Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Red Hot Hotrod

I thought I had messed up...

I have been riding Little John, and while he isn't horrible to deal with, he's one hot, little potato...

I've had him for a year now and to be totally honest...I haven't done a whole lot with him. Hauled him along to a few events, rode him in the desert a little, turned him out and let him learn how to be a 'ranch horse'. Basically, I have just been biding my time, waiting for him to get old enough to do what I want to do with him...

Run barrels.

I'm old-school...I don't really care to start running a horse before they are coming into their 5y/o year. I'm not alone in my opinion on that subject, but I don't begrudge the people who start competing (a little) on their 4y/o's. One time, I did compete lightly on a 4y/o and she was pretty cool. I wasn't pushing her, she just started running well pretty much of her own accord. It was easy for her, so I just let her do her thing. However, I cannot stop myself from making 'the face' when I hear someone is competing on a 3y/o. No, No, No!!! Patterning? Sure, why not. Loping through? Okay, a little here and there isn't going to hurt them. Competing on and asking them to r.u.n.?...Not gonna happen at my house or with one of my horses. Not EVER!!

In Little John's case, I had specific reasons for not doing much with him his 4y/o year. He had absolutely no exposure to the outside world prior to me purchasing him, so everything was awfully overwhelming to him. But the biggest reason was, I thought his knees needed the time to solidify. They just looked and felt soft and undeveloped to me, so I figured just turning him out and letting him finish maturing was the best thing for him.

I like the results. LJ's knees are certainly less puffy looking and feeling now, and being turned out the whole summer has significantly changed the way he travels. That jarring little trot he had is gone and he has certainly learned how to stretch out and run.

What hasn't gone away is his buddy issues. Usually, when a horse learns to live in a herd, they become less inclined to glom onto a buddy. But not LJ. Just the placing of him in a separate pen from his bestest buddy, Shooter led him to carry on...for days! Shooter was in the pen right next to him!! (rolls eyes in disgust!). Now Shooter was ever patient with LJ though this last year. I never saw Shooter get irritated or try to force LJ out of his space...although the little red horse appeared to be velcroed to Shooter's side 99% of the time. But after I separated them, Shooter must have decided that he was, in fact, tired of having a little red horse velcroed to him, because the next time I turned them out together, LJ tried to resume his position and Shooter drove him off. And that is what Shooter has done to LJ every since. It's like Shooter decided that it is time for Little John to grow up and stand on his own. Since Shooter is not overly ugly about forcing LJ out of his space, I have pretty much left them to work it out.

The one thing LJ is still bad about that is driving ME nuts is, how radical he gets when left tied to the trailer by himself. He paws, he paces, and he bellows! Not just whinnies...B.e.l.l.o.w.s!!!

He ended up having a very long weekend in Utah, because I decided, he was going to have to learn a little patience. He spent the majority of both days, saddled and tied to the trailer. He got rode hard on Friday and rode twice on both Saturday and Sunday and wearing him down didn't seem to help get him to stand quietly.

Normally, when a horse is that fractious at a public venue, it has to do with all of the activity going on around them and I'll take them around and do whatever groundwork is necessary to get their attention and get them over worrying about what is going on. In LJ's case, the instant I'd take him out and about, he'd get quiet as a mouse and was completely mannerly. It's just the being left alone thing he hates and he shows no signs of weakening in that department.

When I got home to Colorado, I figured I had better go talk with his previous owner and see if he had some insight to what this was all about...and maybe some suggestions about how to get LJ over this.

Weeelllll....apparently...This is characteristic behavior for the 'Red Ant Rey' horses. I dunno if that means all for the Red Ant Rey's or just the foals this particular Red Ant Rey mare produces. The trainer's groom said that all of them that she handled spent a significant amount of time at the 'patience post' the first year or two they were in training. She said they were all busy-minded, busy-footed horses that h.a.t.e.d. to have to stand still...But the good news is...Eventually they do grow out of it.

Good enough!! That is all I really needed to know...and I'm pretty grateful that I can go to the breeder and find out certain characteristics that LJ is going to be prone to have. I knew that Starlight Starbright horses have a reputation as level-headed, good-to-get-along-with personalities. You can razz them up...and they WILL light up...but when the pressure is off, they revert right back to easy-going. I can see that in LJ. The slightly radical side of him is apparently his momma's doing. LOL.

Learning a little more about the natural tendencies that were bred into LJ, is going to help me with getting him moving along on the barrel pattern too. I've been doing my usual, slow, steady patterning with him and to be quite frank...LJ has little interest. More than 1/2 the time, he is so interested in what ever else is going on that he doesn't even realize there is a barrel there...or that he is actually working a pattern.

