A Horse’s Point of View

I have been around horses for most of my life on a daily basis.  My wife Zee spends most of every day working with our herd of horses. She trains the young ones, exercises others, and plays nurse to any that might need some TLC.  With two lifetimes of experience observing these very social animals we’re going to now act as interpreters for a conversation we overheard between two of our senior citizens by the names of Hot Shot, age 25, and Pozie, age 20.
Hot Shot, this day, was in a philosophical mood and was pondering whether the horse was better off after casting its lot with we humans some 5,000 years ago.  Pozie thought for awhile and then with her horse sense she came to the logical conclusion that her ancestors had plenty of chances to cut and run because the planet was not very crowded back then.  In fact, it’s only been in the last 1,000 years or so that we really started losing elbow room.
Well, Pozie came to the conclusion that as badly as we’ve been treated by our human master over the millennia there must have been more pluses than minuses.

Hot Shot appreciated her view on the subject and responded with his own bit of logic. “Pozie,” he said, “You know we can’t change the past but what about you and I coming up with the pluses and minuses that we like and dislike about today’s world. Pozie you go first.”

“Well luck has certainly been with all of us that have been able to live out our lives here on the V6 Ranch.  I don’t know of a nicer part of California than right here in Parkfield.”

“But some of my flat land relatives might argue that point saying that you guys spend most of your time either going up or down a mountain. And frankly, that looks like a lot of hard work.”
Pozie’s reply to the issue of hard work was that if you’re in good physical shape the mountains are a piece of cake.  Hot Shot chimed in saying that too many of our city brethren are  looking a little large around the girth and maybe some mountain climbing might be in order.

“Hot Shot it’s your turn now.  What good and bad things can you think of?”

“Well I’ll start with the new training methods that are being practiced today.  It’s a much kinder and gentler way that most trainers use today.  The modern horseman acknowledges that we in the horse world have a brain and that most of us want to please our owners.  We will tell you with graphic signs of our content or discontent.”

Pozie says, “I like that! Why don’t you tell our readers some of the body language that we use to let you know how we’re feeling at the moment?”

“Okay I’m going to start with my eyes, they reveal a lot about my personality from fearful to fearless, somber to hysterics.  My eyes are a window to my inner feelings.  Next are my ears.  If my ears are pinned back I’m saying, you there, yea you on my back. That horse behind me keeps pestering and threatening me and I know he is back there because of my eyes being placed on each side of my skull that allow me to see clear back to my tail. So please see if you can’t fix the problem.  Now if my ears are more or less straight up I feel relaxed and am enjoying life and looking forward to tomorrow.  My ears pricked forward means there’s something going on that I need to know more about.  Like: do I run like hell or is it much ado about nothing?  And when you approach me in the corral and my ears are forward looking and I start licking my lips I’m saying I’d like to be your friend. Pozie why don’t you tackle ‘tell tale signs’ a cliché from the horse and buggy days?”

“Ok, if my tail is hanging straight down everything is cool.  Now if I start swinging it back and forth slowly at first I’m slightly peeved.  As my tail moves faster I’m getting more and more upset and when I start to ring it in a circle I’m pissed and I may even pee a little.  I want you to stop what you’re doing like constantly poking me with your spurs.  I don’t mean you have to take your spurs off because they are a valuable tool if used correctly. Your turn Hot Shot.”

“There’s one that really bugs me: horses that become weavers or cribbers from being confined with no exercise.  But Pozie, I think it’s time to look at the positive side with our owners.  I think that we are much better fed than my brethren of the past century when we were simply beasts of burden that had no feelings.  I like the way our strengths have been cultivated so that we who like working cattle can work cattle.  Others who like to run can run around a race track or around a barrel.  Pacers and single footers can rack on and you work horses think that pulling a freight wagon is fun.

Well Poz I hope that most of our kind don’t want to go back 5,000 years, but choose to live this day and look forward to tomorrow.”

