Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cowgirl Up!

So my assessment that Trax was trying to tell me that he was ready to go to work, was totally off base. I can only assume that he was actually trying to tell me that he was ready to go graze in the pasture.

I guess saying that is not totally fair. We actually had a pretty decent ride for the first hour or so.

That is not to say that he did not try some of his same crap of running off the minute I asked for the lope, but this time I shut him down before he ever had a chance to get started.  If he started in with his, "I'm outa here!" bullshit, I immediately drove his butt into the ground, backed him up, turned his should and loped half way around the arena, and then repeated that exercise over and over again.

We also did a gazillion serpentine's.  Not the nice pretty ones done by two tracking that Mark used to ask for. These were just "turn left, two steps, turn right, two steps, turn left, two steps, turn right."  We did these at a trot, and by time we were done he seemed pretty mellow.

So then I asked for the the nicer, slower counter arch/two track serpentine's. He was happy to do them and I thought that maybe...just maybe...we were starting to make some progress.

We also did some other stuff, did a reining pattern (which he still remembers from a year ago), did the gate, did some side passing and really worked on our spins.

The only thing we didn't had not done yet was the log pull.  So I went and grabbed it and we drug it around.  I almost always drag with my reins in my right hand, loop the rope just half a turn around with my left and then hold both pieces of the rope that have tension on them in my hand.  Doing so allows me the ability to toss that rope away if we get in to trouble.

For three steps he was a little snorty and hot, but then he settled down and things were "normal"  (which a relative term with this horse).  As we were doing this I realized that technically we are supposed to dally with the right hand and drag that way.  I decided to stop him, switch sides and go from the right.

To steal a phrase from "Funder"  I swear, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

He was fine till we started walking, the log was now in front of him and all he had to do is walk past it.  Instead he backed sideways away from it, then around it.  I kept talking him to take it easy and relax while asking him to just walk slowly forward.  I had my reins pretty short on him, but it was irrelevant.

Do you see where this is going yet?

The next thing I knew he was gone, and I mean mentally, physically and without any clue that I was up there on top of him.  I tried to toss the rope away so I could get a hold of him, but it didn't toss, instead a piece got looped up on the horn and  the dead run he was moving at caused it to tie up in knots, around the horn.

So now there I was with no control of my horse, a rope tied around my saddle horn and a log chasing us from behind.

Trax on the other hand was running for his life and headed straight for the part of my arena that is not closed off yet. Beyond that is what is left of the original arena fence which is also...wide...fricking...open.

I knew right then and there I was in trouble.

Tc and his son in law and grandson were in the shop and I yelled screamed at the top of my lumgs  for help.  I don't know what I thought they were going to do, maybe get the gate shut, jump in front of a runaway freight train...who knows.  I just knew that I was screwed. They came running out but it was too late, we were already past them and headed out the drive.

I was torn between, hanging on for dear life, trying to figure out how to stop him, and trying to get the rope off my saddle horn.

The running martingale did not help in this instance and I could not get his head around to slow him down.  There was no untying the rope, however the log did finally fall off.

Trax headed towards the pens and the tack room and I hoped that maybe he would stop at the tack room, but he didn't, he made a hard left to head out the drive and past the pens.  

Looking back now I can see that he still had the mental fortitude to choose his path. Clearly he was thinking,  "Oh the rocks in the drive hurt my feet so let me move over to the side where the dirt is soft."

Guess what else is in the soft dirt?

Big trees, and tractor implements and he was making a beeline for the harrow.

I believe my exact words were something like, "Son of Bitch Trax! Whoa! Don't hit the har-----mumph"  (mouth full of leaves) as he jumped the harrow, putting my entire upper body into the nice thick limbs of the tree.

I thought, "This is it, I'm going off."

I still do not know how I stayed on. But I did. I was told later that he actually laid me all the way back across his butt, but I had a death grip on those reins and was not letting go.  My hat and glasses however, did not fare so well.

Then is was out the front non existent gate, and down the road.  I'm still screaming at him to "slow the F down you dirty rotten M-F'r!" when he made a hard right up the neighbors drive.  I still had zero control but I at least saw a chance for stopping him.  I steered him right for the building in front of us.  He did end up swerving around it but stopped in a little alley way between their barn and Sassy's pen.

I was shaking.....he was really shaking.  I was pissed, and I hurt, and I wanted to kill my horse.

I slowly untied the rope, and tossed it aside and then slowly walked him (still riding) back to the house.
I took him to the tack area, took off the martingale, lead him to round pen, took off the bridle and said, "You wanna run- do it!" And he did about 100 laps in each direction as fast as I could make him go.

Then I put back on his bridle, grabbed another rope, and took him back to the arena.   I roped our log, put the rope on his right side and we dragged the log around....I was on the ground this time.

He acted like it was no big deal.


I got on my horse and we did serpentine's, and we did long trotting and we did flag work and when we were done if I said stop, he stopped.....right now.   He side passed gracefully in either direction, and then we walked out the gate and down the road.  I rode him to the end of the road and back and we did lots of stopping, backing up and moving of the shoulders.

