Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What are You doing with Your Horse?

Not too long ago, I wrote about Cross Training for horses and how some are taking advantage of the different opportunities to make their horse better. Not necessarily better in a competitive event way, but in the making of an all around horse.

I received a few comments from people who said their horses did better in the arena when they took them on trail rides.

Using competitive events to make a better horse usually requires the rider to push away thoughts of scoring, but also thoughts of what other people think of you and your horse. After all, it's about your horse. And like the saying go's - "there's always tomorrow".

During Arena or Trail Obstacle Challenges, where the horse and rider approach and move through obstacles usually within a time constraint, some rider's will try and push their reluctant horse across a bridge or through a curtain only to meet resistance from the horse. He just isn't ready. To try and push him through the obstacles usually builds anxiety within the horse, justify his initial apprehension, and decreases the chances of him completing that obstacle in the time allowed. And if your horse totally refuses to complete an obstacle and the rider moves on to the next, the horse has just learned he can refuse an obstacle and out wait you. I think the rider's who are thinking long term, will wait on their horse to approach the obstacle in a willing manner.  In the video below, I intended on letting my horse set the approach to the yellow slicker.  I took a slow jog towards to the slicker, letting my horse look at it and drop his nose on, and as he showed no big issue with it, I asked him forward so I could position up to retrieve the slicker. 

More than one rider tried to urge their horse towards the slicker before that horse was ready to accept getting closer and in each case it didn't work out well as the horse was on his own schedule.  The difference between approaching the obstacle when the horse is ready and trying to push him to the obstacle because of a judges clock, is often only a few seconds.     

When a rider pushes aside the time constraint, and doesn't worry any judging or scoring, time can be taken to use that obstacle to make a better horse. I've seen rider's run out of time then ask the judge if they can continue, and I have seen rider's work on the obstacle after the competition is over. In both instances, thinking of their horse.

The same goes for Ranch Sorting. It has become became pretty popular. While it's a timed event, you can approach your runs as slow as you like, providing your partner thinks the same, and focus on letting your horse get comfortable with what you asking him to do, and build on that. If someone brings a new horse, unexposed to cows, we'll let that horse and rider follow a seasoned horse and move among the cattle getting that horse used to not only the cows but a crowded environment.

Sometimes you'll see an otherwise considerate rider caught up with the competitive aspect, trying to sort as many cows as they can in 90 seconds, regardless on how his horse feels about it. Jerking and pulling on the horse's mouth until the horse is forced to move his feet to keep his balance, or if the horse raises his head and starts backing to get away from the pain of the bit, which slows his forward movement, the rider applying spurs in less than a judicious manner to move the horse forward - in both these cases the horse is getting second billing and the event becomes detrimental to advancing the horse creating some things that have to be undone, which is sometimes harder than teaching something new.

The video below is a Ranch Sorting run by two friends of mine. Aside from just looking like fun, these two work quickly when they need to and take their time when that's necessary. While their horses are old hands at this, this is an example of riding without creating anxiety in your horse and making his worse.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014 - Christmas Caroling on Horseback

This was our third year doing a Horseback Christmas Caroling ride with a truck and trailer for dismounted singers. Stopping to sing, well what passes for singing, and passing out candy to kids is really a good way to get children up close to the horses.

To see a kid's eyes light up when you ask him if he or she wants to sit a horse and get their picture taken is reward enough for the morning's logistical effort to decorate the trailer, prepare candy bags and have the horse's suffer the indignity of wearing bells and elf hats.

One of our stops this year included a little 7 or 8 year old boy with eyeglasses so thick and heavy they were falling off his nose. To see that kid's joy at sitting a horse for the first time in his life made the whole day. He was one of maybe 20 some odd kids that sat my horse for the obligatory picture taken by their parent.

This is something other horseback groups can do. Maybe it can be worked into a event to deliver presents to economically disadvantaged families. Maybe a food drive as well. Imagine a pack train in a urban barrio or poor rural area with Santa's helpers, the riders, pulling presents out of a pannier.  We'll be thinking about that for next year.

Afterwards, we always have chow and sit around a fire. This year, Frito pie (Chili on top of fritos, onions, cheese and lettuce), brats, potato and macaroni salad and lots of desserts made a great ending to the day eating and chatting with our neighbors.

But doing something for others shouldn't begin and end at Christmas time. As Americans we enjoy freedoms and a quality of life greater than any other citizen of any other country. Whether it's from a religious or intellectual perspective, it pretty much seems to me that each of us has an obligation to do what we can to help those who are much less fortunate than us.

Doing community or charity work on horses is a great way to enjoy your horses. It can also be a good training event - something that can help your horse...... and I say this after getting my horse to approach a jumping balloon during this caroling ride.  There are also many deserving charities that would be happy to receive your support. Some of my favorites are the Childrens Hunger Fund, Task Force Dagger Foundation, Cal Farley's Boys and Girls Ranch, Saint Josephs Indian School and several Horse Rescues.

 If we all did a little bit, it would make a large difference. Merry Christmas and Safe Journey to all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Horse Anticipates My Commands

Carolyn wrote that when she rides her horse towards the arena fence her horse most often turns before she gives him a cue. "Hi. My horse is very well behaved but he has a tendency, when I am riding towards the fence of the arena, to turn before I ask him to turn. I don't know if it's fear of being ridden into the fence, or poor eyesight, or just a lack of trust in me. It's really aggravating and I'm at a loss to correct this. Any time tested tips you may have would be appreciated. Regards, Carolyn."

Hi Carolyn. The most likely reason your horse turns before you ask him to when heading towards the fence is that he is anticipating the turn. He probably also anticipates in other ways as well. Does he always anticipate a turn toward the gate or towards other horses? A common thing that horses do is to turn towards the gate, sometimes speeding up when heading to or facing the gate, or slowing up at the gate anticipating leaving the arena or signaling their desire to get back to their pen and their buddies. So often, horses seemingly anticipating a cue is herd bound or barn sour behavior.

When riding towards the arena fence, keep your horse between your legs and you may have to have a little more contact with his mouth (riding in a bit) or on his nose (riding with a bosal) to be able to correct him anticipating a turn. Stop your horse before he gets too close to the arena fence where he wants to anticipate a turn. Then I would mix up what you do next. You can back him, turn him away from the gate, ride a circle and approach the arena fence again.

You can stop him, do a roll back, and head towards the opposite arena fence and do the same thing. You may stop him back a ways then have him depart at the trot towards the arena fence again.

I particularly like heading towards the arena fence, stopping, backing then doing a roll back toward the next fence line. Each time you should turn away from the arena barn gate, if this seems to be an issue for your horse, and each time will be turning in a different direction.

Over a short amount of time, you should be able to get closer and closer to the arena fence before he wants to turn on his own. Each time you approach the fence stop him, back him, turn him opposite the gate, do a roll back or double him before he attempts to turn on his own.  Keep him busy doing different things.  

