Friday, February 23, 2018

Saddling Routine

EJ wrote to ask about a proper saddling routine,.."Hello, I was wondering if you have a routine or a process on saddling most horses. One of my girlfriend's told me she watched a trainer who said to first secure the breast collar. This is in case the horse takes off running so the saddle won't go under the horse's stomach and I guess trip him up. Then you secure the belly cinch. My Dad taught me to first tighten up the belly cinch, then do the breast collar. What do you recommend?"

I hope EJ is a woman talking about her friends who are girls. If you are a young man with multiple girlfriends, then saddling a horse the wrong way will be the least of your problems. In fact, if you are dating multiple girls, then now might just be a good time for a packing trip to the Yukon.

I know exactly what EJ is writing about where a noted trainer, who I think highly of, demonstrated saddling a young horse and said that he prefers to secure the breast collar first, rather than the front cinch. He was talking about a getting a young horse to accept a saddle, not your trusted trail horse who you have saddled for years. His (the trainer's) reasoning was that if the young horse bolted mid way through saddling, if you only had the front cinch started, it was likely that the saddle would roll under the horse's barrel and spook him further - not to mention tear up a saddle. He said he secures the breast collar first so if the horse bolted or spooked the saddle would rotate to a position hanging under his head/neck and not further spook him or tear up the saddle.

While I respect this trainer's work throughout the years, I do not fasten the breast collar first then the front cinch. First of all I would not begin to saddle a horse until I was sure he had a good chance in accepting it, granted with a little bucking you could except until he figured out he didn't need to buck. Granted, there is a point in securing the front cinch where you are committed and need to get it cinched up snug to prevent the saddle rolling if the horse bolts or bucks. Most of us work a horse's barrel with a rope to get him to accept the feeling and pressure of a cinch underneath himself. Again, just so there is no confusion, I do the front cinch first then the breast collar.

If a saddle was hooked by only the breast collar and it did rotate underneath his head/neck,...something I have never seen,...I would suspect it would trouble a horse, certainly a young horse. A horse's vision blind spot is down there in front of their chest. I would also think that he could step through a hanging rope, or on the stirrup leather and tear it up.

Sometimes, I have saddled a young horse for the first time with just the saddle, absent a pad, if I suspected he might go to bucking even with the ground work I put in. It is easier to get that saddle snug that way. As far as using a breast collar on a young horse for the first time you saddle him - well, that's a judgment call. As I think back, I can't specifically remember when I have not used a breast collar on a horse I am saddling for the first time. All my saddles have a breast collar rigged.

All your ground work is going to not only get him good about being touched everywhere, but you'll get a feeling about where his trouble spots may be. It would be your job to get him good where those trouble spots would be.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ossian Flipper - First Black West Point Graduate

February is Black History Month and I wanted to honor Black American soldiers and the story of Lt Flipper came to mind. Henry Ossian Flipper, born in March of 1856, was a former slave who became the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877, earning a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army and being assigned as the first nonwhite officer to lead buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. By all accounts Lt Flipper was an outstanding officer who led troops in the Apache campaign against Victorio.

In 1881, while assigned to Fort Davis in West Texas as the post quartermaster and commissary officer, Lieutenant Flipper's commanding officer, Colonel William Rufus Shafter - who was well known to hate the idea of Black Army Officers, accused Flipper of "embezzling funds and of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." As a result of these charges, he was court-martialed. He was acquitted of the embezzlement charge but was found guilty, by general court martial, of conduct unbecoming an officer. On June 30, 1882, he was drummed out of the Army.

After his dismissal from the Army, Flipper worked as a civil engineer in El Paso. In 1898, he volunteered to serve in the Spanish–American War, but requests to restore his commission were ignored by Congress. He spent time in Mexico, then returned to the United States where he served as an adviser to Senator Albert Fall, from New Mexico, on Mexican politics. When Senator Fall became Secretary of the Interior in 1921, he brought Flipper with him to Washington, D.C., to serve as his assistant.

Later, Flipper went to work in Venezuela as an engineer in the petroleum industry. He retired in 1931 and moved to Atlanta where he died in 1940. Flipper was also an author, writing about scientific topics, the history of the Southwest, and his own experiences. His most prolific piece was likely "The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878)" where he detailed his experiences at West Point.

In 1976 Flipper's descendants and supporters applied to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records receiving a finding that his conviction and punishment were "unduly harsh and unjust" and eventually a good conduct discharge was ordered corrected in Flipper's records. In 1997, a private law firm filed an application of pardon with the Secretary of the Army on Lieutenant Flipper's behalf and after making it's rounds through the Army bureaucracy, then President William Clinton officially pardoned Lieutenant Flipper on February 19, 1999. A bust of Flipper resides at West Point where there is also an annual Henry O. Flipper Award that is granted to graduating cadets who exhibit "leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties". A fitting tribute for Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper.

