Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Which horse are you today? AND The Best 30 Bucks I Ever Spent

One thing about having a bi-polar horse is that life never gets dull.   You just never know which horse you are going to go halter up on any given day.   Just when I feel like I can say Trax is changing and calming down, he shows me that No, it was just an act to lull me into a false sense of security.

Today I managed to get up early (not sure I'm loving this plan- LOL) get everyone fed early, slammed two cups of coffee and got out there with halter in hand before it got hot.

Trax saw me coming with the halter....and....bolted to the other side of his pen!

Say what?!?!?

"Um Trax?  You do realize that it is me right?"

So rather than play kissy face with him I just pushed him around a little and then backed off to see if he would lock on.

He did...sort of.

I walked up to him, let him sniff my hand in perfect Dennis Reis fashion, reached up touched his neck, and he spun and took off again.

I expect this kind of crap from Sassy, but he hasn't done it in 2 years. WTH?

So I pushed some more until he showed signs of letting down a notch.  I was finally able to touch him and I gently patted* him on the neck.  Then I put his halter on.

*There are some people who get really snippy about whether you should pet your horse or pat your horse.  I know there is good foundation behind the "only pet your horse theory" but I also believe that there is an exception to that rule and Trax (of course) is that exception.  He and I  both generate a ton of static electricity.  Petting him often results in a very sharp static shock.  Patting him negates this possibility and he prefers it to being petted and then shocked.  It is so bad between us that on really windy days I have to ground myself to a metal pole first before touching him. 

You will be happy to know that although I am a slow learner, I do learn and decided that just jumping right up on him was not the brightest idea today.   So we went to the round pen.

Um Yeah.....definitely one of my better decisions of the week.  "Completely Whacked" is the first phrase that comes to mind.  

I won't bore you with every detail, but we worked through it and then I borrowed from BEC's bag of tricks and just stood there with my arms around him, and stroked his mane (the one place that does not generate static) until he finally sighed, licked and chewed, and rested his head on my shoulder.

Then we went to work.

I was pleasantly surprised once we started riding. He was a little wound up, but not unruly and even the billy goats gruff were not an issue today.  (well not in the sense of spookiness- they still smell)  Once we got feet moving and mind engaged he settled down nicely and after our warm up routine, I was able to lope him around a lot with out him ever once trying to take control.

Once he was able to lope with his head down and super relaxed, I had some things I wanted to try, and I knew the timing was right.

Last year I bought a book by Mike Majors for 30$ at the local tack store.   You might remember seeing this video I posted a while back of him.  Mike wrote a book for Western Horseman about training for Ranch Versatility.  I bought the book before I knew who he was, before I ever saw that video, before my friend Jay ever went to one of his clinics, before any of that...I bought the book, because it looked interesting.  I have flipped through it on and off for the last year, but a few months back I took out, dusted it off and started really reading.

Last night I ran across some exercises for prepping for the lead change by working body control  It was detailed out in a way that made sense to me, so I thought I would give it a try today.  Basically you start at a walk in a circle.  At one side of your circle you tip your horses nose to the outside of the circle just a tad, then you pick up the shoulder and counter bend him (or her) into your figure 8.  Once you have changed sides, you go into your circle in the other direction. You do this in both directions until your horse is soft and supple, and gives easily.

Because we do a ton of leg yields and side passing already, doing this at a walk was pretty darn easy.  However, stepping it up to a trot, as he says to do in the book is quite a bit harder.  But pretty soon we were executing it with ease.  I was actually quite proud of my guy.   The next step is to do it at a slow lope, only when you ask for that counter bend you are actually asking for the lead change.  The key, he said is weight distribution.  You have to make sure that you a) are not looking down at the horses shoulder (which I do every-single-time)  and b) put your weight on the opposite pocket of the change you are asking for. So if I am asking for a left change, I want my weight on my right pocket.

