Thursday, November 16, 2017

(Video) My 5th Ride On Beautiful Girl

This is officially my 5th ride on Bee, but I'd really say 2nd, since the first three could barely be called rides--they were more about getting on to see what I had and didn't have so that I could go back to the drawing board.

Today, there were more distractions, and she started out a little grumpy.  You can hear the planes going by (they're training at the base today) and it rained all night and is cold out.

I lunged her in saddle, threw the rope around her, bent her in on both sides, walked her around the arena and over the poles, and then mounted.

At 3:19, you will see her going to the side and backing up a little.  That is because she sees the obstacles in her path.  She does the same thing, but worse, when I'm ground driving her, until she gets used to going over them.  You'll see her think through and resolve the issue, then move forward.  A similar thing happens at the poles.  She wants to move them out of our way.  Horses are very unsure of themselves when they first have riders on their backs, and they feel less confident of their feet.  She doesn't want to take bad steps, so she tries to move the poles.  I think that's quite nice of her..and smart.

She was bracing against the bit today, so tomorrow I'll go back to ground driving.  I'd rather work on softness in the bridle from the ground than when she is also worried about balancing a rider.  For a while, I may be alternating between driving and riding.

Before and after, we worked on going through puddles.  Like most Mustangs, she likes the water.  I imagine it brings back times with her herd.  Every mustang has been to a watering hole with their mama.

A Day of Buck Reckoning

I must have an extreme sense of self-preservation because I could not sleep last night with my mind firing off, what seemed an infinite amount of data, about my ride on Beautiful Girl yesterday.  I was tossing and turning as my fingers, legs, stomach, skin--my whole body--was processing the feel of that ride with the image of her bucking my trainer off.

And there were words and questions just reeling and reeling.  Was she mad? Was she startled? Is she a dirty bucker? Can you stop a buck? What might provoke a buck? Can I handle being bucked off? ....on and on.

The bucking did not jive with what I felt in saddle yesterday.  It didn't jive then with what I'd always known of her.  She wasn't a bucker, she was a backer.  Any time Bee was scared, she'd back up--not kick out or buck.  But she definitely bucked that evening.  It was big.

And, I did see her buck a few times on the line, in saddle,--AFTER the bucking incident--which is perfectly normal for horse, but not so much for her.  I didn't make a big deal about it, but continued to push her forward on the circle and she quit.  Was that good enough to break a habit--if she'd formed one?

Tossing and turning (keeping my husband awake) I played the moments (my ride & my trainer's) over and over--and compared them to one another.  Then I remembered--

I have it all on tape!  I took a gazillion photos and a couple videos leading up to the buck.  It seemed so smoothe--so boring even--I stopped taping--

right before the buck.

At 5:00 am, my eyes popped open.  And, the first thing that came to my mind was--FIND THOSE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!

I did, and now I'm going to reconstruct the evening here.  I'm looking for data from Bee--warning signs--something to learn from.  I AM NOT questioning my trainer, and I ask that you not either.  It was Bee's 5th ride and she she hadn't shown any signs of bucking up to that day.  My trainer took her time at every step and only proceeded to the next when she felt safe to do so.  This is all about me analyzing my horse so that I can have a plan for future rides.

Here it goes:

 We practiced loading and unloading her into two different trailers, taking our time with each.

When my trainer felt she was calm, she secured the panel, then she closed the door and sat on the wheel well of the trailer (from the outside) to observe Bee as I drove down the driveway.  Bee was calm, so she gave me the thumbs up and we proceeded to the arena.

Unloading and walking to the roundpen.

Letting Bee check things out.

Bee is alert and looking at another horse we'd brought in a separate trailer.  That horse is nineteen, but very scared in new situations, and he was acting up.

 Allowing Bee to check out the tack and mounting block.

Bee is still alert.

She gets her moving again.

What do I see in Bee?

1. She's not giving 100% attention to the rider.
2. She's resisting transition to the trot.
3. She checks in with me and the other observer--another sign of distraction.
4. My trainer has the perfect amount of contact with her in the bit.

