Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Going Into The New Year

Going into the New Year with all the promises and good things that it portends, just like the Sun cresting the mountain in the morning, I thought people would like to see more about Curt Pate. Best case it'll bring some inspiration and likely a smile to a person.

Curt Pate is a Montana based Stockman and Horseman. I use both of these terms knowing that they mean different things to different people. Probably one of Curt's callings in life is to impart what he has learned about cattle handling and stewardship through clinics in Canada, Mexico and the United States, sponsored by firms such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Zoetis, a leading animal health company.

Curt hosts a column called the Scoop Loop which you can find on his website, enter your e-mail and receive his articles which I look forward to reading for his wisdom, inspirational words, of course the music.

I had a chance to ride with Curt in Las Cruces, New Mexico at a clinic he was running for New Mexico State University. Even with him riding a borrowed and unfinished horse, watching him demonstrate his concepts for low stress stockmanship, I learned much and took that with me day working for some ranches after that. I look forward to him starting back up his traveling clinics again, after he has his fill of much needed (and well deserved) down time with his wife, Tammy Pate, on their own property.

Tammy Pate, incidentally,.....let me rephrase that as wives' are "never incidental",.....Tammy Pate, an artist in her own right, founded an event called the Art of the Cowgirl. In it's second year, it is being held again at Corona Ranch outside Phoenix, Arizona.

I hope everyone enjoys the short film below on Curt and Tammy Pate, produced by Eric Grant. Happy New Year to all.

True steward: Curt Pate from Grant Company on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Spooky Horse? Teach them to think

Melissa wrote to me about her 10 year gelding who is always spooking and what she could do as he is not getting better at it. I wrote back to her to find out more specifics and she elaborated that her horse is very sensitive to all new things, particularly loud noises, and, vehicles and horses coming into his view. She asked what desensitization methods should she try. It's always hard to give advice on a horse you haven't seen but this is pretty much what we talked about.

It's tough to have an overly sensitive and spooky horse. Sometimes we when we handle those horses we get anxious about their new big spook, expecting it at any moment, and the horse can feed off of our energy, making it more likely for them to expect something to scare them. I can't emphasize this enough - if you think he's going spook, he most surely will.

On desensitization of horses, there are as many different views as their are people. And I'm not really fond of that word to describe what I do, but it's pretty much accepted that desensitizing is exposing the horse to stimuli that would create fear or anxiety in the horse and letting him work through it.  I'm also not really happy with the title of this article "Spooky Horse? Teach them to think" because we are not really teaching then to think, just allowing them the time to find another way.  Desensitization is not about getting a horse to walk over a ground tarp then having that horse desensitized for all ground tarps in the future, anywhere you go. I like to think that exposing your horse to anything scary is just a opportunity on setting it up for that horse to learn to think before reacting.

It may be correct to say that if something scares a horse, they need more of it not less, but it is also correct to say it's how you go about exposing the horse to that scary thing that'll either help him or make it worse.

The sometimes a human's first instinct when something scares the horse it to take the scary thing away or to remove the horse from that environment. You see this with people flagging a horse where if a person shakes a flag and the horse shies or moves away, the human removes the flag from the equation.

I recently demonstrated this at a clinic I ran a few weeks ago where I had a horse in hand who had never been flagged. I was using a rope halter and a 12 foot lead rope. I stood holding the horse about one foot away from the halter and used my outside hand to shake a flag with a lot of energy. The horse spooked and I stopped shaking the flag. I told the attending riders that all I did was teach the horse that getting away from the flag was the right thing to do.

Then I again started shaking the flag with energy and the horse tried to get away. I kept shaking the flag as we moved around for about 20 seconds ago. I stopped moving the flag while the horse was still trying to get away and once I stopped shaking the flag the horse stopped, but this body position and head set was real obvious that he expected me to start back up again. I told the riders that if I quit now, I would have done nothing to help that horse, instead just reinforced to the horse that trying to get away removes the scary stimulus.

Then I demonstrated what I thought would be a better approach. I gave the horse about 8 feet of slack in the lead rope and started shaking the flag in a slower fashion. The horse was at first stationary but the mental pressure in him built up pretty quick and he started moving away. I kept shaking the flag until the horse had all four feet momentarily stopped, then I immediately quit shaking the flag giving the horse a release as I explained to the riders that once the horse gave me the response I was seeking, all four feet stopped, I gave him a release from that pressure, and most importantly, I am giving him a pause to think about what just occurred, which was his acceptance of the flag. But this is not a conclusion - it is the very beginning.

I started back up again and the horse moved off like just before, but he got stopped quicker than before and was licking his lips. I gave him 10-15 seconds of pause then continued and I gradually took in the slack on the lead rope until I was at the horse's shoulder and was moving the flag with energy off his body and touching the horse on the belly, back, neck and rump with the flag. So the difference was not going from 0-60 in seconds but instead taking the time it took for the horse to accept what you are asking. And if anyone had a stop watch on us they would see that really only maybe 10 minutes had passed. It you can't give your horse 10 minutes then what can you give him?

The exact same philosophy would help Melissa's gelding. If she is riding or leading him past some barrels or trash cans, or plastic bags, or a car, or even a bushel of dead racoons and the horse snorts, shies or backs away, then don't avoid that - instead use that and as much time as necessary to get the horse accepting of it. Just stand with the horse. Within 10-20 seconds or even 2-3 minutes the horse will take a step towards the scary thing - it seems like their curiosity trait just won't let them do otherwise. But the horse will stop again on it's own. But don't ask him to go forward, he likely will on his own accord - when he is comfortable. Repeat and soon the horse is all over the object understanding it's okay, building his confidence. You may have to do this 100 times,...maybe a thousands times on lots of different things, but it'll be worth it.

Something I heard Craig Cameron say 20 years ago sticks with me - he said that our job was to take the fear out of the horse. We can't do so by avoiding everything we think will scare him.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving - Renew your thankfulness

This morning on an early phone call with an old buddy of mine, which was a pleasant surprise, we talked about horses, but the conversation inevitably turned to our physical challenges and we both agreed that getting old isn't for sissies...he's 70 and I'm 60.....but we both also agreed that we are thankful of the blessings that are bestowed upon us when too many we know don't have those chances anymore. These blessings are too many to list but each of us have to count them nonetheless.

