Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Horse Follow Closely - Horsemanship by GaWaNi Pony Boy

A friend of mine asked me to review a book on Native American Horsemanship Training, called Horse Follow Closely by GaWaNi Pony Boy, which comes with an instructional DVD. I bought the book but should say I went into a review thinking I wouldn’t like the book/DVD, probably in the back of my head I was thinking it was some esoteric - mystery laden look at training horses. Don’t really know why I was predisposed to think that way, since Native Americans are known for their horseman skills and my Grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and listed on the Dawe’s Rolls from the turn of the century. I was happy to find that Pony Boy has a philosophy similar to Bill and Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, whose beliefs I subscribe to.
Pony Boy talks about the relationship between the horse and rider being the mortar that cements the training together and allows for progress. We’re asking the horse for something, they aren’t asking us for anything. He explains that time and patience is the only way to solve communications problems.

I like the way GaWaNi Pony Boy simplified building a relationship with the horse, both through his book and the DVD that comes with it, providing a easy checklist for the horse owner in developing these skills.  I highly suggest this book.  I have added the book/DVD combination to the Book Carousel at the bottom of this page.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Property Maintenance

Part of owning horses,....did a part? I should say "a large part" of horse ownership is doing all the facilities maintenance necessary to not only provide your horse(s) with a fair life, but to enhance your ability to take care of them and efficiently use your time.

This weekend was one of those periods spent on facilities maintenance. Primarily getting the stalls and corrals ready for the rainy season. Towards the end of June and through mid July we tend to get about 1/3 to 1/2 of our annual rainfall total of 8 inches. Wet sand and mud makes for cleaning stalls tough. I put tons of sand and dirt in six of horse stalls; built up areas in the corral that had been worn away from the wind and from normal horse movements; widened some of the roads for tractor trailer rigs to be able to maneuver through my property, and cleared away some edges of mesquite mounds so parking trailers would be alittle bit easier.

Patching and re-calking stock tanks and replacing cracked feed buckets filled in the rest of the weekend for the most part. My wife bathed several horses and treated some skin fungus not to mention shoveling and raking the brood mare stall. I did manage to get one 8 mile ride in. The clouds humored me and somewhat mitigated the 100 degree heat.
Well, I guess there's always tomorrow. Safe Journey.

National Day of the Cowboy

Just wanted to remind everyone that the Sixth Annual National Day of the Cowboy is 24 July 2010. Click the logo below to go to the National Day of the Cowboy website for further information and good reading.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Horse Health Care - Check Your Feed

Months ago I wrote a post on Horse Feed, you can review it by clicking here. I talked about the importance of checking your alfalfa or grass hay to ensure mold and contaminants are not present.

Over the years I have found a dead turtle, dead rabbits, dead lizards, one tennis shoe, crush soda and beer cans, plastic bags, etc. I can deal with that crap, but what I am checking for are mold, toxic plants and blister beetles.

One my last hay load, I found not a little but alot of snake weed in a few bales of alfalfa. Snake weed is also referred to as Loco Weed. This is not good for your horses to eat to say the least.

Be familiar with what it looks like. I also did a post on toxic plants and you can see snake weed growing by clicking here.

So, just a reminder to check your feed. If it is suspect, then don't feed it. It's much cheaper checking, not feeding it, and throwing it away (or feeding to the goats) then calling a Vet at midnight or even burying a horse. Safe Journey.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Functional Horseman's Saddle Guns

One of the best tools a Horseman can have, especially when riding in the back country, is a Saddle Gun.

Saddle guns are usually thought of as carbine length (short barrel) rifles suitable for carrying on the saddle in a scabbard. There are many reason to have a rifle handy in remote areas: protection from feral or rapid dogs and coyotes; protection from bears and mountain lions; protection from two legged evil critters; and you may have to put down a wounded animal such as a deer or even a horse, God forbid.

I normally carry a Winchester Model 1896 Trapper (16 inch barrel) Lever Action carbine in .30-30 Winchester caliber. This rifle is a good general purpose rifle for all your needs and when using the new Hornady Leverevolution ammunition you can get near .308 performance out of the .30-30. If I am not carrying a handgun, then I am most certainly carrying this rifle.

Sometimes I carry a Reproduction of the 1873 Winchester Lever Action Carbine in .357 Magnum. Particularly if I am carrying a .357 magnum handgun, then my ammunition is the same. Again Hornady leverevolution ammunition gives enhanced performance. My 1873 lever action carbine is about the slickiest handling gun I have ever had. The .357 magnum cartridge is the mininum adequate for a mountain lion and not a good idea on bear.

