Friday, December 19, 2008

A Tribute To "Baby"

Ours is a tough neighborhood for cats. We live in one of those areas where people think, for whatever reason, it's okay to let you dogs out at night, where neutering any animal is just an added expense and probably takes away their personality. It makes for a terrible mix of too many cats being stalked by too many testosterone saturated dogs. We think Baby may have fallen victim.

Our neighborhood has improved. Ten years ago there were gangs and skinheads and lots of drugs. The house across the street and one house down was a drug house. One guy lived there and many visited. He had a son we would occasionally see on weekends. Somewhere around this time a small female cat started hanging around. I wouldn't see her that often, but when I did I would try and entice her over to me. We soon struck up a friendship and she would quite often come over and help when I was working in the garden.

Still only seeing her occasionally, one cool evening I invited her in for dinner. She enjoyed the evening and the other animals didn't seem to mind her presence. She was so small and petite I just called her "Baby". About a month later while working in the flowerbeds with Baby nearby I was confronted by the seven or eight year old boy from across the street, "What are you doing with my cat?"

"She just came by for a visit. What's her name?", I asked.

"Her name is Angel. I want her back. She's my cat.", he demanded.

"Good," I said, "She's just getting in the way over here." Then I handed him Angel Baby and he tucked her under his arm and carried her back home.

Over the next several months we surmised that Baby was hanging out in probably three different houses besides our own. Every once and awhile she would stop by for breakfast or dinner. We showed her the cat door so she knew she could always leave when she wanted. On cool mornings I'd catch a glimpse of her sitting on the water heater vent of our neighbor's house to stay warm.

As with most druggie situations the circumstances deteriorated across the street and Baby started hanging out with us more and more. Eventually, he went to jail and the little kid stayed with his mom (whom I sure was a lovely woman). Since we would feed her on occasion, we took her to the vet and had her spayed (It's our "You feed 'em, you fix 'em" policy). We kept her confined for a few days while she recovered and that help build a bond.

Baby had some real street sense. She was a good hunter helping me catch the gophers that plague our property. She loved to chase birds, too, as you can see her way up on this cottonwood tree. Another favorite pastime was sitting on the fence just out of reach of our neighbor's dogs. Their frustrated barking must have been music to her ears.

Baby became more and more our cat with regular feedings and sleepovers. She still ruled our little neighborhood by keeping the other "stray" in line and she kept ties with at least one other house. We haven't seen Baby since Thanksgiving. After ten years we can assume someone took her and she is living comfortably at another home, or one of the other animal thugs in the neighborhood got to her. That's the thing about cats - they are connected and independent at the same time. We've tried keeping cats with a similar history to Baby inside and they just can't deal with it. They know the world is out there and they need to experience it. We'll miss Baby coming into cuddle on the sofa, or jumping up to your shoulder from the ground. Ranae will miss her burying her nose in her hair. We'll miss seeing her on the roof waiting for us to come home from work, but most of all, I'll miss her company in the garden.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weather Cleared - At Least for a Moment

It rained most of Saturday and that was a good time to get a little work done at the office and then go Christmas shopping. It snowed in the mountains around us and Sunday morning we woke up to frost on the ground. The skies cleared and we decided to to try a little groundwork session out back.

We cleaned up the horses and moved the other horses out. We set up a couple of different colors of plastic sheeting, some cones, a few 8' poles and the barrels. We each did a little GW to see how fresh the horses were because, after all, we hadn't worked them in a couple of weeks. Both of them responded very well. Neither Jessie or Dusty kicked up, even during the loping part of LFR II (that's her Achilles heel). We then each took a turn at the stations we set up doing the sending over the different plastics. We had to stand in one place and ask them to do a figure eight around the cones. They had to trot and lope over the poles on the ground that were about 6 feet apart.

Edit: I forgot to add that we had seen the Extreme Cowboy Race and one obstacle was to blindfold their horse and then lead it for about 25 feet. Ranae wanted to give this a try so I got a towel and we tucked it underneath the rope halter and lead the horses. They were pretty reluctant at first, but they trusted us enough to get the job done.

The barrels were set on their sides and Ranae didn't think Dusty would jump them. I asked her if she wanted to try and when she said she did, I tied up Jessie and stood to the side to give her a few suggestions. It was really just a matter of getting her to increase the pressure of her cues at the right time (which is always easier to see by an observer). It didn't take long before he went over a barrel and Ranae had a big grin on her face (she always wanted a hunter/jumper ;>). Dusty seemed to enjoy it more than Jessie. He jumped them with a lot more enthusiasm. She saddled up and I set the poles about 6" off the ground and she did some jumps over that. Then we raised on side of the pole to about 18" and she did some jumps over that.

The days are so short now and it started getting colder. There were still a lot of weekend chores to do so we wrapped it up. We had been at it a couple of hours.

The rain came back again last night. We probably had about a quarter of an inch or more. The paddocks got soaked and so did the horses. It felt good to get out and do something with them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Heinz 57

It's time for a little ketchup...

Not a lot of time for the horses over the last week. We had family from Utah, Oregon, and No. Cal come into town and we tried to spend as much time with them as possible. Ranae had the week off, but then caught a cold that slowed her down a bit.

We managed a little grooming time early TG morning. Saturday afternoon we cleaned them up again. The weather was pretty wet the first part of the week then turned foggy and damp. Sunday afternoon cleared up around 3PM and we went out and did a little groundwork. The weekend before we had shot video for GR&C on the Ground Series II. We had twenty five minutes of video shooting the 12 or so exercises. I could have edited it into a decent video, but the raw footage was just painful for me to watch. My cues were sluggish, my energy was too low, my leadership wafted in and out like an ocean tide. So Sunday I focused on trying to make my cues clear and in the right order and bringing my energy up when I needed it. I put Jessie on the 22 foot lead and did some lungeing in a big circle. She did very well for not having worked all week. She was fast in some places but she didn't kick up.

I'm off of riding for the rest of the month. Something is irritating my prostate and I go to the doctor at the end of the month. It's hell getting old. Meanwhile, I'm still working out three times a week at the gym. The only thing I can say is, "Thank god for ipods". It's a good time of year for an equine layoff anyway with the Christmas shopping season upon us and Jessie probably could use a break. And, if I do get to work her I've got lots of room for improvement on my groundie techniques.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just More Groundwork

Despite the beautiful weather we only managed to find time for groundwork this weekend. We did do another "At Liberty" video. This one is only five minutes long. It is improved over the last one we did seven months ago, but I have seen her do better. I think my cues get all screwed up when the camera is on. It's a lot to think about: her, the camera, what I'm doing, what I'm doing next, etc. It is a good brain exercise though.

I really like this song. It has kind of a weird opening and closing. I left most of it in.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Roll camera

I took the camera and tripod out with me this morning. This is the unedited video of part of our workout. It's long so I uploaded it to Veoh which doesn't have a time limit. Sorry for the focus, the auto focus kind of moves around a bit.

It's early and neither one of our energy levels is very high. Probably need to work on that (some more). It starts off with a run-up-and-rub exercise and the rest are pretty familiar. The camera did cut off and we did a nice little side-pass at liberty that did get in. You might wonder about why it looks like I'm trying to yield hindquarters when she is at liberty doing a circle. I don't think the camera shows it very well, but I'm reacting to her butt which is getting ready to take off. So, I'm pushing her hip away to bring her back.

The video

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unseasonably Warm

I can imagine how irritating it might be for people in other parts of the country to hear it's 85 and clear here in central Cal, so I'll just say it was unseasonably warm.

Saturday morning we had an extended groundwork session. We moved to the bigger area to try our liberty exercises and she took the extra space to run around. It didn't take her long to work up a sweat. It was a bit frustrating to see her running around and I had to remind myself it was better than last time (in the big area) and take that as our plus.

In the afternoon we went for a ride and because we had to ride around the locked canal gates we didn't get much done. We rode out to our big square and tried the loping squares exercise. Both horses behaved pretty good. We attributed it to the morning groundwork. We decided to see if we could get the horses around one of the canal gates. The gate is essentially a three inch pipe and it extends about 2 feet past the edge of the canal. The bank is about, I'm guessing, a sixty degree slope. The horses would have to negotiate the slope and the pipe sticking out. We decided to try Jessie first using the sending exercise. The direction we were going was "home" and she very carefully placed her feet and came around almost perfectly. Dusty followed. He was a little more concerned that we were asking him to go in the canal instead of around the pipe and the mud at the edge of the water intimidated him just a bit, but we got around and headed for home.

