Reality Of The Horse Issues

I’m going to start off this post by strongly saying I love animals. Anyone that knows me personally knows for a fact that my animals eat before I do, and I have gone without so that they had what they needed. It’s not just a love of animals, but a sense of responsibility of doing the right thing, a work ethic of sorts, and being a good steward. Being a good steward is also having a sense of reality and the big picture.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me also say that was I have to say is going to be hard to read for many of you, but it needs to be said — on a frequent basis. Some I’m sure will be filled with hate, but taking the emotion out of it, they’ll realize there’s at least some truth to what I’m saying.

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Horse slaughter, horse racing, and BLM Mustang round ups have been the topic of hot – or rather over emotional – talk here lately. I say “Talk” because it’s either bashed or supported but NO ONE on either side is even remotely offering some kind of realistic, workable solution.

The only solution that’s ever mentioned is let them all live. We can’t feed and house the rescues that are out there now without donations from the general public.

A few years back, I wrote two articles on my old blog, Musings From The Leadrope, that offered at least a potential partial solution to the horse slaughter issue. One point was for the Horse Rescues to start a registry so that a market for rescued horses could be broadened a bit. The reality is in order for a horse to be marketable and have a chance, they need to be usable for more than just a trail horse.

The other post caused quite a stir as it suggested that maybe the Horse Rescues could run the slaughter process and profit from the sale of hoofs and hides from those horses that did indeed need to be humanely euthanized. Go actually read the post before you judge!

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Rescues running horse slaughter? But slaughter is CRUEL! 

Before you jump on that band wagon, keep in mind that there’s a whole other world out there that thinks what YOU do is cruel and should be outlawed if you –

  • Keep your horse in a stall any part of the day
  • Ride with a bit
  • Ride at all
  • Clip your horse’s whiskers

Like I said in my post on why I Support Rodeo, there’s examples of (truly) poor horsemanship in every aspect of the horse world. By the way, the examples listed above are not abuse. The problem is that the people that are hollering the loudest don’t have a sound argument at all — only emotion and drama. If they keep hogging the platform, they will get their way and we won’t have a horse industry left, and you won’t be able to put your horse in a stall or clip his whiskers. On a side note, I do believe they have made attempts to ban clipping whiskers in some countries in Europe.

These over dramatic, emotional people that have the ear of the general public that generally don’t know any better, go around loudly bashing horse slaughter, BLM Round ups, Rodeo, and Horse Racing.

Not that being a back yard horse owner is a problem, but for the majority of these passionate loud people the back yard is really the end of their experience. Their view is limited and they don’t even know it and they’re the voice that’s making the loudest noise. The voice of more experience is busy wading in mud feeding horses or cattle, or cleaning 50 stalls at a time.

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The other problem is that these loud passionate folks NEVER offer realistic workable solutions. Take the recent case of dog racing. These emotional people got dog racing banned but they were never responsible enough to also take care of where these thousands of dogs would go, or find jobs for the families displaced because of the ban. If they really loved dogs and were compassionate, they would have taken care of that as well – but they didn’t. Which is why we need more experienced, sensible people voicing their opinion, or this could happen again to the rodeo industry, the race horse industry, the show horse industry, and yes even the trail riding industry.

No matter how much you love horses, you can’t change reality. There is no Hollywood ending where all horses have a home with some little girl in the back yard of their subdivision home. I’ll say it again — we can’t feed the rescues that are out there now that are not earning their keep.

The reality is that it comes down to a choice of the lessors of evils – until someone can offer solutions that change human behavior, the way people train – or rather don’t, and can find a way to house and feed a lot of horses.

Having horses race on the track is better than thousands of horses headed off to a slaughter house in Mexico to be cut up alive which is what would happen if racing were banned.

Having horses rounded up by BLM or stallions gelded is better than them starving to death.  By the way, have you ever tried to personally round up 50 head of truly wild horses? It’s not easy to separate out tame ones, let alone a few wild ones.

As I said in the rodeo post, it’s better for a bucking horse to work for 8 seconds and have feed and vet care than to have them all headed for the slaughter pen, which is exactly where they would be headed because nobody needs a bucking horse on the trail.

Remember I said it comes down to the lessor of the two evils? These are the lessor of the evils until someone can offer an optional solution like maybe the rescues being in charge of slaughter and being self supporting through that.

