Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is a "Horseman" or Why I'm not a "Cowboy"

What, you may ask, is the difference between a cowboy and a horseman? Don't they both ride wild bucking horses and punch cows? Well, I'm here to tell you that I've never even been ANGRY with a cow, let alone punch one. Some folks just assume that anyone in a ten gallon hat and fancy boots is a "Cowboy". This is simply just not true. In the purest sense of the word, a cowboy is one who tends cattle or horses; usually a mounted cattle-ranch hand. Then we have the other incarnation of the "cowboy". We have folks who ride animals who are forced to buck for the entertainment pleasure of the masses. I will not say that it doesn't take skill to stay on top of an 1000+lb animal trying to turn inside out, but, again, not my speed. The real unsung heroes of the equine world are those of us, like myself that take colts and turn them into loving, willing partners for every day, ordinary folks to be able to ride and enjoy. I am a horseman. This simply means that I am a student of the horse. I approach him on equal terms, with the idea in mind that he has as much to teach me as I to teach him. I pride myself in (most days) never letting a horse know that he CAN buck. We don't live in line shacks, we don't ride the range making little dogies get along. We spend hours in the round pen and on the trail perfecting their stride so YOU can have a better ride. We don't have shoot outs at high noon, and in most cases we don't save ranchers daughters from evil thugs trying to steal her aged father's spread. We take horses who won't stand to mount, or have been taught bad habits, or are spoiled and help them to understand the joys that a working partnership with a human can be. We do not (again in most cases) hold up stage coaches or banks or shoot up the town on a saturday night after having a few belts at the local honky tonk. We are entirely too busy helping Susan, or Joe understand why they can't get mad at "Fluffy" because he doesn't understand what they are miscommunicating to him. We are helping Katie learn to sit up straight and not clutch the saddle horn for dear life just because her horse moved from a walk to a trot. A horseman(person) is just that, a person who tries to think as the horse does. So, in closing, no, I'm no cowboy. I only play one on T.V.

Check out our website at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Horseback Riding in the Snow?

   A lot of us would never think to be horseback riding when it's cold and blustery.  Most of us wouldn't.  Unless you are a die hard lover of winter or a trainer, you'd be sitting at home next to a warm fire.   Yes, you CAN ride in the winter, especially when there is snow on the ground.   As long as you take precaution in the safety of your horse or mule, you should have little issue when you set out to make your own path for a leisurely ride in the woods or wherever you choose.
   Horseback riding can be done if there isn't ice or deep crusted over snow.  Your horse is very capable in the snow already, but not when he has to break through ice to get through into it.  This puts not only you, but the horse in danger of a fall.
   For those intrepid enough to brave the weather, your horse would benefit from being either barefoot (no shoes), or have special snow shoes with pads.  The pads prevent snow from "balling" inside the hoof, as the hoof is cupped.  This is often called "snow-balling", and can make the horse unsteady.
  If a horse does go through deep snow, keep in mind how much exertion he will have to do in order to carry you.  Even a fit horse will end up sweating after a ride in the snow.  Take extra care in making sure your horse is warm until he is dry.  It is best to limit physical activity for your horse as they cannot take extra layers off as you are able when you get warm.
  As for the rider, the best clothing to wear in the winter can be a challenge.  Don't wear chunky boots or clothing that would make you slide off the horse if he moves wrong.  The chunky boots can possibly get your feet stuck in the stirrups and you will end up being seriously injured.  Dress in layers, but if necessary, wear a second pair of warm socks to keep those toes warm inside a pair of the boots you would normally wear when riding.  You do not want to impede your movement with too much heavy clothing.
  Horses are not able to handle ice well.  Occasionally you may come across an icy patch, and your horse may have a time crossing it safely.  If at all possible, avoid ice as your horse can easily break a leg if a fall does occur.
  Take the time to assess the weather in your area before you make a decision whether to ride or err on the side of caution.  You can make your horseback ride in the snow as enjoyable as long as you and your horse are safe in the process.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Giving Horses Treats: The Difference Between Hand Feeding and Rewarding

  Happiness is a warm piece of apple pie with whipped cream.  Now that your interest has been piqued, our pets, as well as horses love to share in that same happiness once in a while.  Giving a treat to a horse is not always an easy decision. There are many pros and cons to giving a horse a treat.
   We must understand when it is appropriate, and decide if the treat is just being nice to the horse, or if it should be a reward for reinforcing good behavior and training purposes.
   If one is not careful in determining the difference, things can get out of hand in a hurry. What happens is you will have a one thousand pound animal pushing its way into your space, getting you hurt in a heartbeat.   This can be detrimental in your relationship with your horse.
   As a trainer, I have often been asked by horse owners whether it is a good idea to give out treats. Horse trainers most likely will say it is not advisable, as it not a natural habit for them to be hand fed.  If your horse does not respect your space, introducing food into the equation will only add fuel to the fire.  It is best that you have the knowledge of how to teach your horse to stay out of your personal space unless invited.   Once they understand you are the boss and in control of the situation, you have to remember your personal safety is most important.
   Talk with your trainer if you have questions on how you can teach your horse to stay out of your space.  You must have a good relationship with your horse trainer. The knowledge they have will be very important information to you, saving you a trip to the hospital.
   You must understand the difference between "treat" and "reward".  A treat is something you give your horse because you feel like being nice.  A reward is something you give your horse because he did something nice.   A treat can be given as a reward, but a reward cannot be given as a treat. To understand this, you must recognize the play on the words.  The horse always thinks it is being rewarded for something.  For instance, "I was just standing in my stall with my head over the door, and in comes my owner handing me food."  The next time the horse sees you coming in, it will put its head over the stall door, waiting for you to give it the food-and you give it to him.  Soon enough,
your horse will nicker at you the moment you step foot in the barn, in anticipation of the food/reward.
    Or in this instance, if you have a carrot or apple in your pocket, and your horse knows you carry those in your pockets, it will be nosing around your pockets in search of the treat.  When you give it to him, you are reinforcing the behavior that is rewarding him sticking his nose in your pocket.
   So how does one decide when to give a treat vs. a reward?   Give the horse treats in his food bin
or bucket, never from your hand.  Give a reward any time you want, anywhere you want. The difference is the horse must have done something to earn the reward.  And yes, you may give the reward/treat from your hand at this time.  In order for this to work, you have to teach him there is a certain place he has to be in order to get the reward,  He must be standing still, and must have his head positioned in a place you want him to be.  This gives the horse an incentive to keep trying in order to get the reward.  Teaching your horse this "trick" takes time and patience, but in the end, the reward is definitely worth it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Drinking and Riding a Horse: Is it Legal?

   We have all seen those old westerns in which there is that random cowboy riding a horse after he comes out of the saloon, usually drunk or intoxicated.  He is slumped over the saddle and his horse pretty much is left to his own devices.  Sometimes being drunk can get him in some predicaments.
   Bring this picture to present day, and we find there can be repercussions when riding while intoxicated, if you're caught.  The main issue is this:  Is it legal to drink and ride a horse?

