Positioning of the Head

Posted on November 1, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, therapy, training.
photo:informedfarmers.com

photo:informedfarmers.com

 

There are so many training and lesson terms referring to the positioning of the horse’s head when it is being ridden that it can become difficult to know which is best when riding. For example: “on the bit/up to the bit/over the bit” are descriptions describing the horse’s head placement from the way the rider is holding the reins. In fact, some instructors will substitute the word ‘rein’ rather than bit:  “on the rein/behind the rein/cue the rein/supple the rein” to indicate the rider’s influence on the horse via the reins held in the hands. With all this obsession on where the horse’s head should be positioned when riding and how the rider affects this positioning, how can a rider know just which position of the head is correct?

I have yet to see a horse out to pasture who didn’t know how to put his head down to eat grass. Yet under saddle the common perception is that the horse will not keep his head forward and low without gadgets and bits. Why can’t we connect the grazing stretch from the pasture to the head carriage of the horse under saddle?

Studies show that the horse’s reaction to rider weight is to push its spine downward toward the ground. He will also lift his neck and head upward toward the sky to accommodate his dropped back.  This means he bends upside down with his head high and his back sagging. Since his back is no longer supporting the rider, the horse will have to hop from his hip and shoulder to trot forward, creating a jolt and bounce to the rider in the saddle. The common method of pulling back on the reins to adjust the high head position of the horse just brings the horse’s head up higher than it was before, creating more bounce.

To fix the head position and produce a pleasant riding horse we need to fix the source of imbalance:  the dropped spinal vertebrae. Once the horse lifts the spinal vertebrae upward then the head and neck automatically reach outward and downward similarly to what we see when they are out grazing. The test of our horsemanship is not in how cleverly we can pull back the horse’s nose but how quickly we can convince the horse to lift its back upward. When his back lifts upward and carries the weight of the rider, rather than ducking down away from it, the horse discovers the relief of reconnecting his back to his tail and head. His balance returns,and his movement becomes smoother and easier to ride. The reins in the rider’s hands become simply a tool to maintain the horse’s posture while guiding it in which way to turn.

Remembering the Pit Pony

Posted on October 26, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, health, history.

An article from: Making Sense of Mining
pitpony3
Horses have been used for many years in different industries to help provide power or transportation. Coal mining was no exception, with horses used to transport coal from the pit site to local users. Horse-powered engines (gins) were commonly used both in agriculture and in mining. They were used in some cases to replace manual winding up and down shafts, the horses being able to lift
heavier loads and for longer periods. The use of steam power, firstly for pumping and later for winding coal and men, had an impact on horse use at the pit surface. Steam winding was used extensively by the 1840s, but in common with many other pit innovations, older gins continued to be used at some small mines well into the twentieth century. After the 1842 Act which prevented
children under the age of 10 and women from working underground, horses and ponies were used more to pull tubs of coal and materials
underground, where roof heights allowed. Gradually, though, much of this work was done by haulage engines, particularly on long, straight roadways.
pitpony2
The number of working ponies reached a peak just before World War I, with 70,000 ponies in 1913. After this the number declined, firstly due to the demands of the War, and after that, as more machines were introduced. This meant that by 1932, only 32,000 ponies were used by mines. In 1947, the coal industry in the UK was nationalised. This made the process of modernisation quicker, and so fewer ponies were needed. By 1962, only 6,400 ponies were used underground, and the number continued to drop. In 1978 there were only 149 ponies employed to work underground. A very small number of mines continued to employ ponies until the 1990s.
pitpony1

Absolute Elevation: The Sister to Rolkur

Posted on October 15, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, training.

excerpts from an article by Bonnie Walker

versusThe controversy of rollkur within the world of dressage is not a new one. Also called hyperflexion, it is the practice of forcefully pulling a horse’s head into an extreme low, deep and round position. Many have seen photographs of horses being pulled into such a headset, inspiring anti-rollkur websites, publications and Facebook pages. But this is not an article about the evils of rollkur, but rather the less publicly sensational but no less harmful practice of absolute elevation.

No horse is meant to have their head and neck in any extreme position for an extended period of time and there will be repercussions physically if they are forced to do so. Rollkur is an extreme deep and low position, absolute elevation is an extreme high and back position. Since this is an article on absolute elevation, I will discuss mainly this, though you see in the nifty picture I drew, both absolute elevation, rollkur and relative elevation, which is the proper way of doing things.

collectiondiagram4So how does this thing called collection work? Let’s start with your horse’s hindquarters and work our way forward. The idea of “getting the hindleg under” and “lowering the croup” are two concepts that are commonly bandied about in the dressage world. What happens to create and more importantly, sustain, this way of moving is actually a full body experience.

