Saturday, January 31, 2015

Trail riding in someone else's neighborhood

I was invited to go for a trail ride by one of my boarders, CW.  It was going to be an easy ride so I took The mighty Killian.   We loaded up and drove in towards town and stopped at another ladies house to saddle up.  From there we rode to yet another woman's house so that she could join us.

I admit to being pretty impressed with these ladies as the were all older than I, by a spread of 10-20 years.  I'm over 50, so that means one is over 70.  Yet there they were saddling up and heading out.  I hope that I am still riding when I am 70.

We followed a road down a block and then crossed the street and went over a desert gate.  Killian had never seen one, but being who he is, he watched the first horse go and then followed suit.  The first time he watched carefully but after that, it was old hat to him.  Love my horse!

As we rode through the desert heading east, I started to see some familiar landmarks.  It didn't take but a minute to realize that I was riding in Nuzzling Muzzle's Desert.  And Nuz, if you are reading this, had I known that was where we were riding, I would have called and invited you to ride along.

All the horses were a little wound up...except mine, of course.  Killian, as always, was a solid rock.  I was kind of wanting to just trot out, which I figured would be good for the horses who were wanting to go, and good for my horse who is out of shape.  As it turns out, the ladies were preferring to keep their horses at a walk. Luckily for me, they were all gaited horses, and Killian had to trot to keep up with them anyway. So it all worked out.

We saw some beautiful scenery, the desert is so green right now, and getting greener by the minute. Then we dropped down into a wash and used the sand to give our ponies a good work out.  We stopped at "The Owl Tree" for a photo shoot, (aptly named for the owl who resides there) and sure enough there he was.  He looked at us like we were crazy but he never moved.

Here are a few pictures of the ride.

Handsome old guy

Being the Caboose

The group

In the wash

All the green

Holes in the wall of the wash

Deep Wash

He even worked up a little sweat. 

When I pulled his saddle off I wasn't happy with the sweat marks.

I don't recall ever having dry marks before with this saddle.  However I am using a different pad which is thicker, and he has lost quite a bit of weight (which he needed to lose) in the last couple of months.  So I believe I will go back to the old pad once to see what happens and then make adjustments accordingly.  I Like this saddle on him. It is the only one I have that fits over his gargantuan shoulders.   Of course I realize that part of the problem is his aging top line as well.

I was supposed to go sorting that same night, but no sooner did the alarm go off to get ready and it started to sprinkle. Within a half an hour it was pouring, and continued to do so for the rest of the night, all day the next day, and today it is still over cast and all my horses are standing in 5 inches of mud.  Well except Sassy, her pen has one high spot that stays dry.  I really want to bring a few dump truck loads of sand into my pens to raise the level and allow more drainage, but sand isn't cheap, so I don't know if it will happen.

Now it is time to head to the saddle shop and get some work done.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Passing a gift on to the next who needs it. (aka a giveaway)

A couple of years ago I was given a nice little Bitless bridle by Louisa over at the The Circuitous Cutter It was given to her by Crystal over at Ranch Riding.  I have had it for a long while now and find that I am not using it.  I just gave it a new coat of oil, and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.  

It seems to me, that before it goes anywhere else I should offer it up to anyone in the blogging community who might be in need of one.   So if anyone is in need of a bitless bridle please comment below.  If I end up with multiple comments then we will have a drawing.  It is leather with a rope nose band, and each one of us has covered the nose band in vet wrap to make it a little softer. Right now it is without the vet wrap.  

If no one ends up commenting then I will find someone to donate it too who is in need and cannot afford to buy one.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sorting Things Out

As many of you know, I have really wanted to learn how to do ranch sorting, and since I have Melody, cow horse extraordinaire, I have been diligently searching for a place to practice and learn, without having to drive a long ways OR end up being made to feel like loser for my lack of skill.

That was not as easy of a task as it may sound.  While I could always take her down to the place I bought her from because they have practice every Wed night, it is over an hour drive, which has me getting home really late, plus uses up an awful lot of fuel if I go regularly.  On the up side, they are very patient with me, and know my horse so were able to give good instruction.

