Monday, December 31, 2012

James Question on Horse Joint Supplements

James wrote to Functional Horsemanship and asked, I don't believe joint supplements for Horses work, as I have tried several different brands for a few years, but if you have had some good luck with a particular brand please let me know as my 20 year old mare, a Tennessee Walking, is really getting stiff.

James, I would have a good horse vet look at your mare to figure out if there are any detectable problems causing your mare to be stiff, but 20 years is a fairly old horse.  Some stiffness and crepitice, which is the creaking and cracking sound in the joints, would be normal.

I have talked to both human and equine scienitists about joint supplements. What I have been told and believe is that,
1 - There are minimal trials and data on joint supplements. The manufacturers of these suppplements are kinda reluctant to fund independent research because there is the chance the research would come back as ther products not helping what they claim - kinda like funding your own funeral.  There is plenty of anecdotal or personal testimony of joint supplements that work, just without the provable data.  
2 - Most of the scientists, both horse related and human, that I have talked to believe that Glucosamine works to strengthen cartilage and actually rebuilds it slowly, but are pessimistic about the two other common joint supplements, Chondriotin and Hyluaonic Acid, having much help on joints.
3 - that quality of the product is the key.

I believe there are some joint supplements that help horses. I think that a horse would have to be on a quality product for at least a month to get any benefit and even then it may be hard to tell if it is helping. I had a similar aged ranch horse who had a front knee injury. I put him joint supplements as I rehabilitated him. He seemed to be doing much better after a couple months where I could team rope off him. I was unsure if the progress was related to his rehabilitation (exercise and good feed) or the joint supplements. I now tend to believe it was a combination of both.

If it doesn't put you out too much, I would try another joint supplement program for a few months and see what it does. Just pick a quality product with a high level of Glucosamine and at least some sort of outside approval, such as NASC or GMP. I think that a product with Vitamin C would be preferable. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant that is thought to be good for connective tissue health.  MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane is a sulfur compound and another common joint ingredient.  Some think that MSM helps in the organic synthesis possibly helping other joint compounds get into the joints and tissues, and helps reduce inflammation.  I am waiting to be proved if MSM works in any capacity. 

Smart Pak is a company that offers supplements and information on all sorts of products. Click on the link to see a chart of joint supplements broken down by form (pellets or powder), ingredients, seals of approval and cost.  I have one of my horses on a joint supplement presently and I think the small cost is worth the possible benefits to the horse.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dakota Indians Mark Hangings of 1862 with 300 mile Horseback Ride

I just read a really good Reuters article published on Yahoo by David Bailey. Below is an excerpt from that article. It would be worth reading the entire article - just click on the Reuters article link.

Today, the day after Christmas, will be somber for Dakota Indians marking what they consider a travesty of justice 150 years ago, when 38 of their ancestors were executed in the biggest mass hanging in U.S. history.

Overshadowed by the Civil War raging in the East, the hangings in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862, followed the often overlooked six-week U.S.-Dakota war earlier that year -- a war that marked the start of three decades of fighting between Native Americans and the U.S. government across the Plains.

Over the next three years, Americans will commemorate the 150th anniversary of a host of Civil War battles. Almost forgotten are the conflicts with Native Americans that occurred in the second half of the 19th century as the United States rapidly expanded west.

Few of those conflicts are well known, with the exception of "Custer's Last Stand" -- when flamboyant officer George Armstrong Custer and his men were killed by Sioux leader Crazy Horse and his warriors in 1876 -- and the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890, which many historians consider a massacre and the end of the Indian wars.

Thousands of Native Americans, white settlers and U.S. soldiers were killed in the Indian wars. Native Americans were coerced to cede their lands and then forced onto reservations. In the Upper Plains, that included members of the Great Sioux Nation, which comprises Lakota to the west, Nakota in the middle and Dakota to the east around Minnesota.

Under treaties in 1851, the four main Dakota bands ceded about 35 million acres of what is now southern Minnesota, parts of Iowa and South Dakota. In exchange, the U.S. pledged payments and allowed the Dakota a narrow tract of land about 10 miles wide on either side of the Minnesota River. Settlers swarmed onto the newly opened lands.

In 1858, just after Minnesota became a state, Dakota chiefs were summoned to Washington, D.C., and told they would have to give up the northern half of that narrow reserve, said St. Cloud State University historian Mary Wingerd.

By summer 1862, the Dakota, now largely dependent on government treaty payments that were long delayed, were starving. On August 17, young Dakota men out hunting killed five white settlers. The hunters pressed Chief Taoyateduta, known as Little Crow, to back a war. Some Dakota, but not all, fought soldiers and settlers in the short, bloody war in August and September 1862.

Hundreds of settlers were killed and hundreds more taken hostage in the war during attacks on forts, federal Indian agencies, cities and farms around southwestern Minnesota. Thousands of settlers fled east, fueling a statewide panic, and federal troops marched in to quell the Dakota fighters.

The U.S. was victorious on September 23, 1862, and Little Crow left Minnesota. Afterward, more than 2,000 Dakota were rounded up, whether they fought or not. Almost 400 men faced military trials, which often lasted just a few minutes, and 303 were sentenced to die.