Try doing all these things width wise and length wise in your arena. Pay attention to your horse doing those herd bound, barn sour type behavior. If you keep your horse busy enough, and you are fair about it, a lot of this behavior can be reduced or eliminated. And one more thing you may do when you end your arena training sessions, if to stop furthest away from the gate and either dismount and lead him in hand out of the arena, or from the saddle walk slowly to the gate.

I'm not such a good hand correcting this but what I would do is similar to what you would do for the barn or buddy hour horse.  Don't give him the chance to anticipate - direct him into something else. 

For the barn/gate sour horse it makes sense to make it work for him to be near the gate and give him a rest when he is furthest away from the gate. This is what you hear referred to as "making the wrong thing work and the right thing a release or a rest". Trot him in a oval or a circle near the gate, stop and back, turn away from the gate and take you horse to the far end of the arena and give him a rest.

Hope this helps Carolyn. Safe Journey to you. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Slaughter Ban - Saving America's Horses?

Nobody loves horses more than I do. Some certainly love them as much, but show it in a strange way by blocking horse slaughter in the U.S. which subjects unwanted horses to be taken to Mexico for slaughter.

The passing of the House Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will surely be approved by the Senate and signed by the President next week, includes verbiage eliminating the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from conducting horse slaughter plant inspections in the U.S., at least through September 2015, will ensure that the route to Mexico stays as the only viable path for unwanted horses.

I have seen far too many over crowded trailers of horses heading to Mexico. The old, the sick, the unwanted and the young. In Mexico these horses are subjected to very a cruel death. Very cruel only if you consider being put through a squeeze chute and have some Mexican plant worker stab the horse in the neck by the withers until the horse is paralyzed or drops, then a hoisted by a chain around their rear legs to hang upside down, throat slashed and bled out.

I can't even begin to imagine the horses' screams. At least in the U.S. slaughter plants, tragic as it is, horses were put down in a humane manner.

It would be great if every horse in the U.S and the world could be born and be assured of living to a natural death, having enough feed and water in between, but that is hardly reasonable to hope for. I think if people in the U.S. really cared about horses, there would be a method to euthanize unwanted horses in a humane manner where the horse is treated with respect and dignity and is not being terrorized for hours and days before being put down.

Even though the European Union's (EU) decision to block horses slaughtered in Mexico from being exported into the EU, which goes into effect on January 15th, and the blocking of horse slaughter in the U.S., the slaughter of horses in Mexico will not stop as there is just too big of a world market for horse consumption.

I applaud and have monetarily supported horse rescues who give mistreated and unwanted horses a lifetime home. I know several of these rescues put their lives and entire income into providing care for these horses, many of which are not capable of being ridden. My wife and I have three horses, due to age and injuries, will not ever be ridden again but will die a natural death on our property no matter how long that takes. But to not have a humane means to dispose of horses and subject them to a terrible death in Mexico is unacceptable.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Carrying an M-4 Carbine on Horseback

Cheney wrote to ask about any ready made solutions for carrying military style rifles/ carbines while horseback. "Hey, I am a elk hunting guide in north Jackson and a combat medic in the Utah national guard I was wondering is there a effective way to carry a M4 (handy trail caliber and very light available in big bores such as .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowolf). I wonder as my job involves a lot of riding and walking over rough bear filled country if there is a way to do that or your thoughts on the matter. Thank you very much. Cheney."

I received this on Veteran's Day and sorry it is taking me awhile to respond to you, Cheney. A little know fact to most Americans is the extent of which our National Guard and Reserves served in Iraq and Afghanistan,...thank you for your service.

Some people reading this may be unfamiliar with the .458 SOCOM and .50 cal Beowolf, so to summarize, the .458 SOCOM - with a 300-grain round has a muzzle velocity of 1,900 ft/s and 2,405 ft lb energy which is similar to a .45-70 Government cartridge. The .50 Beowolf also has a 300 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity near 1,900 fps and a muzzle energy of 2,300 fpe, again similar to the .45-70 Government. Complete Upper Receivers are available to turn a common M-4 in .223/5.56 caliber into a big bore carbine.

While I would prefer a big bore rifle if I was routinely in Grizzly country, I don't think I'd carry a M-4 chambered for .458 SOCOM or .50 Beowolf. While, a standard M-4 firing the .223 Remington or 5.56mm NATO cartridge may be pretty underpowered to put down a Grizzly, you would have 20 or 30 rounds to do so. But you are the one that's going to be potentially facing a Griz, so good luck on whatever you decide.

If you want to carry an M-4 readily accessible on horseback, your options are a modified scabbard that considers the M-4 pistol grip and extended magazine.

 I think you can get 5 or 10 round M-4 magazines, but even a 20 round magazine would be easier to cary than the standard 30 round magazine. The M-4 just offers some unique scabbard challenges. You may be able to find someone to build you a custom scabbard, or you could use a short gun bag and rig that to you saddle like a scabbard - maybe something like the nylon scabbard in the picture above left.

Or you could carry the M-4 across your back. Carrying the M-4 across your back would be better than carrying across your chest as this would obviously be a pain in the butt guiding your horse, using a rope or leading a pack train. A 10 inch upper (shorter barrel) would work better than a standard 16 inch carbine and accuracy shouldn't be a problem with the shorter barrel if you are primarily using it as a defensive gun against Grizzlies - probably no long range shots.  Plus the across the back carry ensures that you have the gun with you when you dismount.

A body sling would have to be tight so the carbine wouldn't swing around or otherwise bang around when at the trot or lope. But still allow for you to swing the carbine into action. I would like to have a quick release in case you got hung up on anything. In the video, I am using a older modified Mamba sling from Spec Ops Brand Military and Tactical Gear. This sling has a length of bungee cord covered in tubular nylon which allows the carbine to be adjusted tight to your body still while allowing enough movement for the gun to mounting to your shoulder. It would be necessary to have a side mounted front sling attachment.

I rode for a while carrying an M-4 carbine in this configuration and it worked pretty good.  I had to cross one hardball road and I hope a didn't alarm the lady in  the truck that passed by!  There is a modern day precedence for carrying military weapons on horseback.  During the early days of the war in Afghanistan, Special Forces teams from the 5th Special Forces Group infiltrated and linked up with anti-Taliban groups, then rode those little Afghani horse's into combat as they pushed the Taliban out of Afghanistan.  The Horse Soldiers, by Doug Stanton is a good book about this.    

Spec Ops Brand offers a sling called the Patrol sling which would work. This is a two piece sling with the covered bungee. This sling has a quick release buckle in case you get hung up, and has a quick adjustment buckle so you can tighten and loosen the sling as needed. I think this is your best bet. You can get to Spec Ops Brand through this link.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Border Patrol Horse Patrol agents seize over 400 lbs of Drugs

Not only do drug smugglers bring narcotics across the border on horseback, the good guys use horses to combat drug smuggling. There are places along the border that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to use motorized transportation. These places and long tracks in rugged border mountain areas are where horses come in real handy. There are many people who have not experienced the Southern border first hand and have no idea of not only the problems with criminal groups smuggling narcotics but people as well. The difficulties with the terrain and climate add to the burden of enforcing the border. In many sections of the border, communications is non-existent. Agents can't communicate to their dispatchers, nor call for help if needed. The story below is an example of the doggedness of Border Patrol agents, assisted by CBP air units.

