Tuesday, April 29, 2008

some pictures

Angel Baby, The Neighborhood cat


Rusty and Panama

Rusty, Ranae's Dog

Ranae and our neighbor's horse Charlie

Max, My Wonder Dog

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend Recap

Friday's ride was a bit of a backslide. We went over to the neighbor's arena and Jessie just wanted to hang out at the gate. She's got a bit of a stubborn streak as I've suggested before. It was a lot of work before she realized maybe it was easier doing something I wanted to do.

Saturday was filled with non-horse stuff and it was a relief just to get on and ride around 5pm. Ranae and I head on the usual circuit. We did some long trotting and even a little loping. When Jessie went off trail I just tried to make it harder for her and then put her back on the trail and make it easy.

Sunday we trailered out to the river. She got in the trailer pretty easily going out. We rode for about 2 hours along the river trails. At one point Ranae and I took off in different directions because we thought the horses were getting a bit too chummy. That was fun. We found a narrow ravine about 30 yards long and 8 feet deep to go through. She did well.

When we go back to the barn by the river we used their big arena and did follow the fence. We also did some loping. It was 94 here yesterday and it took longer than I thought, but I finally got a good sweat going on her. She's showing signs of improvement but I can't wait to get that nice, relaxed lope and have her respond to my direction changes. At one point, she sped way up and I sat deep to prepare a ORS and she slowed to the speed I wanted so I just kept going. She seemed to appreciate that I didn't stop her. It will be interesting to see if that was an "I got it" moment.

And, once again there was a lot of riding and I'm a bit sore. That's usually a sign she got a good workout too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two In One Day

Woke up early yesterday and did about 45 minutes of groundwork from about 6-7am. We are consciously going through all the exercises on GR 2. None of the exercises have been too difficult except I did find Jessie doesn't like the "Slap and Walk" exercise. That was one of the first desensitizing exercise (besides the clippers) that she's showed any resistance to.

I don't get home much before six and I quickly threw them some hay and went off to change and get some things done. I saddled her about 6:20 and we went out back and worked on ORS, bending, trotting circles, and we loped a bit. I'm going to have to look at that bending exercise again. Either I'm doing it wrong or not doing it long enough. She just can't wait to get her head back straight. She gives quickly and then it's - POW! - and she yanks it away. I think I just need to do it more. Time flew by and before I knew it it was past 7 and time to put everything back.

I'm hoping to get another short session in tonight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Long rides

The weekend was in the 60s and windy. Saturday we went for a ride with a friend who got dumped the last time she rode on a windy day. She stayed brave and relaxed and worked her way through it. Everyone behaved which helps a ton. We got back and I wanted to do some of the series 2 exercises, so we went out back and did picking up the lead on a circle, the four leaf clover, bending and bending-to-a-stop, and drawing-to-a-stop. She's loping so much better and, duh, I think it's just because I'm doing more of it.

Sunday we left the house at 12:30 and it was a bit chilly (that's the 60's in Cal)and still breezy. We went out in the fields and did some long-trotting. Ranae was loping. Until I get better control of her direction I don't let her lope very far. She has a pretty big trot and can stay in it for hours. It's almost as fast as Dusty's canter.

There is an egg farm with thousands of chickens. We chose to take the road that runs right alongside the farm to desensitize our horses, because that's the kind of rebels we are. There were big white cranes flying around and as we walked by the chickens they started cackling and flapping their wings. The wind was blowing the wheat in the field on the other side of the road. It was all veeerry scary. They did pretty good. Here's a picture from my cell phone of the chickens.

When we got back, Ranae had some work to do and our neighbor, Burt, was in his arena with his buckskin, Cowboy, so I went over there. Burt is a roper and our philosophies on horse and riding rarely intersect, but we put up with each other. He had an accident quite a few years ago while roping and broke his back. He's in his fifties and it's hard for him to get on his horse.

He rides with a tie-down and a curb and he's telling me I have to get lighter on my horse. He sees me do a one-rein stop and doesn't like the way I'm pulling on my horse. We spend the afternoon with me explaining the exercises I'm doing and him not listening to a word I'm saying. I get to ride Jessie a lot. I lope her around in circle after circle. She's was getting a much more comfortable pace. Later, because his legs were bothering him and he couldn't ride his horse, I got on Cowboy and rode him around. Cowboy is a really nice horse. Burt had three months of roping training put on him two years ago.