I had a place to go in our neighborhood, but the cows were roping cows and very aggressive and the last time we tried that, Melly got bonked in the nose very hard with a sharp horn.  Sorting like that teaches both the cows and the horses bad habits. It is counter productive.

There is an arena in Apache Junction which has weekly sorting, the price is fair, but they are also roping cows, and it is run just like a competition. You get your 60 seconds and then you are done, so for a beginner like me, I don't really learn much.

There is a place in Coolidge which has practice every weekday morning.  I called and asked which day was best for total novices to come and was basically told that there is not a good day for that. The pros sort there, and really don't want folks like us getting in their way.

Enter "Heidi".

Heidi started out as a client of mine. She bought a saddle, returned the saddle because she was told it fit her horse but not her, and then came back and repurchased the same saddle because she decided to trust what her body told her instead of what someone else told her.  She loved the saddle and felt very comfortable in it.  Then she brought me her old saddle to sell.

In the process of all this, she was looking for a place to board, and while I really wanted to accommodate her, I just didn't have an opening at this time. We talked about sorting and Stock Horse, and Ranch Versatility. All things she wants to get into, but she is a beginner just like me.

She ended up boarding right around the corner from me, and so we have been spending just a little saddle time together and trying desperately to come up with a place to practice and learn at a beginners level.  Well Heidi, is much more diligent than I am because she found some folks right in our neighborhood, that I did not even know about, who sort, and they have the cattle, AND best of all are more than willing to allow us novices to come and practice at their place for a small fee.

So last night was our first night.

I rode Melly over, she spooked at everything. The mail boxes, the painted lines on the road, the same dumpster she spooked at on Monday...pretty much everything.  Goofy horse.

As we rode up in the yard the gal who owns the property, and who would giving us the benefit of her experience, asked if my horse had ever seen cattle before.  I explained that she is a reined cow horse and has seen plenty.

She said, "I think you misunderstood...I asked if she had ever seen a camel before." and indicated to the pens at the right.

"Oh Shit!  Nope! I'm pretty sure she never has."

Apparently camels are not near as scary as dumpsters or lines spray painted on the road.  She never even gave it a second glance.

I warmed up my horse and then we got down to business.  The gal, "L" pulled out one cow and gave us each a chance to see how our horse reacted to the cow.  Heidi's horse did very well. Then it was my turn.

I did something I have never done before.  I rode my horse in, sat down in my seat, dropped my hand and asked her to do her thing.  Without any guidance from me, she held that cow for a good 60 seconds.  Back and forth she went, and I just held on and trusted my horse.  I tried to keep myself centered to keep her from losing her balance, tried to focus on my riding position, and tried to stay out of her way.  She was having a blast and so was I.  Then I shut her down, and she stood there quietly, quite proud of herself.

I was pretty proud of her too.

The rest of the night was spent slowly learning how to read a cow, how to split the cows out of the group, how to work with each other, and all the other cool things a person needs to know to be successful at this.

When Heidi's horse got to hot and reared up on her, we slowed down even more, finished the round and then she took some time to lope her horse out and reset her mind.  We sorted one more very successful round after that and stopped on a good note.

It was fabulous.  I learned so much, and had the best time without the pressure of trying to keep up with people who are far more advanced than me.  There was not clock to stress us out, and no one standing out side with the heavy sighs clearly saying, " I wish these novices would get out of our way and quit wearing the cattle down."

Afterwards I rode my horse home in the dark. She was tired enough to not really spook, just to look sideways at things.   It was a great night and I cannot WAIT to go back again next week.

Eventually I would like to Trax to see how he does....aaaaaand to show him a camel (that will probably be a blog post in itself!) but for now Princess Mellypalousa is earning her keep again as a sorter.  I am learning to trust my horse and keep my hands out of her face, and learning how to read a cow.

Good Stuff!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Methinks the Princess Doth be Lazeeeeeeee!

" Melody, we are going to ride over to the neighbors arena and work a little today."

"What?????  You want me to go down the road?  A princess must ride in the trailer to the arena!"

"Not this time Melly, it is just one street over."

"OMG!  Did you see that?  It tried to EAT ME!"

"It was a mailbox, it has no teeth and does not move"

"It had a mouth...I saw it's mouth."

*Shakes head and kicks the mare in the side to keep her moving*

"OMG What is THAT thing?"

