The last several years, the town of Pueblo, Colorado has hosted the National Little Britches Rodeo Association Finals Rodeo. Heartwarming, wholesome, family-oriented, hard-working, and inspirational are only five of countless words to describe both the participants and volunteers for Hope Counts of NLBRA. Some 2,000 kids, between the ages of 5 and 18, from 21 states compete in more than 275 “Little Britches” rodeos every year. Their most recent Finals Rodeo was held in July and members of Spalding Labs were again on hand to help with the Hope Counts Crisis Fundraising. According to Tom Spalding, President of Spalding Labs, “Of all the events we do every year, Little Britches is the most fun.”
The Hope Counts - Crisis Fund of the NLBRA was founded by Sydnee Christensen of Utah when she was a mere 12 years old. She wanted to help injured rodeo kids and their families facing catastrophic events. Sydnee started brainstorming ideas, lit a fire under her mom, and they began putting together the business side. Sponsorship Coordinator for the NLBRA, Sarah Faith Wiens, had this to say about Sydnee’s endeavor, "It's one thing for an association to start up a crisis fund, it's quite another to have a 12-year-old member start one. It makes me so proud to be a small part of an organization that has members willing to help one another in such a large way. The sport of rodeo is dangerous, there is no getting around it. Anytime you mix livestock, kids and a competitive atmosphere there are bound to be accidents and when that happens it's comforting to know that families aren't alone. NLBRA is truly an association where character is developed, western traditions live and legends begin!"
Sydnee’s base idea for fundraising was cleaning trailers for rodeo participants using Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor as they were checking in. Everyone who made a donation received the Hope Counts signature Blue Feather. The volunteers worked hard, cleaning trailers, for three days. Their youthful teamwork and dedication to serving others touched the heart of Spalding’s video director, Berry Landen who was on location shooting the Finals Rodeo. On the spot, Landen decided to produce the “Hope Counts: Kids helping kids get better” video.
Both Spalding Lab’s video and Blue Feathers went viral at that year’s NFR in Las Vegas.
Expanding on Sydnee’s trailer cleaning concept, Larry Garner with Spalding Labs, suggested they not only donate the Bye Bye Odor used to clean the trailers but then sell Bye Bye Odor at the event giving 100% of the proceeds to Hope Counts for unlimited fundraising possibilities. Garner said, “It’s a win-win-win. The kids raise money to help others. Spalding’s Bye Bye Odor cleans the trailers which means less flies, better smell and happier animals. We all know happier animals are better competitors.” The premier year’s overwhelming response was thanks to the many Little Britches alumni, now top professional cowboys and cowgirls who wore the blue feathers at NFR. The buzz in Las Vegas that year was, ‘what are all these blue feathers for?’ generating enormous baseline awareness for Hope Counts.
Again this year Spalding Labs had plenty of donated Bye Bye Odor on hand, along with some additional man power to help the kids clean the trailers, and raise over $4000. Hope Counts not only gives back to the rodeo community in need, but also teaches kids teamwork, volunteerism and selfless acts of service. Wise beyond her years, Sydnee states “Aristotle said ‘virtue is its own reward’ I think we all may get a little extra reward here.”
Angelea Walkup is a US Dressage Federation gold medalist best known in the horse world as web series host of HorseGirlTV and producer of the equibarre workout. She is a career content creator and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. You can connect with her on Twitter @AKwalkup or her Facebook Page.
Deer flies are water breeders and can travel long distances, making them impossible to control in their larval stages. However, there are a few ways to help keep them away from you. BugPellent Gel is a good repellent if they are bothering you while out riding. If they bother you more in a specific spot, such as near a pool or in a back yard, etc., then a trap may be another way to go. There are traps that you can build yourself. You can search online for plans to build the home made version by searching for Manitoba Trap. For deer flies, another trap that works pretty well is to get something like a kickball and paint it blue (deer flies are particularly attracted to blue), then cover the ball in a product called Tanglefoot (you can usually find this at places like HomeDepot), then hang the sticky blue ball in a tree near where you spend time.
Extended Deer Fly Information
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It is a common and widespread belief that horses, being a flighty prey species, automatically fear predatory species. It seems logical to believe this.
The horse is a prey species. It is a grazing creature that, in the wild, always lives in herds on grasslands. It evolved millions of years ago surrounded by hungry predators mainly of the dog and cat family. This included wolves, lions and saber-toothed tigers.
Unlike many grassland prey species, such as wild cattle, sheep, goats, rhinoceros, and elephants, the horse is equipped with neither horns nor tusks. Its primary defense is flight. The horse’s anatomy and its physiology are designed to sprint from perceived danger.
What precipitates flight is the perception of predation, not the presence of a predator.
I became aware of this for the first time in 1949 when the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Tucson. I was amazed to see a full-grown Bengal Tiger riding on the back of a horse. “How is such a thing possible?” I thought. “Doesn’t the horse, a prey animal, automatically fear a tiger, a predator?”
I had seen wild horses that had never had human contact panic when a man first approached them in a pen. That seemed “normal”. In time I observed that when such horses were approached by children, or most women, they were less inclined to panic. Why?
Similarly, when such horses were approached by a friendly, casual ranch dog, it did not result in blind flight. Weren’t dogs predators?
Predation usually take two forms:
I have been twice on veterinary safaris to East Africa. There one will see lounging prides of lions, a short distance from grazing herds of zebra, a close relative of the horse.
As long as the lions are resting quietly, the zebra, always aware of the lion’s presence, do not flee.
