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.