipment, use by the Horseman to lead his horse when on the ground or to tie his horse to a tie rail or other suitable tie spot.

Notice I say suitable tie spot. A panel fence, fence gate and flimsy things like this are not good tie spots. Use something that is meant to tie your horse to such as a tie post, tie rail, D ring on a trailer, etc.

There are a group of Horseman that will not ever lead their horses nor tie them by the reins. However, I will not go so far as to say good Horsemen never lead by the reins or tie by the reins. I certainly have, no excuses, but I'm just a Horseman in training. I'm sure the reader can understand that leading a bitted horse, that is a horse carrying a bit, by the reins can cause problems such as the bit clanging around the horse's mouth and even chipping or busting teeth.

Riding a Hackamore or a mechanical Hackamore is alot different, but if you don't have a Fiador, you may pull the nose band and bridle off the horse.

In riding with Hackamores and Bosals, remember a Bosal is just the nose piece which, combined with a bridle or hanger, becomes a Hackamore. Some Horsemen use Mecate or McCarthy reins which are a one piece rein, becoming like a set of roper reins and tied so the last 8 feet or so become a get down rope connected to the Bosal or noseband heel knot. Traditional Mecate Reins are made from horse mane hair, newer ones are made from round yacht braid or kermantle rope.

Other get down ropes are separate from the reins and are clipped or tied onto the Fiador loops (next to the noseband heel knot) in order to lead a horse on the ground.

I use a modified rawhide noseband tiedown and bridle as a Hackamore and I carry a 1/4 inch soft cotton rope to tie onto the tiedown ring on the noseband for when I want to lead a horse any moderate distance on the ground or over rough terrain.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Horse Training – Correcting a Horse that Moves Away when Mounting

A friend of mine, Tony, approached me the other day asking me what to do about his horse that tries to move away from him as he tries to climb into the saddle.

I went through the reasons the horse may be moving away:
1. The Horse is just not ridden enough - this may be a problem that a lot of wet saddle blankets may solve.
2. The Horse may be getting much too much energy from excessive feed. I've seen people feed 25 lbs of Alfalfa a day plus 5 lbs of Sweet Feed, cracked corn and such. Too much high energy fed makes for a hot horse.
3. You could be putting too much foot in the stirrup and, in effect, kicking the horse in the barrel – which would certainly make the horse try to move away from that pressure.
4. Could be that you are leaning back when trying to mount, in effect pulling the horse towards you which would cause the horse to compensate by moving away.
5. Whatever the cause, this is a human problem, not a horse problem.

Try this: As you start to mount, short the rein on the side you are mounting, tipping the horse's head slightly to that side so if the horse tries to move off as he is mounted you can easily pull the horse into a circle. If you pull on the horse's head as you mount he will move his hindquarters away, so make sure you are not doing this.

Remember those old Cowboy movies where the actors are mounting and their horses are moving in circles cause their heads are being pulled around?

As you mount your horse, be sure not to stick too much foot into the stirrup, not only to keep from booting the horse, but as a safety measure too, in case the horse bolts and get away from you - no use in being dragged. I have a friend who mounted without holding the reins and the horse took off flipping him over his butt. He received a spiral fracture of his wrist - could have been worse.

As you mount keep your body close to the horse and use your legs to push yourself up into the saddle. Some people lean way to far back and use their arms to try and pull themselves up into the saddle, in effect pulling the horse off balance and the horse will react by moving away from the pressure.

If you do everything correct and the horse stills tries to move away from you, then dismount and put some energy into moving the horse in a couple tight circles. Then offer to him to stand still and try mounting again. It make a couple times and a couple circles but this usually works as the horse understands standing still is much easier and preferable to moving quickly in small circles. Ray Hunt called it “Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.”

Some people like to put the horse up against a fence blocking his movement away. I don't do this and think it is unnecessary as it only leaves the horses the option of moving forward or into you. Ever had you foot stepped on by a horse?

