Monday, September 28, 2009

Working Cows

We spent the weekend in Tehachapi at a working Cowhorse/Versatility Workshop. We were able to get a lot of riding in and we learned a lot.

It's a very small workshop with only four students and we got a lot of one-on-one attention. We spent Friday afternoon going over Matt's positions #1-#4. I wished we had practiced this more. Matt gives instruction based on these positions and we were pretty rusty with them and it would have worked out much better if we had them down pat.

I struggled a bit trying to mesh my DUH techniques with his. He doesn't ask, "John, what cues do you use to get horse to do this?" He says, "Cue this way do get your horse to do this." So, it was easy for not only me to get confused, but I managed to confuse Jessie too. Still, we were picking up a lot of good information and my philosophy is "I'm not there to show him what I know, I'm there to find out what he knows. So, shut up and pay attention."

Saturday morning we worked more on the skill moves of getting our horses to roll over their hocks. Jessie is front loaded and we struggled with this. We did a lot of backing up. Later, we played with flag a bit before lunch and Jessie did just "okay".

Things were building to what would happen after lunch. We were going to work the flag as it was moving. Now, I was trying hard to follow Matt's instruction. Sometimes his instructions seemed to contradict each other and when I asked for clarification, I didn't really always understand his answers. He is really skilled at what he does on the back of a horse and I have neither the timing or feel he does and chalked up my confusion to this. Friday night he had pulled me aside and said he really wanted me to "step it up" with Jessie. I told him I would and filed this information away. Saturday after lunch we watched a cow working a flag video and when the horse didn't stop, the instructor (who shall remain nameless) said, "We can't make him stop, but we can make him wish he had" and it looked like a pretty aggressive move to stop his horse. I filed this away too. After lunch, Matt was the first to work the flag and when the horse he was riding didn't pay attention to him and he spun that horse halfway across the arena so she would pay attention to him. He had to do it a couple of times. I watched and filed that away. When it was Jessie's turn at the flag, we went across the arena, I asked her to stop, she ignored me, I took hold of her mouth, and Matt was all over me. "Don't. Don't do that!" "Well, crap", I thought, "what had I missed?"

He thought I was frustrated with Jessie and I wasn't. I did need to correct her for not stopping, I had my own way (which never came into it) and I had the way I had seen just a few minutes before and I wasn't able to use either one of them. He's asked me to step it up and now I wasn't really sure what anything meant. We eked our through that exercise, but I was thoroughly frustrated.

In the afternoon we got to track a cow and that's always a fun time. I was trying to learn how to read the cow as well as move my horse, so my brain was just a humming with activity.

Sunday morning we were scheduled to work the flag again. Warming up Jessie I noticed every time we came to the corner of the arena we had struggled in the day before, she would get wound up. We past the flag and she was nervous. So, we worked on those areas during the warm up. We loped a lot in that beautiful arena and I let her rest in the trouble spots. When it came time for us to work the flag I had my mind made up. Since I wasn't understanding what Matt wanted from me AND I felt I knew what my horse needed, I went out and worked the flag the way I wanted. We walked across the arena, stopped, the flag turned and we turned and we walked back across the arena. The whole time Matt was telling me to speed up, to get my horse going, to catch the flag. Jessie and I made four turns and had stayed calm and listening to me which was exactly what I needed her to do. We stopped, backed and turned off the flag. I had gotten what I thought my horse needed and it wasn't heavy handed (it also wasn't fast, but we can always get faster). Everyone else had worked the flag for three times the length I had and when they saw me end the exercise on my own they were a bit stunned. Matt asked me to explain myself and I did. He said if I had been having problems, I should have asked him. I couldn't tell him he was the genesis of my frustration.

He didn't let up however, and later pressured me some more, so I described to him the two reactions I had seen him make when a horse wasn't listening and how I tried to mimic those and we went back and forth with him explaining how his screwing a horse into the ground was effective and mine, which looked and felt the same only a little tamer, was completely ineffective. The conversation was civil, but I really didn't think he was seeing my point of view or really even listening to me. So after a bit, I just agreed with everything he said like I really understood it. It's a character flaw on my part, I know, but the conversation wasn't really going anywhere because I couldn't really see the difference in his reaction to a horse not listening and mine. And, because I had kind of disobeyed the teacher, I now had a lot more attention being paid to me than I wanted and I wanted it to just all go away. Let's move on.

My motivation for learning may be a little different than others. I want to learn how to be a better horseman. I don't want want someone to train my horse. Train me. I'll train her. This is a much bigger challenge. A lot of these guys who have been on a horse all their life can climb in the saddle and know what buttons to push. Teaching a rider whose only been on a handful of horses with only a few years of riding when and where to put his legs and hands is the really tough part.

Working the cows in the afternoon was a hoot. Jessie was solid. She was clam and curious. She showed an incredible amount of interest, whether our not she has the athleticism to be a cutter is something we'll have to see. We don't really have the maneuvers yet to effectively work a cow. (But we do know now what we need to learn).

Despite what I described above, it was a great time. I get very intense when I'm learning something new. I shut out what everyone else is doing and try to focus on what I think the teacher is trying to tell me. I put off a lot of people and I think some misunderstand my wanting to observe and learn as much as I can for thinking I know it all. Really, I only care about the tools I can use to convince my horse to do the things I want her to do. Matt's ranch and arena are a great place to work your horse and I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to take Jessie up there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Part Two, Riding wit Confidence, Series I

Finally finished editing the Riding with Confidence video. This is Part Two of Series I and we run through exercises #10 through #17. I added some production elements. Half the fun of doing the videos, I must admit, is editing them. My goal is to have them look good, but not over-produced. Sometimes I walk that fine line.

