Thursday, June 26, 2014

Safe Tying Solution - The Functional Tie Ring

Most of us had had a horse spook while tied. What normally happens, if the horse is tied hard and fast, is that the fear of whatever spooked him is exacerbated and/or replaced by the fear of being confined by the halter and the pressure of that halter on his poll (behind his ears), and sometimes pressure behind the jaw and on the nose if the halter is fitted right.

The weak spot in most halters is the metal snap connecting the lead rope to the halter - this usually breaks when a horse pulls back hard. If you are using a tied on lead rope, like on a rope halter, the halter itself can break.  Had that happen once.

If your horse is in a trailer when the halter or lead rope breaks, the horse can drive his head into the top of the trailer and sometimes with fatal results.

Have you ever seen a horse spook while cross tied? If the surface is slippery, the horse's feet can go out from underneath himself and a neck or leg injury is possible.

There are several tying devices on the market that allow the lead rope to be fed through a ring so when the horse pulls back a friction controlled release is obtained. The Clip is one such device. The reason I'm not fond if it, is that the ring (hole) that the lead rope is fed through is pretty small making it hard to fed larger diameter lead ropes through, and, one side of the clip has a rope channel with a knurled screw type device that is designed to be used to tighten the rope so it won't feed out if you prefer, but it can damaged lead ropes if you aren't careful or if the horse pulls back.

Another device is the Blocker Tie Ring or Aussie Tie Ring, which is pretty much the same purpose, but the design is a little different in that is uses a pivoting, magnetic arm for the rope to feed around.   

If you are not familiar with the Blocker or Aussie Tie Rings, it may be easier to go to the link to see them, but basically this device resembles half a snaffle bit. A lead line is fed through a ring and a pivoting arm is flipped up between the bite on the lead rope. A magnet on the pivoting arm holds the arm in place. I have seen a lot of these in use, but again the size of the hole is just a little bit small for my liking and it is possible to feed through a lead rope backwards so that when the horse pulls back the arm releases and frees the horse. To be fair, if someone isn't paying attention and "reverse ties" a horse then they probably have other problems as well. The main advantage with this tying device is that it can stay connected via a snap link while the lead line is fed through and the pivot arm flipped up into place.

For about 10 years now I have been using a different tie ring and after being asked repeatedly to make it available to others, I applied for a patent and received a provisional patent on what I call the Functional Tie Ring.

There are other uses for the Functional Tie Ring other than to quick tie horses.  Using the Functional Tie Ring you can teach your horse not to pull back but putting some pressure on him and causing him to pull back where his body weight pulling back feeds the lead rope through the tie ring in a controlled manner giving him a release.  When you repeat this the horse will pull back less and less, figuring out that he doesn't need to pull back at all.

If you use thicker three or four strand cotton ropes for leads ropes, they are easy to fit through the big hole and loop around the Functional Tie Ring, more so than if you use another tie ring with a smaller diameter hole.  And the Functional Tie Ring is reversible - you can hook the snap link to the bigger diameter hole and use the smaller hole to feed smaller lead ropes through, like if you are using the lead rope or get down rope portion of mecate reins. 

I use my tie rings on the cross ties on my shoeing stand and wash stand.  I've had horses pull back once in while but it is a minor event compared to what usually happens when a horse pulls back then feels that pressure from the halter and panics. 

I also use the Functional Tie Rings looped through a rope from my trailer to a tree or pole creating a high line to picket my horses on.  This provides a loop to snap or tie your leads onto.  And lastly a note on bungee trailer ties.  These are bungee cords with snaps and both ends and are designed to provide the horse a release when they pull back.  I advise never to use these. I have seen twice, maybe three times where a horse has pulled back, breaking the bungee or the snap and having that elastic cord snap back and hit the horse in the face.    

The video below helps explain how I use the Functional Tie Ring.  You can click on the link here to purchase a Functional Tie Ring, and these is a static link on the left hand side of the website. 

Safe Journey to you and your horses.   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Use Protective Boots on Your Horse?

One of the things that will drive your heart through stomach is the sight of a bowed tendon or any number of other leg injuries that potentially can make a horse chronically lame.  There are good products such as sports medicine boots and bell boots available that can help reduce these injuries. I think horse owners should consider whether their horse can benefit from protective equipment during the many different types of activities and riding environments they are using their horses in.

