Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rope Halters

Jennifer wrote in with a question on rope halters - "Great site! Can you address your thoughts on rope halters with the extra knots on the nose? You mentioned chains as being a no-no, but I thought I'd ask about this particular alteration of the rope halter. I have a clinician-style stiff halter with the knots as well as the floppy rope kind. The knots definitely offer more bite, but just because it 'works' doesn't mean it's ideal. I just don't want to hurt her. Thanks!"

Hey Jennifer, I appreciate that you are considering your horse and searching for information so you can make your own decision on rope halters. Rope halters have a bad name with some people, and granted the smaller diameter of the rope adds more pressure to the horse's nose and poll than a conventional web halter when the horse pulls against it, but as far as being painful, the handler would have to intentionally jerk hard on the lead rope. And as for cruel,...well that's a choice of the handler and if he's doing it with it rope halter, he likely also be doing it with the bit and spurs.

I use 5/16th inch (8mm) polypropylene rope halters.    Like the one on Junior in the picture above - he's sticking his tongue out cause he saw me with a camera.  Most of mine are from Double Diamond Halters but a few are from Craig Cameron. Same type of quality. I don't have nose buttons (knots) on my halters,..no particular reason, but I haven't seen a need to go out and get a halter with nose buttons. Besides I would think that the pressure of the rope halter on the horse's poll (on the top of his neck behind his ears) is sufficient enough to make nose buttons redundant. Just my opinion. There are probably people who think highly of rope halters with nose knots and maybe I just haven't yet met the horse who can benefit from knots on the nose band of the halter.

On a small scale I make one piece roping reins, mecate reins, lead lines and lunge lines but I don't make rope halters simply because I can't make them to the quality or the fair price that Double Diamond makes them. You can get rope halters in many different sizes: 1/8th inch (4mm) diameter, 1/4th inch (6mm), 5/16th inch (8mm), 3/8th inch (9.5mm) and 7/16 inch (11mm). The smaller diameter halters are mostly used underneath headstalls so you can tie your horse up or dismount and lead your horse with a lead rope to the halter as opposed to leading from the reins.

While I almost exclusively use 5/16 inch polypropylene rope halters with a tied on 14 foot lead line (no snaps or hardware at all), I do have a rope halter with a rawhide nose band - see picture at right.   I've only use it a couple of times.  The rawhide is harder than the rope so it provides more pressure,  more of a bite on the nose. Again, while it's all in hands of the handler, the rawhide can dry out and become prety rough on the nose, whether it's a rawhide nose band or just a couple of rawhide buttons where halter nose band knots would be. So I suggest that if you use a halter with rawhide nose band or knots then to periodically check it for roughness or sharp edges. I use raw hide cream to keep them conditioned.

If I could only have one piece of equipment, I would choose a rope halter with a lead line over anything else, including a saddle, because I could use it for ground training and could ride in it.    

Good luck to you and safe journey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Professional Horseshoers

I was pleased to meet Dusty Franklin of Five Star Horse Shoeing School when my horseshoer, Vince Vesely of Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing, brought Dusty with him to my appointment. Dusty was in nearby Las Cruces to do a Horse Shoeing clinic on one day then on the next day did testing for Certified Journeyman Farrier certification.  Photo:  R - Dusty, Vince - L.

It took them no time at all to knock out 6 horses and provide a class in conformation along the way.

Both these farriers do a lot to professionalize the Horse Shoeing trade, which is often misrepresented by ill trained, shade tree horseshoers who hang a shingle out.  When I ran a large horse barn for five years, I would see a dozen different shoers every couple months, probably the worst being a horse owner who took a two week school then shoed a couple horses cutting them too short where thy bled. 