U.S. Border Patrol Agents assigned to the Lordsburg (New Mexico) Stations Horse Patrol Unit, with the assistance of Air and Marine units, tracked and located a group of narcotics smugglers Tuesday 18 November in the dense terrain of the mountains of southern New Mexico. This incident was one of many that resulted in drug seizures as part of a very busy week for agents in that region.

Agents first discovered that several individuals crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on foot near Antelope Wells on Saturday and began tracking them through the Animas Valley. Due to the difficulty of terrain, the search became tedious.

Agents remained persistent in pursuing the suspected illegal crossers over a span of three days. The combined effort of agents on the ground and assistance from members of the Office of Air and Marine-El Paso Air Branch resulted in the seizure of 412 pounds of marijuana in the "Cowboy Pass" area, approximately 45 miles north of the starting point.

Among those arrested in connection with the seizure were: Isidro Torres-Nunez, 24, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Delgado, 22, both of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico; Felipe de Jesus Beltran-Torres, 21, of Tamazula, Durango, Mexico; and Aron Jovan Baldarrama-Villanueva, 20, of Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico. The suspects were place in custody and Agents recovered seven burlap wrapped, makeshift backpacks containing individually wrapped packages of marijuana. The 412-pound seizure carries an estimated street value of $330,240.

Also apprehended in the group of smugglers was Gustavo Aispuro-Corral, a Mexican national who had been hired to travel with the crowd for the purpose of carrying food and supplies.

The above story was in a news release from Customs and Border Protection.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tack Tip - More Than a Get Down Rope


At the request of several people for smaller, lightweight ropes for emergency lead lines on the trail, I have taken 1/4 inch Poly rope with a nylon core, usually 12 foot long, and fraying the rope at one end with a flat waxed line knot and braiding leather poppers at the other end to make a Get Down rope.


I keep several of these around, one usually handy to use as a catch rope where I loop the rope around a horses neck and lead him from pen to corral and such. The advantage of this is that's its much quicker than tying a halter and I think it actually helps a horse understand and react to neck pressure before you introduce neck reining.

Some riders will put a bridle over a halter but don't know what to do with the lead line except take it off and carry it with them. With a 1/4 inch 12 foot Get Down Rope, you can leave the thicker and more bulkier lead line at the barn and still have a line to attach to the halter for leading on the ground.  Because of the Get Down usually being a smaller diameter rope, a good way to secure it to the halter is with a double round turn. 

The Get Down rope can be used in the traditional manner, as the name implies, by attaching the rope around the horse's neck with a non-slip knot and securing the other end to the saddle. Be careful not to use a slip knot for the obvious reasons. I would also not use a rope like this when working cattle as you don't need a cow's head or horns getting underneath the rope when you have one end tied around the horse's head and the other end secured to the saddle. I use a bow line knot to make a non-slip loop around the horse's head.  If you were planning on leading the horse from the ground, you would tie the loop closer to the horse's head so the loop won't slip off the head. The picture above right is a way to carry the Get Down rope in a fashion that cannot tighten up on the horse's neck.  

The other end of the Get Down rope can secured to the saddle. You can coil the end and tie it to your saddle using the saddle strings - see picture above right. Or you can tie off the excess line to the saddle horn using clove hitch or a quick release knot - see picture below.


I have found other uses for a Get Down rope. I used it to keep tie open an otherwise one way Arizona gate so trespass cattle can be pushed back to their own pasture. I have looped the rope over a pasture gate that opened towards me but the vegetation did not give me chance to open it by hand.

You can just carry the Get Down rope in a coil tied to the saddle strings next to or in back of the cantle. In fact, many trail rider prefer this method and even though I ride in Mecate reins, I'll usually carry a get down rope in this method in case I have to pony a horse or something.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day - Remembering the Often Forgotten Veteran, the Horse

If you are reading this then you are likely to have seen the movie "War Horse" and as hard as it was to sit through the scene where the horse ran through concertina (razor) wire you would have an appreciation of how key horses were to warfare before the advent of motorized and aerial transportation. By the way, I was squirming in my seat during the concertina wire scene in War Horse, telling my self, "it's a movie,'s not real, it's a movie."

Horses have been used in warfare since several thousand years before Christ. From scouting the enemy and carrying messages back and forth, riding into battle charging enemy lines, to pulling chariots and later artillery pieces, and packing equipment and supplies, horses, mules and donkeys of all breeds and types have served man in man's attempts to kill each other. If you were like me, you grew up on stories about General Robert E. Lee's horse Traveler, or Captain Myles Keogh's horse Comanche - a survivor of Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn.

Horses have been and will continue to be used, albeit in smaller numbers, for military purposes. Horses and mules played a vital role in transporting weapons, ammunition and material across the Hindu Kush from Pakistan to Afghanistan to help drive the Russian invaders out. Twelve years later, Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group rode horses into combat to drive the Taliban and their al-Qai'da brethren out of Afghanistan. In fact, a statute honoring this sits near the 9-11 memorial site in New York City. This story can be read in Doug Stanton's book - Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan.

And perhaps the greatest war horse story was Sergeant Reckless, a little mare who served in the Marine Corps in the Korean War. A new book is out about this amazing little horse with a giant heart - Sgt Reckless, America's War Horse, by Robin Hutton. Read more about Sgt Reckless here.

The photo at the top is from Poppy Appeal Australia. These people found a unique way to remember the contribution of horses.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Feeding Tips for Horses

Last week, wife and I helped some neighbors out when one of their horses, a 3 year old gelding, was   seemingly was in the middle of a colic. Two of the hands were there but neither gent spoke more than a few words of English so my wife and I had a hard time with our limited Spanish explaining that muscle tremors, drum tight flanks, sweating, rapid and shallow breathing, and no gut sounds in any of the four quadrants spelled colic.  We advised them to get a Vet out pronto and tried to call one of our Spanish speaking vets to talk to them over the phone, but on a Sunday night it's hard to get ahold of people.   

On our north fenceline, these neighbors are in the process of building their horse facility.  I think one of the issues with this gelding may have been that after they finished the stall gates on the still to be finished barn, they were locking the horses in for the night and feeding alfalfa and grain - they are feeding these horses once day.  The horses had to wait to be turned out in the morning to have access to water.      

How did that little gelding fare?  Well, I wish I would have had the article below in Spanish, for these guys that night. But their horse came out his distress after 8 cc's of Banamine, a dose of Pro-Bios probiotic and some thin bran mash with mineral oil.  I haven't checked back yet, but hopefully they took the advice to feed twice a day and make sure the horses have access to water 24/7. 

This article came from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). While I think it's a pretty good baseline article for the care and feeding of horses, I have added some comments in italics.

Top 10 Nutritional Tips for Horses

Remember that old nursery rhyme that begins, “Hay is for horses…”? As it turns out, that’s sound advice for feeding companion equines—as are the following tips from our experts at the ASPCA Pet Nutrition and Science Advisory Service.

