Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sonita/Chapter 14

We were on our way. Sonita had finally started to place. I was beginning to understand my horse and the cowhorse game we played. After showing in AQHA or NRCHA events 26 times before even having our name called, much less ending up in the money, Sonita and I were becoming competitive.
My students and the horses I had in training were all beginning to benefit from my hard won knowledge. My students were beginning to show and place, my horses were becoming soft and reliable. I was beginning to understand the mysteries of working a cow. I could get through entire shows without anybody asking me, "Why don't you get rid of that tail-wringing bitch and get a cowhorse?" I became competent help at a horse show and was asked to shag cattle (move cattle back to the holding pens after they were worked), do bit checks and scribe for some of the top judges at our bigger shows.
I was no longer considered "cannon fodder" for the classes I entered. The friendly greetings from my fellow competitors stayed the same, but the unending advice and help began to dry up. Some regretted the advice they had given, because it was becoming obvious I listened to everyone, and used it. Most were happy for me. I had certainly paid my dues.
The cowhorse bunch is a tight knit group. I was proud and happy to finally be an accepted part of it.

This was my frame of mind as I entered the Colorado Reined Cowhorse Association's Futurity and Derby in September. I might not have been confident, but I was certainly hopeful. Sonita and I would show in the bridle class and I had an up and coming snaffle bit horse to show in the derby.
Three of my students, (OK, one was my kid) had gutted up and were also competing. I was feeling like I was finally getting somewhere.

As we pulled into the fairgrounds my entire trailer exploded with wild neighs and pounding hooves as Sonita began to double barrel the trailer walls with everything she had.
"Hey!" I yelled.
I slammed the truck into park and jumped out to see what had set her off now. I ran to the back of the trailer and Sonita let loose with another volley of kicks and shrieked her best wild stallion imitation.
"What is your problem?" I said as I peered into the last stall of my trailer.
The other horses were cowering, terrified by the sounds and violence. Sonita glared at me, her eyes wide and her ears flat. Ropey, foamy sweat dripped to the floor. Her hay bag was torn off it's hanger and stomped into the stall mats. The acrid smell of mare pee filled my nostrils.
"Oh no. Here we go."
Sonita was in heat.

Sonita in season was a terrible thing. Never a particularly friendly horse, when she cycled she became a vision from hell. Maybe Mother Nature simply knew that my own personal psychopath should never be bred, because when Sonita came in season she also became determined to kill any horse that flicked an ear her way. No stud was ever going to approach her and live. I'm not sure there was a fertility doc on the planet who would have been willing to AI her.
There is a lovely, legal hormone treatment available called Regu-mate. Within three days after starting a mare on Regu-mate her regular cycles will be suppressed. Essentially she will be begin behaving like a bred mare as long as she is given the treatment every day. A pregnant mare is a happy mare. Sonita on Regu-mate stayed almost focused, rideable, and fairly compliant.
Unfortunately, it costs about $400 a month to keep my mare happy and content. I had used it with much success during the spring and summer of that year. Some people only put their horse on it the week before a show in order to save money. But the uproar it caused with Sonita's hormones to stop and start her up again wasn't worth it. I wasn't willing to cause that much stress and discomfort to save some money.
It was fall. The intensity of her cycles should have been motoring down for the year. So I had retired the Regu-mate at the end of August. I had calculated the days and figured she wouldn't go into season until the week after the show.
As I stood watching her dismember my trailer I realized my calculations were wrong. So very wrong.

The Big K came by my stalls to say "Hey."
"Sonita's in," I said.
He stepped back as she lunged over the stall door, teeth bared at a horse that was led too close.
"So I see," he said.
"Have fun with that," he added as he walked on down the aisle.
I saw by his strut and the silent shaking of his shoulders that I was going to be his favorite joke of the day. It took everything I had to stop from throwing my curry at his retreating head.