And with the saying "No Foot, No Horse" being as valid now as it was before, it pays to have the best shoer you can find.   I can't remember how many times I get calls asking for a referral to a horseshoer and when I ask "what happened to your old shoer?", I get answers like "He didn't show up", "I can't get him on the phone", or "It's about time I had my horse's trimmed, it's been 15 weeks and I got to find  somebody." I tell people to go to the American Farriers Association (AFA) website and use the locate a farrier tool and try to find someone with a CJF - Certified Journeyman Farrier next to their name.  There are other certifications and endorsements for AFA Farriers, go to their site and get familiar with the AFA.   

Vince has been shoeing our horses for going on 12 years now. We appreciate the fact that he not only has kept our horses sound footed, healed one of our horses with a broken coffin bone, cut out white line in others, but he drives over 2 hours one way to get to us - never missing an appointment. When he says he'll be here at 8:00 am, you can count on seeing his truck pull through the east gate at 8:00am.  I am glad I'm a lot older than he is, so I have a good chance on dying and not needing a good shoer anymore before he quits shoeing. 

Dusty owns and operates Five Star Horseshoeing School, housing students at his school and offering four different courses, from a 6 week Introduction to Horseshoeing to the 24 week Journeyman Farrier Course. Dusty offers a huge price break for the longer course towards his goal of producing farriers who are professional and will represent the trade well.  He is also on the American Farriers Association certification committee.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Arena Obstacles: Twist on the Old Rope Gate Obstacle

If you have ridden in several American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) Challenges, it is likely you have seen the rope gate obstacle. It struck me as odd to ride a six mile trail ride only to come to a simple rope gate as an obstacle. But I guess it serves to see if the horse and rider can position up to open and shut the rope gate. And of course the rope gate, which is safer than wire gates, is something you'd don't see in a pasture but is safe way to measure these skills.

ACTHA recognized that not all riding groups have access to six miles of trail, which also necessitate six different judges or a pretty well planned route and organized transportation system to move people for judges around, so they came up with the Arena Obstacle Challenge format.   While ACTHA did not invent the arena obstacle format as many local and regional competitions have been using this type of obstacle format for decades, it is a great idea. Probably the most famous, or at least most challenging, of these arena obstacles are the Extreme Cowboy Racing Association (EXCA) founded by Craig Cameron years ago.

I'm of the opinion that if I spend hours trailering to and from an event, such as an arena challenge, I liked to ride against multiple and challenging obstacles. Some of this can be achieved by putting your imagination to work and designing obstacles that require multiple tasks on horseback using obstacles.

In other words, get multiple uses of your obstacles. This saves time and space, as well as letting the competitors go home thinking they got their money's worth.

The drawing above is a diagram on how to get more from your common rope gate obstacle. Basically the idea is to restrict approach to the rope gate so the rider has the challenge of positioning his/her horse for the gate as opposed to riding straight in.

After the rider opens the gate, moves through then closes the gate, a dismount is required. Then the rider opens the gate with his horse in hand, moves his horse through, then closes the gate. The last task would be to re-mount either from the fence or a mounting block.

The rope gate obstacle as run this way requires not only the ability to position up your horse for a side pass to open the gate, then go through and re-secure the gate, but also requires moving your horse in a tight circle or moving his hind end independently of the front end; it requires a demonstration of a safe dismount and how well the horse stands before an open gate before given the cue to proceed through the gate in hand; and lastly requires a mount from a mounting block or fence where the rider needs to position his/her horse to enable this mounting.

The gate in this instance is nothing more than a length of rope with a snap link on the gate opening end. A length of PVC pipe with a cross piece to retain the snap link serves as the gate latch. A traffic cone helps hold the PVC pipe in place and reminds the rider not to bump into it. The anchor end of the rope gate is simply secured to the arena fence. I'm using a lightweight wooden ground pole to restrict access/approach to the rope gate, but small traffic cones or a flour line poured onto the ground will work as well.

In the video below I am demonstrating how I think this obstacles should go, albeit smoother for better riders than I am.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How Are Your Horse Trailer Tires?

