Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Ultimate Practice Barrel Pattern

This is the "Bolton" barrel pattern(click on the picture to enlarge it)...

This is the barrel pattern that every single horse that I ride, learns. It's a tiny pattern. The barrels are only set 45 feet apart. So you won't be running this pattern at any time, but it is a pattern that I use for every phase of my barrel horse's life. From green broke colts to re-training burned out runaways.

The nice thing about it is that no arena is needed and you don't have to worry about good ground-a level, grassy area works fine. Three barrels and 10 tires or large cones and you have a pattern that gives both you and your horse the visual aids to to help put you in the same spot time after time while practicing.
Setting up the pattern-place your barrels 45 feet apart. Forty-five from 1st to 2nd and forty-five from 1st to 3rd and forty-five from 2nd to 3rd. At the top of the pocket, measure 8' away from the barrel and place a tire or cone(The edge, so you have the full 8' in the pocket). At the back of the barrel, measure 6' and place a tire or cone. At the exit, measure 4' and place a tire or cone. You have effectively created a tiny(and yes, it does look tiny) path around the barrel for your horse to follow. At the starting point you can place another tire or cone if you want to give yourself and the horse another visual reference for where to head after you come out of 3rd. I line it up with 3rd and it can be another 45' away from 1st and 2nd if you want or farther, that one is really your choice.
How it works-this is a trot/walk or a lope/trot pattern. The green zigzag lines before the barrels represent your "rate" spot(this spot is adjustable, depending on your horse-some horses need to rate farther back from the barrel, some closer, but I start everything with a rate spot of just before the pocket and adjust as they progress).
To start, trot your horse in a straight line to the rate spot. For this pattern, I do like my horses to travel with their bodies straight-I practice riding square in the saddle too. This is ideal to help both you and your horse to learn to keep both of your shoulders up(something I have to continually reinforce in myself). Visually, you will want to look directly at YOUR POCKET, not the barrel.
At the rate spot-stop. You will want a nice, square stop, with the horse rocking back on his hindquarters. If your horse does not stop nice and square-either doesn't want to stop smoothly or shifts his hindquarters, immediately back him a few lengths and ride forward again and stop again. Continue to do that and adjust your hands or legs to accomplish a nice, square stop. Once you have that straight stop with the horse rocking back on his hindquarters, relax for a minute. Give a few pets and give your horse a second to digest what you just asked of him.
Around the barrel-when you are ready to proceed from the stop to going around the barrel. Lift your hands and position your legs so that when you ask your horse to move forward, they move their bodies forward, without stepping sideways or away from the barrel. The only bend you want to feel is in the ribcage. Only slightly bend your horse's face-just so you can see his eye. Squeeze him forward and let him find his way around the barrel. The goal is to feel him bend around the barrel in a uniform manner. Meaning his body should be in a nice arc from head to shoulders to tail. You do not want the head and neck bent more than the rest of the body. You do not want the shoulder's drifting outside the bend and you do not want the hindquarters flipping out. At first you may find that your horse has a hard time maintaining this continuous bend and will have to make constant adjustments to help them. The end result will be a horse that bends softly around the barrel, reaches with his front feet and drives up underneath himself with his inside hind leg. Remember to look between the horse's ears as you begin the bend around the barrel and only when your leg has reached the backside of the barrel should you look to the next barrel.

Coming out of the barrel-hold the horse's body position until his hip is past the last cone. It may feel like you are overturning a little bit, but that little extra will help him learn to hold that turn and when speed becomes part of the factor, they have memorized completing the turn before starting their run to the 2nd barrel.
Trot to second and repeat.
The only difference at the 2nd barrel is there is one extra stride a horse has to take to complete the turn so they come out in a straight line heading for the 3rd barrel. Let the horse finish the turn before asking him to trot off. When then your leg reaches the backside of the barrel, you may look toward the 1st barrel. When your leg is 3/4ths of the way around the barrel, you may look to the 3rd barrel. Attempting to rotate your head around to look at the 3rd barrel before your leg gets at least 3/4ths of the way around the barrel can cause you to pull the horse into the barrel or it can cause them to try to leave early resulting in a bow-out when speed is added.

