Aug 25, 2008

The 'Bestest' Ride Yet on the Black!

I am going to have to start having one of the boys come out and take some pictures! I need evidence to show you that I'm really doing this! Heck, I need to convince myself -- sometimes I can't believe it. I can just hear Terri saying "this stuff really works, folks!"

Had a few sessions with Black over the weekend. Ended Sunday with barebacking in the round pen. Although I spent a lot of the weekend working on discing (or is it disking... never can figure out which way to spell it) the arena & putting in cones, barrels and other toys, I spent time in the arena with the other horses. They were good tests to whether my set up worked or not.

I have cones in two corners, barrels in the other 2 and a barrel in the center. I set up cavalettis along the south end and a pvc pipe "walkway" with a phone pole jump along the east rail. Also tossed a tire and a tarp in for good measure & tied a rope to a log and left it stand in the corner.

Tonight I warmed up Black in the round pen. Then saddled him and took him in the arena. I did not immediately mount up, but we walked the rail and looked at all the obstacles. Stepped over the log, walked over the tarp. Interested, but not intimidated. Stood while I mounted up and we started walking the rail. After a few times around, I moved him into a trot. Nicely over the cavalettis, trotted over the phone pole, never missed a corner! We did this for several rotations. I upped the bar a bit and moved him quicker over the pole & we jumped! Yeah! Tried loping, but we haven't done much of that in the round pen & I wasn't sure if he was carrying his head low or ready to buck, so didn't push it. Decided to focus on what was working and stay with it.

Changed direction and trotted some more. Posted the trot, sat the trot... didn't matter. He was very comfortable, I was comfortable. Thinking about Julie B's recent figure 8's with AJ, I decided to take Black off the rail. I had asked Julie how she kept him going if he tried to stall out. She said she would just keep squeezing with her leg. That is such the obvious answer, but I think I was scared to ask that of Black for fear of his reaction. But tonight, when I went off the rail and around the center barrel, I kept pressure on and he kept trotting. We weaved around the tire and around the corner barrels. We would take the arena catty corner and then in reverse. He never slowed, he never missed a turn. I wanted to shout to the world!

It was dusk when we left the arena and headed down to my mother in laws along the corn field road. He never tried to snitch any corn; just focused on where we were going. Rode the high rode in the hay pasture and came back next to the pond. When we got back to the cornfield road, I moved him into a nice, collected trot and we went the entire road and this very comfortable speed. I felt the wind on my face.

When we got to the end of the cornfield road, we walked the rest of the way home. It was dark. Unsaddled, brushed him and turned him out with the herd.

When I came in the house, John said "where were you?". Told him I had the most incredible ride on the black horse tonight! I don't think he gets it. He could get on the colt and ride him any time. But not sure how much the horse learned that way. I don't think he understands what it feels like to connect with an animal you hadn't connected with before. To know that what he did today for me, we couldn't have done together a month ago.

We are making progress. I can see it and I can feel it!!

Aug 21, 2008


On Sunday, we moved the horses down to a different pasture. I ponied each of them down on Blue. I was very happy that Black ponied easily; stayed behind me, slack line & didn't even try to steal corn from the field as we passed it. On Monday, I went down and lunged him for about 15 minutes but didn't ride.

Last night we were invited to ride at a friend's over by Blair who has some awesome trails behind his home that he and his neighbors graciously allow guests to ride. Its an annual outing for a few of us; many whom are involved with the Trails Committee or Horse Council in some capacity. I took Windy and trailer pooled with Sharron and Dianna. As usual, the ride was beautiful but did have an incident when Windy got into some nettles and pretty much freaked out. She is so sensitive to nettles and was real close to being out of control. All I could do was tie her to a tree and get her to relax and then try to clean her legs with my hand.

