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.   

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Horseback ALS Bucket Challenge

Most of you have seen or heard of the ALS Bucket Challenge where you dump iced water over your head and call out several people to do the same or to donate to the ALS. Everyone from your neighbor to George W. Bush has done it. I'm doing the callout to four cowboy friends of mine to dump the ice on their heads AND to write a check to ALS.

ALS is somewhat close to my family as my wife's best friend's Mother succumbed to ALS so this is memory of Suzanne Jones.

Anyway, I'm calling out these four people: Leonard Benally, aka LRB, a neighbor of mine and good hand with horse. Today was his birthday so Happy Birthday LRB - now dump the ice on your head.

I'm calling out Dan Buckingham of Apache Junction, Arizona, who I used to ride with as Army Range Riders, and who was also my classmate at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Dan, I reckon it's an even bet you've been chased out of Arizona by a herd of angry women with pitchforks, but I know when you see this you'll get 'er done like you always do.

I'm calling out Texas Ranger Sergeant Trampas Gooding. I know Trampas is healing from some injuries, but when you do, get on that Mustang Gringo and show us something.

Lastly, I'm calling out Bob James of Artesia, New Mexico. Bob is a great American. Served his country in many ways, in many far away locations. I just hope he doesn't shoot me when I see him in seven weeks at the Cowboy Symposium for the crack about his bald head.

Don't forget to write a check to ALS amigos.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) in Texas Update

Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is a viral disease that can affects horses and other live stock. It is an endemic disease in the warmer regions of North, Central, and South America, but outbreaks of the disease in other temperate geographic parts of the hemisphere occur sporadically.[1]

VS normally has an incubation period of two to eight days before the infected animal develops blisters that swell and burst, leaving painful sores. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or by blood feeding insects. Infected animals also can spread the virus when their saliva or the fluid from ruptured blisters contaminates feed, water or hay shared with herd mates. Sick animals should be isolated and may need supportive care to prevent a secondary infection where blisters have broken. Painful lesions also can form around animals’ hooves, resulting in temporary lameness.[1]

People handling sick animals should wear rubber or latex gloves as a biosecurity measure to prevent the spread of disease to other animals, or to themselves. In rare instances, humans can contract VS and develop a flu-like illness that lasts four to seven days.[1]

When a producer or private veterinary practitioner reports that an animal has blisters, erosions or sores, Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) or U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarians, trained as foreign animal disease diagnosticians, will assist in the disease investigation. They will work with the owner’s private veterinary practitioner at no charge to take a health history and ask questions about the animals’ recent movements to and from the premises. Finally, blood samples, swabs and/or tiny snippets of tissue will be collected from the blisters or sores on the affected animals. The samples will be packaged and shipped to the appropriate laboratory for testing at no cost to owners. Most results are reported in two or three days, but virus isolation testing may require up to 14 days.[1]

In the meantime, all animals on the affected premises will be placed under a hold order by the TAHC to stop animal movement as a measure to protect against the spread of disease. It is vitally important that livestock owners report potential cases of VS, so that samples can be collected and tested to confirm VS and rule out other diseases. If VS is confirmed, infected animals are quarantined for 21 days after all lesions are healed.[1]

[1] - Texas Animal Health Commission Brochure on Vesicular Stomatitis

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) received confirmation of eight new cases of Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) in horses in Central Texas. Five new premises are located in Travis County and three new premises are in Bastrop County:[2]

One premises is located 4 miles east of Webberville in Bastrop County
One premises is located 6 miles southeast of Spicewood in Travis County
One premises is located 8 miles northwest of Bastrop in Bastrop County
One premises is located 4 miles east of Webberville in Bastrop County
One premises is located 4 miles northwest of Webberville in Travis County
One premises is located 2 miles south of Garfield in Travis County
One premises is located 3.5 miles northwest of Webberville in Travis County
One premises is located 2.5 miles northwest of Webberville in Travis County

To date, 21 premises in eight Texas counties have been confirmed with VS. Affected counties include(d): Kinney, Hidalgo, San Patricio, Nueces, Jim Wells, Bastrop, Travis and Guadalupe counties. Four premises have been released from quarantine: 1 in Kinney county, 2 in Nueces county and 1 in San Patricio county.[2]

The newly identified infected premises are currently under quarantine by the TAHC. Affected horses will be monitored by regulatory veterinarians while under quarantine. Premises are eligible for quarantine release 21 days after all lesions have healed. There is no known exposure to other horses around the state, or at any equine events.[2]

[2] - TAHC Vesicular Stomatitis in Texas Update

Several states have provided the TAHC with information on enhanced entry requirements they are imposing on Texas livestock (including horses) due to the recently announced VS cases in Texas. For information about these movement restrictions, contact the state or country of destination and/or click on this link - 2014 State Restrictions.

For more information about VS, open and read the TAHC’s brochure on VS.

Go here for a fact sheet on Vesicular Stomatitis from the USDA-APHIS.

Click on this link to the USDA-APHIS for current national VS situation reports.