He told me words to the effect that "Hell, we don't need Thanksgiving Day to be thankful,..we need to be thankful every day and that starts with the Liberty this country provides and the opportunity to do something, like sit a horse. So I reckon how we honor our blessings is to not squander those opportunities."

I replied with something less poignant "well, I'm thankful that nothing or nobody has killed me yet, even when I deserved it." But to my credit, I am thankful that horses allow me to be in their lives and are agreeable creatures for the most part. And when they are not, it's almost always my fault.

George Washington's says it better. He was the first President to proclaim a day of Thanksgiving. It took Congress 152 years later to make it official. Some complain they (Congress) don't do anything quickly. I beg to differ - look at how fast they get in front of cameras, campaign for office and vote for their own pay raises. Anyway, here is George Washington's first Thanksgiving proclamation:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us."

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go. Washington

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

More on Barn Sourness

I received another question on barn sourness. A reader wrote - "I have a really good trail broke gelding, but he has one vice and that is whenever we go out at some point he decides its time to turn around for home. I have been always able to work through it easily and we continue on, just wondering if you have a method or tips for stopping the behavior completely. Thanks!"

​ I have known some barn sour horses over the years. As far as a horse taking over and refusing to go forward or turning for home on his own, it's a lot more common to have a horse who jiggs on the way back to the barn. And some people add to this by not controlling the gait or speed going back. I've always tried to look past this as I need a horse to go the direction I want at the gait and speed I want.

As far as your horse, just deciding it's time to turn around, well, first I admire his initiative! It's likely some mental pressure builds and he gets his relief by turning for home. The fact that you can work through it is good, and that likely his thinking shares equal if not more so with his instinct.

The worst cases of barn sourness are when the horse just stops and will not go forward in a direction away from his home barn. And I had another case of a rider I know who's horse would brace against the rider and reins, always turning towards home.<br><br>

In first case this rider would really bang on the horse to try to go forward then spur him which caused the horse to come off his front end - that's when he brought the horse to me. I only had him a couple of days and rode him in the arena where the horse would eventually want to move to the gate which was close to the other horses, so I made that end of the arena (the gate end) the hardest work for him, letting him take a break at the far end. This is likely a common interpretation of Tom Dorrance's advice 'to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult (or work)'.  And in a couple sessions this horse was much better and did not try to move to the gate. This rider picked up the horse and I did not see him again. I doubt he had much success with that horse as this particular rider only wanted the horse to see his perspective and not look at the way the horse saw things.

I would try this - once your horse decides it's time to turn around and go home, don't let him turn, instead back him then turn him (make backing and turning your idea) then go ahead and go in that direction towards home making it work,..stopping, backing and jumping out; trotting small circles. You'd be doing this with the horse heading in the direction he wants to go, but it's you that is directing his feet and I'd do this for a couple minutes.

I wouldn't double him because as you make those turns he'll be facing away from home. I think the circles are okay because as you ride a circle away from him, his head will be bent a bit towards home.

So after some work facing home, turn him and walk him away from home. He'll likely be fairly quick to stop and turn around for home again, so repeat the work facing home for another minute or two, then turn him away and walk him away from home. You'll likely need to go this several times. At some point when you are walking him away from home, turn him and walk him back home. It has to be your idea to turn for home at this point - don't let it be his idea, but don't ask for too much in the beginning.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

RIP George Bankston, Chief of Range Enforcement

This past week we said goodbye to my old Boss, George Lewis Bankston, retired Chief of Range Enforcement. George crossed over to be with our Lord 82 years after he was born in Tahoka, Texas. Prior to me knowing him as Chief of Range Enforcement, where he hired me on as an Army Range Rider, George served in the US Army as a soldier, fighting in Vietnam and earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, retiring after 22 years of service as a Master Sergeant.

Serving for 18 years as Chief of Range Enforcement, George always balanced the Government ownership of 1.2 million acres of Fort Bliss military reservation with stewardship of the land and animals, and the needs of the ranchers grazing cattle on BLM managed grazing units.

El Paso, Texas sits in the South end of the Tularosa Basin where the Franklin and Hueco Mountains make up the West and East borders of the basin respectively. About 70 years ago, family ranches were bought up, or the government used other tools such as condemnation and/or imminent domain, to force families to move in order to create the Fort Bliss military reservation. George Bankston understood the distrust of the government these families and their descendants still had and he took great care in ensuring they had a voice and were treated with respect.

George took the Army's Range Enforcement Agency from a group of Cowboys removing trespass humans and cattle to a professional Law Enforcement Agency trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Georgia with increased responsibility and authority for enforcing Wildlife, Archeological and Natural Resources law, while maintaining the origins of the agency in gathering trespass cattle and moving them to their home pastures. 

The photo at above is George with his six Army Range Riders at an awards ceremony. George not only towered above people physically, his intelligence was equal to his stature.

None of this would have been possible without George Bankston having a vision and lobbying the Army for funding and authority to create what he knew to be necessary to protect and be good stewards of the land and resources we were blessed to have.

After retiring from Range Enforcement, this great big bear of a man took great pleasure in teaching Sunday School and sharing the gospel of Christ at Waddill Street Baptist church in McKinney, Texas. No doubt George is with his children Mark and Jackie who went before him, and he left this life entrusting his four adult children, sixteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren to Tina, his wife of 63 years. I wish I had one more phone call with George. He was interned at Fort Bliss National Cemetery with Full Military Honors befitting man who served his country and the people so well in life. God Bless.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

2019 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge Results

On 5 October 2019 we finished the 5th Annual Arena Challenge. West Texas had received quite a bit of rain in the weeks and day before the event, but we were blessed with clear skies, a light wind and 85 degree temperatures to see riders compete in the four divisions of Stock Horse, Open, Intermediate and Novice. Riders entered the arena and executed horsemanship tasks and negotiated obstacles while being evaluated by two judges with diverse horsemanship backgrounds - Martha Diaz, a noted Dressage competitor and instructor, who combined with Sara Tyree, a Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) judge and horse trainer, to evaluate each rider.

