Saturday, August 13, 2011
Dear friends and readers,
Please note that although I will no longer be continuing to post on High Mountain Horse, I'm still writing (and riding!) and look forward to sharing my new adventures with you. You can find me at GinGetz.com. I look forward to seeing you there.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I chose to geld my beautifully bred Arabian stallion so that no one would be pointing a blaming finger at me.
So much talk now a days about the death of the horse industry as we know it. The small time breeder has been put to blame in more than one publication. The big time breeder is still off the hook. We’re still letting them go. We’re still letting them breed the same names over and over, monotoning the colors of the horse world, saturating us with the same names and lines until we see them all intertwined and ultra related.
Where is diversity?
Where are the horses for you and me?
Or are there only meant to be the elite left riding?
I see it as the end of the back yard ponies. The rural world is changing, shrinking, going farther away, and less are going there. There are fewer folks relying on horses, owning horses, growing up with horses.
The very industry meant to support horses are helping to kill the hopes of those of us who just want a horse - not a $25,000 cutting horse prospect named Doc Peppy Bueno O’Lena from Texas.
Here’s the truth, harsh as it sounds, humble as it makes me seem: Some of us don’t NEED those horses. Some of us prefer other breeds, lesser names, the “mutts” and the horses that don’t all claim the same darned name as their sire or dam. Diversity is essential! Both in horse and in rider. Or have we forgotten?
Riding and horses are becoming elite. Let’s not encourage this elitism and discourage the responsible but smaller (oh my, but yes, perhaps lesser quality) breeder. Furthermore, I don’t know if the responsible breeder of a few horses a year is the one we should be pointing our finger at when you and I both know the large outfits keep hundreds of broodmares and produce factory “ranch colts.” But… they have known names and bloodlines so that’s all ok? I don’t think so.
Where does the problem really lie? Breeders? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s it. A shrinking industry? Hmmmm….
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Part Two of Going Barefoot by Tom Muller
The horses’ hooves were trimmed regularly, usually every three to four weeks, depending on foot condition and growth. Tools in use were just a good knife, a rasp and an S-shaped finer rasp to contour the hooves edges. The wall was rasped down over the whole surface in a first step. As this was done quite often (not a lot of hoof material was lost from walking actually), it was not necessary to take off too much, just a few millimetres in most cases.
Then the sole was cut with a very sharp hoof knife. Here less was more as well. If you took off too much the foot became too sensitive and you could see small haemorrhages in the sole, which could easily bring your horse down for a couple of weeks. As a general rule you could say that we cut about two millimetres below the level of the hoof wall, cutting deeper towards the frog. The frog itself was never cut, unless some parts were hanging loose.
As a last step the wall was slightly rounded with the S-shaped rasp, then the hooves were oiled. Oiling was imperative, especially during the dry season. Hooves would become very brittle and small parts of the wall could break out/off, in which case this part was rounded with a knife immediately. I had to trim a few horses’ feet that were so hard I had to put them overnight in an improvised water basin. I could not get any horn off the sole with my knife. During the rainy season all this changed to the opposite, when the horses were sloshing through water all the time.
Now I am no farrier, nor a hoof specialist, I was just an old fashioned horse trooper who had to keep his mount in perfect condition for service. When I had been promoted to officer there were a few things that I would check all the time on inspections and during operations. Weapons you never had a problem with, because they were the life insurance of each trooper, but so was his mount. Especially troopers who passed selection and joined the unit because of the reputation but not because of the love for horses, had to be looked after. Points that needed regular controlling were the horse’s feet and the back (including the saddle, blankets or pads and the girth/cincha).
I can only put down my experiences over the years and how we kept our mounts operational. A few points should be mentioned because to me, they seem very important. The type of horse used for this kind of barefoot “work” is imperative. You need a good working type horse, not too big with a naturally good hoof. The material in the horses paddock should consist of the same material it walks regularly. Now this might be difficult, but what I mean is the following: we operated on sand, so half the paddock was filled with sand; we operated on rocky ground, so we used these rocks to fill the other half of the paddock with this material. It was funny how some horsey and very knowledgeable people from all over the world would be surprised to see our horses rest in the rocky part, three legging it under one of the big Acacia trees.