To locate your local TAHC regional office, click here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tarp Training for Your Horse

Gary wrote in and asked: "I saw one of your videos where you had your horse crossing a tarp. How essential do you think tarp training is for horses? I tried this with my horse with a yellow poncho since I did not have a tarp. My horse did not want to go anywhere near the poncho when I had it on the ground and when I picked it up, he liked that even less."

Hey Gary, I don't call using a tarp - "tarp training", it's just a prop that I use to get my horses comfortable with different things, the same as ropes, standing water , large balls, etc. Tarps are useful since they can be folded up smaller and made larger as the horse becomes comfortable. They make noise which can be scary to the horse. They can be used in many different ways such as on the ground for the horse to cross over or can be draped over the horse to get him ready for a blanket for the first time.

If you horse ran from the poncho, and then you took the poncho away, your horse probably thinks he did the right things by running away. So be careful on rewarding the wrong response.

I've heard some people say that they would never use a tarp since it's something the horse will never see. I have a difference of opinion. While horseback I have found large blue tarps in the desert where hunters (or poachers) have laid out game for field dressing.  I have ridden in a rodeo grand entry, right past signs (basically tarps) lining the fence panels and flapping like crazy. I have untied my slicker and put it on while horseback and from the horse's perspective, that slicker was just like a tarp, and I have seen the obligatory tarp obstacles in many trail or obstacles challenge events.  You are really just helping the horse learn to think first as opposed to reacting first.  And like I said before, sacking a horse out on a tarp before moving to a blanket for the first time, is probably a smart thing to do.

There is a lot of debate of colors of tarps (or of other objects) having something to do with the horse's acceptance. I just don't know.  I'd have better luck figuring how women think, rather than learning how horses see colors, so I just use different color tarps - whatever is handy basically.

With an extra suspicious horse, I may fold the tarp up small and just lay in over the rails or on the ground where he can take his time investigating it. Being a curious animal, eventually the horse will seek out the tarp, drop his head and nose onto it, and pretty much figure it out. That's really all about letting him have as much time as he needs to convince himself that the tarp is nothing to worry about.

In a pen with a horse and a tarp for the first time, I would do basically the same thing - fold the tarp up so it's not to large and let the horse get comfortable with me approaching him with the tarp. If that horse moved away, I would continue a slow approach until his feet stopped, then I would retreat, give him some time to think about it, then do it all over again.  You can do the same thing with a horse under halter.  As the horse stops moving reward him with removing the tarp.  Each time you'll be able to get closer and he'll be more accepting of it.

If I'm moving, say lunging, a horse across a tarp on the ground and that horse wants to stop to drop his head and investigate the tarp, I'll let him do so. If he side steps around the tarp, I'll let him do that too and continue to move him by the tarp. It isn't too long before he is ready to step on it, maybe with only one hoof, but soon after that all four feet are on the tarp. While on horseback and crossing a tarp, I won't ask the horse to move forward across the tarp until he is ready. You will know or will soon figure out what signs such as head and ear set, tension in his body, etc., indicate if he's ready or not.

With a tarp or any other obstacle, I won't buy into avoidance such as turning around. If the horse moves his front or back end end away from the obstacle, I'll just correct him to stay straight on. If the horse does turn around on me, I'll turn him right back into the tarp and again not ask him forward until he's comfortable with the tarp.

I progress to draping the tarp over the horse, and hanging it on a lead rope as I lunge them. I have had my horses drag the tarp which is something you should only do when they are really comfortable with and even then starting by approaching the horse while dragging the tarp, then maybe tying the tarp to a rope and running the rope around the saddle horn so you can stand back and pull the tarp towards the horse.

It probably took me longer to write this post than it does most horses to get accepting of a tarp, but every horse is different and it's best to give him the time they need. But to answer your first question Gary, sacking a horse out on a tarp is not mandatory or anything, it's just useful. Be safe.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hauling Horses - Service Your Truck's Tranmission

Truck and Trailering Tip - Service Your Transmission.  I see many people that are under trucked when pulling horse trailers. SUV's pulling a two horse trailer; a half ton pickup pulling a three horse slant - all very common and you have probably seen the same. With the price of 3/4 ton and larger pickups hitting just south of where the price of a starter home begins, many people don't have much of a choice if they want to keep trailering to horse events.

A few years ago it came time to buy my wife a new pickup. She was not fond of my truck of choice - a Ford Super Duty - so we looked at other options and settled on an new 2011 Toyota Tundra. The 10,000 lbs rated towing capacity seemed adequate for her two horse stock combination trailer which was around 5,000 lbs when loaded with two horses. And this truck trailer combo was pretty much going to be driven on flat, hard ball roads to and from events so I was pretty comfortable with her choice as we'd use my Super Duty for hauling horses anyplace else.

Recently we were using her truck to trailer a couple of horses to a team penning event and the maintenance light came on. I took the Tundra to Alamo Fleet Services who has kept my vehicles running all these years and whose general manager is an old friend of mine who broke horses for a local rancher until he was forced, like a lot of cowboys, to get a job that paid the bills.

