Extreme Sports, Endurance Horse Riding

Over the trailHours on the trail, sun beats down, rocky terrain, swim a river, negotiate a forest – or a small town, climb-leap nearly straight up, descend barely balanced on a trail which would make Man from Snowy River take pause. An eighty-mile race which you can only hope to finish and dream of one day finishing in the top five.

At the end you stand on trembling legs, exhausted and totally spent. But your heart soars because the light in your horse’s eyes tells you he’s still fit and ready to keep going. The judge declares him sound. Your horse is a winner. The moment goes down in history as a great personal victory.

This is endurance racing.

This is a dream I once had and now flickers in the back of my mind again. Can I even consider such a task at nearly 60? Why not?

Decades ago, when Midnight was my trusty steed and carried me over trails and around barrels, I worked for a time at a ranch where hinnies were raised. What’s a hinny? He’s the opposite of a mule; the foal of a jennet (female burro) and a stallion (horse and in this case a Tennessee Walker). One of my jobs was to gentle train the two-year-olds for saddle and packing. We had one three-year-old who showed promise for greater things.

The ranch owner, Don Cafferty, looked into endurance racing, and with permission from my parents, I began training. It meant riding two, three, and four hours a day. (Such a hardship, right?) I was in my glory, riding that big hinny. I can’t remember his name anymore so I’ll call him Beowulf, since Don loved all the ancient works of literature. And – the name really fit that animal.

Soon the trails on the flat were too tame and Wulf grew bored. We took to the Superstitions for all day rides. Don rode his Tennessee Walker. Four of us together, and the three other riders took turns riding a rather tough loop with me. Wulf and I rode over eight hours with a good break after each two hours – and he hardly broke a sweat.

Beowulf was on his way to becoming an endurance mount. He would be entered in a race the following year. After he turned four years old and completed his training.

Then my family moved away – to Texas. Last I heard, Don was still raising hinnies. I know of an offer of ten grand he received for Beowulf way back in the ‘70’s. Yeah, the industry is that big.

The horse I ride now is half Arab crossed with a Mustang fresh from the Nevada range. He’s all ‘go’ and doesn’t know the meaning of ‘quit’. I’ve ridden him on two trail rides of around ten miles and he’s barely settled down when we finally get back to camp. So I started looking into endurance once again.

Training is rigorous; hours and miles a day. The equipment is expensive. And the distance to these competition rides is great.

All tack and equipment for the endurance horse and rider are specialized. Shortcuts = sore butts!

Saddles range from $500 to $2500 and include some very interesting treeless versions as well as some beautiful Aussie types. Not too many heavy Western saddles in here and very few saddle horns.

Bridles aren’t so expensive, most of them are headstall/halter combos or bitless bridles and run around $100.

Saddle pads designed to protect your horse can sell for up to $400!

Did you know they make tennis shoes for horses? Look up ‘Easy-Boots’.

You can imagine what the girths, stirrups, breastplates, cruppers and helmets go for. And I saw some interesting safety vests for riders designed to protect the back and ribs – for over $300!

Riding clothing is what you would expect from a high end boutique, but I can tell you that the difference between your standard Levis and a pair of endurance riding breeches is like the difference between a cart with square wheels or floating on a cloud! Shirts, pants, helmets, hydration and cooling gear range in price from $50 to $200. GPS systems, and heart monitoring systems range in the upper $500s to off the charts.

Then comes the horse trailer accessories. I won’t go there for now.

The videos I watched and the sites I read while researching the modern version of endurance competitions, shows an entire team of assistants traveling to the checkpoints with trucks and trailers, ready to minister aid in the way of massage, cooling, hydration, and nutrition along the way – which is rendered only after the all-important vet-check.

Is this style of competition worth the monetary costs and the time spent in training? That, of course, is a question only the horseman and the horse can answer.

As for Oberon, he becomes bored and annoyed after about fifteen minutes in an arena and wants to see what’s over the ridge. He looks with longing at the next trail, even when the ride turns toward home. Barrels and poles – so far – irritate him and he will either nudge a barrel over with his nose just to spite me, or kick at it as we pass. Is my horse telling me something?

For more information on endurance riding, visit: The US Equestrian Federation Endurance https://www.usef.org/_iframes/breedsdisciplines/discipline/allendurance.aspx

Or American Endurance Ride Conference  http://aerc.org/aoDefault.aspx

And for a fun read about one of my own trail riding experiences, try Legend of the Superstition Gold on Amazon Kindle or paperback.Superstition cover

http://tinyurl.com/hq3gscf

 I’d love to hear your trail experiences. Please leave a comment in the box.

