Sunday, December 16, 2012

Drinking from a Mud Puddle


It’s a rainy day and I’m watching my horses drink from a mud puddle in their turnout area. They actually walked away from the fresh, clean water I gave them in order to drink from a mud puddle. What’s going on here? Times like this are wonderful learning opportunities if you believe, as I do, that horses are perfect just as God made them, and that everything a horse does has meaning. So what is the meaning of their preference for dirty water over clean water? My first thought would be that they feel the need for more minerals. After all, horses sometimes eat dirt and chew on rocks and that is usually seen as their way of getting minerals, the nutrients that come directly from the earth’s crust. But my horses are fed according to the latest scientific research on how horses should be fed:  lots of forage plus a really fine vitamin and mineral supplement. I honestly don’t believe they have a mineral deficiency. Maybe this is just a hard-wired thing, something horses – even well-cared-for domestic horses – feel compelled to do. That compulsion would serve them well if they were turned out for months at a time to truly live off the land. Both of our horses have lived that way in the past and I hope they’ll have the opportunity someday to do it again.

Horses are different from us – I would have to be very thirsty to drink out of a dirty puddle – but they are also different from one another. Our Icelandic mare prefers to stand out in the rain for hours on end; our Quarter Horse mare prefers to have a roof over her head. The challenge we face as horsemen is recognizing both the innate characteristics of the species (its ethology) and the unique life experiences of the individual (its psychology). Both are contributing factors in shaping horse behavior.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Touching Your Horse


With horses, there are a handful of things you can do that always help. They help to relax the horse, advance the relationship, and reinforce your leadership position. They help regain control and focus when things get muddled. And they help you get more enjoyment out of your time with your horse. One of these handful is … well, getting a handful of your horse. Touching him. Increasing your body-to-body contact.

The picture here is of Jim Masterson performing his “integrated equine performance bodywork.” I could just as easily show a pic of Linda Tellington-Jones doing her TTouch or Mary Midkiff using aromatherapy or the late Ray Morris massaging a horse. Each of these protocols has its own particular value but what they all have in common is touching the animal in a comforting way.

You can do your own version of this. Just clear your mind and think about what your horse means to you. Now touch the horse. Don’t pat or slap. Touch. Get as much of your body in contact with your horse as possible. As the old song puts it, “Let the love flow.” Horses are sentient beings. They have feelings that, even if they aren’t exactly the same as ours – they are a dramatically different species, after all – still correlate to feelings we have. We enjoy a loving touch and so do horses. It calms them and it calms us.

Touching your horse is a way of giving something without asking anything in return. But of course, you do get something in return, and that’s exactly why horses are still relevant in this technology age. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Be a reporter for The Horse Show!

Okay, here’s your chance for that 15 minutes of fame. 
You – yes, YOU – can be a field reporter for The Horse Show. Call it a contributing editor on your resume. No special training or equipment are required. Just use your imagination and your smart phone. Then email the file to me at Rick@TheHorseShow.com.

Interview someone. Promote your breed or sport. Cover something interesting. I'm open.

Still queasy about the assignment? Here are some tips that might help:   

1. Try a radio interview first. It’s easier and I’m more likely to use it.
2. Your smart phone probably has a memo recorder for making grocery lists, etc. Use this to record.
3. Put the phone really close to the mouth of the person speaking. This minimizes background noise.
4. Don't worry about length or editing. I'll make it right.
5. Email the file to Rick@TheHorseShow.com.

Fine print: There is no compensation for your journalistic efforts and no guarantee I will use the recording on radio or television. If I do, I will credit you for it and you can update your resume. In sending the file to me, you assign all rights to me in perpetuity and give me permission to use your name and the names of any people featured in the recording. More questions? Email me at … well, you know.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chunking

I was chunking before chunking was cool.

Chunking is an instructional design practice that breaks content into small, focused, and easily-repeated chunks. I started chunking in 1999 with “The Horse Show Minute,” my daily radio feature and the heart of my second book, Horse Smarts for the Busy Rider. In 2009, we began chunking on TV by embedding two-minute, standalone features in our shows. So far you’ve seen “Trail Tips,” a how-to series for trail riders, “Nutrition Nuggets,” an overview of horse nutrition, and “Ask the Expert,” a series on custom diet formulation for different types of horses.  A new chunking chapter begins in November when we roll out two new embedded series using this super learning format. The first brings back Dr. Judy Reynolds to debunk horsekeeping myths. The second takes on hoof care with anti-lameness crusader, Gene Ovnicek.