President Lincoln demanded a review limiting the death sentences to those Dakota who raped or killed settlers. The number sentenced to hang was reduced to 38, but even in these cases the evidence was scanty, said Dan Stock, history center director at the Minnesota Historical Society.

The 38 condemned men stood on a large square gallows surrounded by soldiers. Thousands watched as a single blow with an ax cut a rope and dropped the scaffolding.

This month, in an annual event that started in 2005, some Dakota are making a 300 + mile trek on horseback in frigid winter temperatures to revive the memory of this footnote in U.S. history.

This all started in the spring of 2005, when Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history,...... "When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator... As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn't get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it's one of those dreams that bothers you night and day."

This year's ride began on December 10 in Crow Creek, South Dakota, the reservation the Dakota were exiled to from Minnesota after the executions. It ends on December 26 in Mankato, where riders will attend a ceremony to remember the hangings.

Riders travel east across South Dakota, crossing the border into Minnesota and heading southeast to Mankato. Some ride the entire route, others join as their schedules permit. Support vehicles follow them.

The ride was captured in the documentary film "Dakota 38," which won a special jury award this year at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Festival. Take an hour out of your day and watch the video application of "Dakota 38", I don't think you'll regret it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas From Functional Horsemanship and Friends

My wife organized an impromptu horseback Christmas Caroling event on 23 December. As we gathered at, then left my back gate, it rapidly became apparent that this group of Horseback Troubadors couldn't tell the difference if we were adding to or taking away from people's Christmas joy, so we enlisted a couple of six year old ringers who traveled with us in a pipe trailer towed by a truck.

Those enthusiatic six year old girls are standing underneath our horses in the picture.  Without their voices I'm afraid may have been arrested as a simple nuisance.

Maybe the best thing to come out of our adventure was that the horse's demonstrated good will by wearing antler hats and bells. 

Anyway, while some people were in town doing last minute Christmas shopping or watching football games on television, I think we did entertain a few people, and among our customers were stopped cars, a sleeping buffalo, a curious llama, an unimpressed Great Dane who did not appreciate our rendition of Jingle Bells, and, a Mexican family from nearby Juarez who were lost trying to deliver presents to their friends.

And despite our ear aching rendition of the Christmas classics, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Remember the reason for the season and please be thankful for all the blessings from God that have been bestowed upon us simply by being in this great country. I hope you enjoy your family, friends and particularily your horses, and wish everyone a safe journey into the New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blindfold Training for Your Horse

Months ago I wrote an article about organizations and agencies providing equine emergency response training for horse owners and emergency personnel. This training is designed to help get horses to safety during emergencies such as wildlands fires, floods, hurricanes and accidents such as truck and trailer wrecks, and also helps owners get themselves and their horses rescue ready.

I received comments and e-mails on recommendations on getting horses ready for emergencies such as blindfold training your horses in case you had to lead them through fires and smoke or other spooky things, such as statutes of George Soros,......sorry I couldn't resist.

If your horse is pretty sacked on his ears,...meaning your can handle the ears without problems, and your horse has worn a fly mask, then blindfold training will come a little easier. Training your horse to accept being blindfolded is not only good for emergencies, but may come in handy if you are caught in a hail storm or 80 mph sand storms and need to protect this head, face, eyes and nose, but blindfold training also serves to gentle your horse just a bit more and help develop more trust in you.

Once you get your horse okay with the item you are going to use as a bindfold....try using a shirt, as this is what you will probably have available out on a ride or what responder may have,....hold if over your horse's eye's and check his acceptance. Using a halter is a good idea so you can control your horse with the lead line. A few seconds to start is okay. He gets a release when you take the blindfold away and restore his ability to see. Build on this like you would with any task. If he is troubled by the blindfold he will probably try and back out of it.

As your horse becomes more comfortable covering his eyes, you may try to secure the blindfold so you can move him around. A long sleeve shirt is good for this as you can use the sleeves to tie together, using one round turn, underneath his throat latch. Be ready on the halter lead line to control your horse and to pull the blindfold off your horse if he gets too panicky. It wouldn't be good to have a blindfolded horses getting away from you and running into something. But the idea is that if he gets panicky in 6 seconds, remove it in five,....and build upon that. 

Once your horse is okay with this, you can move him around more,.... get to lead up correctly,....and possible lunge him on a line in a small circle. When you need to securing the blindfold better, you can tuck in a portion of the shirt underneath the cheek pieces of the halter or the browband of a bridle.

While I have drapped rain slickers over my horses head while I have been riding him, blindfolding him on the ground and getting him to lead up is much different - at least for him. I think one key during blindfold training is to continue to talk to your horse so he can hear your voice, and pet on him, but again the release is when he stands or leads calmly and you remove the blindfold restoring his vision. Good luck and safe journey.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Used Saddle Buying

Harold L wrote and asked several questions regarding saddles. "I have an old hand me down saddle with the sewing all worn out on the side and am about ready to buy another one. What ideas can you give me when buying used saddles and do you know about some good mail order places that I can get a good deal on a saddle, new or used, and what type of saddle should I be looking at"?

