Tuesday, May 30, 2017

* * Well~ Ya Don't Say!***


When I was growing up there were a whole lot of myths about horses that were passed down. Most were imparted by my Dad, but a few others were growled at me by the old cowboys that worked the ranch.  Of course as a young impressionable cowgirl, I never thought about disproving these myths- until recently I saw a video and caught myself snorting in derision.

I got to wondering, if any of the things I was told by those old cowboys was in any way right!
Were they true or were they told as cautionary tales?

I decided to do a little research.



1. "If you go barefooted around the barn, you are gonna get hookworms."

Answer~ Yes! Humans can in fact get hookworm
Besides the obvious hazard of stepping on a sharp bit of brick a brack, or having your toes mashed by a stray hoof, humans can get hookworms from going barefoot in a stable yard. 





2. "Never teach your horse to rear, he'll do it when you least want him to and you will get hurt."

Answer~ Rearing is a dangerous habit and a hard one to break. Unless you are training a War Horse ( like the Lipizzaner ) it is a really BAD idea. I HATE a rearing horse, mostly because I have had more than one rank horse rear and fall on me. An unbalanced horse on two legs- well that is just a bad thing. 



3. " Always look at the whorls on a horses face before you buy him. They can tell you what personality he will have."

Answer~ Whorlology- it's a thing! Check out the article I found and the research that some people, including Temple Grandin, have done on that very subject. And here I was thinking it was just a fairy story! 



4. "Never ride with tennis shoes, you might get your foot caught in the stirrup and be dragged to death."

Answer~There are a lot of good reasons to ride in boots. Boots have a heel, heels keep your foot from sliding clear through the stirrups. On a few of the horse forums that I monitor the discussion turns to "Oh, just keep your foot in the proper position and you wont have any trouble with riding in sneakers," To that I say- " You have never ridden a spooky horse." I have seen professional riders lose control of their mounts, be unseated and flip out of the saddle before you can say " Tennis Shoe". The heels of their boots, along with their foot slipping free of the boot has saved a few riders from disaster. 
Other reasons to wear boots around the stable:
A. Spurs fit better and don't slip. 
B.Toes are not as easily crushed in a sturdy boot. 
C. Urine isn't as easily soaked up when wading through the stalls. 
D. Toes fit into the stirrup more readily.
E. Saddles leathers aren't as likely to pinch exposed ankles and calves. 




5. " One white foot, buy him, two white feet, try him. Three white feet eye him , Four white feet, deny him."

Answer~Absolute poppycock. It was believed that white hooves were not as strong as black hooves. We know now that the make up of a hoof has nothing to do with color. I have had white horses with hard black hooves, and white footed horses with soft hooves. That's what farriers are for! 



6. Beware the Chestnut mare!

Answer~ Horses have two base coat colors, red and black. Having said that, the most common color is Chestnut which is in the red family. If you assume that of the red horses in the world, at least half are mares and prone to be 'marish' or cranky. It would be no surprise then that having a cranky red mare might be the norm. From any research I have done, there is no correlation between coat color and temperament. I do know though from experience that if you breed a cranky red mare, you may also get a red filly, who may have it's dams fiery temperament. 



7. A horse that can roll completely over is one worth keeping.
Answer~ Horses can roll for various reasons, and letting them do so is beneficial to their health. I've always thought that a horse that rolls completely over is flexible. Check out this article I found and decide for yourself. 


I'm sure there are a lot of other horse related myths that I haven't heard, if you know any good ones please let me know! 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

So You Want to be a Horse Trainer.


So you want to be a horse trainer? It sounds like the best job in the world doesn't it! 

A Horse Trainer gets to ride all day for a living. 
A Horse Trainer doesn't have to go to School to be a Horse Trainer. 
A Horse Trainer hangs out in the Barn all day. 
A Horse Trainer is loved and respected by every one. 
A Horse Trainer has a wall full of Ribbons and Trophies. 
A Horse Trainer gets to drive a Truck and pull a cool trailer.