Sunday morning's groundwork was a little shorter. Dusty had thrown a back shoe and we did some trotting with only a little loping. It was, for the most part, just a nice quiet Sunday ride. We did ride by the egg farm, always an adventure, with the thousands of chickens clucking away just thirty feet from the trail. Second time around the canal gate was pretty good, too.

This morning's groundwork was pretty easy. Jessie was well-behaved back in our "small" area. She took off once and I could almost see her remember the sweat from Saturday and she hurried back to me. We ran through most of the exercises and worked on leading beside. She does it very well on lead, but lags pretty far behind when I'm in her left eye. I asked her to jump a barrel while she was running beside me and she did, so we stopped on that happy note. And, now she gets the next three days off...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Calm Workout

Got out there about 6:15. My body is pretty sore from my exercise routine and Jessie was trying to say "Why don't we just take the day off?" We work on a few exercises. She was yielding her hindquarters great. We worked on moving forequarters while keeping the hindquarters still. She seemed to get it after a few tries. We did a few of the touch and rub exercises and then LFR and desensitize. I took the halter off and we did some liberty work. She lunged the circle around me very well and we did a little circle driving. We got to leading beside and she was lagging behind (and believe me, I wasn't moving that fast), so I put the halter on and we practiced that one one lead. I took the halter off again and she was a little better. I looked down at my watch and it was 7am. Wow, the morning flew by. I had her jump the barrels off lead and she did very good so I tied her up for 30 minutes and gave her breakfast.

The weather is supposed to be mid-70's this weekend so we hope to get some saddle time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekend Recap

Ranae had some stuff to do on Saturday, but thought she would be home in the afternoon to ride. I decided to give Jess a little groundwork session, since it had worked out so well last weekend. We got through the exercises on series II and then did some liberty. It's really a lot of fun and I hope it's helping me hook up with her a little more. There are still periods of chaos and times where she just flips me off and takes to running, but it is getting better. A lot of it is developing consistent cues. One of the easiest things to overlook as a trainer is that I may not be giving her the cues exactly the same way every time. So this practice is more for me than for her and she'll just have to put up with it.

The weather was almost balmy and clear in the morning. We worked for about two hours and then I gave her a bath and tied her up for awhile. I got my Saturday chores done and the clouds started to come in. The prediction was for rain on Sunday. I had a late lunch and Ranae came home around three and she did a bit of groundwork before we tacked up.

We ride along a canal that serves the farmland. While there are gates, most of the time they are unlocked. Saturday they weren't. We hit a dead end and had to turn around and then hit another dead end. This meant we had to ride through our residential area to get to our usual riding area. By the time we got out it was getting late and cool and we did a bit of obligatory trotting and loping then headed for home.

The rain came overnight and Sunday was pretty dreary. It sprinkled on and off most of the day. I was able to get the pens cleaned and had to rearrange our hay stack for the coming week. Late afternoon I decided to give groundwork a try and was able to work for about an hour. We did the exercises on series II again and worked on refining the side-pass and yielding the forequarters (both of which we tend to have trouble with). And, we got a little of liberty work in as well. It was a much calmer session than Saturday's and she seemed to realize there was less work near me than away from me.

This morning before work we did about half the exercise again focusing on side-passing without stepping forward and yielding forequarters without moving her hind end. Then I took off the halter and lead and we did some LFR II off-lead and some circle driving stage II off lead. Both of those were pretty good so we did sending off lead, and then I sent her over the barrels. After some desensitizing I tied her up for about 40 minutes then fed her and headed to work.

The weather has cleared and back in the 70's. They are predicting it may get back into the high 80's by mid-week. Unfortunately, Veterens' Day isn't a retail holiday...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday morning

It's tough to roll out of bed in the morning, but once I'm up and going it's not too bad. Got out there around 6:15 and we did some LFR II. The nights have been colder (in the 40's) and the mornings cool. Jessie was pretty frisky and really kicked up on the changes of direction.

After she warmed up a bit (didn't seem to take long) we jumped some barrels. She is much better at it, though I'm not sure she 'enjoys" it yet. Of course, I think breakfast was on her mind.

Then we did some liberty work, desensitizing, and yielding as our cool down and she got tied up for 30 minutes.

Not much, but we got some work in...

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Looking at the 2009 Walkabout Tour dates, there are NO DATES FOR CALIFORNIA!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The CSI Effect

Sometimes I wonder if there is a "CSI" effect that happens when you watch too much RFD-TV. On CSI (or any crime drama really), the crime is committed, the forensics team comes in, gathers the evidence, and, viola, the case is solved in 57 minutes and change. We suspend the belief that it all happened so quickly.

Watching the 30 minute or 60 minute horse training shows on RFD, may give the viewer the impression some horse problems are as easily solved. Downunder is airing part 7 of training an off-the-track-thoroughbred. There have been seven sessions and Clinton is doing the passenger lesson on him which is great, but I wonder how many viewers would be able to get the same results so soon. Then again, it might be entirely possible if one had the facilities Clinton has at his disposal - a sixty foot round pen, a 150 x 200 foot groomed arena, and the time necessary to dedicate the sessions consecutively.

Ah, come to think about it and it's probably easily done if you get really good at doing the exercises....never mind

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back to Morning Workouts

Not knowing what to expect from my Equine Affaire responsibilities, I've started working out in the mornings. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I head to our tennis club and do some running and weights. My goal is to have at least 30 workouts before the expo. So, if I have to work out in the morning, so does Jessie. Friday and Mondays are her days.

Friday it was just some basic groundwork. Saturday it rained or threatened to rain, almost all day so we went to the movies. Sunday, Ranae had a lunch date with her Mom and it looked like rain, so we did some groundwork. We tried to do the Parelli thing where we both stand in the middle and have the horses going around us as we hand each other the lead ropes. They didn't get it and we had to work on it separately for a while. The second time we tried it, they did a pretty good job.

Jessie and I stayed out a little longer and did some liberty stuff and jumping barrels. She got pretty worked up at liberty, but calmed down and was working well by the time we quit. I gave her a bath and tied her up while I cleaned the pens.

The afternoon turned gorgeous and Ranae got home about two so we decided to ride. It was a beautiful afternoon and the horses were very well behaved having had a good groundwork session. We rode for a couple of hours and worked on using our legs to steer, and some speed control at the trot and lope.

This morning Jessie and I did some more liberty work. She was very much improved over the day before. I had her trotting around me in a circle and she even loped in both directions. We did some leading beside where she was much better with me on her right side than her left. I was able to lope a circle with me running right next to her going to the left (don't know the practical application of that, but it was fun).

So, as long as we have light and reasonably good weather in the morning, we hope to keep it up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pictures from the Costume Class

We didn't really get any pictures of each other, but we did get some pictures of the costume class.

Showing at a Play Day

Our local ETI Corral had a Play Day last Saturday. Ranae and I were up early, spruced up the horses and trailered out to the same place we ride along the river. They have two very large arenas, so after registering I took Jessie into one and did some groundwork. She was more than distracted and we did some LFR II and backing and side-passing. I didn't want to get her too worked up because we were in a halter class right off the bat.

We got cleaned up for that and the class had at least 15 horses in it. We took fifth, not bad. The rest of the classes for the next hour were either bareback (she was too distracted for that) or English so we worked in the free arena. I thought a good exercise would be the stop-at-Whoa.. she wasn't really paying attention and she got turned into the rail quite a bit. Then she started getting pissy and she actually bucked some. I had put my spurs on because I thought it would help me get her attention. When she bucked I stuck her pretty good with both spurs by accident and she jumped again. It surprised us both. I worked on walking her around, and trotting, then did some serpentine exercises. I tried to lope her and she kept speeding up, so I would break her down and start again. She didn't much care for that and she gave another little buck.

It was pretty warm here, in the 80's, and I walked her around the arena quite a bit. Then we went over to the other horses by the gate to watch some of the English classes, and then I tied her to the trailer for about 30 minutes.

There was the Western Pleasure classes. We did the walk/trot and Ranae and Dusty got 3rd, and then she got a 2nd in the equitation, and she got one other that I'm not sure of. We pretty much just had fun going around the arena with the other horses. Jessie's trot was pretty fast. Her walk was probably too fast as well.

We did the ribbon pairs. I turned the wrong way and we were out. And, we did the Trot race, and got passed by a girl doing the prettiest extended trot.

