Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to Everyone. I hope that 2019 grants you all success with your horses and other pursuits. I have high hopes for the coming year and I wanted to share two things that underscore the promise of a new year.

First was a quote that a really nice lady sent me and it goes like this - "January 1st is the first blank page of a 365 day book. Make sure you write a good story."

And second was reading a story from World War II that I had not previously heard of.

This little known bit of history at the very end of World War II was Operation Cowboy, where American soldiers partnering with their current enemy, German Soldiers, and including several nationalities of recently liberated allied prisoners of war, AND, with the help of anti-Communist Russian Cossacks, all  joined forces to fight out-numbered against German Waffen SS troops in order to save stolen Lipizzaner horses before the arrival of the Soviet Army who would certainly kill the Lipizzaner foals and press the mares and Stallions into service hauling wagons or pack loads. Who knows, some may have been eaten by the notoriously under fed Russians conscripts.

Author Mark Felton wrote a book on this titled "Ghost Riders: When US and German Soldiers Fought Together to Save the World's Most Beautiful Horses in the Last Days of World War II."

Again, all this occurred in the very last days of World War II where American soldiers and the liberated POW's all could have played it safe, but when faced with the savagery of what would happen to the famed horses and the fact that the German unit guarding the Lipizzaner's surrendered to the Americans just to have a chance to save the horses,..well, you have an epic story.

General George Patton authorized the mission, himself a horseman, utilizing a Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron basically equipped with gun jeeps, trucks and a few supporting light tanks.  Many of the men were not new to horses and some had served in horse cavalry units, and all saw that risking their lives to save the white Lipizzaner horses, who are among the purest bred and highest trained horses in on the planet, was the right thing to do. In the end, during these very last days of April 1945, this unlikely joint force rode, drove and trucked the Lipizzaner's to safety. They were eventual returned to back where they originally came from, the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Comments on Loading a Horse Using a Butt Rope

I have received a few e-mails and comments on a previous article I did about loading a horse into the trailer using a butt rope. So I reckon I need to clarify some things. First, using a butt rope has specific applications and is not intended to be a everyday trailer loading method. It is basically a last ditch method. It should not be used as a short cut. I hesitated even writing about it as I did not want someone to think it would be easier to train a horse to load that way.

When I was a Range Rider, there were a few situations where I had to unload and load a horse from a narrow road with a steep incline on one side and a sharp decline on the other. This situation did not lend itself to anything other than leading or sending the horse straight into the trailer. The terrain simply did not lend itself for re-training a horse to load. The fact that I was up in rough country meant that I had a well broke horse but after a trailer ride on rough dirt roads and trails, to get me close enough for work on horseback, would make some horses think twice before loading for a repeat ride. So yes, I have used a butt rope a couple times in situations like this.

I have hauled horses for other law enforcement or rescue organizations with confiscation orders, and a few times it was just safer to load an unsafe horse using a butt rope and not to loiter around the premises. I never liked confiscating people's livestock, but I got over it when faced with a horse in body score 1 or 2, or calves that were nothing but bones and skin. There may also be an alike situation when you may be evacuating horses from a natural disaster such as a wildlands fire or a incoming hurricane, and time is a factor. One time I loaded a less than friendly bull using a butt rope - it was just the safest way to get it done.

Years ago when I ran a large public stables one of the boarders was trying to load a horse to take to a roping. He kept at it for an hour or so, until my wife who was looking on for the sake of the horse couldn't stand it anymore, took over and got the horse to step in and load in about 2 minutes. Which in hindsight was probably not the thing to do as the next morning someone told me that I should look at the horse that was took to rope off of. I found that horse in his pen with rope burns on his back legs as these boys tried to use a butt rope to get the horse to re-load after roping. This is an example of someone who had no business trying to use a butt rope to load a horse.

The basic technique of using a buttrope is to secure one end of the rope on side or end of the trailer with the handler holding the free running end, then leading the horse over the butt rope, then picking it up off the ground and uses the rope laying across the horse's butt to provide some pressure to get the horse to move forward into the trailer. This takes awareness and can be dangerous as the handler has the lead rope in one hand and the buttrope in the other hand. It's easy to get the rope underneath the horse's tail. If this happens the horse will clamp down on the rope and back up quickly and it cause some rope burns. In fact, some trailer's don't really allow a butt rope to be used very well and others may force the handler to be leading the horse on the off side. The bottom line on using a buttrope to load a horse is that it is a technique for your toolbag, but not one that most people will ever use and should never use. Your timing on pressure, and releasing that pressure has to be accurate. I would caution people not to try this method unless they are trained by an experienced hand in person, and then only when they will likely have a specific need such as wildlands fire evacuations of livestock. Please don't do this just to do it. It's like laying a horse down. Don't do it just to do it. You have to have a good reason, some skill and the purpose to help the horse.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Changing Feeding Routines for Older Horses

I try not to give too narrow of advice about feeding horses as there are just too many factors to consider. There are cases were something needs to change and this usually pertains to the amount of feed a horse is getting - much too little, or too much. Over the years, with my horses and managing a public barn for 6 years where we had an average of 40 horses, I saw just about every problem you could think of concerning feeding programs. When I was running that barn I contracted for a Equine nutrition doctoral student at nearby New Mexico State University to some in and give a seminar on nutritional requirements and developing a sound feeding program based on the individual horse. He too was careful not to give too narrow of advice, but he succeeded in reducing the incidences of colic and founder. Perhaps the best advice he did give was routine dental exams on all horses, especially the older horses.

Horses have individual needs based on their age, health, condition of teeth, and activity so those needs to be taken into consideration in their feeding program. And older horses can have rapidly changing conditions and nutritional requirements. Long ago, we started feeding a mix of alfalfa and grass hays. Some horse's get 70% alfalfa and 30% grass (in weight) and others the reverse ratio. Horse's generally don't need that high of a protein content that comes with alfalfa, and the grass helps balance out the minerals. So the horse I am describing below, Charlie, was getting about 6 lbs of alfalfa and 14 pounds of grass (Bermuda) each day.

Charlie is a big stout Quarterhorse type, 15.1 hands and around 1,300 lbs. In the picture above right, he is the sorrel horse with the white socks and one stocking. Although the young man I bought him from couldn't produce papers, Charlie came from substantially good breeding and had really good feet. Despite my advice to this young man, Charlie was on a straight alfalfa hay diet, also receiving one large coffee can of dry wheat bran on odd numbered days and a large coffee can of Strategy pelleted feed on even numbered days - see? I told you I have seen quite a bit of different, if not odd feeding programs. This young man never succeeded in being able to load him to take him to any ropings, which he had his Pa send Charlie to him for. He never asked me for help nor did I I kinda liked that horse.