    Several states have statutes that hold mandate that a horse is considered a vehicle. However, if the rider is intoxicated, they can be charged with public intoxication, or even drunk and disorderly (if the circumstances fit the crime).  There are some states that have a no tolerance policy, and a person can be charged with a DUI, even though they are riding a horse.  Unfortunately for horseback riders, these laws vary from state to state, and even within the local law enforcement community.
    While the idea of a DUI on a horse may sound silly, the main concern from public law enforcement is safety.  Someone riding a horse or a bicycle while intoxicated could potentially be a risk to others.  Drivers could get into an accident due to the erratic riding pattern of a rider.  In many situations the horse can also get injured or killed, putting the rider at risk for animal endangerment.
    The normal procedure for citing and punishing a DUI while on horseback is pretty much the same as a driver in a motorized vehicle.  The officer stops the offender under suspicion of being under the influence.  If a breathalyzer indicates a rider is under the influence, the officer will issue a citation.  In many states, the lawbreaker's license will be revoked, and he or she will have to go to court in order to get it back.
    A public safety announcement that appeared in Montana shows a horse picking up its rider from a bar, obeying all the laws and acting as a designated driver would. You can see this video here: Sober Friend 
    Helena Police Chief Troy McGee says he has received many calls from residents wanting to know if riding a horse while under the influence is legal.  The law says yes, however Montana law carefully defines a vehicle, and excludes those running under animal power.  But that does not mean people should ride their horses while drunk.  Please be safe, don't drink and ride.
 Should an intoxicated rider be charged with a DUI or just a pubic intoxication?
What are your thoughts?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Does Your Horse Need a Blanket in the Winter?

   With the coming of colder temperatures during the day and freezing nights, we all hunker down with a warm blanket, a cup of cocoa, and a hot fire to keep us toasty.  Some short haired pets need a sweater when they go outside.  But those who are fortunate to have the joy of owning a horse or mule often wonder if their favorite critter really needs a blanket, or rug during the coldest, most brutal time of year.  A serious question requires some thought. Is your horse REALLY cold?
     People often  anthropomorphize (attribute human form or personality to things not human) and honestly believe if they are cold, then the horse or mule is as cold as they feel.  It is easy to take human thoughts and actions and apply them to horses.  This can be detrimental to the health of horses and mules.
     A horse begins to grow a thicker winter coat in early fall (usually around mid September), depending on the weather.  Horses in warmer climates grow their winter coats a bit later as the days progressively get cooler.  To ensure a good healthy, dense winter coat, you can supplement with a diet rich in protein and calories.  Providing a good hay will help with extra calories needed to help your horse use his own body heat to make himself warm.  You can make adjustments to increase their food portions during the winter months, as these cold blustery days and nights can really be hard on an animal if they are not getting enough food to help withstand the elements.
Once your horse or mule gets that 'fuzzy bear' look, it still can be deceiving.  Check your horse weekly around the rib area for a moderate fleshy cover.  If your horse is thin, you will know as you feel around his ribs.
     Providing shelter, whether it be in the form of boarding in a stall, or in an enclosed run in shed can help block the wind and elements.   If there is no way you can provide shelter, and the temperature is much colder than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, use a blanket as a last resort.  Keep in mind the sudden changes in temperature that would affect the body temperature of your horse.  Once the air temperature gets warmer, your horse will as well.  You do not want a sweaty horse exposed to the cold.  His winter coat with natural oils will provide a healthy thick coat on its own when you give him the proper nutrition during the winter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Poem Therapy or How To Write Like a Lunatic

This volume was 20+ years in the making. It's about life, and love and growing up in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. It has been a difficult journey as well. It is always difficult to "let go" and let other people read my work. This is because, what you are looking at, is not just words on a page. When you open this cover, and look at it's contents, you are looking at my soul laid bare for the world to see. Me at my best, and at my worst. Raw and bleeding, right there on the page. It is never an easy thing, to take something as private as my thoughts and emotions and turn them into something so VERY public. This whole experience of writing this book has been a healing one. I've grown and evolved into the man, and the horseman that I am today, BECAUSE of the adversity. I own it, it no longer owns me. It's amazing how writing helps heal the troubled soul. I started out as a young man, very troubled and tortured in my soul. I felt as I did not matter and I was awash in feelings of despair and self-pity. Hey, it happens to the best of us occasionally. In time, I learned that the more I put these feeling on the page, the easier they were for me to recognize and deal with. So, in a way, I suppose, poetry has been my therapist. Through the written word, I discovered that I WAS of worth, and that I DID matter, even if only to me.
This brings me to another point. It's very difficult for me to read my own poetry. I can remember, vividly the state of mind I was in when I wrote each one of them.The highs, and the lows in turn. Each poem brings with it a memory of a time and a place that is sometimes quite painful. That makes it hard for me to revisit them. They are not ALL bad memories by any means. However, even the ones with pleasant memories attached are still painful to read. I am reminded of how young, and immature I was, and of the mistakes I made. I truly am the person I am today, because I learned to write it all down. Am I a hot mess still? Likely. Do I make mistakes still? Most certainly.Do I still doubt and second guess myself? Occasionally. The difference between then and now though? Today I understand that anything you want in life is worth ALL the blood, sweat and yes, even tears put into it.
You can order your copy of "Cinch Marks: Misadventures and Tall Tales From a Self Described Curmudgeon" on our website:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to C.O.P.E with your horse while working with him

Taco learning via the COPE system 
The key to successfully training an animal are all in the way in which you COPE with him. To establish a trust and a bond with your animal are imperative to your success. In order for him to trust you and vice versa you have to build this bond. It takes time, and work, and LOTS of both. Here are all the tools you need to COPE with your training:
Compassion- You must care about the animal you are working with. It does neither you, nor him any good if you cannot truly care about him. You will not be able to connect with an animal you do not care for. So, be fair to him and to you alike by LEARNING to care for him if you must.
Optimism- You must be optimistic when working with him. Have a positive outlook and you will go far. Negativity breeds lack of success! Horses are very empathic themselves. They can tell when we feel good, or when we are having an off day. When you establish a bond with a horse or mule, you will be
able to tell when he’s feeling good. So, when you approach your tasks with optimism, it will radiate from you and will be picked up by the animal, therefore ensuring a productive training session. Likewise, if you approach your tasks with a poor attitude, and are pessimistic about your success, it’s like as not to
produce a bad, if not even dangerous session.
Patience- It requires LOTS of patience to work with horses and especially a mule. You have to take the time that it takes. You cannot force a square peg into a round hole, so to speak, so come into each session prepared to take as long as needed. If you do not have time to do your tasks correctly, without
rushing, then do not start. Wait until you DO have the time. As a wise man once said: “Shortcuts make for long delays.” When you rush your training you leave holes for yourself, or for the next person to come along. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right the FIRST time.
Empathy- The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This simply means that you have
to try and understand where he's coming from. Put yourself it his shoes, so to speak. It will make you a better trainer, and a better horse person all the way around. I DON'T mean treat him like a 5 y/o child; he's still a horse after all. I just mean to try to imagine how your training is affecting him on the whole.
Going back to an earlier point, horses themselves are very good empaths, so should you be. Learn to tell when he’s having a good, or even an off day.

