Tuesday, July 28, 2020

All About the Wait

The more we work, the easier things get. After the first bucky day back, Tumbleweed has settled. It's extremely hot outside mid-day, so we have to get our work done in the early morning.  If he has had time to eat, he's great.  If he's still a little hungry, he is preoccupied with getting back to grazing.

We are working on everything: standing tied while I spray him with fly spray, use the clippers, saddle and unsaddle. He does all of it fine, now that he had the training, but he still flinches.  Until he learns to accept it without flinching, I have daily work to do.

Which brings me to what I've been learning to do better since starting the Masterson Method--WAIT for the RELEASE.

There are two reactions from our horses--relaxation/acceptance and bracing/flight. I used two words for each, but they are really the same thing. When I spray Tweed or throw a blanket on his back, he is fighting the instinctive reaction to brace himself for flight--to pull and fight himself away from a threat.  When he knows he's okay, and he's ready to accept being sprayed or having a blanket thrown on him, he is engaged and relaxed, and ready.

But when are they truly relaxed?

That is the key to the Masterson Method--waiting for the signs: licking, yawning, chewing, shifting weight, relaxed eyes.  And it comes...if you wait...and wait...and wait.

Sometimes, it's difficult to know if they're giving you relaxation or evasion.  Tweed is good at evasion--something I knew before he left, and something the trainer picked up pretty quick.  He will try not to see what he's scared of by looking the other way and tuning it out.  So, you might see some signs of relaxation, but it is really him just avoiding and thinking about something else.  I am becoming better at discerning between the two. Here is an 18 second clip showing him accept the fly spray.

 I don't know if this seems overly meticulous to all of you, or spot on.  Years ago, I probably would have said overly meticulous, but then I discovered there is no short cut to true acceptance / partnership / unity.  I learned that the extra time you spend waiting at each step, builds a more solid foundation for the next.  When I've failed to wait for these things, I've sometimes gotten into trouble. I'm basically an impatient person, and prefer to power through everything. Sometimes, that works--or, I should say, I get away with it. And then, sometimes I don't, and barely live to tell about it.

I took the saddle I was trying out to my saddle guy yesterday, and he said it's solid, but the latigo is original--aged and thin--and he's going to replace that and a couple of other things to make sure nothing snaps off.  It's a little squeaky, so I'm going to powder it and hope to get rid of that.  I had to buy a new blanket (ended up getting one just as large as the others.  It said it was 30", but is really 32" and too long for him right now, but I like the color and will save it for later), and a new smart cinch for it.  It should be ready to go in a couple of days.  For now, he's packing the kids english saddle.

So many blankets, but so few that fit.  Isn't that always the problem?  I need to take some of these off for consignment.

Here's his new blanket--too long--but I love the color.  I'm going to keep it.

And here's the blanket that came with the saddle I'm buying--not as nice or pretty-but it fit better.  Grrr.

This week, besides working to get Tumbleweed going and me in the saddle with him, we are redoing the arena to prepare for it.  My husband just left to get all the materials for two new bridges: one, the squishy bridge mounted on tires, and two, a much longer, wider bridge on the ground.  It will three times as long as the last one.  These will be sturdier and will be made of treated wood.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Getting Started Again With Tumbleweed

I hope everyone is surviving okay during the pandemic.  Crazy, crazy times.  I haven't really mentioned it in the blog because it is so sensive / painful / chaotic / emotional / fill in the blank.  Depending on which day you talk to me, I have been alternately sad, mad, depressed, resigned, or in denial.

I keep my sanity by getting outside into nature and really practicing gratitude--especially on the hardest days. While the world has gone wonky, nature has remained the same, and I'm very thankful for that.

There have been good things about Covid. Because of the many extracuricullar cancellations, my grandkids have had more time to come over this summer and play with horses.  They've also helped us with projects around the ranch.  Covid has restricted our gatherings of friends, and concentrated our emotional/social time much more toward family--where it has always mostly been, but now even more so. Our adult kids are over more, too, and we've been playing more games.  I suppose, it has simplified life.

