Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting a saddle blanket wet

First of all: 25 comments? Seriously, people, you've been holding back on me all this time.

Why do I feel like everyone has been dying to tell me to get some lessons but no one would? LOL People. Speak up next time.

There. Lecture done. :)

Honestly though, I know some individuals who read this blog are itching to tell me something but don't want to:
  • a. hurt my feelings (people. I work in politics. Most of the feeling was burned out of me in the first quarter of 1998);
  • b. get stomped on by other commenters who may feel the need to defend me;
  • c. or are just ... chicken.

So, here's the deal. You got something to say that you think can help me, then say it. You don't want it to appear, tell me in the comment (say something like "private" or something) and I will read it and not post it. You don't even have to identify yourself. I may write about it later, but I promise not to out you.

And trust me, you can't hurt my feelings.

Okay, moving on.


TR and I have a lesson scheduled with Dave in a week. I'm not sure who is more excited.

Tonight TR was generous enough to help me on my wet saddle blanket journey and invited me over to work with his horse, Woody, while he rode Lola (Lola is doing well, BTW, the conditioning program he has her on is doing wonders. She didn't stumble once).

We finished off our practice with circle work. I worked on my hands, reins, cantering in circles around a cone - all my circle work had been in a round pen, which is much easier. TR helped me connect the dots and put up with me asking all kinds of stupid questions (yes, there are stupid questions, you just have to try to keep a straight face when people ask them).

For the first time I felt the drop shoulder that was turning my horse because TR spotted just when I did it. I worked on understanding what to do with the reins and when. It was by no means pretty, but it was a baby step forward. I felt a surge of confidence on the canter, the slow and easy one that Woody has, and we just kept working on making the oval a circle.

Never did quite get it. But we were working towards it.

All to soon the sun was fading, the dusty blue sky was deepening to velvet indigo. The light had gone that lovely golden color by the time we rode back to the barn, we switched horses - I was on Lola and TR was on Woody. Woody, who had seemed a perfect gentleman in the pasture with me, started jigging slightly and carrying his head high. Going back to the barn is this horse's only vice. It was the very first thing TR had worked on with him and something that springs back when he's been on pasture vacation. Which he had been since Lola has had TR's conditioning time.

Lola, on the other hand was calm until I asked her not to follow Woody in the barn. We explored all kinds of options until we got to stop. You know how a dog will go through all it's tricks in about 15 seconds to try to earn it's treat? Sort of like that. But I just wanted her to stand still outside the barn for me to get off.

She's side passing, TR told me at one point. You must be telling her to do that.

I don't think so - I said - I'm just trying to get her to stop outside the barn. I kept trying to cue more and more softly, because she was getting concerned. Nothing to worry about, but I could tell I was confusing her. I thought perhaps when she rides with the group they come into the barn together, but TR didn't think it was that. Undoubtedly me, but I couldn't quite see where. But I needed to figure it out, either way.

Lola and I worked for a few minutes. We even had to back out of the barn at one point. Then she finally stood still outside the door. She was quite relieved to finally have figure out what I wanted. Me too.

She's a great horse, and I can see that TR has her well on the way to being another Woody.

On the way home I thought about this journey quite a bit. I thought of the way I rode Woody's canter, feeling a great sense of balance and relaxing into the movement...

No, that's not quite right.

It's not relaxing, really. You're working hard, especially if you are doing it right. The feeling is more like joining in the movement seamlessly. Like flowing with the wind, soft, yet moving with strength.

The whole time we were going in circles I was trying to remember so many things but then it came, that moment when you hit it right and it all comes together and you're as comfortable and confident as anywhere you've ever been. It didn't last long, because then I'd forget to keep my seat right, or my rein would drop or I'd do half a dozen things wrong. Another few laps and it would happen again, just for a few strides. Then back to fumbling.

But it doesn't erase that moment. Nothing erases that moment.

Thanks, TR.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Search For My Next Horse is Over

Tonight I ended my search for my next horse.

Yes, TR and I drove, along with my ever suffering husband (ESH) an hour and a half to see this horse.

10 yr Old Palomino Gelding

Grade horse, calm disposition, had been sitting for 3 years. This trainer, Dave, took on this horse and in the last month has spent time putting a handle back on it. Chester was a handsome horse and as I saw Dave ride him I was pretty sure he wasn't the kind of horse I needed.

First of all, watching Dave ride was amazing. This man rides like the rancher I wrote about at the Kathleen Lindley clinic (you can read about him here and here). I love watching a good rider.

He said that when he first got this horse he was worried how bad it would be because it had been with women. He noted that women make a real mess of horses, at least from the area these women were from (which shall go nameless since I don't want Dave dive bombed).

"They're all 'oh poor horse' when the horse is stepping all over them. Tell you what, your horse won't be calling 911 when he breaks your foot" (Note: this is not an exact quote. I was a little surprised and wasn't taking copious notes at that point.)

Of course it reminded me of the session in the clinic where Kathleen discussed all the dangerous "natural horsemanship trained" horses. Lousy ground manners always shock me. Heck ground manners are the easy part.