Applying these four principles to your training regimen will ensure that you have a productive, and even a fun training session. Equines should serve us because we've helped them WANT to be with us, rather than to break their spirits. It’s easy to take short cuts, but you have to think about the bigger picture. Do you really want a slave, or would you rather have a willing, enthusiastic partner willing to go above and beyond the call?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Long Rider

The thunder rumbles

Low and deep in the
Dark heavy clouds
As they hug the horizon.
The lightning forks
And streaks angrily
Across the stygian depths of sky.
Slowly, dreamily
The first drops begin to fall.
The large drops making craters
In the dusty earth.
The rain comes on
With all its eminent authority.
With unmitigated fury
The wall of rain
Bursts into his camp.
Sizzling, smoking and Popping,
The fire protests weakly.
Pulling his hat down
He packs the last of his gear
Onto his ol’ pony.
With the practiced ease
Lent him by many
Years astride a horse,
He throws a leg over
The weather beaten, care worn saddle.
Ducking his head,
The big gelding is turned
Into the oncoming storm.
Rain or shine,
He’s got to ride.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Just a Trail Horse?"

I heard in passing the other day, someone saying their horse was "Just" a trail horse. REALLY? JUST a trail horse? Would you say your Dr. is "Just" a brain surgeon? Would you say your accountant is "JUST a numbers guy"? Let's break this down to it's barest level here. Show horses, as nice and pretty as they are are ridden on a set, prescribed course in a controlled environment. Granted, there are new horses and new places to show, but the show pen is always the same. Round and round and round. Trail horses, on the contrary must learn to adapt easily, and quickly to new experiences, and environments. You cannot control nature, so there is no telling WHAT you will see when you go out. A trail horse must exhibit self control, and extreme confidence. When the going gets tough, they have to have the guts to stay put. They have to be tough, to handle the varied terrain, as well as versatile enough to adapt to different situations. He must be smart enough to learn how to think for himself, yet reliable enough to trust your judgement. Great trail horses are not born, they are made.So, to sum up, trail horses rule, all the rest drool! I'm just kidding, I firmly believe that the more jobs a horse has, the better off he will be. He will be happier,steadier, HEALTHIER,and a better ride for it. I mean really, when you think of horseback riding, do you dream of going circles in an arena all day, or do you dream of being in the wilderness, experiencing nature the way God intended, on the back of a horse(or mule)? We all dreamt of the freedom that riding in the outdoors would bring us. Right? So, the next time you hear someone say they have "just" a trail horse, make sure to remind them that they are one of the lucky ones.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Ol' Flea Catcher

 If my ol’ Flea Catcher could talk, it’d have a few tales to tell. We’ve had a few adventures through the years, indeed we have. I for one remember the time we got swept out of the saddle by a huge old gnarly Locust tree. We were riding a good sized, stocking legged mule, looking to find a hole in it. We had already been through the brush, over, up and down the creek, and through the brambles. Thinking we were done, we’d just about decided to head back to the barn. It was at this time, I spotted a half grown Jersey calf in the brush, down an incline a little piece. “Hmmmmm...” I said. “I just wonder if this molly has ever seen a calf. Well, if she hasn’t, it’s about time she did.” So, off we went down the slope to look at the calf. Winding our way carefully through the brush, and the various thickets of thorns that invariably grow here in the Ozarks, we crept up on our quarry. My little mule, which by the way, at 16.2 hands, wasn’t so little, must not have seen the dreaded thing. Suddenly, she stopped. She had spied the only thing in the woods capable of sending fear shuddering and racking throughout her entire body. She stood stock still, unable to believe her eyes. Here, in broad daylight, was a specimen of the vicious, ravenous, mule eating Jersey calf. Trembling with fear, knowing she was a goner, she was unable to move as the horrid thing approached her.
Meanwhile, chewing his cud in a clearing in the woods, a young Jersey steer looked up to see a most curious site. What did he see, but a man on top of a HUGE funny looking cow. He’d never, in his short existence, seen such a sight. He could not help himself. His curiosity got the better of him. He just HAD to get a closer look at this crazy specimen. The human, he noticed was attached to the cow with weird lines coming from the cow’s mouth. Well, this was more than his curiosity could handle. He for sure had to check them out now. He walked slowly towards them, taking his time so as to take in this spectacle fully. When he got nose to nose with the incredible pair, he snorted. Why, you’d thought he’s set off a bomb under this strange cow’s feet. She must have jumped three feet in the air, swapping ends in the process. Well, this was more than he could handle. He took off in the opposite direction, bawling for his mom.
Miss Mule and I, at the same time were in mid acrobatics. I mean, I knew mules were nimble, agile even, but THIS molly should have tried out for the Olympics. She was jumping and spinning and turning inside out. She’d have made Bruce Jenner look like Barney Fife. We hit the ground going 183 mph, or it seemed that way at least. She took the bit in her teeth and held on for all she was worth. I meanwhile, calm and cool as a cucumber, am brushing aside the various limbs and small trees that get in her way as she tears through the woods back towards the road. In the midst of my calm and cool brushing, I failed to notice that ONE of the trees she was attempting to run over was about 20 feet around. Well, I’m here to tell you, I’ve never seen a mule climb a tree. I didn’t “see” this one either. I still too busy hanging on to my hat, my butt and other various and sundry parts these demon trees were busy trying to rip from my person. She MUST have climbed it, and then deciding it wasn’t safe up there either, JUMPED back down, decided to climb it again, changed her mind again, then took off for the road again. This was about the time that our wild ride ended. The tree, tired of all this foolishness, reached out and grabbed me by the belt buckle and with no remorse, dashed me to the ground. Now, I’m no little fella, and when I hit the ground, rare though it is, I hit with a resounding “THUMP”. This was no exception. I landed on the north end of this south bound Moose. This only served to compound the humility of the situation.  My ol’ Flea Catcher, having better sense than I, had quit his post the FIRST time Miss Mule had tried to climb the tree.
Speaking of Miss Mule, she had run about a hundred yards, jumped a six foot barbed wire fence, and then run a few more feet. It was at this time, that she realized two things. First and foremost, she had lost that demon spawned mule eating Jersey. Whew, what a relief. Now she could stop and take stock of her hurts, which, as fortune would have it, were none. Second, she noticed her human was no longer on her back. Now, where could he have gone to? Didn’t he know there were dangerous beasts lurking in these woods? Oh, well, she’d just have to go and find him. Rescue him if you will, from the dangers of the forest.
She hadn’t gone more than a few dozen steps when she noticed something rustling in the brush ahead of her. Was it another killer Jersey? No, as luck would have it, it was her human. Here he came, walking slowly, and looking like he’d tried to French kiss a bob –cat in a phone booth. Grumbling and swearing under his breath, he patted her neck and swung aboard.

     Well, one thing for sure. I’ve had rougher rides, but I’ll be danged if I can recall any at this particular point in time. Miss Mule and I made it back to the barn, in one piece even. We rode many more times too.  Thankfully though, my ol’ Flea Catcher and I haven’t had one THAT rough since. 

