Monday, June 29, 2015

Tack Tip - Clean Your Felt Saddle Pad

I have wrote about cleaning felt saddle pads awhile back, but it is a good topic for hot weather riding as the horse's sweat more and those saddle pads, wool felt, sheep skin or even the Neoprene rubber ones accumulate more dried salt from horse sweat and other gunk a lot easier.

While Neoprene is easier to clean, I just don't like Neoprene saddle pads or cinchas for that matter. The exception for me on a synthetic pad is the pad available from SaddleSkin because it removes the main objection on Neoprene pads and that is heat buildup. And while there are pads with holes, intended to release heat or prevent heat build up, I just don't think they work very well.

So if you are one of those Neoprene saddle pad user, you may want to give SaddleSkin a look - I think with it's air channels it allows much more air flow and does reduce heat buildup, as well as absorb or attenuate trauma (impact) to the horse's back, it also keeps the saddle from slipping when the horse is really sweated up.

Having said all that, I pretty much exclusively use felt pads. Previously I used a wide variety of felt pads including the Impact Gel pads, but nowdays I use CSI pads. CSI offers a rubber curry brush to use to brush and clean their pads however it doesn't work very well for me as it's not stiff enough to scrap the dried sweat and hair from the pad.

After a ride, I'll let the felt pad air dry, then usually as I'm saddling up for the next ride, I'll slap the pad across the sides of the trailer or a tie rail to loosen up the dirt and junk, then lay the pad upside down on my horses' backs or a saddle stand and lightly scrub the dried hair and sweat from the pad using a metal curry brush. If you brush too hard you will tear up the felt, so brush lightly using the teeth or flat edge of the curry brush. I'll run my hand over the pad to ensure there aren't any crusty, sharp patches that can make the weight of a saddle and rider bearing on the horse's back uncomfortable, then I'll take a soft brush and brush away any loose dirt, salt or hair.

There are several products that are offered to help clean felt saddle pads. While I'm sure they work to clean and disinfect, I haven't used any soap type product on my felt pads in probably 10 years.

If you haven't cleaned your pad lately, take a look at it and see if you would want a patch of dried sweat (basically salt) being rubbed across your back. You can see the sweat (salt) buildup on the pad in the picture at right. If the salt build up if not cleaned would be running on the horse's back and loins when the weight of the saddle and rider is applied and more so as the saddle normally twists somewhat during riding.

One more point is that if you can afford to do so, have a saddle pad to each horse rather than use the same pad for multiple horses. This pays off not just to reduce any skin contamination from horse to horse, but also allows you to have the best pad for fit on each horse.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More on Horse Dehydration and Water Needs

Mac wrote in regarding dehydration in horses: "Great article on dehydration in Horses and Humans. I know people can go a maximum of three days without water, so my questions are how much water does an average horse need for one day, how long can a horse go without water like in the heat of the summer, how can you get horses to drink more water?"

While it is true that 48 to 72 hours is generally considered to be the maximum time a person can go without water there are several factors that would extend or reduce this timeline such as ambient temperature, exposure to the Sun and the individual's physical condition. But well before that individual would actually die from dehydration, his or her ability to think coherantly and physically function would be greatly reduced. At some point, likely hours, before actual death from dehydration if someone found the individual, he/she would likely be too far gone to save with oral re-hydration.

So I think these questions are the revelant ones: 1 -  How long can a person or horse go without water before their physical ability and mental reasoning is signifcantly degraded; 2 - At what point or time without water does an individual or horse become on a shortr spiral to death without extraordinaty life savings measures; 3 - then the question of how long can an indvidiaul or horse go without water before dying becomes kinda non-relevant.

Someone sent me a chart or meme with a picture of a horse and a quote to the effect that horse's need eight gallons of water a day. I'm sure it was intended to make owners more aware of a horse's water needs, but eight gallons per horse per day is a minimal amount in my opinion, maybe excepting in cooler temperatures.

I know of four horses that have traveled 60 miles in 50 to 70 degree weather with heavy loads - saddle and rider on one horse, and saddles with a hundred and fifty pounds of marijuana on the other three horses - all without access to water, and at the end of the second day, the rider leading the string rode into a ranch and asked the people there to call the Border Patrol. The rancher took care of the horse, giving them water before turning them over to the Tick Rider, and all horses survived. If the temperature would have been twenty degrees hotter, then this story would have likely had a different ending.

Probably the closet I've came to testing one of my horses to his limit was chasing a someone's loose horse for 17 miles in over 100 degree temperature. Once I got my horse back to his pen he was more interested in feed than water, but once I had them cooled off, I'll give him a chance to drink for 30-45 minutes before feeding him. If he still has not drank and water, sometimes I'll soak some alfalfa in water and let him have that.