It was about 2:30 and we were getting a bit worn out. Ranae had survived a Dusty kick up during her warm-up. It was pretty big. She managed to stay on thankfully. she was riding two-handed and it took forever for her to get a one-rein stop. I was about 50yds away and helpless. She thinks it was the lack of groundwork before leaving for the show. They hadn't done anything all week and both of them were pretty full of themselves.

Sunday's ride was to our usual neighborhood haunts. We did do a long trot and Jessie and I did some loping. They both seemed pretty tired from the show and were very compliant.

This morning I was up early and did about a 30 min GW session with Jessie. It was just getting light. She did pretty good. There are some barrels where we are forced to work now and I had her jumping those. She is getting much better at it.

Probably won't be much until the weekend and the weatherman is predicting rain....

Monday, October 20, 2008

More on the Clover

Tennis is another of my hobbies and I played in a tournament over the weekend. Not having played singles competitively (if I ever did) for quite some time, this wasn't the smartest move on my part. I had to play Friday night and squeaked out a win which only meant I had to play Saturday at noon. Ranae was on a girl's weekend and would be home on Sunday morning. There was a horse show at the fairgrounds I was hoping to at least stop by, and, to start my Saturday morning our TiVo took a dump, so I had to figure out what I was going to do about that.

The tennis match was at noon. I lost this one, thankfully, because most of my body parts were hurting and it was hot. It had to be in the high eighties. Anyway, I showered and headed to the fairgrounds. They were doing a trail class, which I watched for about 40 minutes. Boy, those horses move slow. Then, back across town to get the TiVo replacement.

By the time I got home it was 4:30. I gave the horses some hay and went in to get me something to eat. Got Jessie's GW done and tacked up. Instead of going out alone, I was still sore and tired from my earlier exertions, we went out back to do some exercises. After a little warm-up, I set the cone up in the middle and trotted the four-leaf clover exercise. We've done this exercise pretty good at the trot. We've done ONE revolution at the lope in each direction, but that's had to be two months ago (I'd know for sure if I tagged my blog entries). So Jessie has "done" it, but she didn't really have it completely down. With all the loping we've done in the past few weeks I was anxious to see how she would react. She did pretty darn good. We went around three times in each direction. A couple of times her circles got a bit out of whack, but for the most part she turned when I asked her (that had been the biggest problem) and she kept her speed relaxed.

Sunday's ride was nicely quiet. We went out to the big square we erected last weekend and trotted a square and then loped, only this time we did a circle around each corner. By now the few remaining body parts that had not been sore decided to speak up so we headed home. We had ridden a couple of hours and once again it was fairly warm out, so when we got home they got a a bath and we sat in the garden sipping adult beverages.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Dog Max

Max is my 7 year old Australian Shepard. We spend just about everyday together. We made a video showing a "Day in the Life".


Monday, October 13, 2008

A Different Perspective

Opps. I just hit post, so it's going to show up empty until I post this....

Saturday afternoon's ride was a couple of hours. It has cooled down considerably and there was actually a little bit of frost on the ground early in the morning. The horses were fresh and we did some trotting. We went the reverse direction we usually go to change things up. They both behaved quite well even thought the wind was blowing and there were many "scary" things.

We were trying to decide what we wanted to work on. Sometimes it's just nice to go out and do nothing, but we have a commitment to at least TRY something to keep it interesting for the horses. We worked our way to one of our regular stomping grounds and found a nice open area. I got off and grabbed a couple of plastic pipe ends that were laying around and we made a big rectangle. It was at least 30 yards on the long side and probably 15 yards on the short. Ranae and I started on diagonal corners and the goal was to lope the rectangle which meant picking up the correct lead, trying to keep our horse loping around the corners, and then traveling straight. Both horses did a very good job. Jessie was good at picking up the correct lead. She took some pretty wide turns, and going straight down the long sides was a bit of a challenge. However, on the second lap I could see a light bulb come on and she seemed to have realized the goal. The third lap was pretty good. Going the other direction was a breeze. As soon as we made the first turn she made the connection and the three laps in that direction were very easy. I could work on my seat and leg position without worrying too much which direction she was going.

Sunday morning was pretty chilly so we worked around the house and waited until the afternoon. We headed down the canal that runs next to the feedlot and asked the horses to go by the cows. It's pretty scary seeing all those black and whites running around. We got by and did a long loop and on the way back there were a couple of men out there with a stick and plastic bag moving the calves. This was very scary looking and took a bit more coercing to get them by. After we passed them we did a little approach and retreat to the cows until both of them were relaxed.

On the way home Dusty that I find it a bit annoying. In the wind (it was still breezy) you really can't hear unless you're right next to each other. I told Ranae that I thought Dusty walked faster for me when we went out alone a month ago. She said it probably just seemed that way, so I suggested we switch horses and see. She said ok, which kinda surprised me. It's very interesting to see someone else on my horse. It's actually very good to get a new perspective. Dusty is pretty easy to ride, but I couldn't really get him to go much faster. I also had to deal with her split reins instead of my mecate. We did some trotting side-by-side and she even loped Jessie a little bit. She was pretty amazed at the size of Jessie's trot (it's pretty much all I know). We had fun all the way home driving each others' ride.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm a Volunteer Junky

But it does pay off occasionally. Clinton's DVD's were decent pay for two days work. For the last three years I've volunteered for Equine Affaire, Pomona. I use it as kind of a vacation. Ranae is after me to take time off, so I take a few days, go down to Pomona (about 2 hours away) and rub shoulders with some horse people. It's pretty easy work. After gas, hotel, and food it's still ends up being a pretty inexpensive weekend getaway. Well, this year they are actually going to hire me to work the event. Not sure of all the details yet as far as money and lodging goes but, since I was getting nothing before it has to be an improvement. The big difference is I'll be there most of the week from Tuesday - Sunday and the hours are brutal 8am - 9 pm. The people who work for EA are great. Everyone is professional, patient, polite and easy to get along with (which is saying something for the long hours they put in). The 2009 show is going to have Chris Cox, Craig Cameron's Extreme Cowboy Race, Mark Rashid, and Julie Goodnight. I'm hopeful I'll still get to peek in on many of the demonstrations.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Darkness Comes Early

We managed to squeeze a few rides in over the weekend. Saturday it was blustery and sprinkled on and off in the morning before it cleared enough to get a few hours riding in the afternoon. The horses were "spunky" to say the least. I put a tom thumb bit in Jessie and rode her around out back. I was trying to be very gentle with her, really I was, but she was a bit pissy about the whole ordeal. I switched to the snaffle for the ride.

We did some of our trotting exercises and did a lope around about a 75 yard track made by some dirt bikes. I think this is fun because there are a few "S" turns and I can try and change leads and, again, the one supplying all the power was less than fully committed and we had to do it a couple of times to get it right.

Sunday was overcast and we went out to try some long trotting. I had my GPS on and we tried to go for a mile at a trot. The city farm we were riding on has bees set up in a few areas and we happened to run into both of them. The longest trot ended up being about .8 mile.

My body position is getting better at the lope. I can feel myself worrying less about Jessie and more about where my hands, feet and shoulders are. She's getting better with her lope too. I probably asked for it about 10-15 times during a two hour ride. Some of the lopes are only twenty yards or so, some are longer. There are times she picks up the correct lead (the one I ask for) almost every time.

The days are getting short and it's hard to fit in all the stuff I want to do...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Groundwork - The Preflight Checklist

I got off early yesterday. Jessie had had her barefeet trimmed and I thought she might be tender to ride so Ranae let me ride Dusty. I took him out back for a bit of ground work. His LFR II is great. He has a quick rollback.

He's had some saddling issues so I decided to ground tie him. I got him saddled and he decided to take off. My saddle's back cinch most hit him in a different place or my long saddle strings scared him, but he started bucking. And, they were a couple of BIG bucks. I caught him easily and we went back out back to do some groundwork with the saddle on. We did about five minutes and he was calming down so we went out.

We trotted most of the way out and then I asked for a lope. Compared to Jessie's he's got an extremely smooth lope. It was like being in a rocking chair. It was in the mid 90's and humid as could be (it had sprinkled earlier). I kept him working and we had a real nice ride He didn't give me one problem out on the trail. It was a good experience to ride another horse.

My internet seems to be intermittent so I'm not sure if this will post...

