Handy Horses

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What Is A Handy Horse?

Deron,Arrow & Raya out on the prairie

Handy Horses are great to have around. Handy Horses are Work Horses and more. A Handy Horse is a horse that is broke to rope off of and or around, carry an animal such as a calf, goat, dog or other, or a horse you can drag things from the saddle with. Driving horses are very handy to have when you live way out in the country and off grid. A handy horse is also one that will let a second person ride behind the saddle double. If you can take off and put on and tie a large coat to your saddle while in the saddle, that is very handy too. A Handy Horse is also one that is broke out so well you can put a child and or a person that is a beginner rider on without worry.

Your Handy Horse is like a work mate. It can help you do work around the farm or ranch that no other man could. Your Handy Horse will make you life easier and will be hard to replace.

A Handy Horse is also a pleasure to own. Not only because it helps you work around your place, but also because it is so well broke to ride, a pleasure to ride that is. It may also be broke to drive and sometimes a nice drive can be a wonderful evenings enjoyment. Much better then TV and memories in the making. When it snows, if you have a driving horse and a sled/sleigh what fun you can have.

Buying The Handy Horse

Marna, Missy & Raya moving some cows

If you decide to buy a Handy Horse, be prepared to pay what the horse is worth, and that is quite a lot. The more the Horse can do, the more it will cost to buy it.

Buying a really Handy Horse that can truly do it all is pretty close to impossible. These horses, that can do it all, are not only worth a lot, but were trained so that the person that owns them can use them. If a person is selling a horse like this their friends and or family will probably buy that horse up in a heart beat.

Having one horse that can do it all is less expensive then keeping 4 or 6 horses that can do somethings. Having two or three Handy Horses is a luxury that all people that truly live way out and off grid should strive for. So that usually means training your own riding horses to except more and more of the things that Handy Horses do. However, putting "all your eggs in one basket", ie only having the one horse, can be disappointing too. If you count on that one horse and it becomes ill or is injured or when it passes on....well, there you are. It is a good idea to have a couple of or a few riding horses at your disposal and train them to do the things you need a Handy Horse to do.

Training The Handy Horse

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Most people train their own horses to be handy. Some start with a nice broke out horse they have bought and ride, they continue it's education as they enjoy the horse.

Handy Horse training can not be hurried. You can and probably will do more harm then good by getting in a hurry training your horse. You might well ruin that horse also if you do not know how to train your horse to be handy. There is an art to training a horse to roping, dragging, driving, and such. Not knowing what your are doing and or hurrying that training might just get you a trip to the hospital or worse. Always make sure you have the proper training equipment too. Training horses is not rocket science, but does need to be done correctly and safely.

The brown horse in this photo, that is blowing snot just as the photo was taken, was Deron's first horse. Deron and Gunner spent many, 100's, of miles on the trail. Gunner's previous owners were quite surprised what all Deron could do and did with this lovely, big ole horse.

Before Deron owned Gunner all Gunner knew was being whipped into a trailer, run around a ring and or barrels with a crop hitting his butt and whipped back into the trailer to the next event. It took a couple of years of trail riding before Deron and Gunner "got it all worked out", but as soon as Gunner knew we were not out to beat him, he calmed down and became quite the Handy Horse.

Deron had/trained Gunner in Team Penning competition, Riding Double, Ponying, Packing, Carrying Saddle Bags, a bit of roping and all the miles and miles of relaxing trail riding that Deron and Gunner did in N WI.

Horses, like people do not live forever. Gunner was 17 y/o old when he came to live with us. Deron gave Gunner many years of love and good training. Gunner would hop up into the horse trailer to go on the many Organized Trail Rides all over WI and was such a gentleman at them. We hated when life came to an end for Gunner.

Deron & MC checking a pond

When we moved to NW SD Deron started riding Arrow, the horse he had given me in leau of an engagement rings. We raised and broke Arrow out ourselves and I rode in on him at our wedding. I taught Arrow several tricks as he was growing up and Arrow is quite the ham. Deron started riding Arrow here and working with him with ropes, dragging items, carrying larger loads in the saddle bags, moving cows and sheep and other Ranch things.

We have other horses we ride and are training three young fillies we bought as wenainlings, they will need to be Handy Horses for the life we live out here on the prairie.

Tonna, Marna and Indian

This photo is of two of the three fillies we are training right now. Tonna is the Bay and is doing really well. Along with Trail Riding, Ranch Work, Driving and Tricks, I am planning to do a bit of Ring Jousting in flowing garb while riding her.

Training a truly Handy Horse is a continuous job. But a job that pays off in great dividends. Many trainers think their way of training is the only way to train, I believe that trainers can get to the same end in several ways, but one thing remains in stone, time spent. You have to spend the time with the animals for them to become trained. The less time you spend, the more short cuts you take, the less trained your animals will be.