Eventually this young man approached me about buying Charlie. He started asking $2,700 and ended over a few days settling for $800. He tried to pass Charlie off as an 11-12 year old, but I could tell he was near to 20. But knowing how resilient that horse was by surviving the odd feeding program and his obvious excellent conformation and good nature, I bought him for my wife.

Fast forward 12 years later, Charlie is near to 30 years old. My wife rides him often and even rode him in a Randy Rieman clinic where Randy called Charlie the Old Campaigner. He is animated as ever, especially at feeding time, trotting around with is head shaking wanting you to hurry up with the feed, but never aggressive or disrespectful when you are in his pen with the feed.

Lately Charlie would drop bolts of partially chewed hay and his manure was pretty loose as his gut absorbed more water trying to move the bigger pieces of lesser chewed hay through his system. We feed in huge box feeders, but it doesn't stop Charlie from throwing his feed out onto the ground most of the time. Thinking that the symptoms were a result of ingesting too much sand, I just upped the interval on him getting Sand Clear. Half the time this would clear up his less than formed manure. But the years have taken their toll. Despite dental exams and teeth floating every 12 months his molars are worn down where he can't masticate the longer stemmed hay anymore which causes some distress in his gut and sometimes, colic type symptoms. In the last couple months we changed his feed where more than half his grass hay needs are received using Standlee Timothy grass pellets soaked pretty good in warm to hot water to avoid so much of the long stemmed hay that he has a hard time chewing. We had other older horses but none of them had the problem with the longer stemmed forage that Charlie had, so this was a new problem for us.

Since we made the feeding change, Charlie's manure is well formed and moist. He has lost just a little weight, which he needed to do anyway, and his energy level is much higher. He gets about 3 lbs of alfalfa in the morning, along with 5 lbs (dry weight) of soaked Standlee Timothy grass pellets. Around noon he gets about 6 lbs of mixed Bermuda and Timothy grass. In the evening he gets about 3 more lbs of alfalfa, following by another 5 more lbs (dry weight) of soaked Standlee Timothy grass pellets and his Glucosamine supplement.

So really the whole purpose of this article is to pass on a lesson learned or maybe just a reminder that older horses can have rapidly changing conditions and needs, including routine or even a shorter interval for dental exams. And never having been a big proponent for pelleted feeds being a large part of my horses diet, I am very much pleased with the quality of the Standlee products. They make a wide variety of products from compressed bales of alfalfa and timothy hays; pelleted and cubed timothy and alfalfa-timothy blends; and much more. Plus their web site offers a ton of good information on equine nutrition which we all could benefit from.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Passing of Margaret Dorrance

It was sad to hear of the passing of Margaret Dorrance, 16 October 2018, wife of Tom Dorrance who we revere as the founder of the "Natural Horsemanship" movement.

Tom preceded Margaret, passing in June 2003, but not before he and his brother Bill Dorrance brought forth their observations and lessons on communicating and working with horses that will live on through the ages through their mentoring of people whose names are fixtures in modern day horsemanship like Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert and many, many others. They simply show us the way, and Margaret was a steadfast fixture in this movement, managing Tom's legacy until the end. Now they are united in Heaven, where we hope God saw fit to include horses as well.

Both Tom and Bill Dorrance has several products, DVD's and books, still available. These are available from Eclectic Horseman. Perhaps the best lesson you'll get from their knowledge is just how big of holes you have in yours - that way for me anyway.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Results of the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge

We have concluded the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge which saw another rise in the level of  competition, both numbers of riders and skill demonstrated, with 43 entries who competed over 6 different divisions.

Trotting circles and squares; negotiating hairpin turns around upright roles; transitions at different gaits; turning with forward momentum in an 8 foot turn around box; doing roll backs; turns on the hocks; side passes; backing straight or in a "L fashion; backing a circle; opening a gate; throwing head and heel shots on a dummy; dragging a heavy log; pulling a bag of cans; passing through a cowboy curtain; retrieving a tennis ball and placing it on a traffic cone; demonstrating backing your horse from the ground; and ground tying your horse and walking away were most of the obstacles each rider and horse had to perform.

Photo at left  - Mark Schleicher closing the gate.

The winners of the 2018 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Obstacle Challenge, their home state and point total are as follows:

Stockhorse Division
1st - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 423; 2nd - Don Carpenter (TX) 415; 3rd - Mark Schleicher (CO) 399; 4th - Linda Seeds (TX) 392; 5th - Trudy Kremer (CO) 372; 6th - Laurie Esparza (TX) 370.

Open Division
1st - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 557; 2nd - Kit Tielker (NM) 539; 3rd - Laurie Esparza (TX) 516; 4th - Trudy Kremer (CO) 504.

Intermediate Division
1st - April Salazar (TX) 565; 2nd - Mark Schleicher (CO) 559; 3rd - LuAnne Santiago (TX) 521; 4th - Marianne Bailey (NM) 515; 5th - Gena Blankenship (NM) 498; 6th - Jessica Bailey (NM) 489.

Novice Division
1st - Angelina Joseph (TX) 492; 2nd - Nikol Endres (TX) 475; 3rd - Rachel Meza (TX) 461; 4th - Melisa Gardea (NM) 422; 5th - Angela Beltran-Flores (TX) 407; 6th - Imara Jackson (TX) 364.

Youth 13-16 years old
1st - Paige Arthur (TX) 330; 2nd - Abigail Hinkle (TX) 328; 3rd - Glaive Arthur (TX) 307.

Youth 12 and under
1st - Viviana Garza (NM) 421; 2nd - Izabel Garza (NM) 413; 3rd - Marius Herbin (NM) 411; 4th - Lilliana Garza (NM) 373; 5th - Teagan Arthur (TX) 366; 6th - Calysha Jackson (TX) 240.

The Horsemanship Award awarded to the rider and horse who best exemplified unity between horse and rider, and voted on by competitors and the judges, was awarded to Linda Seeds. She could have been giving clinics on doing roll backs along the fence she was that good riding her mare Annie in rommel reins. Linda also makes tack and repairs saddles and tack. She made several braided para-cord reins for bridles and also a beautiful set of spur straps for the prize table. The photo at right is Linda starting to transition from the trot to a stop before she executes a roll back along the fence.

Special mentions:

Don Carpenter impressed everyone with his flawless and quick gate opening and closing, then throwing a heel scoop loop - rapidly recoiling his rope - then throwing a head shot on the roping dummy. He followed that with an impressive log drag where his horse collected up nicely and pulled with his back end in a textbook fashion. It was nice to see that. Although there are rumors that his daughter Debby Hale named the roping dummy after one of the judges - I'm still trying to track that down.

Jessica Dixon entered with an Arabian mare who was kicked two days before the competition and still had a hematoma on her belly which precluded a cinch. So she rode bareback and impressed everyone.

