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.
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