Horses - Questions And Answers For The New Rider (Part 3)
( Originally Published 1940 )
Q. When should the reins be held in BOTH hands?
A. At first, by every beginner until he acquires proper use of balance, friction and stirrups. But beware of lugging on one rein to turn the horse to right or left or rear. A good saddle horse would not understand this. The rider carries both reins toward the side he wishes to go, and the pressure of the opposite rein turns the trained horse easily. This is exactly the opposite way as used in driving a harnessed horse or team, where the driver does pull on the line or lines on the side in which he wishes his team to move. And the two hands should hold the reins when learning to jump and in all high jumping. However, the writer saw Charlie Mason, expert rodeo trick rider, jump his palomino horse over an automobile which had its top down and four passengers sitting in it, using but one hand on his reins. So, it is a matter of training and choice. But in every horse show, riders take the reins in both hands, and in such exhibitions it is considered "good form." The new rider should learn both ways and adopt the one he finds best suited to him or her. In cavalry drilling the reins are held in the left hand, as with the cowboy, leaving the right hand free for weapons or rope.
Q. Why should the new rider practice a very great deal in riding without stirrups, and also in bareback riding?
A. Nothing will more quickly give the new rider proper gripping (friction, as we call it technically) and balance. Until he has learned these two, he is simply NOT a rider. But he should start his learning by using the stirrups until he 'feels he has a steady seat.
Q. What is a ,"gelding," and why is such a horse preferred to stallions and mares?
A. A gelding is simply a castrated male horse, and all the horses in the Regular Army cavalry are geldings. Most horses on ranches and elsewhere are also geldings. They are far more tractable than stallions, especially when in the vicinity of mares. Many stallions be-come unmanageable when coming close to mares and are, there-fore, dangerous. Mares are not as well suited for saddle work in troops of cavalry or on our ranches, because some are apt to be "jibbers" (horses that want to go in some other direction than the one in which the rider wishes to go), and the possibility of their becoming pregnant always exists, especially where horses are herded in groups. But, otherwise, many mares make lovely saddle horses, pets.
Q. How many teeth has the horse and how are they placed in. the mouth?
A. The horse has six front incisors in each jaw (upper and lower). These are called, beginning with the two center ones, the "centrals" or "nippers," then come the "dividers"—one on. each side of the centrals, then, at the back of the incisors, the "corners"-one on each side in each jaw, making a total of six as aforesaid in each jaw. Then comes the open space in upper and lower jaw where there are NO teeth. This open jawbone in the lower jaw is called the "bars" of the horse's mouth and is where the bit rests when in the horse's mouth. Back of these vacant spaces, or "bars," there are six molars in each upper and lower jaw, on each side. Therefore, the horse has a total of thirty-six teeth in all. The teeth are of value because we read the horse's age from them—usually studying the lower incisors for that purpose. The molars, so far back, are not used in telling a horse's age.
Q. What are the "tushes"?
A. These are four extra teeth, sometimes called the "canine" teeth. They lie a little back of the corner incisors, in each jaw—one upper and one lower on each side in each jaw, making the total of four. When fully up and at about the age of six, the young horse's tushes are pointed at their tops. As the horse ages, these tops become more and more rounded from wear. By noting this fact, the rider can tell something of the horse's age. Blunt, rounded tushes mean much age, as a rule. Mares rarely have tushes.
Q. Where should the bit rest in the horse's mouth?
A. On the "bars" of the lower jaws. The bars are the vacant places behind the tushes, where there are no teeth. The bit must not be so placed as to strike against the teeth or tushes, as that would pain the horse.
Q. How tight should the curb strap or curb chain be?
A. Behind the horse's chin of the lower jaw, there is a depression. This is called the "curb groove" or "chin groove," and is the proper place for the curb strap or curb chain to fit into. When the lower branches of the curb bit are held in prolongation of the horse's mouth (viewed from the side), the curb strap or curb chain should allow the rider to place two fingers between it and the horse's curb groove. If the curb strap (or chain) be too tight, we say the curb bit "stands stiff" and it is too painful for a good mouth. If the curb strap (or chain) be too loose, we say the bit "falls through" and it lessens greatly the power given the rider in using the curb bit.
Whether a curb strap or a curb chain be used does not much mat-ter, provided either is soft and lies smoothly against the horse's curb groove. The Regular cavalry use the chain, as do many other riders. Cowboys generally cannot purchase chains and generally use the strap method. A neatly-made curb chain of nickel or Eglantine metal (which will not rust), is very nice and is preferable, though a soft strap is as comfortable and as effective, having only the fault of wearing out, breaking, or becoming hard from sweat and exposure. - Q. How tight should the "throat latch" be?
