Thursday, April 28, 2011

U.S. Remount Service

Until the early 1900's Horses and Mules for U.S. Army use was procured locally, by Army units stationed nearby, and by the Army's Quartermaster Department. In 1908, an act of Congress authorized the Remount Service and placing it solely under the Quartermaster Department to buy and train horses and mules for U.S. Army units and not just Cavalry Units, but Artillery, Medical and Supply Units as well.

The Army established Remount Depots for this purpose, the first one in Fort Reno, Oklahoma then later one in Front Royal, Virginia. Further Depots were established at Colorado Springs , Colorado ; Lexington , Kentucky ; San Angelo , Texas ; Sheridan , Wyoming ; and Pomana , California .

In 1919 the Remount Service was later directed to supervise the Army horse breeding program which was designed to raise the quality of horses. This was accomplished in many cases by providing stud horses to ranches to breed with selected brood mares so the Army could raise their own preferred stock. A Remount Board was created, comprised of civilian horseman and Army Officer to oversee these efforts. In 1921 the Remount Service assumes total control over the horse breeding program.

World War I was the last major conflict which the United States Army used horses and mules in large numbers. During World War I, the Remount Service was drastically increased to meet the requirements of the Army. More than 500,000 horses and mules were procured, trained and issued by the Remount Service for this conflict to supply for troops, hauling supplies, evacuating wounded and pulling artillery pieces. Around 571,000 horses and mules processed through the Remount system of which more than 68,000 were killed in that war. At the close of the war the Quartermaster Corps maintained 39 remount depots with a capacity 229,200 animals.

World War II saw the mechanization of the Army. The transportation of supplies, equipment & personnel was primarily conducted with motor vehicles. The horse lost its prominence as a mode of transportation, however mules continued to have great value due to their ability to negotiate rugged terrain inaccessible by vehicles. This fact was proven in the mountains of Italy and jungles of Burma .

The Remount Service was inactivated, by an Act of Congress in July 1948.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beginning Roping II - Question from Jerry

I received this comment from the post "Beginning Roping": "Mr FunctionalHorsemanship, can you do another roping video with close ups on how you hold the rope with both hands? thanks for the stuff in advance and thanks for the site. Jerry"

Sure Jerry, the photos above show how I hold the rope both in my off hand (left) and in my roping hand (right). Get familiar with this then you'll be more comfortable when horseback and also holding the reins in your off hand (left hand). The spoke which is the distance from your roping (right) hand to the honda should be at least the length of your hand to elbow. The off hand (left hand)should contain the coiled rope, but loosely so they can feed out as your throw your loop.

The keys are to build a decent sized loop; use your wrist to spin the loop - minimizing arm movement; and as you release turn your palm downward in effect pointing your index finger at your target - this is follow through and will really help not only your accuracy but throwing a flat and open loop.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wild Horse and Burro Update - April 2011

There is hardly anybody in the middle on the Wild Horse and Burro debate. On one side are the anti-Wild Horse ranchers who depend upon BLM and USFS grazing units for their cattle,...they pay for this privilege as well. If it's not emotional because of this, then add the fact that the U.S. Government owns so much land in the Western U.S. that are unavailable for private ownership certainly complicates the issue. Add the deficit hawks who want to minimize Federal spending for all but essential services, and thee is a potent anti-Wild Horse, anti spending tax payer money to fund Wild Horse relief.

On the other side animal rights activists and others demand fair treatment for the Mustangs and Burros. Others demand "more than fair" treatment and the necessary funding to come out of the Federal Budget. Some even advocate creating "Wild Horse and Burro only" areas, denying rancher's grazing areas for the cattle. The fallacy with this is that left unchecked these Wild Horse and Burro herds double in size every five years, starving themselves and wildlife out.

We can't just let the Wild Horse and Burro herds grow. Nor can we use inhumane methods and subsequently hold the gathered stock in deplorable conditions. We should be much better than that. I understand that providing proper care costs money and in this day of age of astronomical government debt, and many competitors for diminishing dollars, this is hard to do.

We need to look at ways to geld or otherwise sterilize Mustang stallions. We need to look at bringing back slaughter plants, albeit under maybe more controlled conditions. And we need to stop the inhumane treatment of gathered Mustangs.

On March 15, 2011, advocate and wild horse adopter Lisa Friday visited the Butterfield Short-term Holding Facility outside of Salt Lake City, Utah and shooting the video below depicting the BLM not holding these animals in anything resembling a fair deal.

You can read the corresponding press release on our website, where you can also read Lisa's full report at

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reader Question on Winter Coats and Shedding

Received this e-mail from Linda in California: "I come to your website quite a bit for information. I bought my first horse last year and am still learning. My question now is if it is normal for a horse to still have a lot of winter hair or should I be trimming the hair off her?"