Monday, September 29, 2008

It was a good weekend

Saturday morning Ranae and I went out and did some long-trotting, and loping. It was well into the 90's here. There's a feedlot about two miles away and we rode by that. On the back side we got ourselves trapped between a calf raising operation and an irrigation canal. It was pretty narrow and the guys working in the calf area were making some strange noises. They had this flame thing going on. Anyway, it was pretty scary and the horses weren't having any of it and were working each other up. Since the irrigation canal posed the greatest danger and Ranae was getting a bit frustrated (Dusty had walked by it before, but wasn't going now), I just hopped off and led Jessie through the area. She stayed calm and Dusty followed.

Then we had some little successes on the other side moving through some farm equipment and more penned cows who, by the way, would jump up and come running towards us as we walked by. The ride was just under 10 miles.

Sunday we went out to the river. The girls were meeting up with some friends to ride. I tagged along to use the arena. It's not really a public arena, but it was early and no one was there so we worked a little more than 30 minutes. My GPS said we had gone 2.5 miles. We did some follow the fence, side-passing, serpentine and, of course, some more loping. Jessie was a bit out of sorts because all her friends had left so I did my best to keep her busy.

Then we trotted off down the trail. She was on high alert looking for her friends and again, I just kept her working. There's a bridge crossing we were working on. She had gotten on but didn't want to cross and a truck came up behind us. I backed off and when the truck went over the bridge I put her in follow mode and she went right across. (All that following bikes and stuff paid off or she is just really a follower)

We found another area that had a circular trail about 100 yards long and I worked on doing that at a trot. We probably went around the thing six times in each direction before I got her to make the turns without a fight. A real sweat producer for both of us.

Then we headed back and found some railroad ties on the ground where we worked at finding our way through those. There was an "L"-shaped structure and we backed through that in both directions. (We need more work with that) Then headed back to the stable.

This morning the ferrier came for her trim. Ranae is giving me the afternoon off for my birthday. Jessie's feet will likely be tender, so I think I'll ride Dusty. I haven't done that in awhile. Although now the clouds are moving in and they say there might be some thunderstorms...

Friday, September 26, 2008

It Still Feels Like Summer

It's supposed to be 97 today. With the days getting shorter it's getting harder to get riding time in. Last night we settled for about 15 minutes of ground work. Had to do it in her paddock. There was still hay in her feeder, so we had that magnet to deal with. She was distracted for a bit before she finally gave in and started to pay attention. We worked on side-passing mostly with a few other exercises thrown in.

Not sure what's in store for the weekend...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Suggestions Wanted

We had a real nice Saturday late afternoon ride. We played some games and did some trotting and loping. We had a six foot ribbon and tried to ride side-by-side each holding an end.

Sunday we went out to the river arena. Before our trail ride I did a passenger lesson at the lope with her. She has improved a bunch. She still sped up in one area but we loped for some time (sorry, wish I would have timed it) and she got more relaxed. When we got back from the trail I grabbed the camera and had Ranae shoot some video. It hasn't been edited at all. She was holding her horse so it's a bit shaky (same when I'm shooting her). My first clip is doing a few circles and then a figure eight and the second is picking up the correct lead exercise. She didn't stop like she usually does, not sure why. I spotted a number of areas to improve, like where my eyes are looking. I'd be interested in any suggestions you wish to offer, particularly concerning my head, feet, and hands. Don't worry, I'm not easily offended. Any insights on how I can improve are always appreciated.

There were some good things going on here. I remember trying this exercise 6 months ago and she never slowed down. She dropped to a trot to get them, but she made most of the lead changes. Her maximum speed was 13.3 according to my gps which is still too fast, but I think that is also improving.

Looking forward to your comments...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Working Cow Horse

I had to come down and do some work so I thought I'd take a moment to blog about what I saw last night at the working cow horse competition at our county fair.

First, I'm sure it took a lot of courage to go out there and compete. For going out there in a strange arena with people doing all sorts of things in the stands, their horses did pretty good. There was a lot of tugging, jerking and pulling on the mouths, and there were a lot of tight reins. One gal rode in a hackamore. I have nothing against a hackamore. Ride in whatever you want, but I question the wisdom of using it in a competition. I think it takes very skillful hands to use a hack and when you don't have those soft hands the horse looks so much less willing. I would have really liked to see how these horses performed the same routine in their home arenas.

Anyway, I got a few ideas of things to expect from Jessie. There is a playday horse show in October and we'll try our hand at a few fun classes and I'm sure we'll look every bit as unpolished.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More Bareback

Well, we got to work for about twenty minutes bareback. Her bite marks are still visible but they don't seem to cause her any pain as I did the Jeffery Method on her last night.

It's amazing how much more stiff she is bareback in a halter when, from the ground she flexes so much better in the halter than the bit. We trotted around a bit and I had a mini goal to trot a circle in both directions. Staying balanced on her trot as she zigzags her way around the circle is quite the challenge. I start bouncing which makes her speed up and makes me bounce some more. We did it, barely. It probably looks quite comical - it feels that way.

The weather should be perfect this weekend (mid 80's) and we hope to get some riding in.

Have a good weekend...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not Much Training Going On this Week

So far Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have been a bust at doing anything with the horses. If I rush through the chores tonight, I might get a few minutes in with Jessie tonight. I would just like to jump on her bareback to see how the bites on her butt are healing up.

Our county fair is going on right now and Friday night there is a Ranch Horse and Working Cow Horse competition that we plan on seeing. Ranae is out of town on Saturday so we'll be working alone. At least the temperatures are more bearable...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Axioms

In an effort to digest what we learn and incorporate it in our training, Ranae and I try to come up with our own horse training axioms. Sunday we came up with this one:

Always start off with a plan. If a problem arises, abandon the plan in favor of working on the problem. Plans are cheap, problems are can be costly.

A Fight in the Herd

After we got back from Sunday's ride Ranae needed to clean out Dusty's 40 gallon water tank. First we had to catch the mosquito fish which was no easy task. Then there were several ant hills close by that were alerted by our presence.

I got out the pressure washer and we tipped it on its side to remove the scale and buildup. Dusty was right there supervising and after a while I put him in Jessie's pen. This was the first time they had been loose together and they seemed to get along well. We had ridden for a little more than two hours and in the heat I thought they would be just too tired to make a big fuss.

It took us about another half an hour to get the tank looking acceptable and while it was filling up we went inside to have some cheese and crackers for lunch. We weren't gone more than 30 minutes and when I looked out at the horses they were each in their own corner. I got Dusty and put him back. I noticed a little bite on his neck.

About an hour later I noticed Jessie had a black spot on her butt. On investigating, she had several pretty big spots where the hair on her butt had been scraped off. They must have gotten into it when we were inside! I thought Jessie wouldn't have taken such a shellacking from Dusty. She definitely was on the losing end. I felt bad that I had left them alone together, but they had not shown even the slightest bit of aggression for the half hour we had supervised them.

I was going to try early morning rides this week. Some of the spots are sensitive. I busy in the evenings until Thursday, so she'll get a good rest.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More loping

Friday night we decided to try for an evening ride. We tacked up and headed out. At the end of the work week, there is nothing better than a nice quiet ride. We worked on a little speed control and riding side-by-side. But mostly we just took it easy. The ride back under the almost-full moon was quite nice.

Refreshed by Friday night's ride we were ready to get after it on Saturday. We trotted out to our regular spot and then tried a long lope. Jessie is getting much better. She is much easier to control at the lope and she is getting much more coordinated (or, maybe it's me). We found a wide spot and I had Ranae critique me as we rode circles, then came through the middle, and tried for a lead change. You really have to turn off a lot of brain switches when you ask your spouse for help. I try to take what she says without comment. Her main point was I was moving my upper body too much when trying to prevent Jess from breaking into a trot. I asked her to give me a short cue when she saw me doing it so I could hear her and work on it. We worked a little more but it didn't really click.

On the way back we did the tumbleweed game. There are these big tumbleweeds and one at a time we had to ride through them in a weaving pattern using only leg pressure. I was fun and both horses did pretty well.

Sunday we went for a bit longer ride and we tried loping side-by-side. Both horses got pretty speedy. We worked on it for a while then just rode for a while. We found a different big field and did some independent loping exercises. Ranae was doing pretty well with Dusty. Jessie was kinda all over the place and had her heart set on heading for home every time I dropped the reins. We loped for a good 10 minutes, I'd say, and with the heat she was working up a good sweat. Ranae and I got together while the horses got their air back and discussed our experience and then we did another short lope which we both thought was improved over the first.