Third barrel-repeat the entire exercise. Coming straight out of second will eliminate one of the major problems you see at third-the loop. When a horse comes wide out of second and cannot get back into position before they get to 3rd-usually what you see is them looping around 3rd, not turning it. Either they go wide all the way around the turn or the horse tries to get back into his pocket and can hit 3rd. It is very important to get to 3rd in a straight line and it is also very important to teach both yourself and your horse to complete the turn on the 3rd barrel. A lot of times when 3rd is inadvertently tipped is because the rider asks the horse to leave before he has completed the turn. Both horse and rider get to thinking about the run home and forget to finish the pattern. Practicing completing the turn at these slow paces helps to condition both of you to finish the turn.
I may practice this pattern only 5 times or I may trot around it 20 depends on your horse. A lazy horse, who is stopping and bending nicely may only have to practice it 5 times. A hot or fractious horse-I'll keep going until they calm down and focus, whether that is 10 times or 100. The whole point is calm and focused. A green colt-5 to 10 times. Again, it is all about being calm and focused and feeling like the horse is "with" you. Once a problematic or green horse does a nice pattern, I will do ONE more time, just to make sure they are tuned in and it wasn't an accident they made it around the pattern nicely, and then I quit for that session. You can practice this pattern every single time you ride, irregardless of what else you are training a horse on that day.
You can bore a horse with this pattern, but you will never "blow" them up. It is all about teaching the horse to go to the same exact spot, collect himself in preparation for the turn, how to move his feet around the turn and leaving correctly...over and over again. I use it as a warm-up and a cool-down, sometimes both. I can jump on a horse bareback with a halter and practice it. It's excellent for green colts, as it teaches them to travel in a straight line, stop straight and correctly and bend. It's good for fixing horses who have trouble too. For horses who start to have the bad habit of not collecting for the rate correctly or flipping their hindquarters out-the stop and back reinforces the habit of correct collections and helps to strengthen their loins and stifles. Flipped out barrel horses learn to focus on the parts of the pattern, not the run. For horses who are too wide or lack consistency turning the barrel, it helps them memorize the exact path they need to be following.
Any level of rider can do it. The slow, consistency helps new barrel racers learn and practice correct body position and how to position their horses. And experienced barrel racers can catch and stop themselves from continuing bad habits(dropped shoulders, where you look or pulling the horse out of position).
I would say a good 80% of my "barrel racing" training is done on this pattern. Slow and consistent patterning makes for sound-bodied and sound-minded horses that last for many years.
***Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind emailed me a practice barrel pattern awhile back...that I just found when I was cleaning out my maxed out mailbox(sorry about that)...sorry if anyone sent mail lately and have been wondering why I never responded. I didn't know either until Chris tried to send me some stuff and it wouldn't go through. It's all fixed now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Princess Is In Trouble...

Yes this one...

I just got her semester grades!!

I'm choked beyond belief!

They suck!

Here's the deal...

From the time Megan has been in the 1st grade, school has been a nightmare...For ME!

I fought with her 1st grade teacher...I knew from Megan's homework that she was struggling with reading. I talked to her teacher. A first year teacher, who told me Megan just needed to focus more. Well, I am no expert, but when kids consistently write letters backwards and struggle with associating sounds with letters, it usually means dyslexia. It runs in my family. I told the teacher this. Nope, nothing doing...she wasn't going to have Megan tested or put into any sort of special classes. Because(drum roll please)...Megan was NOT a disciplinarian case. HUH?? So the kid has to cause holy hell in your classroom before you will get them some help?

Well, we moved to Arizona and I talked to her teacher in that school and she was immediately tested...ta da...I was right, she was mildly dyslexic. She was put into a Title I reading program. Before long, she was reading like a whiz and loving school. I was in HEAVEN.
For two years, we enjoyed success. Megan even made it to the Principle's List a couple of times and won Outstanding Student awards. It was bliss.

And started all over again...forgotten assignments, homework not turned in and dropping grades. Thankfully, she had a very good teacher and he worked with us, ALOT. He recommended lots of things and talked to us about ADHD and ADD. He said Megan was too well mannered to ever be a discipline problem, but she would just "check out". HELL was revisited. I felt like I was in the 5th grade all over again, but worse. I had to get online, write down all of her assignments, make sure she had them, did them, turned them in...and still her grades dropped. Both of us were miserable.

We moved to another area in AZ and she started school there after Christmas break. She was excited to move, because we could finally have our horses with us on the property and she knew some of the kids at this school. Things went pretty good the rest of the year.

But the next year was beyond miserable. I talked to her teachers, I talked to her teachers AND the principle. I asked her to be tested to see if she qualified for a special ed Math class and she was just a couple of points above the test line, so they wouldn't put her in the class. Everyone just kept telling me I need to be more involved in making sure Megan got her homework done and turned in. Wellllll.....excuse me....there is only so much a parent can do. Every night, "Do you have any homework?". Almost always, the answer was "No", and every week I would get a report that she was missing homework.

Finally, I got fed up with the teacher passing the buck. She KNEW Megan had problems remembering to write the assignments down and she KNEW that Megan purposely forgot to bring her books home so she could do the assignments, but she refused to lift a finger or to have her classroom aid make sure that the kids were getting assistance. The reason I know, she knew the probles is because I talked to her and she told me she did not have time to check everyone. I asked her if all her kids had problems and she said no, just a couple. Well, in my opinion at that young of an age, the teacher should be checking the assignment books every day(Now, I know that the good teachers do-because most of the teacher I substituted for DO check the assignment books). I got with the teacher, Megan and the Principal. We tried to come up with a game plan...well, at least I did. Finally, I tried to explain to Megan that if she did not complete her assignments and pass her classes that she would FAIL the 6th grade. When I was a kid, that was like the worst stigma EVER! The teacher had the audacity to tell Megan that she did not have to worry, that would not be the case, they were NOT ALLOWED to fail kids anymore. I was so mad I about kicked at beee-oootch's ass right then and there. So much for consequences huh???