Well, I guess a lot to those things are true, but there is a lot more to consider. 

I used to want to be a horse trainer, when I was young and felt that I could ride anything. I 'trained' a few horses too. 


And I thought, " I could do this for a living. I don't have to get up and go to a job...inside an office...and answer to a boss! "

So I started hanging around a few 'real' horse trainers. I'd follow them around, just to absorb their secrets. That was in the old days when you didn't have to join a club or go to a clinic or visit a horse expo. You could make friends with a trainer and work for him, or her, for free of course, and maybe...just maybe, learn a thing or two. 
And soon enough this is what I learned. 

You can start small. Real small. Like "You are living in the front of a six horse slant load" small. "You have no heat, or bathroom or kitchen", small. 

You don't need to get up early to go to a job, just roll out of your cot, shake the spiders out of your hair and pull on muck boots- at 5 AM or earlier- to feed the horses and clean the stalls so you can get to work before the sun comes up. This is rain or shine, heat or snow- even on weekends. Even if you are sick. Even when you feel like death warmed over. 

  After feeding, the horses need to be groomed. A full groom too- all the tools from hoof pick to vacuum. Tails washed, braided and sacked. Then saddle a few, put them on a hot walker, choose one to bridle and work and ride. Try not to get thrown. Try harder not to get frustrated. Try your hardest to communicate with that horse despite all odds against you. 
Ride, rinse, repeat until all the horses have been worked.
 Feed lunch.  


Then the Trainer needs to think about the stable- big or small, the stalls needed bedding. The hay has to be delivered. The farrier, the vet and the massage therapist have to be scheduled. PG&E- make sure it is paid! Blankets need to go to the cleaner. Saddles need to be repaired. Start the evening feeding, make sure all the blankets are on, tuck all the horses into their stalls and go find a cold sandwich for dinner, because you were too busy to go to the grocery store today. 

 Someone calls about buying a horse, or selling a horse, or wants advice on buying a horse that the Trainer isn't selling. Little Jill wants lessons, Grandma wants to pay, they can only come on Saturdays after 7 PM. There are Futurities and Horse Shows to schedule for the talented horses, and sales to schedule for the older un-talented horses. The Arena needs watering, and why is that gate off the hinge? Abner threw a shoe, but the farrier was here just last week and won't return calls. Sally wants to know, "Can I wear a lavender hat in the Breed show next week?"



If times are slow the Trainer gives 'outside' riding lessons in between riding client horses. Sometimes the kids cry. Sometimes the kid won't get off the horse after the lesson is done, more frequently the kid won't pay attention. Mom rushes in, wants to take her other kids to soccer practice, wants to drop Jr off, "just for a minute, I'll be right back!" Only to be gone hours. 




Trainers also have to deal with the regular paying Clients. The people who own the horses and pay the bills. And this is where it gets tricky. 

Horses are just horses. They walk and think and act like horses. 

But Clients, well they have 'personalities'. 



Some have un-realistic views on the horses they own. Some want more lessons, some want less. Some are aggressive. Some are timid. Some can't afford the horse they own. Some don't care about anything except winning. Some are happy just to stay in the saddle. Some just want to say,' I own a horse '. Some are 'pot-stirrers' or gossips or Drama Queens. A Trainer has to deal with ALL of them, equally,frequently and kindly.  

No one trains a Trainer to do all of this- it is something you have to learn the hard way, by gathering, and sometimes losing,clients. It takes talent, and a love of horses. It takes the fortitude of a warrior along with the subtly of a psychologist. It takes humor with equal doses of humility. 



Just because you call yourself a " Trainer " doesn't mean you are one. I can call myself  Buster Posey all day long, it doesn't make me a Professional Ball Player. 

A Professional Trainer has learned the ropes, has met the challenges and risen to the top. They have paid their dues and then some. If there is any respect to be had, they have certainly earned it. 
If you want to be a Trainer, be forewarned that it is sometimes thankless and always difficult. You probably won't make it into the Big Leagues, very few do. Your reward will come from the smiles of your happy clients, and the bright shine of a healthy horses coat.