On the way back, we found one big circle some other horses had used, so we tried to lope their circle. Jessie was breaking down on the far side of the circle and I heard Ranae give the cue that I was moving my upper body. "Hmmm", I thought, "I didn't feel it". The next time around it was like a spotlight came on. As Jessie tried to break down I could feel my whole upper body doing the wave as I urged her forward. I was able to catch myself before I got the "cue" again and the lope felt really good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Long Lope

Saturday I had some work here at the store to finish up in the morning. Ranae rode with her neighbor friend. It's still sick hot here but we decided (Jessie's vote didn't count) to go out for a ride. I've been wanting to lope her until she was tired for quite some time now, but hadn't found the right road or time (it's not something I can do with a bunch of other horses riding with me). So, by ourselves and an hour of sunlight left, we took off at a jog for the first 3/4 mile. Then I decided to lope her along the canal. I haven't done this in awhile because she tries to dive off the offside bank to get out of loping. While she drifted that way, I found if I had a left lead I could keep my right leg in her and go somewhat straight.

We trotted about the next mile and we got to our wide open spot. There is a 20 foot wide dirt road that goes for about a mile and ends near a big dirt mound. The area is flat, but off the road are a lot of squirrel and gopher holes, so I can't let her get to far off the road because she'll step in them. We started our lope and she would drift back and forth across the road. It was as if she heard the term "ride like you've been drinking". I tried to explain to her that was for the rider not the horse. At about the half mile mark she really started to worm out of it. I just turned her to the road and cued her again. Then she thought she could out run me. As long as she was straight I didn't care and it didn't take her long to figure out it was too hot to go fast. We made it to the mound and I thought she still had some in her so we did a big circle on one side, loped to the other side and did another big circle, then came back to the first side and another circle and I felt her say "enough". I keep her moving for one more circle and gave a cue to stop. She did and I gave her a few flexes and let her rest, although it didn't even seem like she was breathing hard. That was the longest I had loped with her and it wasn't very comfortable for much of the time. My legs were a bit tired from trying to keep her straight, and I hear people say you need to ride up on your crotch, but that's a bit hard on the old boy-parts. Maybe it gets easier. I sure hope so.

We lope/trotted most of the way home (we walked the last half mile or so). We were losing our light, so she got a quick bath and put up. Sunday's ride was pretty quiet. We went with our neighbor friend who said she wanted to do more with her horse. We did a couple of long trots that weren't all that long. We loped a little and played the pass the stick game where you ride side-by-side at the same pace tossing a stick back an forth. It was a good, quiet Sunday ride.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Two nights on bareback

We are quickly losing our long days. By the time I get home, change, it's getting late. The last two nights I've gone out, done a little GW and just hopped on bareback. I don't think Jessie likes it too much (though she is getting better). She'll swish her tail a bit. It's mostly just walking around with short bursts of trotting to see if I can maintain my balance (I cannot...yet).

The neighbor doesn't feed his horses until about 7 or 7:15. Their first meal is at 5:30am. When he comes out to feed his gelding is just on the other side of where we are working. Because he gets fed last he is very pissy. We were standing near the fence and he came charging up to us with his teeth barred, while I sat on Jessie wondering what she would do. She calmly stood there, then we walked away.

It's not much, but at least we are out there doing something...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Ritchie Waterer

As promised, my Ritchie waterer mounted on the cement foundation adorned with the names of our current animal clan: Max Pepper, Rusty, Smoggy, and Panama.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Looking back at the last week we did GW wed., Thur., Fri., and then rode Sat., Sun., and Monday. Jessie had a pretty full week.

Saturday we went to the river and had a very nice 3 hour ride. Well, it was about 2+ and when we got back we rode in their arena for a bit. She was kind of a pill at first because it was just us. She settled down a bit and then the others came by and we ran some barrels. I actually asked her to gallop for the finish line and she did pretty good (although I could see a puzzled look in her eye because I've been working on the slow lope). She got in and out of the trailer very well. It was hot as blazes out there even at 8:30 in the morning.

Sunday was a bit cooler and we went on a six mile ride. I had my GPS watch on and we worked on speed control. We loped some big circles and her max. speed was 11.5 mph. We also did some long trotting and getting the two horses to trot side-by-side. We took pictures all three days. This one included Ranae side-passing to a sign that said "End" with an arrow pointing to Dusty's butt. We were laughing like jackals (well, maybe it was just me). We also set the timer and I had to ride up and get in the picture. We made it just in time.

Monday we had planned a long ride. It was dove season opening day so we couldn't leave real early (and we didn't want to). It was much cooler (87) with a nice breeze. We rode out tot he city farm. Between the fields of alfalfa and silage we stayed pretty cool. We rode out six miles and found a little mini-market for a soda and half a candy bar. We took about a 15 minute break and headed back. We worked on loping in this big field. I thought I could get Jessie tired enough to lope comfortably but she just kept speeding up. In contrast to Sunday her max speed was 15.6 mph. We kept at it for about 10 minutes and when she showed some slight improvement we moved on. (It had been a nice weekend and I was looking for a fight. She did pretty good on almost everything else. I'll just keep chipping away at this a little at a time.) We got home around 2 pm and cleaned all the tack and we were, all four of us, pretty whipped. Still had some weekend chores to do and after we got those done we sat in the garden for an evening cocktail.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Little Groungwork...A Little Liberty

Our store closes at 5:30, so no matter how quickly I get home, time with Jessie in the evenings is quite limited. The last two nights I've gone out and done groundwork. It's still ubber-hot (104 today), but I think it helps because she is really looking for the rest.

I have this "Caution Wet Paint" yellow tape (it looks like crime scene tape)that I use to close off one of the corners and make our area just a bit more manageable for liberty. Jessie does pretty well with it, but the gate is on the other side of the tape. Last night I had neighbors on both sides wanting to talk. Sorry folks, I've got maybe 40 minutes of light left, I don't want to be rude, but can I hear about your vacation some other time I really need to focus here? Of course I didn't say any of that, I just kept working Jessie. We were doing circles and yielding and she left me and really leaned on the tape, I applied some pressure and she broke through (it's only like 2 mil thick). She headed for the gate and this really tickled both neighbors judging by their very clever observations. I managed to keep my cool and walked over to Jessie (where she was nibbling on hay leftover from the pen's occupant), yielded her hindquarters, gave her the signal to lead beside and she followed me back to our work area. The neighbor with the horses dropped his jaw when he saw her walking calmly beside me while I reset the tape and then continued working. I was smiling on the inside.

We did a few more exercises and then I want to try and jump some barrels. Clinton has a video on YouTube that is 3:24 and, hey, I've got ten minutes of light left, what the hell. She found it much easier to kick the barrels out of the way, but after about ten minutes she made a couple of good jumps and we had to call it quits.

We are ready for the 3-day weekend. Hope to get in a river ride on Saturday, family on Sunday. Hope y'all have a good weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life Keeps Getting in the Way of My Riding

I was shaving Thursday last and I felt a wetness by my feet. The bathroom sink valve had sprung a leak. We decided to change the whole faucet and vanity, so over the weekend I got to finish installing the waterer (which came out very nice, I might add) and struggle with the 60 year old bathroom plumbing.

We did get a short ride in on Saturday. It was one of those nice, relaxing, don't-do-too-much-I'm-hot-and-tired rides. Jessie was kind enough to oblige. Sunday we went out back when the girls took off and we loped some circles and picked up leads. She is getting so much better. We did some bending and side-passing which, for some reason isn't quite as sharp as I think it should be. She moves off my left leg with some real quickness though. I had my spurs on for the first time in a long time and I think that helped.

It is supposed to be hot all week again. The weatherman actually said this on the radio this morning, "Look for a heat wave the next four days and here's the good news: our air quality will be in the "poor" range instead of "unhealthful"." Yeah, right, good news...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ignorance is bliss

Here's the pre-moved stack of hay. Notice the smile on my face. I had no idea what I was in for.

Concrete mixes well at 104 degrees

It was hella hot over the weekend (note use of the word hella to demonstrate hip, cool, and knowledge of today's youth culture), so I thought it would be a good time to install our new Ritchie waterer. We had had a couple of cheap stall waterers and Jessie would crib on them or their supply line and I'm hoping this will permanently solve the problem.

The Ritchie folks recommend installing their product on a cement slab and bringing the supply line from underneath. Saturday morning was a perfect time to get started and I moved the PVC lines, set up the concrete forms just in time to start mixing concrete about 2 PM - the hottest part of the day) (note the lack of good judgment and common sense demonstrating senility and dementia generally associated with geriatric culture).

Oh, and Jessie was a BIG help. I moved some panels to keep her out of the way, but every time I left a shovel too close or a 2 x 4 in reach she was right there to "hold it for me".