Advertisements

A very busy barn! De-worming time.

Well, it would seem that we might be gaining ground outside, however, if we don’t pay attention to the sharing, we will lose ground inside. Midnight and I will try a bit harder to keep up!

We’ve been doing some training, some fixing up of the tack room, and some health maintenance.

I know we’ve talked about this before, but I will hammer it into the ground. Horses and ponies are susceptible to parasites, both internal and external. The external parasites you can see and deal with, at least most of them. Keep your horse clean and groomed and you won’t have much trouble. Keep fly wipe of some sort on your horse to protect from flies and mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly disease.

But today I want to talk about internal parasites. They are many and they are dangerous. I’m talking about worms, plain and simple. De-worm your horse regularly. If you are unsure, talk to your vet.

large-roundworms
roundworms in small intestine

I know some people do not believe in de-worming. If the horse looks healthy, leave it alone. But trust me, with enough feed, you can keep some weight on. But that horse will not grow right, muscles will not build well, the coat will not glisten, and the overall energy level of the horse will be low. The horse may be cranky because he just doesn’t feel good.

The most common parasites are roundworms, or Ascarids. They are found in the small intestine and can cause colic. These, along with tapeworm segments, can sometimes be seen fecal material. Yeah, they are that big! Up to several inches long.

Bots, or botfly larvae attach to the wall of the stomach. You will see their tiny yellow eggs on the ends of the hair on your horse’s front legs. (Shave those nasty buggers off with a razor!) Bots are most troublesome in winter months, when they are growing inside your

botfly-larvae
bot larvae in a stomach

horse’s stomach, and now is the time to treat your horse for these nutrient and blood sucking parasites.

 

Blood worms, or Strongyles, large, migrate in the arteries before returning to the intestine. They cause inflammation and blood clots and can cause severe colic. Small strongyles will be found encysted in the walls of the large intestine. Every horse has these. They can cause severe diarrhea, but not in well managed horses. Strongyle larvae develop to the third stage (adult) on pasture and migrate to blades of grass where they can infest the horse.

Tape worms congregate between the large and small intestine in the cecum. Heavy burdens can cause colic.

Most worms spend some of their life-cycle in the grass where they are ingested by horses and cows – and any other grazers. Some are transmitted by biting insects. And there are far more parasites than I have talked about. All worms can be called ‘contagious’ and even humans can become infested by these monsters whether they are around animals or not.

All of these parasites, and more, not only drain the horse of blood, but also hijack nutrients causing anemia, lethargy, and eventually death. It’s a slow and painful process. If you see a boney horse, most likely it has such a heavy infestation of worms that it is in danger of never recovering.

Young horses are most susceptible to worms, and this is where the most damage can be seen. The horse simply cannot develop well. A colt will become stunted, muscles will not fill out around the spine and hips. Around two or three years old, the horse will actually look deformed, being shorter than normal, but long bodied, with hip bones permanently protruding, and a narrow, boney spine with high withers. The head usually looks too big for the horse, and most often the ears will just hang to the sides. Even when the horse has been treated and fed and has gained weight, a stunted body will never regain the beauty it should have been born with.

Too many times I have rescued a young horse in this condition and after the first de-worming treatment, the poor horse has just dumped buckets of every sort of worms with every bowel movement, within a day or two. Not even well formed fecal pellets are passed for the enormous amount of dead worms.

When an older horse becomes infested with worms he is more prone to colic and lethargy. He will become thin, listless, have a dull coat, and could die. But if treated in time, the horse can gain back his former beauty along with his health.

Parasites do not have to be the end of your horse. Just keep up with your de-worming program. Check with your vet, or, if you feel confident, ask your feed store manager for advice. Most de-worming products, even those used by the vet, are in paste form and can be administered to the horse by anyone. Read the instructions and the warnings. Follow a routine.

I urge you to do your research. Read books, do an internet search (the pictures will give you nightmares) Ask your vet, the feed store expert, other horsemen.

Do not lose your four-legged friend to a blood sucking monster!

Whistle in your Horse

Can you keep up with training on yucky winter days when you can’t ride?

Oberon 2The ground is muddy, slushy, slick, or otherwise unsafe to ride. But you have a horse who needs exercise and training. You’re lucky if you have a corral or pasture. Even more lucky if you have an indoor arena, in which case, you can learn from this article anyway.

