Monday, February 28, 2011

Cowboy Humor - Gunfighting Tips

A young Cowboy was sitting in a saloon one Saturday night, he recognized an elderly man standing at the bar who, in his day, had the reputation of being the fastest gun in the West.

The young cowboy took a place next to the old-timer, bought him a drink and told him the story of his great ambition to be a famous gunfighter.

"Do you think you could give me some tips?" asked the young cowboy.

The old man looked him up and down and said, "Well, for one thing, you're wearing your gun too high. Tie the holster a little lower down on your leg."

"Will that make me a better gunfighter?" asked the younger man.

"Sure will," replied the old-timer.

The young cowboy did as he was told, stood up, whipped out his Colt Single Action in .45 Long Colt and shot the bow tie off the piano player.

"That's terrific!" said the aspiring gunfighter......"Got any more tips for me?"

"Yep," said the old man. "Cut a notch out of your holster where the hammer hits it. That'll give you a smoother draw".

"Will that make me a better gunfighter?" asked the younger man.

"You bet it will," said the old-timer.

The young man took out his knife, cut the notch, stood up, drew his gun in a blur, and then shot a cuff-link off the piano player.

"Wow!" exclaimed the young cowboy, "I'm learnin' somethin' here!"

"Got any more tips?"

The old man pointed to a large can in a corner.

"See that bucket of wagon axle grease over there? Coat your gun with it."

The young man went over to the can and smeared some of the axle grease on the barrel of his gun.

"No," said the old-timer, "I mean smear it all over the gun,...handle and all."

"Will that make me a better gunfighter?" asked the young man.

"No," said the old-timer, "but when Wyatt Earp gets done playing the piano, he's gonna shove that gun so far up where the Sun don't shine, it won't hurt you near as much."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Horse Nutrition Handbook

Some readers ask me to recommend a good feeding book. The two primary sources I have are "Equine Clinical Nutrition" by Lon Lewis and "Feed to Win" by a variety of authors published by Equine Research, Inc. However, both of these books are like textbooks and maybe too much information for the new or average horse owner. I have been buying and reviewing other smaller feeding references in order to recommend them or not.

One book I can surely recommend is "The Horse Nutrition Handbook" by Melyni Worth, PhD as this is a very detailed but concise book on many subjects related to feeding horses. The major chapters in the book are: Basics of Equine Digestion; All abut Nutrients; What to Feed and Why; Designing a Balanced Feeding Program; Feeding for a Lifetime; Feed Storage and Feeding Tips; Pasture Management; and Diets for Common Equine Disorders.

Practical applications in the Designing a Balanced Feeding Program Chapter alone are worth the book.

The book also contains several useful appendixes including: Weight/Unit Volume; Conversions; Nutrition contained in Feed; Feed Requirements for Horses; and, Horse Anatomy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reader Question on Grooming Horses

I received a reader question from Nicole who said she rides sometimes at a rental stables and sometimes on one of her friend's horses and was confused about whenever or not etiquette required grooming the horse both before and after riding.

Well Nicole, nobody ever accused me of having etiquette. I understand that alot of people get their exposure to horses and riding through rental stables and I ain't sure that most rental stables care either. One of our largest animal abuse cases was against a rental stables, which has since been closed down. To be sure, there are rental stables under great management, hope you are riding at one. You could ask the rental stable management what they would like to do regarding before and after riding care. You can also watch your friend when you ride with him/her and see what they do.

Grooming does several things besides just preparing the horse's back for a saddle pad and/or blanket and saddle. It lets you gauge the horse and his behavior, and allows him to get used to you a little as well. It can make any injuries, unseen til now, become apparent. This is a pretty much "must do" before riding. As for cleaning the feet,...sometimes I don't as any packed sand or manure helps cushion the foot when riding. When it has been wet out, I clean the feet prior to riding to expose bacteria to it's natural enemy which is the air.

Sometimes after riding when I put my horses up, I just pick their feet then turn them out. Of course, they roll and usually I'll brush them out later when they have dried. In the hot weather, I'll usually sponge them down after they have cooled off. If I turn them out when they are wet, they will roll and I'll have to brush them out again later.