"It is a dumpster and you are going to walk past it through that gate."

"A Gate?  Oh HELL NO!  I do not DO gates!!!"

"Melody, you go through gates every day."

"Yes, but usually you are on the ground and go first so that I know it is safe.  And those are my gates, I know what is on the other side.  I do not know what is on the other side of this gate. It might be dangerous.  You go first."

"Melody, you are a grown up horse, who has been through many gates.  You can see through the gate, and see what is on the other side.  Look, that nice young mare who is half your age is going to hold the gate open for you, so you do not have to be afraid."

"I will RUN through the gate!"

"Now you will walk back through the gate turn around, and do it again at a walk.  Melody this is embarrassing."

"Fine I will walk through the gate."

*We go to the arena where she proceeds to get bug eyed at poles, barrels, and other horses.  Finally we get down to work*

"Melody I would like you to lope."

"Gosh ya know, I'm kind of tired after that LONG walk over here and the big tadoo at the gate.  I don't really FEEL like loping today. How about if I lope three strides and then we just trot again."

*KICK* (no spurs)

"Well that was kind of rude!" (evil tail swish)

"Melody I would like you to lope nicely AND do a lead change"

"I don't feel like loping nicely or doing lead changes....I want to trot."

*Borrows a bat*

"Melody, I want you to lope now and do lead changes"

"Nope...not really feeling it toda-"


"OH SHIT!!!!  Oooooh, so that really wasn't open for discussion was it?"

"Here let me just do some lead changes for you!"

"Would you like big circles or small?  How fast would you like me to go?  Oh you want to go fast?  Okay!  How about some slower small circles now?  Oh you would like me to spin? Sure thing!"

"Gates? Oh I love gates"  No I'm not scared at all."

It is just amazing how pushy even a well trained horse can be when left to their own demise.

Old Ranch Hands

Most of my riding attention has gone to Trax lately, and the other horses have been getting pushed aside.  Part of the problem is that he is and probably always will be my favorite horse to ride.  But I knew it was time to devote some time to the rest so when I was invited to go out on a little trail ride, I loaded up Killian, and we went for a little jaunt.

One of the reasons behind this trail ride, besides the "Hey I wanna ride my horse" reason, was because one of my clients was going to sell her horse and my partner Mary was thinking about buying him.  She wanted to see him in person and see how he was out and about.

The horses name is Winston, and he is a big (as in wide) sorrel, 18 year old retired ranch horse.  At one time he was built like brick house, now he is just out of shape and flabby, a little hollow behind the shoulders, and very hard to fit for a saddle, because like Killian he has very wide shoulders. ( I will spare you the story of trying to convince this girl that I knew exactly which saddle he needed and it was sitting right in my shop)    Regardless of that he is a good boy, very handsome, and probably a very good buy for the money she was asking.  The only thing that completely turned me off about him, was that there were times when he seemed less than sound to me, although not actually lame either.  ( I have a perfectly good baby sitter who is totally sound, as does Mary, so neither one of us will be buying this horse. )

As we rode along, Mary on her own horse, Winston carrying his rider, and another gal on a lovely grey gelding, I kind of took a special pride in realizing that except for the young grey who competes in barrels on a regular basis, my old horse was actually in better shape than the other two horses who are younger than him.  This was particularly amazing since he doesn't get a ton of exercise.  I think some of it is genetics, but I could be wrong.  

Anyway, we rode next to Winston he and Killian matched each others paces, never pinned an ear at each other, and handled all the distractions like the seasoned horses they are. They both have that nice easy lumbering trot. The kind that eats up ground but doesn't require posting.  I call it the cattle searching trot.  They rode through water, up and down hills, under bridges, past traffic, past flapping flags.  Just good solid mounts. No training needed.

At one point I dropped back to ride along side Mary and Winston moved up with the grey and out of our line of vision.  Killian totally took me by surprise by calling out to Winston.   I won't say that he doesn't call out after his herd mates, but never on a trail ride, and never to a horse he just met.  Once Winston came back into sight, he stopped calling.

We experimented a little.  The gal rode Winston down into the lower part of the wash and I rode Killian up high.  He called and called, and even when he could see him, did not take his eyes off of him to see where he was going.  Darnedest thing I have ever seen.