Like it or not, if there is no horse industry, there is no need for horses and no reason to take on such a huge expense, or a way to support such a huge expense – most horses cost at least $100 a month minimum to feed. Multiply that against just the rescue horses out there, let alone all the others. That’s the reality of it.

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If any of these hot issues are going to progress and become better, the emotions need to be put aside and realistic solutions be put on the table. Honestly, there needs to be a new rule — don’t complain unless you offer an idea that’s realistic as a solution. As Chris Ledoux said, if you’re complaining without a solution, you’re whining.

We need to hear more of the voice of sensible, experienced people like Bedlam Farm. Horse industry professionals such as trainers, grooms, ranchers, cattlemen all need to weigh in with their experience and common sense that was earned from hard knocks, not just being an arm chair protester. Folks like this are the think tank to get these issues fixed, but they’ve been so beat down and berated by the crazed activist that they’ve walked away from the table.

With as many talented, smart, folks as we have in the industry, surely solutions could be found or at least improvements made if we all brainstormed.

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Hot Weather Considerations

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We’re at the start of summer and the temperatures have already hit record highs in some places. The high temperatures can impact your horse’s health, especially if they have any issues or if you compete. The key to making it through the hot weather is knowing your horse’s health, good planning, and diligent maintenance.

While fans are the choice of many owners to keep their horse’s cool, there are a few things to consider when using fans in your barn on a regular basis throughout the summer.

One is that fans are one of the top contributors to barn fires. If you use fans in your barn, make sure you check the wiring and clean them on a regular basis.

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Another thing to consider when using fans is conditioning of your horse, especially if you’re showing or trail riding. When you’re showing in the arena, out on a course or trail, your horse isn’t under a fan Additionally, depending on the venue, you may not have access to a fan or shade while you’re at your trailer waiting on your class.  If your horse is used to being under a fan all day they may struggle in the heat without a fan because they’re conditioned to being cooler.

TOADIE SHOW

Last, consider the ventilation in your barn. Good air flow is important during hot weather. If your barn does not have good ventilation, you’ll want to consider using a fan to keep the air flowing through your barn, especially if you have a metal barn roof without insulation as they tend to heat up even more.

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Adding electrolytes to the water or feed and keeping salt available are the two top tips for hot weather. While both do help a horse stay hydrated, there are a couple of things to consider.

If your horse is not drinking enough water, you’ll want to be careful about adding salt to their feed. If a horse isn’t drinking, there’s usually a reason behind it such as their gut being irritated. Horses with issues may still not drink even with the additional salt and can wind up dehydrated from the additional salt.

One thing to consider when adding electrolytes is whether you’re feeding a complete feed. Some feeds already have salt and electrolytes in them. Feeding additional electrolytes can cause an imbalance which results in “Thumps”. When an imbalance occurs, dehydrated can quickly escalate.

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Three year old mare at her first ranch clinic fall of 2013.

Wetting your horse’s feed down or adding soaked alfalfa cubes or beet pulp is a great way to help keep your horse hydrated, especially if they’re not drinking as much as they should be. Not only will it help your horse stay hydrated, but it’s a good colic preventative as well.

If you’re committed to competing throughout the summer, be sure to keep your horse conditioned and acclimated to the heat. If they’re in good condition and used to the warm temperatures, they’ll have an easier time adjusting on show days. Talk with your vet about your horse’s health and develop a game plan for your region to keep your horse ready to compete.

What are your plans for riding this summer? How are you going to help your horse stay healthy through the heat?

 

Planning For Your Show Day…

The farm didn’t get the business that was needed to keep it going so I put it back on the market for sale. So, it looks like there will be more changes in store for me this coming year. I like to think of it as Tiny House Living, horse style. Hey, if life gives you lemons you make the best dang lemon marguerita you can possibly make, right?

While change is never easy, I am looking forward to downsizing and having more time and money to focus on my own horses and compete more when things settle down. For years I’ve been a jack of all trades, going and doing so many things. I’d like to narrow my focus, be more selective about where and who I spend my time on, and just see where that leads. While selling the farm is the end of a dream in one sense, it’s freeing and the start of an ultimate dream in another. I’m looking forward to what the year will hold.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

Since I’ve been thinking more about competing and the coming show season, I thought I’d share some tips for showing that I’ve learned first hand, sometimes the hard way, the last few years.