Brushing their mane and tail to get out kinks and burrs is always a good idea. And really any horse handling you do is good for the horse - the more the better.

As far as washing horses goes,....I think many horses are washed too often, especially if using soap. Too much washing and soap can wash away their natural oil on their skin. Truth be known, my horses get one washing a year,.......maybe. My sponging with just water and the occasional rain is their bath in between visits to the wash rack.

Hope this was the type of answer you were looking for. Safe Journey Nicole.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wild Horse and Burro Update - February 2011

Many write me about the Mustang or Wild Horse issue. And I have written about the different viewpoints concnerning these horses (and burros), emotional issues as they are.

What hurts the pro-free range Wild Horse and Burro proponents is the radical side of this group that wants these animals left completely alone except for the Federal funding necessary provide feed in bad seasons and repair fences, water lines and tanks.

On the other side of the coin with the BLM attempts to management the size of the herds,, videos and reports of helicopter chasing horses until they drop or break a leg and other inhumane measures paints a picture of Government ineptitude and indifference.

As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. If left unchecked Wild Horse herds will proliferate reducing quality of life for all animals due to the browse required to feed them. Inbreeding will also have a negative effective on the Horses' health. Range set aside of these wild herds degrades pastures available for cattleman....and the truth be known, they don't get use of these lands for free....they pay in the neighborhood of $3 to $17 per month, per cow or pair, from my experience.

A total different issue is the Federal ownership of these range lands. In some cases homesteaders have been forced off by the U.S. Government. If the Federal Government owned the amount of land on the east coast that they do in the West,....well, there would simply be a revolt.

Mustang proponents have to backoff the platform of Federal funding for the herds. Thiscountry's economy simply can't afford to fund non-essential entitlement programs and tax payers in, say, New England probably resent Federal tax payer dollars going to animals they could care less about when their fuel oil costs have doubled.

On the other hand, the Government, mainly the BLM and their contract wranglers owe it to the animals to conduct roundups in a humane manner. Very hard to do due to the diffuculty in the rough terrain and vast sizes of unfenced pasture where these herds roam. In break my heart to see helicopters chasing horses and sometimes their foals into rough terrain or chase them tens of miles from a water hole.

Latest news concerning Wild Horses and Burros:

Yesterday (Feb 16, 2011), the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Continuing Resolution for 2011 spending that will cut the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) budget by $2 million, in order to send a "very strong message" to the agency to reform its wild horse and burro program to make it more efficient and humane.

To date, BLM has captured over 950 mustangs in the Antelope Complex Roundup, which continues toward its goal of removing more than 2,000 wild horses from a 1.3 million-acre public lands area in northeastern Nevada. The death toll is now reported at six, including a yearling colt who broke his neck on February 13 after slamming into the panels of a BLM trap pen; a filly who broke her back leg and was euthanized; and an injured mare who was driven for miles in a helicopter chase despite a gunshot wound to her shoulder.
Unnecessary inhumane treatment - needs to stop.

The BLM has issued a news release announcing its withdrawal of a plan to remove all of the estimated 100 wild horses living in the West Douglas Herd Area in northwestern Colorado. Local ranching interests have been pressing hard for the "zeroing out" of wild horses from this 123,387-acre public lands area where the equivalent of 900-1000 privately-owned cattle are allowed to graze. Allowed to graze? Yes, but for a feee that goes back into the Federal coffers.

I urge everyone interested in this issue to research it and make up their own minds.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day - Cowboy Style

Imagine my surprise as I went out to feed my horses and seeing that my wife, who is both beautiful and humorous, left me a Valentine's Day heart,......made from horse manure.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Manure Management

I received an e-mail from Bill asking me “what do I do about all the manure generated by my horses?”.

Great question. Manure Management can be a problem when horses are not in large pastures. Keeping horses in small ranches and farms necessitates the removal of manure on a regular basis to keep the smells down; minimize your fly problem; and reduce the chances of your horses transmitting worms to each others or getting manure packed into their hooves where bacteria can grow and eat away at the hoof sole.