I waited to work her until after midnight. At that time of night there are only a few riders out schooling their horses. A few green horses, a few green trainers, the nervous and the desperate. So we had plenty of room in the pen.
We rode until 4 a.m. Sonita roared, she leaped, she shook her head and thundered. She was savage. She would squeal and strike at the passing horses. I spun her off them over and over.
Typical of a cowhorse event, no one gave me room. They expected me to control my horse or clear the arena. So we fought.
When I finally put her up I did my chores and headed to the Roach Coach for coffee. I flopped my tired bones down at a picnic table with the Big K. He was just waking up and in irritatingly good form.
"Why good morning!" He said. "How did it go last night?"
"I rode her, but I never got her rode."
"It should get better, you've got a few more days before you show her. She'll start to come down."
I hated it when he was perky.
"Well, Mr. Sparkles, you weren't there when a stud moved into the stall behind us. She's gone. I mean over the moon. I'm thinking I should scratch. She's a train wreck."
"I guess I wouldn't stop you," he said and began studying his gnarly, scarred-up hands.
"But?" I asked.
"But nothing, you do what you need to."
"There's a but. What do you think?" I pressed.
"I think," the Big K glanced up at me from under the brim of his hat, "I think you should turn that aggression into something and go win your class."
"I was afraid you'd say something like that."
"It's time for you to ride like Bob."
I rested my forehead on the picnic table. The Big K and I had shared many a discussion on the pros and cons of the different riders we competed against. We would sit for hours and watch each rider, analyze the way they rode and how their horses went.
He was talking about Bob Avila. Not that I had to compete with him, but the Big K had crossed his path more than once.
"Avila doesn't win all the time because he's always on the best horse, even though I've never seen him undermounted," the Big K had told me,"he doesn't always win because he's the best rider. Nobody can be at their best all the time. Avila wins because he is the best showman out there. He can stare a judge in the eye and dare him to not give him the win. He can make every horse he rides look spectacular , even when things go wrong. Nobody can gut their way through a class like Bob."
I didn't want to ride like Bob. Bob would have yanked his saddle and shot Sonita dead in the arena years ago. Bob would have gotten himself a horse that wasn't one shoe light a set of sliders. A horse that was two bales short of a ton. A horse who had popped the last few strands of her 100% wool string cinch.
"Fine", I said into the table. "I'll ride like Bob."

It was finally show day. A warm, breezy beautiful day.I was in the warm up pen. Sonita was alternately squealing in fury and crying for her friends. We were loping many, many tiny little circles. "Ride like Bob, ride like Bob," ran through my mind in time with her lope.
A young rider came in on his stud horse. He nodded at me as he trotted by. It was the stud living behind Sonita.
He was a well behaved animal under saddle. He didn't nicker, his strong trot didn't waver. But his eye slid along Sonita as they passed.
She squealed and began to buck. I pulled her nose to my knee kicked her hip around. Sonita flipped her tail over her back and began to pee.
The stud lost his composure and nickered.
Sonita tried to buck harder and we spun in a circle. The pee sprayed around us like a water sprinkler. I heard the stud gear up and holler.
"Oh man, my new chaps!" Echoed behind me as I booted her out of the arena. I heard the announcer call my name. Sonita and I were in the hole. Just call me Bob.

The pattern was a trot in. Sonita trotted into the arena at a snails pace, slinging her head and crying a lost, sad wail for her friends. We finally made the middle of the pen and she stopped to pee yet again.
The judges sat back in their chairs and grinned at each other. This was promising to be an interesting little interlude.
I sat up tall, looked them in the eye and picked up my reins. I dared them to laugh at me, at least in my mind.
Sonita stepped out, dropped into frame and loped off like a lamb. I couldn't believe it. She was on. All the way with me. She stopped, she spun, she changed, everything felt fantastic. I looked up into my final run down and saw the Big K grinning at me behind the gate.
I scowled at him and charged into my final stop. Who was he to smile at Bob?
We turned to face the cattle pens. I waved at the gateman for my cow. Sonita stood frozen, her back quivering through the saddle. We were going to eat this cow.
A white plastic grocery bag rolled slowly across the fence line. My eyes flicked on it and off again. Bob's horse wouldn't spook at a bag. I wasn't worried. The gate creaked open. I rested my hand on Sonita's neck, her cue to set on the cow. The white bag slowly rolled into view and settled in front of the opened gate. It waved gently back and forth in the breeze.
Sonita dropped her head and began to cut the bag.
The cow trotted out the gate. Sonita never lifted her head. She cut that Wal-mart bag with everything she had.
I wacked her with my spur hoping to get her on the cow before the judges realized what we were boxing.
Sonita dropped even lower and cut back and forth harder, mesmerised by the waving bag.
Sonita didn't see the cow until it began to meander down the side of the arena. She stopped. She looked.
I could almost feel her confusion.
"Why are we working a bag when there's a perfectly good cow right there, boss?"
I sighed and we went to the cow, straight down the fence. She worked it well, but it didn't really matter. We had missed our box work.
The second the judges whistle blew Sonita began to whinny her sad, lonesome cry. She kept it up until we left the arena.
The Big K was laughing so hard he could barely stay on his horse.
"What the hell do I do in a situation like that one?" I said.
"Give her a pet and tell her she's a good girl. This will never happen to you again. It's done. She went to work the minute you told her to. Didn't matter to her if it's a bag or a cow. That was just cool." He started to laugh again.
"Good job, Bob."
I rode back to my stalls on my whinnying, dripping, oozing mare. Bob my butt. I gave her a pat. "Good girl you knot head. Good girl."


