There Be Boogers Out Here

horsekite

If you’ve been around horses for any appreciable length of time, you’ve dealt with something like this-the unexplainable-known only to the horse-but you’ve still got to cope with it BOOGER leap that they come up with. The height and prior warning can vary tremendously, and what follows can take on many forms-from simply standing and stamping all four feet in place with eyes bugged out to the vertical AND sideways leap combined with a 180 spin and sprint for a minimum of a half mile. (And, before you ask, yes, I’ve managed to ride and survive that maneuver. Do not ask how-I don’t know.)

Having seven horses in my pastures means that when the power company sent two MONSTER boom saw machines in to trim the tree limbs away from the lines, I got to see seven different versions of the ‘Booger’ reaction. (Can’t say that I blame them-those machines were impressive. Dually equipped wheels that are tractor sized front and back with a boom that must reach 80-90 feet, the driver sits in a cab that rotates to follow the boom. To a horse, that big noisy thing WAS a booger!)

We couldn’t decide which was more entertaining-watching the boom saw or the horses’ reaction to the intrusion. I do appreciate them giving those horses a great workout. I do have a couple of untrained mares-and got a glimpse of what I have in store for when I get them under saddle. Let’s just say it should be interesting. I hope they take care of me. I don’t bounce like I used to. Ground has gotten harder. Two more-then I am done training youngsters.

They Used To Hang Horse Thieves…

…and many people still wish that they did-along with the abusive folks. Personally, I’m not one of them. I think hanging is a waste of good rope. It doesn’t really solve the problem anyway-it only drives it further underground.

Now whether you agree with me or not, the bald-faced fact remains-people are still, in this day and age, stealing horses, cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, mules, and just about any other kind of livestock you can name. The truth of the matter is-and they don’t like to admit it-law enforcement is waging a losing battle in this. They simply cannot cover so much ground, so many miles, and track down property that MOVES.  What’s worse for them is-this property can be trucked across state lines within 24 hours, slaughtered, and it is just GONE. 

Very, very little or none of these animals are permanently identified in any way. Oh, back in the early 80’s I think it was, there was an initiative by the US Agriculture Department to  microchip all livestock. The conspiracy theorists got their hair up and starting claiming that the ‘guv’mint was going to track our movements from outer space’ and ‘they’d know what we were doing in our homes with our dogs and cats’.  Another pet theory was that ‘next they’d be implanting chips in humans to track them’.

Considering that the Feds cannot seem to keep track of anything of their own-never mind what the population is doing or they would have prevented the OK City bombing, 9/11, and a whole rat of other calamities, I can’t, for the life of me, see why they’d care that I was taking my horse for a trail ride in the state next door. It just boggles my mind. Either I’m just not that important or the conspiracy folks are and I missed the memo.

Anyway-the huge elephant in that ointment was the fact that microchips are just there. They just sit in place and do absolutely NOTHING until somebody comes along with a scanner that has the right software. Then the scanner ‘tickles’ or ‘excites’ the chip which then responds with the encoded number that is unique to that chip. Then it goes back to doing NOTHING. They are incapable of causing cancer (somebody started passing that one around-no, they don’t), they can’t migrate to some place else (the covering encourages the tissues to actually grow INTO it which anchors it in place), nor can they ‘transmit’ to outer space (that requires a power source which they do not have.)

So what was the point of doing it? Well, at the time, we were having the ‘mad cow disease’ scare and the disease specialists thought-rightly-that being able to know where animals were and being able to track them would be a good thing. That way, if they got sick, you’d be able to know where they came from, where they’d been, and all the animals they might have infected. But the Tin Hats got in the way (my term for conspiracy people).

It is now nearly 40 years later-the rest of the civilized world is microchipping and tracking their livestock but the United States stubbornly and stupidly does not. Oh, we will get dragged kicking and screaming, shouting curses the entire way into it. We have to act like toddlers who don’t want to eat their spinach, wind up wearing most of it, then ordering spinach salads as adults.

One of the facts about the microchipping abroad is-where it is being done as a matter of course-theft plummeted. You cannot sell a horse without the ‘passport’ associated with the chip. No vet will treat a horse without scanning it and using the chip number-so they will know immediately who the registered owner should be. You cannot show the horse without being scanned. Breeders use the chips to ensure the identities of sire and dam. Racetracks use the chips to confirm the horses’ prior to and after the races. And Customs require chips to ship out/into a country. It is nearly impossible to steal a horse and get away with it in some areas.

So forget the rope-let’s focus on making it impossible for these people to FUNCTION and MAKE MONEY at our horses’ and our expense. Identify our horses and stop them before they load up.

 

The Curse of Perfectionism

0139ad133191ef867b221d6fb13e3e1d

First of all, a reminder-these are my opinions and they are based on 50+ years of working with all kinds of horses. However, if you disagree, feel free to keep on going. I know not everybody is going to agree with me. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life out of  step with the rest of the world so it is nothing new to me. But do not attempt to change my viewpoints by charging in and ‘correcting’ me. It simply will not work. I’ll ignore you.