I took Megan to a Child Psychologist, recommended by a friend of mine, and had her tested. This lady was very nice. She talked to us together, she talked to me and then she worked with Megan. At the end of the day, I had the answers I was looking for. My daughter is, in fact, mildly ADHA/ADD, specifically, she has an Inattentive subtype that affects her organizational skills and ability to comprehend math functions. Which means...that she specifically needs assistance at school when it comes to organizing and maintaining her assignments book and probably needed to be put into a special ed math class to help her learn how to learn how to remember math functions. Memory is a problem for this kid. If she gets off-track, she finds it almost impossible to pick up where she left off.

One thing I really liked about this psychologist is that she recommended that we work on trying to minimize the effects of the ADHD/ADD through dietary changes before trying any drugs. Not that I would have let her prescibe any of those drugs for Megan, but it felt good to know there were other ways to help. We have always eaten pretty darn healthy, but what I found out is that I actually needed to add the right kinds of fats to our diet and that some of the "healthy" things we were eating weren't what Megan needed. Milk and White bread-two of Megan's favorites needed to be reduced. Breakfast cereals-reduced. I started cooking with cold-pressed olive oil, added fish a couple times a week, eggs or oatmeal for breakfast and some Vit. E and Codliver Oil supplements. The results were not dramatic, but they were noticeable. Now, the changes have just become a normal part of our cooking. We aren't much for candy or junk food. The occasional bag of chips or candybar isn't a problem. And coffee in the morning helps a lot.

With my paperwork in hand, I headed back to the school prepared to do battle. But the school year was almost over, so nothing got accomplished. That summer we moved back to South Dakota. Now, I am very lucky in my tiny little town...most of the teachers that are Megan's teachers were my teachers when I was in school. Yep...they ALLLLLL remembered me! Damn!! You would think after 20 years, they would forget...or at least time would dull their memory. NOPE! Not in my case-Sheez...It's been TWENTY YEARS! Let it go already.

Yes, I was a hell raiser in school. I was the student that made teachers mad. Not because I was ever a "problem" in school, but because I showed up, I slept through classes, I partied every night, I NEVER studied...and I still aced their classes. School has always been so incredibly easy for me. I could read an assignment and ace the test on it a week later. I was so good at debate, that I made a couple of the debate kids cry. Real...actual tears of frustration and rage. Several of the teachers told my mom that I was a shame that I didn't apply myself. To which I replied, "I don't apply myself and I still earn straight A's...hmmmm, how exactly do you apply yourself more than that?"

But then, here comes my little girl. The first thing I did was make sure that my old teachers understood that Megan was NOT me. Yes, she is intelligent and yes, she is capable of pulling good grades. But...she needs a leeeee-tttllle assistance in certain areas. They were all so good with Megan in 7th and 8th grade. She did pretty good. I thought that finally, we had gotten over the worst of the "issues".

And now I get her 1st semester report card from High School and I feel like we are back at square one. But this time...this time, things are going to be a little different for Miss Megan. I know that these grades are from a total lack of effort. This time, Miss Megan is going to start learning that, in life, you have to work for some things.

I know she is having difficulty with Algebra...heck, Algebra kicked my ass in HS...AND college. I needed a tutor in college. The instructor actually worked with me while I took my semester test. For one reason...he knew that I worked my butt off, every day in class. He knew that I knew how to do Algebra, but he also knew that I had a very difficult time remembering the processes without looking at a book. Such a nice guy. But, he wouldn't have done that for me if I hadn't been in class every day, turned in every assignment and showed obvious effort.

So back to Miss Megan...I started the ball rolling for her to get a math tutor. Not another kid, but one of the teacher's aids. Megan will be switching study hall classrooms. I am going to have her Algebra teacher get with this aid and clue her in on where Megan needs help and after that, it is all on Megan to put the effort in. Something she is not real "into", if you know what I mean?

And just to be extra mean, I have given Megan the opportunity to earn the right to attend and participate in extra-curricular activities. If she want to go to a game, she needs to bring me a current copy of her grades. If everything is a C or better and no missing assignments, she can go. If not...don't bother asking. If there is a D on her progress report coming up...she will have to drop Cheer Leading. If there is a D on her progress report when it's time to enter the HS rodeos...forget about me paying the entry fees. And that spring musical she wants to try out for? Yep, you guessed it. No D's allowed. It is the only way that I know to get her to put some effort into keeping those grades at an acceptable level. Extra-curricular activities are important to kids. I like the fact that Megan loves to be involved, but not at the cost of her GPA.

She has to face the fact that she is not and probably never will be a person capable of heaping too much on her plate. She will always have to be careful of what she takes on so she doesn't get distracted, overly tired and overwhelmed. Life doesn't get easier after high school, it just gets more complex. So I think that it is very important that she learn how to balance her life, considering there are certain limiting factors she will always have to deal with.

