Saturday, April 18, 2015

It's Raining...

I cannot even begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Rain, snow...Moisture of any kind is so VERY welcome. I was really getting worried we wouldn't get any before I had to make a do or die decision about planting my pasture this spring.

The vast majority of my pasture had absolutely nothing growing on it...except those damn prairie dogs, so when the farmer worked it up, it worked up great. There was one strip where there was still grass and that did not work up so well. The farmer told me, he would really like to get a rain on the ground, at least a 1/2", so he could work the field one more time and break up the cloddy section. We finally got that and a bit bring on the farming.

The only problem is...I got tired of driving the bobcat around and getting in and out of it 1000 times a day to pick up individual rocks, so I started just walking and making rock piles. The moisture showed up one day ahead of schedule, so my piles and piles of rocks are still setting in the pasture. LOL. Oh well, if it's too muddy to take the bobcat out, it's too muddy to farm.

I have had a bad feeling about the drought situation we are looking at here, so I have been buying up hay. Right now, people are starting to clean out their barns in preparation for this year's crop and the prices have dropped somewhat. Last Fall I was paying $65 for 800 lb. squares of grass hay. I just bought 60 of those same sized bales in a grass/alfalfa mix for $53. I also just bought 200 small squares of grass hay for $4/bale and may very well have worked out a deal with this guy to buy all of his hay this year for an extremely reasonable price. The only catch is I will have to get it off the field myself. But, he did say that if I made the agreement with him that he would have it baled any size I if the price is right, I'll have him bale it all in the 800 lb bales and that will give me a year's supply of straight grass.

My plan is to continue to keep buying up as much of last year's hay crop as I can. My gut says that the prices are going to be higher this year than they were last year and I would really, really like to be able to not only save a bunch of money, but alleviate worry about hay. The whole hay situation is just getting out of hand. Which is the reason I am so determined to get my pasture planted this spring. Ten-twelve acres of pasture will cut my hay costs by about 1/2 next year.

The first 2 years we were on this place, my hay costs weren't extra-ordinary, but after the prairie dogs made such a mess of my pasture and the messed up irrigation failed to water everything, my hay needs have skyrocketed. Enough is enough!! I suppose, in hindsight, I probably should have started the revamp on this place with the pasture and irrigation situation, but I didn't know enough people or enough about irrigation to jump on top of it right away. I needed the time to really figure out exactly how I wanted to lay it all out; pasture, dry lots and arena. Now that I finally got it all figured out...I cannot wait to get it finished. The way I will have it set up will give me 2 large dry lots, one of which can be divided, and each one of these dry lots will open out onto one of 3 pastures of varying sizes; 1-5 acre, 1-4 acre and 1-2 acre. Add an open faced shelter to each of the dry lots and I will have the perfect set-up.

The tile/carpet guy FINALLY finished up with our 'rental' house and I have begun painting the interior. We are not going to be renting this place out again. It's getting all fixed up and we may eventually list it for sale. MH really likes that place though and it is set up for his car collection exactly the way he wanted it. We got some pricing for building the exact same shop set-up on our ranch property and Gaahhhh!! It was astronomical. Unless we sell the other place, we cannot swing it and the market is not conducive for selling at the moment. So for now, we are simply going to do, His and Her's properties. LOL. I know, it sounds weird, but this place is perfect for me and that place is perfect for him. And this way, we have a guest house. :-D. When I was in AZ the last time, I got on a roll at the GoodWill stores and ended up buying almost all of the furniture the house needs. I still need to pick up some extra beds and a few odds and ends. The mattresses I will buy new, refusing to buy used mattresses may be my only phobia. I just can't do it. But looking for everything gives me the opportunity to continue to haunt the local thrift stores and hit some garage sales. LOL.

I keep trying to bring Flashy home, but circumstances keeps pushing that back. I went over the other day to show him off to Ronny and both of the yearlings had snotty noses. It was my intention to put Flash in the pen next to Beretta and Ruger, but of course, with a snotty nose, I cannot do that. I'll have to put him in the little barn away from baby Ruger. Then the winds came up for a couple of days and it was impossible to get anything done outside. Then the vet asked if I could move his mare and yearling to the vet clinic, so I figured it would be easiest to move everyone at the same time, then the weather changed and it got cold and wet. I'm adverse to moving youngsters around in less than good circumstances, they have a tendency to get a little more worked up and less than good timing or weather can make it more difficult on them than necessary. And since the babies already have snotty noses, no sense upsetting their systems any more.