Even though we don't agree he made some good points about my seat that I tried to improve. He also made some terrible points about hands and legs which I just had to try and ignore. Jessie was pretty laid back through it all. When I got back to our house and saw it was 6 PM I knew I had given her a pretty good workout.

I'm a bit sore in places today. All last night I kept going over the exercises we did, analyzing them in my head trying to remember what to do next time. I think I had quite a good load of endorphins. I slept like a rock.

And, yeah, Courtney, I never thought having a horse would be this much fun. Jessie still pulls out her union card every now and then, but she's learning that it just means more work for both of us and I really don't mind. She's quicker to give it up and get to the "easy time". I still don't know where this will take us. Whether or not just trail riding will be enough, but for the time being it's a pretty neat way to spend the weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back to Training

We got three good days of training. Tuesday was the shortest. About twenty minutes in Jessie's paddock. I taught her to flex using the ear, did regular flexing, side-passing, yielding both ends, and desensitizing with the clippers.

Wednesday we did a little more vigorous workout with lungeing I & II, circle driving, C-pattern, yielding both ends, desensitizing with stick and string,popping bubble wrap and clippers. We worked about 40 minutes and she got some patience pole time.

Thursday we saddled up and went to our neighbor's arena. It's a little bigger and we could work on the bending exercise, the steering exercise and we did some follow the fence. We also loped around pretty good. Not exactly in the four leaf clover, but we did come through the center of the circle and go the other way. Lots of flexing. I'm asking for more with each workout and she's staying right with me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

If I were King

Observations on the Economics of the Walkabout Tour

You know when you're sitting around with your friends talking about stuff and you come up with a great solution to one of the world's problems and you say, "Well, if I were king, this is how the situation would be handled". You are fully aware it will never happen your way for any number of reasons, most of which have to do with a simple fact: you don't have all the information. But we never let that stop us from airing our unfounded opinions. It's also important to remember we don't have any of the necessary qualifications to put forth our ideas. But, again, we never let that stop us.

So, it is in that vein that I offer up my observations from a volunteer's perspective on the the economics of the Walkabout Tour. I recently volunteered at the California Tour stop. I worked three days. It was a great experience. Sunday night after everything was packed up and good-byes were said, I still had a two and a half hour drive home. I was a little sleep deprived so I started with some loud music to help keep me awake. When that didn't work I thought that if I did some "active" thinking it would help my mind pass the time. Daydreaming essentially. It's like pretending you're Nolan Ryan in the seventh game of the World Series when you're playing catch in the backyard. Or, while on your home golf course, imagining you are on the 16th green at Augusta and your Tiger trying to make the putt. Or, pretending you are Bob Avila riding in the futurity, when in reality you're doing circles in some dirt field. For this daydream I would be in charge of the Tour stop.

The only reason I offer it up here is because my neurotic brain won't let go of it. If I don't get it out, it will rattle around in my head like a steel ball in an empty can of spray paint. Clinton talks. I write. Once I get this out I'll be free to daydream something else, something equally unimportant.

First, let me establish the fact that I am unqualified. I'm lousy at making money. And, that I don't have all the facts. This was my third tour stop, first time volunteering and I've only seen two venues. Yep, totally unqualified. And, I'm not suggesting they change anything. Clinton has smart people working for him and they do a great job. Still, that doesn't mean I can't Monday morning quarterback.

Okay, here are the highlights:

First I would have everything bar-coded. That way the checkout process could be sped up with scanners. People were sometimes 15 deep in the cashier line waiting to check out. How many gave up and said "I'll just order online" and then never do?

Having the checkout system computerized would give another very important piece of information: real-time sales data. Do handy sticks sell more after the first session of Gaining Respect? Do tie-rings sell immediately after the demonstration? When, in the two day event, are the greatest sales of dvds? When do the saddles sell? The first rule of retailing is inventory management and real-time sales data sharpens that. If you never sold more than 200 pink handy sticks at a tour stop, why pack 400? You might find hooded sweatshirts sell best in Montana and tanktops are the top seller in Georgia.

The second thing would be to make the check out more like a regular store. Instead of having the tables perpendicular to the check out line I would make it parallel. Look at Costco, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's or any other mass retailer. They make the checkout line parallel so that everyone is forced to walk by all the impulse items (the key chains, pens, pocket knives, etc.) And, they make it quick and easy.

