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