Nettles aside, I noticed when I unloaded her at Sharron's and reloaded her in Dianna's trailer and again when I was saddling her that she has become a bit disrespectful toward me. I'm sure working with Black has made me more attuned to Windy's behavior and I have to say, I was kind of disappointed in myself. Oh, its not horrible, but she has been getting a little pushy, walking out before I mount, walking through me when loading. I correct her... but when did I start letting this happen. With Black under close scrutiny right now, I wouldn't allow that with him -- why do I allow it with her? Because she is the Princess???

Tonight I worked Black in the round pen. Walk, trot and whoa on the lunge line. Practiced moving hindquarters from the ground. Sidled him over to the fence and rode him bareback for awhile. Practiced more "whoa" and "back". Could NOT get a sidepass from him while mounted. I've got some ideas to try for that tomorrow.

After I put him away, I slipped the halter on "Princess". We went directly to the round pen. I think she was surprised that we were going to work for a while. Once I got her attention, she went to work. Got some nice trots & then long trotting. When ready, I moved her into a lope on the lunge line. She got a bit lazy with it, but I persisted. Whoa'd her and did some moving of her hindquarters and stepping over. Sidled her up to the fence & rode for a bit. I did get some nice sidepasses, worked on a half pass and finally did some forehand turns. Although I mentioned being disappointed in how pushy she has gotten, it was nice to see the things she hadn't forgotten and I realize how much further I need to go with Black to get him to this level. And I wonder if I have the gumption to keep it up or the know how.

I am pretty sure I mentioned somewhere in the blog that I do not like to do groundwork. I find it boring and tedious and would so much rather ride. But I also understand the importance of it and I'm starting to see the fruits of my labor with Black. I wonder, though, how far I can get before I don't know what to do next? I've decided I will take him to lessons -- as much as I want that time for Windy, I need help if I'm going to continue working with the Black. I worry that winter will come too soon before I'm ready; before he is.

Aug 19, 2008

Hodge Podge

Okay, enough with the rant. I hate that being the first entry you see when you sign onto my blog. I'll leave it there in hopes that Pall Mall and Misty stumble across it, but for now, I'm over it. On to other things positive in life.

I haven't rode Black this week but worked with him on the ground for awhile last night. Picking up his feet continues to go well. When I ponied him from Blue on Sunday, he was a gentleman on the lead line. Stayed behind Blue and a tad behind me holding the rope from Blue. He kept a slack line and didn't try to steal corn from the cornfield we were passing (that Blue managed to swipe from as he walked by.) Progress, progress.

I hear that Ginny is trotting now at Camp Brenda's. And Brenda said she is still very quiet. I bet she still wonders what happened to her world of pastures and hay and mama! Can't wait to hear more.

I missed the trail work at Rock Creek last weekend. Had every intention of going. But started with losing tread on a tire on the LQ trailers. Got new tires, got the wrong tires, had to take them back and have taken off the rims... then they didn't have the ones I needed and had to go somewhere else. It goes on and on... but in the end, I didn't make it. I hear they placed a much needed culvert in the boggy area along the trails closest to camp! And worked on clearing a new trail elsewhere on the Rock Creek side. The park looks good but still needs work, I'm told. Hopefully we can rally the troops again and go help out our friends at Rock Creek.

We rode the new trails at Branched Oak last week. Formerly hiking and biking trails, the new superintendent, Tom Morrison, opened those up to horses, as well. There are places you have to duck... those bikes are a lot lower than the horses -- but good to have another few miles to enjoy out there! Make sure and thank park management should you ride those trails.

Finally, if you follow this website, you know I am a weather critic. Too hot, too cold, too windy, too humid... always the fault of the Big Fat Lying Weatherman, of course. Well, I don't know what has been predicted lately because I lost all faith a few months ago and don't tune in as much, but I certainly cannot complain. This lack of humidity has made for some very pleasant days and evenings. And haven't the sunrises & sunsets been awesome? My rides times far exceed the hours I put in the two prior years! I can't ask for more! (Well, I could but won't be that greedy!)

Aug 16, 2008

You Ain't No Marlboro Man!

