Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Think He's A Jinx

Back from my weekend of barrel racing in SD and...

I think LJ is a jinx!!

Last year when I took him and Frosty to Utah to a big barrel race...It was cold and poured rain all weekend.

Guess what this last weekend was like?

Yup!! Cold and it poured rain!!


Well, at least this time the boys were in a barn and didn't have to spend the night in the trailer to stay warm and dry. LOL

It was a bit of a disappointing weekend. I didn't get to ride LJ at all. I know he needs to get used to being ridden in inclimate weather, but I would prefer to have decent weather the first few times I ride him around that much activity. I have ridden him around at a few events and he gets very excited. I cannot imagine adding cold and rain on top of that excitement. I'd probably end up in the mud. Hahahahaha. The hauling miles are good for him though. He's learning all the ins and outs of going to competitions without the additional stress of trying to compete. And that is important. LJ does haul well and taking him with an experienced horse like Frosty teaches him to eat and drink on the road. The bad thing about LJ is that he gets so upset when you take his buddy horse away. He screams and screams and actually upsets my seasoned horses. I was surprised the first time I took him on a short trip with Moon at how upset Moon was about LJ being upset. LJ's tantrum that day got Moon wound up and the same thing happened to Frosty this trip.

I was a little worried that the less than ideal weather would bring out Frosty's broncy side, but he was actually really good. No noteworthy antics (like last year in UT when he blew up in the warm-up pen). Frosty still wants to be spooked of horses coming at him when people are loping every which direction in the warm-up pen, but he's gotten a lot better about it.

The first day of competition I took him into the indoor well ahead of when we were supposed to run and spent a lot of time letting him look at everything, watch the barrel racing and just get comfortable. I rode him up to the gate several times during the drags so he could look into the arena as well.

I'm not going to lie...I was nervous about him bucking with me at the first barrel. That is something I wished I could get out of my head, but getting drilled by him last year has left a lasting impression on me. I want to trust him...But...I'm not all the way there yet.

When it was our turn to run, I made a big loop outside the arena, so that Frosty would have a lot of room to start his run and pick up the first barrel. While standing in the gate, I noticed that the first barrel (on the right) blended in with all of the signs on the fence and I realized that is why a lot of girls were having trouble. Frosty didn't have much luck picking up where the barrel was either. He was kind of ducking and diving the first few strides up the alley and into the arena, so I knew he wasn't locked on. He did pick it up when we got closer, but he sure wasn't wanting to run to the barrel. Just kind of loping along. He got around the barrel and kind of hopped out of the turn a little. When he saw the 2nd barrel he locked on and started trying to run a little. He set into the turn really well, but was hopping and humping coming out and I knew right away that he didn't get his hind lead switched. I let him ease up and he got it, but on the way to 3rd he was looking at the big red sign that hung on the rear wall and he never ever saw the 3rd barrel. He just kept slowing down and slowing down and I know he was thinking, 'Why the hell are you running me into that big, red sign?'. I pulled him around the 3rd barrel cause he didn't even know it was there.

He ran a 19.0...exactly 1/2 a second off of where I thought he should have ran. Considering he was looking around, I wasn't too disappointed with his time, but I knew I would not be pulling a check on that day.

The next day, Frosty felt a lot fresher when I was warming him up and I though, 'Oh boy, he's ready for today's run!'. I also put his tie-down back on him. Frosty runs and turns very level, so a tie-down is not for keeping his head down. Beings that Frosty is very long over the back and not terribly athletic, a tie-down gives him a little bit of something to balance on so he can hold his turns and helps him get that lead change in the rear.

This time when I brought Frosty into the holding area, he was wound for sound. I feel like this is a bit of a catch .22. Frosty definitely needs to learn how to amp up a bit before a run...but on the other hand...he doesn't think real well when he is wound up. I debated it in my head and decided that I would just keep working him in the holding pen until he calmed down and relaxed. One of the mistakes I made with Moon was, when he first started to get wound up about making a run, instead of camping and working on him by the gate, I took him away from the gate to help him relax. Moon never really got the chance to have to learn how to work through his anxiety and let it go before making a run. I won't make that mistake again.

