Sunday, October 22, 2017

Horses with Trailer Confinement Issues

Several people in the last couple of months have sent e-mails with the same basic issue that they are having a hard time resolving - horses who are okay at trailer loading but are anxious when the trailer is stopped. Some just move around and others kick and paw, and when unloading - some try to leave the trailer in a fast manner.  The common question is "should I leave my horse in the trailer until they calm down?"  

Different trailers and different circumstances, such as trailering with or without other horses, are going to affect some horses. A small, two horse straight load trailer may be too confining for horses used to a open stock trailer. Slant loads with the panels may seem too confining to some horses, especially larger horses - you may know horses like this.  If you have the chance to load your horse in different trailers, by all means do so. Doesn't mean you'll resolve problems down the road, just gives you a better chance at it.

Some horses are fine by themselves, or loading with other horses, and others get anxious when in a trailer next to others. The good news is I think you can minimize all these issues by loading and unloading, and/or trailering to some place over and over. I had a three year old Paint horse who took some time getting him to load. I hung a hay net up so he could pick at it once he loaded.  Once I had him loaded, I had him back out. Then I loaded him and kept him in the trailer for increasing amounts of time and we're talking about starting at around 10 seconds once his feet stopped moving.  When he was good with that, standing still for a few minutes, I loaded him and drove a few minutes in a wide circle, stopped, unloaded, mounted and rode for a couple minutes, then dismounted and loaded the horse and did it all over again for almost two hours. After that his first trailer ride was over an hour and I never had another problem with him - but all horses are going to be different. What is the same with all horses is that repetitions loading and unloading are good for all horses.

On a horse who loads good but is anxious about just being in the trailer, increasing the amount of time staying the trailer is also good for him. The first few times you may not get him relaxed, but my rule of thumb is to wait until there is some sign of relaxing, even momentary, and capitalize on that moment - timing is important. If you can safely be in the trailer with the horse and he is comfortable with your presence then sometimes that helps. I did this to my horses, talking to them softly, asking the horse to drop his head, rubbing on him, asking for one step backwards then one step forwards, but these were horses experienced in other trailers.

While you may enter a trailer with the horse, leading him or sending him in order to close a slant load or tie his lead up, please don't loiter in the trailer unless you can do so safely and have a reason to do so. A buddy of mine was loading a fairly bomb proof horse and lost half his finger then tying the horse's lead and the horse spooked and back off quickly, tightening the rope on his finger - and you can imagine the rest.

Another thing common to all horses is that if the horse really isn't broke to lead and can't back off a lead rope then he ain't going to do well backing out of a trailer. Some people I highly respect allow a horse to turn around in the trailer (if it can) and go out head first the first few times. I've done that before and I'm good with that, but eventually he needs to back out, calmly, and the sooner the better.

The trailer - staying quiet in the trailer - has to be a good place for the horse. He has to see and feel it as a place to rest. It's the same process we use when we get a horse to load, making the area outside the trailer work and at/in the trailer a rest spot - or a release from pressure. Many people, and I do this as well, will lunge the horse in a circle where the edge of the circle is close to the trailer, then stop him here and ask him to load. It's kinda like standing tied. Tired horses will stand tied better than fresh ones.

As far as leaving a horse in a trailer until they calm down - I would think they ain't likely to calm down over time if they are too amped up to begin with. That mental pressure is more likely to increase until maybe the horse hurts himself. Remember the horse has a soft spot just forward of his poll and some horse's have hit the trailer roof hard enough to kill or badly injured themselves. They make little padded hats for horses to protect themselves from hitting their head. I have never used one instead relying on having the horse totally comfortable with loading, staying in the trailer, and backing out. This just takes time, that's all.

Make sure your trailer is safe as well.  I was asked to help a gent get his horse loaded.  I told him I would teach him how to do it and showed up only to discover his trailer floor unsafe.  If  person can see that the trailer floor is unsafe, then the horse is certainly going to feel it and this will erode his confidence and will result in him having "trailering" problems when it really is "owner and  maintenance" problems.     

A final note:  If you drive with quick accelerations, fast lane changes and/or hard braking on stops then you are likely to undue much of the trailer work you put in on your horse.  I heard a long time ago that a horse is only has good as his last trailer ride. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Don't get your horse snake bit

I have always thought that since a horse tolerates us being on his back, it's only fair that we are responsible for keeping that horse out of trouble. If your horse gets kicked by another horse, it's usually your fault for getting too close. If you can't see where you are riding and end up with the horse's front legs in a bog - then it ain't his fault now is it? The same with walking on top of a rattlesnake in most cases, and certainly in case where you are riding on a trail.

This time of year as the weather gets cooler, rattlesnakes are more active in the day time than they are in the heat of the summer. In a couple months they will be denned up, so they are hunting more often to sustain themselves when they brumate (sort of like hibernation). Always the exception though. As a Range Rider I've had been called in cold winter months to remove rattlesnakes posting a threat to work crews, but it was likely the construction drove them from their dens - in a less than happy state of mind after being disturbed from their brumation I reckon.