  1. OMG...a Wal-Mart bag...? That's the first I've ever heard of that one.

    Great chapter, Mugs.

  2. Wow, you wrote that so well. I was right there with you picturing it all. Even the Wal-Mart bag. Just perfect!

  3. i couldn't help but laugh out loud at work!

  4. It was the water sprinkler part that got me. Yep, I laughed out loud, sittig here at my solitary desk, taking a break from writing my book (which I am heartily sick of). The Sonita stories just get better and better. I would have loved to have been there that day--just not too close to the "water sprinkler". Now I remember why I own geldings... too funny.

  5. I was laughing so hard at this post. Kind of like the tv show Worst Week, you get the dumb luck on everything. When it's bad, it's really bad. lol

    water sprinkle, oh my my chaps, walmart bag. All too funny. At least she didn't spook at it huh? lol

  6. yay! Can't wait for the next one!

  7. "The pee sprayed around us like a water sprinkler. I heard the stud gear up and holler.
    "Oh man, my new chaps!" Echoed behind me"


    My one mare used to go into heat every time the farrier would come and pee on his head without fail. He would get pissed and give her a thump on the butt and yell "Quit you stupid pig" and she would squat and pee harder XD ahahaha I love mares

    And the bag XD haha Did it ever happen again?

  8. Sydney- Of course not. That bag was a freak accident. She never would have looked at it if it hadn't rolled in front of the gate just as I cued her to go to work.
    Sonita would work anything. Llamas, dogs, kids, half filled helium ballons. All you had to do was put her on it.
    Most of the time that was a good thing.

  9. I love your stories! This one takes the cake.. hilarious. :)

  10. Keep it coming! I love to read about you and Sonita. That was so funny!!! HAHA

  11. Oh bless her heart, but at least she got it together when you went in the ring.

    Lord knows there is nothing like the smell of mare pee. Aggh

  12. When I was young, I rode with a friend whose mare was always in heat. We were young and dumb and didn't have a clue as to the problem. We started calling her Rainbird - because she used to "rainbird" (sprinkler) pee everywhere all the time. Poor old girl, she had to have some kind of hormone imbalance.

    Thanks for another great story.

  13. Thanks for the laugh! I can just see that pee flying through the air! I take it that it hit the guy with the stud? LOL That will teach him! I wonder how the stud acted all day with the guy being sprayed? LOL
    Actually, that's awesome that she hunkered down and worked so well, even though it was a strange looking cow! You know, when good horses are on, they are great! But when they are off, oh, it's ugly!

  14. OMG, i'm cracking up at work - so glad there's noone around my desk.

  15. I laughed at:

    The pee sprayed around us like a water sprinkler. I heard the stud gear up and holler.
    "Oh man, my new chaps!"

    I could almost feel her confusion.
    "Why are we working a bag when there's a perfectly good cow right there, boss?"

    But I smiled at:

    I rode back to my stalls on my whinnying, dripping, oozing mare. Bob my butt. I gave her a pat. "Good girl you knot head. Good girl."

    .that. is horsemanship.

  16. Awesome installment! Mare owners understand.

  17. I think my favourite thing is that she seemed to honestly think she was doing what she was supposed to do!

    Yep, this sure as heck beats my groundhog-cutting incident... my one tiny brush with almost-greatness...

    But from now on I'm gonna Ride Like Bob. One of these years I'll stagger back into the show pen. Ride Like Bob.

  18. What a GOOD girl!! She cut a bag for you! She thought you told her to cut the bag and she did. That is a good horse.

    And thank god you made it out of the warm up arena before there was a massacre. That could have gotten ugly, not that I don't have 100% faith in your ability =)

  19. OK Missy! Time to stop goofing off and write the BOOK call "Sonita:My Darling Hell Bitch". I want to sit down on a rainy day (like today, ugh!) and read the whole saga! Quit yer lollygaggin and get it written already. The suspense is killing me!!!

    Oh yeah, also...where's the book on Mort?

    I love reading anything you write!

  20. This one had me laughing for several minutes. What a great story. I had to send it to my friend. She'll get a big kick out of this one. Mares. They are... different. Loved this one.

    Think I'll go read it again and laugh some more.

  21. laura crum-I don't know if you would have wanted to be there that day. I was pretty sulky. I did tip a few Margaritas back though.
    heidi and whywudyabreedit-Sonita was-in her wackadoo way, totally honest. She was who she was.
    I have never understood why I, a gelding fan, always seem to own mares.
    karen v-nobody would publish it.

