Horses - Questions And Answers For The New Rider
( Originally Published 1940 )
COUNTLESS QUESTIONS come up when riding is being discussed and done. In the following pages, an effort has been made to include those which seem the most constantly asked, giving simple answers.
Q. I want to learn to ride. What is the best way to get a suitable horse, and what should one cost?
A. By taking with you an experienced rider and visiting places where horses are sold, and there looking over the horses as they stand and walk about in their enclosure. Having selected the horses that appeal to you, have the animals bridled, saddled and mounted, And watch each one being ridden at a walk, trot and canter, gallop and run. Then have your friend mount the animal and do the same trying-out stunts the owner has shown you. Be sure the animal is thoroughly gentle and that it appeals to you in conformation, color, temperament and strength. Also, take special pains to determine that the horse is in good condition from a health standpoint. If you know how to ride a little, now mount the horse yourself, INSIDE OF AN ENCLOSURE, and try the animal out at walk, trot, canter (lope), gallop and, if you have a firm seat, at a short run, with quick stopping each time.
Only buy a very quiet horse at this stage of the game. One that is rein wise, that will stand still while being mounted and dismounted, that shows no excitement at the usual noises and sights one is sure to encounter while out riding.
Also, make sure each of the horse's feet can be lifted without the horse kicking. A horse has to be shod once a month, and a kicker is vicious and dangerous.
Never buy a horse "on sight." Insist that you be given a week to try the horse out before you purchase it. And decline buying or paying out any cash if the owner refuses you that customary privilege.
For a beginner, the horse should be an old saddle horse around ten years of age, unless the younger animal be a very quiet horse under saddle and in all ways. Later, a five or six year old horse is preferable.
The prices of saddle horses vary vastly, of course. For a quiet,ten-year-old horse suitable for a beginner, the price ought not to exceed fifty dollars. Many can be bought for less than that, that will do excellently well for the beginner. However, your ability to pay is the determining factor, in each case, of course. Horse dealers generally ask about twice what the animal is really worth.
Make a reasonable down payment and agree to pay the balance monthly, reserving to yourself the right to return the horse at any time if the animal turns out to be unsatisfactory or not as represented by the seller; and have it understood, at time of such purchase, whether or not the money is to be returned if the horse turns out as undesirable. Horse dealers never feed their sales horses too much, as this costs money, but when the new owner gets the animal, stables it and feeds it well every day, the horse may, in a few weeks, having renewed vigor, display tricks making the animal unsafe or at least unsatisfactory.
Q. How much should I feed my new horse, per day, and what?
A. Normally, the horse being ridden a couple of hours a day, six pounds of oats and about twelve pounds of hay a day. Feed half the oats in the early morning and NO HAY. About late afternoon, before dark, feed the other half of the oats and ALL the hay. Watch the animal daily. If he remains thin, increase the oats slightly until he shows increased weight and vigor, but make such increases slowly. The standard daily allowance of Regular Army cavalry horses is twelve pounds of oats a day and fourteen pounds of hay a day, but this is too much for the average horse unless the animal is being rid-den hard every day. Some riders like to divide the daily feeding into three feedings, one in the early morning, one at noon and the other at early evening. It is a matter of personal ideas here. The writer has observed many horses, under both feeding plans, and has not. noted the least difference in the condition of the horse.
Q. What else should I feed my horse?
A. Where a horse has free access to grazing, nothing else is required beyond the six pounds of oats a day and the hay. But where a horse must be confined in a stable or other enclosure, one feed a week of bran should be given as a laxative, fed the same way as the oats. Some riders like making what they call a "bran mash"—wetting the dry bran with water. Horses like it either way. This bran takes the place of the green grass grazing, which possesses proper laxative qualities.
Also, where a horse must be kept up in stables or enclosures, one should buy what we call "rock salt," which comes in bags or in solid blocks. The blocks weigh about thirty pounds and are preferable. Feed the coarse salt once a week in the oats-about a small palmful.
Where the block salt can be obtained (and it always can be) from feed stores, break the block in half and leave one half on the ground inside the enclosure. The horse will lick at it whenever he is craving salt, a very necessary part of his conditioning.
Q. How should I water my horse?
A. First of all, use fresh, cool, clean water, whenever such is avail-able. Keep the watering trough in the enclosure filled so the loose horse may drink whenever he wants to. Otherwise, he should be watered at least twice a day, oftener in hot weather. If no watering trough be available, use a common wash tub or a bucket.
Q. How should I care for a very hot horse?
A. Allow the horse to walk about its enclosure until cool, or, if space be not available and the horse must be tied up, blanket him until he is cool and normal. Handrubbing the lower legs is excel-lent, in addition.
BUT NEVER FEED OATS TO A HOT HORSE, AND NEVER ALLOW HIM TO DRINK FREELY until he has cooled off. The feeding of grain or the drinking of too much water, when a horse is brought home very hot and sweaty or weary, may founder the animal and render him permanently worthless for a saddler.
BUT DRY HAY may be fed at any time. It does no injury to the horse at all.
Q. How much daily exercise should I give my horse, weather permitting?
A. At least an hour a day of good riding, or, if you mean to ride more slowly, then two hours a day under the saddle. When a horse is left in a stable or corral for days at a time, without any exercising, he is very apt not only to get soft, but to develop various other undesirable troubles, such as swollen legs, swollen penis, swellings around the pasterns (ankles), common colds, etc. A horse must be kept vigorous by riding the animal, of course, just as an athlete must keep in shape by daily schedule. Also, a horse left to stand about in a stable or en-closure, is very apt to want to rear, dash about, buck, when saddled and taken out, because those are his ways of expressing his desire for exercise.