As a Client, when you shell out your hard earned cash to a Professional Trainer, think about the scope and responsibility of their jobs and write that check gladly. 
If it weren't for them, the Horse World would be a far lesser place.



                                       In Memory of Dick Hardy
                                             an Epic Trainer 
                                                Mentor
                                             and Friend



Monday, May 8, 2017

Doc

Being a writer, albeit a poor one, I am quite often left disappointed in the books I read, but when I read one by a master story teller I will shout it to the rafters.

One such Author is Mary Doria Russell.





The Novel is Doc

Like Cher, or Liza or any number of one named stars, the name Doc brings to mind the one and only Doc Holliday. But he is not the whore-monger, the drunk or the steely eyed rake that Hollywood has made him out to be.

He was a Southern Gentleman, raised with genteel manners and a debilitating disease that he learned to combat early in life.

He was generous and loyal to a fault, but he also could cut a man with nothing but clever words.






Mary Doria Russell uses language like a photographer uses light. Each sentence so full of life and vigor, expressing the nature of Doc Holliday like no other novel before. From the opening sentences,

    " He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness."

...To the final poem, written by his companion Kate Haroney, the story is full of impossibly poignant insights, gut wrenching descriptions of Doc's disease and sly humor. Once I turned the last page, I turned again to the front and began the story all over again.

Mary Doria Russell wisely leaves out the Tombstone chapter of Doc's life, focusing instead on the life he had before that fateful day at the OK Corral. And yet every sentence is infused with the knowledge of that day, the reader knowing what Doc didn't yet know.  She sprinkles heroic context into the body of the novel, using The Odyssey, Homer and Classic literature with such a light hand that one might not ever notice.
The novel flows so effortlessly, it is almost as if you were there, in the room, knowing these characters like you would know your neighbors.

This novel is worthy of any Western lovers library. It is certainly going on my bedside table, where I will read it again and again and again.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring is Here~ It must be Horse Selling Time!




Do you remember the days of real horse trading?  Looking back on them, it seemed so simple. Buy a horse. Sell a horse. Trade a horse. You had to be sharp, knowledgeable and sometimes skeptical. You learned as you progressed. " Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I made some good deals and some bad deals, but I didn't make the same mistakes twice.

I began selling horses about age 11. People didn't seem to care that I was making these deals with out benefit of adult supervision. My money was green and that was all that mattered. Once I wanted a pony and cart, so I bought the cart and talked my older sister into buying the pony. She paid a lot for her too- I think $50! Horses were cheap then. $100 for a older broke gelding, $300 for a younger one.



But buying and selling horses today is almost a completely different thing. Now we have Cell phones, personal computers, web pages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so many equine sites that I can't even begin to name them instead of the local paper or a post card tacked up at the feed store.
You have trainers of every sort with YouTube Videos and you can even post your own video faster than you could recite the Pledge of Allegiance.You have the power and knowledge of the planet in the palm of your hands!










So why, oh why,do we still see ads that are SO bad? Just some local examples~

"Bay Overo Gelding. Rides Western, Pleasure and Some Trail. Loads, Ties, Baths and stands for Ferrier. Sound with no issues. Very Athletic, Excellent Barrel Prospect, Just needs a Job!"

 "3 little Horses for my daughter but they need more care and attention than we can give. Beautiful animals need loving home. Pictures did not come out good because of rain. Must see.... if you have any technical question about them I don't have answer because I m not a right person to ask but you are more than welcome to stop and see them and check your self"

"I have my 10 year old gilding for sale or trade. I broke him about 4-5 months ago. He's pretty gentle and easy to handle. But he is an Arab and a little green so he needs a rider who isn't afraid to show him who's boss. He's a great trail horse. Lifts all his feet. Had his teeth floated when I got him. He's also gun broke. You can shoot what ever you want off his back and he won't throw you off. I don't have any paper work on him hints why I'm only asking 500 or trade. I'm willing to trade for other horses,cows,guns, ranch quad, or really any man stuff. "

"Horse for sale he's bout 20 years old gelding quarter horse please call or text if interested" 



I haven't included the pictures that headed up these ads, but I'll get to that too. 

