Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cowboy Humor - The Blue Ribbon

Warning! This is PG-17 type humor. A Texas Ranger sent this to me. Since the Rangers are the most respected, honest and incorruptible law enforcement agency ever, I thought I could get away posting this.

The Blue Ribbon

A couple has a dog that snores. Annoyed because she can't sleep, the wife goes to the vet to see if he can help. The vet tells the woman to tie a ribbon around the dog's testicles, and he will stop snoring.

"Yeah right!" she thinks, leaving the vet and heading home.

Later that night just after going to bed, the dog begins snoring, as usual. The wife tosses and turns, unable to sleep. Muttering to herself, she goes to the closet and grabs a piece of red ribbon and ties it carefully around the dog's testicles.

Sure enough, the dog stops snoring! The woman is amazed!

Later that night, her husband returns home drunk from being out drinking with his buddies. He climbs into bed, falls asleep and begins snoring loudly.

The woman thinks maybe the ribbon might work on him.

So, she goes to the closet again, grabs a piece of blue ribbon and ties it around her husband's testicles. Amazingly, it also works on him!

The woman sleeps soundly.

In the morning, the husband awakes from his drunken stupor and stumbles into the bathroom.

As he stands in front of the toilet, he glances in the mirror and sees a blue ribbon attached to his privates.

He is very confused and as he walks back into the bedroom, he sees the red ribbon attached to his dog's testicles.

He shakes his head and looks at the dog and whispers, "I don't know where we were ... or what we did ... but, by God, we took first and second place."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Raincoat Spooking Horses?

Deb has left a new comment on the post "Scary Objects and Spooky Horses": "I went out this am to feed my two mares in there stalls/runs and it was raining, I wore a dark windbreaker and hood, they both acted like I was bear! I spoke and petted but they both acted too fidgety for me. How best to work it out with them?"

Hey Deb, interesting comment and question you sent in. I think there is a lot about how horses see, especially concerning colors or at low light that people, or at least I, don't understand too well.

Are there some other circumstances like heavy sudden rain catching the horses out in the open? or heavy rain hitting a metal roof and making a God awful racket? I got caught out in the open in a heavy rain storm with a young horse once and he was still all worked up even after I got him underneath some cover. So is it possible that maybe your horses didn't see or hear you coming because of the rain and you caught them by surprise, much like the adrenaline we get when we narrowly avoid being in a traffic accident.

On the speculation on just how well horses see color and at night or low light - you can google it and see a lot of articles on this from scientific explanations or theories to experiments. Here are a couple article on the vision of a horse:

Understanding How Your Horse Sees

How Does Your Horse See?

A couple of years ago I did a short day light experiment where I place several things one of my horse's has never seen on the fence and road him up to each to see how he would react to each. Each item was close to be the same size and there was little to no wind so there was no scary flappiness going on. And before any of you write me and tell me flappiness is not a word,......if you know what I meant, then there is no need to bring my making words up to my attention - leave that to my daughter.

Anyway, back to my experiment. I used a folded blue tarp, a folded section of green canvas tentage and a yellow rain slicker. Which do you think my horse had the biggest issue with? It was the blue tarp. The green canvas tentage and the yellow slicker he had absolutely no problem with. But he was a little concerned with the blue tarp as he stopped and needed encouragement to approach it.

Another time I was looking for some cows that escaped a holding pen at night. I was moving along a dirt road next to railroad tracks and the moon has cast a shadow of a tree across the dirt road. My horse stopped and did not want to move forward. It took me a minute to figure out that he must have thought the shadow was a big hole. I just took the time for him to get comfortable where he was until I could get him to step up into the shadow.  Survival instinct for sure, but bad night vision?  I just don't know.    