This photo is on top because I see a lot-no, make that TONS-of horses wearing snaffles and flash nose bands. I did it, too, for awhile with a young horse until he made it quite plain that the arrangement pissed him off to no end. (Always pay attention to what your horse is telling you, folks. My riding instructor kept telling me to do this or that, but I listened to HIM. He was shaking his head, pulling on the reins, opening his mouth, not listening, dropping his shoulder, etc. The problem lay in the bridle-it hurt.) So I set about learning about bits, nosebands, hands, and why they are used. It isn’t pretty the majority of the time.

Nose bands were originally nothing more than a way to tie your horse without using the reins in the military/driving days. They had a ring underneath and were always fairly heavy leather worn loosely enough that the horse could chew his ration in a nose bag. Some person somewhere along the line got the ‘brilliant’ idea that they could force a horse’s mouth closed by putting a few more holes in the thing. Why did they want to?

correct-snaffle-bit-horse_s-mouth-1-8-800x800

This is why-if you put something into a mouth and it can be steel, plastic, rubber, leather-you can find ways to create pain. Now I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t use bits-but you should understand that ALL bits are capable of creating ENORMOUS pain. There is no such thing as a ‘mild’ bit. All that varies is the knowledge and skill of the hands that use it. A thick snaffle in the hands of a fool can be the instrument of extreme torture to a horse. By the same token, there are some people who can get horses to perform world class dressage bridleless. I’ve ridden a finished spade bit horse that could be handled with a feather’s touch on the reins and the nose band was for decoration only.

People want the end-without the work involved to get there. 

Now I’m a perfectionist myself-and I  can get as frustrated as the next person about my horses’ performance as anyone else. So don’t even start down that road with me. You do have the time to work with that horse-you just don’t want to take it. You’d rather take the shortcut of hurting your horse-causing pain-and justifying it to yourself as ‘but everybody else does it’, ‘my trainer recommended it’, ‘my horse wasn’t listening to me’, blah, blah, blah. Go ahead-add any you wish-I’ve heard them all-and they are all EXCUSES FOR POOR HORSEMANSHIP. That’s unacceptable.

The third photo is another type of nose band being marketed. Notice that it is supposedly more ‘humane’ because it avoids the jaw bones covered only with skin. Well, isn’t that nice, folks? But now we have a strap higher on the jaw to help hold the jaw closed and better bracing across the nose bridge. The horse loses even more. (Actually, you do, too.
The thing is pricey.)noseband

 

 

 

 

I didn’t put any Western, endurance, or other disciplines in this-mostly for space reasons. They are just as much at fault as the English branch. If there is a way a human can inflict pain and suffering on a horse, by golly, they’ll find it and do it.

Am I one of those nuts who thinks horses shouldn’t be ridden? Oh, heck, no. I do think that a great many of the gizmos (chambons, draw reins, martingales, gambons, tie downs, etc.) should be recognized for what they are and thrown in the land fills. If you think you need something like that-get a motorcycle or ATV and leave the horse alone. As one person puts it “If you keep getting the wrong answer, then you aren’t asking the right question.”  See the last photo for an example of that-the rider isn’t getting the ‘frame’ that was desired so rollkur was resorted to to achieve it. The wrong question was being asked so the wrong answer was given. The horse is paying the price for the humans’ quest for perfection.

rollkur_flailing

Now I Don’t Know Much…

Cave horse hunting But it seems apparent to me that in some ways, humans have no evolved much since the days when we hunted horses down purely as a source of meat. Certainly the paintings on the walls of caves support this conclusion.

We still-in some places-consume their flesh, although most in the USA consider this practice to be abhorrent. Some cases of outright brutality-beatings, stabbings, shootings (guns and bows), dragging with ropes/chains, and various other tortures are described in news articles on the internet-and we now know that individuals who do this sort of thing will go on to bring that hell on humans sooner rather than later.

But what about the lesser evils we inflict? Can we address those?

  • Horses are open range animals-they live in herds and depend on being able to see and able to move to get away from danger. But what do we do? We do the very opposite-we lock them up in solitary in small boxes for our own worry-free existence-not theirs. It’s no wonder they acquire ulcers and bad habits such as cribbing, weaving, wall kicking, bolting their feed, and such. They are our prisoners.
  • We cut their body hair off-and then put blankets on them. I understand why you would-and have done so myself for medical reasons. But ordinarily, no, I would not. The body hair does a fine job of protecting the horse from the elements and needs little else unless the weather is really poor. I will help them in foul weather, but on the whole-they do fine au natural.
  • Shoes-ah, you knew I’d get to this one. This is a hard topic. To be sure, the ‘modern’ horse has been bred mostly for what is above the coronet band-and that’s a crying shame. After my first horse-whom I treasured, I vowed to look at the hooves first. The Sports Model Jackass had LOUSY feet. They were big, dinner plate size, and they chipped. Moreover, they had flattened due to repeated foundering. He was a mess. He had to be shod-no way around it. Problem was-couldn’t keep steel on him. The wall would crumble. Fortunately that was when the plastic shoes came out-and the blacksmith grumbled but he put them on the horse-and they worked.

