Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All I’ve Got on Stops

Now that we covered the basic Monte Foreman Stop let’s fancy things up a bit.

The first stop I showed you involves footfall patterns and a hand on the neck as a cue to stop.
This is where I first learned about the effect of timing. I studied Mort’s footfall patterns so thoroughly I hear “Now, now, now” in the back of my brain the entire time I ride.

So using my body to stop my horse was pretty easy for me once I learned to melt into my horse and relax my legs.

“Melt into my horse and relax my legs ”is the stickler here.

I used to ride with my feet shoved down into my stirrups. Hard enough I was damaging my knees. This made my upper body tight so I would lean forward and back trying to stay balanced. As my shoulders swung back my legs would counterbalance by swinging forward and vice versa. The worst part of this was it meant I rode entirely with my hands and out of balance.

I developed this habit because of the Monte Foreman method. It teaches the rider to stay light in the seat and balanced over the horse’s shoulders.

We were taught to actually rise out of the saddle during a stop to free the horse's shoulders so he could slide.

This not only got me in my rigid funny way of riding, but it got our horses to stop upright, like they were sitting down, instead of the forward reaching, front legs pedaling 30 foot slides we see now.

I’m not blaming the riding method for my errors. Remember I trained myself off of a very few lessons, so I’m sure my translation of things got muddled.

But, when I learned to get down in my seat, relax my legs and get in true balance my stops got waaaay better.

Much like riding bareback, my seat comes from keeping my butt in the center of the saddle. My legs and arms are now tools for guiding and propulsion, not for keeping me on the horse.

I’m doing some of my old balance lessons on Loki these days. She almost turned out from under me on a cow the other night. I’m getting rusty. Loki seemed amused.

So back to the stop. When I teach a horse to stop nowadays it’s a little different.

When I’m starting a colt at first I wait for him to stop on his own. When he stops I exhale so my weight sinks in the saddle then take my legs off of him. I don’t stick my legs way out, I just make sure there’s an inch or so of air between him and me. Then I get off, loosen my cinch and we’re done.

After the first few rides I’ll wait till he’s walking around, then exhale and take my legs off. He’ll just about always stop because he knows I’ll get off if he does.

If he doesn’t respond to my cue I’ll go back to waiting for him to stop first then try again after a few more rides.

Once he understands what I want I’ll stop from the trot and then the lope.

I always end the ride when he stops. So I don’t stop until I’m done riding.

Then I quit getting off, but let him rest on a loose rein. If he fidgets I send him forward and we work some more than try again.

This is usually two weeks in and I haven’t pulled back on him yet. But he’s stopping pretty darn good off my seat.

When I finally pull it’s a beat after he’s stopped. Then I work my reins (left to right instead of straight back) until he rocks back a little. Eventually this turns into a step back.

Once I start this I ask my horse to step back every time he stops. From a lope, a trot or a walk, he needs to rock back.

At this time I usually have a pretty cute two to five foot stop going on.

If I am teaching a broke horse to stop I basically do the same thing, but I’ll exhale, take off my legs and then pull him down with my hands.

Other than that everything’s the same, including getting off as soon as he stops. So be ready for some short rides for awhile.

I progress from the walk when my broke horse stops before I have a chance to pull.

The next day I’ll trot and quit for the day when he stops before I can pull him.

Then on to the canter.

After That I will give him a minimum of a 20 second rest every time he stops, but we go ahead and have a normal work out.

That’s it for today. Remember, we aren’t pulling and we still haven’t said whoa.

I ran across a pretty cool photo of me doing a Monte Foreman stop on Okie in back in the 70's. I was wearing a little halter top ala Charlies Angels and everything.

Of course now I can't find it. If I do I'll post it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yes I Have Disappeared Again

Not much to say..I'm gone for the moment, but am writing and thinking about the blogs. Hang in there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cupcake/Scared or Mad

When I came into the barn the next morning Cupcake had his head out over the stall door like everybody else. His ears were pricked forward and he didn’t disappear from view with a snarl as I brought his morning feed.

I stood and waited until he backed away from the door before I undid the latch and entered the stall. He stood against the far wall, as he had been taught, waiting for his breakfast.

His expression was quiet and patient.

I couldn’t believe it.

I put his hay in the feeder and dumped his pellets on top of it. I turned around and looked at him again. I was transfixed. Same peaceful, polite, bright eyed expression.
He finally nickered when I stood too long.

