Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jumpin' Jehosophats!

First off, I gotta say, this video (link is posted between photos) made my heart zing. Yes, the old Mort ridin', brush poppin', yee ha Janet of yesteryear's first reaction was, "I want to do that too!"

Then of course, reality set in. Old. Crooked. Shaky. Wrong horses. Wrong Saddle. Wrong country. Oh well.

Look at those cool horses! And the country side! And, and, the mud! Oooh, I want to run in the mud!

You get an idea where this video took me, I haven't used this many exclamation marks since my seventh grade creative writing class.

The riders are the Ballinagore Harriers from Dublin Ireland. I have watched the video a few times now and I think I'll probably watch it some more. I've got to warn you, I am not screaming "horse abuse" Not even a little.

I don't jump my horses--as in, with an eventing saddles over fences--but I jump logs, downed fences, ditches and so on when I'm out and about. I have scrambled up and down wicked hills and gullies that had my horses sliding on their hocks or sent them to their knees. So I can relate to some of this.

This is what I saw. The horses were calm, willing and forward, even the ones that biffed it. I liked their size, how sturdily built they are, and their matter of fact outlook. They were pretty too.

Their attitude seemed pretty much, "La, la la, another jump, yip!"

The refusals didn't start until after the first horse to struggle with the footing. Were the horses watching? Did the horse in trouble yell, "This footing sucks!" to the ones behind him?

The riders were a mixed lot, but one thing they had in common, confidence in the ability of their horses, which tells me they've tested it.

It seemed clear to me the footing became more treacherous with each leap. I would think the riders would see that, but it didn't appear to be so. It also seemed, the better riders jumped first, the more tentative or off balance were in the back. That's where I saw the most bit snatching and martingale leaning. The horses that weren't given their head...all struggled. Horses with an ill timed whack on the butt ... struggled. Horses with wet bags of sand on them instead of a rider...struggled.

Again, this stuff seemed to happen more, the further down the line we went. So I started to wonder, are the greenies, fearful, untalented (or God help em' all three) pushed to the back? If so, I'd be thinking about that. It means the experienced, talented, confident horses and riders get the good dirt. You know, the riders smart enough to say, "I'm not jumping that, it's churned up  into a slippy slide and a cesspool." Do they jostle to the front to avoid the wreckage caused by the unwashed masses behind them? Does a rider earn their way out of mud flung in their face through skill and experience?

I have no clue, but would like to know.

I saw horses sliding in mud, but I didn't see a lot of trauma, either mentally or physically, to any of them. Except for some mouth snatching and the death grips, which we see on every dude trail in America. It looked like their might be a few sore riders though.

What do you think? Can anybody who knows more about this than me add their thoughts?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This, Not This

The more I think about breeds, crosses, bloodlines that trace back to....the more I, well, keep thinking. 
I guess I have more questions than opinions.
Because I like having a horse bred to do the stuff I want to do. I don't like the genetic weakness that comes with breeding for a specific look or ability. I guess it's that simple.
Same things with dogs. If I need to hunt, be protected, find stuff or herd sheep, well a dog bred help me would be great. 
By choosing to adopt at the pound, my chances of success for a specific test are much smaller. 
Except some of my best dogs have been mutts. 
Here's where my thinking always goes...

I would love to have one of these.

But I definitely don't want one of these.

I have dreams of owning one of these and seeing if it would make as kick butt of a cow horse as I think it would.
Same breed, ew, ew, ew.

I have wanted one of these for years, and I'll be honest, I love the color and the spooky eyes as much as the toughness, intelligence and loyalty.

See what happens when people are attracted to a breed because of it's color? Merle dogs bred with merle dogs can produce deaf and blind puppies. Some are born without eyes.

"Get a mustang," I'm told. "They are smarter, stronger, have better feet and their bloodlines trace back to the barbs that came over with the conquistadors!"
Well heck, if they all look like this Kiger, then let me jump on that boat.

Small problem, 90% of the kiger mustangs I come across look like this.

...then there are other rare gene pools that look like this, and I don't want to ride or clean up after either one of these.

If I wanted a big ass drooly guard dog (I don't) I might look at this.
Unfortunately, since WWII, the dogs have turned into this. I really don't want this.

I could get one of these instead. Smaller, cheaper, longer life span, same concept.

I'll be honest. I like color. I really do. Except I want my Krazy Kolor Choices to look like this.
Not this

I can't imagine having a dog without a  nose.
However, I would send my firstborn to a convent if I could have this Pugahoula.

Last but not least, my own beloved  breed, the Quarter Horse. They have turned into too many different types within the breed. Almost to the point of no return. You can still find sound, good minded, athletic horses within my breed, but there sure is a lot of chaff to wade through before you find the grain. 

This is what I want to ride.
Not this (yawn)

...and never, ever this.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Things I've Learned and What I'm Thinking - Brockle and Protection Work

We mill around, sipping coffee in cardboard cups, laughing and catching up. The dogs are let out of their kennels to stretch their legs and warm up, one by one, or in small groups that are known to get along.

Each dog runs to the "pee spot" and does just that, getting their first praise of the day for peeing where they're supposed to. They weave in and out of the group, receiving praise, pats and friendly greetings.

Brockle, who was so stranger-wary when we first teamed up, now trots up to his favorite treat lady, accepts a kind stroke or a cheery "Hey Brockle" with a happy wag of his tail. He is fired up and ready to rock and roll, but obediently goes to his bed in the back of my car when I call him.

What I've learned:
This first of the morning ritual is important. The dogs all pee at the pee spot because it smells good. When they receive the universal "Good pee!" they are not only learning to pee on command, but starting the day doing things right, just by doing things naturally.

The dogs socialize with their handler, the decoys, the trainers, spouses observers, etc. Everybody is the same, and all people are treated with respect.