  22. Admit it, you love that mare.
    You may not have then, but through the filter of time you've gotta see the what a wonderful girl she was. LOL
    Mugwhump you rock! I wish I had had the insite to listen to my own "Sonita" way back when. I might have gone in the horse world instead of the boring workaday business world.

  23. You should definitely write the book. Even if you couldn't find a publisher, you could find a printer. Search independent publishers. Write your stories, pick some photos find a printer, then peddle the hell out of it online. I would certainly buy it (and probably a few extras for friends) and would wager more than a few of your readers would buy it too.

    Ask your readers, someone knows someone who could get it going.

  24. That is an honest horse. Nothing in the world like them.

    And, omg, I thought my mare was a bitch in heat, lol. I have a whole new appreciation for her. :)

  25. Oh--love it love it love it! Cutters work their horses on flags, lol, maybe Sonita was channeling a cutter working a flag. Too cool-most horses would've blown out of there to get away from that bag, not got down and dirty and tried to work it, lol! A plastic bag that rolled in front of a crazy barrel horse I used to have got me a broken nose, lol, so be glad she worked it instead of spooking at it.

  26. Oh GOD hell bitch in heat on top of her normal 'difficult' personality? You had to love that horse! HAD. TO.

    I love she cut the bag... what a good girl. Just what luck it rolled across the gate when it did?

    I actually find it most hilarious she sprayed pee round and round and on the kids new chaps. That'll break 'em in. Hahaha... like what brenda said abuot how the stud was the rest of the day with that mare-in-heat pee on those chaps. HA! Love it.

  27. I was laughing so hard...I almost called in my hubby to read this and then realized he'd *never* get it! I too thought my mare was bad in heat, but Sonita beats it all.

    I Vote For A Book (or two) Too!


  28. This is just one of those cases where you only share it with a special few.. most folks just won't get it.

    Love the story.. thanks for sharing. Seems I learn something everytime I stop by here!

    (Now off to ride the 3 year old mare with hopes that she won't channel Sonita)

  29. It took my mare and I at least a year to really connect and get together on things, but once we did, we were on a roll. There were several times when I would work her at home(we lived in California at the time)and when I "thought" that I had her warmed up and ready, I would cut a cow out of the herd and put my hand down and my mare would squeal and leap up in the air. I would immediatly pull her in the ground, take her out of the arena and take her up the driveway where there was a steep hill of red rock with a trail that went straight up it. It wasn't a very long trail, but it got the job done! I would trot her up and down that(no loping allowed)about 15-20 times until she was out of air and then walk her back to the arena and go cut a cow and she would be great. So we called that hill the "Red Rock Treatment" every time a horse acted up, off to the red rock we would go.
    I went to a SRCHA show in Oklahoma several years ago and ended up scratching my entry because my gelding would not settle down. I loped him for several hours and even had the trainer get on him and he was still a nuthead. Luckily I did have a fairly good excuse that day...I got a call from a friend that said that my mare was dripping milk and looked like it was going to be within a few hours of her having the baby. So I went into the office after putting my idiot horse away and told them to scratch me, I had an emergency at home to deal with...and I left. I was SO mad at that horse. At least you were able to get through your run. I didn't think it would be wise to go in the arena with a horse that wanted to do nothing but run. And I was new to the reined cow horse stuff, so I didn't want to risk it.
    Nice story..really like your style of writing.

  30. Kinda makes me glad I own a gelding. But we have this one mare who is a danger to herself and others when she's heat. I have scars.

  31. God I love your Sonita stories. Mugs, your write them so well I can feel exactly how you probably felt while I am reading. When I read your Sonita stories, it makes me think there is hope for my Jazz, they sound SO much alike! What was Sonita's breeding? (Sonita's Last of course? and?) Mine is Peppy San Badger topside, Docs Prescription bottom side.
    When in heat, she acts like a stud, Screams, grunts, strikes (and of course pees)
    Keep up the Sonita chapters, I LOVE EM! They give me hope as well, that if I can keep my determination up, that we can accomplish something too!

  32. OH! I also think you should write a book... It would be awesome to have all your horse stories in one volume, so that when I get discouraged, I can flip to a chapter that deals with my particular problem and be inspired!

  33. I have a question for everyone who does this discipline (I don't)

    it seems like you need to work them down, not warm them up. Do I understand this right? And if that is the case.....loping circles makes them .more. fit so it takes .more. loping to get to the quiet zone.

    or don't I understand why you do the loping?

