Thursday, May 31, 2012

Riding Diary: 17

Horse: Cat (Justa Lil Cat)
(That Sly Cat x Justa Lil Tomboy)

Bit: I didn't get a great look at the bit, but it was some sort of ported roller with shanks.

Time: 1 Hr

Ride: So, after much phone-wrestling I made it out to the cutting horse trainer! I suppose I'll refer to him as "The Cutter" from now on in, as my other riding instructor has become known, blog-wise, as "My Trainer". I headed out to The Cutter's place Tuesday afternoon, hoping to avoid an imminent rainstorm, and trying to calm down the butterflies bouncing around in my tummy. I always get a little nervous heading out to places like this - it's funny, because your paying someone to train you, but at the same time.. you don't want to make a fool of yourself.

His place feels home-y, which I like. I worked at a big barn and it never, ever felt like home. My barn now, and his place, has a more comfortable aura around it. We chatted a bit about my experience, and I signed a waiver (which I really liked.. I've rarely ever had to sign a waiver anywhere - home-y but professional at the same time), and then away we went!

I rode a horse named Cat, I listed her pedigree above... so, I've now ridden a horse whose grandsires are Highbrow Cat and Freckles Playboy!! That is... We got into the arena and talked about the differences between riding a cutting horse and other horses. A big thing My Trainer nagged me on when I first started was that I over-emphasized my stops, she wanted them very quiet, legs stay straight, etc. The Cutter wants my emphasis back, legs come out infront of you, rock your pelvis in, drop your hands, then back them, and then stand. He really made mention of getting a horse to stop, and wait for you. He told me that in his "misspent youth" he would make colts wait for him to smoke an entire cigarette before they could go back to work. I've never smoked, but I understood that analogy pretty well. For me, my stop and wait's are more like 20 seconds, his are about 4-6 minutes... an excruiting long time when you are used to 20 seconds.

We worked at the trot, and my horse wasn't being super responsive, and he thought that was because I didn't have spurs on. I've never ridden with spurs, but he said my legs were calm enough that if I rode in short, dull spurs it might just help cue her a little better. I'm a little nervous about that, I know that most performance horses are spur trained, but I can't help worry that one day I'll be taken by surprise and accidently dig into a horses side with a spur. We shall see how that goes. Somewhere along the line I've noticed people who really shouldn't be, or don't need to have, spurs on, spurring the shit out of their horses, and that old saying "you have to earn your spurs" creeps into my head, and makes my nervous about the fact that I have not, earned aformentioned training aid.

Then we worked at the lope, he told me that when a horse stops, he wants it to stop as it's lead leg is coming down to the ground, which means that it's powering from the hind end. If it's power is coming through the front, the stop wont be as big, or powerful, and will also lurch the rider around. He told me that everytime I felt the lead foot hit the ground I should think to myself "woah". So around and around I went thinking, "woah, woah, woah, woah" and when he told me to stop I had to just say it outloud - and tada! Great stop! I liked that trick.

We moved onto loping small circles and he asked me to focus on loping my tracks... harder than it seems.

Then we worked on a basic cutting drill - as if I was working a flag I would go in a line, trot, stop, back, rollback, and again. I was struggling a bit, I would over neck-rein and she would go flying out, and leak the rollback. Okay... so you are a cutting horse, you can really freakin' move. He kept reminding me to slow my brain down and focus on keeping her straight. (Oh look... I've created another noodle horse friend!) Every once and awhile he would ask me to back, and then wait... and we waited.. and waited... and waited.. and then - back to the trot. We quit after that and he said I did well, which made my big 'ol face smile and he said that after a couple more dry sessions I can move onto the flag.

I like his style of teaching, slow, methodological, calm... In a lot of ways, his riding style was similiar to the old barn boss, (a penner), I took a few lessons with. However, he was better at explaining and backing up things to me, so I could grasp the concepts a little better. Also, I never felt stupid - anyone that rides knows that you have those days when you feel like an idiot, but it always hurts 10 x more when your trainer makes you feel like a complete idiot who doesn't know anything. It was interesting to me how The Cutter and My Trainer's styles diffierentiated, but how some things they both mentioned to me. For example, I have a very odd tendancy of slightly tilting my head without noticing... gotta keep that head upright and straight!

