Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thoughts and Discussions

I have been to two clinics in the last two weeks. One I participated in and one I observed. They were the kind of clinics I prefer, both with locals in a specific discipline I'm interested in. I ignored an invitation to a problem solving clinic done by a young man who used to be a steady supplier to my training business.

I used to get in at least two horses a year who were out of control bone-heads after a few months of his "round pen religion", or whatever he calls it. One year I got six, count 'em six horses in who had 60 days of quality time with him. I guess I should send him a Thank-you card. I've made a lot of dough undoing his training philosophies.

Anyway, the clinics I did feel were worth going to were a cutting clinic and a Ranch Versatility Clinic. Jack McComber, a man who I admire greatly, for his knowledge and his hotness (ahem) gave the cutting clinic.

He started out making it clear he hasn't earned any NCHA (national cutting horse) money for ten years.

"I know the old time basics of cutting," he said.

"Those of you who are actively competing on the NCHA circuit might want to put something together with somebody more current. I'm just a stop, rock, turn and go kind of guy."

Jack shared some of his "old time basics" with me when I was first trying to fathom the intricacies of cutting. I would sneak off when the Big K was out of town and grab a lesson or three. The Big K wasn't one to share those who rode with him. Jack was an absolute rock star and never told a soul I was showing up at his place to ride every time the Big K was on a road trip that didn't include me.
He did stand behind the cattle pens and grin pretty big when I finally started to not only get a score, but beat the Big K once in a while in the herd work.

His clinic was pretty much a warm-up for the cutting club who put it on. He was great help to those of us who needed him and gave great commentary on the riders who really had it going on.

There was one stand out, a gentleman named James Autry and his good gelding, Buddha's Mike.
Turns out the duo recently were reserve champions in the Beef Empire Days Century Cutting Competition in Kansas.

The requirements for this competition are pretty simple. The ages of the horse and rider have to add up to more than 100 years.

I'm don't know exactly how old Mr. Autry and Mike are, but considering the sunken hollows over Mike's eyes, the oxygen tank Mr. Autry keeps tied to the back of his saddle and both of their many arthritic twists and turns, I'm sure they qualify.

None of it mattered once they began to cut. They were magic.

I put some good cow time on Pete and was gently chastised by Jack to ride my young ones down a bit more before we went into the herd. The kidlet heard the same advice.

I always try to leave a clinic with some new information to chew on. I got some good stuff too.
Both the kidlet and my friend Kathy were advised to ride without spurs.

The kidlet, because her horse is so tuned and sensitive, and Kathy, because her Rosie is so intent on picking a fight with her she forgets to hold her cow.

Jack noticed that Kathy anticipates Rosie's snotty attitude before she actually gets one. So Rosie is justifiably pissed, she sets up in her own anticipation of Kathy. It's a case of them knowing each other too well.

Jack's simple solution is to take away the spurring.

We talked about this on the way home and I realized this wouldn't work if Rosie was just lazy. But she's not. And she wants to cow. So we're betting that her desire to turn with the cow will outweigh her desire to fight with Kathy as long as there is nothing to fight about. This will be interesting.

Don't think this guy was anti-spur. My slightly lazy boy Pete would prefer to make friends with the cow, hang out a while, maybe swap a little cud.

I was told more than once to, "Git up there! Wake him up!"


The second clinic was a Ranch Versatility clinic given by a very nice couple, Jeff and Gerrie Barnes. I've been sending some of my old clients to them, simply because I liked what I heard about them. Now I finally got to meet them.

I'll tell you what. These folks have built a business doing exactly what I should have been doing myself. They are riding good quality horses. They are competitive in a sport they enjoy. They help people ride the horse they have and offer assistance from very rudimentary newbie horse keeping skills to advanced riders on their VRH team.

They are not wheeling and dealing their own brand of horsemanship, or a line of horses they are trying to fit clients to. They will help people find a horse, sell a horse or learn to ride their own.
They are also friendly, warm and welcoming, they seem to actually be making a living too. I have to admit I was impressed.

Check out their website at

So I've got a lot of thinking to do.