Dave cruised around the round pen in the saddle and described how he had worked the horse, what he liked about him. He admitted the horse needs finishing. Some head tossing, some holes here and there. The palomino was incredibly bright though, and has a great disposition, and I liked his nature once I got in with him.

TR rode him for me and put him through the paces. He could see the diamond in the rough on this horse, saying later - that is going to be one heck of a horse. TR got him to lower his head a little better, showed that nice slow canter.

Then I got in. I worked the palomino on the ground for a moment and then stepped into a saddle that Dave had won this year that looks like it's been ridden in for 10 years, not 5 months.

Up in the gallery area around the round pen Dave made a few comments about a guy that was out who didn't know what he was doing and how he didn't tell him anything because the guy said he knew everything.

As the palomino and I started our first few strides, I struggled with the split reins. I never ride in them and had no clue what to do. "Listen, you tell me what I'm doing wrong, because I need to hear it."

Hoo boy. Did I hear it.


Way back, in the Canyon days I wrote this:

As good as Canyon is on the ground, and as good as we seem to connect, he's not all the way there. This horse seems connected with me, but it's not there in the saddle. I can lead him into anything and he'll follow me around the arena, back, turn, everything without a touch on the lead line. But it's not translating when I get on his back.

And I keep feeling this way. It was precisely the same with Cibolo. Things didn't come apart on the ground. They came apart in the saddle. And I know that I am doing something wrong.

Over and over and over.

And it's not about softness, per se.

Clinton Anderson talks about the three things it takes to keep a horse broke: wet saddle blankets, training, and speed. If you only have one, you have a mess. (For example, race horses have plenty of speed, but never get the miles of wet saddle blankets or the training time in ground work or body carriage)

I'd say for me I'm looking at a similar dynamic. I have one thing down : ground work. But ground work you can learn from a magazine, and a book. It's mostly a brain thing. Riding in a saddle is something that you can't learn, or at least I can't, from reading and watching videos. You have to build a sense of your self in the saddle, of how to work your legs, your split reins, your body. It takes the combo of lessons and miles. Of which I have far too little of both.


Based on the barrage I got from Dave (all done bluntly but not unkindly), I knew that I had driven an hour and a half to hear this. This man, who I'd met on the phone, who could actually text on his phone while he was riding a cantering horse, who rode in a 5 month old saddle so much that it was completely broken in, this man was telling me what I needed to hear.

As I stroked the Palomino's face afterwards, the same face that kept deciding he could look outside the pen because I wasn't in charge in that saddle, Dave looked me in the eye. "You can have a broke horse, but you can unbreak a horse if you don't know what you're doing. If you can't give him the signals he's been trained with."

And at that moment I knew my search for my horse was over.

Because I have to learn how to ride first. Otherwise I will unwind another horse.

So instead of paying board on a second horse, I'm taking TRs advice. Lessons. For at least 3 months. Maybe by then I'll be ready.

As I search for a trainer I hope I can find someone as blunt as Dave. He's a little too far for me to travel to for lessons and I don't know if he even does that. But I'm staying away from people/trainers who will tell me only what I want to hear.

Because I'm on this journey to make some progress. Trust me, my ego can handle the bruising.

And I'll be damned if I don't turn this around.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When you love something, set it free...

...If it comes back it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was.

Today, Stephanie and Cibolo became partners. They always had been, but now, its official.

When she rode him today, his ears were back, listening carefully to her. His head carriage was low. Their connection was beautiful. I had moments with him like that, but they were fleeting.
He is her heart horse.
I showed her all the things he's learned, his tricks with clicker, how he'll drop his head into the halter, and we spent some time in the round pen. Then they went gallivanting down the trail. I admired him, admired all the things he could do. I admired how they rode together, and how in touch they seemed to be.


You can tell Lily is a quarter horse because she has
quarter notes ! (okay, okay, technically they are 8th notes)

I worked with Lily for a while in the round pen and our communication is getting stronger. She likes to work and I promised to get her out every time, even when/if/okay, when/ my horse finds me. She seems happy to be a "lead" horse. Several horses in the barn nicker for her when she leaves. She is a special mare, and draws everyone around her closer. Endurance would be too hard on her, she really isn't sound enough for anything other than light riding.

We rode for just a few minutes, just at a walk, I knew Lily's leg was bothering her, so I didn't want to ask for much. She has a tremendous amount of try, and will hurt herself for you if she senses you want more. But she doesn't like to be left out. So a little saddle time was good for her spirit.


As we walked to our cars, I hugged Stephanie and said, "You know, he IS a good horse."

She looked at me, tears making her eyes shine with light. "He's a GREAT horse."

Ride on, Cibolo and Stephanie.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Karma is an interesting thing.

I'm a big believer that experiences come into your life for reasons you can't always understand. Often, it's not until the very end that you get a glimpse of the meaning that was hidden in the folds of the experience.

In the case of my journey with Cibolo, today I found out why I'm on this journey with this horse.

I was holding him for someone special.

Just not me.

Do you remember this? The note from Cibolo?

It was from Stephanie. And, starting Sunday, Cibolo will be hers. As I told her, "He always liked you better than me."

