Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reader Question on Guns and History

I received this reader question. "Why all the articles on guns and history? I see Horsemanship in the title but see many articles on things other than relating to riding a horse. I stayed with your site for awhile but am now considering not coming back to read at all because of all the essentially non horseback riding or training information. What gives? P.S. Not trying to offend."

I learned along time ago not to wear my feelings on my sleeves,....that's pretty important when you work with horses, so I don't take offense. Not that I won't get bowed up when I have an inclination to.

I like history, particularly the Old West where living was dependent upon enduring hardships, learning quickly and often relying on horses and a person's ability to build a relationship with one.

My Grandfather (1878-1880) and my Uncle (1914-1918) were in the Calvary and I was one of the last Army Rider Riders who lineage came from the old Army Scouts who were soldiers, ex-soldiers, civilians and Indians. So I'm gonna write about subjects like that from time to time.

As far as guns go, they are another tool, like a pair of fencing pliers (ever used a pair?) or even a lariat. Many places you can still ride while carrying a gun, and particularly carrying a rifle is damn good idea. A Cowboy from Montana, 45ColtLC, and I have been discussing appropriate calibers for riding in Grizzly country for several weeks now.

My original idea, and still main focus, for this site was to provide information and help to the many backyard or small acreage horse owners who otherwise can't access training or attend clinics....and then it sorta branched off into the subjects you asked me about,...kinda natural I think, but if you don't think so then you may one of those who just needs to trailer to a clinic from a professional. Many can't do so, and those are the people (and horses) I'm trying to help as well as also write some things of interest to me in particular. I'm sorry I can't be more than that. Safe Journey to you.

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Tough Mule

I received this from a friend of mine,...

A couple from Montana were out riding on the range, he with his rifle and she (fortunately) with her camera. Their dogs always followed them, and on this occasion a Mountain Lion decided he wanted to stalk the dogs (you'll see the dogs in the background watching). Very, very bad decision.

As the Mountain Lion got closer and was noticed by the couple, the man got off the mule with his rifle and decided to shoot in the air to scare away the lion, but before he could get off a shot, the lion decided he wanted a piece of those dogs and charged. With that, the mule took off and decided he wanted a piece of that lion. That's when all hell broke loose .... for the lion.

As the lion approached the dogs, the mule snatched him up by the tail and started whirling him around, banging its head on the ground with every pass. Then he dropped it, stomped on it and held it to the ground by the throat. The mule then got down on his knees and bit the thing all over a couple of dozen times to make sure it was dead, then whipped it into the air again, walked back over to the couple (who were in stunned silence) and stood there ready to continue the ride ... as if nothing had just happened.

Fortunately even though the hunter didn't get off a shot, his wife got off these four ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reader Question on Parts of the Horse's Leg

An friend of mine asked me to do a post on getting familiar with a horse's leg anatomy so he could talk to the Vet on the phone about problems with his horse. This is a good topic as I'm sure a lot of Vet's have problems understanding questions and symptoms as related to the location on a horse's leg that are given over the phone from their clients.

Obviously the better the information a horse owner can his the Vet, the better and more accurate advice the Vet can provide in return. Even then expect the Vet to play 50 questions with you as you try to articulate the problem and what you are seeing.

It pays to be able to correct identify the parts of the horse's leg to get the Vet anatomically oriented to where the problem area is. If you don't know or have a hard time remembering the parts of a horse's leg, you can print the following picture, or better yet, buy any one of many good books on horse owner care and keep it handy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Horse Health Care - Blister Beetle Threat

I received the following question a few days ago: “My friend was telling me that she read an article in a Horse Newspaper about beetles being poisonous to horses and that sometimes these beetles get into the hay where if the horses eat them, they will die. My friend couldn’t find the newspaper, so can you write about this?”

What your friend was referring to was a type of beetle called Blister Beetles. They are hard to identify as there are over 7,500 species. They are not so common in the Northern parts of the United States. There is an old wife’s tale about only spotted beetles can be blister beetles and this is not true. They can be red with black spots, or plain black or really any color. Do not rely on markings or color to identify Blister Beetles. They are pretty damn odd looking bugs, with a separate head, shoulders and body – although I doubt the technical body terms are correct. They do have three pairs of legs (6 legs total). Look at the pictures below and you’ll see what I mean.

