Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cowboy Challenge

The second stop on our "Discipline Tour" was in the form of a "Cowboy Challenge" at the Knox County Horse Park. My BO and I loaded up Junior and Ranger and drove up to the horse park. I didn't really know what to expect. I've been to open English/Western pleasure type shows, I've attended shows at Quarter Horse Congress, the MN State Fair Arabian, Open, Paint, and Quarter Horse shows, various county fairs in MN and OH, a USEF Dressage show, a Hunter/Jumper show, a driving show, a "game" show (what they seem to call "contesting" here in OH), and a Welsh Pony show. THIS was a bit different. I am not great at trying new situations like this. I usually stress about everything from what to wear to what to bring to how early should I get there, etc. Luckily, I guess, I was so busy all week and all day Saturday that I didn't have much time to stew about it. I was only at the barn about 30 minutes before we were loaded up and on the road, we got there, unloaded, signed up, tacked up, and went right to the arena. I wasn't sure how he'd do without lunging but he was fine. Too many beans for pleasure class, but he was still one of the calmer horses at the place. There was a HUGE variety of folks. Only a few (myself included) wore safety helmets, most wore cowboy hats. Some had chinks and I saw all makes and styles of western, endurance, English and even saddles I had never seen before. I saw a few horses that were uppity and acting green but I didn't see anything that made me fear for life or limb.

It was FREEZING all day. I wore every layer I came with including my down vest, hoodie, and gloves. It was in the 90's all week and then it barely hits 65? Oh, Hi Fall.

The competition began at noon with the judge riding the course for us to see. It was also posted in a white board and I stupidly neglected to take a photo of it for you. It was hand drawn so it was much more interesting but more difficult to read than the kind. Then they called out the order of go. BO and I weren't until after the lunch break so we just hung out and chatted with people she knew. She practiced roping, I assumed we were a lost cause for that particular portion so we just hung around. It was good practice for him to be standing around in arena with a bunch of horses and just have to stand there. We did a little jogging and loping around the arena for something to do. I'm sure some people were looking at us like we didn't belong there....JOGGING!?! How.... snooty!

I should have taken more pictures. You had 30 seconds at each obstacle and the riding in between was at will. There was a timer but the timer was only to break ties, the scores were what really counted. Some people really booked it, but some just walked. It's going to be tougher to describe the "obstacles" in accurate detail, but here goes. ... First you had to dismount and the mounted guy who acted like a ring steward/announcer checked your tack over to make sure everything looked okay. Then we went over THIS. He was snorty but he went, much to my surprise. Maybe he'll be a jumper after all? There was a fake deer he eyed but decided it was not going to eat him. Next was a loop through some trees. He did NOT want to go in at all. I got him in about 20 feet and he spun around and we fought for a minute and just cut around the trees. I found out later that the announcer told me to wait because the mounted judge was coming to lead us through, but I didn't hear him and figured we'd killed our 30 seconds. Then we went up the hill (the whole course is basically a hillside so the audience can see the whole course, minus some minor tree obstructions) and through a round-bale feeder tipped on it's side and buried into the ground. Aced it. Then we had to get a letter out of a mailbox, flash it to the judge and return it. Then up the hill to a big rope and pool noodle curtain. It was supposed to be backed through but Junior wasn't having that and the whistle blew so we went head first instead. Then a tight box of logs for two 360 degree turns. Then down the hill and across a small bridge, over a mound of dirt and down through what used to be a mud pit but it's been so dry and warm that it was just a knobby ditch. Then a loop around to a lane of poles you had to go into and then back out of. Not so good on this one. Took forever to get him to back straight. Then down the hill to a 2nd bridge. Next a "compass" (picture is actually a failed attempt by my BO at a previous challenge) where you have two barrels and across the barrels is a board with a rope handle at one end. The board is not attached to the barrels. You pick up the rope end off of one barrel and then you have to move your horse around the other barrel, keeping the far end ON the barrel. We failed at this and pulled the board off. We did this correctly at the obstacle practice in August, so we just need to practice. Then we had to tie a piece of ribbon onto a rope hanging from a tree, then we had to rope a calf head. We actually GOT a horn which was lucky and that's only the 2nd time I've gotten the rope around something. Next was dragging a log by a rope. Then picking a bucket up off of one barrel and setting it down on the next one. Then dismount, walk through a gate, remount, and ride back up over the wall we started from and done.

We did not place, no surprise there, but I was surprised to see we got 10's on everything but the back-through poles which we received a 9. Of course we got zeros on the woods, curtain, and compass. The announcer was surprised to find out Junior was an arena horse. I was tickled with how well he did for the day. I had lots of fun and definitely want to go again next year! This is something we can do no matter what other "discipline" we ride. A calm obedient horse with a good relationship with his rider is really all you need to do well. Of course a little obstacle specific practice and some luck can't hurt! They actually give a buckle to first place!