For Next Time: ... so much! #1 is just remember everything I learnt! Nice, loud woah's, keep my head straight, focus on calm, collected rollbacks.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Glimpse: 4

I was invited out to a friend's family ranch for branding and vaccinations! However, I was at a wedding most of the weekend but got the chance to pop out to finally see the place today. As always, when in the countryside, I am reminded daily how exceptionally lucky I am to live in a place as beautiful as Alberta.

Can you see her baby's beak right under her chin?!

A friend checking out a previous tenants "sculptures"

Take a look at that view! Breath-taking.

In... less beautiful... news
This is my poor, poor GMC Jimmy. I was rear-ended on Wednesday on my way home from work (to then go to my other job). I was pretty much stopped in traffic, and I watched the guy smash into me in my rear-view. Scary to say the least. My entire back hatch shattered, and the right side of the truck is compressed in as well. I haven't heard back from the insurance company yet.. but since my little Jimmy was a 1998, I'm thinking it's going to be a write off. Sigh.

So now I find myself unexpectedly car-shopping. I'm driving the most drool-worthy 2012 GMC Sierra SLT rental truck right now. Of course, something like that is nowhere near my measly budget. However, I'm thinking along the lines of a 4 door truck... I'm really liking bombing around in this bad boy. Any truck suggestions for me?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dan James @ the Mane Event, 2012

I went to the Mane Event in Red Deer this year, I love going. Next year I really want to camp out and go for all three days - the clinics, demonstrations, and uhm, duh... all the shopping, is so awesome. This year we ended up a little late since I ended up with a $300 speeding ticket... (saddest, saddest moment).. however, it was awesome nonetheless!

One of the really cool moments was a small demonstration Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship put on while the judges decided who would win the colt challenge. Dan is 1/2 of the australian team that won Road to the Horse this year, (Something I would really like to go see) and let's face it... he's pretty easy on the eyes. I don't mind an australian accent, and a man whose amazing with horses.

Anywayyyyyys... here's some videos of Dan doing his thing!

Riiiiiiiight ladies?

Hopefully one day I can see a full demonstration of the things he does, or maybe go to one of his clinics. This liberty stuff is so, so cool.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Story of Me, Clinton Anderson and A Puller; Part 1

[Pre-cursor - for some reason, writing this post makes me feel very vulnerable, so if you have any advice on my horses issue I'd love to hear it, but know that I don't, at all, in any matter, see myself as a trainer, and am always open to advice]

Jingle has tying issues, like... very learned, sometimes extremley explosive, tying issues. Quite honestly, they freak me out... the one thing that makes me truly uncomfortable and nervous is a horse that is pulling back. When I was a kid I was in a stall with a horse, when another got loose and came charging towards us, she pinned me against the stall, and probably saved my little butt. (She was the ugliest of ugly nags, and so, so mean, but after that moment I always had a soft spot for her. Ironically, her name was sunshine.)  That story has nothing to do with the actual act of a horse pulling back, but ever since then the idea of a horse pulling back in the small standing stalls we have at the ranch, has made me nervous, and clausterphobic.

Jingle has had this issue since we first met, couple that with his jaw problems, bridling becomes a give and take of pulling and side-stepping, and just general nonsense. Last year he pulled back so hard he catapulted forward and his jaw slammed down on my head. For some freak reason I had thrown my helmet on before going in to bridle him, so he came down on that surface... not my skull, but I was still seeing stars afterwards. Another time two counsellors were brushing the horse beside him, while he was pretty much asleep. He startled himself awake, saw two shapes beside him, and awaaaaay we go. He ran around the barn like a freakin' idiot for 5 minutes before I saw what was going on and got my big mom voice on with him. Last summer I was, admittedly, bad and just kind of two-stepped my way around his problems. This summer I vowed to be different.

Now, call me a soft-hearted pansy, but everywhere I looked and everyone I talked to gave me the same answer. Something along the lines of tie him up with multiple halters, crazy knots, tie him to a massive tree, or the strongest surface you have, and let him thrash about. Everytime he thrashes, release the knot, so he falls, then do it all over again, until he figures it out. Or, just let him thrash and thrash and thrash for days until he figures it out. Wellllllllll... I'm not really willing to go into that territory yet, couple my soft hearted pansy self with the fact I just don't think that's very fair to do to a horse that has been pulling back for years, and in comes some Natural Horsemanship voo-doo. (Are you rolling your eyes yet? I wont be offended).

