Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Diagonals and Directions

Our First Topic Today...


The trot is a two beat gait. When a horse trots it reaches forward with its left foreleg, and right hind leg, and then reaches forward with its right foreleg and left hind leg—the diagonal legs are synchronized. With a trot there are always two hooves on the ground and two in suspension. The footfall pattern remains the same whether the horse is turning left or right. So the horse doesn’t actually have diagonals. At a trot it is the rider that needs to be aware of what diagonal pair to rise or sit on to help the horse balance and flex. When circling and turning, the rider rises when the outside foreleg and inside hind hits the ground. Nothing about the horse’s trot changes when the rider changes diagonals, which they will do when they change direction to circle or turn in the opposite direction.

Basic's for the Cutting Horse...

Today Boss-Man's Assistant Trainer asked me to trot both ways on the horse I was warming up for him. I thought he was checking her soundness. After I was done he asked me if I'd ever ridden English, I replied with "Uhm.. not really.. why?" He just shrugged and said, "Because you know your diagonals." I stared at him blankly, before finally squeaking out (wondering if I was being a total idiot and generally confused about what was happening) "Yes. Doesn't everyone?" Apparently not, according to him, a lot of people he sees in the industry don't seem to know their diagonals. He told me that, in fact, it was only a few years ago that he found out about trot diagonals from a past Boss' wife who rode Dressage. Our two year old trainer chimed in that, he too, did not know about diagonals until recently and said "I thought it was an english thing..."

Please remember that these are both pretty accomplished guys that both have a keen interest in proper technique and training. They regularly have in-depth conversations about the "mechanics behind the proper footfalls in the turnaround." Like, what does that even mean? & they didn't know their diagonals until a couple years ago...

Now, are most of you shocked that people who ride competitively don't know their diagonals? Because I most certainly was.

Assistant Trainer finished off the whole diagonal discussion with explaining to me why he was so interested in diagonals lately. He claims that he's noticed a lot of our horses hopping into their lope departures, and he's been spending a lot of time working on bending them and working them slowly at the jog and trot. He said that one of his ideas behind why they are doing this is because some of our lopers don't use the correct diagonal, and when they ask for the lope departure in the corners of our arena, it is causing the horse to have to over-compensate into the lope. He said he wasn't sure if that's actually why they were doing it, but that it's one of the ideas he's working on. Finally, the discussion turned in to one of the basics of horsemanship, and how he believes that the industry is lacking a sense of horsemanship, and that it's sorely missed. All in all, very interesting.

This story has a point... i'm getting there... I promise.

I have a very hard time picking up my right diagonal correctly. I literally have to count the gait out to get it, and it frustrates me to no end. It's literally a mind over body thing, i'm getting much better but every once and awhile I have to do the 'ol double-bounce into the correct diagonal and I always get embarrassed about it. So, to find out, that a) my co-workers probably weren't even noticing and b) hey, I'm doing something right that other people aren't... is a nice feeling.. because it brings us all to:

Our Second Topic Today...


Ie. Where am I going & What am I doing & [insert general spiral downwards here]

Toto... we ain't in Kansas anymore..

Looking back on my "career" thus far at the ripe 'ol age of 21, i've grown exponentially month by month with horses and my own riding since I was 16. When I was16, I didn't know how to pick out a horses hoof... let alone my diagonals, leads, leg yields etc. As I get older and have more time to devote to riding and my general focus on horses, that exponential growth seems more directed, and rapid. However, I am ridiculously hard on myself, and I can't help but compare myself to other 21 year olds that are winning in the cutting pen, that are finding themselves already in the Hall of Fame, are working amazing jobs where they are training high-level horses etc. etc. I'm just not there yet, I'm barely there, I have a toe kind of in the door and i'm death-fighting to get another in. It can be very frustrating. 

BUT, today I was thinking hard about all of these things i've mentioned... my direction is atleast on the right path and i'm hungry for it. Hungrier than i've ever been for anything. I think that fighting instinct, that i've had for the last couple years, is a really good thing. I'm not slowing down and i'm fighting to keep going faster in the right direction. 

Plus, I need to remind myself that comparison gets you nowhere. I'm not those people, the only person I can be is me, so I need to take that for what it's worth and just keep on going. However, yes, a tiny little piece of me felt a little gratified that, for once, maybe for the first time ever, it was pointed out to me that I knew something about riding that the people around me didn't... and it was so simple!

