NEW VIDEO

I just ran across this video, and I think folks might like to see it. It’s a horse show in which two Western and English Drassage riders perform together. Very interesting! Enjoy.

Well, I just saw that this has somehow changed.  Let’s try it again. Enjoy.

Horses and Wildlife

It seems I am getting more calls lately from folks who want to spend more time in the wilderness with their animals – horses and other pets – all with common questions regarding wildlife encounters. Predators are the most common source of concern. “What do I do if..” “If I meet a lion, or a bear? My horse spends most of his life in the arena, and he’s not use to seeing bears. What can I expect?” “We are planning a pack trip in the Rockies, and are concerned about bears and lions. What advice can you give?” My first response is: ‘Your concerns are justified, and you are wise to ask in advance’.
Bears and lions are both plentiful, as are other wild animals, and the reality is, even for horses who have encountered wildlife before, it’s will probably be a frightening experience. A person is wise to be concerned, but there are some things that you can do to minimize your exposure to danger. As always, knowledge is power. Toward that end, here are some things that you can do to minimize your exposure to danger with wildlife encounters.

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK The first necessity to safely enjoying the out of doors with your horse, or any animal, is to understand wildlife, make some plans based upon that knowledge, and use common sense. Think things through before an incident takes place. Talk to someone who knows the area: Local wildlife agencies, the Forest service or Bureau of Land Management.
Here in the Rockies, we have a large population of both bears and lions. I spend a lot of time dealing with bear – human encounters, and My all-time record is 16 reported bear incidents in 24 hours. But that’s unusually high. Any wildlife encounter can be traumatic for both horse and rider, whether it’s a bear on the trail, or a rabbit that suddenly bolts from cover, or a large turkey suddenly flushing from behind a bush. Any of these can be the beginning of an exciting ride. And none of them can be totally anticipated or prepared for. But the more you know about wildlife, and their habits, in your area, or where you are going to be riding, and the more you prepare your horse, the more you can avoid a potentially disastrous encounter that could ruin your day.

BEARS In our area, all bears are black bears, not Browns or Grizzlies. While bears come in all colors from white to solid black, the two designations refer not to color, but to two different animals. To us, the difference is significant, but not so for the horse. While Black bears are seldom aggressive, your horse will not know that. It does not matter to him what species it is, any encounter will be a reinforcement of his innate fears of the ‘boogyman in the woods’ that his momma and all his friends told him about. Black bears are basically overgrown raccoons, interested primarily, and secondarily, with their stomachs: storing food for the upcoming winter. Early spring is a time of recovery from the winter hibernation, when their digestive system is shut down. Eating is an activity that begins slowly, with grass roots, and vegetation. As the summer progresses, they turn to anything that will fit in their mouths, the stinkier and more rotten, the better. (Some Wildlife Officers swear by the us of dirty Baby diapers in bear traps). The feeding frenzy begins in early to mid June, and from that time until the onset of hibernation, eating is the order of the day. They become more focused on that pursuit as the summer turns to fall. This is the time when they pose the most significant threat to people, but only because they are so focused on food, that they lose much of the natural fear that we humans rely upon as a safety buffer. The more often a bear encounters food in the form of garbage, dog food, bird feeders, etc., during the summer around cabins or homes, the more likely it will be to appear aggressive when encountered in the wild. As more and more people come to the mountains to build cabins and homes, the more bears learn that people equal food. And the cubs learn form their mothers, so the problems compound as time goes by.
If the bear charges, as they do at times, to try and scare away the threat, just stand your ground (you cannot outrun it). Don’t scream or yell. Speak in a soft monotone voice and wave your arms to let the animal know you are human. Pepper spray is an effective deterrent, and you should consider having some with you. But, be prepared to experience some of the affects yourself. You could get some blown back at you, but it’s just uncomfortable, and will not incapacitate you.
Bears have poor eyesight, but a well developed sense of smell. So, when you encounter a bear, it may stand on its hind legs and stick it’s nose in the air. It’s trying to get a better look at what you are, and perhaps pick up a scent to help him make up his mind if he should stay his ground, or run. This action is often mistaken for a sign of aggression. But, most of the time, if you give him a bit of time, and space, he will gladly go his own way, and avoid contact with you.. Remember that his stomach is his driving incentive, not aggression. They are not killers by nature. In fact they are naturally quite shy and fearful. A mother with cubs can be more aggressive, but not always.