We just finished up a wild and crazy week jam-packed with kids, a new grandbaby, our brothers and sisters and families, and yesterday, my granddaughters for a very busy horse playday.

The playday was planned around a practictioner for the Masterson Method coming here and working on Cowboy.  It was his second session with Sarah Krahn. I have been watching the videos on his site and following along with his book, but it's always better to see it done in person. Some of what I've learned, I passed onto friends and family--including my grands.  I wanted them to come watch Sarah in action, especially my oldest granddaughter, who is going to attend a weekend workshop this fall.

So, we did all of that--and it was wonderful to watch--Cowboy is very expressive with his releases--and then we spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the arena.

It was the first day back to work for Tumbleweed, who had fallen through the cracks because of all the family gatherings.  I had hoped to ride him a week after he got home, but I didn't have a bridle and bit or saddle set up for him.  I had to go shopping, and then test out a smaller, used saddle that would fit his short back.

I didn't know what to expect on the first day working him, but I tied him to the trailer and threw on the blanket and saddle.  He flinched, but stood still.  He continued to stand still while I dinked around with the cinches trying to get them fitted properly. That was impressive.

After he was saddled and walked around, I lunged him. He was quite bucky going left on the line, and then a dust devil hit us, and scared the bejeezers out of him.  Let's just say, we had a lot to work through. Besides the dust devil, it seemed like his pissiness was due to the other horses being loped around him, and Foxy being led out of the arena.  (They've rebonded.)

This video was towards the end.

Needless to say, there was no way I was going to ride him in that frame of mind.  So, we finished up and he practiced standing tied while I threw the new saddle onto Cowboy to try it out.  It wasn't bad.  The seat feels hard, compared to mine, but the fenders hang nice and are thin enough to put your leg in a natural position around him.  It is a Pioneer Big Horn, and it seems like it's in great shape.  I'm going to take it to our local saddle shop tomorrow and have him inspect it.  If my saddle guy likes it, I'll put some money into updating it for what I need.

(The gap between the fender and the seat skirt closed when I adjusted the fenders shorter, but the little bulge was still uncomfortable. I'm going to ask my saddle guy what he can do about that.  And, it needs D rings, a new Latigo--and an overall leather & tree inspection. It doesn't appear to pinch him anywhere.  It's a litle saddle, which is what he needed, but the seat fits me, and the stirrups are rigged to go pretty long, too--well past the length I need.)

This week is going to be super hot, so any work we do will have to be in the morning or evening.  But I have to find a way to get out there everyday with him and get him back to where his trainer left off. Until the saddle is inspected, I won't ride him in it, but I'll let him pack it around while he gets his working brain back.  I had been giving him a little grain, but I'm going to cut that out, too.  The number one thing my trainer asked me to do was SEPARATE him from the herd A LOT.  If I do nothing else all year, that is her number one request.

So, let the adventure begin.  I will take it day by day, and never do anything that will be too risky.  I will also make a date with my trainer up here.  The sooner I start lessons with her and Tweed, the better.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tumbleweed is Home

On Friday my daughter and I drove down to Clarkston, WA to pick up our horses--Cowgirl, after getting a tuneup and being bred to the appy stallion, and Tumbleweed, who went down for what I call "kindergarten."

Before I sent Tumbleweed down for his 2 year old training, I did debate the pros and cons of sending a horse that young, and I realized he was an immature 2 who still had a lot of baby characteristics.  But I also realized that his mind was a sponge for learning, and what he learns now, good and bad, will stick with him for the rest of his life.  In fact, Cowgirl, my daughter's horse, got 30 days with our same trainer, 14 years ago, as a 2 year old, and that's all she ever needed until this last "tuneup."  (But mares are different, and she was a much more mature 2. Tumbleweed will definitely need a follow up next year. Also, the only reason she needed a tune up is because my daughter was finishing up her college and neglected her the last couple of years.)

The first week of Tumbleweed's training was really just "weaning" him from Foxy mama.  I added on 10 days to make up for that.  Sarah, the trainer, thought that was a good idea, and she said that he was really just starting to absorb the lessons in the final week.  However, it was also ending at the perfect time, because he was about at the max of what he could handle for now.