For some strange reason, talking about “chunking” always makes me hungry …

Friday, August 17, 2012

Trailering

Recently I had David Bodin, “the horse trailer guru,” on my radio show and it reminded me of a mishap in my trailering past. I suspect that you’ve done something similar if you’ve done much trailering. Usually this involves backing or cutting a corner too closely. Mine was something quite different but you’ll have to listen to the interview to hear the ugly details. Unless of course you were one of the 500+ people who saw me do this at a Clinton Anderson tour stop in Phoenix around 2004.

Aside from its entertainment value, the interview offers some great tips that were new to me. For example, did you know that you need to recalibrate your brake controller (that little box sitting under the dash of your truck) whenever your trailer load changes? I didn’t. David offers a quick and easy way of doing it and explains clearly what happens when you don’t. What came out of all this for me is a better way of thinking about my horse trailer. Instead of being an extension of my truck, the trailer is really a separate vehicle attached to it. I need to think about its brakes, lights, electrical system, tires, wheels, bearings, battery, body, and fluids just like I do those of my truck.

I’m a big believer in getting a ramp with your horse trailer but it’s not because I feel it makes loading horses easier. There are pros and cons to a ramp for that purpose. No, my fondness of a ramp is that it allows me to use the trailer for other things. Both of my trailers are designed such that everything in the horse compartment can be removed easily, leaving a big open box. I can haul my garden tractor to the repair shop or help a friend move furniture. The ramp is handy in both cases.

One of our trailers is a living quarters model. The front part is like a travel trailer or motor home with bed, dinette, fridge, stove, sink, toilet, shower and storage. The back part is for the horses, although we often clean it out and use it as a big work room when we’re on the road. Horse people know that an LQ trailer makes for very comfortable accommodations but they are foreign at most RV parks. Often when I call to reserve a space, an incredulous voice over the phone asks, “You’re going to sleep in your horse trailer?”

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paying it Forward

A few months ago I was looking for content for my TV show when a press release caught my eye. It came from friend and marketing guru, Julie Bryant. Not every compelling story makes a good TV episode, but this one seemed to have the necessary elements and the added advantage of being convenient to shoot. So, one fine summer's day I found myself face to face with a pair of equine veterinarians, Keith Latson, a Calfornia orthopedist specializing in race horses, and Rob Franklin, a Texas internist specializing in cutting horses.

I knew there were multiple topics we could explore. One was how probiotics - living microorganisms – can aid in the digestive health of equids and how the good doctors had designed a particularly effective probiotic as the flagship product in their fledgling company, FullBucketHealth.   I can tease educational content out of any product feature so we were off to a good start.

However, I soon realized that Latson and Franklin were more interested in talking about the Equitarian Initiative, a humanitarian program sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners Veterinarians and lay people travel to underdeveloped regions to treat working horses and donkeys and educate their owners. The equitarian's motto is “Help a horse. Help a family.”  All right! This was just the kind of human interest story I could sink my teeth into, and Julie had mentioned there were photos available from the doctors’ work in Mexico.  The interview was turning out better than I expected.  But the best was yet to come. 

You see, this was really all about paying it forward. At the height of their professional careers, these two thirty-something family men were on fire with the spirit of giving back. The most recent beneficiaries had been dirt-poor Mexicans whose horses and donkeys – animals with neglected and deformed feet, open saddle sores, and malnourishment – were key to survival for entire families. Already, the docs were planning a similar trip to Guatemala on the same sort of mission, leaving in their wake patched-up animals, a bit of education and hope for the locals, and training for other equitarians learning the ropes.

Latson and Franklin were incredibly generous with their time and expertise but they found a way to have even greater impact. Remember the probiotic? Instead of pocketing the profits, the vets had created a program called Care+Care. Buy a bucket of their product and they donate another bucket to a needy horse or donkey somewhere in the world. Wow.

We talked for the better part of an hour. As the interview began to wind down, Rob said that they would be taking their young families with them on the Guatemala trip and he let slip what was, for me, the most telling statement of the day.  “We want to show our kids the importance of giving back.”  And there it was, the real heart of this story. Paying it forward to these guys means more than just giving of their time and money to help others. It means instilling the same animating values in their children, helping them to understand the role of good works in making a better world and a more rewarding life. Paying it forward with young eyes watching sets the stage for carrying the best of human nature forward to future generations. Now that is a compelling message.