LIONS Lions are much different from bears, and a little education will go a long way. You don’t normally see a lion in the wild, even where they are plentiful. They are very secretive, and deadly. Most prey animals that are taken by a lion are never given a warning that danger is imminent. Cats prefer to strike from above, leaping from a rock outcropping or ledge, landing the back of their prey. I’ve investigated a number of horse attacks, and while it is true that the cat is not always successful in killing the horse initially, the wounds can be fatal in the long term.
With lions, the general guideline is to make yourself look as large as possible to discourage the cat. Do not make eye contact, as that focuses its attention on you – something you do not want. If you are with other folks, come together in a group. Gather children with you, as well as pets. Back away- don’t panic or run. It would probably be good to make noise, which helps to discourage it.
If you encounter a dead deer, or other animal, which appears to have been partially or totally covered up with leaves, sticks, or dirt, be especially wary! A Lion will cover up a kill and return to it until it’s eaten. He’s not far away.
Also, watch for lion tracks, especially in the snow. Many times you will notice the tracks, if you are watchful, and never see the cat. A lion track looks similar to a dog track, a bit more rounded in shape, but no claw marks will be seen. Cats often travel trails and roads.
2. DONT PANIC! In any wildlife encounter, the worst thing you can do is panic. Your horse will know you are out of control, and this fuels his panic. Remain calm and focus on calming the horse. Follow the guidelines outlined above.

3. HORSE PREPARATIONS Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to desensitize your horse to a bear or lion encounter. But, you can teach your horse to look to you for guidance during a fearful encounter of any type. This can be done by the repeated use of a key word or phrase that he will recognize. You can start this at any time in the horse’s life. All it takes is a concentrated effort on your part to develop a consistent pattern. This will serve to derail his survival flight mechanism. If he is use to hearing something that he understands, from you, he will focus on that, and you will avert a runaway through the spruce trees and rocks, or worse. Combine that with a practiced turning one rein stop, and you should be able to control the horse in a panic situation. But, you must work on this every time you ride!
I’ve found that horses are uncomfortable with the smell of a bear, and I can’t blame them. If your horse gets a whiff of a bear, he is going to be agitated and scared (and maybe a bit nauseated). It’s the same fear they exhibit the first time they encounter a llama. Even a backpacker can look strange to a horse the first time he sees one, with the big hump over his head. So, this preconditioned safety technique will come in handy more times than you realize.

4. MAKING CAMP Here are a few suggestion concerning making camp, whether you are packing or camping at your vehicle.

* Keeping a clean camp will help minimize the risk of a bear encounter. First and always, keep things clean! Food can not be left in the pans or dishes. Don’t sleep with your favorite chocolate bar in your bag. Peanut butter and jelly is a no-no too. Store food away from camp. You can buy ‘bear proof’ plastic containers that do help. I have never felt totally comfortable hanging food from a tree, as it can increase the range that the smell can be detected by a bear. But, on the other hand, it’s better to have it high and out of reach, than in your panniers next to the tent. In over thirty years, often packing and camping alone, I can honestly say that I have never had a bear-in-camp encounter. Yes, there have been nights when the horses are especially agitated and that certainly could have been bear induced, but it’s never been more of an issue than that. The secret? Keep the camp CLEAN!

* Keep a flashlight handy, and sleep in moccasins. You will probably need to check on the horses several times during the night, and if there is a wreck, it’s much better to have those on your feet than to go dancing around in the dark, barefoot. I always have a pistol handy, but have never really needed it. More for my own peace of mind than anything else. As a Colorado Law Enforcement officer, I would strongly suggest that if you carry a gun, at the very least complete a Hunter Education or other Gun Safety course. Again, training , preparation, and education.

* I have used many different setups for keeping a horse over night, from tying him directly to a tree, using a one-legged hobble, turning them loose with a two legged hobbles, using a high line, and using a portable corral. The worst arrangement is tying them directly to a tree. I’ve used that more than any other method, but now it’s a last resort. Many horses will not stand still all night, but will paw and complain and keep you awake. A high line works better, but it’s not foolproof, and a horse can still get into problems, or spend the night pawing and complaining. I’ve had them roll and get tangled up in the rope. From my experience, the portable electric corral with a D-Cell battery operated power supply, is the way to go. Your horse will spend the night eating, and in the morning will be ready to go, not concentrating on filling his belly. He will stand quietly all night, and you will sleep soundly.

* One note of caution: get a book, and learn to identify noxious weeds. Nothing would be worse than putting a corral up in a field of loco.