She's got the firm approach he needs. And somehow she's always seemed to build his confidence. And she loves him.

Now she's ready, finally, for a horse of her own.


I realized, after reading so many stories from so many with much more experience than I have, that what I was going through was not really unusual. It wasn't anything to feel ashamed of, or to feel like I was "wimping" out.

Every story shared was powerful. But one question that Aarenex asked just kept ringing in my head:

Ask yourself: Do you envision C, 10 years hence, having been perfectly trained for the event, standing at the start line and eager to go forward for 50 miles of tough terrain?

I closed my eyes and I thought of Cibolo. In ten years we'd go through a lot together. We'd probably find a way between us for him to trust me, and me him. We'd be at the start of an endurance race.

And he'd be dreading it.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. This really isn't his thing. He'd do it. Because he is a good horse overall. But we're not a good match - not in expectation (from both of us), not in interests.

I've been on two horses who loved to hit the trail. You can see it in everything they do as they head out. They couldn't wait to leave the barn, to move into a new place. They were bored to death in the arena and only did the work there because they had to. It was Spirit and Woody.

And while Cibolo is not spooky and a decent trail horse, the energy of those big trail rides is very overwhelming and anxiety producing.

So, at the cost of my ego, the cost of one darn fine saddle that I imagine will probably not fit another horse, and for the sake of both of us, I'm letting him go. To the person who I just know he belongs to.

Just like with Canyon, I feel like I'm sending this horse back home - to his heart home.


Speaking of karma, I numbered all 31 individuals who posted over this journey. And when I win the lottery we're all going to go riding in Ireland.

But until then, I can only draw one winner. Jill, from Buckskin and a Bay was selected by random number generator (because you can find anything on the Internet).


Karma continues - I got a sweet award from Nuzz - Girl, I'm getting on that this weekend. It's so wonderful, and I'm with you, I wondered where all the viral awards had gone.


Thank you for all your support over the last few months. I know I'll find the right horse. I just don't know when.

And frankly, I'm pretty gun shy.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say I hadn't been looking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unraveling in an emergency - CONTEST!

On the plane coming home last week I had the good fortune of winning the Southwest Airlines lottery - that's when you get to sit next two interesting individuals. It's a short flight from Dallas to San Antonio and we had a great time chatting for 45 minutes.

One of the gentlemen was wearing a braided paracord bracelet. I've always wanted one. These are bracelets you can unravel and end up with a good six feet of rope - for an emergency halter, for example. Or lead rope. Or tie down.

In my opinion it's the perfect horseman accessory.

Turns out his twins make these at home - they are in scouts. I love scouts. They are always the most industrious kids ever.

So I've decided it's time for a CONTEST. And the nice thing is that some of you have already entered!

First some details on the bracelets:

From Mark:

My sons are very excited about starting their paracord bracelets business. We are calling it 2Chaps Paraband (their names are Mason and Logan Chapman by the way, they are 13-year old twins).

They can make any size (could be used as an ankle bracelet too) in just about any color. They are going to donate $1 of each sale to a charity based on the color sold. (see chart below) .

Isn't it great? So here's the contest:

If you left me a comment over the last three posts (during my agonizing over Cibolo) you are already entered! Wasn't that easy?

If you didn't and want to enter, just leave one before Thursday at noon. Then I'll figure out a way to draw a winner.

The winner gets a paracord bracelet in their size with the color of their choosing to support these great kids with their heart in the right place.

But what if you don't win?

If you want to order one on your own, here's the details:

Measure your wrist - btw, if it is 6 inches around, that equals about 6 ½ ft of paracord!

Each band will sell for $10, with a $1 going to charity (as mentioned above). Send an email to monicachapman (at) satx.rr (dot) com for ordering information.

Black = Urban Connection
Red = American Heart Association
Red, White, Blue = National MS Society
Yellow = Lance Armstrong Foundation
Pink = Susan G. Komen Foundation
Camo/all other = Disability Resource Inc

You've all been here for me as I try to find my way on this journey with horses. You've given me the support to understand where I'm wandering off path and helped me have the courage to continue on.

Maybe one of these bracelets will help you out of a jam, too.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Horse Personality - Lone wolf

I appreciate the support - I really don't want to be a flake, but I also want to be honest. By sharing your stories with horses like Cibolo, it's helped me not feel so unreasonable in my expectations. I think you are all right - I can probably handle it. But do I want to?

So, who is this horse? Cibolo, it seems, is Lobo after all. Or not...

Like so many in blogosphere I took the online horse personality test. At first I got one result, but having watched him more closely I realize I was off. I took it again and got SLAA - Lone Wolf.

Here's what I got from online on Lone wolf:

Low key, low energy, low expectations, are what you need to work successfully with this type of horse. The Lone Wolf is not bursting out of his stall to try to fit into your program and to please you. He is easily content and can do a good job for you as long as it is not demanding physically or emotionally. He likes his world predictable and safe. He would rather be a little bored than stressed. If repeatedly put into pressure situations he can react seemingly unpredictably. If you can find a quiet solid job for him, he will perform it repeatedly and safely.