A. The throat latch is the strap which passes under the horse's lower jaw, from the right side of the top of the bridle to the left side, where it is buckled up snugly. Its purpose is to hold the bridle on the horse's head. It should never be too tight or too loose. A rough rule is that it should be just tight enough to allow the rider to pass two fingers between it and the horse's jaw easily, and move those fingers back and forth easily.
Q. What is the "port" in a curb bit and what is it for?
A. In the center of the mouthpiece of a curb bit is an elevation, curved upward. This is called the "port." Its sole purpose is to make
room for the horse's tongue AND NEVER IS IT INTENDED TO PRY AGAINST THE ROOF OF THE HORSE'S MOUTH, which would cause agony
to any horse. Try poking a pencil against the roof of your mouth and feel its effect. Your tendency will be to stick your head out and up, to get away from the pain; and this is precisely what a horse will do if a high port be used. A high port is often used by Mexican cow-boys and by many American cowboys, but it is always wrong. It creates pain in the wrong place. And, besides making room for the tongue, the port does another important thing, for which it is primarily intended. By, taking off the pressure on the horse's tongue, it puts the pressure where it belongs, on the "bars" of the horse's mouth.
Q. What is the "snaffle" bit used for?
A. This bit is smooth, round, and in two parts, joined together loosely in the center. It has no curb action at all and is the gentlest bit known. At the two ends, there are large rings into which the reins are buckled. It is the best training bit, as it rarely hurts the horse's mouth. It is also used extensively by jockey riders in races, and by equitation classes in riding schools until the riders know how to handle the severer curb bits. It is frequently used by riders while making their mounts jump fences and ditches.
Q. What is meant by a "center fire" saddle?
A. This is where the one cinch hangs from the center of the saddle. The center fire saddle is used by many cowboys who use only a single cinch, and by jockeys and by cavalrymen in the McClellan saddle. In some cowboy saddles and in some flat (English) saddles, the cinch hangs somewhat more forward. It is a matter of preference with a rider, with no particular advantage one way or the other, except where the cowboy uses two cinches, as some do—a front one and a back or hind cinch. In this case, the front cinch is hung farther forward than the center fire one. The rear cinch then goes around the horse's flanks.
Q. Do all saddle horses swim?
A. As a rule, the answer can be "Yes." But, of course, there are exceptions, though they are very rare. Some horses swim high out- of the water, while others swim low, only their heads and a part of the neck showing above water. It is well and wise to test out the horse before entering water that is too deep or too swift. Use a pond first, with easy banks sloping to the water, so you can ride out quickly if necessary.
Q. How should the rider conduct himself while the horse is swimming?
A. First, when learning, it is best to ride in with the rider in shorts, so he can leap away and swim to safety and will have no clothing to drag him down. And have no saddle on the horse. Ride bareback. Have on the bridle, the reins unfastened at the bight (end in rider's hand), so there will be no loop in the reins to catch in the horse's front legs and entangle him.
When the horse, gently urged into the water, starts to swim,. the rider sits quietly, guiding the horse by the reins and urging him- on by tappings of the bare heels. Head for a good, low landing. If the horse swims all right, then try him again, after a proper rest, with the saddle on. Draw up your knees against the saddle horn (or pommel) while swimming.
If you have to slide off, try doing so on the UPSTREAM side, so that, if the horse struggles, he will float or swim downstream and not against you, jamming you under water.
Some riders find their horses swim better if they sit back of the saddle; others find they can do better by sliding off and holding to the horse's tail on the way across.
If the rider has on heavy clothes and boots, it is wiser to take most of them off, tie them to the saddle before entering the water on your horse. A rider becomes easily bogged down if wearing heavy clothes in swimming. The cowboy takes off his heavy chaps, his boots and spurs and his weapons (if he is carrying any) and slings them over the horn of his saddle before starting in the water.
Guide the swimming horse by the reins; also, by splashing water (with your hand) against the horse's face, to keep him in the right direction. And when starting to learn to swim horses, do so with other riders and never alone. Mind this. Danger lurks close, constantly. And this rule should apply always, with all horsemen, no matter how expert and daring they may be.
Q. If a saddled and bridled horse will not stand ground-hitched (that is, letting the reins drag on the ground), and the rider must dismount and leave the horse for a few minutes, what should the rider do before leaving the horse?
A. If there is no way to tie the horse up to something solid, one good method is to tie the reins to the left stirrup, bending the horse's head around well in that direction. Then he can only keep circling around in about the same spot.