To the Pall Mall smoker and the Misty smoker who were recently at the horse camp in Two Rivers State Park -- let me start off by saying, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you have horses and were enjoying the lovely trails there or were visiting some horse friends who were enjoying the lovely trails. However, I can only assume one of two things:

1) You had a family emergency and had to depart camp as quickly as possible and were, therefore, not able to clean up after yourselves. If that is the case, I certainly understand that things happen and feel confident that what I found in the park today will never happen again unless you have another family emergency. So you need not read any farther.


2) It has never crossed your mind to clean up after yourselves and have let the general public have the honors of cleaning after you your entire life. (And should that be the case, I hope you have never reproduced as I would hate to have to clean up after your offspring, too!)

And where is this coming from? Today, I unloaded my horse at Two Rivers into your mess! The first things I noticed and avoided were the piles of manure you left behind. You didn’t try to scatter it and God forbid, you haul it out yourself! You just left the piles for the next round of riders. So okay, not the first time this has happened. I carry a manure fork. I’m certainly not going to take your shit home with me, but I can spread it so the park workers and others who drive by the HORSE CAMP can’t see what messes SOME horse people leave. The dried up hay was also a nice touch, as well as a burned out log (made of commercial wood) which was far away from the fire pit. Glad it burned out before the dry grasses caught fire.

But the part that thoroughly disgusted me was not the manure or the hay, but your obvious disregard for litter. And let me enlighten you – cigarette butts are litter! I’m not a holier than thou anti-smoker. I quit 10 years ago. But if the bomb was coming to end the world, I would probably hit up the first person I saw for a Marlboro red and go down with a smoke in my mouth! Heck, my husband is still a smoker. But sometimes I forget. Why? Because he isn’t a litterbuggin’ pig with his butts!

So what possesses you to sit in MY park and continue to smush them into the ground at your feet rather than find a container for the remnants of your filthy habit? And don’t say there aren’t any! I managed to dig through my trailer and find something to put them in as I was cleaning up after you today! And 25 feet from where you had parked your hineys were SIX trashcans! More than enough to hold your butts. Was 25 feet too far to walk?

Now to the rest of you, I’m not talking one or two butts here. I am telling you, it looked like they emptied their entire ashtray in my park! And would have thought they did had each butt that I picked up not showed the tell tale signs of being smushed into the ground with a shoe or a boot. And picking up the butts was as gross to me as it would be had I picked their noses! Disgusting!

Here is the scoop for those not in the know:

1) We are guests in the park. It is a privilege, not a right.

2) If no compost pile is provided, we haul out what we haul in. This includes manure and hay.

3) You put garbage in the garbage cans or take it home with you. This includes the OBVIOUS for most of us which is TRASH! But also apple cores, banana skins, peach pits and other food items. It’s just not cool for the next person to see your left-overs.

4) Cans do not burn! Keep them out of the fire pit and put them in the trash can. And don’t leave your twelve pack box on top of the fire pit either!

5) And keep the fire in the fire ring or pit. (I can’t believe I need to tell you this!)

I’m sure there are other “common sense” things that I haven’t listed, but come on – you people know them.

So Pall Mall and Misty: Clean up your act! (And perhaps you might want to change your brand of smokes…. A lot of horse trail riders will be watching for you!

Aug 15, 2008

That Which Doesn't Kill Us....