Since that time, I have carefully acquired a herd that is totally barefoot-and needs no shoeing at all-with the possible exception of boots on occasion. They all have thick heavy hooves and go sound over most surfaces.

My suggestion to horse owners? Use the old desert way of looking at potential horses. Start at the ground. They’d sit in a tent and roll up one side of the tend about four inches. Horses would be led up-and those that looked good would be brought back for additional passes as the tent wall rose slowly to pastern, then knee/hock, then full leg, then shoulder, belly, hip,, then topline, and finally-head and neck. That way-you don’t get caught in the ‘but he’s just so beautiful’ or ‘she has such a sweet face’ nonsense.

  • Nosebands-why do you use one? Why are you pulling that thing so tight? Think about it. If you say “my horse is opening his mouth to evade the bit”, go grab a dressage whip and give yourself a beat down. I’m serious. The question is NOT How do you keep your horse from opening his mouth, but why aren’t you doing something about the pain you are causing in his mouth that causes him to open his mouth? What kind of owner are you that you are ignoring the pain you are causing?? Okay, that’s a harsh question, but since I see an awful lot of it, and 11/10 times it involves a rider hauling back on the reins, feet braced in the stirrups, horse’s mouth foamed, eyes white rimmed, and the rider’s jaw set-well, damn it, somebody needs to say something. Take the time to learn to ride properly, loosen that noseband, and, if you have to, throw those bits away. You do not need metal to control a horse.
  • Learn to feed properly. Ditch the molasses. You heard me-it is not good for horses. Do you eat candy at every meal? So why are you feeding the equivalent to your horse? Likewise, corn is not horse food. GRASS is horse food. Roughage is horse food. Learn what makes good horse food.

Follow my blog-if you dare. Comments are welcome on WordPress.

Searching for Harry’s History

If you know anything about Harry-  his owner wants to hear about it. Apparently, Harry’s a really nice horse-one of those that has training that you really didn’t expect when you first bought him, but you find out later. The kind of horse that makes you wonder-‘gee, I wonder if maybe this horse has somebody looking for him?”

So take a look-I promise there’s no nasty bugs attached-and see if you recognize Harry’s face. If you do-give the guy a call.

Busy Time of Year-and Not Because of Holidays

boloI used to get into the whole Christmas-holiday thing-decorating, baking, going to see people, buying gifts, and all the whoop-de-do. Then I got older-the money got tighter and tigher, the little kids became big kids, some people actually DIED, and just maybe I got smarter? I don’t know.

But the older I get the less I do and the less I need to do. Oh, I enjoy getting a Christmas card or two-simply because I enjoy hearing from old friends. But truth be told-you can do that any time of year. We just don’t and Christmas gives us a reason to reconnect. That’s fine and I’m not down playing it. I just don’t have the postage money. I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat.

However, there are a few, well, I won’t call them ‘people’ because of what they do, but the word ‘jerk’ will do-who decide that they will ‘make some cash’ by taking advantage of all the distraction caused by the holiday running around to steal other people’s horses, cattle, trucks, trailers, and tack. Then they take this to the sales (with forged bills of sale and other documents) and sell quickly. OR in the case of the trucks and trailers, they might ‘chop’ them and sell for parts or scrap metal for profit. Turnover is generally 3-7 days. It is, essentially, free money-unles you get caught.

That’s where the organization that I volunteer for-Stolen Horse International or ‘NetPosse’-comes in. We try to make it impossible for these jerks to have the opportunity to sell by blanketing the entire area in notifications via social media, regular media, people handing out fliers, putting up notices, calling auctions, notifying dealers, etc.about the theft and what to look for. In essence, we super-saturate the area. In one instance that I know of, the thief told his girlfriend that the ‘internet has just blown up-we can’t move the product anywhere.’ That was the reaction we were looking for. We got those horses back within a week and he and his accomplice were both arrested and charged. We don’t have  the authority to arrest, but we were darn proud of getting the horses back.

If you want to be a part of this fantastic group of volunteers or just want to support the work that we do (it is a 501(c)(3)), click here.

 

 

 

Hay-Hard to find this year

Our part of the state of Georgia is in ANOTHER drought-we’ve got wildfires in the mountains as a matter of fact-and finding hay is going to be a real issue this winter. Fortunately, we’re not feeding broodmares or IR horses this year which means we can feed fescue, bermuda, orchard grass, or alfafa-assuming any of it can be found.

The other problem is-the F250 has been having mechanical problems-so hauling is an issue for that. I’m worried about the tires on the trailers being dry rotted. Plus, we are not really set up to handle round bales-but that’s the cheapest option-if we can find them. They’re $45 in the barn-but if you pay for delivery, it goes to $80. That kinda takes the cheap right out of the equation.

Like somebody said-How do you make a small fortune in the horse business? You start with a large one. He wasn’t kidding.