I've been piecing together a new training program for my colt. He is coming two. At this point he leads around some, will let me touch him all over, likes a good scratch on the withers and will tolerate being trimmed and vetted.

This fall I'll be starting him. My goal is to make each step be the base for the next. Sounds simple doesn't it? So far I'm combining what I know as a cowhorse trainer, some basic thoughts from dressage, ropers and kids, and a bunch I've learned on this blog.

Both of these clinics fell under my thoughts on this. I'll be going deeper, believe me.


Anonymous said...

The Barnes sound a lot like the trainer I'm using here in Oregon. Tasha rides quality horses, participates in equine sports she loves and helps people ride the horse they have. No fancy tools, tricks or gimmicks. My Casey is in training with her and Tasha's always available to help or explain. Definitely a quality person running a quality barn. No drama, no breed racism (as in only cowhorse, or anti-arab or only a certain breed), everyone's family and she helps facilitate the best relationship clients can have with their horses.

There aren't enough trainers like Jack McComber, the Barnes', and Tasha. I suspect you fit in this catagory too, Mugs. Maybe if there were more people like this, the competitive horse world would be a more pleasant place.

Unknown said...

I need to get out to some clinics this year. I haven't been to one in a wile.

The only clinics in my area are this top trainer in Canada's certified trainers (would rather not say his name I am sure someone will jump down my throat). I am not fond of him or his methods/attitude when working horses at all.

mugwump said...

Sydney - There has to be other trainers you admire out there. They don't have to be the top, or a big name,they don't have to be clinicians, they just need to possess knowledge you want. If you approach them with the idea of a clinic, put it together and do the running around for them you can usually ride free.I do it often.

Redsmom said...

The clinics sound like fun! I am going to one later this month. It will be the first clinic I have ever been to. I hope I don't make an idiot of myself. Okay, I know I will make a fool of myself, I just hope I don't spoil the clinic for the other people somehow. My old horse should be somewhat calm and cooperative. I've been working on my good seat and balance. Can you please tell more about what happens in a clinic? Is it just like a large group lesson?

Re: Reining. If things go according to logic, the pattern will be number 3 this Saturday. Man, there is a LOT of loping in 3. My plan is to not let Matty lope at all all morning. I will make him only tro until we get in there. That way he should be ready to lope a long ways... I hope. Otherwise, we'll be finishing that last big run around at a trot... I got my English spurs with the rubber balls for rowels in this week, so I think that will be a good compromise for both of us.

Shanster said...

Hey - sorta off topic but sorta not since clinics are learning things from others.

I'm gonna work with a guy in my neck o' the woods with my spaztic gelding. I'm pretty excited... my trainer is up to her eyeballs in horses and has an indoor only... my gelding needs work OUTSIDE because that is when he gets a bit... nasty and is beginning to bully me under saddle a bit.

My gelding gives it up pretty quickly inside... but outdoors is another story.

I simply don't have the experience with youngsters and retraining ... my trainer has worked with this guy before and other students of hers have gone to him happy with the results.

I called him and told him I'd really like to work WITH him on my gelding - watch what he's doing and learn from him what to do. He's good with that and I'm really excited to see it all happen.

Since my gelding ties and loads and has been going under saddle, he doesn't think I'll need to pay for a full 30 days... but we'll see how it goes.

His barn is full up right now but when there is an opening he'll give me a call.

Oh - and the bonus is he is an Aussie and has a really fun accent to listen to. He called me "mate" on the phone!

Don't worry - I'll be bringing my husband along to watch some of the work! grin

Now I don't have to call YOU and bring my horse out East Mugs! Are you breathing a big sigh o' relief? heh heh...

mugwump said...

Shanster - Yes I'm sighing...but I live out west from most.

mocharocks said...

Hey Shanster - I just saw your blog is called Shanster's goats N more. I take it you have goats? I just rescued 2 goats- they are awesome! Very entertaining! Supposedly they are pregnant. I can't really tell if they are or not and I'm too cheap to get them ultrasounded. I'm just waiting impatiently for the day I go out to the barn and my goats will have doubled or tripled in number :)

Shanster said...

oh - and I haven't come off or anything - and I've stayed on until he was walking a 4 beat gait and trotting nicely etc. so he doesn't think he's "rewarded" by the ride stopping when he gets nasty.

