Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Riding Solo

Because Ranae was out of town last weekend and didn't ride Tuesday night, our last three rides have been by ourselves. I did wear my spurs and she did ride out quite nicely. The only spur action she got was when she wanted to bail off the side of the trail and luckily that wasn't very often.

It's been hot here. Close to the 100's. We did some trotting and worked on transitions for trot to walk. On Saturday, we were riding along the canal. We had a chain link fence on one side with a dog barking just on the other side of the fence. Coming along side of us was a quad with two riders on it. Jessie stood perfectly still and, cautious, but relaxed. I was very proud of her.

On Sunday, we went out along the canal, crossed over to the other side and headed back. I wanted to ride a little longer so I turned her away from home and we trotted in between two unplanted fields that had gone to the weeds. When it came time to turn for home I decided to cross one of the fields. The ground was uneven and the weeds were knee high in parts. I worked our way over to what looked like a good road to head back on and then....da da donnnnnn... A discarded horse-eating mattress appeared out of nowhere. The wind was blowing and the mattress had a tear in it and the loose fabric was flopping around. On the far side of the mattress was the road and it had a bit of washboard in the asphalt so as the cars went down the road there was a scary sound.

This was one of the first times I can remember Jessie being frightened of something where we had some room to work. We trotted back and forth turning into the monster and when she looked like she wanted to check it out I backed her away from it. We went over to the other side. She jumped at one point when the wind and the cars coordinated their attack to make both motion and sound at the same time. We worked back and forth for five minutes or so. She was getting closer and closer and more relaxed. I hated to move on, this was such a good experience for her. After she walked right up to it and tried to take a bite out of it, I thought it best to turn for home.

Tuesday's ride was very similar except that we were a little pressed for time so we trotted most of the way. It's about a three mile loop. Heading for home on the far side of the canal we worked on transitions from trot to walk. They were a bit ragged.

It was nice to get a weeknight ride in. We will ride again tonight (Thursday). I love summer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Energy

It's a favorite pastime of horse owners to anthropomorphize (attributing human characteristics) our horses. I'm certain Jessie hates it when I go to a Walkabout Tour.

Last Saturday, we hadn't ridden for about ten days, so I started off with some groundwork. If she could talk I sure she would be saying something like, "Hey, it's pretty warm out here. You sure we want to work this hard?"

Once we headed out to our usual riding area we were doing serpentines and collecting. We were changing gait and direction a lot. We got out to a big field and did the "flower power" exercise I had seen Ian Francis demonstrate. We were going to the right and I could hear Clinton saying, "The way you get your horse slow and smooth at the lope is to lope them a lot. Put some miles on them." Jessie was doing pretty well and we loped a little longer. She was really looking to stop and we loped some more.

Once she was comfortable going to the right, we stopped in the middle for a moment and then loped for awhile to left. She is a lot less balanced on this side and would try to speed up from time to time. We just kept loping and soon she was listening better and slowing down.

Sunday we rode for two hours. We found some natural obstacles (garbage) to circle and we did more loping...a lot more loping. The had cleared one of the fields nearby. It's about a quarter mile square and we did the passenger lesson.

Ranae is off to a Matt Sheridan Horsemanship Clinic in Tehachapi with her friend Susan tomorrow night. I have some maintenance work to do here at the store. We'll ride after work tonight and I'm hoping I don't have to work too late Saturday and Sunday. The moon is full so an evening ride would be perfect.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Clinton Anderson 2010 Tourcation Las Vegas Part 2


I arrived the arena at 7am and one volunteer, Keely, was there. The Downunder folks hadn't shown up yet. Shana was rehearsing with Jillaroo for her trick riding demo, so we watched for a few minutes. When the crew came in our first chore was to wipe down all the graphics and displays and then fill in any missing merchandise from the previous night.