Frosty did get back down to where I thought he should be before our 2nd run and this time when he lined up to start his run, he knew where that first barrel was and stretched right out, but he sure wasn't running very hard. Right about then, I wished I was carrying my popper bat. Nevertheless, Frosty set in and snapped right around that first barrel and I thought, 'Here we go...He's gonna run now'...But....

Nope...I was mooching and kicking (or so I thought) to him and he just loped across to the 2nd barrel. He set into that turn really well, but coming out...AGAIN I knew he didn't catch his hind lead and he just couldn't get it switched. We sort of hopped around the 3rd barrel and I couldn't even get Frosty to run toward home.

Afterward I realized I may have been talking and mooching to Frosty, but I wasn't using my legs at all. In my head I was kicking like crazy...In real life, I was barely bumping him. I reverted back to clutching with my upper thighs, not sitting down and using my legs.

I heard my time of 19.6 and was so freaking disgusted. Seriously? We lost almost a second from the 1st run to the 2nd run? Uuggghhhhhh!!!

Well, luckily that wasn't really the case. I heard 19.6...but the time was really 19.106. Okay...so a 1/10th slower not 6/10ths slower. Still not the 18.4-18.5 I had been hoping for...but I know that I didn't do much to actually make Frosty run any faster, so basically he can lope a 19.0 second pattern without even trying. This was a standard sized pattern, but had a short score (only 45' instead of 60'). The winning time both days was a 16.40.

Besides me not kicking, it really felt like something else was going on with Frosty. I mean...He just wasn't even trying. My mom was there for the weekend and both of us agreed that neither of us were impressed with the shoeing job on Frosty this time around. The first time I had this farrier shoe Frosty we discussed AT LENGTH that I was okay with him pulling Frosty's toes back a little bit the first time. Frosty's feet do like to platter out and not having had shoes on all summer had them a little flat again. This 2nd time, I asked him to reset the same shoes, the exact same way. Frosty did well the first time around. But I think when he reset the shoes he pulled his toes back more and it just makes the breakover too fast for Frosty to handle. He is NOT a quick footed horse and too quick of a breakover makes him very uncomfortable. He won't reach forward with his shoulders and that is a problem with this horse anyway. So needless to say, I am switching to a different farrier. Hell, if I have to, I'll haul Frosty and LJ to AZ to have Cindy's farrier do his shoes. That guy did the best job of anyone on Frosty.

So, while the competitive aspect of the weekend didn't turn out like I had hoped and the weather sucked, there was one bright spot...

There was a lady giving a breathing treatment to a horse outside of the barn where my horses were stabled, so I stopped to visit with her about her unit. I have been wanting to buy a nebulizer for a couple of years but just wasn't sure which one to buy. Since those things are not cheap...I didn't want to blow a bunch of money on one that wasn't effective. This lady had the portable Equi-Resp unit, one that I had been looking at, and told me it worked wonders on their bleeder. We discussed bleeders and the unit for quite awhile and she answered every question that had been rolling around in my head. I didn't waste any time. I ordered one as soon as I got home. I am hoping that it will be as beneficial for Moon as it was for her horse. She says she uses it on all of her horses now, so I suspect I will be trying it on all of my horses as well. Especially in the summer when it gets hot and dusty.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ride Time

Oh man...It feels soooo good to have pretty much ALL DAY to ride again. The weather has been gorgeous, my work load is significantly reduced and me and the ponies are getting with the program!!

Good news...Being out on pasture all day + the cooler temps + a little moisture has greatly improved Moon's breathing. He won't be ready to go to the SD race coming up. He's had too much time off so he's no where legged up enough to go makes runs on and his system is just starting to recoup, so I don't want to stress him. I will be able to start riding him again though and am hoping he'll be ready for some races later in October.

