Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Right Man for the Job, Part II

"Huckleberry" is old-timey slang for "The right man for the job" and that is what I hope Huck will be.  Huckleberry Hound was a less old-timey cartoon character who was a little bumbly but nevertheless got the job done.

Huck came to us as Bandit.  Not sure how long he'd had the barn name.  I still use it a bit and in my head I combine it as Hucklebandit or Huckleberrybandit.

When I saw his ad, something caught my eye.  He was listed as a 7 year old "trail horse" that had been "originally trained in reining".   He was within my price range. I kept thinking about the ad and B had been encouraging me to try some other horses before committing to Kevin, even though we both love him.  Even the judge/trainer we got Kevin from said he'd like me to have a horse with more talent.

When I asked the seller for video and more photos, I got no photos, but I did get a copy of his papers and a video of him at a reining show with a youth rider.  I sent the info to B and she said "nice horse".   Usually when I send her sale videos she just says "no".

After the August show, as part of my soul searching, I asked B if she would go look at this horse with me as he was only about an hour away.  She suggested we have our farrier (trains/shows reiners) to look at him first as he lived in the same town.

Bob went to look at him and called B right away to say "if she doesn't buy him I will."

I started googling the horse's name and found his 2-year old sale ad listing him as "certainly one of the most talented Night Deposit Chex colts we have started. Out of AQHA Champion/Supreme reining and working cow horse mare.  This colt has the looks to be a top stallion and he has the potential and athletic ability to be a top reining horse or cow horse.  Lots of bone, shape and feel."

Of course a sale ad will say all the right things, but it just so happened that Bob knows the guy who campaigned him in his 3-year-old year and took him to the NRHA Futurity in 2011 so we also got some info from him about how great he was from someone not trying to sell him.  He was even started on cattle and "loved his job." So it seems that this very talented (though not NRHA World talented) gelding simply slipped through the cracks and got to take a nice long break from competition.

Four days later (same Saturday as the little show with Kevin I mentioned in the last post) we were out to try him.  He's been a pasture pet for two years.  The kid switched to Hunter Under Saddle right after the video I saw, but the Mom liked the horse so much they moved him to their back yard to a nice big grassy field.  Now dad wants to use the field for cattle so the horse needed to find a new home.  He was living with goats and ducks.  He ran up to us in the field and is super friendly.  He's a little jumpy, but considering he didn't get much interaction other than putting him in a stall at night with grain and letting him out in the morning, I think he's going to be fine.   He's shiny, healthy, sound, and a bit on the chunky side. Only known health issue is that his teeth haven't been done in at least 2 years, which we're fixing asap.   He bucked and freaked out while trying to lunge (owner warned us but I needed to know the full picture) so much I was a little afraid to get on him.  BUT something made me do it anyway.  I even made B lead us for a second so I could be sure he was relaxed and he was totally relaxed under saddle.  We only had the field to ride in but he did everything I asked, including spin! On grass!

Part of me wanted to hate this horse so I could just go back to Kevin. Instead I was kind of in love.  He has a Western Pleasure jog which is super rare for Reiners.  He was difficult to get to lope but he never fought.  I chalk that up to fitness level. After I untacked him he hung around near us.

The owner said he had someone coming over from Indiana to look at him the next weekend.  I knew I had to make the decision fast.  ANYBODY who saw this horse's breeding and rode him would see what we were seeing and snatch him up.  His ad didn't flatter him, but in person you KNEW he was something.

I had to make the decision fast and it was a lot easier to know what my decision would be than to admit it out loud to anyone.  It went against all of my intellect to buy the ONLY horse I looked at, but Junior was the first horse I looked at and he was the right one, too.

So I bought him.  I feel badly about Kevin but I know that if his owner decides to sell him we can find him a good home and we have the judge/trainer we got him from to help out with that.  BUT I decided to make the decision based on competing rather than having a pet.  I loved Junior and I would have never sold him even though we would not have been very competitive in the Ranch Versatility either, but I loved that horse and I would have been fine with that.

New pony!
But as much as I like Kevin, he's not my Heart Horse. Junior was.  It's okay because I have been fortunate to have had a whole year with him. I wish I could keep them both, but after only 4 days of trying to ride two horses I am done entertaining the fact.  Kevin was a great horse to start at these Ranch shows.  He was sane and sound enough to try things and give me a taste of what could be.  I will miss how easily and smoothly Kevin lopes and how far we've come with opening gates which is pretty flawless now. I think if I had bought Kevin last fall I would be in the same boat right now.  I'm ready for the right horse for the job.

