Understanding Horse Whorls, Horse Whorls

It seems like forever that I’ve been saying this but

The print version of Understanding Horse Whorls is almost done!

I have here in my hands what will hopefully be the last proof copy. We are going over it carefully to make sure that all my mistakes have been found and fixed. Spelling and punctuation have never been my strong point. Not even close 🤣 It takes a village to find all my issues.

Then, within a week or so, the book will be available in paper form! I will of course let everyone know when and where to find it.

Just Different

I had to call the repair shop about my trusty green mount the other day. Also known as the fourwheeler I usually drive. It is a good and faithful mount. The noises it had started making were not good. I wanted to get it looked at.

It became apparent that if it was going to be done I was going to have to be the one to do it. Girding my loins, I made the call.

They had all sorts of horrible questions they thought I should know the answer to, like, what kind is it? How am I supposed to know that! I know how to drive it. I know how to make it work cattle nicely. Knowing the breed is not my area. It is a Honda for future reference.

I felt like an idiot.

Yesterday I got to go riding with my best friend. Between children and the work we usually need to be doing we never get to ride. It was great.

I rode her horse, a big, steady, wonderful boy. He is usually ridden by her husband for ranch work, or her child because he is so trustworthy, back to that part where she seldom gets to ride because of children and what not. As a ranch horse he is great. He can do all sorts of things and is far better trained than my horses. In his area of expertise.

I put a leg on him to ask him to scoot over. He had no idea what I was talking about.

I could look at his lack of knowledge in that one area and assume he isn’t well trained. Like the mechanic at the repair place thought about me when I didn’t know the breed of fourwheeler. It is easy for us to form ideas about people and animals based on their knowledge of an area we know about. To think they are stupid or ignorant, judging them in one thing.

We all have our separate areas that we know about and are good at. We all have areas we know nothing about or are terrible at. This is a good thing. It wouldn’t do the world any good if all people were skilled in one area.

Appreciating everyone and everything’s unique skills and knowledge. Realize that they know way more than us about something. It will give us a whole new view of the world.


Halloween Wings

Second try on the wings.
I could have put something down the middle of the pool noodles. Still might. In the mean time though I had something else I wanted to try.
Foam paper is an amazing costume building tool. It can be cut and formed into any shape then sprayed with rubber stuff or painted with a craft glue then painted. The coating is very important or the paint will eat the foam.
I cut ‘feathers’ out of the foam paper. As a solid strip the foam paper does a pretty good job adding support to the pool noodle. It also holds the angle in the middle of the wing.
The design isn’t perfect yet. It’s also no where near done. I still need to coat the ‘feather’ part and figure out a better way to attach them to the surcingle. And maybe make the second wing while I’m at it ;)So far this is working better than the first design though.

Cattle, Horse Whorls

I’ve been looking at whorls on horses for decades. I’ve run cattle for not quite that long.

For some reason it never occurred to me to look at whorls on the cattle until recently. Even though so much of the good information we have about whorls came from studies on cattle. I had talked about them, looked at them, just not in an in depth sort of way.

Now I am actively trying to improve my cattle whorl knowledge. There is some really good information out there. I’m reading everything I can find and watching videos. Then taking all of that out to the pasture and looking closely at cattle.

The same ways I learned about horse whorls for the most part. Horses are different of course. We can ride them and see how they move and think. Most cattle aren’t ridden and the things we look at have more to do with milk quality, fertility, and health.

After watching some video by Steve Campbel I went out to check tanks and walked through the herd to see if I could find the markers he had talked about in real life.

This heifer stood out to me.

First of all she has a high ‘pancreatic’? line. I think that’s what it was called. It is a sign of pregnancy, health, and so on. If I remember right. Interestingly it was supposed to show up late in pregnancy. She can’t be very far along in pregnancy. The bulls were turned out in the middle of June. So what is it showing here?

Her build is even to slightly down hill. A cow should be lower in front than behind. It shows high fertility. Her hindquarters slope nicely down from the hip bones to the pelvic pins. The tail doc looks low and rounded. More ease of calving.

