Feeding The Angry Horse

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, handicap, health, history.
toddler with horses (from simply marvelous wordpress)

toddler with horses (from simply marvelous wordpress)

Toddler entertaining horses

(Photo from Simply Marvelous WordPress)

Horses love to eat.  Having daily turnout time where they can graze connects them back to the time of their ancestor’s nomadic life.  Wild horses still walk and graze for miles in rocky terrain foraging for food.  Of course, domesticated horses are not dependent on wild foraging. Grazing is more of an activity, since the bulk of their day is confined to a small area where they eat, sleep, and watch over the fence for entertainment.  Most horses have been instructed and guided from birth to understand interaction with humans. They even prefer the company of their owners rather than standing alone all day.  The horses in the photo above are clearly enjoying the attention the toddler is giving them. These horses can be trusted not to bite or kick when someone approaches them, or hands them a treat, even if that person is a wandering toddler.

But feral horses, or horses who spend their formative years trapped in neglect or abuse, develop a view of humans as predators. Young horses, or newly caught wild horses, trapped with owners who withhold their food, shout at them, or inflict pain through harsh training methods, these horses cannot distinguish the human from any other predator who threatens their safety. This is why they resort to using defensive behavior. They become biters, kickers, and chargers.  To onlookers, such an animal looks (and is) too dangerous to be around. If the horse is part of a herd and fears for the safety of the herd, it will use deadly force to protect its mates.  At mealtime, you will see this behavior escalate in horses who fear that having their head down makes them vulnerable to attack.  These are the types of horses who become dangerously defensive eaters.  Can this kind of horse ever become safer?   Yes, these horses can be rehabilitated, but not overnight, or in one training session. The behavior that took years to imprint needs length of time to unlearn. If the handler understands the reason for the horse’s behavior they can begin a new track of training that will replace the horse’s fear with confidence. To isolate this type of horse and apply even more physical force on the assumption that this will induce submission only serves to engage more brutality.

I once cared for a rescue horse who was so dangerous at feeding time we could only drop the food over the gate then run! He bent his metal gate by body-slamming it at full force, several times. If grazing in the pasture he was off limits to visitors as he would charge and attack anything that wandered inside his pasture, including dogs or other horses.  But within two months he had changed.  While he ate, I could blanket him, lift and inspect his feet, put on his halter, or brush him.   He learned to wait for strangers to put down his food while he stood politely nearby. How?

Horses are blessed with the gift of curiosity and the ability to change when they no longer feel threatened. Therefore their daily environment can be structured to engage their attention and focus, and to subtly integrate humans as a partner and not a threat.  Something as simple as having them watch you carefully place several piles of hay in remote areas, and their water in a far away corner, so that they must search and find when turned out to pasture, activates their curiosity. Placing tarps and ground poles on the ground for them to learn to walk over, requires them to use their reasoning powers and serves to build their confidence. If their owner is there to cheer them on with each new discovery it will begin to build a bond of trust between them.   Graduating from there to learning the comfort of being brushed, sensibly handled, blanketed or saddled, encourages the horse to let go of the defensive mechanisms he depended on for survival.

In the case of my foster horse, when he relaxed enough to show a desire for attention, to be petted and touched,  I  agreed to do so only on the condition that he be eating while I patted him.  Once he became comfortable with that I added cleaning his paddock while he ate. Then I added putting on a blanket, lifting a hoof, and even brushing, while he ate. The process took many weeks, but in view of the many years he will have as a trusted companion in his permanent home, the time is minimal.
Most animals react with defensive behavior because they have felt compromised and endangered at some point. Correcting the cause of their defensiveness, that is, fixing whatever it was that made them feel afraid, just as we correct the cause of an illness or lameness,  can restore harmony.

Two-Gun Nan

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, history, riding.

two-gun

 

Two Gun Aspinwall and Lady Ellen during their 4496 mile ride across the USA.

The momentum of the cowgirl legacy is still felt today, and their stories remain as relevant as ever. Two-Gun Nan, towered with the tallest of these larger-than-life figures. She did so not only in the show arena as a lead in the rather masculine realm of trick roping, sharp shooting, archery, stunt riding, bronc riding, and steer riding, but also as the sensuous, beautiful, entirely feminine Oriental dancer character she portrayed known as Princess Omene as well. Still, even boasting these startling talents that eventually made her the highest paid star in the biggest show of the era – the combined venture of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East troupe – none of this was what she was best known for. Her most remarkable feat was real, not staged, and incredibly difficult and dangerous.

