Monday, July 21, 2008

Just A Thought

I have been amazed at how many of you have met horses with split tongues like my Mort. Typical me, I spent a lot of time dwelling on the where's, when's and why's. It's how I while away the hours when I'm cleaning my stalls.
How old were you when you learned to not tie your horse with the reins? I can't tell you when I learned that one for sure, but I was pretty old.
The stable I learned to ride at kept all of their dudes bridled and tied with knotted split reins.
I did the same. So did everybody I knew. We were backed by the Cartwrights and John Wayne.
We had a tie rail in front of the house my parents moved to while I was in college. I would ride all morning, give Mort a drink, and leave him tied to the rail while I went in for lunch. He would spend all day in that bit.
I made sure it was a bridle with a brow band and throat latch, because he was an escape artist.
Is that how all those tongues got lacerated?
Watch a horse suck back, tied with a broken mouth piece, long shanked, heavily chained bit, and good quality leather reins. How do you think that story is going to play out?
I shudder at the stupid things we did, and still our horses and us survived.
You don't see those tortured tongues so much anymore because people have learned to only tie with a halter.
Could I be on to something?
My boss and I were talking about the Where Are All The Good Horses post. We came up with a few thoughts on that one. We both realized the horses we had as kids didn't know a damn thing. They couldn't take a lead off a cue if their life depended on it. They barely neck reined, they didn't back, I mean they knew nothing.
Except every single one of them would head down the road.
They were partners in our ignorance. They would walk, trot and lope. That was about it.
I think the priorities of what constituted a horse that was ready to sell were vastly different than they are today.
A horse needed to be tolerant. Remember sacking out? Rough maybe, but I never got tossed putting on my jacket by a horse that had been properly sacked out.
A horse needed to be willing to travel. Nobody I knew had an indoor arena. Hell, I had to ride a long ways to get to any kind of arena. Horse trailers were a luxury. Even the people that had them only put a horse in them if their destination was more than five miles away.
How many of you old folks (me included, ahem) remember how many people rode to the Friday Night Gymkhana?
There were lots.
They rode bareback, in poorly fitted saddles, saddle blankets optional, in halters, curbs, snaffles, whatever was available.
All of this was thrown at a horse before they ever thought of a roll back or a lead change.
We showed them all day at our local clubs, in every class, before we had even heard of a roll back.
We didn't play the 7 games, or waste space with a round pen. Clinics were where you went to get doctored after your horse pile drove you into the dirt.
We rode them first. Then we trained them.
I'm not nostalgic for the days bygone. I love the level I'm at with my riding ability. I want my tack to fit, and my horse to be safe. I can't imagine being responsible for one of those horrible split tongues. I'm aware of how lucky I am that I never seriously hurt myself, or my horse.
I like riding inside. A lot.
I love good dirt. So do my horses.
But somehow we've gotten off track. The whole point is to ride them, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I'm embarrassed when my yellow mare refuses to get mud on her feet. Don't get me started on crossing water.
She is a big, fat, arena baby sissy. I am about over it. I think we are doing thing backwards.
She should have spent the first few years of her riding life learning to go for a ride. Not getting ready for her big moment in the show pen. She is six now, and I'm just getting around to teaching her how to be broke. She's real well trained though.
I'm just saying.


cdncowgirl said...

Ah, see there it is again. Broke vs. trained.
Those horses from our youth, yeah they didn't know their leads, rollbacks, etc. But they were BROKE. And that's why they were (usually) safe.

loneplainsman said...

Very, very interesting.

I don't have much to say tonight.. this one is going to have me thinking for a while.

It's good - I love a good puzzle!

all-canadian said...

At the barn that I rode at for approximately 10 years, we were taught to:
1) Crosstie horse in halter. Brush horse, pick feet.
2) Take off halter, put on bridle.
3) Crosstie horse by clipping the ties to the bit rings.
4) Get saddle... usually involving leaving the horse for a minute to go to the tack room.
5) Saddle horse, uncrosstie and go.

It's not just that no one would stop you from doing it... I distinctly remember crying because I got yelled at because I didn't want to cross tie my horse in a bridle (this was when I was 10 or so, and I didn't want to do things differently than I had at my previous barn - it wasn't because I knew the dangers or anything).

