Monday, December 19, 2011

This is why I love California

We may not have an arena, but the week before Christmas it's warm enough to sneak out out on a Sunday morning for a ride.  The roads were quite and we headed out to the alfalfa field to warm up, over to the airpark field for some loping, then along the canal and back home.  The temps were in the low 60's and, while I had gloves, it was too warm for them.  The horses did well as we put them through a series of exercises.  Heck, it was even warm enough to give them a bath when we got home.

It it stays like this we may get to ride on Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tumbleweeds work just fine

We had watched the Downunder Horsemanship with Tricky, the off-the-track thoroughbreed.  It was the episode where Clinton uses the trees to circle around.  The next day we were riding across from a farm and there was some plowing or harrowing going on.  The tractor had some big piece of equipment it was dragging behind it.  The horses weren't frightened, but they weren't paying attention to us either.  There are quite a few tumbleweeds in the field we were riding in, so we stated circling the horses around them like we had seen in the show.  It was sloppy at first, but it got better.  It was a nice day and we had all afternoon and we worked on it for about 15 minutes.. 

The horses finally got it and we went off and worked on our backups.  Also in that show, we had seen Clinton backup Tricky and the steps were light and quick.  Jessie will back up quickly, but not lightly.  Dusty is just the opposite.  We worked on that for about 10 minutes in one area, did some riding around, and then practiced it again in another area.  I think there was a little improvement in both horses. 

One thing I know for sure is that the horses hate it when we watch a show the night before a ride.  It means a lot more work for them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A December Ride

Ranae went riding with her friend on Saturday because I had the final in my photojournalism class.  I got home around two and was on Jess a little before three.  It was cool, but clear as we headed out.  As soon as we hit the canal we started to trot.  She was a little distracted, but she gave me no problems.  We had none of the struggles we had when we first started going out alone.

I was listening to my ipod most of the way.  It's not the safest thing to do because it makes it harder to hear what's going on around us, but Jessie usually lets me know if something is up.  Well, about 1/2 mile down the canal we start loping.  She's at a comfortable pace and so I ask for a little collection.  My head is down because I'm looking for the give.  Then I move her left two-track stlye, and then right and again my head is still down.  She pops her head up and I can tell she is speeding up so I look up and there across the canal is a pit bull.  He leaves us alone, but it was a bit of a sight.  I turned the ipod back up as soon as we were a safe distance.

We walk and trot a bit farther.  I stop to pick up some stones because I know there are some other dogs up ahead.  Then, we start loping again.  I'm trying to change her speed with my seat and I guess I realxed a bit too much because she hit the brakes and it threw me to the front of the saddle.  We practiced this for awhile and then I looked down and noticed my pepper spray had come off the saddle.  We loped back around to where I thought it had come off and when we didn't find it, we loped back to where we were in our ride. 

We loped and trotted through the fields working on different things and then headed back.  We found the pepper spray a little farther away then I had initially thought.  When I stopped to pick it up I noticed how sweaty Jessie had gotten.  I guess we had done more loping than I thought.  I walked her most of the rest of the way home which was about a mile.

On Sunday Ranae and I rode in the other way and did some "drill team" circles in one of the fields.  It's a good exercise because Jessie wants to go faster than Dusty.  We took turns on the inside of the cricle and both horses did a fine job.  We had the camera and I took a little video of a plastic bag on the fence that we used to practice desensitizing . 

Then we rode past the Mexican's stable and there was a man lungeing his stallion.  It was a nice looking horse. 

Ranae's always telling me how Dusty jumps tumbleweeds when she's loping, so I got her to try and do it in a nice little soft patch.  Dusty knew the camera was on and refused to fully cooperate.

Headed down the canal.

The field next to the Airpark.

Not the best video quality.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yeah, We've Been Riding


Between work, school, and the days getting shorter it's been tough, but we've been getting our riding in on the weekends.  Except for last Saturday when it was raining, we generally go out for about a two hour ride on each weekend day. 

We've been moving faster and faster lately.  We used to spend about twenty minutes warming up before a trot.  Now it seems once we get to the first available spot to trot, we do.  And, in places we have previously been reluctant to lope because of a narrow road, dogs, or other stuff, we've been loping.  We've been doing a lot of loping side-by-side too.  It's great fun.  A new field got cleared last week and it had some really nice footing for loping.  We had watched the NWC dvd on "Cantering with Confidence" and took some of those principles out with us to see how the horses would do.

I know it's a philosophy that one should not ever stop learning, but the horses are doing great.  We are having a wonderful time on our rides.  Of course neither one of them is ready for a reining competition or anything, but for what we are using them for, it's darn near perfect.  I have been re-thinking some of my training goals and, until time becomes more available, if Jessie stays at this level, I'm okay with it.   She's a pretty darn good horse...

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Twenty Minute Lope


I think it was in one of the NWC Journal articles about cantering where Clinton said they loped for twenty minutes at their clinics...or at least tried to because many times the participants started to complain around minute 7 or 8. I wondered how hard it was to lope for twenty minutes. I wondered how hard it would be for Jessie. I thought we would give it a try.

Saturday afternoon's ride was a gentle little trot/walk ride to stretch the muscles out. We worked on a few little things but kept it light. Sunday, we didn't get to ride until the afternoon. The temperatures were in the low 70's and there was a nice breeze blowing. I picked the nine acre lot near the airpark as our main destination. We rode out to the alfalfa field where we did some warm-up exercises as well as some trotting and loping. After about ten minutes we headed over to the airpark. The field has some areas where there are a lot of gopher and/or squirrel holes, so we picked a path around the perimeter where the holes didn't seem too bad. Then reset the Garmin stopwatch and we were on our way.

The lot is big and my plan was to do a big square and then either try to cut through the middle to change directions and leads. I thought Jessie was going a little too fast and everytime I felt that, we loped a small circle. Unfortunately, many times the circles were in areas of questionable footing. She stumbled a number of times, but we kept going. She rarely tried to break down to a trot. There were a couple of instances when something along the other side of the fence got her attention, but other than that and perhaps wanting to be close to her buddy, she stayed on task. Around minute 16 or so she tried to really speed up to see if that would get us to stop. Then, she really kept pulling me back to Dusty who was exercising in the middle of the field. We kept pushing and shortly after the twentieth minute we found a good place to stop.

The Garmin read 3.16 miles which would give us an average speed of 9.48 mph. Only for a few short times did she give the smooth, slow canter I was looking for and most of those were at the beginning of the session. I wish I could have done the passenger lesson (in other words not steer her at all), but I didn't feel the footing was safe enough. She was much easier to steer through the whole session, which was a plus.

I let her air up for a minute or two and we went on the rest or our ride. We trotted much of the way back around our usual loop. I think that girl can trot all day long.

Next time I may try to break it up into a couple of five minute sections and see if that changes anything. And, this morning neither of us were too much the worse for wear by the whole thing (although SHE gets the whole day off)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Four Stages of Loping

Sounds like a Larry Miller comedy bit, if you can remember back that far. The four stages of loping:

Stage one: Lope your horse
Stage two: Lope them some more
Stage three: And, lope them some more
Stage four: When you think they have had enough loping, lope them some more.

Now, I thought we were most of the way through stage three and getting to stage four, but now I think we've just barely scratched the surface of stage two. Saturday we went out alone because Ranae was riding in the mountains (lucky girl, I had a class on Saturday). After warming up in the alfalfa field we headed for our nice field by the Airpark and worked on rollbacks into the fence. She's still fighting me on this one. We spent much of the time working on our circle and actually did a little follow-the-fence. She really anticipates when we do the rollback (Of course she does. She doesn't want to bump into the fence with her nose.) It is improving...slowly.

We worked on it for about 15 minutes and she had a good sweat going. We took a short break and did some sidepassing, backing, and flexing. And then we did a little more rollback work. Then we just loped around the 9 acre field, changing leads, doing small circles when she got fast, and going the opposite direction she wanted to go.

