Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Watch Out World, Here We Come!

I got off work at 4:30 yesterday, and raced my butt home (literally) as fast as I could. The weather was perfect and I didn't want to lose out on even a minutes worth of warm daylight.

Got loaded and rolling as quick as I could and hit the arena about 5:30. As I was pulling in so was Kim.  This time I brought traffic cones so we could practice those.  You have to maintain a steady trot through them,  and he did struggle with that at the trail clinic.

We started with prayer and "parade" work, only this time while we were walking I waved my flag behind me over my shoulder so it was between Trax and I.  I was able to watch his shadow and see that he was not effected by it in anyway. Then I waved it under his feet and belly, and behind him.  No reaction what so ever.  (last week he was flinchy, the week before that he was terrified) I was quite happy.

We working on crossing over with the correct front foot, and lateral bends while I was still on the ground. We lunged in circles, both directions at a trot and a walk, working on the down ward transitions.  He excelled at the lateral's, did ok on the rest.

Then I got up on him...from the right side instead of the left. This is one of the things you have to do in the Ranch Horse Competition, and although I know he is good with it, it never hurts to remind him that it can happen at any time.

We started with the laterals again, and did not stop until he gave them to me without moving his feet, in either direction 2 times in a row.  This took a while but he finally got it.  Then we started working.

We walked, while asking for the flex at the jaw, we trotted while asking for the flex at the jaw.  We backed up, and then turned and went the opposite directions. I have been told that from now on when I stop him, I always need to turn him the other way to leave again in order to make my stops count.  There were a few times where I felt like he was trying to run off with me, so one rein stops ensued.

Then I decided to canter...he decided that a dead run would be better.  So we stopped (one rein) and started again.  I decided to see if I could get that right lead from him.  I pushed his right shoulder forward and asked for a canter.  He swished his tail and gave a hop (not a crow hop, just a hop) and took off on the left.  We stopped, and started again. Same thing, push the right shoulder forward and asked for a canter. He took off on the right lead and wheeeee we was flying! I tried to start with smaller circles but he was really wanting to go. When he wants to go and you are doing smaller circles, he does "barrel racer turns" which can be scary if you aren't ready for them.  I decided to use the whole arena and the rail.  He was still trying to gain some speed, and I was still asking for softness. I'd bump the reins a little and he would drop his head some but it was still a fight. Even still he kept the correct lead so I just kept going. I could hear MK in my head saying, "If you can ride it out till he gets it, you will win."  So I rode it out.  There were a lot of "Easy big boy" and "Take a breath Trax" from me. Then I noticed something. I was tense from holding him in. I was probably squeezing with my legs some, AND I was not relaxed in my seat.  So next came the big exhale from me, a butt plant into the seat and a solid conscious effort to relax.  Within 3 strides I felt him let down a little.  Half way around the arena he was no longer fighting me and we had a nice smooth canter. we made a full lap like this and then I let him stop. (okay I made him stop- he could have gone on for hours)


Then we did a canter in the left lead.  Not an issue for him, but asking for the softness is, so that was my goal.  It started out the same as the other, but took much less time for me to relax and even less for him.  Then we trotted nice and easy, practicing transitions downward to a walk, then back to a trot. I worked really hard on giving him very slight cues for a trot, and then relaxing me seat for the walk.  He is starting to get it.

About that time Kim decided to go but I was just getting warmed up so I stayed.  We did a lot of just trotting around the cones, and trotting to the chinks on the fence. Stop, pick them up flop them around, put them back, trot back to the cones, keep a steady pace, then canter around the arena in a right lead, then back to trotting.  It was all about moving, moving, moving, because I wanted to keep his feet and mind busy for a good while.

Then it was time to rest. Can you guess where we rested?  If you guessed the rope gate, then you are correct.  We rested right there in the middle of it.  We rested a long long time and pretty soon he was nosing the ropes.  (can you see me smiling?)  That got lots of pets and good boys.

Then we started moving again.  Trot, trot, trot, soft canter, back to a trot, down to a walk, up to a trot, through the cones, over to the poles.  Then we executed the poles from his bad side. 2 faults, correct the faults, try again. 2 steps rest for 10 seconds, 2 more steps rest for 10 seconds, and so on and so forth. 3rd execution was faultless.

This got more petting and a chance to rest at the rope gate again.  We were parked right next to the opened end, so I reached down and picked it up.

This is usually where he bails.

He did not bail!!!!!!!

He stood there totally relaxed. I pet him with the rope. He flinched but did not move his feet.   Lots of "good boys" came from that.  I hung it back up, we walked away and then came back. Same thing, lots of petting with the rope, no flinching this time.  (Can you see me grinning like the Cheshire cat?)

