Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh What a Wonderful Feeling!

In 1999 I bought a 2 year old red mare named Johnie, she was the first horse I had owned since 1976 because I had never needed to own a horse because I had other peoples horses to ride for so long. But I felt that it was time that I owned a horse.

Like many people say, never own a red mare.

I started Johnie under saddle in March of 2000 as a 3 year old and have never looked back. After I had her under saddle for 60 days and I had a good stop and turn on her, it was time to start her on cattle.

Now I bought Johnie so I could train her to be a cutter and so I could have the pleasure of showing my own horse. She is a very well bred mare that is bred to be a cattle horse, so I figured starting her on cattle would be a breeze. Quite the opposite, you see I forgot one very important factor about horses, just because they are bred to do something, that does not mean they will do it well or even do the job that they were bred for. That being said, the first time that I put Johnie on cattle that damn red headed mare tried to run the other way at the first sight of a cow.

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed at Johnie's first performance as a cow horse.

I was bound and determined to get this mare trained so I could show her. The next night I took Johnie to a local arena for a cutting practice, I started to turn back for a friend of mine and let Johnie have a good look at the cattle all night. She threw in an occasional crow hop, but she never tried to run away.

The next night I took Johnie to the same arena to work with my friends, we put a cow in the round pen and I rode Johnie in the pen alone with the cow. Johnie and I worked the cow on the fence, a little tug here a little leg there, a few small corrections and the next thin I knew, Johnie cut that cow on her own. She gave me 3 of the best turns I have ever had in my life.

All that I remember from that night, was feeling Johnie take over and work that cow, and my face hurting from that permanent grin that was on my face.

I did show Johnie a few months later, on my first cut, the moment that I dropped my hand that mare went to work. She won her first class!

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Teaching the Young Horse to Back

Teaching a young horse to back is something that I feel has to be done absolutely right from the very beginning. If done wrong, the problems that can arise when done wrong can affect the way that a horse responds to the bit for the rest of his career.

One thing that I need to mention here is that I never use backing to soften a horse. The horse has to be soft and supple in the snaffle before I even ask the horse to back. He has to be supple in his shoulders and move away form my leg laterally in both directions. I also prefer at the time that I am teaching the horse to back, that he is nice and quite and he has to know how to whoa. I will not teach a horse to side pass before I teach him to back because it can be very easy for the horse to become confused.

When I start teaching a horse to back, I never want him to gap at the mouth, he has to be comfortable with giving to both sides of his mouth in a snaffle.

Lets start with the importance of 'Whoa'. When I teach a horse to stop, like I have said in many of my posts, when I teach a horse to stop, I like to 'quit riding' and teach the horse to shut his hind end down first before he shuts down his front end. By doing this, the horse already has his hind end underneath him making it easier for him to go forward or back, and it will allow the horse to push off with his front end when I ask him to back. If they stop on the front end then they have to gather themselves up to move forward and they will hollow out their backs if I ask them to back. I want the horse to stay as rounded as possible.

Now that I have the horse stopping the way that I want him to and I have him nice and soft laterally, I will start to set my hands when I ask for the stop and allow there to be a little bit of contact on the horses mouth when he stops. Just enough contact, a little more on the inside rein to get the horse to back a step and then I release him and sit for a few seconds.

The next time I stop the horse , I will ask for two steps and increasingly asking for a little more as we continue.

If the horse decides that he wants to stop on his front end, then, after the horse stops,I will push his shoulders to the outside of the circle so he can not. That way he has to rock back on his hind end to get his shoulders to move over.

I never want to get into a pulling match with a horse, I do not want him to learn to resist in any way shape or form. If the horse starts to pull on me, then I will go do something else with him for a little while and then I will finish the day by asking for the back one last time.

Always remember to keep the horse soft so that this is a pleasant experience for both horse and rider. By doing so, I have never had a horse try to rear or pull back on me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving Forward

After putting the two ponies down that have been a big part of our lives for so long, I thought a post about moving forward would be good. We all encounter things in our lives that require we find a way to move forward and push past. How do you get past the unpleasant things in life?

How this relates to horse training is not really much different. There will be things that come up that also require us to push past and keep moving forward.

The first ride or two, you may need to gently tug the reins one direction or the other to get them to move. One or two steps, whatever you get, be sure to praise them for their efforts. Let them know that’s what you want. Ask again for a few steps or whatever the horse is comfortable with giving you. You may get a few steps or a few circles, but you are moving forward. Sit still, ask for a stop and praise them some more.

This time when you ask them to go forward gently squeeze with your legs. When they respond and move off, relax your leg, but don’t take it completely off their side. You don’t want the horse to only associate any touch from your leg with flying off in a different direction. As long as they are moving forward, any contact from the reins and bit should be soft and following.

