Horses are pretty simple in their needs. We as humans make more of it then we have to most of the time. I think that’s because the folks that make stuff for horses have pushed us that direction. Things like, supplements, blankets, soap, conditioner and the list goes on and on. We are told that if we provide our horses with these things the horse will feel better, look better and we will prove ourselves to be good owners. If we don’t provide these things for our horses we are not very good horse owners. Please don’t get me wrong, none of these things are, in themselves, wrong. I have at some point and time purchased all of these things, but these things are not what the average horse needs.
While we were in Tucson last week, where we were camping they were having a 6 week long show jumping competition. There were folks from all over the U.S. there and, these folks know how to pamper a horse. The horses looked great and so did the riders. You would think that horses in this environment would be comfortable and have everything they needed. I watch one jumper after his run get off his horse and when he did the horse was freaked. He was freaked in the show pen and was freaked when the rider dismounted. A groom was waiting for the rider to dismount and as soon as the groom touched the reins of the horse he stopped bouncing off the walls. His head went down to the ground and he calmed down instantly. Why? The horse was COMFORTABLE with the groom. He knew that the groom was going to take him some place where he could relax and be with other horses. The groom was going to provide the horse with the two things he needs, food and comfort. For the horse, the rider/owner only wanted and took, he never gave back to the horse.
I have applied what I have learned about horses to help the horse survive in a world of humans and to help the human to understand what the horse needs, and show the human how to provide that to, and for the horse. In my clinics I am always reminding students to allow the horse to rest during his workout. Try to let the horse rest for as long as he worked. For example: if it took your horse 5 minutes or 10 minutes to understand and get an exercise, let your horse stand quietly for 5 or 10 minutes and rest. Why? Because, if you do he will come to understand that it’s not all about the work, that there is a reward for getting the right answer and that reward is rest. Not food, but rest. If you do this your horse will try even harder to figure out what you want, why? Cause he knows if he does he will get what he wants and needs, rest.
Horses need two things in life: Food and Comfort. Remember a horse will forgo eating in order to be comfortable, that’s how important it is to a horse.
While I was in Tucson I had the chance to go by a couple of barns. This is where people keep their horses cause they don’t have a place of their own. Both of them were well kept. One of my clients took me around to meet some folks. While we were at the first barn I got the chance to talk to a couple of ladies that were there caring for their horses. We were talking about what horses need. One of the ladies said that for her and her horse it was a food-based relationship. Meaning that she used food to get her horse to do what she wanted the horse to do it, and even then, she said, if her horse did not want to do it, it wasn’t going to happen.
I started to explain to her my experience with horses and was talking about what horses really need. Two things, food and comfort. She pointed back at the stall and pen that her horse lived and where she spent around $400 a month to board her horse and said, “I provide my horse with comfort.”
This illustrates what I have been saying for a long time. A human’s idea of comfort and a horse’s idea of comfort are two completely different things. The horse tries to tell us what it needs but we as humans don’t listen very good. Let me give you an example. When you give your horse a bath or hose him off after a long day in the saddle, if you turn him out, what does he do? That’s right, he goes out in his pen and finds a place to lay down and roll in the dirt. Why? Because that’s what the horse needs to be comfortable. The dust and dirt give him a protective layer against things that may want to bite him, like fly and the like. He’s trying to tell us that he really doesn’t need a bath to be comfortable. But we think he does and so we do it. It does nothing for the horse but makes US fell good. Makes us feel like we are good owners, but the truth is the horse could care less. I’m not saying here to never give your horse a bath or hose him off after a long day in the saddle. I do it too. But understand that it’s not his idea, it’s not the kind of comfort he wants, or more importantly needs.
So how are we, as horse owners, to know what our horses need when it comes to comfort?
Let’s talk about that tomorrow.
Well we did it. 7 full days of work at the Tucson Rodeo. That’s the longest show we have ever done. We had mostly bad weather, from wind to snow to the snow melting and raining down from the bleachers onto out booth as well as just about everyone else’s booth. It was mostly cold and windy for the show which made it tuff to get people to stop by and buy from us. But, all in all, it was pretty successful. We made a lot of good contacts for shows down the road and we are excited about that too.