I was once asked if I’d rather have a horse stand ground tied, or come when I whistle or call. I’ve trained horses to ground tie, which means simply dropping the reins and trusting the horse not to move from where you parked him. Most horses really do want to please you and will do their very best to stay put. BUT, there are about a thousand and one things that will temp your horse to move, including becoming spooked or nervous, getting out of the way of other horses, or just wanting to find some grass.

Trust me, the best trained horse will move from where he’s parked given an opportunity. I want a horse who will come to me when I whistle. Un-ridable days are when I train my colt for this golden trick.

As with all training, practice, practice, practice. Let the horse become familiar with the signal you plan to use. Don’t switch whistle styles, and don’t change the name you call him. Say his name often, make it sing-song, shorten it a bit, but make sure the bulk – and most noticeable part – of his name remains the same. My horse’s registered name is Fey Oberon (the magical fairy king from Shakespeare). I call him Oberon, Obe, Oberonalona, and sometimes, Hey Idiot. Funny thing, he always looks at me when I call him that last thing.

But when I want him to come to me out of the pasture, or come to me from the corral, I whistle. I also almost always have a treat of some sort to reward him for coming to me. He didn’t always come at first, and he’s still sometimes a little slow, but I’ve only had him six months. When I have the feed bucket and shake it when I whistle, he usually comes in at a trot.

Why is this important?

There’s an old saying, “Not a horse can’t be rode. Not a cowboy can’t be throwed.” There is a very real chance that you could end up on the ground every time you go out. You don’t want your horse to keep going down the trail without you. A whistle just might save him as well as you.

You might need to get down to fix a fence or remove debris from the trail, or any of a hundred things. There’s nothing to safely tie him to, so you drop the reins. And the job takes longer than you expected; long enough for your horse to move away a bit in search of a bit of grass. A whistle will bring him back to you.

Also, it’s really nice for the horse to come to you in a pasture rather than you having to chase him around and try to trap him. Most trainers will tell you, make the horse move his feet, don’t let him make you move yours.

Oberon spooked with me while I was opening a gate one time. This was not a gate which could be opened from horseback, and he’s not yet trained for that anyway. He took off at a dead run through a hundred and fifty acre pasture, much of it wooded and filled with various hazards. I whistled once and his head came up and he started coming around, but he was still spooked. I whistled again and he started tracking back and forth, but toward me. He was snorting and blowing and still looking for monsters when he finally pranced up to me. The most frightening thing about this incident, my roping style reins were caught under one front leg.

Whenever you have the time, teach your horse to come to a whistle. Winter time is good for that.

I wrote a book where the main character’s horse kneels and lies down on command. We’ll work on that trick in due time.

Does your horse have any special talents? I’d love to hear about them.

Cold, Wet Weather vs Hooves and Legs

Wow, best intentions fall short. It’s been a really busy fall, but time to get back to business. Here’s what’s been on our mind lately.

Cold wet weather vs hooves and legsin the mud

I’m in a sort of bad mood for the past few days. It has rained so much I don’t dare go out riding. It’s not that my wonderful Arab/Mustang can’t get through knee deep, sticky clay. It’s just not safe. Either we sink, or slide. Not only that, as he sinks into the mud, he may run into buried and possibly sharp rocks, pieces of broken roots or branches, or even chunks of metal left over from another time.

Deep mud isn’t the only worry about riding in the winter. Unless you live in one of those nice warm states like Arizona, where much of the winter is perfect for riding, you should be on the lookout for things like ice or deep snow. Of course many riders have access to wonderful covered arenas and I’m both happy for you and a little bit jealous. (I’m already staking out the spot for my arena.) I know some areas have well-groomed bridle paths for winter riding. But still watch out for that rogue patch of ice. It’s just as dangerous if not more for your horse to slip on ice as you. But that danger just goes up exponentially if you happen to be on your horse’s back when he slips.

So you spend what time you can with your horse, brushing and feeding and wishing you could go out. Waiting not so patiently for riding weather. You could try leading or lunging for a bit of exercise, but keep it at a walk if the ground isn’t safe. If you have access to a larger corral or pasture, turn him out for the day. And then watch him play and enjoy his little bit of freedom for a while.

But if you just can’t let your horse out of the stall or small pen, watch those hooves! When your horse stands in wet, muddy ground, he is subject to thrush. Besides, it’s cold.

If you notice your horse walking a bit stiff or even limping, check those hooves for signs of softness where it should be hard, or hard where it should be soft – sole of the hoof is hard, but the frog is softer. Examine the hoof wall for cracks and the coronet band for chaffing or even cuts or bruises. Dig deep beside the frog and look for tenderness or a bad smell. If it’s bad, call the farrier if not the vet.

