Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cowboy Humor - New Texas Rain Gauge

As Texas continues to bake in record heat and endure the most severe one-year drought on record, hardy Texans, who can find humor in the bleakest of situations, have started using this new rain gauge.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trail Obstacles

Westy wrote and asked: "I really like the videos on getting your horse to accept strange objects. I will be riding soon in an American Competitive Trail Horse Ride and would like some ideas on what I need to get my horse used to."

Westy, thanks for your question. If I were you I would go to the ACTHA site and download the rules and list of obstacles. This will give you an idea on what you will see. I would not limit my training to these obstacles. I think the point in desensitizing horses to strange (and scary to them) objects to getting then to think through problems as opposed to reacting out of instinct and fleeing. Horses are naturally curious animals,...that is why so many horses get bitten on the nose by snakes, you can use that portion of their instinct to make them more comfortable with thinking first.

However, just because your horse has no problem going over an obstacle, say a tarp, at your place does not mean that any tarp, at any place will be just as easy. This may be frustrating to you, but bear with it. It just appears different to the horse. Being at a strange place, away from his herd can also bring in anxiety.

The vibes you give off can also make a difference. If you are nervous about approaching an object, your horse will sense that as well. You are in effect telling him to be wary. Another mistake is pushing your horse too fast on an obstacle. Let him figure it out. That 20 seconds or so, or even 5 minutes, that you allow him to figure it out will go along way towards establish trust in you and teaching him to think.  Cowboy curtain obstacle at left. 

I think another mistake may be the tendency to drive your horse from one obstacle or problem directly to another rather than give him time to absorb that lesson and calm down before you challenge him again. That way you can approach each and every obstacle as a new challenge as opposed to running them all together and over loading the horse. 360 degree pole travel, pin wheel, obstacle at right.

We host riders at our place to go over obstacles and expose their horses to different things, again not primarily to get ready for those exact obstacles, but to expose their horses to different things, teaching them that they can think through a problem. Wooden bridge obstacle at left.

No matter if you are preparing for an ACTHA ride, or have a horse for informal riding, exposing your horse to obstacles will make it a safer horse if you do it right. Western or even English show horses and hunter-jumper horses alike can benefit from trail riding as well. Single log obstacle at right.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More on Rope Halters

I received a comment from Miguel: "Oh, wow. Exactly what I need to know today. Just got my colt back [in his mind, he is still] and I now have two broken brass clips on the standard leads. He also slipped out of the flat nylon halter. He doesn't get out of the rope halter, more concentrated pressure on the poll? Have also read that you can get more control on the nose if you tie a couple of buttons there. Was hoping you would show us how to build the halter itself. I also like the rope halter because I know I can cut it in a hurry if there's a storm. Which we had during the first saddling. He went clear down, eyes back, stiff legged. But he lived through it and he's a much better horse now. Glad to be alive. Can you show us how to build the halter? I have done it twice, but still confused when I think about it."

Miguel, thanks for that comment. I have never had such a rank horse where a rope halter wasn't sufficient. I would be careful about having too much pressure or impact from a knot or button on the nose band as it could slip down and injure the cartilage of the nose.

I know I have seen halters with knots on the side of the nose band where that danger would be lessened. In fact, I think Clinton Anderson markets one.  In the picture above, I have braided rawhide over the nose band of a rope halter that I use that lunging a green broke or less than broke horse for the first time. And I used it on my Mustang who was fond of coming off the ground and pawing at me with his hooves. I seldom use it anymore, but it certainly has more bite than a rope halter. I don't think I would put anything hard, like buttons, on the nose band of a rope halter. How harsh you are with any equipment has a lot of do with it. 

I have never built a rope halter from a length of rope. It's much easier for me just to buy a professional halter, Double Diamond makes excellent rope halters.  Craig Cameron offers excellent rope halters also.  

