Horse Talk

Horsemanship with Carlos Tabernaberri

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Working with a large herd of horses requires endless amounts of  patience, plus knowledge of how horses see things in their hierarchical world. Patience can be learned through conscious effort and practice. How horses see the world is often more elusive. Working with a horse trainer and clinician who has spent their lives training horses and studying horse behavior is key to keeping consistency in how we treat our horses.

Carlos Tabernaberri is such a person. I first met Carlos at the Apache Springs Ranch, located at the base of the Santa Rita Mountains. With my wranglers and several young horses in tow, we participated in a three day horsemanship clinic under Carlos’s guidance. What I admired so much about Carlos was his philosophy, which is not a bunch of steps, but a bunch of well thought out ways of how to treat horses, and how to create a relationship that puts the horse first always. That with consistency, confidence, kindness and leadership we can achieve the trust, obedience and respect of our horses. By the end of the clinic, and after I brought my little Mexican horse Chispas back to the ranch, I realized that my relationship had been changed with this horse, and his life had been changed as well. Once untrusting and reactive, Chispas is now a joy to ride and a trusting partner.

I had been to other clinics, and had worked with others who were self proclaimed “horse whisperers”, yet I never felt completely comfortable with how they treated the horses. Snapping the horses on the nose with the reins to “get their energy up” or running them wildly ad liberty in a round pen so they would be “focused” when it was time to work under saddle. Or bumping them harshly on the nose with a knotted halter to get them to back, or to stop, or to behave while doing ground work. These things just seemed wrong, yet I could not explain why. Until I started working with Carlos.2016-12-11-09-58-03

I invited Carlos to come to the Circle Z Ranch the following winter, both to work with my staff as well as to run a week-long horsemanship clinic for our guests. Carlos is the best thing that could have happened for our ranch and for our horses, because he truly gets horses, and has a comprehensive way of explaining why the above techniques lead to behavioral problems, when the horses are labeled bad, or dangerous, or high headed, or head shy. These issues stem from their handling, and not the horses inherent “personalities”. I realized that we had unknowingly created problems, and how with patience and sensitivity to the horses needs we would be able to remedy these issues.

Now I do not mean to insinuate that our horses were mistreated in any way. But sometimes it is refreshing and empowering to hear others, and to take to heart their philosophies, in order to weave them into your own mentality, and your own way of being. For me it is all about the horse, and putting them first, so that what we do with them is merely helping them to understand why it is ok to do what we ask of them. That what we do is never unkind, and is never forceful, and is always in the moment, the way horses are in the moment.  So much of what we do is right on, yet there were some things that were just not working. And the beauty of all of this is that my staff took the teachings of Carlos to heart, and admired him not as a “clinician”, but as a good friend who has excellent advice, and has a way with horses that was quite honestly astonishing.

We can’t wait to have Carlos come back next year, and for our guests to be able to learn from this gentleman who is profound and charismatic and kind. For our staff, our guests, and above all our horses, life is good, we are all grateful for the presence of this man.

For more information, please consider reading “Through the Eyes of the Horse” by Carlos Tabernaberri, available on Amazon.

 

 

By |February 20th, 2017|Horse Talk|0 Comments

Caring for the ranch horses

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New shade port for day pasture

The Circle Z Ranch owns one of the largest private horse herds in Arizona, and keeping our herd healthy, both physically and mentally, takes diligence and a concerted effort amongst our staff. Giving the highest levels of care is what good ranches do, and the rewards are reaped every day by our guests and our happy horses alike. So what all goes into the care of our family? I sat with Miko and Jennie to list all the things we do for our horses.

Here are some interesting numbers: We feed an average of 250 tons of alfalfa each year, give on average 200 influenza and tetanus injections, and deworm 200 times. The herd is supplemented with 750 pounds of psyllium each year to prevent sand colic. We also supplement their regular diet of alfalfa with grain, bran, and fodder.

Starting in the Spring, when we close the ranch to guests, we prepare our horses to be turned out onto their 3000 acre summer pasture, where the grazing is unlimited. We brand our 3 year old horses and the new horses that have passed Circle Z scrutiny. We use the freeze brand method which is a more humane method than burning on brands. We also vaccinate each horse with the Tetanus and influenza injections, as well as de-wormer. We allow their shoes to fall off naturally as they roam the property.

The horses’ summer pasture has 3 large stock ponds, access to the creek, as well as plenty of shade trees for those hot days. We check on the horses at least twice a week and sometimes more, especially after a big storm. The horses tend to stay in their small group of buddies, and hang out in the same areas, making it easier for our cowboys to keep track of them. Our staff carries along basic horse first aid for those rare injuries, and are able to provide most of the vet care needed. Only rarely do we have to bring a horse in for extra care. A few of the horses get tender footed, so they are kept shod, helping them  move about easily.