Frosty is finally starting to get back into shape and man does he feel good. In a good way...Not the 'I feel so good I'm going to buck you off' way. LOL. He made such a solid run his first trip back in competition that we are not practicing the barrel pattern per say. It took forever and a day to get the pattern right on that horse, but he's as solid as a rock on it now. Mostly we just lope circles around a single barrel to reinforce correct body position, build strength and encourage keeping a relaxed attitude about turning. Since I don't want to make a bunch of practice runs on the barrel pattern, but still need to work on speed, I have been using the pole pattern to make Frosty have to work a little. I've worked Frosty on the pole pattern some over the years, but never really asked him to 'run' the full pattern. I have mostly used it to help encourage his lead changes. Well, I decided to ask for a little speed on the pattern (not expecting much) and by golly, the buckskin surprised the heck out of me. He has that pattern down solid!! The only place he struggled even a little was the lead changes at the end poles and that is the common weak area for a horse just learning to run the pole pattern. A few more trips, with some speed and I think he'll figure those out. I never would have guessed he would be so good at it. Looks like I'm gonna have a pole horse too. LOL

Frosty is handling the speed work well, in fact, he actually seems to really enjoy it, but it can't all be fast work. I have set up a few trail obstacles and we have been working on those every day. It makes for a nice breather break, to walk/trot over poles, work on sidepassing over poles, back through cones or poles, turn around in the box, etc. Frosty is getting there. It's just going to take continued work to build finesse. The other day I put his curb bit on and worked on Ranch Pleasure. I need to get him a little softer in the face, but once again he surprised me. He just hit a nice little jog and a slow, steady lope and just neck reined around the arena like you would expect an old, broke horse to do it. LOL. Nothing left at this point except to break out the rope! :-)

I haven't been on The Big Bay horse for going on 2 months now and the last time he was ridden regularly was like back in March. I kept saddling and ponying him whenever I could, but just wasn't getting him rode. I wasn't sure what he was going to be like when I started working him again. Of course, I lunged him before I stepped on for his first ride back, but was pleasantly surprised to find, he's exactly the same horse he was when I quit working him. God I love mature horses!! When their minds get right, they become so e.a.s.y.!! Now I just need to stay on him and get him moving forward in his training. I did have to laugh though...The horse is as green as grass, don't know a thing except walk, trot and a little bit of lope and I tootled him through the barrel pattern and he's like, "Oh, I know this!" and just trotted up to the barrel, stopped, backed a couple steps and waited for me to tell him it was okay to go around the barrel and on to the next one. Now THAT is when you know you are a barrel racer. Your horses are barely broke, but they know the barrel pattern. Hahahahaha

Speaking of knowing the barrel pattern....LJ is wanting to be a barrel eating machine!! He has the pattern down pat, both directions, and is hunting those turns. Unfortunately...He's only loping the pattern and going far to slow to 'hunt the turn'. He's trying so hard, he's getting bound up in the turns. Okay, so if I learned anything from the hell I went through with Moon...I did learn how to alleviate this problem earlier in the training program. Too bad for Moon that I learned it afterward (although I am using the same technique on him now and it is helping), but I won't make the same mistake on LJ. Horses like Moon and LJ get very intense about getting into and making their turns and in the process they loose their forward momentum...the result is consistently hitting barrels. The key to convincing these kinds of horses that the goal is to go a.r.o.u.n.d the barrel is 'breaking their zone'. Breaking their zone means little more than opening up the pocket to the point where the horse releases the barrel and is merely loping a circle around the barrel.

