Friday, February 22, 2008

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot????

Folks, this is a public service announcement right here. Anyone who works with horses, or knows someone who does, needs to pay attention to this.

There is a man out there, advertising that he has the final solution to a bucking horse, a device that will stop the buck in its tracks, which is humane and an effective training tool.

He's full of shit.

I refuse to link to the site here, but I will tell you the name of the device. It is the Barnes No Buck Horse Trainer. Look it up if you like.

This device is an adjustable leather halter, with aircraft cable run through pulleys on the ends of the cheek pieces, up and around the ears of the horse. Once you have the halter on, you simply tie a rein to the conveniently looped ends of the cable, and hook it over your saddle horn.

I'm going to quote here the inventor himself on the effect of the device.

"It can't buck you - when he puts his head down it puts pressure on the nerves and paralyzes the horse. A horse can't buck very hard with its head up."

W. T. F.

Ok let's take this one step at a time for those of my readers who may not be familiar with one of the basic concepts of horse training for fun and profit.

The entire basis of training a prey animal is, at its heart, pressure, and release. The main response of an animal which has the instincts of those who are hunted is to move away from pressure. This may sound backwards on some things, but let me explain.

When you are teaching a horse to drive, that is, teaching him what you want when you direct him with the reins one way or another, you pull on the rein on the side you want him to go. By moving in that direction he is positioning his body and his head to ease that pressure, moving the point of contact away from the direction the pressure is coming from.

Same thing on round penning. You put "pressure" on the back half of the horse in the form of body language, a swinging rope, or a lunge whip making noise, and they move forward. Move your body to be in front of his shoulder and you've moved the pressure from the back to the front, and he slows or stops.

In this way we make doing what we want the horse to do the easy thing for it to do. Consistent application of pressure and release will get you from Point A to Point B in a consistent fashion, is easy for the horse to learn, and is a solid foundation on which to build a relationship of trust with your horsey friend.

These are signals that are readily understood by the horse because it fits in with their mentality. Yours too. Think about it, if someone pokes you, you move away.

Now, let's consider once again this so-called miracle device. The steel cable runs up and around the ears, with a connecting... something... spreading the effect across the poll. A definite pressure point and one that every trainer calls upon at some point or other, in my experience usually in the form of using the halter to pull a horse's head down for the bridle, or using draw reins to correct a horse's headset.

But the point of this device is not to get the horse to lower his head. No, friends, that would make entirely too much sense. The point of this amalgamation of bad ideas is to keep the horse's head up. When the horse lowers his head, the "rein" attached to this torture device pulls on the steel cable, which puts pressure on the poll and around the ears, pushing the horse's head down. Lowering the head in response to the downward pressure only increases that pressure, which, duh, becomes painful.

Eventually, the confused equine learns that pressure at the poll means "put your head up!" Which would undoubtedly effect future training efforts in the area of bridling etiquette, and leading at halter. After all, who doesn't want to refine their horse's leading until he'll walk quietly beside you without you ever having to touch the lead?

And, dear friends, this is all without ever mentioning the fact that a horse who truly wants to buck and be cranky will learn that the only thing stopping him is that device. Which means, the instant you saddle up without it, you're getting piled, and piled hard.

And the charlatan passing this... thing.... off as an effective and humane training tool has the gall to not only offer to buy any horse that can buck him off wearing it (his brother has a string of rodeo broncs, ya know,) but to charge over two hundred dollars for it.

Sure, it might work, but I have to wonder how many horses who are simply confused, nervous, or lacking in confidence in the human race (well with this sorry specimen running around can we really blame them?) are going to be tortured because of one man's stupidity.

If this dude was any closer, I'd have to take a road trip, just so I could slap him upside his damn fool head.

I'll leave you with a quote from his promotional video....

"This is perfect for children, older people, and wimmin and such."

And my response to that quote......

"Fuck you buddy, learn to ride."


I think I have a magnet in me. It attracts me to the most contrary, odd horses possible.

For instance, the other day, Red was discovered dripping sweat, from his belly, the underside of his neck, and his flank. Everywhere else was dry. He was breathing shallowly and quickly. He was not coliced. He had no reaction to feeling his legs, no swelling, no pain on the surface anywhere we could find.

Marilyn didn't know what it was. JJ didn't know what it was. It was finally decided to treat it like gas pains for lack of a better solution. Ten cc's of banamine later, he was fine.

Today, E asked me to bring around Etta for him when I got to the barn. We've been discussing how she needed her feet trimmed, so I figure, since I've got some time, I'll go ahead and clean her feet to make sure she hasn't developed an aversion to having them handled over the months they haven't been touched. She was an angel about the front feet. The back feet weren't as good, but she wasn't kicking at me, she was just taking them away from me, and I didn't want to fight with her on it. So, I picked up her front feet again, and when she stood nicely for that, I gave her a handful of grain as a treat.

After that, I decided Monkey's feet needed looked at, so I went into his stall and picked up his foot. And he started leaning on me. So I elbowed him to stand him back up. At which point he freaked out. I haven't been able to pick up his feet without him leaning, ever. And he gets upset when you elbow him. Pushing him with your shoulder does nothing, he just leans harder.

So, the three year old filly that hasn't had her feet handled in nearly a year stands quietly and calmly while a huge crust of crud is picked out. She's in an outside pen so she gets mud and crap in them, it wears out when she's in the sand of the arena or walking over the gravel in the parking lot, usually, so it's no big deal, but it was a good check.

Meanwhile the five year old gelding who has his rider attempt to handle his feet every day, in some way, to get him to chill out about the whole process, is still freaked about it.

Bass-Ackwards freaking horses.

Meanwhile the only thing I can do about Monkey is take a day and tie his feet up one at a time in the round pen, where he can freak out until he figures out it's not killing him, and stands his happy ass up. I may ask JJ to help me with that this weekend. I've never had to tie a horse's feet up before, so I kind of want someone who knows what they're doing around to assist.

Since Monkey needs his feet trimmed again soon, I need to get that done, so that maybe they won't have to tranq him again.