I always carry about a 12 foot length of 3/8 inch cotton rope, with one eyelet braided into it, for use as a get down or lead rope when I need one when out in the desert or back country. I always have a lariat rope with me as well, and I can use that as an field expedient halter as well.   So I really don't have a need to be able to tie a rope halter.  Sorry partner, not only I cannot construct a rope halter, I don't think I'll even try. I can see myself all tied up in knots yelling for my wife to come and cut me free. Knowing her, she would take pictures of me before she cut me free.

I have seen Craig Cameron tie a halter from scratch on RFD Television. He has a Knot video out, called "What Knot to Do". I have not seen the video but have been meaning to buy one, so I don't know if he covers constructing a rope halter in this DVD, but I think it's worth a chance.

Here's a link to his Knot DVD.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cowboy Humor: Montana Rancher versus State Department of Labor

I'm sure everybody has heard about the influx of Californians and other liberals into the Great State of Montana. Not only have they hired a bunch of Democrats for state office and bought up about half the land in the state, these transplanted Montanan's have invaded about every segment of state regulatory agencies as well. In an effort to see if ranch hands could be unionized, the State Department of
Employment, Labor Standards Division sent out several eastern educated young men to collect facts on ranch hands such as their pay and benefits.

One of these young men ventured onto a small ranch and made some not so subtle allegations that a rancher was probably not paying his ranch hands well enough, nor providing for benefits. That conversation went something like this:

State Labor Agent: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

Rancher: ”Well, that should be fairly easy seeing how I only have two. There’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $150 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day, makes about $10 a week, and does about 90% of all the work around here."

State Labor Agent: "You're kidding?!? Those are terrible wages. That's practically slavery. Do you provide any benefits?"

Rancher: "Well, the hired hand gets to keep three horses which I pay the feed bill for. For the mentally challenged gent, he pays his own room and board, but I buy him a bottle of Wild Turkey every Saturday night so he can cope with life.....oh yeah, he also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

State Labor Agent: “That’s the guy I want to talk to - the mentally challenged one.”

Rancher: “That would be me.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tracking - Dragging Sign Cut Areas

I have previous wrote about cutting sign and using areas such as road or natural lines of drift to facilitate locating disturbances, color changes, flat area or any regularities outside of nature that would indicate something has traversed that ground. Dirt roads, the shoulders of roads, open areas, natural lines of drift, fencelines and slopes are all good areas for sign cutting. Fencelines can catch pieces of clothing and give away transit. And if someone is climbing a fence there is a good chance they will leave a heavier pressure release as they come down across the fence. On slopes, it is very common to see a gouge (indicating downhill movement) or a scuff (indicating up hill movement).

Many tracking applications can be enhanced using drags or otherwise preparing areas for sign cutting. The biggest use of sign cut drags are to smooth out any previous sign (animal, man or vehicle) and put a timeline on when the sign cut area was drug therefore give the tracker another way to indicate the time or age of any sign he subsequently cuts in that sign cut area. Additionally, cuts along this sign cut area can be performed more quickly and sign located easier after that area has been drug.

The Border Patrol primarily uses tire drags, which are tires placed on the ground in a triangle type shape, and connected together by drilling through the tires and using steel cable. Sometimes flat or channel iron is used, either between the rows of tires, or along the side or front to stabilize these drags. And if you ever want to get a glimpse of hard work, try drilling holes through steel belted radial tires! Here’s a hint – radial ply tires are easier to make tire drags with.

I have used a simple broom to brush out previous sign at foot trail and vehicle road intersections so I could rapidly determine if there was any transit, or in this case, trespassers or potential poachers. Use of any drag or brush-out will by itself create flat spots, regular patterns, color changes, and it’s own unique disturbances, however the change to the pattern will be much more easier to see.