(not seen on video)

5. At the time of the buck, she was moving on the rail in a straight line.
6. Before the buck, she was moving at a trot, and she showed no signs of resistance or agitation.
7. The buck seemed to have come out of nowhere, as if it was purely involuntary.
8. After she was done bucking, she stood calm, my trainer remounted, and she rode on perfectly.
9. One added bit of info: this was the first time she'd been taken off our property in 9 years.  That's pretty big.

How do I analyze that?

There are many times our horses aren't tuned into us 100%, but Bee is a green horse, and it's more important than ever that I have her undivided attention each step of the way.

I think, too, I will probably keep her in a circle for a while before letting her move out on straight lines--and then only short segments.  She needs to practice bending and moving--and it is more difficult to buck in a circle.

I will also keep contact in the bit for now.  I need to have that slight feel of her mouth at all times--if it becomes bracey, I know something is brewing, and I'm in a better position to pull her head up and around.  It all gives her another level of support from me and reminds here that I'm up there.  On that note, I'll continue to do some ground driving so that our communication through the bit becomes more and more rock solid on its own.

She needs lots of encouragement, so I'll stop her more often and give her praise and rest. She likes to please.  Leah hates to be told "good girl", but Bee melts when she hears it.

She has to be introduced to going new places slowly.  When I do trailer her away, the first few times I'll only pony her--no in saddle work.  Bee is a horse that has to have each step solid before proceeding to the next--no holes.

Oh, and I'm going to do all of our work at the walk until she's solid carrying a rider and yielding to leg and bit.  There's no reason for me to push her to the next gait before she's mastered the first.

I don't know if I'll face a buck from her someday-but I can sure narrow my chances with preparation.  I'm pretty positive she did not do it to be mean or to fight.  I believe wholeheartedly it was done instantaneously as a reaction to something that she perceived might hurt her.

I'm heading out this morning to ride her.  I'm asking my husband to take some video which I'll share later.

My next post will recap everything I've done to train Beautiful Girl since the bucking incident. We've done quite a bit.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Our Best Ride Yet--In the Saddle With Beautiful Girl

Why would I ever want less than a complete and willing partnership?

Today, I decided to work with Bee, and see how it went.  If it went well, I hoped to ride her.

After her bucking incident with my trainer, I went back to the fundamentals.  Lots of time standing tied, working on the line in saddle, and ground driving, in the halter and bit, over lots of scary obstacles.  I wanted to accomplish a few things--communication through reins and bit, comfort carrying a saddle, and courage to face new obstacles, without me by her side where she can see me (as it will be when I'm mounted).

To prepare her today, I lunged her at walk, trot, and lope, in saddle.  I threw the rope around her body, from both sides, until I got her to turn in and accept it.  I bent her in to both sides from the ground.
As you can see in the photo, her bend is quite lovely and soft.  So soft, that I decided I would have enough control, should I need to bend her in during our ride.  

I mounted and rode, and we had the best ride yet.  She wasn't sticky or reactive to my leg cues.  She wasn't stressed about the bit in her mouth.  She yielded to pressure in the bit.  She was paying attention.  She was calm.

As I was unsaddling her, I felt this feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It was the feeling of fear.  I hadn't felt it while I was riding her, but apparently, it was there.  I told Bee that we probably both have a little of that right now, and about the time we both don't have it--we'll be riding all over the place together.  Until then, we don't have to push things.  We can continue to take our baby steps and build our courage.

After riding Bee, and praising her to heaven and above, I went to get my boy--my heart horse, Cowboy.  I have been trying to ride him every day to improve  his elderly condition.  

Here, you can see Mt. Spokane between Cowboy's ears.

For some reason, the herd is keeping him away from the food.  I have to go get him and bring him in to eat every day.  You can see how they've banished him to the furthest corner here.

I got a ride on him yesterday, too.  It was sunny and gorgeous out.

 I got a new helmet last month--the Fallon Taylor turquoise riding helmet.  I LOVE it.  It's so comfortable, I forget I'm wearing it, and I wear it into the house!