The book, Is Your Horse a Rock Star (which you can find here), has a few other insights.

If this horse does suddenly react, it always takes people by surprise as he's always"the good guy." (read my experience in Conception. In fact every time it goes badly it's so surprising!)

The best type of rider is tricky... the dominant will put too much pressure... the submissive will not be enough of a leader... (I'm having trouble here exactly. The mix is easy to get wrong)

Likes to be bored... (I see that totally. He is not adventurous. Unless there's a cookie)

Needs a job, but not an exciting one... Think research department...

Soft and sweet, but difficult to know... (so true. Lover, then Mr. Aloof. I have SO dated that guy)

He responds to efforts to engage him with either worry or disinterest. The line seems very thin... (yep)

Constantly flips from not paying attention to overreacting... (check!)

Job : probably would enjoy the predictability of flatwork, pulling a plow, low level hunter... (okay. So not endurance or trail challenges?)

With a Lone Wolf:
Be a quiet leader (I am having trouble here. My quiet is ... too quiet?)
Keep them safe
Appreciate what effort they give
Repeat it until they are solid
Stay the course
Venture out slowly
Find them an easy, low stress job
(can I have one of those too? LOL)

Abandon them
Scare them
Compare them to others
Skip steps
Jump from job to job
Assume they can handle it
(I hear that)
So do I presume that endurance and trail challenges (which is what I want to do) are the wrong job for this horse? I don't have a remuda and I don't have an interest in the repetitive work of showing that he might be suited to.

And how the heck do I lead this horse? I'm as strong a leader right now as I can be, but I don't think I'm quiet... I'm demanding. Real demanding.

What would make him happy? Besides being a pasture ornament, which he's way too young for?


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Running off an Attitude

Today I went to the barn with one thing in mind.

Working the attitude off my horse.

Thus far my experience with Cibolo is that he only works appropriately if I am very strong. I think of it as a sort of military type of toughness. Fair, but a level of intolerance with any variance. Intolerance that is met with immediately and with great intensity.

I came to the barn and he was in his stall, finishing up eating. He turned away from me along with his stall mate - expecting to be turned out.

But you don't turn your butt to me.

I tossed a rock at his butt and he was startled. He turned back around. I continued gathering my things. Then I went in to get him. He headed for the other gate.

Wrong answer. I whirled the rope around, snapping it on the ground. He dashed around for a second, dancing around, then turned to face me.

I put on his halter and took him out.


I believe I've finally figured out what it is that makes this such a problem for me. I find it tough to bond with a horse where I have to be this way. I have never regained the sense of bond I had with Cibolo way back in the beginning. I can get respect, I can get appropriate behavior. But I can't get partnership.

And at the end, after a session of being tough like that, I don't feel good, don't feel like I accomplished anything, even if everything went right in that he did what I told him to do. Instead I feel residual tight intensity, as if I've had to ride herd (an ironic statement if there ever was one) on a room of irritable teenagers and my neck is still tight.


We worked on gaits in the round pen. I only asked once, then I got intense the second time. He finally got it down, dripping with sweat. We both were.

After 45 minutes this morning he tossed a shoe, killing our plan to ride. I put him up after that, loaded with hay and some alfalfa. I need to get more weight on him.


My new test if I have him in the right space is trailer loading. Today, after his run around the round pen he loaded immediately, and no longer balking one iota.

Because I'm all over him like horse flies on sweaty flanks.


Maybe I am no good at this. Maybe I don't get that you can be strong like this without feeling like a jerk. I've tried to find that flat space, where the energy is intense but the anger isn't there. But he doesn't respond to that. Or somehow, the way I'm doing it is signaling a level of weakness that makes him feel insecure.

So I'm going to stick to being a witch, because I'd like to be safe and I can only be safe if he has a certain level of respect gained from my witchy attitude. I want to ride him, work on collection, and I can only do that with him in a 100% listening mode. And I can only seem to get this "snap to attention" and "yes ma'am" attitude with this witchy mood. And, as time has taught me, I have to be that way, all the time.


I can't imagine this is what I'm supposed to be getting from my horse time. But I'm out of ideas. I'm just going to demand the behavior I expect. I'm not going to trust he's capable of maintaining appropriate behavior if I don't get after him every single time. I'm going to ask, then I'm going to demand harshly until any time I ask, there's no question. I want softness, but I'm a million miles away from understanding how to get it with this horse.

And I'm not going to expect that to change anymore.

Because it won't.

I just don't know that it'll be "fun"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hands goes Western!

Okay, this is the third in the series. Can you tell when we started to have problems with our actress?

Cody is the quiet horse that was in the parade. He's now at the barn and I'm thinking he'll make a good back up horse for us...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jumping Beagle/Aussie! My Daughter's first agility competition

Okay, enough horse for a minute. Let's move on to DOGS!

Sierra competed in her first ever Agility competition with Dyno, our beagle/aussie mix (his mom was a champion beagle with a thing for taller men).

She did great. Here's the video - forgive the long beginning, she loves that goofy hat on him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And now what

My comment in response to the comments got to be so long, I realized it was a post.

