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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Photo by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels.com

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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Photo by Chanita Sykes on Pexels.com

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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Let’s Talk About Weight & Horses

Weight is a touchy subject for women, especially for horsewomen that don’t have a positive body image. How many of us have seen posts on forums asking whether or not a rider is too big for a horse? Far too often, at least in my opinion, multiple responses hold up the 20% golden rule that’s the end all be all of whether or not a rider should ride their horse.

For those that may not be familiar with the 20%, studies have shown that the maximum weight a horse – any horse regardless of build or size – should carry is 20% of their body weight. The studies indicate that when a horse carries more than 20% of their bodyweight, their heart rate increases and their muscles fatigue quicker.

 The average 15 hand horse will run around 1,000 pounds, which means the most weight they should carry is 200 pounds.

I ran Beavis on barrels at 185 pounds.

While this may be a good loose general rule of thumb, the problem is that most of these studies that have been done don’t take into account the differences in genetics, conformation, condition, or rider balance and fitness. In addition, there’s not uniformity in the horses and riders that they’re using to determine these results.

To make matters worse, some shows have even gone so far as to ask heavier riders to dismount based on the 20% rule. My fear is that if this taken to extreme, formal rules will be put into place on a larger scale – pun intended – based on studies that never took into account the individuality of horse and rider.

Using this 20% rule as the end all, be all is like saying people that weigh the same can lift the same amount of weight. Go to a weight lifting competition and you’ll see that’s simply not true. It’s not uncommon for smaller lifters to out-lift someone that weighs more than they do simply because they’re stronger.

Weight is not an indicator of strength or endurance but using this 20% rule as an end all be all makes it exactly that.

As a former trainer and instructor that’s ridden a large number of different breeds of horses, and as a competitor that’s been at every spectrum of the scale, I have a good feel of how weight impacts a horse and I know where the differences lie.

 While a rider’s fitness level does have an impact on how well a rider rides, my opinion is that a rider’s strength and balance are what is important. A rider can be strong and balanced but not necessarily fit according to traditional thinking. A balanced rider that is in time with their horse will have less impact on a horse’s back than a rider that’s fit but doesn’t have the best balance.

A rider’s build can also have an impact on how well they ride. If a rider is top heavy, they’re going to struggle more than a rider that carries more weight in their hips. With more weight up top, the physical impact on the horse’s back is going to be different than weight further down.

The same thing goes for horses and how they’re built. It’s common knowledge that a shorter back is stronger than a longer back. Two horses can weigh the same, but the shorter backed horse will be stronger.

My old horse Bluff weight 1200 pounds but he was also long backed.

Conformation and angles also play a role in a horse’s strength. In the barrel racing world, a horse with shorter cannon bones, a long hip angle, and lower hocks is more desired because they’re stronger making them faster coming off of a barrel.

A horse with a good shoulder angle can carry more weight more efficiently than a horse with an upright shoulder angle. Pair a good shoulder angle with correct angles in the pastern and hocks, and they’re even stronger.

Toad is a tough little horse right at 1,000 pounds.

Differences in the depth of the girth can also impact how well a horse carries weight. A deeper girth area allows for greater lung capacity so their endurance is better.

Conditioning also plays a role in how well a horse carries weight. It’s not only whether or not a horse has been worked, but the type of work they are being asked to do. For instance, a western pleasure show horse or hunter horse may be legged up perfectly to go compete in a class, but they may not be legged up enough to go run a barrel pattern competitively.  They need to be conditioned for the event they’re being asked to do in order to carry weight at an optimum level.

Over the years I’ve ridden several horses that I was either right at or a little over the 20% level. One Paso Arab cross mare that I rode weighed right at 900 pounds – 20% would be 180 pounds. There were several years I rode her weighing 185 and my saddle weighed 25 pounds. That mare carried me without any problem at all. We went on hilly trail rides and at the end of the day she had as much energy as she did at the start.