When we returned to the trailers before we gave them a nose to nose minute to say good by.  They rubbed noses, kind of nuzzling and wuffling each other, no displays of dominance, just saying good bye I guess.  When Winston drove off in his trailer, Killian gave one last call of good bye and Winston called back once.  Then Killian turned around and loaded up in the trailer to go home.

I guess they were two old ranch hands swapping stories about their lives.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wiped Out

I'm sitting here in my big fuzzy robe, it is almost 8 am and I do not have the energy to even get dressed.  TC was nice enough to feed the horses for me this morning, but eventually I am going to have to get some clothes on, and do something....anything at all.

My partner Mary, and I have spent 8 out of the last 11 days at the Buckeye Equestrian Center selling our wares.  We set up on Jan 1st, which took us all day to set up.  With each new event we add more racking and awnings, and of course merchandise as well.  So each event is like starting over and we have to reconfigure how we will lay things out, and how we will get everything to fit in our allotted space.  We have yet to actually "fit" and usually end up paying extra to be able to spread out just a little.

On the 2nd of Jan, there was a big tack auction close to where we were, so after working all day, we closed up shop, ran down to the auction and invested in some more inventory.  I wish I could say it was all super high quality tack at spectacular prices.  What it really was, was mediocre tack which they tried to convince us was top of the line.  However, most of the bidders were pretty smart about what they were buying and we managed to keep the prices low enough to make it worth our while.   There was some tack and saddles that were absolute junk, which of course we did not bid on, and then some that was better.  I spent way more than I should have, as did Mary, but we came home with a decent selection of very pretty midrange quality tack at affordable prices, which we can now offer to the public for less than full retail.

As much as I want to only offer the very best tack you can buy, I have to be realistic in what most of the public can afford, so that is why I invested in the items that I did.  Still the plan to also offer some very nice, one of kind custom tack for affordable prices is still in the works.

Anyway, by time the auction was over and we collected our items and made it back to "home", it was after midnight.  Then we had to get up at 5:30 am and do it all over again.  Our first 4 day weekend, we did very well, selling a few saddles, and tons of other smaller items.  It was very cold that weekend and we were the only one selling gloves, so you can imagine we did very well with those!

We had not originally planned on staying longer, but were approached by the Classic Equine Futurity Folks, and asked to stay for 2 more weeks.  We had gotten mixed reviews from other vendors on whether or not it was worth it, but they said we didn't have to tear down our booth in between events, so we opted to give it a shot.

We left everything there, came home for 3 days, tried to feel normal for a minute, and then headed back out again on Thursday morning.

I have to give a huge shout out to the folks at the Buckeye Equestrian Center.  They treated us like family, made sure we had everything we needed, kept an eye on our motorhome and trailer while we were gone, and were just so darn friendly.  They really made the trip worth it, and I do look forward to working there again.

Our first day there, before we even got unloaded, we sold another saddle. We had hoped it was going to set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  However, it didn't.  Friday was soooo slow.  Very few people came through, and those that did had no intention of actually buying anything.

Saturday started out pretty busy until it started to rain. Then we had to throw tarps over everything and the crowd evaporated.  It did give us time to post a bunch of stuff on line, which worked out well, because Sunday morning we had folks driving out just to see us, which resulted in two more saddle sales.  It also resulted in a couple of saddle purchases which tends to hurt profits a little, but they were good deals and in the long run will bring in quite a bit of money.

I am most excited about buying a nice little Circle Y Martha Josey Balanced Ride saddle.  I had seen a new one in Vegas at the NFR, and almost bought it, but was afraid I wouldn't get my money back on it.  As luck would have it, a gal brought me one that was used, and I got it for a smoking deal. She had "ruined" the saddle by using duct tape to hold a pad for her broken tail bone on the seat.  She thought that the glue from the tape would never come off.

As you can see it came off just fine, and I now have a very nice, like new saddle which I can (and will) sell and a very fair price.   While these are still not the best of the best for barrel saddles, it is a very decent saddle with a nice feel to it, and I have a lot of local girls who will be thrilled to have a saddle like this.