Q. How often should the saddle, blanket be washed and cleaned? A. The saddle blanket should always be soft and clean, to avoid saddle galls. After a ride, time permitting, scrape the sweat from the blanket with a dull knife and hang it up on something or fold it over your saddle, out of the dirt. Use a blanket sufficiently large so you can refold it now and then, having a clean, soft side against the horse's back. It should be actually washed, cleaned and dried as often as it looks dirty and feels stiff. Many riders use saddle cloths instead of blankets, and these, too, must be cleaned often and kept soft. If a saddle gall has been made on your horse's back, and if you must still ride the animal, cut a round hole out of the blanket over the saddle gall, so all pressure on it will cease.
Q. How often should my saddle and bridle be cleaned?
A. Both must be kept soft and pliable by use of proper saddle soap washing and then drying with clean cloths. A daily cleaning is excellent. and required after every drill in our cavalry. The use of saddle OIL on bridle and saddle need only be, done about once a month or so, but the saddle soaping and wiping clean and dry should be done almost after every ride. If time will not permit this, then do it as soon as possible thereafter, remembering that proper cleanliness of leather requires care, or it will dry, stiffen, crack and break.
Q. Is wet hay fit to feed my horse?
A. Rarely. Wet hay mildews quickly, becomes soured, and is very apt to give your horse colic. Such spoiled hay should not be dried out and fed later. It should be thrown away and fresh hay procured.
Q. Why should oats in a stable never be left exposed?
A. Open oats will soon become infested with mice, rats and other vermin, and the droppings may contain deadly poisons for your horse. Mice and rats suffer from many serious and communicable
diseases. Besides, rats and mice eat only the kernels, leaving but the outer husks for the horse.
Q. Does talking quietly to a good saddle horse have a calming effect? A. Decidedly it does. The human voice, used calmly, has an almost instant and noticeable effect on a good saddler. The rider will feel a quick relaxation of the horse's whole, tense body. He should use the voice often, on every ride.
Q. How do I teach my horse to back up?
A. This is an indispensable action, one frequently needed, and should be taught early. First, stand before your horse and, holding the reins in both hands close to the bit, "jiggle" them backward toward his body, saying at the same time "Back, back, back." Expect but a few steps at first. Later, many more. When he backs easily and quietly, mount and do the same thing—slowly, quietly, speaking the same word at each light tug on your reins. Be satisfied with slow progress. Results will come, without the horse rearing up. Never let him rear if you can help it—a dangerous fault and one which may cause the horse to fall over backward on you.
Q. When riding where there is automobile traffic, how should I handle the situation? And when crossing bridges?
A. Ride well off to the right side of the road and keep on the alert. Ride, as much as you can, off the hard surfaced road, on which your horse is apt to slip as on ice. Realize that, today, many automobilists know nothing about horses and seem to care nothing at all about hitting riders. They will go dashing past you, both ways, barely missing your horse. Never trust an automobile driver to slow up or give way to you. Where the road becomes winding or narrow, best to dismount and lead your horse until you reach a wider part. And in crossing bridges, never take a chance of meeting an automobile on one. If the bridge be wide and strong, ride across it AT A WALK. If it is narrow or there be danger of meeting an automobile, dismount and LEAD ACROSS. It consumes little time and lets you ride home safe and sound.
Q. What sort of highways should the new rider avoid?
A. Important to ALL riders nowadays, where so many roads are hard surfaced, in most cities, of slick asphalt. Keep off of such, as far as you can. Pick out dirt roads or the dirt at the sides of hard-surfaced ones. Falls come almost as quickly as when riding over ice.
Q. Is it true that a horse will find its way home if, the rider finding himself lost, he gives the horse a loose rein and allows the animal to go where he pleases?
A. Often this has been proven true, but NOT ALWAYS. Some horses will wander everywhere, indefinitely. That is why we now give the following caution to the new rider: Always do your riding where other people are in sight. Keep in sight of main or well-known roads where traffic passes. Only ride into remote places when other riders are with you and somebody in your party really knows the way back home. And remember this: One of the most dangerous companions you can ride with is the man or woman who insists "You can't lose me, anywhere" They assume a vast sense of direction, claim they know the "whole country," even though they've never been in the particular part before. It is often braggadocio with Death at the end of the trail. Being lost is ghastly—nothing short of that. When out riding alone, do not go into unknown hills or up and down dangerous slopes. If your horse falls and injures you, you may lie there forever. Use good sense, and ride country you thoroughly know, and where there are other people.