If you enjoyed this tale of the ne'er do well mule, check out the rest of our stories in our book "Cinch Marks" available on our website:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summertime: Working and Riding Horses In the Heat

Summer brings wonderful days of enjoyment with longer hours to ride. Time can easily get away from a horse and rider if they are not prepared for the heat and sun's rays on a hot day.  Take time to consider what your horse can handle during your riding sessions as well as yourself.   Your horse can easily be susceptible to heat exhaustion just as you are.
Horses lose body heat through sweat, exhaling warm air, and widening blood vessels in their skin.  When the air temperature is near the body temperature of a horse, heat loss is greatly decreased.
As air temperature rises and humidity increases, horses can lose up to 7 gallons of fluid in sweat as well as electrolytes used for bodily function.  Losing 7 gallons an hour can easily dehydrate a horse, so horses working in hot conditions need to drink plenty of water and given electrolytes. Start giving electrolytes in their water in small increments to get the horse adjusted to the taste, then gradually increase to meet the recommendation for the size of horse.
Many horse owners will train or ride their horse in the morning or early evening hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.  If you do have to work your favorite four legged friend in the heat, look for shade and breezes to help cool down until you are able to rinse the horse off, making sure to scrape off the excess water to shed the extra heat that can build up in the hair.  If your horse has a pink nose or eyes that can easily sunburn, you can apply children's sunscreen to help prevent the sun's rays from burning sensitive skin.   Choose a higher grade SPF for horses with white or pink noses.  Once you prepare your horse in advance and have a plan to cool down if overheating happens to occur, you can thoroughly enjoy riding your horse in the summer!

Friday, May 23, 2014

First Aid for Your Horse

Horses are always known for their beauty and grace, but honestly, grace sometimes does not fall alongside beauty.  Horses are accident prone and you must be ready for anything that can happen.  First and foremost, BE CALM.  If you are in a state of panic, your horse can pick up on your emotions and possibly be as well.
Once you assess the situation, determine whether the horse needs medical attention, or if the injury can be cared for using first aid.  ALWAYS CALL A VETERINARIAN when in doubt.   Here are some things you must keep on hand in a first aid kit for your horse:
1.  Mercury or Digital Thermometer-  A thermometer will let you know if your horse has an elevated temperature-a sign that a health problem needs attention.  Digital thermometers work best, and are easier on the eyes to read.  Just make sure you maintain control of the animal when using the thermometer, as you don't want to lose it in the horse's rectum and create another emergency!  A horse's normal temperature would be in the range of 99 to 101 degrees Farenheit.
2. Antiseptic wound cleaner-  Betadine, Hibitane, or Novalsan scrubs can be used to clean wounds. Do not use Hydrogen peroxide on wounds other than hoof wounds as it will kill healthy tissue.
3. Cutters/ Scissors/Wire cutters-  Useful when a horse becomes entangled in a wire fence.  Wire cutters can also remove loose shoes if necessary.
4. Stable wraps or standing bandages- Keep a set of clean unused bandages for wrapping injured legs. VetWrap is a commonly known brand.
5. Gamgee or other absorbent padding- used under stable wraps as padding for injured legs.  Keep these stocked inside a ziploc bag to maintain their sterility.
6.  Stethoscope-To monitor heart rate.  You can hear the heartbeat most clearly just behind the left elbow. A stethoscope can also be used to listen to gut noises if necessary.  Normal heart rate for a mature horse would be 28-40 beats per minute; weanlings: 60-80 beats per minute; yearlings: 40-60 beats per minute.
7. Zinc oxide cream- for sunburned noses, as well as to protect and heal minor cuts and abrasions.
8. Epsom salts- for drawing out infections.
9. Antiseptic cream or ointment- help heal minor cuts, wounds and abrasions.
10. Flashlight
11. Electrolyte powder or paste for dehydration.  To check for dehydration, pinch a fold of skin on the neck and release it.  If it slowly returns to its normal position and tends to stay in a fold, the horse is dehydrated.
12. Twitch- used to help calm an excited horse when administering first aid.

There are many books on first aid for large animals that can be helpful, as well as a having a small log book for taking notes on your horse's health.  And always have a veterinarian on call if an emergency arises.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Hackamore

The true hackamore, or bosal, evolved from vaquero horsemanship traditions.  It is a plaited rawhide noseband that fits around the bridge of a horse's nose, and is attached on each side to a headstall.   A solid knot of braided rawhide at the base is wrapped with mecate reins, traditionally made with horsehair.
It is usually one of the first pieces of headgear a trainer uses to start colts, as well as used in the transition phase between the snaffle and spade bit.
You cannot achieve suppleness, balance and flexibility in the bridle with a snaffle the way you can in a hackamore.   In a snaffle, you pull directly on the horse's mouth, drawing his head to his chest and causing him to yield to the pressure at his withers rather than the poll, which places more weight on his forehand.
The hackamore, on the other hand, applies pressure to the sensitive areas on the horse's nose, cheeks, and chin.  The horse seeks relief by flexing at the poll and moving into the pull, which promotes balance and preserves a young horse's sensitive mouth.
During hackamore training, a horse learns consistency in balance and feel, making this training stage crucial in a horse's foundation.   The type of hackamore depends on the horse's face structure, but 5/8 is a standard diameter to start with.  As for length, a 10 1/2 to 11 inch fits most horses.
When using a hackamore to start a young horse, you must start teaching him to give in to pressure at a standstill.  When you can get your horse to move its face in any direction without resistance, you have achieved lightness in the hackamore.
Horsemen have their own preferences when it comes to hackamore adjustment. Some place it higher on the horse's nose.  The reason for this is that when the reins are picked up and the horse begins to break at the poll, the hackamore will go into proper position. If the noseband is adjusted too high, the hackamore is not effective, thus the horse will never feel the pressure release and will develop resistance.  If the noseband is too low, it will cut off the horse's wind and damage cartilage.
Once the hackamore is adjusted properly, stand beside the horse and apply neck rein pressure.  Starting from the ground makes the horse understand the cue easier, then graduate into the saddle as he becomes more supple.   This technique differs from the old vaqueros starting out rank horses in a hackamore.  They would supple a horse from the back of another.  To a novice, a horse's response to the hackamore could be misleading.  If the horse responds to light pressure, it does not mean it's naturally light.  Some people ride with just their fingertips, thinking they are being light.   Make your horse aware of what's being asked and you want to get a response in achieving a high degree of feel.  You should be able to move the horse's face without any restrictions.  If you are able to do this while in the saddle, you have achieved lightness.
When the time for transition comes to move into a bridle, it mostly depends on the horse.  Each horse is unique, and some learn faster than others.  There is no set time or method in making a hackamore or bridle horse.  Do take into account what is comfortable for your horse at that particular time in its training.  It might take years for a horse to progress into a bridle.  Ultimately, there are no shortcuts when training a horse into a finely tuned team member that responds lightly to your pressure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Sanctuary.  Its meaning stems back to biblical times.  A sanctuary has various meanings from being a designated holy place to a refuge for humans as well as animals.  For some, this comes as a need to want to offer help, be it monetary, or an offering of physical labor.   Finding a reputable sanctuary or rescue takes a bit of homework to ensure your donation has been used for the care of those animals in need.  Why a horse sanctuary?  According to Montana Horse Sanctuary, they believe in "positive options for both horses and handlers" by providing a safe sanctuary for horses in need, whether displaced from a loving home or turned over to law enforcement because of abuse or neglect.
     Recently, a rescue in Townsend, Montana was raided and over 25 horses were rescued by authorities.  The owners of Rocky Acres Horse Rescue and Sanctuary have been arrested and charged with 35 counts of animal cruelty. Monies that have been donated to this sanctuary were never used to care for these animals.  The sheriff's department of Broadwater County, Montana has requested help from Montana Horse Sanctuary in collecting donations from the public for the care of the seized animals from Rocky Acres Horse Rescue and Sanctuary.
     This is, however, not the norm for rescues.  A rescue itself is a wonderful concept. There are many, many rescues out there doing wonderful work. The good, far outnumber the bad. But, our advice is to look into it before you spend your hard earned money on it. Check with the local businesses and the Better Business Bureau, as well as the local authorities of the rescue/sanctuary you would like to donate.  There are many reputable charities out on the web, and with some researching and a few phone calls, you should be able to find out the reputation of that business.  Word of mouth is the best way, and not just the web.  Trust your instinct, and those that you speak with.  Doing your homework will save you money as well as heartache for the loss of an animal in someone's care who does not care!
  You can help those horses that were seized during the March 12th raid of Rocky Acres Horse Rescue and Sanctuary by contacting Board President Jane Heath at  
                                                   Montana Horse Sanctuary