Spring is also our time for breeding our five brood mares. We are currently using a stud by the name of Shiny Sparks, who is an AQHRA registered horse. He is a stocky sorrel stallion with a white blaze. We pasture him with our mares at our Creek Ranch property for one month, and usually know by three to four months if the breeding “took”.

As the summer months’ wane, it is time to round up our herd. Some of the horses start heading back towards the corrals as their internal clocks wind down, but many like to hold out for the last minute. Once the horses are all in, we start getting them ready for the guests. During one season, there are over 900 horse shoes expertly placed on our horses by Miko and Tavo. Once shoed we give them another dose of influenza/tetanus, and de-worm them again.

As our staff clears the trails from the summer storms, they also start exercising and tuning up each horse. We try to get 2-3 rides per horse before the guests arrive, which helps to get them back into shape and get their minds back on work.

Once the guest season starts the end of October, our winter schedule of care begins. We feed 16 bales of alfalfa daily between the morning and evening meals. The horses are on a strict time schedule. They know that when the feed truck runs, and the gates open in the early morning and at the 4:30 pm bell, it is time to move to their day or night pasture. For the horses who are working any given day, we feed them prior to their ride with 1 ½ scoops of grain and ½ scoop of bran. We give each horse 1 cup of psyllium daily for seven consecutive days each month to prevent colic. Each horse is also rotated into the fodder feeding area at least once, and sometimes twice, per week for that extra boost of nutrients from the freshly sprouted barley.

For most injuries we are able to take care of our own vet care. Minor cuts, abscesses, and saddle sores are treated with stitches, medications, and rest. For cases of colic, which happens rarely, we administer Benamine and Dyperone, and call the vet for tubing only if not relieved with conservative treatments. We have found that the psyllium works very well for colic prevention.

To keep our paddocks and corrals clean, there is the daily scooping of manure, which seems endless! The large day pasture is cleaned out 4 times each season with the tractor. The seven water troughs around the property are drained and cleaned with bleach 4 times each season.

We provide dental care for our horses as needed, and with their time spent out foraging naturally is not required as frequently as if they were fed hay year-round. This year we will be trying a new method called Natural Balance Dentistry. Stay tuned for another article describing the process, and benefits, of this particular method.

Thanks to our hard working and knowledgeable staff at the corrals, we are able to accomplish all this work on top of providing individualized attention to our guests. We are 100 percent committed to the health of our horses throughout their lives.

By |October 16th, 2016|Horse Talk|0 Comments

Training colts with Wranglers Val and Johnny

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We take great pride in breeding and training many of our horses right here on the ranch. Getting each one to the point of being a good guest horse takes time, consistency, and patience. We rely upon our wranglers, who are expert equestrians, to work with the young horses. Two of our wranglers, Val and Johnny, are doing an exceptional job with their three-year olds: Athena, a beautiful sorrel filly, and Charles, a handsome paint gelding.

Consistency is the key when training young horses, with the majority of their early learning taking place from the ground. The trainer uses lead ropes and training halters to teach them to walk, trot, and lope on cue. Backing up, yielding the fore and hind legs, and flexing are important to teach as well. Moving their feet from the ground makes the process smoother when they are under saddle, and each horse requires a different amount of time and energy to make this happen.

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For both Val and Johnny, their horses had already been through basic ground work when they started working with them in October. Val shared her thoughts on her early days with Athena “We struggled a lot in the beginning. I had the same experience with her that I had with a lot of mares, it takes a long time to gain their respect and trust. You really have to prove yourself, and once you get it, they will give you the world. They try real hard and never give up”. At first Val’s time spent with Athena was short, often only 10 minutes, and when Athena got something right the lesson would end. The key to successful training is in building the trust and respect, so the horse knows they won’t be put in danger. “Now we get along great. She understands the cues, and what I want her to do.”

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Charles and Johnny have a trusting relationship, and Charles is often seen searching over the fence for Johnny from the day pasture. “He is super good, really calm and patient with me because this is a learning process for me too.” Johnny does not profess to be a horse trainer, yet his laid back personality and ability to be consistent is making the work with Charles go smoothly. Not much bothers Charles, and it did not take long for Johnny to have him under saddle. “Laying over him and hanging out there on his back, petting him on his butt and shoulder while laying on him. Then it was super easy to swing up and start sitting on him. We worked on flexing to each side, then started getting forward movement in there. He’s a little like me in that any work to the left is a bigger hurdle.”

