Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lots of Riding

It's been a great couple of weeks of riding.  I've been out most every day rotating between three horses - Dusty, Jessie, and Scratch.  It's a great experience to ride three different horses.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Jessie is solid on the trail.  Nothing bothers her, except she wants to dance with the horse that brought her.  If she goes out alone, she is fine.  If she goes out with another horse and that horse leaves her, she has a bit of a problem.  She is a bit headstrong and likes to go where she wants and doesn't necessarily follow my instructions.  That's given us some things to work on while on the trail.

As far as her injury, I could not be more happy with her performance.  We rode Friday in the mountains - up and down hills - for nearly two hours and the next day she was fine.  The decision to take her to Equine Spa for treadmill conditioning so far has paid off.

Dusty wants to find the easy way out of everything.  He'll go, sometimes you've got to convince him, but he'll go.  If there is something he COULD be afraid of, he'll take that opportunity.  He doesn't make a big deal about it, but he does "worry" very well.

Scratch is Scratch.  He goes almost everywhere now.  That's great.  There was a time he wouldn't.  He's a great mountain horse.  He has a low gear that will power up and down any hillside I've encountered.  I can swing a rope off of him at a lope.  He's comfortable enough that I can build the loop while roping.

Friday we went to the ranch and I rode Jessie in one direction and back for an hour forty-five.  Then, took a break and rode Scratch for over two hours in the other direction.  By the time Saturday rolled around I was quite sore, but took Jessie out for a follow-up ride.  She did great.

The point of all this is to fine tune my training techniques.  I want the horses to all be strong.  If I can pass along Jessie's courage to Scratch or Scratch's willingness to move to Dusty, that would be awesome.  I am hopeful that by riding them all consistently I'll reach that goal.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Working Scratch On the Trail

Scratch, is a horse I have in training.  He was a wild-roaming horse for 9 years and I've been working with him for a year.  The man who owns him wants me to continue riding him and I'm happy to do it.  These wild horse come from what some believe is Morgan stock and they are very even minded.  Scratch is very teachable.

I had an early morning breakfast schedule with an old friend and, even though it's been in the 100's here in Bakersfield, I needed to ride Scratch.  I try to take him out twice a week and our rides are usually 2 hours long.

By the time I got home and the trailer hooked up it was noon.  We got out to the river around twelve thirty.  He was already saddled so, along with Buster Brown Dog, we headed down the trail.  Now, most of you probably noticed I didn't mention anything about groundwork.  The man who owns Scratch is a rancher.  While he appreciates groundwork he told me, "John, we gotta have this horse be a ranch horse.  By that I mean, we brush off the mud where the saddle pad goes, throw a saddle on him, and go."

For the last three months that's how I've been training him.  We've done groundwork a few times, but it's after a ride.  While Scratch is a little feisty at times when I first mount, he settles right down and gets to moving.

We would be riding the river trail lone today.  Temps were in the high 90's and we crossed the river at our first opportunity.  This helped Buster cool off and Scratch, who loves water, got to grab a drink early in the ride.

We rode along a single track at a trot.  I worked on collection and he was giving "ok".  Being a wild horse he still focuses on the environment around him.  He was listening though and that's what I was looking for.

The single track goes along the river and there is quite a bit of dead fall to negotiate.  Scratch does this very well.  Very few "natural" things on the trail bother him.

When we come out of the single track, the path widens and is soft, and I encouraged him up to a lope.  He has a smooth motion and was moving along nicely without speeding up.

We crossed a bridge.  He was understandably worrisome.  The ground was different (concrete), there was graffiti painted on the surface.  I encourage him to go and he snorted several times, then stepped slowly onto the bridge.  Carefully he negotiated the crossing and relaxed when he stepped off.

We went back into a trot and for the next 20 minutes we worked on one-rein stops.  Scratch doesn't like to give in the snaffle and this is an exercise I know I have been neglecting.  It was time to but some work in and we did.  Scratch is really good at stopping when I sit, but that's not going to help me if he decides he needs to bolt.  We made a modest improvement and continued to walk, trot and lope back to our starting point.  We crossed the river a couple more times and we considered this a good workout.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Back to Blogging?

Back to Blogging?  Well, Maybe.  Maybe Not.

I only say that because I often have very good intentions about writing these wonderful, insightful blog posts that rarely come to fruition.  But often I, when I'm struggling or unsure of something, I return here to write about it and that helps me work it through.

Jessie has had a trying year.  After the colic last August, she had a lameness issue in February.  I gave her March and April off and she was still lame in her front left.  I took her to a "lameness specialist" and ultrasounds and x-rays revealed nothing definitive.  We were instructed to give her another 60 days off then re-check.

Now, I'm not sure what the doctor was going to re-check.  He hadn't found anything on the first go.  I gave her stall rest and massage the tendon that was suspected.  I wrapped and applied liniment and gave her and anti-inflammatory.

After two months off, instead of going for the re-check, I took her to an Equine Spa that specializes in conditioning horses.  They have an underwater treadmill, an Equi-Vibe machine, and a hot walker. They also have a very caring staff and I knew Jessie would get excellent care.

She started out with just 3 minutes on the treadmill, a few on the hot walker, and then finished on the Equi-Vibe.  Each day they increased the treadmill by a minute.  I don't know the exact details of the progression, but by the end of the month she was doing some strenuous work in the treadmill.

And, when I picked her up she was looking quite buff.
Jessie Before

Getting her work in on the hot walker.
Going home day.  Love the braids.
She came home July 21st and we've had about half a dozen rides since.  The last four I've done groundwork after the ride (the early morning rides were essentially walking for 2 hours and I thought we needed to actually get some work in).  She hasn't shown any sign of lameness and she appears to be in really good shape.

Since she has come home, I've been trying to keep all the horses worked/ridden.  It's been a challenge, but a fun one.  Each of the horses have a different personality and it's neat trying to figure out how to ride them accordingly.  Jessie loves to move and is not afraid of anything.  Scratch loves to move and is ever on alert.  Dusty hates to move and can be brave one step and scared the next.