While splint boots and sports medicine boots are different,  some people have taken to using either term to describe both. I use what the industry calls sports medicine boots which are basically wraps, with a neoprene liner, and secured with velcro, that cover most of the pastern, cradle the fetlock and wrap around most of the cannon bone to provide support to those tendons and protection from trauma such as the horse clipping his leg with the opposite foot. If the horse is wearing shoes this can result in a pretty significant cut and damage to the flexor tendon.

Bell boots, also called over reach boots, protect the heel bulbs from the back feet over stepping and clipping the heel bulbs. Again, when wearing shoes this can be a pretty bad cut and usually lames up a horse. Sometimes when over reaching, the back feet can step on the back end of the front shoes and spring a shoe. Riding horses long enough and you'll experience one or the other, or both. Bell boots can protect your horse's front feet especially when riding in events or terrain that make over stepping more likely. While there are inexpensive pull on rubber bell boots, I prefer the wrap around bell boots that have a velcro closure in front and a raised guide in the back that fits between the heel bulbs to keep the boot from turning (called "no turn" boots).

Riding, especially in a lope, in deep sand can make over stepping more likely and cause an injury as can events which require direction changes at speed such as cutting or roping. I suppose jumping horses can be prone to heel bulb or tendon/ligament injuries as well, but I can't speak from experience on that as I only jump horses on accident which usually results in the horn of my saddle making contact to my gut, or, worse yet, other vital areas. 

While I didn't always put sports medicine boots and/or bell boots on my horses, now days I err on the side of caution and if I'm exposing or using my horses in certain events I'll usually put one or the other, if not both, to give my horse some protection.   

The other day I went to do some ranch sorting so I put sports medicine boots on my horse. When we got back and took off the boots I notice a tear in the inside left boot which indicated my horse catching his left leg with his right front hoof.   See picture at right.  

So somewhere between trailering him back and forth and sorting cows in the pens, this occurred. I was pretty much glad that I put those sports medicine boots on.

Professional's Choice and Classic Equine are two of the companies making hoof and leg protective gear.  A pair of sports medicine boots starting at around $65 and a pair of decent bell boots for under $30 can make a good addition for a safe ride - just give it a thought for your horse.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wild Horse Contraceptive Pilot Program

This is a report from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) on a fertility control program on Wild Horses using the immunocontraceptive drug PZP. This drug is administered through a dart gun. This is a one shot vaccine which has an effectiveness of one year. Reported to be well under $30 a dose, this seems like part of a good solution to minimize the growth in Wild Horses herds. Maybe it’ll also keep the gathers down where rough handling and abuse is pretty much normal, and makes me just sick to see horse's treated that way.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, under the auspices of its parent organization Return to Freedom and in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, has embarked on a pilot fertility control program for wild horses living in the Fish Springs area of Gardnerville, NV. The horses are living in a Herd Area adjacent to the Pine Nut Herd Management Area (HMA). Learn more about the program here.

AWHPC's Deniz Bolbol was in the field April 23-25 to remotely dart mares with PZP fertility control. She reports:

This project is a great opportunity to make Fish Springs a model pilot program of private-public partnership and community involvement of fertility control for wild horses. Like other BLM HMAs - Little Book Cliffs in Colorado, McCullough Peaks in Wyoming and others -- the local community is volunteering to help the BLM manage wild horses in the Fish Springs area of Gardnerville. The program is targeted to manage and reduce the number of horses in the Fish Springs area through humane fertility control and natural attrition. Had this pilot program begun in November or December 2013, as we recommended, we would have worked to immunized all mares. But the wheels of government turn slowly, and the project did not receive the go ahead until recently. As a result, we are doing the best we can with the situation this year, given the late start.

To date this year, 9 foals have been born. This not only makes those 9 mares non-candidates for fertility control (because they could have already bred back making fertility control efforts futile as PZP is safe and does not negatively affect or abort fetuses), but also complicates efforts to administer PZP because newborn foals are highly guarded by their mothers and families making the horses difficult to approach. To protect foals - the most vulnerable members of the family - mares are increasingly flighty and less tolerant of humans approaching them. This heightened protectiveness hinders the PZP darter's ability to get close enough to dart.

Our experience in the field this week resulted in the darting of a number of mares, and increased our knowledge base about the Fish Springs horses and the necessary ingredients for a successful fertility control darting program. We look forward to returning and working closely with the BLM and the local residents to humanely manage these beautiful wild horses.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Surviving the Heat - Horses and Humans

What prompted this post is the heat wave that many parts of the country is facing right now. Here in West Texas, after weeks of mid to high 90's in May, we are now experiencing 102 to 109 degree temperatures with no relief in sight. This of course poses the danger of dehydration and heat injuries to humans and horses alike. To horses there is not only an increases in the chance of colic, but kidney failure as well.

