Monday, September 21, 2015

The day that Killian blows us all away

Through my travels of trying to invent my own ranch versatility horse, I have been asked by a couple of people (BEC being one of them) why I never tried using Killian for it.  After all he is an honest to goodness ranch horse (something I assumed Trax was- but now know he never was), has been around the block more than a few times, and is in fact dead-freaking-broke.

My answer was always that I didn't think that he could do it.  "He just doesn't have the finesse or the moves to do that sort of stuff."   Hell, it took 2 years to even get him to lope on the correct lead once in a while.   Back in WY, when I went to my first ranch horse clinic, I took both Killian and Trax.  I rode Killian first saying, "This is my good horse."  and by time we were done the instructor said, "If that is your good horse, your'e in big trouble."  It was an accurate assessment at the time.

I assumed from that day forward, that with his age, and all the crap he threw at me that day, he was better off just being a trail horse.

Through time, as some of you may recall, I have managed to get a better handle on the big red horse.  He started loping better for me, he moves off my leg (which he has always done), and he surely does have a killer stop.   But through and through I still believed he was better suited for trail or roping.

Insert a whole bunch of money on riding lessons for me which has made more difference in my horses than I realized.  Suddenly I found myself being able to get on Killian and actually getting cooperation out of him.  Of course it only stands to reason that it would be that way.  Killian is a leader, he expects his rider to lead, and if the rider does not then he is perfectly happy stepping up to the plate, Of course if he is the leader he is going to use his entire bag of tricks to show you all the reasons why riding, and working is a bad idea.

For so long I was just a passenger, but clearly that has changed in the last year.

Still I was so focused on Trax and Melody that Big K was just getting left to sit, and get fat.....really fat, and really lazy.  So I started trying to find someone to come and ride him.  As most of you will recall, I tried a few different people but none of them quite worked out.

Then along came Rhiannon.  (who I now call Rah Rah)  Rah Rah wants to rope.  She is pretty dang handy with a rope, usually catches what she throws at, and is a pretty confident rider at that age of 14.  However, she did not have a horse capable of handling the physical strain of roping.  She has a little gelding who has a ton of heart, but is older than Killian, very weak in the hind end, very sway backed, and small in stature.  He did his very best though and chased after each an every one of those cows, and could easily catch them, but if he had to pull one of any size, he was done for.

So I offered to let her come and get to know Big K, and get him back into shape and see if she could rope on him.  He does know his job, that we know for sure.  Through the last month or so of her riding him, we have learned that he actually loves roping.  In fact he loves having a job to do as long as that job doesn't include loping endless circles.

I realize that some of this redundant, but bear with me please....

So during our riding together she also started riding Melly some, and I offered to let her ride in the a Ranch Versatility Show.  I rode Trax, she rode Melly, and that was all chronicled in our previous posts.   However, after that event she asked if she could go back to riding Killian, and if she could try him in some of the classes at the next show.   I said, "Of Course"

As it turns out, Melody ended up getting kicked again, and so was out of commission for 2 weeks, and Trax, came up lame the very same day. (I'll do a seperate post on that)  So all of our attention was focused on Killian.

She came and rode when she could, I got her a lesson with my trainer, and then I rode him when she couldn't.  We only had 2 weeks to get ready, and I really had my doubts if we could pull it off.  One night my trainer even got on him, and boy did he throw a little temper tantrum.  However, Dana is not one to be trifled with, and pretty soon, he gave in.  Still it seemed like the more we practiced the harder he got to work with.

The night before the show we had a club sanctioned practice at my arena.   Rha Rha was up on him, and he wasn't doing to bad at first, but as the night wore on he became more and more difficult. He didn't want to do trail obstacles, he didn't want to do anything.  I told her we may have to cancel .

So I stepped on him and we had a little discussion.  We loped some circles, and practiced side passing and went through the obstacles.  I showed her how to set him up for success, knowing what his weaknesses are, then I had her get on him.

She took him through the trail pattern again, and suddenly a light bulb went on for him, and for her.  I told her to quit thinking of them as trail obstacles and to just imagine she is out in the desert "ranching" and all these things are things she has to do in the course of the day.  I think it did the trick.  Suddenly they became a team, and started working together.  Sure there were still some missed steps, but it was tons better.

Then we practiced the reining and other patterns, and things went pretty smoothly so we decided to go for it.

The next day we loaded up and headed to the show.  Killian hasn't been to a public event other than the roping arena down the street in a long time so I really was not sure how he was going to do.  He was by far the calmest most relaxed horse there.  Almost too relaxed, which kind of worried me too.

She saddled up and took him to the arena to warm up and I reminded her about envisioning a ranch instead of an arena, and by golly I think it worked.

Killian went out a totally ROCKED that show!!!!

First was Ranch Trail and he successfully complete every single task.  He stepped on one of the logs during the side passing task, but he still did the task.  He dragged the log around like an old pro (Of course) and even backed through the L relatively smoothly.  He loped in the correct lead, and basicly just handled it all as if it were nothing.  He got 1st out of 3 riders.

