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."......at 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.