Category Archives: Horses

A Guide To Happy Trail Riding

I wanted to give you guys an update on Bob the horse. Just before Memorial day I took him down near the Talimena Drive for a trial ride. I don’t know why it always works this way for me but taking a horse on a ride always seems to develop or strengthen the bond between us and this was no exception.

We arrived in the evening and made camp and woke up to a really cool morning, I had to wear my coat and all the horses were feeling frisky. We had about 10 horses in our group and the camp had about 70 or 80 I would guess. We saddled up and rode to a gathering place to set off up the trail. None of our horses had been around each other before and there was a lot of tension in the air. About that time a group of walking horses came clomping down the asphalt road past us and a few horses in our group humped up a bit.

Now if you think about this cold morning, strange place, strange horses, odd sounds, some horses acting up a bit. This is a recipe for getting bucked off or having a ran away, but Mr Bob handled it all with a great disposition. His curiosity was piqued but he never bobbled and I was impressed.

I decided to take the opportunity to get him accustomed to being ridden with a group so i rode him to the front a few times and then pulled him out and let all the other horses pass. He handled this really well, didn’t get pushy at all wasn’t bothered by being left behind. During lunch breaks I just wrapped my mecate around his neck and tie to a tree and had no issues at all.

Bob learned to eat out of a nose bag and climb steep rocky trails.

It was his first time being ridden shod and he adjusted well to that too. The second day a man rode up beside me who I really respect as a horse trainer and told me he was really impressed with how Bob handled himself. He told me to keep bringing him along really slow and he would make a really nice horse.

Catching a nap after a long day on the trail.
I was super excited with the whole trip and the way Bob got along.

That really was happy trails!

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Custom Built Saddle

I had the chance to try a custom made saddle the other day and I rode in it for two days on a trail ride. I have to say it’s the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever ridden in.

This is a 16” seat Wade Style saddle built by Kevin & Dale Moore, instructors of Montana Horseman Saddle Building School in Belgrade. It is built on a Timberline Tree, 6 ½ gullet, Montana Horseman Hape bars. If you’re not familiar with this style of tree, what it basically does is to flare the front of the bars out so as not to dig in a horse’s shoulders, and it starts the twist a bit back in the bars. A nice tree to build a saddle on and a very nice tree to ride. I was riding my young horse Bob with saddle bags, a slicker and going up rough steep terrain and his back wasn’t sore at all. That’s impressive!

It is rigged with Montana flat plate rigging. It has an Oregon cross over rope strap, which lets you snug your rope up tight. The horn finished out at 4 ½ inches and is wrapped in mule hide. It has tooled stirrup straps on the outside, which I think looks really good. The Wade style tree looks really good with a straight up cantle and a frog lip rolled under in the front. The bucking rolls are secured in place so they cannot slip up or back. The seat has a medium to high rise, and a nice dish. It’s thinned down the front of the seat just a little bit, to not spread out a person’s hips too much.


Dale Moore started building saddles around 1963 from Jack Miller in Helena Montana. He had five kids and was a school teacher and could not afford to buy a new saddle, so he started building them.
After retiring from the Montana school system Dale started Montana Horseman Saddle building school. He tells the story ever once in a while saying that he thought a couple of people may want to learn to build a saddle. Now they have students from literally all over the world, from Australia to France and back to South Africa and everywhere in between.

The class run six days a week for five weeks. During the first two weeks the students are put through an orientation from sewing machines, to welts and braiding, and horse conformation. The students build demonstration saddles to begin to learn how to build saddles and then each student builds a saddle of their choice to take home. Students leave the class with the knowledge to build saddle for themselves or friends or open their own saddle shop. We have many successful saddle makers running their own businesses around the United States and the world.

In my opinion it is one of the best saddles around.

Happy trials!

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Horses, You Gotta Love ‘Em

 

Last fall I decided to get a new horse. The horse I normally use is getting old and has developed some stiffness in his joints so I thought it was time to quit riding him. I don’t know about you but I tend to make a list of all the traits I want in a new purchase of anything. The top of the list was cow bred, meaning he had to have working cow horse bloodlines. When you use a horse that will watch a cow and then get on one that won’t you might as well be on foot! I shopped around for a few weeks and found a gelding close by from a breeder that I trust. He was younger than I really wanted but everything else about him fit my criteria really well so I bought him.

