Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day - 2014

On this Memorial Day, remembering those who gave the last full measure of devotion. If you ever think things are turning south for this country, all you have to do is take a look at those young men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion or those who left one or more limbs on far off battlefields to keep those real and dire threats as far away as possible from this Country, and you will know that this country still continues to produce great and selfless people.  God bless and care for our fallen and our wounded.   

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends".  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cold Backed or Crow Hopping Horse

Paul wrote in: "First off I love your site and the education and advice you provide. My horse often gives me a hard time when I go to ride him. He's 17. He starts with crow hopping and sometimes light bucking and so far the only thing that works is for me to get off him and lunge him for 30 minutes or more and then he gets quiet. Any suggestions as it is becoming so time consuming when I want to ride and lose way too much time in the process. Thanks."

Thanks for writing Paul. Assuming no problems with the bit or saddle fit, you already have one part of your answer - when you lunge him he gets quiet. That's because you are making him work, directing him to move his feet. And I think this only works when the horse is engaged with you. If he is moving around and distracted, like with his head looking outside, then I would change directions, and change directions often.

So when I have a horse that wants to throw a little fit, I make him work. When we make them work it forces the horse to focus on us. You have heard the saying "making the wrong thing work and the right thing a release", so when you give them a break from work, it's noticeable to them. I think some people approach this from the other end, thinking the work is punishment and they want to horse to understand when they act up, they get punished with work, when it's actually wanting the horse to seek the release.

An example is when a person tries to mount and the horse moves off. Sometimes the rider will jerk on the lead line or reins and try to make the horse stand still which usually doesn't work, then tries to mount again. If that rider would move that horse around, moving his feet with energy, then allow the horse to stand, the horse feels that release and will most often now stand for mounting. The rider didn't get to this point by punishing the horse,...they got to it by moving the horse's feet then allowing the horse to feel the release.

The other thing is to get him to agree that you are in control. Again, we do this by making them move their feet. This can be lunging him or it can be backing him,...or, moving his hind end or his front end over. Practically anything where you direct him and he complies, accepting you as the leader. When I take a young horse or an older horse with an attitude, in hand (under halter), I stop him, back him, get him to come to me, move his front end over, and move his back end over. It is sort of like a pre-ride ground check.

And when you think about it, working and moving the feet are the same thing, or working is the idea and moving the feet is how to get there.

Having said all that, no amount of lunging will take the buck out of a horse, so when I lunge a horse before I ride it is to warm him up and let me check for any problems, and to reaffirm to him that I'm in charge by moving his feet under my direction.

But sometimes you just got to get to work and don't time to lunge a horse, so as I lead a horse from the corral to the tie rail, I'll stop him, back him, have him step out on a light lead past me, and roll his back end away and bring his front end over. I may throw the lead line over the side away from me and have him disengage his back end then bring his front end over. All this takes just a few minutes and serves notice that we're getting ready to go to work, kind of like a reminder that you are in charge.

One of my horses, who is coming 13, is really good as crow hopping early in the ride if I asked for a lope, or sometimes when I hold him back and he wants to run. I don't get down then lunge him, but I may do several different thing. I just may double him, rides circles, or stop and back him 30 feet or so then trot out,.....if I'm asking for a lope and he crow hops, sometimes I'll push him into a gallop and when he wants to slow I won't let him.

Your question is a common issue, and while I certainly don't have all the answers and I hope this helps. If it doesn't then keep seeking the answer. Safe journey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bosals and Hackamores, What's the Difference?

I have received two e-mails with these comments: #1: "I don't like a Bosal. I think they are too harsh on a horse. I prefer a Hackamore." #2: "What is the purpose for the rope underneath the horse's head for your Hackamore?"

I'm not sure how to answer the first question, other than it shows the sometimes confusion over a Hackamore and the Bosal.    What is pretty clear is about anything you place in a horse's mouth or over a horse's nose can be harsh and cause pain if you are too hard and fast with your hands operating the reins. Granted, there is a lot confusion concerning terminology on bosals and hackamores, but when I use the term Bosal, I mean the nose band by itself. I use the term Hackamore when the Bosal is connected to a headstall and reins.  In the picture above right, I have the headstall connected over the side button of the bosal as opposed to between the side buttons and the nose band. I like it this way so the headstall is not so close to the horse's eye.

Traditionalists and really good horsemen (I am neither) will use a Bosal with just a hanger rather than a headstall. A hanger is really a leather strap that goes over the horse's poll and sometimes a thin leather string will be tied from the Bosal to the horse's forelock to help keep the Bosal in place.

I use a regular browband headstall with a fiador (see the picture at right). The "rope under the horse's head" is the fiador which keeps the horse from shaking the headstall off his head and keeps the horse from shedding the headstall when you are on the ground leading with the rein portion of the mecate reins. The fiador needs to be pretty snug behind the jaw.  In the picture I am taking up slack in the left rein causing the slack in the fiador.  When pressure on the reins is released, the Bosal will drop back into place.    