On a search and rescue for example, once a timeline has been established and projected fastest movement routes of the person(s) being tracked determined, someone will normally run a drag across the roads, sides of roads or natural lines of drift past the projected movement timeline (in a perimeter fashion) so that these sign cut areas can be checked after that to determine if the person being tracked has crossed. This is a valuable tool to reduce the search area as pretty much all search and rescues are exercises in the efficient use of minimal resources, so minimizing the search area enhances chances of success.

When I was on horseback patrolling areas for trespassers, archeological thieves or poachers I would often use my lariat rope and a stout Chamisa bush to drag a section of dirt road or animal trail so future sign cutting in that area would be quicker and let me know what has passed through giving me a timeline.

All along the Southwest border with Mexico you could probably fill up a book with counter tracking tricks that illegal immigrants have tried. Everything from using brooms to brush out sign, tying carpet or other material to their feet, wearing horseshoes nailed to wood and then strapped onto shoes,....the list is practically endless. The only advantage of attempting to cover your sign like this is that natural effects such as rain and wind may obscure the sign more quickly than if it was left alone. So each counter tracking technique will have a weakness. Whether it is brush marks from a broom or brush, carpet fragments or a regular design from the carpet making a very unique pressure release, or the really odd gait (usually too wide or too long) of what seems to be a horse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horse Who Bolts

Tim wrote me about a bolting Mustang he has,……I am having a problem with my horse getting spooked and running with out being able to stop him. He is 8 yr old mustang and had not been ridden in several years when I got him. The lady was intimidated by him and had him because of how beautiful he is. I sent him to the trainers and he did good. I still have him in a snaffle but want to know if I should graduate him to a bosal or some thing else to keep him from bolting. I did not break this horse myself because I was told that domestic horses were different to train then mustangs.

Thanks Tim for your question. I don’t think going from a snaffle to a Hackamore (Bosal and Headstall) is going to give you more control. Probably less control. Since you are only going to pull on his nose - pressure from the Bosal is delivered to the nose via the nose band). The level of discomfort (pressure) the horse feels from the hackamore will have a lot of do with diameter and material of the bosal. A horse not ridden for several years is probably not a safe horse to ride until you have basically re-started him. Since you sent him to a trainer, you should probably see what they have to say about him,...if they encountered the same bolting problem and what bit they rode him in.

Imagine having a bit in your mouth with some rider pulling on it, get spooked, then run off, this may cause the rider to pull even harder to either hold on or to try and get you to stop. So be careful about thinking the control is in the bit. The real control is in the mind of the horse, the relationship you build with him and his resulting behavior built from that trust.

Watch him when you fit the bit to see if his demeanor changes or it appears it may be seated too deep, or too loose for that matter. I like the bars of the bit to be touching the corners of the mouth not necessarily creating a wrinkle. Check to see if your horse still has his wolf teeth in, or worst yet, non-erupted or broken wolf teeth (just below or at the gum line) that the bars of the snaffle bit may be hitting and causing discomfort.

Eight years old is still a young horse if he hasn't had a lot of rides. I would do some ground work on him and ride in a round pen. Work on lateral flexion of his head and disengaging his hind end. If he bolts in the round pen, ride it out. He may have to bolt once or twice to figure out he doesn’t have to. Brush up on your one rein stops in case he bolts when you ride him out.

Good luck to you, let me know how the your Mustang is working out for you. Safe Journey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium

My wife (who incidentally is a better horse person than me) and I just returned from the 2011 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium held in Ruidoso, New Mexico. We have been going for the past 10 years and in fact that was our first date 10 years ago and now is our anniversary.

Lots of reason to go every year,....good food, the very best and most interesting people you ever care to associate with,......Chuckwagons from working ranches cooking up some of the best grub anywhere. But we go primarily to watch the Craig Cameron demonstrations held twice daily.

I long ago recognized that when you are in the presence of a Craig Cameron demonstration you are not just being taught by a true horseman but you are also being taught by a master teacher of both people and horses.

Whether or not Craig is starting a colt, much the same way you have seen him do a hundred times before, the lessons and concepts he presents are as valuable now as the first time you have ever heard them.