These are the information tags that get me shaking my head:

 " Barrel Prospect" 
" Just needs a job"
"I don't have time for him" 
"Has no kick,buck,bite or rear in him"



  Selling a horse is hard enough! Horse ownership is dying luxury. To sell a horse,( or almost anything else,) you have to create desire. Make the reader of your ad just drool over your horse. Make your sale animal the best thing he's ever read about- and do it all without over exaggerating your horses skill level! 

What information could you get from a picture like this?
Not much! 


Begin by writing your ad as if you were buying a horse yourself. What are you looking for and why does your horse qualify? You must have had a reason for buying him in the first place.
Take a moment to read SOLD ads on big websites like DreamHorse. What made those horses appealing? 

Amatuer friendly,willing, talented, APSL! (Gala)
Bay Lusitano Gelding

 Look at this SOLD ad. It announces up front that this is a horse that an Amatuer could ride, It's friendly, willing and talented. Then it says Bay Lusitano Gelding. The rest of the ad shows several well taken pictures , the age of the horse and a price. Contact information that is clear and concise. 

Use your best description, use positive words. Say what your horse is NOW- not what you think he may turn out to be,...as a last resort... if someone who knows horses can get him and train him.  Not every horse is a "barrel prospect" and in fact just saying that means that you have never taught that horse the word Whoa.

EXAMPLE: Wonderfully Marked Bay Overo Gelding. Fun to ride. Friendly in your pocket kind of horse. Can turn on some speed. Needs an intermediate rider. Price $XXXX Come take him for spin around the Ring, load him up and take him home! 

Overusing phrases like " He needs a job", or " I don't have time for him" tells me that he is probably as wild as the East Wind and will need a lot of work. And FYI ...every horse will bite, kick rear and buck if frightened,threatened or hurt, so STOP putting those things in your ads. 


Please take the time to actually put a halter on your horse when you take his picture. Call your spouse, kid,neighbors or friends to come hold him while you take his picture. And here is a novel idea; how about a curry comb? They are cheap enough to own- use one with some vigor before the picture is snapped. 


Butt pictures of your pony? STOP! No one cares! In the early 50's it was fashionable to take those butt snaps of heavily muscled quarter horse stallions. What interested buyers want to see now is conformation. Take those pictures in a flat pasture, driveway or even the street, but take them! 


I do not want to see your helmet-less two year old riding, leading, kissing or brushing the horse. I don't want to see any person in the picture unless they are riding the horse in the way you are intending him to be sold. If you are jumping the horse, have proper footgear and headgear.

Same horse as below, although the picture dose not show his conformation, you can see that he is quiet enough to take to a local show. Rider is focused on the ride and the horse, so is not distracting in the picture. Add this picture to the next one and you've got your self a great ad started. 


 If you are reining, show me a picture of him loping. Pleasure horses; how about a nice framed jog picture? 
And even a simple picture will do the trick. 
Set your horse up as squarely as possible. Have him clean as a whistle! Mane and tail brushed, feet trimmed. A simple background helps focus on the horse.
Same horse, on a trail ride. Can't see his pretty head because he has too much tack on. Legs are not visible because of leg protection. Bad angle doesn't show his conformation, and he looks light in the hind end. Plus no one wants to see an old lady riding him- they want to envision themselves riding him. 


Use the Video function of your cell phone to take controlled video of your horse.CONTROL being the word I stress here.  I sure don't want to see him tearing around your corral, a debris strewn pasture or muddy paddock. Not everyone has a beautiful indoor arena, but almost everyone has a flat, safe space to lunge their horse. 

