Monday, December 26, 2011

Barefoot or Shoes? - David's Question

David wrote "Hello, and THANK YOU! I really like your website, and along with others, learning more about horsemanship. What is your input on shod horse vs. barefoot horses? I see a lot of people going barefoot, and wonder if it would be better for the horse. I see proof of better circulation thru the legs as the hoof flexes with movement, as compared to shod and fixed, not able to flex...By the way, we have a mustang/quarter mare that does not like carrots! but a sucker for apples. She has a brand on the left side upper neck under the mane but I can't tell what it says. She is a sweetheart and good mama horse to her 6mo filly. daddy is tennessee walker, all bay and match. Thank you and please keep up good work. About Colic...if you know you going to ride all day, how much breakfast do you give the horse? and how long to wait till you ride? just a little soaked hay enuff? Man thanks fer puttin up with me...David"

As far as putting shoes on a horse, the type of riding and terrain, and even more so, the quality or soundness of the feet will determine that. In a mostly sand or dirt environment horses can go barefoot with no problem.

More than half of my horses are unshod. If you are going to be riding in rocky areas than shoes would make sense. A good farrier can correct some problems with the feet with corrective shoeing. One of my horse's had a pretty bad flare on his back right outside hoof, and in fact all his feet were in pretty bad shape when I picked him up. Consistent and good shoeing has given him the best feet he can hope for.

The hoof flexing or not flexing should have no effect on circulation, shod or unshod. I would think the concussion of the feet striking the ground and the contraction/extension of the muscles having more to do with circulation. But you know God made those horses without shoes and I think if you can get away without putting shoes on then, for the most part, your horse will be better for it. You can always carry hoof wraps or boots in your saddle bags if you think you might get into some rocky ground.

I think it's pretty unusual for a horse not to like carrots. I have a Mustang who won't eat apples for some reason. When I got him, he didn't eat grain either, but now he like's it well enough.

You may be able to figure out your Mustang brand by going to this web site - Mustangs4us. I'm interested in hearing how your Mustang - Tennessee Walker foal works out. That's an interesting cross. I had a Walker-Quarter Horse cross one time and he was a dandy - very willing to learn and please.

If I'm riding long and far I always let my horses eat and get a drink before hand. I think it's good to have some feed in the gut for energy and to keep the gut moving. If I'm short of time and I'm trailering someplace I may just feed them 5 or 6 lbs of alfalfa, and their grain, then hang a hay net of wet Coastal Bermuda in the trailer for them. More than once I got called out to find a missing person and had to leave pronto so I let my horse eat wet alfalfa from a large bucket, while I was tacking him up. I think feeding amount and time between feeding and riding will also depend upon how hard you are going to work them.

There are many cases of narcotics traffickers using horses to pack dope across the border. It is not unusual for some of these strings to go without feed and water in some cases for a couple days. The trafficker's obviously don't care about the horses and always turn them loose after reaching the vehicle load up spot. I think if I caught someone doing this, I rope them and drag them a long piece. Probably couldn't hang them, which would be my first choice, because of a lack of suitable trees.

I know Cowboys and recreational riders who absolutely will not let their horse graze while they are in the saddle. They call it a bad habit. I think it's only a bad habit if they pull on you or otherwise try to eat absent of a cue to do so. Even though grass is scarce out here in West Texas - Southern New Mexico I'll routinely let my horse get a mouthful of wild grass (Indian Ricegrass or Grama Grass) when I'm riding. I think it's good for him. If it's hot , been riding for a long period and we're lacking water, well that's different and I won't let them eat much.

Some arena riders believe in feeding, or a partial feeding, before training as a way to reduce the horse from being barn sour.

When I get them back to the corral, it as important that you cool your horse down before you feed them. Un-saddling, brushing, checking and cleaning feet, then turn them out for a roll and a drink, then they should be ready to be fed. Erring on the side of caution and waiting longer than you think is necessary won't hurt. Safe Journey.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

On the rare occasion we have enough snow to do anything with, we build snow things. My wife sculpted the horse in the photo.

While my daughter and I used our less than artistic talents to to make this snow cowboy roping a snow calf.

I would take a poll to see which snow thing is more pleasing to the eye,...but I wouldn't want to hurt my wife's feelings.

Have a Happy New Year and 
Safe Journey through 2012

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Correction - Feeding a Hardkeeper Roping Horse

I previous answered a reader's question on feeding an underweight roping horse.....
"Roping Horse Can't Keep on Weight"

Funder brought to my attention that I made an error: "Horses generally require 2% of their body weight in feed per day, which is 20 lbs for a 1000 lb horse. 20% is 200 lbs a day :)."

Thanks Funder. I have corrected the post. I meant to say that Horses generally require approximately 2% of their body weight in feed per day. Two percent (2%) of an 1,000 lbs horse would be 20 lbs per day,....not 200 lbs.

safe journey

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reader Questions: Anti-Cribbing Measures and Mustang Brands

Question on Cribbing.  Jim asked ”Is there a natural remedy to put on the stall boards to keep horses from chewing them? Thanks”

Jim, I haven’t had a large problem with my horses chewing wood (called cribbing), however when I managed a large stables several of the owners had cribbing problems with their horses and as I recall most of them did not find a good solution. The obvious answer is to remove all sources of wood from your stalls or turnouts, however I understand this is impractical for a lot of people.