Clinton had had a crew doing interviews with guests, crew, vendors, and volunteers. They had interviewed me on camera Saturday night. Pretty straight forward questions, "What's it like to be a volunteer? Why did you volunteer?" Stuff like that. I ran into Renee, a long-time crew member, and she asked how my interview had gone. I said, "okay", but I told her I spent way too much time thinking about what I could have said. She had been interviewed the night before, too. We both agreed our "best lines" came about twenty minutes too late.

Shana's Trick Demo
Shana's Trick Demo w/ Clinton Watching at the Gate

Shana did her trick horse demo. It was slick. A lot of laying down and sitting up, nodding and shaking of heads. Shana felt teaching the horse tricks kept both the horse and you from getting bored from doing the same exercises over and over again. DUH is scheduled to have a trick teaching DVD out in the fall.

Next was the spooky horse demo and they had found a really good, fearful horse for this demo. This horse was literally scared of his own shadow. By the end of the demo Clinton had the horse calmly dropping its head every time the crowd gave a huge roar. Before each break Clinton would give away a whole bunch of merchandise.

Giving Stuff Away
Giving Stuff Away

We broke for lunch and that's another big selling time. It was hard to know what to restock as we were all well aware we would be packing everything up in a few hours. There's an old adage in retailing, "You can't sell from an empty wagon", so we brought out as much merchandise as we could.

The afternoon session was Gaining Respect Under Saddle followed by the Trailer Loading Demo which always a hoot. By the end of that demo Clinton couldn't keep the horse out of the trailer.

About 5pm they gathered all the volunteers together and told us what we could start taking down. Once Clinton was out of the arena things hit a fevered pitch. We took down the banners, the arena manager took down the panels and they moved two big semi-s and Clinton's trailer into the arena. We busied ourselves tearing down all the retail displays. I hooked on to Rob, Clinton's dad, who has to be well into his sixties. This guy looks tough as nails. He was lifting all kinds of heavy stuff. I find guys like this are the best to lend a hand to. You don't want to say much, because if you're talking you can't hear what they say, and they only say it once. And, you better be walking at top speed or you'll be left behind. And, have your gloves on if you need them (he didn't) because he ain't stopping to let you put them on. Clinton didn't fall far from the tree.

The teardown went fairly smoothly and extremely efficient. Most people knew what their jobs were and they did them well. Once everything was just about loaded Clinton came down and pictures were taken with the Downunder Crew. They had a professional photographer, but I sneaked in behind him and took this shot.

The Downunder Crew
The Downunder Crew

A short while later they gathered up the volunteers to give us our free stuff for volunteering and to get a picture with Clinton. In 2008 my camera ran out of batteries. This year I gave my camera to volunteer Scott from Montana and he took a picture. I didn't realize Amy was taking pictures too and Clinton, at one point, tells me to look over at her camera.

Getting My Bling
"Look at this camera, mate"

I'm not really an autograph person, most of them look like squiggly lines on a polygraph of a terrible liar, but I had him sign my copy of That Winning Attitude, the motivational book he wrote with Ian Francis. We were told that we could ask questions. I didn't have any training questions (because those are answered in the DVD's), but I did have a question about riding on the hard-pan roads that we do and wondered if I should be concerned about injuries. He told me as long as she wasn't having problems, don't worry about it, and keep riding.

So, we were turned loose. After saying my goodbyes to some of the staff we headed for the exit. After the last two hours of intensity it was oddly calm. I was tired, but not sleepy. I hadn't eaten much, but I wasn't hungry. I went back to my room, cleaned up and got a fresh change of clothes.

I hadn't been to Vegas in 10 years. My games are roulette and Blackjack. I had a system of roulette I had been working on the first three nights and it had worked moderately well. (That means I hadn't lost all my money.) Since this was the last night, I was going to take my meager winnings and put my system to the test. I headed down to the roulette table and lady luck was on my side. I didn't keep track of the time (who does in Vegas), but I think I was there for about an hour and I was doing well. When the wheel turned cold, I cashed in my winnings and headed for a blackjack table.