This Paso Arab mare carried me a lot of years at heavier weights and had no trouble.

I currently have two Quarter Horse geldings that both weigh right at 1,000 pounds. One is barely 14.2 and the other is right at 15 hands. I’ve ridden them both at 200 pounds and they carried me as easily at that weight as they do now, and they never tired any quicker than my black gelding that weighs 1250 pounds and is 16 hands.

1250 pounds and 16 hands, 1000 pounds and 15 hands – they carry me equally!

By the same token, I have had some smaller horses that weighed right at the 1,000 pound mark that I was a lot more careful about riding. I could tell they struggled a little more carrying me. This mare below is one of them. When she was green, could buck me very easily – which she worked out of – but she also tired quicker than my other horses did.

To the riders out there that struggle with a positive body image, don’t get too hung up on the 20% rule that gets spouted everywhere. Instead, take a look at your balance and strength and look at your horse as an individual whole.

Ask yourself these questions –

  • How is your balance and timing?
  • How well does your saddle fit?
  • How is your horse built?
  • Is he short backed or long backed?
  • How is the rest of his conformation and muscle?
  • How well is he conditioned?
  • Does he tire when he’s worked? How long does he have to be worked before he does get tired?
  • Does he wring his head or have any behavioral issues that could be caused by being uncomfortable?

If you still have questions of whether or not you’re too big for a horse, find a professional that is experienced with plus size riders. They’ll not only be able to give you an unbiased opinion, but they’ll be able to help you with issues that can be unique to larger riders and smaller type horses.

Weight is just a number. It’s doesn’t tell the whole story, and it doesn’t tell how well you ride or how well your horse can carry you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough Horses Make Good Horsemen

A few days will mark the one year anniversary of Cowgirls With Curves!

It’s been a great year and what started out as simple blog has turned into a wonderful journey for me too as not only a writer and horseman, but as a woman as well. I want to say a special “Thank You” to all the followers out there. You’ve been such an encouragement and you’ve shown me what this is really all about — encouraging other riders and making a difference.

I’ve spent the winter doing the bare minimum and packing on a few pounds. Bad news is that I put on 6 pounds of that 20 pounds I lost last year. The good news is I’m still 14 pounds lighter than this time last year – so I consider it a bit of a success!

With show season right around the corner, I’m starting to feel the itch of riding more and warmer days. I’ve always said there’s nothing like a colt or green horse to make me start working out. The last couple of years, I’ve not had to worry about that too much. This year is a little different!

Back in December, Willie Kamps came to farm to live. Willie is an interesting horse. He’d been ridden by a kid, and I believe even roped on. I hauled him some last year to a few barrel races and even a sorting. Although he was easy to put where you needed him when it came to tracking cows, he still had a few gaps.

For instance, we sat a friend’s helmet on a barrel when she was done riding. I went to go around that barrel a few minutes later, thinking nothing of it since we’d worked around it a few times already, and suddenly it became a fire-breathing dragon we couldn’t get within ten feet of!

Although he’s a bit calmer in the arena, he’s a completely different horse out in an open field by himself. He’s got a lot more energy and is constantly looking for things to spook and bolt at. You’d better have your heels down or you’ll easily be left behind!

I also have an off the track retire thoroughbred, Dynamic Host, that I’ll be re-schooling as well as an eventing prospect. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of similarities between he and Willie Kamps when it comes time to ride out in the field!

While some folks steer clear of horses like that, I tend to love a good challenge. I also see them as an incentive to get stronger, in addition to an opportunity to improve as a horseman. Becoming a better horseman is important to me.

Having two tough horses to ride and train and train – in two different disciplines – this year is most definitely enough of a reason to get me up a little earlier. I’m getting older and I don’t like to hit the ground — the best way to avoid hitting the ground is to get strong and balanced!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what inspires and encourages you. What is it that makes you want to get stronger? What is it that makes you want to become a better rider?