I attended my first Ranch show with Junior and we placed in Trail.  I attended 3 (soon to be 4) Ranch shows with Kevin and we are in the lead for a buckle.  With Huck, who knows, but the 2 minutes we worked the flag last night got me pretty excited for the possibilities!!!

We brought him home on Tuesday and he's settling in.  He loaded in slow-motion, one foot at a time, but he didn't freak out or get super nervous.  He unloaded a little loudly, but easily. Still a little jumpy in general but improving.  We've had a few sessions of quiet ground work and a few rides.  I tried to take him through the water in the trail course be he wasn't having it.  We'll try that another time.  He went over the bridge after some tries but he didn't seem to have much experience/confidence working around a gate.  The first day he didn't want to walk into the wash stall, four days later I led him in and tied him and hosed him off with no issues. :)

He was VERY excited to see other horses and he was put in the smaller paddock over by the one mare and he bucked and reared and considered jumping the fence when she disappeared into her run-in. So now they're just in together as that seems safer.  She squeals a lot at him but (so far) he doesn't have a mark on him.  Feeding time is causing some drama but I think they'll work it out.  The other geldings aren't that thrilled that the mare has a boyfriend but they'll all chill out eventually. Thankfully he still lets me catch him and lead him away from her without fuss.

Huck and Jackie falling in love.
We had a clinician come yesterday for a session on Ranch maneuvers.  Huck was a bit amped up so I opted to ride Kevin instead and put the work towards our show next weekend. After we were done I tacked up Huck, who seemed a bit calmer, and rode during the break.  His spins are getting faster and I'm learning how to move my head so I don't throw up.  He's loping longer but I'm being very cautious and only loping a circle at a time.  Once I get a good full small circle we're done.  We're jogging serpentines and circles and taking lots of walk breaks.  It'll be a while before he's back in condition and we can really see what he's got.  So far I like everything.  Even though he's a little wonky, he's so wide that he feels completely stable, which is a new feeling for me!  I guess I've needed a 4x4 this whole time!

SOOOO many adventures are ahead of us and I know there will be times when I think I made a mistake, and maybe I have.  But I can tell there will be times when I know I made a good choice.  And yes, I'm completely terrified that something will happen to him but I'll save my list of Overanxious thoughts for another post... or all the other posts. ;)  Oh, and he's 14.2 so he really is a pony!!!! (15 at the hip) I can mount from the ground!!!

I have a feeling this blog will liven back up to it's original purpose, now that I am officially and once again The Overanxious Horse OWNER.

Partial Blue!

I promise I don't actually ride with reins this uneven.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Right Man for the Job, Part I

I've been planning this post in my head for a while and I thought I would be telling you about how I bought Kevin.... but, I didn't buy Kevin.  I'll tell you the tale...

As you know, the show on August 1st didn't go well.  Up until that point I had been hoping that I would become Kevin's owner.  We were in good standing to win a year end buckle.  MY FIRST BUCKLE!!!! At a RANCH show!  I was making a western pleasure horse into a Ranch Versatility horse!!!!

But then the show happened.   I was so taken aback by his behavior I tried to find what to blame it on.  There had to be an explanation.  I had a lot of thoughts about footing, bare feet, my vacation, ridden by multiple riders.... but the more I thought about it, the clearer the picture became.  Could it have been those things?  Oh sure.  BUT, this horse had been so willing to work for me for so long.... I think he doesn't WANT to do this.  When I lope along the rail and pretend it's Ranch Pleasure he's just a doll.  When I ask for harder things: spins, good stops, fast lope, trotting poles in a spoke, working on natural footing, he STILL gets uppity and has been since the show.  It's like it took him 11 months to reach his tolerance ceiling.  Kind of like a nice Uncle saying "Yeah, okay sweeting, we're done playing that game now, BACKOFF."

Or it could have just been a bad day.  Now, I know that horses have bad days. But we've not found our groove again since the show.  We're good if we do pleasure.  We're not if I try to work on anything else. It's like his switch finally switched from "Oh, alright, we can do this new thing" to "NOPE."

I took him to the little local open show on Saturday just to see how things were going to be, whether or not we'd progressed from the debacle of the last show.  We were 2nd in Showmanship, his backup was crap. 2nd (to my barn mate) in Ranch Pleasure and 5th in Horsemanship.  Horsemanship did not go very well.  2/3 of it were respectable.  The last 3rd (lope, stop, back) was ugly. Seriously that's not even hard.

