Monday, June 18, 2018

Why I only have one horse

In my previous post I mentioned that I only have one horse to ride.  Well there are reasons for that. 

1. I sent Killian off to a potential new owner.  He is on an 8 week lease with an option to buy.  So far it is working out well for everyone and it is my hope he has found his perfect person.  If not, he can come back and I will just keep him with me. 

2. Melody is out of commission.  She recently was in a pasture with a new horse who promptly claimed ownership to Trax, and kicked the crap out of my mare.  She has a hairline fracture and is 6 weeks in to her 90 day rehab process.  It is truly killing me not to be able to ride her.  The mare that did the kicking didn't stay long.  She was a horse I was trying out.  It ended up not being a good fit. 

I am, however enjoying the ability to focus more time on Trax and our Barrel Racing.  Things are finally starting to come together.  We had some pretty bad runs, but finally pulled down and 18.871 which is our fastest time yet and earned us a little check in the 4D.  3rd place to be exact. 

Here are a few shots from the night.
I like this one.  My eyes are up and we are looking good. 

In this one we are both hunting for the next barrel and right on track

This was my first time running him a tie down.  It seemed to make a difference for him mostly right here, where we struggle with balance.  

In this one the first thing I saw was where I was looking.  He is following my eyes.

As soon as I looked up, so did he. 

I always like these because they show how hard he is trying. 

I have to be honest.  I was almost ready to give up on all of this, but as always, the biggest problem with my horses is the rider.   I'm not going to sit here and try to convince anyone that he is a sweet innocent old guy who only does what he is told.  But for the most part, he really wants to get along, and really likes barrel racing.  He tries really hard to follow my cues, and he just didn't understand why he was getting in trouble for going exactly where he thought I wanted him to go....I was staring at the barrels and so that is where he went.  Even though he didn't often knock them over, he would run into them and then have to jump to one side or the other, or just stop all together.  Once we fixed where my eyes are, and where I cue him to turn, suddenly everything fell into place.  

We still have a long ways to go, and he is never going to be a 1D horse. But I'll never be a 1D rider either, so it works.  We are currently sitting 1st in the 2D senior division for the year end awards of this club.  I'm pretty excited about that! 

Cow Presence

Tonight the meaning of the phrase "Cow presence" became crystal clear to me.

Melody has major cow presence. When you ride her into a group of cows they look up at her, scream like little bitches, and run. She laughs like a mad woman, I laugh like a mad woman, and it is cool as hell.

Trax has ZERO cow presence. When you ride him into a group of cows they look up at him like they want to make out with him or something. I usually hang my head in shame.

Since Trax is the only horse I have left to ride (for now) I took him over to cow night at Rattlesnake Arena. It was oddly quiet this night, which I was actually glad for. It was just me and one other friend...and six cows to have our way with.

Trax and I do a lot of "stop, back up, roll back and move out" but we do it for no apparent reason, and he always thought I was just torturing him, I am sure. So I tortured him some more tonight and then we very slowly moved some cows around using the same routine.

Now this is not his first time doing this, but Trax is a front end horse. He can spin around faster on his front end than any horse I know, so he has held a cow on a fence before...just not correctly. Tonight I asked him to do it correctly.

At some point in the evening, something in him clicked. He suddenly realized that all the fancy foot work torture we have been doing for all this time had a purpose, and that purpose is to have our way with the cows. At one point I managed to get off of his face and he managed to start moving off of his hind end, drop his head and follow my legs and seat.

I'm not talking world class cutting here, but there were some serious moments of clarity for us, and we did manage to shut the cows down. Even when one got away from us, we headed him off and turned him around.

And the paint horse suddenly was having fun!

He still doesn't have that presence that Melly has, but he had purpose and it was a great start. Who knows, maybe he'll be able to be a sorting horse after all.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Barrel Racer Blues

Trax and I are in the beginning of our season with the Queen Creek Barrel Racing Association.  So far it has not gone well. We have had 2 races and ended up with broken pattern and a very last place with a 22 second run.

Here is a link to the 22 second run.  His first barrel is almost always pretty nice, but 2 and 3 we seem to lose all forward momentum. 