I wanted to share some of my experiences with him so maybe you could learn from my mistakes and save yourself some time. This horses name is Bob and they sold him to me as green broke. I figured that would be no problem because I have started several horses and got with them really well. The problem was I hadn’t started a colt in a few years and time can cloud your memory just a bit. Bob is really a good minded horse and really wants to please, He’s a quick learner and really easy on the eyes.

Since I hadn’t ridden a young horse in a while I handled him just like I would if I was riding my old horse and he really did fine with that for a while. One day while I was just sitting up there being a passenger Bob’s attention was a quarter mile away on something other than me. I finally realized he was tensing up and getting nervous because of where I was riding him but I was really late and he was really bothered. A horse kinda needs to know that you are looking out for him and we hadn’t developed that bond yet. All of the sudden my dog ran out of the timber toward me and the horse with about 40 calves running after her! Wreck fixing to happen! Do you remember the movie Smokey and the Bandit where Jackie Gleason wore the blood pressure monitor that would beep faster as his pressure went up? Bob’s was on a maxed out constant tone! Well he bolted and I thought no problem I’ll just reach down with my left hand and pull one rein up and bend him to a stop. Simple right? Done it a hundred times on other horses. The problem was I hadn’t taught Bob how to bend to a stop so he went into a spin that that a professional rained cow horse would be proud of at about a hundred miles per hour! Well I’m using my reins and my seat position and my voice and anything else I can think of to try and get control of the situation and here comes the dog. Now the dog is a working cow dog and she thinks she wants to heel the horse while we are in this wild spin. Now folks I get dizzy on a merry-go-round so by now I’m trying to pick things out and focus but I’m about to fall off from dizziness. You’ve gotta picture this in your mind, the horse is spinning, the dog is nipping him as his heels go by, I’m getting sea sick and the calves are all stopped watching the show by now. I finally yelled at the dog and the horse stopped for a second and then bolted off again. This time I thought hey, I’ll grab the right rein and maybe that will unwind me, wrong! I finally got the dog downed because in the excitement of things I couldn’t remember the command? I let Bob lope out a few hundred feet and then gathered him up without much of a problem, then I just sat there for a few minutes until my head stopped spinning.

I know I did a lot of things wrong in this scenario and since then Bob has easily spooked anytime we ride in this area understandably. Since I don’t know the guy who started him originally I decided to restart him with the kind of feel that I am accustomed to. I really like Bill Dorrance’s approach to getting with a horse by asking him to move one foot at a time on the ground. I have been doing groundwork and riding with a lot more purpose and asking him constantly to keep is attention on me and his response has been fantastic. I hope to share more with you as I get farther along with him.

I’d love to hear your horse experiences! Until next time, happy trails and pen your dog before you ride your colt.

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Making A Western Buckle

I wanted to make a new buckle set a while back because I had never tried something like that before. I had seen a lot of buckles that I liked and I had a silver buckle on a thin belt that I really liked. The one thing I don’t care for is a buckle with a tongue that bends and pulls the leather out of shape in the belt.

I started with a sheared square of 10 gauge mild steel.

Next I traced the basic shape that I wanted and cut that out roughly on a band saw.

Then I cut and bent the keeper, I just clamped it in a vice and bent it with a hammer.

Next I picked an appropriate sized rod and welded the parts that hook to the belt on the back of the buckle. I actually braised these in place.

Then came the hard part, cutting the brass plate to overlay on the buckle. I printed the letters out on mailing labels and stuck them to the brass and the cut around them by hand with a jewelers saw. That is pretty tedious work. After they were rough cut I got a really small file and filed everything to size.

Next I soldered the brass to the steel plate trying to keep everything straight. After soldering I dipped it in acid to loosen all the slag from the flux and buffed it with a wire wheel.

I actually used a fabric buffer to get the wire marks out of the brass and smooth it up a bit.

Finally I applied an antique finish used for finishing out gun barrels called gun brown. You just apply as many coats as you like to get the color you want. Then buffed it all out with some really fine grit polish on my buffing wheel. Next time I’ll try silver but I wasn’t sure about how all this would go on the first try.