What I'm thinking:
Brockle is learning to trust my reactions. If I'm relaxed and social, so is he. So, how much of his anxieties and fears are mirrors of my own? Watching him become a happy, solid, confident dog gives me a surge of peace. His insecurities aren't the only mirrors.

We start the day by bringing Brockle out so HMT and Bianca can check our obedience work. Brockle bounces and grins and turns himself inside out to perform each maneuver. What we lack in precision we make up in enthusiasm. HMT gives me some tips on correcting his crooked sit and Bianca talks to me about what's coming next, the off-leash down stay while another dog works.

What I've learned:
Brockle's bounce won't hurt him during our initial, Basic Handler test. He is young, the road to Schutzhund is long, and the judges will enjoy his enthusiasm. He throws him self into every maneuver like a crazy dog, keeps his eyes on me, and responds with lightening speed. These things are what they want to see.

I am too quiet and not assertive enough when I give my commands.Sigh.

What I'm thinking:
I wiggle inside like my dog does on the outside when my trainer and his wife say "Good job!"

One by one, each dog is brought from kennel or car and works with his handler, and a decoy. The dogs waiting in their kennels for their turn, bark and whine with excitement. Each work out is finished within minutes, sometimes one or two, sometimes five, rarely much longer. This is an experienced, knowledgeable crowd. They watch each dog work with intensity, and discuss what they see, and then ideas for improving the dog, the decoy and or the handler fly fast between them. The teasing, catcalls and harassment wait for the brief down times between dogs. Everybody contributes, everybody learns to take a bite, and those who can, are learning to decoy. Everyone has something to offer. The discussions are lively and I am the greenest in  the group.

What I've learned:

Keep my mouth shut, observe and listen. Think things through, then ask careful questions.

What I'm thinking:

While I don't mind not knowing, I hate being stupid. I want to be worth educating. I wonder why they keep me around.

Brockle and I come out to work. Decoy Jim wants to focus on Brockle's prey drive. HMT agrees and watches from the sidelines. Decoy Jim goes back to the tug, easing the mental pressure on Brockle. He immediately jumps into the game, hitting the end of the leash with authority, barking a loud warning and going in for the bite on the tug.

He fades again like he did last week, sniffing the ground, presenting his profile to the decoy. This week, we're ready for him. The decoy throws the tug, Brockle locks onto it when it lands and begins to bark as the decoy swoops in to pick it up. When he bites, it's without hesitation and he carries the tug in a proud victory lap.

What I've learned:

Through reading about the body language of dogs, I have learned that anxious dogs who want to placate a threat (the decoy) will look away, sniff the ground and otherwise appear distracted.

A dog that is guarding his person will stand lengthwise in front of them, looking out.

When Brockle bites, he is all about defense. He is protecting me and is not seeing this bite work as a game. He barks in a high, nervous yap, and bites with a shallow, front of the mouth bite. This says he's feeling insecure.

What I'm thinking:

Brockle is unsure of his role at this point. He has made it clear he will whomp some butt if the bad guy gets too close, but he's not happy about it. He is trying to placate the decoy.

Brockle is a civilized dog who knows it's wrong to bite people. "Hey man, why don't you settle down, maybe a game of fetch?"

I worry that we're scaring him.

What I've learned:

Brockle's behavior is understandable in a young dog and a surprise only to me. He understands the concept of defense, but not the concept of prey. Once he gets it, he will get into the game.

"Brockle is confused, not afraid," Bianca told me. "He wouldn't have been so happy on the field this morning, while you were working obedience, if he was afraid. He is always eager to come out, a frightened dog wouldn't be.

Brockle is sorting out his job and is telling me what he needs. The Cool K-9's team understands this. Our work-outs are fun, short and to the point. Dogs are encouraged and praised and we always quit on a high note, no matter how small it might be.

What I've learned:
Trust my trainer.

What I'm thinking:
Brockle is thinking too. He's freaking awesome.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Conversations With My Horses

There are holes in my training. Always have been, always will. I see more, feel more, and understand more, with every passing year, and I've become a pretty decent hand (pun intended), even in my current, crippled, wobbly state, but the holes are becoming clearer too.

My personal horses do really cool stuff. They are soft, responsive, quick off your leg and even quicker off your hand. Horses I trained for other people were shaped to fit their rider. They tended to have a little less handle and much better manners than my horses.

There's a reason for that. If my clients could stay with horses as feely and emotional as mine, well, they'd be riding with the Big K, now wouldn't they? My clients wanted to ride better, get a handle on a tough horse, or work on their own fears. Some wanted to show cowhorse, but if they did, they came to me to fix the other stuff first. Some stayed, some dumped me and moved on to K, it was all good. Those who stayed learned what they wanted, and often, what they needed.

My own horses appear gentle, calm and quiet. I have been told, by those who don't quite know me and my horses, they are boring. Nice,"but I like a horse with a little more fire." Which in many ways is very, very funny.
K liked riding horses I started or fixed, and he liked working with riders who had been through my process. It made me feel successful, during a time in my life where I felt little success.  

***Spoiler alert***What I'm about to write is VERY POLITICALLY INCORRECT. Please remember, I'm relaying a private conversation, a moment in time, a description that fit the situation, that does not represent my actual opinion about, well, anything, except that moment.

"When I'm riding a horse, trained by a client, who was taught to train that horse, by me..." I said.

"Yes?" K asked.

"It feels like I'm riding one of my horses..." 


"if it was my horse's 'special ed' little brother or sister."

"Snort." K shook his head and studied his saddle horn.

"You, know, everything is there, but slower, duller, not quite right."

K looked at me, with his I-can't-believe-what-rattles-around-in-your-brain look.

"So, it got me thinking," I said.


"Do you feel the same way when you ride mine?"