Two-Gun Nan’s magnum opus came in 1910-11 when she rode from San Francisco to New York on her Thoroughbred mare, Lady Ellen, covering 4496 miles and taking 180 days in the saddle. At 31 years old, she became the first woman to ride from coast to coast. She did it wearing pants and split skirts, riding astride, which was likely still illegal in some parts of the country. She did it packing a pistol, which she used on at least two occasions to shoot up inhospitable towns. And, she made the ride alone.

Two-Gun Nan Aspinwall stunned America and inspired women of a new generation with her transcontinental ride.  “A travel-stained woman attired in a red shirt and divided skirt and seated on a bay horse drew a crowd to City Hall yesterday afternoon,” reported the New York Times on 9 July 1911.    “They gazed upon Miss Nan Aspinwall who had just finished her lonely horseback ride from San Francisco. She had many adventures and once spent a week in hospital after her horse stumbled down a mountainside. ‘Talk about Western chivalry!’ said Miss Aspinwall. ‘There’s no such thing. In one place I rode through town shooting off my revolver just for deviltry. At another place I had to send several bullets into a door before they would come out and take care of me’.”
Equally skilled with a gun or a horse, the Los Angeles Tribune reported that while in New York upon completing her journey in 1911, Two-Gun Nan, “entered a 12-story building and startled her friends by remaining in the saddle and ascending to the top floor,” (via the freight elevator).

The ride became part of the greater Western mythology almost instantly, where it remained solidly for half a century. In 1938, almost three decades after the ride, Nan’s journey was included on the Mutual Broadcasting System’s national radio broadcasts of Famous First Facts, where she reported that it was the suggestion of Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill in 1909 that instigated her to make the ride. The media legend of the ride again was recounted on the radio in 1942 on a broadcast of Death Valley Days. In 1958, Nan’s adventure made the jump to black-and-white television when it appeared in an episode of the Judge Roy Bean television show.

At a time when the frontier to the west had closed, and barbed wire cut across every stretch of once open country along the entire continent, this cowgirl single-handedly found a way to rekindle the American fascination of saddling up, heading to the horizon, and banging around the vast expanse of a country that spread from one sea to another. Perhaps more importantly, she proved this dream and this country were open to women as well as men.

re-posted from horsetalk.co.nz

 

Anzac Day

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, handicap, history, training.

photo:warwick daily news

A poem by Australian Horse Whisperer, Guy McLean honoring the equine soldiers drafted for service in wartime. Due to quarantine restrictions, only one Waler horse is known to have been returned to Australia; “Sandy”, the mount of Major-General W.T. Bridges, an officer who died at Gallipoli in May 1915.

Remembering the LightHorse:

I was one of thousands of horses Bred on the mountains and plains
Known as a breed called the ‘Waler’ With courage and stamina a-flow in my veins
Like the men and women of our country We were called upon for war
And just like our human comrades We were drafted by the scores
I was broken in to the bridle They were trained to the rifle and bayonet
I learnt to jump and run with stifling weight They learnt from blood and tears and sweat
I was a trooper’s horse, a ‘Lighthorse’ Known for bravery and speed
My larger brothers pulled the heavy guns Each one, a credit to our breed

Our training days were over And the best of us walked the line
Thousands of Australians Who were called upon to shine
We were loaded on a metal ship Spending months upon the sea
Floating to a land of war To our very destiny
I was fearful, I was wary But obedient and brave
My trooper asked for brilliance And that is how I would behave
As the shoreline of the war fields Broke the far horizon grasp
The gunfire and the burning sand Would make a bold soul gasp
We waited for the order Then plunged onto the sand
We were ready for this challenge Noble steed and brave young man
We galloped to the war zone To join our comrades side
Jumping bodies of the fallen Who had fought and died with pride
Our line was being peppered And I watched my brother’s fall
But the vast majority made it safely And we were ready for the call