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Memory Table

Have you ever had an animal that that you were extremely close to? A horse or a pet of some kind? If so chances are that you have lost one as well. I bought a horse over 20 years ago that really wasn’t much to look at but he was small and had a kind eye and I thought he would be good for my son to learn to ride on. It turns out he was a great horse! Not only did my son learn to ride on him but the whole family and nieces and nephews all had some time with this horse. His name was Dave although I can’t remember if that was his name when we got him or if we named him? You could gather cattle on Dave and sort them. You could ride trails and cross deep water. You could pack on him and he would stay put when you hobbled him. When the kids would ride him every now and then the saddle would get loose or they would be half asleep and start to lean to one side, Dave would walk his hind end over to get back underneath the saddle and keep the kid from falling.

After having the privilege to have Dave in our family for a number of years we lost him a while back. We weren’t certain exactly how old he was but somewhere around 25 which is a long life for a horse. This was really emotional for all of us and I wanted to do something to remember him by. You know how it is when you see someone after you know they have lost something close like Dave. It’s awkward, you are not sure if you should say anything or not. If you decide not to, then you always wonder if you should have? If you decide to your not sure exactly what to say?

I decided to build a table that is dedicated to Dave. I put a picture of him on it that is under the finish so it is a permanent part of the table. I used solid oak hardwood and made it old style with no nails or screws. It’s built like he was, not real fancy but solid and true. It turned out really nice.

 

 

The best thing about it is when someone comes over its a great conversation starter, even if they didn’t know Dave when they see the table its likely to spark a comment or a question and I get to share my story with them. If they did know him it will bring back a memory that they have and I might not even have known about which is really cool.

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Packing in the Upper Uintas Wilderness

I think everyone should take time out of their schedule to get away, clear their minds ,and gain a new perspective on life. For me, that comes in the form of loading a horse and packing in the mountains for a few days: no cell phone service, and really no other people. This time around, myself and two friends went to the Uinta Mountains in Utah.IMG_0163

Absolutely spectacular views, but some of the toughest terrain I have ever been on.

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It rained everyday, so we got to experience the real cowboy life.

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The above photo shows Leon looking down at a lake below a peak that we are about to go across. See the diamond shape in the rope on the pack horse? It turns out that Leon is a master at tying the double diamond, (one on each side) and those properly weighed packs stay right where they are supposed to. That is a huge benefit for the kind of terrain we were on. There was really no place to stop and readjust the packs.

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We just came up that! The rocks were loose, and the snow pack above us was melting… Water was running down the switchbacks. This country is hard on horse shoes!

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I was leading this yellow pack horse at one point on a steep switchback, and he decided not to walk all the way out on the turn. This put his hooves about even in height with my saddle, so I dallied tight. When my horse pulled, Yellow jumped and almost landed in the saddle with me. That wasn’t exactly how I had planned on going down, but hey, whatever works.

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The rock pile in front of the snow bank is how they mark the trail; you basically ride from one rock pile to the next. The weather was really nice besides being wet. It was in the upper 30’s at night and low 50’s during the day.

When I get pictures from Pancho and Lefty I’ll put them up as well.

Happy trails!

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Take The Time It Takes To Take Less Time

I studied horsemanship under a guy who used this saying a lot. “Take the time it takes to take less time”.  My introduction to the phrase came when he was demonstrating how to train a horse to load in a trailer, but it applies to almost everything you do in life and I find myself quoting it often.

We went to an outdoor arena, and the instructor had a young horse that was terrified to go into an enclosed trailer. He was very nervous; he felt threatened and trapped in such a small closed in space. As the instructor was coaching us on what to do, he said if the horse learns this today he will remember it the rest of his life, and it will make your life easier every time you want to haul him somewhere. Hmm… take the time it takes, and spend as much time as you need to today as an investment. Now it takes less time every time you want to haul the horse. He will walk right into the trailer; no fuss, no hesitation, just time saved every single time you want to go somewhere.

With horses it goes something like this: you want to get the horse to think that they can rest in the trailer. If they make any motion or look toward the trailer, you let them go that way. However, if they back away or make any move at all away from the trailer, you keep their feet moving with no rest until they go back toward it.

This mare was not scared of the trailer, but she wouldn’t go in without one person pulling and another pushing with all their might. Not cool when you are already running late to be somewhere.