Here are some possible solutions you may want to look into:

Anti-cribbing miracle collar from Smart-Pak

Cribbing Strap from Shane's Tack.

The below cribbing solutions are available from Horse Supplies

Cribbing Eliminator by Liquid Fence. The company advertises this product as an all-natural equine product that offers a non-toxic, cruelty free, and guaranteed effective solution to wood chewing habits and is a great way to curb wood chewing without having to resort to muzzles and straps, diet alterations, drugs, or painful electric-shock collars.

Stop Crib is a brushable paste to help discourage chewing and sucking vices in horses.

Crib Stop Spray can be sprayed on horse clothing, leg wraps, wood, tails and manes, bedding, tack and many more items.

Red Hot Spray is a chilli-tasting, non-toxic formula of soap, spices and flavouring to stop horses chewing on bandages & rugs.

Question on Mustang Brands.  SFC Stephen asked ”While we are on the subject of BLM and Mustangs, I, owning a BLM Mustang (if one can "own" a Mustang or any horse for that matter) am curious how they choose which Mustangs to catch and allow to be adopted. Do they choose the weak, the strongest, the prettiest or, just the easiest to catch? I am waiting for spring to shave and try to decipher the tattoo on mine. Also, the dates they put on them, is this the actual foal date (if so, how do they know) or is it the date they catch the horse? Any information is appreciated, as always.”

Mustangs & Burros are freeze branded on the left neck by the BLM after they are captured. Details such as age and registration number can be deciphered from the brand. Each brand is unique, so each animal can be identified positively if you can read the brand. It would be difficult for me to explain how to read the brands. You would be much better off by going to this website to learn how the BLM brands and how to read them.

Safe Journey all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Army Scout - Frank North

Frank Joshua North, born in New York 1840, was better known as William (Buffalo Bill) Cody's partner in a cattle ranch in Nebraska and as a show manager with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show than he is an Army Scout. But Frank North has a relatively distinguished 10+ year career as an Army Scout and, in particular, Chief of Pawnee Scouts during some of the Plains Indian Wars, known for his mastery of the Pawnee language.

North began his service in 1860 as a clerk at the Pawnee Agency in Nebraska where he learned the Pawnee's language and provided services as an interpreter. Prior to 1860, North was reported to have ben a teamster for a number of years, transported goods between Army forts and towns.

In 1864 Frank North served as a guide for the Army and so impressed the Army with his knowledge of the Pawnees and their language that he was asked to raise a unit of Pawnee Scouts. So North entered military service as a Lieutenant of Scouts.

The next year, North was promoted to Captain and again asked to raise a unit of Pawnee Scouts. Most Indian Scouts in the day were mustered in and out based on campaigns and not under contract for a number of years like regular Army soldiers. North's Pawnees Scouts were involved with several successful battles mainly against Sioux and Cheyenne, and sometimes hostile Arapaho.

In 1867 North was commissioned a Major of Scout under General Auger and directed to guard the Union Pacific Railroad and it's workers, reportedly engaging in at least one major battle with the Cheyenne.

Major North and his Pawnee Scouts played an important role in the victory over Tall Bull and his warriors at Summit Springs, Colorado, in July, 1869. North is sometimes accredited with Tall Bull's death. Throughout the next couple of years North and his men were stationed at Fort Russell, Wyoming with the 3rd Cavalry.

During 1871 to 1872, North served a term in the Nebraska Legislature.

Frank North and his Scouts again served the Army, this time under General George Crook in the wars against the Sioux. Based out of Fort Laramie, Wyoming the North led Pawnee Scouts combined with the men led by General Mackenzie to defeat the Cheyenne at Powder River on 25th November, 1876, fives months after Custer's massacre.

The Pawnee Scouts were finally disbanded for good in May, 1877. North also left the army and joined up with William (Buffalo Bill) Cody and Frank's younger brother Luther North to buy a ranch on the Dismal River in Nebraska.

In 1883 Buffalo Bill persuaded North to join his Wild West Show. The following year he was badly hurt when he was thrown from and trampled by his horse during a show in Hartford, Connecticut. North subsequently dies in 1885, supposedly from conditions brought about by his horseback injuries.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rearing Horse

Ed wrote “I have been working with a 7 year old green broke mare in the round pen, and around our place for about 6 months. My objective is to get her where she can ride me along the river trails next to our place. Our problem is that she works good for a while, then she tends to puff up, get stiff, and rear. She has put me on the ground twice, and the second time came all the way over. Fortunately, I went left, and she went right. Although she lost her mind, she did not run off, and after another 10 minutes in the round pen, I remounted her, and she rode me around the round pen for another 15 minutes or so before we went back to the barn. My question is can this mare be broke of the rearing, or, is she too dangerous to fool with any longer?”

Hey Ed, good for you to, after getting dumped, to get right back on. One question would be does she rear in the round pen when you work her off the ground? If you make it uncomfortable for them to have their front end off the ground by a hard jerk on the lead line. This requires good timing of course. Sometime they have to go over backward to figure out that’s what they don’t want to do....not a suggestion just an observation - hope that won't happen, but much better to have a horse do it in ground training than with a rider in the saddle.

I would make sure you remove any other source of her coming off the ground like too much pressure or no release from the bit; any teeth problems that may be associated with pain from a bit; or a bit seated too deep in the mouth. I knew a guy who had a problem with his horse coming off the ground sometimes and I associated that with his use of a mechanical hackamore and being too heavy handed, so the horse had no way to go but up to find a release from the pressure or pain.