Our broken pattern run was my fault because we were wide on #3 and when I put my leg on to push him over, he side passed right over past the the barrel.  I'll own up to that one as being my fault.  I don't have a video of that.

The one I won't own up to was This little dirty trick he pulled.  That duck on the 3rd barrel was all him.  However I am less concerned with that than I am our other two turns. If he does it again, then I will be concerned.   But today I am talking about one and two. Once again, we lose forward momentum.

This was not at the QCBRA, which I was really glad for, because these sorts of runs will not get us anywhere near a year end award.  (which is my goal)  It was another little local race and I was glad I went, and while I didn't hate the run, I think we can do better. 

I'm no trainer, and of course I get lots of great advice, and I am working with a trainer who I like.  But at some point in time I have to do some of my own thinking.  Don't get me wrong,  I appreciate every bit of advice I get from all my friends and my trainer.  I pay attention and try all if it and keep what works and file away what doesn't for another time, or another horse.  However, the one thing I always come back to is that this is my horse, and nobody knows him better than I do, so sometimes I get further by using what I know works over what someone else thinks I should do.  It doesn't always work that way, but sometimes.     

So I think on it, and I think on it, and I think on it.  I lose sleep over it. (stupid I know)

How do I get him to keep his momentum going around the barrels. 

When I am riding it feels like two things are happening. 

First my trainer has me saying "Here" when I want him to rate down to turn the barrel.  I sometimes wonder if he isn't confusing it with "whoa".  Lord knows we have worked on that command for a really long time!

Second, this horse has a really bad habit of planting his front foot and swinging his hip to turn.  I blame it roping, but who knows.  It could just be how he has always done it.

So he "stops", swings the hip slices off the back of arch and then comes around.  Often times he comes around really wide.  Although we seem to be getting better about full turns so that is good. 

We are losing our shape. 

I work on shape with this horse constantly.

At a trot he will shape around that barrel like a pro. 

The minute I add any speed at all, he slices and dices like a damn food processor. 

Part of it could be me.  But I don't think it is all me.  If I ask for the shape and there is no barrel, if we just do a random turn, he generally does fine.  So I am not sure what the deal is. 

So after a lot of thought and watching some videos of some better horses I came up with a plan.  Today we tried it. 

 Today's goal was to move out a foot wider from where we usually are in our turn.  It was my hope that doing this will make it easier for him/us to keep our shape instead of slicing. 

We worked on it for about an hour and a half.  It was a lot of arguing between the two of us. 

We didn't start on the pattern.  It started with nothing but right hand circles, and we switched to left hand, and then we switched them up, and then we went to the pattern. 

I would say "go wide and round and keep your momentum"

And he would say, "slowing down for the short cut!"

And I would back him up and slow him down and we would do it again.

and again

and again.

When we got it at a trot we progressed to a lope.

He really hates to slow lope a pattern.  He will trot it just fine, but loping not so much.   However today I insisted.  When we lope he tends to want to just trot when we get to the barrel. But what I really wanted was for him to keep the slow lope even going around.  In order to do so he had to really get off of my leg which I admit to hitting him pretty dang hard with.  I did try asking nicely first but he just blew me off. 

It took many many tries at a lope to get it right, but finally he did.

Then I asked him to go faster and to do it right.

The first time he went right back to slice and dice on the very first barrel.  I got after him pretty hard and we went back and did again. 

The second time he made a perfect beautiful arch around the first barrel and kept his momentum.  He came out of it and picked up his lead so I pushed him on to number two.  I had quit saying "here" and started saying "nice and round" and he went out and around with out losing his speed.  He was a little bit wide coming out of it, but I wasn't going to split hairs at this time, and it wasn't out of control so we just went on.  His 3rd barrel was a perfect arch and so I let him have his race for home.   

Of course I told him how amazing he was, and that I knew he could do it, and he trotted around the arena very proud of himself and licking and chewing, so I knew he was thinking about it.  I let him work out his anxiety and then cooled him down. 

The poor guy was drenched in sweat.  He still has a ton of hair and it was pretty warm today, so he was pretty hot.  He did get a nice cool bath and got to roll in the pasture afterwards. 