Thrush can get out of hand fast and it can be worse for your horse than athlete’s foot is for you. If you choose to treat the thrush yourself, you can find hoof paint, not the colored stuff for shows, but for the sole of the hoof, but be aware that most of these have iodine, great for the infection, but can blister the skin at the coronet band. An old remedy is pine tar. Then wrap the hoof with rags, a commercial hoof wrap, or a boot. (Don’t leave the boot on for very long, it can get impacted with water or mud.)

There are plenty of beautiful riding days in the winter whether you live in Texas or North Dakota, so read a good horse magazine, brush your horse a little extra, and be patient.

Do you have any suggestions for winter activities?

Please feel free to ask questions about horse care or training and I’d love for you to share a special story.

 

Hidden Surprises at a Horse Auction

The tension begins hours before the auctioneer climbs to his podium. Horses whinnying greetings and nervousness. Men gathering, looking over the stock, and whispering among themselves. Children dancing with hope in front of stalls containing ponies. And inside, the tack and dozens of bags, boxes, and baskets of every sort of item one could hope to find in or even near a barn.

I’m not sure if I know anything more exciting than becoming caught up in bidding over just about anything. I’ve attended auto auctions, estate auctions, equipment sales, and of course horse and cattle sales. My fav – the horse auction.

I arrive early to examine the horses as they come in. Immediately I begin daydreaming of the potential in every horse I see. I could spend all day visiting with sellers, and of course other buyers. I promise myself I’m going to stay within my budget and in my mind I try to grade each horse I’m truly interested in – until the seller takes the horse out to demonstrate. I have to recalculate my budget often.

But that’s only a small part of the picture. This story is about what gets sold before the horses! The saddles, tack, junk boxes, stuff pulled out of the back corners of old abandoned barns, and even horse trailers and buggies! Let’s go see what’s already in the auction ring.

Stacked, packed, and sitting on racks are the saddles. Only a few new ones, these are mostly extra or outgrown saddles. Look closely at these gems. Some of them are pristine, but some need a ton of work.

Here’s what to watch for with the saddles:

  1. Dried out leather. Look under the saddle flaps and stirrup fenders. Plan on replacing the latigos!
  2. The sheepskin lining. Is it thin or loose in places?
  3. The stitching around the cantle, horn, pommel, and skirts. It may look stitched, but thread rots and may not be holding what it’s supposed to hold.
  4. Is the tree broken? Hoist the saddle and see if it flexes in the middle or if the horn or pommel is loose. Hold it on your hip like you are carrying it and pull on the cantle to see if it is loose. A broken tree means you don’t have a saddle, you have scrap leather. And this goes for the English saddle as well!
  5. Strings, conchos, D-rings, buckles. Are they there and in good shape. At first glance they might look great, but upon close inspection you might find problems. Most of the time they’re dry rotted. They can be replaced, but it’s not as easy as replacing a latigo.
  6. Check the D-rings that hold the cinches. Are they loose or is the leather dry rotted? On your English saddle, you will check the billet straps and the stirrup bars.
  7. Will the saddle fit? A 17” seat might be great for a big man, but a thin teen will get lost – or fall off – that big of a seat. Measure from the horn (pommel) to the cantle. Most adults ride a 15” seat.
  8. Will the saddle fit the horse? I can’t tell you how many horses have been injured by ill-fitting saddles! To say nothing of the chance of a poorly fitting saddle simply falling off the horse while you’re riding! Measure the gullet, that’s the width of the saddle under the pommel. And check the height of the pommel. If your horse has high withers, you don’t want the saddle to bruise him! Saddles are made to fit all sorts of horses, from ponies to draft horses, thin backed to wide backed. Don’t forget that you can find a youth saddle to fit a full sized horse as well as one that fits a pony.
  9. Finally, does this saddle have matching stirrup fenders? Does it have stirrups? Does it have a cinch? Does it have latigoes?

None of these things is intended to stop you from buying a particular saddle. This list is only intended to give you a head’s up. Maybe your intention is to find an old project saddle to teach a group of young people how to rebuild a saddle. Or maybe you need an inexpensive saddle to break in a colt.

Important tip: You must know the parts of the saddle!

Parts of a Western saddle
Parts of a Western saddle
Parts of the English saddle
Parts of the English saddle

One of the joys of my younger years was to bring my 4-H group to the sale barn and bid on an old saddle. We would bring it home, do the repairs and bring it back to life, and then take it back to the auction and make a profit!