A buddy of mine swore up and down that the only way to break a horse of rearing was to pull their head around causing them to fall to the side, bringing the ground side leg up and staying in the saddle, then get the horse up on his feet and put him to work. I reckon this was his version of pressure and release. I like the use of my own legs too much to try this on purpose.

One of my horses came off his front end a couple times and I reacted by whacking him on the chest with the poppers of my reins which caused him to bolt forward both times and I just doubled him and made him work hard for a few minutes. He hasn’t done it since,……doesn’t mean he won’t do it again given the right circumstances, nor does it mean I won’t see it again in another horse.

Sometimes a horse will get their back end up underneath themselves, especially in backing so their front end will come off the ground with all the shift of weight to their back end. Doesn't sound like this is your problem, but something to look for.

The bottom line is that coming up off the front end (rearing) is very dangerous as you know. If I couldn’t replicate it and fix that behavior in the round pen, on the ground first, then in the saddle, then I personally wouldn’t ride her out until I could fix it. However a lot of wet saddle blankets usually makes a pretty big difference in young green broke horses.

Good luck Ed and let me know how that mare is coming along. Safe Journey.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Horses Slaughter Update

One of the reasons, maybe the main reason, I do the Functional Horseman website is that I think if more people get involved with their horses,..... learning about them, enjoying them, then not only could a few more horses have a fair life, but less of them may end up in auctions being bought by Mexican slaughter plants, since the U.S. plants closed down a number of year ago.

When horse advocates, in 2006, successfully lobbied Congress to cut funding for the required inspections of Horse Slaughter facilities, unwanted horses bought for slaughter were trucked to Mexico to be inhumanely killed.  I have routinely seen horses packed in trailers headed for Mexico.  The result these horse advocates ended up with was opposite to what they were trying to do, save horses, and caused many a horse to be killed in a very inhumane way or neglected because there was not recourse for unwanted horses. The picture above came from a local news report about one of many horse neglect cases in El Paso County, Texas.  

In my perfect world, every horses is raised from birth, cared for, give a fair life from birth to natural death. I am not advocating the raising for slaughter of horses here in the U.S. for the European horse meat market.    What I am advocating is the inspected and regulated humane death for horses.

Congress just lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month. Congress lifted the ban in a continuous resolution spending bill President Obama signed into law, on November 18th, to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

The spending bill did not allocate any money to pay for horse meat inspections, which some opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. It does allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find the money in its existing budget for inspections. In the era of necessary cuts of government spending, it remains to be seen if the USDA will allocate funding and if horse slaughter facilities will again open.

While there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, the USDA did issue a statement saying that if one did open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. This is a confusing statement as it seemingly opens the door for slaughter plants to resume operations.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States, stated "If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you'll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate. Local opposition will emerge and you'll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed."

Well it ain't just about taking and selling the family's horse(s) to slaughter auctions. It's also about having recourse for the thousands and tens of thousands of horses that cannot be cared for, adopted or otherwise humanely euthanized. Due to the economy going south, there had been a tremendous rise in horse neglect cases, with some counties and states reporting a 60% rise in the last two years. I ask the animal activists "what is better for a horse, slowly starve to death or to be humanely put down?" There are many people who cannot or will not pay a Vet to come out and put down a horse.  The horse carcass disposal problems also makes it more likely that unwanted horses would be sold or given to a slaughter auction yard. 

I have actually heard people say that with the opening of horse slaughter plants, you will see people raising horses just for the meat market. Really?! How much does it cost to raise a foal to even a long yearling? My guess would be a minimum of $1,200. How the hell is a seller going to get a profit from selling horses for meat then? The only people who make a profit are the auction yard owners and buyers who buy 20 horses for $75 to $100 and sell them for $125. Hard way to make a living.

Sorry for such a long rant. As with most subjects, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think the solutions include enhanced enforcement and punishment for people who neglect and abandon their horses. Most County Law Enforcement agencies cannot put much into resourcing for animal related crimes. Larger fines as well as using a trained and educated volunteer element would pay for itself. These fines, and jail time in some cases, can also help fund horse rescues and serve as a deterrent.

I also believe the regulated and controlled humane slaughter of horses can provide an avenue to a humane end of life for these animals when there is no other way. Beats the hell of being handled roughly, shipped to Mexico, put into a squeeze chute then stabbed in the neck and withers until the horse is paralyzed, then drug out by a chain and bleed out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Backing Uphill

Kathleen wrote to me saying she was having trouble getting her horse to back up hill.

Getting a horse to back, which is really unnatural for them past a step or two, begins on the ground under halter moving to backing on level ground under a saddle. Your horse will have to do this well, moving his feet when you ask them to. Many horse back well enough but at an angle, I think because they can’t see directly behind themselves so it is natural to move a little laterally to be able to see behind and in the direction of movement.

Horses keep the majority of their weight on their front end and backing up a hill, or going down hill for that matter, will cause them to add more of their body weight to the front end. This can be aggravated by the rider placing their weight over the saddle horn or otherwise leaning forward making it hard for the horse to pickup and move their front legs.

Not being able to back well on level ground could cause a horse backing up hill to get his back legs underneath himself, not being able to move them and can lead to a horse flipping over worst case.