I finished around 6 and took a quick shower and we went for a short ride. We are mostly working on transitions right now. She walked out with her head on swivel again and that just annoys the hell out of me. After an afternoon in the sun I wasn't interested in getting into a fight, so every time she would look anywhere except forward I would trot her and when she looked straight I would let her walk.

Sunday, Ranae was back from vaykay and we did some afternoon gw and went for another short ride. This was the first ride on Dusty since she got dumped back in July. She did very well - loped him a couple of times.

This morning Jessie and I went out early. We did some trotting and loping. The morning was cool and the sun was just coming up as what's left of the moon was still high in the sky. It was a very nice morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing with my new video editor

It's back in the 100's hot here. We rode Wednesday morning from 6am to 7am. She's getting much better about getting out, getting our stuff done, and getting back. We did a lot of trotting and tried to do quite a few transitions.

I got a new video editor and so I made a movie with all the exercises from GR&CG series I. It's amazing how many mistakes I still see in my techniques.

Here's the video:

And, yes, I should be working instead of playing with the new video software, but this is more fun.

I got a Ritchie Waterer for Jessie which I hope to install over the weekend. They suggest you build a concrete foundation. Oh boy, cement mixing, my favorite. Maybe I'll make a video!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wait, Was That a Bolt?

Ranae left Saturday for her annual girls trip. This year they are in Jackson Hole, Wy. We have a friend who knows a farmer and we talked about getting a harrow bed of hay. He delivered it on Saturday afternoon. The truck couldn't fit into my yard and they had to drop it on the driveway, so I got to spend my first day alone moving 88, 125 lb bales in 5 pickup loads to the back of my yard. Having no strong friends, I had to rely on my ipod to get me by. It's pretty good alfalfa and with hay prices what they are, I think we got a good price. Who knows, maybe my neighbors will want some and I can make a small profit.

Sunday, after crawling out of bed sore from head to toe, I had breakfast and decided to go for a ride. We headed to our usual area and totted most of the way. I worked on some transitions from trot to walk and walk to canter. Once out in our practice field, we worked on picking up the correct lead and holding the canter. It was pretty hot and we got a few good ones in and headed for home.

We were walking between two fields the road was twenty five feet or so. The corn on one side was six feet high, on the other it was six inches. We got to a place where an irrigation pipe had broken and the had dug a big hole to patch it. We've been through this before and had done our rollback into it. Jessie looked worried so I decided we needed to do it again. The side between the high corn and the pile of dirt left us about a 10 feet wide narrow path. There were some farm workers on a tractor with a tank about 30 yards away. We had gone around the spooky hole in both directions and making just one last past through the narrow part. Jessie's butt was to the tractor when, all of a sudden, it was like a semi release the air brakes - Whoosh!

What happened next probably took less than five seconds. First, it scared the crap out of both of us and I know my legs clamped. The first stride was about 15 feet, I took my legs off and while she usually slows down, I could feel her speeding up. I thought (and this seems strange to me), "Well, if I come off at least it's in some soft dirt", as she headed for the short-corn field. Then, I felt my hand slide down, pull on one rein and say "Whoa". As she stopped and her nose touched my boot I remembered every single dollar I've spent at DUH and thought, "This is paying off better than a hundred shares of IBM." I flexed her a couple of times. We went around the spooky hole a couple more times and then headed for the farm tractor. I knew it could probably make that noise again at any time and it did. We were about fifty yards away and somewhat shielded by the sound and Jessie didn't even flinch.

It's real close to the two year anniversary of Tex tossing my off. I remember that time I didn't say "whoa", and I didn't use the ORS. So, if nothing else, I'm making some progress too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Little Heinz 57

Time for some catchup...

We rode out alone on Saturday evening for a short one. There was a lot of stuff going on around the neighborhood (it was Saturday night after all) and Jessie was trying to check everything out. We worked our way through it and when we got out a bit and I still didn't have her attention, I started the serpentine exercise. I like to use this when she's not paying attention and it usually brings her around. She really doesn't like it and actually kicked up a bit for the first time that I can remember. We did it a bit longer and she finally came around. I think she might have been in season because she was pissy the whole ride. Oddly, we did the FTC exercise better than we ever have. Go figure.

Sunday we did some energetic GW. The neighbor invited me over to his arena with the promise he wouldn't try to tell how to do things. I went and we got to work on the clover pattern at the lope to the left before he started talking to me about his saddle and all sorts of other stuff. I find it incredibly difficult to talk (yell) while riding (he's at one of the arena on the ground). The guy is just a talker, what can I say? Jessie and I had some problems doing the clover to the right at the lope. I would have like to do more, I just didn't know how to politely fit it in. We were over there more than an hour and I doubt I got 30 minutes riding in.

Tuesday morning the farrier came at 6:30am. I got up to feed them at 5am and then cleaned up for work. I then took them both out back for 15 minutes of intensive ground work. Dusty did pretty good. The work Ranae has been doing is starting to show. He still was an ass for the farrier. He really leans on him. He was okay for the first two feet then I think he got really bored. Jessie was only mildly annoying and, because she was just getting a trim we didn't have to put up with it for too long. She's doing good going shoeless and, with all the riding we've got in, she's kept her feet short. I just wish they didn't have such a strong commitment to make me look bad in the eyes of the farrier.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Groundwork in the Morning - Ride in the Evening

We were able to get in about an hour of groundwork early yesterday. We've been working on the C-pattern and getting those hips all the way around. We also worked on sidepass against the fence, yielding, and, of course, desensitizing.

After work, it was so pleasant (for July) that we went out. It was just Jessie, me, and the oh-so-slightest breeze. We jogged out to our FTC pole and played with that for about 5 minutes (I've decided to work on this is in the smallest increments. Well, really, I guess one could say Jessie decided...) Then we jogged about a mile and turned back on the near side of the canal bank. The breeze was blowing the the six foot high corn (or silage) stalks and with the sun setting and the long shadows, I could tell Jessie was on alert. She kept her wits about her and didn't do anything stupid, even when we were passed by a group of stoner young adults (two on a bike) and their pit bull dog. We worked on opening a few gates at home although she was far more interested in stealing a few bites of grass every time I dropped my guard. We jogged a few circles each time and I got the feeling she felt that was a small price to pay.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Last Thursday my niece was visiting from Utah so she rode Jessie and I rode Dusty. It was pretty interesting watching someone else on Jessie. My niece is 18 and has had some English riding, but still inexperienced. Jessie took good care of her.

We did some groundwork on Saturday and had an early morning ride on Sunday. Jessie did "okay". We worked on FTC a little at each of the two locations we practice. At one she actually did a complete circle. I'm trying to keep the sessions shorter (since the long ones didn't produce much.) Ranae has been working on groundwork since Dusty dumped her again two weeks ago. I'm hopeful this time she will really commit to it and I think she has because she pulled the DVD's out herself. I get to sit out there and watch her and offer my feeble insights. It's helping me learn too.

Sunday, our friends, who Ranae usually rides with, took their new 5 Yr. old mare, fresh back from the trainer, out on a ride. They had ridden on Friday and everything went fine. On this day, however, she dumped our neighbor. One of our friends chased two of the horses back the 2 miles back to our house. We then took the truck to pick up the rider and his wife. I walked home with the other neighbor and one of the horses. This horse is pretty sensitive and they just come out, tack her up, and go. It frustrates me so much, it is one of the reasons I don't ride with them anymore. I guess he bounced on the ground pretty good. He's sore, but nothing appeared broken.

This morning Jessie and I did some GW. We had three or four exercise cards to work on, but she got stuck on chumping me on the C-pattern exercise. It amazes me she still kicks up. Anyway, she made it a much harder workout than it had to be. I hope she learned from it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Little Groundwork

Here's the footage of last weekend's groundwork. She started off a little spicy then we got down to it. We really need more improvement on the yielding 4qtrs. She is moving her back feet waay too much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to Groundwork

All that trotting last week finally got to me and soreness of my rapidly aging body necessitated a break from riding. We took Friday and Saturday off and did some groundwork on Sunday. I took some video which I hope to edit and upload soon.

This was a pretty funny video of Dusty:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Billy Pickett Rodeo

The Billy Pickett Rodeo was fun. Not the best examples of horsemanship I've seen, lots of pulling, tie-downs, and no stopping, but it was a nice evening.

Ranae next to a horse that we estimate over 17H

Getting Ready for The Grand Entrance and The Grand Entrance

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Little Help from Rick Lamb

I enjoy Rick Lamb's blog. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and he actually responds to people who comment on his blog. I recently posted a question in response to his request and got a very insightful answer that I thought I would share here.