I see a lot of horses kept in bad conditions,..stalls too small and full of manure; dangerous objects around; and horses with feet that haven’t seen a farrier in many months it not a year or more. Makes me madder than hell, but County Animal control services are under manned and under funded, and have to compete with crimes against persons for resourcing.

My horses generate about 2 cubic yards of manure each week. We clean our stalls and corrals twice a day or even more often in some cases.

I built a “U” with telephone poles and rail road ties to create a ramp that goes over a concrete pad with a dumpster where we dump our manure for removal by a disposal company once a week.

If you live in an area heavy with parasites, such as mosquitoes, you may have to spray insect killer on your stored manure to reduce the threat of parasite breeding and subsequent diseases like West Nile as well as the general fly problem.

When I ran a large horse stables, with 38 to 50 horses, you can imagine the amount of manure we generated. I had the manure dumped into a manure pit, where during the summer months we sprayed it twice a week and once a week we took the manure and spread it in a very large arena where it air dried very quickly and combined with the sand, provided a decent footing for arena events such as barrel racing.

A good resource is the e-book, Managing Horses on Small Properties.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reader Question on Young Horse That Won't Stand Still

Cindy wrote me about her coming 3 year old Appaloosa Gelding that she has raised since birth. She has been riding him since he turned 2 last April. He has been doing very well,....she has no major complaints or problems except he does not stand still when tied or when she is tacking up. And sometimes he tries to kick.

Well Cindy, I don’t too much like a horse that kicks. Very seldom is it because he’s just plain mean. Usually it’s out of fear. Could be that he’s turned out with other horses and is at the bottom of the herd pecking order. Could be that he’s just a young horse. If I'm leading a horse and he tries to kick, I give a quick, sharp jerk on the lead line to my rope halter. If the I'm turning the horse loose and he spins and kicks, I'm not only out of the way but also ready to use the popper end of my lead line to pop him on the hip. I'll usually catch the horse again, and go through a couple of times of haltering and un-haltering him until he stands or at least doesn't spin and kick.

My way is gentling a horse at 2 years old and even if I don’t get a saddle on him until 3, that’s okay. In most cases a horse isn’t mature, physical wise, until they are 4. That’s where the real riding starts. So you are not behind with him by any means, and some of his bad habits will most likely go away (with good handling) as he gets older providing you go through a lot of wet saddle blankets – that is to keep working him.

Whenever I’m on the ground or in the saddle and a horse doesn’t want to stand still.....such as being barn sour or buddy sour, I create some energy and move him in a tight circle for a little bit then offer a chance for him to stand still. Most of the time the horse will soon learn that standing still is a good deal. So this is another example of pressure and release,..making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.

In the video below I have my Mustang gelding, who when I got him did not like anyone to walk around his rear and, would move away when I was putting a saddle on him. He’s very good about it now, but I'm using him to demonstrate applying pressure by turning him in tight circles then offering him a chance to stand still.

With your horse, chances are he moves off, at least a step or two, when you get into the saddle. Make sure you mount with a short rein tipping his head slightly to the side you are mounting, and if he tries to walk as you are getting situated in the seat, back him up a few feet. If he wants to move away as you mounting, then don’t mount,....instead create some energy and move him around in a tight circle and offer it to him to stand still and try to mount again. Hope this helps you. Good luck and safe journey.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reader Question on Trail Horses

I received a message from Mike asking if his 15.1- 15.2hh 4 year old Quarterhorse Gelding, who is sometimes lazy and pushy, would make a good back country trail horse, and what should be avoided when choosing horses for the back country?

Mike, I think about any horse can make a good back country trail horse. I have seen Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Arabs, Tennessee Walkers, and, grade horses of all shapes, sizes and colors. Quarterhorses can make great backcountry horses as they are generally sure footed, savvy without being hot blooded and that QH rear end is useful when going up hills and down.

