Search This Blog

Friday, March 26, 2010

Whiskey- "Watch him he bucks!"

  The first year I Team Penned, I was not doing so well..  My old horse, Red, was just getting too old to work him that hard, and my newer horse, Ricky, was still learning about cows.  I decided I needed a horse that had a bit more experience to get me to the next level.

  I watched this beautiful bay horse cut cows like no other, and found out the owner was looking to sell him.  I gave him a try and he was really good.  We had better times than I ever had.  I started to notice how the guy was riding him, and it made me sick!  He jabbed the horse with his spurs hard, just to go into a walk!  He never asked lightly first.  I knew that horse would be even better with someone who treated him with respect.  So I made my offer to purchase him.  Just before I handed over the money, the horse ended up getting hurt in some barbed wire where he was pastured.  I told the owner that I would take him anyway if the vet thought he would be sound. 

  A couple weeks later the vet gave me the okay and I bought him.  In the following weeks Whiskey and I moved up in the standings of both the team penning associations I was in.  We were a pretty good team.  The previous owner, feeling sellers remorse, offered to buy him back for more than he paid..  Of course I said no.

  The previous owner told me I had to wear spurs when I rode him, and not knowing too much I did..  I thought if I was diligent about using my calves first, I would be fine, and I was at first..  I didn’t take into account adrenaline coming into the picture.  A couple months into competing on Whiskey, I found out that wasn’t the brightest thing I ever did..  We were riding really well that day, and going for the best time of the day.  We had all three cows cut out and headed for the pen, when the cow I was pushing decided to cut back to the herd.  I put my heel on Whiskey, not used to the added affect of the spur, and he went to bucking like he was a bronco at the NFR!  I was told I put in a 90 point ride, before I got him straightened out and finished penning the cows.  That was the LAST time I ever wore spurs on him!  A couple of months later I ran into the man (I use that term loosely) who “broke” Whiskey.  He proceeded to tell me how dangerous Whiskey was, and that he would surely hurt somebody.  I just grinned to myself and put my youngest daughter (7 years old) on him so she could pen in the youth division.  She won a check!

  We went on to get top ten in both the associations I rode in, and without the spurs, he didn’t buck again.  I finally got my other horse to a point where I could pen on him pretty good and I passed whiskey on down to my 7 year old daughter, who not only won more money with him in team penning, but went on to show him in jumping competitions, getting top ten in her first major show against 30 other competitors, as well as winning at barrels, poles, pleasure, flag race, keyhole, and anything else she entered!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Foxy- A New Beginning

After I lost Ricky, I decided I needed a new horse right away, before I had too much time to think about it. I needed to get back up in the saddle as soon as possible.

We looked at several horses the next couple of weeks. I had just looked at this little sorrel mare a friend of ours had for sale. At first sight, I thought she was way too short and I really didn’t want another sorrel, but even through her heavy winter coat, I could tell she was built right. I wasn’t sure about her and so decided to continue looking.

That night I had a dream that I was riding my Ricky. I was team penning, like we always did, and suddenly he was so amazing! He was hooked on the cow better than ever before! My attention went to the ears that were pinned on the cow we were cutting, and instead of Ricky’s dark chestnut ears, I saw little sorrel ears! It was that sorrel mare we had looked at the day before! Okay, I had to buy her..

Yeah, maybe that is a crazy way to decide on my next mount, but it all worked out… eventually.

My friend who sold me Foxy told me that “She never offered to buck.” I don’t know if she ever did offer to buck with him, (being 250#’s and her being about 700#’s) but she went straight up the first time I ever got on her! That was not all,.. She was terrible with her hind end. Anyone who came in striking distance, she would cow kick! She didn’t do any of this, before, when I went to look at her.

Well I have dealt with horses that bucked before, just not ones that were that good at it! This is the point that I really got good at my ground work. Every time I felt her tense up and seen those ears get all pinned back, I would jump off and work her from the ground. I had to get her to flex and disengage, move forward, backwards, and around me until she relaxed. Then I would hop on and try it again. This is the way it went for several months and again every time I had been off her for a while, even still.