I almost jumped, but I caught myself. Cupcake didn’t need me to scare him, he needed me to move so he could eat.

I stood at the door and watched him. He would turn and give me a long, measured look periodically, but there was no tail swish of impatience, no stomp of a foot or squeal.

When I cleaned stalls he simply moved out of my way as I worked. I found myself humming the same mindless tune I hummed around my own horses. The tune I often hummed when I was completely relaxed and safe.

I pulled him from his stall as soon as Rainy pulled in the driveway. I knew she would still help me, but she was running out of patience with my Cupcake project. She wanted my focus back on her own colts.

I put the rope halter on first. Cupcake stood perfectly still with his nose stuck out high and to the side as I slipped the serreta on over it.

His jaw tensed when I tightened it, but it was the only sign his nose was sore.
I had lead ropes on both the halter and the serreta as before and made sure the serreta had plenty of slack.

Cupcake followed me out of the barn quietly. I walked steadily and I hoped confidently, but my skin crawled and the muscles on my back clenched into knots feeling him behind me. I had to fight the impulse to look behind me.

Rainy came up to the arena just as I clipped the long line to the serreta.

“Is he sick?” She asked.

“Nope, just very careful,” I said.

I played out the longe line and sent him out. He trotted to the right, carefully tossing his head up and down a few times, then settling into a cramped, stilted trot.

I asked him to stop and he slammed on the breaks before I could even tweak my finger.

“He’s a new horse!” Rainy said.

“I don’t know about that, but he’s sure smart enough not to fight with the serreta anymore.,” I told her.

I eased him down to a stop and swapped the longe line over to the halter.

Cupcake moved out and flipped his head when he realized the pressure had eased.
The serreta banged his nose and he immediately dropped back to the careful, measured steps he was taking before.

“OK, it’s time to give him a break,” I said, ”I ‘ve had about all I can take with this thing.”

I brought him down again and unbuckled the serreta. I eased it over his ears and hung the evil thing up on the fence.

Cupcake stepped out again and he lengthened with each stride as he felt the freedom of the rope halter.

I stepped in and he floated away, I stepped toward his head and he slowed.

The best part about the whole deal was his relaxed eye and the ear that swiveled to stay on me as he trotted around.

I let him trot for another ten minutes before I brought him down. His neck was sweaty and his nostrils puffed in rhythm with his heaving sides. He lifted his head into the breeze.

“He's enjoying himself,” Rainy said.

“This is probably the most exercise he’s had in months,” I said, “that didn’t involve trying to kill somebody anyway.

“It will be nice when I can turn him out,” I added.

“When do you think that’s going to happen?” Rainy asked.

I walked up to Cupcake and put my hand up on his forehead. He snorted once and raised his head not quite out of my reach. I scratched him gently, old hair and scurfy dead skin came loose in a flood. He looked at me steadily and his tight little chin began to relax.

“I’m thinking pretty soon,” I said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mouthy Monday

So we finally get around to riding our colt for the first time and Kidlette tells me she wants to get on him for the first ride.
This plan is totally OK with me because I’m always happy to pass off the first ride on a colt, even one as quiet and sweet as Leland.
In our usual unorganized fashion we forgot to pick up a saddle from the barn as we headed to the rescue. I wasn’t too worried, it was just the first ride, which usually takes a total of five minutes or so and I figured we could borrow a saddle from Julie the rescue operator.
I was very pleased with my little guy. He’s out on over 800 acres of good grass with his new best friend herd mates and he was fine with me walking up, putting on his halter and leading him away. He whinnied to his friends when they finally left us and headed back to the herd, but he never dragged his feet.
I brought him in to the barn and tied him to a tie rail. Kidlette took over and groomed him and scratched on him, pretty much getting to know him, since I’m the only one who has handled him to date.
Julie was out showing a horse and Kidlette had pretty much run out of things to do with him.
I like to get the little ones ridden and back out before I lose their interest and they start to get anxious, so we needed to get a move on.
“You know, he’ll probably be fine if you just hop up bareback,” I said.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Kidlette said.
“Go ahead if you’re comfortable,” I told her.
My daughter has ridiculous legs. 36 inch length, size 2. Think praying mantis.
So to test him out she just swung her leg up and propped her boot up on his back. Yes, it was pretty funny looking.
“I think he’s OK,” she said.