It has an adjustable band in the back, which you can customize to fit your own head.  It clicks to loosen and clicks back to tighten.  Brilliant!!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Baby Steps and A Baby

My equine journey of the last couple of years should be an inspiration to readers, as well as a cautionary tale.  An inspiration because I learned that you just have to keep going--baby steps--if you're going to get anywhere with your horses (100 Day Challenge) and a cautionary tale because it took me so long to learn that.  

This was clinic weekend--Trail and Colt Starting.  The Trail went great.  I had two of my granddaughters with me and they were awesome.  My oldest, rode Penny, Little Joe AND Leah through the challenge.  My youngest, rode Penny and Little Joe through.   I could not have been more proud of them.

On Sunday, I had the Colt Starting Clinic.  I took Cowgirl, Leah, and Beautiful Girl (Bee).  

As you know, I still have that bucking incident in my mind.  After that happened, I went back to the drawing board.  Lots of ground work and driving.  I wanted to have as much as solid as possible before adding the rider. (Even though, I did ride her a few times--but it didn't feel right.)

At the clinic, I walked her through, then drove her through in halter, then drove her through using the bit and long lines.  It was a lot of work!  She balked at several of the obstacles and it took some real work to get her to take those first steps into it.  It's amazing how brave they are when we're on the ground with them, versus when they can't see us.  

I felt so good about it all afterward, I asked if we could ride her through with Rebecca, the trainer, at our side.  I wanted her to get a feel for carrying a rider into tight, scary situations, but still have a security blanket.  She had to think about a lot--the bit giving her direction--my legs--her feet and where she was placing them--the saddle sliding around--and balancing my weight up and down the bridge (the bridge was set on four tires).

My hope is that we go so slow with this training---baby steps--that she comes out the other side a broke horse and doesn't even know it.

I also rode Cowgirl, who I've been stealing from my daughter.  She's always a rock star.  I'm hoping to start training her to open and close gates, pull logs, and higher level ranch work.

It's a win-win for me.  Someday, she may be carrying around my grand-babies!  She's a lot of horse and she needs to be used!

I rode Leah through it bareback on Sunday because she had already gone through and did the whole clinic on Saturday.  She was bored to death, so I asked one of the other ladies if she'd like to ride her.  She did and they did great.

After the clinic, I loaded Bee back into the trailer because she needs practice with that, but she surprised me and did AWESOME!!  (The other two mares were just let back into the pasture through an adjoining gate).  I  put her away and traded out for my heart horse--Cowboy.  We rode through the pastures in our neighborhood.  We walked, trotted, and we ran with the wind.  Then, we practiced opening and closing the gate in between the indoor arena and our pasture and visited with my trainer, Rebecca.


Did I tell you about the trail ride last week where my hubby and I were galloping through the woods at James T. Slavin Wildlife Preserve and my hubby lost his stirrup?  He grabbed onto the horn of his saddle, so I had to get alongside them and grab Penny's reins to bring her to a stop.  He thought he broke his tail bone, but it healed up after a couple of days and he's fine.  Poor guy. 


Today was rainy and a cold 38 degrees. I didn't want to go out side in it.

But I did.

After a clinic, I like to play the catch and release game.  I approach them with the halter--and of course, they don't want to get caught because they're eating and it's cold and they don't want to be hauled away.  But when they do finally get caught, I halter and release them and give them a treat.  Nowadays, it only takes doing it with one horse for the others to know the game is being played and they start coming over to get caught, too.  


Did I tell you I want to raise one more baby?  When Cowboy is fully retired, I want to raise one more.  I have immensely enjoyed training Leah and Bee--and I think I have it in me for one more.  Not yet, but in the near future.  If I'm 51-55, the baby would be nearing 30 by the time I turn 80.  I plan to be in saddle until AT LEAST 80 years old and that would be the way to go--aging with a baby I've raised and trained.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rain, Snow, Wind, It Ain't Keepin' Me From My Horses

It is winter. No, it is still fall.  But it is winter. And, today I had cheesecake for breakfast.  Which about sums up my feelings about an early winter.

But before you consider an intervention on my behalf, you will be happy to know I am still getting out to ride.  Yesterday, was the first big snow, and I thought, what I do today will set the tone for the rest of this season. 

I got out and rode.  