I hit up the internet, and started to read up on chronic pullers. I came across the Clinton Anderson Mag-Lock and read some really positive, (independent from the company) reviews. So I decided, what the heck - let's try it. The idea behind the lock is that there's a few knots that you can use to bump up the resistance of the lock, but in the first phase - the phase for bad pullers, the lock will provide a slow release, so there is no halter breaking, or lead snapping, or running around like a goddamn 1200 lb chicken with it's head cut off (Been there, done that) but there's also no falling over, hurting ones self, hurting others, scaring poor defenseless counsellors and children. Honestly... for how much Jingle hasn't desensitized from pulling, he's desensitized me... looking back on the summer I think my fear of him turned more into an annoyance, but a fear for others. I don't want my horse freaking a bunch of people out... that's not nice.

So, the lock came in the mail... with nothing but a small pamphlet showing the tie methods, and the lock itself. Uhm.. did I mention the skeptics of this thing? Not a lot of people in these parts drop the word "Natural Horsemanship" without snickering, and then you bring in a clinician with an online store... and you purchased something.. that you now don't reaaaally know how to use and you don't want to use the tried and true method first... well, I'm going to be a bit of a laughing stock.

So, I called the Clinton Anderson store and talked to a very nice rep. She first asked me if I had the "Clinton Anderson Halter"... ugh, what have I gotten myself into? "No ma'am, I have a perfectly suitable Weaver tie halter." I was getting a bit of a frosty vibe from her, but then we started talking about the philosophy behind the tie, and I explained I want a bit more detail into when the appropriate time to bump resistance up is. She told me some very "uhm, duh, knew that" information, but then she told me she had started colts in it, and one of her colts had figured out that he could just walk backwards, and she was new to the tie so she didn't increase the resistance. Eventually, her colt just started walking backwards everytime she tried to saddle him - and he just kept going! Got a good laugh out of that, also, I appreciate when salespeople acknowledge the defects, or negative side effects of a product - especially one that deals with a live creature.

Finally, she figured out what I was asking and she said that if I wanted a little more information, and visual assistance, I could try watching one of Clinton's DVD's on the subject of tying horses. She then asked me if I was a member of his "No Worries Club"... lady, you are losing me again. When I said no, she told me i'd have to buy for the dvd full price with shipping, so about $25... then she realized that I lived up in Canada and suddenly the price jumped to something like $50 because of shipping. What?!She sympathized with me and offered me the Dvd for free, if I would pay the shipping and I agreed. She didn't have to do that, and I really appreciated that she did. However, from a marketing stand-point I had mentioned that no one around here has ever used the lock, so, if it works well for me, and I had a good experience with the company - you know i'll be telling me friends all about it! (and blogging a review... because, you know, I am kind of a big deal with all 13 of you lovely followers)

So - that's where we are at now! The DVD was shipped yesterday so I should recieve it soon, and I'll watch that and review it for you guys, and then once baby boy is home, and I am home with him as well, we're going to see if this technique has any value for his issues. If it does turn out to be just a gimick, my ego will be a bit bruised, but honestly, my philosophy about all these clinicians is that they do have big followings, so people are using their methods and it's clearly working, and a lot of the stuff they say makes sense - so why not give it a try? If it doesn't work, just like anything else, or any other training technique, switch it up and try something different. Mainly, the safety and happiness of my horse is the most important - so if this creates those two things for his anxious, nervous moments, then I'm happy too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life Update

This is going to be a random post, much ado about nothing.

It's snowing today... after a week of +25 c weather. C'mon nature, get it together. Honestly though (and this is totally blasphemous to say) I kind of like the crap weather. It's way harder for me to sit in an office, in my gross office clothes, with the weather hot and perfect, than when it's miserable and disgusting out. Although.. right about now I wouldn't mind putting on my slicker, long-johns, and my warmest jeans and going for a ride. I'm an all-weather rider, baaaaaack in the day, when I used to ride Harry, I would head out there in -30 c so bundled up I couldn't move, brush him, jump on him bareback and go plowing through the massive snow drifts. I'm afraid this year has made me a little outdoors-sour though, this is the first year I've ridden in an indoor arena, and ... you know, when it's -30 outside I sure do enjoy walls and a roof.

