Monday, June 27, 2016

Wild Horse Issue: Agency to Sterilize Mustangs for First Time

As with most complex problems with high emotions on both sides of the issue, the over population of Wild Horses and Burros, both on the range and in BLM holding pens, is not likely to be resolved just with birth control of existing bands of these animals. I am not an advocate of the Federal government owning so much of the western lands. The intent of the Framers of our Constitution was for the Federal government to actually own minimal land and then only through negotiations with the states. However, complete management of the land by the states and likely the selling of much if it for energy and agricultural purposes would no doubt result in a campaign to largely eradicate the Wild Horses and Burros who compete with cattle for grazing. I've received hate mail from both sides for my middle of the road approach to the Wild Horse issue...from rancher friends of mine which despise Mustangs and animal rights advocates who can't see the burden on ranching families. I like to think there are moderates on both sides, and hoping that a moderate solution would be come upon. Birth control has got to be part of that solution. The people not wanting birth control or sterilization to be used on a portion of the total numbers of Mustangs and Burros are not moderates in my book.

A federal agency is on a path to sterilize wild horses on U.S. rangeland to slow the growth of herds — a new approach condemned by mustang advocates across the West. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management also continues to resist calls from ranchers and western Republicans to euthanize or sell for slaughter the animals overflowing holding pens so as to clear the way for more roundups.

Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis delivered those messages at an emotional congressional hearing this week. He offered a glimpse of the challenges facing the agency that has been struggling for decades with what it describes as a $1 billion problem.

Highlights of the hearing included Nevada's state veterinarian calling for the round-up and surgical sterilization of virtually every mustang in overpopulated herds, a protester who briefly interrupted with shouts denouncing "welfare ranchers" turning public lands into "feedlots," and an Arkansas congressman whose puppy is about to get neutered.

Rep. Tom McClintock, chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands, took aim at those who object to euthanizing mustangs "and yet seem perfectly willing to watch them succumb to excruciating death by starvation, dehydration and disease." "That is the future we condemn these animals to if we don't intervene now," the California Republican said.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, emphasized the 1971 law protecting mustangs allows for their destruction if they go unadopted. But since 2012, Congress has required horse purchasers to sign documents promising not to resell them for slaughter, and the Bureau of Land Management opposes lifting those restrictions.

Ellis said the estimated 67,000 wild horses and burros on federal land in 10 states is 2.5 times more than the range can support. However, there's no more room in government corals and leased pastures, where 47,000 horses cost taxpayers about $50,000 per head over the course of their lifetime. "Quite frankly, we can't afford to feed any more unadopted horses," Ellis said. "I understand your frustration. We are frustrated too."

Ellis said the agency's "roadmap to the future" includes use of temporary contraceptive vaccines as well as sterilization. "We feel that before we can implement a spay-neuter program on the range, we've got to do the research to make sure we can do it efficiently and safely," he said. "It is going to take a little time to do that."

Rep. Rod Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said it's time to have "that real tough conversation about something more permanent."

Other Republicans turned on the lone horse advocate called to testify — Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and member of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse advisory committee. But Kathrens said most Americans want to see mustangs "roam freely on their native home ranges as intended." "Castration, sterilization and long-term confinement of horses in holding facilities ... is unnecessary, cruel, unhealthy and fiscally irresponsible," she said.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, noted, however, that "thousands of domesticated animals are spayed and neutered every day." "I've got a new puppy and he's got his day coming soon," he said. That prompted an outburst from Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director for Friends of Animals. "They are wild animals. They are not cats and dogs," she shouted as McClintock banged the gavel and called for Capitol Police. "The solution is getting welfare ranchers off of our public lands, which have been turned into feedlots."

J.J. Goicoechea, the Nevada Department of Agriculture's veterinarian and longtime rancher, urged the gathering of "as close to 100 percent of horses as we can" in overpopulated herds for surgical sterilization before returning some to the range. "Those of us who truly make a living caring for animals ... have a moral obligation to manage populations in balance with natural resources," he said.

From an article by the Associated Press, 26 June 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Water Needs for Horses and Humans

Recent headlines: Yuma Arizona - Temps reach 120 degrees....115 in Phoenix; 107 in El Paso. Four hikers die of dehydration in Arizona........yes, the summer heat is upon us.  I usually write an article on avoiding dehydration and the importance of drinking water about once a year as we get into the heat of the late Spring because it's important and an often over looked fact about life - that we need water, lots of it, and so do our horses. And everyone has heard of the old adege "You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."....truth be known, the same is true for humans as well.