And my most hated type of picture in a horse ad... people standing on their horses. Really. Just Don't!


If you are going to try to sell your horses yourself this year, I hope these guidelines will resonate with you. It takes a lot more effort to sell your animal, but the rewards will be greater. Not just monetarily, but for the new Owner as well. You know that your new buyer will see this horse as valuable, loved and that someone will hold him responsible for treating the horse as you did- with respect.

                                                              Happy Horse Trading!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bloody Hell

Not that long ago, not so very far away, I was a bright eyed teenager going out on my own into the world. I went to an Interview for a local retailer and was ushered into the cubicle of a low level manager and his dumpling of a secretary. I wore a short skirt, because that is what I owned in 1974. I sat down, adjusted my skirt, and came to attention. The manager greeted me as Miss and asked me a series of questions, most of which I do not remember. But there was one question I DO remember- quite clearly in fact. He asked me if I would have any trouble directing servants.

Yep. Servants.

I was taken aback, because in my family I WAS the servant.

Now before I tell you the rest of the story and my reason for blogging today, let me just take you in the Way-Back Machine ( And if you know what that is, you can skip this section if you like!)

In the days of Black and White Television, there was a little show called " Hazel", She was the maid of a middle-class white family. She was sassy, and bossy and got into some hi-jinks or other every week. She kept her family safe and happy while doing her job with a smile. I take the time to add, Hazel was a middle aged white woman.

Then there was The Brady Bunch and their lovable maid named Alice. She ran the kitchen, deferring to Mr. Brady's wise and sage advice all while keep the brood of six children well fed and rounded -up. Mrs Brady did nothing but sit on the couch and look pretty.

Since there were seven of us children in our house, I used to ask my mother," Why don't we have a maid?" Her standard answer; "You all are the Maids."

So When Mr Manager asked me if I could direct servants, I didn't hesitate, I said "of course."

Then he asked me if I was planning to get married and have children.

After escaping the above-mentioned family with 6 children and all my families chores, of course I said, "No.".

I learned much later that those kinds of questions were really inappropriate. The reason they asked was to determine how much training they were going to give me in my job. If I was only there to look for a husband, they were only going to give me basic work. If I wanted a career, ( AKA No Children) then the Company would invest in more training and a higher salary for me.

A few years later, I applied for another job. I again went to the interview in a short skirt. The Interviewer asked me why I wanted a job at UPS. I told him I liked trucks, and showed him my work hardened hands. He hired me on the spot. I don't know if it was my hands or the fact that I had a great pair of pins- it didn't matter. I got the job, and for the next 12 years I fought like a wildcat to keep it.

Why? Because men did not want to give a young girl a job in a man's industry- driving trucks.
I was asked daily why I wanted to take away a MAN's job? I guess it didn't occur to them that I was supporting a young daughter by myself.

If I had ever called in sick because of a bad cramp, or said I couldn't lift the boxes, or couldn't haul the truck around, I would have lost my job. I did that job- rain or shine. I did it while sick. I did it while pregnant and I even lost two babies while doing it.

Feminism~ bah! When the men on the line are watching you, waiting for you to fail, waiting for you to cry Uncle, waiting for you to break down, you learn to just bear down and work. Because of me and a few hardy women like me, we made it possible for other women to have those higher paying but difficult jobs. Our mantra: Anything you can do,I can do too. And we did. And we looked good doing it.  

Like Tom Hanks said in a League Of Their Own, " There is no crying in baseball.."

So when I heard on the news the other day that Italy has implemented a Menstrual Day Off Policy I just about croaked. I feel like the rug was pulled out from under our feet and that all the sacrifices that my women friends and I made are for nothing.
For so many years we worked like men. Demanded the same pay, the same days off, the same benefits as our men counter parts, only to now have some bull shit legislator undermine it by giving us Menstrual Days off.

As if having a Period was a sickness, or worse, a weakness.

I am ashamed of our young women, to use our femininity like this.

What next?
Ordering servants around?