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Horse Sense vs. Nonsense

No horse is a pleasure unless he is safe and is ridden safely.  Most accidents that occur happen with gentle horses.  And nearly all have been the fault of the human, not the horse.  
A few examples:
-A woman visiting a 4-H club pasture walked up, unannounced, behind a horse that was eating.  Lots of horses will kick when they are eating.  She suffered a broken jaw and ended up with eight false teeth.  
-A neighbor walked into a closed trailer, leading his horse right behind.  The horse jumped in      ( a well trained horse) and crushed the man, breaking his nose.
-Two girls racing their horses outside an arena during a horse show ran into another rider, killed the horse, and broke the rider's leg.
-A man walked up behind his young horse and swatted him on the rump without alerting the animal.  This was a professional trainer who knew better, but he had been talking with a friend and forgot.   The end result: a smashed face.

Here are some DO'S and DON'TS that will help you have fun with horses-SAFELY:

DO approach a horse from his left, saddle from his left and mount from his left.  This is a tradition that dates back to the knights who carried big swords on the left side and found it easier to throw their right leg over the saddle. 

DON'T walk up behind a horse unannounced.  Let him know you are approaching by speaking to him and placing your hand on him.  Horses can't see immediately behind them and instinctively kick to protect their blind spot.

DO keep your hands calm and your voice quiet.  Shouting or beating an excited horse will only make matters worse.

DON'T wrap the lead rope or reins around your hand, wrist or body. The gentlest horse will sometimes spook.

DO walk beside your horse when leading him-not in front of him- and grasp the lead rope near the halter or the reins near the bit.

DON'T tie your horse with the bridle reins. Use a strong halter and lead rope to tie him high and close to a post, tree, or similar object.

DO slow to a walk when riding on pavement, bridges, ice or anywhere you are not sure of the footing.

DON'T mount your horse in a barn or near fences.  It's a good way to get your head cracked or your leg cut.  

DO check your girth, cinch straps, curb chain and reins to make sure they are in good condition.

DON'T tease your horse or let him nibble on you.  A nibbling horse occasionally bites.

DO keep your head clear when bridling a horse.  He may throw his head to avoid the bit and hit you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Body Clipping your Horse or Mule

Naturally a horse or mule will grow a winter coat that sheds out in the spring or early summer, depending on the animal.  Body clipping a horse requires a lot of time maintaining and patience for both the horse or mule as well as the owner.   There are many reasons people body clip, working with your equine during the winter months sometimes makes it harder for it to cool down after the workout.  Once you clip your horse, there are certain responsibilities you must do to help maintain and protect it from the cold.
Blanketing a clipped horse will provide some of the warmth that is lost. But you must check on your horse at least twice a day to see if it needs a lighter weight blanket or sheet in place of the heavier blanket.
Some horse breed societies do not believe in body clipping, and those horse owners may keep a heat lamp near their horse in the winter to fool the hair coat into believing it is still warm.  These can be placed on a timer to turn on and off at designated times during the day or evening.  You will still have to blanket your horse in the winter months, and if you board your horse, you may have a larger electric bill as well.
Deciding when to clip, you must determine how much work you will commit to clipping and caring for your horse afterward.  If you work your horse or mule occasionally, then a clip might not be necessary.  Full body clips for a show horse will help evaporate sweat easier.  A wet coat will not insulate very well, and having a shorter coat will help dry it off quickly.   Make sure you dry it off completely, as blanketing a wet horse will not hold in their body heat.   Depending on your climate, the use of different weights of blankets and sheets are available as well as hoods for colder climates in the winter.
If you do decide to body clip your horse, you will need shearing clippers as well as small clippers.  The small clippers are for the ears, face and small body parts and areas.  Shearing clippers cut down the time it takes to clip the animal overall.  Lubricants are used to keep the blades running smoothly and cool, and keeping a small brush or toothbrush handy will clean out hair and dirt that accumulates in the blade teeth.
Body clipping takes a lot of time, so expect long hours and have lots of patience with your horse or mule.
If your equine is clipper shy, spend extra time in the fall getting it adjusted to the feel of the equipment before using them later.  Make sure the area you are clipping is quiet and free of distractions.  This will help keep your horse or mule calmer and it will be easier for the both of you during the clip session.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Head ‘E’m Off At the Pass