"Well, not quite."

"Oh. Good."

"They might have been held back a grade or two."


I have come to understand I have a running conversation with my horses. Not verbal, but physical. They talk to me with their ears, their eyes, how high or low they are holding their head. They tell me things with the tension in their bodies, the swish of a tail, whether their feet are on the ground or in the air and what they do with each one.

This isn't that big of a deal. Any solid horseman is aware of these very same things. I have the habit of digesting everything my horse tells me. I read it, think about it and then respond. I might react, with a correction, an explanation, or a yee-ha! I might ignore what I'm being told, because it doesn't go long with my program, but I still listen.

This creates a horse with an opinion. They tell me when they are frightened, cranky, angry, excited, or just plain ready to go. They expect me to hear them, and respond with a touch, a scratch, a tightening or relaxation of my body, or a slap on their ass, and I do. I work them with the goal of getting them ready for the task at hand by dealing with their mind-set. 

This may sound to some like a true, horse whispery kind of communication. Maybe it is, but it sure as hell can wreak havoc with getting the job done.

I'll give you the best example I can, a comparison of me and K doing a fence run during a horse show. Here's Madonna and I last year. It was our first NRCHA show in five years. Every time I watch it, I want to scream,"Sit back!" We were out of shape and rusty, but I was happy and we got a check.

Me and Madonna

Next up is The Big K and Spart Plain Pep (Rain), kicking butt at the World's Greatest Horseman.

Essentially, what's going on in my video is this.
Me: Let's go.
Madonna: The gates over there. (0:05)
Me: We're not done yet, knock it off.
Madonna: Who's that guy? (0:30)
Me: The cow guy, get back to work.
Madonna: Are you sure? (0:33)
Me: Quit worrying about it.
Madonna: Let's blast past her! (1:16)
Me: Get back here, I want a long fence run.
Madonna: Dammit!
Me: Don't quit me! (1:48)
Madonna: OMG! Where did that tarp come from? (1:51)
Me: You just now saw the tarp? Get back to work!
Madonna: If we weren't behind we wouldn't be stuck on the fence.
Me: Dammit!
Madonna: Here you go --pretty, pretty, pretty.

And here's how Big K rides a horse.

Big K: Do it!
Rain: I'm on it!

You can see where I get in my own way. I don't ride my horses, I ride with them. We chat back and forth, and I like it. Except when we need to keep our eye on the ball, er, cow, and we're arguing instead. K has some good insight on this. He doesn't consider my approach a problem in itself, it's how I implement it. I'll dive into this tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


She ran the perimeter of the round pen, oblivious to the empty milk jugs strung from the saddle horn.

I asked for a whoa and I got a tidy little slide in response. When I brought her to the middle she rested her nose in the palm of my hand. Her eyes had a playful sparkle, my new game was fun I guess, it sure wasn't setting off a flight or fight response.

"Well this isn't making much of a difference," I said.

Brittney, the teenage stall help at the stable, leaned against the fence rail. "I wonder why she doesn't bolt with you? She'd crash through the fence if anybody else tried that."

"I can't figure it out," I said, "maybe it's energy, or the time I put in, I just don't know."

I was on a campaign of desensitizing Tally. It went against the grain of my own training philosophies, but so far, my theories were about useless, at least when it came to Tally and her owner, Tim. It was time to try somebody else's approach.

So far, it just wasn't happening. Tally didn't care about tarps, standing on platforms, crossing bridges or having to walk through strings of plastic flags. I could wrap us both in a shower curtain and juggle rolls  of crepe paper, it was just another day of stupid stuff to do.

However, if I was on her back, stayed loose, and let somebody approach us with a bucket, or a piece of paper,she would blast off in a dead run. Once I settled in my seat, and took a strong hold on the bit, she would stop. I never got more than two strides out of her.

If I was ready, and held her between a strong leg and hand, I couldn't get her to even try. She would just stand there while the "stranger" handed me the horse killing object.

"Let's go out to the arena," I said. Brittney followed along behind. Tally hated having people behind her, so I kept my mouth shut and plenty of slack in the lead, waiting for her to react. She rolled her eyes and got up on her tip-toes, but that was it.

I had deliberately left the cinch loose, and drug on the horn and the cantle while I hoisted myself up. The saddle slipped, Tally sidled off and I stepped off, leaving the saddle hanging cock-eyed. Tally stood quiet while I readjusted the saddle and tightened her back up.

"At least you fixed that part," Brittney said.

"It shouldn't have needed fixing."

When I mounted again, I hauled on her back some more, hoisted myself up with my weight all over the place and flopped around on her back, giving Tally my best imitation of a bass landed in the bottom of a rowboat.

She danced around, snorted, braced her feet and let me find my stirrups. Her reaction was completely logical and she didn't take a dangerous step. I leaned back and patted her. I leaned forward and hugged her neck. I yanked the saddle back and forth. Nothing.

"She's doing great," Britnney said. She looked up at me with that awkward, hero-worshiping shine only a teenager gives. I knew she'd be broadcasting Tally's phenomenal progress all over the barn. I really wished it was the truth.

The thing is, I hadn't touched Tally's crazy. I couldn't bring it out.

I gave up for the day and went to loping circles. Tally chugged along, her tail swinging, snorting with every perfect, measured stride. Ten to the left, ten to the right, a few straight lines and a rest to air up.  Man, she was fun to ride. Level and powerful, she felt like she would go forever.

I ran a few stops, and she laid down some nice tracks. Her spins were coming along nicely. I could feel the potential for great ones, if I was better at training them, she'd be smoking.

Tim drove by, flashed me a nervous smile and headed to the parking lot. He had been back in the saddle for a week. He only rode after I worked her and wouldn't leave the arena, but at least he was riding again.