The Mecate rein, also called McCarthy reins, are a one piece rein, usually 20-22 feet long, connected to the Bosal by tying it into the Bosal above the heel knot and using the excess as a lead line when leading the horse in hand. When riding, this lead line can be coiled and tied to the saddle using the saddle strings (see photo at left), tied to the saddle horn, or is fed up through the rider's belt so it can be fed out easily when pulled from the Bosal end - this way if you come off the horse accidentally, you won't be drug if the horse takes off on you.

The part of the Bosal over the horse's nose is called the nose button and there are difference thickness. Given the same quality of braiding on the nose button, bigger diameter nose buttons will spread out and therefore lighten the pressure on the nose more so than a thinner bosal. As a horse becomes more finished in the Hackamore, a lighter and thinner Bosal would normally be used.

A direct rein is normally used when riding a horse in a Hackamore, especially in the beginning as the mecate reins connect at the bottom of the bosal, just above the heel knot and direction can be unclear or confusing to a horse in the beginning. Neck reining can be introduced as the horse becomes good in the hackamore and be built upon.

Certainly an improperly positioned hackamore, too low on the nose and over the soft tissue and cartilage can hurt a horse, and being too harsh with your hands can be painful as well, but there is no reason to think a bosal is in and of itself a harsh tool. In fact, I think a horse that is normally bitted can benefit from also be ridden in a bosal if for nothing more than a break on his mouth.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wild Horse Rescued from River

A reader sent me this article from ReShareWorthy on a wild filly that was rescued from a swift river. Finally a article about Wild Horses with a good ending.

This Wild Baby Horse Was Totally Exhausted And Had Lost All Hope. Then These People Saw Her.......

I wasn’t expecting to see the wild animal rescued in this video turn out to be a baby horse, but that’s exactly the animal these wonderful people saved from drowning. The young wild filly had slipped down a river embankment and fallen into the raging waters of Trout Creek in Summerland, BC, Canada. The 6-month-old feral horse had probably been stuck in the ice-cold water for several hours when she was spotted by a woman while she was walking her dogs. She immediately called O.A.T.S. Horse Rescue, who got together a team of volunteers to go help the drowning horse.

When O.A.T.S. volunteers arrived at the river, the filly was clinging to the rocks. She was exhausted and suffering from hypothermia.

The volunteers were joined by the Summerland Fire Department and local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It was a difficult rescue as the rescuers had to battle the violent waters and slippery surfaces to get to the frightened horse. Not only that, but because the horse was wild, she was scared of human touch.

Eventually, they lassoed the horse and used a tarp and sheet of plywood like a stretcher to hoist her safely out of the water. Although she got scraped up, thankfully her injuries are all superficial and will heal. The rescued filly has been aptly named River. She’s currently recovering in foster care and when she is well enough she will be made available for adoption! That's her in the picture at top. What an amazing group effort! I’m so glad River was saved and will be looked after from now on.

If you would like to contact O.A.T.S. Horse Rescue, contact Theresa Nolet at

O.A.T.S. will accept pay pal donations at this address.  I sent them $25, if everyone reading this could send even $5, this rescue organization would be set pretty good for awhile.  Watch the awesome rescue in the video below and pass this story on.   

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Saddle Bags for the Trail

Ford wrote to ask "Where (did you get) and who makes your saddle bags?"

The two saddle bags I use most can't be found on the normal tack sites as one of them is not being offered anymore to my knowledge and the other one was custom made by a friend in San Antonio to match a saddle. The saddle bags in the picture above below are: At left - an older set that I have had for 15 years or so and even though they are well made from quality leather, I have had to repair the side stitching once or twice, due to rough use and not the craftsmanship. The saddle bag in the middle was made by friend of mine in San Antonio to match the carving on a old saddle; and the bag at right, actually a canvas cantle bag, was made by Sawtooth Saddle Company.

I think the saddle bags that Ford was asking about is the one at top left, and again this particular saddle bag is not offered anymore.  The good news is that there are many makers out there making great saddle bags.  I have posted pictures of two offerings of the same style as my old bags.

Sawtooth Saddle Company, well known for their excellent saddle also offers about every piece of custom tack you would want.  They mad the Cantle bag pictured at top right.  Cantle bags can be used by themselves or tied behind the cantle of the saddle after saddle bags are positioned.  One of the Sawtooth saddle bags available is the one pictured at right.  Everything they make is quality so you can't go wrong.  

Craig Cameron also offers a very nice saddle bag in the same style - small bag with single strap closure.  I really like the smaller bags since I can pack get everything I think I need for most day rides into the mountain.  I like to carry a Hoof Wrap, Vet wrap, compressed gauze (actually tampons), wound powder, binoculars (Leupold 8x42mm Acadia), small Plammers (fencing tool), small amount of spare wire for fence fixing, a couple foot section of saddle string for tack repairs, and usually a bag of jerky and some peanuts.  During snake season I'll pack greased up tubing in a sealed sack just in case.  All this will easily fit in these small saddle bags.  And like Sawtooth, everything Craig Cameron offers is high quality gear.    

  Check out both links and see if either will meet your needs Ford, and drop me a line if you find something.  Safe Journey.