Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Good Day Showing

I spent the day at an AQHA show yesterday. My yellow mare picked up another, ever elusive, point in open working cowhorse. My boss/client/friend picked up points in amateur cowhorse and reining. I managed to soundly beat a talented rival who regularly takes my business. He had six head to show. I had one. It didn't help him a bit. My boss trounced the rivals non pros. Luckily it's a friendly rivalry.
I made a statement in my last post about a trainer not being able to change who a horse is. A spook will always be a spook being the most arguable point.
My show experience might explain my point a little better.
My yellow mare is a spooking, goofing, arrogant prima donna.
Yesterday she was hot, and tired, and not in the mood to show.
She explained this to me by deciding she was terrified of the tarps on the arena rails.
It is in my mare's nature to be a spook.
She also uses it to her strategic advantage when she doesn't feel like earning her keep.
As we began our cow work, she thought she might blow up at the tarps flapping in the wind.
I picked up my rein. I very firmly put my spurs to her, hoisted her up, and put her on the cow.
I wasn't nice.
I didn't think through her childhood, and why she might be the way she is.
I didn't help her little self by leading her through 29 steps of anti-spooking techniques.
I let her know that if she didn't knock it off NOW I would kick her ass in front of God and the judge.
She scored a 143.
If you have competed in cowhorse you will understand what a flipping wonderful score that is.
If I spent two years teaching her not to spook it would have saved me some dough. I wouldn't have to increase my insurance on my seriously competitive horse. I wouldn't have to find the money to enter the World Show.
Because she wouldn't be competitive. She would simply be easier to ride in the park.
No thanks.
By the way, when we finished our run I rode her behind the arena, and tied her to the fence that held the blowing tarps.
I loosened her cinch, and let her cool out, alone, tied to the damn tarps. When she was quiet I took her back to the trailer, and her friends, gave her a drink, a bath, and some lunch.
By the time we started cutting that night, she didn't even look at the tarps. Hmmmm.
I'm always this pissy after a show by the way. Get used to it.


  1. This probably should be tacked on to the comments on your "I hate trainers" post, but I like the idea of being first at something that has something to do with horses.
    I hate trainers right now, too. This week an online acquaintance had her young mule put down because it was severely abused by a trainer who had a good reputation.
    The bastard apparently dragged her and afterward called the owner saying that the mule "tied up" on a trail ride and had to be pulled out of the road.
    The photos of the injuries are horrendous.
    The state humane agency and sheriff are making a case against the "trainer." The mule was taken to a highly accredited veterinary school specializing in mules for evaluation and treatment and it was there it was decided that there would be no good outcome as the damage done, and resulting laminitis, was too great.
    So right now I'm sick at heart and stomach.
    This isn't the first time I've seen this happen. My daughter's Appy gelding was foundered by a reining trainer in Oklahoma. We've been through this heartache before.
    Damn it all!

  2. Congratulations on a great score. You deserve it :0)

  3. Congrats, Mugs!

    "Spooking, goofing, arrogant prima donna" actually describes my former Very Tall Arab. He's for sale again and I've been kicking around the idea of buying him back. The more I read your blog, the more I get him. The more I read your blog, the more I see where I screwed up. (He's NOT started under saddle and was barely handled when I got him). The more I read you, the more I see how I let others around me influence us even if they didn't have Arab experience.

    He's for sale. But I think it's to placate her husband. I don't think she's got any real interest in selling him. I think she'd rather have a pretty pasture ornament.

    You make me think, Mugs. I like that. More light bulb moments for me when I read you than just about anywhere else. Thanks!

  4. mugwump:

    I love you...and I'm not even gay (ie. I'm female, and that love ain't something I want in's strictly to do with horses).

  5. The logic works for me. In my experience, you desensitize/sack out as much as you have to at home -- but you do it to accustom your horse to the fact that no matter what odd situation you put them in, they won't be harmed, not to desensitize them to plastic bags/tarps/smoke bombs/whatever.