This is the first time we've done an event where he's had to tie to the trailer. I didn't anticipate any real issues and he didn't disappoint. There was some evidence of him pawing the ground but when we came back to the trailer to load up he was standing quietly with his hip cocked. Where he was tied he couldn't see any other horses (just luck of the parking space) and it seemed to bother him enough to whinny a lot. Ranger on the other side of the trailer just rolled his eyes at him and refused to answer so it was a bit unsettling to Junior. I think he dealt with it just fine, but my next investment when I get some sort of windfall will be a slow feed haynet to keep him occupied longer.

And no, he's not that high hipped, he was just on a bit of a slope.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sarah and Max

First Junior and I had a very good ride yesterday. I took the curb chain off completely and hung it in my tack box. We rode during a lesson so the poles were being used and we didn't get much work over them, but we trotted a bunch, working on rhythm and trying to remember all the things Monet told us. It was hard work. I was fatigued much sooner than I had been on previous rides and Junior was much sweatier that usual. It was hot yesterday anyway and he was actually a little sweaty on his neck from turnout before we started. I didn't get any sweat out of the croup, but I did get it out of the shoulders so we're not doing too badly. Money explained that the sweat areas indicate which areas of the horse are working most and which we would like to see. She clarified that we don't need to always work a horse to a full sweat, but that sweat in the right places means the body is moving how we want it to.

He is doing what I ask him and I am really encouraged by that. It's hard work but he does it. He's such a good boy!

Below is a video with three clips from Sunday's Dressage clinic with Monet. First, Sarah riding Max at the start of the lesson. He has been so unwilling to go forward that Monet started jogging with him and using a lunge whip. Next is the end of Monet's ride, and finally, the last bit of the lesson with Sarah riding.

Please ignore the commentary from the peanut gallery. I was going to delete the sound but I wanted Monet's comments to be there. It was such a change in him. Chloe rode him last night and it was great to see that he's still doing the good work!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dressage is ... like... WOW.

Since accepting the fact that Junior is not going to be a western pleasure guru (I can hear you cheering from know who you are) we have been thinking about other things. One of the reasons I was excited about this barn is that I can bring in any trainer I'd like, either for private lessons, or in a clinic style and share time with other boarders or the public. One of those other things we're interested in is Dressage (again with the cheering!), so today we had our first Dressage lesson with Monet Phelps. Monet was my BM's trainer until she moved to California. She is now back in Ohio and came to the barn to do a clinic. There were only four riders so we each got about a 45 minute private lesson. I REALLY liked her. She was way over my head, but not in a bad way, in a very encouraging and inspirational way. I liked her teaching style and I think I will get even more out of our next lesson. She really focuses on body mechanics and how the rider can either help or hinder the horses' movement.

She began by making sure my stirrups were the same length. Then she showed me how weak he is in his left hip and that he has a sore muscle in there. All we worked on (as if it wasn't enough!) was working on keeping his body straight and even. She had me lose my curb chain as I expected her to do. I can barely keep the information straight in my head, but it was a lot about pushing on the inside stirrup when posting, sitting with the outside seat-bone in between, along with alternating contact and release on the inside hand and keeping more contact on the outside hand.... I think. It was a lot to think about all at once and I know that's only the beginning. We worked mostly at the trot and had ground poles along one wall and raised cavaletti on the opposite wall. It seems I've been "throwing away" the contact at the poles. That's been my "point towards the poles, sit up straight and pray" mode because I'm afraid he's going to trip. But he's actually more likely to trip if I release the contact. Duh. She rode him for a bit. The look on his face was "WTF are you doing?!?! Um...okay." I think he had more forwardness and more contact in that brief ride than he has in the two years I've ridden him. That's just not how the WP and Wenglish world works. I'm very glad I never trusted that world fully because I'm still open to the other ideas. My foundation training (though not highly technical) was much closer to what I did today. It was cool to see how he came around for her. When I got back on there was SUCH a difference in his movement. She had me post on the wrong diagonal to show me how much we had been helping him with the alternating pressures. Wow.

The homework she gave us is to do a ton of trotting, making sure to "stay out of his way" to encourage him to flex and sway. I need to get rid of the curb chain and stay with just the snaffle. We're to do lots of poles and cavalleti, and now that I know he's not going to go ass-over-tea-kettle if he goes over the raised ones, we'll be doing lots of those, too. Monet said he was really cute and she seemed to think he'd be a cute eventer. She thinks jumping and gymnastics will be good for him and that he's NOT uncoordinated, he's just weak asymmetrically as most horses are. He just needs... no WE just need to learn how to work around those natural obstacles.

The more I ride the more I realize how much I don't know. I don't think that's a bad thing, it's actually exciting, but also a little overwhelming. One thing at a time. :)

Max's girl, Sarah rode too. I think the day was most productive for them. The difference between the pair when they began the ride and when they ended it was astounding. I have it on video and will post it when I have some time to edit it. We didn't get video of us, but next time we do this we will absolutely video more. There are a few pictures, but I think they were all taken before she rode him.