  34. Holly, its not really working them down.. Generally, you DO warm up, but it depends on the horse. Some will need way more "warm up" to take the "fresh" out of them before they are ready to concentrate on the job at hand. One may only need a few minutes of warm up, whereas a horse like Sonita DOES need to be "worked down" rather then warmed up. Same thing really. Except that some horses need to be a little "tired" before they are ready to concentrate on their rider and what needs to be done. Correct me if I am wrong Mugs.

  35. Holly,
    I used to work for both cutting and reining trainers. Reiners were a little more individual--some needed a lot more warm up than others. Cutters routinely loped their horses a lot before they worked them. The reason is that if you go to work a cow on a horse that's not at least a little tired, said horse (most of em anyway) will "play" too much--they'll buck and hop and just do like a pastured horse will do when he's running around having fun. Cutters are shown on a completely loose rein, so if the horse starts leaping about, you're done. You can't stop him with the reins, not and succeed at showing him, anyway. So horse are warmed up not just to be loose and ready to go, but also to be a little bit tired, so they'll stay "flat". Yes, they get fitter and then it takes longer to get them flat. We all complaind about that endlessly.

  36. I guess she taught YOU to watch the bag instead of the cow... ;-)

    What a character. I have a feeling I'd really like her!

  37. fugs-not at all. I was definitely watching the cow wander down the fence.Without me or my horse. Sonita taught me to wait to put my hand down until she actively looked at the cow.
    Holly-some horses need to simply have their muscles warmed up. Some horses need to be tired. Sonita was never tired before I was ever. She always needed movement before she could focus. The more stressful the event the more movement she needed. I often ride a horse through their maneuvers, set up which lead they go off on first, etc.before I show, not her. She had to have that done the day before. She would lose her mind if she was schooled before a class.The loping was the equivalent of a pacing dog, (or tiger)or an A.D.D. kid needing extra outside time before an exam.
    Ironically, the least amount of warm-up Sonita needs is before cutting.She can tell when you unload her what she is going to do. If it's a cutting event she takes about twenty minutes of trotting and loping and she's ready to go.
    The trickiest part of showing a young horse (at least for me) is getting the pre-show warm up right.

  38. thank you Laura and Badges. I am a dog trainer as well as owning horses and one of the things that I see is when an owner has a high energy dog, and they are having trouble with the dog, the most frequently offered advice is more excercise. The problem though, is that it becomes a vicious cycle. More excercise = a more fit dog that requires more excercise to reach the "tired dog" stage. With dogs, psychological training will tire them out better, or at least as well as, physical excercise. With horses...finding a mental excercise that will focus them for that long might be a problem. The problem might also be compounded if you have a horse like Sonita who if given too much time to look for things to freak out at, will wind herself up psychologically.

    interesting isn't it?

  39. Holly- Don't you think it could be the difference between dogs and horses? I am NOT a dog trainer, just ask my dogs. But a horse moves before it thinks, the flight reaction of a prey animal. Wouldn't a dog think before it moves, because it's a predator?
    So while I would move a horse in order to help it focus, the mental stimulus you offer a dog before it moves would make sense for the dog...?I don't have a clue where I'm going, but you have me thinking...

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. I was thinking about this today.

    Indigo is never a pain when she is in heat. She squeals a lot and curls her lip up even more than usual but it's not out of the ordinary. She started doing this thing in the summer. I had no clue she was in heat. I was picking her feet in the usual order and when I went around her back side to pick up her right back hoof she was reluctant. I snarled and she picked it up and promptly stomped it down AND PEED A F-ING LAKE ALMOST ON MY HEAD!
    I jumped out of the line of fire just in time to miss it with my face.
    I never thought she would do it again but sure enough for the rest of the summer when she was in heat for JUST that hoof she would pee with all she had, usually missing my head by millimeters.
    Silly mares.

  42. Mugs, a famous dog trainer once pointed out to me that it takes almost no effort for a dog to "cruise" at a trot or lope and pay attention to everything going on around it, especially a fit one. Their tongue may be hanging to the ground and they may be out of breath but they are not always "tired". However, if you are training them, and if you are asking them to keep their attention on you because you are asking for a variety of speeds, behaviors, or other mental excercise, they tend to tire quickly and when done training take a nap. Often they may not even be slightly short of breath. It's the difference between mindless movement and a difficult thought process. I see this at work. I am often exhausted after a busy shift, even though I have not done any excercise at all...but have been challenged with problems to think through. Opposed to that, if I have stripped stalls, mowed the lawn and weeded the garden I am not nearly as "tired" as I am when I have to think about problems repeatedly.

