Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Incorporating Tracking Dogs with Horseback Search and Rescue

I received an e-mail from Shirley who asked about the viability of, and considerations for using tracking dogs with horseback search and rescue (SAR) teams.

I do not have any experience using dogs for search and rescue.  I did all my search and rescue operations on foot, on horseback or in a helicopter.  But on the surface it would seem like a no brainer to incorporate trained search dogs with horseback SAR teams. And while at least one Federal agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, is doing so since around 2006 with good success, these are full time teams usually with young, fit handlers and younger dogs as well.  A canine-equine-human team is not something that can just be thrown together and expected to work well.

Granted dogs have a very keen sense of smell allowing their use to detect explosives, narcotics, other illegal contraband, and human remains, as well as track a human's scent on the ground and in the air over terrain, and likely have a role in complimenting horseback search and rescue, however most dogs will have a limitation in it's endurance.  One of the most experienced search dog handlers I know assured me that most dogs can be conditioned for endurance required for an all day search covering a good amount of ground, but many handlers and dog are not prepared for longer distance search in high ambient temperatures.      

Most dog handlers doing rural or remote based search and rescue normally carry water for their canines. The canines can also be outfitted with footgear, much like hoof boots for horses, to minimize the damages from hot sand, sharp rocks and cactus and mesquite thorns. But I would think that most part time search dogs just wouldn't have the endurance that horses do, so a joint role with horses and dogs would have to be managed mainly for the dogs' safety of over heating.

I have known two Cowboys whose dog's have died during gathers conducted over a signficant distance, say 10 to 15 miles. One of these was in fall weather, so extreme tempratures and environmental conditions could not be the biggest factor. Neither one of these dogs were very old, the oldest being around 7 years old as I recall. Even if any of my dogs were tracking dogs - they aren't except figuring out where my wife hides the dog treats - I wouldn't risk them in high heat, rough terrain or longer distance movements.      

And while your dogs and your horses may get along together, not necessarily all the dogs and all the horses in a larger group would work well together on the trail or doing a grid search. Just like you likely screen your search and rescue people so they are fit and healthy enough to conduct a search, and even multi-day searches, you would likely have to do rehearsals with the dogs and horses in a controlled area and also in a environment like you would get called to conducted a SAR mission to evaluate just how well the concept works for your SAR Team. The last thing you want to do it for your search and rescue mission to be turned into a dog evacuation mission.

Probably not the answer you were looking for, but if you are still going to try, maybe doing some short exercises with combined horse and dog teams, then incrementally increasing the duration and distance will see if this is viable for your SAR team.  Good luck.    

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas to All! We celebrated this year again on our 4th annual Christmas Ride, through some rural neighborhoods passing out Christmas cheer and treats. This year we posted notices so people would be looking for us.  We came across a wheel chair bound gentleman who told us he had been waiting for an hour for our procession to come by and he feared he had missed us.  He said we made his day, but actually he made ours.

Besides the normal truck and hay trailer carrying our non-riders, we also enlisted a tractor towing a buggy to serve as Santa's sleigh,...however the Red Suited Jolly Man wanted to ride in the bucket most of the time.  Santa was a big hit and not just with the kids. I think people took more photos of Santa did they did our horses.

To see the look on people's faces when you say Merry Christmas or to see the big ear to ear grins of kids getting to sit a horse for the first time makes it all worth it.

After the ride we sat around eating Chili and peach filled empanadas, enjoying the companionship and listening to each others plans concerning their horses for the coming year.

Thanks to Lewis and Nicki, Leonard and Luanne, Arden, Dave and Lisa, Lisa and Ben, Steve and Monica, Farel, Willie and Linda, Janice, Jessica and Tony (Santa), and all the kids who rode with us and served as Santa's helpers.

And a special thanks to my wife Susan who not only drive the truck and hay trailer but made the Chili. 

Merry Christmas and God Bless to you all.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Charitable Giving With Animals

I was reminded by a Preacher the other night to be sure to be thankful for my blessings. An insurmountable tasks it would seem as I have many blessings......a now healthy, cancer surviving wife and beautiful, musically talented daughter; horses who teach me lessons and provide companionship each and everyday; and, four functioning limbs unlike many of the veterans coming home from fighting Islamic extremism overseas,.....and the list goes on. One of the ways we can grateful in a tangible way is to donate to those much less well off than ourselves. Kinda like the biblical quote: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" - Luke 12:48 ....or the contemporary and much used version "to whom much is given, much will be expected".

Some of us may be conflicted giving to charity as the needs are great, and often we may think how just much good are we doing buying meals or Christmas presents for the poor, which brings up the quote: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Maimonides, Spanish Philosopher (b. 1135 - d.1204).   

One of the charities I support is the Children's Hunger Fund (CHF). A couple of years ago, I saw where CHF made donations to buy livestock for needy families. Having spent some time in Africa and the Middle East, I know how reliant some families and communities are on livestock to provide milk, fertilizer, meat and eggs, and for barter as well. 

Also, the value of an education for children raising livestock, teaching them responsibility as well as respect and empathy for animals, cannot be measured, nor replicated by just giving gifts. And while some of my most liberal friends will disagree, the value of owning property to bring people out of poverty, cannot be over estimated. "Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranted by the Constitution and the one which, united with that (right) of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race" - William Howard Taft (b. 1857- d.1930), 27th President of the United States (1909-1913), and 10th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1921-1930.  

So I wanted to make people aware of a few organizations that provide, among other things, livestock to poor people across the globe. I do not necessary endorse any of the organization, with the exception of the Children's Hunger Fund, as I do not know a great detail about them. I have read some contrary commentary on all of these organizations who provide animals to the poor, but to my opinion, these counter opinions are mostly from vegetarian, extreme animal rights oriented organizations, and in some respects also have an anti-religious bent, who mostly think the land should not be used for anything but taking pictures - God forbid free grazers.