Like many horse owners,I have one horse. Good, bad, this is my horse and I'm not the type who can change horses easily. Luckily, I think she is a good horse. You've seen a lot of clinicians. Do you think that a "lay" (for want of a better term) horseperson can follow a dvd training program and get good results? Can a person get experience by training just one horse? And, how much does our "personal relationship" with our horse get in the way of the "it's just business" part of our training? And, do you get confused (a better word might be inconsistent) by hearing the different clinicians?

Hi John,
All good questions. If you want to be the best horseman you can be, you need experience with many different horses. If you want to develop a relationship with a single horse, you need to spend lots of time with that one horse. So the answer to that one is, it depends on what you want. Training DVDs vary in quality. Some are disorganized, poorly produced, and even present bad information. But even the best give you only an intellectual understanding of the ideas. That only takes you so far. You also need lots of time in the presence of a horse, handling and riding him, putting the ideas into practice, developing some muscle memory, developing a sense of what the horse is saying through his body language, etc. By the same token, hands-on time alone isn't enough. It's the marriage of "classroom" and "field" work that really moves you forward.
Is it best to follow one trainer or look at multiple approaches? When you're just starting out, I recommend picking one system and following it. The major systems are most different in the beginning. When you get farther along in your journey, you understand that they are all saying the same thing in different ways, doing the same thing with different techniques and tools, and spinning it all to make it seem unique and special. At the core, all are using an understanding of the horse's nature to motivate him to do the things we want him to do, in other words natural horsemanship. If you're the type that just has to look at everything, that's fine, but be prepared to be sidetracked with lots of irrelevant concerns, e.g. why does Clinton use a stick and Chris just twirls the end of his rope? Dr. Miller and I wrote about this difficulty in The Revolution in Horsemanship. All the paths take you to the same place. Finally, yes, your personal relationship can interfere with training the horse. Usually this is the result of a distorted idea of what it means to love your horse. I love my horses and my kids, but I wouldn't hesitate to discipline any of them to get across an important point. It's not the easy route. It doesn't feel good to "punish" a horse any more than it feels good to punish a child, but as long as it's not done in anger, as long as it's done with a business-like attitude and your entire demeanor returns to normal immediately, the horse (and child) will not become frightened of you. In fact, it gives both a sense of security, knowing that there are boundaries and that you are there to keep them from drifting outside those boundaries. Final point: don't expect your horse to love you back, at least not in the usual sense of love. He cannot do it and it's unfair to ask that of him. He can become comfortable and relaxed in your presence. He can become "happy" to see you, especially if seeing you always means treats. But the equine species has a very different brain, preoccupied with safety, comfort, and the presence of other equines. This doesn't need to diminish the experience for you. Because having a horse that truly trusts and respects you is still immensely enjoyable.

Moving in the Right Direction

It was tough crawling out of bed this morning and I was running a bit behind schedule. We rode to the pole to do our passenger lesson. It was very encouraging. I think she is starting to get it. She didn't stray as far as she had on Monday and she actually licked her lips while standing at the pole (I think that was a first). Anyway, I think I can say we made progress which is more than I've been able to say in the last two weeks.

Tonight is the Bill Pickett Rodeo. A friend of ours is volunteering so we get in free! So-weeet! He offered to let us ride in the Grand Entrance - we took a pass on that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Knowledge Bucket Emptied

We went out Saturday and Sunday to work on you-know-what again. Saturday we were out at the pole for nearly two hours as I tried to convince Jessie to "get" this exercise. She was all over the place. We must have gone around that pole a thousand times. She was far too interested in everything else (which was nothing I could see) to pay attention to what we were doing. I had my ipod on and was listening to music so and felt that if I just kept doing the exercise over and over she would eventually get it.

Sunday we went out again. We worked on a couple of other exercises, but we were in the same "space" as the pole. I was hoping I could establish this as our training area. After about an hour we still weren't getting anywhere and I was losing my patience so we headed home. I tried to borrow my neighbor's arena, but he couldn't leave me alone, offering me advice on what he thought I was trying to do and that just increased my frustration. So then we went out back into our now much smaller training area and did some groundwork, which always makes me feel better.

Monday I was up at 5:15 to try again. As we headed out to the pole she wanted to go off in another direction so I said, "Fine, you win. Let's go where you want." She took off across this open field to the south. She was traveling in a straight line at a relaxed pace. We got to an irrigation canal and I had to steer her to the west and at her first opportunity she turned away from home and headed south again. She continued for about a 1/4 mile and I think I saw the light come on that she realized she was moving away from home. I asked for a whoa and got it, turned around so home and the pole were in front of us. Again, at a trot, she traveled in a straight line and it was as if I was doing a passenger lesson. We got to a fork where the pole was in one direction and home in the other and I steered her to the pole and stopped there for a rest.

After a few minutes I asked her to go and she took off south again. About a hundred yards away I gently steered her to face the pole and as soon as I dropped the reins she veered away. I let her go until we got to our boundaries and after about 12 minutes we were resting at the pole again.

Everything had been at a trot so far and I could see she was looking for the resting spot. We took off again and she was on her own again. Again, I tried to gently steer her back, but she would just veer in the other direction. 10 minutes later as we reached the fork I looked over in the direction of the pole. She softly veered to the right and headed straight for the pole and a well-deserved break. We had been trotting for nearly forty minutes. After a short break we headed home.

My guess is that this exercise is so difficult because we've missed something up til now. He lack of attention to me is frustrating and, even though I worked the snot out of her at the lope and trot, it doesn't seem to make a difference. I hope this new direction with this exercise will help.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Extreme Heat Advisory

The "Extreme Heat Advisory" was lifted at 6 am this morning. It's only going to be 103 today. The air is still pretty bad.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Okay, Officially Too Hot

It was 104 yesterday and expected 109 today. The smoke from two nearby fires make it unhealthy to breathe for both of us. We are hopeful it may cool off and clear up in the next couple of days.

Monday afternoon I came home to find Jessie's automatic waterer (not a Ritchie) had broken the supply line and both 40 foot square pens were filled with 3" of water. Dusty had a high spot, but Jessie's was quite flooded. I moved her into the small pen and fixed the waterer. The heat and humidity and the smell of wet manure make it a lovely site. Jessie's revenge.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Find the center revisited

We rode a lot this weekend. I had to come to the office for a short time on Friday and as soon as I got home we went out. We found ourselves near the Little League field and there was a tournament going on so we went over and had a soda at the snack bar and let the horses cool off a bit. Some of the kids came around to see the horses. They enjoyed their time in the shade. It's pretty hot here and Jessie and I had been working on the find-the-center exercise (again).

We rode by the dairy and the cows gave us all a thrill. The horses kept their eyes on them, Jessie more than Dusty. I tried some roll backs into the fence to regain her attention. It's so difficult. Sometimes I get the feeling she doesn't even realize I'm on her back.

We tried the FTC exercise again on the way home. Still no hints that she is getting it. Saturday we went out to the stables by the river and rode with some of Ranae's friends. It was a nice, easy ride with some different horses and I think it was good for them. Ranae's friend's horse spooked at a squirrel and Jessie took one little start and then stood there. Their horses hadn't been out much and they had their dog with them and so they headed back early. We went a little farther out and then Ranae and I split up. Jessie gets very worried when she knows there is another horse out there and she can't see it. This is quite different than when we go out alone and she is just not paying attention to me ;>) We were separated for about 5 minutes (Ranae did a loop around a grove of trees), when we got back I loped Jessie around them for a few circles and took her away to rest. I really don't think it made an impression.

Back at the stables we used one of the arenas for more FTC thinking that an arena might help. It didn't. I had Ranae watching me, I've looked at the lesson on DVD three times, it was 95 degrees and I was loping her and she wasn't paying attention to a thing "we" were doing. I stopped and let her rest a couple of times at the center cone thinking she would connect to it, but to no avail.

Sunday, the girls went out for their ride and I took Jessie to one of two FTC workout spots. I decided not to use my spurs and see if that made any difference. It didn't. We worked for about 25 minutes at the first spot then worked on transitions and vertical flexion to the second spot. We worked on FTC for another 25 minutes and there were hints of getting it but still nothing I could say was an "I got it" moment. We worked on some backing up and side-passing trying to end on something she does well, then we headed back. She was pretty sweaty. So was I.