Occasionally I carry a Marlin 1895 .45-70 lever action rife. This is still a light weigh rifle, firing one hell of a round in a 325 grain bullet at .45 caliber. This round is suitable for all North American game and even with it's much longer barrel, it can be safely carried in the saddle scabbard.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Losing a Horse

Friends of mine just lost a horse,…an 9 year old, beautiful sorrel mare who has ran barrels in several big name rodeos. The horse had a blockage and could not pass manure for three days. Our Vet responded several times, tubing the horse with mineral oil and water,…at both ends, to no avail.

There was nothing our friends could have done. They are devastated as was I when I had to put down my 7 year old Paint Horse, Chance, due to a twisted gut one year, nine months, and 16 days ago. You have a special bond with a horse you have raised and trained as a weanling. Chance was a character, often pulling off my hat and running away with it. I could place him 50 feet away and butt towards the trailer, throw his reins over the saddle horn and say “Git in the Trailer” and he would turn and run into the trailer, sometime sliding to a stop and sitting down like a dang elephant – what a character. Hardest thing I’ve had to do was put him down. This is Chance below.

The deal here is not to beat yourself up on what you could have done,….these things happen. You just have to take as best care as you can to ensure your horse is getting good, clean feed, and, free choice clean water.

My wife, who has ridden dressage in Germany under a Master and been a Wrangler at a Dude Ranch in California, has an unnatural sense on horses, she can pick up lameness when I don’t see anything,…she can tell a horse isn’t right, when it looks okay to me. She has correctly diagnosed problems that some Vet’s miss. However, most of us don’t have that sixth sense. We have to reply on experience much more than gut instinct.

The more you observe your horses, the more you know. You can develop the observation skill to tell when a horse just ain’t right, and bears watching. A horse standing listless is cause for concern. Standing spread out like when they urinate; without peeing is a good sign something is wrong, usually in the gut. Standing with their ears back, like they are trying to listen to or get a handle on a problem behind them is another sign.

Biting at their sides evident by mouth shaped wet spots and ruffled hair on their barrel can indicate gut distress. Walking in tight circles then trying to lay down and lay down hard is a big clue and you have to do what you can to keep the horse from throwing itself down as this is a good way for the horse to twist a gut. When a gut twists, it is all but impossible to save a horse without immediate surgery and even then there’s a relatively small chance the horse will survive.

You need to have a reference book on hand. You can click here, or click on the link to the left, then type “Equine Nutrition” in the search box to bring up a list of the best Equine Nutrition and Health Care books available.

Good luck with your horses,…just give them a fair life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back Country Horseman of America (BCHA)

Back Country Horsemen of America is an organization whose purpose is to: 1 - perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in America’s back country and wilderness; 2 - Work to insure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use; 3 - Assist the various government and private agencies in their maintenance and management of said resource; 4 - Educate, encourage and solicit active participation in the wise use of the back country resource by horsemen and the general public commensurate with our heritage; and, 5 - Foster and encourage the formation of new state Back Country Horsemen's organizations.

The actual formation of BCH took place in Montana’s Flathead Valley in January of 1973. Since then, BCHA progress is a matter of record. They have used their specialized knowledge of stock and the back country to bring about changes and modifications of restrictive management, and have participated in many agency meetings and land use planning and regulations and have become a strong voice for continued, responsible horse use.

Go to their website here: http://www.backcountryhorse.com/

Growth of the Back Country Horsemen organization continued with formation of additional chapters in Montana . In 1979, these chapters and one from Salmon, Idaho formed the Back Country Horsemen of America. Three more Montana chapters and one from Idaho were added in the next few years.

The Back Country Horsemen of Washington was incorporated in 1977 and developed an informal liaison with the Montana and Idaho Back Country Horsemen. In 1981, a California organization was formed known as the High Sierra Stock Users. After several years of discussion, the four groups decided to merge, using the Back Country Horsemen of America name. A constitution was drafted in 1985 and adopted in 1986. It provided that the governing body of this new organization would be a board of directors elected from each state. Montana , Idaho , California and Washington Back Country Horsemen units became the BCHA. Since that time, there has been steady growth within the four founding state organizations and in other states.