I'm just not at all confident about what I "should" be doing to make him knock it off when I'm on him.

I know my gelding is picking up on that and having a grand ol' time with it. He is doing naughty stuff like going backwards vs. forward, grabbing the bit and acting like he wants to bolt, bucking, running thru his right shoulder... nice huh?

That isn't the whole ride - just when he decides he should be done...

so far I've been quietly insisting he goes forward - bumping him forward with my legs - I have spurs on and will give him some spur, lots of changes of direction - if he grabs the bit like he wants to bolt - he gets popped on the mouth because that could turn dangeous I know...

I'm afraid the behaviors will increase cuz of my lack o' experience and I'm really afraid I'll come off which will increase the behaviors exponentially.

I don't exactly mind a fall - I haven't had one in a while but - uh - I'm betting the ground gets a lot harder as we age -

I'm more afraid of him getting an idea that he COULD get rid of me and the behaviors getting worse in order TO get rid o' me. ya know what I mean Vern?

I almost feel like I'm copping out by taking him to someone for help... but I'm certainly not bullet proof anymore!

Shanster said...

mocharocks - my e-mail is in my profile if you want to e-mail me!

If the goats are preggers they should develop udders - if they already have udders, their udders will get bigger and fuller just before kidding. They have a 5mo gestation. :)

Didn't mean to jump in with a bunch o' goat-talk. Sorry guys!

And Mugs - I'm in Ft. Collins so you are definately East for me! Tho' probably you coulda farmed me off onto Kid-lett or you know - said you guys were under quarantine for typhoid or something to keep me away. ha!

mugwump said...

Shanster- You are 100 percent right in getting help. There is no way to just figure things out.
There is no way to learn how to train simply through osmosis.
I've gotten help my whole life whenever I needed it, if I can afford it.
This is why I get so fed up with the "trainer mystique". This isn't magic, but nuts and bolts knowledge available to anyone.
I think you learn the most by watching, doing and listening all at once. My ideal choice? Riding one on one with somebody I know could ride my horse and does what I want to do better than me.Then I ride the horse and have the trainer show me.
Which sounds like what you're doing.
I am open to any variation that helps me get what I need though.

Shanster said...

Thanks Mugs! (boy I'm chatty today)

I could take him up for weekly lessons with my trainer and get thru it with her guidance but I'm copping out cuz I'd like a more "intensive" learning and I'd like him to stop much faster than it would take ME to get it to happen with once a week instruction...

And all my rides with my trainer are indoor where he's not so commited to the naughtiness... so I am really looking forward to working with this guy OUTDOORS.

He says he will help me and teach me and show me what to do and will have me ride my gelding with him along once he's figured him out and corrected some things...and we'll go out with me on one of his more broke horses so I can see how my gelding goes... so yeah - I'm pretty stoked about it!

I can see why you'd get irritated with people thinking you have a magic key. It like with anything I suppose... you have the experience and know how and it's there for other people to learn.

Just like with piano lessons or painting one starts at the top. We all gotta start somewhere and with a lot o' hard work we get where we want to be!

k - shutting my big fat mouf now. :)

horsegenes said...

I have a question for all you trainers or retired trainers out there... When a client asks you where they are with your horse can you give them a reasonable answer?

I have had my horse with a trainer that I really like and respect for the last 6 months. I ride with her atleast once a week (would like to do more, but this is a really busy time of year) and whenever I have asked her where she is at in his training... I never get a real answer. I get things like "we are working on the same stuff, just doing more" "He is coming along" etc. I can see he is getting better all the time - his turnarounds are amazing, he is sliding everytime, he is moving really nice changing leads smoothly on cue, his transitions are nice, etc. I am very happy with what she has done. I just don't know if he has all the basic stuff done and she is working on the refinement stuff, or if he has some more basic stuff to get done, ???