There are a lot of good used saddles out there from people downsizing their saddle collection (my wife ain't one of them), ....people getting out of the horse business altogether, or upgrading to a newer saddle.

Not counting for the features you like, slick fork versus a medium swell, deep seat, high cantle, California or pencil roll, or what type of riding you are doing, you would do good to buy from a reputable company or person and check to make sure the tree ain't cracked and the fleece doesn't need to be replaced, at least not immediately,..and above all make sure the saddle fits your horse.  It's a good idea on a used saddle to run your hand all over the fleece or sheep skin liner to detect nails sticking out of the tree or any other abnormalities that could affect the fit and your horse's comfort.  

On a used saddle, I would also check to make sure the tree isn't cracked.  Placing your hands on the horn and cantle and twisting, and, doing the same on the skirt should let you know if there are any problems with the tree. 

Note:  The saddle pictured above left is a Santa Fe style saddle made by Sawtooth Saddle Company of Vernal, Utah. 

I am impressed with Cactus Saddlery.  They make a line of saddles for Craig Cameron.  One of the newest saddles in this line is the Ultra Lightweight Trail Saddle, coming in at 34 pounds.  As you can see by the picture at right, the skirt is cut away to reduce weight.  It looks to have a deep ground seat, is built on a wood rawhide covered tree and is advertised with a 10 year warranty.  Priced under $2,100 it looks to be a prety deal deal on a custom saddle.  

There are some good hands at saddle repair, depending on where you live, and you may have the option of taking some pictures sending it to a saddle repair shop for an estimate on what it would cost to make your old saddle serviceable again. I have been pretty lucky with good repair work in the past. In fact one of those fellas was Adan Saenz one of the last of the S.D. Myres saddle makers. Now in his 80's, Adan is not only gifted, but he was stuck in 1970's prices, so it was always a bargain to get him to repair something. Of course it depends on how much you'll willing to spend.  I have did some minor repairs to saddles such as re-stitching the skirt, re- riveting a flat plate rigging.  I won't be doing much of that in the future as I'm here to tell you it is worth it having a saddle professionally repaired.  

If you are really thinking about buying a new saddle, a very good semi-custom or custom saddle starts around $1,800.  I'm pretty sure you can buy a new factory saddles for under $1,400.  So you're pretty much going to have to decide what you are willing to spend to start building a list of saddle makers or sellers.   

Best case is that you can fit any potential saddle buy to your horse and try it out before you buy.  Tucker  Saddles has a Saddle Fit Guide which would be helpful to you.   
Some of the really good custom makers are listed on this website with links.  See the right hand column towards the bottom.  You may want to look at Teskeys to see both new and used saddles.  Good luck and safe journey.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, born October 27, 1858 and died January 6, 1919, was the 26th President of the United States of America from 1901 to 1909. Known for many accomplishments  in the public arena, his experience as a Frontiersman and Cowboy are often over looked even those he was known in his day as "the Cowboy President". 

Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt is best known for as exploits in creating then eventually leading the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. No matter your opinions of his politics, there is no doubt Roosevelt epitomized the American spirit of rugged individualism and self-responsibility.

Over coming physically aliments and sickness, Roosevelt went west in 1884 following the death of his first wife,  He settled on a ranch in the Dakota Territory and began ranching, later building a second ranch which he named Elk Horn.  

While in the Dakota's he was deputized as a Sheriff’s Deputy.  Roosevelt had several events where he hunted down wanted men, incident for stealing a river boat and another for horse thievery. Here he wrote his first of several books about frontier life which shaped the way Americans of the time perceived the West.

In 1898 Roosevelt was serving in the Navy Department when the United States declared War on Spain. Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department and with help from Army Colonel Leonard Wood created a volunteer Cavalry regiment, mostly comprised of Cowboys, Lawmen and other Westerners, which would become known as the “Rough Riders” or officially as the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Notably some of this unit was made up of friends of Roosevelt from his Ivy League and political life on the East Coast.

While deployed to Cuba to bring the fight to the Spanish, Colonel Wood was needed to replace the Brigade Commander when illness took him and Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel and placed in charge of the Rough Riders. Colonel Roosevelt and the Rough Riders became famous for a dismounted charge up first Kettle Hill then San Juan Hill, under withering rifle fire from the entrenched Spanish soldiers. Roosevelt begin leading the charge up Kettle Hill while on horseback but due to obstacles he had to dismount.

A little known fact on this battle, which became known solely as the Battle for San Juan Hill, was that a contingent of Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry supported the Rough Riders charge on Kettle Hill, then became the main effort for the subsequent charge of San Juan Hill. While five Buffalo Soldiers would receive the Medal of Honor for actions in the Spanish-American War, oddly none of them were received for the Battle of Kettle or San Juan Hill. For his actions, Roosevelt was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which was disapproved, but later was posthumously awarded in 2001.

After the war and return to civilian life, and later his re-entry in politics, Roosevelt would enjoy a continued relationship with his Rough Rider veterans, who continued to address him as Colonel Roosevelt.  I admire Teddy Roosevelt because he brought his Western values with him whether he went, was plain spoken, and again epitomized the values of individualism and self-responsibility.