While the sacrum of the horse does not have the ability to rotate, a horse’s lumbosacral joint does. This joint acts to ‘roll’ the horse’s pelvis under themselves, aiding in the compression of the hind legs (aka engagement). It might just be a little (for example in training level to achieve level balance) or it might be more extreme (for example the piaffe). This rotation of the pelvis and compression of the hind leg joints also allows the horse’s center of gravity to draw further back and away from his forehand. These mechanism do not work in a vacuum however and that full body experience we were referring to now must include to the horse’s back and abdominal muscles. Think of them as the platforms that link the horse’s front and back ends. If a horse does not have sufficient muscular strength within his midsection then there is NO WAY we can build a horse with the ability to truly collect.  In addition to supporting our weight, a horse’s midsection also supports and connects the mechanisms of collection in the forehand and hindquarters.  A horse does not have a collar bone as we humans do. Instead they have a muscular “girdle” of sorts that runs near wear the girth lays. When toned, this series of muscles, called the thoracic sling, acts along with the musculature of the neck and chest to elevate the front half of the horse. When these muscles are engaged the front limbs of the horse act to aid in his or her overall balance, pushing upward to maintain the elevated front end and encourage a rotated and engaged hind end. Just as the hind leg must rotate and compress more as collection increases, so must the front end elevate and push upward more to maintain its end of the bargain. All of these body actions to combine to create a phenomenon called “relative elevation”, which is the right and proper way to strength build and collect a horse.
There is no such thing as putting the horse in the headset and then waiting for the muscles to develop afterward. The muscles develop INTO the balance that supports a certain headset. Both extreme headsets (rollkur and absolute elevation) will force the horse to have issues breathing, as that tightly compressed throat latch area can impede airflow.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

If the head is brought too high, too fast, then the front end does not have the muscular strength to elevate upward, the core musculature is too weak to follow it up and the hind legs cannot maintain the rotation and compression. So, the front end drops, the back sinks and the horse’s pelvis rolls outward instead of under. An array of tendon and joint injuries occur from this, not least of which is a phenomenon called “kissing spine”. This happens when the vertebrae of the spine are compressed together and rub on one another, bone on bone, which is extremely painful.
What you want to get comfortable with is watching how the horse’s body works, and knowing how it should correctly work. If done right, dressage will add to the strength and longevity of a horse. They will become beautiful old geldings and mares. If done incorrectly you will have a ten year old horse than rides like an old man.

About the author: Bonnie Walker,USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist, in San Diego, Ca, rides and shows in dressage. Her profound articles on riding and training are public on her blog DressageDifferent.com

Understanding the Mounted Police Horse

Posted on October 3, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding, training.

Providence Mounted Patrol

Providence Mounted Patrol

Thanks to Delfin Vigil for his following article:
Officially founded in San Francisco, California, in 1872 (two years after New York City’s), the mounted patrol unit has been trotting through the city’s streets fighting and preventing crime in three centuries. While in its — ahem — heyday, there were upward of 30 badge-wearing horses, and although at one point every substation in the city had horses, there are only 13 on-duty patrol ponies left at the department’s stables in Golden Gate Park. Although some critics write off the mounted patrol as a chance for police officers to joyride through the park, many don’t realize that the horses are putting their lives at risk.
During one of the initial and largest protests against the current war in Iraq, the mounted patrol unit was brought in to help the first officers on the scene, who were being backed in and surrounded by protesters near Third and Market streets.
“Eleven horses were brought in to save the officers,” remembers Sgt Downs. “We were able to part the sea of protesters without hitting, stepping on or even touching a single person. That’s the beauty of the horse.”
Aggressive dogs are probably the biggest danger to the four-legged officers.
In November 2003, a woman was walking Nettie, a pit bull mix, in Golden Gate Park when she decided to take off the dog’s leash to let it play with other dogs. But instead it went after police horse AAA Andy.
AAA, who is not in the insurance business but was given to the department by the company, was bitten several times in the belly and legs by the dog, which continued to chase him for about a half mile as AAA Andy tried to find his way back to the stables. The officer was thrown to the ground during the frenzy. Another officer had to shoot the dog (who survived) to stop the attack.
AAA Andy went on disability for a couple of months. Within weeks of being back on the job he was in the news again for galloping down the “Spider-Man” burglar who had a record of more than 60 acrobatic burglaries through skylights and ventilation shafts in Sunset District buildings. This time, “Spider-Man,” a.k.a. 27-year-old Kristian Kwon Marine, was on the run after snatching a purse at a cafe on Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. With only a good old-fashioned “he went thataway,” tip, AAA and Officer Kaan Chin chased the burglar down in a field in Golden Gate Park.
“What people don’t always understand is that most of what all police officers do involves crime prevention,” says Kaan, who rode AAA Andy. “But these horses are very capable of fighting crime in heat-of-the-moment ways as well. Once that saddle is put on, their personalities change and they are ready to work.”

