Teaching Techniques

Are There Thief Horses in Your Barn?

Are There Thief Horses in Your Barn?

By Doug Emerson

At some point, all professional horsemen realize that they can’t keep forever every good horse that ever walked into the barn. Buying and later selling horses is an unavoidable part of the horse business. There is no doubt about it, becoming fond of your horses is a terrific benefit of being in business. However, your affection and familiarity can also be a financial tie down that will ruin your business. It’s not always easy to accept, but the profitable horseman understands that horses in his or her barn are assets; they aren’t pets.

From a business viewpoint, all horses are either appreciating in value or depreciating in value. The horses in your barn are either generating income as: lesson horses, brood mares, stallions, or are inventory for sale. With no revenue or potential revenue source attached, all other horses are ongoing operating expenses. With no revenue offset, the horse becomes a financial dependent on your business’s welfare roll.

Not only is it an operating expense, it is also an opportunity cost. Think about it, if a horse occupies a stall and generates no income or has little or no potential for future income, it is a thief horse. Unlike a horse thief, a thief horse steals your potential to earn profit from the space and resources it occupies. That stall could be used for:
Horse for training
Lesson Horse
Brood Mare
A speculation horse “bought right”
An empty stall for attracting the next opportunity
In economic terms, there is an opportunity cost for every decision you make in your equine business. An opportunity cost is defined as the cost of something in terms of an opportunity foregone. Said a different way, unlike Yogi Berra’s classic line, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”, every fork in the road you come upon requires a choice. The road you choose is the path you follow. The road not taken is your opportunity cost since you cannot travel two paths at the same time. Choosing the more profitable path that fits your business vision is the correct choice to make every time.

It’s the right time of year to consider whether or not you have any “thief horses” in your barn and if you do how to find a new home for them. Just like any business, the horse business requires that assets produce revenue. A manufacturer or retailer has the opportunity to mothball equipment and machinery in storage if a future need should arise. The cost of storage is relatively cheap and is a good option to have assets available for future use. Obviously, mothballing your horses in a warehouse is not a choice for the professional horseman. While the manufacturer’s machinery can be put back into service easily with a dusting and a few drops of oil, our equine friends require consistent feeding and care along with conditioning.
What are the solutions for finding a new home for your horses that no longer fill the job intended for them at your farm?
Find a buyer who doesn’t need the performance out of the horse that you are expecting. There are many buyers that don’t need a Ferrari; they’re looking for a Chevy.

Donate the horse to a good home as a companion horse. Even if performance or soundness is an issue, horses with good manners are always in demand as pasture buddies for other horses. Giving away a horse may at first seem to be a poor business practice, but as you analyze the costs of maintenance, instant relief from the expenses is worth the sacrifice of marginal sale proceeds.

Maintain ownership and lease to beginner riders who want to care for and love a horse of their own. The lessee gets the horse she has always wanted; you get some relief from your overhead expenses.

As a business owner, if your assets are non-producing, then it’s up to you to make changes. Undeniably, it’s easy to become emotionally attached to good horses. But, when horses can no longer fill the job description in your equine business plan, the right thing for you to do as a professional horseman is to find a new job for them where they will still be loved and appreciated.

About the Author: Doug Emerson trains, consults and coaches professional horsemen and horsewomen struggling with the business half of the horse business. You can reach him and receive free eblasts by visiting www.ProfitableHorseman.com or by calling (716) 434-5371.

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Benefits of the Cross-Under Bitless Bridle

Benefits of the Cross-Under Bitless Bridle

By Dr. Robert Cook

I am proud that my company, The Bitless Bridle Inc. is sponsoring CHA. Our objectives are so compatible that the ‘marriage’ might have been made in horse heaven. For 57 years, I have been a veterinary surgeon and teacher, with a research focus on the horse’s head. Eight years ago, my research spawned a product and I became a salesman. I declare this conflict unashamedly as I know that I am doing more to help horses and riders now than at any previous time.

Before you assume that the product is snake-oil, please read an independent opinion from Dr. Jessica Jahiel’s newsletter archives that contains the quote, “By giving up the use of the bit, you don’t sacrifice any control…” (read)
See also her article “What is this new Bitless Bridle?”.

The cross-under bitless bridle (CBB) is painless and it eliminates the fear and nervousness responsible for most of the hundred or more behavioral problems caused by the bit (click here). Without a bit there is also no impediment to breathing, so the horse performs more willingly and accidents caused by fatigue are less likely. Because a bitless horse can stride in time with its breathing, the gait is more rhythmic and graceful. It is also more efficient because the CBB doesn’t interfere with the energy-saving ‘head bob’. As bits frequently cause painful bone spurs on the bars of the mouth and problems such as headshaking (facial neuralgia), the CBB avoids both of these serious side-effects.

The mode of action of the bridle is simple but subtle. At no time can rein pressure be anything but trivial as it is always well distributed. For signaling to slow or stop, intermittent tension on both reins hugs the whole of the head. The greatest pressure, such as it is, occurs across the bridge of the nose, with less pressure on the chin and cheek, and least pressure on the poll. As seen in the line drawing for steering, tension on one rein (black arrow) nudges one half of the head (white arrows).