The Gardea-Garza family, with three young girls competing, has to be mentioned for raising the absolutely most polite children in the world, and they can ride too - Viviana won her division. That's a photo pf her at the top of this article.

Imara Jackson, who at 17 years old, rode with the adults and just performed well taking 6th place in Novice division. That's Imara in the photo at right performing a turn around with forward momentum in the 8 foot around box. Jessica Bailey needs to be mentioned as she took 6th in Intermediate and also competed in Stockhorse on Harri, a Gypsy Vanner horse.

One of the big draws to this competition is the lunch that is provided after awards, although it was closer to supper time by the time the competition ended. Street tacos, rice, beans, chile verde queso, deserts and a special treat as Rita and Tanya Benally came down from the Navajo Nation to make Indian fry bread. My wife Susan, the ramrodded the feeding efforts, also told me that we went through almost 300 bottles of water and several gallons of ice tea and orange juice.

Photo at right is LuAnne Santiago who cleaned up with first place finishes in both Stockhorse and Open.

The prize table was the biggest we've had with over $3,000 of prizes going to the competitors. The Cashel Company by far provided the largest donation with some exceptional headstalls, reins, sports boots, fly masks and other items. Other supporting companies included Tractor Supply Company on TX Hwy 20; Hoof Wraps; Eclectic Horseman; and, Diamond Bar V Horseshoeing. We finished the day with a raffle that supported Perfect Harmony Horse Sanctuary and Rescue. We raffled off a framed Karmel Timmons print which was won by Cindy Lang of Cashel Company which was appropriate due to their support. Charlie Walker Iron Artworks and local artist Marta Nelce donated items for the raffle as well.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we could not have held the event without Chief Judge Vicky Maly of VCM Equine Management presiding over the judging.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Secret about Horsemanship Clinics

Years ago I was talked into attending a reining clinic - they needed one more person to attend to make the minimum number of paying riders. When the clinician showed up he asked everyone want they wanted to work on. I laughed because I knew him and knew that we would be doing whatever he thought would benefit the majority of riders. It didn't matter what each rider wanted to do, or thought they needed to get better at. The next few hours was basically solving problems - correcting fundamentals we were doing badly, which in turn prevented each rider from accomplishing what they wanted.

I often get asked if I can run a Horsemanship 101 clinic or an Obstacle clinic or even asked for a list of what type of clinics I could do for a group. Rather than ask the obvious question of "what is your definition of horsemanship 101 or an Obstacle clinic?", I mostly answer that I don't do clinics or ride horses for the public for a living, but if I was to work with you or your group, and you needed a title for the day, then call it Problem Solving.

I think all clinics are problem solving. My apologies to the exceptional clinicians making a living conducting clinics who have titles for the various clinics they do. I don't have enough time left on this earth to gain the level of skill of this long list of horsemen and women, but I just can't help but think what they do is problem solving regardless of course titles.

If a clinician has a group of people riding the perimeter of an arena then stopping and backing, what that clinician is going to end up doing is correcting fundamental mistakes such as seat, balance, leg position and rein management for the stop and the back; getting the horse soft when you ask for vertical flexion; and even providing a release which are all too common issues needing to be addressed. There may be a horse who needs to get unstuck and sometimes a flagging a horse to get some momentum (and reason) to back. Some of the riders may think "what does this have to do with backing a horse", not realizing that backing a horse with his head high puts him off balance and causes the horse to push with his front feet and not get engagement from the back end. I think it all boils down to that there are no secrets to doing something, just the fundamentals executed well.

The same about doing an obstacle clinic. It's not getting a horse sacked out on a ground tarp or approaching a slicker on a fence, or even going through pool noodles. Although it is useful to use an obstacle to work on because the rider can learn to wait on his horse and these are good learning events for a horse - causing him to think. But even if in the course of a clinic you end up with your horse moving through each obstacle willingly, on a loose rein and without a moments hesitation, the next thing you face outside of that clinic be it a garbage can, a flapping bag in the branch of a bush, or even a monkey grinder (if you don't know what this is - google it) will be totally new. What obstacles are all about is you being the leader of the pair. The rider being able to move the horse's feet as needed; the horse being soft; the rider learning to wait on the horse, and the horse learning to think before reacting. These are the likely problems many riders have. They have to be addressed, not only for going through obstacles but to advance in anything you do on a horse's back.

I recently ran an "obstacle clinic" for 6 adults and 5 youths. I'm sure they did not get what they expected when I had them work on vertical and lateral flexion, moving the front end independently of the back, and the back end independently of the front end which all leads to being able to control the horse's barrel and move the horse laterally for a side pass or to two track (lateral movement with forward momentum) - something horse's just don't do on their own. Hopefully, I demonstrated that these basics are all necessary to be able to position up on an obstacle; making balanced turns; correcting backing when you get off angle or even intentionally backing with an angle or arc. Some of the time was spent correcting rein management - too tight of outside rein in a turn causing the horse's momentum to slow or stop; relying totally on the reins and not using leg cues; staying in contact with the horse's mouth - not giving any release- where the horse starts moving as he gets anxious. In any event, what we were doing by any other name was problem solving.

Speaking about Problem Solving, Marty Marten has written two excellent volumes on Problem Solving common issues with horses. Eclectic Horseman offers this two volume set for a very reasonable price.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Arena Challenge Charity Raffle

Every year at the Functional Horsemanship-Red Bird Ranch Arena Obstacle Challenge (AOC) we have a raffle to support Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a local 501 (c)3 charity. The highlight item on the raffle table for this year's AOC on 29 September 2018, is a print of a pencil drawing by noted Western artist Karmel Timmons.

The print is approx 11x14 framed to approx 15x18 and is titled "In the Rodear" capturing Buck Brannaman's horse being ridden in the two rein.

Raffle tickets are $2 each. Drawing will be held right after the awards ceremony on the afternoon of 29 September 2018. Need not be present to win.

Text me at 915.204.7995 or e-mail me at if you would like tickets. We do pay pal, credit card or checks. Many of you know the people behind good horse rescues. They often see the worst behavior of human handlers reflected in the condition of horses they receive. They can use any help we can provide.

I will pay for shipping and insurance is the winner is out of town or I otherwise cannot deliver in person.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

MagnaWave Therapy for Horses

Although I have had many forms of alternative medicine and therapy - chiropractor, massage, and ultra sound mainly, it took me awhile to accept these types of therapy for horses.

At my wits end concerning a severe lameness issue on one horse years ago, a chiropractor and a massage therapist resolved this debilitating issue and since then I'm more ears and less mouth when approached with alternative methods to help horses.