AND the best part is it took me over an hour on Thursday to get him on the trailer.  We were just schooling loading.  OVER AN HOUR and B had to step in.  Brat.

So the real question is... either way... are we going to be competitive?  Oh yeah.... I'm up for the GREEN buckle, where am I in the whole big pack?... Oh.... We're not very good.  We place in Green classes and we tend to place in the Ranch Riding class (rail only).... but that's it.  He'll let me track a cow but he doesn't seem to attach the cow to what I'm asking him to do... he's just not cowy.  Thankfully he's not been afraid of them, but we haven't tried going in the herd, our only time with cows has been the one in the Boxing class. I'm afraid we've reached Kevin's potential success as a Ranch Versatility horse.  He can go do the Ranch Pleasure I think.  He'll need some work over poles but they're at least straight travel.

Then the next question was... do I choose Kevin over the possibility of being competitive?  After I lost Junior and started to consider a next horse I knew I wanted a Ranch Versatility horse.  When Kevin showed up I wasn't ready to buy and I just wanted a horse to ride.  Then I got a little attached to him.  I adore him when he's not being a jerk, which unfortunately is less now than it was in June. He is super smooth and SOOOO easy to ride on the rail. Point and shoot most of the time.  Do I want to be good at just one class?  That's kind of the opposite of what Ranch Versatility is.  We cut, rein, rope, and ride.  We do it all.

I have been a habitual horse ad looker for years now. While I was in Wisconsin,  I came upon a brief ad with an unfortunate photo....

This butterball just became my new horse.

I will tell you more about the new horse in Part II, but I'll leave you with a photo of him showing his excitement when his new girl-next-door disappeared into the barn....

Monday, August 24, 2015

Once Upon a Time...

It has been nearly 7 years since I became a horse owner for the first time.  I remember the emotions of those first few days so well.  I went back to the first few blog posts, just to see what they said.  I thought I'd bring you back to when this blog started.... the day after I agreed to buy my very first horse.   I hadn't even brought him home yet. :)

What I just love, is what I articulated as my first set of Overanxious fears: finances, my "nerve", him getting sick, him hating me, being too busy to ride....

Finances: Always an issue.  Horses are expensive.  Horse care is expensive.  There is always more STUFF I want. But I've managed to manage.

My "nerve": It came back, mostly, but I am still more comfortable with a quiet horse.  I think the biggest key to getting my nerve back was riding enough to get my balance back.  Riding through a buck or a spook is a lot easier when you have a solid seat.

Him getting sick: Well, yeah.  That happened.   It was awful.  It's still awful.  I miss him every day.  I will have a Junior-sized hole in my heart forever.  Colic is still scary to me and it will always be scary to me.  But I lived through it.  I'm still here.

Him hating me:  I should have worried about me hating him!  Those first six months were horrible.  I was terrified of him and he had no respect for me..... we worked it out eventually and I know he "loved" me or he wouldn't have worked for me the way he did.  I certainly loved him.

Being too busy to ride: Oh yeah, that happens all the time, but it balances out.  I've found, though, that even when I'm my busiest I've found that if I take the time to ride, the busy doesn't seem as overwhelming.  It's amazing what a little barn time can do. :)

And don't you wonder what brought on this bout of history and reflection?


Friday, August 14, 2015

What The Friday - Choosing Your Words...

I'll just leave this here....

Those words do not mean what you think they mean.
I found this gem on Pinterest.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August Ranch Show :(

Adam Black Photography
So yeah, the show on August 1st.

I've been avoiding posting about the show because I've needed some time to process and well, calm down.  The short version is that we had a terrible show.

I knew being gone for 7 weeks was going to create some problems.  I did not anticipate that the "problems" would manifest as they did.  I expected some crankiness, and I expected to need to take it easy on the days before the show and just work on re-establishing our working relationship.  His owners aren't as savvy with making him do his job correctly as I am, and he tends to try to get away with a lot of lazy behavior with them.  He just has that attitude, and when we've been in good consistent work he goes around with his ears forward and relaxed and goes out and does his job beautifully, as proven by the lovely blue ribbons we've earned this summer.

BUT, even though I took it easy (or at least thought I did) I think I asked too much of him and simply spent the four days before the show being very quiet and consistent.  Unfortunately, he responded with ruining three of my classes and losing a LOT of points towards the year-end buckle.