Heifer International

Heifer International's mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Dan West was a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?

That "teach a man to fish" philosophy is what drove West to found Heifer International. And now, nearly 70 years later, that philosophy still inspires our work to end world hunger and poverty throughout the world once and for all.

We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.

When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.

Goats $120, Heifers $500, Sheep $120, and other animals

Children's Hunger Fund

The CHF mission is to deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy ministry. Children’s Hunger Fund was established in 1991 by president and founder Dave Phillips. Since then, CHF has delivered food and, ultimately, hope to children and families in need in the U.S. and around the world—maintaining 99 percent efficiency for over 20 years.
$65 piglet, $225 mature pig; chickens 2 for $14

Samaritan's Purse

Franklin Graham's, son of evangelist Billy Graham, is president of Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dairy Goat $70; Sheep $80; Donkey $350

Oxfam America

Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization committed to creating lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Oxfam America is a member of the international confederation Oxfam, 17 organizations working together in over 90 countries. The gift items in this catalog are based on actual projects funded by Oxfam worldwide. By purchasing our charitable gifts, you are making a difference. Give gifts that do good.

Pair of Goats $100; 6 goats $275; one dairy cow $110.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Are Supplements for Horses Worth It?

EMays wrote to me to ask about equine supplements. I see alot of my friends using supplements on their horses. Based on my history using human health supplements for myself, I think that some are probably good for horses and necessary to make up (nutritional) deficiencies, while others may be a waste of time. What is your opinion on generally good supplements for horses? Thank you for your time."

I pretty much believe that less if better when it comes to supplements in general, and even non-forage feed for that matter. But I also believe some horses, like humans, can have nutritional deficiencies and chronic conditions that may likely be helped with equine supplements. I am also inclined to think that a supplement that works for one horse does not necessarily work for another horse as there are way too many variables such as age, physical condition, previous injuries, feeding program, and what the horse is used for. Another variable is just how much you are willing to spend.

Years ago my horseshoer introduced me to a Doctorate student who was riding with my shoer to keep his own horseshoeing skills current. This Doctorate student, who was heading for an advanced degree in Ruminant Management and Equine Nutrition or some closely related field, also grew up working on ranches and feed lots in the mid-West, was a wealth of information on equine nutrition. Since I had a 20+ year old horse who had broke a coffin bone wing which my shoer was bringing back to soundness with a bar shoe, I asked about hoof supplements thinking it may be a good idea to get this horse on a supplement that would help heal his broken foot.

The Doctorate student told me that he believed hoof supplements were likely effective especially if they had key ingredients like biotin, L-Methionine and L-Tyrosine and some others. He also told me that the jury is out on joint supplements. However, he said it was likely that Chondroitin and Hyaluronic Acid were not effective in horses, but Glucosamine could be. My experience with human joint supplements tell me the same thing, that Glucosamine and Vitamin C are the main effective ingredients in joint supplements. This Doctorate student also said that it was hard to get the industry to fund objective studies since they could be funding a study that would conclude that supplements improving horses were inconclusive or worst yet, not effective. 

By the way - I ended up putting that old horse with the coffin bone break on hoof supplements. Nine months later it came time to quit the barshoes, get an x-ray and see what the hoof looked like. My Vet told me not to get my hopes up, but when I went to his office to get the results he said words to the effect that "I'll be damned that old horse's hoof has healed - no reason you can't start using him now."

I also put another horse on hoof supplements and months later my horseshoer remarked that I should keep doing what I'm doing because that horse's feet were looking good from his perspective. Keep in mind that no hoof supplements are more important that consistent, competent trimming and shoeing......but I think it could help and that leads me to the saying that "proof is in the pudding".

I also have had a horse on joint supplements for the past year. I chose a version high in Glucosamine and Vitamin C and without Chondroitin and Hyaluronic Acid. I think it is helping but it is hard to tell. For sure, he is making more athletic turns such as doubling on the fence, but it could also be because we do more of that. But, I'm going to keep him on it. I think I owe him the benefit of any doubt. If that particular joint supplement started costing an exorbitant amount of money, then I could rethink that, but right now about $35-40 a month is worth it me on the chance it is providing that horse with nutrients good for his joints, and in particular, his cartilage and soft connective tissue.

The bottom line for me is that if any of my horses had a particular condition that may be helped with supplements, then I would try it for awhile. Awhile is not weeks, but months,....if not a year or more. And even then it may be hard to tell if your horse is being helped. Out of six horse's, I have one on daily hoof and joint supplements. Two other horses receive a weekly pro-biotic paste because I think they can benefit from it.

I use Smart Pak supplements. They package my daily supplements in one handy string of multiple containers - see picture upper left. Smart Pak has some good resources available on their web site to include a blog with categories like 'Asking the Vet', to 'Success Stories' from owners using supplements with their horrses and how they fared.

Smart Pak is a very customer oriented and responsive company.  Advisors are available to discuss supplements over the phone and help you choose what may be best for your horse.  The UPS truck brings my supplements every 28 days and I even get an e-mail to my phone when they are delivered so I can walk out to my main gate to retrieve the package.   I have no financial arrangement with Smart Pak other than they have donated to charity based horse event I have ran.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Unbranded - the Movie You Need to See

If you have been in prison, in Mongolia for instance, for the last several years you may not know about Unbranded. Unbranded is a documentary style movie detailing the adventures of four young Texas cowboys. Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, Thomas Glover, and Ben Thamer who adopted and trained Bureau of Land Management Mustangs to embark on a five month, 3,000 mile pack trip from the Mexico border North through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to reach the Canadian border.