He rode smart, she went along great, I had never been so bummed in my life. I stood next to them while he aired her up. They were the picture of a solid horse and rider pair.

"I don't know what to do Tim. I can't reconstruct what set's her off. Unless I get your confidence and skills up to dealing with her, I don't feel like you'll ever be safe."

"She's been so good though." He rubbed her neck and smiled. I really think we're getting over our problems. I can saddle her and do ground work with her and she's perfect. I want to keep trying. Our reining is getting so solid. I was wondering, could we come with you to Amarillo?"

There was a nice little AQHA show in Amarillo every February. It was fun, not to big, just competitive enough to get the blood running and a nice way to pick up some early points.

"You mean, show her?" My blood pressure shot up about twenty points.

"You said a trip would be good for her. Maybe you could ride her first, and if she was OK, then I'll try."

"If I veto the whole thing and she doesn't show at all, are you okay with that?" Maybe Tim wasn't so crazy. A week on the road might be just the ticket.

"Of course."

"All righty then, Amarillo it is."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Brockle Let's Me Know He is Ready For Scent Work

I try to stay positive.
Brockle and I went to protection practice.
Dog after beautiful dog worked like a maniac.
Steady, focused, they would have worked all day if they could.
Then it was our turn.

Bad guy! There's the bad guy!

I chomp bad guys!

You better run! And your mama too!

Whoa there, bad guy, just a sec...
Dude. Can't you smell that?

There's something really smelly around here.
Um, Janet? He's not listening.
Seriously, tell the bad guy to cool it. OK?
"Are you shittin' me?" asks the bad guy.

Here, I found it.
Week old dog treat, a little moldy....nom, nom, nom.

OK. Back to business.

Good dog. Sigh.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Breed Bias and Good Dogs

There is a breed of dog, a breed that we see in every neighborhood and on every street, which has been given a bad rap.

This breed leaves a strong stamp on out-crosses, from color, to shape, to size and temperament. This leads to mixes of all kind being classified as this breed, and their behavior, no matter what the out-cross is credited to them.

They are often chosen by first time dog owners, people with no experience, and  no understanding of the true nature of these dogs. Of course this means the dogs are often on the receiving end of little or no training, not enough exercise, and complete ignorance of the needs of a large, strong breed like this one. From one extreme, they can suffer neglect and abuse, to the other, anthropomorphism to the point of embarrassment. These dogs are type-cast by the people who own them, not by who they really are.

Ooooh, bet you thought I was going to talk about Pits, dincha?

Well, I'm not, so calm down all you Pit Bull lovers, put down your placards and take off that "I heart my Witty Pittie." I'll rile you up another day.

I'm talking about Labs. Good old, dog parkin', kid wrestling, suburban backyard, Labs. 

Wait, what's that I hear? A snort of disgust? I can feel those eye rolls, don't think I don't.

Thick. Hyper. Out of control. Over-bred. Stoooopid.

How many have heard these descriptions of Labs? How many have said it?

Here's the thing, I grew up with a hunting dog. He was a Golden Retriever, but hey, he carried stuff in his mouth, had a big doofy grin on his face almost all of the time, and could clear a coffee table with a single solid wag, so, same thing, right?

My childhood companion was smart, obedient, helped my Dad put food on the table and 100% safe with his huge, rambunctious litter of human children. He was a protector and a best friend, and the best dog a kid could ever want.

The dumbest, most naive and trusting, portion of the dog owning world, tends to choose Labs. Settle down all you hunters and Lab owners with reasonable IQ's, I didn't say ALL Labs are owned by morons.

What I'm saying is, most suburban, extendo leash using, dog bandanna adorning, "Don't worry, he's FRIENDLY," maroons will choose  a Lab as their dog. 

Wanna know why? Because Labs are kind. Labs put up with stupid people's horseshit. They love their human kids, even when nobody teaches them to leave the dog's eyes in their sockets. Stupid people and their spawn survive owning a Lab.

For some reason, this gets the dog labeled as stupid too.

Just in case you fall into this category of breed discrimination, or if you just want to love dogs even more, then watch this video. It KILLED me. Then, all you Lab dissers, just SHUT UP. OK??

Monday, January 13, 2014

Human, Canine, Equine

Where my mind is wandering these days. It gets worse...

Think how they could get these suckers going with the right "performance shoes!"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Life as a Non-Pro

Signs I'm truly retired from the horse biz and ready for my life as a non-pro:

I was dinking around in the arena yesterday with Kathy and her daughter Sarah. Two riders came in, new boarders I haven't met before. They were both women, about my age, and have a couple of sturdy, middle aged geldings.

Earlier in the day, I had overheard one talking about a trainer she admired.

"Watching her work a horse is like watching Parelli, or Anderson with a horse," she said.

"You're loving this aren't you," Sarah said.

I shrugged.

"At least she's working with somebody," I answered. I realized I meant it.

The women rode over, introduced themselves and we chatted a bit. They are friendly, want to trail ride and don't have a trailer. We offered to show them some local trails someday and went back to dinking. They are both green -- riding with hiking boots and spurs, nervous clenching hands, lots of sock showing, $20 bits and bright, poly fleece pads.

While I noticed and cataloged this stuff, my only thought was, Cool, somebody to trail ride with. I realized I meant it.

We were still dinking when another boarder came in the arena, leading her horse by the reins in one hand and the other firmly wrapped around another horse's bridle, just above the bit. The "other horse" was packing a very nervous, very green rider. The "other horse" was very green, very stiff and even more worried than her rider. She was lathered, jigging, and jerking her head in the air, trying to get away from the clenched hand holding her bridle.

I realized they had just come from the indoor the same moment I understood the boarder was giving this terrified, potentially explosive pair  a lesson.
The boarder rides pretty well.
Considering she has been riding for three years.
She has never taken a lesson.
She owns one horse, her first horse, a level-headed ranch gelding in his teens.
She did put in a lot of hours before she had her baby.