If you mount and the horse begins to move forward without a cue, then back him a few steps. If he tries to walk off as you get in the saddle he probably also does other things he has a mind to without cues from the rider. Fixing him on the mount will make him better.

Hope this helps. Safe Journey.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Repairing Rope Ends

I'd like to believe that some of being a good horseman is knowing how to take care of your gear. Or so I tell myself when I spend alot of time making repairs not only on tack but fences and waterlines.

I spent the weekend doing much more manual labor than I intended and got very little time in with my horses. Besides the normal cleaning of stalls and such, I planted some fruit trees, cleaned and organized most all of my hand tools and repaired the house cooler.

I also took a moment to repair some rope that I use all the time. After I was almost finished repairing lunge line ropes and some rope halters, I decided to shoot video on how to tie on the ends of rope, in this case some of my pack saddle tie down rope.

If rope ends are not tied up and/or melted, then they fray and unravel leaving you with un-useable lengths of rope.

I use cat gut to wrap around the end of a length of rope, the pull the ends of the cut gut underneath the wraps to keep it in place. Then I melt off the un-useable part of the rope using a metal heat device that I salvaged out of a dumpster years ago and repaired. You can do the same with a sharp pair of scissors or knife and a butane lighter like the ones with a long shaft that you light Bar-B-Que grills with.

Keep you rope repaired, out of the dirt and dry and it will last for years.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Army Scouts - Yellowstone Kelly

Famous Army Scout Yellowstone Kelly was born Luther S. Kelly in 1849 in New York. Kelly served very late in the Civil War, finishing up his Army enlistment in the West where he served in the Montana area around the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone River Valley.

He became an Army Scout and earned his nickname “Yellowstone” through scouting for the Army on the Yellowstone River in the 1870’ sand 1880’s, as well as hunting, trapping and guiding.

Yellowstone Kelly served as a Chief of Scouts for General Nelson Miles from 1876 to 1878 where served participated and scouted for the Tongue River and Wolf Mountain battles. He also scouted for the Army during their chase down of the Nez Perce.

Kelly later served as a guide to several expeditions into Alaska as well as serving as an Army Captain in the U.S. Volunteers in the Philippines Insurrection. He later became an Indian agent at the San Carlos Indian Reservation in Arizona.

Yellowstone Kelly moved to California dying in 1928. At his request he was buried near Billings, Montana part of the land he scouted early in his career and became so fond of.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Horse Training – Opening and Closing Gates

Opening gates is pretty standard fare at some arena trail courses, and events like the Extreme Cowboy Races and American Competitive Trail Horse Association events.

Training your horse to position up so you can open gates represents a break through between you and your horse as you and he need to be able to do several things to accomplish this.

The easiest thing to do is to ride parallel close to the gate, reach down, open the gate latch, and depending upon what type of gate it is, move your horse through it, positioning up to close the gate.

The proper way to open and close a gate is to keep one hand on the gate at all times so the gate doesn’t blow open away from you or close towards you possibly injuring you or, worse yet, your horse. I say “worse yet” because after all it would be your fault.

It is even more proper and shows substantially more horsemanship to start away from the gate and move your horse side ways, called a side pass, towards the gate.

In order to do this, your horse has to be responsive to pressure and release; be able to cross his front end over and move his back end over as well. You have to keep his head straight, or slightly tipped to the outside (the opposite direction you are side passing to.

It helps to teach your horse to side pass by beginning on the ground with pressure and release on his front end, barrel and behind the rear cinch in order to move the front end, body and rear end respectively.

When in the saddle, it helps to use props such as a rail fence to block movement forward so your horse has no direction to go but sideways to gain a release.

Much like backing up, the side pass will make a much better trail horse for you as well as to enable you to open and close gates – the accepted way with your hand on the gate at all times!

We’ll post a video on ground training for a side pass in the short future, otherwise watch the video below and see if you can pick up how I position my horse, keep his head relatively straight and use my outside leg to ask him to side pass towards the gate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tying A Hay Load Down

The other day I was visiting a feed and tack shop owner friends of mine. A older women, by the name of Mary, came in to buy some bales of alfalfa and when she loaded up I asked her if she was going to tie the load down.