Two recent events gave me the thought to write this article:

One - I blew out a trailer tire coming home from an event and when I took the tire and rim into be be changed out, I noticed that the tire was 8 years old. I thought that the oldest tire I had on that trailer may have been 5 years old, but I was wrong, and.....

Two - A friend of mine who sometime trail rides with my wife and me, but mainly competes in dressage where she has to trailer quite a ways to events asked me to look at her trailer tires to see if I thought she was safe until she had a chance to replace the tires. She mentioned that the tires still looked good, but someone had told her she needed to replace them. 

I think it's probably pretty common to people to run tires way beyond their life span and to under-inflate those tires as well. Both risk a blow out, and when one tire blows out it places more stress on the other tire, then you have a potentially bad accident.

Most people are going to have trailers tires that have outlived their life span before they run the tread down where it's becomes obvious that the tire is old and needs replacing. The sun, heat, rain and snow plus the pressure of the trailer's weight all degrade that tire over time, particularly on the sidewalls.

Tire pressure should be checked when the tire is cold. Just because the tire pressure was good last week doesn't mean that they have retained their pressure today.....there are just some mysteries that won't be answered until we meet our Maker,....how come you put three pair of socks in the dryer and only get five socks back,....how come vampires don't like garlic,....and why a perfectly good tire without any holes in it loses air.

Use a tire gauge to check pressure. If you routinely trailer horses then setting up a permanent air station to make it easier to top off air in your tires sure makes a difference. Under inflated tires hampers handling and decreases tire life. Don't forget to check your spare tires as well.

Probably another common practice is to put passenger tires on the trailer as opposed to trailer tires. The difference being that passenger tires have more flexible sidewalls that can increase trailer sway. Trailer tires have stiffer sidewalls to help reduce sway. Most tire experts will tell you not to use passenger or light truck tires on a horse trailer.

When it comes to choosing a bias or radial tire how you use the trailer will help you decide. I use bias ply tires as they are intended for rougher terrain and generally have thicker side walls to help against punctures from cactus, mesquite thorns and sharp rocks. I have blown two bias ply tires on my horse trailer in one day,...several times as a matter of fact,....so I always carried two spares and sometimes I threw a third spare into then bed of my truck when my spidey sense told me to.

Radial tires are recommended for mostly paved road travel at higher speeds and when you trailer many miles and tread wear is important to you.

How to Read a Tire: 

What ST225/75D15 means:

Type of Tire: P = Passenger, LT is Light Truck, ST is for Special Trailer

Tire Width, sidewall to sidewall in millimeters

This percentage compares the tires section height with the tires section width. For example, this aspect ratio of 75 means that the tires section height is 75% of the tires section width.

Indicates the construction used within the tires casing. R stands for radial construction. B means belted bias and D stands for diagonal bias construction.

Diameter of the wheel in inches

What DOT 6WVX 3410 means:

DOT (certifies the tire manufacturer’s compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation tire safety standards

6WVX (Manufacturer’s Code, tire size and tire code optional)

3410 (Date of Tire Manufacture - 3410 = 34th week of 2010)

So take a look at your trailer tires.  May attention to the date of manufacturer and if your tires are 4 or 5 years old, chances are you'll want to consider changing them.  Safe Trailering is essential to a Safe Journey. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Blind Cowboy Joke

An old blind cowboy wanders into an all-girl biker bar by mistake... He finds his way to a bar stool and orders a shot of Jack Daniels. After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, 'Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?'

The bar immediately falls absolutely silent.

In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says,"'Before you tell that joke, Cowboy, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things:"

1. The bartender is a blonde girl with a baseball bat.
2. The bouncer is a blonde girl with a 'Billy-Club'.
3. I'm a 6-foot tall, 175-pound blonde woman with a black belt in karate.
4. The woman sitting next to me is blonde and a professional weight lifter.
5. The lady to your right is blonde and a professional wrestler.

"Now, think about it seriously, Cowboy.... Do you still wanna tell that blonde joke?"

The blind cowboy thinks for a second, shakes his head and mutters, "No...not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times............"