Finally, horsemanship is very important to me, and one day I want to be able to have an intelligent, comprehensive discussion about the proper mechanics of the footfall of the turnaround, and more...! Today, I watched a video on my facebook wall of someone working a horse on the flag... it was not very flattering. I am beginning to be able to pick up on the nuances of what is good, and what is bad when working a horse on the flag, and on a cow. That's something I wouldn't have been able to do even 6 months ago... So, it shows me that i'm learning, i'm growing and i'm somewhere on the right track, even if i'm stumbling around on aforementioned track.

Perhaps this post was really more for me than anything, but hey - maybe you'll enjoy my introspective ramblings as well.

We've come a long way baby..
a wee 15 year old Louisa & Windsong

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Teammate.

I miss Jingle.
A lot.

Leaving him behind was pretty hard on me. For a year he's pretty much all I focused and devoted my passion too. I'm obviously getting more than enough horse-time down here, but it's not quite the same. Jingle is, first and foremost, mine, so I could do with him whatever I pleased. Work on something in the arena today - done, go for a trail ride - perfect, spend hours grooming him and playing with him but never getting any actual work done - let's do it. I'm really missing heading to the barn and having that "alone" time, in my own head, working on something with my most favourite teammate. Jingle is the experiment horse, much to his chagrin, when I hear about a training technique, or think up a new thing we should learn, we both go to plodding through it. I miss my lazy days, and my plodding days, I even miss our bad days. I am very excited to go home and see him, even if I might not get a chance to ride him.

Taken on one of our last days at the barn before I moved him. We played the "chase" game, which is where I run through and over obstacles and he follows me around. I love to turn around and watch him pole-bend with me. haha.

Saying goodbye to my baby for the next few months

I don't even think I blogged about jingle's "new home", because it made me so sad. In fact he got a massage done right before I moved him and left, and the masseuse was so in-tuned to me and my ponyboy that she looked me right in the eye and said, "This may seem weird but sometimes I feel like horses "talk" to me subconsciously, have you told him you are leaving yet? I think you need to have that conversation with him... he knows you'll come back." I instantly, without any warning from my own body, burst into some real-time Oprah ugly crying. She went on to ask me if I ever "talk" to him subconsciously and I admitted that I do, quite a bit. I then went on to explain how hard it was for me to leave him, because I had once promised him that I would never leave him again. Once upon a time he went missing for two months at the ranch he was born and raised on, I had already planned to buy him, and once he was located and came home, I made that promise - that he would always be mine and always be safe, and that I would never leave him. We had a good talk, and the next day I had a good "talk" with my horse. It's all a little woo-woo and airy-fairy, and if you know me you know I'm neither, but in the end I felt comfortable in my decision to leave him for a short time.

 However, there is a positive, I was really lucky and found him an amazing place. A co-worker of my moms has land and three daughters and a wife that show competitively in the breed circuit. I've known him for a long time as well because I also worked at her office on and off for the past couple years. I couldn't keep Jingle at the barn we were boarding at because it was just too expensive. Luckily, they offered to take him for quite a reduced price. It's a nice place, big and well-fenced, and also really well taken care of. Jingle is out with some other horses and is checked up on everyday. I pester them with emails every couple weeks and now that it's gotten cold he's in the blanket I wanted him in, and seems to be happy. The other day, through email, they said he could stay as long as I needed and that he isn't a bother at all - which is wonderful, and a huge weight off my shoulders.

Jingle at his temporary home, on his Fall/Winter break. "Semi-retirement" as he likes to call it, is suiting him nicely.

I even sent Brigitte out to go see him, and bring our cantankerous farrier with her to trim his feet. (I also pulled his shoes before I left... serious new life for ponyboy.) Brig snapped some photos for me, and true to form he is very fuzzy, has lost all that beautiful muscle to some big time pudginess, and his mane is an every-which-way mess. As many of you will remember, Jingle was always groomed and braided to the nines... his mother is a little psychotic. However, he seemed very happy (she reports), and to me that is all that matters.