First thank you to everyone who commented. All day long I received these wonderful comments and they each helped me think about where I am and what I want in my time with horses. This support is beyond wonderful - it's a tremendous gift to me and I appreciate everyone who took time to share thoughts, advice, and empathy! Seriously, I don't know how I'd do this without ya. When I hit the lottery, we're all going to Hawaii.



Today I've been thinking, looking within. I have to examine myself closely and figure out if this is just a problem I'm going to have forever, with every single horse.

I think I can very honestly say no. Lily came to me pretty bratty, and now she has a close to ideal attitude. She requires a reset when she's sat around for a while, but it's a one day deal. She doesn't test her rider. She doesn't try to kick when you pick her hooves any more. She's much better for the farrier. She leads perfectly now - no more pushy behavior. Her only vice - she likes to go fast, and will gather quite a head of steam, is not completely gone, but she needs more riding to fix that. But even that's not a bolt. It's a gallop and it's covered in joy. You can just ride it out and she'll slow down. She just loves to go.

And, more to the point, no matter how much she dislikes the path or circumstance presented to her, she doesn't buck.

So I feel comfortable saying that I'm not creating this behavior - to a point.

OBVIOUSLY I AM missing something with Cibolo, I think it's a level of sternness he requires (beyond the fact that he's not "broke" as TR points out). Somewhere I'm sending him signals that mean to him I'm failing some test. I'll be damned if I can see it, but clearly he can. Sure, I know I need more work as a rider, but seriously, I don't suck that bad.

And when it unravels, I have to get to a level of a neutron bomb (by my measure) to regain his respect. But I apparently have to stay at that the level to keep it.

Carson said it's about consistency and I'd agree. He needs this level consistently. Yet I don't believe every horse does need it at this level. If I acted this way with Lily, she'd spaz out. She is looking for ways to please. TR's Paso Fino is the same way. Get too heavy handed and he gets nerved out.


What I'm wrestling with is whether I want a horse that requires me to be in this space to get in his space. I know any horse will require some of that, but this guy needs a huge attitude. All the time.

And it's a big drag for me. I'll be giving him that attitude for the coming weeks, but the reality is that he's going to need it FOREVER. I agree with Paint Girl. That's just how he is. (Sure, with my new menopause era beginning the bitch is never too far away, I just don't know if it's where I want to be during my horse time.)

Cibolo will be the kind of horse that will test repeatedly. It's been more than a year. I don't think it'll ever stop. I think it's his nature. He checks every rope, every day, hard. It's one thing to give a firm tug on that rope to say, "yes, I'm still in charge." It's another thing to back him up 15 steps, whirl him around, whack him on the but, and fill my spirit with intensity to say "HELL YES I'm still in CHARGE OF YOUR FANNY, you BLEEP."


Hey TR, I disagree with you on one thing - that I've been drawn to color and papers. Remember, I did buy Lily, the most wonderful QH in the entire world - yes, a bum coffin joint, but it's manageable.

Sure, color was a factor with Canyon, to be sure, but I learned that lesson. With Cibolo, it wasn't about looks or papers (I wouldn't know what I was reading anyway). I don't like sorrels much. Yes, he's handsome, but I like paints, and horse with manes. I was drawn to Cibolo because of his low key attitude and his training that was evident from handling him. He does many things very well. He seemed solid for some time. This more troubling aspect of his personality has been limited to certain situations, and they were so surprising, I had no clue they were there. Then I thought I could get his respect and keep it.

(Besides, fellow bloggers, TR has three drop dead gorgeous horses and is the LAST guy who should talk about buying for looks! LOL! Woody, TR's dead broke horse, is a beautiful horse (his pic is in the end of this post), and if there was ever a horse to buy for looks, it's him (I tried, but he beat me to him). But Woody was a jigging mess when TR got him. TR's worked through that issue.)

I don't mind working through issues like jigging, spinning, etc. I have worked through some of Cibolo's spooks, I've got him working like a circus horse in the round pen. He loads better than he did when I bought him. But explosions? Aye vay, as my italian grandmother would say.


Okay. One more thing. Can I tell you that I'm kind of proud for having rode it out, cantered him across and not was not scared?And I appreciate the comments that I might have the training chops to work on this. If I could do it over and over, have him confront that situation repeatedly and ride it out, AND if I could maintain that neutron bomb persona for even 70% of the time it might work.

I just don't know if I can, or want to be that intense, take the time (years - I was really hoping to ride in some environment that would undoubtedly melt him down), and risks involved.

As Mrs Mom says "we don't bounce like we used to."

Stupid horse.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why My Horse Bucked...

I know exactly, precisely why my horse bucked.

What I don't know is whether or not I am up for fixing this problem.

We went over to Trail Rider's house for an afternoon of kids swimming, horse work, and BBQ. Trailering was without incident, just a little stubborn at the closing of the bar.

This detail will be ironic later, keep it in mind.

Once we got the kids swimming, we tacked up to ride. No problem. All good. Since I hadn't ridden Cibolo in a while we went over to the round pen and worked. I watched TR ride Vaquero, his Paso Fino. That horse responds to feather touch, and you really have to be on your game to ride him well. He's eager to please, but very quick to react. I remember him going sideways on me once because my weight was just a bit more on the right than the left.