Then was Ranch Pleasure.  He was the only horse in that class, but he did his leads correctly, they did the pattern correctly, and so got first in that.

The third class they were in was Ranch Reining and the other youth rider was riding her moms reining horse, so I figured Rah Rah and Big K didn't stand a chance of winning that class.  I just told her to go out and ride him like the ranch horse that he is, rather than trying to force him into being a fancy reining horse that he isn't.

Killian was up first.  Rah Rah knew the pattern so I wasn't worried about that.  She got out there and did her first run down, stopped, backed up and did her 1/4 turn to the left.  Perfect!  Departed for her left lead circle in the wrong lead, as she went past I whispered "wrong lead" and it took her 2 strides to fix it.  She completed her 2 circles and went to her lead change.  He didn't get the lead change the first time, so she simple broke him down to the trot and he grabbed it right away.  2 more circles to the right and then came the next lead change, she moved to the center of the arena and before she could even break him down for a simple lead change the big red horse executed the most fluid gorgeous flying lead change I have ever seen in my life!!!!!

I turned to my friend standing next to me and said, "Did you SEE that???"  We were both completely blown away, as was Rah Rah!

She did her next two run downs and didn't quite go to the markers, which was my fault as I forgot to mention the markers to her, and her spins were more like spirals, but they did the correct number of spins and so she got a complete score in the class.  I was so dang proud of them both!

The other girl clearly had a better horse but she hadn't studied her pattern very well,or she got nervous, but she did the incorrect number of spins both times and technically that is a DQ.  However, being youth and only two riders, she still got scored, but Killain and Rah Rah won the reining.

The final class was flag work (in lieu of cows) and the other girl won that one.  But Rhiannon and Killain were the high point youth riders of the day!

Here is the part about Killian that blew me away.  He did mess up a few times, with leads or with side passing, but you could clearly see that he was trying, and when asked to correct his mistake, he did so without a fight. And that lead change!!!  Oh!  I think with a little more practice, he could actually do really well at this, and here all this time I didn't think he had it in him.  I told him that day that I will never ever underestimate him again.   He seems to want to do thing for this little girl, and that makes me happy beyond words.

Here are some pictures of the day.

Totally Relaxed

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ranch Versatility show

The weekend of our show was finally upon us.  Having the part time job has really cut into my riding time, but I was still managing to get in 3 rides a week, some times more, and while I knew we were far from perfect, I felt pretty decent about how it was going to go.

The plan was for me to ride Trax in all the RV classes and my little friend Rhiannon would ride Melody in the youth classes, minus the trail, and I would also ride Melody in the Ranch Reining and work a cow.  I can only have one point horse at the show so I chose Trax, and Melody was just for a judged score and critique....and the practice at working a cow on her in a big arena.  I have only done sorting and reining on her, so was excited for the chance to try holding a cow on the fence with her.  

I ended up being sick all day Friday, behind schedule all day Saturday, and a nervous wreck by Sunday.  Luckily the kid was calm and helped me relax as well.  It seemed like every time I turned around some little thing was going wrong and I was starting to think we were never going to make it there at all...but we did.

It was 106 and 85% humidity.  It had rained hard t the arena the night before, the warm up arena only had one spot that wasn't under water, the second warm up arena was completely under water, and half the parking lot was flooded.  The storm the night before had also taken out the well pump so there was not much water available for the horses either.  Luckily I carried my own, but when I got there and saw that the cows (which I had secured and was responsible for) had no water, I was livid!!!

I managed to get that handled, got our horses saddled, and we started warming up the ponies.  Melody mostly just needs to get limber and acclimated to her surroundings.  Trax isn't bothered by surroundings as much as energy in the air and it usually takes 30-45 minutes of riding to get him to a place mentally where he is ready to relax and remember that he has a rider on board.

In 10 minutes we were all dripping in sweat.

The arena was covered so we had shade and that did help some, although sometimes the air was more stifling under the cover than out in the sun.   I had originally planned on wearing a long sleeve white western shirt.  But was wearing a sleeveless western shirt while warming up.  I was so hot and ready to die, I never did switch to my show shirt.  I probably should have, and would have looked more professional, but by that time I didn't care, and the club rules state "An attempt at western wear", and I was wearing a western shirt....soooooo.

I never did feel like I was able to connect to Trax that day.  We would do our usual "Lope nice big relaxed circles" but in a few minutes he was so hot I had to stop.  I don't know how to explain this, but I don't think it is the hot and tired part that "warms" him up.  It is more like it is the number of foot falls that he makes.

Melody looked like she had just been hosed down in about five minutes and pretty much stayed that way all day.

Looking back I can admit to being more nervous than I should have been.  I knew my horses would do okay.  I know their strong points and their weaknesses.  I know my own short comings as well.

