Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Part 2 Adventures in Trailering and Circles at the Canter

Now where was I?

Oh yes, I was watching in horror as a young lady walked into a herd of seven or so horses with a bucket of grain to catch her gorgeous but too smart for her quarter horse. Trail Rider looked at the pasture where much chaos was ensuing.

"You know what this is?"

I nodded. "Horse catching 101."

He handed me his horse (now I was holding Lily, Woody, and Smokey. I'm good, but I'm not that good. I wandered over to a spot to tie them up) and TR was off to try to make sure no one got killed.

He proceeded to show her how to catch her horse, using a technique Julie Goodnight uses. I like to call it "You are the Last Horse I Want to Have Near Me."

In short order the mare got the message and turned to be caught.

I sympathized, having had to chase my own horse down on occassion. Some women take this pretty personally, in my experience. "My horse doesn't like me!" I know I used to.

These days I don't think it's about being liked or disliked, per se. I'd say there are many, many things potentially going on: pain from a previous session (this horse had been ridden in the wrong bit last time out), bad timing (it's grain time, not riding time), "respect," and sometimes the "don't wannas." And sure, maybe sometimes your horse doesn't "like" you. Sometimes you might not like him either. Like when he's running around a 3 acre field refusing to be caught, for example.

After that and a brief lunging session with another horse, we loaded Smokey and Lily up with Woody and headed over to TR's place to switch out horses. DH stayed back to finish tire repair, and was off for more motorcycle time.

Smokey and Lily dashed around with some concern in TR's paddock, shared grain, and sniffed at the neighbor's horses while we got Lola and Vaquero ready. Lola is the horse with the stifle issue who also tends to be a kicker at other horses. Vaquero is a Paso Fino that TR bought when his back issues were making it tough to ride.

We headed over to the ranch sorting practice at Cibolo. I've ridden there before, mostly just in circles and once helping "push" cattle. I feel worlds away from the rider I was back then. I was so uncertain of everything. Every. Thing.

Now, it's not so much that I'm certain, but I'm not worried like I used to be. When I warmed up Lola in the round pen and brought her up to a canter, I just smiled. There's no fear there. Even though I don't know Lola very well (I'd never ridden her before, other than the brief five minutes a week after TR brought her home), I was confident in my aides, my hands, and in her.

oh god, don't let my mother see me slouching.

There's no fear. You know, this horse thing is a hell of a lot more fun when you aren't scared.

Don't get me wrong, I still respect the dangers, the things that can happen. I know a blow up can happen on even the most solid horse. But I know it in the same way I know I could be in a car accident. I don't expect it any more, I don't look for it, but I proceed with all due attention without the rigidity that comes from anticipating the worst.

I don't clench the steering wheel... er ... reins.

We walked into the arena and met a friend of TRs, A, who was there to try his hand at sorting. He's been taking lessons and TR convinced him to come on out. I would do two rides, since I'm a woman on a budget, A would ride out with TR on a couple.

TR on Vaquero, with his uber cool mecate set up.

I had to take back all the mean things I ever said about Lola. TR has been hard at work conditioning her and she rode perfectly. We worked a bit on her buddy sour issue, but it only took a bit of urging from me to get her rolling out (she initially gave A a tough time with this, but she probably realized he was a newbie, and gave him the mare eye roll). TR has high expectations of his horses and is willing to put in the time to get them to their potential. She was a great ride.

TR and I had one awful run, but our second one was much better. We actually got two or three of the calves we were trying for that time! LOL! Given that neither one of us was on a terribly experienced horse, (lord knows the horses didn't have the most experienced rider, at least as far as I go) we felt good with that last run. A had a tough time in the sorting pen, but enjoyed taking Lola out on a ride around the arena.

The best part is that I rode two different horses in one day. I'd have ridden longer if given the option but even the best days come to an end. I felt like a kid that just doesn't get enough, no matter how many hours they spend in the saddle. It was way, way too short.

Since Friday I've worked with Smokey on his canter circles, and while he was a certifiable MESS on Sunday, Monday he wasn't half bad. He was far more willing, and I didn't get any of the really bad behavior (like Sunday when he almost plowed into my daughter at the other end of the arena on Cody). Steering was improved slightly, on Monday I found I'm catching things earlier - less chance of plowing into someone that way), and he is going at the trot collected for longer and longer. I'm figuring out where to hold the reins so he has some contact, but not so loose that he swings his head around in confusion.

I need to remember how much time all this takes, and to take every bit of it (no pun intended). Rushing is no good for either one of us.

And even if I could ride all day, I have to give him soaking time.

We all need soaking time...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adventures in Trailering and Circles at the Canter

I took Friday off from work, and decided to devote the afternoon and evening to horse related activities. I texted Trail Rider and he was able to get the day off as well.