Eventually I got used to it, and did it all the time. If I had to go to the bathroom I would cross tie my horse in his bridle, leave him for 5 minutes and then come back.

As I got older, I reverted back to putting the bridle on last (just preference, I didn't even know it was possible for them to cut their tongues like that). That barn had great horses (the reason I stayed there so long), but man - they were really lacking in some departments. I missed out on a lot of basic horse care.

verylargecolt said...

I used to ride a mare with a notch in her tongue but I'm pretty sure that had been put there by her owner's hands. It's not really all that difficult to F up a horse's mouth in a polo bridle if she doesn't stop and you're an asshat.

My first horse, when I was a teen, was actually REALLY trained and NOT at all broke and VERY traumatized. He was half Saddlebred and half Thoroughbred, a polo and lesson horse drop-out (I got him 'cause he broke someone's neck, for $400 with his bridle) who could do flying lead changes on a par with any top western riding horse. He jumped, he ran barrels. He was a lunatic outdoors and in the indoor, he spooked at the door to the barn EVERY time around. He bolted at cats, at birds, once at a moldy hay flake lying on the ground. I took him to an open show once. He spooked at a lawn chair and nearly took out the judge.

I was 17. I thought he was the bomb and rode him everywhere in a halter.

Mugwump, are you nostalgic for the horses themselves or the confidence we all had back then? That absolute carefree, jump on anything in a halter and two lead ropes and go, confidence? You can show and compete forever and have a list of wins a mile long and still have lost that...I know I've lost it. I really miss it. Maybe they weren't better broke. Maybe we just had more guts and because we were so mindlessly confident, we gave it to them and they felt better broke.

Jiller said...

I found your blog by reading the Fugly board...Now I find it is the first place I go to in the morning and the last page I read at night. I too remember those wonderful horses who carried our butts all over town without a care. I too had a mare with a split tongue. On the weekends we, other horsey friends, would saddle up, if we had one, and a group of use would ride up the river bed to a camp grounds in the Azuza mountains it was almost a half a days ride. Our parents would meet us there, have a great campfire dinner, stay overnight and then we take off the next morning for the ride back to the stables. So of the best memories I have of my childhood. Thanks for bringing back those wonderful times.

Jiller said...

Pardon my spelling in the last post, I am half asleep and didn't check before I posted. It should have said

"A group of us would saddle up"
"Some of the best memories I have"


SOSHorses said...

Mugs - I think part of the problem is that we have changed. We are no longer a do it yourself society. We pay someone else to do it for us. Instead of learning about our horses, spending time with them, figuring out how to do things, we send them to a trainer that teaches the horse how to be nice, and reliable. I am most likely a few years younger than you but maybe not. I grew up figuring things out like you did. If I wanted to do something, I worked at it until I got it right. The horse owner has changed from people like you and I that just wanted a horse. It didn't matter what horse any horse would do so long as it had four good feet a mane and tail. Sometimes the mane and tail were optional. The emphasis has changed from just being able to own a horse and having the chance to ride to "more faster got to get it now and be good at it" instead of doing the work to be good at it.

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

Allcanadian said- "are you nostalgic for the horses themselves or the confidence we all had back then?.....Maybe they weren't better broke. Maybe we just had more guts and because we were so mindlessly confident, we gave it to them and they felt better broke."

I think you might be on to something there! "in the eye of the beholder"...if you will. I have a friend that is a very forward, hyper kind of gal and she seems to make every horse she rides zippy! I am very quiet and laid back and most horses that are known for being hot settle down with me. Even unbroke horses feed off the energy of their rider.

I cant believe how many of you have seen horses with split tongues!!! WTH?

Mugs- I agree that some could have been caused by a pull back in a bit...I can see it but I'm not sold...why would we not have heard the stories? there is something more to this...dont you think??

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

It might be stupid but another idea thinking of the way I have seen vets open a horses mouth by grabbing the tongue and pulling it outwards and across to one side so that the horse is unable to close its mouth. What would happen if horse were to panic and bite down on their tongue? Just a thought?

Sydney said...

First things first: Bits don't hurt horses, humans do. We put the bits in the horses mouth and tie them and let them step on the reins and do crazy things that let our flighty friends injure themselves.

