Friday, October 29, 2010

Reader Question - Are there Two Sides to a Horse?

I received a question from Bill in North Carolina concerning his horse being better on one side than the other. Bill said his horse seems to be better and calmer on things approaching him or objects that he approaches on his left side than the right. Bill wanted to know if this was common and what to do about it.

Yes Bill, this is common, barring an eye injury or some physiological reason why your horse would have a hard time seeing out of the right eye. Best to get a Vet to look at your horse to confirm or deny a problem with the eye.

Much like the concept that people are either right brained or left brained, some horse trainers think that horses think differently on what they see either out of their right or left eye. While I don't think that's necessarily true or un-true, I do know that what you train your horse on on one side you need to do the other. I'll leave it to the experts to determine this right brain, left brain thing and how it applies to horse behavior and training.

You want your horse to be equally comfortable on either side. Approaching obstacles, like the one your horse spooks at; mounting either on the left side or the off side; and all other things you do with him.

I think it just makes sense to sack your horse out on both sides. Someone asked me once why I saddle, mount and dismount from different sides as opposed to doing it all on the left side. I said I just wanted my horse to be used to me doing things on both sides. Besides, what if you were on a steep trail with a drop off on your left and had to dismount for some reason? You wouldn't want to do it for the first time on that trail.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Handguns for the Trail

I received a comment on the Saddle Guns post from Glenn in J City, Missouri. "I don't want to carry a rifle, but I am thinking a handgun would be a good idea when trail riding. Sometimes I ride by myself and other times I ride with teenage children who I am nonetheless responsible for. What type of handgun do you suggest for carrying when riding?"

Glenn, assuming you are working within existing laws concerning carrying guns, I am an advocate of always carrying a gun. I prefer saddle carbines like the ones I covered on the post you commented through. Handguns are handy (that’s why they call them hand guns). I sometimes carry only handgun when it makes sense.

When I was a Army Range Rider, I carried several different handguns: Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver, Glock model 22 .40 cal, and Beretta 92F in 9mm - whatever was allowed at the time by my Agency. I generally carry a S&W .357 magnum handgun now, but sometimes I carry a single action revolver in .45 LC as the .45 Long Colt caliber is readily available in snake shot shells and blanks for training horses on gunfire.

I think you can get used to practically any handgun and but some more suited to others. I prefer revolvers. The good thing about a .357 magnum revolver is that you can shoot .38 Special cartridges in it which will have less recoil and noise. The good thing about a .45 LC is that the round is a better stopper on wild dogs or pigs and the shotshells allow you to stand back a bit more when shooting snakes.

Double action revolvers are easier to shoot and usually have better sights. Single Action revolvers have to be cocked and most single action revolvers have a sight channel cut into the top strap which is visible after cocking. Single actions are generally not the choice for precision shots. But I like them because of their simplicity, light weight, clean lines and because of their history. The handgun pictured is a copy of the Colt Single Action revolver.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice. Just have to make the decision on the caliber. Handguns are a good tool to have,..from personal protection against two and four legged varmints and snakes to having to put a horse down who has a broken leg or other severe injury and it unrecoverable. Safe Journey Glenn.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Natural Horsemanship versus Functional Horsemanship

I received the following question through the comment block on the post about Jubal – the Mustang Nobody Wanted. Anonymous said, “Good site, thanks for all the information. What is the difference between what I have seen with Natural Horsemanship and what you are calling Functional Horsemanship? Is it something physical or a philosophy? Thanks again.”

I can see how you may be confused, being that most people want to give things labels, and in some cases, end up confuses most of us. The term “Natural Horsemanship”, I believe, it a copy righted term that defines Pat Parelli’s approach to horse training. Craig Cameron, on the other hand, advertises “American Horsemanship”. I have seen a lot of Craig Cameron’s philosophy and enough of Pat Parelli to tell you they both advocate approaches that are consistent with Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt, all of whom are credited in some way to bringing a better, safer and more gentle method to training horses, rather than the old method of man handling or making horses conform....using pressure and release,...making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard,, I would not get too concerned about titles, all of the top trainers and instructors use methods that would, in total or mostly, be approved of by the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I didn’t invent anything when it comes to horses or training. I was taught by someone else, and by many people in fact. The reason I titled this site “Functional Horsemanship”, was because I am trying to help horses through their new owners or maybe even an old owner who just grew up not really understanding much about horses. I think if you have horses you need to be “functional” with them,…able to enjoy the relationship with them and in particular riding, but also know enough to give these horses a fair life,…..because these horses did not choose the owner,…the owners chose those horses.