And you asked about how to get a horse to drink more water? I'd like to know myself. But what I do if one of my horses is finished eating, and I'm waiting on him, I'll lead him over to the stock tank. If I'm patient enough, he'll usually drink a little which makes me feel better about taking him out for some work.  In some cases if I'm needing to get him to work, I'll give him water soaked hay, like I mentioned above.  All horses are going to be a little different, watch them for a few hours and you can see what their tendencies are.

To address your question on how much water a horse needs daily, again you have to consider the horse, the activity, his physical condition and the ambient temperature. To give you an example using one of my horses, who is in very good condition, in temperatures from 76 degrees to 105 degrees this is his water use over two days:

Day One,
Midnight to 0530, my horse drank 2 gallons of water
0530 fed him
0830 saddled up, loaded and on the road
1000 horse unloaded and rode doing ranch sorting until 1300 then loaded back up and on the way home
1430 back home in the pen, offered water, horse drank maybe 1/2 gallon. I did a skin fold test - skin on neck stayed tented for 5-6 seconds indicating pretty well dehyrdated. I hosed him off with cool water then put him back in his pen.  The pictures at right show the skin fold test on the loose skin on his neck.  Sorry about the poor quality picture at bottom, but I think you can see the skin staying "tented" which is a pretty good indication that he is dehydrated to some extent. 
1450 horse fed
By 1800 the horse had finished his feed and drank almost 9 gallons of water
1830 fed again and by midnight he had drank more 4 gallons of water

Day Two,
Midnight to 0530 he drank another 2 gallons
0530 fed
0830 He had drank another gallon. I saddled him and rode about 5 miles in 90 degree heat and direct sunlight.
1100 He was back in his pen and I did another skin fold test with his skin staying tented for less than 2 seconds. So I left him to drink and wait until his mid-day feeding.
1330 Went to feed and noted that he drank 3 gallons
1330 Fed him
By 1800 He drank 5 more gallons of waters.
1800 to midnight, he drank maybe 1 more gallon of water.

So in two days, in day temperatures over 100 degrees with moderate work, this horse drank just a little more than 27 gallons of water.

Providing adequate amounts of clean water for horses is likely the biggest failure of most people I see keeping their horses in pens.  Getting asked to look at suspected horse abuse I most often see horses without adequate water at all.  I advise owners that they should plan on their horses needing 15 gallons of water, per horse, per day at a minimum. This is pretty consistent with my two days of measuring on one of my horses. All my horses have overhead cover to protect them from the direct Sun if they seek it. Many horses are kept in facilities without over head cover so I would think their water needs may be greater.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cowboy Humor - Commentary on Sagging Pants

Recently, a video has gone viral of a Cowboy recording his comments about today's youth and the disturbing habit of wearing your pants down around your knees.

This Cowboy was driving his truck when he spotted the "pants on the ground" posse walking down the street, so he pulled over and recorded his comments which are pretty dang funny.

As he starts out: “I was driving down the street the other day when I saw a trio of young men walking along the roadside clad in what has become a sort of uniform: pants hanging below their rear end, strung up loosely by a belt or held in place by their upper appendages,” he claimed. “The only covering for their private parts is whatever pair of underwear they care to rep that day.”

“They are waddling (when they walk up the street) looks like they are trying out for the Penguin part in the next Batman movie."........ "It looks like they were asleep when they were putting their pants on and when they woke up, they forgot to finish the process."

You gotta watch this Cowboy - I hope to see more of his videos and commentary,...I think you will too.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Riding the Badlands of New Mexico

When singer/songwriter Marty Robbins sang about getting into a gun fight over a girl then fleeing on horseback from El Paso into the badlands of New Mexico, I know exactly where he is singing about or at least what likely gave him the inspiration for that verse. He reportedly actually wrote this song while traveling from El Paso to Arizona in an automobile - that would
be known to you as a car, Bob.

The verse that I'm referring to verse actually went:

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran
Out where the horses were tied
I caught a good one, it looked like it could run
Up on its back and away I did ride

Just as fast as I
Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the badlands of New Mexico

You can listen to Marty Robbins' hit "El Paso", which hit #1 in 1959, in the video at the bottom of this post.

My wife and I trailered a couple horses out to the "badlands" of New Mexico, just West of El Paso the other weekend, meeting with a couple of our friends for a several hours of riding on the big flat mesa, which in other parts of the country may be called "buttes".   Coming off the mesa, required find a cut, like a small canyon and avoiding Prickly Pear cactus, Fish Hook Barrel cactus, Cholla cactus, Mesquite and Creosote bushes and the Ocotillo which is the bush in the picture at right.  

The picture at top is on top is on the Mesa where sometimes you can get miles and miles of nothing but Creosote and you can lope or gallop pretty safely.  

