Monday, July 27, 2009

I Don't Know What I Don't Know

We were able to ride Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. The temperatures were quite warm but we toughed it out, the good little horsemen that we are. Sunday we rode along the canal to a feedlot a couple of miles away. The cows are the ultimate scary object. Put them next to a canal and you have the ingredients for an exciting ride. Dusty is the brave one although we each got to take a turn at leading. Once by the cows we had a big open field to do some loping. We even loped side-by-side for awhile without them racing each other.

Saturday's ride was out to the development. We did the loop backwards from our normal direction. This is the aqueduct bridge we cross.

There were some atv riders out there and they were jumping off the bridge. We were on the bridge when one crawled out of the water and jumped from the bank of the canal into the water. The splash caused the horses to do a "standing shy" because the noise came right from under them.

They cleared a new area at the development and it's a graded, big, flat area. We practiced loping and even tried loping circles together and had a little success with that. We can tell the horses are getting in pretty good condition because they did sweat, but it was never dripping off of them, and there was just the slightest breeze. It had to be close to 100 degrees. Well, they're in good condition, that is, if sweating is an indicator of physical conditioning. By the time we get home the only damp spot is under the saddle pad.

Friday evening's session was out back with the cones and rails. Jessie did some really nice loping through the cones. She's slowing down so we can make a little sharper turn and she's anticipating a lead change and quickly drops to a trot for a step as she changes. Flying changes are just around the corner (from the "famous last words" department).

The Feedlot

We had been toying with the idea of going to a horse show. The Paint organization puts it on. They had a green WP class and a green trail class. Instead of taking the horses, after our ride on Sunday we headed over there to scout the class. We think we could have at least not embarrassed ourselves. I'm still unsure if I want to do the whole show scene. Maybe it's my experience with dog shows, but I'm just not comfortable around shows. You see a lot of hinky stuff. One guy was fencing his horse to stop in the 200 foot arena. Okay, I understand you want to train, but the show is over fella, it's 3 in the afternoon, easily over 100 degrees, the footing is not conducive to sliding, do you really need to run this horse down 10-15 times?

It was nice to see the course and we have most of the obstacles in our practice area, except for the bridge. There is another one in August so we'll see how we (Ranae and I) feel about it by then.

How many? Well, we count their feet and divide by four.

Coming up this Saturday we have a lesson scheduled with Matt Sheridan. After the workshop the girls said they wanted to take a couple of lessons and I said I would join them. Each of them have something they want to work on. Sometimes I just have the overwhelming feeling that I don't know what I don't know. The only thing I really want to work on is loping. It's an hour lesson. Can you do that for an hour? Is there something else I should toss in there? Any suggestions would be helpful.

I changed out my mecate reins for split reins. I had made these reins when I had my first horse, Tex. There were a lot of miles on these reins. They even had the little magic marker marks where the center was. Geesh. Who gets nostalgic over a set of reins? It felt funny not riding in them, but sooner or later I knew I would have to change, particularly if I ever want to ride one-handed.

Taking a Break

Monday, July 20, 2009

Loping the Big Square

It's painful in places, but I'm posting it anyway. My arms and upper body are bouncing around, the stop was less than ideal. This is the "big square" we ride when we're out. Just when I think I'm getting this stuff, I have to go and video myself. I'll say no more.

It's Only 111

Saturday evening we went out to the "development". There's a big whole. These are built in many developments to catch water in the winter time. Sewers and drains were put in first and then the housing bust hit and no homes ever went up in this development. So we have this big hole and it's fun to ride down in. People dump garbage there. Californians are such neat folks. It makes for some good "scary object" practice for us.

For those of you who enjoy feet pictures, here's Jessie's front hooves after two hours riding Saturday and two on Sunday. I haven't touched them up with the rasp in a week.

And, this was the sunset on Saturday night. The clouds came in and raised the humidity just in time because it wasn't feeling quite hot enough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Five Ride Week

While they are not all intense training rides we have been able to saddle up and ride the last five days. Ranae is still in Hawaii and it takes me longer to get everything done. Thursday and Friday were fairly short 45 minute rides down the canal bank. I'm still working on transitions and we do a lot of walk-to-trot, trot-to-lope, lope-to-trot, and trot-to-walk combinations. I would try 3 or 4 in a row and then just let her walk for awhile. Then we would do it again.