The bottom line here is that you gotta go see this movie...if you are lucky enough for it to be  in a movie house close to you.  If not, you can order the DVD version and watch it at home. It will be worth it. Last night, my wife and I drove 30 miles to town to watch Unbranded on the big screen. It was a one night deal and tickets had to be pre-sold to meet a minimum number which was no problem as the theatre was close to sold out. This is a phenomenal movie.  

Ben Masters, the instigator of this project acknowledged doing this project, in part, to bring attention to the plight of 50,000 unwanted wild horses and burros living in government-leased pens and pastures and in need of adoption. In the movie it is clear that Mustangs and Burros on public lands is a sensitive issue with people on both ends of the argument and fortunately many people in between. While there are many reasons for the plight of these wild horses and burros, including drought, wildlands fires, lack of forage, and fastly growing wild herds, the movie does not come out clearly on one side or the other, except that rapidly growing and over populated holding pens are not the ideal solution for these animals.

It is no accident that Masters chose Mustangs as his riding and packing stock. His experience from previous pack trips exposed him to the durability and reliability of Mustangs. Big boned, solid footed and with the ability to endure harsh conditions, it just likely wouldn't have been possible to complete the trip on today's highly bred performance horses.

Just from the scenery alone, this movie is worth the time. But you'll see the boys and their horses traverse some of the toughest terrain in North America; endure freezing rain and hail; chase loose horses; and likely the hardest tasks, pick cactus - Cholla in particular - out of horses. Cholla cactus is often called Jumping Cactus as it seemingly jumps out at you. In fact, of the four Cowboys explains this in the movie in a scene where one of the horses had Cholla patches stuck all over him.....and I mean ALL over him.   

This pack train just didn't start out on the Mexican border and complete the trip all by their lonesomes. They had a cameraman and support along the way, sometimes to haul off horses that received significant enough injuries where they couldn't continue, which fortunately were only two - one bowed tendon and one torn muscle.

And you'll meet Val, an old cowboy who helped out in Arizona and then again in Wyoming, and who sings a song about the trip.  Only one horse died along the way and that was from seemingly natural causes. Ben Masters said it was very sad to lose a horse, at least he died in the wild where he belonged as opposed to a holding pen.

Somewhere along the trail they picked up a burro, named Donquita. She almost stole the show. Apparently she did not pack any gear, but was along to be a camp guard in predator country.

After the completion of the ride, Ben Masters donated a horse named Luke to the Mustang Heritage Foundation, where he was auctioned for $25,000 dollars to support mustang adoptions. This will be the horse you see Ben fly fishing off of. The Mustang Heritage Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) public, charitable, nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating successful adoptions for America’s excess mustangs and burros and is the organization that hosts the Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions and Trainer Incentive Program.

If you are like me,...someone who does not like going to the movies, you should make an exception for this if there is a a screening near you. Otherwise, you'll want to buy the DVD and watch it at home. The below video is an older trailer for the project and worth watching to wet your appetite for the feature movie.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using Honey to Treat Horse Wounds?

This article was originally posted on Yahoo and titled - "The Horse Called Miracle Who Cheated Death With The Help Of Honey". Isn’t it funny how a horse likes honey? A horse who was on the verge of being put down has made a miraculous recovery thanks to a few dollops of the sweet stuff.

The animal, appropriately called Miracle, collided with a fence and suffered a 12-inch gash in her leg. “We don’t know what Miracle did but it was a horrible injury,” said Sue Gessey, 40, who runs the Animal Healing Trust in Withal, Worcestershire. “I arrived at the centre in the morning and she was in the field with her leg gaping and there was blood everywhere. “She must have caught her leg on a fence in a freak accident. “When I looked closer I saw a huge piece of skin flapping around with blood pouring out. It was horrible.”

Sue had taken Miracle in as a rescue horse. She was saved from the knacker’s yard four years ago, only to come close to death again with the horrific injury.

One vet recommended Miracle be put to sleep after suffering the gash in her leg, but Sue wouldn’t contemplate that course of action, and found another vet who suggested putting honey on the wound twice a day.

Comment from Functional Horsemanship: I've seen some pretty horrific injuries on horses. I've always felt that my Vets never sugar coated recovery or anything but giving me good advice. But I have never have a Vet tell me a horse should be put down from a soft tissue injury without trying to treat it. I realize Miracle was a rescue horse, but they all deserve a fair effort on our parts.

Honey from the charity’s own beehives was used on Miracle’s leg. Unbelievably, after six days Miracle was able to put weight on the leg, and after five weeks had made a full recovery. “For the next three days the vet was calling me telling me I needed to put Miracle down, but I couldn’t believe it.” Sue found the honey suggestion while researching online, before a different vet also mentioned the unusual treatment. “He operated on her in the field for £400 and then said I needed to apply honey to the wound every day, which would work as a natural antiseptic,” she said.

“That was no problem for me, as we have our own beehive for exactly that. I believe that’s why she made such an amazing recovery, it was like silk binding her leg back together.”

Miracle got her name from her first brush with death, when she was saved from slaughter four years ago with just hours to spare. “After her latest scare she’s certainly living up to her name,” said Sue.

Comment from Functional Horsemanship: I've never heard of using honey on wounds before. I would be hesitant to use honey because of attracting insects, but  I did some research on using honey on wounds and it appears to be a legitimate remedy. According to DermNetNZ honey has antimicrobial properties because the lack of water inhibits the growth of microorganisms and when honey is diluted by wound fluids, hydrogen peroxide is produced in the reaction. This may be why the hydrogen peroxide based Vetericyn works so well on soft tissue wounds. DermNetNZ went on to explain honey appears to stimulate lymphocytic and phagocytic activity which are key body immune responses in the battle against infection. I'll think I will still be using Vetericyn on wounds that my horses get, but I won't be forgetting about the use of honey. Heck, I'll likely be needing it on myself as clumsily as I am with knives and such.