Donkeys and Mules are Handy Too

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We own a Large Standard Donkey named Abby that I adore. Talk about an easy keeper, smooth riding, sweet disposition animal....she is it. Abby came to us from Sharon Keller, N WI. When you get a horse or animal from Sharon it is just about guaranteed "sound" and not just healthy sound, all around sound, mind and body. Sharon and her husband run a Large Dairy farm and the horses and animals see much in a days time. Cows mowing and moving, tractors, trucks, building, horse training, all sorts of animals, some exotics. All of this helps with a Handy Horse or Donkey because they are desensitized they have gone through.

Many a Mule has been a working Mule on a Farm and or Ranch. Many people prefer Mules over Horses. Some people will swear that their Mules and or Donkeys are better suited for Ranch and or Farm work then Horses.

Don't discount Ponies. Not only for kids to ride and help around the Ranch with but also as Work Ponies. Anyone can drive a pony or pack on the back of a pony. Some adults ride the larger sized ponies and get much Ranch work done off those pony backs.

What To Do With That Pony The Kids Outgrew

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Many ponies are worth their weight in gold. If you have a good pony, or Miniature Horse that you hate to part with, there are many things a pony can do to help out around the farm or ranch. Not only can you teach a good one to pull a cart or wagon pretty easily, they can also pack, keep your horse company (with little feed) and keep the grandkids and or other visiting kids happy and give them a story to tell for a lifetime.

But if you have one that bucks (yes, even crow hops) kicks, rears, strikes, or other habit that was formed form poor training or someone thought it was cute because the pony was so little doing these things.....well, in my opinion, not worth the time it will take. Not worth the risks involved.

Some people think all ponies, mostly Shetland Ponies and or Miniature Horses are problems....buckers, or such, that is not true. I have had a few good Shetlands and I would love to raise another.

This photo is of Dreamer. Deron and I raised Dreamer from a weanling and trained him ourselves. I hated to have to sell this boy when we moved. Dreamer not only was a great mount for my grandchildren and Deron's youngest son, but he also carried items for Deron and I when we packed, he did tricks and was just a joy to own.

I made that little set of saddle bags for Dreamer. Deron's son carried more then just lunch in those bags, we had a great time camping and going out for breakfast and lunch on the trail with Dreamer as well as our other horses and ponies.

Horse Auctions

If you are new to horses, if you have never trained a horse, if you do not know horse conformation, a Horse Auction is not a place for you to buy a horse from.

Horse Auctions have their place. Many people, and Deron and I are some, have bought many good horses and or weanlings from Horse Auctions and have not had any problems. But going "blind", that is not knowing what you are looking at or for, can be deadly. Horses are big powerful animals. They are prey animals, that means they will always carry that "fight or flight" mentality when frightened. Most "flight" or what we refer to as spook comes without warning and happens fast. Be careful. Be very careful. Not all horses, in fact very few, at a Horse Auction, are what their owners are saying they are. Many of the horses you see are being ridden by people that know how to keep a spooky horse moving, know how to make a limp look less sever, make a blind horse appear to see and so on.

Many people are under the impression that every horse at a Horse Auction is a bad horse, probably even drugged. These people also think that all the buyers there are only there to buy meat. Neither of this is fully true. Could the horse you are looking at be drugged, yes. But it does not mean that if you look in the paper for a horse, or on the Internet, that when you go to look at that horse it will not be drugged.

I know of people that bought horses on the recommendation of farriers, veterinarians, trainers, and other horsemen, and those horses turned out to be nothing but bad also.

It is not so much where you buy your horses, but what you know to look for. Do your shopping. Even if you have no intention of buying a horse at a Horse Auction, it is a good place to go and sit and watch "the horses go round". You will learn much, learn to see things like a limp that is being covered by how the horse is ridden, good conformation in a horse, moon eyes, ect. Just watch, and for sure do not bid on a horse because you feel sorry for it. (Buying a horse that you feel sorry for is a "whole nother" page, that I am not going to write LOL)

more to come...

Horse Health

As with any horse keeping it healthy is very important. Talk to a group of horse owners and each one will have a different plan for horse health. Worming is very important. Don't wait until you see that the horse is full of worms to keep it medicated to deworm them. Shots you give, or have your veterinarian give, your horse are up to you. Do your homework, know what plagues your area, such as West Nile.

Most, if not all, Horse Events will ask you to bring copies of your horses Coggins Test as well as a health form. These are usually good for one year. Make extra copies and keep them in your truck so that you do not arrive at an event only to remember that you left the forms needed to enter at home.

Keeping a horse healthy is easier and cheaper then paying a veterinarian to get a horse healthy. Take care of your horse, keep worming or deworming, up to date. Keep your pastures clean and clear of debris and or wood with nails or that sort of thing that the horse can get hurt on.

We have much invested in our horses, not just the money we paid for them or the money it takes to feed and or board them, not just the time and training we have put into them, but most of us have our hearts involved. Don't hurt yourself by not taking care of your animals. You will surely be sorry if you do.

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