Even though it was a bit disappointing, I have every confidence she will get it. This is probably the toughest exercise we've done so far. She had a pretty tough time with yielding forequarters and eventually she got it. I'm sure she'll eventually get this one too. Sometimes I wonder if I'm working her too hard. We rode pretty good 5 out of the last 7 days. Then I hear this little Aussie voice whisper in my ear, "If she's got enough energy to do the wrong thing...".

This week they've scheduled some incredibly hot weather so the best times will be our early mornings. I gave her Monday off again and I'm hoping to ride early Tuesday and Wednesday if I can drag my ass out of bed ...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Find the Center

Here's a video from yesterday morning's workout as we tried once again to find the center. I've shortened it considerably for your viewing please (but it's still boring).

Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Riding in the Back Seat

We grew up in LA and as a kid I remember riding in the back seat of the car with my brothers and sister. I didn't have a care in the world as to where we were going, just let me know when we get there. As I got older I had a lousy sense of direction because I rarely paid attention to where I was going. I really had to work o my map reading skills and have gradually improved and now, I think I have an "okay" sense of direction. My grandnephew, I understand, at age 5 knows when his mom or dad takes a different way home and asks what street there on.

I bring this up, because on our ride this morning Jessie was looking all over the place, which is quite different when we go out with another horse. With another horse it's like she's riding in the back seat, semi-oblivious to where we are going. When we are out alone it's like we are seeing everything for the first time. She's getting much better moving out though.

We rode out to our pipe in the ground to work on the find the center exercise again. I watched the DVD last night and got a few pointers to take out with me. We worked on it for another 15 minutes or so and let me just say the progress is slow, but I'm confident the light will come on soon. The interesting part is that all the other exercises we do on the way out and back are improving quite nicely.

And, it's great riding early in the morning...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hot as Hell and Cool as a Cucumber

After a great two evenings of music we were ready to ride on Saturday. Ranae was riding with her friend, Jessie and I were going out alone to find a place to do the find the center exercise. We got an early start (for a Saturday) at 8:30 am and it was still hot. There were only a few hesitations on the way out and I think she thought we were going out to meet the other horses. We found a spot that had a ten foot, 6' diameter pipe in the ground and I first walk the circle, then trotted the circle guiding her around on as much of a loose rein as possible. Once I started the exercise I started my timer and gave us twenty minutes. We trotted around that damn pole for about twenty five minutes before I thought we should move on to other stuff. I was getting bored, I'm sure she was too.

We rode out to another area about 15 minutes away and we worked on collection and some of the drawing exercise on the way there. I found a cone and another rather large area and we tried the find the center exercise again. There was a touch of improvement but I don't think she quite had the concept yet. We tried it at the lope for about ten minutes and, again, a little more improvement, but I still didn't think she had grasped the concept. This is a big area. There wasn't anything but open land for a half mile in any direction. I just think there was too much space. It was hot and we had been out about 90 minutes and she was pretty sweaty so we headed back and worked on some other exercises all the way home. I try not to make excuses but I think it's going to take just a bit more time to learn this exercise without a "proper" training area. I'm going to review the DVD again tonight and see if I can spot some things that will help us.

Sunday, Ranae and I went out and we did the exercise at the same place while she went off and trained on Dusty for a while. There is an area that holds a swap meet on Sundays and we usually ride around that area when the swap is not going on. It's fun because it's an auction yard too and they sometimes have some horses stalled in there to be sold. We wanted to extend our ride and we decided to go around that way. Well, the swap meet was in full swing there were cars everywhere and I thought I knew a short cut through the property. We rode through the swap meet with all the people and tarps and music and noise and smells and both horses did very well. When we got close to where I thought we could get out we dismounted and found that my exit was blocked by a bunch of tightly packed cars so we had to retrace our steps to get out. Again, they were both champs as we walked through the parking lot of people carrying stuff and kids yelling "caballo!" - we were pretty proud of them.

We got back and gave them a bath. We have a very small covered stall that we don't use very often just because of the size. But it was hot and I thought Jessie might appreciate the shade after her bath. She never rolls after a bath in her own pen, but back there she did and she rolled and flipped over and pinned herself against a post. I got back there and talked to her a bit and tried to flip her with her front feet first, then her hind. I couldn't get her quite all the way over. I called Ranae out and together, Ranae on the front, me on the back we were able to roll her over. She stayed calm through the whole episode even though when she tried to roll and didn't make it over she banged her belly pretty good. I left her in there for the afternoon so she could get used to being in there.

The air is clearing a bit so with any luck we may be able to get some more early mornings in. The days are starting to get shorter now...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Live Music to End the Week

We went to see Gary Hoey last night and what a great show it was. The venue was very small and I doubt there were more than 100 people there. Close, intimate, and the music was pretty awesome.

Tonight it's Joe Bonamassa under the stars on a warm summer evening. Back-to-back nights of live music. How great is that?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke get in Your eyes

I wrote this Tuesday but didn't published it(duh):

We rode early Tuesday before Ranae took Dusty to the vet. It was a nice early morning ride. The air is kinda crappy from the fires here in Calif. It's hard to ask a lot from the horses when the air hurts my lungs.

Monday evenings Ranae plays tennis so I have been watching my DVD's. Finally, I get to the "find the center" exercise for helping your horse do a circle without caving in or pushing out. The tips I had gotten from Matt Sheridan were helpful, but I think this exercise will help both of us a little more. The difference is, I think the find the center exercise gives her more of the responsibility to do it right. And, because she has assumed most of the responsibility for doing it wrong, I think this will help her a lot. We've already picked out a few places we can do this exercise (our training area is too small) and I can't wait to give it a try. Like follow the fence and passenger lesson it may require some time in the first session and those are the most fun for me.

I'm really not sure how much riding will fit in the rest of the week. We got tickets for a concert Friday night and I just found out guitarist Gary Hoey is playing here tomorrow night and I would really like to see him. Maybe Jessie could use some time off and we'll let the air clear.

Dusty lameness test went well. He has some arthritis. Ranae got a lot of the answers she was looking for.

It's supposed to be very hot again this weekend...

Thursday AM:

We rode last night and I got to work for about 15 minutes on the find the center exercise. It's hot and the air still is bad so we stayed at the trot. I think she was beginning to figure it out, but it will take more time to get the "concept". It's tough for me not to steer and try and help her out. We'll work on it a bit more this weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Day of Rest

Jessie and I are taking Monday off. This riding six days a week is tough. My back is sore, my butt is tired and I had a crap load of laundry to do. It was 110 here on Saturday. We needed a load of hay so we got our ride in about midday before it got really, really hot. Riding around the alfalfa fields wasn't too bad. We took a turn through some corn that was about five feet high and it stopped all air flow. It was like a sauna in there. We worked on a few of the things we had been doing all week. We did some loping, but because of the heat, not a lot.

Sunday morning I worked with her out back. We did a groundwork session, then a short bareback session, and an at-liberty session. She worked up a pretty good sweat. The at-liberty is better, but she still ducks out on me when she can. We tacked up and did some of the 4-leaf clover exercise and picking up a lead at the canter. Both those exercises are continuing to improve. She's got draw to a stop from a trot down cold and her side pass is improving.

This morning I came in to nine emails from the No Worries Club site saying I had a private message. I am not currently a subscriber so I was curious if I could even see them. The "private" message was actually between JennyC and HistoryRider and all nine copies were the same. I wonder if everyone got that message?

Going to try and go out tomorrow early. Ranae is taking Dusty for a vet check so I'm not sure if we'll be alone or not. Dusty has had some soreness issues and she wants a lameness test. I think it's a waste of money, but know better than to say anything. I don't think she'll get much more out of it than "We'll keep an eye on it". You might gather I'm not really fond of her vet. Did I mention we use separate vets?

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's Been a Good Week

Well, we've ridden six out of the last seven days. Each session included at least 30 minutes of saddle time. I don't know how much more I can take. Actually, it's been fun seeing her change. There's still a ways to go for both of us but, she is becoming more calm and there is a lot less inattentiveness. We rode out alone Thursday evening still working in the same general area. She was much more comfortable and there were only a few places where we needed to do some "feet moving".

This morning we jog the mile out the canal rode and I just tried to control her with my calf, heel, and spur. She stayed the course and, once out there we worked on "Draw to a stop from a trot", bending, side-passing, and backing up. It was good for the most part. Even though it was 6:45 am there were three other riders out there. The Mexicans know how to train their horses, though I doubt we us the same methods. They like to see them dance. It's been in the 100's here most of the week so 6 am is the best time to ride.