We were picketed out at night time Fed small rations from the stores
We were bred for this, to be hardy Brave and honest to the core
Our victories were many As we charged the enemy line
Jumping bunkers and gun turrets We would surge, time after time
Casualties were common Injured horses, injured men
But we were soldiers, so come morning We would saddle up again
The conditions were atrocious And the challenges were great
But I’d treasure every meal time And a kind word from my mate
His gun would kill the enemy His actions, regimental
But his heart was kind and honest And his touch was kind and gentle
While the war exploded round us I would calmly wait his cue
He would stroke my mane to ease me Just one soul, from bodies two
I can’t recall the miles we trudged Or the numbers that we lost
But we were fighting for a greater good And a triumph worth the cost
Our Victory was won from courage That made us famous round the world
Our Lighthorse brigades, unbeatable And the ‘Waler’ horse, the pearl
But unlike most other victories Where the winner takes the spoils
Our Victory meant the end for us No more would we touch the soil……
…..Of our homeland, of the mountains Of the lush and rich grass plains
We were laid to rest on a land of war Our blood and bone to stain……
……The beaches and the memories Of the soldier men who ride
They couldn’t take us home with them And with us, a piece of them would die
So though our earthly gallops finished We still roam the plains of dreams
Where our history shaped the future Like rushing water in a stream
And as I talk to you from the pastures That lay beyond this world
Please remember me ‘The Lighthorse’ As your destiny unfurls
Written by Guy McLean ANZAC DAY April 2010

Australian light horsemen on Walers prior to their departure from Australia

Trimming the Hoof Bars

Posted on March 8, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, hoofcare, therapy.

Natural hoof trimmer Linda Harris of  thehappyhoof youtube channel  explains the importance of the bars of the hoof, and the 3 V’s of natural balance.

In trimming the bars you are just getting what ever may be laid over the sole off of it, so that as the hoof wall grows past the sole so will the bars (instead of laying over towards the outside wall and growing sideways, covering the sole in the seat of the corn).  You do not want to dig the bars down past the sole. You do not want to reduce the bars to where any leverage on the heels will push them forward, because then your heels will also go forward. That whole area of the heel buttress is formed to try and hold the heels in place.

 

In this photo, the inside bar (pictured on right and not yet trimmed) is slightly laid over with a chunk laying on the seat of the corn of the sole. The outside bar (pictured left and just trimmed) shows you where the white line is.  As you’re trimming, keep in mind that your actions in the back also affect the front of the hoof. NEVER take off any of the back half of the foot without taking some of the front half, even though it may seem like the front half did not grow much, and here is why.

The front half of the hoof is where the main sole ridge is that protects and surrounds the coffin bone. That sole ridge will grow forward with the wall and get thicker and thicker and begin to raise the front of the foot as well as grow gradually forward. With some horses, the wall will grow out past that sole ridge and you automatically know to trim or cut it off. With others the sole ridge will just grow and thicken along with the wall and so you think your foot has not grown. This is even worse if the toe in general has been stretched forward and is at a low angle because it will “seem” like the wall hasn’t grown at all. This then eventually creates a situation where the sole ridge, that is supposed to be thickest at, and surrounding the rim of the coffin bone, is actually out in front of it. So then you have thick sole ridge not under the actual toe of the inner foot, (as it’s supposed to be). Therefore the inner foot itself is sitting behind the toe callous, on thin flat sole. This slowly drops the toe of the inner foot down low and closer to the ground.
This is one reason why we rocker the toes to try and thin that sole ridge which is out of place.  This allows the wall to grow down very tightly connected to the very end of the internal foot where it will once again connect with the sole in that area. It grows down to the ground and then RETAINS that sole ridge under the front perimeter of that internal foot where it’s supposed to be.

Now this picture looks pretty good, the walls are trimmed down and the bars are defined and fine.

In the end the final and ultimate goal is to get the walls to grow down without being leveraged so they will reconnect in the right spot at the very bottom of the internal foot with the sole that grows from the sole corium. From there they continue to the ground and contain that V under and around the V of the internal foot.

What are the three V’s of the hoof?

Problems occur when the 3 V’s disconnect from one another. The V shaped rim of the coffin bone and sole corium drop onto FLAT sole instead of being in the V shaped ridge of the Wall and Sole ridge.  Then you will get coffin bone remodeling, because you have a V sitting on a _ like so V . Our 3 V’s are these:

V   Coffin bone / which is hard but also a softer bone than the rest.

V   Sole corium attached to coffin bone / which is soft and padded full of blood.

V   Wall and sole ridge.

Now we can not undue whatever prior damage may have been done to the feet. BUT when the hoof capsule is as correctly grown and reconnected as close as possible in alignment with that internal foot, the body has a “chance” to heal itself, proving our bodies and the bodies of animals are in and of themselves wondrous things.