Leland looked around and cocked his hip.

So Kidlette just slithered up on him. He didn’t blink.

When she asked him to go left it took him a second, but he went. We both got pretty excited when he rocked back, crossed his front legs over soft and correct and walked off, following the hand which guided his nose, and then did the same when Kidlette flipped the lead rope over his head and asked him to go right.

Very, very cool. Keep in mind, this is my experimental colt. He has been handled, probably not more than 25 times in his entire life.
He is light, responsive, inquisitive and calm.
I keep waiting for this approach to quit working, but so far I wouldn’t change a thing.
Julie is going crazy, she wants to love and pet on him and stuff him with carrots.
But she is keeping everybody away from him and not giving him any treats, which I appreciate.
Of course Kidlette is a nose kisser beyond compare so it’s not like she didn’t do her share while she had her chance.

The thing is, he has not been handled enough to have learned any negative behaviors. I have gotten after him twice and both times were a quick snap of the rope to clear him out of my space. I haven’t ever inadvertently taught him to crowd or lean or tune me out because each time I handle him I’ve got a clear plan and I get out of Dodge before I can muddy things up. I also think the long gaps between contact have helped us both. I’m not threatening, but he’s respectful, maybe just because he’s never quite sure what I’m up to.
It’s a very interesting process.
He decided to turn a pretty gold this year after being about white since he was born. I think I’m going to like this boy. Even if I do have to call him Leland.

And then...we hear from crankymare, who writes about dealing with the sour rotten result of too much of the wrong handling and what it takes to turn one around.

I just finished reading a post on Mugwump chronicles: .
I found it so interesting, I thought I'd post my thoughts here.
When I started this blog, Lic was a very desensitized horse... she ignored my leg, and eventually found that bucking, biting, and acting like a complete shit would get me off.
This was my own fault... I looked for a trainer, and couldn't find one I liked. So I did groundwork, Clinton Anderson style.
I did goofy things like walking her like a dog, and hopping up to ride back home. (Bareback, no helmet, and in a halter, on my shit of a horse. Smart, huh?)
Finally, I was able to ride on the trails, but dammit, I wanted to be able to do arena work too!
She was a total nightmare in the arena... balking, bucking, biting, I just could not get her to go.
I finally found the perfect trainer... my trainer knows when to push, when to reassure, and when the horse just needs to get laced with a whip.
When I first started with horses, I thought it was mean to hit a horse.
Now I realize that it's mean NOT to hit a horse, if they need it.
I saw my trainer back the mare up, flex her laterally, put a (short, english) spur in her side to get her to move, yell with the "pissed-off mom voice," and make her do endless circles... I also saw her lavishly praise even the tiniest improvements.
She's a keeper. Now, finally, Lic is at that place Mugs mentioned... sensitive enough to respond to light cues, but desensitized enough that she won't wig out if I make a mistake.
Case in point: The other day, I was working Lic in a large round-pen sized area in the lot next door. She had given me a good day- a flawless walk/jog warmup, and I actually got about 3 laps at the canter, each way... there was some bucking involved, but nothing outrageous.
She is also starting to understand that bucking=getting popped in the mouth with the bit. So, as a reward, I allowed her to canter up a little path in the 2 acre lot.
At first, she got excited and threw a bucking fit when I wouldn't let her all-out run. So, after another 5 minutes of cantering circles, we tried again... and she was fine, almost hitting that rocking-chair cadence.
This is a huge stride for he, she has a lot of balance issues at the canter, and I take these improvements as a sign that all of our hard work is paying off.
So, we go up one side of the property, and double back to go the other way. We were cantering again, and all of a sudden we're OMGI'MGONNA DIE! running, with her head in the air.
I breathe, and sit back, and slowly pull back on the reins. (It was really hard for me to learn to relax when my horse is wigging out!) We stop, turn and face the threat.... a boston terrier. *Sigh*
Okay, so we go up, Lic puts her head down and snuffles at the thing, and I turn her, and we continue cantering the way we were going before. We round a corner (I live in a hilly area) and we suddenly see a car pulling away from the school that is adjacent to the yard.
This time, I didn't sit the spook so pretty. As we were already cantering, Lic very nimbly changed her direction... from forwards to SIDEWAYS. Nice. Well, I lost my seat, meaning my ass was about 1 foot to the left of the saddle... but my feet were still in the stirrups, and my hands were still on the reins. I ended up literally sitting on the mare's side, hanging on her mouth with the reins. (I know, I should have let go, but it was a bad moment).The point of all this is that Lic would have had a legitimate reason to launch me... instead, she stopped after about 4 strides, allowing me to unceremoniously drop to the ground.
Of course, the lady in the car witnessed the whole fiasco.... she felt bad, but I assured her it was no big deal and I was fine. I got back on, rode for 10 more minutes, cantered the damn straightaway one more time without incident, and called it a day.
The point of this story? My mare, who can be very laid back one moment and spooking like a bat out of hell the next, responded to my screwed up stop cue, without responding to the whole "rider hanging off of her side" thing.
I'd rather she had either not spooked, or I had ridden it better, but with practice, I know that better riding on my part will translate to more confidence, and less spooking, on her part. And compared to six months ago, when asking her to canter in an arena would have been a complete disaster? Her improvement so far is amazing, and I expect more amazing things to come.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All I Got On Stops II