The night before, I had sat down at a blackjack table where Aaron, Clinton's sound man for the event, was playing. He's a nice guy, heck they all are, but he didn't talk much, and when I saw him playing at a table with an open seat I passed it by for another table. You never know if these guys want company or to be left alone. I had played about half a dozen hands and was just about even when Clinton walked over to Aaron's table. He asked him how he was doing and after a minute or two sat down. The table was full, but a moment later the seat next to Clinton opened up and I immediately grabbed my chips and moved over there.

Ha! I was sitting right next to Clinton Anderson at a blackjack table! You could tell this was his first time playing blackjack. He was asking for advice on which hand move to make. The "wave" for "no more cards" or the "come hither finger" for "hit me". Some of the Downunder staff gathered around. The table came alive. We were all encouraging the dealer. She was doing the best she could. At one point the pit boss came by and most of us lost that hand.

"Who's the guy in the suit?", Clinton asked.

"He's the pit boss", someone said.

"Well, keep him away from here. He has a bad vibe. We don't want that."

Every one was razzing and encouraging every one. After one winning hand we threatened to "bring the casino to it's knees". After a losing hand, "what just happened there?"

Clinton asked the dealer if she knew the rules. "Of course" she said, "I've been dealing for sixteen years".

"Well", Clinton said, "are you familiar with a little black and yellow book called Blackjack for Dummies? 'Cause I've read it and you better watch out!"

Once he was trying to decide on whether to hit on 14 with the dealer showing a two. (All the strategy books say no). We were all screaming, "Stand" "Don't Hit" "Let the Dealer Bust". Staring at his cards he stroked his chin with his fingers and said, "Sorry guys, I'm just going to have to trust my gut here, and my gut says take a card." He draws a six and wins. The table erupted in cheers and laughter.

The South Point
Amazingly, the South Point Casino Still is Standing

We played for 45 minutes to an hour and it was great fun. We were up at times, but in the end, the South Point Casino is still standing. It was quite surreal sitting inches from Clinton the person, and for a brief time the Clinton I know and the "real" Clinton blended into the same friend.

The South Point is a great venue. By staying there, I was only an elevator ride and a five minute walk to the arena. Their restaurants seemed nice although I preferred to walk to the little sport's bar across the street just to get away for the casino noise.

Monday morning I headed out to Hoover Dam to take in another wonder of the world. It's an amazing piece of architecture and one that will never be matched. This was THE thing that had to inspire the saying "They don't build 'em like that anymore".

I was exhausted by the time I got home. I've had to spend most of the week just catching up, but the experience and memories have been energizing enough to get me through.

Hoover Dam
The view from a Vent in the middle of the dam. It felt like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive

Just for snickers and giggles here are the two blog posts from my first volunteer experience. This one describes the experience and this one offers my ideas on how to make things more efficient. Many of the things in the second post are in place (kinda like Windows 7 - it was my idea) but only because DUH has a powerful marketing engine working for it now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Clinton Anderson 2010 Tourcation Las Vegas Part 1

Last Thursday I headed off to Las Vegas to volunteer for Downunder Horsemanship's June Tour stop. This was my fourth tour stop, and my second stint as a volunteer.

Some of my friends and family wonder why I take the time and expense to work my ass off for two and a half days, essentially for free. Let me see if I can explain. It may sound corny, but it's my blog, it's supposed to be corny...

I don't have many natural talents. When I have a situation in life I'm not sure how to handle, I rely on the people in my head. I've got a pretty good team up here. These voices are of the people I believe are the best at what they do. If it's a moral dilemma, I hear my Dad's voice. In a crisis, I hear my older
brother's. If it's having fun and getting along with people, I hear my wife's voice. And, when I'm around my horse, it's Clinton's who is talking to me.

Jessie isn't the best trained horse by any measure, but she is safe and I attribute that safety to Clinton. To me safety is THE most valuable aspect of sharing time with Jessie. So, part of volunteering has to do with saying thanks for showing us the safe way. Every product I've bought from Downunder Horsemanship, while at first glance seemed expensive, has been a great value. My tack is five years old and still in excellent shape. The dvd's remain a constant reference for exercises and training. One challenge in "saying thanks" is to see if I can give him more value than he expects from a volunteer. (His expectations are pretty high and that makes this an even bigger challenge).