It takes time for the young horses to figure out how to balance with a load on their backs, so starting them with easy walking, trotting, and working in circles helps them figure out how to move under saddle. They are also still growing and are susceptible to injury if pushed too hard. “I am a big guy, so I will probably have someone smaller lope Charles when he is ready,” Johnny said.

Val has come a long way with Athena, and she is frequently seen riding her in the large round pen. They practice working on leads, steering while in a lope, and side passing on cue. Together, she and Johnny took the two horses out on their first trail ride down the polo field, across the creek, and back to the corrals via the railroad bed. Charles spooked a little at the sound of a tree branch scraping Johnny’s hat, and Athena didn’t like the shadows of the cottonwood trees, but they’ll get used to it. With consistency and lots of miles under saddle, they will make fine trail horses for our guests.

By |March 2nd, 2016|Horse Talk|0 Comments

Shoeing the Circle Z horses

When October rolls around countless tasks need to be completed before guests arrive for their ranch vacations. Shoeing our horses is one of the most time consuming; it demands skill, precision and strength. I visited with Miko, our corral manager and head farrier, along with Tavo from the corral staff for more insight on how this is accomplished.

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The Circle Z Philosophy

Circle Z horses run barefoot for the summer. Climbing over the rocky terrain helps to strengthen their hooves and allows their hooves to breathe and grow naturally. When they come back to the corrals in the fall, their hooves are trimmed from the terrain, making that first shoeing much easier.

During our guest season, we use over 1000 horse shoes, shoeing over 330 horses over the 6 month period. Our philosophy and practice is to have our horses shod when needed, as opposed to a strict schedule. For some horses, this means every 4 weeks; others may keep their shoes for 6 weeks.

Having our own farriers on staff as wranglers—as opposed to hiring farriers to come in—makes the process much less stressful for the horse as they are at ease with our wranglers. Miko and Tavo also know the tendencies of each horse and any issues they may have, making our instances of injury very low. All of our wranglers closely monitor the condition of each horse’s hooves, as well as their performance on the trails, to help determine when a new set is needed.

Each horse takes approximately 1 hour to shoe. Between Miko and Tavo they can shoe 12 horses in a day. Some colts are new to the routine and take longer, or may need a little something to calm them. And there are a few who just don’t like it. For the most part however, our horses are cooperative during the shoeing, accepting it as part of their jobs.

We use a cold shoeing method, while some of the ranches in the colder climates may use a hot method. Over the years, our corral manager has developed a hoof stand that makes it easier for both the farrier and the horse during the shoeing process. The horse is able to support his foot and to balance his weight on the opposite leg, rather than leaning in on the farrier.

The Shoeing Process

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The first thing to determine when shoeing a horse is the size of the shoe relative to the size of the horse’s hoof. We have a large farrier’s closet with shoes ranging in size from OO for the smaller horses to size 2 for the larger horses.

Next comes the meticulous rasping, or shaping, of the hoof. Farriers use a rasp to make the surface smooth and even, being careful not to file too much into the hoof. With a trained eye for detail, they determine the shape the horse shoe needs to take, and return to the anvil to pound the hard, yet pliable steel shoe into the correct shape. It can take several trips from the horse to the anvil to get the shape right.

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Placing the shoe requires precision, making sure it lines up evenly and is centered with the frog. The process of nailing the shoe has a specific sequence to ensure the shoe fits perfectly. The nails must have enough bite on the hoof, and protrude through the hoof evenly. Doing this incorrectly can cause a horse to go lame.

Some of our horses need to have their front hooves blocked; these are the horses that have a tendency to trip. Blocking involves placing a slight upward bend in the shoe on the front feet, allowing the horse’s hooves to glide more freely over the terrain.

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Shoeing horses in an art. It requires not only precision but an intimate knowledge of the horse and is very important for preventing injuries. Correct shoeing is imperative to keeping our herd healthy under a demanding riding schedule. Our ferries are masters of their art, and we are most grateful for the good care they give to our horses.

By |October 31st, 2015|Horse Talk|0 Comments

A Conversation with Kelly, Circle Z Ranch Horse Trainer

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Many of you have seen Kelly working with the young horses at the corrals, marveling at her patience and ease with these horses, as though they are talking the same language, which is her objective. Here is some background on Kelly, and her thoughts on Natural Horsemanship.

Kelly has attended numerous horse clinics over the years, from Tom Lynch to Chris Cox. She “lived horse” for twenty years, working with colts at the racetrack. By practicing with young colts everyday she developed her own style, one she uses with the “babies” at the Circle Z.