I worry about my girl sometimes. I was a wily, street smart kid. Her, not so much. She is trusting and gullible. She will always be the "patsy" for others if she is not careful. In some areas she is so strong and worldly beyond her years and others?? She is years behind other kids her age. So needless to say, our happy little momma/daughter relationship is definitely feeling the pangs of the teenage years at the moment.

I just want spring to get here, so we can get back to doing what we love to do together and that is our horses. I miss my cowgirl. I'm not sure who this little princess is who traipses through the house in cute little outfits, make-up and curled hair. I'm not even gonna go into the "new" boyfriend thing....grrrrrr.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dry Reading...

Winter is back...

And that is about all there is to report...
Nothing new...
Nothing exciting...
Except, that 10 degrees feels awfully cold after the nice days we had. But I like it better than when 10 degrees feels warm after sub-zero weather. ;-)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Whoops....

Well, darn the luck...I was loading some pictures on different posts...I do that sometimes ahead of time because 9 mega pixels take forever to load and when I set this photo for a "Silent Sunday" photo....
I bumped my laptop and it posted. Deleting it within seconds doesn't work...for those of us that have the blogger list that shows when people put new posts still registers. is your Silent Sunday picture...a few days early!! LOL!!

What I really was getting ready to post was the awards that I am such a slacker at getting posted. I really do appreciate when people award me with these...I always save them to my computer so I can quickly load them up and post them and then...I get busy...or I forget...or I see that almost everyone already has it and don't know who else to leave them too...

But anyway...

A big Thank You to Palyreiner for this one...

A a big Thank You to Andrea at Swamp Suburbia for this one...

Thank You ladies...They are much appreciated and I apologize for being such a slacker!!

Lazy Animals

The cold weather is back and my house pets are getting caught up on the rest they missed out on the last few nice days...

I've always wondered if cats dream like dogs do? I don't know...but our cats snore!!
These dogs crack me up. They "overed" on Megan's bean bag last year and now it is a constant battle of wits to see who gets to sleep on the coveted bean bag. Apparently the regular dog bed is considered second best...
These two definitely know how to push each other's buttons. If Red Dog is in the bean bag and Ute wants it, all Ute has to do is go stand by the food dishes. Red Dog cannot stand anyone trying to over on his food dish. He is not aggressive in any way, but he will go lay next to his food dish and wrap his front feet around it. When it is empty, he stares into it with the saddest look on his face, as if he just cannot believe the cruelty he must suffer. Now if Ute is in the bean bag and Red Dog wants it, he will come over to wherever I am and begin to rub and love on me with all his might(and believe me fatty there, has a lot of might). Ute cannot stand to see anyone get his loves so he will leave the bean bag to come get his pets. Red Dog doesn't even try to hide his intention-as soon as Ute comes over, boom...RD heads for the bean bag. What a couple of spoiled mutts!!
RD has only recently acquired the "cute puppy" rollover. Ute has it down to a science...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Another absolutely gorgeous day. It feels weird to have a 68 degree day in January.

First-Thank you all for your insight into the sheath issue. I have Rip on antibiotics to get the swelling down, it does seem to be coming down a bit already. Rip can extend his penis out and is urinating fine. Whew!! He is a bit tender. Stephanie-I thought about sticking my head under there to see if it smelled and thought better of it-LOL. But I did stick a finger in and wiggle it around. It doesn't seem to smell any worse than regular smegma. I didn't feel anything in there either, so am hoping that it is just dirt and gunk from all the wind we have had the last week. You all would not believe the dust!!

Now, stop and think about that for a minute...only cowgirls can appreciate being able to stick your fingers into an animal's private parts and smell them...LMAO!! No wonder people think we are weird!!

The morning was afternoon? A bit least in the horse department. Remember all of those beautiful bucks I was so enthused about last fall?

Yeeeee-aaaaa...not so much now. The deer population is really out of control in this part of the country. It's not like they exactly have to "rough" it. They drink out of the horse tank and live in the hay bales...

They destroy much more than they eat. Either they paw it out and spread it around for bedding or they jump on top of the bales and urinate on them. L.O.V.E.L.Y!!!

Mother Nature has stepped in the last few years though and is doing her best to control the population. First came the "Blue Tongue"-a disease that causes their throats to swell shut. You find the carcasses around any sort of water. It's a nasty death!! Now they are succumbing to "Chronic Wasting" disease...

Knee-deep in hay and they basically starve to death. The last two years the fawns started dying off from a bacteria in their gut. Basically, they just lay down and die. I'll spare you all any pictures of the cutie-patootie baby carcasses I have had to cart off.
These two does died of the Chronic Wasting disease. They make about 10 that we have had to drag away from the house. But they aren't just dying around the house, this one was in the middle of a dam about a mile north of the ranch house...
The dogs showed up at the barn with a fresh shed(a buck antler that naturally falls off this time of year), so I thought I would walk the draw closest to the house and see if I could find any more. I found a lot more deer skeletons...
This one is a buck. See his little "devil" horns on his skull? That is how you can tell if it is a buck or a doe skull. I found another 4 or 5 skeletons on my walk.

