Monday, August 26, 2013

Horse Owners Preparing for Natural Disasters and Emergencies

This was sent to me with a request to share..."10 Rules to Live by in Evacuations with Horses from Wildfires or Natural Disasters". All good advice with the intent to get you to think what you would do in an emergency. My comments are in Italics.

1. TEACH YOUR HORSE TO LOAD (and tie)! And I mean ...immediately step into a trailer.
I have previously written and did a short video about blind fold training your horse which would be useful for moving them through some situations like fires.

2. Take at least one bale of hay and a BUCKET, you never know where your horse is going to end up.
Taking a water supply is a good idea as this will give you some time to find a water source as you re-locate. There are many options here with various space saving trailer water containers. I use 5 gallon military style plastic jugs and I always keep four of them full and loaded into my primary trailer and I have a collapible 55 gallon blivet for my truck which was intended to use to lay a wet line for grassfires, but could easily be a mobile water source for livestock. Having temporary panels or the ability to make a high-line to tie your horses to when you get some place safe would be something to consider.

3. No matter what, if you take your horses or not, MAKE SURE you take your proof of ownership/BRAND INSPECTIONS! This will help you prove the horses are yours later on! Photographs of your horses should work in non brand inspection areas.
I keep a file folder with all the vet records and current Coggins tests and Health Certificates on our horses. The new Coggins (EIA) test results will have profile photographs of the horse, as opposed to drawings, making recognition/identification/proof of ownership easier.

4. If you CANNOT TAKE your horse, TURN THEM LOOSE! They have great survival instincts, its better than dying in a locked barn.
I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where I have to turn my horses loose, then drive out to safety. I think that bringing your horses out by ponying them or hooking them into a pack string would be an option.

5. IF YOU TURN THEM LOOSE, write your phone number on them in some way! Spray paint/shoe polish, whatever you can find.
I never thought of this. Maybe a shoe tag with your contact info tied into their tail would work?

6. If you turn them loose TAKE THEIR HALTERS OFF! Imagine all the debris your horse is going to encounter! You don't want them caught on!
Speaking of halters, another thing to consider is ensuring halters and leads are close at hand if someone else has to evacuate your horses if you can't make it back to your property.

7. If you turn them loose, LOCK THEM OUT OF THEIR BARN/PEN/STALL/YARD. They WILL go back!

8. If you take your horse to an evacuation center, it is still a good idea to have your horse marked in some way. Sometimes evacuation centers have to evacuate!

9. If you take your horse in a trailer, PLEASE tie them if you safely can! I cannot count how many times we were evacuating and found a loose horse we needed to load with ours, if the horses are loose in the trailer that is a disaster waiting to happen.
I always keep a couple spare halters and a lariat iny my truck as well as in my trailer. I use a tie ring I developed to make it easy to hook and secure horses to D rings on trailer.

10. If your horse is in a large pasture area, cut the fence in corners and leave gates open! When horses can't find their way in smoke/debris they will follow fence lines.

For more info go the Colorado State University website and a printable Wildfire Preparedness for Horse Owners List.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Does Mecate Reins Affecting Balance of the Bit?

I received this question on the balance of a bit when using Mecate reins: "(I was) wondering about balance in the bit with one side having two weights of reins vs. the other with just a rein. Do you add a heavier knot/slobber strap on the side that doesn't have the get down rope?"

I'm sure there is a difference in weight coming off the bit ring or shank when using mecate reins, however I think it is pretty minimal and I don't think the balance is effected enough, as you will be using slobber straps so the weight of the slobber strap with the attached rein will be hanging off the bit ring or shank.