The latest new method I was exposed to is called MagnaWave Therapy. Claudia Lukason, a lady who I have known for years and who has decades of experience training and running barrel horses as well as managing her own boarding stables, told me about her therapy business treating horses using MagnaWave. Since she has a ton of credibility with me, and the fact that I have learned that my ignorance is generally a weakness, I consented to her offer to first come out and see one of my horses who has the occasional problem of falling out on the back end.

So Claudia comes come, gets out of her truck and from 40 yards away say's "I can see one isue with him right now where his back on the left side ties into his hip." This was an area I thought he may be having problems with, but I've been riding him for 13 years, and she just saw him for the first time. She went around him using her hands to manipulate several points where the horse had discomfort and said he would likely benefit from MagnaWave, so we set the next weekend for a session.

Come next weekend, Claudia shows up and sets up her machine which transmits pulsed energy, through what looks like garden hoses, generating an pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) which are designed to energize the cells, increase cellular metabolism of the body and stimulate the body’s own natural healing process through increases of oxygen in the blood, which allows for quicker recovery and less inflammation.

Since the electromagnetic pulses coming out of the hose type tubing can be uncomfortable if on high levels, the therapist has to be able to read the horse in order to know when the pulse is too much or not enough. That may be a misnomer saying that the pulse could be not enough. From what I understand, the lower pulse settings just require a longer session. In any event, when you see a horse with his head down, drooling and lip quivering, something good is going on.

A few days later when I rode this horse, he trotted easier and loped without falling out on his back end like he previously did before. Since then I had had a repeat session on him and plan on having a few more. The misperception on alternative therapies like MagnaWave or massage therapy is that you have to do it for the rest of your life. This is not true, treatment is often culmaltive, each session building on the previous one to produce longer lasting effects.

Claudia discovered MagnaWave after being injured time and time again, with multiple surgeries, and one of her barrel racing friends treated her with positive results. I had the MagnaWave therapy on myself with the same positive or even better results that I have received with massage therapy, Chiropractor adjustment or pain meds. She also treats dogs. My friend's heelers are happy that she does!

If you think this is something that may help your horse, you can go to the MagnaWave website, and look for the "Find a Treatment" tab a the bottom, or call Claudia if you are in the West Texas- Southern New Mexico area.

Claudia Lukason, The Edge Canine and Equine Solutions
(915) 487-7231

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hammonds Pardoned by President Trump

President Trump, on yesterday 10 July, issued full pardons to Dwight Hammond Jr and his son Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment strained already low confidence in how some Federal land management agencies treat some ranchers bordering federal land or have grazing permits for federal land. I have served as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer for a Land Management based agency and am ashamed at how some ranchers are treated by Federal agencies and their law enforcement arm, but this is not across the board. Some ranchers have good relationship, even partnerships in land stewardship with their Federal counterparts. Sadly, this was not the case in Harney County, Oregon.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 on charges of arson, after federal prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires (one in 2001 and one in 2006) that spread to government-managed land bordering their ranch, which they purchased in 1964. The Hammonds’ case was controversial for many reasons. First, the Hammonds were convicted under an antiterrorism act which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. This was a fire caveat in the anti-terrorism act intended for intentional acts of sabotage or arson from eco-terrorists or political-religious terrorists intent on destroying infrastructure or human life.

The fire in 2001, was an intentional prescribed fire, used to burn off invasive species of vegetation and otherwise increase the post fire growing of good grazing grass. The fire set on Hammond property, got away from Steve Hammond and burned around 120 acres of Federal land. Hammond made the necessary pre-burn notices and the Hammonds were able to put the fire out themselves. The fire in 2006, was due to a lightening caused fire moving across Federal land towards the Hammonds Ranch. The Hammond started a backfire on their property that was successful in putting out the lightning fire that had already covered thousands of acres within a short time. The Hammonds backfire saved much of their property and grassland needed for their cattle. This backfire however burned approximate one acre of Federal land.

Second, the federal prosecution of the Hammonds followed decades of harassment by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) where these agencies, one of the other, filed false charges leading to the arrests of the Hammonds 20 years earlier; blocked state roads to keep the Hammonds from accessing parts of their ranch; built fences to keep Hammond cattle from water; conducting searches of the Hammonds property and home; and, further filing false charges with local law enforcement against the Hammonds. The intent of the harassment was pretty much apparent as those Federal Agencies has bought up other local ranches and needed the Hammonds Ranch (who refused to sell) in order to expand the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Manager for the local field office of the BLM was a woman named Rhonda Karges. The Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was Chad Karges - this was a husband and wife team. The Malheur Wildlife Refuge is a horseshoe shape around the Hammonds Ranch. Converting the Hammond's ranch, with it's coveted water source, to a cohesive refuge property was the objective.

Thirdly, while convicted of charges in 2012 and serving time in jail - Dwight Hammond served a three-month sentence while his son Steven served a year in jail - the US Department of Justice challenged the sentences which were shorter than the mandatory minimum, and a Federal Judge resentenced the Hammonds forcing them back to prison to complete five-year terms.

Anyway, good on President Trump for partially righting this wrong. Dwight Hammond is around 76 years old having served 3 years in prison and son Steven is close to 50, and served around 4 years in prison. I'm sure they are happy about the pardons and freedom, but they'll never get that time back nor the $400,000 they paid to settle a civil suit brought on by the Justice Department.

If you read this story elsewhere, where writers link the injustice to the Hammonds with the Ammon Bundy led occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Center, just be aware that the Hammonds did not ask for nor condone for supporters to occupy the Wildlife Refuge center which led to a stand off with local, state and Federal Law Enforcement that included the controversial shooting death of Levoy Finicum, a refuge occupier, by Federal agents.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th Independence Day

Much like many other American holidays, culture, tradition and practices have somewhat dulled the original meaning of what we celebrate. Today we celebrate the 242nd birthday of this Nation - when the thirteen colonies united to declare independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy and to stand for a God given right to self rule.

Like any rebellion, the roots began much earlier, decades earlier in our case, with the British Government looking at the Colonies as a source of revenue, and without allowing representation from the Colonialists, began to unfairly tax the colonies. The Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), the Quartering Act (1765), the Revenue Act (1766), the Townshend Acts (1767), and, the Tea Act (1773) all increasingly fanned the flames of that familiar phrase - "taxation without representation". The writers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights disliked the Quartering Act so much that they ensured through the Third Amendment that "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party, comprised of colonial men dressed like Mohawk Indians, boarded the tea laden ships from England that arrived in Boston Harbor, and threw over 300 chests of tea into the bay. Great Britain responded with the Coercive Acts (1774) and additionally, beginning in Massachusetts, which was pretty much the center of gravity for the rebellion, restricted community meetings in a measure to curb a quelling rebellion.

England appointed the Commander of British Forces in the colonies, Army General Thomas Gage, as Governor of Massachusetts. Through 1774, the idea of a Continental Congress was conceived and in September the First Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia. Though this first Congress debated many solutions to the tyranny of British rule, this first Congress ended up with a petition to King George III for a redress of grievances, which had no effect but to birth a Second Continental Congress in 1775.

