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.