When you ask them to stop sit down, quit riding and say whoa. Don’t shout it at them; don’t whisper it in their ear, just a firm gentle ‘whoa’. If they don’t stop right away, ask again a little more firmly. If you have to pull on the reins a little to reinforce the command of ‘whoa’ then do so, but release when the horse stops.

A young horse needs to learn to go forward comfortably and relaxed. It might be a bit awkward for them at first, but your job is to help them find balance. That may come from just sitting still and not interfering with their momentum. The horse might go a little fast, but they will slow down, just give them a minute or two. Don’t pull on the reins, just let them go forward. If you have asked for the increase in speed or the upward transition, you got what you asked for. Take it and move on. You can work on the speed later.

An older horse may have become an opportunist. Stopping to look at something is a chance to spook, dump the rider and get out of work. When you find them focusing on something else, a circle or asking for a slight bend are ways of shifting their focus back to you. When you have regained their attention, then you can confidently push them forward and likely right on past the big scary object with little to no fuss.

So although we are moving forward, we will remember the past and think to the future.

We will make plans and carry on.

Personally, I am going to now concentrate on my youngsters and get them ready for the futurities, and I am going to get CNJ's jumpers ready for her. Maybe I will do a clinic as many have asked me to do...

One step at a time!

What are your plans?

On a separate note, we still need story comments so that I can get this thing finished and hopefully help a good cause!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Final Farewell

Tonight we said our final farewells to Pi and Dooley.

They will always be remembered.

I was asked a few years ago if I thought that animals have a soul and does their spirit remain with us always. Well, I do believe that animals have a soul, anything that is capable of giving us so much unconditional love has to have a soul.

In 2001 I put down my dog and good friend Rounder ( so named because when he was a puppy he was rounder than he was tall). I had him cremated and I could not afford to get his ashes form the pet mortuary. That was also the year that I met CNJ and for Christmas she brought the Rounders ashes to me. All I knew was that he was home with me and that was the best Christmas present that I have ever had.

A few months later as I lay awake in bed in the early morning, I felt a dog jump on the bed and lay across my legs. Sassie Jean my other dog, was laying on the floor beside the bed. It was at the moment that I knew that Rounder was there with me.

So yes, they do have a soul and remain with us as long as we need them.

Tonight, in your comments please only leave the name or names of the animals that you want to remember.

Thank You all for your support.

Pi 1991-2009

Dooley 1984-2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When is the right time?

When I was young, I knew that I wanted to be a horse trainer. Of course, being a young lad, there were other things that I thought I wanted to do, but there, always in the back of my mind was the real desire to have a career in the horse industry. I am known to be anal about the way that the horses are trained because, like us, I want them to enjoy what they are doing.

The real reason that I wanted to be a horse trainer was so that I could have a career with animals that I truly love. And I always focused on learning as much as I can so I can be the best trainer possible.

But, there is a side to this job that I truly hate. And that is losing our beloved animals that have given us so much more than we can ever return to them.

Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day in the Rotten Household, as we have to say good bye to two very dear friends that have been a part of our family. Pi and Dooley, our two ponies are going to be put down.

Pi is losing the a battle with age related soundness issues and Dooley is starting to have serious age related issues as well. The hot AZ summer is also taking its toll on those two.

This brings up the question that has been asked over and over.....When is the right time to let go?

I feel that the reality is, there is never a good time or a right time to let go!

I always tell my clients that have had to put a horse of pet down, that what is right for the animal is not always right for us. It is always hard to say goodbye.

I would have written this tomorrow but there will be no way to get through it.

As the Mayor of the Rotten Neighborhood, I declare this day July 21st 2009 and this date for all of the years following a day of International Animal Remembrance Day!

So tonight we will take pause and raise our glass to remember those beloved animals that have passed through our doors and pay tribute to those that are still with us. We have are graced by your friendship and are forever in your debt!

Waggie- the 1st Mix 1966-1967

Lil Dan- Blk/Tan Coon hound 1974-unknown

Waggie- the 2ND Terrier Mix 1968-1979

Tuborg Gold- Retriever Mix 1978-1992

Cinder- Buckskin Mare 1968-1995

Suzie- German Short hair 1989-2002

Rounder- Border Collie/Sheltie 1986-2001

Sassie Jean- Siberian Husky 1992-2006

Punkin- Boxer 1987-1997

Kodiak Siberian Husky 2000-2006

Mo Arabian Mare 1977-2006

Pi Palomino Pony 1991-

Dooley Palomino Mini 1984-

Those still with us....

LP Johnie- QH Mare

Paladinn MA- Arab Stallion

Mad About Me- TB Mare

Tess- TB Mare

Lightly Frosted- Pony Stallion

Docs Chica King- QH Palomino Mare

Chicas Little Pepper- QH Mare

Mondo- QH Stallion

Solis Doc Bar- QH Mare

BB Tucker- QH Mare

Abby- Collie Shepard/ Am Bull dog mix

Timber- Siberian Husky

Howie- Siberian Husky

Kimba- Siberian Husky

And to all of those yet to come...