My goal for this annual event is to promote horsemanship and motivate competitors to never stop learning, and I try do that by putting some tasks and obstacles together that will challenge them. Such as small box turnarounds, tight switchback turns around upright poles, barrel patterns and other riding that requires the rider to get and maintain a good bend to their horse.

I also intend for this annual competition to allow rider's across disciplines to compete equally, build respect across disciplines and share horsemanship by demonstrating what do they do and how they handle their horses. It is eye opening when a Dressage rider say's "what do you mean when I have to ground tie my horse, or back him up with the reins while standing in a box?" Or when a Pleasure or Trail rider states that they "don't know what leg yield or shoulder's in movement is." And even when a Team Roper say's "Backing in a circle? Why in the world would I want to back my horses in a circle?"

Most years I include tasks from competition the year before that rider's had trouble with as well as trying to introduce new things. This year I had the rider's dismount at the end of their run, blindfold their horse and lead out. I do not have a time limit on tasks or obstacle, as it doesn't do a horse any good to attempt sometime for 60 seconds then have to move on without success. Really just teaching them that they can or should avoid things that initially bother them. Not allowing the time for the horse and rider to sort it out doesn't help them developing their thinking and build their confidence. So we give as much time to the horse and rider as they rider needs.

With the blindfold tasks this paid off as several or even most of the horses had trouble with a shirt being draped over their head blocking their vision, but with the rider letting the horse know they were there and not putting pressure on the horse until they were ready, almost all the horses ended up leading out after just a bit of sacking out. I got onto the blindfold thing when I was stuck in a grazing unit when a hail storm hit. I ended up taking my shirt off and covering my horse's head to minimize the effect of the hail hitting him, until the storm abated. Blindfold's have use when moving horse's through fire and smoke such as a barn on fire or evacuating for a wildlands fire.

One task that I almost always include is lead departures but this year I had the rider's announce what lead they intended on departing on. As they rode to the end of the arena, the turned then executed a shoulder in movement halfway back before transitioning to a leg yield (forward momentum with lateral movement) around a barrel.

This year in the stockhorse division I added a task that required the rider to throw a long, flat loop around and barrel and trot their horse around the barrel feeding out their rope, stopping, reversing and trotting around the barrel while they re-coiled their rope. Sometimes you get a loop on a calf and need to give him slack as he moves, especially if he's moving on his own accord closer to the branding fire or spot where you doctoring the calves. This was the first time many performed a rope management type drill and several told me they were going to practice it as they saw the usefulness of it.

This article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the winners, so when final scores were tallied, the results were:

Stock Horse Division: 1st Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM); 2nd Place - Laurie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Open Division: 1st Place - Robin Lackey (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Lauie Esparza (Socorro, TX); and 3rd Place - LuAnne Santiago (Chaparral, NM).

Intermediate Division: 1st Place - Marianne Bailey (Chaparral, NM); Kay Lee (Las Cruces, NM); and 3rd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM).

Novice Division: 1st Place - Joyce Getrost (Las Cruces, NM); 2nd Place - Jessica Bailey (Chaparral, NM); and 3rd Place - Mark Schleicher (Carr, CO).

The Horsemanship Award, voted on by the competitors and the judges was won by Debby Hale of Deer Mountain, Texas.

The prize table was again robust and it wouldn't have been so without generous support from our major sponsors: Cashel Company (Cindy Lang); Starr Western Wear (Edie Zuvanich); Spokane Traffic Control (Tammy and Mike Beggs); Animal Health International (Adrian Morales); Tractor Supply Company (Ben Lucas); Linda Seeds Tack and Repair; and VCM Equine Management.

We also thank Claudia Lukason, owner of The Edge Equine Solutions and lifetime barrel racer, who was on hand to donate several Mineral Lick Tubs and provide Magna-Wave treatment on 4 horses and several humans. Claudia has an uncanny ability to find a problem spot on a horse very quickly, let the owner know what she thinks is going on and treating that issue with her Magna-Wave therapeutic unit.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Riding to End Veteran Suicides

I hope that most people don't have anyone close to them commit suicide. The thought of that person having no hope, no possibility of light at the end of the tunnel is hard to deal with for the survivors. You wish they called you or talked to anyone. It is difficult thinking of someone close to you sitting there believing that they have no place to turn and the only alternative to rid the pain is to kill themselves. Any suicide is difficult.  Veteran suicides most troubling because their problems, that have descended them to a dark place, occurred in the service of their country. I have two close friends who decided they were better off dead. They simply saw no hope and ended their pain with self inflicted gunshots. See you on the other side Albert and Mitch.

The good news is that veteran suicides is a recognized national problem. There are several organizations trying to stem the tide of Veteran suicides, each in their own way. Perhaps one of the most unique ways is an organization call Trail to Zero, using the healing power of horses to bring awareness to veteran suicides.

The BraveHearts Story

In 2017, BraveHearts pilot program for Trail to Zero began in NYC. Since then, BraveHearts has taken the ride to the next level by being able to bring more veterans into two cites (NYC & DC in 2018) to bring awareness to veteran suicide while also helping the veterans on the ride to heal and advance their horsemanship. In April 2019, BraveHearts presented at the N.A.M.U.C.A conference where hundreds of mounted police officers heard veterans stories from Trail to Zero. The response from the units were overwhelming and brought forth the opportunity to add a third city, Chicago, in 2019.

BraveHearts will be in Chicago on 28 September 2019 and Houston on 2 November 2019.

BraveHearts rides will bring the overwhelming statistic of 20 veterans committing suicide per day to the forefront of Americans’ minds while also helping to educate veterans and Americans about equine assisted services and the benefits that it has as an alternative approach to healing. It is our greatest hope that we may reach at least one veteran who is currently battling suicidal ideologies, letting them know that they are not alone, that their community cares, and that equine assisted services may help. We are forever grateful for the NYPD Mounted Unit, US Park Police Mounted Horse Unit and the Chicago Mounted Unit for standing behind us as we continue to ride until 20 becomes ZERO.

BraveHearts is the largest and most innovative PATH International 501c3 organization in the country serving veterans through equine assisted services, serving 834 veterans through 19,609 sessions in 2018, at no cost to any veteran.