I noticed and cataloged this stuff too. I had a brief vision of the horse bolting towards ours, or spooking away from ours, or....

"I can't stay for this," I said to Kathy and Sarah.

We quietly left the arena as the boarder was trying to attach a longe line to the shank of the nervous horse's bit. Her client held her reins in a death grip. The horse half reared and twisted.

"Do you think they'll be okay?" Kathy asked.

"I don't know," I said.

It's not my barn, not my client, not my problem, I thought. I realized I meant it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Man From Snowy River Horse Training

This video is making the rounds on FB. There are lots of wows about how cool it is, and "Someday, I'll get my horses to do that too!"

There I was, jumping up and down, hand high in the air, yelling, "I know how! I know how!"

Didn't do me much good, since it was 6:30 a.m. and I was sitting the dark...on FB.

Anyway, this is Man From Snowy River training and is sooooo 1970's. No, Man From Snowy River training is not a real method, especially since it was actually filmed in the early '80's. Which is when  the whip cracking thing became popular.

The "get the horses to come running" trick was a popular thing to do when I first started training. I was a teenager and, you guessed it, it was the 70's.

It was back in the days before we whispered, there were no carrot sticks, the games we played on our horses didn't involve clickers and usually required riding them while we played. We didn't wear helmets, shoed only in the summer, and our horses were wormed with a tube jammed up their noses and down their throats.

Training took longer, a colt was started over three years instead of three days, but the first thing we did with them, once the buck was off, was hit the trail. This video is a great way to explain how the kinder, gentler trainers did it back in the day.

Here's how to teach them to come running and jump in the trailer - Man From Snowy River Style.

Our trailers were front loads and they were SMALL. We didn't think twice about jamming them in there and having them spilling over the top of the butt bar. Our horses learned to cope, probably because nobody asked them how they felt about it. I was told (and believed everything the feed store guy told me) that the horses needed to fit tight to be we hauled them saddled.

Thanks for sending the pic of your trailer Becky!

I taught my horses to load by feeding them in the trailer. I could back it to the gate of their pen or leave it open in the pasture (my preferred choice). It usually took three days. I put grain on the floor about two-feet in the first day, then to the middle, then in the feeder on the third day.

That was it. If they weren't jumping in to get fed by three days, I just waited. It never took more than a week, even with the trailer sour ones. They loaded themselves in, then got themselves out.

Once they had it down, I closed the doors, put the grain in, and didn't let them eat until I put on a halter and threw the lead rope over their back. This also taught them to let me catch them in the field.

 When we were kids, my mom had a bell, kind of a modified school bell, she would ring so we would come home. If we heard that bell we all came running. We knew there was dinner waiting and if we didn't get there quick enough we might not be asked to join the others at the table. In my family, when it came to food, dawdling was a bad idea.

I did the same with my horses. Hung a bell and rang it at feed time. Each horse got fed as he came in. After a while, only the horses that came at a run got grain with their hay. The dawdlers were left with just hay. That was all it took. If I rang the bell, they came in at a dead run.

If I wanted my horses to run into their trailer at liberty, I would have them loading and responding to the bell training (Mr. Man From Snowy River Wannabe cracks his whip). Then I would start putting the grain in the trailer and ringing the bell.

The thing is, Mort would jump into any open trailer he passed. With me on him or not, didn't matter. If I wasn't paying attention, in we'd go. Which is why I never taught him to RUN in.

The end.
You're welcome.

So, so 70's.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate - That is the Question

Now here's a question I've been chewing on for quite a while. I worry about over doing everything, from supplements, to worming, to vaccines -- on my animals, my family and myself.

What do you guys think about this very touchy subject?

Horse Vaccination Protocol

Written by Mark DePaolo, DVM.  COPYRIGHT © 2012 All rights reserved.


We are increasingly seeing negative side effects that occur from the over-use and un-judicious administration of routine vaccines.  This condition of sometimes-permanent negative side effects caused by overuse of vaccines is collectively termed “Vaccinosis”. 
It’s time for us, as proactive horse owners, to rethink all of our traditional ideas on equine vaccinations.  If vaccines needed to be given annually (or more often), people would still be getting vaccinated every year for all of those diseases that we were vaccinated for as kids.
Almost all of our horse vaccines last a minimum of 7 years, most last a lifetime.   Many horse owners continue to vaccinate their horses too frequently because they believe that vaccines are innocuous (do no harm).  Many horses are vaccinated yearly (or more often) for diseases that they are never exposed to or already have immunity to.
Vaccinations in horses are being recommended much more frequently than the same vaccine in their human counterpart.  Human and horse immune systems function in exactly the same fashion.  Humans are only vaccinated as babies and children but some farms vaccinate their horses 6 plus times a year for a horse’s entire life.


Because most people and veterinarians have been taught that vaccine reactions occur within 48 hours after the vaccine is given, many vaccination reactions go unreported.  Often horses have vaccine reactions that go totally unnoticed or occur up to 30 days after the administration of the vaccine so these symptoms are not generally thought of as being linked.
Even the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) warns:
“It should be recognized that:  Administration of multiple vaccines at the same time may increase the risk of adverse reactions.  Safety and efficacy data are not available regarding the concurrent use of multiple vaccines.  Adverse reactions are not always predictable and are inherent risks of vaccination. Therefore, it is recommended that horses not be vaccinated in the 2 weeks prior to shows, performance events, sales or domestic shipment. Some veterinarians may elect not to vaccinate horses within 3 weeks of international shipment.
After receiving a vaccine(s) intramuscularly, some horses experience local muscular swelling and soreness or transient, self-limiting signs including fever, anorexia and lethargy. Severe reactions at sites of injection can be particularly troublesome, requiring prolonged treatment and convalescence. Systemic adverse reactions (such as urticaria, purpura hemorrhagica or anaphylaxis) can also occur. Other systemic adverse reactions have been anecdotally reported”.