Can't be too happy though... that's only reserved for when we are together ;)

Anyways, this nostalgic, sad, I miss and love my horse post was spurred on by this article a friend posted from Horse.com about a study that proves that some horses and riders have a co-being relationship. "Study: Some horses and riders have co-being relationship". In short, "Co-being refers to a state of relationship in which each partner evolves to “fit” better with each other, both physically and mentally." I think this is something that most riders know already, and as this blog post shows, I am a firm believer that Jingle is my co-being... but interesting that a study has now proven it - give it a read if you're interested!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Best Proposal...

Excuse this break in me whining about how early I have to wake up, I (for once) have a non-texas related blog post:

Professional's Choice shared this on their Facebook page, they found it on Pinterest...

How cute is this?! Ten points for this man, for sure.

Okay, now back to our regular scheduled whining about how FAH-REA-KIN early I have to wake up during the Futurity...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pre-Work: San Angelo, TX

So after the "South Texas" pre-work we headed home Wednesday afternoon, worked the horses Thursday and then worked them Friday morning, loaded them on the trailer and headed out to San Angelo, TX for another pre-work.

We got there just as the sun was setting, and got to unloading...

The horses were much calmer at their new destination than they were when we first unloaded them at South Texas. Stalls are what they know, and they all settled right in. Except for the above wingbat, who thinks it's appropriately to play the "rear as high as I can for 45 minutes" in her stall whenever we take her anywhere... sigh... can't help 'em all can ya?

THIS is my most favourite sight when we arrive at a show, or a new place. Hay out for the morning, supplements by stalls, horses fed and blanketed and halters used as an extra locking mechanism = meaning = done for the night.

We were put up in serious style, the hotel we stayed in was quite nice. 

However, it's not like we got to enjoy it much because the first horse was to go at 7:00 am the next morning...


Excellent News....

Our horses were complete and utter gems (for the most part) during San Angelo. At the beginning of the week they were absolute hell demons, and all of a sudden by the end of the week it was like the "show horse" switch got turned on, and all of a sudden they were like "hey, we got this". San Angelo was a very important pre-work for us because it was done up just like a show, various (maybe 10-15) trainers brought their 3 year olds. There were draws, and sets, just like at a typical show, and we warmed up the three year olds like we would show horses at an actual show. So, it was a great way to see how the horses would be in a real show setting, with lots of other horses in the warm-up pen, new stalls, etc. etc. We, being the over-achievers we ar,e brought the most three year olds of anyone... 18... that meant myself, and our other loper were literally on horses from 6:00 am all the way until 6:00 pm. No rest for the wicked.

Here are Fonzie and Peppa taking a breather in the centre of the pen, and saying hello too eachother.

The only "hell demon moment" we had for the two days was unfortunately with me... (always the lucky one)... I was swapping out a loping bridle for a show bridle and turned around to talk to Boss Man's wife. I had the reins around a horse, Jewel's, neck, and the second I turned around, she ducked right out from under those reins and went screamin' and gallopin' through the outside of the warm-up pen and right outside, and all the way into the barn area. She turned into the first aisle, which thankfully was our stalls, and Boss Man went gallopin' off after her as I booked it down the other way. We got her cornered and I haltered her, but I wasn't exactly happy about doing the loper walk of shame back through the warm-up pen and bridling her... Unimpressed, very unimpressed.

Fonzie, who unfortunately for him, was ridden twice in one day because his morning performance was a little less than stellar.

The Spur Arena is where we were in San Angelo, and I must say that it was 1000000 x nicer than the fairgrounds in Jackson where the Southern was held. Big and open, really clean, and the only downside was the arena got pretty hot with all of us in there. 

First night done! You can't tell really well in this photo but a lot of those trailers are super mini-mini trailers that haul hogs and sheep, there was a big 4-H deal going on at another arena on the grounds when we were there. It was SO CUTE.

What does a loper need after a day at a "show" or a "work" or whatever the heck you wanna call it? A Margarita, always a margarita, maybe even a beergarita... :) This is the #1 reason I love it down here, there are margaritas EVERYWHERE.

Each aisle had their own washracks.... what an absolute dream come true, no walking to and from washracks, no waiting on other lopers, no carrying your stuff too and fro.. suck on that Jackson!

Our last day was foggy and cloudy, we worked through all the horses and again, all of them were wonderful. It was AMAZING to me that they could go from SO BAD at the beginning of the week to just... figuring it out. I also contribute a lot of it to the fact that in a show-setting there were TONS of other horses there, doing the exact same thing that our babies had too, so it helped that they were never alone like they had been in South Texas since it was just us, and that they just had to move forward alongside the other horses there.