Learn more about BraveHearts and Trail to Zero, and/or to donate to their cause, you can go to the websites, Trail to Zero and BraveHearts Riding, and please watch the video below on how horses have helped many veterans. God Bless this Republic and the Veterans who paid terrible prices for their service.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge

The 5th Annual Functional Horsemanship Arena Challenge is scheduled for 5 October 2019.   The main purpose for this event is to challenge riders so at the end of the day each rider can say it was worth their time competing and they have discovered some things to work on.  

In fact, one lady who rode the first three years told me that the challenge format became her practice list for the year.

In last year's (2018) Stockhorse course, the rider entered the arena and rode two full 40' circles at the trot; then transitioned to the arena fence trotting back and forth along the fence demonstrating a roll back in one direction then the other; trot to a cone and demonstrate a stop, then side pass Right over a ground pole, back straight up for 12 feet then side pass Left over a ground pole;  move to a gate and open the gate, ride through, then close and latch the gate; throw a heel or hip shot at a roping dummy, then throw a head loop; drag a heavy log backwards, then forwards; pickup a rope anchored low on the fence and spin their horse underneath it; dismount and back their horse up without the rider you moving; and finishing with walking away from their horse demonstrate ground tying.   If I had to describe a trend, the riders who roped, dragged and ground tied well, had problems with the side pass and backing.  The riders who side passed and backed well, did not do so well in the roping, log drag or ground tying.

Last year's Open Division course was to enter the arena then step into an 8’ box, perform two circles with forward momentum - as simple as this sounds it proved to be difficult for many; exit the box and trot two complete circles around 4 cones demonstrating square turns - another difficult task as who practices square turns?; walk through serpentine upright poles - these poles were close together and required well over 90 degree turn backs; perform a lope/canter departure; demonstrate a stop; demonstrate a 360 turn on the hocks; side pass Right; back straight, then back a circle around a traffic cone; side pass Left; open and close a gate; place their horse’s front feet on a 3' x 3' platform and walk the horse's back end around the platform keeping the front feet on the platform (turn on the front end) - yet another difficult task for most; pick up a tennis ball from a bucket – move and place the ball on a traffic cone; move through the cowboy curtain; drag a bag of cans backwards and forwards; and finally, walk through two barrels close together without touching the barrels.

This event is also unusual in that it is not time driven for score, no time limit on an  obstacle. I prefer that a horse and rider complete an obstacle even after many attempts as this is much better for the horse, as opposed to only one or two short failed attempts then being pushed to move on to the next obstacle, so the judges will be generous in this regard only asking the rider to give up and move on if, in the judges opinion, completion of that obstacle isn't going to happen.

Entry fees are $45 per Division entry. Each rider enters the arena, one at a time, and completes a series of horsemanship tasks and obstacles – usually no more than 14 total. One or two judges will score each obstacle for a combined score for placement within each Division. One rider can ride different horses in the same or different divisions. The same horse can be used by several people in the same or different divisions as well. We are working out the lunch as this is written. Be prepared to pay a nominal fee for lunch as we will likely bring a vendor in to cook street taco plates. However, entry fee does include coffee and pastries at check in and drinks throughout the day.

I am just less than 60 days out from the 5 October 2019 Arena Challenge and still receiving support from the industry - a full list of supporters and contributors will be posted in the post event article, but I can't say enough about Cashel Company who always comes through with some really nice items for the prize table, and Starr Western Wear who provided significant support.  

Starr Western Wear will be coming to shoot stills and videos for commercials -so ladies, look your best as usual. There will be a raffle with all proceeds going to a horse rescue. This year the designated rescue is: Perfect Harmony Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) organization out of Chaparral, New Mexico. We already have several other vendors committed to attending and putting up product displays and offering items for sale. And lastly a tack table will be available for people who want to sell or trade, new or used tack and related items.

Perfect Harmony Horse Rescue and Sanctuary: http://www.perfectharmony-nm.org
How to Sign up:
~ By Phone: Call Brad at 915-204-7995. I will enroll you and your horse over the phone and take payment via a Credit Card.
~ E-mail/PayPal: Send an e-mail to clinics-events@functionalhorsemanship.com and provide Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Horse Name and Competing Division and pay via PayPal to brad@functionalhorsemanship.com Either way you will receive a confirmation on entry via e-mail and an event flyer with directions.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Assistance asked for the family of Bob Melson of Double Diamond Halter Co

I received an e-mail from Double Diamond Halter Company on the sudden passing of Bob Melson and set up of a Go Fund Me account to assist his wife and son. If you can, please visit the site and make a donation - anything helps. While I did not know Bob, I certainly know Double Diamond as I have a ton of their excellent halters and paracord mecates. Anyone who is part of this company is pretty high on my list to help if you can.

Bob Melson passed away, from a sudden heart attack on May 2, 2019, while on the way to work at Double Diamond Halter Co. He is survived by his wife Suzy and son Tyler. Bob was employed by the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon south of Bozeman, MT for 14 years. He was the corral boss and his wife Suzy was the main chef during that time.

In 2002 Bob joined the Double Diamond Halter Co. where he worked for 16 1/2 years. At Double Diamond Bob was in charge of many areas of production including all of the lariats, sewing the leather nosebands, meticulously braiding pineapple knots and the development and design of new products. A very valuable employee he was a friend and teacher to his coworkers.

Cowboy Bob, as he was known, was a skilled leather worker who repaired saddles and made numerous leather products at his shop in Belgrade. He will be greatly missed by family, friends and coworkers. His pleasant and cooperative attitude made him a great friend and employee. Currently, Pete Melniker is ram rodding a effort to raise money to help Suzy and Tyler with expenses since Bob's income was very important to his family. Join us in our support of Suzy and Tyler. All contributions will be greatly appreciated by Bob’s family.

Go Fund Me link for Bob Melson's family

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ranching on the US-Mexican Border

This short story was posted by the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and asked to be shared with readers. I am gladly including this border ranching account on this page as very few people actually know the day in and day out dangers of living so close to an over run and sparsely enforced border. And it is not just the ranches abutting the border. Families and ranches 50 miles inside the border often find their gates left open or damaged, fences cut, piles of trash, houses broken into, and employees threatened.