Well, you can’t very well make repairs to a saddle from nothing, and going to a saddlery for parts pretty much defeats the whole mission. In front of the saddles, and usually sold before them, is the tack (and other junk) Did I just hear a ripple of excitement run through here? Yea, that’s what I’m talking about. What one person has decided to haul out of that cluttered barn, just might be the treasure you’ve been looking for. And it might be the part you need to fix your own saddle or tack.

It’s pretty much guaranteed you will pay less for ‘stuff’ at an auction, but you still need to be on your toes. Take a good look at what’s inside of all those boxes and bags. When the bidding starts they will only toss the ‘stuff’ on a pile. You may not have a chance to see what you’re bidding on. And you may end up with a bunch of ‘stuff’ you really don’t need just so you can get that one thing you do need. But fear not, you can always bring that pile back to the next sale.

The treasures found in horse sale ‘piles’ can be endless: A box of rusty bits might be exactly what someone has been looking for to decorate a themed room. Excess stirrups make excellent picture frames or nick-knack shelves. But I’ve also seen tool boxes full of hand and power tools sold for next to nothing. I’ve seen bigger tools like house jacks, even barn fans and heaters in the auction ring. Truly, the juice of an auction, the place to find the unfindable, is the tack sale before the horses.

Now, let’s look in the yard. The intermission between the tack sale and the horse sale is when you might find a minute to grab something to eat or visit the restroom, but it’s also when everyone heads out to bid on the horse trailers. This is another area of hidden treasure – or complicate surprises!

  1. Usually you need not worry about a clear title of a horse trailer, but it is something to be aware of. Check the license plate first. Is it current?
  2. Is this a homemade trailer, or manufacture built?
  3. What condition is the floor in? Are you able to check the lights?
  4. What condition is the body in? Is there rust under that coat of paint?
  5. How are all the doors and hinges?
  6. How is the hitch? What size ball does it require? Is there a working safety brake? Are the safety chains in good shape?
  7. What do the tires look like? Are the fenders over the tires in good shape or are they rusty and falling off? Are the springs and axle in good shape?
  8. Does this trailer have axle brakes (does it slow down when you push the truck brake)?
  9. What kind of electric connection does it have? Do you need an adapter to pull it?
  10. How much will it cost you to do these repairs (if needed)?

I’ve been to a few auctions that had horse drawn vehicles for sale. So cool to see a wagon or a buggy up close, but I’ve never had the need to bid on one. Maybe someday. But if you do see one and are interested, give it the ‘Eagle-Eye’ before you bid!

An auction is a great place to find amazing treasures, but you must be alert to those disappointing surprises as well.

DISCLAIMER. I’m so not fond of seeing meat buyers lined up and bidding on good healthy riding horses! And it’s heartbreaking to see the horses at some auction houses who have obviously come to the end of the line. I’ve seen aged, injured animals who have gone so far down they no longer even have life in their eyes. But that is a different story.

Please be Patient when you Train – the Spooky Horse

Midnight says, “Please be patient with me. I’m really trying hard to please you, but sometimesaddle breakings new things confuse me. Sometimes when I’m confused I get scared. Then all I want to do is run away.”

I learned this decades ago while I was trying to teach Midnight how to jump. Of course he could jump quite well, but the idea of jumping over something that he could easily go around just plain confused him. Eventually he figured out what I wanted. He also learned how to trust me so that when I asked him to jump something else, like a bush or a broken tree branch, he did it willingly.

That was many years and many horses ago. Now I’m training a new horse. Oberon, half Arab/mustang, three-year-old colt. I’ve made a few mistakes with him. In my defense I’ve been out of the business for a few years – not really a very good excuse. But I slowed down and saw to his needs first. He responded by trying harder.

Saddle breaking was a slow process. No sooner had I started him with a saddle, but the rains came, and came, and came. We flooded. Badly. Even Oberon’s pen was flooded and it wore on his hooves. He became lame and all training stopped for several weeks while he healed.

Each new thing I taught my colt, I made sure he understood it well before moving on to another item. The first thing I taught him was to simply stand still. He’d never been tied, and only led a few times. His new home was exciting and he wanted to see everything at one time – he was also, or rather is, about the most spooky horse I’ve ever worked with.

I guess spookiness is one of the most important things to overcome. Saddle breaking, or teaching a horse to change leads and run a barrel pattern is fairly easy. But if a horse decides that everything he sees is a monster about to eat him, you have a problem.