Now with the kicking issue, it resolved it’s self. She had gotten an abscess shortly after I brought her home. For some reason she let me soak her foot and doctor her twice daily without any fuss. It took a while for her to trust anyone else to be around her hind end, but she never did it to me again. I think she knew I was helping her. There is no other explanation for it.

Since then Foxy and I have become a great partnership. She has blown me away with her ability to cut a cow out of a herd efficiently. Yes it ended up just like my dream in the end. She is sure footed and confident on the trail, and my daughter won second place in Western Pleasure on her. Now we are working on competing in barrels and poles, and she is doing great! I will let you know in future postings how that goes, and what we learn from it.
Reining (Western Horseman Books)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ricky and the Trust Lesson

  Horses have always been an integral part of my life, and one special horse in particular changed my whole way of relating to the animals that I love.  The horse’s name was Ricochet, Ricky for short.  At the time we met I was going through a rough time, and so was Ricky, who was about to be sold for dog food because he was “un-trainable” and “dangerous” Ricky ended up having a heart of gold behind his troubled mind.  We ended up healing each other and in the process learned to trust each other and learn together during our short time together.

  I had recently lost my first horse, Star, who was my childhood companion and my best friend.  Within two months of that, a young horse, my sister had, came down with colic and nearly passed also.  I helped her to pay for colic surgery, in hopes of saving her from some of the pain I had gone through.  After surviving the colic surgery, the horse ended up getting a rare nervous system disorder and had to be put down anyway.  I was so distraught; I decided I was going to get out of the horse business.  At the time, I still had my second horse Red Smoke and a yearling filly, Rhapsody.  Since Red was older, about twenty-one , I thought I should just keep him since he wouldn’t live much longer anyway (yeah.. 10 years later... still going strong at 31).  The filly, I decided to adopt her out to a friend of mine.  I figured I would only have to suffer the passing of another close friend, and then I would be done with horses.  If I didn’t have any, I couldn’t get attached and subsequently have the pain of losing them. 

  That was my plan and I intended to stick to it, until I was asked to go with my sister and dad to see a horse a friend of my dad’s wanted to give him.  It was a short drive away and I had nothing better to do.  It wouldn’t hurt to go take a look at a horse.  After all, I still liked horses; I just didn’t want to have another that I would eventually lose.

  When we arrived, my sister and I walked up to the barn while my dad went to find his friend in the house.  My sister and I entered the half torn down, building, and looked toward the stalls that were still intact on the South side.  There were two chestnut horses in stalls next to each other.  One had a long blaze, shaped like a lightning bolt, running down his face, and the other did not have any visible markings.  “Which one do you think it is?”  My sister asked.  “I thought they said he had a blaze?”  I responded.  We stepped further into the barn to get a closer look.  As we moved towards the stalls, the horse without the markings jumped to the back of the stall and stood there, looking at us cautiously.  The horse with the blaze stayed where he was and reached his soft muzzle over the gate to smell the newcomers.  My sister was instantly drawn to him.  She stood by the gate talking to him and rubbing his head. 

  I was, however, fascinated by the dark beauty huddling in the back of his stall.  I could not take my eyes off him.  I was frozen in my steps for a moment, just taking in his powerful, yet timid, presence.  He had a slightly crested neck, a long tangled mane and a forelock that covered the white star on his forehead that we would eventually discover.  As I stepped closer to his stall, he flinched, backed further into the corner and I could see him tremble as he stood there in the dim light.  His nostrils were flaring, and his eyes were wide open and fearful.  Both ears were pinned on me.  I kneeled down in an attempt to be less intimidating.  As I did this he flinched again.  My heart went out to him as I realized he must have gone through something traumatic to act like this.  My dad returned with his friend and I stepped away from the horse briefly, to listen to the conversation concerning the horses. 