My horse is home! Unfortunately for me he was brought in from faraway winter pasture and was kicked right back out on the back 2000 acres... sigh. Looks like in June I'll be going horse-hunting for him. This is totally normal, the entire string gets sent out west until mid-June and we go retrieve them, group by group until they are all home for camp-season. But in my "WAH I WANT MY PONY" stage I'm a little pouty about the situation. Ah well, much like the weather, If I knew my boy was accessible I'd probably be sneaking off from work early, and just generally making poor decisions to go see him. 16 days until I get to kiss his baby pony nose. =)

I'm going to look at a saddle on Saturday! It's an absolutely gorgeous sweet home Circle Y trail, with matching bridle, breast collar, and saddle bags... it's a dream saddle, and for such a good price. The guy selling it is a good 'ol boy, (71 - still breaking colts!), and chatted my ear off on the phone from everything to saddle quality all the way to the fact he could tell my name was Italian. However, I have a sinking feeling the saddle is just way too wide for Jingle, I'm still going to go look (what can it hurt?), but.. I doubt i'll be getting a saddle on the weekend. The search continues... I have a feeling that a bigger bank account by July and a trip to Irvine's in Crossfield, horse in tow, is definitely in order.

Finally... very exciting news...
A cutting trainer I talked to a couple months back has opened up for spring lessons, so on Tuesday I'm going to go out and take a lesson! It's all very up in the air - I doubt I'll be allowed to be anywhere near a cow yet, but he has quite a few finished cutters for sale (... why, oh why, don't I have $12,000?) that he uses for lesson horses so that's pretty exciting! I have about a month and a half before I leave for the summer, so it can't hurt getitng a couple lessons in, and seeing how it goes! (blog posts to detail my cutting escapades will follow, obviously)
I think that's all I have to report for now - if you're in Alberta I hope you are keeping warm in this strange, strange weather. (Or cool... seeing as it'll probably be hotter than hades by tomorrow), and if not - I hope you are content wherever you are!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding Diary: 16

Horse: Quiz

Time: 1 hr

Ride: Well, it is officially spring! Riding in +20 c in the outdoor arena at 7 pm... life is good. I was a little worried about how our ride was going to pan out since I, nor her owner, had ridden her since last Monday, and she was zipping around the arena at mach 10 during the warm up.

We did a looooot of posting trot (owwie), including posting a trot around the barrels as a warm up. My trainer had me circling her tighter and tighter about 3-4 times, then trotting out, and then doing the same at the other side of the arena.

Then we moved outside (thank you lawd - I was sweatin' buckets at this point), and we trotted the barrel pattern. Quiz and her owner are doing a gymkhana on the weekend (yes, I am unbelievably jealous... as i always am when I am reminded that Quiz is, in fact, not my horse) so we probably have to you know, try barrels.

Here's where rider error comes completely into play - my god, you'd think i was a 2 year old the way I was getting my lefts and rights mixed up, I couldn't even figure out what "right, left, left" meant, let alone "right, right lead, left, left lead, left, run home, stop" meant... embarrassing. Thankfully my trainer humours me, and I finally just said, "walk me through this, my brain is mush", and I got myself together and reminded my brain that, yes brain, we are indeed almost in our last year of University.

Then we slow loped the pattern, we zoomed out a bit here and there, but other than that we had one or two nice, semi-slow go's. Plus... I'm beginning to figure out my leads more and more. It's the same old story with me - when I have a lot of horse stuff to figure out, I forget that I am indeed part of the equation of the horse stuff and let my body flail, and forget what i'm doing. I need to hone in on what is going on under me, and through me. Focus, Focus, Focus.

For Next Time: Consistent slow loping of the pattern & focus more on rider + horse = ride.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Riding Diary: 15

Horse: Quiz

Time: 1 hr

Ride: It has been 6 years since I've blogged... but I've been running around like a madman (or perhaps.. a chicken with her head cut off, more like it) working 3-4 different jobs, working 60-70 hours a week, as well as a giant personal project on my hands. I have one night a week off... and as of next week... i'll be busy then too. Goodbye life. It was so nice knowing you.

Anyways, I'm definitely going to be a bit of an absentee from this blog, and even from horses. However, I still have my Monday lessons to look forward too! Quiz was being really good on Monday, as per usual. We worked on a looooooooot of loping. I'm getting down my leads, but i'm still frustrated that I don't know which lead I'm on 100% of the time. Things to work on.