The Story of Wolraad Woltemade

Posted on September 30, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, military, riding.


Statue depicting Wolraad Woltemade near Woltemade train station, Cape Town.

On the morning of 1 June 1773, near mid-winter in the southern hemisphere, a sailing ship named the De Jonge Thomas,[2] was driven ashore in a gale onto a sand bar at the mouth of the Salt River in Table Bay. Many lives were lost as the ship started to break up but a substantial number of survivors were left clinging to the hull. The stricken ship was not too far from dry land and many sailors attempted to swim ashore. Most of those who did so perished; the water was cold and the current from the nearby Salt River too great. Except for the very strongest swimmers, those who headed for the shore were carried out to sea.
A crowd of spectators stood on the beach. Some came to watch, others to try to help and yet others were hoping to loot the cargo that was being washed ashore. A detachment of soldiers was in attendance, to keep order amongst the spectators. Corporal Christian Ludwig Woltemade, the youngest son of the elderly Wolraad, was amongst those standing guard. As daylight came, Wolraad left his home on horseback, taking provisions to his son.
As he reached the beach, Wolraad was filled with pity for the sailors marooned aboard the wreck. Seeing that nothing could be done by those on the beach, he mounted his horse, Vonk (“Spark” in English) and urged the animal into the sea. As they approached the wreck, Woltemade turned the horse and called for two men to jump into the sea and grasp the horse’s tail. After a moment of hesitation, two men threw themselves into the water and did so, whereupon Woltemade urged the horse forward and dragged them to shore. Wolraad rode out seven times, bringing back fourteen men. By this time he and his horse were exhausted, but at that moment, as they rested, the ship began to collapse. Wolraad once more urged his horse into the water but by now the desperation amongst the sailors was tremendous. Seeing this as probably their last chance to escape before the ship was destroyed, six men plunged into the sea, grabbing at the horse. Their weight was too much for the exhausted steed; all were dragged below the waves and drowned.[3]
Woltemade’s body was found the next day, but the horse was not found.
Of the 191 souls on board, only 53 survived and of these 14 were saved by Woltemade.
Thanks to Wikipedia for photo and story

Dressage: Sport Technique or Art Form?

Posted on August 10, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, training.

 

Nuno Oliveira in passage

The following is a feature commentary:

Dressage Commentary by Charles de Kunffy

The fashionable dressage terminology has recently increased by the word “technique.” It is just the word I would not welcome. There are references of various riders’ techniques for the improvement of everything, including the horse, his piaffe, his flying changes, his extensions, his attention, his contact and everything else under the sun. None of these are improvable by any techniques for the simple reason that riding is not a technology. Horses are not a triumph of mechanical inventions. Horses are living, complex individuals. They cannot be understood from an instruction booklet, even if it were written by Dante, Shakespeare, Moliere or Goethe, and they cannot be schooled by techniques. In fact, riding is a complex art. That positions it most decidedly opposite technology. Technology is predictable and based on instant and predictable responses of machinery to predictable mechanical actions

If riding would be a technology, it would come with an “instructional booklet” or a “recipe book” similar to those that are tormenting anyone who buys a gadget.  Not all horses produce predictable, or identical reactions to riders’ communications. Nothing more needs to be said than this: Horses are complex living individuals, not a piece of technology. Riding them is done by knowledge leading to understanding and wisdom. Instead of techniques, suitable to technology and machines, we need to develop the correct skills for communication in harmony with the horse’s nature.

Egon Von Neindorff

Had horsemanship ever benefitted from techniques, we would have long ago produced the necessary guide booklets and recipe books. However, as in fact none of that would suffice, we learned that riding is an art. Therefore riding, as all art involves the mind, the character, the virtues and the skills necessary to deal with a living partner in an artistic endeavor.  Practicing an art, mastering its principles is multi-dimensional and is based on inspirational mentoring and instruction by a master from whom we learn. It is a coaching art. It is acquired by diligent apprenticeship. And it is practiced by skills and not techniques.

Great masters mentored all great artists. Michelangelo was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio. Andrea del Verrocchio mentored Leonardo da Vinci. All art survives by the genius of its practitioners. One generation derailed can damage or destroy art. Especially, performing art!