FullBucketHealth.com

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Slow down your molecules


Every now and then, I come across a term or phrase that is so right I just have to pass it on. This one comes from our dear friend, Karen Scholl, who has helped Diana and me immensely on our horsemanship journey.

Horses mirror us in many ways. When we are tense or anxious, our horses often pick that up and reflect it right back at us, which can set in motion a vicious cycle of escalating tension. We can break the cycle by deliberately calming ourselves. But simply saying, “relax” or “calm down” or even “breathe” to ourselves or to students often doesn’t cut it.  Karen found a more provocative, visual way to get the idea across. “Slow down your molecules,” she would say. For me, this creates a vivid mental picture that I can work with. I see my tension as molecules whirring about in my body, bumping into one another, and I can visualize slowing those molecules down and creating order among them. This is very similar to the effect of Transcendental Meditation, which I practiced regularly at one time in my life. Both are ways of settling your mind, which is the first step in settling your body and settling your horse.

So give it a try the next time you need to calm yourself. Slow down those molecules! I’m betting it will work for you just like it works for me.

Learn more about Karen’s work at www.KarenScholl.com.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Clarity


I consider clarity to be an essential quality of a horseman. Without clarity, I’m expecting my horse to guess what I want. It’s unfair to her, increases the likelihood of conflict, and decreases the chance I’ll get the results I’m after. On the other hand, when I communicate with absolute clarity, the sky is the limit. Most horses are very willing creatures when they know what we want.

Clarity is not so difficult to achieve, really. It’s a matter of developing a good habit. Sports psychologists tell us that creating a vivid mental picture of a successful outcome increases the chance that it will occur, whether the outcome is making a free throw or sidepassing your horse.  The more vivid the picture, the better this works.

Note that creating this vivid mental picture occurs before the performance. This means that taking a moment and focusing my brain on exactly what I’m about to ask my horse to do can pay big dividends.

Why does this work? To be honest, I don’t know. I think it’s entirely possible that under the right conditions, there can be a telepathic connection between a horse and a human. Maybe it’s just that when we have such a clear sense of what we want, our body language projects that. We know how well horses read body language.

Let’s go back to the sidepassing as an example. Before asking my horse to do this, I conjure up a very detailed picture in my mind. I see more than one lateral pair of legs crossing in front of the other. I see the left legs crossing over the right. I see the hairs on the legs, the texture of the hooves, the grains of sand on the arena floor. This is a lot of mental energy focused on one picture. Maybe my horse picks that up.

The other good thing about clarity through mental imagery is that it makes it easier to recognize a try and reward it. And as we all know, it is the reward that produces a learning effect.

For me, clarity is another part of the journey. It’s a way of aligning thought, action, and expectation. I’ll continue working on it and report how it goes. I know my horse appreciates the effort.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Forage is First

If you’ve been following my TV show this season, you’ve seen Dr. Judy Reynolds of ADM Alliance Nutrition offer specific feeding recommendations for a wide range of horses. All recommendations have the same form: Feed your horse lots of forage and tweak as needed. But what does this mean, exactly? First, forage can be living grass and other plants in a pasture or it can be the same thing cut and baled to become hay. In hay form, the forage first feeding philosophy favors grass hay because of its exceptionally high fiber content, although alfalfa hay can be supplemented in moderate amounts.

Now, what about the tweaking part? This always reflects the reality of the particular horse’s situation. What is his current body condition? How old is he? How does he live? How is he used?  He may just need a daily dose of vitamins and minerals not present in adequate quantities in the forage part of the diet. But he may also need more energy than he can get from the forage.  How these varying needs are met – the products and byproducts combined to produce the desired effect – is where the state of the art in equine nutrition lives today. The most important development in recent times is the move away from cereal grains such as corn, oats, and barley, once staples in equine feeds. Recently I sat down with Dr. Reynolds to explore exactly why she designed the ADM feeds as she did. This episode has received great response. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ponying to Improve Riding

The horseman’s journey plays out in two dimensions, the mental and the physical. I normally help folks with the mental dimension, with understanding the nature of the horse and how they can use that nature to reach their goals in safe, effective, and moral ways. There’s lots of meat there and I can talk for days about that. On the other hand, the main suggestion I have for success in the physical dimension is incredibly simple: Ride more. That’s it. Just get on a horse and ride. Anytime, anywhere, for any purpose, and on any horse.  While you’re at it, forget the old saw, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”  This just begs the brain to get in the way. I find that most people who want to improve their riding are not seeking perfection; they’re seeking greater enjoyment of their riding.