So I decided to see how far we could go with it. I asked for a step forward, and got it with no problem. I asked him to move his hip through the gate, and he got stuck.  We worked on it for a long time. Every correct step got a nice long rest.  A couple of times he told me he wanted to bail, but I talked him out of it. I would hang onto the rope, never letting him pull to far and ask for another step back into the gate.  One time he moved so that the rope was in his face. I thought that it would send him over the edge. It didn't. He looked at it ,and he sniffed it, but didn't freak out, so we rested there like that and every so often I would wiggle it around so that it could touch his face but not smack him. He was totally cool with it. Good boy.

I kept asking for that hip to move through and we never did get it. One time he started to get it and the rope touched his butt. Now THAT caused him to bail.  So I dropped the rope, we circled around to the closed end and settled.  Then I picked up the rope and we started all over again. This time I petted him on the butt with it. I flopped it all around till I heard him let his air out. Then we tried again.  We worked on this for a good while and although I never did get him to execute the task completely, I did finally get him to let me hang the rope back up again to "close the gate", so we called it good right there.

I hate to admit it but I dang near cried.  I know, seems silly, especially since we didn't fully execute the task, but I honestly had my doubts that we would ever even get past the gate.  Now I know that we will.  I know that we will get past the rope gate, the log pull, the right leads, and even the spins.   I know now that with a little time and perseverance, there isn't anything he can't learn.  I also know now that although I don't expect to win any ribbons this summer. I can say with confidence that we will probably not make fools of ourselves, and possibly even give a few other folks a run for their money!

I took home a couple of good lessons from this ride. First and foremost being that I have not been giving him time to get into "training mode".  We were pretty close to an hour into our ride before his mind settled down enough to think about what we were doing. Then we rode for another full hour. The days I was having a hard time with him, we barely even reached an hour before I called it a night.  So now I know that he needs that first hour to get settled.  Secondly I learned to keep riding him through his rough spots, and then reward reward reward.  I guess I knew that, but really gained a new perspective on what it means.

We finished the evening by riding around and picking up the chinks and the roping rope, I had sitting on the fence.  Then we opened and rode through the regular gate. He did quite let me close it like I wanted, but I didn't expect him too either.

Then we had yummy treats and a photo op.

"You got Candies"??

This is his "I did it!" look

Do you see what I see, Lady?

He was pretty interested in something that was going on over on the BB Brooks land. I couldn't see what he was looking at, but he could.

When we got home he did something completely different.  I unhaltered him to turn him loose and instead of just taking off as soon as he was free, he stayed with me.  He hung out while I petted him and loved on him. It wasn't until I said, "Go on and go" that he finally headed down to his favorite dirt hole to roll.

My boy is growing up.


  1. Oh Cindy, this post almost had me tearing up too!! I am sooooo happy for you two!! How cool...after the part where you typed about grinning like the cheshire cat, and saying you were going to see how far you could push things, I will admit that I was worried a bit. I probably would have called it a night right then and ended on that super positive note, but you pushed through and it was good. :)
    Big fat thumbs up for you guys! Whoohoo!!!! Give that handsome hunk of horse a kiss for me too. Oh wait, maybe a carrot instead, pretty sure he doesn't give a rat's patooty about any kisses from me.

    1. I think he would quite enjoy a kiss from you, or a carrot!

      It's possible that I should have stopped on that super positive, I guess I didn't because he was staying calm and really trying. I did try to keep my "asks" to one step at a time, each rewarded with a rest. So I think that was the key.

  2. Wow what a great ride! He really has progressed. I was smiling for you too while you were talking about the gate, what a good boy, he will be a ranch horse champ :)

  3. Way to go! Great ride. Happy tears - I've been there, totally get it!

  4. Forgot to you read Kate's blog? It's awesome and I highly recommend it. She's a good horseman and extremely articulate writer. Please check it out, if you haven't already, think you'll enjoy it immensely! All horse all the time, blog...I would do a link if I knew how. She just did a post about this very subject and made a wonderful break through with her horse, Pie.

  5. Crap, I told you the wrong name. It's called "A Year with Horses". sigh...

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes I do read it. I love love love her blog. Some good stuff going on over there. I do try to apply what I read there to my riding. I wish I could say it always works for me, not the trying, the remembering to try. The tries do work! :-)

      I have been thinking all night about what you said, about where you would have stopped. I do believe now that I should have stopped there. We will see tonight if I went to far. We have another lesson with MK. I have to remember not to push him so hard. *chants to self* "not on a schedule, not on a schedule"

  6. Sounds like an awesome ride! I could feel your big smile with every word - good on you, and your boy!!

  7. Hey Trax, I think I can see your Lady smiling from where I live! You did good my new friend! I am so proud of you with the rope gate! You were very brave!


  8. Oh my gosh, I was smiling with you! You write so well and I felt like I was riding it with you. Especially the fast part, which was fun because Tripp doesn't know what fast is yet. :-)

    1. Thanks Karen and Tripp, I don't know about the writing so well part though! lol
      But I do try to convey what I am really feeling through my words.