Friday, October 31, 2014

Falling Down

Every since I have started talking about Frosty on this blog, the biggest ongoing 'training' thing with him has been increasing his ability to extend through the shoulder...as well as the ribcage.

I had an interesting conversation with my farrier the other day...I always have the best conversations with that guy...I get these ideas that sort of float around in my head, but don't really come together in a cohesive thought and then I talk to him and Boom!! It all comes together.

Once again, I have been having problems with Frosty stumbling. Stumbling to the point where he has fallen completely down in the front end with me. And he is hitting himself with his hinds again. Clack, clack, clack...Almost every stride. It's ridiculous. So I asked the farrier to refresh my memory of those exercises he gave me the last time Frosty was stumbling and hitting himself. I remembered the bumping of alternate sides to try to get his shoulders speeded up, but they weren't helping much this time. My farrier rattled off a couple of things, but then he stopped what he was doing and looked me straight in the face and told me, 'You knowwwww...The best thing might be just to over and under the big, lazy jerk and wake his butt up'. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the farrier's new assistant straighten up and look at him wide-eyed. I think he was dumbfounded to hear his new boss tell one of his clients to whip on her horse. I busted out laughing. Partly due to the assistant's expression, partly because I know my farrier is right. Frosty IS a big, lazy jerk!! He isn't stumbling because of a physical reason, we've already been down that path and eliminated possible reasons. He's stumbling because he is soooo lazy that he forgets to actually pick his feet up and move them.

We moved on to talking about a little meatier subject...We were discussing how freakin' cool Little John is and how awesome he is going to be as a barrel horse. The discussion turned to how big a stride LJ had for such a little horse. He's not over-extending, but every since he learned how to stretch out in the pasture, his stride has really lengthened and he can flat cover the ground. I pointed at Frosty and said, 'If that horse had 1/2 the stride as this little horse, he'd be running 18's on the pattern now instead of just loping along in the 19's' (Using a standard sized pattern for reference).

My farrier took that opportunity to tell me that, while he wasn't trying to tell me my business, but he thought I was wasting my time with Frosty.

This is NOT the first time I have had people tell me that. To be perfectly honest, I have always wondered if Frosty will top out where I think he should. It's one of those things...I know Frosty is not a f.a.s.t. horse. He will probably always get outrun on a big, fast-ground pattern. But, I can still feel, in my gut, that this horse has a ton more to give me. Whether I can get him to give it up or not...Well, that is the big question.

While that comment was mulling around in my head, my farrier stepped over to Frosty and placed his hand on the top of his shoulder and said, '...And this is why!'. Okay, finally someone who is going to give me a valid reason why they don't think Frosty will be successful. My farrier continued, 'Because this horse is straight in the shoulder and as heavy as a buffalo. He cannot extend that shoulder to increase his stride length and that is where your speed comes from'.

Suddenly everything in my head clicked. I didn't bother to tell the farrier that *I* don't think Frosty has a straight shoulder, nor do I think he is overly heavy built in the shoulder. The horse is big all the way around. Frosty certainly isn't any straighter or heavier made in the shoulder than Little John is (relative to overall size). It would serve no purpose to argue with my farrier because he had just made me remember the ONE thing I worked on continuously with Frosty last winter...

Getting him to extend through the shoulder and stretch through his ribcage. THAT IS where stride length comes from and whatever speed a horse has, follows that movement.

Now we have work to do!!


To Be Continued...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Outside

The big bay horse went down the road today...

No...LOL...I didn't sell him...

We RODE down the road and out into the field next door.

Of course, I didn't have my phone on me to document the monumental event. :-(

It's not the first time he has been ridden outside the confines of an arena fence. I have ridden him several times in my fenced in yard in Arizona and he did well there. But it is the first time he has been ridden outside the confines of ANY fence.

From our last trip to AZ...



He was a perfect gentleman. Although, I suspect he is so used to being ponied to and around those fields, to him it was nothing all that interesting. Maybe not all that spectacular to him...But a huge milestone in my book.

I dunno how long it will take to get this horse ready to start on the barrel pattern, but in the meantime, we have been working on Showmanship execution and I am gearing him toward the Hunter Under Saddle class for winter shows in AZ. We have a long way to go in that department. His trot is coming, but his lope is horrendous. Herky, jerky, stiff and very uncomfortable for both of us. But the first show I'll be able to make it to is in December, so maybe it will come around by then. If not, I do believe they have walk/trot classes and if I have to, I'll just enter those. One way or the other, the big bay is make his debute in the show world by the end of the year. ;-)


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. :-)