One activity I’ve found that is practical, fun, and perfect for getting your brain out of the way is leading (ponying) one horse while riding another. I did a fair amount of this a few years back with our baby, Sarah. She had a lot of energy, which took a lot of my attention. Sometimes she got out in front of us on the trail. Candy and I would canter along behind her for minutes on end like a skier following a ski boat. What I remember most fondly about that experience is how free I felt, unencumbered by any worry about riding correctly. Yet my riding improved. Lately, I’ve been doing something similar when I walk our mares in the neighborhood.  We keep the speed down to a walk or trot and I vary which horse I ride. Oh yes, I’m doing it bareback, which has dramatically improved my confidence about riding without a saddle. Before ponying, my brain had me firmly convinced that I didn’t belong on a horse’s bare back. Sometimes thinking is overrated.

photo of Marty Marten by Jennifer Denniston for Western Horseman

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Facilitating Learning


Although I often call myself an educator, it’s a lie. Okay, I’m being overly dramatic. It’s just not the most accurate way to describe what I do. I don’t educate people; I facilitate their learning. If you train horses or raise kids, you probably get the distinction immediately. The best we can do for either is set up a situation wherein learning can occur.

When I talk about learning, I’m talking about more than just memorizing facts. That’s a superficial level of learning, much like gathering the ingredients needed for baking a cake. Doing something with those ingredients is where it gets interesting. Whether the process results in a yummy cake or insights produced through reflection and activity, we end up with something much more desirable when processing is involved.

Recently I gave several talks before packed crowds at Equine Affaire in Ohio. The lecture is a classic way of offering up the ingredients for a learning experience. If my lecture is relevant and thought-provoking for my audience, chances are pretty good that ideas will start rolling around in some noggins and a bit of processing will occur. For those folks who talked to me one-on-one about their horses, the likelihood of learning increased dramatically, and not because of anything I did. It was what they did. They became active learners, formulating questions, taking in my responses, breaking apart ideas and putting them back together in ways that made sense to them. In the language of constructivist learning theory, they were creating meaning, a much higher form of learning than simply memorizing facts.

Now just because creating meaning is a high-level form of learning doesn’t mean that all learning must be active. For example, if I ask you for directions to the airport, I want unadorned facts to flow from your brain into mine. I learn the directions by simply accepting what you have told me. When I drive that route, your directions may take on new meaning as I view the scenery, but that embellishment wasn’t critical to what I wanted to learn.

Final thought for today: Natural learning occurs every day as we interact with the world around us. It’s effortless and highly effective.  The challenge facing education today, in my humble opinion, is understanding exactly how natural learning occurs and how it might be used to produce the outcomes we want. If we can facilitate that kind of learning, everyone wins.

You can read more at my learning blog:  http://ricklamblearning.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good pen. Bad pen.

A few years ago, I witnessed a neighbor’s horse die from an injury sustained in an unsafe pen. (See “Death in the Alley” in Human to Horseman.) Ironically, the pen was designed very well, with an open feeling, good air circulation, shade, water, and plenty of room for the half-dozen minis and full-sized horses that lived there together. It was the execution of the design that was the problem. Used materials and poor construction made the pen an eyesore, and a sharp edge somewhere in that tangle of tin, rusted pipe and weathered wood cost a horse her life.

Today there is a different problem at that address. The original pen and owner are long gone and the new occupant is an older woman with a safe but equally inappropriate home for her single horse. The living area is as sturdy as a prison cell, with a similar feeling to it. A five-foot solid block wall defines the perimeter, blocking both view and air circulation. A single brown mare lives inside, isolated from the world and other creatures in it. When I walk down the street with my horses, she hears us and runs over to the wall. She nickers at us and tries to peek over the top. It always saddens me.

I try to remember two things at times like this. First, horses are extremely adaptable and this horse will probably be just fine. Bored, yes, but in any real danger? No. Second, it also matters what the human is getting out of this deal. There is a reason my neighbor went to the trouble and expense of building this little horsey prison. Maybe the little mare is bringing something very special to this human’s life. I wouldn’t deny that to anyone.

So why even bring this up? Because it’s an opportunity to tell you what I would have done. I would have spent a fraction of the money and put up a v-mesh or non-climb wire horse fence such as those made by Red Brand. This is not a commercial for Red Brand, I promise. That just happens to be the product I would use. This would give the horse a view of her surroundings and allow air to circulate through the area, which is absolutely critical when you live in the desert as we do. I would also get the horse a companion. Another horse would be ideal, but a mule, donkey, mini or goat would be fine. Even a chicken or duck could provide companionship for this horse. Horses have a primal need to live in a herd. Any kind of herd.