If you are interested in learning more, then click on the DermNetNZ link which will take you to their site and further explains what type of honey to use and how to use honey on the wound.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fit and Placement of the Bosal

I received an e-mail from Abrahim who asked about fitting a Bosal. " Dear Sir, I am wondering if you could give me some information when using a Hackamore on a horse how the nose band should be (placed) and is it supposed to be a tight fit. "

That's a great question Abrahim, but I'm going to address it as 1 - fit of the nose band (Bosal) and 2 - placement of the Bosal, as I think it's two different things. For instance on fit, the Bosal has to have some movement in it, but not much. If you have a Bosal that is only making contact on the top of the horse's nose with Bosal's nose buttons, then all the weight and pressure of that Bosal is impacting at this location.

Consider a Bosal that forms to the horse's nose and upper jaw - this is likely more comfortable for the horse to carry.  This is going to be more oval shaped than round shaped.

Most of the movement of the Bosal is between the horse's jaw and the heel knot where your mecate is tied to. You should have 2 or 3 fingers width here so that the Bosal heel knot can move backwards then drop forward back into place when released.  The picture at left shows two fingers of space between the heel knot and tied on mecate when the Bosal is in a relaxed or forward position.  One less wrap of the mecate or an extra wrap of the mecate above the heel knot can add to or reduce this space.

And placement is important, as if you have the Bosal too low on the nose it can hurt the softer nose cartilage just ahead of the nostrils. A rough placement for the Bosal is to look for the horse's nose bone as it starts to taper towards the nostrils. Find where the nose bone is not longer visible and place the Bosal up a couple, maybe three, finger widths to start. I'd be concerned with fitting the Bosal lower than this.  The picture at left shows two finger widths above the spot where the nose bone tapers to a "V". 

The Bosal's fit, or what you are asking about as "tightness", is that the nose band portion of the Bosal's nose button puts pressure on nerves on the top and sides of the horse's nose. The Bosal should not have to be "opened" or pulled apart as it is placed onto the horse. This would be in effect squeezing the nose.

The Bosal can't be round or loose, or otherwise have a sloppy fit on the horse's nose either. A loose fitting Bosal will put too much pressure on the top of the nose and make signaling harder for lateral work.  The picture at right shows a pretty decent fit as I just slide the bosal onto the horse's nose.  I was scratching Junior behind his ear so he would stand still for a photo. 

I use a block to shape a Bosal, see the picture at right. I'll coat the rawhide Bosal with Rawhide cream then tie the Bosal around the shaping block. You can buy Bosal shaping blocks from various makers, or you can make your own custom block to shape a Bosal for the intended horse. Most quality Bosals come shaped pretty well. They should be oval shaped as opposed to round. Again, I recommend shaping the Bosal to the horse you are going to use it on.  The Bosal being shaped at right is for a horse with a wider nose.     

I think it may be a good idea if you ride often with a Bosal to use several different correctly fitting Bosals. What some people refer to as a "loping Hackamore", which is a braided soft rope Bosal, could be used to change up the feel for the horse, give him a break, and ensure you are not consistently putting pressure on the same spot.

The diamater of the Bosal will have something to do with the amount if pressure you are placing on the nose. Generally, without regard to the material or roughness of the Bosal, the thinner a Bosal is the more pressure it can exert. However, a heavy or weighty, thicker Bosal can also put pressure on the horse's nose just when he carries it.

Some people may be tempted to believe that since you have nothing in the horse's mouth, it will be hard to hurt him riding with a Bosal. This is not true. An ill fitting Bosal, with play at the sides (side buttons) will sore up a horse's nose pretty quick.  A improperly placed Bosal, where it is too low on the horse's nose can damage the horse's nose.  I would also suggest inspecting your Horse's nose visibly and with your fingers to check for soreness.  And I imagine with harsh used buildup on the nose bone could occur.

A Bosal that is not taken care off, such as being dried out or having some of the rawhide braids gets loose and warped, can also sore up a horse's nose. Granted, some rawhide cream on a quality Bosal will keep this from happening and I have only seen rawhide strands warp or turn on cheap Bosals.  I have bought most of my Bosal's from Big Bend Saddlery or Craig Cameron's Double Horn Store.  I still run my finger around the Bosal, especially the inside that makes contact with the horse, from time to time to check for roughness.  

And lastly, quick and heavy hands can make any Bosal, or bit, or even a halter into an abusive tool.

I'm sorry Abrahim if you got more of an answer than you sought, but like my wife will tell you, I don't use 8 words when I can use 30. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Natural Feeding For Horses

I was recently asked by U.K. based author and consultant, Alexandra Wesker, MSc, to review her new book "Natural Feeding For Horses - Discover Roughage Based Feeding for the Physical and Emotional Health of Your Horse".

Ms. Wesker writes that she had a hard time as a Equine Nutritional Consultant in finding a book to recommend to her clients, so she decided to write the book she was looking for. The result? A thoughtful, well researched and written book that will make a positive impact on horses as it makes it's way into the hands of horse owners. This book can be used by new horse owners who just want a basic understanding of horses, digestion and feeds, as well as the old experienced hands who want to delve into formulas for developing a feeding program based on their horse's size, breed, activity level, and considering the digestible energy and nutritional vales of feeds.

What is Natural Feeding? In a nutshell, it's feeding a roughage (hay) based diet and feeding in a manner like nature, including horse's eating off ground level. Alexandra addresses this in detail and why this is very important. Like many people, I have used several different types of feeders and was happy to find large plastic milk crate type boxes so I could feed my horses at ground level, which is how they are designed to eat, as well as keep the feed off the ground to minimize the ingestion of sand.