It would be common for the horse to turn his head and neck to try and look behind himself which will probably result in his back end moving the other direction and getting off a line perpendicular to the incline you are trying to backup. Keep the horse between your legs and control his movement side to side with leg pressure.

I think the keys to backing uphill after backing on level ground can be performed well, is for the rider to look over each shoulder making the rider lean backwards somewhat releasing some of the weight bearing on the front end. Only use rein pressure as necessary, back slow and provide the horse with a release on each step or try. It may be a good idea to get one or two steps out of your horse backing uphill, then ride forward, give him a short break then try again maybe for an additional step this time. I’d say start slow, accept your horse’s smallest try, build on that and shortly your horse will be backing uphill just fine.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Look at Wild Horses from the AWHPC

The AWHPC is the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. I was recently sent a video of some Mustangs filmed at the Calico Complex this past April. The AWHPC reports that these wild horses are scheduled for another Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundup in less than two years, which follows on the heels of the last roundup, one of the most deadliest in terms of dead horses,...a reported 200 dead Mustangs.

No matter what your perspective on the Wild Horse and Burro issue, I don't think any reasonable person could think that these Mustangs and Burro shouldn't be handled with compassion. Mainstays of our American heritage, these animals deserve a fair life and humane treatment from humans. Regardless, you should enjoy this video.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roping Horse Can't Keep on Weight

Jeremy from Lubbock asked ”My 12 year old gelding is hard to keep weight on. I have been riding him a couple times a week but want to start roping again with my cousin but think the extra work will make him even skinnier. I have been feeding him three flakes of hay a day and he is barely keeping weight on. Have any suggestions?”

Hey Jeremy, right of you to think about your horse and I think you’re right that the additional work load of roping off him even once a week will require more feed. At 12 years old he should be a hard keeper. I don’t want to tell you how to feed your horse, cause I haven’t seen him for one reason, but some general considerations are:

At maintenance, that is just being penned up and no or very little work load, the average horse will require about 2% of his body weight in feed. I don’t know how much the flakes of hay you are feeding him weigh, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that each flake of hay weight 5 to 6 pounds as opposed to 8 to 10 pounds, therefore your horse would probably not be getting enough feed at 15 to 18 lbs per day. Two percent body weight for a 1,000 lbs horse is 20 lbs of hay. Other things to consider are quality of hay, and if you are also supplementing him with grain or processed feed.

The thing to do may be gradually increasing his feed until he is keeping good weight on. A lot of people feed nothing but alfalfa. However, I don’t like to do that so I feed both alfalfa and grass hay and provide a small amount of pelleted feed from ADM called Patriot. If you introduce grains or processed feed, then remember to start small and gradually increase.

If you think you are providing your horse adequate feed and he is still not keeping weight on, then a Vet check is in order and maybe some blood work and a fecal exam. A solid worming program, rotating wormers appropriate to the season, is a way to make sure parasites are not the problem. If you can check where you feed your horse and find half chewed bolts of feed that fell out of his mouth, he may need his teeth checked and floated if necessary. Some horses develop sharp points on their teeth that make it painful to eat and that may make it difficult to eat enough. If the Vet comes out to take a blood sample, I'd have him/her check your horse's teeth too.

Good luck and let me know if you resolve your roping horse's weight problem.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trailering Horses Across Distances

Stephen sent the following question: ”How far, at one time should a horse be trailered. In my case, a mare. I know geldings require some special needs to urinate. Just wondering about a trip from Central Texas to Central Missouri , about 700 miles.”

Stephen, thanks for your question and you previously told me that you were a service member in the Army - thank you for your service to this Nation. 700 miles is about 14 hours or so of driving if you drove straight through. I think 14 hours in a trailer is unnecessary and unpleasant for a horse, especially if hauled by themselves. I would look up “horse hotels” which are stables that provide overnight pens for horses in transit. Baring any of these available on a route you can travel, I would look at planning an overnight stay where you can un-load the horse and either put her on picket line or maybe have some temporary travel panels to erect a overnight pen.

Makes for a much happier and sounder horse to consider her on the trip, maybe stopping at a rest area to un-load her every 3-4 hours or so. Much of this is dependent upon your trailer, your driving tendencies and your horse. One of the best suggestions I ever heard was that people need to go for a ride in the trailer (as a horse would) before they ever haul one, so they can feel what the horse feels on quick stops and sharp turns.

Newer trailers have a torsion bar suspension, rather than a conventional axle, which is much easier on horse as I believe it absorbs more shock. I have thick rubber mats in my trailers to provide better footing and more shock absorption. Make sure you pull your mates from time to time to clean out underneath and ensure your wooden trailer floor doesn't rot out.

Protective shipping leg wraps for your horse is a good idea.....consider these as well as even bell boots on the front end of your mare.

Some horses won't urinate in a trailer because of the splatter from the wooden or mat covered floor. While I don't do it, my wife always puts shavings in her trailer when she transport one of her horses. Good luck and safe journey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Horse Needs to Stand Tied

Shari and two other people e-mailed me with basically the same problem, having a horse that won’t stand tied and/or pulling back from the tie rail and breaking lead lines.

