Saturday, November 29, 2014

Border Patrol Horse Patrol agents seize over 400 lbs of Drugs

Not only do drug smugglers bring narcotics across the border on horseback, the good guys use horses to combat drug smuggling. There are places along the border that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to use motorized transportation. These places and long tracks in rugged border mountain areas are where horses come in real handy. There are many people who have not experienced the Southern border first hand and have no idea of not only the problems with criminal groups smuggling narcotics but people as well. The difficulties with the terrain and climate add to the burden of enforcing the border. In many sections of the border, communications is non-existent. Agents can't communicate to their dispatchers, nor call for help if needed. The story below is an example of the doggedness of Border Patrol agents, assisted by CBP air units.

U.S. Border Patrol Agents assigned to the Lordsburg (New Mexico) Stations Horse Patrol Unit, with the assistance of Air and Marine units, tracked and located a group of narcotics smugglers Tuesday 18 November in the dense terrain of the mountains of southern New Mexico. This incident was one of many that resulted in drug seizures as part of a very busy week for agents in that region.

Agents first discovered that several individuals crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on foot near Antelope Wells on Saturday and began tracking them through the Animas Valley. Due to the difficulty of terrain, the search became tedious.

Agents remained persistent in pursuing the suspected illegal crossers over a span of three days. The combined effort of agents on the ground and assistance from members of the Office of Air and Marine-El Paso Air Branch resulted in the seizure of 412 pounds of marijuana in the "Cowboy Pass" area, approximately 45 miles north of the starting point.

Among those arrested in connection with the seizure were: Isidro Torres-Nunez, 24, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Delgado, 22, both of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico; Felipe de Jesus Beltran-Torres, 21, of Tamazula, Durango, Mexico; and Aron Jovan Baldarrama-Villanueva, 20, of Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico. The suspects were place in custody and Agents recovered seven burlap wrapped, makeshift backpacks containing individually wrapped packages of marijuana. The 412-pound seizure carries an estimated street value of $330,240.

Also apprehended in the group of smugglers was Gustavo Aispuro-Corral, a Mexican national who had been hired to travel with the crowd for the purpose of carrying food and supplies.

The above story was in a news release from Customs and Border Protection.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tack Tip - More Than a Get Down Rope


At the request of several people for smaller, lightweight ropes for emergency lead lines on the trail, I have taken 1/4 inch Poly rope with a nylon core, usually 12 foot long, and fraying the rope at one end with a flat waxed line knot and braiding leather poppers at the other end to make a Get Down rope.


I keep several of these around, one usually handy to use as a catch rope where I loop the rope around a horses neck and lead him from pen to corral and such. The advantage of this is that's its much quicker than tying a halter and I think it actually helps a horse understand and react to neck pressure before you introduce neck reining.

Some riders will put a bridle over a halter but don't know what to do with the lead line except take it off and carry it with them. With a 1/4 inch 12 foot Get Down Rope, you can leave the thicker and more bulkier lead line at the barn and still have a line to attach to the halter for leading on the ground.  Because of the Get Down usually being a smaller diameter rope, a good way to secure it to the halter is with a double round turn. 

The Get Down rope can be used in the traditional manner, as the name implies, by attaching the rope around the horse's neck with a non-slip knot and securing the other end to the saddle. Be careful not to use a slip knot for the obvious reasons. I would also not use a rope like this when working cattle as you don't need a cow's head or horns getting underneath the rope when you have one end tied around the horse's head and the other end secured to the saddle. I use a bow line knot to make a non-slip loop around the horse's head.  If you were planning on leading the horse from the ground, you would tie the loop closer to the horse's head so the loop won't slip off the head. The picture above right is a way to carry the Get Down rope in a fashion that cannot tighten up on the horse's neck.  

The other end of the Get Down rope can secured to the saddle. You can coil the end and tie it to your saddle using the saddle strings - see picture above right. Or you can tie off the excess line to the saddle horn using clove hitch or a quick release knot - see picture below.


I have found other uses for a Get Down rope. I used it to keep tie open an otherwise one way Arizona gate so trespass cattle can be pushed back to their own pasture. I have looped the rope over a pasture gate that opened towards me but the vegetation did not give me chance to open it by hand.

You can just carry the Get Down rope in a coil tied to the saddle strings next to or in back of the cantle. In fact, many trail rider prefer this method and even though I ride in Mecate reins, I'll usually carry a get down rope in this method in case I have to pony a horse or something.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day - Remembering the Often Forgotten Veteran, the Horse

If you are reading this then you are likely to have seen the movie "War Horse" and as hard as it was to sit through the scene where the horse ran through concertina (razor) wire you would have an appreciation of how key horses were to warfare before the advent of motorized and aerial transportation. By the way, I was squirming in my seat during the concertina wire scene in War Horse, telling my self, "it's a movie,'s not real, it's a movie."