Friday, July 17, 2009

What???? Pictures of me on the net? You don't say.

With all of the shit that is circulating on FHOTD.

Tonight is an all you can muster rant night. Whatever that rant may be.

So tonight it is your night to share anything that may be out there on the net that may embarass you.

So have a few drinks and spill the beans!

You tell us yours, we'll tell you ours. If you acknowledge and admit to it, it's tough for anyone to bring it up as ammo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First he's to fast, then he's to slow.......

I received an email today from Janette that I want to address.

Her question was this....

JR my horse always wants to speed up when we jog and lope. I have tried half-halts, stops and roll backs to try to get my horse to slow down. When we do the half-halts, that only works for a little while, when we do the roll backs that never works and I have tried doing smaller circles and he only speeds up. I have shown him in western pleasure and we are fine for few strides, and then he is back to going to fast, and the same goes for hunter under saddle. Is this a hopeless case for me and my horse or is there something else I can try to do that will help?

Should I stick to just one discipline with him?

On my trainers advice, I have had the vet out to thoroughly check him over, and there are no pain issues. I also had the tack fitted to make sure that is not the problem. And I have been showing him successfully for several years now. This is all seems to be a new bad habit.


Well Janette, I really doubt that your horse is a hopeless case, maybe a little confused, but not hopeless.

When I say that your horse is a little confused, I do not mean that showing him hunter and western is confusing him. What I mean, is that you may be the issue and not the horse or the tack. I commend you for looking at pain and tack issues first, as many riders can easily overlook these things.

I do not use roll backs as a method to try to slow the horse down, rather, I use roll backs to get the horse to give me a little more impulsion as that is really what they are good for when not working a cow. Half-halts I try to avoid because I want the horse to maintain forward impulsion and not anticipate stopping every time he speeds up. If it is indeed the horse is speeding up on his own, which it rarely is, then I like to stop, wait a few moments and start again until he learns that he has to slow down. Kind of like re-booting the computer.

It is always important that we teach a horse to rate, be it off of us or cattle or when we are leading them. I personally prefer my horse to slow down when I slow down or stop when I stop.

The reason that horses speed up the majority of the time, is because the rider is out of balance and out of sync with the horse. If you are riding a western horse, then you need to slow yourself down and stay in one steady rhythm when you jog your horse, if you are riding English and your horse speeds up while trotting then, there again you need to post in one steady rhythm and not get ahead of your horse. Stay centered on your horse.

I always tell my students that our horses are always compensating for something. They have to balance themselves when we are riding them, if we are off balance then generally the horse will speed up to compensate.

While this may seem an easy feat because they have 4 feet, I bet if you ask the horse, they will tell you it is not so easy. Just watch a horse that is being ridden by a rider that is out of balance and you will see how obvious this all is. The horse may still be able to carry on and perform what is being asked, but it won't be as easy for the horse or as pleasing to the eye of the spectator or judge.

As far as sticking to just one discipline with him, I have shown many horses in multiple disciplines and have never had a problem with that. I think they are happier overall because they do not get bored as easily. Unless there are obvious signs that he his unhappy, then keep on showing him in both.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Rotten Neighborhood Blog Party.. Here is your story!!!!

Here is the story that you helped write. My original intention was to set it up as a PDF file and do a link. But with my Pea sized computer brain it is not going to happen that way.

I did change a few things for flow, but this is what we have so far.

Remember this is for a good cause and we will hopefully be able to do something with this.

We do have a little way to go until it is completed, but you all have done a great job so far.


Katie and Firefly!

The Story…..

The Bay mare grazed quietly in the pasture. She was heavy with foal and was staying in one place occasionally grunting as her foal kicked. It would soon be time and her foal would be here. Though she was surrounded by a band of mares she stood alone, the rest of the mares keeping a watchful eye on her…

Including her young owner, a girl of 16 who was a contesting rider. The sire of the foal was an all around champion. From barrels to calf roping, an all around performance horse. He was a Palomino, with 4 socks and a bald face.

The mare resumed her grazing, taking in a mouthful of sweet grass and she tried to nip at a fly on her left flank. Unable to reach it, she then lifted her hind hoof and removed it with a light scrape of her toe. Her shoes had been removed recently, and she felt the soft earth under her as she walked towards one of her pasture mates, a gentle eight year old gray mare. As friends do, they sniffed one another in greeting, the bay mare sighed, and they soon settled into mutual grooming. The mare closed her eyes and she nearly dozed, only to be awakened by her unborn foal as he stretched his legs within her. The young rider smiled as she watched her mare and in her heart hoped for a healthy foal.

