Billy Cook Says Champions Are Made, Not Born

October 28, 2013

Long-time saddle maker and horse breeder, Billy Cook, recently said in an interview with AQHA Journal editor, Larri Jo Starkey, that Champion horses are made, not born. According to Billy Cook, the right kind of trainer can make a Champion from nearly anything. We understood him to mean any horse with sound genetics and athletic ability. Billy Cook should know what he’s talking about. At 92 years of age, and his entire life in the horse and saddle business, he has plenty of real life experience to back up his opinions.

Champion trail horses, those bomb-proof, unflappable steeds that will take you anywhere, any time are made, not born. Sure it takes the right personality, genetics, and disposition to be one, but the horse is made from the years of experiences and “wet blankets” that educate the horse. People are always looking for the fast food approach to horses. How can we push years of accumulated experience into 30 -60 days? You can’t. If there was a horse-trainer that could, you wouldn’t find him giving clinics and writing books. He would mass produce horses to sell.

If you want a sound trail horse to ride and even use to help others in search and rescue emergencies or crisis situations. If you want a horse that doesn’t blow up when the other horses start to act up, you have to develop the horse and train it. There is no fast approach and frankly, the more you try to rush the training, the less progress you will make. With horses, fast is slow, and slow is fast. You teach a horse to accept things slowly over time and learn to enjoy new adventures. If you hurry the process, you just end up creating what you didn’t want; a spooky, jumpy horse ready to bolt or buck at the first new thing he sees. Someone has to put in the time, the training, and the patience required and they have to do it in a way to inspire confidence. The horse is a natural follower, a herd animal, that will go any place you want if he has been taught to trust and respect his rider.

What Does It Take To Be A Mounted Trail Horse?

October 25, 2013

With the recent blog posts about the mounted search and rescue operations and the volunteers needed by the Rogers Co. Sheriff’s department, we thought a little more information might be worthwhile. The is a real good description of the qualifications needed for a good search and rescue horse in the website of the Randall Co. Sheriff’s Posse. Take a look if you want more information about the type of horse search and rescue programs want.

Trail Challenges and Mounted Patrol Qualifications have Similarities

October 22, 2013

Sunday afternoon two of our horses, Pete and Jack, went to the Rogers Co. Sheriff department’s qualification test to see if they were a good fit. They were. Interestingly, the trail challenge obstacles courses we blog about from time to time are not all that different. Both are designed to test the horse and rider to see if obstacles will pose a problem. Clearly the last thing the Rogers Co. Sheriff needs is an accident involving someone trying to help. While the Sheriff needs your help and assistance, he has enough on his hands in a search and rescue operation to deal with. He doesn’t need untrained horses in the mix.The qualification process is designed to eliminate horses that are not suitable before the next emergency. Horses that are not calm, cool and collected aren’t appropriate. We learned some applicants try to apply for service using horses that may perform well in some event or show ring, but not in search and rescue operations as they are just too high-strung and jazzed up. Search and rescue from horseback, “MSAR” short for Mounted Search and Rescue demands horses that don’t spook, aren’t afraid of unusual situations, and ready to work hard to find a missing child or person.

If you have any interest in helping the effort, you can contact Coy Jenkins (918)798-7723 with the Rogers Co. Sheriff department for more information or check out that smiling face on the Facebook page.

Rogers Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Forms Volunteer Mounted Rescue Patrol

October 20, 2013

The Rogers Co. Sheriff’s Department is making the most of its resources and putting to use the often overlooked assets in the community, the people. In this case, the horse people. The department has formed a mounted rescue patrol to assist the sheriff’s office in activities such as searching for lost children and assisting in rescue operations from horseback. Rogers Co. is a rural area with large areas of woods and places hard to cover by vehicles, particularly in rescue operations. Wisely the department is using horsemen with steady, willing, and calm horses to conduct the activities. The participants will be auxiliary deputies, but without authority to actually enforce the law.

There are specific qualifications that must be met:
1.     Be At Least 21 Years of Age
2.     Have Your Own Horse
3.     Have Your Own Tack, Trailer, and Towing Vehicle
4.     Complete An Application
5.     Pass a Background Investigation
6.     Pass a Horse and Rider Evaluation Process
(There are no County residency requirements.)

The horses used must be able to handle the unexpected situations that you encounter in search and rescue operations. Obviously the Sheriff doesn’t need bad situations made worse by volunteers who bring horses that are high-strung or incapable of getting the job done. It is a wonderful way to give back to the community and really render aid to those who need assistance in emergency situations. More than just writing a check or making a monetary donation, the volunteers truly lend a hand when needed.

Novices Need Reminders Around Horses

October 18, 2013

Recently we learned a Newby horse rider was kicked and had a good bruise as the result. It wasn’t one of our horses and not at the ranch here. However, the rider had been here, ridden some of our horses, and decided to ride with some others he didn’t know as well. Although he had been taught to walk immediately behind the horse with his hand on the rump, he forgot. Instead, he walked several feet behind the feet of a horse he didn’t know and failed to give the horse warning. He was in the strike zone and learned the hard way.