We also did a lot of loping. She has improved quite a bit. She doesn't have a slow WP lope by any means, but she picks up the requested lead about 90% of the time. Out in the open trail she does tend to speed up. The ground is hard and to add to the difficulty there are squirrel holes scattered about. She likes to ride right on the edge of the canal bank and scare the s**t out of me. I've been working on moving her over using my outside leg (the one dangling over the water).

Saturday we rode out to the development and stayed at a trot for most of the ride. This, too, has improved and Jessie will actually trot slow enough for me to sit the trot (but just barely).

Sunday was our long ride out to the city farm. A little more than 6 miles, we had to negotiate the way out all by ourselves. There was scary traffic and scary garbage on the side of the road and Jessie stayed brave and kept moving. We found a few irrigation water puddles to cross and had to walk by a staging area with 30 to 40 bee hives. She got a little nervous riding by the chicken farm and, since we were out there alone, I just got off and walked her.

I feel a little guilty. I haven't been doing much groundwork. Actually it consists of about ninety seconds of touch-and-rub forequarters and hindquarters, a bit a flexing, and we're off. It's more out of laziness. I just don't want to move all the horses around so I can use the back arena.

Monday night we got another hour long ride in. We worked on most of the usual stuff, but when we got to a part of the canal where there is a farm on the other side she got all wiggy on me and wanted to go her own way. I wasn't sure what had her concerned (whether it was the equipment, dogs, or the way the water looked) but I turned her back into the direction of what seemed to be frightening to her and we went back and forth across this area several times. She still wasn't paying attention to me so we did it at a trot. When that didn't get it, we did it at a lope. We worked at it for almost ten minutes and she finally started to respond and I let her stand for a minute or two. My frustration level was rising and had to do some internal coaching. She was really leaning on the bit and I couldn't figure out why(although I told myself it really didn't matter - she should be listening to me). The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Our path crossed a dirt bike rider and three other horses on the opposite side and she was fine.

We got our load of hay in on Saturday. I had a company move our front gate so the driver could dump it right on our property. (Unlike last year when they dropped it on the driveway and I had to move it to the back in 6 pickup loads). We only broke two sprinkler heads. They should be easier to fix than moving 88 bales of hay. The price of the hay, moving the gate, the new trailer, sometimes it feels like we're just bleeding money. Oh well, guess it's just all part of the deal.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Matt Sheridan Workshop

Finally got the video edited from or Ranch/Trail Riding workshop at Matt Sheridan's place in Tehachapi. Here's the link: Matt Sheridan Workshop

I would have embedded it here but it looks better on the big screen.

Ranae leaves for eight days in Hawaii tomorrow.

Got a Clinton Anderson NWC DVD in the mail yesterday AND my login works at his website. Weird.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Riding Everyday

I think it was in Rick Lamb's newsletter he gave out a bit of Buck Branaman advice, "The secret to good horsemanship is to ride everyday."

We were able to ride Thursday (see last post), Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday's ride was another solo ride. Jessie was almost 180 degrees from Thursday. She was nervous, and distracted. There were a lot of fireworks going off in the neighborhood and the wind was blowing, but we were riding the same canal bank we always do. We did a short loop and walked the mile back home. It was good just to practice keeping her attention and working to keep her calm.

Saturday we were able to ride 2+ hours and we found all kinds of trail obstacles. We had a water crossing and a ditch crossing and both the horses did very well. We worked on the techniques we learned in the workshop and kept our horses moving slowly through the obstacles.

We rode back around to our open area and practiced some controlled loping and a lot of transitions. I found a couple of pieces of trash and we set them up about thirty feet apart and worked on loping a figure eight around them. We started at a trot, then worked at picking up the correct lead and loping around the curves. Back to a trot through the straightaways, then the different lead at a lope. It was pretty ugly at first, but the horses soon figured it out and Jessie would break to a trot in the center then change leads when I asked her to lope again. Dusty actually did a flying lead change at one of the transitions.