I have taught riding and horsemanship to small military units, who had a need to have some rudimentary skills with horses because they have found themselves in places and situations where horses (and sometimes mules and camels) were the only viable means of transportation. One Army Special Forces team asked me to give them some instruction on horses because they had just came back from a tour in Afghanistan where they sat at a base camp for four months only doing foot patrols because trucks were non-existent and none of them knew enough about horses to use the horses that the indigenous troops used. So I said something like,..”So it appears to me that you want some functional horsemanship skills” and the name just stuck.

Again, I didn’t invent anything. Sometimes I have a client or someone else say to me “Wow, I didn’t know that!”, and I always reply “Hell, I didn’t know it either until someone taught me.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jubal - The Mustang Nobody Wanted

This is a first post in hopefully a series of posts chronicling not just some of the training but the relationship progress with a human for Jubal who is a Mustang that I bought about 17 months ago that had been saved from a sales barn where he was purchased for slaughter.

I got a call from a local lady who works with the local courts and law enforcement to confiscate animals from neglect, abandonment or brutality cases and who is a leading area advocate for responsible animal ownership.

She asked me to take a look at this young Mustang she had saved, actual bought from a horse slaughter buyer. She was looking to find someone who could handle this Mustang and give him a good home. I was not looking for another horse but I agreed to look him over so I could tell other people about him.

What I learned was this Mustang came off one of the five or six Mustang herds in Oklahoma around three years ago now, but ended up in a shipping pen in North Texas enroute to the Sales Barn in El Paso where horses are purchased for the slaughter plants in Mexico to support the European horse meat demand. She bought him and had him shipped to a farm in Southern New Mexico where he was corraled for a year without handling - because he was too wild.

He was then sent to a local ranch for training, but they had to rope him to get halter on him and gave him some ground training in the round pen, but now needed to get rid of him as they were doing this for free and did not see any potential use in him, only headaches.

WHen I looked at him, I found a horse who was fearful, but I thought he had it in him to learn. I ended up buying him and thinking that he was either coming four or five, I would start over with him treating him like a two year old, put some ground training and a few rides on him, then wait for next year where I would treat him like a 3 year old and start his real training. That's where we are at now.

When I first brought him home, he was so fearful that he tried to jump out of his pen when I corrected him about being pushy on feed. He has also tried to jump out of the round pen a couple times as well. Let's see, he was reared up a couple times trying to paw me with his hooves and bite me in the stomach once and the arm twice. I didn't take offense as he was doing what he thought he needed to do at the time.

Over the past year, with a few rides in the round pen on him and constant handling on the ground, he was developed some trust in me that will make him accept a rider and become a brave horse. What makes him unusual to the Mustangs you see on the Mustang Makeovers, is the treatment he had to have received while in the shipping pens in North Texas and a few weeks in the sales pens in West Texas. That is where he undoubtedly learned that he was not going to get a fair deal form humans. That is what I must correct.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Question on Trail Tools

I received the following from Steve in Walla Walla which is in Washington State
"I read a article in Western Horseman magazine on backcounty tools. Good article and was wondering what you recommend carrying on the trail. Steve from Walla Walla."

Steve thanks for your question. I understand their are some pretty good horses up in your part of country, which was a long time ago part of the Nez Perce or Palouse Nation,...correct me if I am wrong. I am also thinking that there was a Territorial Prison in Walla Walla,...maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, to answer your question. I also read the excellent article in Western Horseman written by Ryan T. Bell. I believe the gist of the article was indispensable tools for going into the backcountry implying trips of multiple days. Ryan Bell advocated carrying a fencing tool, a camp hachet, a folding knife, a multi-tool (Gerber or Leatherman type) and a outfitter's saw. Which are all good choices.

I think the environment where you going is going to determine to a great extent what you need. I have no use for a hachet or outfitters saw in the desert and even in the pinon scrub and pine trees in the mountains.

Your question kinda implied trail riding, which is different (to me) than heading into the back country. Each and every time I head out even for short distances, I have the following items with me:

Rain Slicker. Even though we only get about 8 inches of rain a year a rain slicker is more than just a rain poncho. I can sack my horse or other horses out on a rider untying and putting on a slicker. If I get a sudden hail storm, I can use it to protect my horse's head - did that a time or two. It can also become a expedient blanket as well.

I carry an old combo tool like a shoe puller with slotted ends on the handle in case I have to pull a shoe. I carry a mini fencing plier with me also in case I have to go through a fence then fix it, or to cut away wire if one of the horse's gets caught up in some wire we didn't see.