There is a one act, one man play by El Pasoan Robert "Bob" Snead available on Amazon that is truly an amazing thing to watch. However, it is only available on VHS tape. The below You Tube video produced by West Point on Lt Flipper is the next best presentation on Henry Ossian Flipper.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fundamentals of Search and Rescue Book Offer

Fundamentals of Search and Rescue is a 327 page manual written by the National Association for Search and Rescue, published in 2005 by Jones and Bartlett, that I use to help put together our SAR Standard Operating Procedures when I was a Army Range Rider, and I also provided this manual to SAR groups I taught tracking and mounted search and rescue to.

The Chapter contents are:

1 - Overview of Land Search and Rescue
2 Search and Rescue Systems
3 - SAR Incident Management and Organization
4 - Legal and Ethical Aspects of SAR
5 - Physiology and Fitness
6 - Survival and Improvisation
7 - SAR Clothing
8 - Safety in SAR Environments
9 - The SAR Ready Pack and Personal Equipment
10 - Navigation
11 - SAR Resources and Technology
12 - Travel Skills - Foot Travel for SAR Personnel
13 - Tracking
14 - Search Background and Related Issues
15 - Search Operations
16 - Rescue

Appendices include: Task Force Structure Marking System; Search Urgency; Track Identification Form; Briefing and Debriefing Checklists; Missing Person Questionnaire; Equipment List; Forms; SAR Resource Typing; and Incident Command System (ICS) Glossary.

I have a limited number left of this book for those who want a copy. These are well used books with dog earred pages, but in good condition.

Send me an e-mail at with your mailing address and let me know you would like a copy. I'll respond if I have any left on hand, and how to pay the $21.20 for each book which includes shipping.  I'm going to limit this to one book per respondent.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Time to Say Goodbye

It can be tough to decide to put a horse down. The question on 'when is it time?" cropped up twice in the past month with me. A horse of a friend of mine, and closer to home, my wife's 29 year Quarterhorse mare, of the Peter McCue bloodline, who she raised from birth. We're the kind of people who keep horses until the end of their natural life. Wasn't always this way. It becomes a financial as well as emotional burden at times.

I've likely caused pain and suffering, especially in the earlier years of my life, and for that I'm very sorry. It has probably shaped the way I feel about animals these days, finding sadness and anger when I see animals mistreated. So I am pretty well finely tuned mentally not to let any of animals experience suffering from failing systems and old age, but still it can be a difficult call on an aging animal.

Most of us have been told that "we'll know when it's time", but that's not always clear. A broken leg is one thing, but a fractured coffin bone wing or a bowed tendon is another. I've had horses come back from both to be sound and useable. When I ran a large public stables years ago I experienced many cases of owners hoping for a miracle turn around on a twisted gut or a case of founder and it was difficult watching the horses suffer just because the owner wished for better. But the ravages of age bring about a whole difficult set of circumstances to consider.

Your Veterinarian has absolutely got to be part of the process when deciding when it is time. It's likely hard on the Vet too, to deliver such advice. While the Vet to owner relationship is important for that honesty to be present, I've found that most Vet's just aren't in the business of giving anything close to false hope so some may advise to go to the final solution a little quicker.

In the past month my wife's 29 year old mare has difficulty getting back up once she lays down.  When I'd found her that way we'd have to roll her over so she can get her better back leg underneath herself. We'd worry about her laying down early in the evening when it'll be 6 or 8 hours before we see her again, and within that time circulation problems would likely occur. Recently, she will go several days before laying down. But during the day we see her doing short trots across the turnout and nickering at us when she see's us approaching with sweet feed and she has free choice alfalfa and grass hay 24/7. We enjoy pretty decent winter weather here in West Texas, certainly much better than Montana, yet my wife hauls bucket of warm water with molasses several times a day to her mare so often drinks a 17 quart bucket down at one time.

Four days ago My wife flew out to Houston for cancer tests and while she was gone her horse went down again at 9:00 at night.  I made the call to my Vet who came in the early morning and I had her put her down.  I told my Vet, "I'm not asking you to make the call,'s my responsibility, so lets put her down", she said "yes, it's time". 

Andromeda McCue, aka Ande, born April 7,1990 - died Feb.1, 2018, now can rest with those special horses who have gone before.  She left a legacy of a long line of children who learned to ride on her.