All it takes is long trotting or loping the horse up to the barrel normally. Helping them get positioned is fine, but once you feel them lock on too much and want to lean or fade into the pocket, you set them down, roll them away from the barrel one complete turn and while they are still coming around and have their shoulder up and moving, ask them to leave in a larger circle. It just takes doing it a couple of times to figure out how big of a circle you need to ask them to make so they are released from the turn. For Moon, it takes a 30-40 foot circle before he releases the turn and just lopes a circle. LJ, being green and not as sure of his intensity yet, only requires a 20-30 foot circle. I've heard it also works if you set them down, roll them around and simply ride off away from the barrel. I haven't done that, but it's the same principle...The whole point is to break the zone and get them thinking and moving forward again.

I am super excited about the little paint horse. He is gonna be so cool. He is also getting slow work on the pole pattern (which I think he will be amazing at) as well as learning about navigating trail obstacles. So, so much for the little red horse to learn yet. :-).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

When It Pays Off

After six...loooonnngggg... months...

Of exhausting and never-ending labor...

It's all paid off...

The girls got turned out 'to pasture'!!!


The boys have been luckier than the girls because they have regularly gotten to graze around the yard this summer and more recently I have been allowing them to go out and graze on the pasture as well...

But, due to all of the openings I still have in the fence line for access, I still put halters and lead ropes on  and keep an eye on them. None of them are too interested in going anywhere, but Moon is really the only one I trust completely. Of course, you know the dun horse gets preferential treatment. While everyone else only gets a couple of hours to hog down grass, he gets all day. I am hoping that being out on grass during the day will help his breathing and he will be ready to make some runs. If it doesn't improve soon, I won't be running him in SD the first weekend in October. It is what it is with him now though. Running Moon again is purely for fun and if he isn't breathing right...We just won't run.

As it is right now, I can only hand graze Flashy...

Since he is not casterated yet, I cannot turn him out with the mares, nor do I dare allow him the freedom to run willy-nilly. I have more step-in posts and hot rope on order and will be making him a little pasture down by the arena, so soon enough he will be allowed some freedom and longer grazing time. After he is cut, I will winter him with the mares and Ruger. The two little boys can play and with the mares on pasture, as well as having free choice oat hay and grass hay bales, he should do quite well.

Of course, with 'ranch work'... It's never-ending. I still have a ton of work to do once the irrigation water gets shut off at the end of October. All that dirt work I did last spring helped get the 'hump' out of the pasture, but we were never able to get it cut down as much as it should have been. There is still a pretty decent sized hump the water has to go over after leaving the headgates, which is where most of my water struggles have come from this year. I've have to constantly work the lines to keep the water flowing through that humped up area and of course, being the only one on the headgate, I have to contend with A LOT of silt coming out of the lines. I have been utterly stumped as how to remedy the problem. Obviously, once we planted, we couldn't go back in and cut the hump down more and as the summer wore on and I kept having to dig silt away from my pipes to keep the water flowing, I realized this was a BIG problem and I had no idea of how to fix it now.

But last week, when I was on the way to the barrel race, I was making notes of things I still needed to do this Fall and one of the things on my list is digging out the headgates, removing them and taking them in for new gaskets and BAM!! it hit me!! ....

If I have to dig the headgates out and take them off...Why can't I just extend the pipe UP another foot or so before putting the repaired headgates back on? Ding, Ding, Ding!! The problem of the 'hump' and the silting has been solved. Instead of cutting the silted in areas down, which makes the hump a major pain to contend with, I'll just leave the silt, raise the headgates and next year, when I lay the pipe and crease, the water should flow out and away from the pipe like it is supposed to, reducing the tendency to drop the silt right by the headgate. That will alleviate both the hump and the silting problems. Ta-Dah!! Some days I even impress myself!! LOL.

Meanwhile...I have happy ponies and will now get to enjoy a greatly reduced hay bill. I'm sure my hubby will appreciate THAT aspect of it. I know he hasn't been real happy this last summer because I was pretty much anchored to this place working on this pasture. I think he thought all I did was turn a few spigots and it took care of itself. Hah!! I wished that is how it had worked out. Hopefully next year that IS how it will work. :-D.