So here is what I think.  I think that being who he is, I am better off making him take those turns just a little wider to help him stay round, until staying round is second nature to him.  I am not going to say "here" anymore because I really think it confuses him.  I am going to keep insisting that he run the pattern at the speed I choose and not let him push me around just because he likes to run.  That way I can make sure we are doing it correctly before we just go. 

Oddly enough, all the fear of him going too fast or being out of control is gone.  I still get nervous before I run at an event, but not afraid.  That part is a big deal for me.  So YAY!

These are a few of my favorite shots from the 22 second run.  Our confidence is growing, and we are way better than we were even a few months ago.  I know it is a process, and I'm working with tough horse and zero experience on my end, but I am happy with our progress.  I really hope this new plan helps.  I guess we will see soon enough!

Sunday, February 18, 2018


The word fearlessness keeps coming up to me these days.

Someone said to me "I admire your fearlessness"

Someone else said, "It is so cool to see older women out there competing" (in regards to riding)

There are a lot of us actually, I think. We are the ones who have always loved horses, but had to get out of them for one reason or another, and now are back and trail riding isn't enough for us. We want more. We want to compete. We want to race, we want to work cows, we want to rope, we want to be better horsewomen. It isn't that there is anything wrong with trail riding. We still do that too, and I darn sure am not making fun on people who are content with that. So please don't think that I am

Maybe it is a midlife crisis sort of thing. Perhaps we are trying to buy back years of our youth by pushing ourselves in events that are generally dominated by younger women.

The funny thing is that while I think, like anyone, we want to be competitive and win, for most of us it is more about the DOING. It is about not going to our grave regretting the things we did not try.

Are we scared? Hell yeah we are!!!! But damn, most of us have been through some pretty hairy stuff in our lives and lived through it. So why in the world would we let fear take us out of the game now?

Every single time I compete in any event, whether it is barrels, sorting, or Versatility Ranch Horse, on my way to the event I am literally sick to my stomach with nerves. Once I get there and get into the saddle, I am much better. But that 3 or 4 minutes right before I take my turn, I generally am shaking from nervousness

It isn't fear of getting hurt, it isn't that I am afraid of my horse, and I really don't care about making a fool of myself. I don't know why I am so nervous. I just am. For the most part, once I clear the gate, I'm ok. (maybe not so much in barrels- but in everything else)

So when the person said to me, "I admire your fearlessness" I laughed so hard. My fear of dying with a ton of regrets, just happens to be stronger than my fear of failure

About a year ago, I got bucked off that buckskin horse Smokey. He got me good and face planted me on a patch of dirt that was hard like concrete. I ended up at the hospital, nothing broken, but my shoulder will never be the same again. I have bones sticking up and limited movement. There are times when the entire right side of my body goes numb.

When it happened, TC asked me, "So are you done with horses now?"



I got hurt but I am no where near done yet! As soon as I was able to get myself back in a saddle I was there. Of course I had to have someone else saddle my horse because it was 2 months before I could lift a saddle up the high.

I still think about that day when I am riding from time to time. Not in the "Oh I might get hurt again" frame of mind, but in the "What could I have done to shut that horse down before he dumped me" frame of mind

Since that day instead of slowing down, I have sped up. I go faster, I ride harder, I ride more aggressively than I ever did before. Maybe because I got bucked off and I didn't die? I don't know.

All I know for sure is that I refuse to be held captive by my age, by my trepidations, or by someone saying to me "You aren't good enough."

I don't care. If I am not good enough, I will keep trying until I get better. Or maybe I won't get better. Maybe I'll keep looking like the worst rider out there, but the smile on my face will be huge because I am........OUT THERE!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dear Boarder.....

Dear Boarder,

Your horse is a pain in the ass.  Remember how your previous facility told you to find someplace else to board?  There is a reason for it. 


The person who takes care of your horse.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Paint Horse Conversation

It is no secret that I love this horse to pieces.

Even when I hate him, I love him.

He loves me too.

We have a connection that transcends anything I have with any of my other trusty steeds.  Melody is special and I love her too, and Killian is just a solid rock.  But Trax.....we are connected.

When Trax needs to tell me something that he deems very important he does a thing.  He will walk up to where I am and touch my hand with his nose.