This part of the country is actually owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and managed out of their Las Cruces office. It's just gorgeous out there, offering miles and miles of great riding and good land to train horses on. I'm glad that most of the other people pursuing recreation out here don't trash it so much like you find in areas closer to, or directly on the border wilderness areas where illegal immigration has taken a severe environmental toll.

Anyway, enjoy the Marty Robbins' "El Paso".

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hot Weather Riding - Dehydration in Humans and Horses

I usually write an article in the beginning of Spring to get readers thinking about the coming hot months and the threat of dehydration, for both you and your horses. I'm late this year as 90 degree plus weather has been in Texas for over a month, but here it is anyway. Dehydration, of course, if when the loss of bodily fluids, think sweat, exceed what we take in through drinking. Not only do people and horses sweat away fluids, we also lose a little through normal breathing. We also lose electrolytes, such as salt, as well.

Some people wake in the mornings after 6 or 8 hours of sleep, throw feed to thir horses, drink a cup of coffee (a dietetic), tack up then ride, and it may have been 12 hours or so since they last drank any water. And make no mistake, coffee, tea, soda pop, etc., are not replacements for water.

And not only that, most people do not take water with them when they are riding, but some people will go to the trouble of taking a energy drink or diet soda with them. Same as coffee and tea, but even worse, energy drinks and diet sodas are not replacements for water - they will dehydrate you quicker.

I rarely ride in the hot weather without a canteen looped around the horn or without a Camel-Bak. Camel-Bak are the makers of the original hydration packs and offer a huge selection from waist band packs to full size back pack with hydration bladders. When I'm working with Search and Rescue Team on a tracking course, I recommend that they carry hydration packs, and to consider Camel-Bak's in the rescue yellow color for visibility on the ground or from the air. Check out the offerings from Camel-Bak here.

Getting a headache, feeling tired or weak, and not having to urinate or having dark colored urine are all signs of the beginnings of dehydration. These symptoms can be reversed with the consumption of water.

When dehydration gets worse, dizziness and even fainting, having a pounding heart beat, and when you stop sweating are all signs that you are approaching a no return point. Medical intervention, usually through intravenous fluids are necessary. This is a medical emergency as severe dehydration will cause death.

Dehydration in our horses is the same excessive loss of water without replacement that we experience. In my mind it is usually caused when we do not provide clean drinking water, or work them too hard in hot weather sometimes after feeding them but not allowing the time if takes for them to get a drink.

Horses may show the same lethargy as humans when dehydrated. They may have a lack of saliva in their mouths and a dullness in their eyes. Other tells on a dehydrated horse can be a slower capillary refill response, higher heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing, and, lack of skin elasticity.

Slower capillary refill response can be determined by pressing on the gums with your thumb. This will push the blood out of the tissue area that you are pressing on, then when you release, the gum should immediately (within a second) go back to it's normal (darker) color as blood refills into that tissue. The longer it takes, the more dehydrated your horse is.  The picture at right shows the area of the gum above the front teeth, a good place to do the capillary refill test.  

Higher heart rate. A horse's normal resting heart rate is around 40 beats a minute, probably less for a well conditioned horse. A resting heart rate significantly above that, say above 50 beats a minute can be a tell for dehydration.

Rapid and shallow breathing. Often a sign of other distress, such as colic or pain, rapid and shallow breathing can indicate dehydration. If your horse is not in distress, a normal breathing rate is around 10-12 breaths a minute.

Lack of skin elasticity. This is the skin fold test. On the horse's chest or neck, pinch some skin between your thumb and forefinger then release. The skins should return to normal immediately. If the skin stays "tented" for any length of time, certainly more than a second or two, then your horse is more than likely dehydrated.  The picture at left shows pinching the skin on the neck to check for skin elasticity. 

I think it helps to know your horses eating and drinking habits. For example how much water they drink during the day during certain temperature conditions. And what their drinking habits are as well. All horses are different. I have three main saddle horses. Each usually takes around 2 hours to finish their morning feed, then they will usually rest for 15-30 minutes before they ever mosey over to the stock tank for a drink. I use stock tanks as opposed to an automatic waterer so I can tell how much they drink or even if they have drank. Sometimes, I can shorten this time frame but leading a horse to the stock tank and after a few minutes they will usually drop their heads to drink.

I think most people know that you don't allow a hot horse to drink or eat, until they have had a chance to cool down. Nor should you wash off a hot horse, although I'll often use a wet sponge on a horse, but only after he has had a chance to stand and get his respirations back to normal.  So keeping them tied to the rail while they cool down and you do your post ride grooming is always a good idea. And while horses also lose electrolytes as they sweat, a free choice salt and/or mineral block in their en is also something to consider. Safe Journey.