Linda, where I'm at in West Texas, the temperatures ranges are currently high 30's to high 80's and it is normal to horses to still have much of their winter coats of hair. You didn't mention where in California you are at. If you are experiencing colder than normal temps or the temperatures having been really high, then your horse's retention of her winter coat is normal.

You should not have to do anything other than groom your horse with a shedding blade or curry brush to remove excess hair. A spring bath for your horse will also loosen up some of the excess hair and make it easy to brush it out. From left to right in the picture is: a Metal Curry Brush, fixed shedding blade and spring shedding blade. They all are handy but generally people prefer one over the other. I use the fixed blade in the center. It has a flat side and a side with teeth. This is pretty much all I use to shed my horses with. The flat side of the blade also allows me to wick water or sweat off of them.

Shedding will not be done in one session. It will take several sessions through the spring until all the winter coat is gone. The good thing about this is it requires you to spend time with your horse and not putting any pressure on your horse other than standing there is good for both of you.....and horses generally like to be groomed. Several of my horses back up to me when I'm picking manure, so I can scratch their butts with the manure rake.

Glad to hear you're still learning. Hope you never stop. My goal is to someday be a good Horseman,...may take me to 80 years old to get there, but if I don't worry about the outcome and just concentrate on learning and doing then the outcome will take care of itself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Helping Sara Catch Her Horse

I received a question from Sara in Florida on her hard to catch horse: “I have my 10 year old paint in a rental stables near my college. When I go to get him on the weekends when he is turned out, he is evasive and hard to catch. He spends a great deal of time out in the turnout each week so I don't understand. I've never treated him badly so he should not avoid me. Any ideas? Sara, Florida .”

Sara, if your horse is only turned out on weekends when you come to get him, he may be associating that with being put back in from turnout, and I'm sure he'd much rather have the freedom of the turnout and interaction with other horses than being in his stall.

If you work him hard each time you pull and ride him, he may be remembering that too. Or any other unpleasant thing he is exposed to.

Often if you walk directly up to a horse, they will move off. Watch how a horse, higher in the herd hierarchy, moves other horses off or out of his way with a subtle look or a step towards them. This can certainly be the case if you are anxious to catch and saddle him so you are moving fast towards him. In other words he may see you as a threat.

Instead try moving to him indirectly and watch your body language. I’ll see if I can demonstrate an aggressive approach and a better approach on the video below:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Cowboys,....Don't Underestimate them!

When I think about this joke, I am thinking about Dean Wood a old Texas-New Mexico Cowboy. Course, he don't look half as young as the rancher in the photo.

The banker saw his old friend Tom, an eighty-year old rancher, in town. Tom had lost his wife a year or so before and rumor had it that he was marrying a 'mail order' bride. Being a good friend, the banker asked Tom if the rumor was true.

Tom assured him that it was. The banker then asked Tom the age of his new bride to be. Tom proudly said, "She'll be twenty-one in November."

Now the banker, being the wise man that he was, could see that the romantic appetite of a young woman could not be satisfied by an eighty-year-old man.

Wanting his old friend's remaining years to be happy the banker tactfully suggested that Tom should consider getting a hired hand to help him out on the ranch, knowing nature would take its own course.

Tom thought this was a good idea and said he would look for one that afternoon.

About four months later, the banker ran into Tom in town again.

"How's the new wife?" asked the banker.

Tom proudly said, 'Good - she's pregnant.'

The banker, happy that his sage advice had worked out, continued, 'And how's the hired hand?'

Without hesitating, Tom said, 'She's pregnant too.'

Don't ever underestimate old Cowboys!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reader Question - On Fly Management

I received a question from Marilyn on Fly Sprays. ”I stable my horse, a white Polish Arabian, at a barn that is not keep clean of manure very well. I can clean my own stall in between when management finally gets around to having one of the boys do it, but it doesn’t seem to help the fly situation last year. I have been noticing more flies and know that soon we’ll be in the thick of fly season again. Is there anything I can do for my horse and my stall given the general poor cleaning management practices? What fly spray do you recommend?”

Keeping all facilities clean of manure stalls is a necessary first step to reducing the fly problem.   If the facility dumps manure into a pit or dumpster for periodic removal, then they should consider spraying insecticide on this temporary manure storage once or twice a week between removals.  I managed a large horse facility where this worked well.  Your options then are a combination of fly sprays, fly masks, sweat sheets, and anti-fly products such as fly strips, fly traps and the introduction of fly predators onto your property.