The DVD Displays

I would maximize dvd sales for a number of reasons. One, it creates loyalty. Two, let's face, the first dvd in any series takes thousands of dollars to produce, the second and everyone after that, probably costs less than ten dollars. I would look at a trade show where videos are sold and see how they display dvds. Stacking them up on a table, laying flat doesn't seem to me the most appealing. It's more like a bake sale. And the TVs. We had four TVs, and what 15 dvd titles? Hey, dvd players are cheap now. Those tv's were big, bulky and the boxes used to transport them were taped together with so much tape it wasn't funny (Well, it was actually). Again, proper merchandising would save space and sell more product.

The Merchandise and Displays

I wouldn't carry anything in a cardboard box - or very little. If it's going on the truck it better have a hard case. I would look at how the circus travels or at other shipping options that provided more uniform containers for transporting. It would not only make loading and unloading easier, there would be less breakage during transportation. I'd have a talk with Martin Saddle. Those saddle boxes should be at least 250 lb test. Not one of the saddles we had were in an intact box. They were falling over every time we tried to stack them.

And, again I would look at trade show technology. They make custom displays for almost everything. It's sturdy, attractive and easy to transport. The heavy metal display racks we used were good, but they were a pain in the ass to put in the truck.

The Show

Here's where you have to determine if you want to focus only on new customers or give established customers a reason to come out again. The three tour stops I've seen were basically the same. Calm down. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I learn or remember something I should be doing every single time I see Clinton. But, this particular weekend there was another horse expo a hundred miles from us in a different direction and our friends went to that expo because "They had already seen Clinton."

So what could be done with the format of the show? Here's the beauty of the real-time sales data I mentioned above. You could plug in different segments and, because you're keeping track of what's selling and when, you can tell if the segment works or not.

Again, not sure how the details would work but, what if the colt starting demo was with a colt who had been through the Handling Weanling and Yearling Series? We all know what the problem child looks like. What about one that had been started correctly? Maybe it wouldn't be dramatic but it would show greater possibilities for a horse handled well as a yearling. Perhaps two colts starting, one with training, one without.

What if there was a riding demo that included a rider who had taken their horse through the dvd series? Clinton's great, but he has a lifetime of experience. I want to know if someone like me can do it and showing a regular person, on their own horse would demonstrate that. And, wouldn't it motivate the crowd that, if the selected horse and rider were so good, Clinton switched horses? I remember the first time my parents let me drive the "new" car. I really felt like I arrived. Getting to ride Mindy or Diaz - wow!

So, there's more, but these were the things I thought were worth mentioning. This allows me to dump my brain so I can start daydreaming about something else like who will I choose to sire the foal I'll take to the futurity. My mare is a great granddaughter of Jessie James. Jessie James is in Mindy's bloodlines as well and if she could do it....

Monday, April 14, 2008


Loaded with the energy of the the Tour Stop, we got to do groundwork last Wednesday and Thursday and got both ground and riding in on Saturday and Sunday. It was record warm over the weekend. They say it hit 94.

The groundwork sessions went very well. She is getting lighter and lighter. We side-passed down the fence for about 30 feet in both directions. She is finally getting desensitized to the clippers. She learned how to flex using the ear and her backup is pretty good as well.

Under saddle we worked on bending, post-to-post, and cantering. We cantered in circles pretty well. We even went through the center of the circle and changed directions at a lope. That was a first for us. Sunday's trail ride included riding out on our own and we trotted or loped for about twenty minutes. She did pretty well.

Ferrier was out this morning. She still struggles a bit more than I like. Her barefeet are holding up quite nicely.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Clinton Anderson Volunteer experience

This is my longest post ever!


I drove down Friday morning. City of Industry is about 2-21/2 hours depending on traffic. We were supposed to be there at noon. I got there about 11:30. The crew and one other volunteer, Kevin, were already working, so I jumped right in. We worked for about half an hour or so and pizzas arrived. We ate lunch and then everyone introduced themselves. Public speaking - my favorite.

We had an orientation. Cindy told us what to expect as far as the workload went. Said we weren't going to get to meet Clinton until the very end on Sunday night and that if he walked by one of us without saying anything, don't be offended he's just "very intense".

