By Howard J. Cormier, LSU AgCenter Southwest Regional Equine Agent
Many people, young and old, dream of being a horse trainer. Images of rearing horses or an equine friend racing up to the owner waiting at the fence have wide appeal. The reality is that horse training takes years of learning, tons of patience, and the ability to overcome frustration when the horse just doesn’t “get it.” Buying a horse and teaching it to be a good riding partner is challenging for any level of experience. There is an old saying that goes “green on green makes black and blue,” meaning that an inexperienced “green” rider and an inexperienced “green” horse results in bruising and more serious injuries. Sadly, getting a young horse that can grow up with a young child is foolish, to say the least, and dangerous, to be more realistic.
So, what is a parent, adult or youngster to do if they have a passion for horses and want to get involved? My best advice is to find a reliable friend or trainer whom you can trust. Trainers can certainly fit that bill, but remember that not all trainers are reputable, so shop around.
It’s wise to start with an older “broke” horse. The term signifies an equine that has been used for years and has proven that it will not buck, rear, run off, spook or become aggressive with an inexperience rider. Those horses can cost more, but it will be cheaper than a hospital visit or long term medical bills.
There are many sources of help in the internet. YouTube is full of video clips about horse training, but you still need someone to interpret what is being shown. I suggest that a person visit horse shows, trail rides, auction barns, ranch sales and trainers to get some ideas before they commit to buying their first horse. Learn all you can to protect yourself, and limit your investment. Start slowly with a modestly priced horse, and accept the fact that you will trade up as your skills improve. 4-H horse shows will be coming up this June, and that’s a good place to talk to parents and kids about how to get involved. Remember and understand that all horses kick, bite, step on you, and can push you out of their way. That is simply their nature, so don’t hold it against them for doing what Mother Nature has instilled in them to survive. Safety is important for all, but more so for small children that are more easily hurt.
Prepare for the first horse by studying. Know how a horse thinks, how it defends itself, what it eats, how much shelter it needs, what health care needs are, and the cost of tack and equipment. Consider the cost of saddles, halters, buckets, waterer, hay, feed, pasture, and trailer and truck. What about fencing? Barbed wire is inexpensive, but can be deadly if a horse runs into it at a full gallop. So many things need to be considered that it might be overwhelming, but if you have a real passion, it can be a lifelong love that is truly enjoyable.
Facebook has many pages and groups that can provide much information. Check out sources of information, and use whatever means will help you make informed decisions. Contact me if you have specific questions, and I will be happy to try to help you.
By Amelia Kent
The wheels of change may move slowly in Washington, D.C., but involvement on the local level can steer the direction of legislation at the Capitol. That may seem obvious with the 2018 Farm Bill, but you can also make a difference when an idea could literally have bicycle wheels rolling over farmland, through pastures and into the paths of logging trucks.
Over the past few weeks I’ve met with Congressman Ralph Abraham’s staff. These visits are especially timely as the Farm Bill was going into markup the same week as most of these meetings.
The first was a lunch with Congressman Abraham’s staffers and some neighbors in East Feliciana Parish. I was invited as I’ve participated in meetings like this before, both in Washington, D.C. and in Louisiana. The topics of discussion at this meeting included trade concerns, Farm Bill progress, arbitration clauses in contracts of all kinds, and a proposed bicycle path that could disrupt agricultural operations. Congressman Abraham is a great supporter of Louisiana agriculture and already has strong insight and positions on our trade concerns and the Farm Bill. He is the only member of Louisiana’s delegation on the House Ag Committee and he has personal farming interests.
At this meeting we were able to bring to the staffers’ attention our concerns relative to arbitration clauses and the negative impacts this potential bike path would likely present, given the proposed route. You may be thinking, what harm can a recreational bicycle path have? The proposed route spans more than 300 miles from the Texas state line to the Mississippi state line, running parallel to U.S. Highway 190 and La. Highway 10. The bike path would not be on these major highways, but would run along smaller state roads and highways. I am familiar with these roads. I also know the agricultural commerce in our area. That's why I can envision a nightmare for Louisiana’s timber and livestock industries should there be a collision between a bicycle and one of our trucks on these rural roads with no shoulders. The same could happen with grain trucks or tractors hauling sugarcane in other parts of the state.
After we presented these two new topics of concern, we also asked if there was anything they needed from us in the district. Their response was, “an opportunity to visit with constituents in the district.” How timely? Later that week, there were two local Farm Bureau annual meetings. I had the opportunity to introduce one of these congressional staffers at both of these meetings. At the end of one meeting, dairy farmers and grain farmers alike approached Congressman Abraham’s staff asking for more information about the Farm Bill, and discussions regarding Title I and Dairy. Their requests were taken down, and early the next week, the Congressman’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Ted Verrill, contacted me to ensure these requests were addressed. Verrill also asked if there were other issues of concern from our local farmers.
I share with you this experience because it is a prime example of how staying informed at the local level can influence discussion on Capitol Hill. The congressional visits to Washington, D.C. are important and have their place. But communication with constituents about their concerns is equally, if not more, important. Involvement at the local level does indeed impact discussions and policy decisions at the state and national levels, and keeps the wheels turning in the right direction.
Amelia Kent and her husband, Russell, raise beef cattle and hay in East Feliciana Parish. Amelia is a past chair of Louisiana’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, is currently a member of the - Partners in Advocacy Leadership program with AFBF, and serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Find them on Facebook at Kent Farms; or on Instagram and Twitter @kentfarms_la.