It’s been eight years since I have journeyed into the horse world.  Eight years since my world changed.  No longer did I search the greenhouses for the finest perennials and shrubs – one of my prior hobbies -- but now peruse the ag stores for the best pasture grass and ponder today how much it will cost to plant 6 acres of alfalfa.   Our “acreage” is now a “farm” with trailers and tractors and tack (oh, my!).  No longer do I dig up long lost lost relatives (figuratively speaking), but my genealogy interests now lie with quarter horse pedigrees.  I haven’t read a non-horse related novel in years!
And my attitude about my horse life has changed, too.  At first it was the “I can ride anything” phase, which lasted about 3.5 weeks and then it was the “What the hell am I thinking?” phase when I would swing my leg over a horse and ride all of about 43.5 seconds before my heart was in my throat.  I feared for my life and would dismount before I even got to the mailbox at the end of our short drive!  I moved along to my “It’s the horse, not me” phase and bought everything in sight thinking this was “the one!”  And now I’m at the “I prefer to ride my own horses” phase, because they “fit”. 
Now that I’ve gotten over the cockiness of thinking I could ride anything and the fear of thinking I will die if I even think about riding a particular horse, I’ve found peace with my horsemanship skills.  If I haven’t learned something after 8 years, I am a pretty awful student!  I’m not the prettiest rider or the fastest rider or even the bravest rider.  I’m kind of the human equivalent of the horse ads you see that read, “will make good trail horse!” 
But hey, don’t play down us trail riders – horse or person!  We have to know our stuff!   Do you know how long it took me to ride my horse up a “grassy knoll” at Rock Creek that I swear looked like a mountain?   Do you know how hard it is for a middle aged woman to duck under those low branches on the tree lined trail or how that pit in your stomach feels like as you look in wander at the miles of real estate the horse could cover should it decide to bolt? 
I started after I started to get my groove back and got to ride all of these cool places – grassy knolls and all – to share it with other horse trail riders!  When I started Horsetales, I found horse people of all levels: from beginners -- still sure they, too, were going to die -- to the diehards! 
As the years go by, I have seen some of the newbies dwindle from the horse scene.  Sell their horses, their trailers and go back to potted plants or dead relatives or whatever new hobby they discovered.  (If it was me, I’d make sure that new hobby didn’t eat more than me nor require its own vehicle for transport!)  But what thrills me to pieces are the others who have, like me, lived to tell about their horsemanship journey and are living their dreams!  Since I have been there, done that – I know that wonderful feeling.  It’s called freedom!  To those still on the bumpy road – be patient, be consistent, and be brave.  I’ve said it before, it’s worth the ride!

Aug 11, 2008

Saying Goodbye & other musings....

We had a busy weekend! Met some of the Horsetales group, the Platte River Riders and other friends at Big Elk Park near Macy this past weekend. John took Ginger & I took Windy. Had a great time riding through the hills and along the Missouri River. The weather was perfect and even bug-less! How could that happen!

When we returned last night, I gave GinnyBelle a bath and combed out her golden mane and tail. It was her last night with us before she begins her training and goes to live with my friends, Jules & Steve. It is bittersweet -- because although I hate to see her go, I am so happy with where she is going to and love that I will get to see her grow up. Today I let her walk among the herd to say our goodbyes & loaded up and headed to the trainers. She looked so grown up in her stall. Good luck, "Baby's baby"... I'll miss you!

When I got home, I went to the pasture to fetch Black. He'd hasn't been worked since Thursday. We went to the round pen & did some lunging & then some free lunging. Lots of whoas & direction changes. Got him to back by moving toward him (without the lunge line). We worked on moving off pressure with pressure to his sides. And the worked on picking up the feet.

The last time John went to trim Black, he was a royal sh*t! He would pull his hoof out of John's hand, throw his head around, rear... just out of control. I would lunge him and we would start over. Got the job kind of done, but left on a sour note. I decided at that time, there would be no more fights over it & that would be one of our goals.

Throughout the last week, I would pick up his feet and hold them. The fronts are no longer an issue. Tonight I picked up and held the backs for longer than I had before. He relaxed and I would release and do it again. John came over with his farrier tools and trimmed his front feet. He only pulled away once & it was at the end. John picked it back up again and finished the job. I was very proud of how he behaved. Now granted, he used to be fine about being trimmed, but in the last year or so, some of his negative behaviors were flaring up again & not doing anything about it only intensified the problem. Felt like I made a real break through here. I'll continue to work on the back feet and then have John trim them when I feel we are as ready as we were on the fronts.

I didn't ride. Felt we both got a good workout with the things that we did do. Hoping to ride tomorrow. My goal is to have him ready for our camping trip to Brushy Creek on Labor Day.