There are approximately 13,300 members in 47 states with Back Country Horseman organizations in 25 states including: Alabama , Alaska , Arizona , Arkansas , California , Colorado , Florida , Georgia , Idaho , Illinois , Indiana , Kentucky , Michigan , Missouri , Montana , Nevada , New Mexico , North Carolina , Oregon , South Carolina , Tennessee , Utah , Virginia , Washington , and Wyoming , with 174 Chapters.

BCHA is highly successful in establishing trails and maintaining good rapport with governmental agencies through use of their Leave No Trace Principles. BHA are well known for their stewardship of remote areas and riding trails. Their Leave No Trace Principles are:  Plan and prepare, Travel and camp on durable surfaces, Dispose of waste properly, Leave what you find, Minimize campfire impacts, Respect wildlife, and
Be considerate of other visitors.

I have met some of the BCHA horseman and they are an organization worthy to join. If you can find an Chapter near you, this is a good way to enhance your knowledge while contributing to the overall group effort to maintain places to ride in this country.

Horse Hoof Care - Hoof Wraps

I finally found, again, the Hoof Wraps source. I have several hoof wraps and always carry on in my saddle bag. In case my horse sustains a hoof injury or bends a shoe where I have to take it off or gets puncture. I have actually never used it on my horses, but have three times used it on other horses. I’m lucky I have an excellent shoer who drives 150 miles one way to trim and shoe my horses every six weeks. I have only had one shoe ever come off with this shoer, and that was when I was loping through the desert, hit a soft spot where my horse got bogged down and over stepped clipping and bending his front left shoe.

Anyway, the Hoof Wrap is a small flat package which consists of a three layers of 2200 denier ballistic nylon and Velcro wrap with a removable, durable EVA foam pad.

Hoof Wraps bandages are guaranteed to fit most horses and stay on in the field no matter the conditions and allows your horse the freedom to stay on. Although I still use Easy Boots to treat hoofs with a cloth soaked in water and Epsom salts, the Easy Boots are too cumbersome to take on the trail where size and weight are a consideration.

The Company advertising that Hoof Wraps are a multi-use bandage – not a boot – that offers an alternative for everyday horse hoof care and saves you the time and expense of home-made bandages. Easily treat common hoof problems like horse hoof abscess, thrush and stone bruise, or use for protection after shoe loss. It’s designed specifically for horses on turn out so your horse can still enjoy the freedom of mobility during treatment.

The one size fits most system works well for most horses and the extreme grip fastening system ensures it comes back to the barn. Three layers of 2200 denier ballistic nylon and industrial stitching offer tough construction.

An EVA foam pad is included for comfort and Hoof Wraps can easily be removed, cleaned and reapplied. Use with a variety of poultice, topical solutions and medicated pads. Light weight and compact, horse hoof wraps are a great addition to your first aid kit or saddle bag.

Machine wash. One size fits horse shoe sizes 00-0-1-2 or rough diameter of 4” to 5.5”. You should have one in your saddle bag, and I suggest pre-trim the pad to fit your horse.

Click on the link to the left to order one, or click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hose Health Care - Treating Leg Cuts

The trail rider or Cowboy who rides in remote country needs to be prepared and able to treat common injuries like leg cuts.

The horse's legs are pretty vascular and can bleed well if cut or sliced such as on sharp rocks, cactus or bob wire. Since horses are moving forward, often these cuts will be linear or horizontal, but in any case need to be treating especially if there is much bleeding. Too much blood loss will result in the horse getting dehydrated and cause other problems, most notably colic.

I suggest carrying bandage kit with you such as 3x3 inch gauze pads, a tampon and vet wrap to be able to stop the bleeding and bandage the cut, until you can get out here you can properly treat it. I always carry a bandage kit, shrink wrapped/ vacuum packed together.

The reason I pack a tampon in my bandage kit is that this item is very dense and designed to absorb alot of blood,..plus it fits the usual leg cuts I am accustomed to seeing. I'll apply the tampon and guaze and hold firmly to the cut in order to stop the bleeding by allowing the blood to clot in the wound. Then using Vet Wrap, I will wrap the bandage (tampon and gauze) to hold it in place until I can get back and treat it better with a antiseptic cleaner, antibiotic powder or paste, then another bandage, unless it needs sutures then I call a Vet.

I also carry Wound Dust and will sometimes apply wound dust, normally in smaller cuts, to provide for antiseptic treatment at the time of the injury. If you wash the wound out, application of Wound Dust can help dry out the wound site as well.

