Thursday, December 15, 2016

Going Slow

I'm a slow reader.  Yes, I'm still reading the biography of the great horse trainer, Don Dodge.  Don owned Poco Lena for a time.  The book is an interesting look into his life, the many wives he had, and his relationship with booze.

But, I'm trying to read between the lines; to see what horsemanship principles I might glean from such a successful trainer.

Don came across Fizzabar, a tiny little mare out of Doc Bar and Teresa Tivio.  He first bought him for one of the owners he trained for.  When the owner no longer wanted her, Don Dodge paid the enormous sum of $10,000 in 1967.  Fizzabar had been in the hackamore and cow classes, so she had some training.  The book states that Don worked her for a year and was almost ready to give up on her.  He stayed with her and won the PCCHA championship in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

This all leads me to believe that a horse can learn the basics in a relatively short time.  The fine-tuning, the good handle, however, takes considerably more.  Lately, I've been taking this approach with my horses.  I've been working with Scratch and Jessie with this "grazer bit" trying to get them to work one-handed.  It slow going.  I am breaking the steps down as small as I can trying to do the moves at a walk even.  But, if I jump ahead to far, it's back to the beginning.

To keep them from getting bored, I limit the workouts to 45 minutes.  Truth be told, that's about all I can handle too.  Doing things very slowly and repetitively is extremely tedious.
On the positive side, because there's no need to go on a two-hour ride, I get to work both of them on most days.  We'll see how long this continues between my schedule, the holidays, and the winter weather.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Working with a Grazer Bit

I'm reading a bio of the Hall of Fame trainer and showman, Don Dodge.  In the book,  he talks about his foray into cutting horses.  At the time, the early 1950s, there wasn't much cutting going on, especially in California.

Our "Grazer" Bit
Reining was king and the reiners used either a hackamore or a spade bit.  Don writes about using a "grazer" bit to train and work the cutters.  I wasn't sure what a "grazer" bit was, so I looked it up on Google of course.  It looks like one we have in our tack room, small port, leather curb, so I got it out and tried it on Scratch today.  (By the way, you could help by checking out the photo and offering your opinion on our bit.)

First, I checked YouTube for a video on how to fit the bit correctly.  I found one by Larry Trocha and made the necessary adjustments.

The first thing I noticed was how sensitive Scratch was to the movement of my hands. I was very aware of when I engaged his mouth.  It didn't take much movement of the reins to get a response and it was an effort to remind myself to give him the release.

Scratch and I worked on our stop and improving his response time.  One of the things we struggled with in the cow pen was rating the cow, stopping and rolling back.  It is imperative that he stop when I ask, even with all chaos going on in there.

Since it was his first real work with this bit, we didn't spend a lot of time working with it.  Actually, it was more for my benefit.  My eyes were often on the lower part of the bit so I could catch a glimpse of when the curb strap might be engaging.  That's a tough deal and now I know why they say all the really good trainers have soft hands.  We'll keep practicing and hope for improvement.