What happened between the first and second Continental Congress' was, of course, the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts), where on April 19th, the British Army units moved to seized Colonial military supplies to prevent means for an active armed rebellion, and to arrest the burgeoning rebellion's leaders. The British were initially successful in driving away the armed Colonials, but took a toll in casualties as they were driven back to Boston by a mounting number of Colonialists called to arms, then shortly Boston became surrounded by a Colonial militia force.....and the armed American Revolution began. The will and means to resist tyranny and the British attempts to seize firearms so prompted the Founders evident in their writings of the Second Amendment - "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Throughout the founding and settlement of the Colonies, militias were formed for mutual defense, initially against hostile Indians. This began the tradition of the American Citizen-Soldier. One of my favorite stories is of the Culpeper Minutemen of central Virginia, which was basically the frontier in those days, who formed a unit under the famous white 'Culpeper Minutemen - Liberty or Death - Don't Tread on Me' flag, and in late 1775 began the fight for independence by marching to the east coast to engage the British attempting to land troops. The rifle marksmanship of the Culpeper Minutemen stopped the British attempt, continuing the already well known reputation of the marksman ability of American Frontiersmen.

The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration proclaimed that the former Thirteen Colonies then at war with Great Britain were now a sovereign, independent nation and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. By signing the declaration, these 56 Americans pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor - it was no idle pledge.

Nine signers died of wounds during the revolutionary war; five were captured or imprisoned; wives and children in some cases were jailed, killed or left penniless. Twelve signers houses were burned to the ground; seventen lost everything they owned. No signer defected, despite intense pressure to do so, their honor like their new nation remained intact. Future presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among the signatories.

So when you celebrate the 4th of July take a minute and reflect on what it took to give us this holiday. It took the will and sacrifice of men better than us.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Warming Up a Horse Before you Ride?

I recently went back and forth on e-mail with a friend of mine living up North who attended a horsemanship clinic where she was lunging her horse on a lead line and the clinician brought that up to the group as an example saying "you shouldn't need to warm a horse up before you ride him." My friend thought what the clinician said wasn't necessarily true all the time and wanted my opinion, and this is pretty much what we discussed.

I hope that what the clinician wanted to convey was that you are not going to get bad behavior out of a horse just by lunging him before you ride him. The old saying that you can't get the buck out of a horse by lunging him beforehand is pretty much true. But then again there certainly are cold backed horses who can wind down mentally by lunging, checking on the extent he's with you, and otherwise benefit by warming him up before you ride.

For the last several years, I seldom leave my house without a cup of coffee and going through a stretching routine. It makes walking and climbing onto a horse less painful. I think it may be the same for an older horse - get him moving without a load on (a rider in the saddle) so he can get the blood circulating, warming the muscles up and getting the joints to move more freer, making it easier for him to carry a load. If you wouldn't saddle a horse then immediately gallop him for fear of injury, why wouldn't you warm him up first before mounting?

So what are you really doing when lunging a horse before you ride him? For one thing, you are moving his feet at your direction re-establishing that leader to horse relationship, especially through changing directions. Moving the horse also lets you look at his gait to detect any problems and gets the muscles warmed up, reducing chances of injury. A couple days ago I was preparing to ride with my wife and I asked her to look at my horse's rear left fetlock because it looks just a bit swollen to me, she concurred, so I palpitated it getting no reaction from my horse such as a flinch or tail swishing, so I lead him forward at a trot to see if he was giving to it, and he wasn't, so after I mounted, I walked him for over a mile before I dismounted stretched him out, made sure he was good, then mounted again and felt better about it when I asked him to trot and lope. So again I ask, why wouldn't you warm him up?

In fact, once I mount a horse, unless I'm in a hurry to catch the Ice Cream truck before he leaves the area, I'll also do what I describe as a pre-ride check. Ask my horse to get soft and give me vertical and lateral flexion; back up; move the front end over independently from the back end and vice versa. It's like saying "Okay, it's time for business, just checking to make sure you're with me."

At my age now, I'm never going to get someone to cajole or harass me into riding a horse that I don't think I can likely get a safe ride out of - for him or me. And, I suggest that if you think you and your horse would benefit from warming up, whether it's on a lead or lunge line, or doing something else, by all means do it. No matter what a visiting clinician or anybody else thinks. Because after they leave, it's going to be just you and your horse.

Monday, June 25, 2018

142nd Anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, began 142 years ago, as Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, almost completely annihilated the U.S. 7th Cavalry under Lt Col George Armstrong Custer. Almost 270 of Custer's command of 700 men were killed with another 55 wounded on June 25th 1876. Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota Sioux foretold the victory in his visions, which inspired the Indians to an overwhelming victory in this battle which became known as "Custer's Last Stand", and called the Battle of Greasy Grass by the Native Americans.

Custer's scouts found the village of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho on the morning of 25 June 1876 but failed to convince Custer of the size and scope of the Indian encampment. Fearing discovery, Custer decided to not wait on the arrival of another column of U.S. Cavalry and Infantry, under Generals Terry's and Gibbon, and divided his forces into 3 separate elements. Custer took 5 companies of Calvary in an attempt to swing around to the rear of the Indian camp to cut off their presumed escape, while 3 companies under Major Marcus Reno attacked the mouth of the camp from the East. Upon seeing the beginnings of the camp, Major Reno reportedly stopped his assault and formed a skirmish line. When attacked by a large Indian force, Reno forces executed a disorderly withdrawal to a position where he was joined by Captain Frederick Benteen and the remaining 3 companies of the 7th Cavalry.

Lt Col Custer force of 210 men were eventually pinned down on a hill, which became known as Custer's Hill and alternatively as Last Stand Hill, where mounting Indian forces eventually overran Custer's remaining forces killing all. Accounts from Indian warriors indicated that Custer's companies were completely routed within an hour. The Indian warriors then concentrated on Major Reno and Captain's Benteen's companies through out the rest of the day and into the 26th of June until withdrawing after their scouts reported the advancing columns under Generals Terry and Gibbon who arrived on the morning of 27 June.

Without a doubt, the best book I have read on this battle was "The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and The Battle of The Little Bighorn" written by Nathaniel Philbrick, and published by Viking Press in 2010. One of the first books I read on Custer's Last Stand was a book, my Pa gave me when I was around 8 years old, detailed the account of Captain Miles Keogh's horse Comanche, labeled as the only survivor of Custer's companies. Comanche was wounded, treated, and became the mascot for the 7th Cavalry finally dying in 1891. There were likely other horses who survived as well, but only to be captured by the victorious native's. Comanche was stuffed and still remains on display in a environmentally controlled display case at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Another sad, but interesting fact was when the bodies of the fallen men and horses from Major Reno's initial attack were recovered, a clean of arc of dirt was apparent around the heads and necks of many of the wounded horse's as they lay dying from wounds but continued to graze the ground clean.