Hope this helps,...don't leave home and head out on the trail without a bandage kit.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Horse Health Care - Doctoring Eye Injuries

Sooner or later a horse is bound to have some problem with one or both eyes. An infection from some bug going around; a stick poking him in the eye and causing some problems; or just dirt and debris that needs to be washed out. Sometimes an eye lash gets turn inside and really irritates the horse's eye.

I use Clear Eyes solution or regular saline solution to clean out the eyes and a clean gauze pad to wipe away the eye boogers and excessive moisture then apply anti-biotic ointment. I use ophthalmic or triple anti-biotic ointment without any topical numbing agent like hydro-cortisone, which Vets have told me could really hurt the eye or even blind them.

The ophthalmic ointment comes in small tubes with a rounded nozzle that is less dangerous (less sharp) to the horse's eyes. I have also used a syringe to draw triple anti-biotic ointment out of a regular tube then use the syringe to place the ointment into and around the horses eye.

I like to place the ointment in both corners of the horses eye, being careful to point the nozzle of the tube or syringe away from the eye. The horse's natural eye movement will help distribute the ointment. You can also put the ointment inside the eye lid next to the eye itself but I have found this hard to due.

It's important to wipe away any excess anti-biotic ointment that can attract sand and the horse lays down.

I'll usually treat eye injuries twice a day in this manner and have the horse wear a fly mask, pretty much 24/7 until the infection is gone.

Hope this helps you with your own horse's eye care. Safe Journey.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Horsemanship - No More Chasing Loose Horses

Recently an old partner of mine asked me to right a short article on the keeping control of your horse when bridling up.

At some point you have to talk the halter off and put the bridle on. Best case if that your horse is trained well enough to stand ground tied or stand in place and not run off. My old partner helped chased someone horse for a few hours out in the open after the owner rode back the trailer and took the bridle off without having a neck rope or anything to hold the horse, and the horse took off running through the desert for several hours, saddle and all.

If you are tacking up at a roping or other event, a loose horse running through the parking areas can cause some damage or cause other horses to spook or pull back. In you have been in the horse business long enough, you will chase a few horses that got away form you. Lose a horse around a bunch of others horses and riders and it could just be embarrassing or could result in you being asked not to come back, “Please don’t come back, yahoos are not appreciated here”.

The silent video below with text tags shows me taking the bridle of a horse looping the reins over his neck so I have some control and way to remind him to stay put as I get the halter on him. This horse will stand un-tied as I saddle/un-saddle him, check his feet and so forth, however something could also spook him and send him moving off. I have fences and gates on my property to keep them from getting too far. In fact, this horse occasionally unlocks the corral gates and lets him and his buddies out to roam around. I don’t mind him doing that from time to time as it breaks up the monotony of being in the corral and I think it keeps their minds fresh, but having a loose horse on the range or out in the open, especially near any traffic can be a bad event.

Safe Journey.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Horse Care - Neglect Case

Following less than 10 days after I wrote about some people keeping horses literally as back yard pets in un-safe conditions, I turn on the local news and see a report on a home fire.

The news films a man walking (strolls more like it) out of a gate next to his house with a fire burning in the back of the house between the home and garage or shed. The news caster goes on to report that the man's horse was consumed in the fire. I about came unglued. We have this film of man walking calmly off his property while a horse burns alive in his back yard.

While I don't know all the particulars on this case, I do know the type of horse owner this is. One who horse property and care standards ain't any better than the people I wrote about previously (click here for that post). And one who keeps a horse penned up in a small stall not giving the horse a fair life.

I am an advocate for the horse and will not apologize for my comments on these type of people. Chances are they have a dog or two chained up in their yard also. In fact we own seven dogs that previous owners did not take care of, and have run off ending up at my place, where they are welcome as long as they are peaceful (keep the coyotes away).

Back to horses,....what I do know is that these types of horse owners will not change their stripes. Seems like a no brainer that if you're going to have a horse to ride that you want some decent type relationship with such a large animal you are going to potentially trust your life to. Those changes have to be easy, like training a horse, making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. I don't know if these means expanded animal control authority or some type of equine social worker,....I just don't know. But I do know that a horse shouldn't burn alive through someone's negligence or lack of care.