I have not used the fly predators. People that I know that have used them all have good things to say about it. These are basically little critters you introduce as eggs or larvae then they birth and mature and kill flies. For more information go to

I have used fly strips and even the nasty smelling fly traps. They all do good work, but don’t get all the flies. Another option is feed through products like Farnam Equitrol which inhibit the maturation of flies in manure. I have no experience with using this, but it is fairly cheap. I believe a $50 supply would last all fly season or close to it. For more information on Farnam products go to

As far as fly sprays are concerned, I use them and prefer the Pyranha or Tri-Tec,..I think Bronco not very effective and the price reflects that (you get what you pay for). Just check the labels to see what percentage or concentrate of permethrins are in the mix. Permethrins are the insecticide and repellent chemical in most off the shelf brands of fly sprays. Just be careful not to spray into mucous membranes or eyes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reader Question on Bad Tempered Horseshoer

I received an e-mail question from Madison, asking, "Just how much discipline should a horseshoer give my horse? I am asking because my horseshoer blows up at my horse for seemingly little or sometimes no reason. One time he tried to punch my horse in the face and missed. Several times he has hit my horse in the belly and shoulder with one of his tools. When he blows up he often apologizes for the cuss words, but never says he is sorry for hitting my horse. I guess I can look for a new horseshoer, but he also works on my friends' horses and they have no complaints. I don't want to alienate my friends. Madison, Arizona."

Good question Madison. Here's what I think: It is the responsbility of the owner to prepare the horse for trimming and shoeing. Your horse should stand quietly and allow all his feet to be picked up and not try to take back (pull away) his foot until the shoer releases it. I did a short post and video on this subject here.

Some horses, especially older horses may have a hard time standing on three legs if they have a bad joint or problems such as ring bone in a foot. If this is the case then the shoer should be informed and asked to consider physical problems of the horse he/she is shoeing. In fact, a friend of mine had a female shoer who was about 4 foot 6 inches and he liked the fact that she understood the old mare's physical limitations and didn't have to pickup the feet of his old mare very high in order to trim and shoe.

Shoer's aren't paid to train horses, therefore most all of them are resentful when they get underneath an ill mannered horse. Imagine shoeing a horse, driving nails that stick out of the hoof wall then have a horse rip his leg away. It can happen. Shoeing can be dangerous and often horseshoers are scrambing to make a living and may not have health insurance and even if they do, an injury that keeps them from working can put them in a financial bind in a hurry.

Having said that, your horseshoer should never hit your horse. A open handed whack in the barrel or a jerk on their lead line is often enough to get the horse's attention and focused on his job and that is to stand still and be cooperative. Your horseshoer apologizes for bad language because it is universally accepted that foul language is bad manners. However he apparently has come to expect to right or ability to "discipline" your horse as he sees fit.

I would have a talk with him next time,...maybe it would go something like this: "Horseshoer,... it makes me upset when you hit my horse. I think it is counter productive and just builds a fearful horse. What can I do with my horse, preparation or training wise, that would eliminate any behavior on his part that would make you feel like hitting him?" Be prepared to find a new shoer. He has a right not to trim or shoe for you and you have a right to fire him.

The friend of mine I described earlier let his female shoer go, much to his regret, and employ another shoer who just lost his temper and hit my friend's horse across the knee with a rasp cutting the horse pretty badly. That shoer was fired on the spot. I would much rather alienate my friends than have to bandage my horse or deal with behavior issues caused by unfair treatment by a shoer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recipe - Cowboy Potatoes

Boy, I love potatoes, how about you? This is how I cook them in a 9 inch Dutch Oven. If you haven’t used a Dutch Oven, you can see in the picture that that lid has a lip around it – this allows you to seat the oven deep in a bed of coals of a camp fire, then shovel hot coals on top, so the ingredients are evenly cooked. You can make them in a conventional oven as well. I've have heard these potatoes called "pan baked potatoes" too.

You’ll need the following:

Six good sized regular potatoes sliced into eights or 12-14 smaller Red potatoes sliced in quarters

Oil (I prefer Olive Oil), quarter cup

Butter (I prefer sweet, salted butter), maybe one half stick

Bacon Bits – one whole jar or better yet crumbled from crisp cooked bacon slices

Garlic – at least one clove – maybe two (best to use chopped garlic but you can use Garlic powder or Garlic salt)

In a plastic bag, oil up the potatoes, then combine the garlic and bacon bits. Then melt the butter in the Dutch Oven and dump in the potatoes and anything left over in the plastic bag.

They are done once you can push a dull knife through one of the potatoe quarters. The left over juice and fixin’s can be used over about any meat. But I like to coat my potatoes with it like a gravy.