I have said before that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of horse people and trainers out there that can make a difference in owners and horses' lives,......helping understanding basic concepts,.....helping with some common problem solving,......but you'll never spend better money if you can get in front of somebody like Craig Cameron and take your understanding of horses and journey to horsemanship a little further.

Now I know I am going to get Craig's parting wisdom a little wrong but at the end of most demonstrations Craig says words to the effect that "......take some time to get up close and look into one of the beautiful brown eyes of your horse and see if the reflection you see (which is you) is the same thing the horse is seeing and that is a person who is fair and just with the horse." My apologies to CraigCameron to certainly getting his words a little wrong, but I think the idea is the same, and that reflects Craig's true reason for doing what he does,....making the world a better place for horses by teaching humans how to understand horses.

Visit Craig Cameron's website, where you'll find some of the finest working gear and training equipment anywhere.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Scary Objects and Spooky Horses

I received an e-mail from Leslie who wrote ”I have a 8 year old Arabian gelding who is just a pleasure to ride. I am working with him so I can ride in the ACTHA rides. Sometimes I’ll work him on an obstacle such as a tarp, walking over it and picking it up and rubbing it on him and he’ll be fine with it. Then a few days later, he’ll act as though he is seeing it for the first time and be really spooky about it. Do you have any ideas?”

Hi Leslie. This is actually pretty common for a horse to seem bomb proof on one obstacle, then react totally different to the same object a few days later. Something else can be different about the tarp or what’s next to it or the place it’s located. Or it could that your horse was spooked by something else,…..then as a result all things are spooky for awhile until he gets his confidence back. Another possibility is a change in you that the horse detects or perceives.

I recently put a horse of mine through an obstacles course at a strange (to him) location. On objects he has seen time and time again, he was spooked. I think the majority of the problem was with me trying to go too fast and not giving him time to think about the object. I was, in effect, both not acknowledging his anxiety over the obstacles or object, and creating more anxiety for my horse with my impatience.

I think the key is to put him in situations where he can be successful; do so with patience remembering that he is not spooking to misbehave,…he is spooking because he is scared. Let him be scared and let him figure it out. I see too many people ride up to something scary and when the horse balks they start kicking him or jerking his head back around and all this does is create more anxiety and give the horse a better reason to be afraid. I know, because I have done this…..and did so again recently.

With a horse, remember that repetition is the mother of mastering all tasks. I continually expose my horse to the same obstacles. I don’t assume that because he has seen it once, he’ll always be sacked out on it and won’t spook. It is as much training for me, allowing him the time he needs to figure it out. The below video is a couple objects that I am sacking my horse out on: a yellow slicker and a bag full of tin cans. Just because I can drape the slicker over his head and drag the sack of cans today, doesn’t mean that he’ll be great about it next week. I'll continue to give him problems to solve and develop that curious and brave horse.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Horse Hoof Care - Hoof Wraps Soaker

I came across another neat product for horse owners, especially if you own several horses and are having hoof related problems where you need to soak hoofs is Epsom salt or let a wound drain. I have had horses under a halter stand in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salts before, but this product from the people who make hoof wraps may make this chore a lot more simpler and you can place a hoof into a Hoof Wrap Soaker with whatever treatment you are using and leave the horse tied.

Hoof Wraps advertises that, "If your horse likes to fidget with buckets and soaking treatments you could be tied up for a while. Not anymore. Apply the hoof soaker, fill it with your soak of choice and get back to your chores. Hoof Wraps soakers are made with a thick shell of ballistic nylon and a coated nylon liner.

They will fit up to 6 inch diameter hoof and are secured using two straps and an additional string with a cord lock at the top. It is collapsible for easy storage. Cost for one Hoof Wrap Soaker is $34.95 and it comes with two EVA foam pads and an extra strap.

Go see Hoof Wraps Soaker and other products at