The label insert for every vaccine warns against vaccinating horses that are unhealthy.
No horse should ever be vaccinated that has any of the following:
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Heaves
  • Cushings
  • Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis (EPM)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM or PPSM)
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Any disease not listed here

Or any type of:
  • Infection
  • Skin disease
  • Hives
  • White Line Disease
  • Scratches
  • Respiratory Tract Infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye problems
  • Allergies or allergic reactions


Most veterinarians recommend what they learned in school (the vaccination schedule developed by the drug companies that manufacture the vaccines).  Veterinarians seldom want to be controversial and go against regular western medical training and it is beneficial for them because they are also making a profit by administering the vaccines.  Many veterinary clinics make up to 50% of their income by administering “annual vaccinations”.
Many holistic veterinarians tout antibody titers as the way to know if your horse is in need of any vaccines.  Antibody titers measure the amount of antibodies that are circulating around the blood stream at any given time to a particular disease.  These titer tests are wonderful and give us great information as long as the horses’ antibody levels are elevated.
The problem with titer tests is that they only measure what is called humoral (liquid) immunity, they can’t measure your horses’ cellular immunity.  Humoral immunity is when the animal is exposed to a certain disease for the first time and it produces antibodies to that disease.  Humoral immunity and circulating antibodies will only last for a short while without any reoccurring exposure to that disease.
The body also, at the same time that it produces the humoral immunity, will produce cellular immunity.  Cellular immunity consists of a certain type of white blood cell that can differentiate into other cells when needed.  These cells, when stimulated by exposure to a pathogen (germ), can then make antibodies.  This type of immunity is almost always life-long.  Unfortunately, there is no way to measure cellular immunity.  Therefore, if you run a titer and the numbers are low, it is quite likely that you’re horse is still immune to that disease, but you have no way of knowing.  If you have ever run a vaccine titer on your horse and it was protective, your horse has life long immunity to that disease.


You can go on the internet and search for the incidence of certain diseases on the website of your state veterinary board or the Center for Disease Control.  Remember that just because a certain number of cases have been reported in your state, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those animals became sick or even needed to be treated.  We are trying to look at all of the information with an open mind and then make a decision based on common sense, not fear.  We may need to “read between the lines” some, to make the most informed decisions when it comes to the delicate health of our beloved horses.


A common sense vaccine protocol would be to treat our horses like we were treated as kids.  We were given three or four vaccines at certain strategically timed intervals and then we were covered, for life!
Foals are not born immune-competent, which means they do not have the ability to mount a normal immune response until sometime after 6 months of age. This is why a mare will pass antibodies to the foal in the colostrum(first milk).  This is the only immunity that the foal posses for the first half-year or so of life.  Because that foal can’t make its own antibodies, if you vaccinate it prior to immunocompitence you force the foal to use up the antibodies that were passed to it in the colostrum.  Adequate colostrum intake is essential.  If vaccines are administered to foals too early they interfere with colostral antibodies.
We believe that horses should be vaccinated for the first time one month after weaning (not before 7 months).  The foals’ immune system doesn’t mature enough to produce antibodies until after 6 months of age.  The second vaccination should be given 30-45 days after the first and the last vaccination should be given one year after the second.
That’s it, except for tetanus.  Tetanus should be given at the same interval initially, but we feel that a horse should be given a dose of tetanus toxoid after each deep cut or puncture wound, only if it has been more than one year since the last tetanus vaccine.  If tetanus antibodies last 10 years in humans they will last 10 years in our horses.  So, if you prefer to vaccinate routinely against tetanus then you should not do it any more often than once a decade.
We have separated the commonly given vaccines out into three categories:
1: Core Vaccines- those vaccines that can help to prevent diseases that could kill your horse, (should only be given when the disease is present in the area that your horse lives or travels to in a significantly prevalent level to justify risking the negative side effects that could be caused by the vaccine)
2: Non-Core Vaccines- those vaccines that are given to try to prevent diseases that are only a nuisance to our horses, (we don’t recommend these due to the fact that they will compromise the immune system)
3: Yet to be proven vaccines- these diseases are rarely fatal.  Because these vaccines result in immune compromise, they can predispose your horse to the disease that you are trying to prevent.  (vaccines that we believe should never be given.)
Core Vaccines:
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Potomac Horse Fever - rarely fatal, but can cause laminitis
  • Eastern (EEE), Western (WEE) and Venezuelan Encephalomyelities (VEE)
There were no cases of WEE and VEE reported in the US in 2009 and very few cases of EEE reported.  You will also notice that the cases of EEE that were reported were in a very localized region of the country.  
The map below is courtesy of the CDC.

EEE states.gif
Non-Core Vaccines:
  • Rhinopneumonitis
  • Influenza
  • Strangles
  • Pneumobort K
Unproven Vaccines:
  • West Nile Virus
  • Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis


Even though mercury has been banned in human vaccines (except flu), most horse owners have no idea that all killed virus vaccines are preserved with Thimerosal (mercury).  All vaccines contain an adjuvant which is used to stimulate the immune system.  If the immune system has been previously stimulated (by the last vaccine that hasn’t worn off yet) the next time you stimulate it you can actually tear it down.
Vaccines frequently given to horses that contain mercury (Thimerosal™) as a preservative are:
  • West Nile
  • West Nile + Venezuelan
  • Eastern or Western Encephalomyelitis + Tetanus
  • Strangles
  • Equine Protozoal Encephalomyelitis
  • Rhino/Flu, Potomac Horse Fever
  • Pneumabort
  • Western Encephalomyelitis + Tetanus
  • Equine Influenza
  • Rabies
  • Equine Rotavirus
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium Botulinum
  • Tetanus


Mercury is the most potent Neurotoxin known to mankind.  The immune system is primarily composed of nerve tissue.  Therefore, one of the first things to be compromised by excessive vaccinations is the immune system due to the neurotoxic effects of the mercury and the adjuvant, then the neurologic disease can take a-hold and cause symptoms.  The growth rate of tumors such as sarcoids and melanomas can be greatly sped up by decreasing the ability of the immune system to function properly.