If you are traveling on Interstate 90 east of Billings, Montana it would be worth your time to stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, walk some of the terrain and read the memorials on the Native Americans and Cavalrymen who died that day.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

4th Annual Arena Obstacle Challenge - 29 September 2018

The annual Arena Obstacle Challenge, our 4th Annual Functional Horsemanship - Red Bird Ranch AOC, is scheduled for Saturday 29 September 2018. This years format will be the same as last years with five competitive Divisions - Stockhorse, Open, Intermediate, Novice and Youth (15 years and younger).

The Stockhorse Divison will require throwing at least two loops on static roping dummies and performing other tasks you would normally expect to encounter while working on horseback. Each Division can expect 12-14 Obstacles or tasks.

The Open Division is likely be just a bit more difficult this year, while the Intermediate and Novice difficulty levels will remain essentially the same. If you have ridden in one of my events, then you will know that many of the obstacles or tasks are basic horsemanship tasks and not necessarily riding your horse through carnival type obstacles.

The AOC will be followed by a lunch, awards and prizes. We will have some vendors displaying products as well as a equine Therapist providing equine massage, magna-wave PEMF and Equi-Vibe plate therapy.


08:00 am - Rider Check In – Will need to present current negative Coggins or Health Certificate
08:45 am - Rider's Briefing/Course Walk Through
09.00 am - First Rider competes in the Arena
12:45 pm - Lunch, Awards and Prizes
2:00 pm - Arena Open for Obstacle Schooling

I will put up a link on he right hand side in the near future. But for now, if you questions? Shoot me an e-mail:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Arena Patterns - The Basic Square

Leslie asked about some ideas for Arena Patterns and I e-mailed her back saying that I really think given her imagination combined with what she thinks may help your horse, she could develop several patterns and drills, but I think that way of thinking will bring her back to the basics with her horse.  What I have set up in my arena presently is just four traffic cones set up into a 40 foot square. I favor using props to set up patterns that give you many different options. 

I recently finished  giving a clinic on preparing your horse for an Arena Obstacle Competition where I encouraged those who attended not to get focused on training on carnival type obstacles, but instead to focus on controlling the four parts of the horse through basic maneuvers.  Some of you immediately are taking issue with my "four parts of the horse" statement, believing that the head and neck are separate parts, combined with the front end, the barrel and the back end - making it five parts of the horse.  And I am aware that my betters think differently, but in my experience, anything the head does effects the neck, and vice versa -  I just don't think you can move the head independently of the neck, nor the neck independently of the head.  I'll post an article in the near future on this.  

Back to the Basic Square. I can get straight lines out of the sides of the square and bending out of the corners. I can ask a horse for softness in the straight lines, even a stop, back then forward movement again. I can use the corners to do 180, 270 or 360 degree circles - the 270 degree circles would be when you cross the diagonal. And sometimes, I'll add a stop, move the hindquarter 180 degrees, maybe a back up a few steps, then move the front end over 180 degrees facing the original direction of travel. So really what you can do is limited by your imagination.  Having a pattern, and it's really just a guide,  helps you focus, but a key to using it effectively would include be able to change up how you use it to keep your hose lively.    

Figure 1. Using the square just to get the horse travel in a straight line, then bending around the corners. Variations could be: squaring off your corners; stopping and/or stopping with an immediate back up (this really helps your stop on your horse); or, leg yield to push the horse over to an inside line of travel;

Figure 2. Making a circles around a traffic cone the traveling across the diagonal.

Figure 3. Making complete circles around each corner cone. A variation would be to make a 180 degree forward circle, stop then back in 180 degree arc facing the original direction of travel then continuing.

Figure 4. On each straight line, stopping and disengaging the backend 180 degrees, backing up 3-4 steps, then bringing the front end over 180 degrees facing the original direction of travel. For the first time, be very deliberate and even slow it down, and maybe even pausing before each separate maneuver.  This will help you horse get pretty handy as you are exercising control all parts of the horse.  

Again, I would consider changing things up to keep your hose from getting dull or anticipating.  example would be if you are doing full circles around each cone then maybe the skip the next cone just to keep your horse honest.  Stopping between the cones and doing a roll back or doubling to the outside is another example of changing things up.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Evolving Feed Programs

I get the occasional e-mail from people with questions on previous articles I've posted on what I fed my horses.  More questions are specifically asking about prevention of sand colic. Katie and BL would be the last two I received - this article is for you.  It is intended to show you want I do.  You would be well advised to work with your Vet on what is going to be best for your horses in your specific area.

A significant portion of horse owners have the benefit (and sometimes the dangers as well) of keeping horses near yearly on pasture. In West Texas and the desert Southwest, putting your horses on pasture is rarely an option. And if you own horses long enough you will see a case or two (or three or ten!) of sand colic.  I saw a lot of it when I ran a large public barn.  And, in my observation, the rates of colic increased when horses were fed straight alfalfa and consumed much of it of the ground.    

Sand colic of course is distress or even an impaction of the gut caused by the digestion of sand. If you want to get concerned about sand colic, goggle the term and look for x-rays and pictures of necropsies showing just how much sand a horse can accumulate in their gut. 

While for centuries, horses grazed off the ground, it has usually been plants and scrub. The tendency of a horse to pickup sand in his feed increases greatly when small alfalfa leaves or grain is dropped onto the ground and the horse cleans up every bit of it. Generally, horses can eat long stemmed forage, such as grasses off the ground without a problem, but feeders, and mats, that will contain the feed of the ground is generally safer.

I used to feed in tubs that were small enough where the horses would pull out their feed and distribute it on the ground, where they would pickup sand while cleaning up. As a preventative step, I used to routinely feed a wheat bran mash, usually mixed with Sand Clear - a pelleted psyllium supplement, to help remove sand from the gut. This also presented it's own issue with horses (some more than others) dropping mouthfuls of the mash onto the ground then cleaning it up digesting more sand. It was only when I went to using large box feeders, where the horses would drop very little feed outside of their feeder, where I could cease the routine feeding of bran mashes.

This is the evolving part of a feeding program for horses. As factors change, so does what and how you feed.  Many factors would influence changing types and amounts of feed- these are just of them:

~ As horses get older their dietary needs will change. We've kept horses rideable into their late twenties and even early thirties by adding judicious amounts senior type feed to ensure these great old horses obtained a healthier amount of vitamins, minerals and pro-biotics their aging bodies need.