  “The one with the blaze, he is a nice horse.  Shouldn’t take much to get him broke.  We have been working him in the round pen, even had a saddle on him.”  The man said.  My dad and sister asked lots of questions about him, and he gave long detailed answers to each.  I didn’t hear any of it.  I was waiting patiently for a break in the conversation to ask about the other horse.  When the opportunity arose, I blurted out quickly, “What about the other one?”  “We can’t do anything with that one.”  He answered, and then attempted to turn the conversation back to the blazed horse.  “Why?  What’s the matter with him?”  I asked determined to know more.  “He is un-trainable.  We worked on him twice as much as this horse,” He pointed to the blazed horse.  “He just got worse instead of better.  We are sending him to the packing house.”  I swallowed hard.  It never made sense to me the way people will just throw a horses life away like that.  Here I was devastated by my loss, and this man wanted to kill one of these majestic creatures.  “How much do you want for him?”  I found myself asking him, forgetting my plan to get out of the horse business.  “He’s dangerous.”  He stated, obviously thinking I would be way over my head with this horse.  “I can handle him.” I retorted stubbornly.  He looked over at my dad, questioning him.  My dad just shrugged, knowing how I am when I have made up my mind.  “Well, okay, but I am warning you he is un-trainable.  You can have him.”  Two weeks later, he was sitting in a corral at my parent’s house.

  Ricky was terrified of humans.  He was approximately 6 years old, a stallion, and had little experience outside a stall, other than to be chased around in the round pen until he was dripping with sweat and even more fearful than before.   This running around would have been painful as well due to one of his hooves being over grown on one side causing him to walk on the side of his hoof.  This is why I decided to just take it easy and slow with him.  For six months I didn’t even put a halter on him.  I wanted him to always have an escape route, so when he did, finally, allow me to approach him and be with him, I knew it was his choice.  I climbed on his back the first time without a halter, and I trimmed that crooked hoof without a halter.  He just stood there, trusting me.  I am not saying this happened overnight, but it did happen, and it was miraculous!  During this time I developed some confidence I lost in my previous relationship, as well as learning that I need to have horses in my life, always.  Ricky and I were together for five short years.  He passed away also from colic, but the knowledge I gained from him and the great times we had together were worth the pain. I don’t think I lost him, I believe he has remained with me.  I feel him there when I need guidance.  He will always tell me to slow it down when things are not going right among other things he has taught me.  I will share the rest in future postings.

Ps. My sister was never quite comfortable with the other horse and just recently sold him to another family..  but that’s another story..

Friday, March 5, 2010

Over Confident to Humble

After growing up in the saddle, I thought I knew about as much as one could know about riding and horses. I would ride any horse, and for the most part I was successful, at least I could stay on. I thought that meant I was a great rider. I would go to team penning and ride fast and hard, basically thinking I was showing off. In the meantime those who knew a little more than I did where not impressed. They didn’t come out and say it, but they would make little suggestions like, “You might want to slow down some.” Or, “Take it easy.” I thought I was doing just fine. Red was right where I wanted him when I wanted him there, and that was in a hurry. He was merely doing what I wanted him to. He had no idea why we were running into a herd of cows and then chasing them [often in circles around the herd] and occasionally to the other end of the arena to the small pen that was our goal. It had not occurred to me, at that point, that a horse could learn to take a certain cow out of the herd, and move it to a pen across the arena. I just didn’t think they had that level of understanding. Now I know differently.

About two years after I started team penning, one of the penners was riding in a small competition, and doing quite well. During the “call backs” the team he was on had pushed out two of the three cows, and Bill had just found the third cow. Bill got between the cow and the herd, and began pushing the cow towards the pen, when the cow turned back to the herd and made a dash for it. Bill’s horse turned like a top and blasted to the fence to cut the cow off. As the horse did this Bill was left right where he was when the horse turned, only on the ground. Then I saw the most incredible thing. The horse continued without the rider! The two other teammates gathered the other two cows and together, with the rider-less horse, they penned all three. Bill’s horse was right where he needed to be, just like Bill was riding him and guiding him. After that episode, we all teased Bill about not really knowing what he was doing, and it being all the horse. In reality though, I think Bill really was a great horseman. Only a great horseman would be able to help a horse understand his job that well. To me, now, horsemanship is helping your horse to become a willing partner. This happens when your horse understands what the task is and wants to accomplish the task as well. When this happens, both the horse and the rider can be a successful team. This begs the question of how you get your horse to want to do it?