The bay mare's owner smiled as her mare looked up and gave a welcoming whicker and left her horse friends to come visit.

The mare knew her young owner well and her favorite person knew just what the mare's favorite treats were. A sliced sweet apple and fingers that knew just exactly where to scratch the itchy spots. They were friends who respected each other and knew each other's ways.
"Hiya Firefly," murmured the young girl in a voice that is reserved for conversation between children and horses...

Firefly knew she was alucky horse indeed to have an owner as caring and committed to her wellbeing as Katie. Firefly had already experienced what can happen when an owner loses interest.

Five years ago, Katie had spotted Firefly from a distance at a local competition. Her owner, a large abrasive woman with a gruff voice had tied her to the trailer after a particularly hard run. Katie had seen them a few times before and often noticed this woman’s disregard for horses in her care.Katie rode by for a closer look and noticed the mare was still breathing hard from having just completed a run. "She should be walking." Katie told the woman. With a scowl the woman spun around and said "Then you do it" tossing the mares reins her direction.
Katie caught the mare’s reins and gently encouraged her to lead off and the mare reluctantly followed.Katie was stunned that the woman did not seem to care who had her horse and after a half hour or so it became clear that she really didn't.As long as, she did not have to be bothered Katie thought to herself. She had not loosened the cinch, or even taken the bridle off let alone, bothered to bring a bucket for water as Katie found out when she had asked.

The mare's owner was off in the clubhouse talking to her society friends and Katie could hear the laughter float down to where she stood with Firefly as she slurped noisily at the cool, clean water that Katie had lugged over. When the mare finished drinking, she rested her fine head on Katie's shoulder and Katie laughed softly as the water dripped off the mare's lips, running down her sweat dampened skin like cool relief. The mare let out a soft sigh and wuffled Katie's hair. "Knock that off silly mare or I'll have to rebraid this mess before my next class" Katie said, laughing as she did. Katie wondered what she should do with the mare.

It wasn't long before the mare’s owner reappeared, startling Katie. She was so entranced with the small star on the horse’s forehead only slightly visible under her knotted forelock. Katie had been untangling it with her fingers when the woman abruptly said, "Don’t bother with that. It doesn't make her run any faster."Katie’s face grew hot as her fist clenched in anger. Her hands gripped the mare’s reins. Her mind raced as she thought of so many things she wanted to say to the woman. Before she could stop herself she blurted out, "You don't deserve a horse like this."
Katie quickly clasped her hands to her mouth as she couldn't believe she'd just said that out loud. The owner couldn't either, she turned to the mare and ripped off all of Firefly's tack, bridle included and said. "Here then! Take her she's as useless to me as you are!!!" So there Katie stood with Firefly, thankfully one of the other competitors had seen what just transpired and quickly lent Katie a lead rope and halter. Firefly gently dropped her head into the halter and waited patiently for what was to come.

She stood there holding the lead rope, totally stunned by what had just occurred. Then a slow smile spread across her face. This lovely, sweet mare was hers. She had only dreamed of having a horse of this caliber.She made her way back to her parent's trailer, Firefly in tow. Now, she just had to convince her parents how wonderful this twist of fate was.
As Katie approached the trailer, she saw her dad. He was busy offering water to his gelding and her mom's mare.Her dad looked from Katie to Firefly and then back to Katie. Katie swallowed hard and said "Dad, you will never guess what just happened in a million years."
"No, I don't think I could ever guess!" he said.

Katie told her father the story, and after hearing what happened, Katie's dad told her "Go get your mom and tell her about this, then we can decided together what we are going to do" Katie walked off to find her mother, smiling hugely because her dad hadn't said she couldn't keep the mare.

Katie's father looked at his daughter and then at Firefly and smiled, he knew where the outcome would be, and he was glad he had brought the four horse trailer.

Katie quickly found her mother at the concession stand where she was trying to pick from the variety of nasty horse show food.Katie grabbed her by the hand and pulled her all of the way back to the trailer. All that she would say to her mother was "You aren't going to believe this!"
Katie's mom stood with her hands on her hips, looking from the mare, to Katie, to Katie's dad, then back again as she listened to the story. She looked to her husband, who grinned sheepishly and shrugged ever so slightly.Katie's mom sighed and said, "Well, we will need to find out if she has papers and get them or at least a bill of sale. Let's go find this 'lovely' woman."Katie and her mom started off in the direction of the woman's trailer. Katie had replaced the borrowed halter with one of her parents', and intended to return it to its owner after she had the mare's papers.
On the way over, Katie spotted the girl who had witnessed the whole thing. The girl came over and introduced herself, "Hi, my name is Brittney."She told Katie and her mother how horrible she always felt for "that woman's horses, the only thing she cares about is winning."Brittney then volunteered to accompany them over to the trailer and stand as a witness.