And rode.

Today, more snow, but more sunshine, too

Since I'd set a precedent yesterday...

I got a ride in before work today.  I certainly won't be getting one after work, since we're off Daylight Savings Time now.  It will be dark by 4:30 pm tonight.

While I was out there today,  I had a few thoughts:

Thoughts on lunging ahead of riding. 

Not a huge fan of this due to the monotony for the horse, but it does have a purpose, and that was brought home to me today.  I put Leah in a stall yesterday, and she had lots of pent up energy this morning.  I decided to ride it out.  But if you ride it out, you spend a lot of  your precious time working on listening and partnering--and, not wanting her to work up a sweat on a cold day--that was all we worked on.

Thoughts on a heated tack room. 

My tack room is warm and cozy, and as I was tacking up Leah, she kept putting her head through the door to get a feel of the warmth.  I had placed her bridle and bit near the heater to get extra warm because WHO LIKES A COLD BIT in your mouth?!?  It's almost as irritating as someone writing in caps.

The benefits of riding multiple horses.

The more I ride more horses, the more horses I want to ride.

I didn't know if my heart was big enough for 1, 2, 3, 4 horses, but I've found it already was.  I caretake all 8 of the horses--and I'd become more bonded to the all of them than I knew.  And, them to me.

I've been riding Cowgirl, and though it was a bit scary at first since she's a big, strong, athletic mare, she has turned out to be extremely fun.  My daughter is more than happy for me to ride her and work on her "issues."  

One issue is her cinchiness.  Cowgirl has a reputation for "blowing up."  Her first trainer recommended a gel cinch, but I switched her to my favorite--Weaver mohair Smart Cinch.  Before I cinch the saddle, I massage under her armpits and belly--everywhere the cinch may touch--on both sides.  Then I tighten it to a 6 out of 10.  I buckle the back cinch.  Tighten the front to 7 out of 10. Secure the breast collar.  Tighten the front cinch to 8 out of 10.  Walk her into the arena.  Finish tightening the cinch.  And, it works brilliantly.  

Riding different horses helps me to understand each one of them better--their strengths and weaknesses.  And, it's just fun.

The benefits of riding in the winter. 

The reason I'm sad to see fall go is because I am a trail rider, and riding on the trails is pretty much over in the winter.  Why?  Because of ice and holes and other obstacles that might be covered by snow.  It's more danger than I'm willing to subject my horses or myself.  I ride the fields, but I know them very well.

Thoughts on power postures. 

I was reading an article this weekend on power postures or poses and their ability (or inability) to make people more successful.  Powerful people tend to spread their bodies out more--get big--throw their legs and arms out, cradle their head in their arms with elbows out. 

As I was riding today, and Leah was full of energy and making herself big, I thought I'd try riding my own body bigger.  Now, power postures don't work if people don't have the skills and confidence to back them up, but I do have the skill to ride Leah confidently, and I did.  I looked out at the big world we were riding into--not down at her or our feet.  I opened up my chest as if I was going to sprout wings and fly off with her.  I opened up my hips and sat deeper.  

She felt it and she liked it. Makes sense, doesn't it?  When we're crouched down, we're a sickly burden to them. But when we open ourselves up, they can move more freely.


Thoughts on Beautiful Girl, aka Bee.

I was working with Bee a lot last week before the snow.  She has been doing great.  We have our colt clinic on the 12th of November--Trail Clinic on the 11th.  To prepare for that, I'm going to keep taking her over to the next door barn.

I also started driving her in bridle and bit.  I want to have that down, more smoothly than we do now, before I ride her again.  I feel like the more things we've accomplished well before I ride, the less she has to worry about.

Thoughts on the 100 Day Challenge.

I hit Day 138 today.  I label each day on its blog post so that you can click on it and see what last year's 100 Day Challenge looked like on the same day.  There is nothing to compare it to anymore because I've exceeded last year.  That is why I love the 100 Day Challenge.  It has been such a great inspiration for getting out there and riding and working on days that you wouldn't normally go out there--RAIN, SNOW, WIND--that's life.  They're not going away, and they're not going to keep me from my horses.