But, if a lion arises and stretches, the zebra focuses on it. If the lion then casually moves away from the zebra, they go back to grazing.
If, however, the lion crouches, becomes motionless and stares at the zebra, they immediately prepare to flee.
I noted, long ago, that when stallions want to propel their range herd of mares and youngsters into flight, they assume a predatory stance. They lower their heads, crouch, and fix their eyes upon their “quarry”. This motivates the herd into flight away from the predatory behavior even though that behavior is being displayed by a fellow prey animal – a horse.
Thus I learned that horses do not fear predators. They fear predatory behavior, the stalk and the charge. So anything unfamiliar to the horse that is stationary is alarming. It might be just a trash can, or a discarded box, or a rock that somebody painted their initials on, or a resting animal that it has never seen before like a pig or a llama – anything! This is why horses may shy at an unidentified stationary object. It isn’t stupidity. It is nature’s wisdom. In its natural environment in the wild, this is how horses manage to survive.
Similarly, anything unfamiliar, unidentified that moves towards the horse, may be identified as predatory behavior, and for the horse, the best way to escape a predator is by flight.
If we respond to such behavior by inflicting pain, as with the whip or spur or violent reining, we establish permanent fear of whatever caused the “spooking”. So if a horse shys at a sheet of paper on the trail, it is thinking “I see an unfamiliar stationary thing. I had better run away from it or it may hurt me”, and then if we hurt the horse, we have confirmed its fear. And, horses don’t forget. Horses with poor memories did not survive over the millions of years.
If an unfamiliar object comes towards the horse, say a kid on a bicycle for the first time, or a hiker with a big backpack, or a golf cart, or a tumbleweed, the horse’s natural reaction is flight. It’s not stupidity. It is nature’s wisdom. It’s the key, for a horse, to survival in the wild.
Horses can be desensitized, with amazing speed to any sensory stimulus, no matter how severe, providing that it causes no pain. Thus horses can become oblivious to the loudest noise, the strongest smell, the sight of anything no matter how vivid, and the touch of plastic sheets or electric clippers, or ropes on its body, and even a tiger riding on its back.
That’s why horses were so vitally useful to mankind for so many millennia in warfare.
Once we accept the concept that horses do not automatically fear predators but they do fear predatory behavior unless they are methodically and properly desensitized to it, we can understand how to best get along with and communicate with horses.
We will discuss such methods of desensitization in a future article.
Since horses have infallible memories it should now be obvious how important the first experience of any kind will be to a horse, regardless of its age. The first experience with people, dogs, cattle, curry combs, electric clippers, wheelbarrows, flags, halters, bridles, saddles, foot trimmings, fly spray, motorcycles, crossing a puddle of water, whatever, will be remembered forever. If that memory results in what we regard as an unsatisfactory response, it can be changed. However that requires skill, experience, patience, persistence, and empathy. Anger, impatience, and violence will worsen the problem.
Now you can see why determined, aggressive rapid movements and a fixed gaze on a completely green horse causes the horse to regard us as a predator, whereas a casual relaxed, soft approach, halting and even retreating if the horses reacts in a frightened manner is the best way to initially introduce a horse to anything new. Retreat is non-predatory.
Later, after the horse accepts the new experience with the indifference, then you can gradually increase the intensity of the experience. As long as it doesn’t cause pain the horse can accept it.
Horse training consists simply, of giving horses a choice between comfort and discomfort. The discomfort can be mental or physical and it can be quite mild. It does not have to be severe. The ultimate goal should be 100% respect and response, but zero fear. It can be done.
In 1949 my father gave me a Christmas present; a pair of kangaroo cowboy boots. They were handsome but a size too large. No matter! I only used them for riding.
One day I was practicing calf roping. I threw a bad loop, began to dismount prematurely, lost my balance, and fell over backwards. My foot hung up in the stirrup, the horse veered, and I found myself dragged down the arena at top speed.
It was a frightening few seconds. Then my over-sized boot came off.
Many years later, I made a video called Safer Horsemanship (Video Velocity, 1999). It teaches methods of avoiding injury to both horses and humans who work with horses.
Because of my 1949 experience I included footwear. One of the recommendations in the video is to wear riding boots a size too large.
I am on the equine and veterinary lecture circuit, so I attend many expos, clinics, schools, and other equine events. Since Safer Horsemanship was produced I have had three identical experiences; all of them separate unrelated events. At each event an older gentleman came up to me and said, “You saved my life.”
I asked how that was possible. Each told me the same story. They had ridden all their life but, obviously, no longer had the agility and coordination they had when they were younger.
Riding a trusted and well-trained horse, it spooked on the trail. They went off, hung up in the stirrup and got dragged. But, because they had seen my video, and promptly bought new boots a size too large, the boot came off preventing serious injury.
Safer Horsemanship is based upon my experience. I started working professionally with horses at 15 years of age. In my twenties I became a wrangler, a cattle ranch hand, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service, a rodeo contestant, and, most important, a “bronc buster”, starting “colts” mostly four or five or six years of age that had never before been handled. Then, as a vet, I mostly did horse practice. I still ride.
In seventy-five years of working with horses only once did an injury caused by a horse put me in the hospital, and that was when a 90-day old foal ran into me at top speed and knocked me flat, injuring my knee.
However, I learned how to minimize the chance of injury, knowing that the equine, a flighty, fearful prey species is also very swift and strong, and highly reactive.
So that’s what inspired me to do a video on Safer Horsemanship.
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