“I teach the colts how to get along, and to make things easier on themselves. Horses are reactive by instinct. The reactive side of their brain is huge while the thinking side is small. I teach them to use more of their thinking side, to figure out that they can trust me to help them make the decisions. It’s important for them to make good decisions for themselves, as opposed to simply reacting to every situation.”

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This is where the partnering is key, and when communicating on the horse level—as opposed to the human level—is so imperative. “I always look for the “try” from the colt when I ask them to do something. These can be the smallest of indications, like a slight lowering of the head, or are they looking at me instead of through me, even a flicking of their ears. After a lot of repetition, and consistency, they begin to learn that it is easier to give the “try” than to give the attitude.”

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When not leading guests out on rides, Kelly is with her babies in the corrals. “I love to teach. I love to see the light go on. With some, it just takes more time, more patience, but with a positive approach and giving lots of rewards, it really pays off in the end. I am only 100 pounds, I can’t compete with 1000 pounds of attitude. Giving respect, looking for the smallest of tries, and always starting with the simplest first. It makes all of our lives easier.”

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We will see the results of these “tries” this fall as our wranglers take the training to the next level. The babies Kelly has been working with since she started at the ranch are now 3 years old, and it is time for them to be ridden out on the trails, and to learn how to get along outside of the corrals. They will spend another three to four years before they are completely ready to be ridden by guests. But these early steps are critical ones. These young horses are so fortunate to have had Kelly as their leader, which makes us confident that they will ultimately be amazing horses for our guests.

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By |September 18th, 2015|Horse Talk|0 Comments

The Story of El Sultan, a Carthusian Stallion

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Since our inception in 1926 we have been known for our fine breeds of horses. Circle Z Ranch’s first and most notable stallion was a Carthusian Stallion named El Sultan, and this is his story.

Heavy in foal, a Spanish mare from the Spanish royal stables of Marquis de Domecq of Jerez de la Frontera was gifted to a stable in Havana, Cuba. Arriving in Cuba in 1931, she soon foaled El Sultan, who would become the stallion for the Circle Z Ranch by the age of five.

A Carthusian Horse, El Sultan’s bloodlines dated back to the late twelve hundreds. After the Moors left Spain, the Carthusian monks in Andalusia bred this larger Moorish Arabian stallion with a larger type of mare from central Europe. This original stallion was named Esclavo. The mare’s bloodlines went so far back into antiquity that her exact breed was unknown.

After 300 years of breeding and meticulous record keeping, the Carthusian monks considered their breed firmly established. Taking the purity of the bloodlines seriously, it is said they even refused royal orders to mix their stallions with other breeds. When the monks disbanded in the 1800’s, the horses were taken in by Juan Jose Zapata, who diligently continued the purity of the bloodline. Called the Saintly Horse because of its extremely gentle disposition, these pure bloods were jealously guarded by the Government and the Spanish remount system as they were excellent cavalry horses.

The Carthusian horses are known for their proud and lofty actions, a showy and rhythmical walk, and a high stepping trot. Their canters are rocking in nature, with natural balance, agility and fire. Today Carthusian horses are raised around Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, and Badajoz, Spain on state-owned farms. Nearly all of the modern pure Carthusian horses are descendants of Esclavo.


In 1934 El Sultan was the first Carthusian to live in the United States, and at the time only the sixth to be let out of Spain. Given as a gift from the Cuban Stables to a family in New York, he ultimately ended up in the hands of Mr. R. A. Weaver of Cleveland Ohio. Mr. Weaver was a sponsor of the Kenyon College polo team and a frequent guest at the Circle Z Ranch. Not interested in breeding, he decided that the ideal place for El Sultan would be the Circle Z Ranch, where breeding him with the smaller Mexican range horse would make an ideal guest horse. And he was right.

El Sultan not only sired countless foals for our guest ranch, his gentle disposition led him to serve many functions. Taking well to stock work, he was used for roping at the fall, ranch sponsored rodeos. He also was a frequent show horse at the Tucson parades, winning numerous awards for first of show. Standing over 16 hands, he was said to have been able to jump 6 foot high fences. He was also used during the polo matches at the ranch, which Mr. Weaver helped to establish. He was so gentle that guests rode him as well.


El Sultan was much beloved by the ZInsmeister family, so much so that he had his own stable and corral, and was insured for $10,000. When the Zinsmeisters sold the ranch in 1948, El Sultan stayed with the Zinsmeister family, and was exercised every day until his death on January 2, 1953. In the words of Helen Zinsmeister, “He was more than anyone could expect, and a natural performer and jumper.” His stunning profile still adorns our ranch walls, where El Sultan will forever be remembered as the Circle Z Stallion.

