Horses, Horses, Horses!
It is August and it has been a wonderful summer, but the heat has been incredible. I cannot speak for everyone, but I have a feeling most horse owners and their animals are getting ready for a little cooler weather.
I can say that a sweet young reader of my articles has emailed me that she is glad the "the summer is almost gone." Cheyenne’s email is also full of questions, some of which I will try to address in this month’s article, as well as some information she would like to pass onto others who may be interested in Little Boots or Little Spurs Rodeos. Since Cheyenne has asked specifically for my opinion on these different subjects, I will do my best to advise her wisely.
First, Cheyenne’s horse, Apache, is having a problem with "Sweet Itch." Now, I have never had to deal with this particular ailment on a horse; it sounds awful from the description given. She says that Apache scratches and rubs his mane so that it is pretty much gone and cannot get a chance to grow back. It sounds like the poor horse is in misery with this problem. She wants to know how to get Apache’s mane to grow back.
Cheyenne, there are ointments and grooming oils that can be bought at your local Co-op that are specifically for helping grow manes and tails. These products will work if the animal is not constantly rubbing the hair off. Therefore, I would say the first thing you need to do is have your Mom or Dad call your veterinarian to get some medicine to get rid of the "itching problem." Your vet will know what to do. Once the Sweet Itch is gone, not only will your horse be healthier and happier, but also the grooming products will have a chance to do their job. I bet Apache will have a beautiful flowing mane again. Just be as patient with the process of growing his hair back as you would with your own hair.
Next, Cheyenne has several questions concerning training Apache. She says that he is about 5 years old and that no one really worked with him before she got him. I do have a formal equine education from Judson College (it’s a very good school by the way, Cheyenne. You may want to look into going there when you get old enough), but most of the "horse sense" that I have acquired I got from my Papa, John Edd Bryant, as I was growing up riding, training and showing horses with him. He was a living example showing me the right way of how to care for and train the horses we loved. There are two key things that my Papa taught me concerning training a horse, or any animal for that matter, and they are kindness and repetition.
Sounds too simple, yet all God’s creatures respond to kindness in a positive manner. It is the universally understood language that even animals can and do understand. They recognize and respond to it. Part of being kind to a horse is being soft-spoken and gentle around it. It does not like loud noises or harshness any more than you do. Rewarding it with a pat on the neck and a kind word when it does something right is also letting it know that it is pleasing you. A treat now and then, like an apple or carrot, is fine. The more time you spend around your horse just being kind, gentle, quiet and calm, the more it will come to trust you.
Here is where the repetition factor "kicks in." Spending time with your horse going over and over what you are trying to teach it is invaluable. When it gets the lesson, reward it and move onto something else. Once it has gotten the next lesson reward it again, then move on. You don’t have to spend hours and hours, in fact it is best not to, so that you will not "sour" the horse on its lessons. One hour every day going over his homework with him and rewarding him for his successes will have you seeing tremendous progress with your animal.
Also, I recommend spending as much "down time" with your horse as you can. This is time just spent "lovin" on your horse, petting, grooming, giving him an apple, telling him what a fine animal he is, and so on…..and not expecting a thing from him and just being happy that he exists. I think the world would be a better place if we all did a bit more of that kind of thing for each other as well.
Now, concerning a nasty habit Cheyenne says that Apache has picked up. She says ever since her aunt gave the horse a shot, he will not let anyone go to his right side without trying to bite them. This is a "nasty" habit and should be corrected. It is also the type of problem that you should have an adult horse person help you with for your safety. There is no pat easy answer to this one, but at least two people should be there to attend to problem until the behavior is changed.
Cheyenne, one method you may want to try is to ask your aunt, Mom or Dad to hold Apache’s halter very tightly while you or someone else rubs down his right side with a soft bristle brush and then give him a treat (make sure it is not always food or he will expect food every time someone goes to his right side which can worsen instead of cure the problem) for letting you do so. Do this once every day until he forgets about the shot and starts associating someone going to his right side with a good feeling rub down. If this is done properly, I bet Apache will start liking having someone on his right side. Of course, repetition is important in this and it will take several days before it will start to make a change in him, but "Don’t Give Up"….and always have an adult present when you work on this type of correction!
Of course, you can consult with a local horse trainer that your parents respect. There are also many fine nationally known horse trainers that have many books, CDs, videos, DVDs, and so forth on the market. My favorite is Monty Roberts. I was at one of his clinics where he took a very flighty mare who refused to load on the trailer on a regular basis (how her owners got her to the clinic is a mystery to me because they could barely control her to bring her into the arena) and within 5 minutes of Monty working with her she went from balking wildly at the trailer door to walking on and off that trailer with him with ease and as calm as a cucumber. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen! The man knows what he is doing, so I would highly recommend any educational information you could purchase from him. Cheyenne, you may want to ask your Mom or Dad if you can get one of his videos or DVDs to study. He is one horse trainer that I know will not steer you wrong. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
As I close, I would like to thank you, Cheyenne, for your following of my articles and your very sweet compliments. I am listing the end of your email that concerns Little Boots and Little Spurs Rodeos information because I know that you intended it to be helpful to others who might be interested. God bless you.
The end of Cheyenne’s email reads:
"My last rodeo went well and another comes up in September on the 9th. The Little Boots and Little Spurs (which is the upcoming rodeo at the Cattlemen’s Complex in Troy) Rodeos are where I rodeo at. For any kids 2-14 years old, I recommend looking at: http://www.littlebootsrodeo.net
for the Little Boots Rodeo and to keep updated on the Little Spurs: http://www.geocities.com/littlespursrodeo
Thanks for your advice always,
Once again I would really like to know what horse people want and need to know about their animals. Please feel free to send suggestions, questions and/or comments to the mailing address: Cooperative Farming News, P.O. Box 2227, Decatur, AL
Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta, Alabama.