Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ab Taylor, famed Border Patrol Tracker, Dies at 88

Ab Taylor, a plain-spoken Texan who became a legend in the arcane art of man-tracking during three decades with the U.S. Border Patrol and later taught children how to survive if they became lost in the wild, has died. He was 88. This article is by Tony Perry of the LA

Taylor became an expert on finding small signs of people's movements in his three decades with U.S. Border Patrol. A search for a lost boy prompted him to develop a guide for children on staying safe. Taylor, who had Alzheimer's disease, passed away  September 9th, 2013 in the community of Alpine in eastern San Diego County, his family said.

As he patrolled the rugged, unpopulated stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border, Taylor developed expertise in looking for the small signs — a broken twig, a small footprint, rocks out of place, patterns in the dust — that indicated the passage of immigrants trying to sneak into the United States.

Like other Border Patrol agents, Taylor referred to the daily hunt as The Game. While he never expressed any remorse for doing his job, he admitted admiration for immigrants trying to get to America and find jobs. "I can have the greatest empathy for the individual Mexican coming in and understand him and know about him," Taylor told a reporter for The Times in 1972 while spitting wads of chewing tobacco into the border dust. "Still, I don't have reservations about doing my job because I know that this country cannot possibly absorb all the poverty of Mexico."

The more difficult the chase, the greater the satisfaction, said Taylor, who spent most of his career assigned to the Southern California border. "The tougher he is to beat, the more you admire him," he said. "If you catch him down there a mile away from the border and blunder into him, there certainly is no satisfaction there. But if you track him from sun-up one day to sundown the next … then there's a great measure of satisfaction in beatin' him."

If he had respect for immigrants, he had scorn for the smugglers, particularly those who take money to transport immigrants to the Mexican side of the border and then abandon them to navigate the overland dangers by themselves. "Typically, the smuggler is greedy," Taylor said. "And typically he's a little bit cowardly. If he had a lot of guts, he'd be hauling narco."

After three decades with the Border Patrol, he retired in the late 1970s. An incident in 1981 changed Taylor's life and gave him a new passion: teaching children how to survive if they were lost in the forest or desert.

Taylor was one of hundreds of people who searched for a 9-year-old boy who had become separated from his family during a trip to Mt. Palomar north of San Diego. For four days, searchers scoured the forest, only to find the boy dead from exposure. Taylor would later say the failure to find Jimmy Beveridge was the biggest disappointment of his life.

After that bitter experience, Taylor was among those who founded the nonprofit Hug-a-Tree and Survive program, a guide for children on staying safe. Among the tips: Stay put, do not panic, and hold onto a tree for warmth. Taylor instructed parents as well, telling them to equip their kids with flashlights and large plastic bags to stave off the cold.

Taylor used his fame and media savvy to spread the message of survival. He gave lectures to schools and community groups. His slide presentation included pictures of his grandchildren. Albert Snow Taylor was born in San Angelo, Texas, on Nov. 24, 1924, the son of a small-town grocer. He worked on his uncle's farm and grandfather's ranch and served in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier in World War II.

Joining the Border Patrol after the war ended, Taylor found his true talent. In the days before trackers used high-tech methods, Taylor could discover small signs others missed, a skill called "sign cutting." He tracked innumerable immigrants and also helped capture killers and kidnappers and find lost children. Jimmy Beveridge was his only failed search, Taylor often told audiences, the pain evident in his voice.

In 1980, he served as a consultant on the movie Fundamentals of Mantracking: The Step by Step Method." Chapters included how to search for lost children, how to track animals, and how to track someone trying to evade capture.

In retirement, he noted with sadness the Border Patrol had shifted away from tracking. "They did away with everything I had spent my life building up," he told the Associated Press in 2001. Taylor is survived by his third wife, Lillian Beam Taylor; sons Kenneth and Stuart; and daughter Patti; along with three stepchildren, Rick, Kenny and Kevin Beam; and sisters Barbara Tolch and Marjorie Grubb.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

West Nile Reminder and Trail Advice from a Reader

Scott wrote to Functional Horsemanship reminding us that West Nile Virus (WNV) is still prevalent in many parts of the country and in addition to annual WNV immunizations, insect repellent is another method to help keep your horse's protected and he added that insect repellent's for rider's are important as well, as people get WNV too.

I've seen one horse who was positive for WNV and it was hard to bear watching horse suffering, stumbling, head down, losing balance, and not eating. WNV in people is fairly rare and sometimes hard to diagnose. The Center for Disease Control says that 1 in 5 people who are infected with WNV will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus will recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. Even fewer people will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis which is inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues. For both people and horses the treatment is to generally manage the symptoms.

I'd add that manure management and ensuring that standing water traps are emptied to take away mosquito breeding grounds is a good preventive practice. Here in West Texas where 8 inches a rain a year is the average, we recently received over 5 inches of rain in a week bringing mosquitos into areas where we usually don't see them. I sprayed insect killer daily on top of the loads of manure dumped into my dumpster, and used a daily application of Pyranha fly spray on my horses until everything dried out.

Another point Scott stressed was to ensure when you trail ride on public, or even private land, to make sure your know the rules for use. A group of riders can eliminate the use of land for other horses and riders by breaking rules. I like the Back Country Horsemen of America's theme which is to "Leave No Trace".  I occasionally run across some horse tracks from time to time who riders have no problem at all littering along their ride with Bud Light cans and bottles. I have a hard time believing that people who have no respect for the land have any respect for horses.

