Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lenore's Buddy Sour Horse

I receive the following question from Lenore: ”Help! I am new again to horses and the horse I lease is not willing to go off alone. While the info on buddy sour seems reasonable what I want is for this horse to be willing to ride away from the barn and the other horses without balking. I worked with him to move off by walking him to a distance of several hundred meters but when I then mounted, the horse balked and just backed up over and over. I tried to turn him in a circle which he did over and over again but would not go father afield. Suggestions?”

Lenore, Buddy sour and barn sour are the same problem – a fearful horse. Making the assumption that there are no problems with bit fit such as the bit too tight in the mouth (or too loose), or exposed or un-erupted wolf teeth, one thing you’ll probably have to overcome is your horse having learned bad habits from transient owners over the years. Leased horses may go from one leaser to another, after another. Often the leasers are fairly new riders which can compound the problem. 

Being buddy sour is one of the most aggravating problems a rider can have with their horse. The horse is NOT balking at moving off because he wants to be a problem. He is just fearful from leaving the safety of the herd. So if you approach this problem as trying to help your horse become braver after opposed to trying to straighten out a disciplinary problem,...... and you do this with patience, I think you can have some good success in being able to ride out on your own.

I am way past the time when I would get on a horse and just try and make him do something. This creates much anxiety for the horse as well as other problems – so you end up worse off. Spending some time on the ground establishing what the horse knows and what I’d like for him to do, as well as starting to build that relationship grounded in trust goes along way. I have learned that for me anyway, starting a horse like he is a new horse allows me not only to assess his training but gets me established as his leader. So I would say that some round pen time and training under hand should help you.

When you get in the saddle, I would first accept that this process of creating a brave horse with you as the leader, may take awhile. I would start small. Ride him off from the barn and if he usually starts balking at 200 yards, then stop at 175 yards. Create lessons there and back. Practice disengaging his back end, lateral flexion, side passes, neck reining, change of direction, asking for a head set, etc. – do things like this and allow him to be successful.

You need to keep him busy and under control. If you get to the point where you think you are out of control, turn around and do some more tasks, keeping him busy. This is where some people will disagree with me. Some will think that you can’t let the horse “get away” with misbehavior such wanting to go back to the barn. But he ain’t doing it to misbehave, he’s doing it because he is fearful. To make any headway you have to reduce that fear,…don’t make him fear you more than being away form the barn or his buddies.

This will be a constant process of him getting worried then getting calmer, like an accordion effect. The object being that he will learn to think through things that are problems for him, creating a curious and brave horse.Hope this helps.  Safe Journey Lenore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fieldcraft - Expedient Direction Finding

When I was a Range Rider (Conservation Law Enforcement Officer) I would sometimes be asked to show visiting people around the 1.2 million acres that made up our jurisdiction. It was telling that many people are very uncomfortable in a remote area where the only landmarks are natural terrain features. I would often be asked questions like, “How do you know what direction you are heading or where you are going?”, or “when you call on the radio and report something how do you know what direction you are telling someone?”

I don’t know,....maybe it comes from a life of being outdoors and what not,....and to this day I still give directions as “East” or “South” as opposed to “left or right”, but it is a good idea to know how to tell direction. Doesn't everyone have GPS in their cars nowdays? It'll be a short time before we see a GPS in the horn of a saddle.

I was riding with a group of people the other day and some these rider’s ability to determine direction was,......well, not real good. I was telling the group about some of the dirt roads and fencelines using directions such as "this fenceline runs EAST until it hits those foot hills in the distance then it turns NORTH".
It was hard for them to follow what I was saying. Then I mentioned that it would help their general field craft skills for trail rides to be able to determine direction. It may come in handy if you were guiding in an emergency response, reporting a fire or something like this.

Of course we all know that the Sun comes up in the East and sets in the west. Time of year affects the declination of the Sun,....whether it is a southerly or northern declination, and this is different where on the planet you are in regards to how far north (or south) of the equator.