After lunch we went to work in earnest unloading the truck. I noticed there were three volunteer badges that were never claimed. It was pretty steady work. I unpacked some DVD's, then helped putting strings on sticks and lead ropes on halters. The crew is great. Jason and Phylis are a lot of fun and just plain nice people. I stayed away from the clothing area, the two gals who were working there had a pretty good system. I took some pictures with my cell phone, but I'm such a dufus I didn't save them - only the beginnings of my camera problems)

Once everything was almost up in the selling area, Jason grabbed the guys and we put up the round pen. That is one stout round pen and the panels are HEAVY. Shayna was working Diaz. She had him laid down and asked us to make a bunch of noise to help desensitize him. We were all happy to oblige.

We cleaned up the selling area and got to leave around 6 PM.


I arrived about 6:10 and Clinton was already working Diaz under saddle. There were still some posters that needed to go up so I began working on that. The music was playing in the arena and it was pretty good music. A lot of southern rock. So, I'm focused on my task and trying to catch a glimpse of Clinton and what he's doing and a song by Buck Cherry called Crazy Bitch comes on. The song starts with a great diving beat. There is a clean version of this song and a dirty version....a very dirty version. By the way Clinton galloped over to the mixing board to turn down the song, I'm guessing this was the dirty version. He got it muted just before the nasty chorus.

At 7:00 all the volunteers went to the gate for a little orientation and to help let the people in. They gave us these little scanners and orange markers. All the spectators were in a pretty good mood and it was an easy job. Cindy, was a bit edgy, but we had volunteer Kevin, who was with the Sheriff's Dept and he was pretty used to stuff like this. There weren't as many people there as I thought there would be. About 30 NWC members and maybe a little more regular admission folks.

I had mentioned to Cindy that, if it was okay, I wanted to watch the advance riding demo at 3pm and she said sure. They had a spot taped off for the volunteers to sit. I got to watch part of the colt starting demo and we helped restock merchandise when they broke for lunch. I worked the gate most of the first afternoon session. During the afternoon break we just kept an eye on the shelves and restocked what was needed. It wasn't very hard work. When it got close to the Advance Riding Demo, I think it was Sherrie who came over to me and said go, watch, which I think was pretty thoughtful that they remembered.

My wife Ranae had driven down, and we had a list of things to get. We both needed halters (Ours were at least three years old and her horse chewed on mine while they were tied up next to each other). I wanted one of the lead ropes with the new clasp. I don't think people like it as much as the old one. The new one just looks more complicated. I'll let you know once I get a chance to use it for awhile. We both got new handy sticks and I got an extra tip for the one that broke. Ranae got a sweatshirt. I still had my NWC 15% discount coupon so we saved a little money - which was nice. We also got another gallon of EZ-all. We bought the last one year before last at the tour.

After the Adv. Riding Demo people shopped and we restocked until the register lines were empty. Cindy called us over, said we did a good job and told us to be here at 7 am on Sunday. Clinton was still signing autographs when we left.


Even though we were told we didn't have to arrive until 7, I got there shortly before 6 am. The arena lights weren't even on. I mixed up a protein shake for breakfast and just as I was finishing I saw the lights start to flicker. I gathered all the stuff I would need for the day and it was about a 60 second walk to the grandstand. Just as I got there I could see Clinton side-passing Diaz on the ground against the fence. Shayna was working the "gaining respect" horse on the ground. I settled in with my shake and a cup of coffee and got to enjoy just about half an hour alone watching them work their horses. It was fun getting to see him interact with Diaz without a crowd around. I'm sure he wondered why the hell I had got there so early - I'm also sure he didn't wonder for very long - like, snap your fingers - yeah, about half that.

About six thirty Shayna went and got the colt they were starting and worked with that the remaining time. At seven-ten we all went to the front gate to help let everyone in. The show started with the colt being ridden first. Shayna rode and Clinton worked the stick and flag. Then they brought the Appy out for gaining respect. This horse had made a big change. It was a pretty huge arena and Clinton loped this horse around and around and around. That horse couldn't wait to be respectful.

Diaz did some tricks. They laid him down and Clinton flipped him over. He bowed with one leg, then with two. Then he sat up. Clinton did some freedom work with him. He kept him on the long line for part of it too. It was some of the stuff I had witnessed in the morning.

