Saturday, June 20, 2009

Running The Gauntlet

Mugwump just did a post on riding outside the arena and the added benefits she is finding out for herself and her horse.

Having grown up in the middle of the prairie, I spend most of my time riding out in the open. We didn't have an arena, so even on colts with just a few rides on them, you had to head for the pastures to ride.

But, I didn't live full-time on the ranch. As a matter of fact, I spent most of my time in town. But, we have acreage at this house and always kept horses on it. So if I wanted to ride, I rode around town.

Megan and I live in the same house I grew up in and have our horses right out the back door. We have the best of both worlds-because to the east of our house is open prairie, that the owners have been kind enough to let us ride in and just 6 blocks from the house is the public arena. Which we take full advantage of.

But to get there, we have to run the driving past, barking dogs, kids running out of nowhere to say hi and bigger kids, with stereos blaring playing basketball at the courts. It's a full bore sensory overload for the horses.

But the thing's a great training tool too. Can we say...bombproof? Okay, I won't go that far. Not every horse becomes immune to all of the sudden activity they can encounter on this 1/2 mile strip. But they certainly learn to handle it as good as they can. Which takes tons of time off of the training schedule.

At the far end of this street is the arena...


The "greenies" usually get hauled to the arena a few times before I start ponying them up there. I just like to get a feel for how well they are going to handle things and a few miles under their cinch before subjecting them to all the new sights, sounds and activity they may or may not encounter.

Today was Frosty's inaugeral running of the gauntlet...
Can't you just hear him saying, "But I don't wannna". He took everything in, but didn't spook at anything. He's such a good boy.

So good in fact, that I rode him home, rather than switch horses...
Most inexperienced horses need to be ponied back and forth a few times before I trust they aren't going to freak out over something. But Frosty also got loped today. He's soft and soggy. He was tired enough by the end of our he's not really prone to spooking anyway...that I felt confident he could handle it. He did fine.

And actually, so did Moon! I decided to see if I could slip a barrel run in on him. He got pretty scotchy at first again. So we stopped, worked on picking that right lead up a few times and did it again. He did awesome. I don't ask him for any speed, just sit real quiet and make sure he keeps his shoulder up. He is just pouring the power into getting to the next barrel. I have a barrel racing tomorrow...and now I am actually excited to go.


Chelsi said...

Great pics. It is great that your horses have to get used to the road and traffic, though I'd be pretty nervous to do that leg on a green one.

Good luck tomorrow. Let us know how it goes!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Two horses are better than one.

It's really good training when a green one can tag along with a seasoned one. I find that riding one and ponying the other seems to make them both more settled and less likely to spook.

Mikey said...

Oh yay! A barrel race! I can't wait to hear how it goes!
I love what you've got there. It's so green and pretty and a perfect warmup walking to the arena. I'm jealous!

cdncowgirl said...

Yay! I'm barrel racing tomorrow too! :)

Hey got a training question for you:
My friend's filly has a good start on barrels. Last year she loped the pattern. Everything was nice.
This year Kimfer is asking for a bit more speed and the filly is giving it to her, not major speed just faster. The problem is that now she is cross-firing. She'll go into, and around, the barrel correct but as she comes out of the barrel she cross-fires.
Any idea why or what would correct this?

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Cdn-That is a very common occurance. Rip is doing the very same thing right now. I think they start to get the idea of what running barrels is all about and start anticipating the lead change between first and second.

There are two exercises I use to correct that.

One is to widen the pocket enough that the horse can comfortably lope a circle around the barrel. Lope up to first-lope a few circles around it. If she kicks out that lead, break her down, make her pick it up and lope around the barrel until she holds that lead at least two circles. Lope to midway between first and second, break her down and pick up the other lead and lope a few circles around that barrel. Head to the last barrel and do the same thing. Don't drill too much around any one barrel. If they are really struggling, let them break to a trot and then work up to a lope. All you really want is for the horse to just lope around it in a reasonable frame and hold that lead and then move on. We usually ride two handed to help them keep their frame.

The other exercise is similar, lope up to the barrel, lope around and then instead of heading to the next barrel go to the top of that barrel and lope or trot a few circles. From that circle head to the next barrel and repeat. For third-lope around the barrel and then lope your circles off to the side of it.

Both exercises help teach a horse to close off their turns, help with bowing out and teach them to hold their lead and their body frame. If they are struggling to hold their frame in small circles(about twice the size of the barrel pocket), you will probably need to add the spiral exercise to build muscle condition.

Leah Fry said...

Can't wait to hear how you did at the barrel race and hopefully see some action shots!

Trailboss said...

Sounds like a fine day. Your babies are beautiful! I will be glad when the heat subsides somewhat so I can ride. Tomorrow's high will be 97. Too hot for me and my mare.

Paige said...

Isnt it interesting to get a glimpse of what other people consider scary or intimidating--we have a lot of country versus city mentality in my neck of the woods-the first time someone asked me how to get a horse to trail ride, I was flummoxed. My answer was take him to the trail and get on him, and the shocked reaction to that really tripped me out.

I agree with your way--introduce them to anything and everything early and they do not ever learn that some of that is harder or scarier than others--they just do not notice

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Paige-I know. People have asked me before how I get my horses so used to everything outside. The only thing that comes to mind to tell them is that I open the gate and head out. But then again, our horses are raised in large pastures and are comfortable in wide open areas. Horses that haven't been raised like that are probably like people who have not ridden out in the open very much...pretty intimidated by all that openness.
But I still don't know what else to tell them except just do it.

City girl turned Country Girl said...

Great pictures!! Multi-talented I tell you!! Loving the fact that you rode him back that is awesome!!

Unknown said...

You are so lucky to have that public arena so close to you.

I have one as well but it's across the HWY and there is no way you can get the horses across it - being so busy. So we have to haul over every time. 3 years about a boy on a horse was hit try to ride across the HWY to the fairgrounds. His horse froze up and he didn't get off and run. Of course the horse died and the boy lost the entire lower portion of his body. It was so tragic. NOBODY rides across now.