Once a horse learns they can pull back, break a lead and get freedom it is hard to teach them otherwise. I don’t know how horses are getting their feet trimmed or shod without standing for that. Quickest way to have to find a new farrier is to have a horse that won’t stand for trimming or showing. Also dangerous to have a horse tied while you are trying to saddle him and have him pull back.

Using a web halter and a lead rope with some type of snap, a pulling horse can easily break the lead rope and usually at the snap. This can create a hazard where the rope and the remaining metal piece from the snap get whipped back at the horse. And if the horse get’s beaned in the head with that piece of metal, he’ll for sure think his escape was justified.

A rope halter, with a tied on lead rope, is generally better than a webbed halter and lead rope with a snap, as when the horse pulls back, the rope halter being a small diameter adds more pressure to the poll and is stronger than a lead rope with a snap, however I have seen horses break rope halters also.

The way to teach horses to stand tied is to have them stand tied but hard to do if they pull back and break the lead. I have found it helpful to use a friction device that allows the lead rope to pull through at a controlled rate. There are many on the market: The Blocker Tie Ring from Ted Blocker and the Aussie Tie Ring from Clinton Anderson, which are similar products.

I found some ring clips in a store which I use for cross ties on my farrier’s stand and wash stand. I also use a product called The Clip. See picture at top. I do not like the stop feature on the Clip (see the Clip on the right of the above picture), so I hack saw them off and file it down smooth (see the Clip on the left side of the above picture) . They come in handy tying a horse to a trailer D ring on the inside for trailering or the outside of the trailer when tacking up.

Once I hacksaw the stop feature off and smooth down the metal, which takes about 5 minutes total, I now have a smooth surface on the Clip for the rope to travel across.

Mainly used for horses who spook when tied, the idea is that when a horse spooks the lead rope will feed through the ring or clip at a controlled speed, allowing the horse to escape a little, but more importantly give him time to think and ultimately the horse should figure out that he doesn’t need to spook or pull back. Some horses just have to pull back and escape in order to figure out that they don’t have to.

Links to tie ring products: 

Ted Blocker Tie Ring

Clinton Anderson Aussie Tie Ring

The Clip

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cowboy Humor: The Pastor's New Teeth

A Pastor goes to the dentist for a set of false teeth. The first Sunday after he gets his new teeth, he preaches for only eight minutes (much to the delight of some).

The second Sunday, he talks for only ten minutes. Most of his flock are pretty content to hear the word of God in such a short span.

The following Sunday, he talks for 2 hours and 48 minutes. The congregation had to mob him to get him down from the pulpit and they asked him what happened.

The Pastor explains the first Sunday his gums hurt so bad he couldn't talk for more than 8 minutes. The second Sunday his gums hurt too much to talk for more than 10 minutes. But, the third Sunday, he put his wife's teeth in by mistake and he couldn't shut up......

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ruidoso Hoof Gauge

Lynda asked “Do you use the Ruidoso Hoof gauge?”

No Ma’am, I had to look it up to see what it was (see picture at right).    I am not a horse shoer. If I shoed my own horses, they would all be lame and ill tempered most of the time. I have pulled shoes and put a nail or two in a shoe to keep it on, but I am no horse shoer at all. I pay a gent good money to travel over 2 hours one way, every six weeks to trim and shoe my horses and I’m very satisfied with this arrangement. A good horse shoer is worth their weight in gold.

I have no opinion either on hoof gauges, the Ruidoso Hoof Gauge or any other. My shoer sometimes uses a straight ruler to measure across the bars when he is hot fitting a shoe.  If any of these devices help a shoer make sure a horse is naturally balanced and sound, and I have a better horse out of it, then I’m all for it.

Centaur Forge, a Farrier's Supply outfit, makes the Ruidoso Hoof Gauge, and they advertise that this product as fast and sure,.....that HG-1 Ruidoso Hoof Gauge doesn’t waste your time with false or inaccurate readings. The self-adjusting design lets you move from hoof to hoof without the usual re-calibration. Surface plate allows easy leveling of entire perimeter of foot plane, and the easy reading guide lets you “gauge-and-go” with confidence. 

Centaur Forge website

Centaur Forge - Wisconsin, 117 N. Spring Street, Burlington , WI 53105
Phone: 262-763-9175

Centaur Forge - Texas, 1367 B Industrial Drive, New Braunfels , TX 78130
Phone: 830-627-2300

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association

I was recently made aware of a Trail Riding Organization based around the Waco, Texas area. Formed in 1997, TETRA strives to promote all phases of trail riding as a family activity. This includes trail safety and etiquette, environmental responsibilities and educating the public about the care and conditioning of equine for trail activities. TETRA members are individuals who share a mutual love of horses and participate in trail rides across the state of Texas.

TETRA continues to establish, improve and maintain equestrian trails, offer clinics and seminars throughout the year. TETRA Needs Your Support. Get Involved 2012 ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING will be held on January 21, 2012 at Texas Star Hall, 6514 South I.H. 35, Robinson, TX 76706

Visit the TETRA website.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rubbing On A Horse

Melanie from Oregon sent in a question is "I rub my horse's face and put my face up against hers and just general loving on my horse. One of my friends said that is unsafe and detrimental to establishing dominance over your horse. I have looked around and don't see many people doing it. I am interested in your opinion."

Hey Melanie, first of all "dominance" is a tough word for me to use. I figure it's kinda hard to be dominant over an 1,000 pound animal. Maybe leadership of, partnership with, or mutual trust all may be better words.