This is not like "Do you have treats?" touching. It the equivalent of the kid tugging on your pant leg and then pointing at something they want.

He will touch my hand and then point his nose at want he wants me to see.  He will do it again and again until I get the message.  It is his, "Mom, we need to talk" signature move.

A long time ago, before I had split all my stalls into the size they are now, they were big enough to house 2 horses easily.  He had been gone at a trainers for a while, and a different horse had been moved in with Melody so when he came home I put him in with Killian.  They have known each other for a long time, and I think that this was before I realized that Killian had decided that he hated everyone.

Trax came to the gate where I was standing and touched my hand with his nose and then looked over at Melody's pen.  I didn't get the message.  He walked a circle and then came back and did it again.  I still didn't get the message.  He did it a 3rd time, and I did get the message.  It was "Please let me go over there, this guy is going to kill me tonight."  I said back to him, "Oh you will be fine, you've lived together before."

The next day I came out to Killian pinning him in the corner biting the crap out of him.  He was a torn up mess, and terrified.  I felt so bad.

So now when Trax says, "Hey Mom, we need to talk." I always listen.

Recently I have been trying some different feeds with him.  He doesn't really need grain.  He is a fat boy.  But because of the joint supplement he gets, I need to have something to use as a top dress.   I have switched back and forth from Progressive Grass Balancer, and Nutrena Special care.  Both are low starch, special care I believe is also lower in fat.  Both are loaded with Amino Acids for muscle.  I believe the Progressive is a little higher.  I've also switched between a couple of different joint supplements, trying to figure out which one I like.

Usually he goes right for his food, pushes the pellets out of the way to get at what ever yummy stuff he can find.

Last week he went to his food, nosed around for a minute and then came to me, touched my hand and looked over at his tub.

I said, "Sorry buddy, what we have is what we have."  But made a mental note of his request.  Clearly he was asking for something that was missing, but I really didn't know what it was because of all the swapping. .
At this time he was on the Progressive, and Tight Joints, and Topline Extreme.

The next day he did the same thing.

And again the day after.

In the morning I would check to see if he left something uneaten, but he is eating everything, which is typical of him..  But he really wanted something else.

Today I finally brought home some Special Care.  I didn't change anything but that.  He went to his food, took a small bite, looked up at me and bobbed his head, and then went to chowing down.

He doesn't like the taste of the Progressive.  I find it odd, because it smells much more palatable to me.  But what do I know, I'm not a horse!!!

Luckily the Special Care is much cheaper, so I am good with his decision!   I just think it is cool that he has figures out such a solid way to communicate with me.  It isn't like I ever taught him this.  He is a pretty smart old man.

In other news our barrel racing is coming along.  We still have so much to work on, but my trainer says we are making progress.  Here are a couple of more pics from a recent Gymkhana.  If things work out right we will hit a race down south on Saturday.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I hope my cold weather friends are able to stay warm!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" club.

A few weeks ago, BEC and I were at a sorting, and as usual I just couldn't "get anything going".  I had some ok runs but nothing to write home about and definitely not in the money.  We were joking around about how funny it is that the riders enter the jackpots, and of course everyone wants to win money, but when it comes to the buckle runs it seems as though everyone loses their minds!  It is like that buckle is ten times more important than any cash reward.

I laughed and said, "If I go through this season without getting a buckle I'm going just gonna go buy one that says 'Never won a darn thing'."

She laughed and came back with, "Now I know what to get you for your birthday!  A buckle from the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Club!"

It was pretty hilarious, and I went in and rode my best that day but not good enough and once again went home empty handed and a good amount broker than I was when I got there.

BUT I did have a good time and learned a little more so that was good.

Fast forward to the next weekend.

I had been chatting with my young friend Jillian who used to board here and work for me.  She likes to sort too and is pretty darn good at it.  We had not gone together since she moved her horses home to her new horse property.  I asked her if she wanted to tag along and to my surprise she said yes.  So I picked her and her trusty steed Spur up and we headed to the other side of the world valley.

It was cold that day, and I guess because of that, there were not as many people there.  I called BEC, she was otherwise engaged, and my other close friends S&J were also not there.  But I still knew most of the folks who were there.  There were some pretty good riders there.  The same riders I lose to almost every week, so I went in with zero expectations.

