Saturday, April 9, 2011

Everybody Knows Sumpthin'

I know I've been gone a bunch. But there is something volatile and horse related brewing around here. I am seriously P O'd and will be writing about it soon enough, bear with me.

Everybody Knows Sumpthin’ About Sumpthin’ By Janet Huntington

When I was a kid there were two styles of riding. You could ride Western, or English.

Since I first came in contact with horses on a regular basis at Mark Reynor Stables in the Springs I learned to ride Western. This meant I bobbed along in a heavy western saddle with a saddle horn and a string cinch. I learned what a curb bit was, how to ride with my left hand and to sit a trot. When our drill team rode in the Pikes Peak or Bust Parade and Rodeo we wore cowboy hats and spurs. We were really cool.

As I grew older and wiser I found out there were different kinds of western saddles. There were barrel saddles, roping saddles and fistula creating saddles made in Mexico. I learned to ride in a ring snaffle and with two hands.

I developed a liking for local horse shows. I discovered the difference between “morning events” and “speed events.” I liked to insist the speed events were cooler, but I secretly wished I could be better at the pleasure, halter and horsemanship classes that made up the morning events. Those horses and their riders seemed so calm and composed.

Periodically I would hear things from English riders along the lines of, “Western is fine for beginners, but real riding is done in an English saddle.” This made me defensive and mad. Then I got an English saddle and learned to post, ride my horse with contact and pop over a few jumps.

I developed an appreciation for close contact and free swinging stirrups, but found I got the same ride from my Monte Foreman balanced ride western saddle. I liked jumping bareback better too. So I was back in the western world before I learned about different types of English saddles and this time by choice.

The years went by and I discovered the difference between pleasure horses, gymkhana horses and happily for me reining horses. Reining was the event for me. It was cool. It was classy. I still got to go fast. Yeah baby. I learned about reining saddles, correctional bits and movable shanks. I rode with 8-foot split reins, with no knots tied in them. Slide stops and spins? Best thing ever. I started to appreciate finesse.

The art of dressage began to play a part in my world. By learning to use my legs and seat more than my hands I was able to improve my riding and my horse’s ability. But wait, wasn’t this close to the same theory I had learned from Monte Foreman? It was pretty darn close to Ray Hunt’s approach too. I still didn’t need to give up my western saddle. I just needed a close contact saddle and some common sense.

Then I found the world of cows. Reined cowhorse, Vaquero riding and cutting. Those aren’t called bosals, they’re hackamores. Bosalitos, mecates, spade bits, romel reins. More equipment, more layers of cool. I found the best contact I had ever had with my horses when I invested in a quality, custom cutting saddle.

By this time I had come up through many layers and levels of horsemanship. Which was better? Which was THE way to ride? The more I learned the less I knew. What trainer was right? Which method should be the one I adopt as my own? It turns out the best trainer is the one who knows more than me and is willing to share information.

The best method is the one slowly forming in my mind and my muscle memory as I keep learning and trying new things. I never skip an article in a horse magazine because it’s about a different riding discipline. I try to understand weight distribution and placement of seat bones no matter what kind a saddle is on my horse. Did you know the stirrup length and seat is identical for a person who rides dressage, cutting or reined cowhorse? Dressage folks look a lot straighter and not quite as dusty as the cow folk, but the shoulders, hips and heels align and hang the same.

I tend to remember the first three sentences of everything I read, but nothing else. This makes me really good at Trivial Pursuit and terrible in World History. It also has helped me pick up handy tips from different disciplines, no matter how far they run from my own preferences.

I learned from a barrel racing article to watch the tips of my horse’s ears through a turn. If they aren’t level the horse’s shoulders aren’t either. I found this applies to circles, spins and fence turns.

I was recently reading an article on hunter jumpers. It was about take-off points for proper jumps. The suggestion which stood out in my mind was to draw a three foot box in front of your jumps and try to place your horse’s front feet in the box before take-off. This would be a great exercise while setting up jumps for western versatility or Extreme Cowboy Races.

I know calvaletti exercises are great for flexibility and drive, something we could all use on our horses and a fun way to break up a routine.

Pleasure riders pointed out to me if I ride with my tongue on the roof of my mouth I’ll hold my head up straight.

Basic dressage, from theory to practice can be applied in all areas of reined cowhorse. I try to read and understand about everything to cross my desk about dressage.

I am not a fan of “Natural Horsemanship.” Or maybe it’s simply the term that bugs me. There’s nothing natural about us riding these horses. So let’s quit kidding ourselves. BUT! John Lyons taught me repetition is for my sake more than the horse’s. Ray Hunt taught me to keep the feet moving. The Australian guy taught me it only works to lope some horses down. Sometimes getting them tired gets them hysterical. I have to apologize to the spirit of Mr. Hunt for lumping him in with those other guys, but you catch my drift.

Over the years my education in the equine world has gone beyond saddles, leg position and theory. I’ve learned to be patient, I’ve learned to be open minded and I’ve learned to listen.

Even when I think whoever is telling me about the new and only way to train, is full of horse cookies, if I keep my ears open and my mouth shut I generally will pick up something to think about, something to try, another way to approach the world of horses.

Does anybody know anything about chariot racing?


GreatGotlands said...

Nothing to add. Just wanted to be first for once.


Gail said...

Kinda out in left field, but I've been watching whats going on in the world.
Please, please, please, if you've got a place, pay your taxes early. Stock up on you have access to water, besides a water meter.
I am SO afraid things are going to get "interesting" over the summer, and the next year.
If you don't believe me, watch what happens in the month of May.