One thing about the work at the show, we knew it would be over and we could head back to our trailer and enjoy the warm company of folks that we met in the campgrounds. Lee and Teresa, Skip and Sue, Jeep and Star, Bob and Mary Ann. We never knew these folks before we got to Tucson. We were looking around for a camping spot, when we found one we realized we did not have the right plugin for electricity. I saw a couple of guys having an adult beverage and thought I could talk to them. Told them our problem and Sue, Skip’s lucky wife, told us to pull in over there and we could string a cord from their coach to our trailer for the night. We did and stayed the rest of the time right next to all these folks. We had a great time and I have lots of stories to tell, and will as time goes on. I’m not sure that they will ever read the blog but if you ever have the fortune to camp next to folks of this caliber, I hope you do.
Now that we are home I will start getting ready for a couple of horses that are coming in March. Will be good to get back to working with horses and I'm very excited about that.
Oh, while we were in Tucson, Kathy and I had the chance to hang out with Jan, Tucson’s mom and her husband David. We got to see them several times over the two weeks we were there and they we a treat to be around. Looking to more work with Jan and a couple of barns in the area.
My father-in-law Ron!
I know I’ve talk about all the things a person should do to get your horse ready for the trail and the things that can happen if we don’t. But, one thing that we have not talked about is, having fun. There is nothing like it in the world to see country that you know only a small percentage of the entire population of this country have ever seen, or will ever see. To get to do that atop a good horse, and to do it with friends is priceless. (I didn’t make that up)
Anything can happen on the trail, including good, wonderful, magical things. Those are the things I’m looking for when I ride. Even if it is a place I have ridden a hundred times, it is never the same and the things I might see change too. So enjoy the time you get to spend with your horse and friends when you are on the trail. Life is way to short and the older we get the shorter it gets. So, if you are in a position where you can spend time with your horse on the trail enjoy it. Not everyone gets to.
Before I close out this discussion on Trail Riding, I want to mention a tool that I take when I go out on the trail. It’s called the S.P.O.T. It is a satellite personal tracking device that makes it possible to stay in communication with folks at home or your friends on the web. I have put the link to the SPOT page. The cost is minimal for the device and service, but the peace of mind it give to family and friends when you are on the trail is immeasurable.
Hope I see you on the trail.
My slicker please!
When setting out to go on a trail ride of any distance, a guy needs to take the weather into account. You want to be prepared for whatever the weather conditions dictate.
There are times when you have no choice. For example, if you are day working and there are cattle to ship or to gather to ship, you may not have any choice. Those cattle need to get gathered and loaded on the trucks so they can get to market. But, for the average person, you don’t have to ride in bad weather. It’s no fun getting caught out in the rain with our your slicker or rain coat.
The weather can, and will, affect the footing for your horse as well. Bad footing could cause the horse to slip, fall, a lot of things could happen causing you to get hurt.
Really windy days can be an issue too. There are some horses that don’t like the wind at all. They get nervous, or they get excited. The trees are moving around as well as all the bushes. Some horses can really be bothered by the wind. Having said that, you should be able to ride your horse in any weather conditions. But you need to prepared your horse for bad weather. Don’t just assume that your horse can handle the pressure of riding in bad weather.
You’ve probably seen here in my blog, that I don’t suggest riding in snow at all if you can help it. And, if you do, take your time, go slow and do not ask your horse to make any sudden or quick moves. Things can go way wrong in the snow.
Bottom line: Be safe! No matter what the weather is you are riding in. You and I want to be able to ride our horses for a long time. Don’t get yourself in a place that could cause you or your horse to get hurt.
Wally and Kevin!
Back in the day when Kathy and I use to do trail rides, folks would often ask if they could bring their dogs on the ride. My answer was always no! Having said that, when I ride alone or I’m day working for one of the ranches around I always take Kevin the cow dog. So why would I not let anyone else bring their dogs?
Mainly because I don’t know their dogs and don’t know how they are around horses. In this case they were my horses. I was primarily concerned about the safety of those on the ride. Adding dogs to the mix, dogs I didn’t know, added another factor I had no control over. So, it was just easier not to take them.
But you want to take your dog with you on the trail. There is nothing wrong with that, I do it too. However you want to make sure that you are safe on the trail and if you are riding with someone else you have to take in to consideration how they, or their horse, will react to dogs. You can usually work that out with the person or persons you will be riding with, but you should at least consider others you are riding with.
If your horse has been around dogs they will probably be just fine. However if your dog has never been around horses, it could become a wreck.