1. Base Your Horse’s Diet on Grass and Hay.

A horse’s digestive system is made to process large quantities of grass, which is high in fiber and water. The basic diet for most horses should consist of grass and good-quality hay that’s free of dust and mold. As a general rule, companion horses should be able to graze or eat hay whenever they want to.

Forage (grass and alfalfa) first. That's the motto of ADM feeds and something that guides my feeding program. It would be nice to have horses on pasture but there is very little of it in West Texas. I like to differentiate between alfalfa hay and grass hay. In my way of thinking a straight alfalfa diet is too rich in protein for most horses. I'm usually feed a 60-40 mix alfalfa and grass, sometimes more grass depending upon the cut of the alfalfa. Plus it helps balance the calcium- phosphorous ratio.

2. Feed Several Small Meals a Day.

Because horses’ stomachs were developed for grazing, horses function better with a feeding plan based on “little and often.” ASPCA experts recommend that horses should eat several small meals—at least two, preferably three or more—in the course of a day. When feeding hay, give half the hay allowance at night, when horses have more time to eat and digest.

I used to feed four times a day and did so for several years before I went back to three feedings day. I would think that two feedings day would be minimum.

3. No Grain, No Gain.

Most horses, even fairly active ones, don’t need the extra calories found in grains. Excess grains can lead to muscle, bone and joint problems in young and adult horses. Unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian or other equine professional, it’s best to feed low-energy diets high in grass and hay.

Good point that most horses don't need grain. I don't feed grain but I do feed a processed feed from ADM called Patriot, which is a 14% protein feed. My horses do well on this. They get about 3.5 lbs of this divided up into two of their three feedings daily. I feed this primarily for two reasons: to provide for vitamins and minerals they don't get in their grass or alfalfa, and to get their systems used to this processed feed to I can feed more to make up forage shortages when away from my barn.

4. Be Aware of Individual Needs.

Feed according to the individuality of the horse, including condition and activity level. Some horses have difficulty keeping on weight, and need more feed per unit of body weight. However, most horses should eat between 2 percent to 4 percent of their body weight daily in pounds of hay or other feeds. Your veterinarian can help you decide how and what to feed your horse.

Two percent is a good baseline number. For the average 1,100 Quarterhorse this would be 22 lbs of hay a day. Four percent is really quite a bit of feed. If a horse worked all day long, he would require additional feed to replace calories burned, but again 4 percent is a lot of feed even for hard keepers.

5. Water Works.

Plenty of fresh, clean, unfrozen water should be available most times, even if the horse only drinks once or twice a day. Contrary to instinct, horses who are hot from strenuous exercise should not have free access to water. Rather, they should be allowed only a few sips every three to five minutes until they have adequately cooled down.

Ensuring that horses have fresh, clean water is often over looked. Many places I visit have really dirty stock tanks and this does not facilitate the horses wanting to drink. Automatic waters are great keeping a supply of fresh water available. However, they still need to be checked every day for function. I have also seen issues with automatic waters if they are not maintained. I use old fashioned stock tanks. They allow me to see how much water my horses are drinking. I have to dump them once or twice a week to scrub them and re-fill which I don't mind,......ask me again when I'm 80 years old. The wet sand I create when I dump my stock tanks allows my horses' hooves to soak up some moisture which is good for the horses and easier on my Horseshoer.

6. Provide a Supplementary Salt Block.

Because most diets do not contain mineral levels high enough for optimal health and performance, horses should have free access to a trace mineral and salt block. This will provide your horse with adequate levels of salt to stabilize pH and electrolyte levels, as well as adequate levels of trace minerals. As long as plenty of fresh water is available, you needn’t be concerned about overconsumption of salt.

It's been my experience that while most horses will lick a salt block, many horses don't like the conventional mineral blocks. There are different mineral solutions from powdered minerals that can be top dressed on your horses grain/processed feed, to newer type mineral blocks such as the ADM GroStrong Mineral Quad Block. I provide a white salt block for my horses and I break up a GroStrong mineral block and keep a piece in each horse feeder.

7. Take it Slow.

Any changes in the diet should be made gradually to avoid colic (abdominal pain usually associated with intestinal disease) and laminitis (painful inflammation in the hoof associated with separation of the hoof bone from the hoof wall), either of which can be catastrophic. Horses are physically unable to vomit or belch. Overfeeding and rapid rates of intake are potential problems. Consequently, a horse or pony who breaks into the grain bin, or is allowed to gorge on green pasture for the first time since autumn, can be headed for a health disaster.

I change out from one cut of alfalfa to the next through a five to seven day period. Some recommend a more gradual change through a longer period. Either way, different feeds and different sources of the same feed should be introduced slowly. I would describe Colic and Laminitis a little differently, Colic is distress of the intestines which can be caused by several issues, one of the worst being a blockage (called an impaction) of the intestines, and colic symptoms are almost always a medical emergency for that horse. Founder (Laminitis) is actually the separation of the hoof bone (the coffin bone) from the laminae which can cause the coffin bone to rotate in the hoof capsule and in the worst case (usually requiring euthanasia) causes the coffin bone drop and even penetrate the bottom of the sole.

8. Dental Care and Your Horse’s Diet: Chew On This.

Horses need their teeth to grind grass and hay, so it is important to keep teeth in good condition. At the age of five years, horses should begin annual dental checkups by a veterinarian to see if their teeth need floating (filing). Tooth quality has to be considered when deciding whether or not to feed processed grains (grains that are no longer whole, such as cracked corn and rolled oats). Horses with poor dental soundness—a particular problem in older horses—tend to benefit more from processed feed than do younger horses, who have sounder mouths and teeth.

This is probably the most often over looked routine health care need for horses. Some advocate a dental checkup once a year. I average about every 16 months. A checkup usually results in some dental work as the Vet has to sedate the horses anyway in order to do the checkup, so may as well get some work done. Some horses will require shorter intervals between floating. Having a competent Vet do your floating, keeping good records on how much sedation each horse needs, is a blessing and helps keep your horses healthy.

9. Exercise Caution.

Stabled horses need exercise. Horses will eat better, digest food better and be less likely to colic if they get proper exercise. Horses should finish eating at least an hour before hard work. Do not feed grain to tired or hot horses until they are cooled and rested, preferably one or two hours after activity. You can feed them hay instead. To prevent hot horses from cooling down too quickly, keep them out of drafts or warm in blankets.

I think one of the worst things people do to horses is to keep them penned up too much. Regular turnout and exercise is not only good for the horse's digestive system, but develops a more mentally sound horse. It breaks my heart to see horses confined to small stalls, week in and week out - it's basically mental torture. When I ran a large barn years ago, I had a boarder keep her horses in their stalls, day in and day out for three, maybe even fours years. The stalls were better than most being a 10x10 inside covered portion with a 20x20 adjacent outside turnout. One day, I almost fell over when this women pulled one of her horses to lead it to one of the available quarter acre turnouts. She had the lead rope wrapped around her arm (lucky she was a very large woman with Popeye sized forearms) and as she was taking off the halter, the horse bolted thinking he was free. Once that lead line became taunt it pulled both the horse and woman off their respective feet. The horse was no worse for wear, but the woman had a rope burn and dirt grinded into her face,.....and she thought the horse was at fault. She didn't consider what it was like for that horse to have been penned up for 3 maybe 4 years.