Now, Clinton, the person, couldn't pick me out of a lineup of kangaroos. But that's not the Clinton I know. The guy I know is the voice I've spent hours and hours listening to, the one that has never given me a bad piece of advice, the one that, if I look a hard enough, has always had the right answer, and the one who has taught me ninety percent of what I know about horses. THAT guy is a very good friend of mine. That's the guy I was helping out.

Well, before all this talk of imaginary friends and voices in my head gets me sent off to the looney bin, let me tell you about the weekend.

More Road
On the Road to Las Vegas

Thursday morning I woke up feeling lousy. My body ached, my stomach was queasy. I'm 55, I had applied to be a volunteer in January and had used the event as motivation to work out and maintain what little muscle mass I have left. Now, I'm on the verge of leaving for Las Vegas and I was going to need all the energy I could muster. Having spent 26 years in the health food business did help. I have an arsenal of supplements I believe help keep my immune system strong. I used every one of them. I had to work the first half of the day. My wife would relieve me at 2pm and work Friday and Monday for me. By the time I left I was feeling a little better, at least my stomach had calmed down. It's a four-and-a-half hour drive to Vegas from Bakersfield and I was in my room and checked in by 8pm. There was small restaurant across the street from the Southpoint resort that was about a ten minute walk. It was overcast and there were a couple of raindrops, but the fresh air felt good. I felt much better after a good dinner and the walk back to the Southpoint.

The Empty Arena
The Empty Arena

The next morning I showed up about 9:30 and there wasn't much to do. The retail area was almost completely set up and my first task was to help number 3,000 programs that would be used for a raffle. Gae, a No Worries Member from Australia was there, too. Clinton was in the arena practicing his first session. I learned this tour stop was going to be filmed for a series on RFD. Downunder had brought the largest number staff here of of any tour stop - ever. And, here's another reason I volunteered. Clinton surrounds himself with only the best people. Everyone was so pleasant, professional, and energetic. Having an opportunity to be even a small part of a winning team is a privilege I'll reach for every time.

The Setup
The Store

Clinton worked on the lighting and choreography for quite some time. He established his timing marks within the song, had to have the spotlights hitting him just so, and, of course, have the sound exactly perfect. We hauled two thousand programs up to the registration booth. I came down and tried to get familiar with all the back stock of merchandise, trying to figure out where it would go and whether it had to be assembled or not. We broke for lunch (taquitos and chips) a little before noon. We had a business meeting which really didn't pertain to us very much. We got our assignment sheets and a couple of t-shirts, which were our uniforms for the next two days. My assignment was the saddle area. The empty boxes for the saddles were about 60 yards away. When someone bought a saddle my job was to get the corresponding empty box, bring it to the sale area, load the saddle and take it to the check-out area. If necessary I was to carry the saddle out to peoples' cars.

Sounds easy and it was for the most part. During the selling times the people were elbow-to-elbow in the selling area and negotiating the route with a huge box was actually quite fun.

We were dismissed at 1 PM and I headed for the pool area to catch some rays. As coincidence, there was our national health food convention happening on the north side of town. Later that evening I drove uptown and had a most excellent dinner with one of our sales reps and his company's big wigs. Ah, this was living...


Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 and went down for breakfast. A couple of nice gals from Minnesota, who were there for the show, invited me to sit with them for breakfast. We shared horse stories for about a half an hour and I headed for the arena floor. Clinton was rehearsing for his opening one more time. When they set off the smoke machines, the fire alarms went off in the arena. This had not happened the day before. There was some discussion and the arena manager was contacted to make sure it didn't happen during the show. They started letting the No Worries Club members in as soon as Clinton left the arena. About a half hour later Clinton showed up in a clean shirt, his brown felt hat, and went through the retail area shaking the hands with his staff and volunteers encouraging everyone to have a good show. He seemed happier and more relaxed than I remember him in 2008.