Cibolo was being a pain. Not standing still. I checked for ants, anything, but there was nothing there.

We went into the round pen and he was pretty lousy. Canter was terrible. So with TR's guidance I worked on collecting him, something I don't know anything about. Slowly we got a little better. I'd say we worked for 15-20 minutes in the round pen and by the end he was responding much better, but was still not great at the canter - head tossing, head high, just a mess. Teeth maybe, maybe I needed a different bit, TR theorized.

I decided I'd work on collecting him over the next few months. It would give us something to do in the round pen.

We headed out to the big pasture and we were trotting and walking, just riding in a big square. After a good 15 or 20 minutes of that, TR went ahead of us by about 30 yards. I kept Cibolo at a trot. We'd already cantered here and there. So I wasn't worried. He was good, and I decided we were good to head out at a lope and catch up to that quick moving gaited horse.

That was it. The minute I gave him his head ever so slightly he bunched up and hit a dead run. I was startled, pulled slightly - seriously, slightly - on the reins, and his head dived down and he gave me the worst bucks I've ever been on. The first one caught me off balance, the second I lost my stirrups. But I'd be damned if he was going to dump me.

I yanked his head up hard, he still half bucked half turned, but I stuck it and turned him. I slapped him with the rope to make him turn, because his turns were lazy, crappy turns. He was startled, squirting out under me, but I was too mad to fall off.

I called him every name in the book in two languages. If he so much as moved his head I pulled him around hard.

I cantered him off across the pasture, away from TR. If we wanted to run, then we'd run. He cantered and we spent the next 20 minutes cantering away from TR and his horse.

So that it. That's why. This is exactly when he freaks out. The other horse is too far away, I release him enough to close some distance, and he explodes.

Which makes for a lousy experience. I can't imagine how this would work on an endurance ride where I wasn't with a group committed to stay together.

I worked him hard, cooled him down, pulled him around, stayed big with him in attitude and behavior, then tied him to the trailer with a hay bag. No more pasture time. His eyes were bright, he watched every move I made. He was worried about ticking me off, about making a mistake. It was something he needed to worry about.

When we loaded into the trailer he loaded up so quick, that I could have closed the divider two or three holes closer. Hmm. No need to stand with the butt in the way? Trailer not so small now?

This is who this horse needs. Very strong in attitude, very hard driving individual. I've said it before and I am pretty convinced at this point.

And let me tell you, those bucks didn't feel bratty, they didn't feel scared. I've ridden those. His bucks at the ranch two weeks ago were bratty. I was willing to put up with those.

These were mean. And I'm not kidding. I could feel it viscerally, and it was what made me so angry. I was so mad I could have ridden a Brahma bull at that point.

When I saw him today he still had attitude, but the minute I got harsher, angry, head witch, he straightened up. Even walked up to me in the paddock - but only after he tried to evade me and I got furious and drove him around three quick turns in 10 feet of space. Then he was all like "yes, ma'am!"

It sucks.

I know what he needs to get over this. He needs to be confronted with it repeatedly. But let me tell you, I'm not willing to be on his back when he explodes because the horse he wants to hang out with is 40 feet away. Because I might not get his head up on the second buck. And while I've ridden as many as 7 bucks in a row, I felt myself ready to fly on this one. Too big to stick.

I'm not a trainer. I'm a half decent rider. I just got my confidence back, and I'm not sure this is a way to keep it.

So tell me - are my expectations out of line? Is it unreasonable to want a horse that doesn't have a buck?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Falls from great heights

No, I didn't fall off my horse today.

But it wasn't because he didn't try to make me.

I rode out two of the hardest bucks I've ever been on. And I tell you what.

I didn't sign up for the rodeo.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Playing ball, Lily gets it and a weird hoof thing

Mireya took this photo with a cell phone.
She's darn good at it for 7, don't you think?
Please ignore the goofy hair.
It's 700% humidity right now.

It was a fun, easy day at the barn. Since I had the kids with me, I didn't ride, but instead worked on round pen and clicker stuff. I wanted to get Lily out so we could get her back in the groove. She's been sitting so long that she needs the round pen time to get her head back.

Lily is a great horse and you can get on her even after a long break. But since it's my daughter I want her to take the time to work with her in the round pen.

Boy, were there some bucks! Lily can be intimidating when she's fresh like that, but Sierra didn't worry at all. She knows Lily is just all show. But getting her dialed back to a walk from a trot was just not happening. I went in there and pushed her a little harder, realizing that the usual technique of getting slightly ahead of her wasn't working at all.

So we did many, many turns. Then, seemingly out of no where Lily said "Oooooh! A WALK. Well, why didn't you say so?"

And then she did it all on both sides. Walk, trot, walk, trot, canter, trot, walk.

So we then spent some time doing some clicker training. We had Lily targeting a green lid belonging to one of our barn tupperwares. We hadn't really been working with Lily on the clicker and she was still targeting hands, not objects. By the end she was all over that lid.