We were pretty proud of our little ponies, and on Sunday night we hauled home after our works were done. Yup, 20 hour day by the time we got done and home, and the next morning we were up and show-bathing them at home by 8 am. 

Nobody ever said lopers get sleep... nobody.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tis the Season of: Pre-Works


1. An event held to simulate a show, so three year old cutting horses can have "show-experience" before their first show experience - the Fort Worth Futurity... "The Futurity".
2. A way to completely burn out your lopers before you run them absolutely ragged before "The Futurity".3. A fun way to bring out the most innerest hell-demon in your most mildest and meekest three year old.

Our First Pre-Work was last week, and will from here on out be deemed...
"South Texas".
We headed to a client's ranch near Brady, Tx to have a sort of private pre-work with just our horses, and then some of theirs that they still have at their house. A way to test the waters before we headed to pre-works with other trainers.

We woke up at a really awesome time...

& we left, and drove the entire way there with some really spectacular light...

& I was really just over-joyed with the entire concept of a 2:30 am wake-up call...

No. No I was not. The above statements were dirty lies.

Our very stalled, very sheltered three-year olds (we brought 18 in total), were for the most part put in outdoor runs, which caused them to become over-joyed bucking machines... "Oh my god, we are outside, and we are somewhere new and we should just run blindly around..."

Here are Floyd and Jake looking like cute little friendly three year olds, later on in the morning these two would both try to turf my ass multiple times...

& that, my friends, was the general theme for the entire first day of the South Texas Pre-Work... "let's try to turf these lopers asses". I kid you not, I did not have ONE uneventful ride. My sweet little babies turned into absolute HELL DEMONS and by the end of the day my nerves were rattled and my shoulder muscles were so tense I wondered if my body would ever feel normal again.

Atleast South Texas was very pretty...

I could look out on some gorgeous scenery while my three year olds ran around like they'd never been ridden before.

Even my most dependable, most loving stallion Jacko (and most laziest... the most laziest...), farted, and scared himself and bucked. COME ON.

However, as one would think, South Texas taught us a lot of things about our little hell-devils... We had to start to figure out how to properly calm each one down due to personality. 

For the ones that were just being evil (okay they were just being very fresh, excited, and feeding off eachother), there was "the game". See, a lot of the time, our little shitheads would think it was acceptable to try to run us into arena walls... "The Game" is what I also like to call "The Breezing Game". It takes a bit of guts and courage and hold onnnnnn, but basically what you do is get those little buggers going as fast as they can, the rules are you just let them run, turn them only when necessary and stay out of their way. They will run, and run, and run, and run, and when they begin to slow down because they figure out that your not going anywhere and they don't realistically like pretending to be racehorses you say "NOPE" and keep them going. Finally, when YOU decide that they are done pretending to be secretariat, you slow them right now and let them walk and think about their evil ways. "The Game" got pretty western a few times (a saying I love dearly... meaning: a little bit scary) but worked like a charm for every horse I had to do it on. The next day those little racehorses decided they realistically wanted to go back to extended-trot champions.

Then there were our genuinely very nervous, very timid, very scared crew... for them.. lots of pets and lots of slow stuff. They take off... you take them into a corner and trot small circles, widening those circles until they are less scared. You take your legs and spurs out of the equation, you get nice and quiet and calm and you work really slow until they figure out that this new arena isn't going to eat them. Then you can pick up the speed, but for the most part you can't pick on them, and you need to let them figure it out for themselves.

& for those times when you really feel like your about to hit the dirt... this arena was marvelous because the centre was much deeper due to them working cows on the outside. So, you would send those naughty ponies right to the middle and they'd quit fighting you because they'd have to fight the dirt instead.

By day two, most of our hell-demons were reformed, and by day three... all of a sudden we had progress and some budding show horses. What's up now?!

Here's the crew - slinkie and sheeted up on the afternoon of day three - waiting to be loaded and taken back to home... where "The Game" does not exist.

My fellow loper and I were quite happy with the end result, but let me tell you... that first day of South Texas is not a day that my body can repeat for quite some time... no thank you. Mostly, all I could think of was Fort Worth, and the stress that comes with it. I've begun to call it the "Fort Worth Flu"... aka... the sickness that is, "WHAT if our three year olds are like this at "The Futurity", this cannot happen to me."