All that being said, if you come here to ride, I will probably not take Kevin on the ride. Not that I’m worried about him or how my horses will react. But, I do worry how the others riding will react. Some folks get worried enough just going on the ride. You ad a dog and they just can’t stop watch over their shoulder, worrying about where the dog is and, if the dog going to scare their horse.
I want to stay safe on the trail and want those that go with me to be safe as well. Sometimes, in order to minimize problems, I will just leave the dogs at the house..
There are lots of things a person can do to get their horse ready for obstacles on the trail, before you ever get out of the arena. For example:
Lots of horses have an issue with crossing water. What I do is get a blue tarp, you could use whatever color you like, and lay it on the ground. I don’t unfold the entire tarp at the very beginning of this exercise. I will unfold in so that is it only a foot or two wide and the length of the tarp. You can do this in a round pen or the arena. Use a 14ft lead rope and halter. Begin by lunging your horse around you and each time the horse comes to the tarp, if he wants to stop and smell the tarp or stops at the tarp for any reason, let him rest there. He will step over the tarp. Do that a few times and then unfold the tarp so it is a little wider and lunge again. Remember to reward him each time he stops or shows interest. It won’t be long and you will have the tarp unfolded. See if you can get your horse to cross the tarp several times. It, the tarp, will make a lot of noise and it moves a little under the horse’s feet. See if you can get your horse to stand on the tarp to rest. He will figure out that being on the tarp is the place where he gets rest and he will look forward to stopping on it.
If you are out and trying to cross real water and the horse is having issues with it. Dismount and use your halter to lunge the horse in circles. Have him pass between you and the water. Each time you go by the water get the horse to lunge closer and closer to the water till he steps in the water. Just on the edge at first. In a little while, if you have your groundwork skills down, lunging that is, he will find himself standing in the water on his own. Let him rest, standing in the water.
A little work at this and your horse will cross water without issue..
It's not always possible to have a friend, a buddy, to ride with. If you are just starting out learning about trail riding or going trail riding for the first few times, I suggest that you take someone a long with you. They may not be able to do much if things go south, but they can at least tell someone which direction your horse ran off with you in, and that way someone can come look for you.
It’s best to have someone go with you that knows what they are doing and have an experienced horse. Young horses, or horses that have never been out of an arena, do not have a lot of confidence. If you come to an obstacle, a log for example in the trail, a young horse may not want to cross. If you can get the older more experienced horse to cross the obstacle first, a young horse will usually cross. When the young horse sees that the older horse did not get hurt or is not afraid, it will help to build confidence in a younger less experienced horse.
You may not have any friends, or at least any that ride, so you may have to go alone. If so, just take your time and let your young horse check out the obstacle. Then encourage him to cross with gentle squeeze of your leg and a cluck if you need to. Whatever you do, don’t get in a tug of war with him. He will get scared or at the very least nervous, and you may be the one who ends up on the ground. Go slow. Take your time.
You can prepare your horse for obstacles in the arena before you go out on the trail. We can talk more about that tomorrow..
Casino, young horse on a trail ride!
Had a great suggestion from one of my clients/buddies on trail riding and how to stay safe while doing it.
So, I think that’s what I will focus on this coming week. I am working with Sue and her new horse, Buddy. Buddy was here for about a month and a half before Sue owned him so I know the horse fairly well. He is a good guy and Sue wants to use him for a lot of things, but on of those things is a solid trail horse.
So what does it take to be safe on the trail? Well, it takes a lot of things but there is a couple that dove tail into my philosophy on training.
I practice 3 principles of horsemanship that are hundreds of years old. They are, Intuition, Control and Trust. When it comes to trail riding, Control is a must. We have to be able to control our horse’s feet. We much have control over when he goes, how fast he goes, when he turns and which directions and when he stops. If we don’t have these skills in our horse, you would be better off, and safer, if you worked on these skills in the arena, before you start going on trail rides.
If you have been reading my blog you already know what I do in order to get control of my horse’s feet. It all starts with a good ground skills, before we get in the saddle. So ask yourself, can I move my horse’s feet with ease, without my horse getting upset or nervous? If you can't, you need to spend more time on the ground teaching your horse to relax and more softly. The ground is always the best place to start and the best place to fix any problems your horse has. Once you get in the saddle your horse has more control over the outcome of events. So, take the time and work with your horse on the ground developing good solid skills.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.