     Let’s just face the facts. Everyone who comes to a public trail ride is an experienced, expert horseman. Otherwise, why would they come there to ride, am I right?
     It was a fine hot summer day in the Ozarks Mountains. Snuggled within the mountains, down in lake country is a little town called Branson, maybe you’re heard of it? Anyway, I digress. I was guiding trail rides for the tourists there in a small nose to tail walking ride. We were lounging in the shade when a trio showed up to ride. This fella had brought his daughter and niece out to ride. The girls had to be about 10 to 12 years old, just the right age to be absolutely in love with all things horse. I greeted them and they quickly decided on the ride they wanted to go on, as we had a couple to choose from. The one they chose was for a more advanced rider; it was a free style ride with less direct control. In other words, they were free to ride out and away, and I was along for the ride to make sure they didn’t get lost. I asked the fella if the girls could ride. “Oh ya, they can ride!” he assured me. “Sir,” I said. “I’m not asking if they can sit on the horse, I’m asking if they can ride.” He looked at me, blinked a bit and again said “Sure they can ride.” I had a bad feeling about it, but the boss assured me they would be fine.
     Soon, enough we were on the road and headed down the trail. The uncle and I were soon swapping lies and having a fine time, and the girls were having a grand time. I was riding Duck, the girls were on Alpo and Kal Kan, and the uncle was on Turtle. We were mostly walking and trotting a bit through the quiet, cool woods. It wasn’t long before we hit a large field. We called it the Polo field because of its size. It was a nice level field, perfect for a nice canter. No hills, no holes, just a nice grassy field. I had only intended to jog through it, when the girls started begging.
     “Moose, can we PLEASE canter the horses? PLEASE oh PLEASE can we canter the horses?” I looked to the uncle and again asked “Are you sure these girls are experienced enough for this?” Well, after much discussion I relented and let the girls head off into the field. I was on point and watching them as they started out at a jog. It wasn’t long before they had hit a canter and started to giggle. Quickly they got noisier, shrieking as they went. The girls had been doing this off and on the whole trip so I didn’t pay that much mind at first. It wasn’t until they hit the corner and turned that I could see that the niece had thrown the reins away and had a death grip on the saddle horn. She was squalling like a banshee with her …….toe caught in a crack.
     Poor ol’ Alpo, he wasn’t sure WHAT was going on, but he was pretty sure he didn’t wanna hang around to find out. He lit out of there like his head was on fire and his tail was catching. Alpo hit the corner and gained a gear. This may seem like it took a lot of time; but in fact, it all took place in about eight to ten seconds. It took me about three to size up the situation and I yelled to the uncle “Hold this!” and tossed him my flea catcher. I didn’t have time to see if he caught the hat or not, I was off and gone. I drew a bid on Alpo’s halter and poled ol’ Duck in the ribs and said “SCOOT!” We were off like a dirty shirt. It seemed like it took forever but we soon had Alpo headed off at the pass, old west style. I caught him by the bridle and slowed him to a stop. Meanwhile, the little girl’s eyes were wide as a dinner platter and she was white as a sheet. Still blubbering a bit, she somehow managed to pry her little fingers from the saddle horn and dismount. Her uncle looked her over and pronounced her in fine shape, just a bit shook up. We got her saddled up again, and I snubbed her to my saddle horn to pony her for the rest of the trip. She learned a valuable lesson that day, one I teach all my students: Never panic. I don’t care if the whole world is falling apart around you and you have one cheek in the saddle and one in midair, panicking will only make things worse. If you can keep a clear head, you are more likely to come out with all your various and sundry parts intact.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Horse Related Superstitions and Wives Tales

     I'm sure you all have heard about hanging a horse shoe over a door with the ends up to keep the luck from running out.  We all have a few sayings that have been carried down from generation to generation, and some have us wondering.  For instance, if a person were to buy a horse in Europe the saying goes something like this:  "One white foot, buy a horse; two white feet, try a horse; Three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, do without him."   Here in the USA, cowboys have said that a red mare will either be crazy or mean.
    The whorl or swirl on the forehead of a horse would indicate its personality.  Many people believe a horse with two whorls on its forehead will be more difficult.  Swirlology is the study of hair swirls or whorls in horses.  For some believers, this would affect the purchase or selling of horses.
      Some folks believe that changing a horse's name is bad luck, and I've also heard that the deeper a stud dips his nostrils into the water he is drinking, the better the sire he will be. Here in the Ozarks, the old timers would often castrate their own stock. When doing so, they would  just "throw" them and cut them right there in the pasture. I was told growing up that when you cut a horse, throw one testicle to the east, and one to the west and don't look where they fall, or he will be proud cut.
     Supposedly you can predict the sex of an unborn foal by tying a horseshoe nail to a tail hair of the pregnant mare. Hold the nail above the mare's hips. If it does not swing, the mare is not pregnant, if it swings in a circle, she's carrying a filly, if in a straight line, a colt.
     One of the best known superstitions is that it is bad luck to place a cowboy hat on a bed.  There has been a story told about a cowboy who showed up at the National Finals Rodeo with a smashed hat, because the night before his mother laid it on a bed.  According to the superstition, the only way to get rid of the bad luck is to throw the hat outside and stomp all the bad luck out of it.   .
     Another favorite of mine is one the old folks used to tell us kids back in the day. When we would see a horse rolling over in the pasture, they would say that he's only worth as much as how many times he can roll over in a row. Another variation on this was the saying that only a good horse could roll all the way over. If he couldn't roll all the way over, he was no good.
     There are a myriad of superstitions worldwide, each with their own variation.  It is fascinating to read and hear these wives tales carried down for so many years.  And some do actually have a foothold on the populace as fact.  Do you have a horse related superstition? If so, share it here!

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Beloved Past time is slowly disappearing

     For centuries, horses have been a huge part of our lives.  They have been wonderful companions and hard working members of society in various venues.  With the implementation of technology and societal advancement, the way of the horse is slowly disappearing.  Unless one is determined to work and make a living with them, horses have taken a backseat to progressive technology. 
     In many cities horse and buggy rides as well as the more glamorous carriages have been a staple of tourism.  People have traveled from distant lands just to experience one of the most iconic settings in America.  Many who arrive here have inquired about the famous carriage rides in New York City.  
     Recent news has brought the business of horse drawn carriages to light, claiming animal cruelty is a major issue.  Other resources have shown that the current New York City mayor is determined to ban all horse drawn carriages from the city stating, “We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period. We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape. . . They are not humane. They are not appropriate for the year 2014. So, just watch us do it.”   
     Mayor de Blasio as well as a handful of others who want to outlaw the industry say it's cruelty to animals.   The business owners defend their trade with claims there are very few industries with strict regulations as theirs.  The mayor wishes to replace the horses with antique-like electric cars.  We can say that if the mayor is going to put an iconic New York industry out of business on the grounds that its practices are inhumane, those who will lose their livelihoods as a result at least have the right to demand he first prove it.   What are your thoughts?

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Stubborn Mule Myth

We've all heard it said "You are as stubborn as a mule!". But the truth is, a mule is no more stubborn than a horse or any other creature.  It is simply more cautious and full of thought. I've often said, the trouble with a mule is, they are SO smart, that if you aren't careful, they will spend more time trying to out-think you than just do what you ask. You see, mules take after the inquisitive side of their sire, the donkey.  They are often hard to convince into doing something they perceive as unsafe thus making unfamiliar riders and handlers have a rather large equine that is persistent on their hands.  One way to put it, mules make up their own minds and will not take your word for anything.   More often than not, they decide for themselves.
   But, one can get through to them with patience, persistence and being firm when training.  When the mule is focusing on you, it is less likely to react to obstacles that often spook any equine on the trail.  To keep the mule busy, direct where its feet go instead of letting it wander around aimlessly.  You can teach mules to sidepass or even back up a few steps to regain its attention, and this will reduce the chance of it panicking with something new or scary.   Practice this before you go out on the trail, and in time the mule will understand that not everything is 'going to eat him'.   Each time you ride your mule, it is in training.  Training happens each time you interact with an animal. Being consistent and firm is part working with mules.
     Horses and mules both respond to pressure-release training techniques. Once you have established where the responsiveness in a finished horse or mule lies, you will be amazed in just how receptive a mule can be with years of training.  There is no quick way to get this achieved, and instant gratification does not exist.   Mules respond to pressure by pushing, and handlers often tend to pull against that pressure. But pressure itself does nothing for you.  The release of that pressure is what teaches the mule.
     Trail riding is full of teaching opportunities.  However, many people do not work with mules at home to teach them all the possibilities of disaster while on the trail, and positive reinforcement is wasted on the mule.  Preparing for obstacles while at home can be easy, such as crossing streams and puddles.  At first the mule will do everything it can to avoid it by sidestepping or even jumping across.  Be prepared for this, using your reins and legs to guide it through the stream or puddle.  Once it makes even the slightest attempt at this, reward it by releasing that pressure.  A mule needs to know it will be rewarded for trying.
     Unfortunately people are more likely to jab or spur their mule forward instead of releasing the pressure.  This teaches the mule that puddles and streams are scary and is less productive in training.  Mules can make up their own minds about things and people need to understand that they need reinforcement when dealing with fear.
     Approaching bridges can be a chore, but working with the mule in the same way as crossing a stream or a puddle it can be done.  Guide the mule to the bridge, and let it stop and reward for the smallest try.  Remember, patience and persistence are key in training mules.
     When teaching a mule to walk around boulders or large rocks, guide it gently going both directions. Getting them used to going back through the obstacle helps mules understand they can get through tight spots.  Going one way is not enough.  A mule needs to learn lessons on both sides of its body.  Sometimes on trail one may need to mount or even dismount on the right side.  Training a mule to be two sided is key in trail riding.
     Most mules would rather jump over an obstacle while on trail.  Teaching them to walk across objects such as fallen logs and rocks is important in both the animal's safety as well as the rider.   Start with landscaping timbers on the ground, asking the mule to walk across, then gradually raise the height accordingly to get the mule adjusted to walking over things on the trail.
     There are two kinds of lessons that last: those that scare the heck out of you, and those we learn out of repetition.  Lessons learned over time are the safest, and creating situations at home in training are easy to do.   Practice and prepare in a safe environment, and remember that the more precise and consistent you are when teaching your mule, the easier it is for your mule to learn.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A single gene controls movement in vertebrates