Regular light trimming, rather than doing things the hard way every eight weeks was the key to success, at least in our case.
There are so many things I could still talk about, not just going barefoot, maybe if you people are interested, I’ll write some more about my horse experiences.
Tom, thank you for sharing. This is great. Informative, interesting, and inspiring. I for one would like to hear more. Friends and readers, please write me at LostTrailRanch@gmail.com if you’d like to send a comment to Tom, or if you too would like to read more.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Hello friends and readers.
I’m not “back.” In fact, I never left. But that’s another story I have no intention of boring you with at this point. What brought me out of my hibernation was a story I wanted to share with you coming from a new friend in Germany. Tom Muller and his wife live in the German Alps with their horses, hounds and goats in what seems like a place as remote and beautiful as where my family and I are living. Funny how something so far away can seem so close…
Anyway, Tom wrote recently and briefly shared with me his personal experiences working with barefoot horses. I was fascinated – and hooked – and asked him if he wouldn’t mind writing his story to share with you. I believe many of you (Rio in BC for starters!) will find his story as interesting – and informative – as I did.
The first part of his story follows. Thank you, Tom, for sharing this with us! We look forward to reading more.
Going Barefoot, by Tom Muller
Also noted as the use of unshod horses by the former Mounted Anti Poaching Unit in Namibia.
The Mounted Anti Poaching Unit of the Department of Nature Conservation in former South-West-Africa used the horses mobility and bush savvy of both horse and trooper to combat Elephant and Rhino poaching in the North of the war torn country in the 1980’s. Traditionally mounted patrols were always conducted by the game rangers of the Etosha National Park, the former Chief Ranger being the commanding officer of the South African Defense Forces Mounted Infantry Unit. A special unit was formed to combat organized poaching.
The terrain the unit operated in was mainly flat Savanna, with mountains in the West. Sandy plains often covered with lots of small rocks reached to the steep mountains. The rainy season (summer) was very hot and humid with temperatures above the 40°C mark, while during the dry season (winter) daytime temperatures would climb to a pleasant 30°C while the nights could bring frost and temperatures well below 0°C. The altitude was well over 1000 meters above sea level.
The duration of horse patrols could vary from one to six weeks. The longest patrol lasted 12 weeks. MAPU did control areas with high concentrations of game, would conduct follow up operations, control local villages, gather intelligence and conduct combined operations with the Army and Police. Depending on the type of ops conducted, the horses would be on the move for 6 to 12 hours a day, with troopers mounted and leading their horses alternately. Weight was kept at a minimum. The trooper, with a maximum of 15-20 kg’s of equipment including rifle, ammunition, rations, radio, water and pellets for the horse. Modified McClellan saddles were used and found very satisfactory. Snaffle bits and no curb bits were used.
Now comes the most important part. The mounts! Remounts were bought at farms from the Otjiwarongo region. They were mainly Boer horses with a certain amount of Arab blood (the higher the better). They stood about 14 ½ to 15 hands high and were raised on farms with a lot of mountains and rocky ground. When between 4 and 8 years old they came to MAPU and were trained by the unit. Mares and stallions were bought alike, stallions were castrated by the units vet. Horses that were raised like that had certain advantages that were invaluable. They had bush savvy and knew how to deal with predators, poisonous snakes, and changing weather. They knew how to move and negotiate rough country and flooded rivers. They were tough, hardy and reliable. Most important, they did have very tough hooves adapted to the country they were working in. Black hooves were tougher than white hooves, although a fair amount of horses did have white hooves and never went lame. Two horses shared a paddock of half sand and rocks. Keeping them on the same ground they were supposed to work on, was one of the essential things to keep their hooves tough but not brittle. Big Acacia trees gave the necessary shade and shelter. Feed troughs were put on a concrete slab under one of the trees.