That is about to change. We are going to speed things up on the barrel pattern. Apparently, LJ needs a little speed to hold his attention. I'm also going to set my poles up and start working him on those. Something with a little more intricacy will also help hold his attention. As little and as athletic as LJ is, he aught to be a fantastic little pole horse.

Of course, when we get back to Arizona, LJ will get put on cattle as well. There is a new arena that just  went up a few miles down the road from the AZ house and they moved the team sorting they used to have on our street down to the new one. I think it will be a lot better for my horses at the new place. The place they used to have the sorting at was tiny and it didn't give a horse much of an opportunity to work a cow. The new arena is huge and I am going to see if I can pay to work horses on individual cattle. Getting the opportunity to actually run some cattle up and down a long fence would be tremendously beneficial to both Frosty and LJ (and eventually Shooter and Jet). There is absolutely nothing that compares to that kind of work to teach horses how to run, rate and turn. All of that is easy, peasy for LJ already, but working a cow will definitely hold his interest. In Frosty's case, having to r.u.n. to a cow and turn it should help free him up. He'll forget he doesn't particularly like to run when there is actually something to chase. :-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

This Is What It Is All About

What an absolutely glorious weekend of barrel racing in Utah! Hanging out with good people, visiting about horses and bloodlines, getting to ride in a beautiful facility and having a little competitive fun.

This was a big weekend for Frosty. I knew I would be able to get 4 runs in on him and I have been anticipating being able to see how well he works in a small indoor arena, because....

I qualified for Finals!!!


Of course, on Saturday, the big joke was...Was I going to get a time...Or a score?

It didn't take long for the story of Frosty bucking me off in Arizona to make the rounds...and why not?...It's a pretty funny story. Although, I did request that I not be scored on the actual bronc ride (should it happen again). I just wanted my landing to be judged. LOL. :-D

Frosty's first run on Saturday was okay. He picked up the wrong lead when he left for the first barrel and didn't get his hind lead switched before the turn, so he was really hopping when he came out of the turn. The rest of the run was good though....Just super slow. He was almost 3 seconds off of the fast time again.

For the 2nd run, I picked up my bat and gave him a little swat on the butt when he left the gate and he picked up the correct lead. That run was smoother and we shaved some time off. I could feel that Frosty was much more confident on the 2nd run and I have to say, I am so in love with the way this horse turns a barrel....

His form is spot on. He's pulling that inside hind leg up, he's shaped and he just flows through the turns. He is just so easy...and fun to ride.

In spite of the still-slow times, I was so happy with how Frosty worked on Saturday, that on Sunday I kinda felt bad that I was running him twice again. I almost went up and asked for my first time to be carried over to the 2nd race, but I checked myself. Frosty is definitely not running hard enough to actually wear himself out and I realize that I did make a mistake with Moon when I was seasoning him. My mom was so adamant that a horse should only have to make one run at an event, that I never ran Moon more than once a day. But as I have been around other people and observed....Many of the good trainers DO run their horses more than once a day, especially their green horses and from what I have observed is that there are no ill effects. In fact, instead of making a horse more hot (which was my mother's opinion), they actually seem to stay calmer in the long run. Barrel racing becomes a job that they might have to do multiple times and not an excuse to get all excited and stupid.

Frosty wasn't noticeably more 'awake' prior to his first run on Sunday, but when he left the gate...He found another gear. is completely common for a green horse that suddenly decides to run faster...

He overshot the first barrel. He was about a stride past it before he realized it and went, 'Oh crap...That was the barrel back there' and he just shut down in mid-stride and made his turn. LOL. He was still wanting to run harder though and overshot his 2nd barrel as well. I could feel him evaluating the situation on the way to 3rd and correctly guessed that he would want to over-rate that one, so I just kept driving and asking him and he didn't set up or overshoot that turn. He did catch his outside front toe on the backside of the turn and had a noticeable stumble though.

I was laughing by the time I got him stopped. I can't help it, every time I feel Frosty try to run hard, all I hear is Forrest Gump in my head....'And I was r-u-n-n-i-n-g....'.

Even though Frosty had 2 big loopy turns and a stumble, his time was exactly the same as it had been on his first run on technically, he was running faster. He just wasn't able to master the increased speed AND the turn all at the same time.

One of the biggest shifts in my attitude, since Moon, has been....I am less inclined to demand perfection during a run. The beauty of hind-sight, IF you CHOOSE to allow it to teach you something, is that you can go back and realize where you made mistakes. However, you can't just focus on what you did wrong, you have to recognize what you did right as well.

My method of training produces horses that 'hunt the barrel'. That is my strength. Where I missed the mark with Moon was, I did not trust my training. Because I didn't trust MY training, I let others influence me on how and what I should do to 'fix' my horse. I made mountains out of molehills...but that is another post entirely and I will be talking about that in the near future.

