Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't Feed The Bears ACTHA Obstacle

A few weeks ago I rode with my wife in an American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) competitive trail ride event north of Las Cruces, New Mexico at Isaaks Ranch.

These ACTHA rides features a six mile trail course with six obstacles where judges grade the horse and rider on their ability to negotiate each obstacle.

One of the obstacles we faced was called "Don't Feed The Bears". This obstacle was designed to replicate hanging a food bag high in a tree to "bear proof" it like you would on a pack trip when camping in bear country. The way this obstacle was set up was a lariat rope over a tall gate entrance and connected to a large blue Wal-Mart bag. See picture at right top.

The rider had to approach the gate through a set of cones, retreive the coiled end of the lariat handing on a fence, then back their horse up pulling the blue Wal-Mart bag off the ground a certain distance.

Most of the horses and riders in our group had a hard time at this obstacle, as most horses were a little skittish at the blue bag or had trouble accepting the bag moving and leaving the ground.  This was really a good obstacle to test the brave horse.

The way I thought this obstacle should have been approached was if the horse was having some difficulty accepting the blue bag, then an approach to the blue bag just like any other obstacle.  If your horse has trouble as you approach the bag, then let him stop,.... don't let him back off it and when you can tell by his body language and head set that he is more comfortable with the bag there in front of him, then ask him to move forard. You may have to repeat several times before the bag isn't an issue.

You can then side pass him or otherwise move him to the coiled lariat. When you pickup the lariat, I suggest holding the coils in your rein hand (like when you rope) and use your off hand to manage the running end of the lariat so when you back the horse you can keep the rope off his head. Be careful if you hold the coils in one hand so the coiled lariat won't snug down over your hand if your horse bolts.

The video below is an example of this type of obstacle and how you can practice at home or the local arena. Any obstacles like this, if you take your time - really allow your horse the time, will only make him a better and braver horse.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hoof Dressing

Jesse sent an e-mail asking about hoof dressing. Do you use hoof dressing? Do you think hoof dressing helps the horse’s hooves? If you use hoof dressing, what brand do you recommend?”

Jesse, I think that sometimes we as horse owners have a tendency to interfere with nature. Sometimes we can cause damage to the horse’s health, usually with feed and supplements,….sometimes we can manipulate things for the better and sometimes we can’t.

Some horses will never be roping horses, others will never be endurance racers. When it comes to a horse's feet, they are as they is. While a good farrier can make the feet as best as they'll be, there is not a lot you can do to influence hoof health other than to provide good consistent feed, clean the feet regular and get that horse routine farrier care.

I think most of the evidence, as well as opinions, are that topical hoof dressings don’t do as much as advertised. Most horses don't need hoof dressing, and I'm talking about the hoof dressing that is used primarily to add moisture to hooves and not the "shoe black" type used to dress hooves up for shows. Hoof health and soundness is primarily dependent upon genetics and competent trimming. A really good farrier can optimize a horse's feet through regular trimming.

Having said all that, I do have one horse that I have been using hoof dressing on. I wrote a previous article on a coronet band injury that one of my horses had, probably from rolling and clipping-cutting his inside front left coronet band right where the hoof starts to grow out of. This injury created a cleft or cut in the hoof and as it grew out, over many months getting close to the ground and his shoe, it creating a weaker spot.

I have been treating this cleft with an expedient hoof dressing made of mineral oil, tea tree oil and lanolin so the hoof (and cleft) doesn’t get too dry and crack more.

Plus this horse has really thin hoof walls, so on one rear foot the hoof starts cracking some where the shoe is nailed. During the driest parts of the year I will treat this with hoof dressing to keep it from cracking or splitting so much.

Am I doing any good with the hood dressing? For that application on that one horse, I think I am, but I think using hoof dressing on my other horses would most likely not do much of anything. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rope Halters Are Not Cruel

Rhonda from Pennsylvania wrote to ask about halters: "Hi. I used to ride quite a bit as a kid, now 30+ years later I find myself as a owner for a half Quarter Horse, Half Arab mare. I love her to death, but sometimes she is a little pushy. My friend's farrier told me to get rid of the halter I use and get a rope halter. After the farrier left, my friend told me not to get a rope halter as that is cruel to the horse. I don't know what to think now. Do you have any recommendations?"

I'm predisposed to use rope halters. It's just a personal preference. I think generally it's not the tool that is cruel or harsh to the horse, it is how it is used. Quick or forceful hands can make a lot of common horse handling tools harsh to the horse.

The rope halter because of the small diameter of rope making contact on the horse's nose and poll (think the bridle path behind his ears) puts more pressure than a wider web halter would, so that is probably why your friend thinks a rope halter is cruel. Again, if you use it correctly I don't believe it is cruel.