The first tip, and one that I think is probably the most important is in regards to food. Food has an impact on how you think, how you react, how well you focus and yet it’s one of the most under-rated elements of competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to help someone not be as nervous about showing and when food is mentioned they say, “Well, I don’t need to eat. I’m too nervous to eat.” People just don’t think it makes that much of a difference but it absolutely can mean the difference between a good run and a poor run. We plan our horse’s nutrition, especially if they’re in a high performance event. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing for ourselves?

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

The effects of food on the body can last longer than we realize. If you’re wanting to eat better for a show day, you’ll want to start at least a couple of days early. This will allow some extra time to get the bad food out of your system, and will allow your body to adjust to the better food.

I always eat turkey an hour to thirty minutes before I compete. The protein fuels my brain and muscles so I can think and react. Turkey is also a natural source of Tryptophan which has a calming effect on the body so it helps with nerves.

I also make sure I eat some source of protein every couple of hours the entire show day. This helps keep my sugar levels regulated so I can think clearly and not get nervous. If I’m the least bit nervous, my horse will feel it and will react, so the more clear my thinking and the calmer I am the better my horse will behave and perform.

Another thing that I do is load up on water a couple of days before a show. It’s easy to not drink enough during the show day. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your mind and your reaction time just like food. The more you load up on water the day before, the less likely you’ll be to get dehydrated if you’re not drinking as much as you should. A hydrated mind is a clear mind.

Because of the sugar levels in sports drinks, I try to drink mostly water. If I must have something besides water, I’ll drink Powerade Zero that has zero sugar. I’m not necessarily a big fan of the chemicals, but it does have some needed electrolytes. You can also carry lemon water, or some of the sugar-free drink flavorings. Just be sure to read the label to know what you’re ingesting.

Barrel racing in January

Barrel racing in January

Sleep is another thing that can really impact your performance in the saddle. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye the night before. If you know you’re not going to be able to sleep because you’re thinking about showing too much, give yourself a couple of extra hours to allow for tossing and turning.

Another tip is to take some quiet time the day before and the day of your show. Take the time to just be still and think about what you need to do and what is important. Don’t let your head run wild with fear scenarios. Plan your day and your strategy, and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Connect with your goals.

This year has a lot of uncertainty and changes, but the one thing I can do is control is my own mindset, and how I prepare for when it’s finally time to step in the ring and do what I love to do best. The better mindset I have and the better I set myself up, the better chances I’ll have at enjoying my show day.

When it comes to competing, what are some of your fears? What do you think you do to contribute to those fears? How can you change your routine to lessen your fears? What is your strategy for the coming show year?

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The Low Expectations Strategy

LOW EXPECTATIONS…

Springtime is here and show season has begun!

It’s a time to drag and rotate pastures in preparation for summer grass.

It’s also a time to get ready for the first horse show of the year.

It’s also a good time to assess your goals for the year, and your mindset. What are your goals as a rider? What are your goals for your horse? What are you goals for the show season? And, the big question is do all three of those goals align?

I’ll be honest, I’d absolutely love to run down the alley way at the Thomas and Mack arena at the NFR, or run a cow down the rail at the AQHA World, or jump a course at the Longines FEI World Cup. Actually, I’d love to do all three, but if i start my show season off thinking we’ll be hitting that level by the end the year, I’m going to be sorely disappointed!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

Joel Sherlin who trained NBHA World Champion and RFD-TV American Semi-Finalist (2014), Bully By Design, has a saying that goes a long ways when it comes to riding horses and horse shows. Joel, who lives in Athens, Tennessee, is as down to earth as they get even though he’s somewhat of a local legend for his uncanny training ability and funny stories that all come from personal experience of course! His saying is, “Low expectations.”

"Team Blowout"!

“Team Blowout”!

You see, just like any great horseman that’s learned from experience, Joel knows you can have the best plans in the world and the biggest dreams, and sometimes things just happen that are out of your control. For instance, you’re riding a colt at a big show and he spooks at the flash on a camera as you’re making your way along the rail and you blow your class. Or maybe you’re riding a horse that’s been hauled a lot but they spook at the second barrel when the wind flaps a banner on the rail. It happens. The key is to not let it deter you from moving forward in your goals.