Katie's mother told them she'd catch up in a minute, and headed back to the truck to grab her purse. When Brittany and Katie arrived at the parking spot, the woman and her trailer were nowhere to be seen. The only evidence she'd ever been there was a crumpled up wad of paper covered in the dust from what must have been a speedy exit, judging by the deep tire tracks in the dirt."Oh, bother," Katie said. "I don't care if she's registered or not. She's mine, and that's that." Kicking the wadded up paper and tugging at Firefly's lead, Katie turned back towards her parents, even more secure in her knowledge that this horse was now hers. What were her parents going to do? Leave the mare standing in the empty parking lot at the end of the day? Lost in her thoughts, Katie didn't realize she'd left Brittany behind, until..."Wait!" Brittany called. Katie stopped. When Brittany caught up, she breathlessly said, "Check...this...out!" and handed Katie the now un-crumpled sheet of paper.

Katie read the paper and realized it was the registration papers for Firefly and the woman had signed the back allowing the mare to be transferred into her nameShe and Brittney proceeded to do the ‘Happy Dance ‘ with some high fives and whoops added in.Meanwhile, Firefly stood gazing at Katie with a soft eye and then she made a gentle wuffle of happiness.Her new life was just beginning.

She presented no problems; it was like she knew she was going home. The ride home was uneventful and when she stepped off of the trailer, Firefly knew this was it. The mental and physical abuse she had suffered at the hands of her previous owner seemed far away, even though it had only been a few hours.

Fortunately, Firefly had not been privy to the conversation, aka "war," going on in the truck's cab, during the drive home. Katie's parents were not thrilled with the addition of a new horse, but they admired their daughter's gumption and desire to do right by this mare. "Honey, what exactly did you say to the woman?" her mom asked, once they'd merged onto the freeway towards home.

"Um, I told her that she didn't deserve the horse." Katie sank into the back seat of the king-cab, hoping her parents would focus on each other instead of her.

Her father had stifled a laugh; Katie was becoming just like her parents, never afraid to say what was on her mind. But still she needed to learn there was time not to say anything.

"Katie! You really need to think before you speak," her dad admonished. Then he turned to his wife. "Do you think there could be any legal issues with this?"

Katie's mom, keeping her eyes on the road, replied, "My guess is the woman was pretty ticked about being called out by a kid. She won't be making any more waves that might bring attention to herself. "

"Okay. Well, I wonder if we should try to contact the owner, see what we need to do." Katie's dad replied, watching the rearview mirror as they turned into their driveway.
Katie piped up, "So, does that mean I can keep her?"

“We will see” replied Katie’s father.

Firefly backed out of the trailer without incident, and it was clear that she was used to hopping down without a ramp. She immediately raised her head and her nostrils filled with scents new and exciting. She let out a loud whinny as if to say, "I'm home", and then lowered her head to Katie to nudge her pocket. Katie smiled in relief when she found a wrapped peppermint that she had intended to give to Pumpkin, but was secretly glad that she'd forgotten. The kind-hearted sorrel Pumpkin would have understood. Firefly crunched the treat and nuzzled Katie for more. The family's cattle dog ran to greet them, suddenly stopping in front of Firefly. There was a hesitant stance, and then he carefully walked over to sniff her heels. Satisfied, he wagged his tail and stretched his body downward and yawned. Katie burst out laughing.

Katie decided to ride her new treasure, Firefly, the next morning. She had seen the mare's papers. Firefly was born to run and had the conformation to prove it.

Katie saddled Firefly, decided to try a sweet iron snaffle bit, and climbed on with no idea of what to expect. Firefly shuffled slowly around the arena with her head low. When Katie asked for a canter Firefly delicately loped at the speed of a sleepy snail. Katie growled at Firefly "What are you doing?!" Katie wanted to impress the new reining people so badly, but Firefly was a joke! She had no speed!Firefly was crushed. She wanted to impress Katie. She thought to herself as she ground her teeth "you idiot child, I have ribbons for doing this. How dare you not love me."
Just then, Katie's dad showed up. "Hey hon’, how's Firefly?"

Katie closed her seat and stopped riding. Firefly "stopped on a dime and gave change." "Dad! Did you see that?" Katie squealed.

"I sure did. Looks like she has some training. My guess is her old owner was riding her too hard. This mare's sensitive. Less is more." He turned back up to the house, chuckling under his breath. This mare was going to teach his daughter how to ride.

"Okay, Firefly, let's try that again." Katie thought "walk" and stretched tall in the saddle
Everything went along quite well for a time Katie rode Firefly all over the property that summer often with Pumpkin in tow. The threesome would disappear into the woods and surrounding pasture lands for hours on end, Katie often taking lunch along in the saddlebags. Their favorite place to stop was under the old sycamore tree down by the stream at the bottom of the hill. Firefly and Katie went together like peas and carrots.

