Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Much Pressure?

Judy R wrote and asked a very good question: "When I am asking my horse to do something using pressure often she ignores me then until I guess the pressures builds and she blows up. An example if trying to teach her to side pass. I'll try to push her over with my leg as I have been taught using the ask, ask then demand with more pressure and tapping her with my leg and boot (I don't wear spurs). I do have to hold her to keep her from moving forward. With other things like trailer loading where sometimes I need to tap on her back legs with a lunge stick to get her to move forward she does fine without freaking out. I'm trying to figure it out but getting totally frustrated. Any insight?"

I know that frustration Judy. With your side pass example it's hard to answer that without watching you and your mare. I would go back to ground work and get your mare to move her front end and back end over independently of each other, and for her to do it well and when asked without a big deal, before you ask her to start side passing. It may also help to incorporate a reason for your side pass like moving to or away from a gate or fence.

When in the saddle, and asking for a side pass, make sure you don't keep your inside leg (leg that is in the direction of the movement) on her which would make her feel blocked in and want to move forward. It helps to tip and hold her head slightly outside as you use your outside leg to ask her to move over. You could also be leaning in one direction which normally makes the horse move in the opposite direction,.....even then there are some horses who may want to move to square up or move into the weight. The ground work first should help.  And make sure your timing is good, so when you get a try from her, you immediately release the pressure.

Your bigger question seems to be "how much pressure is too much"? I am not from the school of making your horse doing something, because forcing her to do something when is extremely anxious is counter productive.

 I think that any pressure that creates more anxiety in general and certainly more anxiety without any positive changes in your horse, are too much. You know your horses better than anyone, so I suggest being a good student to learn when that anxiety is too much which would make acceptance and learning difficult or impossible,....then back off before you get there.  Make sure you reward her slightest try, again with an immediate release of pressure and give her a pause, as pauses will help her relax and that’s a place where they learn. Then build on that. Hope to hear back from you on what you learn is working for you. Safe Journey. 

My Horse Daily - Good Source of Information

Unknown to me until now there is another good on-line source of horse information called My Horse Daily  From the website's "who are we page" it say's: The editors of the country’s greatest horse magazines (EQUUS, Horse & Rider, Spin to Win Rodeo, The Trail Rider, Practical Horseman, Dressage Today, American Cowboy and Horse Journal) now bring you MyHorseDaily, a new online community for horse lovers like you!

From training your young horse to caring for a senior horse in his golden years, MyHorseDaily editors bring you tips from top horse trainers, veterinary how-tos, horse care advice (and everything in between) to support you with your horse, whether you ride English or Western, for a living or just for fun.

My Horse Daily offers free downable guides such as the "How to Help Your Horse Survive Colic" pictured at top, and others such as "Learning About Laminitis", "Diagnosing and Treating Lameness", "Deworming Your Horse" and more. I liked their site, maybe you will.  Safe Journey. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Heat Injuries: Don't Become a Heat Casualty

With a recent scare on dehydration and noticing that it is very common to people to ride miles in the summer heat with carrying water, I thought an article on Heat Injuries may be appropriate.  

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that may occur after you've been exposed to high temperatures and/or direct Sun and become dehydrated. The dehydration and loss of electrolytes can bring on signs excessive thirst, weakness, dizziness, headache, and even loss of consciousness. The imbalance of lack of electrolytes may also include symptoms of muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Detection of impending heat exhaustion can include lack of urinating for several hours, usually 4 or more hours and a dark colored urine when you do urinate. You may have profuse sweating and a rapid heartbeat. One way to check is after sitting down for several minutes when rapidly standing up you get dizzy and your heart rate goes up 10 or more beats per minute.

 People with Heat Exhaustion need to get out of the heat and/or Sun immediately and get some fluids into their system. Water and electrolytes drinks are best. Stay away from alcohol, soda pop and those drinks with a high sugar content. If you have extra water, sponging water on the dehydrated person can help cool them through evaporation.

 If you get heat exhaustion and don’t reverse it, through fluid intake, then you surely get Heat Stroke, which is a very serious heat injury and a medical emergency. Heat stroke can cause damage to the brain due to the high body core temperature and will usually affect older people faster.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke may include super elevated core body temperature (above 105 degrees Fahrenheit); fainting; severe headache; hot, dry reddish skin; muscle cramps and/or weakness; nausea and/or vomiting; confusion and disorientation; seizures and unconsciousness.