10. Don’t Leave Home Without It.

Because abrupt dietary change can have devastating results on a horse’s sensitive system, you should always bring your horse’s food with you when you travel. Additionally, some horses will refuse to drink unfamiliar water, so you may also want to bring along a supply of the water your horse regularly drinks.

I've experienced horses not drinking strange water so this is absolutely true. You can try wetting your hay in a bucket with the strange water - this has worked for me, but the best case if having some of the water the horse is used to. I carry water in several 5 gallon plastic military style water jugs for this purpose.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

San Felipe Pueblo Trys PZP Contraceptive on Wild Horses

I am often the target of lectures by ranching friends of mine who  advocate a drastic reduction of the Wild Horse population and total removal from Federals Lands so that more land is available for cattle grazing.

I also get taken to task by Wild Horse advocates for supporting the re-introduction of horse slaughter plants and m which demonstrates an less than "100%" support for Mustangs.

No matter what your opinion is, one thing is for sure.............the Wild Horse and Burro issue is a pretty complex problem:

~ Mustang herds are growing rapidly and competing for cattle for grazing which has been exacerbated by drought conditions in most western states;
~ The BLM conducting brutal roundups and sometimes the subsequent holding of Wild Horses are in terrible conditions;
~ People not understanding that ranchers actually pay the government to graze on federal lands, and in some cases this federal land was taken away from families, so some see it has paying for land they should be rightfully allowed to use.
~ The often adversarial relationship between federal land managers (BLM or USFS) and the cattle owners,.....remember the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada earlier this year?;
~ The extent of large Federal Government land holdings in western states from 22% in Washington State to 76% in Nevada - and sometimes the reality is that a distant federal landlord is not knowledgable about local problems nor fair in resolving some of the issues;
~ Animal rights activists using political pressure to keep horse slaughter plants from opening, preventing a final solution for unwanted horses.

In any extent there are so many factors in the larger issue that can't be solved by approaching them from a pure emotional angle. But one of the many potential solutions could be a contraceptive program - reducing the number of Mustang studs, gelding many of the studs and colts, and drugs to control the fertility of mares. Some this is coming true as the San Felipe Pueblo of New Mexican are moving forward with a vaccination program to reduce mares' abilities to reproduce. The below story came out of KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque.

A New Mexico pueblo is taking new steps to manage its wild horses.  As of now, it’s the only group in the state doing it and they have got high hopes for their unique solution. “This is our first time doing it and so far, it’s been pretty good success,” said Ricardo Ortiz, a land management specialist with the pueblo.

That success has come in the form of a vaccination called PZP.  Porcine zona pellucida (PZP), is a vaccine that stimulates the target animal to produce antibodies, which attach to its own glycoprotein membrane (ZP) that surrounds the female animal's eggs. This vaccine comes from pigs, hence the Porcine preceding the ZP. 

“What it does it controls the birthing for the mares,” Ortiz said. Within the last week, Ortiz said they have given the PZP to 11 mares. “The mares have that birth control for two years,” he said.

Using a dart gun, trained specialists administer the vaccination. Mares would need the vaccine every two years to limit pregnancies. Ortiz had to go to Montana to become certified. “As we move along, we’ll start seeing how it affects the population,” he said.

As far as who foots the bill, it falls on the pueblo. Ortiz says it can get a little pricey with the training and equipment. “This is something also new to the pueblo in a way that is a humane way of taking care of the issue,” Ortiz said. The vaccine does not affect mares that are already pregnant.

The San Felipe Pueblo is also proposing a 3,000-acre horse sanctuary using federal land. PZP has also been used recently to control bison populations in California and on elephant reserves in Africa.

The San Felipe are one of 19 Pueblos of New Mexico which also include the Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, and the Zuni.

The following video, from September 20th, 2014 shows the San Felipe Pueblo making their point on a strong stand for horses as wild life, for wild horse management utilizing PZP immune-contraception which is in line with Science and Nature also inline with the National Academy of Sciences report and advice to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The video, below, shows the darting process using PZP on adopted wild horse mares, from the Wild Love Preserve in the Central Idaho High Desert, who stated they darted 54 mares in one hour.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tack Tip: Prepared for Minor Tack Repairs on the Trail

If you ride enough, or if you ride with poorly maintained equipment, eventually you'll have some piece of equipment break. It's usually something like a rein connector, a leather string connecting the bridle dry rotting, or maybe even a Chicago screw backing out and dropping off into the dirt where you will never find it.

Some of the potential breaks in leather connector strings can be avoided by inspecting your equipment and conditioning it as necessary. I use 100% Neats Foot Oil, while I know that many people prefer other products.

Over the years I have occasionally fixed other people's broken bridles and rein connector straps with a little repair kit that I carried in my saddle bags. But now I mostly don't ride with saddle bags unless I think I may need the items I normally carry in. So I have taken to carrying extra leather strings fed through my off side rear cinch D ring and tied with a Girth Hitch.

I take a 1/2 inch wide Saddle string that is 12 inches long and split to 1/4 inch wide strips giving me 2 one foot long strings which I carry looped into back cinch ring - see picture at left. They are out of the way and don't catch on anything but are handy to repair a bridle or set of reins. Some riders will carry a piece of hay bale string looped into their D rings the same way, but hay bale string will fray and is harder to fed through connector holes and tie off.

If you don't have spare leather strings, maybe you have an extra long string that you can cut a section off. Maybe someone is wearing lace up boots and can give you a section of their boot lace.

Last year, I saw a rider's cinch latigo break,..well I saw the afterwards of it. I rode over to a gent standing by his horse looking at the saddle, trying to figure out how he was going to fix it so he could make the 4 or 5 mile ride back in. I watched him for a minute then mentioned he could use his pants belt as a latigo, or one of his split reins as a cinch strap and ride in one rein like a halter.  The picture at right is an example of using a pants belt as an field expedient latigo.  You'll probably have to punch a hole in the belt for the buckle to make it tight enough, but if you have a decent fitting saddle, this will work until you can get back to the barn.       

It is possible to lose part of a Chicago Screw, like some that connects a headstall to a bit.  If you don't change out bits on a bridle then you may want to consider using Loc-Tite Red threadlocker or a dab of rubber cement on your Chicago Screws to keep from losing them, but if you lose a Chicago Screw, a quick fix to get you back to the barn so you can rummage through that box of parts we all, is to pop out the remaining part of the Chicago Screw if its still there (see Diagram 1 below) and run a piece of leather string through the holes (Diagram 2) then loop the leather string around the bridge and tie it with a Clove Hitch and finish it off with a Double Round Turn (diagram 3). 