Coffin Bone Remodeling

Posted on March 4, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: handicap, health, history, hoofcare, therapy.

Healthy Hoof Interior

New information regarding the changes in the coffin bone of the hoof have been released. The Fischer Equine Lameness Group have provided their in depth results into the remodeling of bone in the hoof during the time it remains shod. This information is a must for all horse owners!
From the “Heal the Hoof” web site: Sheri and her husband Mark, an orthopedic surgeon, fly internationally and present lectures on Wolfs Law of Orthopedics and how this affects the equine distal limb.  Their presentations have been given in Europe and throughout the US.  Recently, Sheri has lectured to the veterinarian students at the University of Minnesota and several veterinarian clinics throughout the US.

“Bone Remodeling of the Equine Distal Limb”
(We strongly recommend reading the complete article)

Excerpts from their article:   Wolfe’s law refers to how bone adapts itself to a variety of influences. Bones can remodel in a generalized fashion – that is, affecting the whole bone, or even the whole skeleton; or they can remodel in a very specific fashion in response to a local influence. It is important to remember that bone remodeling is a balance, and many factors can influence the balance, so that the net effect is either bone gain or bone loss. Most of the clinical situations we encounter in both human and equine situations involve bone loss to an extent to which problems occur.  According to Wolfe’s Law, failure to stress and stimulate bone by the mechanical forces generated by weight-bearing and muscles results in the activation of osteoclasts, leading to generalized loss of bone content and ultimately strength. The importance of exercise with respect to bone strength is well known in many human studies. This would suggest that any program which includes any significant amount of stall rest would promote the loss of bone. In a similar manner that cast treatment or immobilization can protect bone from stress, resulting in bone loss, application of a mechanical stress-sharing (i.e., aiding the bone in bearing a stress) device to bone can have the same effect. An example of this would be the use of horseshoes. An example of altered hoof weight bearing stresses affecting bone would be a deformation of the hoof capsule resulting from the horseshoe. The horseshoe puts direct pressure on the sides of the hoof, causing contraction and then bone loss due to altered stresses. Removal of shoes, depending on the timing as well as other influences, may allow the coffin bone to remodel. It seems obvious, however, that promoting a situation which several million years of evolution adapted the coffin bone for – that is, not applying horseshoes and keeping the coffin bone ground parallel within the hoof capsule – would make the most biological sense. In other words, never putting shoes on the horse, and keeping the coffin bone ground parallel for even distribution of stress along the edges of the coffin bone, would make the most sense for the bone according to the arguments advanced in this report.

In most cases, bone loss is recoverable once the conditions are changed to promote physiologic stress on the bone and to allow for the inflow of nutrients.

Hoof Deviation Terms

Posted on March 1, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: handicap, health, history, hoofcare, therapy.

 

coffin bone dropping into sole

coffin bone dropping into sole

The above x-rays indicate the horse’s struggle for soundness when the coffin bone is affected.
Many readers have asked for more information regarding the terms used for hoof deviations.
The following should help:
Rotation of coffin bone: the coffin bone (P3) of the horse has dropped downward toward the interior bottom (sole) of the hoof. This means it has separated from the flesh (laminae) that hold it to the toe wall. In extreme cases the sharp point of the bone can fall far enough to cut through the sole of the hoof. The bone is still connected to the interior laminae on the sides, or quarters, of the hoof. Most cases can be fixed through correct trimming and hoof boots.
Sinking of the coffin bone: the coffin bone is completely detached from all the laminae of the hoof wall. The coffin bone rests on the interior sole of the hoof. Correct trimming and boots ease this problem but I have no documentation of a full correction yet.
White Line Separation: the flesh (laminae) are in process of separating from the coffin bone. Again, fixed through correct trimming.
Flaring: in most cases,the laminae have finally separated from the coffin bone resulting in rotation, or dropping, of the toe portion of the coffin bone. Oftentimes flaring and white line are used synonymously though there is a difference.
Mechanical Founder/Road Founderof the hoof: This is the term used for sinker & rotation of coffin bone which came about due to hard ground,shoeing,or the daily wear of a long toe that eventually separates the wall from the coffin bone.
Laminitis Founder:the laminae (flesh holding the coffin bone to the hoof wall) become inflamed and dropped their attachment to the coffin bone. The source of the inflammation must be determined to stop the founder in this case. Typically the cause is the diet and the shoeing of the horse; other causes include recent trauma,squalor conditions,abusive handling.
To understand in depth the care and trim required for Founder read Marjorie Smith’s full explanation.