    Now remember...I do not have the extensive experience with many many horses that I do with dogs so I could be waaayyyy off on this, but I doubt it because humans and dogs are not the same species either and I have extensive experience with both of them. I am basing it on my personal experience (and observation) with my mare, my daughters mare, my friends horses as well as the horses I see at our barn. Those horses that are encouraged to w/t/c, sidepass, play follow the leader, change positions during follow the leader, work on descending and expanding circles, neck rein, and other behaviors may never break a sweat, but when they are done they exhibit all the signs of being tired. Those horses that are w/t/c and nothing else for the same length of time are (often, not always)simply sweaty. Many times give them 5 minutes to catch their breath and they would be on their way again. Or they simply never settle at all and are as wound up at the end of the ride as at the beginning. The horses that are required to think about things, pay attention to their rider and avoid crashes (hopefully just by paying attention to the others using the same space), act like they need a nap.

    At the first class in a set of classes I always warn my students that their dogs are going to crash on the way home. I never have more than 6 dogs per class (2 instructors) and our classes are only for 60 minutes. That means 10 minutes per dog per class. If I have several difficult dogs, some dogs may not get my undivided attention at all. Certainly not enough time to get them tired but at the end of class I often see even the adult dogs laid flat out on the floor because of the mental stim of paying attention to .everything. going on around them for 60 minutes.

    So, with that thought in mind, I applied it to my "all about Herself" mare. I worked on setting her up for showmanship, trotting out unexpectedly, whoa, turn right, turn left (and probably more, can't remember right now as that was 3 years ago) and it worked. Was it because this is my training method? Was it because of the time of day/month/cycle/heat/cold? Was it because I was conditioning her to think? It could be any or all or something entirely different I haven't thought of yet. However, the behavior at the end of the training for 3 days produced a mare that was head down, cocked foot, dozing when she got put away.

    I don't think it has to do with the predator vs prey model because you and I and everyone else on this blog have taught (conditioned) our horses to respond not react. So it can't be a totally hardwired behavior. A man by the name of Bob Bailey (did some outstanding work for the government using free range wild dolphins among other wild animals) once tried to teach a racoon to put a coin in a piggy bank for a commerical he was doing for a bank. He got the racoon to put it in the piggy but there was an intermediate step he couldn't break....of washing the coin in the middle of the sequence. It was a hardwired, genetic trait that couldn't be modified. I also think that a prey animal that always has a knee jerk reaction of moving before thinking could easily become the target and run INTO predators instead of avoiding them. A predator who didn't think before choosing a target prey animal would end up dead...either from injury because it picked the wrong prey or starving from picking the wrong prey.

    And to make a slightly diverted note along those same lines in reference to a previous post where the discussion centered around crazy horses. I often wonder if that's natures way of trying out something a little different in the genetics....if it doesn't work and the horse is crazy it probably won't survive. If it's different and NOT crazy it does not become the sacrificial experimental victim.

  43. Holly-This is getting interesting. I completely understand the track you're taking. I'm glad your mare responded to the turn left, turn right, stop, back etc. while in hand and gave you the focus you wanted.
    Sonita, as would any of my horses, would walk out of a stall and respond appropriately to cues I gave them of that nature. She would stand to be saddled. She would walk to the arena where we warmed up.
    Then she would lope until I could "feel" she was ready to go.
    If I didn't lope her until that "feel" was in place she would still do as she was told, because you're right, she was taught to respond, not react. But instead of a smmoth flat spin she would lock up and turn into cement. Instead of a level rundown she would bolt, instead of collecting she would hollow her back and fight the bit, instead of changing leads she would leap in the air, buck and still land on the wrong lead in the back.
    If I worked a cow without the well loped feel she would attack it in her box work. She would rear or bite it to get moving much faster. Needless to say none of these actions helped me score.
    Sonita was a rare horse. She took an extraordinary amount of time to engage. But as I was out loping my horse with every other trainer who competes in my sport, I learned a few things.
    The ones that win big? The trainers that are plastered all over the magazines? You rarely see them schooling before a class. They simply lope their horse until they feel they are ready.
    The horses knows the maneuvers. They have an automatic response to a cue.
    The trainers I watched lose were the ones that over-schooled, ran their horse repeatedly into a stop, or drilled lead changes, spins etc. Those are the horses that exploded. This was a lesson I learned the hard way. My own nerves used to make me over-school until I had no horse left (mentally).But by learning the hard way and watching the trainers that out rode me (and still do)I learned to pay attention to my horses and let them lope until they were ready to go in the pen.
    So while it may seem foolish to you, I'll keep loping my horses before I show. Luckily the horses I show now are not Sonita. One takes twenty to thirty minutes, the other takes about ten. So that gives me time to read up on my predator/prey relationships.

