Grazing Your Horse Without A Halter On The Trail

September 16, 2014

Grazing Your Horse On The TrailGrazing Horse On The TrailHow do I graze my horse on the trail if I don’t have a halter? It’s a good question. Sooner or later, we all ride off leaving our halter still tied to the trailer. Sometimes we leave it deliberately, but others times on accident. Lunch time rolls around and you want to let your horse graze without having to chew with the bits in his mouth, so here you go. These are photos of Speck on a recent trail ride. The halter was tied to the trailer and Speck was hungary. It was nearly 6:30pm and he had been ridden most of the day. We stopped for a break and let him have a snack at the same time. We simply slipped the bits out of his mouth and then replaced the headstall back over his ears. The reins were loosely wrapped around the saddle horn and so he could move about without breaking them.

Growing up riding, we rarely took a halter with us. Instead, we just slipped the headstall like shown in the photos. Keep in mind, you need to know your horse before you do this. With the wrong horse, you can find yourself hiking in boots and spurs!!!

Robbers Cave State Park Offers Beautiful Horseback Riding

September 6, 2014

Robbers Cave State Park HorsebackTrail riding at Oklahoma’s Robbers Cave State Park is a gorgeous place to trail ride. The photo is a view taken from a bluff on horseback looking down over the water. The park is clean and friendly. It’s a fun place to take your horse and enjoy yourself.

We suggest having a good map of the trails before you get there or plenty of time. Not having a map this past weekend, we enjoyed seeing quite a bit of territory inside and even a few miles outside the park.

Trail riding is the greatest way to get away from the hustle and bustle of things and really enjoy the world God created. The views, trees, wildlife and nature from the back of a horse gives you a new perspective and recharges your batteries.


How I Test A Trail Horse

March 7, 2014

Gaye DeRusso, a professional horse trainer, in Alamo, California, who regularly works with gaited trail horses explains. I buy horses all the time, as part of my business is selling horses. I started doing this because I was sent so many bad horses to fix, and I just could not understand how the owners had picked the horse. Could I fix them? Sure, and I did, but even when they were fixed, it was not a horse I would have ever picked for them as a trail horse.

Gaye DeRussoIf you are buying a horse for trail, and this is your first trail horse, well you better make sure it is a well-trained one. For some reason people have it in their mind that if a horse can not make it for their sport such as jumping, that it can make it as a trail horse. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Trail riding is one of the most demanding jobs for a horse. The horse has to deal with things jumping out at him, it has to be surefooted, calm, dependable, willing and comfortable.

So first of all do not look at any horses that have not been on the trail and it should be recent, not 10 years ago. Only go see horses that have experience and as they say a lot of wet saddle pads. You are looking for a horse to take care of you, not kill you, the killers are easy to find, just go to the auction and you will find at least a couple of horses that will try to kill you. They are usually the pretty ones.

Also beware of a seller that has a lot of perfect horses to sell, unless they have had them a long time in training. I have to go through at least 5-10 horses before I find one that will work for a beginner. So do not be fooled by fancy words and fancy pictures.

A trail horse needs a calm mind, close to dead would be a good start for a beginner. Half dead would be good for a novice. This means he doesn’t react to much, how do you test that, well try to spook him with whatever you can find, bring your crazy boyfriend, your annoying kids and the nutty dog and see what the horse does. If he tolerates it, keep evaluating him. If he freaks out, well just leave. No reason to waste your time or the sellers.

Ride him in the arena first. Makes sure he stands for getting on, if you are short use a mounting block, do all the things you will need to do at home. See if he steers well, stops easily, backs and can go sideways, you will need all these things on the trail. If you do not know how to do these things yourself, well then you shouldn’t even be buying a horse yet, you should spend your money on lessons first. Don’t skip the basics, if you do, you could easily get maimed or killed.

He should walk slow, a fast walking horse is not for a newbie, he should go the speed you ask, slow when you want, faster when you want, and if he is a little dull to the leg well then that’s just great, because if you kick him by accident he won’t take off and yes at some point you will kick him by accident.

If he is safe in the arena, go around the barn and if you see anything scary go towards it and see what the horse does. If the owner tells you not too, then get off because he will need to tolerate a lot more on the trail. I am not telling you to ride up to a fire truck or a kid doing 360 in the parking lot with their parents car, just something scary, like the tractor, a big water bin, a dog, you get the picture?