I hope this information helps you in your enjoyment of the wilderness by horseback, whether it’s a one dayer, or a two week pack trip. It’s just a matter of a little knowledge, preparation and common sense. As the man said, “Keep your left leg on the left side, your right leg on the right side, and your mind in the middle.”

Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” – William Penn

KC’s Revenge

I use my horses daily as part of my job. That can be great, and at times, it can be a challenge. For all of us: me, the horse, and the public. Sometimes people don’t know what to expect…and neither do I.

KC is a little paint mare who loves to work- she just loves to go..anywhere, any time. “Just point me, dad!” And she is so gorgeous that people just love to see us coming… Most people. Most people want a picture, and kids always say “Can I pet her?”

We were on the South Platte River contacting fishermen on a stretch of river that is prime trout fishing. It’s all fly and lure only, catch and release water, which means that the fish can only be caught with a fly or a lure, not with bait. And, all fish must be returned to the water alive, unharmed, and immediately. That means that the water is normally teeming with trout, and the grow big there. The “Fly and Lure Only”, “Catch and Release” regulations mean that only a certain type of fisherman frequent the area. Actually, two types. First there is the illegal type, who come to take advantage of the fishing, and go home with a large, illegally taken fish. But most are legal types, who enjoy catching a lot of fish, and releasing them unharmed. It’s not uncommon to hear of fishermen catching 100 large rainbows in a day.

This is a really nice ride, the river meanders through sandy soil, great for riding, and the bugs are not too bad up until about July. A leisurely 2-3 hour ride, good for everyone involved. Most of the time.

Last summer we picked a nice warm day to take the ride, and sure enough, the parking area was filled with Lexus’s, BMW’s, and even a Hummer. The folks who go in for this type of fishing, the self-proclaimed “Elite” fishing crowd, can afford the best. That includes fishing gear. I think some of these folks wear gear that’s worth more the all the vehicles I own. The fly rods alone sometimes go for more than $1000.00 Nice stuff, but I wouldn’t know the difference, personally. They all look the same to me. How do they look to a horse? KC knew, I guess.

As we completed our ride, we saw a couple of fishermen whom we had missed, heading back to their Porsche SUV in the lot, and they had walked through the gate as we approached. I rode KC to the fence, and they walked over and said hi, and ask me how old “he” is, meaning the mare. Sometimes I think KC understands and is actually offended at being called a ‘he’. Especially when I correct the gent, and he just shrugs it off like it’s not worth acknowledging. That really offends KC.

The guy was bragging about his fishing success, and the quality of his equipment, his skill, his vehicle, and anything else he could think of, as fishermen are known to do, thnking he was impressing the Game Warden. I was not impressed. Neither was KC. It got a bit old, in fact, since I hear the same story about 10,000 times a summer, and since I don’t partake of the sport, at least not at that level, I can only yawn with boredom, and wonder if maybe that is all some folks live for. KC is getting agitated at all this and the guy keeps waving his $1200 fishing rod in front of her nose. I ask him to please don’t let it hit the horse. He shrugs me off with arrogance, and keeps on talking and bragging. The rod keeps waving around the horse’s nose. I checked his license and get ready to hand it back to him, when KC just reaches down, and opens her mouth and bites the rod in two! Just like it was a piece of grass. Then chomps. And Chomps. And spits it out. The guy just stares at me, and then at the horse. What do you say at a time like that????

Me, I just said “have a nice day.” Did a rollback on the hindquarters, and trotted away.

“The whole thing is pretty funny if you pretend you don’t work for the outfit”

Sign on my office door:
“I can please only one person per day.
Today is not your day.
Tomorrow isn’t looking good either”

Another Great Video….Do you know what a Lusitano Horse Breed is?

Stacey’s Ride

If you have not seen this…..PLEASE do so. Brings tears to my eyes every time. Thanks Stacey!

More music

OK, folks, if you have not heard this yet, you might take a couple of minutes. It’s the Prairie Rose Wranglers from Kansas, singing Dont Ever Sell your Saddle. Great job!!!

Blogs and Black Goo

Ok, I cant say I haven’t been warned. Blogs!! Who was it told me to start a ‘Blog’? They said it would be fun! FUN! I told them no way, I knew about them things, and I was right. Blogs!! Whoever thought that they would be fun has never experienced one personally.