I carry a good set of Leupold 8x42 powder river binoculars.

There is always some antiseptic wound powder, wound bandage, vet wrap and the absorbent end of a women's tampon in a vaccum packed bag in case I have to treat cactus thorn punctures or cuts and abrasions out in the field - also done that a time or two.

I carry a Hoof Wrap in case I get a sole puncture or have to take off a shoe. These Hoof Wraps are fold up ballistic type nylon and velcro hoof boots with a rubber type pad. You'll see a picture on one on the left side of this site. These come from the manufacturer with a size 2 or so pad which I trim to my biggest footed horse, which is a size 1, so it's a universal fit. These Hoof Wraps lay flat and are lightweight. Great trail kit.

I also carry a small canvas bag with some long and short Chicago screws and leather string in case I have to make field repairs to my or someone else's tack.

I am always carrying a fixed blade knife with a blade length of 3 to 4 inches. And almost always am packing a handgun and/or saddle rifle.

It is always a good idea to also carry a cell phone in case you get into trouble. And don't forget the water, even if you are going for just a few hours

Safe Journey Steve.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Craig Cameron - The Cowboy's Clinician

I have mentioned Craig Cameron, a Texas based trainer and clinician, a couple times before. However, he will be the last one to call himself a clinician. He simply calls himself a student of the horse,...a aspiring horseman. I recently had the opportunity to watch another of his clinics, for the 30th or so time, this time up at the 2010 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Craig say's his first job is to take the fear out of the horse and he demonstrates by starting colts, which he has never seen before he gets in the round pen with them. In the interests of time and demonstrating in front of a crowd, Craig hurries things up a bit and ends up puts the first ride on these colts within the hour.

Think about it,...taking a fearful young horse in front of a large noisy crowd and within the hour gentling this horse enough so the horse will accept a rider and behave himself (for the most part) for a first ride.

Below: Craig answering questions from the crowd as the Paint Mare he just finished with looks on.

Craig with a troubled Palomino Mare who he nonetheless got to willingly accept him in the saddle within the hour.

It is certainly worth a long trip and expense to either go to one of Craig's clinics or to see one of his demonstrations.

Craig is the author of one of the best selling, if not the best selling Horsemanship book, titled "Ride Smart". This book is a must have reference book for all horseman, experienced or not. The best way to get one of his books is at a riding clinic of his; second best way is to buy one after watching one his demonstrations; the last way to get a copy is to buy from his web site, or through the link at the bottom of this page.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pre-Ride Check on New Horse

I received this e-mail from Judy in Phoenix, AZ: "I am in my mid 30's and will shortly be buying my first horse. Several people at the barn, I will stable my horse at, have offered to go with me. I am a fairly novice rider. Should I do a test ride first? And what should I do when trying out a horse? I know me and I think I'll just fall in love with the first horse that I know could be mine, but I know what a responsibility this will be and want to make a good choice., and not look like an idiot."

Judy, good questions! Like your attitude about horses. As you can probably tell from my videos, I never worry about looking like an idiot. Horses ain't the right business to get into if you have a big ego anyway.

Test riding a horse is mandatory. I suggest a few things when you get into the saddle. Does the horse move off when you mount? Does the horse willing give to lateral flexion when you ask for it in a direct rein? Does the horse back upon cue? Does the horse move his front end or back end over with leg pressure? This will give you an idea on how broke the horse is for riding and what to expect from him when you ride him off. You could ask the owner to ride the horse first, fact this would be a good idea, and ask the owner to demonstrate what the horse knows. Watch how the horse reacts to the rider.

Many times I'll ride with somebody and am asked to ride their horse to see what I think a problem may be. I always or nearly always go through a little pre-ride check before taking the horse forward. The below video shows you what I basically do.

A vet check on any prospective horse may be a good idea also as it may you some problems. Take along anybody who has more experience than you; listen to them; but make your own non-emotional decision would be my advice. I suggest you ask the owner why he/she is selling the horse as well. Good luck to you and safe journey.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tying Knots - The Square Knot

I was reminded that I have not completed a post on the simple square knot. So I offer this post.

The square knot is a quick knot to secure two different sections or pieces of rope, or to tie a rope together as in a loop.

I used the square knot a lot, using leather stings to tie to bridles to bits or to hackamores. I'll also use this knot to secure ropes or other items to my saddles using the saddle strings. I have also used this knot to rig a chest loop to hook to another rope to make a descent down a small cliff or gulley to retrieve lost equipment,....such as hats that got blowed off, and I imagine it would come in handy to quickly get down to an injured horse or rider as well.