Horses have been used in warfare since several thousand years before Christ. From scouting the enemy and carrying messages back and forth, riding into battle charging enemy lines, to pulling chariots and later artillery pieces, and packing equipment and supplies, horses, mules and donkeys of all breeds and types have served man in man's attempts to kill each other. If you were like me, you grew up on stories about General Robert E. Lee's horse Traveler, or Captain Myles Keogh's horse Comanche - a survivor of Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn.

Horses have been and will continue to be used, albeit in smaller numbers, for military purposes. Horses and mules played a vital role in transporting weapons, ammunition and material across the Hindu Kush from Pakistan to Afghanistan to help drive the Russian invaders out. Twelve years later, Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group rode horses into combat to drive the Taliban and their al-Qai'da brethren out of Afghanistan. In fact, a statute honoring this sits near the 9-11 memorial site in New York City. This story can be read in Doug Stanton's book - Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan.

And perhaps the greatest war horse story was Sergeant Reckless, a little mare who served in the Marine Corps in the Korean War. A new book is out about this amazing little horse with a giant heart - Sgt Reckless, America's War Horse, by Robin Hutton. Read more about Sgt Reckless here.

The photo at the top is from Poppy Appeal Australia. These people found a unique way to remember the contribution of horses.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Feeding Tips for Horses

Last week, wife and I helped some neighbors out when one of their horses, a 3 year old gelding, was   seemingly was in the middle of a colic. Two of the hands were there but neither gent spoke more than a few words of English so my wife and I had a hard time with our limited Spanish explaining that muscle tremors, drum tight flanks, sweating, rapid and shallow breathing, and no gut sounds in any of the four quadrants spelled colic.  We advised them to get a Vet out pronto and tried to call one of our Spanish speaking vets to talk to them over the phone, but on a Sunday night it's hard to get ahold of people.   

On our north fenceline, these neighbors are in the process of building their horse facility.  I think one of the issues with this gelding may have been that after they finished the stall gates on the still to be finished barn, they were locking the horses in for the night and feeding alfalfa and grain - they are feeding these horses once day.  The horses had to wait to be turned out in the morning to have access to water.      

How did that little gelding fare?  Well, I wish I would have had the article below in Spanish, for these guys that night. But their horse came out his distress after 8 cc's of Banamine, a dose of Pro-Bios probiotic and some thin bran mash with mineral oil.  I haven't checked back yet, but hopefully they took the advice to feed twice a day and make sure the horses have access to water 24/7. 

This article came from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). While I think it's a pretty good baseline article for the care and feeding of horses, I have added some comments in italics.

Top 10 Nutritional Tips for Horses

Remember that old nursery rhyme that begins, “Hay is for horses…”? As it turns out, that’s sound advice for feeding companion equines—as are the following tips from our experts at the ASPCA Pet Nutrition and Science Advisory Service.

1. Base Your Horse’s Diet on Grass and Hay.

A horse’s digestive system is made to process large quantities of grass, which is high in fiber and water. The basic diet for most horses should consist of grass and good-quality hay that’s free of dust and mold. As a general rule, companion horses should be able to graze or eat hay whenever they want to.

Forage (grass and alfalfa) first. That's the motto of ADM feeds and something that guides my feeding program. It would be nice to have horses on pasture but there is very little of it in West Texas. I like to differentiate between alfalfa hay and grass hay. In my way of thinking a straight alfalfa diet is too rich in protein for most horses. I'm usually feed a 60-40 mix alfalfa and grass, sometimes more grass depending upon the cut of the alfalfa. Plus it helps balance the calcium- phosphorous ratio.

2. Feed Several Small Meals a Day.

Because horses’ stomachs were developed for grazing, horses function better with a feeding plan based on “little and often.” ASPCA experts recommend that horses should eat several small meals—at least two, preferably three or more—in the course of a day. When feeding hay, give half the hay allowance at night, when horses have more time to eat and digest.

I used to feed four times a day and did so for several years before I went back to three feedings day. I would think that two feedings day would be minimum.

3. No Grain, No Gain.

Most horses, even fairly active ones, don’t need the extra calories found in grains. Excess grains can lead to muscle, bone and joint problems in young and adult horses. Unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian or other equine professional, it’s best to feed low-energy diets high in grass and hay.

Good point that most horses don't need grain. I don't feed grain but I do feed a processed feed from ADM called Patriot, which is a 14% protein feed. My horses do well on this. They get about 3.5 lbs of this divided up into two of their three feedings daily. I feed this primarily for two reasons: to provide for vitamins and minerals they don't get in their grass or alfalfa, and to get their systems used to this processed feed to I can feed more to make up forage shortages when away from my barn.