I also found this...

A coyote managed to snatch a grouse. I found 3 separate feather piles. I think the grouse need to roost a little higher. What do you think?

And lo and behold...I hit the jackpot!! It is very rare to find both antlers in the same spot...

See the dark streaks in the grass? I was walking along and almost walked right over the top of them. Good thing it wasn't a rattlesnake-sheez!! I was looking so hard, I almost missed what was right in front of my face-LOL.

My haul for the day...

A cow pelvis bone(dang thing has to be over 20 years old), the pair of 4x4 antlers, 1-3 tined antler(that is the one the dogs brought me), 2-forked antlers and a spike. Not bad for an hour walk.

But this little thing...

I picked up just to show you all what a porcupine skull and tooth looks like. See how long that tooth is? Porcupines are like other rodents...their front teeth grow continuously. Whew...I am out of shape. I can feel that walk in my legs for sure!!

And as promised...
Two not very bony horses. I wanted to jump on ole' Blue boy and go for a ride, but the hillsides are slick with the ice melting these last couple of warm days. We get one more nice day tomorrow and then it is back to winter for us....Bleeecccchhhh!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A No Wind Day

Wow...we got a day with almost no wind!! Will wonders never cease. And it was 58 degrees...I was sweating my butt off while trimming feet.

Yes...I finally managed to convince my mother that today was as good as it was gonna get in the middle of January and if she wanted horses trimmed...she better get with the program. I'm such a meanie-LOL.

Sorry Andrea...I took the camera with me and meant to get pictures of your favorite Blue horse. Now every time I see him, I think of you!! Too bad I can't convince my mom to let me ship him to you. He dearly loves attention and kids. I don't think we have ever raised a gentler horse. Unfortunately, that is what makes him a keeper. We can pull him out of the pasture if only a couple times a year and he rides right off. Those are so hard to come by these days. But I promise I will get pictures tomorrow.

I got four horses trimmed today, including all four feet on Boon, the little black mare we bought last August. She is pretty decent on three feet, but that right hind is a beeee-ooootch! I can only imagine the fight they had getting a shoe on that foot...Hmmmm...I'm guessing her compliance with shoeing was ace induced.

I rushed home to get some riding time in on Moon. I did, I did!! Not much though-I threw a halter on him and just walked around the pasture for a bit. I started working on his stifle exercises. Last spring Mrs Mom gave me some good tips to build up Moon's stifles after he pulled them the year before. This year, I am cheating and going to do them while I'm on his back. Little circles, while making him bend into them. He hates it! I was just happy to be horseback. I couldn't resist pulling his halter off and working him with just the leadrope around his neck. He don't care. He is really good at backing though, so we walked a little circle, straightened out, stopped and backed several times. I'll start doing that for about 15 minutes, twice a day to get him built back up.

So while I was riding Moon, I tossed little Shooter-butt in the corral with Megan's paint gelding. Those two played like idiots. Shooter definitely needs the one on one time with another horse besides his momma. The nice thing about Strawberry is that he will play with Shooter, but he will also discipline him. Shooter didn't know what to think about that.

As I was starting to do chores, I stop to watch the big roan horse and thought...Hmmm, something don't look right. So I walk over to him and look under his belly and this is what I see...
A very swollen sheath. Awwww man!! I sure did not notice that this morning. It's hard and it is hot. I started him on VitaMix as an antibiotic and will have to wait for the swelling to go down before I can get in there to clean that out. If it doesn't go down in a day or two, I will have to haul him to a vet. I've never seen anything like this. I mean some geldings get dirtier than others, but this feels like a big tumor hanging there. That is all just the skin from under his sheath-his hole is above the swelling. Anyone ever seen anything like this??

Monday, January 19, 2009

You Knew It Was Coming...Right???

I bet you guys thought I was gonna come back a ranting and a raving...I thought about it. But why? We all know the problems surrounding the mustang debate.


Instead, I pulled out a project I started a few years ago...

And decided it was time to start working on it again. I just have to finish baby Moon's face and that little strip at the bottom and I can finally get my portrait of Woofer and Moon framed. If the darn wind keeps blowing like it has been, I think I am going to go crazy. The temperatures are nice enough, but the wind makes it too miserable to do anything outside. I soooo want to get back to riding. Is this winter over yet??

I also have some awards to post...Thanks;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wild Horses

So I guess I am one of those people who just don't get the whole mustang mystique. So you adopted a wild horse, so you can gentle it and ride it, so you can turn around and brag about it being a wild horse? Huh??? It's a horse!! I could go down to the reservation and pick up a few that are just like the mustangs and NOT have to deal with the whole government thing.

Please don't get me wrong. I bear no ill-will toward the mustangs. They are just horses caught between a rock and a hard place in today's society. Much like their domesticated brethren.