I nearly imploded from excitement.

Instead, both my trailer tires imploded on the way over.

But wait, I wasn't supposed to tell you that yet. I was supposed to build up the suspense, yada yada.

The plan was to meet at my old barn, which is open again and filled with horses. There's even a waiting list. I love riding there, the arena is fabulous and I enjoy Sharon so much. So I was looking forward to getting there. There was a possibility that DH would be joining us, so I loaded Lily as well as Smokey.

She hasn't been sound at the trot, but I decided to try using a pain med a vet had given me to use before work. Given that I am running out of options (she is still on adequan, it seemed worth trying - I'd been resistant because I don't want to merely mask the problem. But my ability to get this diagnosed AGAIN is... well, let's just say I'm focusing on keeping the hay flowing right now.

Still time off is not working. She's crabby mare, which is who she was when we first got her. Lily needs to be involved, engaged, doing something.

We were about halfway there when a guy in a white pick up pulled up beside me at a light.

"You've blown a tire," he said.

I checked the mirror, but couldn't really see the tire. I pulled over once I was past the light and hopped out there it was. Shredded.

Thank god I had a double axle trailer. I looked at the spare. It didn't look much better.

"Do you have a jack?" the guy had pulled over behind me. This is what I like about Texas. I know how to change a tire, but have only had to do so twice in my life because a guy always stops and helps.

I do, but it's complicated. See, I can't open the tail gate in DH's truck because the handle is broken. DH opens it no problem but my little thin fingers are lousy levers. Lucky this guy, Tony, was gifted with big fingers as well.

I called Trail rider and DH (who was riding his iron horse - the harley) and gave them an update. Needless to say, I was going to be late.

We got the tire on. Oddly, Tony admonished me for pulling over and not checking the tire from inside the truck (I couldn't see it from there). "I could have been a bad guy" said Tony, concerned. I pointed out that I immediately got on my cell phone and we were on a busy enough road in broad daylight. And I had to see what was happening. Then he confessed that he has a young daughter and always worries about these things.

"Don't go far, that spare has dry rot," he said as he drove off.

I just had ten miles to go. And I was too far from my home barn now. I put it in drive and headed off.

And made it about five miles before the spare blew.

I made my calls and said I'd be limping in, but at this point I was going to try to get there. Let me tell you, a shredded tire kicks up an enormous amount of dust, even at 10 miles an hour.

I got there forty five minutes behind schedule, but determined. Determined to ride like crazy. You don't come in on three tires and sit on your bumper, mourning your lost treads!

I saddled both horses and tied Lily (she eventually had to be moved to a patience tree, since she decided to paw). Smokey and I rode with Trail Rider, warming up. Then TR put me through some paces.

What I wanted to accomplish was canter circles. Since steering remains such an issue - at the canter, I think we're solid at the trot - it's the area I need the most practice. A few weeks ago I asked the trainer/barn owner to ride Smokey so I could see what I was doing wrong.

I saw it immediately. I had too much play in the reins. With me, Smokey was at a loss on where to hold his head. I would pull them in, play them out, but with she kept the reins a more consistent length and much shorter than I do. Even at the canter. And she worked on catching the problem at the turn much earlier. That's what I needed to do. Anticipate and compensate.

TR demonstrated perfect canter circles on Woody and we attempted to follow. The trot was lovely, I had to work a bit on collection, because being in a new place Smokey was definitely "up" in head as well as in spirit. After far more trot circles than should be needed, I'd get him into the canter, which he started by throwing his head fairly high. Almost like a kick start. Once going he has a rocking horse canter, but he gets into swinging his head around oddly. It was ugly looking, but really, what do I expect? We've only done this a few times. And now we were doing it - a lot. He was getting annoyed at one point, but I kept my cool and we worked through the crow hop, cow kick and a buck threat.

I wish I could say by the end we were doing great. But we weren't. We were mediocre. Even that is probably a stretch. But it was a vast improvement from where we started.

I keep reminding myself this is where we used to be at the TROT. I am making progress. When DH arrived he elected to take care of the tire issue instead of ride. I knew he felt bad that I had a hard time, since he sees trailer maintenance as his job. But honestly with the six months we have had, it's a wonder we're both still walking. So he brought back two tires as we finished up but encourage me to hit the road. Given the time, Lily ended up not getting ridden, but it was okay. Sometimes you have to go through the motions. The plan was now that Lily and Smokey would have a slumber party at TR's place. I'd move them back home in the morning.

Because I wasn't done with horse time. No sir. We had another horse activity planned.

Ranch Sorting.