Okay, it sounds simple right?  Wrong! But there were a few times where I remembered all the pieces and our lead changes were coming together.   We still had to break down for a step to get it done, but I could tell that he was understanding what I was asking and trying hard to do it right.

I think that I can take this new information back to Melody, and use it to refine my lead changes with her.  I mean she pretty much does them automatically, but they are smoother if asked for correctly, and if my weight is where it is supposed to be.  Now that I have a better concept of what I am really trying to do, I think I can pull it off.

This is the first time I have been able to find any thing that really broke down the process in a way I could understand.

He has lots of other very cool exercises in his book for gaining softness in your horse. Many of which I intend to work on with Trax...well with all of my horses.  I had planned on doing some of them today, but I guess I should have reread the items I have highlighted (yes I'm one of those people who highlights and post it tags) this morning, so that it was fresh in my memory. After all I am still a slow learner!  As I put these into action I will share them here.

After we finished that exercise, we did some trail stuff and even did our gate- billy goats and all.  It is high time we got over those billy goats. They aren't going away, so we may as well learn to live with them.  I just wish there was some way to get past the smell...UGH!

I need to take some time tomorrow and work on his feet.  They are getting uneven again, which is effecting his movement.

Now, it is time to go take a dang nap.


  1. That's funny about buying the book and then all of the coincidental's that go with you having it. Sounds like a good resource for you to have in your library/arsenal.

    You guys will get there. It doesn't sound like things went so bad and remember, you were trying it out for the first time. It might take some practice for both of you to work out the kinks. Makes a big difference though when things are explained in a way we can grasp them. Doesn't make the concept seem so foreign.

  2. I guess the hug communicated, "I come in peace." As far as the pet vs. pat debate, I think human relationships with horses are much simpler without all the rules. I run up to my horses with my arms spread, press into their chests, kiss their cheeks, and flap my arms in one big pat over and over, and they love it. I think they even get disappointed when I don't do it. I'm sure a lot of people would consider my behavior rude to the horses, but they know me and they go along with my overly enthusiastic affections.

    Your mention of evading the halter reminded me that I haven't had that problem this past year. I used to have to chase the horses down on a regular basis, and then one trainer encouraged me to toss the halter and lead rope at the horse each time it walks away, and when it finally stops to face me, leave it alone. Approach again, and repeat until I can't pet it with the halter without it running away. I'm not sure if that technique was what permanently fixed the problem or if the horses just enjoy going out on the trails now, but I actually have them stepping forward to volunteer by sticking their noses in the halter now.

  3. Haha the Billy Goats Gruff- you were raised on Mother Goose Tales, weren't you? Haven't heard that for decades!

  4. I would need more than a nap after a day like yours. Every one of your posts teaches me something about horses and horse training, most enjoyable. When you talked about leading your horse in circles and then figure 8s I got a touch of vertigo – just kidding.
    I write and blog a lot about the west and cowboys but I am a historian not a, “real cowboy”, or maybe I am since I live in Wyoming. Good Stuff!

    1. Well Thank You Neil, I seem to need a lot of naps these days! Dang work schedule is killing me. Especially trying to have a life in between..

      I really don't know much about horse training, just figuring it out as I go I guess, and I sure do get a lot of help from the blogesphere too. I think being a historian of the west is just as good as being a real cowboy. I am a huge history buff myself. I'd rather read history, than just about anything else....except horse stories of course.
      Thanks for stopping by

  5. This would be a good exercise for Frosty. I need to add more sophistication to his lead changes.

    And I must really be out of the loop. I didn't even realize there was a debate about petting vs. patting. Hmmmm!...Okay, I've thought about it...That's a stupid debate. LOL

    1. he explains it better in the book. I'll bring it this weekend.

  6. I am with BEC, had no idea about the pet /pat debate, just do what works for you and your horse . Sounds like you had the right idea taking a slow start ,better to watch to see if he can settle and then ride.