Q. Should a rider ride across barbed wire (of fences) that has fallen to the ground? Or ground wire anywhere?
A. Never. Other riders will urge you to do it, but the frequent result is a terribly cut horse and, perhaps, injury to the rider. Use gates, or, if you MUST cross, dismount, cut and drag the wire aside, then go on, tying up the cut wires before you leave. A horse en-tangled in barbed or other wire, often becomes panic-stricken, will struggle and cut itself terribly, either ruining the animal or laying it up for months. Always be on the lookout for fallen wire when out riding. And along highways and roads, watch for broken glass, which automobilists throw everywhere. Such glass can cut your horse's feet seriously. You must learn, instinctively, when out riding, to watch the ground ahead and save your horse and yourself from such dangers.
Q. Should I cut off the mane and shorten the tail?
A. Until a few years ago, the horse's flowing mane and tail were considered marks of beauty. Often these were braided. They were lovely. adornments of the nice saddle horse. But of late, the custom has grown up of cutting off the mane, called "roaching," close to the horse's neck. And the tail that once almost swept the ground is now often thinned out into a point at its lower end and made so short that the end only reaches down to the horse's hocks (hind knees).
No good reason can be advanced for doing these mutilations. The ONLY reason the writer has ever heard has been that it "makes the horse look trimmer." And that becomes a matter of personal opinion. Some like it, some do not. Be assured that you desire to do it, for, once the soft, silky mane is cut off, it will take many months for it to grow back again and it will never be soft and silky as it originally was. It comes back harsh, stiff and takes a very long time before the new mane will be long enough to fall nicely over the side of the-horse's neck. A tail that reaches within a foot of the ground is lovely. If it really touches the ground, as is often seen among range horses that are running wild, it is apt to pick up brush or wire and excite the horse. -
The tail is very helpful to the horse during fly seasons; and the long mane, kept neatly clean and slightly trimmed from time to time to avoid the appearance of scragginess, is a very decided help ' to the rider in mounting and dismounting.
In cutting off the mane, the "forelock" is also cut off completely. This is the pretty lock of hair which hangs down. over the upper part of the face, from between the ears. It is pretty when left on. Whether or not to cut it off is again a matter of opinion and following a custom which prevails largely among horse-show riders and polo players. These riders usually cut the forelock entirely off.
Q. Should I keep my horse "clipped"?
A. Clipping means a hair-cutting for the horse. It is done either with special clippers made for the purpose and usually run by electricity, like the clippers used in a barber shop, or done simply by hand. The latter way is very tedious and takes much time and gets ragged results. The horse is clipped "from stem to stern"—from head to root of the tail. Whether to clip or not to clip is again a matter of personal preference, though the work of the horse and his daily life have their bearing here.
In summer, the horse's coat grows very short, from Nature's plan. He looks neat and shiny then. But as cold weather approaches and continues, the hair grows quite long and somewhat shaggy on some horses. This long hair falls out naturally as warm weather comes back.
The Regular Army cavalry, horse-show people, polo players and riding academies, generally keep their horses clipped, all the year around, and they look very sleek. The clipped horse, of course, must be kept blanketed during cold weather, or he stands in his stall shivering badly. And if he is turned loose in an enclosure where icy winds strike him, he will be seen to shake as with a chill, individual muscles quivering all over him. He is then subject to colds and worse. And especially so during wet weather except during very hot months.
Out in our western cattle country, ranches do not clip their horses. The animals run in corrals or on the open range, subjected to all weathers, and the long hair protects them vastly. So whether or not to clip your horse is a matter one must decide for himself or herself.
But there is, always, some trimming that should be done on any saddle horse, to make the animal appear well and to keep mud and dirt from clinging in spots. Long hair grows in the fetlock joints (backs of the ankles) and this should be kept clipped short both for sightliness and to prevent mud and other dirt from adhering to this hair and, maybe, causing disease by infection. This trimming should extend all over the fetlock joints and around the top of the hoof. The long, hairs that grow under the horse's chin should also be kept trimmed short, as well as the long hair down the backs of the legs. The mane should be kept "plucked" (with the hands and a pair of sharp scissors) so that its lower edge looks neat and even. This lower edge ought not to be below the horse's neck, but slightly above this lower part of the neck. This for neatness. And the same plucking of long hairs from the tail will keep it pointed and in nice shape and never make it too short unless overdone. A foot from the ground gives a tail a nice appearance. Some eastern riders actually resort, however, to what is called "docking" of the tail; that is, cutting it off into a sort of brushy two-foot stub, with the bottom of the tail squarely cut off.
Q. How often should I clean out my stall and my corral (or any small enclosure in which the horse is turned loose when not being used)?
A. The stall should be cleaned out every day, without fail, as it will be found, each morning, soiled by urine and bowel movements, and the old bedding of straw should be removed and destroyed by burning or otherwise. Otherwise, the stall will soon emit vile odors and become soggy. And such a dirty stall may produce various diseases of the horse's feet, which are hard to cure. And the animal will be pestered to death by flies.