But this book is more than that. I liked the section of the book discussing various grasses such as Orchard, Timothy, Bermuda, the various Fescues, Brome, Blue Grass, Ryegrass and others, and the charts on the nutritional value of hays.

Others will appreciate the Suggested Diets chapter. Ms. Wesker follows up with many examples of horses, their breed and activity, and feeding examples. So, if you have ever been confused about determining the digestible energy content of the feed you provide your horses, or what level your horse needs based on it's activity and size, then this book and it's easy to understand formulas will help as she walks the reader through determining activity levels, required feed level, designing feeding programs, and information on safely replacing feeds with cereals.  She advocates about consistency in the feeding program and the necessity of making changes gradually.

The last thing I would like to say if that Alexandra recognizes the emotional or mental health aspect of horses and advocates horses being able to move, obtain overhead cover and not be kept in solitary conditions - which I appreciate as I see way too many horses who are viewed and treated as tools or objects and not living, thinking and feeling creatures. Stabling a horse, by itself, in a small stall, no matter how good your feeding program is, is akin to mental/emotional abuse. Those conditions alone are likely to cause behavior and digestive problems. It is my wish that all horses could be given a fair deal by their owners and a continuing education in horses and their care is the road towards that.

Buy the book, you won't regret it.   You can also check out Alexandra's website: Natural Feeding For Horses.

You can order a copy of Natural Feeding for Horses through Amazon.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tack Tip - Crusty Cinch Latigos

Here's a short tack tip on storing your cinch latigos (cinch straps) so they remain more pliable. Of course, we should be cleaning and treating our saddles and tack. But sometimes we (or maybe just me) are neglectful of our tack or the environmental conditions just get ahead of us.

I usually use a diluted mix of household dish detergent and a rag to clean my saddles and gear. Sometimes I'll need to use a dish brush on my gear as well to get the sand and dust out of the crevices.  Don't tell my wife I use dish brushes - I've been blaming the dog when dish brushes disappear from the sink.

Then I apply 100% Neat's Foot Oil to all the leather. On my latigos, this will keep them all soft and pliable.  But I also use this technique in the photos below to secure cinch straps, both on saddles I routinely use and those I have stored for longer periods of time.

Careful as you might be, sometimes the latigo drags in the dirt and combined with salt from the horse sweating, a cinch latigo may get stiff and crusty. So for the last 15 years or so, I have been in the habit of tying up most of my latigos in the manner shown below. It pretty much works to keep the latigo flexible and easy to weave though the cinch D ring and saddle D ring.

In the photos above:  Step one - I loop the latigo through the D ring twice, like you would to situate the latigo for easy pulling out and running through the cinch D ring.  Step 2 and Step 3 - I wrap the running end of the latigo around section looped through the D ring, and Step 4 - I stick the end of the latigo through the bottom.

This helps keep the latigo from getting loose and catching on something, or dragging in the dirt, and the whole process of bending and wrapping the latigo helps debris fall away from it, and keeps it pliable.  This is also a good way to store a  cinch strap on a saddle that may be put up for a while.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Horse Pulls Lead through Tie Ring

Bob wrote me about using my Functional Tie Ring. "I bought one of your tie rings and I like it. My horse who has broke two halter lead snaps in the past, tried to pull back once and got a slow release like you said. However, now he pulls back slowly and pulls the lead through the tie ring. How do I train him not to do this?"

Thanks for buying one of the Functional Tie Rings, Bob. I'm glad it worked for you getting your horse to understand he doesn't need to pull back to get a release. They often have to do something once in order to figure out that they didn't need to do it in the first place - that's the whole deal behind tie rings that give a slower friction enhanced release when horses pull back.

You are not going to be able to train your horse not to pull back gradually and pull the lead through the tie ring.  He's just intelligent enough to have figured it out.  What you can do is to make it more difficult for him to do so. 

When horse's pull back from being hard tied, the pressure of the halter strap, or rope on a rope halter, across their poll (behind the ears) generates a lot of pressure which causes the horse to panic and pull back harder usually breaking the snap on a lead rope. Once a horse pulls back on a lead that is looped through a tie ring and gets a release, albeit slowed because of the friction of the lead rope running through the tie ring, he usually figures out that he doesn't have to pull back, but occasionally a horse learns he can pull slowly and run that lead all the way through the tie ring.  I marvel at their ability to figure out things like this and opening gate latches, etc. 

I had a horse tied to a Functional Tie Ring using a extra long lead line, maybe 18 feet long, and he pulled slowly and continued pulling slowly while turning on his back end and the result was that he wrapped that extra long lead line around his body a few times.  When I saw him all wrapped up but standing still, I wasn't put out my mistake so much as I was happy he just stood there.  It was a good thing that I had sacked him out on ropes across the legs and haunches.

So now I routinely take the running end of the lead line and wrap it a couple of times around the lead rope from the tie ring to the halter, if I am walking away from the horse for any significant amount of time out of my ability to see him. This adds friction to the release. That friction can be a little or a lot based on the type and diameter of lead rope you are using and how many times you wrap it. I generally wrap the running end twice using 1/2 inch yacht braid lead ropes, if I'm going to be bout of sight of a tied horse for a bit. 

