So I was just riding around on a little dun mare I have this evening, thinking. I was thinking about how most problems in horses are created by either mismanagement or lack of understanding. I don’t think horses mean to do bad, I think when they do they are either not understanding or uncomfortable for some reason or another. Take this little dun mare for example, she is a customer horse, sent to me to get going heading for 60 days. The first 30 days were amazing, literally felt so good I felt like I was close to jackpotting on her. Then she started getting super strong and stepping by the cow.
Rather than getting mad, I got off and put her up for the night. After thinking about it all night, I decided to check her ears in the morning for ticks. Sure enough they were packed full with nasty ticks. So I treated her ears and gave her almost 10 days off. Tonight, 10 days later she was an absolute angel and back to her old self. No more running off or shaking her head. I learned a valuable lesson that sometimes it is a management issue not necessarily a training issue.
I think many horseman can get into trouble, picking a fight with a horse that is hurt in some way. Now just let me say, I do think there is a line here and some horses just need to get over them selves. I have had to go to work with my back sore or shoulder sore and didn’t try to kill someone, aka buck someone off or rear up. Some horses just need to learn to be well behaved animals first then we can talk about helping them. That being said, it can be in a horseman’s best interest to do some troubleshooting when they run into a problem. A couple things like doing a horses teeth, treating them for parasites and making sure they do not have ulcers can have amazing effects for very little cost.
When it comes to the mare above, I treated her with a cheap tick salve purchased at the local tack shop. It cost about four dollars and made all the difference. Another thing to remember especially in Southernly climates is to treat horses for worms a minimum of 4 times per year. Many people do not realize how infested their horses are and this can cause many health problems that can be fixed with a twelve dollar tube of wormer 4 times per year. Horses can lose excessive weight and this makes it very hard to be a high performance athlete. They will become irritated much more easily and can add a large amount of issues that are completely avoidable. Remember to alternate your wormers every worming cycle so that worms do not become immune.
Doing Dental Work
One of my very favorite methods of troubleshooting horses is to do their teeth. I have actually gone to requiring a horses teeth being done before I begin their training it has such a strong effect on certain horses. Where you will notice a horse needing their teeth is in two areas. The first is how they respond to the bridle. When a horse’s teeth are sharp, they will often react negatively to any pressure on the bit. Some will throw their heads in the air while others will push their nose out and pull against the bit.
Some horses have never had their teeth done at all and have major problems in their mouth like infected tooth caps and cracked and infected teeth. It can have a very strong effect on some horses and really help to eliminate that excuse from a persons mind. Once a horses teeth are done and they are still running their nose out or pulling on the bridle, you know that you can start training in earnest without fear that you are hurting them.
On some horses it will have little to no effect but on others it can completely change their state of mind. They will stop trying to fight you and trying to run off, because they are not longer scared and hurting. The other thing doing their teeth will do is really help them to put on some good weight. When their teeth are bad, it can affect how they chew up their food and cause them to come up missing on some of their nutrients. Sometimes it will have little to no effect but often it can be a game changer and that is why I do it on every new horse that comes into our training program.
Fixing the Gut
The third and final thing I do on all new horses coming in the barn is to try to fix their digestive system. Some horses through miss management or through stress, have developed ulcers in several parts of their digestive tract. These ulcers will become very inflamed when they are under higher stress environments such as being asked to chase a steer. It can be very difficult for a horse to do their best when their stomach is burning and causing a large amount of discomfort. Some horses can become very cinchy and even buck, while others will simply just be strong and try to run off. Just like the other things mentioned, it can be an inexpensive fix to invest in some natural ulcer herbs and remedies.
On a final note it can be good investment to treat your horses for EPM once per year. This remedy is a little more expensive so I won’t spend much time on it but it can be very helpful to horses that are considered your good ones and is great preventative medicine from a disease that can potentially end a horses life and career. I don’t do this to all horses by any means, but to really good horses or to horses exhibiting signs of loss of muscle tone and controls of their hind end, it can be a life saver.
In conclusion, sometimes being a good horseman means thinking through the problem and finding the best solution rather than just reacting. Sometimes it’s just a simple management issue with a simple fix. If its not you have fully troubleshot your horse and can get on with their training without the thought that they are working hurt. As always Have Fun and God Bless.
AJ Fuchs is a roping horse trainer, and PRCA roper who lives in Stephenville, Texas with his wife and two kids. AJ has been professionally training horses for over 10 years, he specializes in Team Roping horses and overall horsemanship. Look him up on FB at AJ Performances Horses or website at ajfuchs.com