That concludes Part 1. We look forward to Tom sharing his next installment with us!
Thank you, Tom.
Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All messages referring to this and related articles will be forwarded to Tom.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Life is nothing if not an adventure, I once read.
Horses, I remind him. I have to work with horses. And so, we will continue to do so. Just in a different location, and for a very different means...
On one hand here, we’ve become too comfortable. A bit of “been there, done that,” combined with years of building and setting up our home and ranch so nicely that now we feel a bit sinful living so well at such a young age (can I still call 43 young?).
On the other hand, it could never be comfortable enough. As in, I lost horses due to the altitude and soil bacterium. And not just any horse, like a good old horse that had a good long life. No, I lost foals. Foaling is the highlight of my year. How can I live where I can’t have foals?
And so we pack out bags, and our brand new (new to us, at least) horse trailer and head north!
North? Yes, way north! It’s cold up there, someone told me. Well guess what? It’s cold here in Colorado, if you live at 10,000 feet elevation! I understand where we’re going up there already has dry ground. Here we’re still tucked in under two feet of packed winter snow. Today didn’t even rise up to 30 degrees and the snow fell horizontally. So if you’re worried about our heading to a cold climate, well, I think we can handle the cold.
And so our adventures continue. In fact, I think they’re only just beginning. Every day is a new beginning, remember? We’re off to begin a great journey of which the horse will continue to be a part, or perhaps even a greater focus. Just you wait! Yes, I’m so very excited!
So much to do to make it happen. So much to learn once we begin. For now, no time to sit around and write about it. It’s time to begin it!
Leap and the net appears!
For now, I’m still weaving that net… but don’t be gone too long; I’ll be back soon to share the adventures with you.
Stay tuned for a link to our new site…
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Here our world remains white. Winter remains. I reflect back upon post from earlier this winter, originally posted on the High Mountain Muse site.
I know spring is coming, though it may be harder to see here. Our mare, Tres, the first of the season due to foal, has been led off the mountain into caring hands where we anticipate a new life, a healthy colt, soon, so very soon…
In the meanwhile, I share this with you about the world from which she just descended, the world in which we still remain.
The horses’ coats are thick and heavy. Shaggy, fuzzy horses. Wild beats to look at. Even their winter coats do not keep the cold from penetrating their skins, chilling them deep within. Frost builds up on their eyelashes and at the base of their tail. Small opaque icicles form around their muzzles.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Us back country users/enjoyers are getting greyer, and the younger generations aren’t going out there. Why not? If we can blame someone, do we blame ourselves, the parents and elders, who don’t make the time to take the kids on a pack trip, a camping weekend, or even a long Sunday hike? If they aren’t given the chance to be out there, how will they learn to appreciate the wild? How will they ever know how incredible it feels, smells, sounds, looks? There are some things that can not be replaced by the TV, the Game Boy, and Instant Messenger. Are we teaching our kids to sit and listen to stories, to walk in nature, to stop and listen and look and feel the beauty of the world around them? Is it too late?
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Tom Dorrance is often quoted as having said, “Listen to the horse. Try to find out what the horse is trying to tell you.”
But I’d like to know, how do we know what the horse is telling us until we learn to speak their language? I suppose it is easier for those born into the world of horses. That’s a great place to begin. However, for those who were not, those that sought horses on their own, and even (oh my!) not until adulthood, learning the language is more difficult. Just like learning a second language, it is of course possible, but how much easier when we are raised in a bi-lingual household!
That, my friend, is what makes a good teacher. One who can point out not only what the horse is saying, for those of us uncertain of the language, but also explain the language to us. Translate, if you please. And in time, we thus can learn to understand what the horse is saying.