This afternoon I was tired of work…or what passes for work, and I thought I’d go check the cows. And the water. This time of year, the water get as scarce as the grass, and I really DO need to get them moved to new ground. Very soon. I took the stud out to ride the pasture, because…. just because. OH, he has not been ridden in a while, since he does not get to go where there are other horses we dont know. Being a stud and all, one has to be careful. But he is a good boy, and does real well around cows. I saddled him and watched the snow covered ground for fresh prints…a clue as to where I might find the cows. Nothing. No prints, no nothing. Ok. We rode through two pastures and around a good sized hill, and in the bottom I found water running. Good! That means they will not die of thirst. The ground was frozen and snow was patchy, but water was running just a little.

Out through the big meadow we went, watching for more water, when there they were – cows. Bedded down nice and quiet, but I knew that would not last. They don’t see horses too often, especially with a rider and a dog, and they know that normally means it’s time to be harassed. Not today, but they did not know that. They were spread out, but not far enough that they could not communicate with each other. Some were lying around chewing. Others were standing watching us – talking about something important, Im sure. I knew any minute they would break and run toward the back fence, and hopefully not through it. But no…they just stood there, and laid there and watched. And talked to each other. What were they saying? What were they thinking? ( I use that term loosely when it applies to cattle ).

I actually rode right past a couple that did not move. What??? Most of the bunch were on the far side of the creek, and I would have to get past them to head back toward the truck. It seemed that something was on their minds….but not much. They knew that I would have to cross the creek to get through the gate, where they were bunched up. Between them and us was what use to be an old pond that had grown in during the past few year’s drought,and was covered with grass pond vegetation. They watched… The ground was frozen solid, so I didn’t think a thing about it when the Stud started across toward the cows. They watched. Right in the middle of the old pond, the frozen ground we were walking on gave way and in we went – belly deep in the blog! Not just any blog, but this one was six feet deep in the blackest, smellyest, stickiest goo I’ve seen in a long while. Even the dog fell through. Great..I wasnt about to get off, and the horse sank down near to his belly, flailing around and trying to move forward. We looked like a Monster Truck Jamboree, flinging black goo 10 feet in the air with all four tires.

That is a scary feeling not knowing if the horse is going to get out with a broken leg or what. It sure scared him too. I turned his nose toward the closest clump of what looked like solid ground, and we paddled and flailed over and eventually he climbed out, none the worse for wear. I looked down at what use to be my nice new brown saddle, and it was totally covered in black goo! Everything was covered in the stuff, and there’s no brushing it off, since it sticks to EVERYTHING – especially warm fingers. Black slimy, stinky, goo from the blog! I got off and found it lodged in saddle bags, on my hat, in my pockets… and how did it get between my seat and the cantle? As I glanced to my right, my eye caught something on my right shoulder. A Black glob from the blog, the size of a tomato! Aggghhhhh!

Across the valley were the cows…laughing and talking to themselves. The miserable bovines had this planned the whole thing!!!!! “If we can just lure him into the blog, we got him!” Their laughter is still ringing in my ears. Blogs, Black goo, and bovines!! What an afternoon. Time to start the washing machine.

Remember, Snort says: Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

Blessings all ova ya!
Till then keep your powder dry and keep ‘er pointed north

Llamas and Black Baldies

We were checking hunters on the opening day of Elk season. By ‘we’, I mean I had a  rider –  a temporary Parks officer who is trying to get hired by the Division of  Wildlife,  who wanted to see what we do.  After our boring opening day, he might change his career objectives.

We were traveling along a Forest Service two track when. off to the right we saw a  herd of about 60 cows and calves with frantic, exhausted looks on their bovine faces running hard toward our truck. We just watched them as they ran through a fence, flattening it without slowing down. “Maybe they think they are  going to be fed,” Darvin said.   “Maybe.” But they veered off before flattening my new truck.  We drove on, and Darvin said, ”I just saw some orange in the trees.” I looked, and sure enough, a hunter with an orange vest, horseback. I flashed my overhead lights at him, since I had a suspicion of who it might be. He began waving at us to come over to him. I drove on, looking for a two-track, but did not see any.  I stopped, and he yelled, “Come on.” I drove cross  country, which I never do, to Bobby Genua sitting on a roan mare. Bobby is a  retired Air Force Paratrooper, but looks like he’s been herding cows for 60  years, and chews tobacco with a voraciousness I’ve seldom seen. He said,  “Buck, (spit) I have a problem! I got a big problem. Did you see my cows, Buck? (spit) Did you see ’em? They are wild as elk! They are crazy. I’ve  never seen them that way. I’ve been running cows for 23 years, and I’ve never seen ’em like this. You got to help me, Buck.” (spit)