Charles de Kunffy is an international dressage judge, author, and educator. You can follow him on Facebook.

What Dewormer Works Best? Part 1

Posted on August 1, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, therapy.

Article Written by Donald H Bliss, Ph.D  midamericaagresearch.net

Equine Dewormers:
Equine dewormers currently on the market in the USA can be classified into three separate classes of compounds based on the mode of action.
These three major classes are: the benzimidazoles and pre-benzimidazoles (febantel, fenbendazole, oxibendazole, mebendazole and oxfendazole), the macrocyclic lactones (avermectin and moxidectin families), and the tetrahyo-pyrimidines (pyrantel). The mode of action is different for each class of compounds. The benzimidizoles are non-soluble compounds that destroy the metabolism of the parasites by interfering with the cell functions in the parasites and by preventing the uptake of food thus starving the worms to death. The macrocyclic lactones are very soluble compounds and affect the nervous system killing the parasites causing a non-spastic paralysis while the pyrimidines kill the parasites by acting on the nervous receptors causing a spastic paralysis.
All three classes of compound have excellent efficacy against the adult parasites, but each dewormer class has a defined mode of action with a different level of activity against various developing and encysted larvae. The time it takes for larvae missed by treatment to develop into an adult parasite following treatment depends upon what larval stage the product is efficacious against. It takes longer for late L3 larvae to develop into an adult parasite than it will for late L4 larva. This difference can be measured in the time it takes for worm eggs to reappear in the feces following treatment. The longer it takes for eggs to reappear the more effective the product is against both the developing and encysted larvae.
Using products correctly and understanding their characteristics can help keep all classes of products viable. Fenbendazole, for example, is an excellent product when used in a strategic deworming schedule. However, if parasite contamination is allowed to develop in the environment and parasite levels increases in the animals until a high population of encysted larvae are present in high numbers, the efficacy of fenbendazole at the recommended dose is drastically reduced.
Two key issues have been identified with fenbendazole that can affect its efficacy. The first issue is that this compound is not very soluble in liquids such as gastric juices or blood. The second issue is that it kills the parasite by destroying it’s ability to metabolize food. Encysted larvae are in an arrested state with reduced metabolism and reduced absorption of nutrients. Because of fenbendazole’s low solubility and reduced metabolism of the encysted larvae, the product needs direct physical contact to kill these encysted parasites. When fenbendazole is given at 10 times the recommended dose spread over a five-day period it is successful against both developing and encysted larvae (10 mg/kg given daily for five days). By flooding the astrointestinal tract with molecules of fenbendazole, direct contact is made with the encysted larvae successfully killing them.

Equine Parasite Control Part 2

Posted on by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, therapy.

Dr Donald Bliss of midamericaagresearch.net has published a revealing study regarding de-worming resistance in equines. His facts point out that actual cases of such resistance are very rare and that the appearance of  such resistance is usually the result of existing parasites and their eggs never fully being destroyed. To determine if your horse has resistance to current dewormers, Dr Bliss advises to first implement an active parasite control program that results in ending the egg-to-worm cycle in both the host (horse) and the paddocks and pastures.  The following is his initial program proven effective in stopping the parasite cycle in horses:

“Phase I:  To begin the program, all horses should be parasite-free throughout the winter months and prior to the start of the transmission season in the spring. This includes making sure all animals are free from harboring encysted larvae acquired during the previous grazing season. The goal has multiple benefits, the first is to make sure the animals are free from harmful parasitism during the winter months, the second, is to make sure the animals are not shedding worm eggs at the beginning of the grazing season in the spring and, the third, is to make sure all mares are parasite-free at the time of foaling. The last treatment of the season should take place after the transmission season is over, preferably in December. If post-treatment fecal exams indicate infections are still present after the December treatment, repeated treatment may be necessary including the use of the larvicidal dose of fenbendazole (10mg/kg daily for 5 days). All horses that are heavily parasitized (when fecal worm egg counts are over 300 eggs/3 gm sample) or horses that have not been dewormed on a regular basis should be dewormed with a larvicidal of fenbendazole to remove inhibited larval stages before starting the program.  When fenbendazole is given at 10 times the recommended dose spread over a five-day period it is successful against both developing and encysted larvae (10 mg/kg given daily for five days). By flooding the astrointestinal tract with molecules of fenbendazole, direct contact is made with the encysted larvae successfully killing them.