Scientists have found that one gene is responsible for variability in locomotion in horses and mice.
Traits such as height are determined using as many as 700 genes.  So, it comes as a surprise there is only one controlling movement in horses as well as mice. Research has discovered that the gene DMRT3 has been found in an unknown set of neurons in the spinal cord of vertebrates.
Several researchers from Uppsala University have found one very strong signal on one chromosome that has led to the identification of the DMRT3 gene.
     Horses were the perfect choice for testing as there are many different variations in locomotion.  They have numerous forms of gait, including walc, trot, canter and gallop.  Factor in gaited horses with each breed's own form of naturally occurring gait such as the tolt of the Icelandic, the running walk of the Tennessee Walking horse, and the pace found in the American Saddlebred.  Scientists wanted to understand why some horses have more variability in their gait than others and began research on how this could be explained.
    A single base change in the gene DMRT3 was the result in the shortening of the gene itself. This mutation was associated with pacing in horses. The mutation inhibits the transition from trot to gallop and allows the horse to trot at a very high speed.  This is most common in the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Paso Fino breeds.
    These Swedish scientists performed further research on the DMRT3 gene in mice and how it affects locomotion.  Mice lacking the gene did not develop properly and thus had an altered means of locomotion.  These mice could eventually move somewhat normally, which suggests other neurological circuits compensate for the loss of DMRT3. This shows how the neurological system is able to adapt to the absence of key genes.
   There are plans to continue further research in experimenting with horses and the DMRT3 gene.  The first will have a look at the evolutionary aspect of the origin of the gene and its distribution worldwide.  This research is not only valuable in the breeding of horses and other domestic animals, but it will also affect human research as well, in hopes to help those with spinal cord injuries regain the ability to walk.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Demon Sled

“Now, make sure you drag your toes in the snow. Kneel down in there and drag your toes behind you.” Dad was saying. It was the winter of 1988, or there about, I was a sophomore in high school and the smartest person I knew. (Or so I thought at the time.) Dad had just made us a sled using his harness and a hood off of an ol‟ 50‟s model car. Where he had come up with that I don‟t rightly recall, likely from one of the old Junkers my grandfather had on the back of his place. We were hitching up Hobo to the sled, and he was telling me how to keep the sled from bumping his heels. “I know, I will!” I was saying. “Well, you‟d better or it will bump his heels and then all bets are off.” We finished hooking up the horse, and I piled in. We led him on down below the barn, in to the bottom pasture, where there was plenty of room to play, and for him to pull. I had been driving him for a couple of summers now, skidding posts and such, and we had both done a pretty fair job of it. I had just enough experience driving and working him to know EVERYTHING there was to know about it. I clearly remember thinking to myself “I got this. This is gonna be a piece of cake!” So away we went. We started making laps around the field, and I was having a grand time. All the while, I was making sure to drag my toes in the snow behind me. It must have been about thirty minutes later, when I started to get comfortable enough to speed him up a bit. It was along about then that I forgot to drag my toes. Hobo gave an extra hard pull and we started down a little slope. Just then, the sled bumped his heels, this of course startled him and he jumped a little. When he did, the sled bumped his heels a second time. This time he jumped HARD and took off like a rocket! I fell out of the back of the sled and Hobo, with no one to check him, lit out of there like his head was on fire and his tail was catching. He made straight for the gap in the two fields, headed towards the barn at a dead run. I‟m sure he thought some new type of panther was chasing him, intent on having him for lunch. Well, he wasn‟t about to stick around to oblige. With the sled bouncing and the reins flapping like the wings of a goose, flogging him for all it was worth he gained a gear and then he REALLY took off. Running full tilt, hell bent for leather, he shot through the lower gate. On his way past the barn, he caught the poor, much lamented sled on a four by six corner post and demolished it. The harness was busted and the single tree snapped in half. What a racket! All the while, he could see this demon hot on his heels. Now, not only was it a flopping, writhing demon, but a banging shrieking demon as well. Hobo didn‟t even pause; he shot through the gate and headed towards the house. Through the yard, and down to where we kept my sister‟s horse, Sugar Foot. Earlier in the summer we had put up three strands of Gaucho wire there. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Gaucho is normally used for cattle. It is very sharp, and very strong. I‟ve seen it cut after being up for a couple years and it will automatically coil back up. Hobo was giving it all he had, determined to shake this thing that was chasing him, when too late, he seen the wire. I watched in horror as he tried to stop, turn, and jump, all in the space of about two seconds. He hit the wire full on with his chest, flipped over in a somersault, and landed on his back. The demon had caught him. He resigned himself to his fate and lay there, waiting for the end. Dad and I came running. Much to his credit, he did not struggle at all once he was down. We quickly cut him out of the wire and examined him. He had some pretty good cuts on his chest, and one real good one on his leg. We led him to the barn, sweating and trembling. (Both of us) Dad stitched him up, as we could not afford a vet call. I held him as still as I could while he worked on Hobo. Luckily, they were pretty superficial cuts, and no tendons or nerves were damaged. Once he was stitched up, and the first aid was done, he stopped trembling. I wish I could have. I don‟t recall being that scared for him, or for anything, in my short life. I realized that maybe I didn‟t know it all. It was a hard lesson to learn. I treated him religiously with the medicine, twice a day until he was healed. It took a bit, but before spring, he was right as rain and we were back to riding all over the country side again.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Natural Horsemanship for Kids