Alamo told me what I pretty much knew, that the Tundra wasn't made for routine trailer pulling and if I want that truck to last for the short range, flat ground hauling that I had in mind, I would have to have the transmission serviced more often, and they recommended every 20,000 miles. They also told me that the majority of transmision failures are from worn out old fluid.

Normally, most transmission are serviced by draining the fluid, dropping the pan, replacing the filter and re-filling the fluid. According to my mechanics this not allow the fluid in the torque converter to be replaced, leaving several quarts of old fluid in the tranny and the contaminated transmission fluid can cause gear grinding, delayed transmission response, or stalling.

Alamo Fleet Services uses the BG PF5 Power Flush and Fluid Exchange System which removes the old automatic transmission fluid completely while at the same time adding new fluid in a method that does not allow for the intermixing of new and old fluids, meaning the new fluid will last significantly longer and protect the transmission.

They also recommended I use a transmission additive from BG called BG ATC Plus Automatic Transmission Conditioner, PN 310, which restores seal pliability and prolongs Automatic Tramission Fluid life by protecting it.

Alamo also recommended a couple of more additives as well. A fuel system cleaner called BG 44K, which they said is helpful in cleaning the fuel injectors and carbon off of the pistons tops nd improves performance.

The other additive they recommended was BG EPR Engine Performance Restoration which helps to restore, fuel economy and power.

So consider doing yourself a favor and find a vehicle maintenance place that is knowledgeable and that you can trust. A little money spent, more often, will usually save you big in the end. Safe Journey.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Judging Your Horse's Manure

If you are like me, you are always evaluating your horse's manure, whether in a stall, corral or on the trail. Sometimes I'll be riding with people who see me do a short circle around a manure pile that my horse just dropped and sometimes I get asked why? The reason I do this is that you can get an idea on the health of horse or maybe get a lead on emerging problems by evaluating their manure.

I'm not only looking at what the manure looks like, but how many piles that horse will drop in a given day, and each horse is different. My quarterhorses and grade horses will drop 9 to 12 piles a day, while my Mustang only drops 6 to 7 piles a day.  Any quantity much different and that horse bears watching just a little more closely. 

Each horse's normal manure will look different. Some horses normal manure will be flakey and sometimes break apart when hitting the ground; other horses may drop smaller piles with balls more roundish than not; and yet others may drop egg shaped balls. If I put all my horses in one corral I can tell what manure pile belongs to what horse which is helpful on determining if any one horse is dropping significantly less piles than normal, which can be indicative of a looming problem, usually dehydration and subsequent colic.

Normal manure is generally formed manure balls that appear to be a little wet. If they are not glistening with moisture then I would not get worried unless they appear to have a mucous type covering.   After a while you'll know what is normal for that horse and what is not. The picture of manure at right is pretty normal.

Very dry piles can lead you to believe that the horse may be hydrated. Sometimes I'll soak his hay in water for a couple feeding to see if he gets moisture back into his manure. If I have been watching that horse then I see mucous on the manure then I would absolutely call my Vet. 

Manure piles that are somewhat or mostly unformed, like the picture at left, could be a result of sickness or discomfort, from sand or a change of feeds.  The manure in the picture wouldn't spin me up unless it started becoming worse - wetter and less formed.

Runny and unformed manure piles, almost looking like a cow pie, can be indicative of sand in the gut. My Vet tells me that some horses can have as much as 80 lbs of sand in the gut. The horse's system will drive fluid to the gut to help remove it, hence the wet unformed piles. Dehydration becomes a real threat from this.

You can test for sand by collecting some of the manure that hasn't contacted the ground and put it into a quart sized ball jar. I'll put about 3-4 inches of manure in the jar, then fill with water, shake and let it settle for 15-20 minutes. If there is sand in the gut,  it will settle to the bottom of the jar and be visible. The picture at right is manure, like a cow pie, likely caused by too much sand.  And while it is likely feed issues cause digestive problems which you see in the manure, I also think that, in some horses, their manure can show increased stress. 

If sand is present, especially in any quantity, you need to take action. I will never hesitate to call my Vet, but I also try to stop problems before I call her. I use Sand Clear, a pelleted psyllium seed husk supplement, that I add to my horses fortified feed for a five day period every 4 to 5 weeks, and on one horse in particular I usually put him through a 10 day regime of Sand Clear once every 4 - 5 weeks as he seems to take in more sand than the other horses.

I think that some horses, particularly older horses, may benefit from pro-biotics.   I feed pro-bios in paste form, about every six days, to a couple of my horses.  While I think it may be helpful, I just don't know for sure.      

Another thing to look for in your horse's manure piles is bits and pieces of undigested feed. This can be because your horse is not chewing his feed completely enough - maybe a problem that can be fixed with getting his teeth floated.  Again, preventive care in the form of routine dental exams is a good idea.  Have a safe, and healthy journey.