 

By |September 18th, 2015|History, Horse Talk|0 Comments

Wrangler Kelly Training Our Young Horses

Following is the first of our monthly news updates on training our young horses for life at the Circle Z. We breed 2-5 mares each year, and with this comes many hours of teaching and loving each and every one or their babies. Our wranglers are all experienced to differing degrees in training horses, and I have asked them to share their thoughts on wrangling and training at the ranch. Enjoy!! . . . Diana

“Howdy, my name is Kelly and I am in my third season as a wrangler at the Circle Z Ranch. Our guests know me as Wrangler Kelly. It’s hard to describe what my actual “job” is, at it is certainly not the typical career path. Some of my daily duties include picking up horse poop, cleaning trails for our guests to ride on, cleaning the tack for the horses, picking up horse poop, picking up poop, pick up poop. It might sound like a “crappy” job, but everything else I do as a wrangler is pure fun: I get to play with horses six days a week! It’s not all roses, but my roses don’t have many thorns.

Kelly-early saddle work with Mima

Kelly doing some early saddle work with Mima

My first season working at the Circle Z, we had two fillies born; their names are Mima and Lavina. At first, they lived in the “mare pasture” with their moms, so I didn’t get to see too much of them. That was OK, because it’s important for the little ones to just be with Mom, and not fussed over too much by humans. Besides, I was busy learning trails and horse names. Not an easy thing at Circle Z–with over 100 miles of trails and over 100 horse names!

My second season at the Circle Z Ranch, I helped with halter training these fillies, first saddling and just basic gentling of these little ones. The fillies are both of the Quarter Horse breeds. Lavina is a reddish-brown color, called Sorrel. (If she were either a Thoroughbred or Arabian breed she would be called Chestnut.) Lavina is very active, and has not had a whole lot of interaction with people. I prefer to train babies with this disposition, as they tend to have fewer bad habits.

Kelly and Jennie discussing Mima's training. Notice, little miss Mima is the only one posing for the camera!

Kelly and Jennie discussing Mima’s training. Notice, little miss Mima is the only one posing for the camera!

Now little miss Mima, on the other hand, is very pretty. She is a Palomino in color, which is a golden colored body with white mane and tail. I have a saying, “pretty is as pretty does.” Mima is a spoiled little brat. Everybody sees and wants to touch and feed the pretty baby. So now, she treats humans like they are horses. She will nip or grab to see if you have a treat. She will bump into you to make you move out of her way. She is basically LAZY.

My professional background is the racetrack, so I prefer to train horses that are a little more lively. But as luck would have it, I ended up with the job of training the lazy baby. And I love her. I will talk more about progress with Mima in my blog post next month. In the meantime, take a look at this video, only my third time in saddle after doing ground work.

By |February 15th, 2015|Horse Talk|Comments Off on Wrangler Kelly Training Our Young Horses

Horse Training for a yearling colt the Circle Z Ranch way.

 

 

Kelly has been working with our group of yearling horses since spring of 2014, and she takes a patient and gentle approach for getting our ranch bred horses ready for guests to horseback ride out on our trails. It can take 7-10 years to train these horses to be gentle and responsive for our guests. Accommodating our guests on good mounts is our primary mission, and Kelly knows how to make the most of our excellent breeding.

Last year, a great deal of ground work was done with the colts. Touching them, lifting their feet, getting used to people moving around them, getting used to humans in general. Halters were introduced, and short periods of lunging in the arena was all they needed. Now that these horses are yearlings, they are out with our main herd of horses, learning the pecking order and figuring out how to be a horse at the Circle Z. These five horses are always together, probably feeling strength in numbers! They are learning the ranch routines of going out to the 700 acre night pasture in the evenings and coming back into the day corrals in the mornings. Most mornings they get this right, coming in with the herd,  but occasionally need to be reminded to follow along and not linger. Routine at a dude ranch with 100 horses is vital in keeping our herd happy.

Kelly visits the yearlings in the main corral daily. It is very simple, yet methodical training. The key is to get them to trust and to want her attention. Getting them to come to her, rather than her chasing them, is future training for being able to catch the horses to saddle for riding. The next step will be getting them used to the saddles, and very brief periods of riding once they are no longer afraid. As prey animals, with a strong flight response, teaching them to deal with stressors is paramount to a safe and happy horse.

We will continue in future blogs on the yearlings progress, and up for the next blog is Mimma, our 2 year old mare, who is going to be a wonderful palamino horse for our guests to ride.

By |November 14th, 2014|Horse Talk|Comments Off on Horse Training for a yearling colt the Circle Z Ranch way.