Her forehead whorl is a single, mostly centered. That shows a lick of extremes in temperament that we can see from the whorl. Some people say a nice easy going temperament. In horses the head can show lots of extremes that the whorl doesn’t. In cattle?

Her poll looks to be flat, not a sign of good fertility. I think the hair could be flattened down making it look that way and there might actually be a bump there. Apparently we want a small pointy bump. More fertility I think?

Her nose is broad. This one I remember because it was so interesting. The nose is about the same width of the pelvic pins in back. A wide nose shows a wide pelvis for ease of calving.

The front legs are wide at the knee then narrow sharply to the cannon bone, then slowly widen out to the hooves. I think. Most of the cows I looked at seemed to be shaped like this. Either I need to refine my ability to recognize this considerably, which I definitely  do, or it could be a sign that the cattle are nicely bred. This is supposed to be a sign of tender meat. A good thing in beef cattle.

Her back is flat between the hip bones. This was good. Fertility? Ease of calving? Or maybe it was a sign she’d be a good doer? These things are so hard to remember. Learning any new skill takes lots of time and effort! we can’t read or watch something once and think we’ll have it down!

She is flat and broad all the way down the back. Her back whorl is just in front of her withers. Another good thing. Rich milk I believe?

I didn’t get a very good picture of her from behind. We can’t see the wrinkles in the skin over the udders. A sign of good rich milk and tenderness. There are whorls on either side of the hindquarters, more rich milk.

I’m going to try to keep a close eye on this heifer and see what sort of calf she raises, see how she does calving, see if she somehow is bred earlier than the other cows.

Does anyone here like to look at cow whorls? I would love a critique of my critique. It would also be great to hear what other people look for in cows.



Nose Flies! Only Not

For those people who aren’t lucky enough to live where there are nose flies, I wanted to share our lovely experience today.

I turned Rusty out to graze in the yard for awhile. I was going to get some non-horsey stuff done and let him take the edge off a bit, fill up on some grass. He walked straight to the place we worked yesterday and started calling me.

How can I resist that?

I got my things and went to work with him.

I asked for a lay down. He said, you know I’d like to. But there’s this bug?!

I assured him it was just a bot fly. NOT a nose fly. He would be ok. If I can find them I’m happy to do my best to kill a bot fly too. Sometimes I even manage. Today I couldn’t even see it, just had his word that it was there.

I thought maybe we could work on something different?

He took a few steps and said no. It was a nose fly. It was going to eat him. In just a few more seconds he was screaming SAVE ME!

Yes, I DO know that that was what he was saying. Look at him. How could you not hear it loud and clear?

He was running to me begging me to take care of it. I was searching frantically for the culprit while also trying to avoid being smashed. If you listen carefully you can hear me trying to reassure him that I am trying!

Finally I got his nose and covered it for him. Nose flies do, I think? fly up their noses. This is exactly the response horses have. Although this was fairly mild. Now imagine trying to ride a horse doing this? Having the horse on a leadrope and not being able to let him flee?

This is why we live in fear and dread of nose flies.

This was NOT a nose fly. They only come out for about a week in the first half of June. Fortunately or we all would have given up horses by now. This was a bot fly. Also evil. Not to the extent of nose flies though. The are about the same size, color and shape of a nose fly and hoover around the horses in the same manner. After an exceptionally bad nose fly season this year the horses are apparently traumatized and not willing to take a chance. When in doubt run!

The horses had all been hiding in the shed when I called Rusty. After he took off I found him waiting at the gate wanting back to the shed. Poor guy. Guess he can go hide in the shed instead of playing today.


For those of you who don’t know, I love fall and Halloween!

The only thing better than fallen leaves and pumpkins is fallen leaves and pumpkins with horses involved somehow.

This year I’m on a mission to make wings for my horses. Still working on the exact how, but I think there will be pool noodles involved. I thought I’d bring you guys along on my journey, Share my failures, of which I already have plenty to hare! And hopefully eventually my successes and cool Halloween pictures.