Saw another idiot the past couple days also. This guy had a horse for sale parked on a wide spot on the State highway. A little sorrel mare in a trailer for 6 to 8 hours in 100 degree heat. Worst yet, this looked like a cargo trailer with metal railing sides that only came up to the horse shoulder. Unbelieveable.  We hopefully thisis my rant for the month.  Safe Journey.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Horse Training - Using Nose Chains

Some people use Nose Chains in conjunction with halters in order to control their horse through more 'bite" or pain. The user needs to understand the severity of using a chain and the potential injury you can cause to the soft cartilage in the horse's nose.

You see nose chains hooked to lead lines on halters for race horse. These horse's are kinda "bred to bolt" and run as fast as they can, as such they are hopped up on high energy feed and using nose chains in the hands of professional handlers makes sense. The average horse owner needs to be careful using nose chains.

I would much rather use a rope halter with a rawhide band across the nose if I had to go to anything more severe than just a plain rope halter. The solution to most of the horse that are hard to handle leading on the ground is more ground work.

If you are going to use nose chains, be real careful. Do not ever tie up your horse with a lead line hooked to a nose chain. If they pull back they will cause tremendous damage to their nose - and it will be your fault.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Horse Training - Solving Trailer Loading Problems

I was asked by a client to help his horse, Maximus, be more comfortable with getting in a trailer. This is probably the most common problem people bring to me. Max has previous refused to get in the trailer after an hour of effort by the owner the day before.

My way is to establish a relationship with the horse, getting him to accept me and asking him to do some simple things, through pressure and release, so he understands when I put some pressure on him to do something, he'll find a fair deal with me because when he does it I'll give him a release. Some people say "it's establishing who's the boss",....I don't look at it this way - I think it's more of partnership. You want a willing horse not a fearful horse.

Anyway, part of Maximus' problem is that he is only taken from his corral and put into a trailer to go someplace and work a couple times a month. Everytime he gets into that trailer he can anticipate a long bumpy trailer ride, then 6 or so hours of hard work, then another long bumpy trailer ride. I think to keep your horse fresh you need to diversify what you do with him when you take him out of the pen.

Take him out of the pens and just groom him; or work in without a saddle in the round pen; or tack him up and ride him a short distance maybe working on something specific; or just take him out walk him around for awhile then put him up. Horses can get mentally burnt out just like humans.

One thing is for sure: don't start something like trailer loading training unless you have the time not to quit on him. Because if you don't succeed sometimes the horse will learn that he can quit on you and get away with it.

I learned a big lesson years ago when at the end of a day I was going to take my paint horse through a small puddle of water. I chose a bad time - early in the evening; I chose too small of water obstacle as he ended up jumping over it time and time again. I knew I couldn't give up on him or he would learn how to avoid the lesson. The end result was around 10:00 pm at night I gave up and put him away. Being madder than hell didn't help him become a brave horse that night. He eventually would willingly walk through large water obstacles.

Back to trailering - it's called leading him into the trailer, because you can't pull a thousand pound animal anywhere. I see people standing in front of their horse trying to pull him into the trailer - often the horse won't go if you're standing in front of him! Get out of the way, lead him up by suggesting it to him,...if you did you ground work you'll be successful.

Once you and he are successful, and if the horse is still pretty timid about it, then do this everyday for a few weeks - it only takes a few minutes - and you help him conquer that fear. Good luck and be safe.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Horse Training - Negotiating Small Hills on the Trail

I was recently working with a rider who's horse did not like moving through any amount of chest high brush. So I took him and his horse on into the desert to
negotiate some thicker brush and get his horse sacked out on that.

Most of the thicker brushy areas in the desert are dirt mounds which are, for the most part, actually sand accumulation in the exposed part of the Mesquite bushes.
So, to get into the thicker bushes, in most cases, we had to go up some small hills.

Well, we didn't even get there with the other rider. He was trying to control the horse too much with tight reins in effect telling the horse to stop or slow down at the same time he was giving leg cues to go forward.

When you go up in hill like this, with tight reins - giving confusing signals, you risk the horse coming of his front end and flipping back over. Going down hill with tight reins can also cause a wreck. I've seen a horse turn and tumble when the rider was pulling too hard on the reins.

As with other obstacles, you need to give the horse his head. Let him see the terrain and pick his foot placement. As in the case of the rider I was trying to help, if you can't ride with a loose rein, then don't try the hills, uphill or down.

You have to be aware that when the horse, going down hill, hits the flats he may carry his momentum forward into a faster gait. No sense to be leaning a little back going downhill then have your horse transition immediately into a fast lope or a gallop......easy way to come his back end. Which is pretty damn funny if no one gets hurt.