I’ve hauled with Joel and his wife Nancy quite a bit and I try to learn all I can about this “Low Expectations” strategy. Obviously with their track record and number of great horses they’ve turned out, there’s something to it!

We stayed in the Sherlin's trailer known as "The Double OO". It's famous!

We stayed in the Sherlin’s trailer known as “The Double OO”. It’s famous!

“Low Exepctations” is really a change in mindset that’s usually brought on by the school of hard knocks – sometimes literally – and disappointments. It’s a learning experience.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that when you ride horses that have issues or need some training, you learn very quickly to appreciate the little things. For instance, if you a haul your horse to it’s first show and you stay on, it’s been a good day – never mind you didn’t even place! That’s “Low Expectations” in action right there.

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

When you’re starting a new discipline, or your new to riding in general, it’s the same thing. If you get in your class and you remember your pattern, or you make it around all three barrels still in the saddle, then you’ve had a good ride! Again, “Low Expectations”.

By now, you see where I’m going with this.

Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at where you’re at and what your base struggles are. Do you have trouble getting a lead? Does your horse struggle loping small circles? Do your horse spook every time you go into an indoor arena? Those are the simple things you can focus on now. Fixing foundational problems such as these will lead to much bigger successes later on.

The same thing goes for us a riders. What are some of the things that you struggle with as a rider? Maybe you struggle with getting the correct diagonal at the trot, or being in time over a jump. Perhaps it’s getting left behind when you come out of a barrel headed to the next one, or just not being intimidated with speed. When you break it down, all of these things really relate to strength and balance. Just like working on foundational issues with your horse, you can work on the basic issues as a rider and improve your ability over time.

As riders, we always tend to look at the end picture. What we don’t realize is that it’s all the little things that eventually produce the final success, and that’s a side effect of having a “Low Expectations” mentality. Work on those small things a little at time and eventually they all add up.

If you could do anything with your horse, what would it be? What are some simple things you can do today to improve you and your horse, and implement a “Low Expectations” strategy?

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

 

 

Tips To Beat The Heat

Competing with horses during the summer can be a pain, not to mention dangerous for both horse and rider. High temperatures, especially when combined with high humidity can easily cause death due to dehydration or heat stroke. The key to staying healthy is planning and preparation.

Bringing a cooler filled with water is only a small part of planning for hot weather shows and rodeos. Good solid preparation actually starts several days before and includes a lot more than water.

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If you normally don’t drink enough water, drinking water the day of your event may not be sufficient enough to keep you hydrated. If you’re already at a deficit, it will be much harder to re-hydrate your body once you get hot and over-heat. It’s a good idea to start loading up on water at least a day or two prior to make your body is sufficiently hydrated.

While I’m not a fan of sugar, I do believe some sports drinks can be beneficial due to added nutrients like potassium, sodium, and magnesium which help with muscle function. Be sure to compare sugar levels, and other ingredients like artificial sweeteners when choosing a sports drink. Also, some brands of water such as Smart Water and others, have electrolytes mixed in.

Just like loading up on water a few days ahead, it’s also a good idea to load up on good nutrition as well. Eating enough protein and fat will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your energy levels up. The day of the competition, you’ll want to make sure you eat an adequate breakfast to keep you going throughout the day.

Even though food may be available at the event, take the extra time to pack some snacks that will help to fuel your energy levels. Nuts, jerky, protein bars and shakes are all easy options to take along. Whatever you decide to bring, make sure it’s packed full of protein and is as natural as possible.

Just a personal belief of mine, but I think that conditioning to the heat is as important as conditioning our horses. If we sit around under the air conditioning all the time and then wait until the coolest part of the day to ride, we’re not going to be prepared if we have to ride our horses in the middle of the day.

You don’t want to put you or your horse at risk by riding hard when it’s too hot to ride, but at the same time you don’t want to always wait until it’s the coolest time of day to work your horses.  Small things driving home with the window rolled down, or spending more time outside can help. Some common sense and progressive exposure will go a long ways towards building some heat tolerance.

With some planning and preparation, you can make your show or rodeo season go a lot smoother. By taking the time to eat well, loading up on liquids, and conditioning yourself to the heat, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your event safely.

What are some things you struggle with during summer time rodeos or shows? What steps have you taken to beat the heat?

Client Horses At A Barrel Race