Maddywithay said...

Super cool post mugs :] I picked up something super interesting too!!! "getting them tired makes them hysterical" I think my mare is like that! Especially when we're having a frustrating dressage ride, seems like the longer we try to fix things the more tired she gets and the more she over interprets every aide until shes a tight little unhappy ball! Love your posts :]

jenj said...

I don't know anything about chariot racing, but if you want to try jousting, drop me a line. Yes, I'm serious!

And I totally agree that for some horses, getting them tired makes them hysterical. I've got two of those - they are very different personality-wise but what's the same is that they're thinkers. If you give them something to do, something to concentrate on, they're with you 100% and will just about kill themselves trying for you. If you just try to tire them out... forget it. They just get worse and worse.

DarcC said...

I don't know from chariot racing but I have a matched pair of buckskin shetland ponies that used to do chuck wagon races, I bet they could help you out.

This article is fantabulous.

Story said...

Fantastic post. I started out with just backyard type riding on backyard ponies and going to pay-by-the-hour dude ranches, then moved into huntseat riding with formal lessons, dressage later on, breed shows, pleasure classes, even took a stab at saddleseat! Took a break but now I've come back doing reining. I tacked up my reiner in dressage gear last week for a little fun. I love it all! Every discipline has it's challenges and I'm thankful for all of the opportunities I've had to learn.

Justaplainsam said...

Great post Mugs! Im seriously looking at the dressage thing (a little different from the pleasure back ground) Im off to a dressage clinic in May hopefully to learn lots! Its amazing what you can learn if you open your mind.

Candy'sGirl said...

I agree! I've done a little of everything. I'm an English rider at heart, I'm just more comfortable in an English saddle, but I do have fun playing around at western. I dabble in barrels with my Arab. I've done a few clinics with a local reining guy and had a blast. I take dressage lessons whenever I can.

There aren't many disciplines I want to do long term, but I do enjoy taking the occasional lesson or doing the occasional clinic in a discipline I'm not familiar with.

Funder said...

LOL, I know you're being tongue in cheek, but how about endurance chariot racing?

Hope I can remain as openminded and eager to learn as you. :)

Golden the Pony Girl said...

I have been thinking the very same things lately. You can learn something valuable from any horse person. The trick is to know a gem from the rubbish I guess (esp with the big name NH folks imo)

I started by just pure coincidence at a hunter barn. I have recently switched to dressage and have even more recently switched to a predominately western barn. I think dressage and western have way more in common than dressage and hunters.
The more I know the less I see any lines at all. I learn things from books about teaching kids, and training dolphins. I am now interested in learning theory and rider bio mechanics. Who cares what kind of saddle!

Val said...

Excellent post. I find some great information in western riding articles and videos. Dressage is my love, but when I needed to know how to prepare my horse to change leads through the canter, reining videos turned out to be the most helpful and down-to-earth. I like to take a little of everything, especially if it works!

Muriel said...

Great post as usual.
How about a link between new mind set and aging process? ^-^
We become wiser as we age, don't we.

I can usual recognise the age group of poster/blogger just by their affirmations. The 25-30 are the most arrogant with black and white theory.
Then people start to mellow.
Around 50 they usual are all about fun and peace and love. Around 60 they are all about emotional and softy thinking.

It is just life, as we age we become wiser, and we keep our mouth shut ^-^

Breathe said...

I love gathering knowledge and finding the bits the click. Weirdly I use my horse, training at work.

Many people do get hysterical if you lope them.

Hope your other situation resolves.

mommyrides said...

I figure as long as I can keep an open mind I can learn a little something from every one. Most importantly to keep my own mouth shut :D

baymare said...

This post came at so the right time.

Thank you.

I rode in a clinic with a protege of Buck Brannaman's this past weekend. I could probably i.d. Buck from a photo, but if you asked me to tell you his training philosophy, I could only offer a vague summation. Neither bad nor good.

Before describing this clinic, let me please note that in the past year I've ridden with a variety of clinicians including a 3 d eventer from CO, a reining trainer from NE, a dressage instructor from NE and a working cowhorse guru from CA. At every one of those clinics I was able to learn something from them that I can incorporate into my own so-called training regimen here at home (I'm a total wannabe with my horse).

At the same time, I've had to use my bullshit sifter to sort out things that weren't going to work for me.

Getting back to this past clinic-I did pick up some good stuff to go home with and I did sort out some stuff that isn't going to fly at my house. What got me though, and put me in a bad place for part of the clinic, was the attitude of the clinician. While he was talented and firm in his beliefs, he kept saying that this (what he was teaching) is the only correct way to do this horsemanship thing. Granted, I'm paraphrasing, but it's how I'll remember it. I thought, how can you be so close-minded and yet ask us to be open-minded to your way of thinking? I had to overcome this crap thought before I could see some good coming out of this clinic. And for the money I paid, there should have been NO closed minds.

So again Mugs, thank you for this post.

Amy said...

Great post. My trainer's passion and primary showing discipline is Saddleseat, although she did show aras and morgans western and has also done hunt. I find that a saddleseat mindset i awesome for teaching me western... I've spent the last two weeks doing a posting trot in a flat saddle to work on my leg position and strength, and it's paid off.... last time I got in my western saddle I felt so flipping secure it was ridiculous. And today my mare did a sideways spook at... nothing... I lost a stirrup and my upper body caved in, but I didn't fall.

I knew nothing about saddleseat before I met my trainer but it's pretty applicable to riding in general, especially in helping balance, posture, and strnegth.

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