Sunday, January 19, 2014

ASHA Clinic

The day of the clinic dawn clear and cold, not like frigid cold but certainly pretty brisk.  The ponies were already munching on a quick breakfast and TC and I were hustling to get my trailer hooked and ready to go.  My guest, Brown Eyed Cowgirl (she really does have gorgeous brown eyes-in case you were wondering) was already set to go.  I don't know why I didn't take some time the day before and get my trailer ready, I know I had planned on it....oh wait, yes I do, because from the minute BEC rolled onto my property it was a gab-fest.  I'm pretty sure we talked non stop for two days!  Not saying it was her fault I wasn't ready just saying that....I forgot.  Cuz I'm cool like that.

Besides, I was only going to be gone for an afternoon, so it wasn't like it took me a long time to load, and TC, bless his trucker heart, can hook up to a trailer so fast it will make your head spin.

When she had arrived the day before I was riding Killian. We had just been trotting circles in the arena.  I knew that she and I were planning to go ride so I went ahead and put Killian away while she unloaded her ponies her incredibly gorgeous horses.  We chit-chatted, she met my horses, I met her horses (priorities ya know) and we saddled up and headed out to the desert.

This time I was on Trax, she was on Frosty and ponied Moon.  Let me just say that having someone to ride with, and talk with, who shares the same interests, who is not constantly complaining(Simon), and who I did not have to worry about getting hurt (TC) was a BLAST!

We didn't make it ten feet off my road and a young guy drove past us and yelled "Hellllooo Beautiful!" at her, causing Frosty to spook into Trax, and we laughed our asses off over it.  In fact there were a couple of times that Frosty would shy away from something, and one of the things I loved about it all, is that for was just something you deal with when riding, and we rode through each incident as if it never happened.  Its all you can do.

We had a great time, it was a wonderful relaxing ride and we made it back just as it was getting dark.

Then Cut n Jump came over and we headed out to the Mexican Cantina.  All I am permitted to say is that the food was delish, the service was wonderful, and there were cervesa's and margaritas involved. I can't tell you much except that at least one of us comes from a long line of fainting goats, at least two of us have some pretty big opportunities looming on the horizon, and one of us does not know her left from her right.

 Everything else is highly sensitive, top secret (as in secret squirrel) information which can only be shared on a need to know basis.  I will tell you that we pretty much closed the place down and in order to get us to leave the kitchen staff turned their music up super loud as a hint to tell us it was time to go.  So we headed back to my place and eventually called it a night.

Now back to the clinic.

I was surprised at how calm Trax was for the warm up.  In fact he was pretty darn good all day.  There were a couple of times that he got kind of wound up and refused to even stand still for me, but the clinician, Troy, helped me through those situations by reminding me of the things that I had learned from Jay and Mark, back in WY.   Things that I had some how forgotten.

When Troy asked me what my background was I didn't know what to say so it came out as, "Er...Um...Horse has mental issues, I have no clue what I am doing...blah blah blah."

I then proceeded to back that statement up with riding like it was my first time on a horse (It kind of felt that way) and my horse proving that he knows.....NOTHING!  Well not nothing, Trax can counter arch pretty well.  (Thanks Mark Keil)

I did learn an awful lot though. For example, I lope circles all day long at home, but when it came time for us to do our circles we fell apart.  This was a complete and total surprise to me.  I know my horses shortcomings. He can't stop, he is heavy in the face, and his rider has no clue how to communicate with him.
But I thought for sure the one thing we would do really well was lope circles.

I could not have been more wrong.

 Most of it was me.  I was trying so hard to remember all the things I had been told about my riding position (elbows in, hands like this, look where you want to go not at your horse) that I was like a cement block on his back.  Finally he yelled at me to relax and ride my horse, and I did and we did much better. It was more like loping circles at home.  And Troy was so excited because we FINALLY learned SOMETHING.

I'm pretty sure that what he thinks we learned, is not exactly what we learned.  What I learned is that when I lope circles at home, I have been letting Trax pick the route.  Not happening anymore. From now on, he will follow my guidance.  Not being able to chose where I wanted my circles to be yesterday was very frustrating for me.  That was my fault because I haven't been demanding it in the past.