~ Teeth issues, causing pain to chew or inability to chew food small enough is a big facto.  Older horses will generally have teeth problems.  And in fact, all horses can have teeth issues so nothing better than an annual exam and floating to eliminate teeth as an issue.  While you are at it, have a conversation with the Vet on what types of feed will benefit the changing health of the horse.

~ Changing sources of alfalfa and grass hay, with changing quality and nutritional value, will also likely move you to change your feedings. we feed a mix of alfalfa and grass hay and that ratio changes as we detect quality changes in the hays. First cut alfalfa, with it's normally rich leafy and higher protein values, direct us to feed less alfalfa and more grass.  While you can normally find a nearby asset to send feed samples to for diagnosis, the horse owner usually develops a feel for the feed quality through sight, touch and smell.
~ Several of our horses receive a periodic dose of pro-biotics and when we change alfalfa sources, all the horses get another dose even though we mix old and new alfalfas for 7-10 days. We also give them an out of cycle dose of Sand Clear as well.

I do routinely use Sand Clear. Some people have commented that it's expensive, but having a Vet respond to a colicing horse is more expensive. Horses are going to be different - some get along just fine without the intervention of added psyllium. I have three horses who get one scoop (5 ounces) of Sand Clear once a week. Nothing indicates that they digest much sand, but Sand Clear isn't just helpful to prevent sand colic, it's helpful to keeping a healthy gut. And two other horses get Sand Clear two to three times week depending upon the condition of their manure.

As a rough 'sand in the gut' check, You can collect five or six balls of manure that haven't touched the ground and put them into a mason jar.  Cover the balls of manure with water; shake the jar up, and let the sand settle to the bottom.  While I have done this dozens of times, I no longer bother to do.  I can usually judge by changes to the horse's manure piles on the ground.  Wet, partially formed manure can indicate sand in the gut. We have been able to keep two of our older horses pretty well balanced this way for years, and actually eliminated the periodic colicing of one of these horses when we first came to us.

My Vet runs a large stables and her practice is that all horses receive Sand Clear once a week. The fact that she recommends it should be good enough for most of her clients. I do still believe wheat bran has a place in the barn. A sloppy wheat bran mash with a bit of molasses (and I usually put in some corn oil) is a good way to get fluids and nutrition into a horse.

So to answer several questions over the past few months, and those from Katie and BL, I obviously recommend Sand Clear.  However, not all psyllium products are the same. I would be hesitant to use psyllium products intended or humans, and would not use any of these products that had artificial sweeteners added to make it palatable to humans. Metamucil for instance contains Aspartame. No human could consume Aspartame, and neither will my horses.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

50 Dead Horses, others found malnourished at Texas Rescue

Another sickening story of horse abuse as authorities in Texas on Tuesday 10 April 2018 discovered 50 dead horses on a self-described ‘sanctuary’ in Canton, Texas, and seized custody of 87 allegedly mistreated animals. “It was just a sea of dead horses,” Victoria Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It was just heartbreaking.”

The allegedly mistreated animals included 70 horses, nine donkeys, six pigs and one longhorn, authorities said. The dead horses were found scattered and decomposing along a creek on the property.

The malnourished horses resorted to eating trees clean of their bark, while the pigs were confined to a single pen without access to food, authorities said. Most of the animals were found roaming the fenced-in property with varying health problems, including overgrown and cracked hooves and open sores.

The agency said it first visited the property on March 3rd, 2018 after receiving a complaint of suspected animal cruelty. Officials then began to work with the owners, educating them on proper animal care and entering into an agreement with them to bring the animals’ conditions up to Texas' health and safety code. Officials didn’t know about the dead horses at that time, the statement said.

SPCA investigators checked on the animals two more times before receiving a second complaint on March 30—this time of more than 50 dead horses on that same property. Police and SPCA officials then worked together to gather evidence and take custody of the animals. A deceased horse was taken so its cause of death could be determined by a necropsy, the statement said. The living animals were examined by a medical staff and will receive care until a custody hearing on April 19.

Shamefully, the owners have not been charged. While I fully understand that some people take in animals with full intent of providing a good, fair life to that animal to a natural death, some people just get in over their heads - their abilities and resources, despite their best intent, are just not up to the task. But there is no excuse for not calling someone for help and continue searching for a solution. But people are people and some are capable of horrendous cruelty. All decent people need to report neglect and abuse; and, law enforcement needs to do their part. Violators should be charged and prosecuted.

Texas Penal Code, Section 42.09 Cruelty to Livestock Animals

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:
(1) tortures a livestock animal;
(2) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, or care for a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(3) abandons unreasonably a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(4) transports or confines a livestock animal in a cruel and unusual manner;
(5) administers poison to a livestock animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner's effective consent;
(6) causes one livestock animal to fight with another livestock animal or with an animal as defined by Section 42.092 (Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals);
(7) uses a live livestock animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack;
(8) trips a horse; or
(9) seriously overworks a livestock animal.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Abandon” includes abandoning a livestock animal in the person's custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.
(2) “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.
(3) “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of a livestock animal subject to the person's care and control, regardless of ownership of the livestock animal.
(4) “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.
(5) “Livestock animal” means:
(A) cattle, sheep, swine, goats, ratites, or poultry commonly raised for human consumption;
(B) a horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny;
(C) native or nonnative hoofstock raised under agriculture practices; or
(D) native or nonnative fowl commonly raised under agricultural practices.
(6) “Necessary food, water, or care” includes food, water, or care provided to the extent required to maintain the livestock animal in a state of good health.
(7) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.
(8) “Trip” means to use an object to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2), (3), (4), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092. An offense under Subsection (a)(1), (5), (6), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092.
(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(8) that the actor tripped the horse for the purpose of identifying the ownership of the horse or giving veterinary care to the horse.
(e) It is a defense to prosecution for an offense under this section that the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.
(f) It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:
(1) form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:
(A) fishing, hunting, or trapping; or
(B) wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or
(2) animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.
(g) This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of this section.

Article from Fox News

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ground Tying Your Horse

I was talking to a client on the phone about tips using the Functional Tie Ring when he asked me about also teaching a horse to ground tie. Ground tying is simply looping the reins over the saddle horn or neck of the horse, or dropping the lead line on the ground (or both if you using a mecate) and walking away with the horse standing still and not following you or wandering off. Some will loop the mecate over the saddle horn as well when ground tying. This works and would likely be the preferred method if you were using horse hair reins or if the ground was muddy.

Ground tying obviously has many concerns - your horse running off and getting the reins caught on something and jerking the bit through his mouth, often cutting his tounge; the reins slipping so the horse gets a front foot through them with the same results - okay you get the idea. So there are some things my horses need to do well before I start ground tying.