   In the pictures above, at left, is a lead rope looped correctly through the Functional Tie Ring - the running end is on the left and the right end of the lead rope is tied to the horse's halter. If the horse pulls back, he'll get a nice release based on the friction of the rope sliding through the tie ring.   In the picture above at right, the running end of the lead rope has been looped around the horse end twice to create that greater or harder friction if the horse pulled back. In both pictures the excess running end of the lead rope is just looped over a rounded hook on the trailer - it just keeps it off the ground.  Hope this helps Bob.  Safe Journey.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spurs, or Not

Kayne wrote to ask about wearing and using spurs and those people who are vocal against spurs: " I occasionally ride with a woman, as part of a larger group, who is very much anti-spur. I get tired of hearing it but I don't have a prepared counter argument that I can articulate well enough. She say's that no one can achieve the highest levels of horsemanship riding with spurs, and if you knew how much the horse hated spurs you would never ride with them. I just think it how the individual uses the spurs that if the difference. I am interested in hearing your opinion. Thanks."

I think you are right on the mark Kayne saying it's how the individual uses the tool, in this case the spur.  If I'm riding in a Hackamore, I am occasionally asked if I am against bits. I always reply "No, I'm not at all against bits, just how some people use them."  Same with spurs.  Really, the same with any tool.

Horses are very sensitive to touch that's why to see them swish flies with their tails, so it stands to reason that they will very much feel a sharp object being stuck into their sides, but that's not how you use spurs.  But even though horses are very sensitive to touch, many horses will need more than just a touch with your leg or heel.  So, I think that if you are good with spurs you can be lighter and more subtle with your leg cues, as a spur allows you to just touch a horse's barrel to get a response as opposed to banging on a  horse with your legs and heels.  We've all seen that type of rider.  And that type would be picking themselves up off the ground if they banged on a horse while wearing spurs.

In the photos below, I'm use a short shanked spur with a rounded 10 point rowel.  Short shanked because the heels on my short legs are not too far off the horse's barrel.  People with longer legs, hanging further away from the horse's barrel, may need a longer shanked spur in order to touch the horse's barrel.   

In the series of photos above, from Left - I have my leg "in neutral", just normal contact or otherwise hanging straight down.  In the Middle photo I am starting to apply contact with the inside of my lower leg, heel and then spur - just rolling the spur into the horse's barrel if he did not move off of my leg.  This should be a subtle movement.  In the picture at Right, the horse's has given to that pressure moving his hind end away. You can tell by the different light in the photo and the horse's front left leg stepping forward. 

I can't really tell you want to say to the lady who is anti-spur. She probably doesn't like guns either because of the way some people use them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Question on Hoof Rot

Justin wrote to ask about rot in his horse's hooves. "Hi. What is the best thing to do (about) the rotten smell coming out of my horse's hoofs? Not all of them smell bad, all the time but I'm thinking I need to do something."

Hey Justin, the smell is from a condition called Thrush, or it could be a pre-Thrush condition - meaning if left untreated it could turn into thrush. Thrush is caused by an anaerobic organism, meaning an organism that thrives without air. Air is the enemy of thrush, and sometimes cleaning out the rot to expose to the air will get rid of it for a time.

If left un-checked, Thrush can eat away the surface of the hoof - the part you see when you clean the feet as well as the softer frog - the spongy V shaped portion of the hoof. Hooves degraded from Thrush can actually lame up a horse, but I haven't seen this except for only the most egregious of neglect cases.

In the photo of the hoof at left you can see the white powdery material in the V crevice of the frog and the sole.  The black substance is thrush developing and it will be stinky.  Not as bad as my boot socks, but not smelling good in any case.  Pick the debris and manure out with a hoof pick and as you are scrapping much of the rot should come out too.

The biggest environmental factor for horses getting thrush is manure in the stalls. Removing manure, raking the stall and cleaning the feet can keep your horse(s) relatively Thrush free. Horses will generally clean their own hooves to some degree as they move around and their hooves hit the ground, expand and contract, and the process of their feet hitting the ground can often dislodge manure and it will drop away. If moving on hard or rocky ground, that ground can also chip away at material left in the hoof. However, the manure and wet soil can get lodges in the crevice of the frog and sole and then requires someone to pull it away using a hoof pick.

Good, routine farrier care is important for sound feet including any considering any comments and recommendations from your shoer/trimmer about Thrush in their hooves. Did you farrier say something to you about cleaning the feet more often? 

When you get that nasty Thrush smell and see evidence of black, decaying sole or frog, there are several things you can do to treat the hoof after cleaning it. There are commercial products to treat Thrush like Kopertox, Thrush Buster, No Thrush and many others. You can also use common household bleach or iodine. I use Kopertox for the most part. I don't use it that much, and when I do really only one application is necessary.

Kopertox's active ingredient is a diluted form of Copper Naphthenate, and as other commercial Thrush treatments, Kopertox tends to dry out the hoof. I try not to use Kopertox at least a week before my shoer comes so the feet aren't as hard as Superman's kneecap and therefore hard to trim with a hoof knife.  I live in the desert where you would think the feet wouldn't get Thrush because of the dryness, but we have our rainy seasons and it doesn't take long for wet soil and the Thrush organism present in the soil to make it's arrival on the hoof and particularly in the clefs of the frog. Checking your horse's feet once a day isn't too often. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Groundwork - These Basics Are Under Rated

I'm seeing many people riding horses that are not broke to lead effectively. I see riders competing on, or just pleasure riding on horses that are distracted, can't stand still, or are pushy when in hand. Some are doing pretty well in competition on these horses, but in the more severe cases these horses are barely manageable on the ground and when in the saddle the rider is just a passenger averting bad things because the horse may be marginally directional and stopping only because the horse gets tired on someone pulling on his mouth. Some of these horses are older, have grown dead mouthed and usually have seen many different owners, while others are young horses that just have some holes in their education. For sure, some of these handlers are riding horses that I wouldn't ride,....until I got those problems pretty much fixed.