As to the small enclosures adjoining the stable, these should be cleaned at least weekly (oftener when found necessary, and the soilings hauled away and destroyed with the stall refuse). If the en-closure is a large pasture, such cleaning is not necessary, as sun and fresh air will do the destroying and the cleansing.
Q. Should I use bedding in the stall?
A. The Regular Army cavalry uses straw for stall bedding, every night. Riding academies and other stable owners generally use bed-ding. Ranches in the West never use any except occasionally for a sick horse. During hot months, stall bedding seems undesirable. During cold months, stalled horses are made more comfortable and warmer by using bedding. If straw bedding is used, it should be removed every morning and the stall aired and the fresh bedding not tossed in until late afternoon.
Q. What is meant when a horse is said to "interfere"?
A. Sometimes a rider will hear a clicking noise as he rides along at a trot, coming from the horse's hoofs. It is a very annoying sound and attracts unfavorable attention. This noise may come. either from "interfering" or from what is called "forging." In interfering, the horse's two front ankles scrape together in passing each other, or the inside of one hoof may scrape the other front ankle, causing chafing and bleeding. Sometimes it will occur when moving at a walk, but almost never when galloping or running. It may be that the shoes of these front feet scrape in the passing and thus cause this clicking. We say that such a horse "travels too close in front." The correction may prove difficult if the horse's conformation is so narrow as to cause this. One cannot actually widen the space between the horse's ankles. But if the scaping is being done by the shoes, then the inner sides of the front shoes should be made narrower or even cut off entirely for awhile until the abrasions heal. If the shoes are too long, thus extending out behind the foot's rear, the shoes should be cut off shorter. Bandaging the horses's bleeding ankles is also good, but only temporary. This interfering may occur without any clicking being heard. Interfering does not often occur between the horse's two hind feet, though this occasionally happens and should be treated the same way.
Q. What is meant when a horse is said to "forge"?
A. Here there is definite and continued clicking from the horse's hoofs when at a trot, sometimes when at a walk, but rarely when going at a canter, gallop, or run. What is happening is this: The hind feet (at their toes) overreach, striking against the toes of the horse's front feet on their under side. It is a most unpleasant noise to both the rider and those riding with him. Forging, like interfering, may occur on both sides of the horse or only on one side. Both forging and interfering may occur when a ridden horse is tired. Forging may also be only such that this striking of the hind toe is against the heel of the front foot, against what we call the "buttresses" of the foot. If this is the case, the buttresses of the front feet may become scraped to the point of tearing and bleeding. However, this is rarely the case, the striking (forging) being done as stated first—against the under side of the toe of the front foot. The correction lies, usually, in rounding off (by the horse-shoer's rasp) the toes of the hind shoes and hoofs and then slightly shortening the toe of the shoe, making it quarter-round as in lumber; and also "rolling" the toe of the front shoe the same way. That is, hammering the heated front shoe at its toe until the metal there, instead of being vertical from hoof to ground, is round. This will cause the horse to "break over" more quickly with his front foot when trotting and thus get the front foot out of the way before the toe of the hind foot comes forward. Interfering or forging may also occur if a shoe is loose on a foot. There-fore, a rider should examine his horse's shoes every day and always when he hears this clicking. A loose shoe invariably clicks against the ground. The use of heavier shoes on the hind feet has also been known to reduce or stop this forging. The methods stated in this answer should be combined, for the best results.
Q. What should I do if my horse becomes sick?
A. Place him in a clean, bedded stall, with plenty of water, and call in the nearest veterinarian. Don't take the varied advice handed out by onlookers, unless you believe they know what they are talking about. The surest way to get your horse well is to call the vet. And get a copy of Diseases of the Horse and Their Treatment (Library of Public Documents, Washington, furnishes this at very small cost) and study the book carefully. Then you will know how to treat minor troubles such as saddle galls, stone bruises, cinch sores and the like.
Before buying a saddle horse, become familiar with this chart and the names and locations of the various defects, blemishes, and diseases shown. Buy no horse that has any of them, for there are plenty of sound horses to be had and many of these troubles are very hard to cure, if at all. A word to the wise should be sufficient.
The number of questions that are asked about horses, saddles, bridles, blankets, riding methods, etc., is endless. This book has simply sought to include herein the normal, everyday questions and answers which a beginner should know.
Each illustration in this book has been selected to bring out definite points about riders, horses, and equestrianism. While giving careful attention to the text throughout, each illustration should be studied in conjunction with it, and not viewed merely from a photographic angle.