A close friend of mine and I joke from time to time about how our wives and children sometimes  complain about being tired or having a headache and how we always respond with "drink some water".  They'll always  respond "You always say that!".  There's a reason why I always say that, because most people go around all day in some level of dehydration. Drinking water should be the first thing you try to alleviate symptoms.  

People normally quit drinking fluids a few hours from going to sleep, then after sleeping 5 to 8 hours, wake up in some sort a dehydrated state. The first thing you should do upon waking is to drink a glass of water! But most won't, and many horse owners put more thought and anxiety into ensuring that their horses have water than they do themselves. Some people even work their riding schedule around their horse's feeding times taking great care to ensure their horse has had a chance to eat and drink. This is not a bad idea, it's just it can be limiting. Feed earlier, feed lighter before a ride, measure the water tank to determine if the horse had a chance to drink,.....I usually rake smooth the area around a stock tank after throwing feed so I can tell if the horse has drank when I come back to pull the horse to saddle.

Many times I have had to pull a horse and put him in a trailer before he had a chance to eat, so I'll hang a hay net in the trailer, after soaking the hay in water so he gets a chance to get something into his gut and some moisture before being ridden.

I don't give horses measured amounts of water, I just ensure they have fresh, clean free choice water. People on the other hand don't drink the recommended daily amount of water which is about one ounce for every two pounds of body weight. For an 180 pound man, that equals about 6 bottles of water a day, and this is for body maintenance. When you are sweating (losing water) or doing hard work, the need for water goes up quite a bit. I know there is advice being given that recommendations for water intake are exaggerated and that you only need to drink when you are thirsty, but this is simply not true. You can be dehydrated, and pretty severely dehydrated without being thirsty.

Not drinking water because of the inconveince of having to urinate often is just not, repeat, not a good idea. In fact, if you are not peeing fairy often, maybe once every 3-4 hours, then you likely need to drink more water. Same if your urine is dark in color. If you take supplements, you may have yellow or green urine, but after a few hours, maybe four to six hours, after taking your supplements, your urine should return to normal.

I am not going to list all the symptoms of simple dehydration, but certainly if your mouth is dry, if you feel sluggish,...... or stand up from a sitting position, or dismount from your horse and you feel dizzy - then you need to get some water.  Here's a tip - diet soda or beer, is not a replacement for water. 

Protect exposed parts of your body from the direct Sun; a cotton wild rag or neckerchef soaked in water and worn around your neck can help evaporative cool yourself. Silk wild rags don't hold the water well, but their are other fabrics available, as well as cooling scarfs available at most major hardware stores.  

As far as your horses, most of them are good to go for substantial part of the day after eating and drinking in the morning.  If I work a horse in the heat, I let him cool off before I hose him off.  I'll put him in a pen with water for awhile before I ever offer him feed.  Again, I make use of water soaked hay in nets quite often in the summer months.   

Take a look at your horses' water tanks.  Is that something you would drink out of?  I have been to some high end training facilities and some of those stock tanks haven't been dumped and cleaned for quite a while by the looks of it. Sure a horse will drink dirty water when it needs to, but if that horse is in your care, why should it?  Providing free choice clean water for each horse goes along way towards reducing chances of dehydration and colic.   

Saturday, June 18, 2016

RIP Legendary Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson

Legendary former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, passed away on 15 June 2016 at the age of 80 at his home in Alpine, Texas.

Joaquin Jackson served as a Texas Ranger for 27 years in Uvalde and Alpine, Texas. When he retired in 2003, he was the senior member of this storied agency. The Texas Rangers were established in 1823, fought in the Mexican-American War, campaigned and protected settlers against the Commanches, are currently heavily involved in the drug wars along the Texas-Mexican border while continuing this day to investigate crimes and corruption across the state. The Texas Rangers are the oldest and most respected statewide law enforcement agency in the United States.

In 2005, Jackson published his memoir, "One Ranger", followed by a sequel titled "One Ranger Returns".  Jackson has appeared in numerous films and television productions including The Good Ol’ Boys with Tommy Lee Jones, the TV movie Rough Riders, and the TV mini-series, Streets of Laredo.  Actor Nick Nolte used Joaquin Jackson as his role model for the film Extreme Prejudice.
Joaquin Jackson was born in 1935 in Anton, Texas. He attended Texas Tech University and was a graduate of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Jackson served in the United States Marine Corps prior to embarking on a career in law enforcement and was a director of the National Rifle Association.  
Joaquin lost his first wife Shirley in 2012, remarried and is survived by his wife Jewel, three grown children and four grandchildren.  On 25 June 2016 a memorial service is to be held at Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fixing Horses Who Pull Back

In the last 10 months or so, I have witnessed several horses who have pulled back from being tied hard and fast either breaking a lead rope snap, or having their feet go out underneath themselves and even pulling neck and back muscles in one case.