Saying your horse just has a lot energy or saying that he's a natural leader isn't the reason he is taking control. And just because a horse is the lead horse in your herd doesn’t mean he is a brave horse. Horses usually take control because they are fearful. And in a leadership vacuum, the horse will look out for himself, basically assuming that leadership position. You just can't let him be the leader in the two animal herd consisting of him and you.

I learned the lesson, over and over, that just because a horse is rideable doesn't mean he has ground manners. The funny thing is that I am likely not finished re-learning that lesson. One solution is to start new horses over, from the beginning, rather than try to fix holes in their behavior as they crop up and become a problem.

I had a client bring me a horse the other day and as I walked up to the horse and rider, who was in the saddle, I noticed the horse was distracted. The rider was using a snaffle bit and was in contact with the horse, who feet wouldn't stop moving. The horse then pushed through the bit and tried to walk over the top of me. I said to the rider "I was about to ask you what your issues are with him, but he just told me. Can you dismount and lead him in hand to the round pen?"

That horse didn't lead much better. Walking past or into the handler; not stopping when the handler stopped; and when the handler got the horse stopped moving forward, the horse's feet wouldn't stop moving sideways nor would his head. These are what the FBI calls a clue - an indicator that the horse doesn't have ground manners, nor broke to lead.

Some clinicians will say that if a horse is truly broke to lead, you can lead or send him anywhere,....through a gate, down into a hole, or into a trailer. And that horse won't have his head on a swivel nor trying to eat off the ground all the time. Nor will a horse who is really broke to lead be pulling the lead rope through the handler's hands. You can have a safe horse and not be perfect on the ground, but I certainly want a horse to lead correctly and give to pressure of the lead line.

Leading correctly means not running over the handler or even getting into his space; not be distracted but focused on the handler for the most part. The horse should be able to stand still on a loose lead when asked. When leading in hand the horse should maintain his position where the handler wants him, usually just off the right shoulder a couple feet to the side and to the rear, and maintain the handler's pace when being led in hand's, whether that pace is at a crawl, or a fast walk, or even a jog. I'd want any horse that I was fixing to ride to be sound in these things. If they aren't then trouble is just ahead.

When the horse is distracted, like in the picture at left, he should be directed back to the handler. I don't make a federal case out of it, but if a horse is looking somewhere else instead of on me, I'll bump his head back to where he has two eyes on the me.

  Usually after the third or fourth time that you have to correct a horse's lack of attention, the horse will figure this out and as you go to bump his head over, as soon as the weight on the lead line is different, he'll correct himself - then you know you are making progress.

Again, I don’t make federal cases of him getting distracted momentarily, but you just can't allow him to tune you out to check something out whenever he wants to.

When the horse is stopped the handler should be able to move about without the horse leaving until there is a signal on the lead line. He should simply stand still on a loose lead and not move until you direct him using that lead. If he tries to walk up on you, you get his attention then back him off and make an offer to him to stand still again. This is something you likely have to do over and over, but the horse will get it.  The picture, above left, shows a horse standing quiet on a loose lead.  As I change the weight and therefore pressure on the lead, above right, the horse begins to follow that lead moving towards me. 

When you lead he needs to stay in position, some people like that position right at their right elbow, some like it a step or two back, regardless of where you want your horse positioned when you lead him, when you stop, the horse needs to stop and stand still until directed someplace else. If your paces changes, his needs to change as well. As you are walking him out, if he start to move ahead of you, a bump on the lead line downward or to the read should be a signal to him to mind his pace and position.  The picture above left shows the horse leading correctly on a loose lead.  The picture above right shows my hand moving back on the lead to bump him back into position.    

You should be able to pickup the lead in the direction you want the horse to move and the horse should move off and move of quietly. Like if you open a gate and want the horse to move through it by himself , you should be able to pickup on the lead in that direction and he should walk off.   The picture above left shows he horse quietly moving around me a walk following the lead. If his head becomes oriented outside that arc, I will lightly bump his head back into position slightly tipped to the inside.  You should be able to pickup the lead and pull his head towards you to get him stopped and facing up.  This may require a pull (not a jerk) in the beginning, but as you horse gets softer to the feel of that lead, he'll get softer and more responsive to reacting to that pressure and facing up.  If the horse begins to walk towards you without you asking him to, I don't make a big deal out of it, I just correct him, give him chance to think about it, then ask him to approach me. 

Of course these are all very basic things, but I continue to get surprised at people are riding horses who aren't schooled in these basics.  Many of these people ride much better than I ever will, but I think fixing these holes in their horses will make a better horse and save the some problems down the road.    Safe Journey.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Craig Cameron at the 2015 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium

If you haven't heard of Craig Cameron then you are likely living on an island in the Pacific Ocean, probably dodging head hunters. Craig Cameron, of course, is a Texas based clinician who travels tens of thousands of miles each year helping people with their horse, or rather, helping horses with their people through clinics - which he also hosts on his ranch in Central Texas. He has probably been the biggest influence on me and my journey developing my horsemanship.

Craig, sometimes called the "Cowboy Clinician" because of his rodeo and ranching roots, has a way of communicating to people where it is practical, helping people understand how horses react, think and learn all of which is necessary to help people communicate with their horses.

This year at the 2015 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium, Craig and his son, Cole, brought in a 3 year old Red Roan and demonstrated putting a handle on a horse that was well along in his development. Talking and demonstrating how he works a young horse to give to pressure and being able to control the horse's back end, barrel and front end independently of each, Craig shows us what is possible with a young horse and more importantly putting a solid foundation on a horse in as low as stressful manner as possible. And I would say that most of the people watching Craig Cameron don't ride as well broke as horse as that 3 year old.