It is a common practice for veterinarians to recommend that pregnant mares be given a Pneumobort K vaccine at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation.  They will often also recommend that owners give their horse a five, seven or eight-way vaccine one month prior to giving birth.  The five-way consists of Tenatus, Rhinopneumonitis, Influenza, Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis (Sleeping Sickness).  The seven way adds in strangles and rabies.  West Nile is the eighth addition.
Any mare that is not immune comprised will include these antibodies in the colostrum without us giving her a "booster" a month prior to giving birth.  It's her job.

What they won’t tell you is that a horse can abort from a rhinopneumonitis infection only ONCE in their entire life.  A mare can only abort the very first time that she is infected with the virus and only if she is pregnant at the time.  Once she has been infected, whether she is pregnant at the time or not, she will build antibodies to the infection and can NEVER abort from this disease again. 
So it makes sense to not vaccinate any pregnant mares with Pneumobort K.  If the mare has already been exposed prior to the pregnancy she will never abort.  If she hasn’t been previously exposed she will abort once and only once.
Also, the multi-way vaccinations are preserved with Thimerosal (mercury), the interesting fact about mercury is that it is one of the heavy metals that can and will cross the placental barrier.  So, the mercury that you are giving to your mare, she is sharing with her foal.  If a mare has a good healthy immune system she will have a life-long immunity to all of the diseases that are present in a five way vaccine.  She will pass these antibodies onto her foal through the colostrum.


It is very difficult today, with all the stresses that our horses are subjected to, to keep their immune systems healthy and strong.  It is our goal at DePaolo Equine Concepts to help give you the information that you need to keep your horse healthy in the stressful world that they live in now.  It is very difficult to maintain a good healthy immune system when it is constantly being bombarded with stimulants, heavy metals and unnecessary medications. 
It is not our intent to talk you into not vaccinating your horse.  It is, however, our intent to give you another view point from a classically trained veterinarian, with just as much schooling as your regular vet.


  • Negative side effects can occur from the over-use of vaccines.
  • Horses can have vaccine reactions up to 30 days after the administration of the vaccine so often times these symptoms go totally unnoticed or are not generally thought of as being linked to a vaccine administration.
  • If a vaccine is completely necessary, the horse should always be healthy BEFORE administering the vaccine.
  • Antibody titers are a way to know if your horse is in need of any vaccines.
  • Many common equine vaccines contain Thimerosal (mercury).  Mercury is the most potent neurotoxin.
  • It is imperative as a horse owner to become educated about vaccines, your horse's vaccine history and current schedule and immunity.

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as Dr. DePaolo diagnosing your horse’s health. DePaolo Equine Concepts, Inc. recommends that you consult your regular veterinarian regarding specific health concerns.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Going to the Dogs

My dog adventures are great fun, full of new experiences, lots of food for thought, and making me let go of concepts and preconceived notions I didn't even know I had.

Brockle continues to amaze me with his terrifying intelligence, deep devotion, determination to guard me from all of my woes, and his high, high energy. He is also about twenty kinds of butt-head.

A classic example is happening right now. He wants the dog bed next to my chair. It's currently occupied by my daughter's 10-month-old Swiss Mountain Dog. He is not allowed to bully or harass the other dogs in the house. So, he's sitting on her head. He will keep this up, backing his hairy butt onto her and the bed, until she moves.

Another favorite is how he gets me away from the computer and out back to play or to feed the pack. I won't acknowledge the dogs if they bug me. They don't get fed, let out, nothing, unless they are being quiet. It works well enough, but, being the space-cadet I am, I've been known to lose track of the time and forget them.  When Brockle has had enough, he wakes up Snocone. Snocone is our vague, sweet, Mill Dog. She is a Maltese, a whopping six pounds of gentle fluffy kindness. She also has to pee the second she wakes up. Life jammed in a cat carrier having litter after litter of puppies didn't do much for her bladder control. Brockle knows I will pick her up and take her outside as soon as she gets up. Once I'm up and out, he also knows I'll feed them or play with them. A quiet nose poke in Snocone's belly gets him exactly what he wants.
The rotter.

HMT (Heavy Metal Trainer) continues to help me on the road to getting and keeping control of my boy. His enthusiasm and confidence in who we can become buoys me up when I doubt my ability, and his feel and timing while handling a dog just lights me up. I want the same feel with a dog that I have with a horse, watching HMT and his equally talented wife work a dog, well, it's got me all fired up.

When I decided I needed professional help with Brockle I knew I wanted to explore Positive Reinforcement Training, and I also held firmly to my belief that dogs needed firm boundaries. HMT turned out to be exactly the right combination.

It took me a little to get on board. I was (am still) very quiet with my dogs. I'll give them a squinty eyed smile when they're good and an ear scratch. I had never used treats, because my dog training experience came from my Dad, a solid hunting dog trainer, who doesn't want his dogs to equate doing their job (retrieving dead ducks) with eating. I always followed his logic, just because that's how we did it.

Enter HMT.

"Hi Brockle!" He bellows, and the treats begin to flow."What a good dog! What a great dog! How are you today?"

Brockle adores him.

HMT wants dogs to feel life with their handler is the best party on the planet. He keeps things short, to the point, and each step forward is met with wild enthusiasm and plenty of goodies.