If he doesn’t spook, great, if he spooks a little but stays in place, good, if he spins, runs back wards or takes off. Well get off and leave quickly.

If he is quiet, go on the trail, have the owner take you out with another horse, ride in back to start, then front and if another rider comes, stick him in the middle. He should be fine with all of these. Then tell the owner you wish to separate and see if he will leave the other horse and then see what he does as you go back to the other horse. Is this something you can handle? If anything you want to buy a horse that is below your level of riding, not above it. You can always make a calm horse hotter with training, spurs and grain but you cannot always make a hot horse calmer, especially if you are not a good rider. I have seen a lot of riders fall off hot horses, I have never seen one fall off of Mr. Pokey.

Next you need to find some obstacles and things that move, deer, dogs, hikers, bikes, anything you might see on your trails. If you need to ride down the road at home, then go down a road. This is your time to really test him for what you will be doing. If you are going to ride alone then you need to also take him out alone.

Believe me if he is bad at his own barn he will be worse at yours. So really do a good test. If you can’t, then ask the owner for a week trial and you better ride it a lot when you have the trial. It would be worth a deposit and the owner keeping it, than buying the wrong horse. The wrong horse will cost you thousands in the end, so look at the big picture.

Now head back to the barn, does he go slow or quick on your way back? Slow is good, fast is bad.

Lastly, did you feel safe? What? You are not sure? Well then you didn’t feel safe if you have to think about it. If you felt safe you will have a big smile, you will be having fun, you won’t be wondering if this is the right horse, you will know it.

Now when you get back, don’t start picking him apart, get a vet to do that, you don’t need a pro athlete, you just need somewhat sound to get you around the trails safely. You need a horse that will hold up for a couple of years, than you can advance onto a harder horse if you want and another beginner can enjoy your horse.

Also do not be cheap, it is best to pay for a trained horse, than buy cheap and send to a trainer. Remember, I am a trainer and people spend thousands of dollars in training, trying to make the bad horse they bought into a mediocre trail horse. The first thing I always say is, can you take this horse back? As it would be cheaper for me to just find you a better horse. I am a very busy trainer, as most people will not take that bad horse back, it is your problem now.

Ok so everything was great, but he is not the prettiest horse, and not the color you wanted. So now what? Well you buy him of course, pretty and your favorite color can kill you, but if he has all the above qualities then you are crazy to pass on him, good horses are hard to find. An ugly horse can give you years of pleasure, just buy some fancy tack and he would look better and all your friends will be jealous since your horse will be the most dependable one. Okay, now if you still don’t get it, here is a story to paint you the picture of buying the wrong horse.

Sally buys a horse that fails as a racehorse. She gets him cheap, underweight and in not so great shape. Sally thinks she can make him a jumper. So Sally buys him and sends him to her trainer. The trainer spends over a year trying to make her now fatten thoroughbred into a jumper. The trainer comes to the conclusion that the horse neither has the mind or the talent to be a jumper. Sally cuts her losses and sells him as a trail horse. Sally’s horse has never been on the trail, he also has never been ridden by a novice rider, but he has been to some shows and he has walked around the barn. Sally is not a trail rider, she has no idea what riding trails are like, but for some reason she thinks it is an easy job.

So Sally sells him to Suzie who is a novice rider as a trail horse. Both Sally and her trainer claim how quiet and easy this horse is to ride, but they both have had years and years of riding difficult horses. They do not even remember what it is like to be a beginner.

Suzie takes her beautiful new horse home and shows him to all her friends. Wow, he is beautiful they all say and then one says, he seems a little hot. Suzie ignores her. He then spooks at the stall cleaner that comes around the corner. Suzie doesn’t pay any attention, as Suzie is just mesmerized with the beauty of her new horse.

Suzie lets him settle in for the day and the next day, she is set to ride her new horse on the trail with her friends. Suzie neither roundpens or lunges her horse, something the previous trainer always did, but they never told Suzie this, so how would she know? So Suzie gets on and off they go down the trail. Everything seems just great, the sun is shining, Suzie has a big smile and her friend is chatting away. Suzie is riding with her brand new snaffle on a very loose rein and is oblivious to the world around them.

Then all of a sudden a deer jumps out of the woods and gets scared by the horses and the deer takes off, up a hill through the woods. The deer trying to escape for its life makes a lot of noise as it runs through the bushes and leaves.