Phase II: Strategic Timed Spring Dewormings: In the horse, treatment should be timed with the seasonal parasite life cycle on pasture where parasite development in the environment in most parts of the country is the greatest in the spring and the fall.  To reduce the overall parasite contamination of the environment, three spring dewormings should be given one month apart in the spring and again in the fall.  If the animals are parasite-free at the beginning of the spring season, the first treatment should be given approximately 30-days after the start of spring grazing. The repeated treatment works because as animals pick up infective larvae which have over-wintered on the pasture in early spring, these larvae are killed with the first treatment before they can mature and begin laying eggs back in the environment of the horse. The horses continue to pick up more larvae, which are killed by the second and then the third treatment before they can shed eggs again.  By preventing eggs from being shed for the first three to four months in the beginning of the grazing season significantly reduces parasite contamination for the next three months. With horses, three strategically timed dewormings given one month apart will provide approximately six months of safe grazing. The key to the success of this program is that the horses must be free of parasites at the start of the season so that the repeated treatments are simply removing the parasites picked up during each thirty day interval. If the treatments are successful no worm egg will be shed on the pasture for approximately 120 days, i.e., (1) clean to start, (2) three thirty-day treatments which provides 90 days without shedding and (3) another thirty days past the last treatment before mature worms can be present laying eggs into the environment.
Strategic timed deworming treatment should be given three times in the spring and fall one month apart as shown. The class of dewormer used can be interchanged as desired. The last treatment should be given in late November or early December and may include both bot and tapeworm treatment if needed. Each “three-treatment strategically timed regime” provides approximately six months of control thus the spring treatment protects the horses until fall and the fall regime protects the horses until spring. These repeated treatments also help remove encysted larvae which may have survived in the horse through the winter months while preventing more from establishing throughout the entire grazing season by reducing the overall build-up of infective larvae in the environment of the treated animals.

Pasture Control:  Parasites can survive winter or hot summer conditions either as adult, inhibited larvae or infective larvae in the environment. The adult parasite within the horse have a finite life span, however, as the older parasites die off they are replenished by the larvae, new incoming larvae, or larvae that have emerged from the gut wall (in the case of the small strongyles), from the lungs (in the case of roundworms), and from the mesentery arteries (in the case of Strongylus vulgaris). Infected horses then re-seed the pastures with parasite eggs which develop into infective larvae contaminating spring pastures. Animals that enter the spring months harboring parasites begin shedding worm eggs immediately while those which begin the spring season parasite free will not re-contaminate their environment until a new infection has developed from newly acquired infection off spring pastures. As temperatures increase with spring developing, these eggs hatch and develop into infective larvae. The eggs that have been lying in the environment waiting for warm moist weather, many of these eggs will develop around the same time depending upon the weather causing high levels of contamination to occur once.  Pastures not grazed by horses from the beginning of the spring season for at least three months will become “parasite safe” pastures since the over-wintered larvae will have expired by this time and no new worm eggs have been released on the pastures. Any animals moving to “parasite safe” pastures should be dewormed prior to moving.
Treating horses strategically to prevent shedding eggs during the first three months of the season will accomplish the same goal and the existing larvae will disappear by late June or early July and the pastures will be safe from parasites until fall.”

Mustang Training Methods of the Blackfoot

Posted on July 29, 2018 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

Horses and Plains Indians; R.E. Moore

Posted on July 22, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, riding, training.
scene from movie: Dances With Woves

scene from movie: Dances With Woves

The Indians got their first horses from the Spanish. When the Spanish explorers Coronado and DeSoto came into America they brought horses with them. This was in the year of 1540. Some horses got away and went wild. But, the Indians did not seem to have done much with these wild horses. They did not start to ride or use horses until much later.

In the 1600s there were a lot of Spanish missions and settlers in New Mexico just to the west of Texas. This is where the Pueblo and Navaho Indians live. The Spanish in New Mexico used Indians as slaves and workers. These Indian slaves and workers learned about horses working on the Spanish ranches. The Spanish had a law that made it a crime for an Indian to own a horse or a gun. Still these Indians learned how to train a horse and they learned how to ride a horse. They also learned how to use horses to carry packs.

In the year of 1680 the Pueblo Indians revolted against the Spanish and drove the Spanish out of their land and back down into Old Mexico. The Spanish were forced to leave so fast they left behind many horses. The Pueblo Indians took these horses and used them. The Spanish did not come back until the year of 1694. While the Spanish were gone the Pueblo Indians raised large herds of horses. They began selling and trading them to other Indians such as the Kiowa and Comanche. The Pueblo Indians also taught the other Indian tribes how to ride and how to raise horses.

Horses spread across the Southern Plains pretty quickly. French traders reported that the Cheyenne Indians in Kansas got their first horses in the year of 1745. Horses changed life for the plains Indians.
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equi-works

equi-works