If you have some good fixes for broken equipment or other tips, send them to me with pictures and I'll post your suggestions.  Safe Journey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Handguns for Horseback and Protection from Snakes: Comparing .45 LC and .357 Mag Snakeshot

I received a couple questions on handguns for horseback from the recent post about Horses and Rattlesnakes. Dan asked what I used to shoot the rattlesnake with. I used a Ruger Single Action Vaquero with a 4 3/4 inch barrel in .45 Long Colt caliber. I also have a Vaquero in 5 1/2 inch, same caliber. The advantage of a longer barrel is a longer sight radius and therefore theoretically you can be more accurate, and the longer barrel keeps snake shot together longer than a shorter barrel therefore you have a slightly longer effective range.

I use CCI Shotshell ammunition, typically called snakeshot.

Available at your local gun shop or maybe even Wal-Mart, CCI Shotshells come 10 cartridges to a box. Don't ask me why they don't sell them in 12 rounds boxes for two complete cylinders unless they are holding to the tradition that only five cartridges are loaded in a single action revolver with the hammer down on an empty cylinder.

They have several different calibers, but mainly I use:

.38 Spl/.357 Magnum Shotshell, which has a plastic cup loaded with 100 grains of #9 shot coming out the barrel at 1,000 fet per second, and
.45 Long Colt Shotshell, with 150 grains of #9 shot (which provides for about half again as many pellets than the .38 Spl/.357 Magnum shotshell), also exiting the barrel at 1,000 feet per second.

The picture at right shows the pattern of each round tested - the .45 Long Colt Snake Shot cartridge at the top target; and the .357 Magnum Snake Shot cartridge on the bottom target. You can see the advantage of the .45 LC given the same barrel length.

Jeff asked what gun I recommend carrying for snakes and varmints. Your three basic choices for carrying a handgun while horseback are a semi-automatic pistol; a double action revolver; or a single action revolver.

While many law enforcement officers on horseback carry a semi-auto handgun, if they have to use it, it will most likely be shooting it one handed, as they will be using their off hand to control the reins of their horse. Semi-automatic's handguns are designed to function (fire a round, extract then eject an empty case, then load another live cartridge) in a pretty firm grip. Shooting semi-autos in a loose grip with a bent elbow absorbs some of the energy needed for the gun to function therefore increasing the chances of a malfunction.

Double action revolvers, where one pull of the trigger cocks the hammer and releases it firing the cartridge, is in my opinion, a better and more reliable handgun for horseback. As a Conservation Law Enforcement Officer (called Army Range Riders) I carried a Double Action .357 Magnum Smith and Wesson Model 686 revolver. While I would always prefer to have a rifle, the .357 Magnum revolver was always with me. Sometimes, if I was doing something like checking fenceline in a grazing unit, or looking for some lost cows, I would often not carry a rifle, hence the need for a reliable handgun. But a rifle was always in my truck.

With a semi-auto or a double action revolver, you have to be aware of what is called "sympatheic reflex". Applied to shooting a gun horseback, an example would be pulling the trigger and firing a round with your strong hand, then maybe your horse jumping sideways or moving where you squeeze or pull the reins with your off hand and sympatheically you also squeeze the trigger again with your strong hand index finger having an accidential discharge. It is not uncommon for people having a handgun in one hand and opening a door with the other, having an accidental discharge due to sympathic reflex.

Single action (SA) revolvers require the hammer to be cocked, then the trigger pulled to fire each round. This is a very deliberate act and unless you are well practiced you won't do this effortlessly. SA revolvers in the .45 Long Colt caliber have an advantage for training horses so you can shoot off them (more than once at least) because this caliber (and gun type) is what Mounted Shooters use, and blank ammunition are readily available.

If I could only carry one gun on horseback it would be a lever action rifle in .30-30 as Hornady makes a LeveRevolution cartridge in .30-30 with near .308 performance. If I could only have one handgun to carry horseback it would likely be a Double Action revolver in the .45 Long Colt caliber, but these are pretty scare. A Double Action .357 magnum would be next on my list, but I would not feel under gunned having only a SA revolver but it would have to be in .45 Long Colt caliber. A couple hours of dry firing and most people would be passable with a SA revolver.

In the video below, I have testing the spread pattern of .357 Magnum shotshell versus .45 Long Colt shotshell to give a visible to people on each cartridge and the shot pattern at a realistic distance using guns of the same barrel length. You should pattern test your shotshell to determine what the density of the shot pattern is as a realistic range that you would be shooting a snake. Again a longer barreled gun will hold the shot together at longer ranges compared to a shorter barreled gun. Also, each gun is going to be just a little bit different in the point of aim, point of impact for the center of the shot pattern.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Snake Tracks

While riding in the desert after a recent rain where several large puddles of water formed in low ground, we ran across this snake track in the mud that was visible underneath the waterline.

You can see how the snake tracks are in a "S" or serpentine shape, no pun intended, where the snakes pulls his body up and pushes against the ground creating a outside wave pressure release pattern of disturbed ground.

The snake's movement disturbed the settled dirt, making it appear dirtier as well as creating a vacuum which pulled surface debris into the snake's track and held in place by the edges of the wave pressure release.

This was very recent upon and I suspect the snake sensed the ground disturbance on our approach and moved quickly across this puddle as when we saw the snake track the dirt had not settled and the surface debris was still evident. The wave pattern often creates a wider track than the object that made it, be it a snake or a foot, but this was a pretty big snake by the size of the width of his track.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Training or Re-training a Newly Bought Horse

Charlie wrote to ask a couple questions on buying a horse. " If I buy a horse that has been trained by a different owner, should I ask how they handle the horse, or should I retrain it to my qwerks? Or can the horse even be reconditioned to a new rider?"

The short answer is no, I would not ask them how they handle the horse. I’d probably ask the seller what the horse is like and why they are selling him. I won’t take what the seller tells me or doesn’t tell me as gospel. I’ll have to see for myself.

Just imagine if you asked the seller how he handles the horse and he said "well,.....I have to beat on him to get him to move and some times he wants to run me over, and when I'm riding him I have to pull real hard to turn his head.  And the biggest aggravation is that he's hard to catch in his pen to get a halter on him!"   You are not going to say "Okay, show where and how hard to beat him." least I hope you're not.  I would think that you would be planning on handling that horse in as quiet and gentle way as possible.  That doesn't mean that you're not going to get his attention from time to time.  It just means that you are going to give the horse the benefit of the doubt.  

The horse will tell you what he knows or doesn’t know, or how he has been handled. Your question Charlie, would be the same if someone was bringing me a horse to help them with, and again that's  seeing what the horse knows or doesn't know which is always a reflection on the owner. In many cases the horse could be a product of many different owners. I think most horses have an ability to act and work, or re-learn to act and work, at the level of the rider. It may take time, more time in some cases, but with a good foundation of ground training and fundamentals under saddle, most horses can overcome problems created by their previous owners.  

When looking at the horse for a potential purchase you'll usually see the owner handle the horse first and this will give you a good idea about the horse. …about the owner as well. When the owner puts a halter on the horse and brings him out of the pen, you’ll be seeing how that horse leads up and if the horse is focused on his handler or not. If the horse is distracted and not respectful then this will be your first indication of other issues in practically anything else you are going to do with this horse.