The other thing I learned from both him and BEC was more on those flying lead changes, and how to execute those correct lead departures.   While I am on that subject I really need to throw a shout out to BEC. She on more than one occasion took time away from working on her own horse to help me to into action the task that Troy was having us do.   I don't mean just explain it. But she really worked with me.  It meant the world to me that she was willing to do that.  Also I want to say that one of the most important things that was said to me during this clinic came from her.

She told me, "Stop riding the horse he used to be, let go of that and ride the horse you have today."


Then came the flag work and guess order to do this properly your horse has to be able to stop and do a roll back.  And damnit we tried. We tried our very best and a couple of times we kind of sort of got it.  There was one time when I actually felt him stop underneath himself.

With that in mind, I now know what I am looking for and what it feels like.  This is important to me because lets face it, I have never had a trained horse before. I have never even had a chance to ride a well trained horse before, so when people tell me that I should know what it feels like...well I don't.  I can only imagine what it is supposed to feel like.  Truthfully my imagination is not up to par in this area.

Truly I think that flag work was one of the most beneficial things for us, and I really want to set something up like that for us at home.  But in the mean time, I can improvise I am sure.  I can imagine the flag in my head and I do the routine.  "Stop, back up three steps, turn with the head, now use your leg, now drive him out of it"  Lather Rinse Repeat.

Then came time for the cows.

Now let me just interject that each rider ended up with a dirty rotten crafty little speed demon. And every single person worked those cows until they got some good stuff going on. It was thrilling to watch, and as per Troy's instruction I watched every person work their cow. I didn't just stop there either, I made Trax watch too.  Where ever the rider went with the cow, I made him turn so that he couldn't help but see what was going on.

Then came our turn.

Out walks Lazy Lulu, who I am quite sure is a direct descendent of one of Michael Johnson's dairy queen cows. She was a beautiful little Charleigh (sp) who was just






She stopped to smell the flowers, and looked up at the sun in the sky and I'm pretty sure I heard her singing, "La la la la la"

Then she saw Trax and said, "Well Hello there pretty pony, do you wanna be friends?"

And of course Trax, who doesn't have a mean bone in his body, says to Lulu, "Why sure!"

Then they touched noses and skipped off together to play hopscotch.

And I had no clue what to do with a cow like this. The tiny scrap of confidence I was holding on to shattered, and I looked to Troy for guidance. Bless his heart he tried to talk me through it.  But in the end he just called for a different cow.

So what I learned from the next cow was that we have a long ways to go before we are ready to properly work a cow.  Troy finally told me to quit following the cow and send the cow where I wanted him to go. Once I was able to do that we did much better.

Now this is where I feel the need to interject a revelation that I had last night which totally connects with what he was telling me.

Back when I first got Trax, we were invited to help some folks drive a herd of cows on an 11 mile trek.  At one point we were pushing this herd through a gate and one big old heifer squirted off down the fence and it was up to Trax and I to go stop her. She had a good ten feet on us, but I pointed him where I wanted him to go and gave him his head and we caught in an instant and without me even saying a word he turned and cut her off and spun her back down the fence where she joined the rest of her herd.   So knowing that he is capable of doing such a thing, why on earth do we have such a hard time in the pen?

I can tell you why.  Or at least I can tell you what I believe.

That day I KNEW that we HAD to stop that cow.  I rode my horse with complete conviction. I saw the entire maneuver play out in my mind before it ever happened and my horse, who on this day was completely unhindered by my lack of confidence, got the job done without a single misstep. Those were back in the days that I didn't realize that my horse didn't know anything. I believed he could do anything.  I had no fear, no trepidation, and complete and total confidence in my mount. I also had no clue of what a crappy rider I was.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

Those days are long gone, and I do want to be a better rider, and I do want my horse to be better...but my confidence in both my horse and myself, to perform in this sort of venue,  is completely gone and I have to find a way to get it back.

The more I think on it the more I think that this may be one of the roots of our problem...ok problems.   I am so sure that we can't do this that or the other thing, that even when I give the command, in my mind I am convinced that it isn't going to happen and so it doesn't.  This is especially true with stopping.  I don't envision the stop, I envision the fight.  I don't sit the stop, I prepare for the brace.