Back on Dee Dee’s question about stopping. This balanced ride stop I’m showing you guys will get your horse stopped, now, and he will be nicely balanced over his hocks with his butt tucked under him. The rider will push on the horse’s neck with her rein hand if she rides one handed and with her dominant hand if she rides with two.

This is a western stop. If you want your horse to stop square and evenly balanced over front and hind we’ll have to get a dressage person to guest blog, because I don’t know how to do that one.

The balanced ride stop is not going to give you a 20 foot slide either. But it will develop the base to get one and will give the rider the feel and timing needed to create a slide stop on the horse.

We were talking about knowing where each foot is while the horse is moving. By now you should be tuned in to the four beat gait of the walk, the two beat side to side and forward reach of the trot and the three beat of the canter. If you have gone to the four beat of the gallop you need to quit having so much fun.

I’ll start you off at the walk. Walk along the rail of your arena or in a flat spot on the trail or pasture. Count out loud. If you are mocked so be it, your critics will hush when they see your cool stop.

As the left hind foot leaves the ground I want you to call out “Now, Now, Now.”

When you are sure you have it right say “Now” at the beat and push on your horse’s neck right where the neck joins the wither.

With the next beat you pull back until he stops.

When he stops relax your reins and be still.

Yes, it’s really that simple.

The key is all four feet must no longer be in motion.

All of them.

No leaky feet.

I prefer the horse completely stands still and relaxes. BUT I am also aware there are jiggers and fretters and boogerbrains out there. If you have one of these then let him walk after you get all four feet stopped even if it’s for a split second.

Offer to let him stand still by relaxing your reins once all four feet stop moving. Not one, not two, not three, but all four.

If at all possible give him a cue to go forward before he thinks of moving. This will eventually get Boogerbrain to think your in charge of moving forward and he will begin wishing he could stop. But that’s another day.

Now call out your right hind leg as it leaves the ground.

Say “Now” and push on his neck as the right hind leaves the ground and on the next beat pull until he stops.

When Boogerbrain beats you to the stop (with all four feet), before you can pull on him, relax your reins, give him a big hug and be done for the day.

Remember this one. When he stops before you pull, then don’t pull. If he gives half a try then starts up again pull him down without warning. Then start the exercise again.

Next day take a few practice runs at the walk. Find your rhythm and just push on the neck instead of saying “Now.” Don’t say “Whoa” yet, that comes later.

Remember to pull on the next beat unless your horse stops before you can pull.

Now move up to the trot.

Watch your horse’s shoulders. Don’t lean! Just watch.

Because the trot is a two-beat gait you can push on your horse’s neck when the left shoulder goes forward and know he will be stopping on the next beat or when the left hind leg is coming forward.

When you can get a solid stop with all four feet no longer moving at the walk and the trot you can quit for the day.

You don’t have to count out loud anymore and you’re still not saying “Whoa.” Your horse is stopping at a touch on his neck. Pretty cool huh?

Day number three dawns and we’ll warm up at the walk and trot using our touch on the neck, without conversation.

Now move up to the lope. I would like to think you guys know your leads, but the beauty of this stop is you don’t have to. You will understand leads better by learning this stop though.For the timing on this stop you can go either of two ways. I guess you can do both, but keep the brain exploding thing in mind.