So, what did he learn and accomplish at 2 year old kindergarten?

1. Weaning from Foxy Mama and learning to self-console and be indepedent.
2. Standing tied all day long, when he wasn't working.
3. Loading in a trailer and backing out of the trailer.
4. Picking up all four feet and standing still, like a gentleman, for the farrier. (1st set of shoes, he did awesome!)
5. Respecting space.
6. Bending, disengaging front and back. (Lots and lots and lots of that. It's one of the foundations of Sarah's work.)
7. Ground driving.
8. Carrying a saddle, bit and bridle.
9. Trimming bridle path. (She worked on him with clippers everyday, even if it was just turning them on and holding them against his skin.)
10. Being ponied and showing respect while being ponied.
11. Being ridden at all three gaits.
12. Stopping, backing up, understanding leg cues.
13. Inroduction to spurs. (The only time he ever kicked up was when she first had to lay a spur on his side. It shocked him.)

Report Card:

One thing about my trainer, Sarah, she will give you an honest assessment of your horse at the end of the day.  Some of it, you'll be proud, and some of it, you'll go, ugh.  You just have to be ready for the truth of the current snapshot.  It might change next year--in fact, it probably will change next year, and the next--but some of it is their personality, and may remain forever.

Regarding Tumbleweed:  I'll give you the bad report first.  He's butt high and and gangly, and she warned me that his trot is rough.  She wasn't kidding.  It almost shook me out of the saddle as I tried to sit back and ask for the lope.  It's what I laughingly refer to as a "jackhammer" trot.  But Sarah is used to riding two year olds, all day long, for thirty years, and she knows how to sit it and absorb the roughness in her feet while letting the rest of her body relax into it.  He will continue to grow, muscle up, and the front will catch up with the powerful back end, and that will all change.  So, no big deal.  For now, she says it's probably best that I continue to work him at the walk--and leave the loping to her next spring. He did amazing when I lost my balance (something I'll get to about his POSITIVE list) but if I were to come off working on that transition, it would set his training back.

Second negative, he's "lazy."

Now, I could put this in the PRO column!!  In fact, for me, it is a pro.  I can handle lazy much better than hot.  Sarah, though, had to introduce him to spurs to keep him going.  When I rode him, I had to constantly urge him forward with my legs, and smack his butt with the rein. I need to ride him actively and keep him turning, and walking, and learning how to balance a rider AND listen for cues. She says I only need to do that a couple times per week so that he remembers his lessons.

My feeling about it is that he was trying so hard to think about everything and do right--he was more mentally exhausted than physically.  When he felt me coming off at the trot, he slowed down and tried to catch me.  So, he's really wanting to do right by the rider, too.  That's a lot to think about for a young colt.  I believe that when he matures in body and mind--he's going to feel comfortable in his work and eager to move out.  Even the little bit of time I had with him, in the arena, he was already starting to walk out faster for me.  And since I'm a trail rider, I think he will learn to love moving out, and exploring the world, on the trails.

In the photo above, you can see how he is sloped down. That's why his trot is so uneven.  Light work at the walk, while he grows into his body, suits me just fine.  We followed Cowgirl for a while, and then I asked him to move away from her and walk opposite.

So, the pros now.  Laziness, for me, is a pro.  Also, he doesn't spook.  ZERO spook. She said he never spooked at anything, ever, and when I was riding him, I noticed the same thing.  Even when I started to come off, something that would have freaked most young horses out, he held steady and got me back on. Sarah rode him out, and she said even away from the property, he spooked at nothing.  In the time she rode him in saddle--3 weeks of light work--he never reared, bolted, or bucked.  The worst thing he did was kick out when he felt the spurs for the first time.