Anyway, on your question on 'how to get them through being anxious when you approached in a dark wind breaker and hood',.....the way I'd approach it is like anything else new to them, present them with that situation again, dressed in a dark coat and hat/hood at low light, and see how they react, progressing as slow as you need to go until they are comfortable with your different looking approach.  Good luck and safe journey.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

Military Horsemanship and Animal Packing

The Marine Corps, recognizing the importance of horses for many different reasons, has built very nice horse facilities on both coasts for the stabling of service members horses as well as for  therapeutic horsemanship for wounded Marines, and running education programs such as Vet Tech courses and Horseshoeing program for veterans. The Army, perhaps having a harder time with funding, has taken the reverse course, and in some cases, closing down horse stables on military installations which force service members with horses to find local stables for their horses. I managed the last horse stables on Fort Bliss, closing it down in February 2007.

The story below came out in USA Today about the U.S. Marine Corps Packing Course and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets) participating in the training. Actually, military pack animal training has been on-going for quite some time. In the 1970's and 1980's, it was common for Army Special Forces units to send "A" detachments to commercial pack animal schools or contracting guide services to run pack training.

Around 1987, the 5th Special Forces Group, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, started up the 3 week Special Operations Animal Packing (SOAP) Course dedicating full time instructors which trained not only Special Forces team but other military units in animal packing not limited to Horses and Mules. Packing on llamas, dogs, goats and elephants was also taught under the supervision of Master Sergeant Larry Jones. The picture at right is MSG Jones with a sawbuck pack saddle.

The Special Operations Animal Packing Course spurred developent of modified Decker pack saddles, and packing techniques suitable for the loads and special equipment for Special Forces operations, as well as re-writing Field Manual 31-27, Pack Animals in support of Special Operations (Officially released in 2000).

After the initial U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the 9-11 attacks, Army Special Forces team would rotate through Fort Bliss-El Paso Texas area to train in the desert and mountainous environment prior to deploying to Southwest Asia. Sometimes these deployments to Afghanistan would place an "A" detachment in remote areas where vehicles were sometimes impractical or not available, but Afghani horses were. I was asked to train several teams in horsemanship, so I developed what I called a Functional Horsemanship course for these teams, attempting to make them safe and operable with horses in a very short amount of time.

New horsepower for war zones: Special Forces saddle up

The men emerged over the crest of a ridge and guided their horses along a tree line, skirting a wide meadow. They picked their way along narrow trails, climbing higher into the Sierra until a panorama of snowcapped peaks and a broad green valley unfolded beneath them.

The men, Special Forces soldiers dressed in jeans and other civilian clothes, led their horses into a thick stand of pine trees, where they dismounted and let the horses drink from a clear mountain stream before breaking out their own rations.

At this remote training area high in the Sierra, the U.S. Marine Corps is reviving the horsemanship skills that were once a key part of the nation's armed forces but were cast aside when tanks and armored vehicles replaced them. The need to bring these skills back was driven home in Afghanistan in 2001, when the first Special Forces soldiers to arrive found themselves fighting on horseback alongside tribesmen in rugged terrain without roads. Many had never ridden a horse before.

"We don't want to reinvent anything," said Marine Capt. Seth Miller, the officer in charge of formal schools at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. "These are skills that were lost."

Marine instructors are teaching the students, most of them Army Special Forces soldiers, how to control horses, care for them and load packs. The students are taught how to calculate routes and distances for rides and what to look for when purchasing horses from locals. For example, checking teeth is a good way to determine age and avoid getting ripped off by a farmer trying to pass off an ancient mule or horse.

In a throwback to the old Wild West days, instructors are considering training soldiers in how to shoot from a moving horse.

No one is talking about bringing back the cavalry, but horses are an effective way for Special Forces and other small units to move around the battlefield, instructors said. They can travel long distances quietly and don't require the gasoline and massive logistics trains that encumber motorized forces.

For all its advantages in technology, the U.S. military has been dragged into the most primitive of fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving home the point that technology isn't always the answer.

"We get caught up with what's new and high-speed," Miller said.

On a recent morning, 13 students packed their mules and horses shortly after sunrise at base camp, preparing for a 14-mile ride that would take them high into the Sierra, mountains that were familiar to gold prospectors more than a century ago. Students ride a total of about 110 miles during the 16-day course.

"My butt's going to be sore," said Air Force Tech Sgt. Jeryd Leuck, who specializes in search-and- rescue operations, as he prepared to mount his horse, Chesty. Leuck said that before he started the course, his only equestrian experience was a childhood pony ride.