This coming week is going to see me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Getting the pasture cleared for the next round of farming, moving horses and bringing loads of hay home. I've also got to get prepared to take Frenchie and Scamper back to SD the last week in April. Of course that depends on the weather going on there and in the mountains, so I will have to wait and see how that all plays out. I love it that everything is coming together...but it never fails that it all seems to come together at once. LOL.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ronny #2 - Day 2

On Day 1, one of the things that Ronny talked about was warm-up. As per normal, the majority of us were using the full riding area to warm up, walk a little, long trot a little....and lots of loping. That is the standard barrel horse warm-up. Ronny gathered us up and talked a little about working on a more precise warm-up routine. He believes that long trotting smaller circles (20-30-40 foot depending on the horse), stopping, backing, and rolling back is a more effective method of warming a horse up than lots of loping in a large area. In fact, he doesn't believe that loping is even particularly necessary to warm a horse up prior to making a run. The reason being...long trotting is the gait that most closely resembles running, so therefore is better at activating the muscles the horse will use during the run, and working in a smaller area more closely resembles the type of work the horse will be doing as well. Stopping, making a horse take a step or two back (this depends on the lightness of the horse), bringing them back through themselves and walking out in the other direction before picking up the long trot again is all about making sure the horse is light and soft in the bridle, as well as effective to make sure their shoulders are light and mobile.

I'm as guilty as the next person of taking up a lot of space to warm my horses up. Especially with Moon. He just likes to dog along so much that I just want to get him moving f.o.r.w.a.r.d., preferably with some energy. LOL.

The morning of Day 2, I did a fair bit of walking before asking Moon to pick up the pace . But Moon was acting like he was 110 years old and could barely put one foot in front of the other. Moving like an old, old man is probably Moon's most annoying habit. I've had had to work on him before to get him to pick up the pace and get him to put a little energy into his movement. Moon's tendency to not really want to move out is actually a form of passive aggressive resistance. It also creates this huge gap between his 'normal' energy level and what he exhibits at competition time, which is a big reason *I* have a hard time transitioning into competition mode myself. I didn't have my over-and-under with me, so I just gave up working Moon in the riding area and we hit the desert at a long trot. I will most definitely be revisiting the 'get a move on' problem with Moon.

When it was our turn to work the pattern, I told Ronny, my goal was to make one run. It worked. Moon was a lot freer this run compared to how he was the day before and it just worked. I thought it was good enough to quit on and Ronny thought it was pretty good too. Moon was relaxed before, during and immediately following the run, so obviously he didn't need anything else. So I loosened his cinch and that was it for him.

I got Frosty saddled up and knew he was going to be a putz. He was actively looking for something...anything to spook at. He is so obvious. LOL. I finally had to get after him a little and of course he thought about blowing up. Such a dork. I hit the desert on him as well. Trotting up and down a couple of hills is the perfect thing to take the starch out of his shorts. ;-).

He had been good on the pattern the day before and I was hoping that he would be a one run and done as well. I mean, to me, that is always the goal. Alas, Frosty decided he wanted to be lazy, lazy, lazy. I knew he wasn't going to make his lead change between the 1st and 2nd barrel before we ever got there. Frosty was just in la la land. So I stopped him, backed him up and made him lope off in the correct lead. He stumbled and dinked around the 2nd turn, flipped out of his lead and didn't change back at the 3rd barrel, so he stumbled and flopped around that turn. Out of the pattern we went, circled around and came right back at it. This time I asked him for more speed and he snapped around his 1st turn better, but he didn't even attempt to change leads and this time I just let him do it wrong. Instead of letting him leave for the 3rd barrel, I made him keep turning the 2nd barrel, with speed and getting after him until he got uncomfortable enough to do something about being in the wrong lead. There isn't much a horse can do except break gait and pick up the correct lead, at which time you stop getting after them and let them lope around the barrel until they are quiet. We headed to 3rd and he made his turn. Out of the pattern we went, circled around and came right back for the 3rd trip. This time Frosty decided it was a lot easier to just change that lead at the 2nd barrel and we had a good pattern. So that was it for him.