Sunday evening we went out back and worked in our practice area. I had put an eye bolt through a tire and attached a rope and both of us dragged that around for a while. Both horses were pretty good at dragging (better than we were with the rope handling). We weaved our cones and loped our patterns. The weather was still warm and we didn't spend a lot of time out there, but we did get the practice in.

This morning the farrier came at 6:30 am. Dusty had a little "white line" disease (a hoof fungus) but it's not serious. Jessie's feet were so short he didn't even trim her. He helped shaped the right front because she was standing up pretty straight, but other than that, nothing. I had filed some of the cracks off from the Tehachapi ride, but I don't do a lot of rasping on her feet and I was a little surprised he didn't think she had needed a trim. It had been eight weeks. But, her feet looked good so we'll go au natural.

"Sparky" - The kitten we found a few weeks ago.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Big Bang Theory

Last night Ranae had a massage scheduled. I got home fed, cleaned the pens, and even though it was warm there was a breeze, and I decided to go for a ride. I tacked up and we headed for the canal bank. Jessie was a little reluctant going out by herself. She continues to get better with every outing.

We trotted most of the way out. The canal is not all that wide so we worked on changing speeds and moving forward. We would trot and then I would sit and see if Jess would break to a walk. Then we would lope and try to a transition to a trot. We were having a good ol' time as we headed out to the cornfields.

Our canal intersects with a larger, cement-lined feeder canal to the California Aqueduct. There are two cement bridges we use to get across the feeder canal. The east bridge had a few guys hanging out drinking beer and riding an ATV, so we turned and headed for the west bridge. The loop route we take means that whatever bridge we take on the way out takes us to the other bridge on the way home.

We loped a bit around the cornfield. Jessie was a little concerned with "The Children of the Corn" she knew were hiding in that field and the slight breeze made the six foot stalks even more scary. I kept her feet moving and we turned for home still working on our speed transitions.

As we approached the canal intersection things were getting busy. From about a quarter mile away I could see a van pull up and drop off four or five kids and there was now a pickup with another five or six teenagers and the original four guys with the ATV. (We have seen the ATV boys a couple of times out there.) The bridges are about twenty feet above the water and the kids like to jump off the bridge (hey, whatever butters your bread. It's hotter than blazes here). Even if we wanted to head over to the west bridge we would have to ride right by all these people, so I thought we would just work our way slowly over and try to cross that bridge with the now 16 or so people (and one dog) milling about.

We were probably twenty to thirty yards away when a couple moved to the center of the bridge, climbed the 2 foot railing and prepared to back flip into the water. I stopped Jessie so we could watch and about this time the kids over by the pickup lit some firecrackers, The girl jumps off the bridge about the same time we hear the bop-bop-bop-bop-bop-bop of the machine gun-like firecrackers. When I had stopped Jessie to watch "the dive" I dropped my hand to her mane and relaxed. When the noise went off she flinched (as probably did I) but she didn't move a foot. I sat there scratching my chin looking at everyone and trying to decide if I should try to cross with the new variable, the fireworks, in play. The group had seen me approach from as far away as I had seen them. Of course, we were both on private property, so you could say we both had equal rights not to be there. I didn't want to intrude on their fun, but I wanted to get across that bridge.

About 15 seconds went by and one of the ATV guys said, "Watch it with those fireworks, you could spook the horse". I yelled, "Thanks" and asked Jessie to move forward. She walked carefully up to the bridge with all the people milling about and, like a champ, just moved right on through. As we passed, the thirteen year old who lit the crackers apologized and I tossed him a "No problem, friend". The ATV guy was the last one we passed and I thanked him and he said, "Anytime you want, I'll race you for pink slips." We got a laugh and once I got passed them we headed off in a trot, then I decided to lope. It was about a half a mile to the road and we loped most of the way there. Jessie had some energy and I wanted her to use it up. Her head was a little high. She was moving fast, but not out-of-control fast. When I asked her to slow, she did (and then immediately went back to "her" pace). I asked for a "whoa" shortly before the road. I think she had forgotten I was up there. I picked up one rein and she immediately stopped.

After we crossed the road we went back to working on our walk-to-trot and trot-to-walk transitions. We did that all the way home. This night we had conquered the fireworks.