As you lope along you will feel your butt rise in the air and then slide down into the saddle, rise and slide, rise and slide.

We’re going back to calling out here. Call out slide, slide, slide, as you come down in the saddle.
Or, if you’re fond of the,"Now, now, now,” you can call out when Boogerbrain’s outside shoulder is forward.

Either way, you want to give your horse the stop cue as your butt slides back into the saddle or when the outside front leg is forward.

Give the cue and if he doesn’t stop by the next beat pull him down until his feet aren’t moving.

That’s it. Go play with it for awhile. This works for new riders, or riders who know what’s up. It works for sour, rotten horses, colts and broke horse.

It just works. Go play and we’ll talk about adding a “Whoa” and fancier stops next time.

Let me know how this works for you….

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mouthy Monday

This is a lovely story from I like the clean, to the point writing.Of course any horse story is good horse story as far as I'm concerned.

I was boarding my Warmblood gelding "Bailey" at a Quarterhorse farm a few miles from my house. A very good friend of mine was helping me rehab him from a reoccurring lameness.

She and the owner of the place took a trip down to Oakdale, California to pick up 4 AQHA fillies. The plan was to train them and resell them to show on the AQHA circuit.

It was fall of 1999 and the horse market was booming.

When the fillies arrived, they were surprisingly small. All 4 of them were different shades of bay and they were half wild. They were well bred, but the owner had fallen on hard times.

The mares had been turned out in large field on a roping ranch. They were barely halter broke and they seem convinced that everyone that came near them had plans to throw a rope over them.

On the way up from California, they were named after the Spice Girls. As the story goes, it was 2am and the ladies that were hauling them kept referring to them as this bay one or that bay one.

Grace's name for her first few years in Washington was "Baby Spice". I don't recommend that you bring it up in her presence!

I was cleaning stalls at the barn to pay for board on my gelding. I was working the night shift at a factory. I had been there for over 4 years and I hated it!

My gelding who I thought was my forever horse kept bucking me off. Riding I thought, was the one thing in life I was good at and now I spent most of my time in the dirt.

My favorite part of the day was going to the barn in the morning to clean stalls. I had to drag myself out of there to get to work on time.

I had a really bad attitude from my job, that I had carried over into my marriage. I was in a very negative place most of the time. I felt like there was a black cloud that followed me everywhere (years later I now know I had created the black cloud).

One rainy morning I had my head down cleaning stalls, with a storm of negative thoughts going through my head. I entered Grace's over sized stall with the manure cart and pick fork, closing the door behind me.

Her stall was trashed, she was a grinder who would step in her manure and grind it into the shavings. I would have to strip all the bedding out of her stall and replace it.

Great, one more crappy thing to add to my day. I put my head down and got to work, ignoring the cute little mare in the corner.

With each fork full of urine soaked shavings, I dove deeper into my angry thoughts. Why did I have such a crappy job? Why couldn't I just ride horses for a living? Why didn't I have all those things? Why did it have to rain here all the time? Why was I so mad all the time? Why me? Why dammit!

Suddenly I felt someone staring at me. I looked up from the brim of my hat and saw too big brown eyes staring back at me. Grace had walked right up to me. She was standing toe to toe with me and was looking right through me.

She lowered her head and put her soft nose right on my chest. She exhaled and looked me right in the eye. As her warm breath washed over me all thoughts fled from my head. I felt the pressure in my chest release. I pressed my forehead against hers and just let go. For the first time in a very long time I was "in the moment". She didn't move, that half wild little mare just stood there and let me hold on for as long as I needed to. That was it, I was hers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Scared or Mad/Tally