“What happened?”   “It’s that llama! It loves cows, and it’s been chasing  mine all over the country. You got to do somethin’, Buck.” (spit) “Do
you want to borrow my gun?” I asked. “I have a pistol, but I can’t shoot it,” said Bobby. “Let’s rope it,” I said. “I’ll dally  it up and it’s little head will just pop off”. “Na, I already called Linda and she’s chasing it around.” Suddenly, the White Beast appeared in  the trees, heading our way, with a halter and lead rope dragging behind it.    From somewhere in the woods, a faint female voice yelling “George, George! Here, George.” I looked at Bobby.  Bobby shrugged. (spit) “I tell you, something’s got to be done. That thing loves  cows and the cows are terrified of it.” I said I could relate. We chased  the llama back toward Linda. All was silent in the woods.

Bobby said, “Now I have cows all over the forest everywhere. You got to help me, Buck.” (spit)   “And now I have to go get my trailer and return
that stupid llama.” We cut the fence so he could get his horse through it,   and Bobby said he’d fix it later, since the cows had gone through it several
times anyway, and he was now wanting to ask the roan to step over the wire. As  we were talking about how BBQ llama compares with Beef Brisket, a white Dodge pickup  drove down the county road, with the white Llama tied in the back, it’s skinny  head and neck sticking up like a periscope. All was silent in the woods. I  looked at Bobby. Bobby looked at me. “Did you see that, Buck?” (spit)  “Did you see that? That llama was tied in the back. No stock racks or  nothing.”  I said, “Yes- I guess you can get your cows now. I’ll go get a horse and give you a hand.  Can I bring the 30-30?”

It was a quiet day looking for hunters anyway.

Buck Snort here, wondering: “To what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

Of Lions and Horses.

I don’t fear lions…at least not when I’m sitting in my office typing on the computer. Let’s just say that a healthy respect for anything weighing 120 lbs., that has the stealth and strength to bring down a full grown horse, without making a sound, is the Webster’s Definition of ‘prudence’. Tonight I was riding a fresh, half broke filly in some very wild, rock country, where lions are seen with regularity by the local populace. We rode until it was too dark to see. Every time I do that, I seem to recall what a Lion is capable of doing. Interesting thing is that they are almost never heard or sensed, by their prey, before the prey dies of a broken neck. If a horse does manage to shake the cat, it is most often unable to survive the encounter. But horses rarely sense their presence either by smell or sound.

Until just about 10 years ago, Colorado had never recorded a human attacked by a Lion. Very few were ever seen in the wild, except by houndsmen. But in the last 10 years, Mtn Lion encounters have become alarmingly common in some places, and at least three persons have been killed by lions in the state. Colorado is so concerned that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has now begun a Lion study program to try to track and document movements of lions that live in close proximity to humans, and who have become habituated to human interactions. We are trapping, radio collaring, and tracking lions along the front range.

I could tell a lot of lion stories… but suffice this: In early 2011, a Lion entered a residence, through an open sliding glass door, after dark, with the owner at home, but in an adjoining room. The cat attacked the resident yellow lab dog, and escorted it outside. The owner came back into the room to watch the ending of the Bronco game, and found his dog missing. He looked outside in time to see the cat leaving with Fido in it’s grasp.

I have had the dubious honor of having a full grown lion on the end of a lariat, and can attest to the unbelievable speed and reaction of a cat: Even a cat that had been injected with a ‘normal’ dose of Rampun and Ketamine. However, the reaction of a lion to a tranquilizer can not be determined with any degree of scientific accuracy. Apparently, they have not read the book. And, for the record, it is not as easy as the movies might depict to remove a lariat from an target. Especially when the target is a live, angry, very alert Mtn. Lion: a killing machine with 10 razor blades mounted on lightning fast arms. But then, ropes are expensive….

Kenosha and I made it back to the truck in the dark, with no moon, and were greeted by Roxie, the Border Collie in the back of the truck, with enthusiastic dog-words, something to the affect that she had been worried, and was sure glad to see us. I breathed a sigh of relief and told Kenosha that she had done very well! And there, on the front seat of the truck, was my trusty pistol, just where I had left it. Makes me wonder if I will ever learn…

Beauty is not in the guidebook.
Adventure is not on the map.
Seek and ye shall find