Practice Loading Your Horse in the Trailer

January 29, 2013

Spring will be here before you know it. Now is a great time to work with your horse to quietly and quickly load in the trailer. When the time comes to load up for a trail ride or possibly a play day, the last thing you need is a horse that is difficult to load in your trailer. It takes away from the fun and might even mean you miss the event entirely. Wouldn’t be the first time, we’ve  heard, “Yeah, I was planning to go, but I couldn’t get my horse loaded up.” The solution is some advance training and practice.

Horses can get a little rusty on their skills just like the rest of us. A couple of practice sessions will bring everything back to memory and make your first trip a success. Not to mention, for those who don’t haul frequently, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you remember the steps to hooking up the trailer and lights.

Spending some time now will pay off for you later. Plus working with your horse on Saturday afternoon is a lot more fun than anything else you might do.

Horses Have Feelings

January 25, 2013

Although we stand by the proposition that horses are livestock, they do have feelings. We recently blogged about one of our old trail horses, Pat. We put him down recently and encountered something a little unusual. Pat shared a paddock with Blackjack, another old Oklahoma trail horse  that served us well for years. Blackjack is also pushing towards 35 years old. In younger years, the two geldings were kept in separate paddocks because they clashed. Both wanted to be in charge and keeping them together just wasn’t a good idea.

Two years ago, Blackjack’s teeth, like Pat’s teeth, just couldn’t eat grass or hay. So he was put on a grain only diet and placed in Pat’s paddock. Older and wiser, the two gelding managed to get along without too much scuffling, although still not exactly friends. In fact, Blackjack was still backing his ears and demonstrating less than love for his roommate the day we put Pat down.

The following morning, Blackjack was fed just like normal. The feed was put in his feed pan, but obviously no feed was put out for Pat. Blackjack walked away from his feed pan and went over to Pat’s pan and stood. He refused to eat until the feed was carried over and put in Pat’s bowl. Once in Pat’s place, he promptly ate.

Thinking it was possibly just a coincidence, the evening feeding was used as a test. The feed was put in Pat’s bowl until Blackjack started to eat. The pan was then moved to Blackjack normal spot. He refused to leave and stood waiting  and refused to eat anymore. Finally the pan was again set in Pat’s spot and he ate it. For several days, he refused to eat except from Pat’s place. Horse’s have feelings and show grief in their own individual ways. And just like people, they sometimes develop a closer bond than they realize until the other is gone.

The grieving ended and Blackjack has now returned to eating from his own pan again. Blackjack has been with us for over 20 years and we have never seen anything like from him before. He may have a gruff exterior, but a soft heart inside.  When you think you figured your horse out, you might just be surprised.

I Thought That Horse Was Trained

January 20, 2013

You hear it far too often. Someone buys a horse off the race track. After the wreck, they tell you they assumed the horse was trained. It wasn’t. Many people assume that since race horses have a lot of training, the horse is broke. They mistakenly decide that a horse that didn’t make it as a race horse is a great buy. Afterall, it sounds good. You get great genetics, papers, and the benefit of all the expensive,  professional training someone put into the horse.

It rarely works. Why you may ask? One reason is the training the horse received is probably not the training the horse needs for your purposes. Just because a horse has been trained to race doesn’t mean it has good manners on the ground or understands a lot of basic things your horse should know. The horse was taught to run and to run fast. Nothing else really mattered. He could be a little hard to get along with and the owner didn’t care if he could win races.

Generally when you need a plumber, you don’t call an accountant. The training given the accountant doesn’t qualify him to fix your leak or unplug your drain. You recognize the training of the professional you hire has to match your goals. Apply the same principle to horse training and the world starts to take a slightly different view. Just because a horse has a lot of training doesn’t mean it is going to do you any good.

When you stumble across one of those deals where you can buy an  injured race horse or one that didn’t quite make it at the track, don’t. Take your money and bet it on the second horse from the inside in the 3rd race to win. Either way, it’s a sucker’s bet, but your odds are better at the track.

A Great Trail Horse

January 16, 2013

We are grateful to have been blessed with the enjoyment of owning and riding him. Pat was a dandy; you don’t find many like him. We introduced Pat recently in this blog. ( See Trail Horse Category in December, 2012 ) He taught a lot of people how to ride and displayed the ultimate manners of a trail horse. Calm, relaxed, and reliable in every situation. It doesn’t seem all that long ago, ( 15 years ) that we led Pat up to the back of a four-horse stock trailer that wasn’t hooked to the truck. Not really thinking there would be a problem, we told Pat to load up. He got both front feet inside when the trailer tilted. The rear of the trailer hit the ground and the front stood in the air with Pat patiently waiting for us to tell him what to do next. When we backed him out, he never flinched as the front of the trailer fell down with a loud boom. Tough to beat that kind of horse.

He was fearless in every situation. One day we let a black lab come out to the ranch for some exercise. Not used to horses, he ran straight up to Pat and jumped into his face. Just to make sure everyone understood their respective roles, Pat grabbed the back of his neck by the skin and flung the dog weighing a good 95 lbs. about ten feet.  He simply wasn’t afraid of things.

We lost Pat today. He was just too weak to stand by the time the vet arrived and he was put down not long after. Aside from being thankful for the many good years on the trail and the countless people we trusted him to safely ride, we feel grateful to have been blessed with the circumstances and ability to let him live the last years in retirement. We hold a fundamental belief in God and part of the many blessings he provided were Pat and the resources to care for him to the end. That is a lot to be thankful for.

Pat will be remembered by us and the memories used to reinforce the type of trail horse we want leaving this ranch after completing the two-year training program. Easy going, well-mannered, calm, quiet, and ready for whatever you ask them to do. A good horse is a real joy to have and we are thankful to have enjoyed some really good ones through  the years.

Games Teach Your Horse and Build Your Confidence

January 15, 2013

Here’s a great way to have some fun while training your horse. Get a Nerf football or some other soft and lightweight ball that can be tossed around. Make sure it won’t hurt a horse if  it hits them in the face or particularly an eye. Mount up three to five riders and play catch while seated on your horse. The exercise does several things for you. It is a wonderful way to build confidence in the rider. You end up bending, moving and reaching to catch the ball. As you do so, you gain confidence in your ability to ride without your hands.

Meanwhile the horses are learning to accept things being thrown from their back,  stuff whizzing past their ears, and occasionally getting unexpectedly hit. The horse has to learn how to stand while this takes place and of course you can easily expand the activity once you are comfortable to playing catch while riding. Once really comfortable, you can go for long bombs and race out for the ball to land in your arms.

If you and your horse haven’t played before, you may want to start slowly and work up. A horse that is skittish or easily spooked may need some ground work before you start unless you are a really good rider. Keep in mind  the ground where you may land if using an inexperienced horse. Always be looking for something new to challenge your riding skills and to establish a greater trust with your horse.

Trail Riding In Nature

January 4, 2013

Trail riding in the woods and around nature is a wonderful experience. You get to watch some beautiful events that can never be seen the same way from a car or airplane. If you ride quietly, you can ease up on every sort of animal including  wildlife. As Spring approaches, you see the babies and the young at play. It is a great way to live life to the fullest. Take a day and go ride in the woods, you’ll see what we mean.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013

All of us that participate in wish you  a  Happy New Year!