For some reason, the "stop" came slowly to him, but when he got it, he'd put his back legs underneath himself and stop on a dime. (Wonder where he inherited that ability. Daddy and mama, for sure.)  He has a genuine interest in cows--again, bred into him.  His lope is dreamy.  She said he has natural collection.  She just throws him the reins when he finds the right lead, and off he goes.  I experienced it in the roundpen, and it is wonderful.  Finally, she said he is extremely smart, learns fast, and retains it.

One thing about Sarah, she gives a colt a ROCK SOLID foundation, and she doesn't sugar coat anything in her assessment. The fact is, you don't really know what you've got with a baby until they're put to the test.  A bucker might always resort to bucking.  A rearing horse might always resort to rearing.  A spooky horse, might always contend with spookiness.  Almost everything can be worked around, but you have to ask yourself if you have what it takes to get past it, should they resort to that particular thing in a pinch.

Another thing about Sarah--she's not their "buddy."  A horse like Tumbleweed, who had nothing but oohs and awws and hugs and kisses his whole life--gets humbled.  When he entered her world, the days of "something for nothing and your kicks for free," were OVER.  You get one thing with Sarah--release--and that comes when you give the right answer.  If you're not training, you get REST.  Rest and release and a few good boy pats when you're extra special are about the extent of your "spoiling."

So, when I picked him up, he was happy to hear my voice.  He was happy to load into that trailer!  He was happy to be rolling, rolling, rolling down the highway.  And he was oh, oh, so happy to unload and be turned back out with the herd.

Sarah told me to give him a week off to rest and reflect on what he just experienced, and then start him back up with bending, releasing, and walking--working off the leg--stopping, backing--just the basics--a couple times a week. Haul him away a lot--to keep him from being herd bound, and do a lot of ponying on the trails so he gets used to it.   He has a date to return next April and build on the training.

For now, I have to set up a bridle and snaffle for him and find a saddle that is narrow enough, and a skirt small enough, to fit on his back.

I will also have to invest in a heavy duty sports bra.

It sure is good to have him home!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Some Big News

You might remember a few years back when my daughter told me I could breed her horse Cowgirl--a palomino foundation QH, for a baby.  I had found a stud, and was all set to go, but in the end, I just didn't feel right about breeding her horse, considering all the things that can go wrong.  Then, Shirley's mare, Rosalee, foaled Tumbleweed--from Beamer--and the rest is history.


Well, fast forward two years, and we took Tumbleweed and Cowgirl down to the trainer for tune up and starting. And, while there, Cowgirl was doing a lot of  calling out to our trainer's stallion. He was sired by her former TB stallion who passed away in his late 20's.  The former stallion, Brilliant Knight, had sired quite a few foals, and one of them wasborn to an appy mare, and they named him Mr. Tom Horn.  She acquired his Mr. Tom Horn, raised and trained him for ranch riding, roping, and barrel racing, and started breeding him two years ago.

My daughter hadn't been thinking of appy's, but it is fitting, since she was born at the edge of the Palouse, in appaloosa country. In fact, my second horse was a leopard appy way back in the early 80's.  Not as pretty as Mr. Tom Horn, that's for sure, but flashy.

Mr. Tom Horn has a good mind, solid bone, strong feet--all things my daughter wants.  And, if all goes well, their foal will arrive in late May, early June.

It wasn't an easy breeding.  Cowgirl kept kicking out at him, yet was also acting like she was in heat.  They took her to the vet for an ultrasound, and she had a cyst.  The vet gave her a shot, and she was in full heat within two days.  It was live cover.  I think she has bred the two of them everyday she has been in heat, but that has been between Sarah, the trainer, and my daughter.

Cowgirl did have a sibling that was an appy.  Here's a photo of him:

Cowgirl's father was a buckskin QH. Here was their old ad for him.

It'll be an adventure for my daughter, who just completed college, and was ready for a new, and more horsey, challenge.  I'll be standing back and watching from a safe distance, helping her when she asks. It's her baby.

But it will be good for me, because I was keeping T'weed in the baby mode--like the last child of a family--and now that there will be a new baby in town--if all goes well--he can grow up and be an adult now.

Speaking of which, one more week until he comes home!!  We may pick up Cowgirl this week, which means I'll be able to visit him again.