This is a crazy silly and potentially dangerous endeavor. Whenever we are attaching anything to our horses it has to be done with utmost care and all precautions taken. Even more so when it is something big and floppy like wings. This sort of thing can easily scare the best of horses. All the training we put into tricks or starting a horse undersaddle, introducing it gradually, in small steps and pieces, and lots of reward to associate the new thing with good should be used.

I thought I had the design figured out. A pool noodle on each side attached to my driving surcingle. Drape some lightweight cloth over them and there it was!

The trial runs worked great. I ordered more, bigger cloth. Put it all together.

Total failure. The noodles were not strong enough to hold even one draping of the cloth. It all hung. The horses tried to eat it.

Back to the drawing board.

I would also like to point out how completely unconcerned my trick trained horses were about this. Mostly they thought they should eat it or fetch it for me. Even the bag the cloth came in 😆

Righteous, HorseWhorls

So often it can be hard to tell what aspects of a horse they are born with an which ones they have developed from the handling they have received over time.

Righteous is one of those horses.

He came with a whole list of behavioral issues and phobias. Luckily for him he landed with one of the few people willing to put the time in to help him. Explosive and overly sensitive, getting him closer to being a ride-able horse who could be handled on the ground has been a long journey. Through all of it though Jessica has maintained that at heart he is a sensible willing horse who was badly started.

When she sent me his pictures I was surprised. Knowing of the horses issues I expected to see much more extreme head shape and whorls. Instead we see a dished profile, sensitive, but not overly so. A nicely squared off rectangular muzzle, steady, dependable. His eye has the look of eagles, proud, capable, intelligent. His jowl is large, a quick learner, athletic. His chin not overly complicated.

From the front we see his ears, sensitive but widely set, intelligent, willing, steady. His whorl is a simple, slightly high whorl. As expected to go with the rest of the head he’s an extrovert. Extroverts are very invested in the external world, everything going on around them. They want to go, to be moving all the time. Emotional and sensitive they will be as brave as they can be and eager to please with a sensitive supportive rider or a nervous wreck with a harsh rider who doesn’t give the support they need.

While everything about him says he should be sensitive and emotional there’s nothing that should cause him to be reactive to the point of being uncontrollable like he was when he came to Jessica. She believes in the willing level headed horse she knows is hidden beneath the veneer of the handling he has received.

Not everyone should take on this sort of a case. Jessica has put in a lot of work and careful training. Without her skill and effort the outcome could have been very different. Fixing issues caused by poor handling can be extremely difficult.

Strawberry Roan, HorseWhorls

Surely I’m not the only one who likes the old western songs? Yes, old country songs, but the western genre. Those cowboy songs about horses and cattle.
If we listen to them they give fascinating insight to the horses of the day.
They also tell us how subconsciously people have always used head shape to judge horses. And maybe not so subconsciously, old cowboys have often used whorls and head shape to judge horses. All horsemen have.
In ‘The Strawberry Roan’ the shape of the horses head is described as a horse that you could tell just by looking would be ab ‘outlaw’.
“Down in the horse corral standin’ alone
Is an old caballo, a strawberry roan
His legs are all spavined, he’s got pigeon toes
Little pig eyes and a big roman nose
Little pin ears that touched at the tip
A big 44 brand was on his left hip
U-necked and old, with a long, lower jaw
I could see with one eye, he’s a regular outlaw”
If we start with the ‘spavined legs’ and pigeon toed we have a horse with physical issues that can cause discomfort or lack of stability that can cause behavioral problems.
Especially when combined with little pig eyes, a slow learner, needs lessons slowly and carefully explained. When started in a rough and quick manner he would likely respond by fighting.
A big Roman nose, no matter what that will mean tough and determined. Determined can be read stubborn and refusing to give up on ideas they have developed. If this horse has decided he doesn’t like people he isn’t going to let go of that. If it is a Roman head, starting above the eyes, instead of below, it will compound the pig eyes and make for a very slow learner who will cling to one way of doing things. Bucking in this case.
Little pin ears that touched at the tip would show a horse with lots of energy and spirit. Quite likely one who will be spooky and flighty. The short ears show a horse with his own ideas, going with the big Roman nose.
Ewe necked again shows physical issues, poor self carriage, I wonder if he had any whorls on the bottom side of the neck? I would guess a big open splaying whorl, or wheat sheaf. I realize that’s getting a bit picky about a fictional horse in a song 😉
The long lower jaw? I don’t have anything for that. Except that tension in the tmj caused by issues with the jaw can lead to issues all over the body.
I love how this song covers all the bases we would look at when judging a horse’s temperament by the shape of the head.
If by some chance you don’t know the song you can find one of the many covers of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-nRMg2U6X0