Second of all I'm just as guilty as you in rubbing and loving my horses. I rode with some boys who would tease me sometimes,....."aren't you gonna kiss your horse before we get started",...that kinda thing. At my age I'm way past any peer pressure to act tough and all. I think the bottom line is how you and your horses relate to each other and what things you can accomplish together. It all comes out in the wash,...or as my Pa used to say "proof's in the pudding".

As long as you are careful not to get your horse's head coming up under your jaw, or having your horse disrespect your place, or any other unsafe things, I think that rubbing on, hugging, petting, brushing and grooming are all things that help gentle the horse.  Do so understanding the an 1,000 lb animal with a flight instinct can be dangerous.  

I came off a mountain patrol one afternoon, having parked my truck and trailer right off a little turn in, adjacent to the state highway. Some people saw me riding down and pulled over and before you knew it I had a crowd of people wanting to pet my horse and talk to me. My horse, pretty new at the time, was a little anxious but I knew he'd live through it with all those people crowding him and touching him and he would be better off for it. A few months later I had him at a Law Enforcement Expo and although I wasn't planning on it before I arrived, I allowed over 70 children to pet him, hug him and sit on him for pictures. So I think human touching helped gentle him quite a bit.

When I pick my corral and pens the horses follow me around wanting some human touching,...hell, I don't know it's it just reassurance for them,...or their trying to get me to hurry up so they can be fed, but I know they enjoy it. So you go right ahead and love on your horse. Be safe about it and I think your mare will be better off for it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Western Saddle Position Question

Myhorsegenie sent the following question: ” I am only new to western riding and I am learning so much from your videos. Don't laugh but I have a really basic question: What is the correct position to put a western saddle on a horse? I also have a Standardbred who will lunge at people and other horses when tethered she doesn't appear to trust anyone, she is also very protective over her food. What can I do?”

Hey Horsegenie. The correct position or saddle fit on a horse is a great question. There are many issues to consider with saddle fit, among them:

The height of the horse’s withers and clearance of the gullet of the saddle - the clearance between the horse's withers and gullet of the saddle cannot be too narrow or too much clearance. Three fingers clearance would be generally appropriate.

The fit of, and the contact of the bars of the saddle in relation to the horse’s back - the bars of the saddle should contact the horse's and not create any pressure points nor rock (move).

The saddle position (contact of the bars of the saddle) in relation to the horse’s scapula - the saddle bars should not be placed where they contact the horse's scapula as this will wear on the horse and inhibit movement. The skirt of the saddle may extend over the scapula without causing problems, but even this would concern me.

The type and length of the cinch or front girth - most traditionalist's use Mohair cinches or the cotton rope cinches. Some use neoprene intended to inhibit the saddle from rolling. I like to use canvas cinches with a sheepskin lining. The cinch on most saddles will be in the space between the horse's barrel and armpit. Use of a rear cinch should be with a connector to keep the rear cinch from sliding backward as this often causes a horse to go to bucking.

I have very seldom tacked up and ridden a center rigged saddle such an an endurance saddle. So I can't offer any help there, but your question concerns western riding so I assumed a typical western saddle. I hope this and the video helps - let me know. Safe Journey Horsegenie.

I wrote a previous post on Saddle Fit here, which you want to review.

There are forms available for the rider to cast or replicate the horse’s back and have a saddle either made or selected to fit. Most people can’t afford to have a saddle made for each horse they ride, but there are some things they can do to ensure the best fit possible, and, ways to check to see if the saddle is causing the horse problems.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cowboy Humor - New Texas Rain Gauge

As Texas continues to bake in record heat and endure the most severe one-year drought on record, hardy Texans, who can find humor in the bleakest of situations, have started using this new rain gauge.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trail Obstacles

Westy wrote and asked: "I really like the videos on getting your horse to accept strange objects. I will be riding soon in an American Competitive Trail Horse Ride and would like some ideas on what I need to get my horse used to."

Westy, thanks for your question. If I were you I would go to the ACTHA site and download the rules and list of obstacles. This will give you an idea on what you will see. I would not limit my training to these obstacles. I think the point in desensitizing horses to strange (and scary to them) objects to getting then to think through problems as opposed to reacting out of instinct and fleeing. Horses are naturally curious animals,...that is why so many horses get bitten on the nose by snakes, you can use that portion of their instinct to make them more comfortable with thinking first.

However, just because your horse has no problem going over an obstacle, say a tarp, at your place does not mean that any tarp, at any place will be just as easy. This may be frustrating to you, but bear with it. It just appears different to the horse. Being at a strange place, away from his herd can also bring in anxiety.

The vibes you give off can also make a difference. If you are nervous about approaching an object, your horse will sense that as well. You are in effect telling him to be wary. Another mistake is pushing your horse too fast on an obstacle. Let him figure it out. That 20 seconds or so, or even 5 minutes, that you allow him to figure it out will go along way towards establish trust in you and teaching him to think.  Cowboy curtain obstacle at left. 

I think another mistake may be the tendency to drive your horse from one obstacle or problem directly to another rather than give him time to absorb that lesson and calm down before you challenge him again. That way you can approach each and every obstacle as a new challenge as opposed to running them all together and over loading the horse. 360 degree pole travel, pin wheel, obstacle at right.