I have never seen a horse with a split tongue but I have seen one have to be euthanised because of a bit. I was young and I will never forget it. I was at a horse show and this guy had a curb bit with a port in. His horse bucked him off and his split reins were dangling. The horse stepped on the reins and the relatively low port ruptured into his nasal cavity. Luckily there was a vet on site that ended his suffering quickly.

I guess I am lucky. I learned at a young age never to tie a horse by the bit and I have only had to do it once briefly with a very well broke horse because my friend was hurt.

Francis said...

I think we have to take into consideration the rider/owners level of training too. Some of us are simply trained and then there are those of us who are broke. Trained riders can get on a trained horse and win the world, broke riders can take any horse and improve them.

I grew up riding idiot horses. But I rode the snot out of them and won classes sometimes simply because I *worked* on lead changes until my half arab mare could do them better than the $10000 show horse that was bought trained.

Now, it takes me years to accomplish what I could in a summer when I was a kid. And its just because of a lack of time put on a horse. One of the things I really appreciate about this blog is the careful approach to training.. training with a purpose helps to utilize our time better. And nowadays, I need to use the time I spend on a horse to my advantage, not just putting time on them. If that makes sense.

I wish I had the time to just ride the snot out of them again like I used to!

I learned early on not to tie with a bridle. But still did it..
Owned two horses who came with cut tongues. One was a barrel horse one a roping horse.. figure both had a bad day at one time. Neither suffered from it when I had them.

Oh yeah and back on those broke horses from our youth. I agree that some of it comes with the nerve that we had back then compared to now. My mare was afraid of big trucks.. the kind of afraid where instead of running away, she ran INTO them. But that didn't stop me from riding down the side of busy roads in Atlanta with about 3 foot shoulders.. nowadays, that would probably keep me away from situations like that. Maybe.

mugwump said...

VLC- I KNOW I'm nostalgic for the ponies of yore...The older I get the better I rode...
But seriously, what I'm questioning is whether or not our training approach has changed. Before indoors and clinicians, did horses get started by just riding them? Were they exposed to the world first and leg yields second?
I'd love to hear from a trainer from the 50's, 60's, or 70's....

Milly said...

I got my first horse at 14. He was a 5 y/o OTTB, he was hot, I was inexspericened. We went everywhere. I was at a boarding barn and one of the first things I got chewed out for was tying a horse with a bit. I'm not sure he was every truly broke or trained but had a little of both. I ended up showing western pleasure,trail and western riding (4H style) with him and he loved it. I think he accually enjoyed being in an arena more than on the trail. He wasn't spooky, I think he just didn't like it maybe not enough stucture to keep his mind going. He would jig and grind his teeth. But I'm a later era as this was in the late 90's. Maybe in the trasition. I go to the barn where I kept him and there is no longer the gang of teenage horse crazy girls, that would ride anything through anything.

mugwump said...

vlc said- You know, we've also become so much more safety-conscious that it's affecting the horses and horse training.

I almost missed that, I think that plays a huge part in the shift. Of course just saying that probably makes us liable for something or other....
I've always maintained that 98% of the horses in the world mean no harm.

Heidi the Hick said...

It'd be good to get it both ways, wouldn't it?

My dad's pony knew exactly what he needed her to know. Run like heck, stop at the stone wall and if the fence is low enough, jump it.

He loved it and can't stand it to see me farting around with my horses. But mine can pack a kid around!

I'd like to think we can get them broke AND trained. I"ve learned so much since I started my training with Ontario Equestrian Federation - I know what you mean when you say you like the level you're at. But, I sometimes worry that we pussyfoot around too much when we're overly concerned about doing things the proper way. We still have to expect them to deal with life. They're not china dolls.

PlaysWithPonies said...

I grew up riding with a very careful mom, and then with Pony Club, which is oh-so-rule conscious. And then we moved to a barn in the midst of the hills, with nowhere to ride but a rocky arena with a tendency to flood, and miles and miles of trails.

I didn't ride very much at first, but then a girl about my age took me out on the trails. She did not just walk on the trails, as I'd always been obliged to do. She trotted, cantered, and galloped like an idiot.