Then I hosed  him down, put him away, and went inside and bawled like a baby.

After I assessed my physical damage, which is just a big lump on the side of my head and one on my arm, I took a shower, took a short nap and headed to work. I made a phone call to a friend.  I told the whole story, told her I was thinking of not working him the arena for a while, and just putting lots of miles on him in the desert before working him in the arena again.

She listened to the whole story, and then when I said, "What are your thoughts?"  I got the truth.

I am trying to implement major changes on a broken horse.  One who very well may have had a screw loose from the day he dropped four hooves on the ground.

I am expecting major changes in him without putting in the major work it takes to obtain said changes.  He gets ridden maybe once a week.   It takes a lot of riding to get him to the point of being physically able to execute the things I want him to do.  It takes riding him every single day.

She made a suggestion, and it is a good one I think.   Ride him every single day for the next 30 days.  If he is doing good, then he can get off with 20 minutes or so.  If he is being a dick, then work his ass of for at least an hour if not more.  If at the end of 30 days we have not made any real progress, then I will know that he will never ever ever be an arena pony and I can switch gears on him towards something else.

Oh and the other suggestion made by TC....Shut the Gawl-dang gate!

One more thing I want to add.  Even if we make real progress, I may not continue with him as an arena pony.  I'm not making that decision today...but I can assure you that I will be alot more careful when working with ropes.

Ok...this is the last thing.  I think I should clarify to others about what I want from Trax.  I don't care if he never does a big sliding stop.  I don't care if he ever does big fancy spins.  The important things I am trying to teach him are the things he will need to know in order to be safe to ride anywhere, at any time.  Also it doesn't mean we won't do any riding in the desert, that will still happen, but so will the arena riding.

I agree with her assessment because I clearly remember that when we were in WY and I rode 3-4 times a week...we made great progress.


  1. I am glad no one was hurt. Sure sounds like an interesting ride.

    1. Interesting to the point of being scary.

  2. Sometimes the tendency is to look at training and conditioning as separate entities, and they are not. No athlete can get good at something if they are not training/conditioning on a regular basis, a minimum of 5 days a week, usually 6 and in the beginning 7 days a week. Sometimes the first 5 days is just riding them through the shitty attitude and stiff, uncooperative muscles. After that, the muscles start to circulate blood better, start to get more limber and start to build condition. This is usually when training gets easier because once the body can cooperate with what you are asking them to do, they generally start to get better and the 'training' starts to stick.

    Obviously, I would not suggest such a rigid regime on a young, not fully developed horse, but Trax is a mature, broke horse. He pretty much knows what you want him to do, but he sure isn't a 'giver'. LOL.

    And I have to say, reading this is even more horrifying than hearing it. I got to thinking about all of the things that log could have gotten hooked on as he was running away with you and OMG!! You are very fortunate...and ONE TUFF DAMN cowgirl. It's not like you can just step off when you have a rope that is dragging a log over your leg. You're kinda stuck.(shudders).

    BTW-You don't have to stay in the arena to work him. Take him to the desert and ask him to do the same things or take him to that plowed field where those barrel racers ride and work him in that deep, soft ground. Just work on his mentality of; Every time I do this, I want you to do this! where ever you ride him. Work on absolute correctness and when he gets it, ask for more "more being a relative term"...More as in, you gave me your face, now hold it in that position for 30 seconds. You moved your shoulder over one step, now give me two steps. Etc., etc. You know what I'm talking about. :-)

    1. Funny, I was just thinking about the same thing...the number of things we could have gotten hung up on. We actually lot the log relatively early....Thank God, but the rope was still dragging, and my biggest fear was actually that it was going to get tangled up in his leg and we would have had a real rodeo then. Usually when he does his runaway thing I can just ride it out till I can find the right opportunity to stop him. But with that rope, I KNEW I had to get him stopped asap.

      I will not do any riding with the rope for a while because we are going back to square 1 with that which starts with a round pen, a rope on the horn looped around his butt and back to me.

      Thanks for you help. :-)

  3. Sounds scary! I have no suggestions besides what you are doing, ride him more, more stopping -make sure the stop is there no matter what-even work on a one rein stop if you can. Otherwise good luck. I know you love that pony and even when he makes you mad you still work on him. I hope it works out for you.

  4. good advice from your friend ! I agree 100% and what a hell of a ride! damn girl ! I also agree wit TC , close the freakin gate my friend! Glad you are OK

    1. I was told today that if I can stay on through that, I'm either a much better rider than I admit to being, or I'm just too stupid to give up. I'm going with D-U-M-B! LOL

  5. Ho-ly- crap! That was one wild ride and you sure did cowgirl up!
    I found BEC's comment interesting, about conditioning and attitude being related and think that is part of the trouble with Rio- no condition. Now that the weather is warmer, it's time to rectify that!
    Just curious about what Trax has for swirls. Could you take pics and show us? Here is a link that explains the correlation between swirls and behaviuor: http://foxpointfarm.com/Swirlology.html

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I think that the genetic link between physical attributes and personality is interesting, however I also know for a fact that life experiences usually throw all the stuff right out the window. But I will get some pics for you.