You asked if you can add a knot on the the off side to balance any weight difference. I don't see why not a knot (sorry couldn't resist that pun) but it is also common to see a shoo fly braided into the end of the mecate reins on the off side. On the picture of one of my horses with a snaffle bit, slober straps and a mectate eins, you see I have a little bit extra rope on the off side.
This wasn't done to balance the weight on the bit, it was for adjusting the entire mecate, from what I use for a continous rein and what length I like for the lead rope

As you use the mecate reins, the lead rope (or the get down rope portion) of the mecate rein will be suspended but secured at the free end, either to your saddle horn, through your belt, or coiled and tied to saddle strings. The lead rope (get down rope) should be loose (not taunt) so it should not be pulling on the bit.

The rider is going to handling the mecate reins therefore some of the weight on the reins is going to be taken up with this contact. Some of the weight of the bit is going to taken up by the horse's tongue as well. Again, I don't think balance this much of an issue. I cannot remember riding a horse in a mecate where the horse was verring to the left when loping on a loose rein.

Some people just don't like to use a mecate because of the additional rope (lead line portion) that they have to keep track of. An option here would be to ride with a small halter under the bridle with the halter lead line coiled and tied to the saddle strings. You could also use a get down rope that is tied fairly loosely around the horse's neck with the lead again coiled and tied to the saddle strings. Of course, this will negate one of the features of a mecate's lead tucked into your belt where if you come off the horse unexpectedly you would have a line to your horse to keep him from running off if he had a mind to. Just be sure to "S" roll your mecate lead or get down rope and tuck it into your belt so if you do come off your horse the rope will come out of your belt so you won't get drug if you can't get ahold of it quick enough.

Hopes this help. Safe Journey to you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Questions on Childen's Horseback Riding Lessons

Susan sent an e-mail with the following question. "I found your website as I am researching everything about horses, as I know next to nothing about them. I have my 10 year old daughter taking horseback riding lessons, one hour twice a week. In three weeks she has not yet begun to ride a horse, all she is doing is cleaning horses. Do you have any guidelines or suggested sites for riding lessons, specifically lesson outlines?"

Hi Susan, I think by the time you read this your questions will have been resolved. I am assuming you did some research on your riding instructor such as talking to other parents or maybe you were directed to this instructor from a prior student. Maybe you can ask your daughter's instructor for a lesson guide or schedule. Or maybe better yet, just ask the instructor how you daughter is doing. Is she comfortable around horses? Is she absorbing the lessons she has been taught so far? And while she has not sat a horse yet, she should be learning a great deal about horse care, horse behavior, and above all, safety around horses. So, I don't necessarily think that it is too odd for a child, new to horses, not to ride right off the bat.

My wife, her name is Susan also, taught horsemanship to children for a number of years. We always said that she was not teaching riding, but teaching the next generation of horse owners. If your daughter's instructor is anything like my wife, then I would think that in three week's your daughter has probably been exposed to safety around horses, putting on and leading a horse in a halter, feed and water requirements and how to feed a horse, grooming a horse, cleaning hooves, horse anatomy, horse health issues, and probably been given a few demonstrations on how horses act and react to different things - all the while becoming more comfortable around horses.

I don't think there is a timeline set in stone for children. Maybe the riding instructor is reading your daughter like the instructor reads a horse, determining when being ready is. Having said that, I think your daughter will probably be horseback by the time you read this. And I just bet her first few rides are bareback or with a barepack pad. I would like to her back on how your daughter is doing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reader's Questions on Caring for Horse Feet

SimCat wrote in to ask "just how often (really) a horse's feet need to be cleaned."

For me, inspecting my horse's feet and cleaning them when necessary, is dependent upon the environment they are in. During the rainy season when they often stand in wet dirt, I'll inspect and clean them more often. Even in the dry parts of the year, which is most of the year here in West Texas, I reckon I do not go more than a week without picking up and looking at their feet.

We recently finished the "rainy season" here, recieving a total of about two inches of rain over a few weeks. Enough rain to make the corrals wet, some standing water and mud for several days in a row where I picked their feet sometimes every day and applied Kopertox is needed to combat the pre-thrush condition. Picking the feet exposing the bacteria to oxygen is usually enough to fight the pre-thrush condition, but sometimes one, maybe two treatments of Kopertox or Thrush Buster is necessary. 

