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One of the most important survival tools in a back to absolute basics society is having a skill to trade for necessities. Most people can learn to ride a horse. But not so many can get a horse ready to ride safely. Horsemanship skills will be essential in a world where power sources for movement and transportation are limited or nonexistent. Horses can provide a means for providing both.
Here is the situation in which you find yourself. You relocated your family to a place away from the tragedy you had expected. There are like-minded people here and everyone works together. But eventually the generators gave out, the electrical power failed and now you need to find a way to move and communicate with other survivors.
What To Do
Someone saw some horses in a nearby clearing and they looked healthy and calm. It’s time to go and see. Perhaps you have never ridden or handled a horse. You watched Western movies and saw bucking broncos and cowboys; maybe a rodeo came to town. But now your survival depends on what you do next. Here is how to succeed.
You should prepare some rope halters, find a soft rope to lead and go find the horses. It’s important to watch them from a distance and observe who the herd leader is. The next step is to walk into the open and let them see you. Remember to move “normally” not stealthily like a hunter. Horses are a prey animal, you are the hunter. They have to accept your presence or they will be gone. This requires patience. Relax and go easy. At some point they will let you closer. Most likely these horses are escaped from a ranch or farm and are domesticated. They have been around people.
When you can approach, let the horses, especially the leader check you it. Let the horse smell your hand, rub the horses neck. The best route is to let this take a couple of days. Bring something to eat, sugar cube, a piece of bread etc. At some point the horse will let you put a lead around its neck and let you lead it. The horse must trust you or the whole thing will fail.
Halters And Saddles…
Your rope halter is really all you need for riding. Many horsemen start their horses on a hackamore, a bit less bridle that exerts pressure on the horses’ nose area. This is actually one of the horses’ most sensitive places and a real horseman uses his legs and body to guide, all the reins do is steering. Here is how to make a rope halter and a hackamore. These are simple tools anyone can make and use. Simple means fewer breakable parts and easy repairs. In an emergency situation this means a lot.
You really don’t need a saddle. Bareback puts you in touch with the horse and keeps you connected. Too many riding teachers wind up having their students “ride the saddle” not the horse, they become more passengers than riders. Bareback teaches balance and sensitivity and the horse reads your body very well. Saddles also need maintenance and repair and you will need all the time you can get for food, shelter and watchfulness. The simpler the equipment is that you use, the less time and material you will have to invest in it.
It’s also possible that the horses you find are wild horses, Mustangs. These are undomesticated horses, “nomadic herbivores” who roam freely seeking food, water and shelter from storms. They avoid humans and are a challenge. But with knowledge and the right attitude they can become partners in mutual survival.
The American Mustang is now recognized as a separate breed in itself. Historically the ancestors of these horses are from the stock brought by the Spanish Conquistadors. These were largely Spanish Barb and Arabian horses which were popular in Europe after the Crusades introduced Middle Eastern horses into the Continent. By the 15th century the era of the Knight and the “great horse” had mostly ended and the mounted soldier and cavalry had begun.
The cavalry wore less armor and were outfitted with firearms, chiefly pistols of various types. A more agile horse was now in service. The Conquistadors brought their cavalry horses to America and some of these horses escaped or were stolen by Native Peoples in the regions settled by the Spanish and breeds began to intermix.
Horses from French, English and other European settlements began to enter the gene pool as well. A new breed of hardy, nomadic herbivore horse was born. Mustang is derived from Spanish for “stranger” and these wily and strong horses tend to be regional.
In northern areas, the descendants of draft horses who escaped or were let loose from farms are found; in the SouthWest a rangier and desert ranging Arab offshoot is common. Whatever the mix, these horses will be more of a challenge than escaped or loose domestics. Horsemanship is the key.
The wild horse is wary of humans and should be approached as the domestic, slowly and with patience. Let the horses allow you in their area and act “normally”, noise and movement wise. When you are allowed close then offer food and begin the touch process. At this stage, any sudden movement will result in the herd leaving and you will not likely have contact for some time. Remember here that these horses have no sense of human contact and you will have to work harder to win trust.
In widespread catastrophe energy, electrical power, gasoline and other power sources will be in short supply or nonexistent. Transportation will depend on horses. You can prepare for this situation today. Learning about horses, how to care for and ride, all these are accessible to anyone. Here’s some ways to start.
Reading And Video About Horses
There are many good books out there about horses and how to learn to work with them. Tom Dorrance was one of America’s best known horsemen. You can gain a lot of knowledge, learn about a horse’s physiology and how horses act and think. YouTube is a gold mine of how-to’s. If you stick to well-known horsemen like Tom Dorrance, Tom Hunt and Buck Brannaman you can’t go wrong.
Horse Shows And Groups
Horse shows run the range from breed shows, Arabians, Quarterhorse etc. to specialized events like cutting and reining. Here you can see horses in action, talk with owners and trainers and get “up close and personal”. There are clubs and associations, local newsletters, social media groups and a wealth of real life resources. People who practice horsemanship are always willing to share their ideas and experiences. Seek these people out and stay close.
Lessons In Horse Riding
Learning to ride and care for a horse is extremely important. Be sure you learn from a dedicated horseman who is in the Dorrance/Hunt/Brannaman school of practice. Too many learn to ride and never really understand the horse. In a survival situation, being able to ride is useless if you can’t get a horse to ride. Horsemanship teaches you how horses think, how to work with them and how to keep them with you. You will learn to work with the horse and not just be a passenger. Things you should have with your survival horse gear.
Soft ropes for making halters and gear. Make sure they are strong. Brushes and basic tools: hoof picks, duct tape, basic medical items for horses. Catalogs are online or shop at Farm and ranch Supply stores like Tractor Supply or D&B Supply. Books (keep in large zip lock bags for protection against elements).
These titles are available at Amazon.
The Holy Bible (as always, for all reasons and seasons)
True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human by Tom Dorrance and Milly H Porter
U.S. Army Survival Manual: FM 21-76 by Department of Defense
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman
Storey’s Guide to Feeding Horses: Lifelong Nutrition, Feed Storage, Feeding Tips, Pasture Management. by Melyni Worth Ph.D.
How to Think Like A Horse: The Essential Handbook for Understanding Why Horses Do What They Do by Cherry Hill
Horses Are For Now
A large scale catastrophe will mean many things have gone wrong or just gone. To survive, you and your family group will need to move to where it is safe. Horses can provide the means to move survive and endure. You can start leaning about horses today. Your lives may depend on them some day and you will have a barterable skill to trade. This last item will be a necessity in truly “cashless” society.
Those whose livelihoods are based on communications, digital media and non-material products (people who talk on the phone a lot) will have a hard time surviving. Start now to learn a series of skills that can translate into food, shelter and clothing. Knowing how horses can be part of a world of basic needs can provide a way of life in hard times. You can start today to learn about horses, why wait? Horses are our partners in survival.