Playing ball

Playing ball

I started her out with a large rubber ball and rode her around, letting her front feet come into contact with the ball. The movement does wonders for their confidence, as horses are natural born cowards.

Trailer loading

Trailer loading

Next we went to the trailer, and my goal here was to make it her idea to load. I wouldn’t get up in front and pull her in; I wanted her to walk in on her own. Notice her right heel cocked? We were in this position for a long time, just letting her go at her own pace.

Loaded

Loaded

The worst thing you can do here is make a sudden move to try and swing the gate shut! Horses play games pretty much all the time, and she would know that you tricked her if you slamed the gate shut. If this happened, the next time she would not load. The only thing I would ask at this point is that she back out when she is ready. I wouldn’t allow her to turn around and walk out. This is a stock trailer, but most horse trailers are walk in and back out only, so I want her to be comfortable with the backing and stepping down.

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She is trying to get the lead rope in her mouth in this picture. Always playing games, as I said! I was riding her with a rope halter and taught her to bend, flex, and stop from the ground before I ever climbed on. Every horse I trained went through this trailer loading exercise, and my first ride was always bareback with a halter. They need to be able to feel your cues before advancing to the saddle. When her owner came to get her, I led her up to the trailer and said “load”, and she jumped in. I was all smiles, and he was very impressed and had lots of questions. I just told him to take the time it takes so that it takes less time.

 

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Wayne and the Bear

A few years ago, some buddies and I decided to go retrace Lewis and Clark’s original trail through the Bitterroot mountains. We were able to get on it at a few different public places, and one in particular near Salmon Idaho was on several thousand acres of BLM land. It was the 200th anniversary of the trail, and we had all read about it and researched it enough to feel confident in navigating. So we loaded the horses and packs, and we took off toward Idaho. We took an extra horse and went through Denver pick up another friend, and I have to say it’s very interesting when you are traveling on the interstate with horses. When you pull in to a rest stop and unload your horses in the doggie exercise area, you get some really strange looks.

We pulled into a trail head near Salmon and made camp early in the afternoon, so we decided to ride out a little ways that evening to exercise the horses and get a feel for the area. As we were riding back toward camp, we came across some bear cubs eating chokecherries along a stream not far from our truck. We always carry guns in our saddle bags in case we get cornered, but these guys were so busy they didn’t even see us. As we got to camp and tied the horses and started supper, we wondered where the momma bear might be; and the conversation kinda went all over the range of possibilities. We were still talking when another group of people came riding out, (day riders who were obviously green horns because the guy leading them had on Tom Mix spurs…). You can a lot about a guy by the kind of spurs he wears.

Parked at trailhead

Parked at trailhead

Ole double rowel Tom (the one with the spurs) came over to our camp and started offering advice on where to ride and what to look for, which we quickly discounted on account of his spurs, and he finally moved on. Then came a couple guys riding nice horses, and they were sure nuff cowboys. They saw the beef plate on the front of our truck and came on over to visit. Come to find out, they were running cows on that land and had been out spotting them to move them off the next day. The pair were father and son, and they were local ranchers. After we talked a while, the father asked if we would be interested in helping him drive the herd. We agreed, and he said he would come for us at 7:00 the next morning to haul us and our horses to another spot closer to the cows. We got the horses fed and camp cleaned up and decided to turn in, cause it was gonna be a busy day tomorrow.

Pack trip Jay1

You can’t see it very well in this picture, but my friend Larry has a 12 foot lead tied by his trailer door, and he is about to attach a horse to it. Now I have to tie my horses short 4 feet or so or they will get tangled up in the rope and bang on the trailer until I get up and get them untangled, but not Larry’s horses. We got them all tied between the trailers and crawled up into the nose to sleep. Randy and I were in one trailer, and Larry and Wayne were in the other. Around 3 AM, Socks (Larry’s horse on the long lead) tried to reach some feed in the back of the truck, and he got his mouth on a plastic bucket. He could pick it up with his mouth, but the lead wasn’t quite long enough to let him get it out from under the trailer nose. So he would just pick it up and bang it on the trailer, then drop it and bang it on the truck bed, shaking the whole rig. Well, Wayne woke up in all this commotion and thought the momma bear had wandered into our camp. He was startled and not completly awake, but he managed to grab his pistol and was just fixin’ to throw the door open and start firing in the dark (toward our trailer). Thankfully, Larry woke up and was able to calm him down a little. They found a light and shined it all around, and there was Socks with the feed bucket. Randy and I slept through the whole thing, and we never knew how close we came to dodging bullets.