    Once they learn that, it's all about teaching them to work and respond to you no matter what the situation, and asking them to do their job no matter what they're bothered by. And taking them away from home and putting miles on 'em.

    Then again, I've never ever dealt with a horse as spooky as you have (Sonita and so forth), so maybe my strategy just works for mostly un-spooky horses ;)

    Congrats on how well you scored! I think it's great that she gave you the response she did.

  6. Congratulations on your score and winning, mugs. Always glad when hard work pays off.

    Also want to thank you for earlier blogs about reading your horse and safely working with said horse. I've taken your lessons to heart and had a couple of "break-through" moments in my lessons. I may get the hang of this yet.

  7. I think no matter how much sacking out you do the spooking of convenience would never go away. It makes me a little crazy because I lack the riding skill to deal with it most of the time. The thing I get a lot from horses is that this object is fine to sniff and stand next to, fine to walk by, but is suddenly terrifying when we're trotting or cantering. Sufficient inside leg and its OK again, somehow. Grrr.

    If I were a better rider I could put my inside leg on them hard (or wear spurs), and sit deep and keep them to the pace they're supposed to be at, and think about what I'm doing all at the same time, plus stay in balance while they're leaning crazily to one side. Someday....

    Way to kick butt Mugs!

  8. Your yellow mare reminds me of my own horse, Gunner, who was always a big spook. I had the exact same "tarp experience" at a couple of cuttings, so I'm doubly impressed that you got your mare to focus so well.

  9. I always have bad habits at shows.

    I spend so much time at home leaving the horse tied alone and sacking them out with all sorts of horse eating objects that they really couldn't care. At the show when this happens (not in the ring yet thankfully) I just say "F-ING QUIT!" and it usually makes things worse with Indigo. She hates shows, she loves going to other barns.

    When I bring her to shows shes always worried about what horse riding by and if she is going to be boss over it. She has the attention span of a gnat at shows.

    At the barn I work at I bring her over and she doesn't neigh once from the time she gets there until she leaves even though the other horses are screaming like crazy.

  10. Gillian- I have had a lot of luck half passing my horses past the scary object. The head is directed away from the scary thing, the hip is towards it, outside leg pressure and a confident hold on them, they go right past.
    I have never had much luck showing them the object. I just go by, and pretend it's a non-issue.
    Laura- The cow was aggressive, and pushed us back quite a ways in the box work. It gave us a high degree of difficulty, and the snorting,blowing look on her face was simply a lot of expression.:)Aren't you supposed to be writing?

  11. Good idea. I may as well make use of her willingness to run sideways. ;)

  12. Nice score! I watched a WCH event once where the cow was just rank and would not stop attacking the horse. This poor young mare didnt know what to do! He just kept running at her and head butting her. The cow chased the mare down the fence on that run. Maybe he had been used before and figured out the game!

  13. Years ago I was told that horses spook because they are more scared of something external than they are of you. This does not mean the solution is to terrorize them - but sometimes if you make it clear that you know they are screwing around, and you expect them to refocus on work NOW, the spooking ends in a hurry.

    Honey with the bull the other night was genuinely terrified. That's different. A horse who's been to ten shows acting silly? Yep, they're probably playing you.

    Congrats on the great show!

  14. Congrats on the score!

    Reading I was thinking of a friend's mare who is consistently one of the shyingist, fly sideways and spin out from under you horses that I've ridden or seen ridden (although she doesn't hold a candle to Sonita!). But she's also one of the best working horse I've seen.

    She's 27. She isn't going to change her spots at this age, and no amount of "desensitization training" would "fix" her.

    Her owner is used to, and I think even likes her quirks, although he swears at her for them when she's being twitchy. If she refuses to walk through a stream or into a draw, you can absolutely trust (and he does) that there's a hidden quicksand spot or a hole you can't see. But when she's having a cow over carrying a flag or a mailbox, or spooking at yellow lines on the tarmac she gets no sympathy, even if she sidepasses and fusses for the length of the ride.