Likewise when the owner rides him. It's a good idea to have the owner ride him, then you can get in the saddle and see for yourself. A few months back we were looking at a horse for a client overseas. Although we wanted to purchase a 6 or 10 year old Gelding if possible, and something that was not going to run off with a novice to intermediate rider, we did look at a 3 year old Mare that was being used for barrel racing. I had the owner, a young lady in her early twenties ride the horse, then I got on to see what the horse was like. As you can expect with a 3 year old, especially one that was being used for barrel racing and not much else, this mare was bracey on the bit, didn’t have any idea about lateral flexion or moving her front end or back end independent of each other. She didn’t respond to leg pressure to transition from the walk to a trot, or trot to a canter. The seller was telling me “you really got to bang on her and then she’ll go!” While I don’t want a horse like that, this is something that can be retrained.

I am off the mind that it is usually a good thing to start over with a horse, like you would with a green 2 or 3 year old. You can progress as fast as the horse lets you and you'll catch and correct issues, both big and small.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Special Hell for Horse Abusers

There is a special hell for people who abuse horses, at least I'm hoping there is. I've seen too much of it and with the 24/7 communications cycle of cable television and social media you can't go a day without seeing examples of abuse that just turn your stomach. It makes you wonder if humans are the failed species of the planet.

The latest episode was outed this weekend when a report on a horse facility in El Paso County, Colorado came to light where the owners just did not abandoned horses to die,.... they were present in the midst of these horses dying and threw tarps over some of the carcasses and left the horses that were alive to live in layers of manure without feed let alone any semblance of proper care such as hoof care.  Sheriffs Office responding even said that feed was available on the property.

KKTV Channel 11 news in Colorado reported that a local women discovered a dozen dead horses in a nearby barn and eight other horses in varying degrees of mistreatment, most if not all of the surviving horses severely malnourished.

Imagine walking into a barn only to lift tarps discovering dead horses in varying degrees of decomposition. The lady, Diane Ragula, described the scene, "Some appeared to be malnourished with their ribs showing. Many suffering from foundering of their hooves; four of the horses were inside the barn, walking around the bodies of the dead horses, living in feet of manure that looks to have been collecting without cleaning for years. “I’m pissed. I’m pretty mad and these people just don’t seem to care,” Ragula said.

The Horseaholic website reports that Cutting World Champion and leading sire Dual Peppy is among the abused and neglected horses in the Black Forest, CO horse facility, which had advertised cutting horses for sale.

El Paso County Sheriffs Office responded and after their preliminary investigation they released this statement:

There has been a great deal of outcry about the situation involving the horses in the Black Forest area. We recognize this to be an emotional issue for many citizens, and in light of that, the Sheriff’s Office would like to provide some additional facts about the case.

Friday, September 19, 2014, members of our Investigations Division and our Mounted Unit, skilled in the investigation of animal cruelty and neglect cases involving horses, responded to the property off of Burgess Road to conduct the initial investigation.

After our investigators arrived on scene, they determined that while the appearance of the animals was visually disturbing, none of the horses were in immediate danger and none of them had to be euthanized. As such, investigators had no legal right to seize the horses at that time. We are looking into the cause of death of the deceased animals.

Members of our Mounted Unit are in contact with the horse owner, who is cooperating and receptive to working on a plan of action for continuing care of the animals and improving their living conditions. They have been provided with fresh food and water, (which they had along along) and the owner is making arrangements to further clean up the property.

Rest assured, had any of the animals been in imminent jeopardy, they would have been removed from the location. The Sheriff’s Office has had to do that in previous instances and would not have hesitated in this case should it have been necessary. We have a number of large animal rescue groups we work with in those cases.

The Sheriff’s Office truly appreciates the outpouring of concern the citizens have shown in this case and will make use of the generous offers should they become necessary.

I don't understand the comment that there was feed and water apparently on the premises all along? And that the Sheriffs Office determined that the remaining horses were not in imminent danger?   I would have to think that if the owners killed 12 horses already through neglect, then why weren't the other horses, who were obviously malnourished, considered in danger right then and there?

The video below is the initial news report of the incident.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Cross Training for Horses

Serena wrote to ask if doing cowboy events on her horse would degrade her horse's training and ability in Dressage...."Hello, I am wondering if you think trying cowboy events like cow sorting and roping on my dressage horse would teach him bad things and set back his training.  My friend wants me to try both with her."        

Hi Serena.  I think if you go about it right, practically anything you do on your horse, no matter what or how different, would be good for you and your horse.  I think most people would call it Cross Training and would recognize that term.  Cross- training refers to training in activities other than the one event that the person (or horse) primarily competes in with a goal of improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to negate the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its apologies to Wikipedia.

Some people either recognizing the value of cross training with their horses, or simply for the joy of being horseback will ride in practically anything they can get to. In either case, the results of often the same, a much better horse.

And cannot but be beneficial to the horse and rider. Everything from a trailer ride, exposure to different events and requirements, seeing what you and your horse are weak on and therefore need to work on, learning from other riders,.....the benefits are pretty wide.

I remember being entrusted to take children out on trail rides by their non-riding mothers as I convinced them that this will make their horses safer for the child's hunter jumper or dressage events. The same for barrel racers - taking their horses out on the trail makes for better riders and helps gentle those horses - getting them desensitized to various stimilus and learning to think before reacting.  Just getting outside of the arena and exposing your horse to about anything - from water puddles (picture at top right) to big barking dogs (picture at left) to rabbits jumping up close by or squirrels running up trees can be challenging and make a better and safer horse.

While I think if you go about it right, trail riding can be really beneficial to your horse and you, events like sorting, penning and arena obstacle competitions can likewise be as good. Just taking your horse to these events and not competing can be good, that's why you see people taking young horses and ponying them around or tying them so they can absorb all the stimulus.

Lately I have been ranch sorting. Several practices then a jack pot. I saw horses and riders week by week become more comfortable and confident with sorting cows and the strategy of putting the cows one by one into the adjacent pen, but also with riding in a more settled manner. It's pretty cool to see horses new sport to this figure out what needs to be done. Same for the rider's, as some were being asked to ride one handed in a port bit, according to the ranch sorting rules, and thereby making it necessary to get functional at it.

From basic cowhorse clinics, to competitive trail events, to western dressage, to ranch sorting and team penning, to gymkhanas - all of it potentially increases our skills and communication with the horse. The young lady who sorted cows on her dressage horse as well as the team roper who pretty much only rides his horse in an "go fast and turn left" pattern all benefit from cross training.

The flip side to competition is that it often brings out the negative in people. Rider's wanting to win so much that they demand their horses respond, before their horses reach an understanding of what they are being asked to do, usually by jerking on the reins and banging on their sides.  So I think if you approach everything.....every event, every ride as working on your horsemanship as opposed to focused on winning, these cross training events will make it beneficial to your horse.  Safe Journey. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rattlesnakes and Horses, Not a Good Fit

About those two things, rattlesnakes and horses - they don't go along well together, now do they? I usually write an article, coming Spring, about the dangers of Rattlesnakes for when you are horseback or for your horses in general. This is the time the weather's warming up and Rattlesnakes are pretty active, leaving their dens to hunt as they have been dormant for several months. When warm weather is here to stay, Rattlesnakes will leave their dens traveling several miles to hunt and mate.