4. Be Aware of Individual Needs.

Feed according to the individuality of the horse, including condition and activity level. Some horses have difficulty keeping on weight, and need more feed per unit of body weight. However, most horses should eat between 2 percent to 4 percent of their body weight daily in pounds of hay or other feeds. Your veterinarian can help you decide how and what to feed your horse.

Two percent is a good baseline number. For the average 1,100 Quarterhorse this would be 22 lbs of hay a day. Four percent is really quite a bit of feed. If a horse worked all day long, he would require additional feed to replace calories burned, but again 4 percent is a lot of feed even for hard keepers.

5. Water Works.

Plenty of fresh, clean, unfrozen water should be available most times, even if the horse only drinks once or twice a day. Contrary to instinct, horses who are hot from strenuous exercise should not have free access to water. Rather, they should be allowed only a few sips every three to five minutes until they have adequately cooled down.

Ensuring that horses have fresh, clean water is often over looked. Many places I visit have really dirty stock tanks and this does not facilitate the horses wanting to drink. Automatic waters are great keeping a supply of fresh water available. However, they still need to be checked every day for function. I have also seen issues with automatic waters if they are not maintained. I use old fashioned stock tanks. They allow me to see how much water my horses are drinking. I have to dump them once or twice a week to scrub them and re-fill which I don't mind,......ask me again when I'm 80 years old. The wet sand I create when I dump my stock tanks allows my horses' hooves to soak up some moisture which is good for the horses and easier on my Horseshoer.

6. Provide a Supplementary Salt Block.

Because most diets do not contain mineral levels high enough for optimal health and performance, horses should have free access to a trace mineral and salt block. This will provide your horse with adequate levels of salt to stabilize pH and electrolyte levels, as well as adequate levels of trace minerals. As long as plenty of fresh water is available, you needn’t be concerned about overconsumption of salt.

It's been my experience that while most horses will lick a salt block, many horses don't like the conventional mineral blocks. There are different mineral solutions from powdered minerals that can be top dressed on your horses grain/processed feed, to newer type mineral blocks such as the ADM GroStrong Mineral Quad Block. I provide a white salt block for my horses and I break up a GroStrong mineral block and keep a piece in each horse feeder.

7. Take it Slow.

Any changes in the diet should be made gradually to avoid colic (abdominal pain usually associated with intestinal disease) and laminitis (painful inflammation in the hoof associated with separation of the hoof bone from the hoof wall), either of which can be catastrophic. Horses are physically unable to vomit or belch. Overfeeding and rapid rates of intake are potential problems. Consequently, a horse or pony who breaks into the grain bin, or is allowed to gorge on green pasture for the first time since autumn, can be headed for a health disaster.

I change out from one cut of alfalfa to the next through a five to seven day period. Some recommend a more gradual change through a longer period. Either way, different feeds and different sources of the same feed should be introduced slowly. I would describe Colic and Laminitis a little differently, Colic is distress of the intestines which can be caused by several issues, one of the worst being a blockage (called an impaction) of the intestines, and colic symptoms are almost always a medical emergency for that horse. Founder (Laminitis) is actually the separation of the hoof bone (the coffin bone) from the laminae which can cause the coffin bone to rotate in the hoof capsule and in the worst case (usually requiring euthanasia) causes the coffin bone drop and even penetrate the bottom of the sole.

8. Dental Care and Your Horse’s Diet: Chew On This.

Horses need their teeth to grind grass and hay, so it is important to keep teeth in good condition. At the age of five years, horses should begin annual dental checkups by a veterinarian to see if their teeth need floating (filing). Tooth quality has to be considered when deciding whether or not to feed processed grains (grains that are no longer whole, such as cracked corn and rolled oats). Horses with poor dental soundness—a particular problem in older horses—tend to benefit more from processed feed than do younger horses, who have sounder mouths and teeth.

This is probably the most often over looked routine health care need for horses. Some advocate a dental checkup once a year. I average about every 16 months. A checkup usually results in some dental work as the Vet has to sedate the horses anyway in order to do the checkup, so may as well get some work done. Some horses will require shorter intervals between floating. Having a competent Vet do your floating, keeping good records on how much sedation each horse needs, is a blessing and helps keep your horses healthy.

9. Exercise Caution.

Stabled horses need exercise. Horses will eat better, digest food better and be less likely to colic if they get proper exercise. Horses should finish eating at least an hour before hard work. Do not feed grain to tired or hot horses until they are cooled and rested, preferably one or two hours after activity. You can feed them hay instead. To prevent hot horses from cooling down too quickly, keep them out of drafts or warm in blankets.