The Place is Filled
The Show is About to Begin

The intro and Mindy's performance was excellent. It went exactly as choreographed and it was very impressive to see Clinton and Mindy walk through the smoke with the sound and lights blazing. Clinton gave his philosophy talk and then took a break. I worked the saddle area and the place was packed! The next demo was advanced riding after which Clinton announced that this was Mindy's last tour stop. She would be retired. There was a break for lunch where once again much shopping took place and our station was buzzing along pretty good. I'm not sure exactly how many saddles were sold, but there were quite a few (some people had theirs shipped home).

Clinton and Mindy
Clinton and Mindy

We helped set up the round pen for the afternoon demo and then I went to take a break. As I walked up to the bathrooms to clean up, I noticed Ian Francis sitting alone near the top of the arena. I went down, got my snacks and water and headed up and sat next to him during the round pen demo. We didn't talk much, but he seemed like a nice guy. After the demo we tore down the round pen and set up the water supply for the EZ All and Ritchie Waterer Demo, then it was back to my station.

Ian Francis
Ian Francis

The late afternoon session was a riding demo with Clinton (on Mindy) and Ian (on Diez). Ian demonstrated a number of techniques for getting the horse to go where you wanted and then Clinton demonstrated a few things too. Near the end of the demo Clinton was saying how horses are very specialized today, almost too specialized he said. When he trained horses in Australia they knew how to do a number of different things; rope, rein, herd cows. Even Mindy, he said, was good with a cow.

"Who wants to be a cow for us?" A woman, 60ish, raised her hand and came into the arena. Clinton instructed her on "how to be a cow" and had her running back and forth across the arena. Then Mindy "worked" the woman/cow. After a couple of turns and rollbacks Clinton said, "You are the best cow we've worked all day". As the crowd roared he continued, "For such good work you get to have Mindy's very LAST ride at a tour stop." He put her on Mindy then he played the cow. The first rollback was so quick she almost came off, but Mindy took care of her. It was a very touching moment and there were many tears flowing as Mindy left the arena for
the last time.

The shopping area kept us busy after the last demo. Shopping went on so late that I was asked to man one of the exits because the security guards were going into overtime. It was an easy assignment that lasted until 7:20 or so when Amy came by and released me for the day.

On to Sunday in Part 2...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

If I were to measure the success of a 3-day weekend by the amount of cholesterol consumed, the amount of sunscreen spread, and amount of saddle oil transferred to my jeans, I would have to say the weekend was a success.

Saturday morning we had some errands to run and chores to do. We got to ride in the afternoon. Since it had been ten days or so since Jessie's "episode" we decided on a shakedown ride just to see how she was feeling. We did a fairly routine canal ride out to the development. We loped around and she was none the worse for wear.

Sunday we headed for the river. We started in a different place. We began at the barn at Horseman's Park and rode to Lake Ming. The trail wound along the river and went through some very gently rolling hills. We had to circumnavigate the campground because it was very crowded for the holiday weekend. The horses all did very well. Dusty wore his boots and got along well with them. After the ride we had a picnic lunch in the shade of the barn. I made a simple little video of the ride, if you're interested. It's a beautiful area less than 30 minutes from our home.

Monday morning we took the dogs for a walk in the park before we rode in the neighbor's arena. Jessie and I worked on rollbacks, collection, and speed control. I thought we did a lot of loping. It was warm enough to at least get Jessie to break a sweat. She is gently improving in all these areas. I am hoping for a light bulb moment for one of us. I can't tell if it's my communication skills or her laziness that is keeping us from doing these maneuvers more snappily (is that even a word?). We'll just keep working at. I know it will come.

One other note: I heard Adam Carolla say, "Find something you love and would do even if no one paid you. Show up early and often and pay your dues". For me that's volunteering at the Downunder Tour stop. My application got approved last week for the Las Vegas stop June 11th ~ 13th. My wife is going to cover my duties at work, got my hotel room booked, and I'm ready to go.