I asked the rider to work on a loose rein before we go back onto the trail for some practicals. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Army Scouts - William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody

In a life that that is hard to separate fact or friction from, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody came to embody the face and spirit of the West for millions. Enduring today as a National Legend and perhaps the most famous Army Scout.

Born in Iowa, in 1846, Cody grew up on the prairie. When his father died in 1857, his mother moved to Kansas, where Cody worked for a wagon-freight company as a mounted messenger and horse wrangler. In 1859, he became a prospector in the Pikes Peak gold rush, and the next year, joined the Pony Express, which had advertised for "skinny, expert riders, preferably orphans, willing to risk death daily." Already a seasoned plainsman at age 14, Cody fit the bill.

During the Civil War, Cody served first as a Union scout in campaigns against the Kiowa and Comanche, then in 1863 he enlisted with the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, which saw action in Missouri and Tennessee . After the war, he married Louisa Frederici in St. Louis and continued to work for the Army as a scout and dispatch carrier, operating out of Fort Ellsworth, Kansas.

Finally, in 1867, Cody took up the trade that gave him his nickname, hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. By his own count, he killed 4,280 head of buffalo in seventeen months. He is supposed to have won the name "Buffalo Bill" in an eight-hour shooting match with a hunter named William Comstock, presumably to determine which of the two Buffalo Bill’s deserved the title.

Beginning in 1868, Cody returned to his work for the Army. He was chief of scouts for the Fifth Cavalry and took part in 16 battles, including the Cheyenne defeat at Summit Springs , Colorado , in 1869. For his service over these years, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, although this award was revoked in 1916 on the grounds that Cody was not a regular member of the armed forces at the time. (The award was restored posthumously in 1989).

All the while Cody was earning a reputation for skill and bravery in real life, he was also becoming a national folk hero, thanks to his exploits articulated in the dime novels of Ned Buntline.

In 1872 Buntline persuaded Cody to assume this role on stage by starring in his play, The Scouts of the Plains, and though Cody was never a polished actor, he proved a natural showman. Despite a falling out with Buntline, Cody remained an actor for eleven seasons, and became an author as well, producing the first edition of his autobiography in 1879 and publishing a number of his own Buffalo Bill dime novels.

Between theater seasons, Cody regularly escorted rich Easterners and European nobility on Western hunting expeditions, and in 1876 he was called back to service as an army scout in the campaign that followed Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn.

On this occasion, Cody added a new chapter to his legend in a "duel" with the Cheyenne chief Yellow Hair, whom he supposedly first shot with a rifle, then stabbed in the heart and finally scalped "in about five seconds," according to his own account. Others described the encounter as hand-to-hand combat, and misreported the chief’s name as Yellow Hand. Still others said that Cody merely lifted the chief’s scalp after he had died in battle. Whatever actually occurred, Cody characteristically had the event embroidered into a melodrama--Buffalo Bill's First Scalp for Custer--for the fall theater season.

Cody’s own theatrical genius revealed itself in 1883, when he organized Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, an outdoor extravaganza that dramatized some of the most picturesque elements of frontier life: a buffalo hunt with real buffalos, an Indian attack on the Deadwood stage with real Indians, a Pony Express ride, and at the climax, a tableau presentation of Custer’s Last Stand in which some Lakota who had actually fought in the battle played a part. Half circus and half history lesson, mixing sentimentality with sensationalism, the show proved an enormous success, touring the country for three decades and playing to enthusiastic crowds across Europe.

In later years Buffalo Bill’s Wild West would star the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, the first "King of the Cowboys," Buck Taylor, and for one season, "the slayer of General Custer," Chief Sitting Bull. Cody even added an international flavor by assembling a "Congress of Rough Riders of the World" that included cossacks, lancers and other Old World cavalrymen along with the vaqueros, cowboys and Indians of the American West.

Though he was by this time almost wholly absorbed in his celebrity existence as Buffalo Bill, Cody still had a real-life reputation in the West, and in 1890 he was called back by the army once more during the Indian uprisings associated with the Ghost Dance. He came with some Indians from his troupe who proved effective peacemakers, and even traveled to Wounded Knee after the massacre to help restore order.

Cody made a fortune from his show business success and lost it to mismanagement and a weakness for dubious investment schemes. In the end, even the Wild West show itself was lost to creditors. Cody died on January 10, 1917, and is buried in a tomb blasted from solid rock at the summit of Lookout Mountain near Denver, Colorado.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Horse Training - Beginning Neck Reining

In response to a reader question about him not liking Hackamores since the rider has to "plow rein" or pull the horse's head over to the direction he wants it to go, I offer this post.

