Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Going Saddle-less

I've mentioned we do a little bareback riding after our ground work. I've captured some video. It has all the characteristics of a homemade video. It's not pretty and it's long. It's quite interesting to see your riding style on video. I can see a lot of mistakes, but it's not bad for someone who's only been doing it about a month. Feel free to offer advice or critiques - I can take it.

We are riding in the halter and I just tied the lead rope on a loop. It makes the reins kinda long. I think it's funny the look Jessie has on her face at times. It's like, "Get this guy off of me!" She actually did very well. A couple of times my weight shifted and my balance was off and I could feel her come up underneath me and get back on track.

Regardless of my riding ability the one thing you can tell from this video is how absolutely gorgeous she is!

Monday, February 18, 2008

She's got an itch and I think it's my saddle

We got to ride both Saturday and Sunday. Started Saturday with some groundwork, then rode her a bit bareback (I'm trying to do a little of this every time)and then we hit the trail. It was a nice day. Oh, I better go back to last Sunday. I had the new saddle and we were riding in the afternoon. Her feet are long because our ferrier was sick and I didn't want to do a lot of loping, but I wanted to do some. We took off and she headed right for a little irrigation ditch that was about a foot and a half deep and had a sandy mound on one side. I started to yield her hindquarters and it felt like she stepped in a hole, because down she went. I just stepped off. She tried to roll but the saddle horn kept her from going all the way over. I comforted her and finally she got up. Ranae had seen the whole thing and she said Jessie deliberately laid down. I responded it didn't feel that way, but she said she saw her knees buckle. Crap! She wanted to get that new saddle off and I comforted her.

Okay, back to last Saturday. We are riding and again she spots this sandy spot and stop, drops before I know it. I step off and this time I immediately get her up and start hustling her with lunging stage 2. She looks at me like "What the f?#! is your problem?" She kicks a little, rears a little, charges "kinda", and after about 5 minutes she starts licking her lips. Once she's back to herself I get back on have a pretty nice ride.

Sunday we rode with our friends part of the time and I could see her eye-ing every soft, sandy patch. I kept her feet moving and we didn't have another incident. I checked the sweat patterns and they are fine. I think the saddle is just a little stiff in places and she is shedding some hair and it doesn't really matter because this is our saddle, by god, and it fits good and she's just going to have to get used to it.

This morning we had a little workout before the ferrier came and she did excellent. She's backing up great. We back up through gates and she is learning to place her feet. She's side passing from the ground very well and ground ties while I pick her feet. I try to end every session with some bareback riding in the halter. My balance is getting better as is my mounting. I haven't trotted yet but we did some backing and side-passing this morning. It's a bit nerve wracking and quite fun at the same time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Epiphany

epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

We had Tivo'd Chris Cox's show and it was a repeat. There was nothing else on so we decided to watch it. It was one with October Hill farms. They breed and train horses for the highest level of dressage. Chris showed the place off first, then they had a horse they were having a problem with. Now, this has to be a million dollar facility. The owner has horses and trainers and a beautiful facility. She probably has decades of experience with horses. She had taken this horse to the Grand Prix level of dressage.

She was having a problem with this eleven year old fighting the bit, charging, and being nervous. Chris got on and did one of his most basic maneuvers, flexing with one rein. He then did his vertical collection exercise, again one of his most basic exercises. The horse started to behave like it was supposed to in a very short time and that's when it hit me: It's not how much you know, it's how much you know well.

Clinton Anderson has probably everything one needs to know about horses distilled in two series of DVD's all I need to do is study them until I know them completely. I'm likely to never get to work five horses a month to gain the experience someone else has, but I don't need to. My experience will most likely be with one horse, my horse Jessie. I can do the best for her if I know what's on those DVDs inside and out.

I had had my first horse Tex for about nine months. When I started riding him he occasionally would kick up and sometimes even buck. It was a sissy-kicking buck and I never felt unsafe. Well, I eventually had to put Tex down due to severe navicular in both front feet, but he taught me alot. One afternoon we were out riding and I wanted to lope small circles. He didn't want to. I insisted. He had enough. He dropped his head and gave a buck I never knew he had in him. I hung on for the first one, but he was determined to get me off. He bolted a few steps, turned, bucked, dived, bolted again, stopped and bucked and I came off. It probably didn't last more than ten seconds. Now, up to that point I had taught him the one rein stop and he knew "whoa" so well he was almost sliding to a stop. Did I try either of those things in that ten seconds? No. I knew them, but I didn't know them well.

As humans once we get the concept of something we want to move on to the next. I started with disc one of Gaining Respect and couldn't wait until I got to disc two, then three, then the next series. It takes practice, practice, practice to become really good at these techniques. And, yeah, you have to fight the boredom of repetition and find ways to keep your horse engaged, and that's just another challenge. I heard the Beatles played the same dive in Liverpool for over a year, two shows a night, six nights a week. They were probably bored at times too, but they also used that experience to hone their skills.

There was an old horseman, Bill, who ran an automotive shop next to our store. His dad had started it. Back in those days someone would come in for a tune-up and Bill's dad would change out the parts that were needed. Bill tells the story that when the customer came to pick up their car and ask how much, Bill's dad would start by saying, "Well, the labor was five dollars, let's see I changed some plugs, that's eight dollars, some wires another two to make it ten, tuned the carb add four dollars..." and he would keep going until the customer said, "Wow, that much, eh?" That's kind of my impression of the horse industry. There's always more you need to add and there are plenty of people to sell it to you. I think I have all the necessary tools to get a good, soft, well-broke horse I can use for anything I chose. My job is to learn how to use those tools as completely and efficiently as possible and that's what I going to try and do.