I know I need to ride more and take more lessons from her but I feel like if the horse is with her it limits my ability to practice the stuff she teaches me in my lessons. I have other horses to ride (none are even close to where he is at in his training)and do ride atleast 5 days a week, but I eventually want to show this horse and how can I get there if I am not riding him more than at my lesson. I told her last night that I plan to take him home in April and bring him back for 15 days (I am going on a vacation) in May. I know she likes him, she uses him when she does clinics sometimes and I have heard her tell people that he is very willing, a fast learner and has a lot of heart and try. It isn't like he wasn't broke when she got him 6 months ago, he was broke (he is 10- I have been riding him since he was 4) he had all the basics, walk, trot, slow lope on a loose rein, picked up his leads, rough lead changes, backs, side passes, etc. he was pretty push button in all those things.

Trainers... tell me what you think? What should I expect?

Just an FYI... I looked for a trainer that had the same ideals and attitude that I do, etc. I don't want to be that person that jumps from trainer to trainer. I want to give her time to do her job. That also may make me a little naive of how things work.

mugwump said...

Kel- Where's my horse at?
To me I always inwardly cringed at that question. He's at my barn. That's the only answer.
This can be a quagmire question and we all hate it.
Help the trainer out.
Say, can I be more specific with my questions?
1. Is my horse ready to show?
2. Am I?
3. What classes are we going to start in?
4. Does he/I/we have a shot of winning regionally/locally/nationally?
6. Aree their specific issues that will stop him/me from winning?
7. What are they?
8. Can these issues be corrected with training?
9. How long would you like to keep the horse?

I always appreciated honest questions, tried to answer them and also created a game plan complete with show goals and dates with my clients.

Remember, we can ride, it doesn't mean we can communicate. We often need help.

Charlie Horse said...

Hey Mugs, just wanted to let you know that I got a chance to use some of your "techniques" this week during my riding lessons and had a BLAST! WWMD totally came to mind while I was riding... ;)

We have a show coming up this weekend, and the horse I was put on is one of the only ones not showing, so since I'm not showing a school horse we got shoved together. This little mare is so fried from being bundled up and asked to do everything in "pleasure mode" that not only is she extremely show sour, but she's horribly riding sour too. She's spur-broke and has a 'sticky brake' so whenever you stop paying attention, or move both legs, or even think about clenching up the muscles in your stomach she slams on the brakes. She won't go in a straight line, either she's being sucked to the middle or super-glued to the rail, and she runs out through her shoulder like crazy. If you fight her, or correct her too quickly, her brains dribble out her nose and she loses it. In other words, she can make you look like an ass in about tenty different ways without breaking a sweat, and usually ends up with people clenched up, hanging on her face, forcing her to become more and more frustrated and ruining her perception of riding.

I got on her and literally spent the first twenty minutes just on 'go in the direction I send you'. I didn't ask her to collect, I didn't ask her to think about it, I asked her to move, and move now. If she stopped, I made my legs noisy and annoying until she moved foward, if she tried to run out through her shoulder I rocked her little world and hustled her around in a quick little circle, making her as uncomfortable as possible with my legs and seat, and then set her right back where I wanted her. The second she pointed her nose in the direction I wanted and moved her butt, I completely relaxed every muscle in my seat, took my leg off of her, and let her just follow her nose in a straight line. It literally took this horse almost a half an hour before it clicked in her little brain that I wasn't going to ask her to put each foot in a precise spot, or yank on her mouth, or collect her so much that she felt so claustrophobic she could barely move. I simply asked her to go in a straight line wherever I pointed. Period.

Thirty minutes later a little light bulb went off in her brain, and the difference between the second half of our ride and the first was like night and day. She was so used to being slammed into the ground every second and so confused about what people were asking her that even the small reward of just relaxing my seat and letting her move out changed her view of life completely. By the end of the lesson I had a horse who was lopeing a western pattern with a beautiful self-carriage, easy, flowing stride, and best of all, she was ENJOYING riding. My instructor was thoroughly impressed, and I had an absolute BLAST on this wonderful little horse that I went into the week not looking forward to riding AT ALL. The best thing about it was that she is one of the cleanest little movers and has an absolute GORGEOUS self-carriage. Her neck sits level, she wants to raise her ribcage and collect under you, and she's perfectly willing to do it once she knows what you want from her. I rode her around with a loop in the reins so long it was almost down by her knees, and she was perfectly happy to do everything I asked just like that. She's a superstar in disguise that just needed someone to talk to her in normal terms, stop micromanaging, and just let her do her thing the way she knows how to do it.