As Wendy Murdoch points out in her book, “Simplify Your Riding” (copyright 2004 by Wendy Murdoch), “The adage ‘the horse is your teacher’ is only useful if you understand what the horse is teaching. It is difficult to ‘let the horse teach you’ if you don’t know what the lesson is.”
I’m also pretty interested in Wendy’s point of view on “modern methods” of teaching in which the student/teacher/horse interact in a positive manner to achieve positive results, as opposed to “traditional methods of teaching people how to ride (which) include repetition, exhaustion, negative reinforcement, and domination…Yelling and screaming at students only drives them further into the undesirable pattern because when stressed we simply react, we don’t learn.”
I’d like to learn. I’ll choose my teachers accordingly.
Likewise, when I’m here to teach, I am learning to be a better teacher using the positive reinforcement, striving to increase both knowledge and confidence in my riders, and hopefully enjoying the process together!
I intend to always be learning, to always be open to new ideas, and by golly, I’ll be one lucky lady if I can keep up with working with my horses long enough to accomplish half the goals I hope to achieve in terms of horsemanship.
I will never live long enough to do it all, master all, and certainly not know it all. I know of no one who has lived that long. What I can do is enjoy learning and continue trying. What more can we each ask for?
Time to get off my high horse…
I end with a quote I read recently, though I do not know its source:
"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Out there with our horses?
I was giving some thought to this question, considering the feeling of being out there at camp with our horses in the high country. I lost myself in the reverie of sitting in the warm sun, my back against a large, smooth rock with a book in hand as my horses graze contentedly in the tall grass around me at the end of a long day in the saddle. Together, dreamily, we watch the shadow of the sun slowly falling behind the mountain, inching its way across the valley towards us.
It is far away now, that picture, as our world is white and frozen, our horses still shaggy, and morning temperatures still sinking below zero. But the feeling is very close. It is inside me, something I cherish, something I will always have with me.
I’ve discussed the “how to” of horse camping quite often and in details here, but more important to me, I consider the “why.”
The “how” enables us. The “why” drives us.
That “why” is a clear picture to me. It is the picture of traversing a narrow cliff on a surefooted horse and descending the rocky slope into a lush green valley, my horse and I, worn and tired but elated to be there. We pause, look about to notice the elk scatter before us under the shadows of red tail hawk circling high above. Then my horse lowers his head to taste the high mountain grass, and I dig into my saddle bag to pull out a snack. We remain there a moment before moving on. We savor the mountain together.
“Why” is much more than a picture. “Why” is a feeling. It is the feeling of camaraderie, of connection with our horses. We remain with them, partners, a team. Out there, we don’t leave them behind, put them back in the barn or turn them out to pasture until we need them next. We stick together, work together, get tired together, rest together, stop and enjoy the view together. We face challenges together not so different than the knight in shining armor heading into battle on his trusty steed. There is the essential element of trust. Neither of us would be there if not for the other. Together, we can conquer. The mountain. Our fears.
We return a different team, together, closer, more compassionate, more efficient, clearer in our communication and understanding with and of each other. And don’t tell me the horse doesn’t see that view. And feel the fresh air and dewy grass and comfort of the woods at night and warmth of the sun in the early morning and the coolness of the clear mountain stream, and the gentleness of my cheek as I rest my head across the low of his bare back in the evening sun as he stands out in the open field, very much at home with our horse and human herd, together in these wild open mountains.
They feel it too. I’ve had my horses run jubilantly, kicking up their heels in an uncontained joy if allowed, when then know they are almost to “their” favorite camp.
For most of us, horses are no longer a means to an end, a mode of transportation. Those that still treat their horses that way get what they ask for.
The trip is but the excuse. An excuse to be with our horses in a more intimate environment than anything we can find or create back home, at the barn or in the arena. Being out there, together. It’s as much, perhaps more, about the relationship with horse than it is about the journey. The horse therefore becomes the journey, more so than the places we pass through and the camp we arrive at together.
That is why we go there. To be out there with them. Out there with our horses. Enjoying the mountain, enjoying our horses, building trust, learning a quiet communication, creating a camaraderie and building companionship.
