Assess Your Horse’s Capabilities and Temperament
We all love to think of our horses as part of the family. Some might love their horses. Let me begin by saying that before you do an overnight or longer trip away from all the comforts of home, you need to honestly assess your horse’s capabilities and temperament. Temperament is key here. I am careful to choose the horse for the job. I prefer traveling far with my dog as well. He is a great scout, level headed, and loves to ride. He often hunts for himself, but I always bring food for him. Mind you, once horse and dog are out for four or five hours, their temperament smooths.
I have made my horse aware of the terrain. He can surf down a steep mountain trail with loose scree or find his way home five hours out, through thick forest on his own, while I relax in the saddle. Trained in the Colorado and California mountains and holding his own in the hunt lands of Virginia, he can practically walk over a four foot fence, loves the hunt, stays placidly tied at the range, and he’s a good old boy, who loves to travel.
I also practice martial arts on horse and need to give him a half hour ride to smooth out before a fight, and he loves to tussle. I realized that much of my experiences through the years might serve some or just be an interesting read, so I thought I’d share them.
As you can see, a horse is not a pet; he is a companion. I feel the same way about my dog. I’ve only taken him to shutzhund level 2 (look to Helmut Raiser. I don’t know if we’ll ever make it to level 3. It’s a united effort; we both have to learn how to train, and we’ve learned a lot already. He has a good bite, won’t let go of the sleeve until told, is not afraid of the stick or punches. He’s okay in a fight, loves kids and to play, and is an excellent tracker. He has that concentrated stare that makes a person back off. The goal, of course, is not to fight. My horse is used to Fritz (my Alsatian breed dog) being in the saddle. He shares the saddle with me when he tires, and Cloud (a big 16 1/2 hand Appy) doesn’t mind a bit. Fritz has been a regular at the range. Gunfire is a normal occurrence to him.
Cloud has been around the same noise and is more bothered by critters in the woods.They are both reliable troopers. He’s kept a cool head around rattlers and was unbothered by a 4′ tall owl in a tree not 12′ away. When a wild boar broke into the corral, it was pandemonium. There were four horses on about the same acreage. it seems the other horses freaked out. Cloud had a hoof print on his hind, but he seemed to keep a cool head. Now he’s always on an 18-acre pasture, where there is plenty of room to move and no incidents. Fritz has his own copse of trees/bushes where he brings deer he catches right next to the 18-acre pasture. I never have to buy bones for him to gnaw on.
Though endurance riders like smaller horses, I prefer a larger horse, which has no problem carrying gear, supplies, weapons and ammo, my dog, and myself. It adds up. The point being, know what your horse is capable of. Flash (a mustang) is a better jouster and is good around gun reports, but he can’t handle as much weight. Fighting sword to sword and wrestling doesn’t bother either horse, but these days it’s hard to find anyone who knows how to do those things. (Julia Thut of the international mounted combat alliance has some good youtube videos.) The best partner I had for that moved to Arizona, but I can still find some friends for jousting. Both horses are trained in dressage. (You can’t use a sword on horse well without it) They are also elegant and sophisticated in their skills. People are amazed that western horses can do what they do. I get more offers for them than I can count. For bugging out, reliability and temperament are what you are in need of most, as well as the ability to carry the load you pose them with.
My thoroughbred could never do any of this but is a good ladies horse. My quarter horse is a good endurance horse at 15 hands but can’t carry much gear, though is good for a three-day event. Most important these days is cognizance of the end times and what that might imply, which leads us to what a survivalist/prepper might require from a horse. Mind you, having learned wrestling on horse back, this ability might make you less prone to being pulled out of the saddle by a hungry discourteous passerby. You would think that people would become more civil in catastrophic circumstances, but we probably can’t count on that. Avoiding trouble is the best course of action. There’s no need to prove anything or “take heads”. Avoiding confrontation is key. If you follow Isaiah or Jesus, you know we have a rough spell to go through.
If you can’t bring your horse from a stand still to a gallop straight away, if you can’t jump trees, if your horse won’t swim, you are taking a lot of risk going far in a Shumer hits the fan situation. You probably would do better on foot. If your horse shies from gunfire (meaning freaks out), it’s probably not a good idea. I’ve seen someone thrown from a horse because of spooking at a gun report.
You want a horse who is blanketed in winter. If their coat is too thick in winter, they will get sweaty when vigorously exercised (riding for eight hours with only a few breaks for example, let alone cantering to make an escape, or being part of a hunt). You won’t be able to dry him off by dark, and the potential for catching cold is greater with this thick wet coat. The short coat will be fine during the day, but depending upon how cold it gets at night a horse blanket might be wise. Cloud will roll around a lot when a blanket is on him (though obviously not when hobbled), but he gets a very thick coat if left unblanketed. You do want a horse who keeps his weight on alfalfa and has no problems with grain and corn. Have a good idea of your horse’s digestive health. You don’t want to be days away from home and have to deal with colic or its complications.
If you can’t find grass when out and your horse is not the type to be inquisitive enough to dig under the snow in search of grazing, then you must depend on grain. How does he react to grain? Some horses get high strung from corn and even overheat. Some get touchy from grain. Know your horse’s temperament. Cloud loves the sugar! Corn is his favorite candy. The problem is, he gets way too high strung from it. We can only give him a handful at a time. He’s fine on alfalfa, which is his normal diet at home; so I watch his weight and bring grain on trips while always trying to find grazing.
Following the seasons, as you may have noticed is quite important, but even in the beginning of summer I would bring enough grain for as many days as you expect to be out. Allowing your horse to have enough time to graze is most important. If you are lucky enough to find an area with grass to bed down near, most hobbled horses will find enough grazing over a night’s stop. Knowing where you are going helps a great deal, as you must know your water stops or be able to carry enough.
I’ve gone down the Grand Canyon with horse and pack mule in the ice and snow of winter while it was snowing, and it can get touchy. It’s amazing how much it warms up at the bottom. When riding in Arizona, I couldn’t imagine going too far from home under hostile circumstances, due to uncertainty about where to find water. Ranchers might not be overly friendly, if you are even lucky enough to find one. This reminds me; a collapsible water bucket is an essential. A well distributed 5-gallon water bag of some sort would also be advisable but not essential in many places. Riding through a cactus forest in Arizona in winter is not the same as riding through a forest in the southeast in summer, or the wilderness of Utah. Riding outside of Phoenix in the summer was also challenging. This might apply in most of the American Redoubt states. Horses grow ornery if they don’t have their needs met.
Putting it simply, we have taken horses from their natural habitat. They would choose the type of land in which they roam and develop a pattern of terrain which allows for grazing and water as well as openness for escape and a kind of sanitation. You may be taking a horse through terrain differing from their natural habitat or from what they would naturally choose. God gave us dominion over the land and all its creatures (and the sea for that matter). It is up to us to be good husbandmen.
We are responsible for the Earth, to treat it as a garden which must be maintained, as is the case with animals, especially the horse. Read Xenophon. He was a horseman. The book could have been written yesterday. The relationship between man and horse has been going on for Eons. There is an interdependence, as is the case with dogs; all of this is in keeping with the teachings of Genesis.
Not enough is fleshed out in the Bible, but we can see in many writings of the past that man learned to properly husband the creatures of the Earth. Some have been responsible; many have not. We must adhere to responsibility as our abilities are challenged by mitigating circumstances in a difficult world. We do our best, which may not always be enough. The genetic code of all living things is closely related and can be found in the soil as well. Maybe this is just some things to think about when offering kindness and not weakness to animals.