The idea is still Pressure and Release. If your horse pulls away while under a halter he is going to be putting pressure on himself via his poll, and depending on his head set, maybe the nose. Once he stops pulling that pressure is released. Same as teaching your horse to give to pressure.

I'm sure you understand that it's hard to train a horse if you can't get him to move his feet. So imagine ground training with a halter where you maintain pressure via the lead line on the halter. As the horse moves in the direction of the pressure, you release that pressure and he starts to understand how he gets his release. While I think the rope halter provides a more clearer signal, there are thousands of exceptional horsemen and women who use web halters.

There are some innovative halters out there. One is a web halter that uses an elastic material for the webbing over the poll. I think the idea here is that when when a horse pulls away the pressure is gradual and once the horse quits pulling, and figures out his release, then that release is instant - a lot more quicker than a handler can provide. This is a pretty smart idea but I'll stick to the rope halter and judicious use. This elastic type web halter is from Paul Ortuno of Mane Horsemanship. This is not an endorsement, as I don't own one of these elastic halters. I just list it for your information. Again, I'll stick with quality rope halters from Double Diamond or Craig Cameron.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

CMSA Cowgirl Tammy Sronce Benefit

Multiple World and National Champion Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) Cowgirl Tammy Sronce sustained a head injury in January 2012, as a result of an impact from a drunk driver. The trauma has left Tammy with a permanent nerve condition. This has made it very hard for her to live a normal life and she has been unable to return to the competition arena. Tammy is scheduled for surgery, which hopes to correct this condition, on January 15th 2013.

To read more about Tammy Sronce.

Online Auction. There is an online auction to assist in mounting medical costs is coordinated with the help of Texas Smokin’ Guns, a local Texas chapter of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, and items have been kindly donated by Tammy’s mounted shooting sponsors. Just a few of the items up for auction include Custom engraved stirrups from Straight Time Stirrups, a Custom JW Brooks Hat, Espana SILK Grooming Products and a year’s supply of Enjoy Yums Horse Treats.

Direct Donation. If you would like to donate directly to the medical fund, donations can be made to a benefit fund that has been set up by Texas Smokin’ Guns at:

Texas Smokin’ Guns – Sronce Benefit, 231 LaCosta Circle, Weatherford, TX 76088

If you need assistance please contact Deb Ciferni at dciferni@skybeammail.com or you may contact Tammy Sronce at tammy@hsmarketinggroup.com. Thank you so much for your support and prayers. Photo above from Western Shooting Horse magazine.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wyatt Earp Died 84 years ago Today

Today marks the 84th anniversary of Wyatt Earp's death, having passed away at age 80 in Los Angeles having out lived all of his brothers. The photograph at left is thought to have ben taken within a year of his death.
Wyatt did not die in a brothel like how most men want to go out,....he died at home. 

Earp, of course, most famous for his "Shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881, enjoyed a long and productive life well after that his famous career as a lawman, most notably working in Hollywood mentoring and coaching Actor-Cowboy on the silver screen including Tom Mix and William S. Hart, who he developed a friendship with. 

Wyatt Earp, and his brothers Vigil, Morgan, James, Warren and Bruce,...just kidding - he did not have a brother named Bruce,....were immortalized in many movies, the most recent one's being "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp", and if you can forgive the rider's jerking their horses' heads around with the reins, then these movies are enjoyable.

Note to my wife:  No brothel death for me.  I just as soon die in bed,....from natural causes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sick Horse Experience

While I had, seen or helped with many horses colicing, horse wrecks, injured horses, a case or two of founder, a horse stricken wth West Nile and even a case of strangles, I had never experienced a horse health issue like this, where we could not pin point the cause, so I wanted to share with the Functional Horsemanship readers.

Day One. On Wednesday early morning I noticed one of my geldings, Junior, eating, but not with his normal gusto. I ask my wife to keep an eye on him through the day.

Around noon, Junior still appeared off and hadn't finished his morning feed. We called our Vet, Amy Starr, DVM owner/operator of Paws'n Hooves Mobile Veterinary Clinic. She arrived about 4 pm. Her exam revealed normal gut sounds, normal heart rate and normal temperature. The Vet palipated Junior, no gut tension or inflammation noted. Doc Starr tubed Junior giving water, epson salts and mineral oil into gut. Water for hydration, mineral oil to help lubricate the gut in case of an impaction, and epson salts to help draw body fluids into the gut.

Right after Vet left, horse passed a normal looking pile. And because of this and Junior's gut sounds and physical exam we did not think the problem was colic. My Vet also several vials of bloob for lab analysis.

I watched Junior throughout the night. He still was not eating and did not appear to be drinking.

Day Two.. Thursday morning, Junior still not interested in feed. He had good gut sounds, but still had not passed anymore manure. Vet called me to check on Junior and to give me the blood work results. The blood analysis came back as his organ functioning well but the CBC blood count was down just a little indicating maybe a small virus or a little stress.