And of course, all along the way out there we can share the view and the wideness of our hearts and minds as we stop and stare at it... together.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Just as this did not deter me from finding and creating a life with horses, it also need not be the demise of the horse industry. Perhaps it is just time to readjust our way of looking at the horse world.
If the numbers are fewer for those of us who live and work with horses, perhaps our responsibility for sharing our knowledge and experience is now greater. We can reach more people, teach more people, and share our life – and horses – with more, especially the younger generation who just might get the same “horse crazy” bug that many of us found ourselves with.
In fact, the sharing of our horse understanding, passions and skills need not be limited to the young. There are plenty of excellent and dedicated horsepersons – both professionals and enthusiasts – that were not “exposed” to horses until later in life. But they would never have turned to the world of horses if they never had the opportunity, the simple introduction.
That’s our job. It should be the job of all us horsemen and women to be not only ambassadors of the sport, but representatives for the horse. All we need to do is open the window to this world a little bit and let the fresh breeze flow through.
It is no longer easy. For most, horses are not readily accessible, just down the road, and part of the extended family. Demographics show our society as a whole is now further removed from the rural lifestyle – and the ensuing knowledge and experience with horses that this could allow. Horses are no longer a way of life, or even a part of life, for most families. Two generations ago, many folks still had or knew families living and working on farms with horses. With each generation, these numbers dwindle. Thus the opportunities for even the extended family and friends to “get to know” horses – say, the young suburban family coming for the weekend to visit the grandfolks who are still managing the old farm – are fewer and fewer.
But not gone. The opportunities are still there. We may just have to work a little harder to find them. And for those of us with horses, working with horses, we may just have to work a little harder to share them.
Now, I don’t want to share my horses, per say. They are not only my business and my work partners, but they are a part of my family. But what I can do is share my knowledge, share my experiences, and help pass on the passion I have for my horses, even if it means taking a friend out to the pasture to just walk by and talk to the horses, or a child out to groom and learn to pick a hoof.
It is up to those of us who still do live and work with horses to share our knowledge and pass it on. Our responsibility to teach, to share, to pass on the skills, the traditions, the ethics, manners, dedication and hard work. As an outfitter, horses have also been a part of my job. At times I am as awkward charging for my services and lesson as I often feel charging for cabin rentals when I feel like folks are here as my guests. But horses aren’t free, and they sure aren’t cheap. Feed, supplements, vet bills, shoeing expenses, transportation, insurance, tack and tools, etc., etc., etc. So yes, like it or not, sometime we do have to charge… it is a practicality we can not avoid. But it is not one that should limit us in our ability to reach others, just a minor detail.
The largest burden here seems to fall on the grandparents. And for grandfolks with horses, I’ve been told, it is not such a tough part of the job! Probably more like of the best. Sharing horses with grandkids.
Well, I don’t have grandkids yet, but I do have a bunch of young nieces and nephews. These are my surrogate grandkids for now, and the focus of my “passing it on.”
We share and show what we can, when we can. Sometimes, here, with us, will be the child’s only opportunity to glimpse into another world and take a bite, and hopefully, as is with a small but important percentage, taste enough to be hooked, to get the horse fever.
It’s not just horses; it’s the whole rural lifestyle. Camping, campfires, baking bread, gathering eggs, shoveling manure. It’s a package deal, and few kids don’t enjoy at least parts of it. They may not choose to live it, but they can love it. They will always remember this, and for those lucky enough to have had the chance to be exposed to our lifestyle and our horses, the memories and skills and understanding will remain with them forever.
Take a kid riding. Take a friend riding. Have someone share in the chores, the care, the companionship. Bring a friend to a horse show, on a trail ride, to a lesson. It can no longer be about “me and my horse.” Perhaps it’s time we began to consider it is more about “us and our horses.” All of us. So, let’s share our passion and enthusiasm for horses and riding. Let’s pass it on.