Your horse has absolutely has to be broke to lead and this is where the beginning of ground tying are anyway. Your horse should lead up where you want him at a slow or fast walk; stop when you stop; back off a feel on the lead and move to you on the feel of a lead rope when you ask. What I mean by feel of the lead rope is a change in what the horse feels. If my horse is standing 10 feet away from me on a loose rein, I want to be able to slightly pickup the lead rope, changing the weight slightly on what he feels through the halter. I'll click or whistle as a verbal signal as well, and coil the lead rope up, keeping it slack, as he approaches me. In the beginning the lead line may be taunt, not pulling - just taunt, the horse will eventually step forward releasing the pressure on his poll and this is beginning of himself learning to get the release of pressure on his poll. In some cases, if the horse does not step forward to get a release from the taunt lead line, it helps to have someone stand behind the horse (out of kicking distance) and when you ask him to come forward your helper will put a little pressure on the horse - often it is enough just to step towards the horse. See Figure 1 through 4 below. You can see the difference in the still slack lead rope as the horse moves forward.

I need him to back off a feel as well, and I do that by shaking the lead rope in a back and forth, side to side motion, feeding the rope out as he backs. I use the verbal cue, "back", as well. This is something they learn quick. I'll start up close to the horse and shake the lead rope and when the horse changes his balance as if he preparing to back, I'll stop and give him a few seconds before asking again and building on that asking for one step, then two. The verbal cue comes in real handy when you want to back a horse off the feed bin when you are throwing feed or really anything where you hands are occupied. See Figure 5 through 8 below.

The client from the beginning of this conversation asked what does standing still have to do with moving forward or moving back? Its the feel of the lead rope when asking him to move forward or move back, and the inbetween or the absence of that feel associated with not moving or standing  ground tied. Kind of like not being able to teach a horse to stop, until you have him moving forward.

If my horse leads well then I need him to stand tied well before moving on to ground tying. This is where I use the Functional Tie Ring and stimulating the horse to pull back and getting a release from the pressure of the halter on his poll when his feet are moving in temporary suspension. Once my horses are good with that, I leave them alone tied, using the tie ring, for increasing longer period of time. One minute the first time is not too short. If I'm moving off out of sight, I often put a daisy chain or a simple slip knot in the lead rope so the lead won't pull through.

I think a person will know when the horse is ready for ground tying. It's basics in ground work, so the horse's will be learning it in the round pen or the arena at first. Same deal as being tied,......let him stand ground tied for a short period in the beginning and increasing that time. One time I had a client working on my obstacle course and he called to me for help getting his horse to cross a bridge. I dropped the lead line and left a horse in the round pen and went to help. Thirty minutes later I returned to the round pen and the horse was standing in the same spot. And why not? Nobody was asking anything of him, so he just took a break. So what do you do when the horse starts to walk off when ground tied? I use a voice command to disrupt his thought and focus on me. I won't wait too long before I approach him, rub on him and ask him to stand still again and walk off.

Being broke to ground tie also comes in handy when I have to dismount for a short period of time and be out of range of the lead rope of my mecate even if it's just in the arena so I can change up some poles, cones or barrels. And even though my horses do well ground tying, it just doesn't make sense to me to ground tie them in an uncontained area, at least not walking away from them where is no fence or barrier to contain them if they do run off. That's what using hobbles are good for. This is a story I'm not proud of - I was up in the mountains riding to a historic site, two buildings and cemetery, to check out sign of vandalism. I let a guest ride my good Sorrel horse Junior. When we got to the first old structure, we dismounted and tied the reins to the saddle horns and let the horse graze while I walked around cutting sign for trespassers. We spooked a small groups of Mule Deer in the brush and they in turn spooked the horses who ran down the trail. After a three mile jog, I got to the horses to discover the reins has slipped off Junior and he had stepped on the bit cutting his tongue badly. That happened about 10-11 years ago, and ever since I haven't ridden him in anything but a hackamore - by the way, Martin Black makes great hackamores, most of mine I bought from him.

Getting a horse to ground tie, even for short periods of time, while you walk off and right back, is just a good thing to get a horse to do.     

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hunting Easter Eggs and Eating Frito Pie

Getting friends together for an Easter Weekend Ride to hunt eggs is something we have been doing for a couple years now. I go out in the desert and hide small, medium and large plastic eggs with prizes such as grooming items, halters, socks, stuffed animals - you get the idea. This year, I finally did it in a smart manner. Rather than ride out with four huge bags of eggs burdening my horse and making riding uncomfortable, this year I drove out into the desert and dropped the bags off, then returned to my property to trade truck for horse and rode out.

About two hours later, I had finished hiding all the eggs and waited on the group of 14 riders to meet up with me. As they approached, they were greeted by a horse and rider with a giant bunny head,.......I regret letting my wife talking me into wearing that uncomfortable and ridiculous thing. Next year, I'm talking my buddy Dave in wearing it.

One of the riders was a 7 year old boy, named Marius, who was riding his minature horse Thunder. Twenty seconds after mounting from the start point, Thunder threw Marius, but he gamely got back on the rode that little horse. What impressed me about little Marius was that he occassionally dismounted and walked his horse to give that short legged minature a break.

The rule was that each rider could only keep 3 eggs. If someone found a fourth egg, they would have to give one of the eggs to someone who had less than three eggs. While some people may think this was communist ideology in nature, each rider did have a choice in what eggs they gave up - hopefully keeping the eggs they thought had good stuff inside.

After all, or what we hoped were all the eggs being found, we rode back to my property for Frito Pie and assorted side dishes. Eggs were opened and trading prizes commenced. Pretty nice day here in West Texas with the temps pushing 80 degrees. Nice folks to ride and eat lunch with, except for the aforementioned Dave - nobody really likes him.

If you have never had Frito Pie, then you are missing a classic Texas favorite. Here is the recipe my wife used:

Frito Pie Recipe
1 Pound lean Ground Beef
1 Medium or Large chopped Sweet Onion
1 Clove of Garlic, minced
1 eight (8) ounce can of Rotel Mild Dice Tomatoes & Green Chiles
1 eight (8) ounce can of regular diced Tomatoes  
1 sixteen (16) ounce can of Dark Red Kidney Beans (drained)
1 eight (8) ounce can of tomato sauce
1 four (4) ounce can of black Olives, drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 Large bag of Frito Chips, regular size

Brown beef, onion and garlic - My wife uses Great American Land & Cattle Co. Steak and Meat seasoning. Cavenders All Purpose Greek seasoning is a good alternative.  Drain fat. note:  you can save the drained fat, and later put in someone's toothpaste tube for next year's April Fools Day.

Put browned beef, onion and garlic in crock pot.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, drained kidney beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, basil and drained black olives. Salt and pepper a bit.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. 

If you use small snack size bags of Frito Chips, people can cut the tops off and dish Chili on top of fritos - otherwise put frito chips in bowl and cover with chili for individual servings.  Above recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.