Treatment is essentially the same as for heat exhaustion, but people with heat stroke are medical emergencies. Get them out of the Sun and heat, apply fluids – internally to re-hydrate and externally to provide evaporative cooling. If you can get ice then the application of ice packs on the body where major blood vessels are close to the surface of the skin (arm pits, groin and neck) can help reduce core body temperature.

 If you become a heat casualty, and are fortunate enough to recover, you’ll be more susceptible to a subsequent heat injury.  

Prevention of heat injuries.

Stay Hydrated – a person should be drinking about one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight. That requirements may double with activity in the heat. If you add in the factor of being in the Sun, like for a long ride in the Summer, evaporation of fluids will increase your water needs. The average person who sleeps seven hours wakes up in a somewhat dehydrated state. If that person go out to feed horses, drinks some coffee,…then maybe has some breakfast before he saddles up and ride exacerbates that dehydrated status unless they drink plenty of water after waking. Drinking coffee (or soda or tea) which is a diuretic, increases the body's need for water. So ensure you are drinking water, and plenty of it.  

Protect exposed parts of your skin from the Sun. Skin that is exposed to the Sun require the body to take fluids, that are vital to blood volume and organ function, to send to the damaged skin. You’ll also lose body fluids faster from skin exposed to the Sun.  

Buddy system and mandatory drink rule. Riding with two or more people obviously makes sense, but the buddy system is about looking after someone. Checking to ensure they drink enough water. Be cognizant of signs of heat exhaustion in that person. The mandatory drink rule is where one person in a group keeps track of elapsed time and announces when it is time to drink. Military and law enforcement units use this concept.

SO drink plenty of water, protect exposed parts of the skin, and, watch for signs of an heat injury. If you don’t do it for yourself, then do it for your horse,...... cause if something happens to you, who is doing to take care of your horse?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Straight Alfalfa Diet Okay?

Daniel62 wrote about feeding horse, ”I saw your videos on feeding horses, and am still confused. Is it okay to feed only alfalfa to my horse? Will I need to use other supplements?”

Alfalfa is common and available, and most people in non-pasture situations feed it for the convenience. Some people who have their horses on pasture, which is usually grass or grass mixes providing 10 to 14% protein, will also supplement with alfalfa, usually around 18 to 22% protein, so the horses will get a higher concentration of protein and calcium in their daily diet. Most horses don't need such a high level of protein and can do well on a grass hay only diet. However, if you are working your horse quite a bit, then I think added protein to the diet would probably be a good idea.

There are many people feeding a straight alfalfa diet to their horses. I choose to feed a 50-50 mix of alfalfa and grass hay and sometimes that ratio goes to 60-40 alfalfa-grass hay. Some feed a combination of alfalfa and grass, like I do, to better balance the calcium-phosphorous ratio. My priority in feeding alfalfa-grass mix is to reduce the amount of protein the horse is getting and also what I think is, reducing associated gut problems. I think horses on a straight alfalfa diet are more prone to gut problems and colic. I don't think it's a greatly increased chance, but a increased chance nonetheless. Having said that I know many horses on a straight alfalfa diet that do okay, and rarely will you need to supplement with the exception of maybe a salt block.

I just think the more natural you keep your horses, the better they will do. I also feed a small amount of Patriot 14, a 14% pelleted feed from ADM, to my horses but in small amounts. I do this for two reasons,    1 – as a means to introduce supplements, and 2 – to keep them and their guts used to this pelleted feed so when I need to give them more of it, extended rides, packing trips or whatever, I can do so more safely.

I do use supplements. Currently I use hoof supplement on one horse, a joint supplement on another and a periodic Sand Clear supplement regimen on all my horses. Basically, I think the more natural you can keep your horse, the better off he is going to be. And I think that changes in their diet should be made gradually over time in order for the horse and his digestive system to get used to it. You should be monitoring your horse's body condition, performance and tolerance to the feeds and make adjustments slowly.  Good luck and safe journey.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Brave Little Roper

In yesterday's El Paso Times newspaper there was an article titled: Ropin' Hope: Clint boy fights rare disease

The article describes Jackson Godwin, an 8 year old young man from Clint, Texas, as something of a magician with a rope -- riding his horse, all little boy, all little cowboy, roping anything that moves, roping the wind -- joyfully roping a big handful of life.

Now he is trying to rope the biggest challenge of his young life,....you see Jackson started having headaches, then came the terrible diagnosis of a brain tumor. After surgery in Fort Worth to remove the brain tumor, Jackson is now in Houston under going a special radiation treatment at M.D. Anderson Hospital.