I ended up stepping off my horse to show the “shadow and stick” method of determine the cardinal directions. This is done by placing an upright stick into the ground and marking the end of the shadow with a rock. You can wait 30 minutes, a few hours or even several hours if you were at a camp site. Again mark the new shadow position with a rock. If you draw a straight line between the rocks you will have your east to west line with the first rock being east. From here you can determine North and South and therefore NE, SE, SW and NW.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Latest News on American Wild Horses

From the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC): The BLM has begun the roundup of wild horses in the Barren Valley area, a remote area in southeastern Oregon comprised of 3 Herd Management Areas (HMAS): Coyote Lake/Alvord-Tule Springs HMA, Heath Creek/Sheepshead HMA, and Sand Springs HMA. The wild horses of this area are thought to be descendants of cavalry remounts and ranch stock representing a unique piece of history. The BLM wants to remove 275 mustangs from this area in a roundup that will leave an estimated 449 horses behind in this nearly one million acre, public lands area.

The Barren Valley roundup is being conducted by the contractors known as "Sun J." These are the same helicopter wranglers who just completed the Triple B roundup. Their brutal treatment of horses there prompted U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben to issue an emergency injunction prohibiting the mistreatment of wild horses by helicopters at that capture operation. Wild horse advocate Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education will be in the observing the BLM roundups. AWHPC's Deniz Bolbol is also attending the roundup for over a week of public observation, thanks to a grant from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

At another location, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is accepting public comments on its plan to roundup and remove 287 wild horses from the Flanigan, Dogskin Mountain, and Granite Peak Herd Management Areas (HMAs) northeast of Reno, Nevada. The action will leave behind just 10 to 15 horses in the Dogskin HMA and 10 to 15 horses in Granite Peak, while the equivalent of 872 cattle will be allowed to continue to graze these same public lands. The BLM claims that the removal of horses is necessary to restore the "thriving natural ecological balance," yet the agency proposes no reduction in cattle grazing to help achieve this goal.

Each time the AWHPC mounts a public comments campaign on proposed roundups, they propose that they are building a record demonstrating that public opinion demands a change in the BLM's costly and cruel wild horse policy. If you want to comment on this latest issue, you'll need to do so this week. You can do so here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 Ride

Today is a day heavy in sadness and we mark the 10th anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, as well as the Pentagon. And who can forget the bravery exhibited by passengers on Flight 93 who over powered the terrorists who commandeered their plane and gave their lives to save others at the intended target.

I rode out this morning with three ladies and we talked about where we were when we learned about the planes plowing into the towers and how those senseless acts of violence on our way of life have changed us and this country. So what otherwise would have been a good morning to be out in the desert on horseback was considerably dampened by the overwhelmingly grief many Americans have felt in the last 10 years.

Please take a moment to think about the victims and the families from the attacks ten years ago, as well as the men and women who are serving in remote and dangerous places to keep us safe here at home.

As we rode I was struck by different horses,.....a Sorrel, a Paint and a Palomino and thought about that represented in a small way, how this country is a melting pot of ethnic groups, who above all share one thing,...our desire for freedom.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Halter Lead Rope Tie Knot

I am a fan of the Rope Halter, as opposed to a webbing halter. Won't use anything else. I use Double Diamond rope halters exclusively and cut my own lead ropes from either kermantle or yacht braid rope to my desired length. My basic lead’s are around 14 to 15 feet long. I do not use any metal hardware on the lead line. I tied my lead ropes to the Double Diamond rope halters so I can untie them and re-tie a longer length, such as 20 or 25 foot length for lunging with a line in the round pen.

I recently had a friend whose big stout Quarterhorse pulled back hard while wearing a rope halter. The rope halter snapped at the cheek piece, but with the 1,200 lbs plus weight of the horse pulling back, the lead line knot to the rope halter became so tight it’ll have to be worked to save the lead rope for use on another halter.