I did have to laugh though, the one problem I was having with Frosty last Fall didn't surface one single time. No matter how much room I gave him to run to the 1st barrel, he never once leaned or faded into the pocket. A little time off and Frosty forgot all about it. LOL.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ronny Clinic #2 - Day 1

Last year I got in on a Ronny Clampitt barrel clinic that a friend of mine hosts and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so this year I booked early and hoped to take 2 horses. It was my intention to have Jet and Little John far enough along to take them, but that just didn't happen. So Frosty got the call. Last few times I ran him last winter, he was fading into the 1st barrel and although I did a little work 'fixing' it, I didn't get a chance to compete on him again before coming back to CO. I didn't particularly want to use Moon, but at the last minute, I figured what the heck, I am going to be switching directions on him, so why not just take him. So I did.

One of the things I like so much about Ronny is his laid-back approach to training. He is very much about creating a calm, thinking, work-horse like attitude on a barrel horse. That has always been my goal as well.

I probably could have called it a day before I ever got on a horse. LOL. Ronny spends a little time the first morning talking about movement, shape and position required for a horse to work properly and about 15 minutes into his conversation, he got to talking about horses that start 'cowing' a barrel. And my little pea brain went....ding, ding, ding.

When I was running Frosty at those little indoor arenas, there wasn't a lot of room straightaway for him to have to run to get to his first barrel and even though I knew he wanted to turn that barrel bad...I wasn't having an issue with him. When we moved to the big, outdoor arenas in AZ...Well...That gave Frosty a lot of room to have to run to the 1st barrel and he had plenty of time to lock onto that barrel and fade into the pocket. He was 'cowing' the barrel.

I went ahead and worked Frosty on the pattern for Ronny and before I started he explained to me that to break a horse of wanting to fade in/lock directly onto the barrel, the instant I felt Frosty start to fade/lean, I was to set him down, pretty hard, make him get back (back up a little) and then immediately leave, AWAY from the barrel. Then, I could circle around and start my run to the 1st barrel again. It's a very similar exercise that cutters use when their horses start to fade toward the cow too much. You have to break the lock. There is a definite line between a horse that hunts the turn...a desirable characteristic...and a horse that wants to 'cow' the undesirable characteristic.

I was a tish nervous running Frosty to that first barrel. I haven't exactly been riding the hair off of him and didn't do any 'breaking' exercises like I usually do beforehand, but I had stretched out his front legs before riding and he did not seem tight, so I just hoped he wouldn't decide to blow up when he set for the turn.

Started Frosty way back for the run to his 1st barrel, but he ran straight to his pocket and just inhaled the turn. Perfection!! He started to have a pretty good 2nd turn too, but didn't change leads in the rear, so on the way to 3rd, he popped back into the right lead and then didn't even attempt to change at the 3rd barrel. He hopped and flopped around the turn. Grrr!!!

Frosty not changing leads at this point is really just laziness on his part. He CAN change leads and will IF he feels like it, but Meh...sometimes it's just too much work for him. At this point, it isn't really beneficial to break him down so he does it correctly. Changing leads is HIS responsibility and if not changing makes him uncomfortable, stumble, hop or hit himself in the turn...Then the next time it's guaranteed he'll put a tish more effort into making that lead change.

The 2nd time through, Frosty got his lead changes and ran a beautiful pattern. He almost didn't want to change, but at the last instant he decided maybe he better. It's amazing how quickly they 'get it' when they realize you aren't going to coddle them. LOL.

The it was Moon's turn. Moon poked around like he usually does and then we stood and watched until it was our turn. Moon was avidly watching the horse being worked on the barrel pattern and I could just tell he was thinking, 'Oh great, THIS crap again!!'. LOL.

Since I haven't put any real time into working Moon on the pattern to the left, I didn't really expect him to make a smooth run that direction. Once again...That damn dun horse played me. I was just going to long lope him, but he blasted off toward the left barrel, in the left lead and ....inhaled that 1st barrel, came out and headed straight across the pen for the 2nd barrel. *I* however, was NOT expecting him to be so confident in where he was supposed to go coming out of the left barrel first. I expected him to wobble a little trying to decide where he was supposed to go, so right off the bat I was a little behind. Moon wrapped that 2nd barrel and my leg rubbed the barrel all the way around it. I was like...Heyyyy, That's a little much there buddy!! It was a lot more turn than I expected, so I stopped him. It all just happened too darned fast. I needed to catch up.

We finished the pattern and came around for a 2nd go.