Head Down Cue

While visiting my parents we spent some time at the barn. Because what else would you do? 😉

Mom mentioned that her lovely horse Silver would not lower his head from the saddle. She had tried and tried with no success. She has done a great job teaching him anything else she had decided to try and was frustrated by this one thing.

I got on him and found exactly what she had said. He was soft and responsive to his head gear. He is willing and mostly agreeable, all he really wanted to do ever was eat, so only mostly agreeable. He was not lowering his head though.

When we went back the next day I took advantage of his strong desire to eat and installed ‘Head Down For Calmness’. I stroked his neck as a cue to lower his head. He picked it up immediately. It had been miserably hot and more humid than could handle being used to the bone dry high plains. This day a storm was blowing in that would hopefully cool things down a little. I was still barely able to handle the heat, even in my flip flops. The wind was picking up and thunder rumbling in the not so far distance.

Silver still stood quietly, only interested in grazing. He was so good I decided to hop on quickly bareback.

Even a well installed cue can be difficult for a horse to understand when you make a big change, like moving from the ground to the back. So we made it easier for him by once again making use of the grass. Silver picked it up immediately.

Then we added in the reins. By picking up the reins before giving the cue we are adding a new cue that will soon replace the old one. In the couple of minutes this video took Silver had figured out the change of the cue from the ground to his back and then transferred that action to a new cue. It’s amazing how fast horses are capable of learning.

That isn’t the point of this post though.

So often we get hung up on our horses not being able to do something. Not in the normal manner or stages of progression.

Instead of thinking that means we can’t do something we need to take a few big steps backwards and find a way around the road block.

Just because Silver couldn’t understand that picking up the reins meant to lower his head didn’t mean he couldn’t figure out how to lower his head. We just had to teach it in a way that he WAS able to understand.

Don’t let road blocks stop you. Instead find a detour and get around them!


The Diagonal Double Whorl, Horse Whorls

This is the only high whorl that shows an introverted temperament.

This is also the hardest whorl for me to recognize. In fact it’s lack of definition and ease of recognition is one of the hallmarks of the whorl. It is usually a bit muddied with faint ghost whorls and feathering weaving between the two whorls.

It is the hardest whorl for me personally to work with. There are no bad whorls, just different ways horses need handled. This one needs handled with extreme care and sensitivity. A right brain introvert is one who will hide emotions, like any introvert they hold their feelings deep inside themselves not showing the world how they feel. Unlike a left brain introvert who will withdraw further and refuse to interact any more when overwhelmed by too much going on around them, a right brain horse will explode. When a right brain introvert reaches the point they can’t handle the stimulation any more they will bolt, or buck. Often this will come as a complete shock to people who thought their horse was ok with what was going on because they were still and quiet.

That very stillness can be a warning sign. The horse is pulling deeper and deeper into themselves trying to hide internally from the things they can’t handle.

Missing the warning signs and misreading the stillness people are often caught completely unaware then when the horse explodes.

Is this horse a diagonal double? I think so? Again, I think so in large part because I can’t tell! When I have no idea what the whorl is for sure that means it’s probably a diagonal double 😉 But also the rest of the head shows a right brain horse. Huge, worried eyes, hard and lined with lines of worry, large alert nostrils, thin skin tight to reined bones.