And also this time of year, the baby rattlesnakes, aren't much bigger than when they were when born alive, are a particular hazard as they are born with a full venom sack and can't control the amount of venom they put into a target thereby releasing a full load, and they don't have a rattle, just a button so they can't deliver a warning. In fact, my wife and I were riding out to meet some people on the Butterfield Trailhead and talking about rattlesnakes as our horse shoer was struck in the ankle last week, fortunately he had hiking boots ankle high and his bunched up wranglers provided a barrier that the rattler's fangs did not get through. Anyway, I told her that it is common for someone to be bit without the snake first giving that tell tale and hair raising rattling warning. I said many times I've walked or rode through the desert only to have the first 2 or 3 people go right past a rattlesnake and nobody knew any better until the snake rattled at the 4th person.

My wife knows that they don't always rattle as she has almost walked on top of a rattlesnakes in the past couple of years. I've also watched several people do the same. Not going to happen to me, or so I thought. With several riders ahead of me on a fairly wide trail about 2 horse's wide, I was talking to someone else about the fires that have devastated the West and how the smoke from Montana fires are blowing into Northern Colorado, when my wife calls out "Snake,'re on top of him!" I goosed my horse into an immediate lope departure for a few strides then turned to look back. Sure enough, a Prairie Rattler was slithering away then coiling to face us. My wife thought my horse's immediate jump into a lope indicated he was bitten, but thankfully not so. And doubly thankful so as our lope departure was not particular well executed.

My wife later said that it looked like my horse's back foot either stepped on or just over the snake and flip him over as we moved forward. Again, thankfully not bit. So I checked the other riders position, gave them a warning and shot the snake with a .45 Long Colt Snakeshot round. Killing rattlesnakes puts me at odds with my wife when it is off our property or they are not an immediate danger to someone. It gives me no pleasure to kill anything, but many riders use these trails and bring their dogs with them, so I did what I did.

Venomous snake bites can kill a horse depending upon the type of snake, amount of venom injected, and health of the horse, but will certainly cause pain, likely swelling and will require immediate Veterinarian treatment which may include cleaning and caring or the wound, pain meds, a tetanus booster, anti biotics and even anti-venom. Horse's are often bit on the nose as they try to investigate the small creature in front of them. As horse's breathe through their nose, the usual swelling from a bite on the nose can occlude their airway so it is vitally important that the airway is maintained. If you get and your Vet get your horse through a snake bite, you will likely face complications down the road which you'll have to treat symptomatically. Hope you don't experience that. Hope I don't either so I be doubly careful from now on, hope you are too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Results of the 2018 Red Bird Ranch-Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge

We concluded our 3rd Annual Red Bird Ranch- Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge this last weekend, seeing 28 entries and around 40 spectators to watch riders and horse compete in five divisions.

Competitors in the Stockhorse Division were required to demonstrate trotting in circles and straight lines, also doubling against the fence like boxing a cow; putting on a slicker; opening and closing a gate; roping a static calf dummy; dragging a short log;  backing your horse from the ground like you would when you reposition a heel loop on a calf, then asking your horse to back to put tautness back in to the rope.

The Open, Intermediate and Novice divisions had to negotiate various obstacles or complete maneuvers on horseback, at different levels of competency, including weaving through narrow upright poles; riding through pool noodles; weaving around ground cones; two track one direction then the other; opening and closing a gate; demonstrating gait transitions then a halt; backing straight or in a L shaped fashion; turning on the fore end and also demonstrating a turn on the haunches; circling in a small box; and the straight or L shaped side pass.

The 1st through third place Division winners were:

Stockhorse Division: 1 - Trudy Kremer; 2 - Luanne Santiago; 3- Lewis Martin
Open Division: 1 - Robin Lackey; 2 - Luanne Santiago; 3 - Gena Blankenship
Intermediate Division: 1 - Sharon Smith; 2 - Marianne Bailey; 3 - Jessica Bailey
Novice Division: 1 - Luanne Santiago; 2 - Mark Schleicher; 3 - Vicki Hall
Youth Division: 1 - Jenna Mendez; 2 - Caitlyn Hinkle; 3 - Teagan Arthur

A tradition we have is to present forged hoof picks made by Diamond Bar V Horsehoeing out of Silver City, New Mexico to competitors who stood out in the judges minds, not necessarily for how well they rode or what place they attained, but it could have been for a positive attitude, controlling a spooking horse or maybe just demonstrating good horsemanship when a horse refused an obstacle. The Judges Picks were: Gena Blankenship, Jessica Dixon and Teagan Arthur.

For this year's Arena Obstacle Challenge we invited artists to display their work including painting of horses and landscapes, iron art and other craft type work. Artists displaying work included: Pat McDermott, Susan Guile, Jane Vance, Greg Brown and Charlie Walker.

We also invited vendors in to display their products for sale and these included: Claudia Lukason of The Edge Canine & Equine Solutions representing Midcontinent Livestock Supplements - Clarify and Mineral Plus lick tubs; Sylvia from Tierra Mia Organics, maker of Goat Milk soaps and lotions; and, Charlie Walker of Walker Ironworks and Arts.

Every competitor from 1st through 8th place received a trip to the prize table, thanks to our great supporters, most garnering merchandise equal to or greater than their entry fees. A portion of the entry fees went to a local horse rescue as usual - Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, who also provided several competitors. A list of our biggest sponsors and supporters included: Tractor Supply Company - Hwy 20, El Paso; Cashel Company; Hoof Wraps; Webb Feed -Socorro Texas; Eclectic Horseman Magazine (who publishes the best horse magazine available); Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing - Silver City, New Mexico;

And lastly we had a raffle of donated items wit hall the proceeds going to the above named horse rescue.