  44. WOW, Holly and mugs, I am excited after reading your comments. All I can say is yes to everything each of you have said! The one thing I thought of, Holly, as you were relating what you did to your horse to keep her mind busy, like you do your dogs, is that it reminds me of our showmanship and horsemanship horses. In my experience of coaching kids, and their horses, you do keep this type of horses busy, repeatedly doing parts of patterns, trotting, stopping, pivoting, trotting instantly off, and on and on. That horse becomes more and more settled and moves with you with each step. My daughter's horse used to do all of this halterless, and it was awesome to watch. This is a perfect example of a horse that has bonded, is well trained, enjoys their job, enjoys their handler, and on and on. I think you can only understand mug's horse, and horses like that, when you have a horse that is like that type of horse. We have an old reining and cowhorse mare (not as great as Sonita) but definatley can exhibit some of the same mare traits! lol But my one boy is a very quiet rider, loves his animals, and didn't descipline her harshly, just left h er alone and rode her down. She also knew her job, and she just needed loped down. Yes, to practice with her the day of the show would make her nuts and key her up - I'm thinking that she thought she was in a class all the time if she was put through her paces. He just loped, and loped, and loped, yes to wear her down, but to get her mind. This is a way to get her mind like you would want the same mindset of the showmanship horse or the dog. It makes me realize more and more, as I work with different horses, that you need to get the mind of the horse, in the way that the horse needs it, not the way that I rider wants to do it!!! I try to teach this in my lessons all the time. I actually love working on horses like this. They are "on" big time (and when they are off, it is ugly, but that is another discussion). I love working with mares because usually they are honest with how they feel! I jsut try to let them know through my demeanor that I am boss, not them. Sometimes, that is ugly too!

    on a funny note, Holly, when I read "if you are asking them to keep their attention on you because you are asking for ... they tend to tire quickly and when done training take a nap." Sorry, but I thought "I wonder if husbands do this with us!" LOL

  45. Mugs wrote:So while it may seem foolish to you,

    Drat!! That is not what I meant and I am sorry it came across that way.

    This was simply a question and observation on my part.

    I think each animal is different and each needs a program or work up/out/down/around specifically geared to both the discipline they are in and the needs of that individual horse. I think you did that with Sonita (and I am sure with every other horse you have had contact with).

    and now that I've plugged in MY brain another thought occurs to me.
    When I get home from work, my 2 year old needs time to burn off that edge. I think in his case it's an adrenalin dump due to me coming in the door and all the dogs being very excited. So I do totally understand those individuals that need to burn off the edge.

    Back to the horses.
    What I taught in hand/on the ground also transferred to under saddle for my mare and my daughters mare. It might or might not for every horse, because I don't handle the others, those I just watch. However we will be getting a new horse next week that seems to (in general) not respond the way a typical horse does so we will see how he does with the training style both my daughter and I use.

    A few more questions if you don't mind. Do you think the loping around is a conditioned show response? Do you do the same long loping at home? Do you have routines that you do only at shows or only in open areas or only in arenas or only with cows? What made me ask this is that at one point in this thread you mentioned that Sonita behaved very differently when she knew she was going to be cutting. Wonder what cues told her that.

    You are right, this is interesting. I love to listen to other trainers, including teachers and coaches.

  46. Brenda wrote:
    you do keep this type of horses busy, repeatedly doing parts of patterns, trotting, stopping, pivoting, trotting instantly off, and on and on.

    exactly. You engage them to think. And....it could be that the loping was giving Sonita time to think about how the arena is laid out, see which corners hold boogey men etc, while still burning off the edge.

    I am wondering now, after reading Mugs reply and your reply if cowbred horses are more "on" or something than horses bred for other disciplines. In the past few weeks, a friend whose daughter leased my mare last summer has been scouring different sites looking for a horse that they can buy. One of the things I pointed out to her was that you want to pick bloodlines noted for doing the discipline you are going to enter because a cowbred horse doesn't move or behave the same way a HUS horse does or a WP horse does and often their structure is different also. So I wonder if horses that are specifically bred to do this discipline are also (perhaps by design perhaps not) bred to be a little more energetic, a little lighter in their responses, a little more "quick", than lets say a WP horse who is bred to goooo sloooowwww. I'd bet that breeding plays a huge part in this. For those of you who have owned/ridden/trained horses of widely varying disciplines...do you find this true?

    as for the husbands....can't address that myself but I can tell you I have used OC very successfully on male co workers to get responses I liked better than what they offered on their own!