For most of the late Spring and Summer, it is rare for me to see a Rattlesnake unless it's in the early morning or evening, as during the hottest parts of the day they will tend to lay dormant out of the direct Sun. During the out of peak hot days, you'll sometimes see Rattlesnakes laying out in the open, such as on a trail, sunning themselves and soaking up the heat of the Sun.

An the late Summer - early Fall, depending upon the temperatures, is another dangerous time of year. The weather is cooling, promoting Rattlesnakes to be more active so they can hunt and get ready for hibernation. It's that time of year now, so be careful when you ride out.

I'm told that some Rattlesnakes don't den up for the winter, but most do. While I have encountered Rattlesnakes in the winter here in the Desert Southwest, all of those were likely disturbed from their winter dens.

If you have ever seen a Rattlesnake in the natural environment, you probably remarked that it was hard to se because of his color and pattern blending in with the environment. And you can't rely on the Rattlesnake warning you with this namesake rattling of his tail.

Many snakes won't rattle even when they become aware of your presence. I have heard some theories that believe Rattlesnakes have learned not to rattle as that attracts more attention from potential predators, namely human. Many Rattlesnakes bites come without the victim being warning and there can be a wide array on post bite damage depending upon how much venom was injected by the bite.  

Best to not be bit in the first place. That's takes being aware. You are counting on your horse taking you somewhere and back, and your Horse is counting on your to keep him out of trouble. I have seen a wide range of awareness or response, or a lack of either, from horses when encountering snakes. As you know horses are generally curious. Something fairly small and moving can attract their attention. They drop their head, then wham! they get bite on the nose.

My wife and I were riding several days ago. She and her horse almost walked right on a stretched out Prairie Rattler. The snake did not rattle nor coil. My wife backed away and I positioned up on my horse to shoot it as this is my habit if Rattlesnakes are close to population (we were about 1/4 mile from a house, children and animals). Then the snake turned and started moving into some heavy brush right on the trail. I shot it in the body as that was the only shot I had, then as the snake curled up where I got a shot at his head.

If you end up killing a Rattlesnake or coming upon what you think to be a dead one, be careful as the head can still function and bite for an hour or maybe longer after the snake is for all practical purposes dead.

So as the weather gets cooling and your rides get longer just be a little more careful as Rattlesnakes are more active and you may not get the warning rattle.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Functional Tie Rings for the Horseshoeing Stand

I have received several e-mails on using my Functional Tie Rings in cross ties after introducing my Functional Tie Rings in a previous video where I briefly mentioned that I use them in my cross ties on the horseshoeing stand. The video below shows my shoeing stand and cross ties which are approximately 2 1/4 inch poles sunk 4 feet into the ground and the concrete shoeing stand pored around the cross ties.

I drilled eyes bolts into the cross ties about six feet off the ground,..I know in the video I say 5 feet,...but's it's actually about 6 feet high. I just might be a midget, but only in the mental sense.

I attached the Functional Tie Rings to the eye bolts and use about an 8 foot section of white 9/16ths inch diameter yacht braid rope with a brass bolt snap as my tie lines. These tie lines are similar to the lead ropes I make, but without the leather poppers. I put a brass bolt snap into the end of the rope and melt the rope together. Then I use two separate lengths of cotton line to tie the loop together for added security, then shrink two layers of heat shrink tube over the cotton line. This is the same way I make lunge lines as well.

The yacht braid rope feeds easily through the tie ring for adjusting your horse's position on the shoeing stand and if your horse pulls back he gets a slowed release caused by the friction of the rope feeding through the tie ring giving him time to think and stop pulling.

When a horse pulls back it's the not fact that he's hard tied when he breaks a lead line, the halter or a metal snap. I's the pressure on the poll from the halter and sometimes the halter under the jaw and over the nose which panics him. The Functional Tie Rings greatly reduce the chance of a horse's feet going out from underneath him or breaking the halter, lead or snap by giving that controlled release.

Some people have panic snaps on their cross tie ropes, but if you have ever seen a horse panic and pull back on cross ties, flip over or have his feet go out from underneath himself, you know how quick it happens and the manual release of the panic snap is only useful for unhooking the horse and getting him to his feet, not for reducing the chances of the wreck itself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Are Lunge Lines Dangerous?

Abbey wrote to ask if using Lunge Lines are dangerous. "I am back into horses after a 15 year lay off. I am working with a seven year old Arabian mare who I just love and she is working out great, I will most likely be buying her, but the owner cautioned me when I was lunging her on a line. She said using a lunge line was dangerous and I should lunge her at liberty in the round pen. The mare is rideable and not a green horse by any means, so I am not getting the dangerous lunge line bit. What is your opinion on using a lunge line? Thanks!"

Hey Abbey, I don't think lunge lines are inherently dangerous, whether you are using a 25 foot lunge line in a round pen or arena, or using the lead line to move the horse around. I suppose if your lunge line was to long and you coiled it up on the ground you could step into the coils and if the horse bolted and you couldn't get her head around then maybe you could be drug. Same for wrapping the lunge line around your hand or arm. But who does this? 

In the picture below, you'll see my lunge line, which is 23 feet long, laying on the ground as I control it with my left hand and use a flag to move my horse around with my right hand.  I can't remember ever getting tangled up in the lunge line where it posed a danger to me or my horse.    I have lost track of how many times I have dropped the lunge line on accident, only to pick it up and continue on.  If I'm using a lunge line or long lead on a horse in the round pen and that horse gets into trouble, such as spinning into the line and getting wrapped up, I can simple drop the line.

I use pretty long lead lines on my rope halters, usually 14 feet, so I can lunge my horse in small circles as a warmup when I get him from the pen and to see if he has any lameness issues. This is also useful to remind my horse that I am the leader (at least today) and get him focused on me.

I make 23 foot lunge lines using yacht braid rope with large brass bolt snaps and use them to not only lunge horses with,but I'll use two of them to ground drive a horse sometimes. But a majority of the time I free lunge my horses  (what you call lunging at liberty) in a round pen.

Lunging with lines is useful to green horses to teach them to give and to bend to disengage their back ends. Plus I use lunge lines (or lead ropes) connected to the rope halter to work their feet and legs getting them desensitized to ropes slipping across their hocks or a rope going underneath them.  I wouldn't try to use a lunge line at first on a totally wild horse, preferring to free lunge until I get control of his feet and see that horse's anxiety being replaced by acceptance and curiosity. 

I think that it is probably as dangerous, maybe even more dangerous leading a horse on a short lead line than using a lunge line, given all the things that can happen close up if you are not careful and/or the horse broke enough.  Such as the horse spooking and stepping into/onto you or tossing his head and hitting you with it.  Simple thing to do is to ask the mare's owner what she means by lunge lines being dangerous and consider the validity of her answer, but I think it's probably a good idea to be handy with ropes and lines and think you can do so without risk to yourself for the horse.  Hope this helps. Safe Journey.