I think one of the worst things people do to horses is to keep them penned up too much. Regular turnout and exercise is not only good for the horse's digestive system, but develops a more mentally sound horse. It breaks my heart to see horses confined to small stalls, week in and week out - it's basically mental torture. When I ran a large barn years ago, I had a boarder keep her horses in their stalls, day in and day out for three, maybe even fours years. The stalls were better than most being a 10x10 inside covered portion with a 20x20 adjacent outside turnout. One day, I almost fell over when this women pulled one of her horses to lead it to one of the available quarter acre turnouts. She had the lead rope wrapped around her arm (lucky she was a very large woman with Popeye sized forearms) and as she was taking off the halter, the horse bolted thinking he was free. Once that lead line became taunt it pulled both the horse and woman off their respective feet. The horse was no worse for wear, but the woman had a rope burn and dirt grinded into her face,.....and she thought the horse was at fault. She didn't consider what it was like for that horse to have been penned up for 3 maybe 4 years.

10. Don’t Leave Home Without It.

Because abrupt dietary change can have devastating results on a horse’s sensitive system, you should always bring your horse’s food with you when you travel. Additionally, some horses will refuse to drink unfamiliar water, so you may also want to bring along a supply of the water your horse regularly drinks.

I've experienced horses not drinking strange water so this is absolutely true. You can try wetting your hay in a bucket with the strange water - this has worked for me, but the best case if having some of the water the horse is used to. I carry water in several 5 gallon plastic military style water jugs for this purpose.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

San Felipe Pueblo Trys PZP Contraceptive on Wild Horses

I am often the target of lectures by ranching friends of mine who  advocate a drastic reduction of the Wild Horse population and total removal from Federals Lands so that more land is available for cattle grazing.

I also get taken to task by Wild Horse advocates for supporting the re-introduction of horse slaughter plants and m which demonstrates an less than "100%" support for Mustangs.

No matter what your opinion is, one thing is for sure.............the Wild Horse and Burro issue is a pretty complex problem:

~ Mustang herds are growing rapidly and competing for cattle for grazing which has been exacerbated by drought conditions in most western states;
~ The BLM conducting brutal roundups and sometimes the subsequent holding of Wild Horses are in terrible conditions;
~ People not understanding that ranchers actually pay the government to graze on federal lands, and in some cases this federal land was taken away from families, so some see it has paying for land they should be rightfully allowed to use.
~ The often adversarial relationship between federal land managers (BLM or USFS) and the cattle owners,.....remember the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada earlier this year?;
~ The extent of large Federal Government land holdings in western states from 22% in Washington State to 76% in Nevada - and sometimes the reality is that a distant federal landlord is not knowledgable about local problems nor fair in resolving some of the issues;
~ Animal rights activists using political pressure to keep horse slaughter plants from opening, preventing a final solution for unwanted horses.

In any extent there are so many factors in the larger issue that can't be solved by approaching them from a pure emotional angle. But one of the many potential solutions could be a contraceptive program - reducing the number of Mustang studs, gelding many of the studs and colts, and drugs to control the fertility of mares. Some this is coming true as the San Felipe Pueblo of New Mexican are moving forward with a vaccination program to reduce mares' abilities to reproduce. The below story came out of KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque.

A New Mexico pueblo is taking new steps to manage its wild horses.  As of now, it’s the only group in the state doing it and they have got high hopes for their unique solution. “This is our first time doing it and so far, it’s been pretty good success,” said Ricardo Ortiz, a land management specialist with the pueblo.

That success has come in the form of a vaccination called PZP.  Porcine zona pellucida (PZP), is a vaccine that stimulates the target animal to produce antibodies, which attach to its own glycoprotein membrane (ZP) that surrounds the female animal's eggs. This vaccine comes from pigs, hence the Porcine preceding the ZP. 

“What it does it controls the birthing for the mares,” Ortiz said. Within the last week, Ortiz said they have given the PZP to 11 mares. “The mares have that birth control for two years,” he said.

Using a dart gun, trained specialists administer the vaccination. Mares would need the vaccine every two years to limit pregnancies. Ortiz had to go to Montana to become certified. “As we move along, we’ll start seeing how it affects the population,” he said.

As far as who foots the bill, it falls on the pueblo. Ortiz says it can get a little pricey with the training and equipment. “This is something also new to the pueblo in a way that is a humane way of taking care of the issue,” Ortiz said. The vaccine does not affect mares that are already pregnant.

The San Felipe Pueblo is also proposing a 3,000-acre horse sanctuary using federal land. PZP has also been used recently to control bison populations in California and on elephant reserves in Africa.

The San Felipe are one of 19 Pueblos of New Mexico which also include the Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, and the Zuni.

The following video, from September 20th, 2014 shows the San Felipe Pueblo making their point on a strong stand for horses as wild life, for wild horse management utilizing PZP immune-contraception which is in line with Science and Nature also inline with the National Academy of Sciences report and advice to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The video, below, shows the darting process using PZP on adopted wild horse mares, from the Wild Love Preserve in the Central Idaho High Desert, who stated they darted 54 mares in one hour.