Then it was Cibolo's turn. I tell you what, he's darn smart. He came into that pen and immediately did two loops at precisely the gait I asked in both directions. No need to work there. So no more circles - we went right into clicker training.

His eyes light up when we play like this. I've got him touching a big white plastic bag at the end of a lunge whip lately. In fact he likes to blow on it to make it wave.

So I felt he was ready to move on to something not directly connected to my hand. We started playing with a big blue ball. He quickly got the idea to touch it. By the end of our session he rolled it ever so slightly.

It was such fun. I always feel like I get to leap frog our connection when we do this kind of training. Cibolo just lights up. Can you tell from our photo?

Long, cool baths for both of horses and that's when I saw this on his left hind hoof - like a hole, very shallow, right near his cornet band.

What is it? Any ideas?

I'm so tired. I want to write more, but I've been fighting insomnia and the lack of sleep has caught up with me.

Stupid menopause. But that's another post.

Oh, and happy helmet day everybody. Remember, they call it an accident because you don't know when its going to happen. If you make your kid wear a helmet, don't be a hypocrite. Join us, the helmet hair army.

Because they can't put a cast on your brain.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My daughters latest video

Okay, not horse related, but hilarious. There is something so sibling about these videos they're doing...


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crib Notes - Laughing in Heavenly Places

Polar bears don't need to worry about losing habitat.
They can just come over to our house.

Personally, I have found that God has quite a sense of humor.

For example, when we were waiting for the day for my youngest to finally take up residence in my womb I said to anyone who would listen “if this kid doesn’t get here soon, I’m going to give up. I don’t want to be changing diapers when I’m 40 years old.”

My youngest was born exactly 3 months before my 40th birthday. And, as you might imagine, she was not at that point potty trained.

It was about then that I decided never, ever to deliver any ultimatums to the power that be.

This has not slowed down the number of times I’ve gotten the message that periodically there are some serious belly laughs up there arising from the “little twists of fate” around here.

For example, our air conditioner went on strike on a Friday afternoon. Which reminds me - why is it that nothing ever quits working on a Monday or Wednesday? Do appliances actually understand the concept of weekends?

Actually, just between us, I was secretly at fault. I’ve always referred to our home as the Arctic Circle because I live with three human polar bears who sweat profusely if the temperature indoors rises above 68 degrees.

In the meantime I’m shivering in August and wearing three layers of clothes all year round. I have longed to be able to walk into the house and not have to get my wool socks on to eat dinner.

Yes, I may have said, under my breath, I wish I could be in a warm house for a change.

So, during the a/c strike, I actually walked around my own house without a sweater for DAYS. The air conditioner unit refused to budge from its demand for Mr. Kool-it and his happy cans of Freon who would arrive on Monday. For three glorious days I was comfortable for the first time since I hooked up with these polar bears.

It wasn’t as fun as it should have been because some people whined as if they had been left to crawl through the Sahara in itchy long underwear. They each ate four gallons of ice cream in desperation to cool their molten cores.

By Monday evening the a/c was humming, I was back in my fleece, and in gratitude we’d sworn to name our next pet Mr. Kool-it.

Fortunately there may be an ironic solution in sight. Apparently women of a certain, ahem, age can… well, get a little warmer than normal.

Yes. I can hear the laughter already.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

OT - Flags and the people who make them

I realize this post should have run a few days ago, but I think you'll still enjoy it. A friend of mine runs a family business - making flags. He's one of those people in life who make you believe that good things are still possible in this world. He sent this out to a group of us and let me reprint it here. Thanks Pete!

I have been making flags for over 50 years. My mom, dad, and grandmother were all in the flag business, and now 3 of my children are working in my company with dreams of careers in the family business. It doesn't take rocket science to make a flag. Sewing two pieces of cloth together is an ancient skill. It is what happens as the pieces join together and a flag takes shape. Magic happens. What was once a collection of rags has become a national emblem, a religious banner, a military guidon, or maybe a corporate standard. The decision to purchase a flag is not a logical one, but rather it is an emotional one. Our customers are buying national pride, ethnic identity, organizational identification, or family heratige.

In the United States of America we have a unique relationship with our flag just as we have a unique relationship with our government. Our government is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," The people elect their leaders and representatives, and through juries the people decide how to enforce the laws of the land. As Woody Guthrie said it, "This is my country. land that I love."

I was visiting European country some years ago when I commented on the lack of national flags on display throughout the town. My guide pointed out that people were only encouraged to fly the flag on the Queen's birthday. That flag is the Queen's flag, not the people's. In the United States, our flag just like our government does belong to the people. That is what makes us so unique. Our relationship with our flag is a living and dynamic one. That is a strength. Every important milestone in the development of our relationship with Old Glory has been a product of the people, not government. The "Star Spangled Banner," our national anthem was not commissioned by Congress. No it was composed by a young attorney (Frances Scott Key) who was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing the giant 30' X 42' flag still flying over Ft. McHenry at the dawn's early light of September 14, 1814, proving that the Americans had held off the British attack. The Pledge of Allegience to the Flag was not commissioned by Congress. No it was the brainchild of a young Baptist youth minister and editor of a youth magazine. His name was Francis Bellamy. He thought there should be a patriotic demonstation by school children on Columbus Day. In both of these cases, the government got involved long after the custom of performing the andhem and pledge was already accepted in our country. This is our flag.