It doesn’t hurt to remind new riders several times about safety and the proper way to do simple things. Just like walking behind a horse, staying close to the horse may not guarantee you won’t get kicked, but it will make it hurt a lot less. A horse’s rear feet when fully extended can reach 6 -12 feet depending on the size, slope to the ground, and how much the horse thrusts back with his front shoulders while in motion. The safest zone is obviously well out-of-the-way.  Most of us don’t want to go that far and walk right behind the horse. Before we go around, we say whoa or call the horse by name. We usually will brush a hand across his butt before we start behind him.

It is really easy to forget those with less experience may not understand the safe way to work around horses and need some verbal reminders to keep them from learning the hard way. If you have new riders out, make a point to warn them several times as well as demonstrate how to perform simple activities.

Another point we usually try to emphasis is that our horses have good manners and understand how to act. The inexperienced rider on a well-broke trail horse may come out to the ranch, ride three or four times successfully and have a great time. It is so easy and simple that he starts to assume he knows how to ride. Not realizing it’s not his riding ability that allowed the pleasant experience, he accepts an invitation to ride horses that aren’t broke or don’t have suitable manners. He winds up hurt. We try to make new riders understand that just because you ride one of our horses doesn’t make them ready to climb aboard whatever they find saddled and waiting some place else.

Some listen and heed the warning, others allow their pride and ego to get in the way. Knowing your limitations is important for all of us, and more important for people new to horseback riding.  Fortunately, the event here wasn’t a serious injury. Bruises, even big, dark ones heal pretty fast. We like to see new riders learn from coaching rather than the hard way.

Tractor Tires Can Make Several Obstacles

October 16, 2013

Horseman of Arkansas Trail ChallengeA tractor tire can be used in a variety of ways to challenge your horsemanship. The trail challenges approved by AHCA have used tractor tires in a number of events. Sometimes the tires are filled with dirt and stacked so you ride over them like stairs. Other times the tire is just left on the ground empty. The judge  may require the horses front feet to be placed in the center or just his hind feet.  The tractor tire obstacle can involve asking the horse to pivot without removing the two feet placed inside the tire.

Several horses at this particular challenge placed their feet on the tire to avoid putting their feet inside. As with any obstacle, you are allowed three attempts before the judge blows the whistle and you have to move to the next one.

The tractor tire looks easy and generally isn’t a big deal. The aspect that makes it competitive is the variety of uses and requirements that the horse take specific actions. If your horse isn’t used to accepting directions, he probably won’t do well.

PJ Pivoting Around The Barrel

October 12, 2013

PJPJ is shown here going around the barrel with a pole. While not the hardest maneuver to complete, it is just one more event. We seen riders many times who didn’t have enough control over their horse to do something simple like this.

Foal Imprinting; A Different Perspective

October 3, 2013

Foal imprinting is a popular concept frequently discussed in books, magazines, and equine literature. There are variations of imprinting, but all lead back to human contact with a foal as soon as possible once born. Some believe you need to be there when the foal is born so you can put your hands all over it to begin the bonding process. Frankly, that’s the mother’s job to bond with the baby. The foal needs uninterrupted time with the mother just like any other mammal for proper social development. You can probably tell imprinting at birth is not something I find to be that beneficial.

The objective behind imprinting is to desensitize the foal and make it easier to handle. Some breeders feel early contact makes the foal easier to train and more accepting of humans. While there may be some slight benefit to early contact including light haltering and leading from about two months of age, the over use of imprinting actually makes a horse harder to train, not easier.  If there is too much contact, petting, brushing, and desensitization, then as a grown horse, the natural tools given to us have been removed. You end up with a giant pet dog instead of a horse to ride.

From a trainer’s perspective, the natural instincts are the basic and primary tools to teach the fundamentals of riding, cues, and ground manners. Think about it, a horse learns to move forward by pressure from the rear or the sides. A horse that is content with pressure from over-stimulation is much harder to train. It requires more pressure to encourage the desired action. Instead of a slight nudge with the heel, you may have to use more pressure to cue or direct the horse.

The horse that has been touched too much will often resent training. Having grown accustom to being petted, caressed, and essentially spoiled, the horse dislikes the idea of having to work.  Instead, the horse expects and associates touch with doing nothing other than standing. Like most things in life, balance is important and too much of even something good sours the experience. Personally, I prefer to train a horse never worked before two years old than one that has been imprinted and handled extensively. The untouched horse will learn faster and do better with less handling than the one that was imprinted.

If you want a responsive, respectful horse, don’t spoil it as a baby. Just like people, once spoiled, it is far more difficult to teach the lessons that will be needed to produce a horse ready and willing to do a job. Just the thoughts of a trainer to think over.