To start my research, I had to go read the actual Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971. all actuality, it is a pretty well written piece of legislation. People are screaming about the amendments to it, as bolded in the document I linked too, but personally, I see them as a sign of changing times and needs. The only problem I see, is that specific numbers are not mentioned...for a lot of people, that leaves the whole area gray. However, in a true animal management situation, numbers are relative. In good years, acreages can handle more numbers, in poor years, less. Unless, you base everything off of the absolute poorest conditions and keep the numbers there consistently, the numbers are going to be ever changing depending on the current condition of the range these animals have access too. Why is this hard for people to understand?

Now, from what I can find out about the 700 head that will be making their way to South Dakota? They will be going to this ranch...It's rather'll see why, when you go to this link...Triple U Buffalo Ranch. the buffalo is out and the horse is in?

Funny how priorities change with the decades. From what I have been able to glean from the people who know anything about this...the price is $38 per head, per month for each horse, one of the conditions is that the ranch must maintain one big round bale per head of horse on the property and yes, it is the U.S. government that is picking up the tab. Obviously, there will be no breeding allowed...this is simply a place for these horses to go to live out the rest of their natural lives.

Researching this is not so much a daunting task as one that stirs a huge emotional response. I am absolutely dumbfounded at the ignorant and emotionally unbalanced responses people write on behalf of these horses. The BLM is under constant bombardment from people who have NO knowledge of horses, BLM land, range management or any concept of the magnatude trying to figure out what to do with THIRTY THOUSAND HORSES. That is just the horses that are currently IN holding pens. What about the other THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND horses they are responsible for monitoring and maintaining on TEN MILLION acres? And Iwonder just how many horses are already placed on ranches throughout the U.S.? Four thousand on one ranch in Texas, a couple hundred more on another ranch in South Dakota(not the same ranch as the one I just learned about), a couple hundred on a ranch in Wyoming? Those are just the ones that have made the many more are out there?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bar Talk

It never ceases to amaze me what you can learn in a local bar. Yesterday, Chris and I headed to The Hills for the day...he had a business meeting and I had some running around to do...on the way home we stopped at our favorite little bar...
It's just a little bar in the middle of nowhere. It's amazing the people you will find there.

And the conversations that get started...

Without fail, the weather will be discussed.

Some politics.

The economy.

And of course, horses...

Now I am always a little hesitant to bring up the subject of the current horse market because I hate getting into the slaughter debate. But a few tomato beers into the conversation, it is inevitable that the subject turns from wondering what the cattle market is going to do in this tough economy to the inevitable discussion of what the hell are people around here going to do with all of the horses in this country now that the market is bust and the U.S. slaughter plants are closed.

Now as horse people, we know that just because the U.S. slaughter plants are closed, doesn't mean that horses aren't going to slaughter...but it certainly has changed just how easy it is for some people to make unwanted horses disappear. And without a doubt the profitability of disposing of said unwanted horse is gone.

I was a little surprised to hear a couple of other rancher's chime in with me that the whole "breeding thing" had just completely gotten out of hand. One gentleman put it quite eloquently..."It was to the point that there were too many horses in this country anyway. It didn't matter whether there is a U.S. slaughter plant open or not, horses weren't worth what they used to be anyway. It wasn't the closing of the slaughter plants that killed the value of horses for riding or horsemeat, it was the crashing economy and flood of horses that people couldn't afford anymore."

Huh?? Come to think of it, I am in total agreement with this old cowboy who probably hasn't been more than 150 miles from home in the last decade or so. It's amazing how smart some of these old guys are about things.

The most surprising thing I learned is that a local ranch has sold the last of it's buffalo and will be taking in 700 head of wild mustangs. The government will pay them $38 a head PER MONTH to let those horses live out the rest of their natural life on this ranch. I was dumbfounded!!

I am also curious! The first thing I thought of was all of those horses that Madeline Picken adopted and is working on placing. Are these horses part of that deal? Is it the Picken's that will be picking up the tab or will it be the government? Or I guess I should say us...the tax-paying citizens of the U.S.

Well, I am off to do some research...before I praise or condemn this, I guess I better know what the heck I am talking about. One thing about it...that ranch is going to make bank. You sure as hell cannot make that kind of money on cattle...or even buffalo. Stay tuned...

Just Wait A Day

There is a saying in South Dakota, that if you don't like the weather...just wait a day. Sometimes you only have to wait a few hours for the weather to change dramatically around here. But hey, that is probably why not a lot of people desire to live in this area. The weather in this part of the country is an everchanging and uncontrollable force that makes or breaks everyone and everything in its path.

Yesterday, we woke up to a brisk...fourteen degrees below zero.

Frosted ponies anyone???

By last night the temperatues had risen to 28 degrees. Still sound chilly? Well when you consider that the change was almost 40 degrees, to the felt like a veritable heat wave. It was a short lived deep freeze this time and we did not get nailed as hard as the eastern part of the state this time. Whewwww!! This winter has been a cold bugger. But the next few days are expected to be in the 40's with plenty of sunshine. It is going to feel like spring has arrived.