But every chance he gets, he drops a line in the water -- trying to catch some fish. He loves to fish -- almost as much as he loves to ride and rope. "Jackson is doing real well," said his mother, Janelle Godwin. "He's undergoing proton radiation treatment. It's only been in use four years. It's primarily used on brain tumors."

Ultimately, Jackson was diagnosed with melanoma of the central nervous system -- something so rare that only four known cases exist in the world. Jackson is the only child with it. "He's an amazing little man. He can sure ride a horse. He's won three saddles and around 16 buckles for his roping. And he loves to fish".........."But probably what he is best at is riding and roping,....he can sure ride a horse, that's for sure. He went to Sweetwater,Texas, and won over more than a hundred other little boys.

The days dwindle down as Jackson Godwin hopes to return to his life as cowboy and athlete and church worker and student. In the meantime, his wants and needs are simple enough. He wants three things. "I want to fish and fish and fish and fish. I want a border collie dog. And I want a new roping horse."  Chuckling, Jackson's Mom says, "He's fishing and we got the border collie taken care of Sunday. Now we just need the horse."

Everybody can help by going to the Ropin Hope Facebook page and the Follow Jackson's Bracelets Facebook page Add him as your friend and shoot him a message of encouragement and tell him his is in your prayers.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Legend or Myth of Frank Hopkins

Marti asked "I don't know if you have seen the movie Hildago about the endurance racer in the old west. A couple of the ladies I ride with on weekends, one is a former  endurance rider, were telling me that it is all false. Do you have an opinion about Hidalgo?"

Hi Marti, the man in question was Frank T. Hopkins. I'll leave it to you to determine how much, if any, of the legend of Hopkins and his primary horse, Hildago is true. The movie was certainly made for entertainment not as a historical docu-drama.

It does not surprise me that endurance riders don't believe any of the Hopkins legend.  The Long Riders Guild which describe themselves an association of equestrian explorers, is a world wide organization and probably the most vocal group when it comes to calling Frank Hopkins a complete fraud. In fact, it looks to me they are vehemently anti-Hopkins. They have a tab on their website titled "The Hildago Hoax" with 30+ articles to convince readers why Hopkins was, in their words, a charlatan.

In a counter to Hopkins supporters, the Long Rider's Guild state that (most) of these authors did not do good enough research into Hopkins and his alleged endurance racing. Yet to be fair, most of the articles and links in the "Hildago Hoax" are written ny newspapers, educators and magazines from the non-horse world and it makes one think how much research they did.

One of the anti-Hopkins claims is that there are no photographs of Hopkins ever on horseback and no one exists to verify his claims. Yet on the Hopkins website, there are several!? This is the Frank T Hopkins website, sponsored by the Horse of the Americas registry and the Institute of Range and the American Mustang (IRAM), which are obviously Hopkins (and Hildago) believers and supporters.

On this website are some articles accredited to Hopkins, which support at the least the claims that he was very knowledgeable about horses, and particularly knowledgeable and supportive of the Mustang breed.

I remember when the movie came out and I mentioned I was taking my then 10 year old daughter to see it, a cowboy buddy of mine about had a fit telling me it was nonsense and I was wasting my time. I replied that "I did not have to believe in Santy Claus to put up a dang Christmas tree!"

Another one of the "false claims", in fact of the major claims by the anti-Hopkins crowd is concerning the long distance "Ocean of Fire" race in the Middle East. The majority of the movie "Hildago" was over this alleged race. There is a principal Arab Newspaper called "The Arab Times" which refuted these races. And why wouldn't they if Hopkins raced in one and won it?

In October 1993, I was in Taif, Saudi Arabia doing some work for the Crown Prince, HRH Abdullah bin Aziz al Saud, who is now the Saudi King. Taif is on the western escarpment at about 5,000 feet elevation, over looking Mecca and Medina on the coastal plains. I was invited to a Royal horse and camel race. We arrived just before the camel race and as the horse race had just started. One of the Saudi National Guard  Captains told me, words to the effect that the horse race was a "far race" and we "would not know the winner for several days".

So Marti, the bottom line in my book, is that there is as much credible evidence that Frank Hopkins was as least somewhat legit as there is that he was somewhat of a fraud.  Most of the writings surrounding Old West personalities,....gun fighters, lawmen, outlaws and soldiers,....took a lot of liberty in writing and publishing those stories.  You are going to have to make up your own mind on Frank Hopkins......if he was a liar or legend.  Regardless of either, his writings show that he knew horses.  Good luck and safe journey.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Horses Stopping to Eat

I received an e-mail from Lacy in California who wrote ”I have a rescue horse that I am hoping can be a dressage horse. I got him after he was rehabilitated. When I walk him he pulls away to eat things on the ground. I have to pull very hard to get him to stop. A couple other boarders tell me not to let him do that and to never let him eat when he is saddled or I am in the saddle. I guess because he’ll stop to eat when I am in the saddle. I don’t know how to stop him from doing this. Do you have any ideas?