Suzie’s horse has never even seen a deer, so he does exactly what he was trained to do. He runs. He runs faster than he ever did in a race, boy would his first owner be proud, because then he was only running from a bell, but now he is running from the monster in the trees. Boy can he run fast! Suzie hangs on and ducks under the tree but then she sees there is a log in the way. Suzie’s horse does exactly what he is supposed to do, he jumps it with all his might, now wouldn’t his second owner be so proud of him! But now his third owner Suzie gets launched through the air. Suzie always wanted a Pegasus, be careful what you wish for I always say. Suzie isn’t proud of her horse, but she is lucky to be alive, she is now laying 10 feet from the log, and her horse is long gone. She has gone faster than she ever knew a horse could go and she also got to jump her first jump and all in one day.

Her friend finds her and says that was amazing you held on so well. Suzie picks her self up and it takes them about a half hour to find her new horse. She gets on and rides him back home, he is jigging the entire way but she somehow hangs on, she has too. She cannot walk well because something is wrong with her ankle. When she gets back she gives him a big bucket of grain and hopes tomorrow he will be better. Suzie’s friend takes her to the ER and Suzie has broken her ankle.

Poor Suzie, she did everything wrong and she doesn’t even know it. She bought a horse bred to run, and if you think about it, he was bred to run far too at least a mile before he was supposed to stop. That’s exactly what he did. She also bought a horse that someone thought had talent to jump and he did jump. He never was on trail in his life and when he thought he had a nice new life, she put him on a loose rein, so he had no instructions about his new job. So her poor new horse was pretty much on his own, new place, in the middle of the woods and then a MONSTER jumped out! He did everything he was bred and trained to do. He tried very hard.

Suzie is alive, she spent another couple of years trying to make the racehorse into a trail horse and after several more accidents she sold him, cheap. Said she didn’t have time to ride anymore, and that was true, how would she when she was spending most her time in the hospital. Suzie gave up on horses, she realized they were dangerous and just not her thing. She still has his picture, and boy was he pretty.

What Should You Look For In A Trail Horse?

March 1, 2014

According to Gaye DeRusso, a good trail horse needs a number of qualities and attributes, even more so than a well-trained arena horse. Ms. DeRusso has a good article if you are in the market for a trail horse that suits your needs. She explains the importance of real life experiences on the trail and describes some general thoughts on different breeds suited for the trail.

There’s More To Mounting Than Just Height

November 23, 2013

DocWe get telephones calls from folks interested in knowing how many hands a particular horse may be. In some cases, they just say, tell me about the horses you have that are less than ??? hands tall. You can bet these calls don’t come from college basketball scholarship recipients. Hey, trust us, we understand the issues faced by those who are “vertically challenged”. There may be some tall ancestors somewhere back there, but the genes in our family haven’t shown any recent activity.

It might be worth knowing that height alone isn’t what makes a horse easy or hard to mount. There are actually a couple of factors you don’t want to overlook. Width is nearly as important as height. When you stop to analyze it, a person with shorter legs, standing in one stirrup, and attempting to put their other leg over the horse, finds it much easier on a narrower horse than a wider one. Although height plays a part, it is easier in many cases to climb on a taller, narrow horse than a horse than may be a bit shorter, but wider.  Doc, the AQHA quarter horse shown here, is 14.2 hands tall. Doc is slender in his build and a lot simpler to mount than some 14 hand horses we have that are broader in the chest and rib cage. Doc is also comfortable for folks with shorter legs as he doesn’t tend to spread them as wide sitting in the saddle.

Height is taken from the withers to the ground. Some horses have higher withers that make them measure taller than another one that looks the same size when you put your foot in the stirrup. In other words, the center of the back of two horses can be identical, but they may measure two different heights because one has higher withers.

Without discounting the fact that a shorter horse is easier to climb up, enough can’t be said about having a horse trained to stand still while you mount. Tall or short, a horse that is walking around while you try to get aboard makes it difficult. Doc stands completely still and let’s you take your time getting up and settled as a properly trained trail horse should do.

If you are looking for a horse sized right for you, don’t miss out on what may be the perfect choice just because of the numbers on the measuring stick.