I do not know the new neighbor. We said hello one time as I walked by and she seemed nice enough, as is usually the case. Most people don’t deliberately abuse or stress their horses; they just don't know any better, and there's no shame in that. Every good horseman I know grieves for the horses he or she failed along the way. Growth requires stretching, reaching for something better than we have and are. All I can do is hope that my neighbor continues growing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Riding Boots

Woody asks on Facebook: What are your thoughts on laced boots vs pull on boots when riding in the arena or on the trail?

Rick’s answer: Hi Woody. Choice of boot is largely personal preference. However, in competition, there are sometimes rules about what you wear. For recreational riding, there are some pros and cons with each design. I like the ankle support of a lace up boot and I don’t mind the extra few seconds needed to deal with the laces. I wore black lace ups while trekking in Iceland last summer. They looked great with my stretchy black riding pants! However, some people consider lace ups – or any boot that doesn’t come off easily in an accident – a safety hazard. As a young ranchhand, Dr. Miller was dragged across an arena before his tight cowboy boot came off. Now he recommends buying riding boots a size too large. Of course, wearing boots that don’t fit can be uncomfortable and that's definitely a down side for me. When the cameras aren’t rolling, I usually wear these old Justins with the short Roper heel. They’re loose but not too loose. You can see they’ve given me many years of service. Bottom line for me is that riding should be enjoyable so I wear boots that make me feel good.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spooky horse

Barbara asks:
I have a mustang/Morgan who is sweet, kind and respectful but a little fearful of things like smoking burn piles, moving noisy electric gates with plywood figures on them. He refuses to go past them unless lead. The real issue is my friend says I should wear spurs and force him to go on. The smoke had him trembling. She says I’m letting him call the shots. I’m 63 I don’t need to get dumped. Should I force him when I know he’s scared? He minds me pretty well and will even leave my mare while she is screaming for him and goes down the road alone with me. Thank you.

Rick's response:
Barbara, you have good instincts. You are observant and thoughtful. You are trying to come up with the best deal for both your horse and yourself. Most important, you are not allowing someone else to pressure you into doing what you feel is wrong.

Now, let’s get to work. First, your friend's analysis is partially correct. Your horse is not completely confident in your leadership or ability to keep him safe. However, spurring an already frightened horse is liable to escalate the fear. I don’t think that’s the right approach for you. Instead, give your horse a job to do to take his mind off what scares him. This requires that you be an active rider, not a passenger. This will change how your horse sees you and how he sees the scary object.

Let’s say the scary thing is the burn pile. First, expect your horse to walk right past it with no problem. Visualize your horse doing that and carry yourself as if that is happening. Often horses live into our expectations of them. If your horse still spooks, stay calm and direct him away from the scary thing. Be careful here because he might want to pick up speed. Put him in a tight circle and disengage his hind quarters repeatedly if he does. Once he is calm, trot around where he feels safe. I don't mean a dainty little Western jog. Get him really moving and using his air! When he gets a bit winded, let him walk toward the scary object. Even let him stop and rest there. Repeat as needed until he is calm near the thing that scared him.

You see, horses are naturally worried about things that are not familiar to them. But they are also worried about using up their energy and air. At some point, the latter concern becomes greater than the former. What used to be scary is now a place of rest and comfort, a place to replenish his stores of energy and air. Incidentally, this is a good underlying strategy for getting a horse to load in a trailer. Make the inside of the trailer the easy place to be and the outside of the trailer the difficult place. Final thought: You are your horse's ultimate protector. Never abdicate that responsibility to someone else.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aussies win RTTH 2012

Let’s see. If you count the two wins of native Australian Clinton Anderson, the three wins of Florida native Chris Cox, who grew up on an island off the coast of Australia, and add in this year’s two Aussie winners, Guy McLean and Dan James, you come up with seven Road to the Horse buckles that have been won by horsemen with ties to Australia. Crikey!

