Thursday, November 15, 2012

Horses & Field Trials

At this point my dog is 3 years old and last year we ran several walking field trials, but in general walking field trials seem hard to find. So this year I decided to run horseback field trials. Not a gigantic issue as I have my own horses, and have been recreational riding for years.  I also have a 2 horse bumper pull trailer with a dressing area on the front large enough to camp in. For the rookies there are numerous considerations regarding horses and field trials. Below are just a few. 


My horse is a Paint and very good on the trails, un-spooked by much of anything, but not gaited. It did not take more than one brace of riding in a horseback trial to figure out why everyone seems to be riding a Tennessee Walker or Missouri Fox Trotter. Both are gaited horses and if you are going to do horseback field trials long term it is highly recommended that you get a gaited horse.  Costs for a suitable animal may be from $1000 - $5000. But the gaited horses have not only a smoother ride, but they have a faster paced walk. For my Paint the pace of the field trial is between a walk and a trot. So when we are walking we are falling behind, and when we are trotting we are going too fast. But comfort is the key as any handler wants to ride as many braces as possible to learn, and see the numerous variables that have to be adjusted to while competing.


Another gigantic consideration when bringing your own horse is how to camp with the horse. There are no stalls or corrals at the field trials so you have to secure your horse usually overnight or longer in camp. There are several ways to do this. Also learn from my mistake and go with a method you have never used or at least tried at home before you camp with your horse.

                STAKE OUT-

                The most common method of containing the horses that I have seen so far is a stake out.  This is done my connecting the horse to center pin with a 15’ +/- rope or rubber coated cable. I personally recommend a rope so that it can be cut in an emergency. Some of these items can be found HERE.   Another thing that I have not seen at the field trials but highly recommend is a quick release clip on the horse end of the rope. (though my friend likes it on the opposite end) I say this because I staked my horse out for the first time, and he nearly died as the cable I was using wrapped on one leg pulling his head down and cutting off his air. I wasn't smart enough to pull the steak up, and rather was able to man handle him free. Fortunately the worse did not happened, but he has still not learned to be on a stake out. Another consideration is how you connect to the horse. Some use a halter, but I do not recommend this because the horse if tangle is compromised, and it pulls their chin down potentially cutting off their air. There is a collar for horses similar to a dog collar, that seem to be commonly used, but there are stories of horse breaking their neck with these. You may also use a collars to hobble the horse on the leg. 

                PICKET LINE –

                A picket line is where a rope is run 5’-7’ off the ground usually between to trees, and drop lines are tied periodically to connect to the horses. ClickHERE for an excellent article on this process. In general it is considered safer and affords the horse ample room to lay down after a hard day. Big key on this is to make sure the drop line (lead) goes about 3” from the ground. You do not want the lead to go all the way to the ground and horses can become entangled.


                This is my current method, but only because my horse is a slow learner. My lead attached to the trailer does not go all the way to the ground for safety. I will say that I find nothing but negatives to this method. First I sleep in my trailer and my horse wakes me up often rubbing on it, knocking his water bucket around, etc. Second, he has pulled one of the welded rings off the trailer in a need to go exploring at 3:00am. Third, they really cannot lay down that close to the trailer. Though this is perfect for tacking up, it is not really a good overnight option.

                TEMPORARY CORAL -       

                This is done my bringing with you 4-6 pre-fabricated corral panels and assembling a temporary corral. By far the safest method but requires space to be able to transport them along with all the other gear.
Another good option in the temporary coral is an electric fence setup. There are post that can be put in simply by hand, he electric fencing is reusable, and there are plenty of battery powered units to run it. But again, this is something the horses should have been practiced with at home. They can spook and run through this temporary setup.

FOOD & WATER for the Horse

The grounds 99% of the time will have water available for the animals. Always make sure your horse has water within reach, and plan on enough hay/grain etc for the trip. If you don’t pack your own water in bulk at least bring a 5 gallon container so that you can transport the water from the source to your animals while at the trial.


Saddle is a matter of personal preference. I ride in a western saddle because that is what I own. The most common saddle I see is probably a trooper saddle. The are more comfortable for a long day, and have lost of rings to hang things like GPS dog tracers, dog leads, water bottles, and other items that might some in handy while afield. 

Horse and the field trials are actually one of the things that make it more enjoyable. For one, it is a perfect pace to keep up with the dogs. Second, it is peaceful without all the noise of a 4-wheeler or other ATV. Third, it preserves the land. Horse can walk all over the land and you barely see where they have been. Motorized vehicles on the other hand leave semi-permanent paths everywhere they go. Lastly, it preserves a tradition. Yes it is an expense and obligation that most dog owners, even Pointing Breed dog owners don’t incur. Horseback riding is a skill most people never learn, but with a good club and the fine people that trial there is always a way to get someone a horse even if they don’t own their own.

1 comment:

  1. Horseback riding is a wonderful leisure activity for the young and old. Horseback riding is a beautiful, relaxing and enjoyable sport as long as you are confident that you know what you are doing.

    Ruby's Grand Adventure