Plow reining is most often used as a derogatory term to mean riding with both hands or otherwise using a direct rein. It connotates a new rider and/or a green horse where signals need to be very clear. First of all there is nothing to be ashamed of riding and controlling the horse with both hands or using direct reins.

Where neck reining comes in very handy is with reined cow horse or working ranch horse competitions where the horse and rider are cutting and controlling cows. The rider will ride one hand on the reins and the other on the saddle horn and the horse makes dynamic changes of direction to control the cow.

When roping, or trail riding for that matter, the ability to control the horse with one hand on the reins is necessary, as it frees up the ability to hold a rope, radio, firearms or just hold onto the lead line on a horse you are ponying. In any event controlling the horses head is more of a suggestion than the means in which to change direction. The reins should be subtle cues to "tip" the horses head in that direction with the seat and more so the legs providing the heavier cue.

From almost the very beginning when I first put a Hackamore on my horses, I will begin to teach the horse to associate a rein on his neck with the opposite direct rein to tip his head. I'll do this without leg cues at first than add them shortly after.

The following video just gives a visual on associating a neck rein to the direct rein and that progression. Safe Journey.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Horse Health and Safety - What We Owe Horses, Again

I'm the last somebody who is going to deny anybody the chance of Horse ownership and the benefits to the mind and soul that come with it,...but what also comes with horse ownership is the responsibility not only to give the horse a fair life, but a safe life. It doesn't mater your economic standing - you can still provide a safe environment for your horse.

This post is kind of a rant, but I can't not write something about people literally keeping their horses as yard pets without any regard to safety for the horse.

The following pictures show properties in a little rural community, where houses and trailer homes tend to crop up together, all who have one or two horses on the small property and various items and material that pose a danger to the horses who are loose on the property.

The property above has a trampoline, stacked up pipe, loose corrugated metal roofing, an unidentified pile of junk partially covered by a blue tarp, and, other objects all laying around the yard. I don't know what they are feeding their horses as there is no stacked not covered hay. The horse's are pretty lean, but not to the point where I'm calling Animal Control,....yet. The two or three bicycles laying down in the yard are horse accidents waiting to happen.

This property (above) also has stacks of stuff like cinder blocks, wood, etc., plus has an open porch with metal furniture. The dangers of a horse being chased by dogs or otherwise spooked into such objects are just too great to ignore.

What you are looking at in this place (above) is two horse stalls constructed with corral panels and corrugated siding. Each about 10 by 10 feet. What you don't see is re-barb and baling wire on the inside, wooden pallets making up part of the stall fence, sharp edges of corrugated tin, about 18 inches deep manure, nasty water bins and the two under fed horses and their flared out, duck hooves that haven't received a trim in probably over 9 months.

Can you imagine a horse, with the vascularity of the head, slicing his face on the corrugated tin?

We talked to this family several times until no action was being taken and Animal Control had to step in. I can't fathom the human who would treat any animal this way, let alone a horse.

If any of us can help someone have a safer place for horses then we done something good. Safe Journey - keep your horses safe!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Horse Training – Patience, Pressure and Release

A couple nights ago a friend, we’ll call him Ben, called me just madder than a wet hen about not being able to get one of his horses into the trailer to take him to an overnight stay to get shod the next morning.

Ben spent about an hour trying to get the horse into the trailer without success. He tried a long whip, tapping on his hocks and rear end; he tried a butt rope – all efforts did not work. He put the horse back into the stall and called me.

I made the 35 mile drive and got to his place about 30 minutes before sunset.

I told Ben, don’t start nothing with a horse unless you have time to finish it. For all your yelling and pressuring him, he might be thinking you are teaching him that the trailer is a dangerous place to go.

Another issue is that every time you put him in the trailer, you take him some place that is not comfortable for him and make him work. He’s no dummy, he’s figured it out. Every time you loss your patience with him, you are causing him to have anxiety and therefore justifying his fear of whatever it is you are trying to make him do.

I told Ben this is what I’m going to do: do alittle bit of ground work to get the horse listening to me and establishing that I’m the herd boss right now; only ask him to do things that he will be able to do in short order; use pressure and release where he gets a release from pressure when he even tries to do what I ask him to do. And above all use patience,…be firm,….but be patient.

This horse is a big Throughbred, about 16.3 hands tall, and is a decent trail horse but has not received a lot of ground training. I ask the horse to walk off, stop then back, doing that several times. You could tell by the horse’s demeanor that he’s doesn’t get ask to do this much. I asked him to disengage his front end, stepping one foot over the other and within a minute or so, he was doing this well. I then asked him to do the same to the back end, telling Ben all the time that the horse is learning that when he does what I am asking him to, he gets release from the pressure – he learns on the release. Horses may learn something from punishment, but it is much better off for the horse and rider to teach with patience and learn from release.

I told Ben these easy ground exercises are good to get the horse listening and focused on you. I also told Ben he needs to handle his horses for 5 to 10 minutes every night, when he isn’t riding them, to re-enforce these lessons. If you have to feed your horse, then you have enough time to handle them for a few minutes if you don’t have the time for a full blown training session.

Anyway, after getting the horse to move his front end and his hind end over. I ask the horse to travel in a tight circle at a jog while on the lead line. When the horse would slow to a walk I would pressure him to go back to a jog. I did this in both directions a couple of times, for about 3 or 4 minutes, then walked the horse into the trailer.

I told Ben to put him in the trailer every night for a month so that each and every time he gets in the trailer he’s not getting taken some place and made to work.

I left Ben with a final word – don’t lose your temper, be patient and give the horse a fair deal with the release of pressure.

I don’t know how many times I have had people asking me to get their horse in a trailer, usually only after these people were unsuccessful for hours if not days. A bad habit is harder to change than to teach a good habit starting out, but there is the ingredient patience – can’t get there from here without it

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Horse Health - Know the Plant Life in Your Area

I was riding by a neighbor’s place the other day and noticed how his once clear dirt turn out, adjacent to his horse stalls, were overrun with Snake Weed. I made a mental note on talking to him about the noxious weed then decided to do a post on plants in general.

If you are a trail rider or other wise keep your horses near any vegetated area, you should probably learn about the plant life in your area. Know what is poisonous and what is okay for the horse to eat. Even if the plant is safe for your horses to eat, a good rule would be to limit his consumption of any new feed. Horses’ guts are sensitive and even a small change in feed types or sources can cause them gut distress and even colic.

The local extension office of your State Agricultural office or U.S. Department of Agricultural can help you identify noxious or poisonous plants for your horses.

As a former Army Range Rider and having taught Wilderness Survival for years, I am just greatly interested in the plants and animals, so I made it my business to understand edible and poisonous plants and what plants horses can eat.

In the part of the Chihuahuan Desert where I live, with about an average rainfall of 6 inches, there are many plants that are both toxic and edible. When I get up to the higher elevations the density of certain plants decreases and other species of plants are prolific. So there may be subtle changes in plant life density in the areas you ride as well.

In the below videos I will show you Yucca, Snake Weed, Sage and Mesquite on video one, and Western Peppergrass, Desert Marigold and Mormon’s tea in video two. When I get a chance to ride in some higher elevations, I will film more plants.

Generally, poisonous plants are bitter and horses won’t eat enough of it to make a great different, but why take chances? All horses are different and small amounts of toxic plants that do not affect one horse may very well affect another adversely.

The whitish bulbs on the Yucca stalk are generally safe. I had a paint horse who loved to eat Yucca leaves. He would strip a whole stalk without adverse affects. Horses won’t generally eat snake weed, maybe excepting for am mouthful and I have had horses eat a mouthful without ill affect, but this is a toxic plant to horses. Mesquite beans are just like green beans and are great cow feed. However, most ranchers would like to tear out their mesquite as it takes a lot of water away from the available grasses. I have seen horses eat a few beans and mesquite flowers, but generally horses won’t eat mesquite beans.

Western Peppergrass is pretty pungent, like the name. The flowers are crushed and used in stews and on meat. Never seen a horse digest any, but would rather err on the side of caution and keep them away from it. The Desert Marigold is a bitter plant, however once it dries up in the fall and winter, horses will readily eat the dried flowers and stalk without ill effect - not much nutritional content ( I had it checked at a local University). Mormon’s tea is best used by people, brewed into a tea which is a decongestant as it has a natural ephedra in it. Never saw horses eat any, and if I had a Arab or Thoroughbred, I would keep these naturally excited horses away from it – just kidding on the Arabs and TB’s,…I actually know a couple decent horses of each breed so please don’t send me hate mail.

Video One

Video Two