I like to differentiate between lazy and pushy. Lazy horses aren’t necessarily bad.  I'd rather have a horse that’s lazy instead of wanting to run or bolt especially when I’m on a narrow trail in cactus country or close to a drop off. Pushy on the other hand is not good. They need to respect your space. You don’t need to be dismounted on that same narrow trail and have your horse come into you pusing you into a cactus or over the edge of a cliff.

If I was looking for another backcountry trail horse I’d look for a horse with good conformation, not to tall (around 15 to 15.1 hh suits me), a short back, inquisitive mind and above all good feet. Although my main trail horse now has exceptional thin hoof walls and my farrier can’t understand how he can hold up putting miles and miles over rock.

Everything else can be taught. I wouldn’t worry so much about their breeding, but I am found of Quarterhorses, Tennessee Walkers, Paints and grade horses with obvious QH type bodies. And I’m partial to geldings. The Paint horse in the picture above was 3/4 Tennessee Walker and 1/4 QH.  I have yet to ride or ride with Mountain bred horses but the obvious with them growing up on rough country and inclines would put them on my short list.    

I expose my horses to obstacles and not necessarily object’s that they will find in the desert or in the mountains, just obstacles none the less that gives them a problem to solve and help them become a brave and thinking horse. What I am looking for is a horse that may although be initially fearful, he doesn’t give into that fear and figures out that he can be okay with new things that he encounters.

A 4 year old is a young horse. Lots of wet saddle blankets will make him a good horse. He may not be a champion in any discipline, but I’m sure given a fair deal and brought along slowly he’ll be more than functional for the trail. Good luck and safe journey.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wheel Barrow Repair

How many of you use wheel barrows? If you are like me, you are pushing one several times a day, moving manure, dirt or bales of hay. Great for mixing concrete for corner fence posts as well. I've owned all kinds of wheel barrows,'s with a large plastic tub,....small and large metal wheelbarrows with wooden handles,......but you just can't beat an all steel wheel barrow for durability providing you tip it over when it rains or snows, and not keep wet manure in it all the time, or rust will begin prematurely. I always buy or put the solid, no flat tires on all my wheelbarrows also.

On a new wheel barrow, I spray paint the inside of the tub several coats to help it repel rust, but inevitably I end up keeping something wet in the tub or leave it standing in the rain.

This past weekend I picked up some 36 inch long x one inch wide steel strips so I can re-enforce my wheelbarrows, already rusting out, so they'll last longer. I bent the metal strips into form, drilled holes to match up the holes already holding the tub to the frame, then drilled more holes to anchor the re-enforcing strips to other places in the tub. I used new carriage bolts and lock washers to replace the rusting original bolts and now have two again functional wheelbarrows.

When I replace these wheelbarrows, I can remove the re-enforcing strips and put them on the new wheelbarrows. See picture below:

If this was helpful to you or if you'd like to see other original or field expedient fixes, inventions and solutions for problems common to owning horses and having fences, barns and other facilities that always need upkeep and repair, then you should pickup a copy of "Helpful Hints for Horsemen" from Western Horseman publishing, available on their website, Western Horseman.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reader Response - Breast Collar Fit

Responding to a reader request from Mike on some advice on Breast Collar fit. I use a pulling collar with the attachment straps through the swell of the saddle as this keeps the collar off the Horse's chest and his neck and doesn't limit his mobility nor discomfort him as much as breast collar that lays across the chest tied to D rings on the saddle. Nor does the pulling collar style breast collar impede the Horse's throat and his breathing. I also secure the breast collar not so tight as I leave enough room to put a fist between the collar and the horse's chest. The breast collar is there to prevent the saddle from sliding when moving uphill of course.

Typical breast collars that attach to D rings on the saddle tend to run across the horse's chest and offer some impediment to his motion.

The picture above is a pulling collar style breast collar. You can go to National Ropers Supply and see many different styles and finishes.

Some breast collars will also have a strap that runs over the horses neck that connects to the other anchor strap. You may like this or find this a helpful solution to help keep the breast collar in position.