I have only seen Beetles present in alfalfa maybe three times in the past 12-15 years. I threw out that bale, and was careful to pull apart and go through the other bales from that load, which came from the Dallas , Texas area. It did not keep me from contracting hay loads from the same transport or farm, but I always check my alfalfa, flake by flake when I feed, not only for Beetles but for mold and foreign contaminants. Heck, I have found turtles, rabbits, old shoes, paper bags, string, newspapers, beer and soda cans and a lot of other objects as well. So it just pays to check your hay.

What is dangerous to horses is that these Blister Beetles secrete a blister agent type of chemical called Cantharidin. Alive or dead these beetles can poison a horse with this chemical. It will blister the gut and cause pain and colic type symptoms, and there may be ulcer type sores in the mouth as the horses chew their hay, crush the beetles and release the toxin.

I am told the Blister Beetles feed off of the alfalfa flowers, which appear usually after the first cut. It only takes a horse to eat three or four of these beetles to kill it. So you can see that a very small amount of Cantharidin to be toxic and lethal.

I looked up the other symptoms and they may include frequent urination and dehydration. Treatment includes treating for colic; Some treatments include treating for colic; use of mineral oil to help move the poison through the gut more quickly and maybe to absorb some of the toxin and coat the lining of the gut; some people advise Charcoal may also be used to help absorb some of the toxin.

Consumption of Blister Beetles is life threatening for a horse you must take quick and effective action to save the horse, but it starts with checking your alfalfa and knowing what to look for. Safe Journey.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Army Scouts - Forsyth's Scouts and the Battle of Beecher's Island

A little known fight between 48 Army Scouts and 3 Army Officers, one of which was a Army Surgeon, against a mixed group of between 400 and 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho, and perhaps Sioux warriors, occurred 142 years ago today. This fight, called the defense of Beecher’s Island, took place near present day Wray (Yuma County), Colorado from 17 to 25 September 1868, near the "Dry Fork of the Republican River", sometimes called the "Delaware Creek" and also called the "Arikaree River".

Due to Indians attacks on the Railroad and wagon trains, General Phillip Sheridan, on August 24th, 1868, gave the order for the Army to organize 50 frontiersmen, to be used as Scouts against the hostile Indians. These Scouts were organized and placed under Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth, with Lieutenant Beecher, Third Infantry, as his subordinate.

The Scouts were paid $50.00 per month with most of the scouts receiving an additional $25.00 per month for furnishing their own horse and saddle. Scout's carried the following individual equipment: Spencer repeating rifle or carbine with 140 rounds of rifle ammunition, Colt's Single Action Army revolver with 30 rounds of revolver ammunition, Blanket, Saddle and Bridle, Lariat, picket-pin, Canteen, Haversack, Seven days' cooked rations, Butcher knife, Tin plate and cup. Furthermore, the Scouting expedition was equipped with four pack mules carrying camp kettles, Picks and shovels (to dig for water), 4,000 rounds of rifle and revolver ammunition, Medical supplies, and, Extra rations of salt and coffee.

A total of 57 Scouts were hired, called Forsyth’s Scouts, from Fort Harker and Fort Hays, Kansas. A total of these 48 Army Scouts were present for the scouting expedition which culminated with the Beecher ’s Island fight.

Forsyth’s element, while on patrol attempting to locate Indians, encountered a large Indian force which forced them to occupy a defensive position on what came to be known as Beecher’s Island. Additional Indian forces converged to help in the attack. All of the Scouts animals were either killed or run off.

During the 8 or 9 day fight, a total of five Scouts were killed, another later dying of wounds received. Colonel Forsyth was wounded very badly. Lieutenant Beecher and Army Surgeon (Doctor) Moores were both killed as well. It is estimated that the combined Indian force suffered at least 70 dead and over 100 wounded. The successful defense was attributed to the rifle marksmanship skills of the Army Scouts.

A couple of Scouts snuck past the Indian’s surrounding the island and were successful in making their way to Fort Wallace for help, where a relief column that comprised of Company H of the famed 10th US Cavalry - Buffalo Soldiers - under Lt. Col. Carpenter arrive to relieve Col. Forsyth, led by eight other Forsyth Scouts who were previously detailed to another Scouting mission, plus nine Scouts of the 10th Cavalry.

Forsyth Scouts were formally disbanded on December 31, 1868.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transitioning a Horse from Dry Feed to Pasture

Received the following comment on a post concerning Horse Nutrition – Determining the Horses Energy Need,....Anonymous asked: "I'm moving my horse from Arizona to Tennessee. Do you have any suggestions on what I should be planning for?"