The two mares got along great, even though Firefly towered over Pumpkin. Katie had guessed her height came from the Thoroughbred in her breeding. She was an appendix Quarter Horse as Katie had discovered by her papers the woman had left behind on the ground in the parking lot that fateful day. That was 5 years ago and yet, it seemed like yesterday thought Katie as she stared at the mare’s side and thought about the foal she carried.And then the new folks moved into the neighboring ranch, bringing with them, a lot of big money and high powered reining horses with them.

It was an unfortunate design flaw in an otherwise perfect farm that put Katie's arena directly next to the neighboring ranch's arena. And so the day that Katie took out Firefly for an idle jog around was the same day that Maxie arrived home from boarding school, complete with the latest "former World Champion" schoolmaster that her parents had delightedly paid Maxie's riding coach six figures for.

Katie decided to trust Firefly and her skill level. She knew it was there and she knew she had to ride it in order to get it.

As Katie watched Maxie and her newly paid for already made gelding Simba do their thing, she mounted Firefly and began to practice.

Maxie was a connoisseur of tack. She had rhinestone studded brow bands, gilded saddles; argyle ribbon pads, sheepskin wither relievers, brass-studded nosebands, and jeweled spurs. Today, on the first day home, she whipped out all the bling for the inaugural ride. She had already spotted that dowdy little bay with the kid in jeans next door. It was important to make good first impressions, after all. She fingered her latest purchase, a sparkly, leather-feathered racing whip. She hadn't the slightest idea what to do with it. But it would look fabulous.

Maxie decided to make a maximum impression on the dowdy neighbors, and as she mounted Simba she gleefully decided to do a fast thunder run down the rail between the two arenas.Her bright new whip tapped Simba in a particularly sensitive spot as she put her foot in the stirrup. Maxie was distracted by the picture she had in her mind and wasn't paying enough attention. Simba flinched, jumped up in the air and promptly ran away with Maxie clinging for dear life, half on and half off her horse.

"Here, now!" called a gravelly voice.

Katie looked toward the end of the neighboring arena, where Maxie (who was actually holding on quite well) and Simba were heading at mach speed. A wiry old man with a cigarette somehow adhering to his drooping lower lip stepped forward - he'd been weeding the day lilies planted around the outside of the ring.

Simba slid to a surprised stop, and Maxie fell to the ground with an unceremonious thud. Her new whip had caught on something and broken in two.The old fellow quietly caught up a snorting Simba while Maxie, cheeks burning, brushed shredded tire arena footing from her pants. As he calmly led the horse to his young owner, Katie overheard him snort, spit and deliver a few pithy remarks to her fashionable neighbor.

Maxie looked over at Katie with an embarrassed grin. "Hi, I'm Maxie" she said, leading Simba over to the fence. Firefly stood quietly as Katie introduced herself. Katie couldn't help but smile at Maxie's humbler attitude and sense of fun.

Maxie took another look at Firefly and said "that looks like a horse I've seen before!"
"Really? Are you sure? There are lot of plain bay mares on the circuit," Katie was skeptical, but hopeful."I'm almost positive I've seen her before," Maxie replied, "I recognize the white spot on her left haunch, the one that looks like a little firefly bug." Katie was truly surprised at this; no one else had noticed the small collection of Bird catcher spots. Maybe she did know her!"Do you remember where you saw her before? Any information you have would be great," she smiled.
"Was her owner a very snooty woman?""Well, she wasn't exactly NICE," she replied, pulling a face.Maxie giggled, and stopped, blushing, when the old man walked by with a handful of weeds. The girls watched him stalk toward the manure pile."Who is he?" whispered Katie."Some cowboy type guy, Dad just hired him for cleaning stalls, grooming, feeding, and maintenance... that kind of thing.""Huh. Well, anyway, I call her Firefly. She's registered Appendix, very fast from what I can tell... Hey, where'd you get that headstall? It's.... sparkly. And I think that our horses could use a drink!"Maxie looked back at her sweaty gelding. "OK, I get the point.... I was just really excited to get him, and ride him, you know? But I think your mare might be almost as good, if she's the one I'm thinking of..." "What do you mean, ALMOST?"Just then, the two horses touched noses, squealed and farted. The girls dissolved into giggles while the old cowboy, unnoticed, squinted intently at Firefly.The "Old Man" as some referred to him, had forgotten more about horses than, a lot of so called experts ever knew. The work he had hired on to do was his own choice. Not caused by any type of hard luck story.He knew that people have short memories and most often see what they want to see and this served him very well in what he had chosen to do with his golden years.