Horses for Healing

Posted on January 18, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, military, riding, therapy, training.

Combat veteran Rick Iannucci with Cowboy Up!

Photo:Melanie Stetson Freeman

excerpts from article by April Reese in Christian Science Monitor:

For 2-1/2 years, a stream of Iraqi and Afghan war veterans – many carrying both physical and psychological scars of combat – have found their way to Mr. Iannucci’s Crossed Arrows Ranch, about 15 miles south of Santa Fe, N.M. After first learning to groom and walk the specially trained quarter horses, the vets work their way up to mounting and riding them around the arena. As the veterans bond with the horses and learn how to “read” them, they begin to heal and feel connected with the civilian world again, Iannucci says.  “Horses are so in tune with you – if you’re uptight, they’ll know,” he explains. “They coax a certain level of contemplation out of you. They demand for you to be in the now. When the vets start working with the horses, they immediately start calming down.”

Some arrive with physical disabilities, such as limited use of arms or legs wounded in combat. Others are dealing with traumatic brain injuries, a result of roadside bombs or sniper attacks. Many have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “We call it ‘post-traumatic spiritual disorder,’ because we think the thing that happens to people in war is a wounding of the spirit,” Iannucci says. “Our goal is to find that [wound] and start working on it.”

Iannucci, a compact man with a purposeful demeanor and a walrus mustache, grew up in horse-racing country in southeastern Pennsylvania. From about age 12, Iannucci trained and rode quarter horses his family kept at his cousin’s farm. After retiring from his job as a US marshal working in Colombia, he moved to New Mexico and returned to horsemanship in earnest. He bought the ranch and built a horse arena, initially to provide a place for children to ride. A few years later he started inviting veterans to come and work with the horses. Word about Cowboy Up! began to spread. Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, former director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, visited the ranch last year. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D) of New Mexico has also paid a visit. “Rick doesn’t hesitate to take on a challenge, but he’s also a very humble and patient person,” Mr. Lujan says. “The program is truly impressive. Just to see the faith these men and women have is incredible.”

Mustang Training Methods of the Blackfoot

Posted on September 2, 2016 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, handicap, health, history, riding.

by Steve Lock

indian-boys.jpg

“Na notoas inik wa akana inewa”  or translated: “My horse has killed many buffalo.”
The Blackfoot hunter who could speak such words had both wealth and power because a good buffalo horse was highly valued by the Native Americans of the Great Plains. The buffalo horse helped a man provide his family with more than just food. It also carried him into battle and bore him in honor during tribal parades. A well-trained buffalo horse was just as appreciated as a well-trained event, dressage, roping, or cutting horse of today.Initially, the tribesmen had to be taught the skills required to train their horses. Their teachers were usually the people they received the horses from, and it was mostly in this way that training methods were passed from tribe to tribe. Little has been written about actual horse training among the plains tribes, but the methods of the Blackfoot are well documented by John C. Ewers in his book The Horse In Blackfoot Culture. Even though, for our purposes, we are looking at the training methods used by the Blackfoot, other plains tribes are known to have used similar methods.

To begin, the Blackfoot started training the horses turning two to three years old. Young men trained their own horses, but elderly people often used the teenage boys within the family to train their horses. Blackfoot boys and girls rode well by the time they were six or seven years of age, but an actual training career for a boy could begin between twelve and sixteen years old, depending on how quickly he obtained his skills.  Mustangs were halter trained at first, then riding training commenced using a few different methods. Before beginning actual training, the trainer and his assistants caught and restrained the horse prior to placing a bridle in its mouth. The bridle the Blackfoot used was made from rawhide, or from hair taken from the forehead and forelegs of the buffalo. The material used was braided into a light rope sixteen to thirty feet long. The bridle was formed from this length of rope by tying a loop in one end of the rope, creating the end of one rein. From the loop, the rope ran along the neck of the horse to the mouth. Once at the mouth, the rope was tied in two or three half hitches depending on the severity required, placed around the horse’s lower jaw, and tightened. From there, the rope continued along the opposite side of the neck making a second rein, which then passed through the loop at the beginning of the first rein. The excess rope was folded, tucked under the rider’s belt, and used to keep possession of the animal if the rider was unseated. This type of bridle could also be quickly transformed into a halter.