Jay, the local rancher, showed up on time and we were saddled and ready to go. He brought his cow dog, which was a huge help for getting the cattle out of the brush, and we had a great 12 hour day pushing cows.

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That’s Wayne in the foreground, and I’m the one turning them way out to the left.

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That’s me on Sport, and there’s Jay’s dog pushing them up the trail.Pack trip Jay4

We had a great big valley as you can see ahead of me there, and all we had to do was keep the cows bunched up and moving in the valley. We saw some of the prettiest country that day, it was awesome.

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We went through that gate and another couple miles to a road, and then we went on to Jay’ homeplace.

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There are Larry and Socks, keeping them tight on the other side.

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That is probably as close as I will ever get to the way a cattle drive was done back in the 1800’s, and it was something I had always wanted to do.

Pack RandyThat’s Randy on the good looking paint horse.

Pack Randy walkHe was a young horse, so when they had a long climb Randy would get off and lead him.

Pack horsesAt the end of the day, we would tie or hobble the Alpha horse and all the rest would stay put, just like a pack of wild horses will stay with their leader.

We all agree when we go on these rides that God made all this beautiful country to be experienced from the back of a horse, and the experience just can’t be beat!

 

 

 

 

 

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Horses for Handicap

I have ridden a lot of different horses for a lot of different people. A while back a lady brought me a horse to ride, and she didn’t have enough upper body strength to throw a saddle on. She wanted me to condition the horse to walk under a suspended saddle and stand while it was lowered onto the horse’s back. Well, I don’t know how much you know about horses, but they are natural born cowards and walking under something is not on their list of safe things to do. I really enjoy working with horses, and I told her I would see what I could do. I started the horse through my program, and he was a sweetheart without an ornery bone in his body.

Quincy starting under saddle

Quincy starting under saddle

I got him going well on the ground.

Changing from halter to bridle

Changing from halter to bridle

I handled all his feet and got him used to yielding to pressure.

Handeling horses feet

Handling horses feet

Once in the saddle, I started getting him used to things being above his head.

Dismounting from both sides

Dismounting from both sides

I started with swinging ropes, then a plastic bag, then a duster swirling around while I was in the saddle. He was doing exceptionally well, so I made a rope and pulley system to raise and hold the saddle up while I led him under it.

Standing under suspended saddle

Standing under suspended saddle

Lowering the saddle.

Standidng while lowering saddle

Standing while lowering saddle

Contact!

No lifting required

No lifting required

Undo the strings holding the saddle, tighten the cinch, and you are ready to go. This was a really gentle horse, and I was able to get him to this point in 30 days . His owner was thrilled about the horse’s progress, and the fact the she could ride again and saddle her horse on her own.

I’m always amazed by how much I learn when working with animals. Just like people, they are each unique and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The key is being able to identify what their strengths are and working on those areas. There are some horses that would never stand for this. Knowing this will take you a long way toward accomplishing your goals with horses. It just so happened this horse was a great fit for this lady. A match made in heaven.

 

 

 

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Waitin on Springtime

Waitin on Springtime

 

Sport my Quarterhorse

Sport my Quarterhorse

If my horse could talk, here’s what he would say

Im waitin on springtime with it’s warm sunny days

When the grass is all green and the pickins are great

I’ll be slicked off and sassy coming off winter break

Anyone can ride me, saddled or bareback, bridled or not

The winter has been long, and I want out of this lot

I’m a good solid cow-horse, I can keep a rope tight

I know just how much tension so the calves don’t fight

I can side-pass on gate duty, and ground tie and stand

I’m steady, even tempered, and they say a “good hand”

I carry my cowboy riding tall at any gait

Through sagebrush, canyons, and water without complaint

I can turn on a dime and leave you some change

Stop a cow, cut her out, turn her back, I love the game

I can trot the big circles and go all day long

Your spurs and your gear bounce in tune to my song

Younger horses are hard to catch, they shy and they buck

They baulk at water crossings and trailers and such

I come when you whistle, and stop on your cue,

I’m waitin on springtime to ride herd with you

 

 

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