So I showed him how to tie a lead line to the rope halter so it can be undone easily for switching lead lines, as well as a different knot to use when the rope halter is to be used on a horse that has a bad habit of pulling back.

These are the basic knots I use when tying a lead into a rope halter.

Normally, when tying on a yacht braid rope, I’ll run an extra turn around the halter base knot, so when pressure is put on the lead line, this knot will dress itself up and become tighter. This is a simple and easy knot to un-tie.

If I am using a stiff kermantle rope, from old rappeling or mountaineering ropes, I’ll tie a basic half a square knot, just looping the lead rope end into the halter loop, around the base knot, then back through other halter loop. The stiffness of the kermantle ropes really don’t let you tie anything else. The advantage here is that the knot is easy to un-tie to replace with a longer lead line.

If I am using a yacht braid or other soft rope as a lead line I use a Fisherman’s Knot which is a knot used to tie fishing line to flies and lures.  Which is simply two rounds turns of the lead rope through the halter loop, then back through the two round turns and dress up the lead rope.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Herd Bound Mare

I received an e-mail question from Darlene on her buddy sour/herd bound Arab. ”Hi Functionalhorseman, I just purchased my first horse a little Arab mare 12 yrs. She's been a rental trail horse for 6 odd years, I have been taking lessons on her for about 8 months and she's a sweetie. She is still at the same facility but is now stalled and not in the rental pen with her herd mates. Hence our problems...the first time we saddled up she got to the front of the ranch (by the trail head) and saw her rental buddies and the brakes went on. I rode that horse in circles figure 8's and every which I could think of and she was not budging. We're going on week 4 and it's not alot better. I'm a novice rider and she knows it. She taking advantage and I want to get it back before it gets out of hand. HELP!! Any advice would be gratefully appreciated, I want to do right by her and it's early so I don't think I've ruined anything yet and I don't want too. Respectfully, Darlene”

Hey Darlene, thanks for writing. You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and understand that the more your mare gets away bad habits with the harder it is to correct. That is a common problem on rental or lesson horses as they have learned they can get away with imposing their will on new riders. The good thing is that your Arab mare is probably fairly bomb proof because of it.

I think you understand that your mare is buddy sour or herd bound because she is a herd animal and finds safety in a herd. She is only wanting to get to her herd mates because she thinks it is necessary rather than doing it because she wants to disobey you. She needs to trust you and recognize you as the leader.

I would basically start her over like she’s a two year old before her first ride. This will also allow you to see what is missing in her education and teaching her the correct way because the correct way is the easy way. It’s that old saying from Ray Hunt “making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy”. Some time in the round pen would probably do her good. You are going to have to be firm with her, insisting that she listens and obeys you. This is going to be hard to do with if you are a once a week recreational type rider. So use every chance you get to create lessons. Make feeding her a lesson,...ask her to drop her head, disengage her front and/or back end,..backup,..whatever. If you only have a few minutes, put a halter on her and ask her to lead up correctly. 

Always ensure that there is a release in anything you ask her to do. The timing of the release is important so she relates to the doing what you ask with the release,.... this is the “right thing is easy” part of it. The idea is for her to build respect for, and trust in you.

It may benefit you to ride with someone else so your Arab mare has a buddy to go out on the trail with, reducing her anxiety being away from the herd or barn. If you can get out on the trail, you can separate the horses, first by a little then more distance as their comfort level grows. You'll be allowing her to teach herself that she's okay when alone or separated.

To tell you the truth, one of my primary horses is fairly buddy sour to this day. I can ride him out 20 miles or so and never have a problem, he's always willing to go. But ride with some else, then ride away, he's start looking and sometimes calling for his buddy. I just give him something to do to take his mind of it and we're okay. You can to this point, just settle in for the long haul - it will be worth it. Good luck and Safe Journey Darlene.