Craig likes to say that our most important job is to take the fear out of the horse. He goes on to say that he didn't always treat horses with respect, but I would say that he is more than making up for it now using his Cowboying background to connect to people teaching them that there is better way to work horses. The picture at left is Craig explaining how he approaches working with horses while his son puts the 3 year old Red Roan through his paces.

It's easy to see a horse giving to physical pressure like a bump on a lead rope or using the reins to tip the head in one direction or another, or, getting a horse to begin collection by dropping his nose and putting his forehead perpendicular to the ground. However, Craig also reminds us to consider the mental pressure that develops in horses and the body language and behavior that gives us an idea of how that is affecting the horse. The little Red Roan never had a troubled expression on his face the entire time.

If you get a chance, it would be worth your time and money to go see or ride with Craig Cameron, and you can also watch him on RFD-TV a couple of times a week. Safe Journey.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cowboy Humor - My Wife is Missing

A husband went to the Sheriff’s department to report that his wife was missing.

Husband: My wife is missing. She went shopping yesterday and has not come home.

Sergeant: What is her height?

Husband: Gee, I’m not sure. A little over five-feet tall.

Sergeant: Weight?

Husband: Don’t know. Not slim, not really fat.

Sergeant: Color of eyes?

Husband: Never noticed.

Sergeant: Color of hair?

Husband: Changes a couple times a year. Maybe dark brown.

Sergeant: What was she wearing?

Husband: Could have been a skirt or shorts. I don’t remember exactly.

Sergeant: What kind of car did she go in?

Husband: She went in my truck.

Sergeant: What kind of truck was it?

Husband: Brand new Silver 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 King Ranch edition with 6.7 litre V-8 Turbo Diesel engine and automatic transmission. It goes into the shop next week for a Ranch Hand brush guard with 12,000 lb. electric Warn winch and a custom headache rack. It has Brown leather custom seats and after market floor mats with the logo "Don't Mess With Texas". In the cab I have a 21-channel CB radio, six cup holders, and four power outlets. In the glove compartment resides my collection of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Ian Tyson CDs. The truck has a Goose Neck hitch in the bed, and bumper pull trailering package. On all four corners there are BF Goodrich 285/75R16 Load Range E All Terrain tires. There's a small scratch on the passenger door where my wife was careless with her wedding ring. At this point the husband started choking up.

Sergeant: Don’t worry buddy. We’ll find your truck.

Monday, September 28, 2015

ACTHA Arena Obstacle Challenge Results 26 Sept 2015

This past weekend saw us hosting an Arena Obstacle Challenge (AOC) under the sponsorship and guidelines of the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA). We had 14 riders sign up to compete, relatively small by national ACTHA standards, but par for ACTHA participation in the West Texas/Southern New Mexico area.  This event was a benefit for the Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary.

Division Winners (see photo below).  Open Division: Luanne Santiago, Competitive Pleasure Division: Marianne Bailey tied with her daughter Jessica Bailey, but had more pluses, so Marianne took home the Blue Ribbon and the first place Plaque.  Competitive Novice Division: Terri Rutter. Scout Division: Angela Beltran-Flores.   Additionally, each of my judges, Vicki Maly and Arden Evans each gave out a custom hoof pick to the rider who made the biggest positive impression on them.  Luanne Santiago and Dan Bailey, riding a huge Percheron, won the hoof picks.

We obtained great national and local level prize support from sponsors including Smart Pak, Hoof Wraps, Camel Bak, Noble Outfitters, Eclectic Horseman magazine, and Sanctuary Leather, while we had great local sponsorship including Alamo Automotive, Riders Tack and Feed, Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing, Leonard Benally and Chaff Haye. The donated prizes allowed us to put $1,300 worth of prizes back into the hands of competitors.   

The obstacle course consisted of the following obstacles:

Trot Weave - weave between six cones placed 7.5 feet apart, turn and repeat.

Stop and Back - stop your horse on a spot and back in a straight line for a distance determine by your competitive division.

Drag - retrieve a rope off the fence and drag an orange bag of cans about 25 fee.  Open Division had to also back their horse while dragging the bag.

360 Degree Turn - riders entered a 6' x 6' square box and executed a 360 degree turn; Open had to also turn 360 in the opposite direction as well.

Slicker - riders had to retrieve a slicker from the fence and run their horses necks and hips with the slicker.

Gate - open, go through and re-latch a 10' gate.

Cowboy Curtain - or what ACTHA calls the Vine Simulator. Riders rode through the rope curtain and Open Division had to back their horses through it.

Circle Trot - riders trotted around a 35 foot circle, enter the circle and exit at the trot going the opposite direction.

ACTHA competitors and their horses are judged per obstacle on a 10 point per rider and 10 point per horse system.  The bottom line on ACTHA competitions, be they Competitive Trail Challenges or AOC's is that you expose your horse to more training opportunities, some of which you may not think of, continuing to build that brave, safe trail horse.  And as it is with horses, some were great at dragging a loud, clanking bag but fearful of a yellow slicker handing on the fence, and vice versa. 

My objective for the chosen obstacles was to balance the pure horsemanship tasks with prop related obstacles. In the video below, I am doing the Rider's Brief explaining the negotiation of each obstacle.

Prior to the AOC, I held a short clinic on backing your horse in an arc and extending that to a circle and figure 8. As well as a competitive strategy on jogging into the obstacle, stopping and immediatley backing to get momentum for the backing in an arc as most ACTHA obstacles give you 60 seconds to complete an obstacle and time can be ate up pretty quick on the Figure 8 Backing when you are in deep sand or with traffic cones placed far apart.

The competitors and their horses also had 30 minutes or so to warmup on my fixed obstacle course which included single and two level Bridges, Cones for backing in arcs, Two Step platform, Narrow Figure Z path, Nerf Bar obstacles and a heavy Rope Curtain.