Oh and how do you know you work at a cutting barn...?

Chipped nail polish, hands that look 20 years older than you and of course - elastics as accessories.
Gotta keep those tails up and off the ground!

& final tip of the day: How to tell if someone is "in the know"... after someone rides a horse at one of these things the proper question is not "how did it go?" or "how was the ride?", it is "How was your work?" - cutter lingo ya'll.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Southern: Jackson, Mississippi (Final Thoughts)

So, it's been a week since Jackson, and as of tomorrow we're headed off to some pre-works a couple hours away for about a week, (no rest for the wicked), so I thought I should "scribble" my last thoughts down before I find myself without any time for awhile.

How to be part of the "in crowd" if you are a loper...

1. Vests
What you wear matters kiddos, and even more importantly than that who you wear matters more. What was "big" in the loping pen were stud vests. These are vests with stallion names that are given away as promotion for the studs. However, the vests come with some stipulations...

If you have a current and hot stud vests on, you are cool. Make sure the stud is a popular stud on the market right now and you are set. If you have a lesser stud you are still doing okay, just not as good.
You better make sure said vest and the horse you are warming up have "cat" in their name. Aka, they are the offspring of THE High Brow Cat, bonus points if you are riding/wearing an own son or daughter. 

Now... if you are not wearing a stud vest, you still have a chance because your second best bet is a finalist jacket. These are jackets/vests given away to anyone that makes the finals at shows. Lopers who truly were finalists can smile smugly to themselves where as the rest of the lopers just got horses warmed up that made it into the finals. However, still shows you've been around the block - bonus points if the finals were at one of the "big" shows aka the cutting triple crown, or one of the big money mecuria or world shows.

Fnally, if all else fails have a nice shirt on - bonus points if you are ballin out with a finalist jacket, stud vest AND a nice shirt that matches the following criteria: it must walk the fine line between sparkly, boring, old fashioned and new age. Trust me - this was achieved by quite a few girls and I drooled everytime they loped by.

Where we were the "in" shirts were definitely those made by CR Ranchwear... really nice, really pretty, almost on the plain side, but everyone knows you are cool because they are also really expensive. sigh.

2. Who you are & Who you ride for
These things matter, especially if your a child of a trainer that has a big name and you, yourself, have racked in the big bucks at the non-pro events, people instantly know who you are. If you are "just" a loper, if you ride for a big time trainer and have ridden for them for awhile, everyone knows ya.

If you can't manage any of this .... well, you just aren't part of the cool kids.

&, since you're asking... did I fit in with the in-crowd? Nah, not yet. I felt like my hat was a little on the manly side and my boss even made fun of my hat band (in a joking way of course) but again, at the shows, everyone walks that fine line between old school and flash - some of those girls just looked so impeccable and had the best, most beautiful shaped feminine hats. I am now on the lookout for a hat that is a little more feminine but still gets you noticed. I also felt a little out of my element, as was to be expected, I definitely wasn't on of those impeccable girls who could still lope around with their phone hooked to their ear carrying on conversations with god knows who.

& yep... bonus points if you can do all of the above while glued to a cellphone, it was AMAZING to me how many people loped while texting, or calling others. It's almost it's own mini trend in the cutting world, I swear 75% of the time if a trainer isn't showing or turning back, they are on their phones. Same with lopers. Craziness.

How do you know if someone is a "Trainers Wife"...

The answer is pretty simple my friends, it's four little things:

Yip, Yee, Yeooo and some very short, to the beat, hand claps.

This is what you will hear instead of cheering at cutting events, and a lot of trainers wives went all out while their husbands were showing. Boss man, apparently, doesn't like his wife too, but even she let out a couple if his ride was going really well.

However, dear readers, don't fall into the prejudice that all Trainers Wives are also trophy wives, etc. I saw some of those ladies out there loping horses before dawn and way past dusk. Some of them I was honestly amazed by, they would lope all.day.long for their husbands... even if they employed lopers. Some of them clearly ran the show by organizing who was riding who, what was being brought where etc. etc. and those ladies all ran it while looking just so dosh garn good.

Basically, what I've taken from Jackson is I need to figure out how to look more stylish while working my ass off... haha, It's just not happening for me yet, but it will come with time... and mascara... and maybe the loss of 10 pounds. 

What can ya do? haha.