The Vet came out again Thursday evening, during a snow storm I might add. My horse had not passed the oil that the Vet gave him over 24 hours earlier. She palipated my horse again, and he appeared normal. Normal gut sounds and normal temperature, but dehydrated. The Vet gave horse a water and detergent enema. Apparently the detergent (Tide) helps break up any impaction. At this time we still did not feel this was a colic but the horse was not drinking water (nor eating) so we were concerned that this could turn into a colic case or have colic a secondary issue.  

Within an hour the horse shot (like a water cannon) the enema mix back out his rectum. The Vet gave Junior 10 litres of fluids IV. It was a very cold night, into the low 20's, so the Vet could not tube Junior again,.....the cold made the tube pretty unflexible and she just could get it into his stomach to adminster more fluids and mineral oil.  Even soaking the tube in hot water did not help as once removed from the hot water the tube would get instantly stiff.  At this point we thought dehydration was the biggest threat.

We had moved the horse into a broodmare stall and put a 17 quart bucket of warm, so I could monitor his drinking. I also gave him a handful of hay to eat since he had not eaten anything in at least 36 hours. I checked on him ever two hours throughout the night.  

Day Three. On Friday morning the horse was still not eating much at all. He would eat a handful of alfalfa but then stop. He did not appear to be drinking either.

Friday mid afternoon, I decided to trailer Junior to the Vet's place so he could be in a hospital stall and be given more fluids and monitored more often.

But once in the trailer Junior passed a pile with mineral oil, this was 47 hours after being tubed with mineral oil (on Wednesday). He appeared to be much better, so we took him out of the trailer and offered some feed. He began to eat a little, so we decided to postpone trailering him to the Vet's.  I put him back into the broodmare stall to monitor feed and water.

But then he stopped eating and did not drink so we loaded him back up into the trailer and took to the Vet's around 7 pm.

So Friday evening found us at the Vet's facility (San Francisco Stables) where he was given 10 litres of fluids IV again, and we got him to eat about 1/8th flake of alfafa and about 1/2 pound of fortified feed (Patriot). We left him late that night in the very capable hands of Doc Starr and her husband Panchito.

Day Four. Saturday morning Junior ate a light flake of alfalfa and was given an additional 10 litres of fluid via IV throughout the day. He also drank around a gallon water throughout the day as well.

In the evening he ate another light flake of afalfa, and was given 30 grams of Pro-Bios probiotic paste as well.

Day Five. On Sunday morning Junior was given a light flake of aflafa and a little grass. He ate that, drank about a gallon of water and was turned out for a couple hours.

Sunday afternoon, Junior ate alittle more afalfa and grass, and drank about a gallon of water. So we made plans on picking him up that evening.

Sunday early evening we arrived at my Vet's. Junior had received and ate an additional 6 lbs or so of afalfa-grass mix just before we arrived. We trailered him home where around midnight we gave him another 4 lbs of grass and a full bucket of water to monitor his water intake.

Day Six. Monday morning. I checked Junior at morning feeding time. He had ate all the hay I had given him the night before and had drank the whole 17 quart bucket of water through the night. I gave him 15 grams of Pro-Bios, re-filled his water and gave him 6 to 7 lbs of afalfa-grass mix and we left him stalled by himself to monitor.

In the early afternoon, Junior was hungry again and needed more water. Plus he had a regular amount of normal looking manure.

Days later he is still doing good. In fact, while through this sickness, virus or whatever it was, he appeared mostly normal. Ears forward, tracking movement with his head and eyes. No normal colic signs like standing extended, biting at his sides, ears back, or trying to lay down.  Really the only indication was the lack of interest in feed and not drinking and that dullish look in his eyes that he was offl - most of you know what I mean. 

We are thinking that this was some sort of virus, not colic. None of our other horses have exhibited anything like it yet. It was probably fortunate that Junior was the affected horse since he is very well conditioned and muscled. This would have taken much more out of a lesser or older horse.

My wife and I have had some damn good vets over the years. But Doc Starr is the first Vet we have had who does not hestiate to give enemas or use IV fluids.   Receiving fluids IV when not otherwise drinking can be vital in giving a horse a chance - I believe it was in Junior's case.     

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Cowboy and His Brothers

A cowboy, who just moved to Wyoming from Texas, walks into a bar and orders three mugs of Beer.

He sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more. The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, "You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time."

The cowboy replies, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in Arizona, the other is in Colorado. When we all left our home in Texas, we promised that we'd drink this way to remember the days when we drank together. So I'm drinking one beer for each of my brothers and one for myself."

The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there. The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He always orders three mugs and drinks them in turn.

Then one day, the cowboy comes in and only orders two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent.

When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss."

The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eyes and he laughs. "Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explains, "It's just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking......hasn't affected my brothers though."