  47. Brenda-thanks for your insight. You jumped in at the right time, me thinks.
    Holly- My horses are taught, essentially from day one, (at least once they start loping) to seek the circle as a reward.
    As time goes by they look for that perfect circle as a place we both relax and let the world go by.
    Even if they are loons, they will keep their feet on the circle, even while they crow hop, sling their heads, whatever.
    It's a safe way to let them decompress. So yeah, warm-up at home is the same as a show.
    The rest is also a place of zero stress. If they stand for me, without moving their feet (I don't care about anything else)and I can drop my reins on their neck, I will sit and let them rest as long as they want.
    So if they need to move they can lope circles, if they want to rest they can lope perfect circles and be soft and I let them stand.
    See where I'm headed?
    When we show, my horse has the safety zones of the circle and the hesitation, it helps them (and me) reorganize if they need it and they have a reward place no matter what.
    They are in extremely good shape. They have to be. The level of athleticism it takes to get through a single class is astounding. If they have a derby or futurity it's three days of high physical stress. Part of why I don't futurity.

  48. So if they need to move they can lope circles, if they want to rest they can lope perfect circles and be soft and I let them stand.
    so if I understand this right, the circle is a conditioned response to a request from the horse to move.

    a perfect circle would equal standing still?

    But don't you always .aim. for perfect circles?

  49. You know, Holly, I just can't resist jumping in here. This isn't something you can theorize about and come to a workable conclusion. This is something you have to have done to understand. As they say in the cowhorse business, you have to pay your dues. mugwump has paid her dues.Youre a cop, so you probably get "paying one's dues" in another context (I know a few cops). Maybe you can undestand that you will not be able to break down what mugwump says into something you can understand...unless you will take the time she took to learn that craft,. (And this means riding and training a good many more horses than you describe yourself as riding).

  50. Laura which post were you referring to?

  51. and Laura, just to clarify. I have never thought nor have I ever said that Mugs has not paid her dues. I am certain she has. Because of that I ask questions to understand better why some things are done the way they are and what the goal is. I think Mugs is a very good trainer.

  52. One thing Mugs...if this is insulting to you or if the questions are a problem, please say so and I will go back to lurking.

  53. To heck with training, you can write!!! They would too publish this, I freaking love it. Write fiction, that way no one can say, "Is this really true?" I am in awe.

  54. I'm about done with this line...we have other things to explore.
    I think I have stated more that once that I let them move in the shape of a circle in order to engage their brain. When they start they can toss their head, look around, be stiff, be cold-backed. As we move the horse relaxes into what I want. We don't fight. Because the horse understands that we rest when she is soft, supple, and loping like a show horse. When the horse is physically warmed up and mentally ready to party she will be soft in the poll and face, driving from the back and in the frame I work towards. If I expected my horses to be perfect from the get go I would be a very poor trainer.
    When they reach that spot we rest. They learn through time, patience, loping and plenty of rest when they ask for it.
    The high energy horses will play and squirt around for a long time, the more sensible souls will figure out what they have to do to rest and get there within minutes.

  55. Holly-The only time it's insulting or a problem is if I'm being insulted or given a problem.I would guess you know as well as anybody else if you're just asking to learn or on a different agenda. I try to answer as best I can. Whether you contribute or lurk is up to you.

  56. I know that I am asking to learn. I don't have the experience you do, and I have NO experience in your specialty. I sometimes ask for clarity to make sure I understand what others tell me....part of that is a job hazard probably. Part of that is that sometimes I just don't understand the purpose of what is being taught or practiced or whatever.

  57. Rereading this one puts me in a better humour. *L* We've all been there. Or thereabouts anyway.

    Re the dialogue with Holly about loping.

    I work in a different discipline/s, but the one thing about all the different equestrian sports I've noticed, is that with all of the top riders I've seen, they all held that the warm up ring is not the training area.
    You warm up / settle your horse, for different values of warm up/settle, depending on the horse.

    Then you're done - time to go play. Loping clearly worked for Sonita - doesn't mean that mugs meant she lopes all horses the way she needed to with her, or that loping was all she did with Sonita, or even that loping works for all horses.

    With dressage horses, I personally tend to get on, and then we're off in working trot, and we trot until that horse is listening. Circles, rein changes. Some you warm up in walk. But really fit, high level dressage horses are often as sharp as event horses, or, I suspect, cowhorses.

    The trot versus canter? I think it's the different type of horses we work with.

  58. My Ariel was just like your Sonita. Tough horse (and bitchy/studlike), but taught me a lot.