I believe most horses want to learn their job. I don’t think they want to be micro managed anymore than the office worker in a cubicle. I notice my little mare really likes going down the street. When we do, we usually just meander quietly, much like anyone just taking a walk. She knows what her job is when we go down the street. Therefore she is not her “turn and burn” self that she is everywhere else and she can relax. I once took my daughter down the street, riding double on her. On the way home Foxy was going along so quietly that I could ride her side saddle [bare backed] and double, without even touching the reins. I was ignoring the reins while picking leaves off the overhanging trees, allowing her to stop here and there for the snack I offered her.

As I began riding with more people who were involved in competitions, and getting to see some of the things they accomplished with their horses, I realized I knew, relatively, nothing. I was getting discouraged fast. Of course these people I am talking about had the time and money to invest in training. This was not a luxury I could afford. I was a single mother of three and a single income supporting those three kids and seven horses! I still am progressing, but at a much slower rate than if I had a knowledgeable mentor by my side. Somehow some way, my little Foxy is learning what I want from her and, for now, my little victories are hard won and well celebrated.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Early Lesson; My First Horse

When Star Dancer was born she was to be my horse, and I took that responsibility seriously. I would visit her stall regularly, and once she was old enough I haltered her and led her in circles in front of our barn and I would brush her, pick out her feet, and did as much as my 6-year-old know-how could do.

Since my parents were first generation horse people, they were still learning themselves, so we had no models for how to train horses. We did have a few books, mostly little Farnam books that you would get at the feed store. I read those, but they didn’t make any sense to me at all. They must not have made much sense to my dad either because when Star finally turned two, my dad saddled her up, bridled her [using a bar bit, the kind that come with the bridle sets, that are for a horse already neck reining], he stuck me in the saddle outside the barn door (no arena or anything). Luckily, I had been sitting on her during feeding time for quite awhile, so when I did finally sit on her with a saddle and all, she was used to me and didn’t buck. My dad slapped her on the behind and said, “Go on!” and I just rode her around the mountains and fields around our house as if she were already broke.

She went through a period where she was really spooky, or rather I was, but I thought it was her at the time. We worked through those issues, but she was only reacting to my fear. Now I realize it was me, due to an accident I got into before I started even working with her. I wanted to go for a ride on my mom’s horse, Lady, and no one would go with me [and mom told me not to.. But.. ], I saddled her anyway and jumped on her, then went straight up the mountain. The horse got about half-way up the mountain and decided that she was absolutely not going anywhere without her buddies, so she turned around and bucked me off, stepping on my wrist as she ran off. I picked myself up and held my obviously broken wrist in my other hand, and walked back home. I went in to show my mom, and when she started crying, I started crying. She drove me frantically down to Salt Lake City, about a 45-minute drive to the ER. She went to get some help, and an orderly came out, picked me up, and started running, my arm flopping all over, hurting like hell, from the parking lot into the examining room. That experience made me a little jumpy from that time on.

After I healed up, every time Star got a little skittish, I would jump off her back, causing Star to be more jumpy. Inadvertently, we reinforced each other’s skittish behavior, and it took me a long time to get over that. I was a little nervous about riding any horse, because the bucking (on Lady) seemed to come from out of nowhere. I didn’t know what caused it, and I certainly didn’t know how I contributed to it. After all, I was only a kid. That was the first time I ever thought seriously about the process of training. Funny, but, I was the one who needed the training, not Star.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The trail of Learning

I feel like I have been following a trail of breadcrumbs left by those who have traveled this trail before me, searching for the secrets of the most magnificent animal of all. Piece by piece, [What I mean to say.. Is in the midst of the forest of life, having children, getting married, getting divorced, going through difficult relationships in between, then finally getting married again, only to discover the challenges of a mixed family, in the meantime trying to learn the language of an entirely different species as my means of gaining self fulfillment.] I am collecting crumbs of knowledge, from horses and horse people alike.