We moved the trail class to the grass field in hopes that it would make the show go faster (it didn't, btw and we were still showing the last class at midnight, but that's another matter). I discovered the morning of the show that Kevin was NOT willing to work on the grass.  WTF.  He would do the gate, log drag, and bridge just fine, but trotting the spoke became a battle for the ages and asking him to lope was like asking him to run into a burning building.  WTF.  I actually got to a point where I was afraid to continue schooling because he was threatening to buck or rear or something.  He's never been that bad for me.

I rode the trail class anyway and he had a fit during the poles, swinging his but out and trying his hardest to avoid going over them, then the lope-off turned into a rodeo of head tossing, lead swapping, and loss of all power steering.  I do not have it on video to anaylze, but the score was dreadful.  Minus 8 for the lope.... didn't even know that was possible.  (we also minused 1/2 on the dummy roping even though he stood perfectly still.... but that is also a whole other matter.)

Ranch Riding he was awesome!  The wack-job of a judge made us COUNTER-CANTER but didn't ask us to extend the jog.... WTF.  Kevin took the lead I asked for and took two corners without a hesitation.  I thought we were golden... but we weren't called back to the finals.... WTF.  Neither was another rider who also places in the top of this class consistently.  NOBODY liked this judge and nobody could figure out what his criteria was... he put people in the finals who were train-wrecks in the counter-canter.

Reining actually had some improvement again, but on the 2nd rundown stop and 1 1/2 turns he stopped after 180 and refused to turn any further.  I eventually got him turned, but he backed up enough steps that I was certainly DQ'd so after the class I took him into the indoor to try to figure out what the problem was.  We both ended up so frustrated (he was again threatening to do airs above ground) I got off and schooled him showmanship for a while trying to remind him he's PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF TURNING TO THE RIGHT!!!!!

Then they called the places and we tied for 4th.  WTF. I burst into tears when I heard the placing and felt horrible guilt for the angry schooling session I just did.

Horsemanship, usually one of our best classes, started just fine, but in the lope circle he became obstinate about bending/turning and suddenly threw his head up and took off with me.  I had to go two-handed (DQ) to get him back in control. WTF.  I have it on video and I've watched it 200 times.  I will not show you the video, but I will share two screenshots that give you the general idea... sadly the stills don't show his tail smacking around and his quick, choppy jumpy stride. A very humbling moment, though I will say I'm a bit proud that I rode it out and finished my pattern, though two-handed and had to add a few circles in the middle...
Kevin demonstrates how NOT to place in a Horsemanship class.
A few moments later in Horsemanship, this continued down the whole long side of the arena. 

Boxing was actually our best class of the day.  Our first cow tried to jump back over the fence several times so they gave me a new one, which was awesome because he wouldn't turn to the right on the first cow.  On the second cow he was actually really good.  He stopped and turned as I asked and there was only one time when the cow turned and ran faster than I could keep up with it.  We somehow managed to tie for 2nd.   WTF.

I felt all the feels that day.  My ego is bruised and my confidence in this horse is shaken.  B keeps reminding me that he's had ONE bad day in the almost-year I've been riding him.

The day after the show was a Fun Show so I decided to show and see what would happen... He was great.  WTF. We ended up winning Showmanship, Ranch Riding WT, Ranch Riding WTC, and Horsemanship (SAME PATTERN) and got 3rd in Trail.
Hey Human, do these four blues make up for yesterday?

Late night showing.

Saturday morning, just watching the cows. 

So clearly he's not broken, but now my mind is consumed with trying to figure out exactly WHY he go this cranky and HOW to never have it happen again.  I thought it was the grass until he pulled crap in the arena as well.  Do I put his front shoes back on before the September show?  I could not do trail and see if that helps his mood, but Horsemanship is also going to be on the grass at the next show and I have to do that class for the Buckle scores.  Is it his mouth?  Does he hurt somewhere?  But why was he just lovely on Sunday?!?!

I haven't seen the scores tabulated from the show yet, but I know some of the other Green competitors had good days.  We were in 1st after the first and second shows, and after the third show (which we didn't even show, we were only .5 behind the leader.  I'm sure we are now behind a few people, the question is by how much, and can we make that up with only one show to go?

I've been riding outside a little bit each ride to build his confidence or harden his feet, whichever is the problem.  I also set his correction bit aside for a while and have been working in a curved snaffle. I can actually show him in a snaffle at this show so I'm considering doing that so if he freaks out again I can at least have two hands to work with without an automatic DQ.

I'm most worried about having to do Horsemanship on the grass.  I only get one more chance to get our points back up.

23 days to go.....