We host riders at our place to go over obstacles and expose their horses to different things, again not primarily to get ready for those exact obstacles, but to expose their horses to different things, teaching them that they can think through a problem. Wooden bridge obstacle at left.

No matter if you are preparing for an ACTHA ride, or have a horse for informal riding, exposing your horse to obstacles will make it a safer horse if you do it right. Western or even English show horses and hunter-jumper horses alike can benefit from trail riding as well. Single log obstacle at right.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More on Rope Halters

I received a comment from Miguel: "Oh, wow. Exactly what I need to know today. Just got my colt back [in his mind, he is still] and I now have two broken brass clips on the standard leads. He also slipped out of the flat nylon halter. He doesn't get out of the rope halter, more concentrated pressure on the poll? Have also read that you can get more control on the nose if you tie a couple of buttons there. Was hoping you would show us how to build the halter itself. I also like the rope halter because I know I can cut it in a hurry if there's a storm. Which we had during the first saddling. He went clear down, eyes back, stiff legged. But he lived through it and he's a much better horse now. Glad to be alive. Can you show us how to build the halter? I have done it twice, but still confused when I think about it."

Miguel, thanks for that comment. I have never had such a rank horse where a rope halter wasn't sufficient. I would be careful about having too much pressure or impact from a knot or button on the nose band as it could slip down and injure the cartilage of the nose.

I know I have seen halters with knots on the side of the nose band where that danger would be lessened. In fact, I think Clinton Anderson markets one.  In the picture above, I have braided rawhide over the nose band of a rope halter that I use that lunging a green broke or less than broke horse for the first time. And I used it on my Mustang who was fond of coming off the ground and pawing at me with his hooves. I seldom use it anymore, but it certainly has more bite than a rope halter. I don't think I would put anything hard, like buttons, on the nose band of a rope halter. How harsh you are with any equipment has a lot of do with it. 

I have never built a rope halter from a length of rope. It's much easier for me just to buy a professional halter, Double Diamond makes excellent rope halters.  Craig Cameron offers excellent rope halters also.  

I always carry about a 12 foot length of 3/8 inch cotton rope, with one eyelet braided into it, for use as a get down or lead rope when I need one when out in the desert or back country. I always have a lariat rope with me as well, and I can use that as an field expedient halter as well.   So I really don't have a need to be able to tie a rope halter.  Sorry partner, not only I cannot construct a rope halter, I don't think I'll even try. I can see myself all tied up in knots yelling for my wife to come and cut me free. Knowing her, she would take pictures of me before she cut me free.

I have seen Craig Cameron tie a halter from scratch on RFD Television. He has a Knot video out, called "What Knot to Do". I have not seen the video but have been meaning to buy one, so I don't know if he covers constructing a rope halter in this DVD, but I think it's worth a chance.

Here's a link to his Knot DVD.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cowboy Humor: Montana Rancher versus State Department of Labor

I'm sure everybody has heard about the influx of Californians and other liberals into the Great State of Montana. Not only have they hired a bunch of Democrats for state office and bought up about half the land in the state, these transplanted Montanan's have invaded about every segment of state regulatory agencies as well. In an effort to see if ranch hands could be unionized, the State Department of
Employment, Labor Standards Division sent out several eastern educated young men to collect facts on ranch hands such as their pay and benefits.

One of these young men ventured onto a small ranch and made some not so subtle allegations that a rancher was probably not paying his ranch hands well enough, nor providing for benefits. That conversation went something like this:

State Labor Agent: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

Rancher: ”Well, that should be fairly easy seeing how I only have two. There’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $150 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day, makes about $10 a week, and does about 90% of all the work around here."

State Labor Agent: "You're kidding?!? Those are terrible wages. That's practically slavery. Do you provide any benefits?"

Rancher: "Well, the hired hand gets to keep three horses which I pay the feed bill for. For the mentally challenged gent, he pays his own room and board, but I buy him a bottle of Wild Turkey every Saturday night so he can cope with life.....oh yeah, he also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

State Labor Agent: “That’s the guy I want to talk to - the mentally challenged one.”

Rancher: “That would be me.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tracking - Dragging Sign Cut Areas

I have previous wrote about cutting sign and using areas such as road or natural lines of drift to facilitate locating disturbances, color changes, flat area or any regularities outside of nature that would indicate something has traversed that ground. Dirt roads, the shoulders of roads, open areas, natural lines of drift, fencelines and slopes are all good areas for sign cutting. Fencelines can catch pieces of clothing and give away transit. And if someone is climbing a fence there is a good chance they will leave a heavier pressure release as they come down across the fence. On slopes, it is very common to see a gouge (indicating downhill movement) or a scuff (indicating up hill movement).

Many tracking applications can be enhanced using drags or otherwise preparing areas for sign cutting. The biggest use of sign cut drags are to smooth out any previous sign (animal, man or vehicle) and put a timeline on when the sign cut area was drug therefore give the tracker another way to indicate the time or age of any sign he subsequently cuts in that sign cut area. Additionally, cuts along this sign cut area can be performed more quickly and sign located easier after that area has been drug.

The Border Patrol primarily uses tire drags, which are tires placed on the ground in a triangle type shape, and connected together by drilling through the tires and using steel cable. Sometimes flat or channel iron is used, either between the rows of tires, or along the side or front to stabilize these drags. And if you ever want to get a glimpse of hard work, try drilling holes through steel belted radial tires! Here’s a hint – radial ply tires are easier to make tire drags with.