The square knot, see the photo above, is just a loop with the end of the rope coming back onto itself. To make this knot secure, you can add a half hitch on each end and dress up the knot.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Equine Chiropractic Technique Seminar

I often post Horse related events that may of interest to people. Although I am not necessary a believer in equine chiropractic care,...I am not a disbeliever either. I have used human Chiropractors in the past, probably need one now as well, and know they can bring a great deal of relief to humans, I think equine chiropractic care has potential to help horses.

Equine Chiropractic Technique Seminar

Where: Montara, California--November 20th and 21st, 2010. 20 miles south of San Francisco.

What: Hands-On horse chiropractic technique seminar.

Only 15 Registrants Accepted.

Conducted by Dr. Daniel Kamen, D.C. author of The Well Adjusted Horse. Last seminar in California . Dr. Kamen is retiring.

Learn how to adjust horses step by step. All moves are done by hand--no mallets and no instruments. Full Spine, Extremities. Learn how to restore normal joint function wherever possible. Even small people can adjust horses. Speed, not brute force. Learn the "Pre-Race Adjusting Sequecne" can cut a full second off the time.

This is a teaching clinic. Only registrants can bring their horses. No outside clients accepted. However, registrants do not need to bring their horse. They will be provided at the barn.

The cost per registrant is $450.00. Price includes the 16 hours of step by step hands-on training, adjusting DVD's, Workbooks, Lunch.

For details call Dr. Kamen at 1-800-742-8433 or email subject line "Montara Seminar Details."

Supervised by licensed veterinarian.

This seminar does not legally entitle anyone to work on horses other than their own. Most states only allow a licensed veterinarian to do this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Horse Health Care - Floating Teeth and Cleaning Sheaths

One of the most overlooked aspects to a Horse’s Health is care of his teeth. A Horse’s teeth will grow or erupt continuously until late in their life,..maybe 27-30 years old. The horse uses his front teeth (incisors) to bite off or grab grass or hay then pull back to their rear teeth (molars) in order to grind up the feed for swallowing.

Because of conformity issues with the horse’s teeth and jaw as well as due to basic diets of less fiber and natural grasses the horse will often not be able to wear down or polish his teeth very well. This creates an un-even bite, or “hooks” and “points” on his back molars and can lead to the horse not being able to chew his feed very effectively, which of course impacts on increased chance of colic. If the “points” and “hooks” are severe enough, they can wear sores on the inside of the horse’s mouth which can cause eating problems and even behavior problems, especially when wearing a halter or bridle. If you have ever broken a tooth and had the sharp end digging into your cheek you know what I mean when I say this can be very painful.

Care for a horse’s teeth, in a field known as equine dentistry, is through a Vet check of the horse’s mouth and teeth “floating” where the Vet rasps or grinds a horse’s teeth back into a smooth and usable condition. Floating teeth can be done “manually” using a rasp or file or the Vet can use an specialized electric drill with a special ceramic type grinding end and this is called “power floating”.

There is a misunderstanding about power floating that it can be very invasive and can tear up the teeth in short order. I have had horse dentist manually and power float teeth. Both are effective, however I would have to say that power floating is not only safer, but more comfortable to the horse and much quicker.

How often do you need to get your horse’s teeth floated? Depends on many factors such as genetics, previous injuries, type of feed they are on,….but to give you an idea, I have my Vet float my horse’s teeth every 14-18 months. The Vet sedates the horse with a combination of Rompum (sp?) and Torbugesic then uses a speculum on a bridle to keep the horse’s mouth open to do the floating.

Signs that your horse needs to have his teeth checked and possibly floated include: eating very slowly; needing more feed than usual to keep weight on; evidence of dropping bolts of partially chewed feed; behavior problems with a bridle, halter or bit; excessive salivating; not liking it when you rub him on the jaw; larger pieces of non-digested feed in his manure. The video below depicts a power floating of the back molars (Floating Part I).

The vet will also correct any problems with the uneven wear on the front teeth (incisors) as well as remove any excessive plaque build up on those teeth. See below video (Floating Part II).

Another overlooked part of Horse Health care for geldings and Stallions is the cleaning of the sheath and penis. A waxy buildup, called a bean, can get lodged near the horse’s urethra and make extension for urination painful as well as the waxy buildup on the inside of the sheath causing pain upon extension. We clean our geldings’ sheaths often and as thoroughly as we can without sedating the horse. But you can imagine how thoroughly you can clean the sheath when the horse is sedated. The third video shows the horse’s sheath being cleaned using water and a anti-septic solution.