I do add some narration now because my brother told me, "I like watching them, but it sure would be nice to know what's going on." I feel that way sometimes when I'm riding.

You'll see me struggling with the Bending at The Walk exercise and the Vertical at the Standstill. I accidentally left out the Vertical at the Walk exercise. Yes, it was accidental.

Riding With Confidence, Series I, Part Two

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Busy Weekend

Saturday I had to take the truck in because the check engine light came on. We dropped it off at 8 am and came home and saddled up. Because they have locked the canal bank gates near our house, we've had to ride through our neighborhood to go around to the other side of the canal. It puts us right in a fallow alfalfa field. There is good footing and we have been taking about ten or fifteen minutes to warm up and do some loping and bending. It's a pretty good good little warm up and the loping has really helped Jessie and I get on the same page. So we started our ride with the same routine, then we did a long trot down the far side of the canal. We rode farther south than we had ever before. We turned west and headed for Union Ave which is Hwy 204 or the old Hwy 99. There was a little market and we got some refreshments and then rode along the highway for about a mile until we could get back to our fields. It was a good experience for the horses with all kinds of vehicles whizzing by. They were solid as a rock.

We've been trying to get the horses to lope side-by-side. Dusty kicks up pretty good when Jessie comes along side and Jessie speeds up and has to take the lead. We got to this one spot that was good to lope and our plan was that we would do circles and then come back around to lope together. If they acted up again we would just do another circle. It was pretty ugly. The "circling" area turned out to be deeper than we thought. It was a mess. It was pretty hot and we were a bit tired after riding for almost four hours so we decided to give it another try on Sunday. Saturday's ride was almost 13 miles.

Sunday was cooler and after warming up in the alfalfa field we headed for our big square in the Development. The plan today was for Ranae to lope the big square and I would lope Jessie around in different areas occasionally coming up and riding by their side and then going off in my own direction. This was much more fun and the horses did much better. Jessie was still a bit speedy (she's just a fast horse ;>) )but Dusty behaved pretty well. Don't know if the lack of kicking up was due to Saturday's ride or not, but I really didn't care, he was doing it. Sunday's ride was almost 9 miles.

Matt Sheridan does a Level 3 workshop in September and October. Its focus is working cow horse and you get to work cattle. He had someone drop out so Ranae bought me the workshop for my birthday. Woohoo. I've been practicing my roping on the ground. I'm pretty good at nailing a road cone from ten feet. Sunday I practiced atop Jessie and I actually caught a cone, a trash can, and a patio chair. (Yep, we branded 'em and turned 'em loose.) The biggest challenge is using the snaffle. Two hands on the reins and one on the rope and I'm a little short-handed. Anyway, I get to ride this weekend up in Tehachapi. We start on Friday afternoon.

I wrote Clinton on Facebook and told him I was getting No Worries Club materials for the last three months and I hadn't subscribed. I don't think his team has the computer thing down all the way. Anyway, I could tell my subscription to the website was turned off this morning. I didn't even get a note acknowledging my email. That was lame.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Xtra Scoop is open for business

My friend Courtney Hutcheson felt so strongly about how much the nutritional supplement Karbo Combo helped her horses that she became a distributor for them. She has announced the Grand Opening of her website Now I'm sure you've heard this type of story before, but believe me, it takes an incredible amount of time, money, and effort to set this thing up right. Time, money, and effort she could have been spending on her horses or her family (oops. might have those two backwards)

If you have a minute go to and read about the wonderful experience she had with her horses Lucy and Black. There is a video of Black before taking Karbo Combo that would be painful to watch if I hadn't also seen a video of him being ridden in a Drill Team some months later.

For those of you interested in the science there is plenty of that as well on the site. I've had Jessie on Karbo Combo for a couple of months now and, while she was healthy and strong to begin with and it's more difficult to notice changes, I think her coat is shinier and her weight is easier to maintain. I think anything that can help a horse's digestive system work better and be more efficient is certainly worth looking into. After all, next to the feet what's the number one problem you hear about in horses? Stomach and digestive problems.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day Weekend 2009

Working their way through the "natural obstacles".

Some people can be so rude

It was a beautiful weekend for riding. I went out for a short ride on Friday night. We're still working on those circles and bending.

Saturday we had a two hour ride out to the development. We did some trotting and loped the big square. We also just rode around.

Sunday we did a city farm ride. There is a lot of garbage piled up and we use it as a natural trail course. The horses are used to most of the crap we run across now. We need to do more work on loping side-by-side. Both horses get racy when we do an Dusty gets wound up and bucky. Ah, it's good to know there is always something to work on.

Monday we trailered out to the Kern River. We parked at the Horseman's Park barn and rode east along the river toward Lake Ming. It was a gorgeous day. There is a campground near the lake and the people were breaking down their camps to head back home.

The Mighty Kern River

Negotiating the Trail

Loping circles around a few big trees

And, back to the business of trail riding

A hawk keeping an eye on us (or looking for lunch)

A break for some picture taking

Isn't she shiny?

Oh boy, a chance to use our mounting block exercise!


A little girl at the campground came to get her picture taken

A favorite past time is to float down the deadly river

Cows on the ridge!

More of the river trail

Lake Ming a popular water skiing, boating lake

John & Jessie in the "Big" Country

No, No! Not that way. Can't you see the sign?

This fella was shootin' his own music video. That's a fiddle in his hand. I'm sure he'll be famous one day. Should've got his name.