Of course before we left we had a bit of drama, things I've forgotten how much fun they are to deal with. Like watching someone try to catch their horse, then reacting with horror when seeing them inexplicably walking into an entire herd of horses with a bucket of grain.

But you'll have to wait for Part 2. Cuz this cowgirl is sackin' out for the night!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Off Topic - Photo from Spring Break

We had the best time in Odessa, which is saying something, cuz usually I'm not so thrilled about heading out that way.

But this time, we had a blast.

Here's one little picture from the trip. DH had just tossed up my daughter's snow leopard into the air and I got this with my iphone. Can you believe my luck!?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Check out my little one

If you get a chance, wander over an leave a comment on my little one's blog, would ya? She'll be thrilled to pieces. http://themireyablog.blogspot.com/


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Stephanie

In case you missed it, this was in the comments from the Stephanie:

Aww, thank you guys so much for all the warm wishes. I think Cibolo needs more hugs than me right now, it sounds like he's pretty mopy!

It's funny, but I think he and I will come out closer for it in the end, given all the time we'll be spending on the ground and at slower paces in saddle.

It really tells you a lot about a horse when you see their reaction after a fall, and also the importance of getting right back on. I think Cibolo really knows it was a bad fall because I wasn't right back up afterwards. And I don't think I've ever seen him acting more concerned and upset (even regarding late meals).


Thanks everybody, we'll keep you updated!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today in the ER...

Um, mom? I'm over here... Mom? Mom!

First of all, while I was in the ER, I wasn't the injured party.

But I was there for Stephanie.

We had planned to go to lunch, I wanted to thank her for coming over and feeding our motley crew while we were out on a little spring break trip.

We im'd back and forth for a while, trying to figure out if we could go riding instead of lunch. But our big girl was sick, and I had to wait for my DH to come home and take care of her before I could leave. So we settled for lunch.

Then my phone rang.

"I can't reach anyone, can you come now? I think I broke my arm."

"WHAT?" I jumped up and started for the stairs.

"I fell off Cibolo and I think my arm is broken."

"I'm on my way."

I know, from experience, that the longest time in the world is the moment you hang up with someone and the moment they get there. I loaded my sickly child into the truck (she was on the mend, so I wasn't too worried) and rushed over to the barn. When I ran in, I knew things were bad. Cibolo was hanging his head, still saddled with his reins on the ground. Stephanie would never leave her horse saddled with his reins on if there was anyway she could help it.

This was bad. Cibolo looked... okay, I'm going to anthropomorphize here, so if you have a problem with that, skip to the next paragraph. He looked completely bummed out. Stephanie said when they made it back to the barn he put his head on her chest, nuzzling her, and she could tell he felt awful about what happened.

Which was: they were cantering in the driveway when a cat (and this place doesn't even have a cat) dashed out from the bushes and startled Cibolo. He didn't buck or anything, but must have done one of those horse teleporting moves.

Unfortunately Stephanie's teleportation device failed. Mostly because she's in a saddle right now that isn't quite a right fit for her or Cibolo. And the best seat in the world won't keep you on the sunny side.

The verdict: Broken Humerus. Which I found ironic, given the first thing she started talking about after we left the ER was when she could get back in the saddle. Clearly her sense of humor is completely intact.

As one who has a history of completely ignoring doctor's orders when it comes to getting back on my horse, I sympathized and frankly, I'm likely to be an enabler. We talked about all the cool things you could work on from the ground and the stuff you could do at a walk.

Then we had lunch and celebrated her first broken bone. Tomorrow I'll head to the barn to feed for her. Between us all we'll pick up the slack.

Stoopid cat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Leads and the arena

I went to the barn determined to not be in the round pen.  Given our whole bit episode, it was definitely not time for the trails. But I felt like I was leaning on the round pen and it was time to work in a bigger space and push the envelope a bit.

We spent a few minutes working through the bit issue.

BTW  I appreciate everyone asking about tooth issues.  Actually during the hiatus smokey and lily both got their teeth floated by the most amazing equine dentist - Lorrie Hardy.  

This woman was incredible. She works without power tools, found major issues with lily, floated smokey without sedation.  If you are in Texas I strongly urge you to consider her.  She also found a tumor on one horse, undoubtedly saving his life, did an adjustment, removed smokey's and other geldings beans, and even pulled his baby tooth that was being stubborn all with an herbal calming tonic!  Toss me a line if you want contact info.

I'll post more about Lorrie later...

After 15 minutes Smokey settled into the bit, and we worked on steering. It was a good session, but I wanted to get at least one canter in. I was remembering something I learned when I was watching trail rider's lesson with his longtime instructor (who he recently went back to). Keep in mind my knowledge about cueing for the correct lead is very rudimentary.  In fact, I always have to think of which leg to use.