My Honey is still here....he decided to stay an extra couple of days and that has turned into an extra week. I love it! Today we are headed out to terrorize some prairie dogs with a new rifle...more on that later. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Mechanics Of The Turn

Radio Silence broken...LOL...My Honey flew in for the weekend and we have been spending some "quality" time together. Alas, it seems that I can only stay away from blogging for only soooo long. It's like an a good way.;)

I am always so interested in the posts that others do on what it takes for horses to win in certain events...Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind has really enlightened us on Reining-type horses. Stephanie did absolutely fantastic posts on the current trends in Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle horses.

So what about Barrel horses?

Raising and training ideal barrel horses has become pretty specialized too. A lot of people think that speed is the most important asset a barrel horse has. But speed isn't everything. As a matter of fact, too much run in a barrel horse is NOT a good thing. You can have a super fast horse, but if they cannot gather up, rate, turn and explode out of the back side of the have a race horse, not a barrel horse.

The biggest difference between barrel horses and horses bred for other events is that a good barrel horse can and always will come in all shapes and sizes...and interestingly enough, can often come from non-traditional bloodlines. Like anything, bloodlines are important and certain bloodlines are known for repeatedly turning out winning barrel horses. But I have seen a lot of horses that are bred for other disciplines that I felt would have made excellent barrel horses.

Take for instance this horse...
The immortal Scamper. Now, I am not knocking Gills Bay Boy's breeding...I like it!! I love seeing foundation running blood proving, yet again, why they became legendary. But names like Question Mark, Tonto Bars Gill and a double shot of Leo(through Johnny Do It) just aren't names that a lot of modern barrel horse breeders brag about, even when they are present in the bloodlines. I always thought it interesting that breeders did not jump on the bandwagon to start reproducing these bloodlines like they have other's??

So what does it take to make a phenominal barrel horse?

Well, good breeding is a start.
They do have to be fast.
They have to have the right attitude too.

But the maker or breaker of most barrel horses is...the turn!!

How a horse gets around a barrel and away from it can propel a horse of average speed into the big leagues. It can also pre-determine(for the most part) just how long that horse is going to stay sound and just how easy(or hard) they are to pilot around the barrel pattern.

The horse that turns a barrel ideally is one who both pushes and pulls himself around the barrel. They always stay gathered and all four feet are actively working to turn the barrel. These horses can be considered All-Wheel Drive horses. Two prime examples of outstanding barrel horses that run like this are these two...
Scamper was definitely an all-wheel drive horse. Charmayne often remarked on how balanced this horse was around the barrel and seldom slipped. That is because he used all four feet to keep himself moving forward.

A more currently reknowned barrel horse is Martha...

Anyone who has ever watched this mare run is just amazed at how fast she can get around a barrel. Looking at her form, it is easy to see why.

The next type of turn is the Rear-Wheel Drive horse. These horses usually have a lot of natural rate, get their hindquarters deep into the ground and can really drive out of a barrel. A horse that has too much drive from his hindquarter often has the problem of losing forward momentum. They sit, push, sit and push themselves around the barrel. It is common to see these horses knock barrels down on either the backside or coming out of the barrel, because their hips are not pushing them far enough past the barrel to clear it. To fix it, it is simply a matter of teaching the horse to rate less and keeping their front-end active.

Two examples of these type of horses are Christie Petersen's Bozo...
I know that Bozo looks like he runs pretty level, but I guarantee it took a lot of training to get him this way. He was so quick and could set his hindleg so well coming around a barrel that he often tipped barrels coming out of them, especially the second barrel. Because the second barrel takes an extra stride to complete the turn, when he would set that hindleg and power off, he had a tendency to push himself out right on top of the barrel. If you have ever watched some of Christie's runs on him, she looks a little wild coming out of second because she is is actively trying to keep him moving that one extra stride.

The other is Cruiser...
It's pretty easy to see how deep Cruiser gets into the ground. It took a long time for Charmayne to get this horse seasoned. Which brings up an interesting point...both of these horses(Bozo and Cruiser) took a long time to season. Turning a barrel was so easy for these horses that they just didn't have to think about it much. That gave them too much time to gawk off into the stands or think about the dash to the next barrel. Time and consistant training turned their natural ability into a winning attribute though.

The third type of turning style is The Front-Wheel Drive horse. This is the least desirable of all the turning styles. That doesn't mean that horses that run like this cannot be winners...but darn are these horses are hard to ride and nearly impossible to control when they start into that turn.

Two of the best examples of these horses are Stitch...
He almost scrambles around the barrel and most people comment on how rough he looks to ride. Stitch's saving grace is that his is fast. He isn't nearly as "front-endy" as this horse though...

Rocky is the prime example of a horse that literally pulls himself around the barrel. There is little a person can do to control a horse's shoulders when they run like this. Either they go into the barrel in the perfect spot and you get around or you hit the barrel.
It is important to realize that horses that run like these horses do, have the highest rate of injury and often don't last as long as other types of running styles. A lot of time what happens is that they get lazy with their hindquarters and drag their hocks out behind them. The hock joint isn't designed to take that sort of torque. As was the case for Rocky. He developed arthritis in an unusual place in his hock and after only a couple or three years of hard running ended up having to retire.