In one incident a young women who billed herself as a horse trainer tied her mare right next to my gelding. Her horse was not sacked out on being hard tied, especially in a strange arena, and soon pulled back getting that threatening pressure on her poll (behind the head) breaking the lead line snap. The young woman tied on the lead line and proceeded to lunge her horse thinking that if she gets tired or loses some energy she will be better. The way she went about lunging that horse just reinforced that mare's level of anxiety. Then the woman re-tied her horse, hard and fast, to a 30 foot gate that was on a wheel. Well, the horse pulled back again, this time pulling that gate on the wheel herself...repeating the process of pulling back, the gate chasing her, then pulling back again, and the gate chasing her, etc. I started walking over to the horse with the intent of disengaging her back end, while the young woman ran to a position between the horse and the gate, further spooking the horse who pulled back again slamming the gate into the back of the woman in a process that repeated itself until the horse paused long enough so the woman could get the lead rope untied. Then to make things worse for that mare, and likely in a fit of embarrassment and anger, the woman she started jerking on the lead rope yelling at her horse. All this could have been avoided if she had her horse good at tying in the first place,......oh yeah,..........and not tying to a gate!

One of the worst cases I saw was a horse being tied with a lead rope and a chain around the horse's nose. While the pressure, when pulling back, is on the horse's poll, if the horse get's his head up or has his feet go out from underneath him, substantial damage on the nose can occur. While I have used nose chains in the past, I won't ever use them again. I cringe when I see them and if I have a horse that can't be handled without a nose chain, well, I don't need to handle him then.

I have also had riders and their horses at my place asking for a pen for their horse as their horse won't stand tied. I always think "why don't they stand tied? Kind of minimizes what you can do and where you can go, now doesn't it?" I've had horses like that, and I've worked with the horse through most of the issues because I had to. And even if they are hobble broke, I'd still want my horses to be able to stand tied.

Horses are not born ready to tie. They must be taught this, or more appropriately they must have the time to learn that standing tied is a good deal - it's a resting spot. But all horses can be spooked and if spooked, can pull back, and if hard tied, will get that overwhelming pressure on their poll from either a webbing halter or a rope halter. This causes many of them to panic and pull back harder usually breaking a lead line snap, and if on a lead line tied into a rope halter, they can break a rope halter. This can be particular bad if inside a hard roofed trailer where the sudden release of a broken lead can send their head into the roof - and in some cases kill or badly hurt the horse.

17 years ago or so, in what later became my Functional Tie Ring (FTR), I started using a friction device in order to provide a measured friction release for a horse pulling back, with the lead line being fed by the horse's body weight through a ring. There have sure been some funny moments when a horse of mine, that was hooked through the tie ring on a 25 foot line continually pulled back while turning in a circle and ended up wrapping the lead line around his legs two or three times - unconcerned about the rope wrapping him up, it did not deter him from biting the value stems off two trailer tires. He stood for being wrapped up as I had sacked him out on ropes around his feet, hocks and legs....and was able to get him to lead with a rope around any foot.

So now days, while I occasionally hard tie a horse, I use the FTR when grooming, saddling or unsaddling, trailering someplace, and, I use cross ties with FTR's when I have horses on the shoeing stand or wash rack. But I only use the FTR when I have sacked that horse out on pulling back so they can learn they don't have to pull back or if they pull back, a pause in pulling back will give them that release from pressure, primarily on their poll, then they quit pulling back.  Boy, that's a mouthful.  

I'll hookup a lead line with the FTR, ensuring the halter is properly fitted and the lead line does not have much slack in it (to minimize the jerk when the horse pulls back initially). Then I'll back away then re-approach the horse with some stimulus such as a flag to get the horse to pull back so he finds a release when there is a pause in pulling back.  It's important to cease the spooking stimulus when the horse stops pulling back.  This is his reward.  Then I'll give him a break, rubbing on him, and when he is ready I'll cinch the lead rope back up and doing it all over again. Each time, the horse will react less and if done repeatedly, again giving a break and rubbing in between, the horse will eventually not pull back at all, or maybe just a slight head toss. This whole process may take 5 minutes or it may take 15 minutes. I can't remember a horse ever not getting a profound reduction in his pulling back behavior ever taking more than that.