We had a lot of new contestants this time around, and lots of them were really good.  One trainer from Tucson brought several of his students up with him, and they pretty much monopolized the show,  I am not complaining in the least.  It was nice to have good riders there so that we could see what it is we are striving to become.  These riders were friendly and gracious and, as I found out later, just as nervous as I was!

I'm not going to go into detail about every class.  Lets just suffice to say that Trax and I DQ'd in almost every class.  I forgot patterns, he forgot I was there, I forgot where my hands belong, and a few times I used 2 hands.

Melody really struggled with the classes that required her to work in and out of trail obstacles.   Rhi, got her through it, but it knocked her placings down to second out of 2 every single time.  However she did excellent on the flag boxing AND got first in youth reining.

The one thing that really kind of screwed things up for me was when they rearranged the class orders which had me riding Melody in adult reining before Rhi was done with all of her classes.  That meant that I did not have time to switch saddles our and ended up doing our reining in a youth saddle.  Still we completed the pattern with no major flaws.  However, the judges did not realize that a non-point horse still gets judged, so they wrote down no notes at all, gave me no score what so ever.  So I have no idea where I did good and where I did horribly.

When it came time to work the cows, I was up first on Trax.  I have to get major props to my paint horse.  He did really really well.  Granted he doesn't make the fancy cutting moves like Melly does, but we held our cow, on the end, on the fence AND turned it in a circle.  He was working hard to keep his butt up underneath him, and I was not at all unhappy with our run.  He ended up placing 5th but from what I understand was later bumped up to 4th because one of the riders was scored on 2 horses and should not have been.

Once Trax was done I yanked his saddle and threw it up on Melly.  The sun was down by now and a storm was rolling in so it was much cooler.  I had soaked Melly down some with a wet rag and she was no longer dripping in sweat like she was before.  Her energy level was back to normal and Ifelt pretty good about the up coming run.  Keep in mind that I have only ever worked her on a cow in a sorting pen.

We called for the cow and I pushed it up along the fence.  We then turned it up the fence and pushed it down towards the other end.  The cow was kind of getting away from us so I kicked her up to a run. We caught up with the cow and he looked like he was ready to stop and turn back so I checked her down some.  Just that instant the dirty cow saw that tiny sliver of day light in front of Melody and took off again.  Well so did my horse.  She was NOT going to let that cow get away so she bolted after him, and I was ready for it.  I had both hands up towards her ears urging her forward past the cow. When she got just past his head she did her job and cut back to the left to push him back from where he came.

That is where she lost me.

She cut left, and I was not in my seat where I should have been and I went right off the other side.

I landed on my hip and my shoulder, and I clearly recall cussing as I went down the other side.  I also clearly recall thinking "Please God, don't let my foot get caught in the stirrup."  and looking at my foot to make sure it didn't.

I don't know how long I was on the ground.  Not too long, I was told, but I got up and the next thing I knew my horse was there next to me, dancing nervously, and I got right back on.

The announcer said I still had time left and before I even had time to think about it, Melody was turning and heading after the cow again.

Its is a shame that no one got any of it on video,

I was told it was a graceful fall and that once I went off Melody continued to work the cow.  She held it on the fence for about 5-10 seconds while I got up off the ground. The minute she saw me up, she ran over to me, danced in place next to me, as if to say "Hurry up, he's getting away". and then we still had a full minute to work our cow, which we did.  I can't tell you for sure what we did, but we held the cow where we could and pushed it where we could until our time was up.

I knew that fall was coming some day. I have been told more than once that if I didn't learn to sit back I was going to go over, and that is what happened.  However, my horse came right to me, and I could not have been happier with her.  She did her job and did it well.

Thinking back over the earlier portion of the show, I wanted to blame Trax for all the issues we had in the arena, but after looking at the pictures I know that I was just as much at fault as he was.  I was trying to ride one handed as much as possible and for some reason I cannot seem to remember to lower my one hand.

So here are a few of the photos a friend of mine took.  I am sharing the good and the bad here, where as I did not share the bad ones on facebook, just because I don't trust most people not to be downright cruel about some of my riding abilities.  I can take criticism, in fact I welcome it, but not in the form of rudeness.

I had told my trainer type person, that perhaps Trax really isn't cut out for this, but I think I shall retract that statement.  He has not been to a public event in a very long time, and he is not the same horse he was in  WY.  He handled most of this pretty darn well, all things considered.  If we get through a year of shows and he still is able to relax any, then I will re-assess where we are going as a team.  But for now we will just keep plugging along.

One of my boarders went to watch me, and told me that she thought that Trax was the ranchiest horse out there.  I asked her to elaborate, and she told me that my ability to work through things with him, rather than having a horse who never batted an eye at anything was more reminiscent of her ranching days than any thing else she saw.  Of course she may have been a tad biased!

I did get a lot of compliments on both of my horses.  Many people commented on how nicely built they both are.  That always makes an old gal feel better!