The students mounted horses and picked their way up a steep, shrub-covered slope that would take them out of the base camp. Six mules were part of the patrol.

The animals are remarkably efficient. Mules can carry several hundred pounds and walk up to 55 miles a day, requiring nothing more than grass and water. If required, they can survive several days without water and longer without food. They have no problem climbing to heights of more than 10,000 feet, at altitudes where some helicopters struggle because of a lack of lift.

"This has been proven to work," said Marine Maj. Sven Jensen, operations officer for the training center, pointing to a group of men resting by their horses and mules as sunlight streamed through the trees. "This has worked for the last 3,000 years."

The Marines Corps, which takes an almost perverse pride in a Spartan lifestyle and a fondness for low-technology solutions, has offered a mule-packing course here since the 1980s. It launched the horsemanship training about three years ago after receiving requests from Army Special Forces soldiers.

It's the only such course in the U.S. military, and demand is high.

USA TODAY was allowed unlimited access to observe training as long as it didn't identify by name or photograph the faces of the Special Forces soldiers taking the course. Because they sometimes conduct covert missions, Special Forces soldiers typically request they not be identified publicly.

The only requirement for students is that they are part of the special operations community, since they would have the most use for the training.

Tony Parkhurst, director of the horsemanship and mule packing course, built the curriculum by delving into old cavalry manuals and studying American Indian tactics and techniques. The equestrian sports of today, such as dressage or jumping, are too specialized to be of much use to the military. Instead, Parkhurst studied procedures that were popular when horses were used for transportation and plowing fields.

"The Indians were actually better than our cavalry," Parkhurst said. "They were phenomenal guerrilla fighters."

Cavalry officers in the 1800s had to calculate things such as how far horses could march, how much food they consumed and how best to pack them with equipment and weapons.

The pack saddle used for mules here would be recognized by Genghis Khan's army, Parkhurst said.

The Marines have stopped at nothing in an effort to recapture the skills lost when the military turned to mechanized warfare.

Not many people know how to shoot from a moving horse these days, so the Marines turned to Annie Bianco, who goes by the name Outlaw Annie and is a leading practitioner of the small but growing sport of cowboy mounted shooting. She fires a six-shooter at targets from a galloping horse. A couple of instructors from the training center visited her ranch in Arizona.

Bianco knows how to desensitize horses to the sound of gunfire. "Horses are flighty animals," she said. "Their first response from gunfire is to try and get away from it."

What instructors have discovered is the horses of today are softer than their ancestors, who plowed fields and carried riders over vast distances. "We've bred them and made them more athletic over time," Bianco said. "That's made it more difficult to find the well-rounded horse." Most of the horses used at the course are former mustangs, or wild horses, trained by inmates in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. They are both well-rounded and cheap.

Although the Pentagon is turning back to age-old battlefield techniques, it is hardly giving up on technology. In fact, it's trying to make a robotic version of the mule. The $62 million program is called the LS3, or legged squad support system, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency describes it as a "highly mobile, semiautonomous legged robot."

The Pentagon consulted with some of the instructors here to learn more about real mules. The instructors seem skeptical that technology can improve much on the real thing. Parkhurst said, "I can buy a whole load of mules for $60 million."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review of CSI Saddle Pad

Having worn out a couple Impact Gel saddle pads, I was looking to buy another good saddle pad. I have used about every type of saddle pad,...sheepskin lined, felt, and even neoprene saddle pads, which I used under a blanket and mostly for arena roping. I never liked the neoprene pads and how they build up heat under the saddle no matter how many air holes they had.

I did work with SaddleSkin, in developing a saddle pad from a non-natural material that is the same Cooling and Trauma Attenuation material and design that is used between body armor and the user's clothing, to reduce trauma from bullet impact to body armor being absorbed by the body, as well as to provide a cooling effect to the skin surface. The SaddleSkin worked as advertised, protecting the horse's back and keeping the Horse's back cooler through air channels and holes. I also found that the SaddleSkin also kept the saddle from slipping.   However, I just really like felt pads, so I was looking to get a felt pad replacement.