So remember this 4th of July, remember that this is your country, my country, our country. It is up to us to make it the best it can be. It is up to us to see that History looks back on our time and says, "What a great job they did!" and not "What on earth were they thinking". It is up to us. Are we up to the task? Can we put fear, pettiness, and greed aside and work together to realize the promise that is freedom and Democracy in the United States of America? I believe we can.

On behalf of the Van de Puttes and the entire Dixie Flag Manufacturing Company family please let me wish you a safe, patriotic, fun-filled July 4 - the 234th birthday of our country and the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 50 star U.S. flag. We are both proud and humbled to sew our nation's colors. Thank you for allowing us to be your flag makers.

(Pete has a nice list of flag tips here, in case you're interested.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pictures and working through issues in saddle

Oh God, it's the paparazzi again.

I went to the barn on my own today. While I love to ride with my daughter and husband, horse time tends to be my alone time. You have to focus so much on the horse (or at least I do) that I find it hard to attend to everyone's demands.

So it's always sort of a relief to go by myself. No one else was at the barn, and again, that was nice. I love to be social and enjoy everyone at this barn. It really is the barn without drama. But I just wanted to be in that quiet place that is pretty rare in the life of a working mom.

It was a scorcher today, so I didn't want to work Cibolo too hard. But after all the comments on his weight (wow! thanks everyone!), I wanted to get some photos done and I did want to ride.

One thing I have wanted to do is work through more problems while I'm in the saddle instead of doing a 15 minute round pen session. One reason is my foot - walking that distance in my paddock boots can get painful and I'm really trying to be good about keeping weight off of it. The other reason is that it's a little bit of a crutch. I find I want to get off to do ground work too often when I just should stick with it from horseback.

I need to be more comfortable with problems when I'm mounted. Period.

I knew Cibolo would be a little challenging because we hadn't seen each other in a week. He's just the kind of horse that you need to be consistent with. Three days in a row and he's so awesome you just want to ride forever. But take a week off and fugettabatit. In fact, he can be a bit of a pain in the:

See how I'm working in these photos quite naturally?

We went out on the trail at a walk and worked up and down some hills. I figured hills are good for hindquarter building (yet another photo segue).

He was testy, and although I kept him listening, I could tell he just didn't connect all the way with me. I don't think in his previous life he went out on the trail on his own much. We trotted up a steep hill and to a gate for me to fiddle with. Then something bounded out of the bushes and he spooked.

Just a 45 degree turn in about .00005 seconds. But I have to say, I love my saddle. Kept me right in. We went back and confronted the scary fawn. Then we did some work on the hill. We were fighting for who was in charge.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a huge blow up battle. But he'd refuse to turn. I'd make him turn. He'd turn. Then he'd worry over something. I'd tell him to get over it. He would, a little.

I can't seem to make that first five minutes of a ride on him work - but I think I know the problem.

Because of the heat, I was avoiding cantering him. I really wanted to take it easy. But I knew the issue would rise there. And I knew I could meet it. So, as it had cooled off some, I went for it. I cantered him and he started tossing his head. I collected him and kept him going. We went three times until he stopped with the head tossing.

Then, that was it. I could feel our connection.

Isn't that odd? So the canter decides it? Anyone else have this experience with a horse?

Then we worked on trailer loading. Much improved. He loaded, but getting him to the place where the bar will close was tough the first time. A little easier the second time. I'd say we made another leap.

Then I washed him off and proceeded to take a bunch of HORRIBLE pictures. But I have no shame, so here a few.

It's weird. Only in some angles can you see ribs. Really you can't see them, but if he's damp and the sun hits just right...

Um, aren't we done? I mean, you've been snapping that thing a million times already.

Again with the pictures. I'm not even dry yet!

Do you need a nuzzle? I'll give you a nuzzle, then I'm going to eat my hay. Okay?

Sersomorsy, mosgry moonikey schmawoee.
(Sigh. He is complete unintelligible when he's eating)

I put my hand here to show how big the dip is behind his shoulder muscle. That's why the new saddle is so much more comfortable. But I wonder if he's lost back muscle and if I should work to build it back up.

I think for his breed he's a tiny bit underweight, but not as much as I feared, based on comments and on seeing him today. I'm going to try to get him a little more hay - ask the barn owner to put him up for separate feeding once a day to see if that helps. He'll get his teeth floated in a few weeks and that may help too. I've heard it does, anyway.

Anymore thoughts based on these photos?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rebuilding my horse - HELP!

Cibolo is losing weight. Here's what he looked like when I bought him.

And now:

This is from our endurance race (before the race). Now at the vet, he still weighs the same. So I'm really confused by that.

So you folks with more experience - was he fat before and now he's lean?

I think he's lost muscle. Or do I need to load him up on alfalfa and oats?

Or if he needs to get a work out to build his back muscles again, what kinds of things would be helpful?