I always look at the feet before riding to see if a shoe is loose or to look for any foot injuries. I do not clean the hooves prior to riding, instead allowing the dirt and manure packed into the hoove to help protect the hooves for that ride, but I always clean the feet after a ride and before I turn a horse back out.  

Tina wrote and asked "if I ever used plastic hoof packing to protect my horse's feet when riding in rough areas."

No Tina, I have not.  The horses I take into rough areas are wearing shoes.  I have had my horseshoer use a urethane product to fill the concave portion of the hoof, then a pad to keep it in place, then nailed on horsehoes to help dropping heel bulbs on one back leg, but I have never used this or other plastic or rubber products to cushion a horse's hooves for rocky or rough ground.  I suppose it could be or has been done.  But it's a lot of effort.  You have to ensure the hoof is dry and some people will use a heat gun or butane torch to do so.  Hoof boots may be a better solution and they would be re-useable for continued riding in the terrain you are concerned about.    You can find some examples of hoof boots at

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jaguar spotted in the Southwest U.S.

New photographs show that a rare male jaguar apparently has been roaming in Southern Arizona mountains for at least nine months, indicating the animals are occasionally moving into their historic range from northern Mexico and into the American Southwest.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that remote cameras have photographed the big cat in five locations in the Santa Rita Mountains' eastern flank on seven occasions since October. Those photos were taken for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by University of Arizona cameras after a hunter gave state authorities a photo of a jaguar's tail that he took last September in the Santa Ritas.

The images were provided to the Star this week by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Federally financed remote cameras photographed the jaguar west of the proposed Rosemont Mine site in the mountains southeast of Tucson. It is the only jaguar known to live in the United States since the 15-year-old cat known as Macho B died in Arizona in March 2009.

The photographs come as federal wildlife officials consider designating more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar.

The proposed habitat would include parts of Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties in Arizona, and New Mexico's Hidalgo County.

While this habitat isn't as good for jaguars as what exists in Mexico, said Jean Calhoun, an assistant field supervisor in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Tucson office, "It's the best (jaguar) habitat we have."

Tim Snow, an Arizona Game and Fish Department nongame specialist, said the area where the photos were shot has prey for the jaguar like deer and javelina. But the new photos don't change the state Game and Fish's opposition to a jaguar critical habitat.

"That solitary male jaguar is no reason for critical habitat. We don't have any breeding pairs," said department spokesman Jim Paxon. "If that was critical habitat, we would still be doing the same thing that we are doing today. We are not harassing that jaguar or modifying normal activities there that are lawful today."

Michael Robinson of the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, however, said a habitat is needed in American Southwest. "It's hard to see how an area with possibly the only jaguar living in the wild in the United States ... how that habitat would not be essential to recovery here," he said.

Warner Glenn, the author of Eyes of Fire, rancher, mountain lion hunter and conservationist, was the first to photograph a wild jaguar in 1996. Jaguars were thought to be gone from the Southwest until he saw a live one in the Peloncillos Mountains, near the New Mexico border with Mexico, on March 7, 1996.

In many ways, Warner’s photographs of a wild jaguar in 1996 were the spark for the last decade’s research, camera traps and conservation struggles over the jaguar; all lovers of these lovely cats owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Warner is on the Board of Directors of the Malpai Borderlands Group and has seen wild jaguars in the US twice.

“He did not run,” Mr. Glenn said. “He was not afraid of anything.” Later he estimated that the jaguar, by the look of his teeth, was eight or nine years old and weighed nearly 200 pounds. Mr. Glenn named the cat Border King.

Another jaguar is now being tracked and photographed in southern Arizona by Jack Childs, a rancher and lion hunter from Tucson. Mr. Childs first videotaped the animal, which he nicknamed Macho B, in August 1996 in the Baboquivari Mountains. It left the region that year but came back in 2004, where it now wanders along the border.