The Border Patrol is taking daily insults and untruthful allegations about a perceived lack of enforcement coupled with an abusive manner towards detainees. With a huge number of Border Patrol agents being diverted to care for aliens in detention centers, the border is much less patrolled than is was in past years. And make no mistake about it - every group of illegal aliens coming across the border are controlled by the Drug Cartels using the aliens and the diversion to US enforcement response for their narcotics smuggling operations. This also leaves the ranchers even less protected.

Don't let their politicians tell you different. I live on the border...I know the deal. I have worked on and know ranchers from West Texas through Arizona. They are both fed up and fearful with a lack of response from Legislators. Read the below account and put yourself in the boots of Ms Johnson-Valdez.

Erica Johnson-Valdez's ranch is 25 miles north of the US/Mexico border, but at ground zero for drug smuggling activity. She shares a typical day:

"It's 6 am and the sun has just started to break over the Pyramid Mountains. My husband and I drop off our 13 year-old daughter and a friend of hers (10 years-old) to trail cattle to the bottom of a canyon about a mile and a half away. We've already been trotting for about 30 minutes and we're far from the trucks and completely out of cell phone service. I say a little prayer as I follow my husband up over the top of a rim and lose sight of the girls.

This has become the norm, silently saying prayers and nervously waiting until the drive comes together and I see that everyone is alright. He drops me off one canyon over from the girls and he heads to the north fence. As I'm putting cattle together and starting them down my canyon I keep topping out to see if I can see the girls. It wasn't always like this, I used to never worry about not seeing them for a couple of hours because I was confident in their abilities and knew they knew where to go, but as the ever present danger of drug smugglers and illegal traffic increases I find myself more and more worried.

As the morning goes on, I continue to climb to the top of each peak hoping for a glimpse of the girls and scanning the horizon for anything that looks suspicious. Three hours later the drive has come together and for the first time, I take a deep breath when I hear the girls giggling and telling stories, long before I ever see them. Today was a short day and the gather came together quickly. We start back up the canyon toward the trucks and I'm reminded how blessed I am to live this amazing life and share this with my amazing family. The girls are telling me a story about a rattlesnake they saw and how they got chased by a cow that was "crazy." I silently say another prayer for keeping my family safe today.

This is just a glimpse into my life and what life is like trying to earn a living and raise a family on the southern NM border. Lawmakers and politicians don't understand the danger and can't understand why we continue to stay here. There's no use explaining something to someone that doesn't really WANT to understand. I'm going to keep telling my story and eventually the truth will come out. In the mean time, there are real people, real families, real mothers, just like me, raising families, making a living, helping neighbors and paying taxes on land our government won't protect.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Birthday America!

Happy 243rd Birthday to the greatest nation ever conceived on God's earth. Sometimes you would not know it from the protests, and frankly the whining, but I have been to over 20 foreign countries and there is not a country that ever existed, nor exists today, that offers the freedoms and chance to pursue happiness like the United States. All it takes is a sense of gratefulness and individual responsibility. God Bless America!

And for those who are younger and have not been taught American history, I offered the short timeline below on the beginnings of what would come to be called the United States.

1754–1763: French and Indian War
The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War, the American phase of a worldwide nine years’ war fought between France and Great Britain.  As a result of the war, France ceded all of its North American possessions east of the Mississippi River to Britain. The costs of the war contributed to the British government’s decision to impose new taxes on its American colonies.  The experience gained by the American Colonialists fighting against the French and their Indian allies, would prove to be invaluable in the coming revolution.

March 22, 1765: Stamp Act
Like the Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act was imposed to provide increased revenues to meet the costs of defending the enlarged British Empire. It was the first British parliamentary attempt to raise revenue through direct taxation on a wide variety of colonial transactions, including legal writs, newspaper advertisements, and ships’ bills of lading. Enraged colonists nullified the Stamp Act through outright refusal to use the stamps as well as by riots, stamp burning, and intimidation of colonial stamp distributors. This is a hint to American governments of the future to avoid over taxing the population.

March 5, 1770: Boston Massacre
In Boston, a small British army detachment that was threatened by mob harassment opened fire and killed five people, an incident soon known as the Boston Massacre. The soldiers were charged with murder and were given a civilian trial, in which John Adams conducted a successful defense because he believed in legal representation for all and was a fine lawyer.  Of course John Adams became a leader in the revolution and 2nd President.

December 16, 1773: Boston Tea Party
Protesting both a tax on tea (taxation without representation) and the single source monopoly controlling prices of the East India Company, a party of Bostonians disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships at anchor and dumped thousands of dollars (actually British pounds at the time) worth of tea into the harbor, and this became known as the Boston Tea Party.

September 5, 1774: First Continental Congress convenes
In protests to the Intolerable Acts, the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. Fifty-six delegates represented all the colonies except Georgia, who were likely too busy with their peach harvest.

March 23, 1775: Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech
Convinced that war with Great Britain was inevitable, Virginian Patrick Henry defended strong resolutions for equipping the Virginia militia to fight against the British in a fiery speech in a Richmond church with the famous words, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  Patrick Henry would go on to serve two separate terms as Governor of Virginia and died in 1799.

April 18–19, 1775: Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord - the Shot Heard round the world
On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode from Charlestown to Lexington (both in Massachusetts) to warn that the British were marching from Boston to seize the colonial armory at Concord (gun confiscation as an unarmed population is a compliant one). During the march, the British force of 700 men were met on Lexington Green by 77 local minutemen and others. It is unclear who fired the first shot, but it sparked a skirmish that left eight Americans dead. At Concord, the British were met by hundreds of militiamen rallying to their countrymen. Outnumbered and running low on ammunition, the British column was forced to retire to Boston. On the return march, American snipers took a deadly toll on the British. Total losses in the Battles of Lexington and Concord numbered 273 British and more than 90 Americans. The Americans learned to use cover and concealment from the French and Indian Wars however would not always use unconventional tactics against the British and suffered dearly in set European style battles against the British in the coming years.

June 17, 1775: Battle of Bunker Hill
The battle of Breed’s Hill in Charlestown, mistakenly named the Battle of Bunker Hill, was part of the American siege of British-held Boston. Some 2,300 British troops eventually cleared the hill of the entrenched Americans, but at the cost of more than 40 percent of the assault force. The battle was a moral victory for the Americans.