The girls led their horses off for a drink, giggling. They disappeared behind the barn and the cowboy tilted his hat back and chewed intently on a sweet stem of alfalfa. That little bay mare seemed awful familiar. Looked just like the filly out of his old favorite mare, Lady. A thoroughbred mare he had picked up for a song at the local track and turned out to be one of his best roping mares. She was smart, competitive with huge burst of speed and well-known by the local rodeo crowd for her habit of biting him in the boot if he happened to miss the calf.
A wry smile lit his face.

He had bred her to his old red quarter horse stallion. He had called his stud simply "King," out of Wimpy, one of the famous King Ranch studs. The old guy had pretty bad arthritis toward the end, but he was a well-behaved fellow, and on the warm summer afternoons when he would nicker at the gate and toss his head in anticipation, the cowboy would saddle him up and take a leisurely ride to the local diner for a cup of coffee. King seemed to enjoy the outing and the cowboy, well he always enjoyed showing him off.It did him good to see the mare. The last time he had seen her had been at the auction, along with the other 30 head of horses he bred, raised and trained himself and lost to the gavel in one painful afternoon. A few years of depressed meat prices combined with the death of his ranch partner brother, and the bank had come calling. He lost them all, his horses, his land and his pride.

That night, Katie remembered, was the first night she dreamt about Firefly. In her dream, the mare was prancing into an arena, and then she burst brilliantly through the start gate, and turned a blistering time in on the barrels.

The old man had a restless night as well. They years after he lost the ranch had been tough and he spent more time than he cared to remember - and thankfully he didn't remember much - getting tossed out of bars and thrown into jail. The worst part was thinking of his horses and how he let them down. Especially the young ones like the little mare the girl was calling "Firefly." She would have had her whole life ahead of her when he sent her to auction and he had figured she would have made him a fine working cow horse, not to mention a hell of a competitor just like her dam.

In the morning, dream still tucked safely in her pocket, Katie walked out to the barn to feed. As she turned into the hay room, she nearly ran into the old man from next door.
"Excuse me," he said.

"What are you doing here? Are the horses okay?"

He had gone out to the barn early that morning just to see to make sure the mare was real. He stood in the rising morning light and saw again the familiar muscled lines of his old stud, and the deep girth and kind eye of her dam. It kind of felt like finding a lost-long child, seeing one of the last of his line of horses.

Katie had startled him from his reverie with her abrupt appearance.

"They're up," he grumbled, as Katie rushed by him into the barn. He never was much for chit-chat.

The old man took one last glance around the barn. Nice place, he thought. Not fancy like his workplace next door, but everything was orderly and the horses had the unmistakable bloom of good health and grooming. He turned to leave... and ran into Katie's father."Do I know you?" he asked, calmly, with a very firm edge, but a little quizzically, as if he did indeed recognize the dried up cowboy.

Sam looked at The Old Man, and realized he did recognize him from that auction years ago. He had himself sold a horse that same day and watched from a distance with a great deal of sympathy as the Old Man sold horse after horse to the crowd.

After chatting about the weather for a few minutes, Sam asked, "Well, I could be needing a bit of help around here, keeping things maintained and the horses fed and such. You interested?" as he thought the Old Man looked more than capable. The Old Man replied simply "Sure. When do I start, and what’s the pay?"They agreed on $400 a week, and shook hands. The Old Man was outwardly non-emotional, but inwardly he was happy to be around his Lady's daughter again. He thought that the mare had found a fellow kindred soul in Sam's daughter, but Katie didn't really have any idea what she had in that mare. He'd have to show her what the mare was bred to do without offending her dad or her. He thought then of the foal in Firefly's belly. He thought he knew a bit of the stud, the palomino located some miles up the road. He'd seen the stud in some of the rodeos, and while not exactly impressed with the horse, knew the horse was decent enough. He'd have to make sure he was with the mare when she foaled. As he was walking down the barn out to the pasture, he happened to look up at Firefly, who was standing at the fence watching him as if she knew he was thinking about her. He gently rubbed her between her eyes, and really started to look at her then. He noticed the subtle signs that her time was closer than he'd realized. Much closer. Well, she's ready to foal tonight, he realized with the same familiar joy and anticipation that was always mixed with a healthy dose of worry. No matter how many mares' he'd watched have their foals, there was always that chance of something going wrong. As he stood there musing and rubbing the mare's forehead, the sun was dropping down below the horizon, casting shades of gold, red, orange, and a multitude of colors never named over the ranch. Night was coming quickly with the promises of what was to come.

As the Old Man wandered off towards the neighboring ranch he called home, the sun shone warm upon his face. He had just secured himself a steady supplement to his income for his honest work. Things were starting to look up in his world again. As he neared the fence and property line, his old dog ran up to greet him. He smiled broadly as he said to his dog, "Well, maybe now things will finally start to come back around."