Training Methods

One training method used required a surcingle. Once the bridle was in place the rider mounted, passing a long band of rawhide under the horse’s belly as he did. Bringing the ends of the band up along the sides of the horse, he enclosed his knees and lower legs within the band and tied the ends in front of him. By exerting an outward pressure with his knees, the rider was able to make his seat more secure. The assistants released the horse, which was ridden until it tired. This procedure was repeated daily until no longer necessary.
Another training method was to use the pad saddle. As in any horse culture, saddle making was a specialized craft. Among the Blackfoot, women made the saddles. Saddles were considered valuable pieces of equipment, and women who were skilled saddle makers could use these saddles for trading purposes. The pad saddle was made from two pieces of soft skin cut in an hourglass type of shape, and placed on top of the other. Two rawhide lines were stitched down the center, spaced so they formed a gullet between them. The edges were sewn with sinew and then it was stuffed with deer of buffalo hair. There were D-shaped tabs on the sides for a rawhide girth and stirrup leathers.

For training purposes the pad saddle was placed forward, probably as far as the withers. The rider sat behind the saddle and held on to it for security while the horse tried to unseat him. Both the surcingle and the pad saddle method of training required an experienced rider, and were usually used when more preferred methods were not available.
The oldest and most common ways of training were the water and boggy ground methods. Using the water method, two people rode double on a trained horse and lead an untrained one into a stream, or pond, until it was up to its shoulders in water. The rider of the trained horse then held the untrained one steady while the person riding behind him jumped onto its back. One session of thrashing about in deep water was usually enough for most horses. They tired quickly, and could then be ridden to shore. After this, the horse was ridden bareback until ready for a saddle. Swampy or muddy ground was used in the same manner as water – the object being to bog the horse down. These latter two methods were especially good for people inexperienced in horse training. They were easier, and the rider was less likely to be injured if thrown. Once a horse was trained to be ridden, it may then be selected for further training as a hunting and warhorse, racehorse, or draft horse.

The choosing of a horse to be trained for hunting and war was not taken lightly. This would be a man’s best and most valuable mount. Since it helped him obtain food and raw materials for clothing and utensils, it was also an important animal to his family. Not just any animal could be trained for hunting and warfare. A buffalo can run nearly as fast as a horse, so a desirable mount had to be able to run at speed for some distance. Buffalo can also wheel about and turn very quickly, so a horse had to be agile and respond immediately to its rider’s direction. The uneven ground it sped across made it important that a horse be sure of foot. One other important quality was courage, because the horse had to be able to run among animals it naturally feared.

Young boys between ten and fourteen years old were the first to expose young horses to hunting. After the adult hunters started a buffalo herd running, the calves would soon fall behind. When that happened the boys gave chase on their young horses, shooting arrows at the calves. In this manner, the horses started becoming accustomed to chasing buffalo. Whether a horse could overcome its fear, only time and the hunt would tell. The buffalo horse had no small bill to fill.
While some mares were used, most horses chosen for buffalo hunting were geldings. The horse had to have shown itself to be fast and intelligent. Usually a four-year-old was preferred. Hunting and war horses were trained to a high degree, responding to leg aids and shifting of the rider’s weight. This allowed the rider to keep his hands free to use his weapons. Once a horse responded well to its rider’s direction, it was taken on the hunt. Using his whip, and much patience, the hunter taught his horse to move in alongside a buffalo, hold steady while he fired an arrow, and then move away to avoid the animal falling or attacking. It commonly took three arrows to bring down a buffalo, so handling this maneuver at speed was important. A good buffalo horse would act with minimal direction from its rider.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition documented the skill of these buffalo horses. While driving horses they had obtained from a friendly tribe, the party encountered a herd of buffalo. Upon seeing the buffalo, the horses “immediately set off in pursuit of them, and surrounded the herd with almost as much skill as their riders could have done.”
The buffalo horse also served as a warhorse because the same qualities were needed. For its duties as a charger, the horse was trained to allow the rider to hang from its side while it ran, to carry two people at a time, and to stay close to its dismounted rider. To teach the horse to stay near its rider, the trainer placed a rope around the horse’s neck, mounted, urged it into a run, and then stopped quickly and jumped off. When the horse tried to move away, the rider forcefully jerked on the rope. Survival in battle made it essential that warhorses remain near their riders. The buffalo/warhorse was indeed a valuable animal. The only horse the Blackfoot held in more esteem was a winning racehorse. A winning racehorse brought pride to the entire tribe, and enriched those who were smart, or lucky enough, to bet on it.