At trailrider's lesson, the trainer was helping him figure out why the mare' s canter was so rough.  What trail rider suspected was right.  She was on the wrong lead.  I noted how he told trailrider to hold her head to the outside, cue her with the outside leg. I'd heard this before, but I never understood why you'd tilt the horse's nose to the outside. Given that I've never let my lack of knowledge hold me back from asking even the most basic questions, I asked.  In case I'm not alone in my ignorance, the trainer explained that the goal was to get the shoulder of the horse moving forward first.

"Turn your head," he said.  "what happens to your shoulder?"

I turned to look at the other side of the round pen. "It tilts a little forward."


"But you're picking up at the trot that she's ready for the lead.  How do you do that?"

He shrugged.  "I can just tell."

He said that trail rider needed a ground man to tell when the mare was in the correct lead.


Back in our arena I tried to remember this as Smokey and I headed out to canter.  Not surprising, he was resistant.

Smokey: "Canter? After all that lovely trotting?"

Me: "You know we have to get to it eventually"

Smokey: "Fine." (lurching forward)

Me: "What was that?"

Smokey:  "Hey, it's been a while."

Me: " Let's try again."

Smokey:  "I can't make the turn! ahhhhh!"

me: "I  think you're on the wrong lead." (I couldn't 'see' it or feel it, but I thought it was probably why he was having trouble turning.  It was the first time I'd figured this out, and we had had the trouble repeatedly). "Let's try to get on the right lead." *cue left leg, a little pressure to tilt the nose. No go*

Smokey: "I have no idea what you're talking about!  Ahhhh!"

me: "I can see that."    

Smokey:  "Good. No way I can turn there .  Let's stop."

me: "Let's try the other direction."

Smokey: "...okay..."

We canter around the arena, making our circle. On the left lead. We make the turn.

me: "Good job!"

Smokey: (puffing)  "Are we going to be doing new stuff all the time?"

me: "Technically none of this is new."

Smokey: "Technically it's grain time."

me : "One more time."

Smokey: (pause) "Under protest."

me:  (sigh) "Noted."

And we did one more on the left lead.  We'll work on the right - next time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wha da ya put in my mouff?

Side note: Life is beginning to settle down. We're on a path now, together, and we've survived as a family. The financial aspect continues to unfold, but the true rock of who we are, our family, has solidified again. I honestly wasn't sure that was how things were going to end up.

Whew. Thanks for hanging in there with us. So now my attention returns to Smokey.

Smokey: This is what my mouth is for. Grain. mmmmmmmmm

Smokey's has had a great deal of time to himself, and while I've come over at least once a week, mostly we'd just do round pen work, because I really didn't have time to do anything else.

I went to the barn Saturday on my own with very little time on my hands, but restored and ready to begin anew.

I just had no idea how anew it was for Smokey.

We did some round pen work at liberty, and went back to saddle up. When I got on him outside the round pen, and he started to gape his mouth and act really odd. So odd that I got off him to see if the bit got under his tongue.


I decided we'd work this out in the round pen as well. We walked over and it looked like his mouth was just fine with the bit in there.


We all know what comes next. I walked him over to the round pen and mounted. He was a mess.

Smokey: Wha da ya put in my mouff?

(He walks around like a clown with vertigo)

Me (pulling gently on one side, then the other.): Smokey. It's the bit. You know, that thing we use all the time.

Smokey: AAAAAhhhh Wha? Wha ya puwwin on my mouff? AAAAHHH!

Me (eyes rolling): Okay, let's walk in a circle. (cue for hindquarters yield with my leg, tiny cue on reins)

Smokey: Are ya crazy? I canna do da! Dere's sumthin in my mouff!

Me (sighing): You're doing it. Don't worry. You'll figure it out.

Smokey: AAAAAhhhh!

It took about 15 minutes before the lightbulb went off in his head.

Smokey: You want me to turn? Fine.

Me: That's the idea.

Smokey: I'm just a free spirit, ya know?

Me: Really? Then how come you're always at the gate, wanting me to get you out?

Smokey: I just do that to make you feel important.

Me: What a guy.

Smokey: Glad we got that settled. Oh, look! The Gate! Let's leave.

Me (cue): I don't think so.

We did several exercises to try to reduce his anxiety about the whole bit thing, and slowly but surely we managed to get it back together. We worked on head position and giving softly. We backed 10 steps. We finished with a few "trot to the pole" bits and called it a day, keeping it short.

I'm not sure I understand what that was about, other than the time off doesn't do him good, especially at this point in his development. Hopefully I can get more rides in now that things are settling in and I feel better about life in general.

I'm looking forward to stopping my lurking and coming over to your place to visit more often!