The last demonstration was the trailer loading. The were running about an hour behind already. It looked like we were going to get a late start at packing up. At the beginning of the demo Clinton showed all the ways people try to get their horses in the trailer. You know all the usual ways. Well, one of the ways, and I don't remember him doing this last time, was to start running with the horse to the back of the trailer and have the crowd encourage the horse to go in. Of course it didn't work. The horse almost ran over him veering away from the back of the trailer. He did it a couple of times and it got a big laugh out of everyone. So he does all the stuff to get the horse in and in about half an hour he's got the horse in and the crowd applauds. The applause scares the horse and he comes out, so Clinton devises this plan of working the horse outside with crowd making as much noise as possible and as soon as the horse goes in the crowd gets silent. Naturally after three or four times the crowd makes a noise and the horse goes in the trailer. He does it a couple of times and tells the crowd what good trainers there are. Shayna had been watching the whole demo. I walked up to her and said one of the spectators had come up to me and said, "I saw the first part of this demo where he was getting the crowd to make noise to get the horse in. I had to leave for awhile. I never thought it would work, but looky there, that horse is going in."

She looked at me and started laughing. I told her I was teasing and she said it wouldn't have surprised her in the least if someone had actually said that. Later, someone from the crowd asked how she could get her horse to go in backwards?!?

We were all pretty ready to pack up. We had lost one volunteer already. As soon as Clinton was outta there we began franticly packing everything up. It's amazing how everyone just finds a job and it all gets pack up. Just as we were finishing Clinton pulls up in his rental car and finally, I get to introduce myself. I tell him what great people he has working for him and he agrees. He hands us our certificates, thanks us and takes some pictures. My camera didn't work. I think I was haunted. I was all sweaty and dusty from packing up, I had been up since 5am, it was closing in on 8:30pm. I'm sure it would have looked like a mug shot anyway.

Tuesday - Epilogue

All-in-all it was a lot of fun. We worked pretty hard in concentrated time frames. Yeah, it would have been better to have interacted with Clinton, but what can you expect. He wasn't going to be out there helping us set stuff up. He sure wasn't going to invite us all over to the hotel bar for a Fosters and get our opinions on world politics or listen to us tell stories about our horses.

Here's the way I see it: When I was a kid I loved Sherlock Holmes. I read every novel and every short story. I honed my observation skills, I practiced deduction. I wanted to be just like Sherlock Holmes - except he was a made-up character. I wanted to be just like Sherlock Holmes - except he also did cocaine - and, oh yeah, he was a made-up character. Clinton could be a cartoon character for all I care. I'm not looking for his love and devotion, I'm looking for his knowledge and skills around horses. That's a lot. If I can get that and go, I'm fine.

As a human, to be really good with horses you have to be able to shut off a part of your brain and yet still keep thinking. During the Spooky Objects demo I was manning the arena gate. We had put a banner on the gate and I knew this horse wasn't going to like it when I closed the gate. He went through and I stalled before closing it. Shayna looked at me and said we could close it. I was thinking about the horse and hesitated another couple of seconds to let him get farther away. About the time I started swinging it shut Clinton said "Go ahead and close the gate". Sure enough I closed it slow and steady and when it got half way closed the horse gave a lurch forward and pulled the owner along. I stopped. Simultaneously Clinton and Shayna said, "Keep closing it." To help the horse the pressure needed to stay on, not come off. That takes intense concentration for me. It's second nature to them.

Another reason Clinton may not want to rub elbows with the volunteers is a similar problem I have when a customer becomes a vendor. I had my house refinanced many years ago and I asked a customer who was in the business to help. He always seemed reliable, but when I called him for different reasons he was never around. Needless to say once the deal was over I wasn't too pleased with him and let him know and I lost him as a customer. It was hard to flip that "Customer is always right" dynamic from one side of the relationship to another. And, as a volunteer, I was pretty much on the other side now.

So, I don't know how much of that made sense but anyway, I ordered my Part 3 series today. I got both the Riding and the Gaining Respect titles. They gave me the available discount for getting two dvds and I still had a credit so I added Robert Miller's dvd. That was pretty cool.

So all-in-all it was a very nice experience. The other volunteers were great. Clinton's people were terrific. Would I recommend it? Sure, if you've already been to a tour stop (You can miss some good parts of the show) and you have a lot of energy, stamina and enthusiasm. Will I apply again? I don't know. It would be far easier because you kinda get a feel for how it all goes together, but it's a long weekend. Sunday morning in the arena was pretty special.

Not sure if I'll post this on my NWC blog. I don't think there is anything offensive in it (not like anyone reads that blog anyway)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

This day in history

April 3rd 1882, Robert Ford shot the outlaw Jessie James in the back. Don't know why this is relevant...

Tomorrow, off to volunteer at the City of Industry Walkabout Tour..