Next on the tour of "What to do With a Western Pleasure Reject?" will be going to a Cowboy Challenge NEXT Sunday. Talk about a broad spectrum!!!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The other day I set up my camera on the tripod to try to catch some of our transitions and our pole work. I'm a visual learner so seeing what we look like helps me act like my own trainer. I will not show you what I videoed because it's dreadfully embarrassing. George Morris would simply throw up. I may use it later once I've done some improving so I can show some progress, but for now I'll just hide it.

I did NOT know I was recording the following video. I had to put the camera at the fenceline and I could not see the LCD screen. I thought I turned it off, but I accidentally started recording and then walked back to the barn, tacked up, and came back out so there were several minutes of the trees blowing in the breeze. I needed to re-set the poles. When I uploaded the videos and found it I was kind of intrigued. This is us totally relaxed, totally just the way we are, not trying to pose or be correct.

Then yesterday for the first time I had to get him from the field to ride because they've switched to day-time turnout now that it's fall. All three boys were standing by the gate. He'd lost his fly mask yet again so I took a quick walk around the field to try to find it. He came right to me and then he followed me the whole way. Right behind me. Stopping when I stopped. He didn't even have a halter on and the other two boys stayed waiting by the gate.

It's a little thing, but I cannot help but get a super warm-fuzzy about it. Two years ago this would not have happened. One year ago this would not have happened. The best part? This is only the beginning. Happy (somewhat belated) Anniversary, BugBug.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Dishonorable Dismount

It was bound to happen eventually. Every horseperson knows that sometimes gravity is stronger than your will to stay on the horse. Two days before our two-year anniversary, I finally had my first fall off of Junior. It wasn't a big deal, just a big spook and my inability to stay in the tack. We were out on the trail with woods on one side and a soybean field on the other. My BO and I were in the lead with three more behind us. ALL the horses did a big spook at one time. We concluded it was probably a deer but we were all too busy trying to stay on that no one was able to confirm it. Junior did that sideways jump-thing and spun. I sort of spun off the side. I was hanging on fairly well (THIS is why I trail ride in a western saddle!) but it became clear that I didn't have any leverage to get back UP and I was sort of hanging on his mouth, which was not nice, so I just let go and thumped onto my back. If I had been just a little bit more of a ninja I think I could've found a way to get back on, but sadly I am no ninja. Junior was a gem, just stood still even though Gunner was running (riderless) towards him. One other rider (it was her first ride, poor thing) came off, too so we stayed dismounted for a bit while everybody caught their breath. It wasn't until after I got back on that I even thought about the fact that there was never a question in my mind whether or not I should get back on. Nice.

This was not my first dishonorable dismount, of course, but it's been over 4 years since. I've been deliberately thrown only twice, but I've lost balance and come off a few more times and there was the time Banee fell. I've been relatively lucky. *Knock on wood!* I do find it infinitely harder to get back on a horse that's thrown you than it is to get back on a horse that you fell off of. I do have a lot more confidence in Junior now, that I think I would still get back on if he threw me, but it would take an awful lot for him to decide to do that. He's just not that horse....thankfully!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pictures of Roan

Happy Holiday Weekend! I begged Max's oldest girl to snap some photos of us cantering yesterday and she obliged. Then she sneakily took a bunch more while I was standing and chatting with her mom. I would like her to follow me around all the time. She is only 15, can you believe it? I sure love how his roan looks in black & white!

I'm not sure how our cantering looks from this one photo, but it is feeling SO much better. We don't look much like the stock horse English, but I'm okay with that. I remember a long time ago thinking that his footfalls at the canter were so light, but for a while there they felt like they were made by drunk elephants. Now they are stating to feel like feathers again!

That second to last picture is actually me roping a jump standard. I actually got it for the first time. Brings a new meaning to Wenglish...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mom and Dad

I would like to introduce you to Junior's parents!

His father was the 15.3 APHA stallion "GLACIER" by Clabber Tag and out of an AQHA mare. His accomplishments included: APHA ROM Halter, ROM Jumping, ROM Heading, ROM Trail, ROM Hunter Hack, ROM Working Hunter, ROM Western Pl., ROM Hunter under Saddle, Superior Trail, Open Versatility, 1986 World Ch, Hunter Hack, 1986 World Ch Working Hunter.

Junior's mother was a grand daughter of the Thoroughbred stallion HIS MAJESTY by the Jockey Club name of Majesty's Woodland. She won $6,600 in her racing career.

And this, of course, is what happened when they met:
I think I need a better conformation picture of him. I just like that he's all clean and braided. :)
If you're not familiar with it's an easy way to get photos of your horses's lineage. That is how I was able to get the dam's picture, but Glacier's picture was snagged by in2paints for me from the APHA website.

Happy pedigree browsing!