I have used a simple broom to brush out previous sign at foot trail and vehicle road intersections so I could rapidly determine if there was any transit, or in this case, trespassers or potential poachers. Use of any drag or brush-out will by itself create flat spots, regular patterns, color changes, and it’s own unique disturbances, however the change to the pattern will be much more easier to see.

On a search and rescue for example, once a timeline has been established and projected fastest movement routes of the person(s) being tracked determined, someone will normally run a drag across the roads, sides of roads or natural lines of drift past the projected movement timeline (in a perimeter fashion) so that these sign cut areas can be checked after that to determine if the person being tracked has crossed. This is a valuable tool to reduce the search area as pretty much all search and rescues are exercises in the efficient use of minimal resources, so minimizing the search area enhances chances of success.

When I was on horseback patrolling areas for trespassers, archeological thieves or poachers I would often use my lariat rope and a stout Chamisa bush to drag a section of dirt road or animal trail so future sign cutting in that area would be quicker and let me know what has passed through giving me a timeline.

All along the Southwest border with Mexico you could probably fill up a book with counter tracking tricks that illegal immigrants have tried. Everything from using brooms to brush out sign, tying carpet or other material to their feet, wearing horseshoes nailed to wood and then strapped onto shoes,....the list is practically endless. The only advantage of attempting to cover your sign like this is that natural effects such as rain and wind may obscure the sign more quickly than if it was left alone. So each counter tracking technique will have a weakness. Whether it is brush marks from a broom or brush, carpet fragments or a regular design from the carpet making a very unique pressure release, or the really odd gait (usually too wide or too long) of what seems to be a horse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horse Who Bolts

Tim wrote me about a bolting Mustang he has,……I am having a problem with my horse getting spooked and running with out being able to stop him. He is 8 yr old mustang and had not been ridden in several years when I got him. The lady was intimidated by him and had him because of how beautiful he is. I sent him to the trainers and he did good. I still have him in a snaffle but want to know if I should graduate him to a bosal or some thing else to keep him from bolting. I did not break this horse myself because I was told that domestic horses were different to train then mustangs.

Thanks Tim for your question. I don’t think going from a snaffle to a Hackamore (Bosal and Headstall) is going to give you more control. Probably less control. Since you are only going to pull on his nose - pressure from the Bosal is delivered to the nose via the nose band). The level of discomfort (pressure) the horse feels from the hackamore will have a lot of do with diameter and material of the bosal. A horse not ridden for several years is probably not a safe horse to ride until you have basically re-started him. Since you sent him to a trainer, you should probably see what they have to say about him,...if they encountered the same bolting problem and what bit they rode him in.

Imagine having a bit in your mouth with some rider pulling on it, get spooked, then run off, this may cause the rider to pull even harder to either hold on or to try and get you to stop. So be careful about thinking the control is in the bit. The real control is in the mind of the horse, the relationship you build with him and his resulting behavior built from that trust.

Watch him when you fit the bit to see if his demeanor changes or it appears it may be seated too deep, or too loose for that matter. I like the bars of the bit to be touching the corners of the mouth not necessarily creating a wrinkle. Check to see if your horse still has his wolf teeth in, or worst yet, non-erupted or broken wolf teeth (just below or at the gum line) that the bars of the snaffle bit may be hitting and causing discomfort.

Eight years old is still a young horse if he hasn't had a lot of rides. I would do some ground work on him and ride in a round pen. Work on lateral flexion of his head and disengaging his hind end. If he bolts in the round pen, ride it out. He may have to bolt once or twice to figure out he doesn’t have to. Brush up on your one rein stops in case he bolts when you ride him out.

Good luck to you, let me know how the your Mustang is working out for you. Safe Journey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium

My wife (who incidentally is a better horse person than me) and I just returned from the 2011 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium held in Ruidoso, New Mexico. We have been going for the past 10 years and in fact that was our first date 10 years ago and now is our anniversary.

Lots of reason to go every year,....good food, the very best and most interesting people you ever care to associate with,......Chuckwagons from working ranches cooking up some of the best grub anywhere. But we go primarily to watch the Craig Cameron demonstrations held twice daily.

I long ago recognized that when you are in the presence of a Craig Cameron demonstration you are not just being taught by a true horseman but you are also being taught by a master teacher of both people and horses.

Whether or not Craig is starting a colt, much the same way you have seen him do a hundred times before, the lessons and concepts he presents are as valuable now as the first time you have ever heard them.

I have said before that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of horse people and trainers out there that can make a difference in owners and horses' lives,......helping understanding basic concepts,.....helping with some common problem solving,......but you'll never spend better money if you can get in front of somebody like Craig Cameron and take your understanding of horses and journey to horsemanship a little further.

Now I know I am going to get Craig's parting wisdom a little wrong but at the end of most demonstrations Craig says words to the effect that "......take some time to get up close and look into one of the beautiful brown eyes of your horse and see if the reflection you see (which is you) is the same thing the horse is seeing and that is a person who is fair and just with the horse." My apologies to CraigCameron to certainly getting his words a little wrong, but I think the idea is the same, and that reflects Craig's true reason for doing what he does,....making the world a better place for horses by teaching humans how to understand horses.

Visit Craig Cameron's website, where you'll find some of the finest working gear and training equipment anywhere.