January 1776: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense published
In late 1775 the colonial conflict with the British still looked like a civil war, not a war aiming to separate nations; however, the publication of Thomas Paine’s book (actually a pamphlet - but you should find a copy and read it) Common Sense put independence on the front burner. Paine’s 50-page document, couched in a direct language, sold more than 100,000 copies within a few months. More than any other single publication, Common Sense is credited to pushing the path for the Declaration of Independence.

July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence adopted
After the Congress recommended that colonies form their own governments, the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and revised in committee. On July 2 the Congress voted for independence; on July 4 it adopted the Declaration of Independence.  For entertainment on this whole process watch the musical "1776".

November 15, 1777: The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation
Although ratification of the Constitution by all 13 states did not take place until March 1, 1781.

September–October 1781: Siege of Yorktown
After winning a costly victory at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, on March 15, 1781, Lord Cornwallis entered Virginia to join other British forces there, setting up a base at Yorktown. Washington’s army and a force under the French Count de Rochambeau placed Yorktown under siege, and Cornwallis surrendered his army of more than 7,000 men on October 19, 1781, effectively ending the war.

September 3, 1783: Treaty of Paris officially ends the war
After the British defeat at Yorktown, the land battles in America largely died out—but the fighting continued at sea, chiefly between the British and America’s European allies, mainly France but also later included Spain and the Netherlands. The military result in North America was reflected in the preliminary Anglo-American peace treaty of 1782, which was included in the Treaty of Paris of 1783. By its terms, Britain recognized the independence of the United States with generous boundaries, including the Mississippi River on the west. Britain retained Canada but ceded East and West Florida to Spain.

June 21, 1788: Constitution Ratified
The Constitution was written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia by 55 delegates to a Constitutional Convention that were called to amend the Articles of Confederation (1781–89), the country’s first written constitution. And on June 21, 1788 it became ratified when New Hampshire became the 9th State to ratify it.  Remember all documents and communications had to be carried on land by men on horseback.

September 25, 1789: Congress adopts the Bill of Rights - the first 12 Amendments to the US Constitution
The first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Some Thoughts on Backing

A common question I receive is on backing horses. The questions "How do I get a horse to back up" or "How do I get my horse to back up better" are consistently common questions. Unfortunately I also get questions pertaining to what bit to use to get a horse to backup.

In the Arena Challenges I run, I always have one or more stations where the competitor has to back a horse straight, or back while pulling a log, or, back up in a "L", Serpentine or Circle. With respects to my competitors, few do backing well.

In my opinion, backing well actually starts on the ground when you are gentling your horse getting him sacked out and giving to pressure, getting his head soft. In the beginning we usually use a light but steady pull backwards on the lead rope to get the horse to back up. It's common to do this when leading a horse and the horse begins to get too close or even forward of your position. This rear ward pressure on the lead generally works if you provide a release when the horse takes a step. This can be refined to giving the release as a front hoof comes off the ground, and even as we are just starting to introduce the horse to backing, giving a release when there is even a weight shift off a foot, as the horse prepares to take a step. Because a horse can brace pretty easy against this rearward pressure, sometimes combining the rear ward pressure while moving his head left and right will often break a foot loose easier and get a step to the rear, where you can give a release and build on that.

However, we are not always going to be positioned on the ground, at his head, to use rearward pressure on the lead rope, or it could be the reins, to effect a backup. The previously mentioned side to side movement of head makes it easier to transition to just wiggling the lead rope which comes in handy when you are in front of the horse and want the horse to backup. This is handy if you are on the ground repositioning a loop on a calf and need the horse to come forward to give slack and then to backup to get the rope taunt. Another situation may be that you are dismounted fixing a fence and horse gradually move up next to you - if you can back them up with a wiggle of the lead, or reins, you can keep him out of trouble with the barb wire. Again, it's just handy to be able to back your horse from the ground. In the last Arena Challenge I ran, one of the tasks was to dismount, stand inside a 2' x 2' PVC frame and stay in that frame while the rider had to back the horse away from the feel transmitted through the reins or the get down rope.

Everyone has seen horses being pulled back with their head raised and mouth gaping. Occasionally I get the question on what bit works best for backing a horse, and, equally unfortunately, at various events I have heard comments like "I need to find out what kind of bit that guy is using, as his horse backs so well". This kind of question or comment exposes the thinking that backing is achieved and maintained by pulling the horse back using pain or the horse's response to avoid pain to get the horse to back.

Watching a horse being backed with his head thrown up and mouth gaping open - it is not only inefficient and frankly, ugly, it is not fair to the horse. The horse's puts additional weight on the front end, where about 60-65% of his weight normally is anyway, and ends up off balance pushing with his front end. It's like falling backwards almost.

I used to do something like this: ask the horse for softness (to break at the poll), sit on my pockets deep in the seat, then apply alternative pressure on the reins, as gently as I could but firm enough to signal the horse to take a step back, and I would use leg pressure on their belly with my calf, heel or spur. The problem with this is that when we are trying to collect a horse with forward momentum, we are doing the same thing - asking them to break at the poll and using our legs to bring their belly up rounding the back and driving the back end underneath themselves. It's confusing to me, then again I'm not known as a particularly smart man, but it has just got to be as confusing to the horse - we are asking the horse to differentiate the different between a backup and collection at forward momentum with only with a slight weight change in the saddle.

So it was only when I started not using my legs on their barrel that I had the desired action I was looking for. You still have to ask the horse for vertical softness, and a slight weight change in your seat as you put some feel into your reins in an alternating fashion. Give the horse a release and build to where you are giving that release on the same side rein that the front foot is coming off the ground.

Working on this timing will help with us with connecting the reins to the feet in other things we do. I do use my feet, but off the barrel, in a wiggling motion (for lack of a better word) which creates energy that the horse can feel. I work on all these cues with a voice command, so that when I am in a position where I can't use my reins or seat to effectively signal a backup, nor maybe even my seat sometimes, I still have a voice command with the energy created by moving my feet in the stirrups to get the horse to backup. I hope this helps someone else.  Safe Journey.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Randy Rieman Horsemanship Clinic El Paso 2019

What do dressage horses, barrel horses, team roping, pleasure and ranch horses all have in common? It was that they and their riders were much better after participating in a Randy Rieman Clinic I hosted on 4-5 May 2019. Randy, who rode with Tom and Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt, and roped with Bill Dorrance including learning how to braid rawhide from him, came in from cold Northern Montana to 90 degree West Texas heat to work with everyone on their specific problems. Thirteen total riders over 2 days gave everyone plenty of individual attention.

For some riders it was how to give the horse the freedom to find what you are asking for. For others it was a subtle way to ask for lead departures. And for everyone it was asking for a bend, and using more of your legs and being less reliant on your hands for that bend.

While all of the clinic participants said they came away with much more than they expected and thought the time and money they spent was a bargain for what they received,.... two of the clinic participants told me they were hesitant to come and pre-disposed to think it wasn't going to be worth it as they came from very specific uses for their horses - dressage and team roping, but Randy proved to them and everyone else for that matter that no matter what discipline you ride, no matter what breed of horse you are sitting, you can get better performance by putting together willingness and balance.

As good as Horseman Randy Rieman is, I suspect he is an even better man having to get to know him over the span of two clinic in two years. He stayed with me and had but to walk out the back door less than 100 yards to his classroom - my arena. Before and after the sessions gave me plenty of time to pick his brain across a wide range of topics. His insight into what Tom and Bill Dorrance were trying to impart, with understanding and communicating to the horse, was insightful to say the least.

Randy is close friends with Bryan Neubert and Joe Wolter and said more than once that there are no better horsemen then these two. I'll just bet that if you asked either of these two who the two best were, either one of them would put Randy on that list.   And if you haven't heard of Bryan Neubert, Joe Wolter or Randy Rieman it's likely because they are as least commercialized as they come. They do not benefit from the movies, television and magazines highlighting the already well known clinicians on a weekly and monthly basis, nor do any of them market a long line of logoed products. You also won't likely see the flash, smoke and music of a DownUnder style event either. Randy fit his El Paso visit in between his foaling season and his annual clinic tours in Germany and Switzerland where there is a large following of the Californio style horsemanship (that's the term I think of - Randy may think of it as something else), but in any account Randy is carrying on what Tom and Bill Dorrance brought to the public.

Randy Rieman is easier to book and cheaper to host for a clinic than some of the more common names everyone is going to, or watching tapes on. I can't imagine anyone not getting their money worth having Randy sort out their issues with their horses. He will simply make everyone better, and make you want to get better - learning to learn as he said. Give him a call. Put him on your calendar and host a clinic, you won't regret it, and I'll just bet you will come away with at least a yearning to learn more.

Randy Rieman
472 25th Rd NW
Choteau, MT 59422


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cowboy Up

If you are reading this then the term "Cowboy Up" likely means, to you, things like enduring discomfort to get the job done and being loyal to who you work for (riding for the brand) and getting the job done.

In the book, "Cowboy Ethics" by James P. Owen there is a Code of the West which is similiar to what others publish as the Cowboy Code and that simply states:

~ Live each day with courage.
~ Take pride in your work.
~ Always finish what you start.
~ Do what has to be done.
~ Be tough, but fair.
~ When you make a promise, keep it.
~ Ride for the brand.
~ Talk less and say more.
~ Remember that some things aren't for sale.
~ Know where to draw the line.

I can't find much fault with that excepting I would have added:

~ Treat people and animals with respect - especially the eldery, women and horses.
~ Stand up for those who need standing up for.
~ Love the land, this country and respect the law.

When I was in the military it always stuck in my craw when senior leaders would say things like "Don't cowboy this up", or, "Were not cowboys so stick to the plan", and a host of other things that were disparging to Cowboys but not said in disrespect, but from a point of ingorance,.......but irritated me anyways.

Fast forward to today and I saw on the news that the University of Wyoming, whose mascot is a Cowboy riding a Bucking Horse with Hat in hand, is under fire for their their latest marketing slogan which is "The World Needs More Cowboys".  A spokesman for the University said "A Cowboy is not what you are, but who you are."

However, people have taken offense to the Universty's slogan. In my mind these are the kind of people who take offense to many things, but I digress. A native American said words to the effect that 'if you are not a white person and especially a native American, then the image of a white cowboy on horseback does not present a good image.' Okay, fair enough. But lets re-live the shameful history of how native Americans were treated. Nobody from that time period is alive today. But we could sure do good to take the work ethic from the 1800's and apply it today.

So is a Cowboy an racist or sexist stereotype? I think not. Some of the bests Cowboys, most unknown but some known by their Rodeo successes, are Black Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans. And some of the best hands on any ranch are women. In fact women likely have the advantage of possessing a higher compassion and the lack of a male ego to burden them. Western Horseman magazine publishes a column each month titled "Women of the West" where they showcase modern women in the ranching industry. I doubt they think the slogan "The World Needs More Cowboys" is sexist or even any bit inappropriate.

Fox News is reporting that Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said ranchers are worried that the dispute may cast “aspersions on a time-honored way of life and work. We are proud of the true image of the real cowboy or cowgirl, often of very diverse race or ethnicity, riding the range on a well-groomed horse while sporting a cowboy hat, chaps, spurs and a rope.”

Sometimes when I'm riding along a road a car will stop and children will pile out excited to see a horse (they ain't excited to see an old guy that's for sure). I enjoy talking to them about horses, putting them on my horse for pictures (I think my horse likes it too) and one will invariably ask "Mister, are you a Cowboy?" and I respond "Who wouldn't want to be a Cowboy? Me? I'm still trying."  And that's true.  I'm not ashamed for what I am working for no matter what some person who hasn't stepped on dirt lately thinks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Race Horses dying at Santa Anita Park

I've never been a fan of horse racing, or for other futurity competitive horse events where young, physical immature horses are rode. You may think a three year old if mature enough to race or compete in physical tasking events, but that 3 year old began training well before becoming 3 in order to be competitive and therefore incurring damage, sometimes long lasting, or the injuries, sometimes life ending that a immature body can't handle. I don't think anyone wants to break down and hurt horses, but the pressure to get these horses on the pay roll (to earn money for the owners) is great.