Dehydration happens when the horse or the human loses water and electrolytes, normally through sweating, and fails to replace it. The average horse owner can tell a horse may be dehydrated by excessively dry manure or even a lack of manure; general lethargy of the horse; decreased capillary refill of the gums; decreased skin elasticity; and a lack of saliva especially if you are riding with a bit that would normally help the horse salivate.  Horse can appear to be drawn up where their barrels met the haunches. You may not recognize it as dehydration, but you'll know something isn't right.       

I have a hard time telling the color of the gums or how fast the gum's re-fill after removing pressure with my thumb but I do use the skin pinch test. I'll use my thumb and fore finger to pinch loose skin on the neck (some prefer the back) and see how fast it lays back flat. If the loose skin fold stays tented it means the horse is dehydrated.

Another thing to look for is how often your horse urinates and how clear the urine is indicating the level of hydration. Just like human's yellow tinged urine can be a result of mineral or vitamin supplements if you feed those, but certainly your horse is having hydration problems if the urine is more darker than clear and appears to be thicker.

The key to preventing dehydration, and potentially a serious heat injury, is prevention. The horse needs access to fresh water 24/7. Fresh water is not just a stock tank with water - it is relatively dirt and debris free water. When I ran a large horse barn, the most common interaction I had with owners was the lack of adequate water for the horses they boarded there.  All horses are different in what they consume water wise in a given day, but is doesn't take long to figure out what is normal for each horse. 

Many like the automatic waters. Ritchie is the most common name in automatic waterers. I don't use automatic waterers as I prefer to be able to gauge the amount of water my horses take in each day. But these devices can certainly save time and are easier to clean than a large stock tank.

Horses also need at least a white salt block to replace the lost sodium. This is a very cheap solution as one $5 or $6 salt block will last a horse for along time.   For some horses, a mineral block is a better solution, although most of the cheaper mineral blocks are mostly salt. My horses won't lick these mineral blocks, so I keep a couple of salt blocks available to them free choice. If you are concerned about your horses getting the proper minerals then there are a couple of good choices on the market in the form of solid blocks: Redmond Rock advertises 60+ minerals in the Redmond Rock. ADM Alliance offers their Moormans Grostrong (Mineral) Quad Block which comes scored into fourths so a quarter can be broken off and placed in a horse's feeder if you have horses that are fed separately.

After abundant, clean water and at least a salt block is provided to the horse, I believe that to give a horse a fair life, a shelter where they can get out of the Sun (and rain) from time to time is necessary. It makes me angry at owners and sad for the horse when I see them day after day in pens without overhead cover or anything to provide shade, and especially so when these pens are small and cannot provide adequate room for exercise. In fact, that's a slow death for a horse - to be placed in a small pen, again day after day, and only have contact with another living being once or twice a day when the owner can be bothered to throw feed to the horse.

One more thing I do if I going to riding in really hot conditions is to let the horse eat water soaked hay out of a bucket.  Maybe you can't make them drink, but if they are hungry they will the wet hay getting a substantial amount of water. 

Humans need to be concerned about dehydration as well. Most of us wake in the morning in a state of slight dehydration. Drinking a diuretic like coffee then doing chores in the hot Sun without water creates a susceptibility for a heat injury. Some people, either because of embarrassment or maybe their horse are too tall for easy mounting, will actually reduce their water intake as they don't want to have to dismount and pee some place. These riders need to be aware that dizziness, headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, darker urine and/or decreased urine output are all signs of dehydration - you better then some water into yourself pronto.  I suggest drinking 8 - 12 ounces of water when you wake up, before your coffee.

And don't save your water for later.  If you want to ration something, ration your sweat and your direct exposure to the Sun.  Drink your water - it won't do you any good otherwise. 

Even in the winter time, I never head out on horseback without a canteen. And there are options other than the canteen looped around your saddle horn. Saddlebags are a good option to carry water bottles and a Camel-Bak or other hydration pack worn over your shoulders backpack style are good things to do to ensure you carry water , all you have to do is drink it. In fact, Camel-Baks are great since if you get throwed or if your horse runs off on you, you'll still have your water supply with you.