I am not sitting here trying fool myself into thinking that this is going to fix it all.  Trax and I need help.  Most people, or at least everyone at this clinic, can pick up on the reins and their horse will drop his head. Trax lifts his.  I don't know how to change that. Someone is going to have to teach me. Until we get that, none of this other stuff is going to happen. I am pretty sure it is going to take someone who is willing to ride my horse and teach him and then let me get up on him while they instruct, and teach me how to do it.  Just like what I was doing with Mark Keil.

Anyway, after the cow work BEC decided to head home.  I was about done but really felt like I needed to end on a positive for my horse so I moseyed on over to the trail pattern.  We worked the gate, not perfect but successfully.  We backed through a series of L's without a single fault.  Of course no one was there to see that!  We side passed over a telephone pole....4 times.   We did all kinds of things and it was good and I thought to myself, "Well he's not a bad trail horse"

At one point I was chatting with one of the other gals by the trail obstacles, and she said to me, "Oh he must still be pretty young huh?"

", he is about 13."

It is hard to explain to people about his back ground.  I finally just said, "He's a blown up rope horse"

And she smiled with a look of sincere sympathy and rode away.

I did attempt the log drag (with me on the ground) but Trax made it clear he was not ready.  I didn't push the issue.  Not because I was afraid, but the space was limited, and I know that for working on his fear of ropes space is a must.  I have to give him room to work through it and to do so there would have had us crashing into other horses and obstacles.   I chose safety for my horse (and others) over winning this time.   I know how to work on this. We have done if before and we just need to do it again and then never stop doing it.

CNJ did come out and watch and she did get some of my cow work on video. But I will not ever share it.  In fact, there will never be any showing of the video that BEC took either.  It isn't pretty and it isn't good.  It is my own personal training tool and that is it.

I don't know if my post reflects that I had a great time and it was a great clinic. Troy Rogers was a fantastic instructor and he did help me alot.   I learn so much from watching the others ride and from watching Brown Eyed Cowgirl ride.  Let me tell you....that girl can ride!

I can't believe that throughout the weekend I only took one single photo. Here it is. Lunch Break.

I am anxious to get to work on my horse, and myself.  I am also looking for a trainer who can help me the way I need to be helped.  I might check with Charlie Hill to see if he is willing to ride my horse as well as working with me.  I am not sure he does that anymore as he is getting up in years and has a lot of physical limitations.  I guess more will be revealed.


  1. Very interesting post. While it may seem as if you are being hard on yourself, it is really good that you can analyse your self and know just what you need to work on. Finding someone to help you is a step in the right direction; I know for me it helps to have someone to ride with that can point out things that should be obvious to me, but I don't even think of them until someone says something. As far as the picking up the reins and the horse softens, yes I agree that it is a very basic and important building block for most all manoeuvres. Believe it or not, you need to use your legs to help accomplish this. You can pull the horse's head around anywhere with the reins, but to be soft in the face he needs to use his body. He needs to round out in the back to properly break in the poll, so squeeze with both legs as you pick up on the rein; and when he tucks, release the pressure from both cues. If you start with the legs first then add rein, he will associate (eventually!) the leg pressure with asking him to give his face, and will start preparing his body for the rein cue which will then become easier and easier to do. Don't worry if he walks off while doing this, just keep asking, and remember, the timing of the release is very important, it will be an "aha!" moment when he gets it, then it will just require consistency on your part. I call this "bridling up" and I like to do it before I ask my horse to move out, whatever I am asking him to do, because it puts him ion a balanced frame that makes it easy for him to move.
    Hope that helps, and any other opinions I would be most interested in reading.

    1. Thank you Shirley. That does make good sense.

  2. You get to a certain age, those doubts creep in unless you just keep doing it and doing it. The same goes for falling to pieces when riding in a group where you might be watched. It happened to my sis when she came back to riding after some years off. Her horse is a blown up teenaged showjumper and a worrywart, and she was doubting herself, so similar issues. I can assure you that after a few months of riding every month at her adult riding club rallies, plus going to some mounted seminars and workshops, she has been having an absolute ball with her fussy old man, who has relaxed a lot as he gets used to going out to these low pressure days, and a lot of her freezing up has ended. She is avoiding competitions for now, though, so I might suggest you do the same. Just find a regular club and more workshops where you can ride more often in public, as well as getting those lessons you want. That should keep you motivated to ride more at home without putting too much pressure on you or Trax, and for goodness sake, as I often had to say to sis, remember it is supposed to be fun! :)

    1. You are so right and that is one of the reasons I only did the clinic. Of course everyone was watching me even still. But I was there to learn and I had to keep remembering that.