We trotted off and made the loop down the canal and around back home. The GPS said we had been riding for about an hour, 45 and we had an average speed of 4.4 mph. As we were going along the canal, her trot was a bit fast and we did a LOT of transitions from walk to canter, canter to trot. She never really slowed down. And, it's not because we are pointed home (I don't think) because going down the canal we ride past our house for a mile to hit the street that we need to cross the canal. My conclusion: Lope them some more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Message From Jessie

Saturday afternoon we went to our newest favorite spot. An exercise that has dogged us for a time is the rollbacks in the fence. I gave Ranae notice we were going to be working on this until we got some good ones and it might take awhile. We found one good spot near the fence and first had to do a little desensitizing. It was a chain link fence with privacy slats and on the other side were some trees with birds. It spooked Jessie a little, but once we did the follow-the-fence exercise a couple of times, the birds were gone and the fence was all ours.

One of the mistakes I had made in the past was not riding close enough to the fence on the circles we did NOT rollback on. That gave Jessie a cue I didn't intend. We had to go back to doing circles that got us near fence on every revolution. Once that was established I could then try rolling back. She quickly started anticipating and would try to jet past the rollback point whether we were doing one or not, especially circling to the left. Sometimes she would break down into a trot and I let her because I considered this a new "concept" lesson.

About ten minutes in she was done with me. She wanted to stop and we hadn't really gotten much of a rollback. She was flying around the circle so quick it was difficult for me to do my job (sit, say whoa, tip her nose, and apply the outside leg). I suggested we keep working on and she kicked up a bit. Right after the kick up she really got fast and I skipped the rollback portion for a bit as we loped circle after circle. When she realized she wasn't going to escape, she slowed down and we got back to work. My goal was to get her to listen to me instead of trying to fly past the rollback point. Finally we got an excellent rollback. One. Not exactly sure how long we worked on this, maybe 30 minutes, but when I stopped to give her a breather she was soaking wet. I can't remember the last time I had gotten her this lathered up. I let her get some air and then we did some loping through some cones and then continued on our ride.

Sunday, we found a different fence and started in again. It still took about twenty minutes before we were able to get a good rollback in each direction. She was shiny. We did a few other exercises we had been working on such as side-passing with no fence and two tracking. We're still working on bending at the walk. That one is just not as good as I think it should be. The weather was in the low 80's and perfect for riding. It was nice to get some good work under our belts.

Jessie is a bit confused about why the sudden increase in work load. When I explained the advice about "asking more" I had been getting she had a little something to say.

I transcibed this short message from Jessie (Yes, of course she talks. She has a voice reminescent of Archie Bunker and when she is mimicing other voices, it's a bit like Edith). I toned down the language just a bit. She can swear like a drunken sailor sometimes.

Dear People (you know who you are),

We appreciate getting horse advice from you...sometimes. Let's limit it to types of treats, feed blends, and things that will make me beautiful...stuff I like. Let's shut the #$%^ up about this "not working hard enough" bull$*;!%. I have worked hard. Hard at building a relationship with John that worked for both of us. Then you a$$holes come along and encourage him to work me harder. WTF! I don't come by your house and tell your husband/wife you're really not putting in the effort. Why don't you mind your own beeswax. I swear, if I meet up with any of you, you're going to get a hoof up side the head. The "wet" look does NOT become me! Go "ask more" of your own @%$#%*ing horses.

Yours truly,


Don't worry. She'll get over it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Starting to Ask for a Little More

This was posted on one of our youtube videos about 4 months ago:

Hey John, I have watched many of your videos and I think you have done okay with Clinton's methods, MUCH better than most people I've seen on Youtube. Some things that you could consider is asking Jessie to put forth more effort!!! Some exercises she does she looks as though she is only half trying. Remember your horses will put forth as much effort as you expect them to.


I didn't mind the "you have done okay" comment because it was followed by the "much" in all caps. What struck me was how this person could tell I wasn't asking Jessie to "put forth more effort". How did they see that? Is it that obvious? Why don't I see it?

So that message has been bouncing around my brain for awhile now. We've slowly started to bring our expectations up and I've been trying to ask more and more of her on every ride. It's not just about riding farther or loping longer, we're trying to get better. I think it was in one of the NWC journals that Clinton says basically the same thing: "Your horse is only going to be as good as you ask her to be. They are not going to be practicing the exercises in their stalls in between rides so they can show you how much they have improved since the last ride."

We worked on side-passing without the fence on Sunday. We worked on it a lot longer than we usually do, but by the end of the session she was stepping sideways with energy. One thing I need to keep working on is to use a lighter touch. When she chumps me and I roll the spur up, she'll move, but when I go back to lighter pressure, she slows down again, so I have to roll the spur again.

After loping Jessie for about ten minutes in one field we moved to another, did the side-passing session, and then Ranae and I switched horses. I loped Dusty around for about ten minutes and he was dripping wet. He is older, 16 I think, but he had quite the sheen on him. His steering is so much better than Jessie's. We'll be working on that. I worked Dusty on backing up a step after the "whoa". It was so much easier to ask a lot from him than it is from Jessie. I'm going to just have to change that mindset somehow.

Both Saturday's and Sunday's ride were really nice. The weather is cooling down, we got to work on a number of things, and the things we worked on improved noticeably.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Get The Job Done

We don't really have many places to actually train, so we converted the world to our arena. It's a little trickier and sometimes things don't go exactly as planned, but we get the job done. Here's a quick little video from a recent ride:

We are still getting our weekend rides and we spend about half of the ride time training and half just enjoying being outside with the horses. The weather is cooling down (finally) and the days are getting shorter. We'll have to find even more creative ways to get and stay sharp.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A "Good" busy Week

Last Tuesday in visiting the No Worries Club website there was a post about Clinton's Birthday with an invitation to post a video. His birthday was in four days and I thought that there wasn't enough time. Then Wednesday at work an idea began to germinate. Corny, yes. Silly, absolutely. I don't get home until around 8pm on Wednesdays and by the time we have dinner and get settled it's after 9. Ranae was game, so we set up props and video in the dim light of our living room. I edited the footage early Thursday and Thursday evening we video the second part as we were losing the light of the evening, The horses did great with the balloon popping. We had to pick up bunch of the broken balloon pieces. Standing on Jessie's back was tougher than I thought. Her coat is slippery and my boots have no traction. She stood like a statue as I fumbled my way through it. Both Ranae and I couldn't stop laughing and the neighbors watching thought we had totally lost it. Anyway, if you missed it, here it is:

Saturday we were able to get a 2 hour ride in late in the afternoon. Sunday we took them out for a three hour, 10+ miler and worked them fairly hard. I'm (trying ) asking more from Jessie in softness and flexibility. We are going to have to really step it up. In reading the Spring NWC Journal, they had sixty applications for the Intermediate Clinic and only 16 were accepted. We're (me) going to have to get much better if we expect to make the cut!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Touching Base

It's been a busy couple of weeks. The Saturday Photojournalism class is fun, but it takes a big chunk of time. We've also had some weird weather that has cut into our riding time. We were able to get in rides each of the last two weekends and got to work our horses. We even shot some video. Hope to have it edited this week (that's optimistic).

I'll tell you a little about Sunday's ride. We rode out around 10 and it was fairly humid. We got to the development and spent about half an hour on loping. I was working on collection and it was causing Jessie to speed up so I did quite a few sit-and-yield-hindquarters into a bend-at-the-walk. That didn't seem to be doing the trick so we did serpentines at the lope. This was much more fun. She was doing some very cool lead changes and she learned that if she loped slow(er) she didn't have to change directions. I think Ranae was working on picking up leads over on her side. She'd stop every once and awhile to coach me on my style and seat position.

The horses were breathing hard so we left the development and went a farther out. As we were talking about cues and stuff Ranae said she needed to work on asking for the lope and have Dusty respond without taking a few steps to get into it. I said we should try to get him to do it from a standstill. We stopped in some soft ground and she gave him the cue.

"Three Steps", I yelled.

She stopped, turned around came back, "One Step!". She stopped, turned, BOOM! - right into the lope.

She stopped turned, "Two steps".

She was near me now so we talked a moment and I encouraged her to "Make him lope fast". I even went so far as to tell her to take an end of her split rein and be prepared to whack him. She got ready, gave the cue, then whack! Dusty kicked up, there was quite a bit of daylight between Ranae's butt and the saddle, she stayed on and got him in the lope. Stopped, turned around, asked for the lope and he took right off.

I said, "Great! I would have felt terrible if you had come off. Let's do it again!" And she did! Dusty went right into the lope three more times and we moved on. We rode over to the pipes and jumped those (Ranae loves doing that - Jessie seems to get all wired up so sometimes we just walk over them) and then we headed home. I was a 2 1/2 hour ride and both of us felt we had a little more handle on our horse and that's a definition of a good ride.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rally Horse

I was cleaning out my closet the other day and I ran across some K-9 Rally Obedience cards I had made up to practice with my Australian Shepard Max. I thought this might be a fun thing to do with our horses, so on Sunday we took them with us on our ride.

We found a nice little field with decent footing and laid the cards on the ground. They had things like "Slow", "Fast", "Normal", "Right Turn", "About Turn", and "Halt" printed on both sides. We set them on the ground to for a course. If you don't know Dog Rally Obedience, it is a competition where you follow the directions on the signs to navigate a course. "Normal" was our trot, "Slow" was a walk, "Fast" was a lope, "About Turn" was a rollback, and the others were self explanatory.

It was hot and we laid the cards out quickly to have a simple run through to see the difficulty level of negotiating the course. We took video of each horse's first run, which weren't very good. The second run was better, but there were a lot of things to improve. Jessie's rollbacks are sloppy and slow. She resists on the backup just prior to the rollback and I may have to start there. My cues looked awkward and I was a little forward which would make it harder to work on her back end.

We had fun, though. The next version may not look like this one. I've got a couple of ideas on how to try and make the game both more fun and challenging.

We had had a good ride out to this field and had done some exercises in another field. The loop back home was a nice little ride. We even had a slight breeze.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Get a Mental Picture

We were able to ride both Saturday and Sunday. Dusty had had a couple of weeks off while Ranae was on vacation and he was feeling good.

Saturday's ride was a tune-up. We rode to our usual place to see how the horses were doing. It was hot, but we still did some loping, steering, and flexing exercises.

On Saturday night I showed Ranae some of the stuff on the August NWC dvd and then on Sunday morning, while we were having breakfast we watched the beginning with Clinton and Shana warming up their horses.

It's amazing the effect this has on our rides. I thought I had noticed it before, and Sunday confirmed it. By watching just 15 minutes of Clinton and Shana working before we rode, we had a plan and a fresh mental picture of some of the things we wanted to do on our ride.

In reflecting on the ride over a cocktail in the garden Sunday afternoon (a tradition - it's like breaking down game film) we realized that we rode out with purpose. We had conviction in what we were asking. Granted we may not have had the cues or timing perfect, but we knew what we were looking for and kept after it until we go it. Ranae said Dusty had the smoothest, most comfortable lope she could ever remember, on both leads no less. I had Jessie backing up more smartly and I think our collection was better. We worked on stops and she improved in just ten minutes or so.

One of the things we liked about Sunday's ride was the path we took. It's about a ten minute walk to one field where we warmed up for about 15 minutes. Then, it's a 15 minute walk to another field with a little better footing and we could work again. Given a couple of chances to do the same exercises in one ride was extremely beneficial.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our First ACTHA Ride

There was an ACTHA ride in our area last Saturday. I thought it would be a good experience for both Jessie and me for a number of reasons. It would be just us. My wife is away on a trip. We would trailer alone to a familiar area, but be surrounded by unfamiliar horses.

The ride was supposed to start at 8:30 to beat the heat. 9am at the latest said the coordinator. Check-in was at 7am. I woke up at 5 am and tossed Jessie her breakfast, then went and had some of my own. I was a apprehensive about how she would be around the other horses and contemplated what I would need to do if she acted up. I thought one of the best decisions was to forego that second cup of coffee so I wouldn't be all wound up. No use both of us having our knickers in a knot.

We loaded around 6:45 and were out the gate for the 25 minute drive. I had had three groundwork sessions over the week and they seemed to be paying off. We got to the venue and there were a couple of trailers already there. Jessie unloaded and immediately checked her surroundings. She was calm and I let her look around for a moment or two. Then I yield her hindquaters with a look to swing her around to the tie rind. A few moments later a gal from the next trailer came over and asked if I followed Clinton. I said yes and she replied, "I knew it by the way you looked and those hindquarters moved."
Trailer Area

We chatted for a bit. Three of them had come from about an hour away and they had DUH halters and leads and three very nice horses. It was their first event and I could tell they were a bit nervous too. We checked in at the desk. I registered under my wife's name because we just have a single membership. Jessie was registered under Dusty. This added a chuckle at every obstacle as I called out my name, "Ranae". There were many suggestions from the other competitors about clothing choices and falsetto voices.

After tacking Jessie up I wondered how to go about spending the next hour preparing her for the ride. I put on her bridle and took her off a little ways to warm up with some bending exercises. We did some serpentines and ORS as well. We worked for about 10 minutes and then I took her back to the trailer and tied her up. I walked around the other trailers talking with the riders for about 1/2 an hour. I'm not usually comfortable in these types of situations and thought this would be a good opportunity for me to improve my social skills. And, I thought it would help me relax a bit. It did.

By now we were beginning to realize the event was not going to start on time. This worked out in our favor. I had left Jessie standing at the trailer. I didn't want my anxiety rubbing off on her and when I got back to her she was very calm and relaxed. Good girl. When we thought we were close to the riders meeting, I put her bridle back on and mounted and walked over to where the horses were gathering. A nice guy, also named John, with an Aussie accent and a bullwhip rode up and introduced himself. He would be riding in the Jackpot run, a classification allowed to those who hadn't signed up in time. He had noticed we were in a distinct majority as the girls outnumbered the guys by a good margin.

The ride starts at a point very close to the highway patrol shooting range. The guys were not supposed to be practicing but we could hear them starting up. Jessie and I had ridden by once before during practice. It was a little nerve wracking, but we did it. One of the gals horses looked a bit nervous and John suggested she let him crack his whip to help the horse get used to it. She was reluctant, but he knew it would help. He started off with just the softest of cracks. We were three feet from him and Jessie gave a look like "You brought me out here to desentsitize me?" She stood there calmly as the cracks got louder and louder. One of the open riders asked if she could get closer. With all the horses standing calmly he cracked it loud (it hurt my ears) half a dozen times.

Just as we were about to have the meeting a trailer pulled up and the coordinator said we'll wait for them. Ten minutes later aother trailer pulled up. Then he went out to check the course. To make a long story not so long, I think we finally left at 11am.

It was warm by now. I was riding between to groups: The two Open riders and the trhee DUH gals. The first obstacle was a section where you walk, ask your horse to trot, then walk again (the Open riders had to lope). Jessie did well on the up transition, but didn't respond to my seat on the down. I cued her ever so slightly and she responded. I don't think the judge could even see the cue.

We had a log jump at the trot, before a downhill. I hung out with the open riders. She is a team roping judge and we had a good conversation about horses. The downhill was easy and then we had to wind along the river bank. We were going through a trail that was recently cut for us. This was the only point in the ride were I thought my fears would be realized. The trail wasn't very wide and I had to duck under some limbs. Meanwhile, Jessie was on the ass of Diesel, one of the DUH gals horses. There wasn't any room for correction. I stopped and backed her up and we moved forward. Bam. Right on Diesel's butt again. I back her up with a little more vigor and her front feet came off the ground a bit. I was able to keep her a few feet behind Diesel as we finally wound our way back up to the main trail.

When we got back out in the open I apologized to the rider (I think it was Deana) and she said Diesel was all jacked up too. Diesel had started to jig on the trail which is what she had hoped he would not do. I put Jess to worked two tracking back and forth across the trail and she eventually started paying attention again.

The next obstacle was dismount, spray the horse with water, and remount. We had a few minute wait as the other horses ahead of us went. This obstacle went very well for us. I considered mounting from the off side for extra points, but frankly I'm not familiar with the rules enough to know if you get plus points.

The DUH gals fell behind and I found myself with the open riders again for the next obstacle. It was an uphill climb. The open riders went first. I didn't know they were supoosed to lope up the hill and it surprised both Jessie and me when rocks went a-flyin'. When it was our turn, Jessie thought she was supposed to charge up the hill too. She went up a bit faster than I wanted her to, but it was at a trot.

We wound our way back to the starting point for the last obstacle: picking up a hat with a stick. The open riders went first and I saw how they did it and then we just mimiced them. Jess did this obstacle very well.

I took Jessie back to the trailer, unsaddled her, and then took her over for some water. There was a hose so I rinsed her off a bit, then tied her back to the trailer. I went up to the restaurant and ordered lunch. It was about an hour and a half before the riders were in and the results were tabulated. I passed the time in conversation with the open riders and the Aussie, John, who had a ranch and was breeding Australian Stock horses. We talked about Camp Drafting, polocrosse, and breeding characteristics. It was very informative. When they announced the winners, Ronnie the open rider won first. When they announced me, yes me, as the pleasure class winner I was stunned. I hadn't seen any of the other riders performance and was certain we had many enough mistakes to let the competition in. I was very proud of Jessie. It was a fun ride and a good experience. Oh, and we won a bucket, some fly spray, mane and tail detangler, a trailer feed bag, some vetwrap, fly sticks, a hoof pick, and a Tractor Supply Hat (very fittingly in pink - how did they know?) all courtesy of the local Tractor Supply here in Bakersfield.

I'm hoping to get together again with John and take some photos of his horses for his website. We may even get to do some cow work in the deal.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Riding Alone

Ranae is off on her annual girls' vacation. They are in Alaska this year.

It's still fairly warm here (mid 90's or so) and Jessie and I went out on Saturday evening. She moved out very well. I had taken a crop and if she stopped short, which she will sometimes do when we ride alone, I popped her lightly on the butt and re-cued her.

We trotted most of the way out to our usual area and found a good piece of ground to work on loping, moving off of my leg when we are moving, and being softer. I'm not sure I've really "got it" when it comes to the softer part, but she did seem more responsive as I progressed through our drills.

On the way back we found a pair of binoculars that were on the ground where we cross a little irrigation ditch. They were in good shape. Jessie was great while I got off and retrieved them.

Sunday we went out earlier in the day and at the housing track that has not been developed, we found a cinder block wall to practice rollbacks on. Again I had the crop and used it to try and make her turns "snappier". The footing near the base of the wall wasn't the best, but again I think she improved a little on this exercise.

As far as the loping goes, she has a really smooth, slow right lead. She is more reluctant to take that lead however and I often suspect she may have some soreness in a hind leg somewhere. She takes the left lead much easier and will often speed up. The left is much choppier and less comfortable to ride. She changes easily enough when I ask her to, so if there is some soreness in the hind end, I don't think it's much to worry about now.

After the ride, when she is at our wash station, she is required to stand still and not try to eat grass. She has been very good at this for quite some time. Sunday she reached down and got a weed and the punishment is three LFR stage 2 turns. On the second one her feet slipped out from under her on the grass and she landed smack on her side. There was quite the look of surprise on her face. She got up, we did our three turns and she stood quietly for the rest of the bath. She showed no signs of wear this morning.

There is an ACTHA ride here on Saturday and I'm waffling over whether to do it or not. I'd really like to expose Jessie to more horses. I think it is one of the biggest challenges we face to keep her attention on me in the midst of the other horses. I just don't think I can fit it in to the schedule. Last weekend flew by and I only got half the things on my list done....

I've begun journaling our training efforts for a 2012 Clinic on another blog. It's likely to be rather dry most of the times (I say that like THIS blog is so lively), but it's public if you are interested:
Expedition Stephenville

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Rematch in the Weedpatch

Our version of horse H-O-R-S-E is back for a second edition.

(Insert tongue-in-cheek emoticon here)

There may be some judge's controversy with this round. Just to let you know the rules clearly state in Article IV, Section 2, subsection a, paragraph 7 (Newly amended), "A participant can only get one letter for a failed attempt and no "style" points are awarded". It's the same way I got through Mr. Chilton's high school gym class - pass/fail.

Anyway, here it is for your enjoyment.

In case you missed the first one, here's the link:

Round One of Horse H-O-R-S-E

Monday, July 25, 2011

Two Worlds Collide

We went out to the river for a ride and to shot video for our H-O-R-S-E, Part Deux competition and we ran into a friend of a friend. There is a stable there. We talked for a bit. She had a new horse. We knew she was Parelli. I told her we were Clinton. She said we had to come see her tack room door. "Huh?" What could possibly be special about a tack room door?

Well, as it turns out, she had just moved into this space which was left vacant by a Clinton fan. The previous occupant was such a big fan she painted the inside of her door. So on one door were all the current occupant's Parelli stuff and on the other door was this:

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's been a busy week...of riding

Yeah, we've been working it. Last Thursday we had one of the best full moon night rides. We got home, fed the horses, had a little dinner ourselves and left around 7 pm. I think the moon rose around 8-ish and we were out working on a few different things at our usuual riding area. As the sun set we headed for home and the moon was high enough to illuminate a very comfortable ride home. Temperatures were in the low 80's with a little breeze.

We got to bathe the horses in the moonlight and we were in the house by 9:30 sipping a glass of wine. A great way to end the day.

Ranae had Friday off and headed for the saddle shop to talk about her saddle. She came home and rode Dusty in my saddle.

Saturday she used my saddle again and I used hers. We took the advice of Rodney, the saddle shop owner, on where to position the saddle. Neither horses had any problems and we rode for about two hours.

Sunday we used our own saddles and rode for another two hours. We are getting efficient at working our exercises into the ride. Ranae will go off and work on something while I'll head in the other direction. I try to spend a good portion of the time on my riding, seat position, and balance. My hand movement/position has improved and my upper body is much quieter. Then I'll try to incorporate that into cueing Jessie to two-track, change leads, or serpentine. Then we get back together and just walk down the trail until something comes along we can play with, jump, or circle.

Monday evening I headed out alone and thankfully my little vaquero friend was no where to be found. We had a little dog problem and had to work our way through that. Jessie was very good out on the trail by herself.

Last night was the 5th ride in 8 days. As we headed out our gate and were standing in the street, a kid come up on his bike with his pit bull running along side. We know the guy by sight and he has a good handle on the dog. I think he sees us waiting for him and he stands up in the pedals to speed up and get past us. Jessie misinterpeted this as an attack and spun (great spin BTW) and turned to leave. I couldn't get a full one-rein on her becasue the asphalt was slippery and she felt really out of balance. The direction she was headed wasn't an escape, so I just held on and said "whoa". She realised there was no place to go and stopped. The guy rode past and we chased him for a bit before heading out for our ride. We were able to ride over an hour before it got dark and we got hungry.

We'll take Friday off and get after again on Saturday.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who Does This?

We've been shopping for a new car. We finally decided on a Honda Accord, worked out a details with a local dealer and brought it home on Saturday. It's a sharp ride but by the end of the weekend we had put more miles on the horses than we did on the car.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The View

We don't live in a very fancy house, but it has a great view out the back door - especially in the morning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unwanted Company - But a Learning Experience

I was able to sneak in an evening ride last night. Ranae plays tennis so it was going to be just Jessie and me. There are a lot of Mexicans in our neighborhood. I like Mexicans. I speak a little Spanish. They have improved our neighborhood in some ways.

As I'm riding out, off in the distance I see a guy and a horse about 1/4 mile behind us. I'm working on transitions of canter and trot, he's walking, I figure I'll stay ahead of him. 10 minutes later, I look back and see him galloping down the canal bank. His horse is on the muscle. Jessie is listening to me, but also checking back to see if this horse is coming.

At a little crossroads, I decide to stop and see which way it goes. Of course, he sees me stopped and thinks I'm waiting for him. Great! His horse is in a bosal and for the next 35 minutes I never see slack in the reins. Jessie stays relatively calm. I knew I wasn't going to get to do what we wanted so I headed for home. He followed.

He thought his english was pretty good. It WAS better than my Spanish, but every time he said something I had to say,"What?" We walked the 3/4 mi. back to my street. I got to hear all about his job and I think a bunch of other stuff. The guy could talk.

He would occasionally spin his horse around. I'm not sure if that was for control or to show off. I worked on moving Jessie back and forth across the road two-tracking style. And, as luck would have it, his horse was walking so fast, we got to do walk-trot transitions.

It was a good experience for us to meet up and ride with a strange horse like that. I wasn't quite sure how Jessie would handle it. She was calm, but alert. Once we got back to our house we did work on bending and side-passing, so we were able to get a little work done.

Thursday is likely to be our best shot a full-moon ride. We'll give it a shot and hope that Ceasar and his horse Bruno don't show up.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Ugly Hot

The searing heat arrived about the same time as our three-day weekend. Saturday's ride was right after breakfast around 9:30. We did a nice little loop about 2 hours long. We loped some and worked on sidepassing and backing up in between just trail riding and talking about our week. The horses were both well-behaved and we had a very nice ride.

Sunday was hotter. We got up an hour earlier and were on the trail by 8:15. We did a backwards loop through the canal when we discovered an unlocked gate. We found a couple of cool(er) fields to lope between as we made our way around and back home. We didn't do a whole lot of training, but we did try getting collection and worked on two-tracking back and forth along one particularly wide road.

I'm looking for a place to work on rollbacks. We don't have access to a practice arena anymore and it's been hard to find a fence with good footing around it. Jessie tends to quit on me when I do a straight stop - back up - rollback - and go. She'll do the first one good and the second one she just won't stop because she anticipates the back up and rollback. It's on our bucket list.

Sunday afternoon we took the dogs up to Mt. Pinos, elevation 8,000 feet, and did a two mile hike to the summit. It's a casual hike and I got to take some pictures:

View from the summit. They say you can occasionally see a condor up here.

Max & Rusty at the top.

It was an easy trail, but the air was thin.

Sunday night was hot and noisy with all the fireworks going off in the neighborhood (and, yes, Sunday night was just the third of July). We tried getting up early, it just didn't work out. We started our ride around 9:30 once again, only it was hot. Really hot. Ugly hot. We rode a simple loop. I didn't ask too much in the way of loping. Jessie was working up a sweat at a trot. We kept it simple and just did some transitions and collections then headed for home. The horses enjoyed their bath and slept the rest of the day.

We found a garden project on the shady side of the house to occupy our afternoon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A 20 Mile Weekend

We laugh at temperatures in the high nineties. Well not really. It was hot. We still managed a long ride on Saturday morning. We went past the city farm almost all the to Edison Hwy. We rode past the recyle yard and across railrod tracks. We rode past a riding stable. We rode for about 4 hours and logged almost 13 miles. We did some loping whenever possible. Are average speed was 3.4 mph. Here are some pics:

The City Farm

Yes, that's sweat folks!

Dusty is thinking he has to jump that!

We are such scofflaws

Riding past the recycle plant

Doing some rollbacks

Does it look like we're going fast?

This owl was too hot to fly away

Sunday's ride was a little tamer. We went out to the development and parcticed some loping where I got a Western Pleasure 6.4 mph lope out of Jessie. Can't say that I see what the advantage of that is. We also worked on some sidepassing and backing up. We played a little game of simon says where one of us calls out a gait and we did transitions up and down between walk trot and canter. The horses were quite done with us by the time we got home and spent the afternoon snoozing. Their feet are chipped up. Going to have to take a file to them. Twenty miles wears them done quite well.

I've taken to cleaning their pens twice a day when possible to reduce the fly population. That and the fly predators seems to have improved the condition in just one week.

We've been doing groundwork in the evenings. I'm hoping to get some in tonight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

River Ride

We trailered out to the river for a ride on Sunday. I'm not sure how we do it, but we wake up at 8am, have breakfast, trailer 30 minutes, ride for 3 hours, and don't get home until 4 in the afternoon. Sunday time math just doesn't add up...that's a good thing.

These pictures are in no particular order. Thankfully we didn't have to ride up any of those hills. The horses had their feet trimmed early in the week and they both seemed a little tender.

My pretty girl with her head nice and low.

Some of the nice homes along the river.

The river is flowing high and fast because of all the rain.

Taking some shots with the timer. It's hard to get back on your horse and pose in 10 seconds.

It was a good ride. Jessie still has her head on a swivel sometimes, especially through the park with all the kids and cars and stuff. I could have done some groundwork before we left, but I'm not sure it would have helped. We did serpentines through a quiet part of the park. We circled lots of trees and she did well. As soon as we were back in the open, she was looking around again. More importantly it was a beautiful ride and a fun day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The weather is still weird

The weather was nice both Saturday and Monday and we did get to ride. Sunday a storm blew in and it was windy with showers - weird weather for these parts.

Saturday we rode out east and had a couple of good sessions. We were working on trying to keep our lower backs soft and supple while sitting the walk, trot, and canter. The end result is both of our backs were kinda sore on Tuesday.

The riding areas have been cut down so the weeds are not as tall. With the rain the ground was relatively soft. Jessie did very good on her long lope. Each time she gets just a bit easier to control. She is softening nicely, too, as well as changing leads.

I took a few pictures. This is the artistic shot throught the stirrup:

Then at the end or our block the neighbor is keeping goats. They all came running up to us as we walked by so, of course, I had to try and pet them.

All-in-all we got in about 4 hours of riding over about 14 miles. The farrier comes next week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jessie Hates My Ipod and I'm A Little Sore About It Too

Ranae had some Expedia miles to use and left for four days to visit a friend in Houston. That left me and the animals home alone. It also meant a solo ride on Saturday. Oh yeah! I had been looking forward to this. It's one of the reasons I took Jessie out and did groundwork along the canal. She doesn't like to be alone and when I remind her I am with her, it just doesn't seem to matter. Now we had prepared. Most of the spooky objects had been dealt with on the ground and it was time to see if the work had paid off.

I spent a little time in her pen doing some ground work and then spent some extra time grooming her. It was a beautiful morning in the low seventies and not a cloud in the sky. We had all leisurely day for this ride.

So many gadgets - I grabbed my phone, the GPS, and my ipod and while I had hoped I would not need it, I grabbed a riding crop - just in case. It was early and there weren't many people or motorbikes out - just a few cows in the pasture and some ducks in the canal. We kept moving. I had my ipod in playing my "Riding Jessie" playist.

Jessie went out very well. She stopped a couple of times to see if I was paying attention. I was, and the crop was not necessary. We made it out to our cotton field at a trot most of the way. There were a couple of dirt bikers out past the cotton field and she handled that very well. We even chased them for awhile. We worked our way to the Big Square and we started to lope. Just as we did, my ipod started playingSouthern Man, the live version from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 4-Way Street album. One of my favorite songs, it begins with Stephen Stills (I think) saying "This is a usually a really long song, folks...and we're going to do it realy slow tonight." Checking in at 13 minutes 47 seconds I wondered if I could keep Jessie loping for the whole song.

The Big Square is more of a rectangle and, as usual she started off quick and crooked. On the long sides I required her to stay straight. If she veered off we did a circle (at a lope) in the opposite direction. Once she had that, if she went faster than I wanted we changed the pattern. We did figure eights around the cones, diagonals, and sharp turns. By the time we got to the second instrumental I was rockin' out and she was starting to get into it too (yeah, right). It occured to me that this was a combination of the cruising lesson and the post-to-post exercise. The difference was there were no fences and open spaces for a quarter of a mile in every direction.

Just as the song is building to the big crescendo at the end and I think we are going to make it, she starts speeding up. As the song ends, we are doing a circle to slow down. Everytime I let her out of the circle she speeds up. "No worries", I tell her, "I have losts of favorite songs I can listen to until we get this right." We power through about half of Dave Matthews' Kit Kat Jam before I feel she is staying relaxed and controlled enough for me to give her the "whoa" signal.

I let her rest for a minute and we headed off. The GPS rated our fastest speed at 13.4 mph - not bad for such a long lope. When we passed the development I noticed they had graded all the weeds and we just HAD to go try this area out. I started loping her and she was slow and relaxed. For the most part she stayed straight. We loped for about five minutes, then worked on our "whoa" for a bit.

When we got home I checked the GPS. We had ridden 9 miles and had an average of 5 mph. That's pretty fast. Most or our rides are in the 3.4 - 3.8 range. A fast ride is considered to be anything in the fours.

Ranae made it home early Sunday afternoon. She rested for awhile and we went out later together for another loop. Jessie was moving a bit slow, but no signs of soreness. I, on the other hand, was feeling it in my inner thighs, butt, lower back, and shoulders. I figured there was just one solution - yep, we loped some more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fun with Groundwork

I had told Ranae about our 5:30 am workout and she thought it sounded like fun, but there was no way she was getting up early. When the weather turned unsettled and we weren't sure if we wanted to go for a ride (and risk getting wet), we decided to shoot this little video on creative groundwork. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Ride

Saturday was windy but warm enough to have a pleasant ride. There were some baby ducks along the canal.
We kept a good pace out to the development. Jessie was energetic and we loped. Her speed was:

On the way back we decided to ride through the obstacles we had worked on from the ground.
She was very calm going through the trench. Luckily, we had some kids come by in an ATV, so we got to practice that as well.
We were very fortunate to get this ride in. It threatened rain all day on Sunday. We did a little groundwork with Dusty and took some video. Hope to have that up soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Finally... An Evening Ride

Finally, schedules, daylight, and weather all cooperated and we had a very nice hour plus ride last night. The moon was a little more than half full and was high in the sky as we headed for home. Life is good.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An Early Morning Workout

I was up at 5:30 to clean the pens and take Jessie out for a little groundwork in the "field". We started in her pen with LFR and de-sensitizing then we were off down the street to the canal. We did the c-pattern exercise all the way down the street. On the canal we worked on Wiggle-walk backup.

There was a valve that was bothering her which gave us an opportunity to do the sending exercise. Then, it was back to c-pattern.

Remember that ditch Jessie backed into last November? Well, it's still there. The kids have made it deeper and longer to ride their bikes through. This is the pic from last Nov.:

Turns out it's a great place to do sending and yielding exercises. Before long she was jumping in and out of it. I was having a blast sending her here and there, this way and that. It was a great exercise for her to learn where her feet were. She stumbled a couple of times, but she did great.

We did more backing followed by the c-pattern at a jog most of the way back. There was one section of fence where we could practice side-passing, then it was the cool down on the way home. She got tied to the patience pole for about 40 minutes before getting to finish her breakfast. We were able to get in an hour of groundwork and I got some exercise too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rancho Murietta Walkabout Tour Stop

Yes, I did it again. I volunteered for another Clinton Anderson Downunder Horsemanship Walkabout Tour Stop. This was my fourth tour stop and my third time as a volunteer. This one was held at the Rancho Murietta Equestrian Center, a fantastic equestrian facility nestled in the foothills of northern California.
Outdoor Turnouts

I went up a day earlier to visit with my brother who lives just outside of Sacramento. We had a nice visit. I arrived at 8:30am on Friday and we began setting things up. Much of the fixtures were assembled, but there was still alot to do, which was nice. (In Las Vegas most of the set up had been completed by Friday morning and there wasn't much to do.) We stayed busy most of the morning, stopped for pizza and introductions around 1 pm, and finished the setup early in the afternoon. Once we were released I grabbed my camera and took some photos of the facility. There was a gal practicing jumping and she said yes when I asked if I could practice taking action shots.

The nearest hotels were in Folsom about 15 miles away on a fairly winding road through the cattle pasture lands. It was really great scenery - rolling hills, grazing cattle, birds, and ponds. After a quick shower I set off walking to find a place to eat. There wasn't much to choose from - and Olive Garden and Island Burgers. I opted for the Island Burger and they sat me in the bar. Little did I know that much of the Downunder Crew was eating there as well. Half of them were eating at the bar and I think the other half were sitting outside. They are a fun grouop of people. I joined them for about an hour as I ate dinner and then headed back to my room.

Saturday morning was a bit cooler. We were told to not get there before 7:30, but I couldn't sleep. I was there about 6:30 and Clinton was in the arena setting up. I chose to head over to the jumping arena where the barn cat Baxter and I watched another rider working her horse. At 7:30 I worked the ticket line with Mari Joe and then went to halters and lead ropes to re-stock. It was great to see Clinton personally welcome everyone into the covered arena with a handshake up until it was time for him to start the show. I didn't get to see much of the opening "philosophy" talk. I did get to hear quite a bit of though and that's always enjoyable. The stands were packed. I think they held about 2500 people.

Later we setup the round pen for that demo. The Behlen round pen has to be one of the easiest pens I have set up. The disrectful horse demo was good. The paint horse they used was really spoiled and couldn't figure out for the longest time why he had been singled out for such an ordeal. By the time the session was over he was behaving himself quite nicely.

The "spooky" horse demo was the most fascinating. They used a big black gelding of some strange sounding breed. At first I wasn't aware of what was going on, but Clinton's apprentice Brittney was bringing the horse from the stalls to the arena and the horse was just being an ass about the whole thing. He was trying to run over her, rearing, and being pushy. She could hear Clinton waiting for the horse in the arena and finally they got there. Once in the arena Clinton let her work the horse for about 20 minutes. This horse was totoally disrespectful of humans. At one point Brittney was instructed by Clinton to whack the horse on the nose with her stick. It got the horse's attention, but not for very long. The horse had this huge head and neck and was really over-powering the apprentice. This horse really needed the roundpen session first.

Clinton finally took over and because he is stronger, was able to get the horse somewhat respectful. To his credit, and this is one of the things I like most about him, he didn't even try to do the de-spooking or the blocker tie ring demos with this horse becasue the horse just wasn't ready. You would think that maybe the tie-ring sales would be down after the demo and maybe they were, but the sales floor had it's busiest session after that exciting demo.

The afternoon Advanced Riding Demo with Diaz is always fun to watch and we were caught up enough that I got to see most of it. Diaz seemed a bit off and later I learned that he has been getting wise to the tours. It seems he had figured out he doesn't really have to put out 100% when he's in front of a crowd because he knows Clinton won't reprimand him. Well, he found out that didn't go far because on Sunday during the lunch break Cliinton brought him into the arena and really worked his butt off. Now isn't it amazing that such a highly trained horse like Diaz needs a tune-up now and then? Is it any surprise when our horses figure out new ways to show us up? I learn something from every tour stop and this was the important takeaway from Rancho: Fix problems when you see them. Your horse is going to be constantly looking for ways to get out of work. That's their nature. Look for it and stop it when it happens.

Clinton Anderson

Sunday morning the weather really took a cool turn. The wind was blowing right at us. It had been almost 90 degrees on Wednesday. I was lucky I had brought a light jacket. Volunteers only get to wear a t-shirt (of which I had on three).

After the fun intro of the Trailer Loading demo the volunteers met for tear-down instructions. I think one of the reasons I enjoy this part of the weekend so much is the teamwork aspect. You move from task to task packing stuff up with everyone working in a harmony that's very close to dancing. The employees all have their assigned tasks and they complete them with incredible efficiency. The volunteers Emily, Chris, Patty and the others were all great fun and easy to work with too.

At the end of the tear down Clinton comes out, takes a photo with us and hands us our free stuff for the effort. He is also available for questions. I didn't have any horse questions because, really, they are all answered on his dvd's somewhere, aren't they? I had missed a something at the Las Vegas show last time about personality testing, so I got to ask him about that. It took me a little aback when he answered so easily and asked about my experiences. My previous encouters had all been polite, but curt and efficient. I said good-bye to the crew. It was nice they asked when I would volunteer again. Most of the other stops are scattered across the country and it's just too expensive being a professional volunteer.

After washing some the arena dust off I headed for my car and a new set of adventures awaited. My keyless remote failed to open the doors. I opened the trunk to get my jacket out and the alarm went wailing. I worked on it for about 10 minutes before the crew came out and Cheryl, Clinton's mom asked about the problem. Everyone was tired but the sound guy came over with someone else, I not sure who he was, and they proceeded to analyze the situation. I called AAA and they were on the way. About 20 minutes into the process the boys got into the car and were able to reset the alarm system. Not sure how long I would have been stuck there without their help. After cancelling AAA I was on my home, pulling into my driveway around 3am. After a few hours sleep I was up and at work and the day seemed to fly by as I would recall little bits and conversations of the previous three days.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Herd Instinct

Saturday afternoon we were on our own as the clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up. Saddle time has been scarce, so sorry dear Jessie, but we are going out. As we reached the canal we could see a pair of horses a quarter mile away and you wold have thought they had three heads. Jessie desperately wanted her buddy along side so these monsters' appetite would be filled long before they reached her.

As we headed south, like we've done a hundred times before, everything was new and scary. It's really difficult to know exactly how to handle this. There really isn't enough room to do more than yielding of hindquarters. A couple of times in the past I've gotten off and worked on the ground, but that just seems to jack her up more (probably an indication I'm doing something wrong there too). My approach was to pretend it was no big deal and just ask for forward movement and when it happened, back off. Sometimes that was only one step. It was a bit frustrating riding down the canal one step at a time. She kicked up a couple of times and I really got after her hindquarters to let her know that was not acceptable.

We finally got out to our riding area wand I got to lope her around a bit. It wasn't much. The weeds and brush in our open riding areas are up to her cinch, but after getting a couple of good circles in each direction we headed back. It was amazing how fast she walked back home. There were a couple of stretches that were wide enough to do the serpentine exercise. And, because I had more control of her, at the places she balked on the way out, we did the rollback exercise.

Sunday mornings ride with Dusty was much less eventful. It was a fairly casual Easter Sunday ride before meeting up with the family. We did get our ten minute lope in which I did, I must admit, with a little more zeal as payback for the Saturday adventure. Just more evidence that we need to get out and ride alone more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Riding For the Average

We thought we might be able to ride out to the roping arena on Saturday morning. It's a little more than six miles away. We got about five miles out and clouds started to roll in. Not wanting to risk getting wet we turned around. As it turned out there was not a roping be held there anyway. I was wearing the GPS and we were trying to keep the horses moving, we averaged 3.8 mph, which is pretty good considering it included a short break. It was a 2 and 1/2 hour ride that covered 9.5 miles. We loped quite a bit and, as we continue to put miles on, Jessie gets better and better. It's not a slow lope but it is controllable and that's what I'm really looking for.

Sunday's ride was in the afternoon and it had warmed to the mid-70's - a beautiful afternoon for a ride. Jessie and I worked around the big square as Ranae rode off on her winding road trail. We worked on trying to two track at the lope and she was moving off my leg with just a little spur. We also tried some rollback, which she would like me to note here, she HATES! We did a couple of stop, backups, and rollbacks and about the third one she stopped stopping. She knew what was coming and she didn't want to do it So we spent about the next ten minutes working on "whoa" and when she got that we did one more rollback and headed for home.

Ferrier came yesterday and said everything looked good. On a side note, I am once again volunteering for a CA Tour stop in Rancho Murietta in May.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Vets, Mules, and Shooting Ranges

Saturday was our every-other-year dental/vet check. The appt. was scheduled for 8:30 am. The horses had not been trailered anywhere since I don't remember when...

We had hooked up the trailer on Friday night. I was up early to feed the horses and make us breakfast. We had just enough time to brush them up a bit and load up. Jessie loaded very well. She didn't jump in the trailer with glee and enthusiasm, but it wasn't a fight.

Our vet is about 15 minutes away and we were a little early. I was in talking to one vet, when the other one came in and said, let's do this. I walked out to the trailer and Dusty was already out. The vet tech was unloading Jessie and as soon as she opened the divider Jessie went blowing out the back of the trailer. Good thing she was on the tie ring and the lead rope just slipped all the way through. Jessie scraped her left gaskin on something coming out. It didn't look too bad. I took her from the vet tech and we proceeded to load and unload a couple of times before heading off to the waiting pen. The tech apologized and I told her it wasn't her fault and that I should have Jessie trained better than that.

The dental work went well. The two year plan is working . There were "points" on their teeth but not sores or cuts in their mouths. Dusty got a sheath cleaning. They both got vacs and we put them in holding pens until they woke up a bit. I had my camera but didn't have the heart to take Jessie's pic while she was in the dental contraption. She looked so vulnerable.

We were hanging out at the vets playing with the hospital dog and looking at a new foal and a women had brought a mule (or donkey, I still can't keep track of the difference) in to be gelded. They said we could watch and I jumped on that. It had been years since I watched a surgery. They had the mule (we'll go with that, it's easier to spell) out on the ground. The tech held one back hoof with a rope leaving the target area exposed. It was an older mule and there was a lot of fatty tissue. Both doctors had gloved up and were tying things off when they realized they needed the "emasculator" which was still in its sterile wrap. I got to open it up and hand it to them in a sterile manner has if thirty five years had not passed since the last time I had done that.

They finished up and our horses were ready, so we loaded them up and headed home. We left the trailer hooked up in the hopes the weather held for a river ride.

Sunday morning was cool and cloudy and we grabbed an extra jacket before loading and heading for the river. Once there, it was a beautiful day - the skies had cleared and there was a nice, cool breeze. Much of the ground was soft and we did a lot of trotting a loping at every opportunity. Dusty was having issues eating grass and Ranae would lope him every time he took a bite. He was quite sweaty an hour into our ride. Ranae was enjoying loping the single track trail along the river.

We really didn't have any plan on where we wanted to go and finally decided to head out to the restaurant about 5 miles away. Most of the trail is along the river, except for about the last half mile. We needed to ride along an asphalt road with a good shoulder. The restaurant was a quarter mile past the Highway Patrol's Club room, which also houses their shooting range. We had ridden by this before and had never seen anyone there. Sunday they were having target practice. The road goes up a bit and the shooting range is down in a little hollar. The firing area was no more than 100 feet off the shoulder. Jessie is a big sissy on these rides and feels, because she still has potential DNA to pass on, that Dusty should ALWAYS go first at anything that has even the slightest potential of being dangerous. Dusty wasn't buying it and, as I explained to her, since we were the ones who had done so much de-sensitizing, we should go first. We had Ranae and Dusty move back about 30 feet. That seems to be the distance where they stop feeding on each others' anxiety. Jessie started to plod ahead, very slowly at first. The gun went off and I could feel her flinch under me, but she kept moving. There were a couple of more shots right as we walked by. Her ears were up and she was attentive and calm.

At the restaurant, Ranae hadn't brought a halter, so we took off one of her saddle strings and tied Dusty up with that. He could have broken it with one little tug, especially since there was a luscious, green weed looking to get eaten right behind him, but he didn't.

There were a lot more shots being fired on our way back past the shooting range. They were using the rifle side of the range too and all the gunshots sounded a little different. She was a little more jiggy about the whole thing, but we were headed home and that made it all worth it. Once we got back home they got a bath and some hay and the afternoon off...

Friday, March 25, 2011

More Rain

We've had another three quarters of an inch of rain in the last four days. I pumped water out of the corrals Monday and Thursday mornings. They are still quite sloppy. Jessie is NOT a happy camper. We are hopeful the sun will be out this weekend.

Ritchie Waterers is auctioning off two Downunder Horsemanship shirts that Clinton wore during last year's tour stops. I'm in the bidding for this one. The proceeds go to NARHA. I'm currently the leader, but it's a good cause and I'm sure someone will out bid me. This would be a nice addition to my Stalker Collection (that's a joke).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A quick video

A quick little video from Sunday's ride. We had an encounter with some helium balloons on a windy day, some trots through the high grass, and a walk through a lovely little unofficial dump site. Some of our neighbors are unclear on the concept of "Keep America Beautiful". Since we can't stop them, we'll use it as a desensitizing area.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Neither wind nor rain...

We were able to get in a couple of rides in despite the threatening skies. We haven't had the opportunity to do more than just ride out to our usual haunts. We have been working harder though. We are doing a lot more loping, enough so that Jessie works up a good sweat. Jessie's speed is getting much better. I actually had to ask her to speed up on Saturday. Steering remains our biggest challenge.

One of the benefits from loping so much is that I am getting a better feel for the horse underneath me. I can tell when Jessie is pulling me around on her front end and not using her hindquarters. I know three months ago I had no clue about any of this. Oh, I had heard people talk about it, but I couldn't feel it. Now I just have to figure out how to encourage more of the hindquarters when loping. The more we lope the better it'll get.

We get a lot of de-sensitizing practice on these spring rides. The dirt bikes, dune buggies, and even other horses are out in good numbers. Jessie is far more interested in other horses. We can see a couple of horses half a mile away and she will fixate on them. I'll pick up a rein and ask for a hindquarter yield and it's like pulling on a rope tied to a tree. Our solution was just to ask for a trot, sit, one-rein stop, over and over again. It improved...or were we just getting farther away from the horses?

On a side note: Our Youtube channel just got its 300 subscriber. Pretty amazing. We (my wife and I) just started posting videos to chronicle our progress. Having people emailing me to say the videos have helped them with their horses was totally unexpected. We have a couple more in the works. I'm taking a video editing class in the hopes the quality will go up. The hardest part is finding the time (and place) to actually shoot the video. We're hopeful that once the time changes we will get more opportunities.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Going to Be a Couple of Busy Months

The store continues to keep me busy, which is a good thing. I am taking two six week classes starting this week, one on still photography and one on video editing. The ball room dance class is still on going and we are a host of a class on old neon signs in March. And then there is our industry trade show...

We still have been able to get some riding in, however. We were able to ride both days of the last two weekends. We have been working on the same things, loping with speed and control being the main focus, and getting more softness and suppleness. Yesterday, we did another of our ten-minute-lopes and Jessie's speed is much better and her steering is also improving. Ranae and I also did some side-by-side loping and, where this has gotten both horses chargy and bothered, they have improved quite a bit.

Saturday we went out to the city farm and took advantage of the good weather and the long rides to get some conditioning in. The horses had a hoof trim on Thursday and because they are barefoot we expected them to be a bit more "ouchy". Both did really well.

Much of the rest of the weekend was doing yard clean-up. Not nearly as much fun as being around the horses. Sunday morning a neighbor that was having some respect issues with her horse came by and I got to try my hand at using my techniques on a horse who had not been exposed to them before. We spent about an hour and the horse learned a lot and so did I. Jessie has me spoiled.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Time to Turn to Social Media

They say there is power in social media. Let's see.

I HAD an opportunity to get a ticket to Road to the Horse in TN to see three of the best horseman in the country (well, one best and two pretty good). Tickets are scarce. The event has been sold out for months, but a friend of a friend had one extra ticket. In their efforts to prevent scalping, the RTTH people require each ticket to be registered to the person in the seat. We've been trying for three weeks to get a name change on her ticket to no avail. This is a terrible business model where a company sees their customers as either criminals or insignificant. I can completely understand the need to curb scalping, BUT there MUST be a system in place where one who is in legal possession of a ticket be allowed to transfer that ticket to someone else. What if a person breaks a leg or dies? Does that seat then just go empty? The Road to the Horse people got THEIR money. It just should not be this difficult unless the people you are dealing with don't care or are incompetent.

Monday, January 31, 2011

If Jessie Had My Dog's Rollback

We would win every competition that scored for rollbacks. Max has the perfect rollback. It's up on his back end and it's 180 degrees and perfect. Ah, if it were only transferable.

It's been cold and damp with fog here all week. The Tule fog we are known for in this area seeps through your clothes, clenches whatever warmth you have, and yanks it right out of you. By the afternoon it had warmed up enough to try and ride. Ranae was staying in the house, so I thought we would just go over to the old alfalfa field for a few exercises - just to get a ride in. The neighbors were dragging the pen where we usually do our groundwork and I just did a little "check-up" in the yard before leaving.

Jessie walked out to the field nice and calmly. When we got there the fallow field was now oozing with about ten inches of wild, yummy, green, green grass just for the taking. We started trotting around and Jessie could not believe her good fortune. I had brought her out here - alone - so she could have all this grass herself! Her trot was fast and excited as she was looked around and I countered with the serpentine exercise. Every time I brought her head from one side to the other she would drop it and try for a bite of grass. About the third change of direction SHE decided to demonstrate her frustration by kicking up. I gave her a strong correction by yielding hindquarters and we started again. Apparently, my correction had not been strong enough because she immediately did it again. I made her hustle pretty good (or so I thought) doing both sides this time. After the third time, I moved her off the grass and made her hustle. Now, the ride wasn't much fun anymore (for me anyway. She was having a great time). I decided to get off an make her work really hard. I started lungeing her and the first three or four changes of direction were a rodeo. She reared big time, pulled back (I had gloves on and went with her), and kicked up. I just kept doing it because "heart attacks are free". After about five minutes I did some desensitizing, then some backing up and then back to the lungeing. The second time around was much smoother and quieter and I had most of my horse back. She was still tight and now my boots were wet from tromping around in the tall, wet grass. I baited her to take a bite of the grass and she passed. I got back on and walked her around the the outskirts of the field moving in and out of the grassy areas. I didn't really want get into another battle of wills just then, though looking back perhaps I should have. It was getting dark and we headed back home where I worked with her in our yard, which has grass just obviously not as tasty, and we ran through four or five exercises very nicely. I tied her up to the patience pole for about an hour before feeding her.


The forecast called for rain. It was cloudy and had sprinkled early in the morning, but the temperatures were noticeably warmer. About 11:30 we decided the rain couldn't hurt us more than not riding, so we headed out. About a mile out, there was a fairly strong and steady sprinkle. It looked like it was passing through so, as quickly as we could, we headed for the one tree on our route that could offer protection. We stood there for a few minutes then headed further out to the development. I loped Jessie around and she did very well. The circles were a bit awkward with inconsistent speed, but loping a big rectangle was much better. She kept her lines much straighter and her speed was more consistent. We did a few side-passing games and backing up then headed for home.

About two blocks from home it started to rain steadily. By the time we made it through the gate is was raining hard. By the time we got them untacked and put away, it was really coming down. By the time we got in the house and into dry clothes it had stopped. Later Sunday evening it really poured and there was half an inch of rain in my gauge. But, at least, we got our ride in!