Just thought I'd share and let you know I really enjoyed being able to apply some of your ideas in a real-life situation and seeing the results first hand. It made me want to get out there and ride even more!

horsegenes said...

Thanks mugs... I knew (just by the way she reacted) that this was the "Dreaded" question. I will be more specific in what I ask. Funny thing... After writing my post - and re reading it to edit it - I pretty much saw my answer. It is odd how that works. A light came on and I kind of went "hey dumbshit - ask more specific questions and you will get more specific answers".

Charlie horse
That is awesome. Isn't it wonderful to find a horse like that and know you helped her. Congrats.

mugwump said...

Charlie Horse...Love it, love it, love it. Now if you can just find a way to buy that poor mare, save her and get yourself a showhorse!

HorseOfCourse said...

Mugs, you wrote: " ride my young ones down a bit more before we went into the herd"
What do you mean with the expression "ride down"?

And Charlie horse - that sounds like a magic moment on horse back! I can stay up in the skies for several days on those. It's easy to get addicted...

mugwump said...

Horse of Course - Cutting is quiet, relaxed and business-like. The horses are supposed to be relaxed and ready to work.
The kidlet and I were on two fairly young horses without a lot of time on cattle.
We haven't worked cows since I quit training.
I had been trail riding some, my daughter not so much.
We got to the clinic 10 minutes before it started and were called into the arena within 15 minutes of getting our horses saddled.
They were both what we call "cow fresh."
Which meant crazy excited and just a little stupid.
If we had "ridden them down" properly we would have trotted them for half an hour (at least), loped a little, stopped and turned some and basically had them calm and ready to go.They would have been a lot smarter by then too.
We both know better and were called on it.
Some horses need a little warm-p, some a lot, but they all need more than our goof balls received that morning.

mugwump said...

I mean warm-up!

HorseOfCourse said...

So I gathered *chuckles*

Sounds like two interesting clinics.
It's always nice to get some food for thoughts.

I love to hear about people riding into old age, like Mr Autry.
Gives the rest of us hope!
We used to have an older gentleman coming up to trailride once a week. He had a pacemaker and a replaced hip joint, so he couldn't walk in the forest anymore. But he could ride.
It worked very well for many years until one day when he had forgotten to check the girth before riding out. The saddle slid to the side and he fell off.
After that incident his son wouldn't let him ride anymore. I felt sorry for him. But maybe it was for the best. He was well into his 80ies at the time.

Laura Crum said...

kel, its funny. My five-year-old is currently with a very laconic trainer. I've known this guy for years and trust him, but asking him how the horse is doing is pointless. I always ask very specific questions, like mugwump says. To these I get answers. Short, often non-committal answers, but answers. But here's the funny part. We were going to bring the horse home and said so, and the normally silent trainer became postively a chatterbox in telling us everything the horse was doing (all good) and how much he would like to ride him a little more. Offered to ride him for a week more for free--he had some gather he wanted to take him on. So, there's a new trick I hadn't thought of. Say, "OK, thank you, we'll pick him up next week," and see what they say.

Amy said...

Shanster- I am having the same problems! ZKeep us informed, I want to know how it goes. I am sitting here with a sprained ankle (actually my fault for asking my horse to do something neither of us were ready for, not hers... she wasn't being snotty). Anyway, I took my extra free time and emailed a lesson instructor... something I have been needing to do since I moved last fall but have been procrastinating about.

What exactly does it mean to "run through the shoulder?" Is that when you, say, bend them to the left for a turn and they keep on going stright? My mare will do that too sometimes...

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mugs

I'm going to youknowwho's clinic on Sunday just so I can see what he does in the round pen. I've noted how he's dropped off the radar lately. Hmmm. Could it be people don't like their horses being laid down?


mugwump said...

Anon - Remember Ted? Product of his ground work. Remember the vet's paints? Products of his round pen work.I'm not sure why you want to watch that. I told them to take me off his mailing list.

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