In the video below I have a older horse, a pony really, who was left with us and has not been handled much in the past several years. His first encounter with the FTR was when we pushed the record button on the video camera. I had no idea on how he would do when tied with the FTR and given some horse spooking stimulus.

There are many tie rings on the market. The Clinton Anderson tie ring is a good tool as well, I just like my FTR better because you don't have to use a swing arm to keep the rope in place. If someone doesn't want to buy any particular tie ring, I'm sure an alike device can be fashioned and you may even save a few bucks. Make sure the rope you are using feeds easily through whatever tie ring you are using.

I hope this helps some of you.  I caution you if/when you try this.  Go slow. You can always increase the pressure, incrementally as needed. Better yet to get some help from someone who has done this before.  And it is always better to take all day getting it done as opposed to trying to get it done on some arbitrary time schedule and end up getting you or your horse hurt.  Don't do that. Please!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fundamental Ground Training For Horses Often Forgotten

A client was bringing a horse over to work on putting a better handle on the horse. The horse was an older rescue horse that has likely seen many owners over his life. The client had owned it for just a couple years. When the horse showed up, his toes were as long as his heels so I remarked that he looked like he was overdue for a trim. The client told me that the horse had to be sedated for the shoer to handle and trim his back feet. From what I understand from the current owner that this was the last time the feet were trimmed.  I can see sedating a horse once or using Scottish hobbles once to get the feet trimmed, but before the next time the horse is due, he ought to good at having his feet handled if he is to be a riding horse, otherwise you are just putting off the problem. 

There are a few horseshoers that I have either known or heard of that horses, but Texas requires a Veterinarian do the sedating. But the problem wasn't legal in nature or getting an over worked Vet out to sedate and trim the feet, the issue was with people in this horses past trying to pick up the back feet and having the horse pulling his feet away or trying to kick, and learning in the process that he can do just that to get people to leave his back feet alone. How many times have you heard someone say "the horse don't like ____________." Insert, 'being tied', 'wearing a back cinch', 'swinging rope around him', or in this case - 'having his back feet handled'. 

So back to the client,....I said "Let's get a halter and lead on that horse and see if we can't get him good at his back feet being handled." Once we got a halter and lead on, it was apparent in about 3 seconds that this horse, although was rideable, was simply not broke to lead.

I actually think this is common. I've seen many horses who were ridden in competition but who were less than adequate when being handled from the ground.  So you see it in horses that start to walk off without a cue, can get them to stop, but then again they want to move off.  Sometimes you ask them to stop and they just gotta move their feet, always appearing distracted.  My client's horse was the same way and when I got a halter and lead line on him then tried to direct him with the lead he would put his shoulder in, swing his butt over the try to kick me.

I explained to my client that the horse needed to be able to walk on a loose lead, keeping pace when you change the tempo of your walk up or down, and stop when you stop. That you should be able to back him up using the lead, direct him towards you or in a different direction, move his shoulder in or over, or disengage his hindquarters all before much else is done. He need not be perfect, as you can work on that, but he should be pretty functional at all those things before you get on his back. This horse wasn't.  You have heard the saying that all new horses should be started over? Well, it's true. I still have one horse that I try to plug holes in because I did not start him over from the beginning.  Apparently I still haven't learned by lesson!  
Anyway, I lunged the client's horse on a 16 foot lead, keeping him at a trot, popping him on the shoulder or rear end with the poppers on the end of the lead rope as I needed to when he tried to either run into me or start to kick me. When he tried to break down (slow down and change gaits), I drove him on and it wasn't more than 5 minutes that his body language softened and he started licking and chewing. Sure, he still looked at me side ways since he previously had gotten away with his shenanigans.

I brought the client, who had never lunged a horse on a line, into the round pen and coached on how to lunge the horse and drawing the horse to a stop, so he disengages his back end and puts both his eyes towards you. Then changing directions and changing directions while moving.  So I sent the client's home with the idea that the ground work needed to be reinforced and done as often as could be during the coming week then to bring that horse back to me where I would show, then have the client, work the horse from the fence, get the horse sacked out to a rope, leading by a roped foot, having a line come across the butt and hocks, then get on with getting his back feet safe to be handled.  This is the best way I know how and when the horse is brought back over we'll work on getting a video of it.