I would find these crumbs, sometimes, in the most unexpected places. If I set out to find a specific crumb, I would often find several completely different crumbs along the way. This could be both exciting and frustrating. On the one hand I would have gained more knowledge that would help me with other training issues, on the other hand I would be no closer to finding what I was initially looking for. It is important, however, to be open to these other trinkets of information. You never know when you are going to need them. For instance, I had been working on getting my mare Foxy, to bend first laterally, then vertically. We were trotting in a circle as I was pressing my heel into her barrel while lightly tipping her nose inside the circle and massaging the rein until she softened and gave the bend I was looking for. While doing this, I noticed when she softened she would become more collected, and as I allowed her to straighten and move forward not only did she keep her collected frame, she continued at a slower pace. This was important at the time, because she was the type of horse to get over exited and somewhat out of control in new places. Now I have that little bit of knowledge, to help her to calm down and become collected in new environments.

This has made a huge difference in her performance and our relationship. Had I not noticed this product of the flexing lesson, I would have kept on thinking her being “high” was merely a nervous issue, instead of a softness issue. Wow! What a revelation! I feel kind of fatuous now when I think of all the horses I could have helped with this little crumb. It’s like a big puzzle. When we are looking for a specific piece, sometimes we find another, but know exactly where it fits into the picture. [Life can be just this way.. Or .. We have to wait a long time before we figure out where the puzzle piece fits!]

Always In Search of Horsemanship

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Welcome Horse People!

If you are addicted to clinicians this is the place to discuss and philosophize about horsemanship! All opinions are welcome here, but I would like to keep the posts upbeat and hopefully thoughtful.

First topic: Opinions are like.......

The thing about opinions is everyone has got one and I have never seen too many that are the same. I was developing opinions, and still do. I would rather not though. It seems to me, that once a person gets caught up having an opinion, it gets hard to change their mind. Even if all the facts seem to point out, that the opinion they have become so attached to, is wrong. This is a strange phenomenon that occurs with everyone I know. So I try not to (but I can’t always help it) develop opinions. If a person could have a theory instead, maybe they would be more apt to adjust it as necessary.

I think it is very interesting how when you come across someone who gives you a breakthrough in your learning, that suddenly you close your mind to all others, at least until you come to a point of frustration and their ideas or techniques don’t seem to be working. It is at that point when you stop and think that there might be someone else out there that could help you. This has occurred over and over in my quest. The first time I really experienced this first hand is when I ran across my first “natural horsemanship” trainer. I was in Las Vegas for the first time ever, to see the National Rodeo Finals, when we happened on a show at Excalibur, I sat down, not knowing what to expect. All I knew was it was a show called “Day of the Horse.” I was always ready to watch anything to do with horses.

It turned out to be this horse trainer. What a strange venue, I thought, for a horse training clinic/show. This trainer named Dennis Reis, talked for a while, then did a few neat three ring circus type acts, then at the end all the lights went low, and the song “All the Pretty Little Horses” started playing, and one by one all the riders gently laid their horses on their sides. By the time the last horse laid down, I was full out bawling. I had never seen anything like it! The rest was like a blur; I just was intent on finding more out about this guy and his training techniques. He sold his videos and special tools at the end of the show, so with the help of my date, I ended up with a “starter kit.” From that point on I was a living breathing commercial for this guy. I would not hear any information contradictory to what Dennis Reis was saying. When someone asked me a question about training my answer would always begin “Dennis does this technique..” I was committed to his methods after all they worked for him and his students. I wanted what they had accomplished with their horses. It didn’t take too long for me to come to a point where his methods couldn’t get me through a problem I was having. So.. I started to search for another mentor. I found Clinton Anderson, and I was a walking, breathing commercial for him too, then I found Ray Hunt, Buckranaman, Mark Rashid, etc.. I have come to the conclusion that no one person will have all the answers I am looking for.. I will continue to learn all I can from anyone I can, even if it is what NOT to do.
Posted by Horse Gal at 1:21 PM 1 comments
Labels: clinic, horse, horsemanship, opinion, training
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)