And while I have carried a gun all my adult life, for personal protection or in performance of my duties, and I certainly believe in the 2nd Amendment, if the land use rules for a trail ride included no firearms then I would respect that and wouldn't carry a gun, or more likely not ride at all. Scott reminds us to do our research so we don't trailer to some place only to discover regulations we were unprepared for.

Thanks Scott for your reminder and safe journey to you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sawtooth Saddle

I have received several questions on one of the saddle's that I am riding in some of the videos I post. So it gives me a chance to plug Sawtooth Saddle Company of Vernal, Utah.

The saddle in these pictures is called the Santa Fe and based on a design that dates back to 1838.  It's a slick fork with a hard seat, a minimal, rounded skirt and really a joy to ride.  It weighs right around 27 pounds which helped me decide on this saddle as I did not have a really lightweight saddle for long rides or heading up into the mountains. 

This saddle is double rigged and has big brass rings for the front and rear cinches, turned stirrup leathers with five inch Brass Monel stirrups. The horn is rawhide with a leather cap and large concho. This is not a saddle I would routinely rope, dally and drag calves on, let alone heavier cows. If I was going to use this saddle for that I would put a horn wrap on it or just use some rubber dally wraps temporarily to help preserve both the horn and my rope. This saddle came with a realy nice leather bound Mohair cinch. My wife now has that cinch and I am using a fleece lined cinch which is my preference. Many rider's don't like the way I rig my cinch with the knot through the strap but if you'll notice the knot it is set ahead of where my knee and leg are so it is not an issue on this saddle or type of rigging.  

The Breast Collar attachment D rings are high enough on the saddle so the breast collar can ride where it needs to, above the chest and below the neck in the cleft so it doesn't impede the horse's movement or breathing.   

This is a very well made saddle. Everything about it shows superior craftsmanship. A person couldn't go wrong with a Sawtooth Saddle if their checkbook would allow the purchase. Visit the Sawtooth site and see their selection.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Helping Your Horse with Accepting the Mounting Block

Probably due to a combination of short people buying tall horses and older people with declining physical abilities it seems like many people need mounting blocks to get up in the saddle. And before you write me any nasty comments, I'm one of those people I wrote about in the first sentence,...short and aging. But I have fairly short horses, certainly no taller than 15.1 hands high which makes for mounting much easy.

However, it is necessary for many people to be able to bring their horse over to a mounting aid. It's also pretty common for a horse to lead up to the mounting block and when the rider's climbs the block, the horse will drift out to a position that the rider cannot mount from. I have noticed this in trail type competitions and many of the horses resist the rider's attempts to pull him over to the mounting block. This could be because the horse is not used to, or accepting of the rider towering above them,......don't ask me why being in the saddle is different,...... or the horse may simply be not immediately accepting of the mounting block which is a new obstacles for them.

The good news is that getting your horse to close the gap and stand next to a mounting block why you gain the saddle is a pretty easy thing to get your horse comfortable with.

Be sure your horse is comfortable with the mounting block as an obstacle. Lead him up to it, give him the time he needs to accept it,……it may take 2 seconds, it may take 30 seconds, it doesn't matter because your horse is not on your schedule, you're actually on his, but the point is to get him to accept that it's not a threat.

Lead the horse up to the mounting block and position where you can mount. Even if the horse stands for you to mount in this position, the position you put him in, I would still go through the process of cueing him to move his feet until he is parallel to you (siding up to you) so you could mount safely. This will be useful when you go to use a mounting block he is not used to.

So try this,....lead the horse up so he is perpendicular (facing) the mounting mount. Get on the mounting block and bump the lead line in a upwards, rhythmic fashion until the horse moves his feet. As he moves, even on foot or even leans to or looks to be wanting to move a foot, stop bumping - this is the release. Then begin again. Every time the horse moves his feet, give him a release (quit bumping the lead line). It's okay, in my opinion, that the horse moves in the wrong direction initially because he is learning the cue to move his feet. That's all you are really trying to do, get him to move his feet. You can use a verbal cue as well such as "over".

Do this a couple times and you'll most likely have a horse that automatically sides up to you when you climb onto the mounting block. Then you may have the issue of getting him to wait on you to ask him to position up.

Finally, be sure you are following safe mounting procedures from the mounting block,......don't settle for having your horse close enough to make mounting possible,......your horse needs to be close enough to make mounting safe. Have ahold of the reins, shorten the reins on the side you are mounting on just in case your horse moves out or even bolts, you will be prepared to tip his head and disengage his back end to a stop. Sit in the saddle and find your off side stirrup. Having turned stirrups make this much easier so your foot automatically finds the stirrup. Hope this helps.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Horse Humor - Horse and Rider in Drive Through

Many people have seen this picture, reportedly taken at a Texas Whataburger, a State Institution by the way, but there was an actual account of a girl riding her horse through a McDonalds in England but was refused service as that McDonald's did not serve people on horses in this particular drive through.

So the woman dismounted and led her horse inside to order, where the horse "ended up doing his business on the floor" which is the polite British way of saying the horse pooped or otherwise dropped a load of manure.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said "the incident caused distress to customers and disruption for the restaurant, and the police issued the woman with a fixed penalty notice." She added: "The health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority, and for this reason we are unable to serve pedestrians, bicycle riders or customers on horseback through the drive-thru."

Don't believe me, check it out here at the BBC News site.

If you are reading this you probably don't have a problem eating a biscuit with one hand and brushing a horse with the other.