So Sunday was a a fair day, but over all the weekend was not the big money maker we had hoped it to be, and since space fee's were not cheap for these events, we opted not to stay for the next event coming up in 3 more days.  This required tearing down the entire booth, packing it all in the trailer and bringing it all home. We plan on going back at the end of the month for the big Pacwest race, and could have left the trailer there in a back lot, but I nixed that idea.  I need my saddles home as I have a long list of folks wanting to buy on my side of town, and not having my inventory with me, really hurts my sales.

Here are a couple of pics of our booth this time around.

In other news, Trax and I had another lesson last week.  We are graduating to flying lead changes now, and I am excited about that. True to form, Mister Anticipator, likes to show off and do them before I ask.  While I thought it was pretty cool, Dana says he has to wait for the cue, so we had to back up a little bit and work on our set up.  Ok, so let me rephrase...we are working on MY set up.  Once I get my set up right, my horses both will be able to handle it just fine.   I can't wait to get out there and practice.

I am supposed to go to a Ranch Versatility clinic next weekend, but I may hold off for one more time.  Trax and I are coming along nicely under Dana's tutelage, and much of what she is teaching me is tweaked specifically to match how my horse learns. (which of course is not how many horses learn)  Normally, going to a clinic you would find that teaching is pretty much standard across the board, but I have to be careful at this stage of the game. It would be very easy for someone to try to teach me something the way most people do it, and for me to try to implement that would confuse both me and my horse.  I guess I am saying, if something is working (and it is) it is probably best not to mess with it.

I have not been on Melody in a while, so it is time to get back to riding her as well.  She actually gets upset when I go and take Trax out and not her. She does not care for semi-retirement, and likes to be busy, so busy she will be.  Killian needs to get busy too, so maybe I can get some desert time in for those two.

Other exciting news....we have been trying to get some sorting practices going on close to home for some time now.  One of my new saddle clients, has just started boarding her horse down the street from me, and she is also just getting in to sorting.  We have been working together to come up with a venue, and the cows, and we have finally done that, and it is right here in our neighborhood.  So very soon we will have a designated practice night.   I am so looking forward to that.  I have the horse to do it on, now I just need to learn how.

So I guess it is time for me to get into the shower and go get something done. I am still pretty sore from yesterday, and a hot shower sounds pretty good right about now!  Hope everyone is having a wonderful new year!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

That's Gonna Leave a Mark!

When ever I turn Trax out of his pen, he comes out bucking and playing.


Well no, not always.  If he is haltered he is the perfect gentleman, but if he is left to his own demise he is coming out guns blazing.

I know my horse, he isn't being mean when he does this, he isn't trying to hurt anyone, he usually is plenty far away so that he isn't going to connect with anyone.  Even still I know to stand clear, just in case.

On this day I was late getting out this morning to feed and turn out.  Some days, it is just easier to dump food in the pasture (which looks more like a dirt lot right now) and then open the gates and point and tell my horses where to go. Melly never gives me a lick of trouble, Trax doesn't either, Sassy only rarely.  The boarder horses, haven't quite gotten how it works yet so they still get haltered.
I put Franny out, then turned Melly out, and then went to open Trax'x gate.  His new pen has a narrower gate and for some reason instead of staying behind the gate when I opened it, I ducked to the other side.

Yes not the smartest move I ever made.

He came out, and the gate swung back towards him pushing him in my direction...he was bucking and cow kicking and one of those hoofs caught me square on the butt cheek.

Took me a few seconds to recover from the shock, but then I went after him.  He saw me coming too and knew that he was in trouble.  Of course he took off.

He ended up going back into Melody's pen, where I shut the gate and reached up and kicked him back!  I wasn't nice about it either.

Then I made him let me catch him.

Once he knew I wasn't going to kick him anymore, he leaned his head against my chest.  (not something he does normally)  I do believe he was trying to say he was sorry.  Or maybe he was just trying to get where I couldn't get a square shot in again.

It hurts.  Burns pretty bad right now, but I can still walk, and the more I keep moving the less it hurts.  I'm pretty darn lucky.  If I had not been turned the way I was he'd have got me right in the gut, or on the hip bone.

Lesson learned.  Stay behind the gate, or halter the damn horse.