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.