Like any event, horses that have different styles need different types of training to reinforce the idea of the "ideal" way to run. You can take a horse that runs ideally and mess him up, but you will never completely change a horse that naturally runs one way or the other. As all of these NFR cowgirls will testify too...sometimes you just gotta go with what you got.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Horse

I don't have to look very far to see who Shooter reminds me of... Moon is Shooter's big brother and they resemble each other in a lot of ways. Namely, they both like to be in your business. The biggest difference is Shooter is a genuinely friendly colt. Moon....ummmm...Moon is uhhhh...Well, Moon is different than any other horse we have!!

I raised Moon much the same way that Shooter is getting raised. He was imprinted. He was gentle. He had regular human contact. Moon never appreciated any of it. His favorite trick was to bite me at feeding time. Believe me...I worked tirelessly to break him of the habit...he was just a dirty, little sneek. I resorted to buying feeders that hung on the fence and dumping the feed over the top. He would still try to get a nip in. I was really happy when he outgrew that!! When it came time to trim his feet...Ohhhhh...I was so proud! Here I had a weanling that was halterbroke, led and I could clean out his feet. Trimming should be a breeze right? NOPE...Moon decided the best way to avoid having his feet trimmed was to stand on my brother's head. When that didn't work, he decided to try flipping himself over backwards. Mad...OMG...I had never seen a colt so mad! My brother fixed his little wagon though. We put him in a stall. My 6'2", 200lb brother pushed him over against the wall and proceeded to trim one front foot. We turned him around and brother pushed him against the wall, went to pick up the other front foot and Moon managed to climb the wall...and then flip himself over. Needless to say, he got his other three feet trimmed while he laid on his back.

Isn't he special looking sporting his new lime green halter?(Megan got it for me for Christmas)...

It took a few years. Lots of cussing...a few thumps in the belly along the way, but by the time he was 3y/o he wasn't too bad. The last time I ever had any problems with him was when he decided that standing on me while I was trimming his feet was a neat trick. I promptly tied his front leg up and let him stand like that for a bit. When he was quiet, I proceeded to trim his foot while it was tied up. It was not a pretty trimming job...but he learned that trying to lay on me wasn't going to work and he couldn't stand on me either. After that-never a problem.One thing about Moon...he is smart. Smart like a coyote...if he thinks he can get away with anything...HE WILL!

Thankfully, he wasn't as belligerent about other things. From the first time I ever tried to clip him, he was fine about it. Broke out without a single hump, jump or spook. He was fairly unimpressive for quite a few years. The first time anyone besides me ever said the liked him was the guy that rode him in the feedlot for me. He tried to buy him. A team roper in AZ tracked a few steers on him. He tried to buy him. I let another heeler start him out of the box for me and he tried to buy him. Everything he does is like old hat to him. When I started him on barrels, I told my mom I thought he was promising...she was like oh yea...ummmm-hmmm. Then she saw him run. Suddenly, she thought he just might make something. It's kinda cool really...he was just a horse and not a particularly noticable horse, until you did something on him or watched him work. All of the sudden you wonder why you didn't notice him before. And how about this? Moon will be 11 this June and I think he is finally maturing! He sure looks different to me...bigger, thicker...fuller in the hip...for the first time in his life, he seems to have some presence about about a late bloomer-LOL. I am really looking forward to this year...Megan is going to run him in barrels at the HS rodeos. I am hoping we can get to a friend of ours so she can practice some break-a-way on him too. But Moon has become my horse...just like his mother was and I hope Shooter will be in the future.

How about this to end the day?

I know, it's not like other places don't get sunsets...but they just seem so spectacular here!! Doesn't that second picture look like a watercolor?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

When Horses Love Their Owners...

I know most of us remember when we were kids and how different our horses seemed then. We all seem to fondly remember our first horse and the special bond we shared with them. Most of us are always trying to recreate that bond.
You know the only thing that has changed over the years is US! Kids with horses are still creating those bonds and they always seem to be closer and more in tune with the horses than we are as adults. Oh, I know, we strive to learn equine body language and pick up on moods and we really, really want our horses to like and hopefully love us.

Why does it seem so easy for kids??
Or at least some kids??

Hmmmmm??? Maybe we need to put the pooper-scooper down once in a while and just BE with our horses. Maybe all of the things that people tell us is proper and important AREN'T really that important and this(see the series of pictures above) IS!!

I know that after watching Megan with her horses for a little bit, I put the scooper and the wheelborrow away and just spent the next hour just BEING with my horses.


PS-No treats were involved. Megan was laughing her fool head off because when she scratched their lips-Rip(the blue roan) would wiggle his top lip and Strawberry(the strawberry roan) would wiggle his bottom lip. And the last picture is of Megan backing Strawberry with just her feet. Wasn't she a fashion statement today-sheez!!