I think that's when I first started riding the horse instead of just being a passenger. It took me a few years more to learn how to -stop- the horse, though.

badges blues N jazz said...

GOD i LOVE THIS BLOG! its my ultimate fav... Wish I could get you out to Canada to help me out with my 3 year old.hehe

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Badges - I have actually been thinking of asking her what it would cost to fly her out to ride the VLC for a week after the show season ends. It would be kind of like a vacation, Mugwump, it'd only be one horse (unless of course you wanted to help my friend Jess with her cute but unpredictable gelding while you were here!)

spottedmonster said...

My daughter's pony, the spotted monster, came to us with a sliced tongue. She has issues with being tied so I suspect that she was tied with a bridle at some point and caused this injury. She will stand quietly for only so long before she gets anxious and in order to clip her fetlocks you have to hold her, she will flip out if she is in the cross ties and you try to clip her legs. We love her so we work around her "quirks" and try to make her trust us more.

I tied my horse to a post ONE time with his bridle on as a teenager and this horse was dead quiet, it was the one time he freaked out and broke the reins while tied. My parents made me pay to replace them.

Justaplainsam said...

I do think 'my' horses tounge was from being tied. He was always wonderful to ride and the hole was a good inch lower than where the bit sits... possible when you think about how the reins would pull the headstall forword.......

Mugwump: You should talk to my 'boss'!! Hes in his early 60's now and has been training from the age of 10. His father had draft horses and used them for all the farm work. Even when they got tractors they still had atleast a harness team and some mares.

My coach took english riding lessons for years, untill he won a prestegious award against adults and his father finaly let him stop.

In his life he has trained everything from TWH, Hackneys (including some that went to the Royal), QH's (inc. world qualifers) Apps and paints and showjumpers. He had a couple of rules for everything that came into the barn for training:

We drove everything

We sacked everything out

Everything got tied to "think about it" for hours

If you were going to get hurt you got off (but remember, you do have to get back on sometime)!

and always end on a good note.

Im famous for taking a horse out to work it, working for 10 min then putting it back. They always keep up time wise in there training, and they are usualy happer for it!!

My halter yearling suprised me on the weekend. Took her out to practice trail in hand, decided to try the tarp on the ground.... ha ha ha.... and then she just walked over it

I just walked up and walked over like it was nothing and she just followed me. No special training, just a horse that was well handled and exposed to EVERYTHING. (we practiced our timing for lungeline with 4 goats running though the ring draging there tie chains)

Back then maybe we wern't waing for the fall, or expecting our horses to travel round. We just wanted to have fun.

I got yelled at a month ago for 'fixing' and told to just go have fun.... when was the last time any of us did that??

mugwump said...

Fugs-At some point this year I'm visiting my family in Tacoma and Spokane.....I land in Sea Tac....

BELEN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BELEN said...

Losing your physical confidence after a "certain age" is just your common sense taking control. When you're young, you're so much more limber, strong and supple, that a simple fall usually results in just a few bruises. What would happen now? More likely broken bones. When you're a kid a broken bone means no school and lots of extra attention, now it means loss of income. And how many people can you impose upon to take care of your animals longterm? It's not worth it for a dumb hobby. The fear is actually helping you to be sensible.

joycemocha said...

Some of the split tongues also come from twisted wire bits.

My girl has one, from before I bought her. Ridden on the trail in a double-twist snaffle by someone whose personality didn't match hers (owner of my girl's half-brother, rider was good match for obnoxious pushy half-brother but too intense for my girl). Pushy rider got after my girl, she spooked, rider dropped rein, she stepped on rein...

When I tried her before I bought her, I was the first rider on her back since that accident ten months before.

It's healed up even more during the past three years--gone from a major gouge to a small line across the tongue. I have hopes that someday it might be completely gone. But I don't ride her with a single joint snaffle--she goes in a French link snaffle in English and a short shank (5 inch) correction curb. My reasoning is that both bits reduce the pressure on her tongue where she's been hurt. She seems to like both double-jointed bits, while she didn't like that single joint snaffle. And she's very soft.

That snaffle that got her was the wide one, too. I'd hate to see what the very thin, narrow twisted wire snaffle would do to a horse's tongue.

joycemocha said...