She said she didn't have that far to go, but didn't have any rope to begin with or know how to tie knots. I grabbed up some loose baling twine and showed her how to tie a simple end of the line bowline on one tie down and a tension knot at the other other.

If you have been haling hay long enough, for hauling anything for that matter, you have probably lost a bale or something else at least once. I always tie my loads down no matter how big, or how well the load fits, or how short a distance I am going. Besides, it is down right embarrassing to be picking up hay bales on a State Highway,......right, Pat?

Plus knot tying is just a common skill all should have. I have tied anchor knots in helicopters in order to rapel out (that a descent on a rope from a hovering helicopter), and on mountains as an aid to get down in one piece.

Lots of good books, videos and sites on the internet to learn rope tying, just pick a knot, get a piece of rope and start twisting and tying. Craig Cameron, who we have talked about several times on this site, offers a knot tying video which I hear is very good.

Back to my hay load, I loaded up some hay and shot the following short video with my unpaid camera person (my daughter). I using a bowline (technically called an end of the line bowline) through a loop in the front of the truck bed, then a tension knot through a loop on the back end,.......... tighten it up and you're finished.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Popularity of the Extreme Cowboy Association and the American Competitive Trail Horse Association

There has been a fast rise in popularity for the Extreme Cowboy Association (ECA) and the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA).

The ECA, founded by Craig Cameron, is healthy competition centered around all around horsemanship and riders are evaluated on their ability to negotiate obstacles or accomplish tasks associated with working cowboys.

Some of the obstacles or tasks may be opening and closing a gate on horseback; roping and dragging a barrel or just plain dragging a log; loping in a circle and executing lead changes on a figure 8 path; and other similar obstacles. Riders are judged partially on time but I think the focus is on how well the rider rides judging by how well his or her horse responds to subtle cues on loose reins. Some of the harder tasks for some people may be firing a Single Action Army revolver (using blank ammunition of course) at balloons or entering into a round pen and roping a loose horse.

There are categories for different skill levels. Competitions are conducted across the country and sometimes shown on RFD TV. Some of the competitions are conducted in covered arenas and others are ran in open fields or otherwise seemingly take up 5 or so acres of land.

For more information please go to: and you can see some sample obstacles.

Another competition rapidly gaining popularity is the American Competitive Trail Horse Association. I have previously written about it HERE. For more information please go to:

One reason these competitions are gaining popularity are that they have remained focused on the horses, good manners and better riding. As with competitive ventures in other areas of riding, and certainly in activities outside of riding, such as the shooting sports, winning seems to take over the original reason that competition was founded. Competition has the benefit of expanding our knowledge and increasing our ability to perform at higher levels, and, has brought innovation to many activities, however you have to remain vigilant for people who are consumed by winning and who's ethics are often set aside for that purpose. Seen more of my share of people, who call themselves horsemen, who blame their horses for their failures and do not begin to adequately treat their horses with respect.

By far the best result of events like the ECA and ACTHA are that they allow horse people to gather and test the relationship between them and their horses. Trail riding or learning to tackle obstacles and tasks in the ECA competitions make a good horse better be it for Western or English Show riding, Team Penning, Hunter Jumper events, Team Roping and the host of others that a multitude of riders compete in each it allows us to judge our progress with our horses.

I recommend checking out the websites and exploring the value of competing in such competitions. Safe Journey.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Selecting a Horse Trainer or Riding Instructor

A lot of people are hanging out Horse Trainer or Riding Instructor shingles these days. Like my Pa used to always say “Let the Buyer Beware” means you are responsible for who you pick or pay for these services, so take some care and make sure you are picking a good, honest and competent trainer or instructor. The two are not mutually inclusive. Some good riders and instructors are not good horse trainers and vice versa.