    They have a working relationship they can both deal with - he knows when to trust her, and when she's being a twit, and he's willing to deal with the twit to ride a horse that can, and will do whatever he asks, no matter how weird, if necessary.

    She may pack other people occasionally, but she rides for him.

  15. shirley, I'm truly sorry about your appy.
    misadventures-your strategy works for all of them, it just takes more repetition with some than others
    adventures-the sad part is, that can ruin a horse on cows. They need to think they're boss.
    fugs-You're dead on about Honey. Yellow mare would move a tarp aside with her nose if dinner was on the other side.
    Some of the best cowhorses are the ones that are afraid. It can take months of confidence building, but when they realize they're smarter and stronger, Yee Haa!

  16. There are some really incredible videos on YouTube with horses working cows riderless (some have riders but they appear to be just sitting there). Those horses have this look on their face that says to me "go ahead buddy, make my day."


  17. Mugs, Congrats on the great score with Sonita and the satisfaction of beating your rivals. I've got a horse that balks on trails sometimes. When you pop him with the reins he acts like you're killing him; snorts, grunts, skitters sideways, backs up, acts like he might "blow" and ultimately plants his feet. I usually end up dismouting and leading him through it and getting back on. I wish I had the guts to call his bluff, but I've only had to actually give up going the direction I wanted to go once and that day I made him work real hard, not just go back home. Still, I hate having these "set to"s on the paved road. Sunday, we actually stopped traffic. I think I peed a little.

  18. Redsmom-Stay safe! If you have to lead him, so what?
    If you lead him forward, get on, and just get a few more steps forward, you still won.
    I would try going out, taking him maybe 50 feet past his comfort zone,rest him in that spot for a few minutes, and then go back.
    Sooner or later, that spot will become his "safe" spot, and he'll be ready to cover another 50 feet.
    It takes time, but it works.

  19. Redsmom- Also, try getting off BEFORE he starts acting up. Then he is simply getting led on the road, not winning a fight with you...Answer this comment and let me know you got this, OK?

  20. Thanks, Mugs, I got it. I've had this old boy a year and I'm still figuring him out. He's 18. Sometmes he's really scared and sometimes he's just being an ass. He used to balk crossing a certain ditch. I led him across it about 5 times and now he jumps it without a second thought. We went a different way, Sunday -- I need to be thinking ahead and not mess around in the road even when no cars are coming when I first start to cross. On the woods path we can "argue" as long as it takes. :-).

  21. Love it, love it, love it. People always think I am mean when I get after mine for spooking. "Oh, he was just scared, you spank him and you are just making him MORE scared." I say "Who are you more scared of, horse, that horse eating culvert, or me?" He usually picks me. I'm the boss mare, if I say its not spooky, ITS NOT SPOOKY. I'm not gonna let you get hurt, its MY job to look for dangerous things, YOUR job is to do what I say.

  22. Another great post. I am very fortunate to own a mare who rarely if ever spooks. My real reason for posting today is I was thinking of your friend Sharion this morning and wondering of her progress.

  23. congrats on the win both in the ring and out MW!

  24. New to this blog and wish I'd found it earlier. We have a 5 yr old mare I just started showing in dressage. She bucked me off at the last show and knocked me out. Problem was she wasn't paying attention. I knew it and was using one-rein stops and circles to regain her focus. Enter the trainer/friend who tells me to stop doing that. Three seconds later: off I go. I'm not a trainer, but I can be a better rider. I should have trusted my own gut--I was the one on the horse, not him. She is fine at home, but at shows, is distracted, flighty. I'm not giving-up. Her power is what makes her so impressive/competitive--as you put it. I'm not one of the hugs and rainbows horse owners, but right now, I know I need some help learning how to handle her better--ahead of her. We're taking some lessons from a trainer/coach (not the same guy at the show) who is pretty direct. First one is next weekend. I just hate this inner cringing right that I feel every time I get on her now.