Aug 7, 2008

More Trail Time with Black

Last night's Wednesday ride was at Two Rivers. Case tried to talk me into taking Blue because he will swim! Although tempting (uh-huh!), I decided the Wednesday ride was probably not the best time to swim with Blue. Anyway, I was anxious to take Black out solo -- without our herd -- and see how he does.

Met Julie B prior to when the ride was starting. Saddled up, sprayed him good & we followed Julie & Cora into the wildlife area. He was a little bothered by flies, kept wanting to touch Cora's butt with his nose, definitely would NOT lead, but followed along nicely. We came back into camp to meet with the rest of the group. The weeds were really bothering his front legs and a horse fly was nipping at his back legs. I got the fly & sprayed him down again, before departing with the group.

Initially, Tammy M and her paddle footed gaited horse followed us. I am not making fun of ol' Paddle Foot -- just noting that he has a different gait and Black was not bothered by it. Cora got a couple horses ahead and he didn't stress. Did some trotting on the sandbar. Had another episode with some bugs, as well.

We crossed logs (no jumping), rode in the front, middle & brought up the rear. We did some trotting. Worked on the goosey area. Let cars pass us on the blacktop, crossed mud & climbed the dikes. Stopped when we were toward the front & waited while others passed us to let Julie catch up. He wasn't the poster boy of patience, but he didn't fight me on it much, either. Overall, I was real happy with his performance.

Aug 5, 2008

Riding the Black

I've been reporting on Horsetales that I have decided to start putting some time on the Black colt. Partly inspired by Fugly's blog on training "The Very Large Colt" and partly because if I do decide to sell him, he needs work. I'm not professing to be something I'm not. Truly, "I don't know nuthin' bout trainin' no horse", but I think I've been around them long enough now to do some basic work with a horse that has already had a good start.

Our sessions so far have been primarily round pen. The last two have been just he and I, with the herd out to pasture as suggested by my friend, Colleen, the trainer who started him almost 3 years ago. She said he needs to look at me as the leader. And Brenda has suggested I keep him in long trots when warming him up. So solo & long trotting was my goal tonight.

Went down to the pasture with halter and lead and was surprised he approached me. Even Blue was slowly moving away from me seeing the "work gear" in my hands. But I quickly knotted Black's halter & walked him back through the corral and into the round pen. The rest of the herd stayed in the low part of the pasture. A lot of loyalty they have to the young colt!

We started with walking & then slow trotting in each direction. Lots of stops & changing of directions. Ritz started running the perimeter of the round pen & Black started chasing him. I whoa'd him in quickly and then started him up again trying to keep his eye on me, not Ritz. A cat ran into the round pen & that caught his attention and it quickly departed. I moved him into a canter in both directions. Whoa'd him again. And then started the long trotting. I worked him pretty hard for awhile; got the lick from him & whoa'd him. Let him recover for a bit & then we walked over to the trailer on the other side of the house.

Tied him to the trailer and lifted his front feet & picked them out. He had been a pill the last time John tried to trim. He has a vertical crack in one hoof that I had hoped would grow out & does concern me some now. Will keep an eye on it. He flinched when I reached for his back foot. Approached again slowly and he gave me his foot. Held it for awhile & then when he would relax, continued to lift it. Cleaned both back feet using this method and he was relaxed. Saddled him and returned to the round pen.

Lunged him a bit with the saddle. Worked on the right goosey side with my hands. Whenever I touch him on that side, his skin just crawls like there are red ants on him. So I softly rubbed that side, scratched it, pushed lightly on it & then slowly worked up to "porcupining" him -- pushing with my finger to get him to move off it. When he would step over, I would rlease & rub him in the spot. And then do it again. Had him moving to just a touch. That area needs work, but it was a start.

For the first time since I started riding him, he walked off when mounting. I brought him back in and he whoa'd. Then we started walking the rail of the round pen. I kept my right calf next to his goosey side, slowly adding pressure with my foot. He would jump or act like he was kicking up at my leg, but I would leave it there and let him work thru it. Got a nice sidepass to the right, but no go from the left.