Visit the trainer/instructor’s facility. Are the horses well cared for? Is the general property clean? Does the trainer/instructor do most of the work, or is it regulated to apprentices? Sad as it is I have seen training facilities where horses are standing in water or deep mud; have ringworm (fungus); stalls full of manure; high levels of general disrepair; really dirty stock tanks; horses looking wormy; and/or feet not having been trimmed in half a year. A person would have to think really hard about committing themselves to a place like this.

Watch the trainer/instructor train or teach. If they won’t let you watch, or what they call “audit” a class, then just go away. Is he/she patient with horses and/or students? If the trainer is riding how is the horse responding? Is the trainer/instructor rough with the horse? Is the trainer/instructor making excuses for his/her poor horsemanship or the horse’s “bad” behavior?

Do your research. Talk to people in riding clubs and tack stores. Ask for recommendations. And asking a novice and new student of this trainer/instructor won’t get you the most accurate advice. Any trainer or instructor should let you, the prospective client, audit (watch) a lesson or training session to see if that trainer or instructor is a good match for you and what you expect.

Beware the trainer/instructor that tries to sell you a horse. Especially if they are making some excuse like “That horse will be alright, nothing anything but wet blankets won’t fix”. I’ve seen trainer’s buy a horse on Thursday and try to sell him on Saturday tell the prospective buyer that he’d been working this horse for several months,....”Oh, it’ll be a great roping horse”,...etc. If you are about to buy a horse a pre-purchase exam by a competent Veterinarian would be a good idea.

Back to the saying “Let the Buyer beware”. Seek your own knowledge through all manner of sources: books, DVD’s, TV shows such as on the RFD channel and above all seek training from recognized trainers. The one I would recommend the most would be Craig Cameron – seek link on this site. There are other good one’s like Ken McNabb and Pat Parelli.....many others as well. Links to these trainers also on this site. I know a lot of people don’t have the resources, meaning time and money, to use professional trainers – hence why I am doing this site (plus it keeps me out of trouble).

Pick up a Horse Magazine and look for articles, ads and web sites, and, seek a local expert who can help mentor you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Horse Training - Use of Food or Treats in Training

The use of treats, such as horse cookies, in horse training has long not only irritated, but disgusted old time Cowboys. I have a much more liberal approach to the use of treats thinking that there is a place for them as a reward when a horse finally understands what you are asking of him and does it willingly.

The problems with using treats are that: 1 - the horse knowing you have food or treats on hand and becoming focused on getting those treats, hence making it much harder to get him to perform as you are asking, and, 2 - giving a horse treats or food by hand can get them "mouthy" and that's harder to break them of this bad habit.

A horse thinks really of only one thing and that is food. But he thinks about food in two ways, to get it and how not to become it. There is a common belief, which I share, that when a horse eats, endorphins are released making the horse calmer. That's a pretty good reason to incorporate some type of food or treat reward when the situation calls for it. What comes to mind is trailer loading.

Seen alot of people not being able to get their horse into a trailer, or what the horse may see as a mobile Bear Cave. I've seen some people back their trailers up to a pen, open the gate and put feed in the trailer forcing the horse to get into or at least close to the trailer in order to eat.

Hell, I knew a women who did this and after three days her horse still had not gotten close enough to the trailer to grab some alfalfa. I had to intercede and stop that nonsense as her horse was at a health risk. Instead I think a better way would be to use treats to reward the horse in trying to approach the trailer all the way up to and including getting in. Eating, and the release of endorphins in this case will help calm the horse. I know that if someone was giving me peanut butter cookies then I would soon figure out not only that life was good, but what I had to do to get more.

You'll have to be careful as to not give threats out too often, and your horse becoming mouthy. I had a farrier who did not like me giving a young horse some treats when he was cross tied on the shoeing stand, but that same horse had an accident where he spooked and flipped over the cross tie lines and was having some issues with being on the stand and being cross tied. In this case, giving the horse treats on the shoeing stand help replace the bad memory of his earlier incident.

Be careful incorporating treats or food into training. Use them sparingly and watch for signs of your horse becoming mouthy. Teach them that the only time they can get something out of your hand is when you offer it.