Chex Ground Ties Well

September 7, 2013

Chex ground tiedThe photo shows Chex ground tied. When you drop the reins, he stands with his head down and waits for you to do your stuff. He’s an AQHA registered gelding about halfway through the two-years of training we give. The patience you see is what we try to foster. It comes from his genetics, natural disposition, and many hours spent in training. We promise you that he didn’t learn to do this by himself. It was taught. With hard work, you can promote patience in a horse. The willingness to stand quietly is refined and produced by practice and repetition. In a trail horse, patience is more than a virtue, it’s a requirement.

Trail Horses Make Great Ranch Horses

August 27, 2013

Picture of PollyA trail horse should transition to ranch work without so much as the twitch of an ear. A properly trained trail horse is quiet and calm. Ranch work and roping events should be second nature to a good trail horse.  We like to take our horses to some of the local ranch roping events to test their training and make sure the quiet disposition remains in place with ropes swinging, cowboys singing, and calves setting back against the rope. Well, maybe not cowboys singing, but you get the picture. A calf at the end of your rope attached to your saddle horn will create some commotion if the horse hasn’t been taught to calmly accept things.

Our friends at the Northeast Ranch Roping Association let us come and put our horses to work. The association promotes the reata-style roping with heavy emphasis on working livestock without a lot of stress. The old cowboy ways are the standard. A good horse and quick loop ready a calf or cow for vaccinations or treatment without a lot of stress. Ranch roping without heavy stress on the calves requires a well-broke horse.

If you haven’t been to a ranch roping, you ought to come out to one. The next roping at the Northeast’s association is September 7, 2013. If you want more information, give Shawn a call 918-417-9250 and he can put you in touch with the members. Bet they would love to have you attend and show you how real cowboys work.


Charity Trail Ride For Prevent Blindness

August 26, 2013

Prevent Blindness has its annual charity trail ride scheduled September 27, 28, and 29, 2013 at Dripping Springs in Okmulgee State Park. Everyone is invited and the trail ride is to help raise funds for a worthwhile organization. Okmulgee State Park is about 5 miles west of Okmulgee, Oklahoma. With all the wonderful rain in August, everything has been beautiful and green. This will be a great time to enjoy some beautiful scenery from horseback while raising funds for those who don’t have the gift of vision. For more information, you can call OKC: 405.848.7123 or Tulsa: 918.496.348.

Sirens & Car Alarms; Are You Ready?

August 15, 2013

We were pleased the other evening when one of those unexpected tests came. A couple of guests came to ride that didn’t have a lot of riding experience, beginner level riders. The horses were saddled, and of course we put the guests on two of our graduate horses to accommodate the experience level. Three of us were mounted on horses about 30 feet from the front of their truck waiting for the others. The truck alarm was accidentally set off when the remote control in the jeans pocket of one of our visitors was bumped. His truck has lights that flash, horns that honk, several different sirens that blare, and all of it very loud. It was one of those situations where we have seen wrecks happen with green broke horses and untrained riders. You may have seen some of those little rodeos where one of the horses goes to bucking that makes another suddenly jump sideways, while the next one takes off in a dead run. Riders go to falling off and everyone gets just a little excited.

We were pleased that nothing like it happened and not a single horse so much as lifted his head. They stood quietly and turned as to say, “Is this another one of those silly tests you do all the time”? Aside from all the horses successfully passing, the best part was we never expected it. The perfect test for your horse is one neither of you know is coming. It was really nice to see the hard work and effort that has been put into the training of  these animals pay off.  It’s the way a good trail horse should react.

Your Horse Doesn’t Neck Rein?

April 17, 2013

Some of us grew riding horses.We never used two-handed reining that seems to be gaining some popularity today.  Ours always neck reined, probably part of that Oklahoma heritage and way of life. In the old days, no one wanted a horse that wouldn’t neck rein. Horses were ridden for pleasure, but also expected to be able to work when needed.

If you work on a ranch or use your horse to assist with your job, you need at least one hand for the task. Sometimes you need both hands for the job. Using both hands on the reins just doesn’t  make sense from our point of view. 

We feel pretty strongly about horses that don’t neck rein. They need to be taught. Maybe it’s the old cowboy customs lurking in the deep recesses of our memories, but a horse that can’t neck rein is like a bridle without reins. What’s the point? Our quarter horses for sale in Oklahoma neck rein if for no other reason than so the next generation can text while they ride!

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.

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.