In preparation for flying lead changes we did more breaking down exercises, loping large circles, and then at the centre breaking down into a jog, and then back to a lope. Quiz isn't exactly a "breaker downer", half the time we we're almost at the end of the circle before she was truly jogging. Sometimes it feels like I'm a 16 year old kid trying to learn standard, go-lurch-go-lurch-go-lurch-go-stall-lurch, etc.etc.etc. What a good metaphor for my riding... haha.

Once Quiz settled into that routine we worked on loping a circle, breaking down into the jog in the centre, and then picking up the other lead and lope the other direction. If I remember correctly, this worked well for us, and I had all the right leads down, and was feeling good about it. I had to remind myself to sit up straight, and calm down. I've noticed in the jog i'm super upright, relaxed, calm, good body position, and then once you add speed I'm all over the place.

Finally, we worked on loping a circle with two poles in the centre, bit of a disaster. Sometimes I was checking too much, often not enough. I had some jumps over the poles, some walks over the poles, one or two complete stops at the poles... Quiz gets all frazzled and rushes through things, I tried to really work on dropping my hands and giving her a little more rein, which seems to help her calm down into a nice slow lope which is what I was looking for. We got one or two good runs out of that, and then quit for the day.

I was tired and sweaty (riding around in a bit of a ridiculous looking yoga top... showin' some skin ya'll), as was miss princess mare face. Good lesson had by all.

For Next Time: Keep calm, upright and relaxed at the lope. Work on keeping Quiz calm and slow through the poles. Work on focusing more on rider + horse, especially with leads. Get those leads down!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Riding Diary: 14

Here's hoping this rain ends, and we get to have sunny evening outdoor arena rides again soon.

Horse: Quiz!

Bit: new bit! French Link w/ Dee's
* in the end I don't think this bit really helped, or hindered our ride all that much. Monday she fussed over it quite a "bit" (tehe), but Tuesday she had seemingly got over the new bit phenomena. It didn't feel as if was providing any less, or more check, however, Caron did comment that she looked less like she was hollowing out when she felt contact.

Time: 1.5 Hr

Ride: My lesson was moved from Monday to Tuesday this week, but I had managed to make it out to ride on Monday as well. We changed Quiz's standard O-Ring Snaffle to a D-Ring French Link to see if it would help check her back a bit better, and also to see what effect it would have on her hollowing out when we ask for those checks. Monday it appeared that we were back to our old habits, indoor arena, mach speed Quiz.

So, Tuesday, lesson time... I had to laugh at my luck. My trainer had a 5:30 spot open, I didn't even really think twice of who else would be in my lesson... 4 girls, under the age of 8... and me. I guess I have finally got the youth group lesson experience.. at the ripe old age of 20.

It was pretty hectic, the girls are all very cute, nice kids, but after attempting to lope on the rail with kids swerving this way and that way, I began to fear for mine and Quiz's lives. Especially when the old schoolmaster horses began pinning their ears at Quiz... please don't kill us.

Quiz's jog was back to being lovely, more and more I can just give her a mile of rein and she'll plod along so beautifully. I really love that feeling, the jog and I are best buds, we really are. On to the loping, loping the rail, small circles, circling in the centre, back to full rail lope. I began to feel really uncentered to all of this, I think my saddle shifts slightly but I need to watch on not putting more weight on one stirrup going into those small circles.

We also went back to the circling the barrel exercises to help Quiz learn to engage more in her hind-end. My trainer was right when she said this was a really good exercise to help aid in this. I would do a couple circles around the barrel, come out of it, lope the rail, and I could really tell Quiz was using her entire body, not being so heavy on the forehand.

However.. I struggled with the damn barrel, I must admit. I'd lose Quiz's shoulder one moment, then she'd cut in too close at the next, lose her lead in her hind after that, I'd lose my position, etc. etc. It was a bit messy... not the prettiest. In the end we managed to get some nice big circles around the barrel, as well as some nice tight circles going both directions, and so we quit.

Honestly, after dodging, dipping, and diving around children, and some pretty hardcore leg and ab work in those damn circles, I was pretty tired, and I'm sure Quiz was ready for bedtime too. I think my body is trying to tell me, "hey, chubby, full semester is over.. back to working out!"

For Next Time:
Keep barrel-hand more upright and out, while engaging both legs, adding more pressure on the outside leg to avoid Quiz breaking down and losing her lead. Focus on clean, bigger circles, and then add the smaller, tighter circles. Don't lose position throughout barrels, and stay centered through entire exercise.