Let it go for a bit and trotted the rail. Got some real consistency from him; especially if I would post the trot. It was like my rhythmn kept him going. I was real happy with that. Decided rather than just attack him on his goosey side, I would fool him into forgetting about it, so I slowly brought my foot down and asked for a half pass and was surprised when I got it. Oh, it wasn't pretty, but it was definitely a try at what I asked for & he didn't goose at it. Went back to trotting; whoaing, backing. A little sticky at the back, but not bad. A little sticky at the gate, but using Brenda's method of keeping them moving thru it, we did. Got him to move off the forehand again; not pretty but what I asked for.

Unfortunately as the sun went down, the mosquitos came out with a vengeance. I hated to quit. Felt really good about the ride, but the bugs were driving me nuts. We quit on a good note. He hung with me at the barn again after he was untacked; headed to the pasture after I walked away.

Baby steps.... (and don't tell anyone, but I'm kind of enjoying this!)

Aug 2, 2008

Decisions & Indecision

In just a few weeks, my little (now big girl) filly, GinnyBelle, will be going to the trainer and then to a new home. And even though I will miss her terribly, she will be with friends and I can still watch her grow up. But I'll miss those chocolate eyes when I go to the barn and most of all, I hate taking her away from her mama, Baby. But its time. If she is to have a future, she needs a job. She'll be a trail horse and I bet a darn good one! It was an easy decision.

It got me thinking that it is really easy to find a home for the good ones. For the most part, Ginny is unproven, but seems to have a good disposition, good mind, went down the trail like a trooper every time she has been out and once she learns a few things from a trainer, I think she'll have an awesome career. Its the questionable horses that are harder to place.

As per my previous blog, I have mentioned that it is time for the Black colt to move along. I'm the only one here who seems to make time to ride anymore and he isn't my first pick (or second or third). Let's just say he doesn't get picked by me at all! So I've had some friends mildly interested in him. So decided if I want to show him to anyone, I need to pick up where I left off last spring and put some time on the colt. Starting with round pen work.

Have I mentioned that I don't like to "train" horses -- that is what trainers are for! But at this point, I also don't want to put anymore $$ into him. So all I have is time. So, as I was saying... back to the roundpen... He hasn't forgotten what he learned at the last trainer. He responds well to lunging. He moves off your hands, backs, whoas. When in a bit, he has a nice headset -- up to this point, he presents himself well.

When in the saddle, he gets a bit sticky footed and combined with his "gooseyness" to my legs on his sides, I've had a hard time moving him out of it. There is a bit of the "fear factor" on my side; I'm probably not as assertive as I could be. But none-the-less, we have dinked around out there for a few days and I'm hoping the light is getting brighter in his brain.

Today, my son Case, my brother Tony, and his daughter Jayden and I hit the trails before it got too hot. Since Tony and Jayden were both on my horses (Blue & Windy), I felt comfortable enough to take Black. I found out on the trail -- in MY comfort zone -- I can be more assertive with him and get less of the gooseyness or resistance. I need to think about how to apply that confidence when working in the arena or round pen. For some reason, all that fencing just looks ominous should we have an explosion!

However, I know trail to round pen is not the natural progression of things in the horse training business. But remember, I'm not a trainer, I'm a rider! So in my hay-wired mind, it works.

Here's where the indecision comes in... I really like riding this colt. I don't necessarily like the horse (personality, disposition), but I do like his light trot. If I have my trainer put another 30 days on him like she did on Windy, would he be at a place where I would be as confident on him as I am on Windy in time? I guess I don't necessarily have to like him; just enjoy him for different reasons than I do Windy. (Still thinking about that trot!) Would I stall my progression with Windy if I started dividing my time among both of them? And when would Blue get ridden in this whole equation?

See, now you know about my indecision ( and there is a Boston song playing in my head whenever I type that word...)

I understand about indecision
But I dont care if I get behind
People livin in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

What to do, what to do.