In fact, with as cold and windy as it was, I had almost talked myself out of going.  I had a flat on the trailer the night before, it was wet and cold, and it is a long drive, and I thought, "Why do I put myself through this?"

But Jillian was ready to go, and for her sake I did not want to back out.


We did a few practice runs, Melly and I did pretty well.  One of my partners let some cows through, but it was only a practice so it was no big deal.  Jillian and I did 2 runs together and totally kicked ass.  Her horse (who I had the chance to buy and passed on- kick myself every day for that decision) is so damn cool.  She is a pretty handy rider too.

First up was the Jackpot.  With my first partner I got 3 cows.  Not great, but clean.  The cows were sticky that day so everyone was pulling low numbers.  With my second partner I got 7 more.  I knew that some teams had gotten higher so I was just sitting there holding the cows, minding my own business and they called out the winner for the jackpot.  It was guy I will call GRRRR.  (inside joke)  He won with 12 cows.  Then they said the second place winner was Cindy with 10 cows.



OMG!  I just took second!!!!!

I literally could not stop grinning.  Yes I was excited that I won some money, but mostly I was excited that I wasn't last.

We didn't win by default.

We actually beat some pretty decent riders.

We didn't suck!

Next up was the 1-2 class buckle run.  My first run went pretty well.  I was with a rider that I had ridden with before and we went in and did a pretty good job.   I was having a little trouble getting a certain cow and got to going too hard and fast.  My partner yelled at me to slow down, and when she did I came back to my senses and we got the job done.  We came out of that run with 5 cows.

 On my second run I was paired up with a rider I knew was pretty decent too. She was riding a pretty little roan mare and of course I was on my great big roan.  So we went in joking about roan power!

I went in first while she held the gate.  I put Melly on our first cow but she got a little too into it, and accidentally cut him back the other way.  (This is where my playing with cows in the practice pen may have got me into trouble)  But we got him turned around without too much trouble.  It cost us a little time, but after that things started to roll pretty smoothly.  This was the better herd of the 3 we had to use, so they moved along pretty nicely.  My partner did her job and I did mine both in the gate and in the herd.  We came away with 7 cows.

You can see that run here

To be honest, I had lost track of how many cows I actually had and I was sure that someone else had more.  When they called the winner of the buckle and I heard my name my first response was, "No Way!"

Then I almost cried.

Next up was the buckle run for the open class. There were only 4 riders.

My first ride was with GRRR and we did a pretty decent job.  He yelled at me, I yelled back at him, and we made up when it was all done, because the run was clean and I think we had 8 cows.  He is a good rider and pretty darn competitive, so I was glad I didn't mess up.

My second ride was with a gal I had been watching. She was good...really good...and I went in the determined to do my best. They had changed the herd out for this series of runs, and this was the crappy herd.  The 1 and the 7 cows were just bad. They wouldn't do anything you wanted them too do.

She and I were hittin and gettin and those dang cows were coming through like butter.  I am not even sure what number we were on, I just knew that we were having a pretty darn good run.  I also knew that we were running short on time.  She was bringing 2 cows towards me from the left.  I was facing towards the right after chasing off a different cow.  All I had to do was push my horses shoulder over and peel off that inside cow while she drove the good cow through.

I don't know what happened.  I put my spur on my horse and she wouldn't move.

So I kicked her again even harder and she finally moved but that 2 second delay let that dirty rotten sucker get past me and we got a no time.  I felt so bad for the other gal because, although I didn't know for sure, I was pretty sure she was in the running for that buckle.  I hate it when I screw up someone elses chance to win.

GRRR ended up winning the open buckle.   It was cool, he earned it.  But later the announcer told me that if I hadn't let that cow through, I would have walked away with both buckles and 2nd in the jackpot.

So there it is, my first ever buckle!  I didn't get one till I was 54 years old.  But of course I didn't even really start trying to win one until a year or so ago.  So I am pretty happy with that.  I know it wasn't a big win against a ton of riders, but hey, we all have to start somewhere!

I know I posted about this on facebook and everyone congratulated me there, so please don't feel like you need to again. I just wanted to share the entire story.