See Ya,
Pozie and Hot Shot

We Need to UBER-ize Agriculture

I was reading an article in Time Magazine this morning about a fellow named Travis Kalanick ( The Disrupter) who has recently ascended to Silicon Valley’s billionaire nobility for recognizing a need and filling it.  The basic idea as I see it, was that a lot of people would be willing to make the family car double as a taxi for hire to supplement their income.  And what was really new, the frosting on the cake, these new entrepreneurs could schedule as much or as little time to being a taxi driver as each saw fit.
Well, I think that agriculture is in bad need of some UBERIZING.  I subscribe to several magazines that mostly report stories about farmers and ranchers east of the Colorado Rockies that are starting to question the validity of solving all of our livestock and farming problems with a new drug for all the vectors transmitting diseases in our livestock and new herbicides, pesticides, vast arrays of fertilizer and genetic engineering that always treat the symptoms but never the underling problem.  “Forget the problem,” says Farmer John.  “I’ve got a ‘fix-it solution’ and it guarantees to repair said problem or my money back!  So there, you disturber of the accepted industry practices.”
“Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.”  I don’t know who penned those words– probably some Private going into battle who knew more than the General.  This is what is happening in agriculture today from our inbred educational system to the billions spent advertising.  Go out and buy all the tractors and harvesters to gather in all your booty.  Each night worry not as the ring of the cash register tolls for Monsanto, Caterpillar, John Deere, Dupont and all the other manufacturers of the Cure-Alls allowing us in agriculture to slip into a quiet slumber.
I’m not advocating that we melt down all the iron and incinerate all the advancements made for agriculture these past 200 years.  But what we are obligated to do is ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
Acres magazine of Dec. 2015 has an article titled Still Grazing by Cody Holmes, who surely must have asked himself that question.  After you digest the figures that I shall put before you, I hope all will come to the conclusion that there are better ways “to skin a cat.” (Sorry to all you cat lovers for the cliché.)  Mr. Holmes started marching to a different drummer about 20 years ago when he first started reading what Allen Savory had to say about how to care for our environment in his book Holistic Management. This book has become my Bible.  I’m going to recite verbatim Cody Holmes’ last 15 years working his Rockin’ H Ranch:

To bring you up to date, I want to give you an example of what multi-species grazing can do.  In about 15 years we took a rocky pile of thin soil and oak sprouts in southern Missouri known as the Rockin’ H Ranch- about 1,000 acres that was once feeding only about 125 cows and through a dedicated holistically planned model we are currently grazing year-round about 350 cows, 1,000 meat goats, 450 hair sheep, 150 pastured hogs, 25 head Jersey dairy cows, 80 head dairy goats, 1,000 laying hens and other pastured poultry. There is also a growing produce enterprise with a green house.  This production is done without any outside purchase of seed or fertilizer with the exception of a little liquid calcium for the produce. This list deserves no bragging rights, but is only an example of what they say cannot be done, and we are doing it. One really good thing for me about this list of animals is that I know better than anyone that we are almost constantly under stocked.  Quite a turn around.  If I could do half as well I would be a happy camper.

“As I see it” started during World War 2, with the invention of the pesticide D.D.T.  This supposed innocuous powder that would get rid of all your insect pests and would not only kill the bugs that were presently chewing on all your exposed body parts but would keep on killing for many more months.  DuPont Chemical Company knew they had a winner and hired an advertising company to come up with the jingle “better living through chemistry.”  The only trouble was this bug killer was also killing off most of our Eagles– our national bird– and God only knows what else.  But fear not, as we continue on our oblivious ways, with “don’t ask don’t tell” as our motto when using the thousands of items at our disposal all designed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  The problem is nobody was on the payroll to see if there was a fox in the hen house. Now, 70 years later, I see most of our farming land unable to raise a crop without the aid of big doses of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and some genetic tweaking.  We have plenty of food to feed the world… but is it sustainable?  Probably not.  Are there any hidden bobby traps ready to show their evil ways?  Probably.
So what’s the answer?  I think for every new sack full of “problem solved” maybe we could have an alternative NATURAL solution on the same label.

HA HA HA this guy has lost his cotton picking mind!  Why, this flies in the face of everything I was taught in college and by all the people that manufacture the cures for my problems. This guy must think I’m stupid.
See Ya
Jack

What’s in a Smile?

I was never much of a school yard scrapper.  On the other hand, I have always had a fair amount of confidence.  Some would call it “cocky” that I wore on my sleeve.  That made me a target for some of my classmates who found much joy in school yard scrapping.
Until my senior year in High School, I was smaller than most other students. This, for some, made me a sure victory.  So when confronted I developed the art of smiling; it became and effective shield that kept me from wearing black eyes to school.
I was not a great believer in the old saying “it’s not the size of the man in the fight but the size of the fight in the man.”  I had a different old saying: “he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.”  I believed it to have some truth.  When I was young, my mother called me Sunny but by around 8 or 10 years of age she seemed to know that it was time to start calling me Jack.  This was okay by me but I didn’t give up wearing a friendly face that was now my comfortable companion.  I started to understand how smiles open many doors and put people at ease.  A smile makes it hard to fight with a guy.
I’ve come to some conclusion over my lifetime. What I discovered was the top of my list is to “SMILE.”
1. Smiles are like welcome mats.

2. Smiles never go out of style.

3. Smiles are always in demand and they don’t cost anything to give.  You just simply turn the corners of your mouth to the up position from the down position and amazingly your attitude will follow.
4.  I usually find the greatest benefactor of a smile is myself.  When I smile I’m spreading around some joy and that makes me feel good.

5.  Smiles are contagious. So go laugh more, live more and the world will be a better place because you smiled.
See Ya
Jack