Q. What colors in saddle horses are considered the best?
A. This is a matter of personal preference. The standard colors are —white (hard to keep clean), black (excellent in this way), bays, light. and dark colors darker than a sorrel, sorrels, light and dark browns (excellent colors), greys, reds, strawberry color, roans (rather unsightly), palominos (beautiful cream color with white mane and tail), pintos or "paints" (white and black, or white and red spotted) liked by many but quite conspicuous; and various shades of these colors in between. As to what color means the best horse, that is a very much mooted question. Some riders claim some colors mean a stronger animal, others say not.
Q. How big should my horse be?
A. The height of a horse is spoken of as "so many hands." A hand is four inches, about the width of a man's normal hand. The height is measured up along the horse's near front leg, from the ground to the top of the horse's "withers," which means the top of the horse's shoulder. The nicest size for a saddler is fifteen hands. Many western horses are less than this and yet make stout, excellent saddlers. Many horses will run close to sixteen hands or a little over and still be most desirable saddle horses. But one will not make a mistake in buying a horse just about fifteen hands high.
In weight, the saddler should be about a thousand pounds when in excellent condition. Horses of excellent saddle stock often exceed or go under this weight, but as a standard, the thousand-pound horse meets all desires.
Q. How often should I groom my horse, and how is it done?
A. How often, depends upon the horse's condition at the time. Normally, the horse should be groomed twice a day, time permitting—in the early morning and in the late afternoon, thus combining it with the feeding times. That a horse -needs daily grooming is very much a truth. It maintains good condition, just as a bath does to a human being; and it makes the horse always appear clean and in keeping with its rider.
The curry comb and brush are used, the brush always being held in the hand nearest the horse's head and the curry comb in the hand nearer the horse's tail. Starting work with the curry comb at the top of the side of the neck, go over the horse to the tail and down the legs to the -front knees and down the hind legs to the "hocks" (hind knees). Below those points, use the curry comb very gently, just to loosen hard dirt. And, after every few strokes with the curry comb, follow that with the brushing, every few strokes cleaning the brush and curry comb by scraping them together and tapping them together or against a post. Start grooming on the near side of the horse and, after finishing that side, do the same on the off (right) side. After thoroughly grooming the horse in this way (and a good grooming will take about twenty minutes of good, muscular work), wipe out the horse's nostrils with a damp. cloth, also wipe around his eyes with it.
Then, before stopping, lift up each of the horse's feet and, using a blunt nail, clean out each foot, so that there can be no picked up nails or other harmful things caught in the sole of the foot or in the frog (triangular cushion which goes from the rear of a horse's foot to its center) or down in the commissures (the deep indentations beside the frog, one on each side of it). The frog and the commissures are, of course, in the sole of the foot.
Q. How often should I have my horse shod?
A. Normally,-once every month. If left on much over that length of time, the wall of the hoof will grow down over the shoe and, probably,. crack upward by hitting the hard ground. Also, the horse's foot, at about every four or, five weeks, has grown down about a good quarter or even half an inch, around the wall where it touches the ground, and this has to be taken off by using a horseshoer's clipping nippers and then he must level up the sole of the foot around the walls by rasping until the bottom of the foot is again level, as nature meant it to be.
Q. Why do I have to have my horse shod?
A. In Arabia, the home of the finest horses in the world, little shoeing is done and the riding is over sandy soil. The horses' feet become as hard as flint there. But the wealthy class shoes its handsome horses with fancy shoes, both as a sign of their social standing and to protect their horses' feet from being worn down too quickly. But in all other countries we have shod for ages, and our experience is that a horse needs iron shoes, or he may become very tender in the soles of his feet and unsafe, like a person trying to go barefooted for the first time.
There are various methods of shoeing. Often, in soft-soil country, horses are left unshod. But over hard roads and rocky country, shoes are necessary, though the writer has ridden with many western men who never shoe and their horses have stood up well, up hill and down dale. But the matter of shoeing depends on the work the animal must do and the ground over which he is to be used.
The normal iron shoe goes around the front and sides of the horse's sole and stops back at the heel, leaving the heel of the foot open so it can expand at every step, as nature intended it should do. Some use shoes that go around only half that far, and the results have shown up excellently well over all country. Some even use only quarter shoes, called. "toe clips" and these merely cover the front of the horse's foot, leaving all the rear of the wall of the foot and the sole to touch the ground, and these have also ,been found satisfactory by many.
If the horse is to be ridden over hard roads and over rocky country every day, shoeing should be done. If the animal is to be used on soft ground only, then the shoes may be left off and results studied. But, in any case, the bottom of the foot must be kept rasped level and no wall allowed to project below the sole. Otherwise, the wall will crack and a crack in the wall brings lameness and pain.
And it must be remembered that nature put the frog on the sole of the horse's foot as a cushion, and the frog must be allowed to touch the ground at every step. Otherwise, we finally get what we call "contracted heels" (narrow ones and hard, lacking the expansive quality normally in a frog) and then we have an injured horse, permanently defective.
Many riders use what we call "calks" on the ground side of the horse's shoe—one at the toe and one at each heel. These are welded on the shoe and their lower ends made sharp. They are used to pre-vent slipping on icy roads and asphalt pavements; and cowboys frequently use the two calks at the heels to prevent the horse from slip-ping when being ridden fast up and down rough country. Some favor calks a great deal, and other riders do not like them at all. It is a matter of personal preference.