Okay...So the 2nd time through, I was more prepared for Moon. He obviously had a clue. I wasn't fooling him in the least by switching directions. I wasn't so much concerned about what Moon was or wasn't going to do this time, I just followed Ronny's direction of; #1-Stay centered. #2-Stay forward and #3-Keep my chin up.

It never ceases to amaze me at how such simple directions can award such a significant difference. No big, long convoluted descriptions of all the little minute details I 'should' be doing. Just stay centered, stay forward and keep that chin up.

Now...Let me add something in here...I have come to a full realization that I ride a left-hand running horse better than I do a right-hand running horse. Or at least...I do when I'm trying to develop a 'feel'. Sometimes I think some of the ideas I get in my head are ridiculous, so when I first started to think I might be a better jockey on a left-hand running horse than I was on a right-hand running horse...I thought I might be 'over-thinking' the whole darned deal. But I just kept kind of popping this idea into conversations with other barrel racers and was astounded at how many girls stated a preference for a horse that ran one direction over the other. In the past, I had never ever really considered that the rider's preference had much to do with it. A horse was run one way or the other based on it's preference and it was just the rider's job to pilot them. Well, with the competition becoming as tough as it has, every single thing makes a difference and girls are actually picking sides based on what makes THEM more comfortable, not just the horse.

I AM a left-handed jockey. I am also a left-handed person...Not that being left handed is necessarily what makes the difference, because there are right-handed girls who prefer left-hand running horses. What makes you a left or right hand jockey is a little bit about natural coordination and a little bit about the style of horse you like to ride. My style of training puts a lot of rate into my horses and I prefer a horse that really hunts a turn. The thing about these kinds of horses is, more often than not, my job as a jockey is to hold them OFF of the turn until they are into their pocket and then just let them turn. That requires a lot of use of the outside rein. I don't have enough natural coordination in my right arm to do that when a horse is running hard. When things start happening hard and fast, I resort to using my left hand and arm to position my horses. This is something I struggled with, with Moon . I knew it was a problem. I worked my ass off to try to correct it...and it was just physically impossible to overcome adequately enough to fix the barrel hitting problem.

This hasn't been a grand revelation to me. It's been a year long, piece by piece, process. And I had to get away from running Moon to finally figure it out. It's something that has bugged me and nagged at my brain for about 3 years now. It has always been a major source of irritation to me since the day that Ed Wright declared 'my horse had a college education and I rode like I was in grade school'. For 2 years after that, I actively WORKED to fix MY limitation...with no consistent improvement to show for it. It was only after starting Frosty to the left and then switching him to the right that the pieces started to come together. I haven't had any problems with Frosty on his left hand turns because I had already established a 'feel' for him. I knew what he felt like when he was getting ready for a turn and when I switched directions, that feeling carried over and I was finally able to control any natural inclination to strong-arm him with my left-hand. Frosty's lack of speed may have played some part in it, but he's cruising right along and I still have no problem. Not only am I not inclined to get in Frosty's face, I have no desire to do so. If I feel him out of position, I find it pretty easy to fix him...and there have been times when I have done nothing at all. My brain simply says, it's no big deal.

I believe that the problem with Moon has always been, I was never ever able to establish that 'feel' that told my brain and body that 'It's okay...He's got this!!', nor was I ever able to develop the combination of coordination, feel and strength, in my right arm, that it takes to keep a dive-bombing turner like Moon OFF of the barrels. And believe me, when you have a horse that wants to turn as hard as Moon does...It takes a lot of feel AND strength to keep him off.

Moon's 2nd run through that first day was incredible. It took a lot of riding to get him around the barrels, but it just came so naturally. First barrel, for me is almost always good. It's VERY seldom that I ever have an issue with the 1st barrel...and that barrel is equally good going left or right. Running into the 2nd turn, I felt Moon drop and start to shut down on me and fixing it just came so naturally. Stay forward, mooch, bumped with my legs and check, check, check with the outside rein. Moon inhaled the turn and everybody watching was like, Whooaaaaa!!! This time, I was right up there with him and we just kept going. Same thing happened...Moon was in the ground, rating hard and trying to die before he ever got into the turn. I did the same thing as at 2nd...Stayed forward, mooched, bumped and gave him a single check with the outside rein.

That's the way I have always wanted to be able to ride this horse and for once...It didn't feel like a fluke. I didn't even have to think about it. It just happened. That is the way it's supposed to be.

Well, it just doesn't get any better than that, so that was it for Moon for that day as well.

To Be Continued...