Oh, forgot to mention this. I used to tie my horse by bridle reins. What broke me of it was the time my horse who never spooked spooked--with a mechanical hackamore on. She pulled it down over her nose and started fighting (no, I don't know how she managed to do that, it was in the proper place!). We were right there and my mom ran off to get a knife to cut the reins.

Luckily, she stopped panicking and moved forward, and my dad untied the reins.

And I never, ever used the reins to tie a horse again.

smottical said...

I was fortunate enough to have a first instructor who taught me not to tie a horse by the reins. However, it didn't stop us "barn rats" from doing lots of other incredibly stupid shit. Plus, at 11 I got sent to horse camp for one week and then the parents decided I was clearly expert enough to manage a green 4-year-old fireball of a Morgan...

Horse Dreamer said...

I'm no trainer nor have I been around the horse world forever, but here is what I wonder?

Is it nature vs nurture, old vs new or are we wanting a well balanced partner? Many of the best athletes whether they are human or animals start early and only focus on one discipline. But then they are kinda stuck, specialized if you will. For me and my horse I would much rather have a jack-of-all trades as my grandmother used to say. A partner that is versitle and able to tell the difference between an inexperienced child and an experienced adult.

I also believe that breeding has changed horses. I have watched as the breeds have really changed in conformation and that is the outward changes. If the outward is changing then I would assume the internal (mental) is changing as well.

Just a few thoughts.

Dontyouridenofuglyhorse said...

I have given the "Where are all the broke horses" post a lot of thought. I believe that the horses of our youth were not necessarily well trained but they were better socialized and better bred for disposition.
I think there are two components we are lacking these days.
#1 The majority of horses used to be bred by ranchers and farmers, not hobby breeders.
#2 The advantage ranchers and farmers had over hobby breeders is two fold, a: they bred the horses they used. If they could not use it, it went to "chicken feed". The poorly performing/poor dispositioned horses were culled like a poorly performing cow would be. b: those ranchers did not raise their young stock in stalls and tiny perfectly manicured grass lots. Those horses ran with a herd of broodies, and there was thunder and lightning, wind storms, ponds, creeks, mud, deer popping out of the brush, coyotes, bears, dogs, chickens, goats, sheep, even cougars. The horses learned from the old broodies what a real threat was and what was something not to be worried about. They explored their world and the surprises in it and grew up knowing what all of those things were and how to react properly. They were also taught what their place in the herd was, and it was not at the top making the decisions. They learned paitience waiting for their turn at the water trough, and submission by moving off a feed pile without complaint when told to do so. They learned that the herd will help take care of you and you are expected to help take care of the herd.
I believe these are the qualities we seldom see in horses any more, and these are the qualities that lead a horse to take care of their riders, and set their frame of mind to be submissive partners.
Now days people raise youngsters in paddocks and stalls that offer little for stimulation and decision making skills. They never turn them out with other horses for fear of injury so they do not learn submission or to care for herd mates. Those barn raised prissy horses are uncomfortable outside of an arena with good footing and heaven forbid a scary deer or a bird fly in their face the world would come to an end.
i just think that horses shoudl be raised in as natural an environment as possible. The only real people skills they need are to be halter broke, have their feet handled, and be de-wormed. the rest of the skills we value in horses are taught in the herd and in the open.

loneplainsman said...

I am from a couple generations after you, mugs, and the changes are clear. I was RAISED an arena baby. Started off in lessons. On broke horses, but never outside of an arena. I learned to walk, trot, canter and jump quite well in my 7 years of weekly lessons before I bought my first horse. In those seven years we left the arena maybe 7 times. 50 lessons a year for seven years - 350 lessons and only seven of them were outside an arena. Even fewer lessons were without saddles.

Now, I learned to ride, sure. I became a great rider. In an arena, with a saddle, on a safe horse. But did I learn to ride or just how not to fall off??

Bought my first horse, stayed in lessons. Spent 3 years with that horse riding in an arena, with a saddle. I can count the number of times I rode outside on one hand. I can't remember EVER riding bareback. Didn't fall off except for a few times. I was doing well. Or was I?

I have a bad, bad fall and sell that first horse, buy the horse I have now. I ride very very sporadically for the first two years of owning him. When I do ride, it's always in an arena, almost always with a saddle.