The longer stride of the horse translates into greater speed. Obviously, this is of special relevance to the racehorse, but other horses also walk and trot faster. The more energy-efficient stride promotes greater stamina. Freedom from pain allows a horse to focus on the job in hand, engendering confidence and courage. Absence of oral pain means that the horse’s neck is not tense. Consequently, the back too remains flexible and stiff, choppy gaits are avoided. Elimination of bit-induced head shaking allows a horse to perform better in dressage, show jumping and all other disciplines. Removing a steel rod from a sensitive body cavity eliminates a major physiological confusion. A bit triggers dominance of the digestive mode, whereas what is needed in the exercising horse is the respiratory and cardiovascular mode. Problems such as a gaping mouth, protruding tongue, excessive salivation and repeated swallowing are eliminated when the oral foreign body is removed (www.bitlessbridle.com/pathophysiology.pdf).

The key to success with a bitted bridle is ‘good hands.’ The term describes the minimal use of hands and, therefore, the minimal amount of pain. The less a rider depends on hand aids, the more her performance and that of her horse improves. The ultimate of ‘good hands’ is no bit at all. By definition, therefore, the CBB guarantees ‘good hands’ and focuses the rider’s attention on communicating by seat and legs, balance and breathing. It makes for better riders. It also avoids the need for riders to constantly correct a resistant horse. Instead they ride a compliant horse and can foster that harmony and partnership which is the goal of good horsemanship.

The bit – incorrectly viewed as necessary for control – frequently causes loss of control and a host of negative side-effects. For example, bit-induced pain triggers bolting. A horse that defends itself from the bit by placing it between its teeth or under its tongue deprives the rider of all control. Bit-induced problems such as bolting, rearing, bucking, and rushing or refusing jumps, are causes of serious injury to the rider or even sudden death. Bit-induced fear can be the cause of a horse becoming aggressive (biting & kicking) in the stable. A bitted horse may become dangerous at the moment of mounting. Hair-trigger responses to the bit or over-reaction to bit aids are to be avoided in an animal as powerful as a horse.

The CBB is easy to fit, versatile and universal (read more). It can serve as a bridle, lead halter and lunging cavesson. It is usable on all sizes, types and temperaments of horse and by riders of all ages and experience. It is a particular boon for handicapped, young or novice riders as they cannot hurt their horse. Apart from limitations on use of the CBB for certain competitions, currently imposed by FEI rules, there are no contraindications for its use in any discipline.

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Product Review: Western Safety Stirrups

Product Review: Western Safety Stirrups

By Julie Goodnight

The risk of severe injury or death by dragging from the stirrup of a runaway horse is a serious concern for ride providers and riders everywhere. The risk of getting hung-up in a stirrup exists even when proper footwear is worn, but the risk is greatly increased when riders are allowed to mount in improper footwear such as athletic shoes or sandals.

While CHA standards recommend that ride providers require riders to wear proper footwear, we realize that this is not always an option, particularly for programs dealing with tourists right off the street. Even when proper footwear is required, the risk of dragging still exists, especially when riders wear lace up boots that will not pull off when stuck in the stirrup like a non-lace up boot will.

Saddle Technology Incorporated, of Laurel, Montana has invented and patented a safety breakaway stirrup, which looks just like a high quality Western stirrup and comes in several styles. Invented by a veteran cattle rancher and former PRCA cowboy, Mike McCoy, these stirrups were actually made to protect the professional rodeo cowboy. However, their application to recreational riding programs is perhaps even more significant.bearkaway stirrup

The safety breakaway stirrup is designed to release itself from the stirrup leather when it reaches a 45-degree back angle or a 70-degree forward angle. The back angle would be activated when a horse shies out from under a rider or when the rider is thrown. The forward angle of release is generally activated when a horse falls. Whether the foot is through the stirrup or the toe is wedged in the stirrup, this stirrup will always rotate around the stirrup leather activating the release mechanism.

The mechanism controlling the stirrup release is a spring-loaded pin holding the stirrup in place that fires inward, releasing the stirrup when it hits the predetermined angle of release. A torsion pressure feature restricts the flopping or free-swinging motion of the stirrup at the end of the stirrup leather. This feature will prevent 70% of those situations where the rider’s foot slips out of the stirrup, causing the rider to lose balance and fall.

One of the best features of the stirrup, according to professional riders, is that it will not release under normal riding conditions. Another important safety and financial consideration is the stirrup’s durability. The stirrup is made from high quality, high tensile strength materials and comes with a five-year warrantee. It appears to me that the stirrup could last for the entire useful life of a saddle, with reasonable care.

The stirrups come in three different models to meet the needs of a variety of riders. It is available in an Oxbow style, a roping stirrup and a traditional style western stirrup with a wide footrest. All three styles are available in nylon, leather or rawhide coverings and range in price.

I had the opportunity to test the traditional style stirrup, which would be used for a trail riding operation. The stirrups are very attractive and once on the saddle, there is no indication that it is anything other than a normal high quality stirrup. It rode just like a regular stirrup but with its weight and stability, there is less slipping around on your foot. Fortunately, I did not have the opportunity to be drug or thrown to see how it releases in an emergency situation, but I could simulate the circumstances and it released effortlessly every time when cocked to the release angles. The only downside I could find to the stirrups is that if you throw your saddle on the ground (instead of hanging it from the saddle rack), it could cause the stirrups to release inadvertently. But there is an easy fix for this problem: treat your saddle properly and it won’t happen.

Although the cost may seem a little high at first, it is important to consider the longevity of the product and compare it to the potential cost of an injury or death caused from dragging. It is quite possible that your insurance company would offer a discount if these stirrups are used across the board.

For more information on the STI Safety Breakaway Western Stirrups, contact STI at (406) 248-7331 or www.breakawaystirrups.com.

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