Tally was back in the broodmare pen when I came to work. She stood huddled in the middle of the mares. Her bright bay coat was streaked salty white with dried sweat.
I walked up to the main house. My Corgi/Jack mix ran ahead, growling with excitement. She just loved hanging out with the Boss’s pack of dogs.
I walked around back so Carolyn would see me walk by the window.
“C’mon in, the coffee’s on!” She hollered.
I knocked once and stepped inside. The boss slapped his knees and my little dog Dinah jumped in his lap.
“You are such a nut,” he said as she wiggled with excitement.
I sat down at the big table in the kitchen. Carolyn handed me two mugs of strong dark coffee. The sun streamed through the windows and against my back, warming the room enough for me to shrug out of my jacket.
She sat down across from me and I slid her coffee over to her.
Carolyn looked tired and old. Her normally bright eyes were dull and her smile was forced.
“How’s Bill?” I asked.
“He’s hurt really bad,” she told me.
I took a sip of coffee and tried to hide my wince at the bitter brew.
“Do you know what happened?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said, “his horses all showed up at the neighbors and they drove over when Bill didn’t answer the phone. Tally was the only one saddled. When they went up to the place they found Bill.”
Carolyn’s eyes started to fill.
“He’s all broken up. He’ll be out of work for months.”
“Why is Tally here?” I was afraid to hear the answer, but figured I’d better ask it.
Carolyn nodded towards the front room.
“He says he’s digging a hole and putting her in it.”
I sighed and looked down at the table. I traced a horse head in a puddle of coffee.
“Hey boss, have you got a minute?”
I refilled my coffee as I walked into the front room.
Dinah lay on her back in the boss’s lap. She turned and gave me a goofy dog grin as I came in. The boss wasn’t looking at me. His face was grim but he gently rubbed Dinah’s dainty white paws between his fingers.
“Why don’t we talk about this,” I started.
“There’s nothing to say,” he told me, “the mare is crazy and she needs to be put down.”
“How about if I buy her from you?”
“I can’t afford to get you hurt. We need you to ride.”
“Maybe she needs a different approach.” I said.
The boss finally looked at me. His dark eyes were impossible to read.
“What can you do different?”
The air lay heavy between us. My coffee was cold but I made a show of drinking it while I thought about what I should say.
“The exact opposite of whatever Bill did,” I finally said.
The Boss snorted and looked out the window.
His face lightened just a hair.
“I’m telling you that horse is out of the Hoop,” he said, “she’s broken inside.”
“Don’t go all Lakota on me Boss,” I said, “you know I can’t win an argument once you go there.”
He barked a single sharp laugh and a slight smile softened him further.
We sat in silence for several minutes, the only break came when I went to refill my coffee. Carolyn gave me a worried look and I shrugged. There was no way to tell where the boss would go on this one.
“I don’t want to be responsible for you getting hurt,” he finally said.
“If you don’t give me a chance it will gnaw on you,” I said, “the weight of this will get you, you know it will.”
“OK,” he finally said, “but you have to promise me you won’t get busted up, the weight of that would kill me.”
We settled on a price of $500, a fraction of what they had paid for her.
Of course I was quick to point out, a horse out of the Hoop wasn’t worth anything more.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

West Nile Recall

Intervet Previnile West Nile is definitely being recalled because it is causing anaphylactic shock and death in a number of horses. I completed an interview with the Intervet company. The company is only recalling the West Nile vaccine but couldn't tell me if the anti-virus itself or the adjuvant was the problem. Nor could she tell me if the adjuvant was the same in all of Intervet vaccines. A horse in Fountain died immediately after receiving the Prevenile West Nile vaccine. This is a tough deal.Since most horses who have a severe enough anaphylaxis reaction to die have had a smaller, sometimes unnoticeable reaction before I can't help but wonder what will happen to the horses who received this shot this year but didn't have a visible reaction.Pass it on.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mouthy Monday & West Nile Vaccine Warning

Sorry to cut in here, but this is scary stuff. It just came in at the paper...

Intervet ( Prevenile) West Nile Virus Vaccine is being recalled due to horses going into anaphylactic shock from the vaccine. Check your vaccine vials! All Intervet, Prevenile products need to be returned to the distributer.

Here's a great story from Barrelracer20x- Back in the day I was known to sneer at barrel racers - come on, be honest, we've all tried to justify our horses training choices by making assumptions about other people and their horse interests at one time or another...She proves there's a lot of training and good horsemanship that goes into a good barrel horse.

Heads up guys! I'm running short of stories. Let's get those fingers a typin'. Need some ideas? How about funny horse stories? What has your horse done to you, to his pasture the barn cat....? These Tally/Cupcake stories are oppressive enough. Let's lighten the load a little, wanna?

Barrel 20X -

A cool morning is always appreciated around my house.

It usually evokes two emotions for me, and has since I was about 15.

When I first open my eyes and take in the world around me, I'm more than 100% content to laze around in bed and literally just lay around in the cool morning hours. Nothing makes for better sleep than a cool morning just before the sun gets to showing his face.