Hey Lacy. This is actually another common trait for horses. We insist on keeping them in pens and feeding them a couple times a day when they are born with the instinct to eat (graze) most of the day. I always say “horses only think about one thing – food, but they think about it in two ways – where to get it and how not to become it.” So your horse is only doing what he is, by nature, is inclined to do and what you are letting him do.

To be very frank, when you are leading him and he stops to graze – this is your fault. As you know what his tendency is, you have to be ready for him to stop and try to graze. Don’t let him stop, keep him moving. When he pulls his head away or down to the ground, rather than you trying to pull on a 1,000+ lb animal, instead give him a couple of sharp, quick bumps on the halter lead. I would also use a verbal que as well. I use a verbal que to warn the horse he is doing something wrong.  It is the disrespect or the lack of your horse seeing you as the leader that you have to fix.  

I haven't seen much, if any, of a horse with a rider, ever stop on his own accord and start feeding. I do see, all the time, riders who stop their horses, the horse drops his head to investigate if there is anything worth eating on the ground.

There are some people who think that horses under saddle, with you in it, should not graze at all – they consider this a bad habit. I think that if you control it, it can work for you and the horse. I routinely position my horse over clump of grass (however sparse it is here in West Texas), ensure he is standing quiet, then give him a head down cue so he knows it okay to graze. If I’m on the trail for many hours I think that a occasional source of food in their gut is probably a good thing.

There are also some horsemen who think that when you feed your horse, you should leave him alone. This is something I also think differently about. I routinely pick hooves, brush or just rub on my horses when they are feeding. Sometimes I ask them to back off their feed so I can put a fly mask on.  I think this is all good. I think it helps gentle them at a time when they feel safe and content.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Carrying Handguns on Horseback

Trailblazervi asked: "Would you please address the handgun which you have holstered. Would that be a good choice and can it be carried on the horse rather than on your person?"

I now carry or have carried several handguns when horseback. When I was an Army Range Rider I carried a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum revolver in a cross draw holster as well as when the Agency changed to one standard handgun I carried a Beretta Model 92 semi-automatic 9mm in a strong side holster. Both holsters were carried on 2 1/4 River Belt.

These days when I'm horseback I normally carry a Ruger Vaquero .45 Long Colt Single Action Revolver which is the handgun in the bottom of the picture at top. Going clockwise from the Ruger are the S&W Model 686 and a Beretta Single Action in .357 Magnum. The most common belt I use today is a canvas and leather cartridge belt and I wear it with the buckle in my back so the cartridge loops are in my front for easy access. I'll carry .45 Long Colt 250 grain lead cartridges, .45 LC snakeshot and usually 6 rounds or so for the rifle I am carrying. Some days I carry blank cartridges if I was planning on doing some gun training on my horse.

Cross draw holsters are seldom used today outside of competition where the ease to grip, draw and re-holster the gun are desired. Other than wearing a holster on your belt, another option is to wear a shoulder holster. There are several excellent makers out there, the two that come to mind are El Paso Saddlery and Classic Old West Styles, both based out of El Paso, Texas. The picture to the left is a shoulder rig from El Paso Saddlery called the Doc Holiday Rig.

Another option is a Pommel Bag. I have never used a Pommel Bag and probably never will as I carry a lariat and a canteen around over the horn of and hanging on the swell of my saddles. El Paso Saddlery not only makes a Pommel Bag with one or two holsters (see picture at right), but also makes saddle bag holsters, although these may be harder to access especially when riding at any speed. Pommel bags, or carrying holters around the swell of the saddle, were prevelent in the Civil War which was the first war that the U.S. was involved in that used large units of Cavalry. Pommel Bags allowed soldiers to carry several handguns, for close in fighting on horseback, because re-loading black powder revolvers took too much time. 

I have seen Craig Cameron carry a flap holster secured to his saddle on the right hand side where the cantle meets the skirt. These seems like a good rig. The flap holster protects much of the gun from dirt and debris. I am not sure how Craig Cameron secures the holster to the saddle, maybe with a saddle screw through where you would normally find one in that saddle position.

I prefer to carry a handgun on my body, but I'm sure either the Pommel Bag or Flap holster would be viable for you.  Most makers can provide a holster for any common handgun you have.  Good luck and let me know what you decide on. Safe Journey.