He immediately took me to task for my miserly approach to rewards.

"I want to see big smiles, total body petting and up the volume on that praise. Quit being so stingy with those treats!"

My face almost cracked with all that smiling.

He is just as clear with correction. HMT  is comfortable using a prong or e-collar, when used correctly and  if it's necessary. A dog needs to understand he has to obey. It's how we keep them safe. The key is to be fair with a correction. It needs to be to the point, brief, and correctly timed.

Brockle's dog aggression was nipped quickly and efficiently by making him understand "Leave it!" means just that. Right now, this very second, he needs to stop what he's doing and come to me. Period. After all, I'm where the party is.
It took some time in the prong collar to make Brockle understand the importance of the "Leave It" command
and again for "Off!" Not nagging at him, not picking, not engaging the collar at all until he was one step into ignoring me. Then the repercussions were swift, followed by an immediate, "Good leave it!" and another shower of treats.

He wasn't traumatized, he has never tucked his tail, cringed or tried to bolt when he's been corrected. He did pitch a few screaming temper tantrums, looking straight into my eyes, jumping up and down, careful not to hit the end of the leash, yet telling me exactly how he felt about me and that freaking collar. However, he has begun to listen. The eternal treat shower has eased, instead, he works like a maniac for the bounce of a tennis ball. I save treats for learning new maneuvers. It's awesome. Brockle isn't perfect. We still have set backs. But he hasn't needed a prong induced correction in months and he's making huge leaps forward in obedience and protection work, both on and off leash.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how their doggy minds work. I have read quite a few books on speaking "dog," reading their body language and cleaning up our communication by seeing things from the dog's point of view.

It has helped me enormously, and given me a background reference to draw from while I study my own pack at home and the dogs at our weekly Schutzhund practice (oh yeah, we're that cool). I watch the dance of submission and dominance between them, and as long as there is no violence, they can have at it.

I dance the same dance with Brockle. He is a great big bossy pants. My ever faithful, ever aggrieved rat terrier, Charlie, tried to warn me. He likes to point it out periodically. Because of my reading, watching, listening and thinking, I understand Brockle's habit of draping his head over my chest when I'm lying down, then, when I raise my hand to pet him, curling his giant wonking alligator head over my arm and crushing it against him is not a "hug" but a statement over who's in charge. But it isn't a constant with us.

When I'm stressed he guards me against everything. He lays on the floor, in front of my couch or chair, lengthwise, facing out, his back touching my feet or the chair.
He stands the same way, just touching my knees, when people approach, or other dogs go by, if I'm really having a bad day he will attempt to body block the stove, the sinkful of dishes...

I was told (NOT by HMT), he was being too dominant. He was essentially hoarding me. Except, when I'm in a better place, he isn't the same. He's relaxed, teasing, begging to play. I think Brockle understands my need for personal space.

When I met Brockle at our local pound, he convinced me we needed each other with his direct gaze -- head up, straight into my eyes, without flinching, or looking away. He made this contact with me after I finally convinced the volunteer to quit showing me how he would sit, lay down and shake, over and over again. I sat back, without trying to touch or talk to him, just to watch and see who he was. He was friendly and calm, greeted both Kidlette and I with more nose action than I like, but amiable enough. A few nervous laps around the room and he came over to me. Zap! We made that slightly unnerving, deep eye contact and he didn't let go. He sat down, still staring deep into my black heart, and wagged his tail slowly from side to side. After a few hours of this (OK, probably 30 seconds) he lay down at my feet, and that was that. No more volunteer, no more Kidlette, just me.

From my reading, and a drive evaluation we did on him, this behavior is typical of a highly dominant dog. He was demanding I get him the hell out of there. He claimed me when he lay at my feet. He wasn't trying to talk to me, he was telling me how things were going to be. If I go by the book, he is the dog the pet coordinator tried to warn me off of. He really was the couch eating, twice returned, Camp Bow Wow failure they tried to save me from.

Here's the thing. Some of this information rings true. Within our pack, Brockle wants to run the show. He does not respond to direction coming from anyone but me. His focus on me is so strong, HMT has found it quicker to teach me to teach him. Normally he would demonstrate a new behavior with the dog, then turn him over. Brockle really likes HMT, he thinks he's the bees knees, but he becomes anxious, continually checking back with me and trying to meet my gaze, when he's working with him. He never shifts his focus.

BUT. He will obey other people once he understands it's what I want. He loooovvvveees obedience work. He understands I don't want him to crowd people who come in our door, and doesn't, unlike the other miscreants in our house, who need to be reminded again and again. He doesn't chase or bother geese, goats, cattle, horses or chickens, because I told him not to. He doesn't trip, crowd or rush past me. The same goes for my husband, but not Kidlette. Kidlette is steady on her feet, he treats her like a sibling.

Brockle wants, very much, to not only make me happy, but to help me. He leans into me and braces to help me out of my chair or off the floor. He guides me up and down stairs, always ready to help me balance. He intuits my moods to the point of not eating when I'm sad, teasing me into a walk when I'm grumpy and laying perfectly still for hours on the days when I have nothing left. This is not a dog who is trying to tell me what to do.

I don't think we give dogs enough credit. I think they understand us so much more than the dog psychology books say. They have spent the last 32,000 years reading us, figuring us out and trying to make us happy. I'm guessing they get us way beyond us getting them. You can't convince me they don't understand our hugs are affection, not an attempt to be the "big dog." Why else would they so eagerly crowd into our embrace? They accept our weird quirks, and don't care if we won't smell their butts or lick their teeth. They love us anyway.

I also wonder if they laugh at our crude attempts to speak "dog." I bet we're shouting, or have huge speech impediments, or both. We probably just crack them up.