As he stood there musing and rubbing the mare's forehead, Katie walked up and softly said, "Isn't she beautiful?" The Old man looked at Katie with tears in his eyes and told her how lucky Firefly was to have her. Katie told The Old Man how Firefly came into her life and how Katie was the lucky one.

They stood there in thoughtful silence watching her graze and swishing at flies.
Sam's mind wandered back to when Firefly was born. Lady had an uneventful pregnancy but her delivery was anything but uneventful, it became a very touch and go situation. There had been a very real possibility that both Lady and her foal wouldn’t make it.Lady had started her labor out normally, and progressed very quickly. As her contractions got closer and closer together, she started to push the foal out of her body... but something was very wrong. The foals legs were bent backwards at the knees, and no matter how hard she pushed, she would never be able to get the baby out on her own.The Old Man had been forced to manually move both forelegs into the correct position for the filly to be born, a very tricky and difficult maneuver. He had almost lost both the mare and the foal, but his quick actions had allowed the foal to be put into the correct birthing position. It wasn't very soon after that Lady had a brand new filly lying by her side. He had named the little filly Duchess, but the little girl's name of Firefly fit the bay mare as well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Working on the Lope/Canter Departure

Today I got an email asking me how I get a horse to depart into the lope from a walk or stop and how I get him to pick up the correct lead.

I think that before we get started there are some things that need to be understood about the mechanics of the departure and the lead, that will help in teaching a horse how to move into those transitions and how to pick up the correct lead. And we need to go over the positioning of the riders legs as well.

1) The departure and the lead start on the outside hind leg. When the horse pushes off of his outside hind, that allows him to pick up the inside hind and the inside shoulder. At this point in the horses training, he should know how to use his hind end.

2) It will work better if the horse is straight and parallel to the rail, that way he will not be able to drop his inside shoulder. If the horse drops his inside shoulder, then he will not be able to pick up the correct lead.

3) The position of the rider is very important. If the rider drops his inside shoulder, then the horse will do the same. The rider needs to be centered on the horse.

4) The riders inside leg should be back behind the cinch/girth and the outside leg should be at the same place as the inside leg. When a rider moves his outside leg further back than the inside leg, the horses hip will move to the inside and that horses shoulder will move towards the rail. Remember, the departure should be as straight as possible.

5) The horse must be moving off both of my legs laterally before we move into teaching departures.

Now that we have established mechanics and position, then we are ready to ask for the departure.

What I like to do is teach the horse to relax before we do anything new, so I like to walk to horse down the rail on a loose rein dong small circle to make sure that they are going to follow their face and that they will bend around my leg.

When I feel that they are ready, I will ask them to stop and stand, then I like to squeeze with my legs and ask them to take a few steps forward before stopping again. After doing that a few times, I will stop again and ask for then ask for the lope by clucking and then kissing and cuing with my outside leg. If the horse does not pick up the lope, then I will stop and ask again. I do not want the horse top pick up the trot first because I do not want to teach him that habit and I do not want them to speed up.

If the horse does not pick up the correct lead, I do not like to do smaller circles as that makes the horse drop his shoulder an speed up. I want the departure to be slow and correct so the horse will stay quiet and slow while he lopes. I also like to leave the horses face alone so he is comfortable while leaning his departures, so I like to work on a loose rein.

I have found that this is the best way to teach horse his departures, it is simple and it makes it easy for the horse without any confusion, and by eliminating the confusion this does not take long teach your horse his departures at all.

When I am asked to fix a lead problem, I do the same thing, in other words, I go back to basics with the horse.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rotten Neighborhood Blog Party

I am working on a link to the story in it's entirety. Any help setting up A pdf file would be greatly appreciated. I am a horse trainer not a computer genius, you are lucky I have figured out how to post.

I have finished with what we have already. Please help me continue the rest of the story.

Here's where we left off last week with our story:

Sam's mind wandered back to when Firefly was born. Lady had an uneventful pregnancy but her delivery was anything but uneventful, it became a very touch and go situation. There had been a very real possibility that both Lady and her foal wouldn’t make it.
Lady had started her labor out normally, and progressed very quickly. As her contractions got closer and closer together, she started to push the foal out of her body... but something was very wrong. The foals legs were bent backwards at the knees, and no matter how hard she pushed, she would never be able to get the baby out on her own.

The Old Man had been forced to manually move both forelegs into the correct position for the filly to be born, a very tricky and difficult maneuver. He had almost lost both the mare and the foal, but his quick actions had allowed the foal to be put into the correct birthing position. It wasn't very soon after that Lady had a brand new filly lying by her side. He had named the little filly Duchess, but the little girl's name of Firefly fit the bay mare as well.

As far as tonight's post goes......What are your favorite memories with your horses?

Have a Happy 4th of July and a Safe Weekend!

We will be back to training on Monday!