  3. You know I think it does come across as me being hard on myself, but really I am not. The truth is, the majority of the horses there were light years ahead in training than we are. They are being ridden by experienced riders most of whom have done this sort of thing before. Or some sort of thing anyways. I am not over here saying "poor me". I am saying that I needed that wake up call. What I am trying to do is going to take a whole lot more effort than what I have been putting into it. I was putting a lot of effort into it, but then I got lazy. I had good reason...big move, new job...lots of life getting in the way. But now, if I am going to continue to pursue this I need to just get busy. Or not. I don't have to do anything. But I was reminded that half measures will not work if I want to take him further in this. I think he does have the potential, and I think he does have the try, and so we will give it a shot. We may never be really good at it, but we will give it our best shot.

    The other thing I want to say is that it also sounds to me like I am whining that everyone got a good cow but me. That is so not the case and it would not have made any difference. The second cow we got was plenty good. We just weren't ready for it.

    One thing that Troy said to me more than once was, "Hey it is okay, you just aren't there yet, what matters is that you are here and you are will come."

    I believe will come.

  4. I don't even know where to start...LOL...It was an awesome day and 1/2. I can't wait til we can get together again. And give Mason a pet for me. He stole my heart, the big lug. :-)

    OMG-'The fainting goat family'....It was the tequila talking. Hahahahaha. You know we actually have 'Secret Squirrel' stickers. No kidding. I will have to remind the hubby to bring some down with him when he comes.

    I know you say you are not being hard on yourself, but you do underestimate your ability (just like I underestimated Frosty's). It's there and I think once you start focusing on it, you will make what might feel like big improvements. I also don't think you are giving Trax enough credit, as far as where he is in his training. He just needs some fine tuning...and I think he is ready for it. By the end of the day, he was wanting to get soft in the poll and give you his face. Numerous times I saw him dip his face when you picked up on your reins. Whatever his issues were in the past, you have done a great job working him through them and now you can focus on fine-tuning both you and his skills. The foundation is there for sure.

    When I left, I couldn't tell for sure if you had enjoyed yourself or not. We both had that glazed over, 'I have just learned a ton and am trying to absorb it' look on our faces and I was exhausted. Keeping Frosty's energy level up is draining. I feel like I practically have to vibrate to keep him 'alive' under me. Right up until he ran that cow down the fence and that may be the first time EVER that I have felt that horse come alive, in a good way. It was definitely a highlight for me. :-)

    We'll get together again soon. Now that I know what you want to work on, we can do that. Next time I'll bring Shooter and Little John...But there will be NO drooling on my little paint horse. Hahahaha

  5. "I rode my horse with complete conviction. I saw the entire maneuver play out in my mind before it ever happened and my horse, who on this day was completely unhindered by my lack of confidence, got the job done without a single misstep." right there you nailed it, or part of it, a lot of good riding is commitment to the task at hand. Mind in the middle and bum on the horse! I too wonder if you are being tough on yourself, but we are our own best/worst critic. Glad you had a good weekend, and BEC as a coach?? Awesome!

    1. yes FV, I believe it is, and I think today (Monday) we proved that too ourselves!

  6. Agreed with what has been said so far. Although I didn't get to see the dry work, what I seen on the cows was good. If you want to work on fine tuning, I can help you with that. It's what we worked on before and goes hand in hand with that. As your horse softens up, your overall rides will improve, your stops will improve and it will all become more consistent.

    You can do it, you just have to stop thinking about it and let yourself do it. (This is the same hang up I have riding too.) You know you're not just a passenger up there, your horse is looking to you for direction. Remember, we didn't all get there overnight, we weren't all born knowing this stuff and while some of us have a healthy dose of God given talent, (or not) we all have things we need to work on. When you work on it and learn it, it is such a feeling of accomplishment in the end. I totally 'get it' about not knowing what its supposed to feel like and everyone asking if you feel it. If you don't know, how do you know the difference? Lol. You felt the stop, so now there's a reference point...

    Dinner was a blast and it was great getting to hang out with you both. We gotta do it again! And again, and again, and again... Lol

    1. Right! Got it....not a passenger.

      Dinner was a blast!