I have known about CSI Saddle Pads for a couple years now, but the price kind of put me off, so after a couple of months of getting used to the idea of spending that much money, I finally ordered one directly from CSI.

Much like the Impact Gel Saddle Pads, which uses a gel pad in between layers of felt to absorb and reduce trauma to the horse's back, the CSI Saddle pads uses what they call a "flex plate" to dissipate trauma from pressure of the saddle's bars on the horse's back. The flex plate is visible in the photo at left.

The CSI Saddle Pad is actually a two piece pad. The bottom piece is a traditional felt pad, available in 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch thickness and a top piece that is automotive carpet sandwiched around the flex plate. There is a thin line of velcro sewn into the bottom spine of the top pad (flex plate) so that it can mate with the bottom felt pad and not slip. The photo at right shows the two layers and you can see that the bottom felt pad is relieved to reduce bulk for the front cinch.

Both pieces have air holes that line up and are designed to let heat escape the horses back.    The photo at left shows the air holes in the spine of the pad.  The bottom felt pad is reversible as well, extending the using life of this pad.  And as you can see from the two top photos, the CSI pad is formed for the withers.  It fit nicely on the three horses with varying wither heights that I tried it on.  I don't think anyone would be disappointed with a CSI Saddle Pad.

CSI hosts a series of videos    on saddle fit, horse balance, back and health issues. In the video below, Rhonda Martin discusses how saddle fit affects the function of the horse.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saddle/Tack Tip - Saving your Blevins Buckle Keeper

Have you ever seen a Blevins Buckle come undone when someone is riding? It's usually caused by the blevins buckle keeper coming off or riding up allowing the blevins buckle to pop out of the holes in the stirrup leather. When this happens, it's possible for the rider to have enough weight in the that stirrup to cause him or her to lose their balance and come off, particular when riding to the inside.

Sometimes it can even be funny. Years ago I was working with my daughter and her friend running barrels and my daughter's friend's father, who was one of those guys who thought he could bend a horse (not to mention people) to his will, butted in because he didn't like his daughter uses both hands (direct reining) when riding - he was calling it "plough reining".    Anyway, he took over his daughter's horse to demonstrate what he wanted and as karma would have it, he went around a barrel, and lacking a stirrup hobble, the Blevins Buckle came undone, his stirrup fell off and so did he. He got mad and went away,.....I'm just glad he went away...the horse was glad too.

Most people ride with Stirrup hobbles on their saddles, not only to keep the stirrup leathers together, but to keep the Blevins Buckle keeper from sliding off the stirrup leather. On a couple of saddle's I not only use a stirrups bobble but I use a slotted concho and length of saddle string to create a button on the bottom of the stirrup leather to catch a loose Blevins Buckle keeper as a backup to the stirrup hobble. You can run the piece of saddle string through two of the holes intended for the blevins buckle, or you can punch a new hole new to an existing hole for the saddle string to be run through the slotted concho. The photo at right shows the blevins buckle keeper and the slotted concho I rigged at the bottom of the stirrup leather.

The photo below shows how this appears when the stirrup is turned when your foot is in it.  It does not interfere with my boot going in or coming out of the stirrup

I was in a Jackpot the other weekend when one of my partners lost her Blevins Buckle keeper. She did not have any stirrup hobbles, so when she eventually found it and got her saddle all sorted out, we ran a short piece of saddle string through a couple of the holes below the Blevins Buckle to catch the Keeper if it came loose again.  Always handy to keep an extra piece or two of leather strings around. 

Some of us short legged riders will also have the issue of too long of stirrup leathers producing a length of leather hanging down. Not necessarily a good idea to cut these off as it restricts lengthening the stirrups for longer legged riders.

Usually the excess length is wrapped around and kept in place with the stirrup hobble, but sometimes it's not long enough do that. On one of my saddles the excess stirrup leather was too short to wrap around so I punched three holes in the bottom of the excess stirrup leather and tied it into the stirrup hobble. The photo below shows how that is rigged and how that looks. Hope this helps someone out there that may have this similar problem.