Solution: take it slow and easy. Be patient. Collect those ‘things’ he is afraid of and slowly, one by one, introduce him. To be sure, you won’t be riding him during this desensitizing training. Staying in a round pen and using a long rope might be a huge benefit as well. Some people believe in the power of treats, but I’d say to use treats sparingly. Horses are like little children – they will throw a tantrum for a  treat if you over-do it.

So here’s what you do. Lunge for respect, just a few minutes and make sure you have his attention. Make him stop and look at you. Wave your arm over your head until he doesn’t respond to you at all (I do this for every desensitizing) and move closer, repeating the process until all that movement doesn’t bother him.

Now take the given item, whatever it is, go back to the end of the rope and make sure you have your horse’s attention, and show him the item. Wave it around – slowly! If the item happens to be a balloon or plastic sack, he’s liable to launch toward the moon. But keep it up until he no longer reacts. Move closer and repeat. When this is accomplished – and he stands still while the item is touching him, then move back to the end of the rope and wave the monster around a little harder.

If your horse gets past this monsterly item today and you’re satisfied with how he has behaved, give him a break, a good feeding, and do it again tomorrow!

Trust me, just because your horse succeeds at this today, doesn’t mean he’s cured forever. It’s just like those wicked algebra problems. You might get it today, but tomorrow you have to start all over, especially if the teacher changes one little thing, like using ‘b’ instead of ‘n’ or ‘x’. Yikes, I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about those days.

So how has this paid off to the point where I’m adding it to Midnight’s blog? I’ve been on Oberon’s back not more than a couple dozen times. He’s just now getting the steering and brakes worked out. But he loves riding out in the pasture. I haven’t cleared or mowed most of my twelve acres and it’s full of mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus – and deer!

Yes, we walked up on a deer this afternoon and boy did he jump! Fortunately I was actually riding instead of just sitting there, and I knew that a deer could be laying anywhere in the brush. I did the one rein stop (I’ll talk about that later) and just spoke quietly. I reined him around so he could look in the direction of The Big Scary and pretty quick he knew everything was A-Okay.

Had I never taken the time to desensitize him, patiently, to other things, we may have still been in orbit.

I welcome your comments and questions. And I promise to blog more often.

Welcome to my corral! Let’s talk horses.

Hi! Have you ever looked into your horse’s eyes and just knew he was speaking to you? Have you been riding and suddenly felt that your horse needed to tell you somethBeauty and Tracieing extremely important? Your mind wasn’t playing tricks on you. No, not at all.

All animals have a language to use among their own species. They use this language to find mates, food, and alert each other to danger. If you listen very closely to a flock of birds you can hear different tones. You can tell when they are happy just to see each other and when they are searching for food. And you can tell when something has startled them, or when they are settling down for the night.

And all these animals are able to communicate outside their species as well. Mostly they depend upon each other to be on the lookout for danger. Sometimes they quarrel over territory and it’s quite clear what their voices and actions mean. It’s as if you can read their minds.

Of course if you own (oops, that’s wrong) If you are owned by a dog or cat, you know without a doubt they can read your mind. They know exactly when you are about to go outside, or when you are planning to go to the store. And they know when it’s time to eat, or when you are getting ready to make yourself a snack. Dogs and cats have actually mastered the ability to let their needs be known to the humans who care for them (oops, wrong again) I mean the humans who serve them. My rider’s dog has even learned to say yes. When my rider finally asks the correct question, such as “Are you hungry?” or “Do you want to go for a walk?”, the dog stretches out and wags her tail.

Pretty smart, isn’t it?

But, trust me – horses are just as smart. And horses not only know exactly what you are thinking and saying, they can tell you things as well.

I, Midnight, have learned to speak to my rider. I taught her to ride me correctly, and I taught her how to run barrels and poles. I protected her from snakes, biting dogs, overhanging branches, and one time I even told her about a cougar who was sitting on a boulder near the trail in the Superstition Mountains.

I also tell her how much I love her and how much I appreciate the hay and oats she brings me.

Fortunately my rider also learned to listen to me. But that’s what friends do. Listen.

I would love to share stories with you and answer questions. You can post just about anything in the comment box. And over the next few months I’d like to share my views on all sorts of things, like how to take care of me or train me to do new things.

P.S. Just so you know, I’m letting my rider, Connie Peck, tell my story, but you can believe, these are the things I taught her so long ago.

Do you have a special story of communication to share?