Into my third year of owning that horse, I finally start to loosen up. I started riding bareback 4 months ago and worked my way up to WTCJ. About a month ago I started venturing outside. After 12 years with horses, I'm just starting to venture outside the arena walls! We had our first near-gallop three days ago. Bareback. With no arena walls.

It seems somewhat backward to me, unnatural. I feel like the horses you're talking about. Trained but not really broke. My seat is good, my hands are good, my timing is good... but up until recently it was only good with a saddle and in an enclosed area. My horse is the same. Not AS well trained, but he's got a good woah, go, spin, sidepass to him. But outside of the arena? Unsure and slightly spooky.

The other day, galloping out in the open, just me and my horse, was the most incredible thing I'd ever done. Why didn't I do it earlier?

Smurfette said...

Yeah, I'm older, but at as a youth, we used to take our SHOW horses (yes, the ones stalled and pampered) out to a back dirt road (I trained my own, but the gal with a trainer had to trailer hers in secretly) and match raced them! and after the race, we expected them to walk home on a loose rein. Just do what I tell you to, horse.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Loneplainsman - That is EXACTLY how I learned to ride. I never rode up or down a hill until I had been riding for OVER TEN YEARS.

To this day, I despise downhill grades with a passion. I don't like being in open. I want a wall or a fence to bounce off if I'm out of control. My comfort zone is the indoor arena.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Fugs-At some point this year I'm visiting my family in Tacoma and Spokane.....I land in Sea Tac....<<

Perfect. You can make this one a working vacation and I'll pay you to ride him while you're here. Compared to some of the babies you describe, he will BE a will just need the mounting block to get on, ha ha. :-)

Sydney said...

The number of times I have ridden in an indoor arena I could count on my fingers and toes. They are so boring to me and my horses. Indigo my normally spit fired mare you have to practically beat to do anything in the arena more than a walk.
I am afraid of walls.
I have leg-a-pole-aphobia (aka when the horse smushes your leg on a pole, wall, tree, anything leg height like mailboxes XD) I also have HUGE scars on both my shins from having horses nearly scrape my legs off on things. I would rather gallop down a trail any day on any horse than trot in circles in an arena. Monotonous.

Mugs- WRITE MORE!! I can only read the same few posts over a few billion times before wanting more more more more!

horse power said...

My current horse has created an interesting variation on the tongue injury theme. He offers what we like to call "the tongue of friendship" to his neighbors as an offer to play. He will go over to the horse he wants to play with and stick his tongue out. I've seen him with his tongue in OTHER horses mouths. He does have some scars on his tongue from being bitten. I've tried to tell him that his tongue is too important to allow other horses to play with it but he hasn't learned yet. "Hi my name is Gintano, will you play with me? I offer you this tongue of friendship. It is all I have to give."

Sydney said...

Thats so wierd lol!

I knew a stallion that liked his tongue rubbed. He would walk up to you and stick it out to be rubbed and played with. He would go right to sleep.

Just a thought: we need another post to read!!

trainingemmy said...

Mugwump, as always you offer some great thoughts in this blog entry.

I teach writing to college students, and one of the biggest problems I see is that my students don't want to do the hard work of achieving excellence in their craft. They see published books, and they think "oh...that's easy." What they don't understand is how much work good writing really is. I have to model that work for them, and once I do, the ones who can hack it turn out to be awesome writers. The rest go away.

Same is true with horses. Riding a horse into the frothing water of a beach LOOKS awesome. Riding your unruly, green-broke mare who hates water on the same beach is an entirely different proposition. Which is to say, I think a lot of people don't want to work at it. They don't see the value in riding that unruly horse or doing ground work with a horse with issues. The fantasy doesn't match up with the reality, and so they don't put miles on their horses.

I personally enjoy your blog and the Very Large Colt blog for the identical reason: they provide a blueprint for the day-to-day and sometimes boring aspects of training. You are modeling the work I am beginning to do with my mare, and that's extremely valuable to me. I'm currently blogging about my own experience as a way to stay in touch with the work I'm doing and to keep a record of my own experience. It's really helping!

kapt kaos said...

its friday and I am going into withdrawl here.....

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