The Aussies of 2012 earned their buckles the hard way. Trailing Team USA at the end of Day One, they suffered a setback when Dan James, scheduled to step back into the round pen at the start of day two, fell ill. While Dan rested and received IV fluids, teammate Guy McLean took the first slot and Dan’s business partner, Dan Steers, advised and assisted from outside the pen. By the second session on day two, Dan James was back in the contest, still not 100% but determined to compete. On day three, the Aussies were the only team to take Tootie Bland’s offer of an extra 30 points each if they would switch horses for the test. Using the saddling pen as a training pen for more than half of the 40 minutes allotted for their tests, each Aussie was able to connect with the horse his teammate had trained and go on to produce a winning performance. The most memorable moment came when Guy McLean coaxed his mount into the optional water obstacle, stood on the horse’s back, cracked two stock whips as fast as machine gun fire, and followed it all up with an emotional bush (cowboy) poem written especially for the occasion.

Jonathan Field and Glenn Stewart of Team Canada got extra points before training began for switching the horses they had each chosen, and they made exceptional progress near the end of the event, but time worked against them in catching the Aussies.

Team USA was the leader at the end of day one, which was actually a bad omen; historically, the person or team who leads after round one does not prevail at Road to the Horse. Team USA faced an additional challenge when Pat Parelli’s colt was scratched for medical reasons after the first day. Per the rules, Pat had to pick a new colt, start over on day two and show up at 5:30 am on day three to get in his second training session. The fatigue factor aside – and it was a factor for all of us at this marathon event – Pat was under the continuous scrutiny of all six judges during that second session, something no other RTTH competitor has ever had to endure.

All in all, Road to the Horse International made a fitting farewell to the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, home to seven of the nine Road to the Horse contests thus far. For 2013, the event will be held in the Alltech Arena at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park. Tickets are already on sale. Get 'em early.

Other notes: Publisher Darrell Dodds presented the Western Horseman Award to Dr. Robert M. Miller in opening ceremonies on Saturday. Only a handful of other horsemen have received the award, including two other RTTH judges, Bob Moorhouse and Jack Brainard.

This was the first year that judges' scores were posted on the big video screen during the event. Everyone loved the added suspense.

Finally, I'd like to thank my good friend and 2009 RTTH champ, Richard Winters, for assisting me with the hosting of Road to the Horse 2012. I could not have done it without him and I hope he will share the duties with me again next year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Road to the Horse!

Road to the Horse 2012 is two weeks away. I’m already hyperventilating! You’d think after hosting the "Super Bowl of colt starting" eight times, it would get easier. It doesn’t. But I do enjoy it more every year and I seem to be getting the job done. Thanks for all the nice comments, by the way. This year is definitely the most exciting event to date. Three countries, six trainers, unlimited possibilities. Another new wrinkle: My good buddy, 2009 RTTH champ, Richard Winters, will be helping me out with the commentary. I couldn’t be happier about that. Click here to see my retrospective of the past eight events. It’s a real trip down memory lane.

Oh yes, this is a soldout event. BUT you can watch it live online all three days. Here’s the link: http://horsecity.com/video-media/webcasts Thanks to the good folks at HorseCity.com
for putting the webcast together.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jogging in the Neighborhood

A new favorite activity for my horses and me is jogging in the neighborhood. Actually, we jog for a while and walk for a while. It’s about a two-mile loop and they really seem to love it! The last quarter mile, I climb on one of them (with the aid of a fire hydrant) and pony the other. I like to give my horses as many different experiences as I can. Hoofcare guru, Gene Ovnicek, says jogging on payment is great for their bare feet, too. And of course, it’s a bit of light cardio for this sexegenarian (sixty-year-old … what did you think it meant?) Anyway, just wanted to share this with you. File this under, “Playing with your horse in the city.” BTW, they almost never have an “accident.” Neither do I.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Florida Cracker

In coverage of the Florida GOP primary, I heard a commentator get his knickers in a knot over the term, “cracker.” You see, in some circles, calling a white person the “C” word is akin to calling a black person the “N” word. But in Florida, it means something else. Cracker refers to the original settlers of Florida, hearty and hardworking pioneers who herded cattle by cracking whips. Cracker Cowboys rode Cracker Horses and with the help of Cracker Dogs, drove Cracker Cattle. I suspect they even ate Cracker Crackers. The point is, descendants of these early Floridians proudly call themselves Crackers today with not a hint of self-consciousness. The Florida Cracker Horse is alive and well, too, and just might be the closest thing we have to the near-mythical Spanish Jennet, whose genetics found their way to America courtesy of the Spanish Conquistadors and live on in numerous gaited breeds here.

Frederic Remington left us this painting of Florida Cracker Cowboys.

Great article on derivation of the term: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fcc/main/what's_a_cracker.htm

Keep your eyes open for my upcoming TV show on the Florida Cracker Horse.