I assume you are asking about getting your horse ready for a transition from dry, baled hay to pasture grass. If so, you have the right idea, planning a transition from dry hay to pasture. Horses just cannot go from eating dry, baled hay one day to lush pasture grass the next safely without a transition.

This transition from dry hay to pasture needs to be a gradual change otherwise the change maybe so drastic as their delicate gut is stressed and colic can result.

We recently shipped a horse to Hawaii and in preparation for the 2 day trailer ride to California, then the 8 day trip via a ship to Hawaii, we found out what the horse will be fed enroute and started 4 weeks out gradually replacing increasingly larger amount of the horse's feed with alfalfa-hay pellets getting her used to the change in very small increments.

You may not be able to feed your horse lush pasture grass before you ship him off or trailer him up to Tennessee, so you'll probably have to do the feed transition once you are in Tennessee. Simply only let him eat very small amounts, then increase the time he is turned out to pasture, to give him the best chance of transitioning from dry feed to lush grass. Watch his manure when he is stalled so you can see any changes that occur as well as the amount of manure.

Depending upon the type of grass in the pasture, you may want to, or may have to supplement with natural grains, processed grains or dry alfalfa so the horse's nutritional needs are met.

I suggest talking to your horse vet about this as well as anybody you know in Tennessee who also brought their horse from a similar environment. Hope this helps and safe journey for you and your horse.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More on Using Hoof Testers

I received a request from Carol who asked for some more tips on using Hoof Testers. I hope that between this video and the previous video on checking for lameness where I also used the Hoof Testers will help understanding this tool and how to check for hoof soreness and possible problems.

I had an old horse who broke a coffin bone wing in his right rear hoof. When we were trying to figure out what was wrong with him, I used the hood testers on that foot and he about blew with the pain. After X-rays, the Vet had no hopes for him ever being sound again. That horse had paid his dues with me and I was not ready to give up on him, so I worked with my farrier to bring him back to soundness.

Another more likely possible with hoof soreness or lameness originating at the hoof is a foreign object such as a nail, cactus or mesquite needle penetrating the hoof and the hoof closing up over the entry. This will cause an abscess which is very painful and the horse will show on the area that gives him pain when pressure is applied with the hoof tester.

Hope this helps Carol,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Buffalo Soldiers

In 1866, through an act of Congress, legislation was adopted to create six all African American Army units. The units were identified as the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantry regiments. The four infantry regiments were later reorganized to form the 24th and 25th infantry regiments.

These fighting men represented the first Black professional soldiers in a peacetime army. The recruits came from varied backgrounds including former slaves and veterans from service in the Civil War. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, coming to be known as Buffalo Soldiers, these Black-Americans were assigned to the harshest and most desolate posts in the West and Southwest.

The nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began with the Cheyenne warriors in 1867. The actual Cheyenne translation was Wild Buffalo. The nickname was given out of respect and the fierce fighting ability of the 10th Cavalry. Overtime, Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all African American soldiers. Some attribute the name “Buffalo Soldiers” to the Indians likening the short curly hair of the black troopers to that of the buffalo. Another possibility for the nickname was the heavy buffalo robes the soldiers wore on winter campaigns.

During the 1870-1880’s, the Buffalo Soldier wore a flannel shirt, and a blouse of dark blue with light blue trousers tucked into over-the-knee boots. Also, civil war kepi (hat) adorned with crossed sabers bearing regimental and troop designation. He was armed with a 45-70 Springfield carbine (rifle), a Colt Army .45 (1873 model) caliber pistol and a saber. He was outfitted with a slouch ‘campaign’ hat, black at first and a light grayish-brown by 1874, with a four way crease that became known as the Montana crease. The Buffalo Soldiers were not issued a neckerchief but generally wore one of his own color of choice anyway. Sometimes yellow was worn more often red or white. These were real necessities, especially for the men riding further back in the column needing protection from the thick clouds of dust kicked up by the front ranks.

1866-1891, The Indian Wars
- The 5,000 blacks who served in the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments constituted about 10% of the total troops who guarded the Western Frontier for a quarter century. The 10th Cavalry Regiment is one of the unique regiments in U.S. Military history. Moving west from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas within a year after its activation in 1866, the 10th began its march into immortality becoming the original Buffalo Soldiers.

Locations like the Great Plains and in the mountains and deserts of New Mexico and Arizona were a formidable challenge. Ten years of near constant campaigning were required before conflicts with numerous Indian nations subsided. Buffalo Soldiers were also assigned to the Texas border in harsh and desolate posts, where they also subdued Mexican revolutionaries and Outlaws. Buffalo Soldier on Horseback from the 9th Cavalry below.

1898, The Spanish-American War
- The four regular regiments fought in Cuba , making up about 12% of the forces on the Island. The 10th Cavalry regiment distinguished itself in Cuba at Santiago and Las Guasimas, and in the famous charge up San Juan Hill . What most people do not know is that the brunt of the fighting was borne by the soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments. One eyewitness has written: "If it had not been for the Negro Cavalry, the Rough Riders (and future President Teddy Roosevelt) would have been exterminated." The 10th Cavalry fought for 48 hours under fire from Spaniards who were in brick forts on the hill. Photo below depicts Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba.

An interesting fact is that then First Lieutenant John Pershing fought with the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) on Kettle and San Juan Hills in Cuba and was cited for gallantry, later known as “Black Jack” Pershing, given his nickname because of his service with Buffalo Soldiers, and becoming a famous General while leading a Expeditionary Force against the Mexican Rebel Pancho Villa, as well as leading troops during World War I.

1899-1902, The Philippines War
- In addition to the four Black regular regiments, two volunteer regiments composed of Blacks help wage this colonial campaign.

1916, The Mexican Punitive Expedition - The all-black 10th Cavalry comprised 12% of the forces sent in pursuit of Pancho Villa. The regiment suffered over half (10 men killed) of the casualties sustained against the Villistas.

Note: This post is focused on the African –American service members during the Indian Wars until The Mexican Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. It is not intended to convey that the only African American military service worthy of mention was the aforementioned time periods. Black service members contributed as fighting men as early as the American Revolution and continued to this day fighting against Islamic fundamentalist and terrorists in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. I am lucky and proud to have served with, and under, some of these modern day “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reader Question on Rifle Scabbards

I received a reader question asking where they could get a good leather rifle scabbard. The reader did not mention what type of rifle they wanted to carry, so I'll talk about several different options here.

I have several different leather rifle scabbards,..probably the two I use the most are one made by Classic Old West Styles (COWS) at http://www.cows.com, and one made by a prison leather shop that a Texas Ranger Captain gave me, which would be unavailable for most people. The COWS scabbard is a good high quality scabbard and anyone would be pleased owning it.

Depending upon your price range, Outfitters Supply, http://www.outfitterssupply.com has excellent quality leather products. The price would run from $125 for a carbine scabbard to $170 - $260 for a scabbard that would fit a scoped rifle.

I do not suggest buying the cheap leather scabbards, that I have seen priced at around $40. Generally, these cheap scabbards are made from poor quality leather and the stitching leaves alot to be desired. You don't need to be horseback and find your prized lever action missing from it's a scabbard. So I would stay away from the cheaper scabbards from places like Cabela's.

Two other excellent sources would be El Paso Saddlery at http://www.epsaddlery.com/
and Big Bend Saddlery at http://www.bigbendsaddlery.com/home.html

Examples of regular saddle carbine scabbard and scabbard for scoped rifle below:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tying Mecate Reins to Slobber Straps

Responding to a reader question on You Tube about how to tie Mecate Reins to Slobber Straps,.... Proudtobeafarmgirl made a comment on the Lariat is More for Just Roping post,....."great video, no static and not much wind. Thank you for showing how to make a halter from the lariat, handy thing to know. Can you or do you have a video on how to tie the macate reins on to a snaffle with slobber straps?" OK Proudtobeafarmgirl, I offer this post.

Mecate Reins are one piece reins traditionally made out of hair so that it is prickly to the horse neck which adds in cueing a horse for neck reining. Nowdays yacht or rappelling rope mecate's are as common as hair mecates.

Mecates, sometimes called McCarthy reins which is the bastardized english version of the Spanish term, are normally tied to bits using leather connector pieces, called slobber straps, that are designed to keep the expensive hair mecate's away from the horses mouth not only to protect against the horses chewing on them or his slobber from getting on the reins, as the name implies, but to keep the prickly hair mecate from bothering the horse's sensitive mouth and lips.

In the video, I explain how I have my mecates tied, using knots on both outsides of the slobber straps as I think this balances the bit better, but I have included a picture below to show the traditional method of tying the near side or left side mecate to the slobber strap.

Generally you would create an 8 foot one piece rein with the mecate and have about a 12-14 foot length for a "get down" rope to lead from the ground with. This piece is traditionally "S" rolled and tucked into the belt from the bottom up so it will pull out easily if the rider gets tossed. It can also be coiled and tied to a saddle string.

The photo below shows the traditional method of looping the mecate through the near side slobber strap and brining the mecate back through underneath itself to lock it down. Either way, the method showed in the video or the picture below will work just fine.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Help on Using Split Reins

I received a reader question many weeks ago that I am now just getting to,...the reader asked about how to hold and use split reins.

Boy, I'm not exactly the right person to ask that of. I know how most people use split reins and I'll start with that, but I use split reins a little different.

With split reins,....that is two distinct separate pieces of rein that connect to the bit or hackamore, the rider can use a direct rein or an indirect rein (neck reining).

With split reins you still keep your hands in the box above and forward of the saddle horn or swell if you have one of those hornless saddles. Hey, I got nothing against hornless saddles,..hell, the old cavalry McCellan is hornless. Anyway, you hold onto your split reins with either both hands or with one hand, palms down.

With traditional split reins, usually they are crossed at the rider and the rider holds them with one hand where they cross.

I use split reins alittle different. I tie a 8 inch length of leather string around the reins about 18 inches from the end of them, to use as a slider. The excess part of the reins are drapped together over one side or the other. Normally drapped over to my right hand side, unless I'm roping then I'll flip the end of the reins over to my left hand side.

Probably not writing this well enough for you to understand so hope the video explains it better. In any event, just try to ride with as little pressure on the reins as you can. Try to be as subtle with your signals via the reins as you can. You and your horse will be much better for it. Safe Journey.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I spent some time last week with the local Police Department and County Sheriffs Office Combined Search and Rescue (COMSAR) Team conducting an Orientation to Man Tracking. As an Army Range Rider I had worked with this group a couple times in the past on search and rescues in the Mountains. The group was pretty apt students, seeing from the get go that this can help them as they search for lost hikers or whoever. One search and rescue in particular was where I tracked an emotional disturbed old man into the Mountains and found him before he was dead. I brought a medical response team, with a couple of the COMSAR members, and they were able to save this man's life.

There were several members of the SWAT team as well, and they thought Man Tracking Skills are essential for tracking escape convicts or other criminals. Once I tracked two archeological thieves 8 miles before I caught and arrested them.

The basics of Man Tracking are the same for tracking animals and really just involves being aware like the horseback trail rider should be at any given time. Maybe you are separated from your riding partners and need to find them, or maybe you live close to an area with a missing child and you volunteer to help search for the child while on horseback. The advantages of tracking on horseback are obviously that you cover more ground in a quicker fashion, your elevated position often allows you to see sign and disturbances better without putting your ground sign and tracks into play and possibly confusing other trackers.

The tracking subjects that I focus on are:

Principles of Tracking and Signcutting

Print Report

Griding Tracks

Reading Common Pressure Releases

Movement Patterns

Aging of Sign

Use of the Tracking Stick

Reading Above Ground sign

Counter Tracking Measures

Tracking Formations

Conduct of the Search and Search Techniques

Use of technology, primarily cell phone photos and sending those e-mail and use of tracking beacons.

The area I was conducting this tracking school for the City/County COMSAR was pretty rocky and a lot of ground sign was missed, however using lost sign search techniques, often the team would locate the fairly subtle ground I left for them such as a rock pushed into the ground or a rock separated from the soil. See below photo.

If you are part of a local horseback group you may want to consider doing some tracking training to prepare yourselves to help in any local area searches – missing children are common. It is something you can practice each time on horseback to sharpen your skills and adds another aspect to trail riding. Safe Journey.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Knot Tying - Tying a Highline to Picket Horses

I received a comment from Angie who asked: "Can you show me how to tie my horses up on a line as opposed to just keeping them tied to the trailer? I saw a lady at a overnight endurance ride, who had a line between her trailer and a tree which allowed the horse some more freedom I think, but I did not get a chance to see how she tied this arrangement up. Angie"

This is how I usually tie a High Line. I use a clove hitch with a round turn to secure one end. I'll tie as many Butterfly Knots as I need to tie my horse's lead lines to, then a tension knot at the other end to secure the High Line. The High Line needs to be pretty high so the horses don't tangled up in it. I hope this video helps you out.

Instead of tying a Butterfly Knot in the middle of the High Line, you can use a Figure Eight to create a ring where you can tie a horse to (see photo below).

There are also commercial metal ring devices, like a Figure Eight, that are available from Packing Supply Companies. Check out TrailMax In-Line Swivels and Knot Eliminators from www.outfittersupply.com