Repetitive impact at a gallop with 3 times (or more) the load of a horse's body weight can cause skeletal fractures, connective and soft tissue injuries, such as ruptured tendons, development of painful bone spurs, and inflammation of the tendon endings and stress on the joints (creating arthritis) which will plague a horse throughout his lifetime.

When I ran a large public barn the local race track would call me and ask me to post notices on horses being given away, as it's much cheaper to give a horse away than it is to euthanize it or get it transported to a kill facility. These horses were almost always injured in some way. There was one horse, an older TB gelding who was a companion horse, that was the exception. But the rule of thumb was that there was a hidden reason for trying to home a horse. In one severe case, one of my boarders brought in a free three year old TB who had collapsed suspensory ligaments on his front left leg where the fetlock was set well behind the heel of the hoof - so apparent it was mind numbing that the boarder took him to make into a team roping horse.

The racing industry is well known for using anti-inflammatory drugs so a horse can continue training or even race. Pin firing, to burn a horse's injured tissue and therefore create a more serious inflammatory response to aid healing, can be used legitimately, but it is used when the horse is already injured and in the case of a bowed tendon, it is likely to come back again. The chances of sustaining suspensory ligament damage, soft connective tissue injuries, not to mention other physical aliments that comes with intense training on physically immature frames is just too big a risk for me to ask a horse to accept. So makes me angry when I read a news feed that 21 horses, that's twenty one, have died since Christmas time at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, California. It appears that most, if not all of the horses, were put down after sustaining bad injuries. Some of the race track people are attributing the great increase in injuries (and deaths) to the condition of the track caused by excessive rains. Well, those horse's didn't ask to be ridden and trained on less than safe ground. Again human's fail horses.

I am also no fan of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who is protesting for the closure of the race track, but I hope something is done. I would rather there be some organizational self correction where a older age for racing horses is adopted and strictly enforced, something like the Endurance Racing organization use.

I am linking an article from the Washington Post here.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Randy Rieman Clinic 4-5 May 2019

We are fortunate enough to host a Randy Rieman clinic this coming May 4-5, 2019.  In fact, I just announced this and we have filled 10 of the available 40 slots for four 1/2 day sessions.

Randy, based out of Choteau, Montana, is fitting us in during the beginning of his foaling season and just before his annual trips to Europe to conduct clinics.

He came down two years ago to neighboring Las Cruces to give us a two day clinic and demonstrated why he is highly sought after a Horsemanship, Stockmanship and Ranch Roping clinician.

Not only is Randy known for his horsemanship, but he is a noted Cowboy Poet, performing at events like the annual Cowboy Poet Gathering in Elko, Nevada, as well as being a renowned rawhide braider crafting Reatas and San Juan style hondos. Randy learned to braid rawhide from Bill Dorrance and produced a two DVD set called "Four Strands of Rawhide" with Bill Dorrance. He also conducts Rawhide Braiding schools for those interested in carrying on this old cowboy tradition.

Check out Randy at his website to learn more.  His DVD "Four Strands of Rawhide" is available through Eclectic Horseman.

The Randy Rieman Clinic location will be 17 miles East of downtown El Paso, Texas.  If you are interested in riding in one of Randy's clinic sessions, text or call me, the sooner the better, at 915 204-7995.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Horse Trade

Cowboy poetry is one of the purest American forms of entertainment and really is actually an art form. Hope you will enjoy Cowboy Poetry Cowboy poet Ross Knox reciting "The Horse Trade", by Sunny Hancock, at the 28th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on February 4, 2012 in Elko, Nevada.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Backing and Drawing a Horse from the Ground

Why might you want or need to back a horse from the ground? By this I mean the handler standing still and moving the horse back using a voice command or a feel of the rein. Why would you need to be able to drop the reins and have your horse stand still while you walked away a bit? And why might you need to draw or bring the horse towards you using a voice command or a feel of the reins?

In the annual arena competition I have hosted for the past four years, this year I had a task where the rider had to dismount, step into a 2x2 foot box and ask his horse to back. Riders could use their reins, get down rope, the lead end of a mecate or even just a voice command to get their horse to back but they had to stay in the box. Then the rider had to drop the reins or get down rope and walk around a barrel maybe 20 feet away, demonstrating the horse's ability to ground tie (even if it is momentarily), then walk back to the box, pick up the rein and draw their horse to them. The riders had the option of tying the reins up after they dismount and solely use voice commands if they wanted.

There were 42 entries in this competition and I believe only 3, maybe 4 riders/horses could do all three - backing the horse; horse ground tying and not moving off; and drawing the horse back to you. No offense to the competitors, but a few of these tries were not pretty. Horse's flying backwards with head's high and pushing with their front end; horse not ground tying even for a moment; and even a few horse's not wanting to come back to their rider having the reins jerked to get them to back up. I didn't see alot of jerking on the reins but even once is too much and I'm going to address that in a different article.

The reason for not doing these things well is that some riders don't have a use for their horses to do this. While I consider it an extension of being broke to lead and necessary for my horses to stand still as you dismount and move forward, move to you on command or through the change in feel of a rein, and back up on command or through the change in feel of a rein when you have a loop on a calf and have to dismount to reposition the loop needing slack on the rope then having it re-tightened.

Backing a horse on the ground comes in handy when leading a horse to a gate and it opens towards you so you have to back the horse up. Or when you are throwing feed and the horse wants to hang his head over the feeder. Or when you are on the ground and checking someone else's saddle or bridle and don't want your horse pushing you into the other horse.....and there are dozens of other situations.

Having a horse ground tie is very handy when you are changing bridles or have to dismount to do something like check on a float valve. It is just a natural follow on from having your horse lead up well. In the video below I brought out a horse towards the end of a session with some riders that we were filming and one asked me if I could show her how I get my horse to back, ground tie and come to me on command. Getting a horse to back away from you on a lead line, or rein, is the easier part. Having them stand still - stay ground tied, and drawing them towards you on the change of feel on the lead/rein is just a bit more difficult. Young horses will want to come to you before you ask them. Don't make it federal offense if they come before being asked, just back them up and ask them to stand again. When drawing the horse towards you, try to see just how little pressure or difference in feel of that lead or rein it will take to get that horse to come to you. As with everything, reward the horse's beginning of that effort - don't give the horse a pause between your asking so he can absorb the lesson.