So, after that run in Frosty, I was glad I didn't carry over my time. I figured Frosty could use another run to get his focus back. He had picked up the correct lead for the 1st barrel the 2 previous runs, so I put my bat away and decided if he picked up the wrong lead, I would just shut him down and restart.

Frosty walked to the gate, picked up the 1st barrel and just blasted off...In the correct I let him go. I knew he was running harder again, but this time he had his game face on and he sank into that first turn with perfect timing and absolute confidence. He came out level and pushing hard and I was cheering him on. LOL. He ran straight across to the 2nd barrel and sank into that turn just as pretty. He snapped around and fired hard for the 3rd barrel. I was still talking to him and telling him what a good boy he was and he just flowed around the 3rd barrel and ran for home.

That was probably the most effortless run he has ever made and I could feel his confidence every step of the way. He shaved a full 8/10ths of a second off of his previous times. He went from an 18.0 to a 17.2.

And strutted out of the arena like, 'What do you think of that?'. LOL. He was very proud of himself...and I was pretty darned tickled with him as well. That is the kind of fluidity I have been striving for with him and he finally got it.

To put where Frosty was running with the 'big boys' in perspective...The fast time of the weekend was a 15.1. So in the relative scheme of competitiveness, he's still slow. But confidence is key and lord knows that Frosty is not strong in the confidence department. He never has been. But it's coming. Slowly...but it's coming! :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Weeellll...Last rodeo of the 2014 season...and Frosty skipped the saddle bronc theatrics this run.

Not that there weren't any bronc moments...We just got them out of the way prior to the barrel racing portion of our morning. LOL

After I got done calculating the winnings from the last 2 rodeos, I had dropped to 13th in the standings and it will be touch and go whether I get kicked out of the top 15 after this rodeo...But my fingers are crossed. I don't stand a snowball's chance of winning anything at the Finals...but it sure would be nice to go. It might be kinda nice to get the first-time-qualifying jitters out of the way, without actually having to worry about 'doing well' too, ya know?

It was most definitely a wobbly run. Frosty was wanting to run, but there was no way I was going to get up and help him. No way was I giving him a chance to toss me over his head again. ;-). About all I wanted was a non-bucking event. Mission accomplished...but I could feel Frosty's confusion and hence our wobbly run. He was thinking 'game on'...Mom was thinking...'I'm just gonna sit through this one'. LOL

I don't think it will be long before Frosty is back to where he was and probably even start coming on again. He really is not a horse that can sit for any length of time and then just come back like he was rode/ran yesterday. He's no Moon, in that respect, for sure. So I will just have to make sure an not let him sit.

I still think the root of the problem is his being insulin resistant. He's sweat buckets this week and his sweat absolutely reeks again. The closest description of the smell that I can think of is rancid fat with a coppery tinge that I can taste on my tongue just by smelling it. He was sweated up pretty darned good before I made my run on him this morning, but it didn't reek as much as it has been, so hopefully that means I am finally getting his system cleaned out. The fact that he has been sweating easily and profusely is actually a good sign. Before, when Frosty was really IR-symptomatic, he didn't sweat properly.

The other thing I have been doing religiously was the forward, high leg stretches that Ed Wright showed me to do with him. He was getting awful tight through his girth area again and I have a feeling that was the real reason he blew up with me last weekend. The latigos and cinch probably 'grabbed' him when he set to rate and he just planted his front feet and blew. Besides stretching him really well before saddling him up, I made sure to do a few little sprint exercises with him during warm-up to test him out and I felt him tighten up the first couple of times, but after that he settled down and just broke forward like he should.

The little bronc episode came first thing. I had saddled and walked him, slowly tightening up his cinch and while I saw the guy parked beside me setting up his roping dummy, I had my back turned and didn't see him pick up his rope. It just so happened that the same instant my butt hit the saddle, I heard the rope sing out and the guy jerked his slack on the roping dummy. Frosty scrunched up like an accordion, bogged his head and went to hogging around in circles. Man, did that guy feel bad. He started to run over and I was yelling, 'Stay back. I got him', so he stopped. He was so mortified and kept apologizing, that I couldn't even be upset with him. I didn't notice him and he wasn't paying attention to me. Frosty is just going to have to learn to get over that kind of stuff. He had gotten over it before, but I'm sure getting spanked fairly regularly this week hasn't helped. I'll just have to start carrying my rope and once again exorcise the rope demons.

Well, I guess now that Frosty is back on track, it's time to turn my attention to my fiery little red-head. Oh boy...Little John has been a handful this last week. That is not an easy horse to ride down. He is like the energizer bunny...He just keeps going and going and going....

I never, ever thought I would see the day when I considered Jet, The Big Bay one of the 'easy ones'. But OMG...Shooter and Jet have been the two easy ones this trip. Thank goodness half of this bunch is cooperating. LOL