To transport children and others who could not walk or ride, a sled was used. This sled is commonly referred to by its French name, the travois. For travois pulling, larger mares over four years old and of gentle disposition were preferred. The travois was made in an A-frame shape using two long poles with a platform for the cross piece, and was drug by the horse. It was not originally developed for the horse, but was adapted from its use on dogs. Tipi lodge poles were also drug by the travois horse. These were tied in bundles, and attached to both sides of a horse. Household goods were more commonly carried on a makeshift platform attached to the lodge pole bundles rather than on a travois.

One way horses were trained to pull the travois was to first place a rawhide rope around the base of the horse’s neck. Next, a length of rope was tied to each side of the piece around the neck, and extended behind the horse where they were attached to a dry buffalo hide. The hide had to be tied far enough behind that the horse could not kick it, or more importantly, the boys riding on it to provide weight. Another way to accustom a horse to pulling was to have it drag two wooden poles, which crossed near its head. Whichever method was used, it was repeated until the horse became used to the weight and pulled quietly. Then it was ready to pull the real travois, or lodge poles. An unloaded travois weighed around fifty pounds, and the average load a horse pulled was 250 to 300 pounds.
The European method of mounting horses from the left had a practical design at one time, related to when men carried swords. The Blackfoot method of mounting a horse, while differing from that of Europeans, had a practical design also. Their method related to whether a person was left or right handed. They claimed it felt more natural to mount from the side of the hand the rider used most. If a person was right-handed, that meant grabbing some mane in the right hand, placing the left hand on the horses back, and then swinging up onto the horse. If you should wish to try this at home and find it difficult – remember their horses’ height averaged around fourteen hands. A sixteen or seventeen-hand horse will present a bit of a challenge. You may end up with a face full of shoulder.

Women rode astride, wearing long, loose skirts that facilitated easy movement, and covered their legs while riding. They usually used a wooden saddle. The pommel and cantle were of equal height – about ten to twelve inches. They were set into two sideboards that served as the panels. The entire frame was covered with buffalo rawhide. Soft skin stuffed with grass was used under the panels to protect the horse’s back. When a woman mounted, she put one foot the stirrup and pushed the opposite leg between the pommel and cantle; they were too high to swing a leg over. Imagine mounting a western saddle with two horns about a foot high!

To start a horse moving, the Blackfoot made the sound “sh” several times, while leaving the reins loose. To slow or stop, the command “ka” was said while pulling back on the reins. This latter command was also used to quiet horses while dismounted, especially in dangerous situations. No voice commands were used in turning, which was accomplished by using an open rein in the desired direction of travel. The better trained horses would turn in response to knee pressure on the opposite side, or by the rider shifting his weight in the direction of the turn. The horse would continue to turn until the rider’s weight was centered again.

In training and using horses, Native Americans took some of the European’s methods and adapted them to their way of life. The use of a wood-frame saddle covered with hide, the use of stirrups, the whip, the lariat, and the practice of gelding were among the things borrowed from Europeans, mainly the Spaniards. The horse owning tribes did not generally adopt the use of spurs, a bridle with a metal bit, or the practice of branding as a means of identifying their horses.

Compared to the overall history of Native Americans, the horse era covered a relatively short period of time, but they quickly learned to use these animals. The generations that grew up with the horse produced excellent riders, and the horse became an inextricable part of their lives. They undoubtedly experienced the same joys and frustrations of horse training that we do. That they were successful can be seen from the colorful accounts of their expert horsemanship written by Europeans and others who encountered the horse owning tribes. Success to the trainer of a buffalo horse meant meat in people’s bellies, clothes on their backs, and shelter over their heads. That was why it was important for a hunter to be able to say, “Na notoas inikwa akana inewa.”

“My horse has killed many buffalo.”

photo from engraving by William Cary, 1874

Working with the Local Sheriff Posse, by Steve Lock

Posted on September 1, 2016 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, riding, therapy, training.