The other emotion is the one I should follow more often--the urge to go catch a horse, and do something constructive!

This time last year I was getting up at 5 a.m. every morning to catch my barrel horse and work on conditioning him.

We'd ride the fence line of our little place at a long trot, building his wind a little more with every stride. A snaffle bit and split reins went along way to relax him and take some of his anxiety away about life in general.

He's a laid back sort of feller most of time anyway, but when it would come time to saddle up, he became a worry wart.

He never made a nuisance of himself, but he was apt to push on the bit and hollow his back out, blow a lead change on a circle, just little niggling things that drove me crazy.

We went back to basics-stopping straight on a loose rein, flexing, keeping an arc from nose to tail as we loped a circle, backing without hesitation. Sidepassing, stopping without throwing his head straight up in the air was my biggest obstacle--it drove me crazy when I would ask him to slow down or stop!

For years he'd been ridden in a tie down no matter what-don't get me wrong, I'll still crack one out and put a horse in one if I think it's really necessary.

I used one on him after I first acquired him, but as time has gone on, I've tried to teach him that he CAN travel without one. That he doesn't have to look for that noseband every time he goes to stop...that it's easier to follow his nose when I ask him to give than to do things on his own and muscle through a turn like a musk ox.

He was just as nice and broke as they come when he first came to me, but he just didn't handle like I wanted him to. I'm proud that he'll lope off with his head low, that a bump of an outside leg will tip his nose toward whichever leg I bumped with, and that I can run him without a tie down now.

He's a more responsive, softer, thinking horse now. Before, he didn't think, he responded, and it was usually rough! The way he's built makes him rough to ride at a trot, so long hours of long trotting allowed him to learn to carry himself differently, and not ride like such a lumber wagon!

He still has his moments where he wants to do things the easy way, but the longer I have him the fewer and farther between those moments become.My boy is standing out in the pasture under the pecan tree as I type; he's sidelined for the foreseeable future with yet another "ouchie" as Jackson calls it.

Just through the thick part of his left hind heel bulb, it's an odd place for a cut. Every time he put weight on that hind foot (which he does all the time now, thankfully!) it spreads the wound apart. It's healing well, my darlin' husband has done a wonderful job keeping me supplied with all sorts of powders and potions to keep Woodrow on the mend.

I'm so thankful to have him--he does all he can to spare me any sort of hurt any time any of our horses are hurt. I tend to be a tad emotional when it comes to the horses, they're like my big four legged babies. I hate feeling helpless when it comes to them, when it's so obvious that they're hurting and don't know how to ask for relief.

As Woodrow makes his way out from under the pecan tree I can't help but smile. As he stood dozing, the other geldings ambled away from him, intent on finding more tender shoots of grass to munch no doubt.

When he woke from his nap, he jerked his head up, realizing he stood alone-and he trotted off. No limping, no bobbing of his head or hesitation to stride out across the trap. He's resigned himself to thrusting his head through the fence, stealing bites from our yard of freshly mowed grass....once again, in the shade.

He's a happy sort, it's never hard to spot him. Look for the closest shady spot, and you'll find him. He's my faithful steed through and through-I believe he would eat rocks if I offered them from the palm of my hand. A short whistle and a "Ro Ro...come on!" will bring him to the barn lot as fast as he's comfortable with.

It never fails to bring a smile to my face, he's as predictable as the day is long. When it comes to matters of the feed bucket and his belly, make no mistake, that feed in the trough is worth all the grass in the pasture to him! He's always up for one more bite of whatever it is that you might have...And he's not above lipping at pockets for treats!

He learned quickly that Jackson will bring treats just as long as he would stand at the gate with his head down where Jackson could pet him. I love to watch Jackson with the geldings. All four of them become different guys when he comes around...their heads drop, ears come up, and for a minute or two they even stop their fighting. Looking for apple flavored horse treats, bites of carrot and pieces of cattle cake are all that's on their minds when the little man is around.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

If I Wrote a Book

My step-daughter and I were talking horses (as always) on the phone.

She was teasing me about how brief I'm becoming in my training philosophy.

We figured I would only have a three chapter book.

Chapter One: If it hurts a kid or horse it's wrong.

Chapter Two: If it works it's a good idea.

Chapter Three: If it doesn't work try something else.