Friday, June 20, 2008

Chris Cox's Horsemanship Clinic

I am really excited about this photo. After all, how often do you get an action shot of Chris Cox wrestling with what he called, "one rude horse"? I think cowboy butt is right up there with fighter pilot butt. If you've ever been to an air show and seen the fighter pilots strutting around in their jumpsuits you'd know what I mean.

Kind of makes you wonder what those biceps look like under that long-sleeved shirt.

But seriously folks, Chris Cox is one fine horseman. He managed to get this rowdy horse under control and load it and unload it repeatedly from a horse trailer. The horse's owner brought it to him because it had a very deep fear of trailers. One time this horse wanted out of a trailer so bad that is backed out underneath the partition and took all the skin off its back! Another time it panicked when the butt bar was closed and tried to jump right through the window.

Chris spent a lot of time getting control of this horse on the ground before even attempting to load it into the trailer. He did what he called "baiting". He wanted the horse to make mistakes so that he could correct him from the ground, because whatever problems the horse has on the ground will be magnified 5 to 10 times once it gets in the trailer. He used the end of his lead rope to move the horse away from him and get the horse to respect his space. If a horse is going to get into your space in a dangerous way, it will be inside that tight little trailer.

Chris also spent some time walking and halting the horse between him and the fence. He mentioned that you do want the lead line slack enough to allow the horse to use its head, nose, whiskers, lips and eyes to find its way while trailering. If you force its head to be up, you take away its confidence. The same thing goes with trail riding. You want the reins to be slack so that the horse can inspect where it is about to step.

Chris trailered this horse by standing beside the horse at the back of the trailer and swinging the end of the lead rope behind it to pressure it to self-load. He said that the only reason why he could do that was because of all the ground work he did ahead of time.

He warned people not let let their horses turn around in the trailer and come out head first for several reasons:

1. A scared horse will come right up over the top of you in order to turn around.

2. A really scared horse will flip upside down in order to turn around.

3. Horses are more likely to jump out when head first, which can cause injury to both you and the horse. The horse can slip on pavement or clip its hind legs on the bumper of the trailer. Someone I know recently got kicked when the horse jumped out at the same time as him. You want the horse to step out cautiously, which it is more likely to do when backing up.

You want the horse to understand that the name of the game is that it can get out of the trailer anytime that it wants as long as it backs out, and it will be left alone as long as it stands quietly inside the trailer. You want the horse to back out with confidence, which can only happen through repeated backing. You will know when the horse is gaining confidence, because it will back out slower and more precise each time.

If the horse is nervous, rub its withers to relax it.

Chris cut this clinic short, because the horse managed to cut itself across its jaw line on the sharp edges of the air slats. The trailer that had been brought into the arena for his clinic was really a cattle stock trailer and not appropriate for horses. For horses, you want a trailer that has windows that are lined with rubber around the edges that are just big enough that the horse can stick its head out, but small enough that it cannot jump through. There should be a screen of some kind that allows air into the trailer without letting the horse stick its head through. There should also be air vents on the ceiling of the trailer so that you don't always have to open the windows and let dirt get in the horse's eyes.

Slant load vs. straight load is a matter of preference. I've heard a lot of different arguments in favor of each. Using a ramp vs. step up is also a matter of preference. The trailer you buy should have a weight listed on its specifications label. Add your horses' weights to that number to make sure that it is within the weight limit of your truck.

Because horse trailers tend to sit for a long time unused, the tires develop flat spots and get worn by the sun. You might want to cover the tires and move the trailer a bit from time to time. Always check your air pressure and lug nuts before going on a long trip. Most importantly, check for sharp edges and rusted parts periodically, so that your horse doesn't end up in the vet hospital.


Mrs Mom said...

Yes M'am, cowboy tushes and fighter jock tushes rule. R-U-L-E.

*cough cough*.. pardon me for a moment- must mop up my keyboard...

OK- hot flash under control, keyboard clean...

GReat pictures, and fantastic run down of the clinic. I have not seen Mr. Cox in person, but from what you have posted I would like to listen to him sometime. (ANd NOT stare at his tush-- much-- I promise..)

You must have had so much fun at the Expo- all of your coverage of it has been fantastic!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I've got to say you sure do go to a lot of clinics. That's great, I'm sure there is something new to learn at each one.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Mrs. Mom - You got a good laugh out of me with your comment. After this clinic I spotted a crowd at a booth and walked around the corner to see what was going on. Much to my surprise (and pleasure) I almost walked right in to Chris Cox's hiney. He was standing on a small stage tossing prizes out to the crowd.

Grey Horse - All the clinics I've been to were all in one place over one weekend at the Western States Horse Expo. That's pretty much the extent of clinics that I attend. Not many horse clinics come around my region.

ranchette said...

Thanks for the eye candy. :) And the interesting write-up on the trailering clinic too.

Twinville said...

Oh man, NM! You almsot TOUCHED Chris's hiney???? Ack!
I would have passed out from excitement.
Man, he's got a nice A**! And you captured it perfectly to show...uh...educate all of us who read your stimulating...uh...educational blog.


Ok, I just want to say that Bombay is one awesome rock of a horse for not dumping you when you didn't check and clean out the dirt under his pad. He's a keeper, for sure.
And I'm glad to read about your satisfying cantering experience. Good for you and Bombay.

Love that shot of Gabbrielle. You are so good at finding the best and most interesting perspectives while taking photos.

I think it's great how you are taking baby steps with her while training her to trailer.

My neighbor finally accepted some help in getting her mare up into the trailer after several months of trying. She's got a deadline for breeding so a 'cowboy' trainer came over and by the end of the first session had that girl in the back of the trailer. He was gentle but firm and basically used the philosophy of 'forward motion' to get her loaded.
She'll still need more practice and training but she came along way and she even acts different now, calmer and more confidant. Cool!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ranchette -- You are certainly welcome. Thank you for visiting.

Twinville -- I'm glad you like the photos. My secret to interesting pictures is that my camera is unpredictable in its shutter timing, so I never know when it is going to respond to me pushing the button. It's digital, so I take hundreds of shots and delete about 80% of them.

I'm glad your neighbor's mare is now trailering. I'm just putting a lot of time into backing up because Bombay is used to turning around while Gabbrielle won't back out once I get her in.