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Photos:Volunteers with Yolo County Sheriffs Posse, California

When I was younger my focus was mainly in the area of Eventing. Shortly after the 9/11 attack, I joined our local Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. Being involved with the Sheriff’s Posse opened a whole new world for me with horses. I learned a lot more about desensitizing horses. I learned how valuable horses are as a search animal. As you can imagine, they provide a much larger field of view, they cover more ground and move faster, and they will alert you when there is something you need to check out. It may not be the person you are looking for, but then again, it may be. There are people who in recent years have started training horses to air scent, like some dogs do, and with good success. I spent about four years as a Training Officer with the Posse, and one year as President. I experienced many positive things I may never have had the opportunity to experience had I not been a volunteer with the Posse. I would encourage anyone wondering what to do with their horse, looking for something new to do with their horse, or who wants to serve their community to seriously consider joining their local Sheriff Posse if there is one, or if not, joining a Mounted Search and Rescue group. You and your horse will learn many new things, make some wonderful new friends, and have your lives enriched while you have great fun doing it. It is a very satisfying experience.
In addition to the Search and Rescue, as volunteers with the Sheriff’s Posse, we also rode in our local Christmas Parade each year with the Sheriff’s Department component. We patrolled the parking lots at our local county fair each year to deter break-ins and help people find their cars. We sat on our horses at the entry gates of the county fair and let people pet our horses, and answered the many questions they had about the horses and what work we performed. It was great fun for us, and great public relations for the Sheriff’s Department. We participated in Toys for Tots each December. As you may expect, we had training in many areas. A former San Francisco Mounted Policeman and Instructor trained us in friendly crowd control and formation riding. We participated in a four-day Search and Rescue training each year with several other Mounted Search and Rescue units. We learned about living and surviving with our horses in the wilderness. I had the opportunity to participate in a training demonstration put on by a former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Mounted Officer and Trainer at the Western States Horse Expo two years in a row. All in all, it was a very enriching experience. One I am glad I did not miss out on.

Sharpening Your Hoof Nippers

Posted on July 10, 2016 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, history, hoofcare, therapy.

That trusty pair of nippers you depend on so often will gradually dull with use, until one day you realize that you’re having a tougher time trimming the hoof wall than you should. It’s best to sharpen those nippers before that day arrives. Exactly how you go about that will determine whether the nippers return to peak performance for an extended period or if they’re a big step closer to the trash bin.
“What destroys the most nippers is the way that horseshoers file them,” says Donald Jones. As an International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame farrier and the owner of NC Tool Company, he ought to know. He’s used a lot of nippers over the years, and he routinely refurbishes the tools sent in by farriers across the country.  “A good sharpening that prolongs the life of the nippers isn’t difficult,” says Jones. “The secret to making the nippers cut well is to keep the shoulder area thin. Most people get their edges too blunt,” he says. “The actual front edge, the cutting edge, will feel sharp, but there’s so much metal back on the shoulder that it makes for resistance when you’re trying to cut the hoof.”

He offers the following advice for best results:
A. Secure the nippers horizontally, with the lower handle firmly in a vise. Pull the top handle upward to open the head of the nippers and expose the underside of the jaws.
B. Identify the area to be filed. Always file the underside, or inside, of the nipper jaws. Although a few strokes may be needed on the front cutting edge, most of the filing should run from the front edge through the back shoulder.
C. Use a two-handed grip on the file for long, flat strokes. Strive for a sharp cutting edge that runs smoothly back into the shoulder of the nippers without any sudden angles along the way. Repeat the process for the second side of the nipper jaws. Avoid damaging the corners of the jaws, which help pierce the hoof wall during trimming.
D. The stops down in the handles come together at the same time as the cutting edges to prevent the cutting surfaces from blunting one another or overlapping. If you take a bit of metal off the cutting edges when you sharpen them, then you have to take a little off the stops, too, so the cutting edges close correctly.

Even with proper sharpening, nippers eventually need professional resetting of the handles and tightening or replacing of the rivet. There are two reasons for this, Jones says:“One reason is that after adjusting the stoppers a few times as part of the sharpening, the handles start getting closer together. Send the tool to a professional when the handles become too close to use the nippers efficiently or comfortably. Another is that after nippers have been sharpened a few times, a gap appears between the cutting edges. The nippers should be sent to a professional for resetting. But you should be able to sharpen nippers several times before you need to send them off for reworking,” Jones says, “and then they’ll work as good as new.”
(article and photo from the American Farriers Journal)

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