Teaching youngsters to have better control and understanding of horses starts early on with training, both with kids as well as the horse.  And what better way to start-right at ground level.  This is the very same way a horse trainer starts an animal when it first comes into training.
    1.  Draw and Drive
This is the most important way to bring handler and horse together by enabling trust through movement.  Applying and releasing pressure to enable a response can be learned by this method.   In order to 'draw' a horse to him/her, a handler must stop all movement and pressure on the animal. This lets the horse know that it is ok to come forward and be touched.
To 'drive' a horse is to encourage movement away from the handler. Applying pressure by walking toward the horse and using vocal commands usually makes the animal move away. If this does not, sometimes twirling a lead rope might be enough to get it moving.  With the help of an adult, youngsters can learn the safe way to do this.
     2.  Finding the Drive Line
To find the drive line on a horse is finding the point where pressure is to be applied or withdrawn in order to achieve a desired response.  No two horses are the same in energy level and personality. This will depend mostly on whether the horse is active or lazy.  To draw a horse toward the handler he must position himself parallel to a point just in front of the drive line.  To drive the animal away the handler must position himself at a spot behind the drive line, such as the hip.
     3.  Yielding the Hip
Asking a horse to yield its hip is a way to teach a handler how a horse responds to pressure.  The handler must position himself on the side of the animal just behind the drive line and then applies pressure towards the hip in order to elicit movement away from the handler. Once the horse moves away, release the pressure immediately.  Usually all it takes is just one step, but some horses move more, often jumping or running away.  This takes practice.
     4.  Going Left and Right
The handler faces the horse, then applies pressure by moving toward the animal.  To move the horse to its left, apply pressure on its right side.  To move the horse to its right, apply pressure on the left.  This starts out with the nose, then neck, shoulder, and finally the horse's front legs and feet in the desired direction.  Once that smallest movement takes place, remove the pressure immediately. Don't forget horses are two sided.  Practice moving on the right side as well.  It gets the animal accustomed to having someone on both sides, and not just on the left.
     5.  Longeing
When both horse and handler have gotten used to moving left and right, they can begin longeing.  This is gaining more control of a horse's feet while on the ground.  As the horse responds to a cue to yield, the handler positions himself at the drive line and moves the horse forward, away from him.  Increasing that pressure at the drive line encourages movement into a circle; the handler pivots in place while the horse moves around the handler in a large circle.
     6.  Gear Safety
Adults should perform a tack inspection with the youngster before saddling and bridling a horse. Both adults and children should share this responsibility as there are times an adult will not always be available to ensure the safety of the rider.
     7.  Saddle Without Tying
To prevent a horse from developing bad habits such as pulling back, saddling without tying a horse is safer.
If a horse moves while being saddled, the handler can make the horse move its hip until it is encouraged to stand still for the saddle.  Sometimes it is best to have a professional trainer give a few lessons to the horse on standing while being saddled.  Once accustomed to this routine, many horses find that standing still is by far much better than having to move.
     8.  Correct Saddle Position
Place the saddle slightly in front of the horse's withers, then wiggle the saddle horn until the saddle slides back into its natural position.   This helps a youngster better understand where the saddle fits.
     9.  Give Breaks
Kids get bored easily and start to lose attention when lessons are given.  Give them a few minutes to relax and change up the routine a bit to encourage involvement and attention.  Keep it fun and educational and kids will enjoy spending time with horses.
   10.  Praise
Adults should give lessons that a kid will succeed at and later progress as they learn and become more acquainted with the horse
.  Praise them when they succeed.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

Friday, January 24, 2014

Back From the Dead!

Back from the dead! No, they're not zombies, just the last species of truly wild horse left on earth. Often, when we think of wild horses, we imagine the proud, but quite feral Mustang of the west, or the equally noble, yet still feral Brombie in Australia. These breeds certainly do fit the bill of free, but not really wild.  Przewalski's Horse is not a domesticated breed. Once almost extinct, there are now approximately 300 in the wild, and around 2000 in cpativity, in breeding programs. Have you ever seen a wild horse, or even one of the feral breeds?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

End Of The Year

Well, 2013 is almost gone, and a new year is right around the
 corner. I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past 
year. We rode a lot of miles, and had a LOT of fun this year. 
We had great mules and horses both to ride. Some of the most memorable were Teddy, the Mo Fox Trotter, Dhalia the TWH, 
Sonny the TWH Mule, and Molly the draft mule. We enjoyed 
every minute of our time with these animals and wish we had
 a dozen more just like each of them to train. We had some
 rough patches too and got a bit banged up by a couple, but
 thankfully nothing serious. We also had some serious health
 concerns in the family this year, but, with God's grace, 
everything turned out well. As this new year approaches, we
 eagerly anticipate the start of the 2014 training season. 
We thank the lord for blessing us with the talents to do what 
we do and the opportunity to help so many equines and owners 
come together as a team. It is you folks, our clients and friends who help us learn and grow. Thank
 you all for your steady, and loyal support this past year, and your continued support in this new year. 
Just remember, "Go Gaited or Go Home!"


One of the most important things you will ever do to and with your horse is to groom him. Remember, a clean horse is a healthy horse. It’s a wonderful way to bond with your horse and get to know him. It’s also a great opportunity to inspect your horse and make sure he doesn’t have any dings or bangs or cuts. You can inspect his feet for thrush, or other foot disorders when you pick his feet.
     When brushing my horse, I normally use a rubber curry. It’s not as harsh as the metal combs, and it feels better to him. Let’s face it; wouldn’t you rather have someone scratch your back with a rubber comb instead of a metal one? You should brush him all over, including his mane and under it. Sometimes horses with a long mane could cover an injury underneath.
     Next we want to discuss bathing your horse. I’ve often heard that you shouldn’t give your horse a bath to cool him down. This is absolutely false. It’s been proven in several studies that horses cool down much better, faster, and safer when bathed in cold water. So don’t be afraid to hose down your hot horse.
     First you want to tie up your horse using a quick release knot. Choose a space where the water will drain away to tie him. Most stables have a wash rack or a place to tie them specifically for bathing. You can either fill a bucket with warm water, or you can simply wet him down with the hose. Next, I fill the inside of a rubber curry comb with shampoo. You can use the mane and tail shampoos or you can simply use people shampoo. This is usually cheaper and works just as well. Taking the curry, you want to work the shampoo into his body, scrubbing him good. This includes his mane, his belly and his legs. Horses are more than just a broad back.
     You should also wash his tail, especially if it is light colored. Washing the tail won’t give him a chill, so you can wash it any time. Again, you can either fill a bucket with warm soapy water, or you can wet it down with the hose. Next, you want to apply the shampoo liberally to the tail. Scrub it in good, making sure to scrub the tail bone as well, top and bottom. Let it set a moment or two, then rinse it well. Make sure you have all of the shampoo out of his hair, on his tail as well as his body. Leaving shampoo in his hair isn’t good for him, and may cause hair loss. When you have all the shampoo rinsed from his body, you can condition his mane and tail. Apply the conditioner, and no need to skimp on it. Once you have the conditioner thoroughly worked into his hair, you can let it set for a couple of minutes, then rinse. You can actually leave just a little bit of conditioner in the mane and tail and it makes it easier to comb out, and won’t hurt them at all.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training