    3. I bought a young horse who should have been quiet with his breeding, but i have never come across such a bold and un-horselike horse in my life. He knew no fear and wanted a very strong leader to be happy, yet was also very intelligent and highly emotional. A horse for an expert for sure, and I was not expert enough after half a life-time with horses so I moved him on to someone who was. He had two parallel swirls on his forehead and many many swirls on his face, neck and body. I am a firm believer in the the swirl theory now. :)

  6. "We actually had a pretty decent ride for the first hour or so."

    How long do you normally ride him? This could be a big part of the problem. A horses attention span can be pretty short and their fuse even shorter when they aren't doing something they consider fun. Their attention span varies, during that time is when you have to get something accomplished that you set out to do. You might have a list of things you want to work on today, but generally speaking, with horses, you get one thing accomplished at a time. Horses with baggage? You still accomplish one thing, but it may not be as much of that one thing as you'd like. It's ok because it's not about you.

    Sure you can tootle along in the desert for hours and have no incidents like the one you described, but to drill on arena work for an hour or more? You will lose your horses mind, he will lose his mind and you already know the results. Glad you were able to stick with him and ride it out. It could have ended so much worse.

    He sounds well on his way to becoming arena sour, which is why I've been telling you to do your arena work Outside of the arena. Trax may need an arena without fences. You can mentally set up some 'stations' in the desert. We walk to station A and do some circles, long trot to station B and do some serpentines, walk to station C and work on something else. Change it up with some easy work in between sort of like Interval training. Change what you work on at each station, each time you go out there, but also remember to take rides to just ride. Make there be days where you don't go near the stations at all, or just walk thru them, keep on going and don't 'work' on anything. They need some 'down time' mentally too, otherwise you are going to end up with a brain fried horse. If that happens- You think this ride was scary?

    1. I say hour or so because I don't know for sure how long it was. it could have been 30 min, could have been closer to an hour. I don't think I have ever worked him for more than 2 hours in the arena at one time, usually it is an hour to an hour and half, tops. Back when I was still allowing him to lope circles to get to his happy place, it sometimes, took a full hour just to get him to come back to me. We don't always ride in the arena, sometimes we still go out. But on days when I am on a limited time schedule it has to be the arena or I barely have time to get out there before I have to turn around and go home. Perhaps I should have worded that sentence differently to say, "The ride was going well until..." LOL

    2. One of the farms I worked at, they were adamant about everyone wearing a watch. Lunging, ground driving, riding, whatever, it was not to be anymore or any less than a certain amount of time. They didn't want the out of shape, coming back into work horses- overworked and certainly didn't want anyone underworked and losing their conditioning. I seldom wear one anymore, but I doubt my workouts have ever gone longer than 45 minutes to an hour. By then we have pretty much sorted out everything we needed to.

      I hear you on the limited time to ride days, because I am very limited as to how much time I get to work with mine. One horse, one day is pretty much tops for me right now and it totally sucks! I'm not saying all arena work is totally bad or wrong, but I thing Trax needs to get out of the arena and learn he still has to work the same out there that he does back home. I knew a lady whose mare thought that trail riding meant she could do as she pleased. Try to make her behave, respond or do something out there and the mare got belligerent, pissy and refused to budge. She set up a small arena out in the desert and that's where she started doing all of her arena work for a while. Her mare wasn't too thrilled with that idea, but before long she gave up the fight about when and where she had to listen to her rider.

    3. He will probably do the same thing. He has a tendency for that as well.

  7. What a wild ride. I'm glad both of you survived it. You are very dedicated to making sure your horses learn their lessons regardless of circumstances. I think most people would have run to the bathroom to put on a clean pair of pants as soon as they dismounted.

    1. Nuz, I really really just wanted to run and hide, or go cry after that, but I couldn't. I'm trying to fix him, not make him worse. I was also really really pissed, but knew that I absolutely had to keep my anger under control That was the point of going to the round pen and taking his bridle off. I had to discipline him without actually touching him because I did not trust myself to not get physical with him. In the end it paid off. I was able to use my energy to really get my point across with out undoing 2 years worth of work and today there was no doubt who the leader of this team really is.

  8. You poor thing! That's terrifying, I hate the unpredictable blowups. (I do have to ask: have you considered wearing a helmet on Trax?)

    1. I haven't been able to find one that fits him yet. LOL

  9. OMG, that sounds like a terrifying ride! Glad you both came out ok. I liked what one of the other commenters said about 'stations' on a trail ride. I do similar things but without the designated spots, just here and there to mix it up a bit and keep it interesting for my horse and to practice our arena stuff in a 'real life' situation.

  10. Wow... that's terrifying... I don't think I took a breath the whole time I was reading that... :( You have more guts than I do. I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt.