A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Busy weekend ahead. O has a show!

Tomorrow morning, I am heading down to grab Leah and Kris (and of course my mother is going with me) so that we can see O, the last Sugarbush Stallion (for now) compete in his first show ever.  Here is Heather riding him in a training session:

Doesn't he look nice and relaxed?

Well, after that, we have the farrier out to do trims/shoes here at Iron Ridge, and I still have a few horses to ride.  So there's a good chance that tomorrow will be a little bit crazy.

And Monday, I will be picking up my newest training client.  Her name is Lady, and I can't wait to meet her.  She's a mature (I want to say 12 year old) Arab/Saddlebred cross who needs some work in the basics of dressage.  She's broke, so this is all fine tuning stuff for her.  I'm hoping I got her stats right, and if not, I will be sure to let you know.

As for Rooster and Huck.  When I left you last, the boys were being bad.  Well.... it was a one day thing!  The very next day Huck started out with the same "I don't WANT TO" attitude.  He kicked at air, and flat out refused to walk forward.  I searched my mind for an answer, and looked at Jae (who was hanging over the fence being mildly amused at the situation) and said "ok, I'm offically stumped".  Jae casually walks out, grabs Huck's bridle, and leads us around.  When Huck refused to walk forward, Jae would walk ahead.  Within a couple of minutes Huck was making a good honest effort to listen to me.  By the end of the hour, he was riding exactly where I wanted.  I asked for a left turn, and got a left turn, and NOT a disengagement of the haunches.  I asked for a circle and got a circle.  We backed, side passed, half passed, went straight as a board... all the things I had wanted to see.  Huck put some effort into it too, and ended the session pretty wet and drippy.

Today, we picked up where we left off.  A few walk to trot transitions, and everything was nice and relaxed.  He's starting to get the idea that we go where I say, not where he wants to, and if he does that there's love and good boys, and even some pats in his future.  I'm SO thrilled with this.  While it's not that big of a change from where he was, it's that he's now so nice and relaxed and almost enjoying it.

As for Rooster.  Well.... you know how every woman has that "problem area" on her body that she needs to work out?  Mine is my legs.  I can never get those toned enough.  Little did I know that all I had to do was climb up and climb down from a horse a zillion times!  Rooster isn't perfect yet.  But yesterday he let me catch him with no issues.  Granted, he started to walk away, then thought better of it.  He came up just out of my reach, and I had a shocker for him.... a cookie!  Now Rooster is not a real big treat eater, especially not out of the hand, but I have horse crack.  I don't know what is in this horse treat, but every horse I've met loves this stuff.

At any rate, Rooster has decided again that getting caught isn't too bad.  Lets see how long this lasts.  And even better, he lets me walk all the way around him with out being too tense.  When he relaxes, I praise him, and go on like normal.  Rooster really likes normal.  He's decided that the mounting block is not a monster, and it's not going to eat him.  I can even toss it down right beside him and only get a lift of the head and slight body tensing.  From there, I went to standing on it (over his head) and leaning over him.  Petting his off side freaks him out a bit, but he's learning to tolerate that.

He is now letting me step up and down from the stirrup.  I'm not riding him yet, because it's obvious Rooster knows the saddle stuff.  His big issue is the trust of a person climbing on.  Once I have him relaxed for mounting, I honestly think that every thing after that will simply flow easily.  Now, don't get me wrong, he's still very quick to react, but it's when given a command now, and not just a tilt of the head, or twitch of the fingers that most people wouldn't realize that they did.  Only a few days ago, standing at Rooster's hip and flexing my arm would cause him to rush into a canter, and circle me in a perfect lunge.  He's being "good" in his mind, but he's just being a bit TOO good. 

I'm really pleased with how they are doing.  And while I might not be blogging tomorrow, I hope to have a glowing report of O in the show ring.  Granted, this is his first show, so he could fall apart, or Heather could decide he's just not ready, and scratch.  But that doesn't mean I won't be cheering them on anyways!

Hope every one has a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I remembered a picture at the last momment

That is Huck.  He was my last ride for today, and as I was tacking down, I remembered I have a camera in my phone.  Duh!  On the upside, this means I can get more pictures more often now, since my phone is always in my back pocket - unless I hit the ground and send it flying!

So, for all the joy and wonder of yesterday, today was not so great.  It started out with grabbing Huck and Rooster to put them in the barn.

Huck: "Hey, do you have food?  Catch me PLEASE!"

Rooster:  "Screw this, I'm outta here!"  *tail in air, prancing away* (exit stage left)

Yeah.  So, Rooster and I had a discussion about how nice it is to be caught.  I asked him to come to me, he said no.  If he focused on me, I took away all pressure, but if he ran around with his tail up, I kept him moving.  After he was a very hot and sweaty boy, he decided that I wasn't so bad after all, and walked right up to me.  I then of course praised him, loved on him, and had to walk him out.

But, I suppose there's a bit of a good side to it.  After that, he decided that me walking all the way around him was perfectly fine, and he was too tired to give me fits.  Yesterday, he was tense, and ready to go with the least encouragement.  And I mean GO!  Today, he was calm, but listening.  I can't tell if his good behavior today was because he was a tuckered boy, or if he's actually learning.  So, it looks like he's learned that running from me is not worth it, but coming to me means pets and calm, and that I can walk around him, touch him all over, and he doesn't take off until I give an actual command.  No command means to relax and stand still.  I'm hoping that means tomorrow I will actually get saddle time on him!

As for Huck, well, he was a brat today!  Started out with tacking him up, and he decided pawing was a good idea.  Uh, no.  He pawed, I made the seagull noise (ahhhhhhhk!) and he'd stop.  He was a doll for picking up his back feet, but tried to pull his front out from my hands today.  Normally, he tries to be super lazy on the hinds, and is good on the fronts.

So then we went to the arena, and I went to climb on and ride.  With out lunging.  This is my goal for him.  Yeah, it's not part of the routine, so he didn't like it at all.  First he wouldn't stand to be mounted.  This means I got my step aerobics in.  Up, down, stand, repeat.  Finally he was good, so I mounted up, and he walked off on me.  I really hate that.  Nothing worse then a horse that walks off as soon as your rump hits the saddle.  So we did some yo yo work.

Yo yo work is where I walk the horse, then stop, then stand.  The idea is for the command to get an immediate response in a calm and soft manner.  Huck would stop fine, but he drug into a walk, and standing, well, only after he'd turned a quarter circle!  Finally he got the idea.

Then my neighbor decdes to tape up a box.  No biggie right?  Uh.... you know the packing tape on a roll, and the noise it makes?  Evidently that's a possible horse eating noise!  While Huck was good about it, he was completely distracted from any command I wanted to give, and every halt ended in him turning towards the noise.

Finally, we got over that (ok, mostly because the neighbor stopped, but Huck did start to ignore it a couple of minutes before that).  Then huck decides he won't turn left.  Nope, not happening.  He'll turn right like a doll, but left, nope.  He would simply swing his hind quarters around, but he would not walk and do a left turn at the same time.

Around and around we went.  I got lovely side passes from him.  I got some amazing backs... almost the entire length of the arena.  Sadly, they were all evasions.  I tried seat aids, I tried leg aids, I tried direct reining, I tried indirect reining, I even tried neck reining.  Nothing.  Every command resulted in the same response.

Even worse, he'd turn left just fine when I wanted him to go straight.

I can't say it was the best ride, but we did end on a good note.  I asked Huck to walk forward and straight.  Just walk on the command.  After he backed up, kicked at the saddle, and tried to turn in circles, he finally gave in.  I got a nice, soft and easy walk, and an even better halt.  After an hour of trying to be smarter then the horse (and not completely positive that I was) it seemed like a great response!

But, these bad rides always happen.  No horse can be good 100% of the time, nor can every rider.  I'm thinking that today was just not my day.  I'm hoping that Huck learned that he can't get out of work by being a problem, and that fighting my commands makes it more work, and not less.  We'll see how tomorrow goes.

There is an upside though.  The new paddock is in progress.  I have vertical poles in, and I have half of a top rail.  This is the paddock that will be attached to the barn, with a run in stall.  I'm very excited about this, because I need more small paddocks out here.  After this, poor Jae (he's over worked and under paid) gets to finish the house paddock, and THEN start cross fencing the main paddock.  I feel like the farm is finally coming together!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I think we're making progress

Today was a great day.  I had a potential client come out and want to see me work with horses.  I pulled Diesel out, and was doing some retuning (he's been a lazy horse for about a year) and thought it'd be a great way for me to warm up.  Well, she showed up while I was still on him.  Ends up, the end of my session with Diesel was exactly what she wanted to see - refitting a horse for dressage type work.

Now, I have to be honest here.  I HATE having people watch me ride when they are potential clients.  A judge will look to see what you do well, and what you do wrong.  A potential client is really looking for ONLY what you do wrong.  I mean, you can't blame them at all.  It's like hiring someone to take care of your child (just the 4 legged type).  My clients tend to care about their horses, and I'm sure not about to stop that!

So, that was shockingly easy, and very stress free on me.  I mean, I'm not the most human savvy person out there.  I am perfectly happy to be left alone all day with horses in the arena.  I love spending time with them, but people... yeah, I need work with my social skills at times.

After that, I gave mom a lesson on Ishka.  Mom did really well, and I stole Ishka for a few laps to get a feel of what I was seeing.  Ishka is coming along nicely, and my mother is doing a great job with her.  She's still green, but I am not seeing any problems with her training.  As a benefit, my mother is also learning a lot more about horses, since babies don't hide things as much as mature horses.

And of course, "my" mustangs.  Huck was simply amazing today!  He finally decided to speak to me, and oh boy what he had to say.  Huck does side passes, half passes, turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches.  He is amazing.  Now, don't get me wrong, it's all still a bit rough, but it's definitely there!  We had a few moments of "no I don't WANT to do that" but not even anything to talk about. What a fabulous ride!

Rooster didn't get ridden today.  Instead, he well, this sounds bad, but he got mounted.  A lot.  Yes, I mean that I prepped him for getting on and off and on and off.  Come to find out, Rooster gets explosive when you are behind the girth.  He's waiting for the command, and then explodes away.  I showed him that bursting is NOT what I am looking for.  I think he understood.

I got some nice glimpses of Rooster thinking today.  I threw the mounting block on the ground to make it thump (it's hollow and plastic, and can be spooky to some horses) and Rooster decided that was a good time to lick it.  Yes, he licked the mounting block ALL over.  Kinda funny to watch.  He also really didn't care for me climbing up on his offside.  That was SCARY.  I almost got a real bugle out of him.  Almost.

We spend about an hour and 10 minutes in the arena working with relaxing and just standing calmly for me to do things to him.  As soon as he realized what I wanted, he gave a big effort to get it right.  granted, we had some confusion.  Like, I would stand behind him, and lift my arm, and he would scoot away to circle around me, as if lunging.  He's not being bad when he does that, he just didn't guess right.  Can't fault a guy for trying.  But for the most part, he figured it out.

He did finally let me mount up while he stood nice and relaxed.  All I wanted was for him to not be tense and ready to bolt.  I think he even had a hip cocked (but am not positive).  I called that a win, praised the boy, and finished up.  One of these days I'm gonna get a good ride out of that red head again!  If he keeps learning at this pace, it won't be too much longer.

What a wonderful day.  I'm tired, but I'm so tickled.  Days like this make me stop and be thankful that I'm able to live like this.  I almost feel guilty getting paid to have this much fun, and experience this many amazing horses.

Ok, I said almost!  Gotta feed the parents somehow, right?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wet with a chance of Wind

Yep, it rained all weekend.  Saturday the rain was nice enough to wait until feeding was done, and we had moved a few horses out of the barn and the neediest into it, and then it started pouring.  It kept pouring for most of the day.

Little honesty here - I didn't mind at all!  Granted, I would love to have an indoor place to ride, so that I am not at the mercy of the weather, but until I do, I took the day off.  Oh it was lovely!  And evidently I was exhausted.  Saturday evening, I was reading a book, then Jae was waking me up asking me if I wanted to keep sleeping.  I said YES!

14 hours later, I crawled out of bed, refreshed and renewed.  It was wonderful.

Sunday though, I was bored to tears!  Too wet for a pony party.  Too wet to move things around the yard.  Too wet to mow.  I finally settled on reading a good book and doing laundry.

And now today.  The arena isn't quite dry enough to work a horse on.  One of my biggest fears is asking a horse for too much, or having a horse spook on such slippery footing, and it coming down on a rider, or falling and breaking a leg.  It's almost ready, and Jae is going to put a fresh till in it, to see if that helps.  If it does, I'll be training horses this afternoon!  I'm really looking forward to working with Rooster.

I've changed my plans with Rooster.  I'm encouraging him to be involved in his own training.  Right now, when he's asked to work, he turns into a robot.  To me, this is a sign of a horse that is fighting himself.  I don't mean a calm robot, I mean tense, and reacting only because he was trained to.  There's no real thought process going on in his head.

Now, Rooster is a very intelligent horse. This should be easy for him to learn.  It might take a week or 2 though.  I have been spending time with him at feedings, getting him to investigate me, and showing him that it's ok to be curious about anything.  I want Rooster to learn that he can ask, but he won't always get what he asks for, and won't be punished for it either.

This is a very hard thing to explain.  It makes sense when I see it, but I don't know how to put it into words for someone else.  I see this a lot with the problem horses I retrain.  In fact, Leah's boy Poco had some of these tendencies.  I call them Ticking Time Bombs.

What I see, is a horse that only knows one way to do things.  These horses could be pampered, or abused, that makes no difference.  What does, is how the horse is trained.  Horses need to understand a range of things, not a specific.  As an example, if the only person to ride a horse has a perfect seat, then when the novice gets on him and their legs bounce on his side and they sit a bit crooked, the horse starts to panic.  The horse tries to hold it in, because they were trained to do so, but eventually they just can't take the stress/fear/whatever and blow up.  This type of horse tends to be stiff, and tense through any work outside their normal.

What needs to happen, is that the horse needs to be taught that a quiet seat is good, but a sloppy seat is just to be ignored.  When I train my babies, I tend to ride nice mostly, but throw in a few sloppy leg moments, or sit crooked, or goof off in the saddle.  The horse learns that it's safe, and just fine for its rider to be silly.  That is what I'm starting today with Rooster.

His big problem seems to be mounting.  So, Friday, I got on him sloppy, and he spooked out from under me.  I expected it, and it was no biggie, but it proved my point.  And I'm assuming that his owner doesn't want that type of habit.  So, today, Rooster and I will spend a lot of time with ups and downs.  I expect to land my butt in the dirt at least once!  (Probably more).  But if all goes well, Rooster will learn that there's a range of acceptable, and hopefully take that and apply it to all saddle work.  If not, then I'll have to apply it step by step for him.

The goal, is a horse that will stand quietly for a rider as they haul themselves into the saddle, shift it over, scooch a bit, and then walk off nice and quietly, and pick up the gait asked with out tension. 

I'll know more after today if this type of training works.  I might have to re-evaluate again.  But I want this horse to be a safe and perfect gentleman for his owner.  I really think he can be. I really like this horse.

Huck, meh, he's easy.  The way to his heart is scratches and food.  He just needs to learn not to be so lazy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Update on my rain day

I had the most magnificent ride on Huck.  The rain finally cleared off, and while it rained, it truly wasn't enough to do more then wet the ground for a few hours.  So, when the skies looked clear, I went out to grab Huck, and get his ride in before the end of the day.

Huck has been acting NQR recently.  From his mannerisms I assumed it was a stiff back.  It's very common in horses built like he is, very high withered, medium head set, and a moderately short back.  I have checked saddle fit, checked pads, girths, and just about anything that would cause him discomfort, and he says it's all good.  I did have a problem with his feet looking a bit damp, so yesterday I treated with Thrush X (nasty stuff, but hey, it works).  Today, his feet were dry and he didn't give me any problems with them at all.  In the past, he has tried to pull them away from me when I got down into the crease.

Well, maybe it was his feet this whole time?

So, I get out, give him a bit of a lunge, and he's acting lazy.  Nice... lazy is good!  I go to climb on, and he does this head up, tense body thing, but a few seconds of petting and waiting, and he relaxed.  We walked off, and he stepped out just fine.

But nothing can be so easy.  Huck decided that he didn't WANT to work today.  He was ready to go in the barn and eat hay!  Everytime we passed the top side of the arena, he would side pass or drift out to get as close to the gate as possible.  After a few rounds, he realized that I will block him if I have to, but I prefer to be a lazy rider, and have a lazy ride.

Now, in the middle of all of that, there were some other things going on.  Huck decided to nibble the stirrup, which he does.  I would counter flex him away from the stirrup, and he'd stop.  Finally, I had enough.  I grabbed a nice soft padded cavason, and put it on.  The cavason is a nose band that reminds the horse to keep its mouth shut.  It can be put on tight enough to prevent the horse from opening its mouth, but I don't use it that tight.  I want to fit a finger between it and the horse.  That was all it took, and Huck gave up the mouthy thing.  Granted, he did manage to get a nice nip on me in there, but that was my fault for not watching when I know he has this habit.

But, over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes, Huck finally realized that acting up wasn't getting him out of work.  He began to "talk" to me, and informed me that he doesn't like the deep sand, he prefers a harder footing, and wanted to stay on the more packed areas (remember it rained today).  Then he realized that if he balked at the gate, I just turned him to it, and backed away from it, so he had to work HARDER.

He informed me rather clearly that he doesn't like working too hard, he wanted to stop.  So, when he was nice, relaxed, and easy to handle, I called it quits.  I dismounted on the far side of the arena (since he wanted me off at the gate, I needed to get off somewhere else) praised him, and finished up.  I didn't  make it out of a walk today, but that's ok.  We're talking, he's relaxed, and we had some good stuff happen.  By the end of the ride, dear Hucky boy was good as gold.

Not a perfect day, but a very good end to it.  I'm pretty sure these boys will end up as wonderful horses.  Mainly because they are both so smart even though they are so different.  It does look like, though, that while I'll get to spend saddle time on Huck, Rooster will need some holes filled in.  Mainly it's his reaction to fear that needs to be completely rewired.

After Huck's ride, I spent some time just being friendly with both of the boys.  Ok, and Jae was sucking up to the other mustang, Nakai.  Huck took his love, but wanted his groceries more, but Rooster finally started showing an interest in me for more then the food I give him.  I'm hoping that this means his spook earlier got his brain going, and we'll have a fabulous ride tomorrow.

Here's hoping it doesn't rain too bad.  If I could only find a way to get the grass wet, but not the arena!

It's been a week, I think even a good week.

Things have been jumping here lately.

I was referred  to a client who has become my riding student.  Fiacha is involved with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).  No, his real name is not Fiacha.  It is pronounced like Fee - Ah - Ka, and he's a great guy!  The SCA does Medieval reinactment type activities for fun.  If you don't know about them, check out this video of jousting.

Well, evidently there are many people who would love to learn to control a horse, and whom are involved with SCA.  Fiacha keeps sending me people who might want lessons (which I don't mind) and my mother told me that she's interested in teaching lessons.  Hey, perfect!  I have mom (Nita) giving lessons under my guidance, and learning how to explain what she knows to someone that has never done it before.  Doing and teaching are very separate things, and I'm more of a do-er while mom has always been a great teacher.  I think this is a perfect job for her.

Of course, I have my training horses to work with as well.  Rooster and Huck are doing well, but showing me that they have plenty of things left to learn.  I have been working on Huck with keeping his mouth off the saddle, and my foot, or the girth.  He is very oral, and tends to want to stick everything in his mouth like a little kid.  He gets so distracted with putting things in his mouth, that he's not focusing on what I am asking.  Easy thing to fix.  I am going to be trying a bit with a roller in it next, to see if that will help him keep his mouth off everything.  I want him to be focused, but not stressed or tense.

Huck has finally learned that it's good to walk on the lunge, and that it also carried over to saddle work.  I can climb on him and ask him to stand for as long as I want, but when I want him to step off, he tries to rush through me.  Now, I like a forward horse, but this isn't "forward" per se.... it's rushing.  What bothers me most, is that he's tense.  The type of tense a fearful horse exhibits, except that Huck isn't that bad.

What I want, is to be able to saddle "my horse" and climb on, stand until I am adjusted, then calmly walk off, pick up different gaits, drop back down when asked, and stop calmly.  Huck wants to GO!  He's getting it though, and the more he relaxes, the easier his gaits are, and the more he stretches his back and feels like he's thinking about enjoying the ride.

Now, Rooster, he's doing his best to make a liar out of me.  I said he was fine being caught,  but then he decided to make me work for it the next day.  I didn't realize that I had never walked out alone, with a halter, and tried to catch Rooster first.  Kinda funny, but Huck was trying to put his head into the bridle, and I'm trying to sweet talk Rooster into standing a second longer.  Normally, we bring them up into stalls, with Jae on one lead, and me on the other, so they are both haltered.  If I catch Huck first, then Rooster walks right up to me.  But he doesn't want to get caught first!

I have been doing a lot of evaluating this week.  I put the boys up to potential pit falls, and see how they react.  Today, it was the mounting block, and bad weather for Rooster.  Before, when I've hopped on Rooster quickly, he's ready to go, and wants to hurry off, but is fine.  Today, I piddled around with mounting, and Rooster couldn't take it.  From moving the mounting block (scary!) To jacking with the saddle (it might EAT ME!) he was just a basket of nerves.

Granted, it was also windy, cool, misty, and trying very hard to rain.  That's spook weather.  I of course had my back up helmet on (because I still haven't replaced my favourite) and 2 "assistants" to pick me/the horse up if things went bad.  I think Jae and Mom just want to look at the pretty pony, personally.

But Rooster blew, snorted, and hated the mounting block.  After about 15 minutes, he'd actually let me set it next to him, and stand on it.  I started stepping into the stirrup, wiggling the saddle, and other fidgety things, and he would snort and blow.  If I tried to pet him, he'd flinch with out taking a step.  Every time he tried to relax - not just stand there, but actually relax - I'd praise him, and walk it out.  I thought I had him ready to move on, so I stepped into the stirrup, leaned my belly over the saddle, and he went all tense again.  I flexed him to the offside, where he could see me, and he blew up (in a small way).  He almost reared, and scooted off about 20 feet.  I slid off, and ended up having to let go of the reins.  Poor Rooster trotted to the back side of the arena, snorted and blew, and then walked a large circle around me until he was at my side.

Of course, that's when the skies decided to open up.  I messed with Rooster a bit more, made sure he would walk up to the mounting block, let me stand on it and fidget with his saddle.  Then, soaked and starting to shiver, we headed in to tack down.

Yeah, stopped raining not long after, but it's slick in the arena now.  A good till will fix it up, but there's another bunch of rain about to hit.  I'm wanting to get Huck ridden today too, so I don't have to work on Monday, but doesn't look like that will happen.

Earlier, I had a scare by the Stonewall baby.  My boarder's horse, Jackson is just as cute as can be, as sweet and well trained as you could ask for in a weanling, and a joy to be around.  With the gross weather, he's stalled for the day.  While we were cleaning stalls, the baby layed down, rolled over, and ended up casting himself!  We head a thump, then the bangs.  Jae, mom and I were all right there in a heartbeat, with me heading to the baby's head to keep him calm.  As soon as he saw a person, he relaxed.  Mom grabbed a lead rope, and we turned him.  He hopped up, and only had a slight scuff on his leg, but was scared!  His "momma", mom's retired mare who is keeping him company is stalled beside him, and kept nickering to him, which made him feel better.

And it looks like my mother might be working for me full time.  Her job is very strange, and has been messing with her a bit (like canceling her hours, not calling her, etc).  If this keeps up, she will be assisting me with barn chores, which will give me a lot more time.  Who knows, I might even be able to take on an extra training horse each month, and she will be able to give quite a few more lessons.

AND!  Looks like Jae might be getting me arena lights.  Not something that will happen fast, but he has a plan to get something up.  That's one more thing I can expose the horses to, and it will allow for after work riding lessons.  Lets not even talk about how many of MY horses I could ride between sundown and 9pm!

All I want now, is to be able to get warm again.  I think I already miss summer!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Mustang Boys

So, I have 2 mustangs, Rooster and Huck, in for "training".  They don't really need a lot of work, just a few things.  These are amazing horses, and simply wonderful to be around. 

Their owner brought them on the 14th... I think that was Thursday.  He had his assistant ride them, and gave me an idea of what they could do.  He told me his expectations, and basically, he just wants some time put on them.  As we all know, no horse learns how to be a good saddle horse through osmosis.

Well, Friday, I spent the day checking saddle fit, getting the right bit sizes for them, and then doing some basic ground work.  I learned that they were trained a bit differently.  As an example, Huck tends to disengage his hind quarters when on the lunge, while Rooster will go into a canter with subtle body position changes.  Ok, both are pretty basic practices, and I can work with that easily.  I asked them to do some things outside their norm, such as walk on the lunge for Huck (he wants to trot and canter only) and I showed Rooster some barrels, and that we could lunge around and over them. 

Huck is learning to relax, and be a good boy.  That is his personality though, so it's very easy to get the idea across.  Rooster is a bit flighty, and what I call a sensitive horse.  He flinches when he hears a strange sound, but he doesn't truly spook or bolt.  Rooster loves work.  Huck.... he loves cookies.

Saturday, I as supposed to work the horses, but I had completely forgotten about the parade.  We have the Peanut Festival in town (2 blocks away) every year.  My street is the next cross street south of the square.  With the square blocked off.... and my arena is on the street.....

Well, we had loud motorcycles, we had floats, we had strange horses going down the street... and we had drunks peeling out.  I had every intention to ride, but when that happened, I decided that I didn't really need the world to help me get another cracked helmet.  I turned the boys loose in the arena, and let them play while being exposed to the sounds.  Not a true lesson, but I planned to make it up on Monday.  I'd rather swap days off, then get thrown because some punk kid decides to crash into my fence (yeah, it was that bad).

Monday I went over last week's lesson.  The boys have started to settle in, and are not always being perfect.  Huck decided that he could threaten to kick me when I picked his feet.  He never truly kicked, but he tucked up tight, and wobbled it at me.  That earned him a lesson in legs.  He knows better, but he had to test me.  Since Huck is likely to be the wife's horse, and I don't know how horsey the wife is... well... lets not allow any bad habits.

Rooster got a repeat of the lunge lesson.  He had forgotten all about what I had showed him, and was wanting to go into the paddock with Huck (next to the arena).  I had to show Rooster how to focus with out getting hot.  It seems that Rooster wants to work, but he doesn't understand lazy work.  I did some mounting and dismounting, making Rooster stand still for me.  Our hour was over so much faster then I thought!

I wear a watch that has a timer.  I set it off when I begin working with the horse.  This means that they get a true hour of lesson.  If the lesson isn't done, I don't just stop, but if they are going great, then I have a quick and easy way to judge the time.  I can't believe how fast my time with Rooster always flies!

So, on Tuesday, I got Huck out (and I don't always work Huck first, but I can never remember which I do, so I just mention Huck's session first).  Huck was a good boy for tacking up, no more leg issues.  I lunged him, and he showed me a few new commands he knows, but did all I asked and more.  After that, I climbed on.  Huck tries to bite my stirrup.  So that means a mounting session.  I would flex Huck opposite of the foot he wanted to bite, and fidget with the foot he wanted to bite.  When he stopped trying to put the foot or stirrup in his mouth, I'd relax him and give him praise.  Then we started to walk off.  Huck was a good boy, he walked off when I asked, but he always wants to turn to walk off.  I assume this is how he was trained, but a horse should have a straight walk button too.  Never know when you'll need it.

Huck kept acting... odd.  He would mouth his girth, he acted almost like he didn't want to turn left.  I got off, stripped him, and checked all over for pain.  No real pain response (but a few funny scratch me faces).  Interesting!  I think he's a bluffer.  It's pretty rare for a horse to truly learn to bluff, but Huck's just so mouthy.  He wants to have EVERYTHING in his mouth, all the time.  In the end, he walked off well, he stopped, backed, and wasn't sure what to make of the fact that we did not trot or faster work.  I wanted to make sure he has a good foundation on him, and that his reining and understanding of the aids is good and clear.  By the time we were done, fat ol' Huck was dripping!  I thought it was going to be an easy lesson, but Huck thought it was a lot of excersize.  He's really a joy to ride, and a nice big wide body horse.

Then I went to tack up Rooster.  I pulled out the saddle, the bridle, and began grooming.  Picked all 4 feet, with no issues.  Every time I brought a brush by his ears, or if I tried to move his mane out of his halter, any thing near his ears, he would toss his head up, and back up.

So, Rooster changed my plans.  We had a lesson on ears.  First, I found something he likes.  It's a pretty boring cookie that many horses aren't so fond of.  Rooster LOVES IT.  Now, Rooster isn't the type of horse to love cookies either, and he definitely won't take them from your hand.  I started with giving him a cookiee, and telling him "Good!".  Every time the cookiee entered his mouth, he heard "Good!".

For those who have studied clicker training, does this sound familiar?  It's Pavlovian training.  I teach the horse to associate a pleasant sensation, such as a treat, with the stimulus, my saying "Good!".  Soon, his brain rewires to think of the word as feeling as nice as the treat.  Easier then clicker training, because I tend to lose things.

After he knew Good, I began to reach for his ears.  When he stopped fighting me, or backing up, I said good, and shoved in a cookie.  Repeat.  I did both sides, and I kept at it until he would simply stiffen his neck, but not move his head, or back up.  What if he had a tick in his hear?  Or a cut that needed to be treated?  He doesn't have to LIKE having his ears touched, but he does have to learn it will happen, and he shouldn't fight it.  When he started looking like he understood that my fingers in his ears meant  a cookie if he didn't move, I glanced at my watch.  53 minutes.  WHAT?

See, I told you time flies with Rooster.  =)  I didn't get to ride him like I wanted to, but he did get a vet good lesson in ground manners.  I really like this horse, and I think that Pavlovian training will be very good for him.  It seems to work perfectly with his personality.  I'm hoping to use a similar trick to get him to stop flinching, and simple relax when he hears a scary noise.  Not sure I can totally over come that reaction in him, but I'm sure going to try.

So now, I am finishing up lunch, and then I'll be out to see if the horses will let me in the saddle.  I mean, they will LET me, but I am not going to ignore a hole that needs to be trained, just because I'm ready to be riding.  Like Rooster and his ears.

And if you'd like to see these AMAZING horses I'm honoured to be working with.... Here are the videos of their performances at the Extreme Mustang Makeover:



A Bit About Iron Ridge's Training Program

I am a full time horse business.  By that I mean, I don't have an outside job, but rather I make all of my income through some aspect of horses.  Ok, it also means I'm poor, but hey, I figure it's an even trade for the lifestyle. 

I have mostly made my income through the sales of horses.  I don't breed and sell foals though (usually).  I do breed, but I raise the horses until they are ride-able, and then sell them as broke horses.  Over the last few years I have slowly been switching over from Appaloosas to Stonewall Sport Horses, and hope to eventually switch over to almost completely Sugarbush Drafts.  The breeds are connected, with each being used in the breeding of the next.

Well, and as all horse people know, the horse market tanked.  When the writing was on the wall, I slowed down breeding, and only have numbers that I can afford to keep if they don't sell. Currently, I am dropping those numbers back even more.  Selling some of my Appaloosa mares, and the "foals" who are now started under saddle.

But, I suddenly find myself with free time, and my income being limited due to lack of sales.  I have always trained horses, but previously they were only mine, or friends/clients who I knew were sane.  My problem with taking outside clients is that so often they want me to push their horses beyond what the horse can do.  I won't do that.

I have a whole list of things I won't do.  I won't start a 2 year old.  I won't ride a bred mare in her last 3 months of pregnancy (unless it's a very fit mare, and she's being pampered, but not a client mare in training!) and I won't rush a horse's training to get a "showy" result leaving holes that could get someone hurt.  There's more, but you get the idea.

I also specialize in what I call the "middle market".  There are plenty of big name reining, dressage, cutting, jumping, etc trainers who will make a nice show horse.  There aren't many good sane trainers out there who will make a nice and safe PET horse.  The middle market are people like myself.  Middle aged, middle income, middle of their horse experience, middle management... well, you get the idea.  Real people, with real lives, and a real desire to spend some of that time with a horse.

I have been told that working for this market is... derogatory (or something) to the people I intend to work for.  Evidently, all horse people should aspire to be the next big thing!  I disagree.  I think it's much more noble to know your own desires, and to work for that, then to push yourself or your horse to areas that do not make you happy.  I turn out safe, sane horses who love their owners, have great manners, and are a joy to be around.  The type of horse you can load easily, take to the trails, and know you'll have a safe ride with minimal spooks, no bolting, and you will get home safely. 

Hey, at my age, who wants to spend time getting thrown, right?

But, a part of this middle market is that we, the horse people in it, aren't rich!  We cut corners where we can, but we put our hard earned money into our "babies"... the horses.  So, I don't have a fancy facility, it's just good, clean, and working (and improving all the time) and I work hard to keep costs down.

So, I'm currently taking in training clients.  I charge $350 per month for training AND board.  That's as low as I can make it, and still afford to do this.  Horses are not kept stalled (and I save money on shavings).  Horses are not given a dedicated paddock, but moved as to their needs, and available space (which allows me to keep vet bills down).  I buy everything in bulk, such as feed, and supplies to keep costs low.  And, I just happen to have stupidly low overhead, because I bought a piece of crap property (former owners trashed it, and were almost in foreclosure, but the land and facilities are nice under all the trash they left), and have been doing the work myself.

So, I ran an add on Craig's List.  I figured, why not, I have space for 3 horses, and I can get a feel of the demand.  I was booked for the first month, and into the second within 24 hours.  And not with bad clients, but with exactly the type of people I love working with the most! 

I now have 2 mustangs here, in "training".  I use quotes for them, because they aren't really getting as much training, as they are hours.  These boys came from the Ft. Worth. Extreme Mustang Make Over, and were 2nd and 5th place rides.  They are wonderful horses, lovely, well mannered, and their owner is a great guy.  He understands that horses are horses, and he is a joy to work with.

So, soon, I will be posting updates about the client horses as well as my own.  I work horses 5 days per week, if weather permits.  If the weather interferes, then I make up those days in the following weeks.  As an example, I take Sundays and Mondays off.  This week I expect to lose Friday to rain, so I will be riding horses on Monday instead.  If I loose 2 days to rain, I will ride the next 2 Mondays to make it up.

My potential clients have asked me how I can keep costs down.  They are confused that I have references, example horses, and understand that their horse is their family member.  Because part of that training fee is for boarding, clients are welcome to show up at any time to see their horses, with out notice.  All I ask, is that if they want to see me work their horse, they let me know in advance, so I can arrange the horse's training to be when the client is there.  Call that morning, and let me know what time, and that's all I need.

I'm not perfect, and I can't train everything.  I make sure my clients know that.  I won't waste someone's time saying I can handle a horse that I can't.  And I'm pretty honest about my riding experience (mostly English, some Western, and tons of "fun" type learning). 

So, because so many people have said that they read my blog to keep up on what's happening here, and now that I have internet access again, I will be blogging about the new training horses.  Owners can see what their horse is doing, with out having to make sure they call before bedtime.  I can't promise pictures, but I will try.  Granted, it's hard to take pictures of yourself riding!

I can honestly say that the clients and potential clients I have recently talked to have all been wonderful, and I don't regret the decision at all to open my doors to outside horse owners.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So, if any one missed me, here's the reason why!

For me, it all started Monday morning.  We had a lightning storm that night, and my router was fried.  I tried to connect to the Internet, and nothing!  Well, naturally, we called tech support, explained about the storm, and then they ran a ton of line tests and such.  No biggie, right?  Ha!

So, then I am told that they won't be able to have my Internet working again until Thursday.  GAH!  That's almost a whole week with out interwebs.  How will I live?  I have websites to updates, I have ads out, I have clients to email.  I told them I couldn't wait that long, and could they please send the router/modem thingy faster?  I offered to pay for next day delivery, etc, and got nothing.

Well, they then said Wednesday.  So on Wednesday, I called, and oh boy.  Evidently, my father, who is also a contact on the account (since dad's job is to handle the paper work and bills for Iron Ridge), got a call, and missed it.  When he called back, the person he was talking to didn't understand what he was trying to say (ship the router next day!).  He made the offhanded comment of "I don't care about the phone, or the TV, but I need that Internet up like, yesterday".  Ok, so we get all of those services through Verizon.  It's a bundled deal.  I only use the land line for faxing, and have it in case of an emergency - but mostly for the discounts!

So, the young lady that my father spoke with seems to hear something completely different.  Something like "I want you to disconnect the service, and just get me a plain Internet account".  Being the helpful girl she is, she did just that!  She canceled my account, set up a new account under my father's name, and sent out the parts.  Well... guess what this did to the "order in progress"?  Yeah... totally deleted it.

I call back (because I also had someone call me) and get the nicest guy.  His name is Trey.  Well, Trey started digging deeper then just what was on the screen in front of him.  He finds the cancellation, the new account, and all the mess that has been created by one off handed phrase.  He explains this to me, and I'm like "Oh, NO.... that's supposed to be like this".  So Trey fixed it all up, talked to my father, and got us one happy account, and then tried his hardest to get a rush on it all.  He says "Your service should be up by tomorrow, and if it's not, call back".

Guess what.  It wasn't up.  I called back.  This time, the problem is that the account that was deleted has a balance due on it (because it was deleted mid month).  So the system tells them that I can not have a NEW account until I pay off the old one.  Yeah, right.  Like hell I'm paying you early for screwing things up!

I end up with a manager, who hears my story, understands, and waives a ton of stuff.  She tells me that the Internet will be up "tomorrow", i.e. Friday.  So guess what.  It wasn't up.  I call back.  Now there's another problem.  They can't find the order, the system ate it.  They tell me that it's fixed and should be on by the end of the day.  At the end of the day.... it's not up.

I called back, and THIS TIME, it's because when the account was canceled, they turned off the phone line.  Have to have a tech come out and manually turn it on.  I'm livid.  of course, it's the weekend, so no one is around.  I explain the story again to the person I am talking to, trying so hard to be calm, because this is a new one, and he doesn't deserve to get yelled at for something that he is trying to fix.  He asks me to hold, and then comes back to tell me that there is ONE man in the office, by sheer chance, and he's going to have him hook up the phone. 

Now, isn't it odd that they can do that?  I mean, I thought I had to have a tech come out?

But, none the less, I am told my phone service is on, and my Internet should be on Monday.  No one is in that can do that, but if it's not on by noon Monday to call back.

Guess what?

Yeah, it wasn't on.  So here's where it got fun.  I called back.  By this time I have a book of names, numbers, and information at my side, with everything I have been told.  I took the name of every tech, rep, agent, and manager/supervisor I spoke with.  I can't say I was friendly, but I wasn't rude.

It took me 30 minutes to talk to the first person, and from there it went downhill.  They told me it was on, and transferred me to someone to verify that.  That person told me it wouldn't be on until the 20th (Wednesday).  I explained the situation to them, and they transferred me to someone that could help me.  THAT person told me that the account had a balance due, and IF I paid in full today, I could have service in 5 days.  I asked to speak to a manager. 

The manager told me that her agent was right, and I was out of luck, and how dare I not pay my bill.  I asked her if she had listened to what I was trying to explain, and if she looked at the due date (October 26th) and why it would have anything to do with this.  She told me that I could not cheat the system.  I asked to speak to her boss.  Well.... that was a mistake.  The boss was even more rude, explaining that it didn't matter when it was due, they couldn't do a thing to help me.  I could have service on the 28th.  Uh.... I'm getting further and further from my reconnect date of October 15th here people, and THAT was 3 days ago!

She tries to tell me to give her my credit card, and she'll just take care of it now.  I explained to her that with the way I have been treated, Verizon will get money from me after and only after my Internet is working again.  At which time I will gladly pay the bill in full.  So THEN she tells me that the bill is $384!!!!  WHAT?  Evidently that was all the disconnect and reconnect fees for the total of 3 accounts that were made in this mess.  WHAT???  And you expect me to PAY FOR THAT?  I admit, I was a bit rude here.  I told her that if I didn't have a working DSL by the time I woke up Tuesday, as my latest notice had promised, Verizon wouldn't see a dime of that, I would be lodging a complain for fraud, and I would simply find another provider.

So, she transfers me to another department to see about expedition.  I explain to this nice man the whole thing, the various things I had been told, and how confused I was.  I told him flat out "look, I don't know what's going on, but I just needed a new router/modem thingy because mine was fried.  I have that now, but I can't seem to get any one to connect my service because of a misunderstanding".  He looks through my account notes, and chuckles.  I started to be offended, until he says, "Well, when I looked it said that your service would be restored on the 20th, then the 19th, and now it's by 6pm today".  That was in less then an hour.  He didn't SAY it, but he made it clear that someone back in the line (that rude manager maybe?) was covering her butt and moving my connect date up.

The nice man asked a few questions, checked a few things, and then told me "look, it's in progress, but I seriously doubt that your service will be on by this evening.  I'm putting follow up notices all over your account, so that every department will have to check on it, and if it's not on by 8am tomorrow, I will be shocked."  And I'm thinking, yep, I've heard that before!  Then he says "I will be calling you back personally tomorrow between 9am and 10am to make sure it's up, and if not, I will be able to help you more.

HOLY CRAP!  Service?  What? 

So, this morning I woke up to Jae saying "uh..... I think the Internet is working!".  Yep, it's on.  But wait, there's MORE!  First off, the nice guy really did call me back.  Said it looked good from his side, and he wanted to make sure I could actually connect.

At noon a tech shows up.  Nice guy, all Verizon looking, in a Verizon truck.  He tells me that when the service was turned on, they made a mistake.  Someone switched the phone lines.  My line was dialed into a different number, and someone across town was getting my faxes.  He had just switched them.  Oddly, just seconds before he knocked on my door, my Internet went off.  Like dead off.

I told him about that, and he checked it out.  Ran tests, looked into things, made some calls.  He couldn't find the problem on site, so asked for a number, and told me he'd call me back in about an hour.  Sounds like time for lunch.

When he calls back, he said that there was a bit of a mess, and asked me to check a few things.  All hardware was working, but I still couldn't connect.  He says he'll call back. 

This time I was on a horse, so Jae handled the last of it.  The nice tech gets everything taken care of, and I have my real internet service!

I truly can not believe how many ways they managed to mess up my service.  And true to my word, I logged in to pay my bill.... and it's a whole lot lower then it was the last time.  I'm now back to normal for what I expected, and got a free router/modem out of it. 

But, now I am back, and I have some lovely new horses in training with me, and a CUTE new baby here for boarding.  Fun stories coming soon...................if the internet stays on.  =)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Only a few more days till I'm allowed to ride again!

Since my trick riding this weekend, I have been out of the saddle - except for a few seconds when I forgot.  The doctor couldn't believe that I wasn't hurt after "such a bad accident" (it wasn't that "bad", just dramatic) and so he forbid me from riding for one week.

To my way of thinking, that means I can ride again tomorrow!  One week from Sunday is obviously Saturday, right?  I have even followed the intent of the ruling, and not just the letter of it.  I haven't worked any horses on the ground, and I haven't done anything strenuous with the horses - because hugs don't count, and feeding must be done.

I've been a good, if slightly irritating patient.  Poor Jae has been given quite a few "honey do" lists, and as a good man, has promptly ignored almost everything on them in favor of spoiling me rotten.  At the same time, he's made multiple trips out to check on horses, throw hay, fill water, and make it so that I can actually take the time off, and do a whole lot of nothing.

But, I'm ready to be riding again.  The weather is LOVELY, the horses are in good shape, and I can't recall having this much free time in years.  Basically, I don't know what to do with myself.

I have recently began advertising for training clients.  Feels somewhat odd to be talking about taking a fall and accepting new clients, but hey, that's why people pay trainers.  We're the fools who don't mind falling down occasionally! 

Actually that's not true.  I really don't like falling, but I'm also not really scared of it.  I prefer to engage the horses' minds and teach them to not let me fall.  It's easier that way.  I also have the benefits of  multiple people on site all day (at least Jae and I) and since this is my job, I don't have other commitments that have to come before the horses. 

Since I sold my only 2010 foal, and I'm training up my older horses pretty quickly (yeah, Amber is going to need extra work), and have sold many of those that needed hours under saddle, I really hope that I get a couple of client horses in this winter.  Because I am not expecting any 2011 foals, that means I don't need to take my usual "foaling season" break.  In other words, I have hours to spare, and would really prefer to spend them in the saddle on SOME horse.

If I don't get enough client horses to fill my schedule, I will likely be accepting "rescue" or "rehabilitation" horses for my second chance string.  These are horses whose owners either can't keep them any more, who have had some medical issues that their last owner couldn't handle (I've had one eyed horses, and such) or horses with behavioral issues that need to be retrained in order to get a good home.

All in all, I'm pretty excited about this fall.  Things are going nicely, progress is happening, and I get to spend every second I want on a horse.  I often pause, and think "Wow, I love my life".  I mean, the property isn't finished yet, but I can see things looking nicer.  I'm not rich yet (ok, I don't really want to be either) but I have a job that matters to me.  I can't think of anything I want more then what I already have. Great friends and family that support me, a great way of life, and tons of time to spend with horses.

Nothing like a bruise to one's pride (and bonk to the head) to make you realize just how lucky you really are!

(Although, in all honesty, I'll probably be whining soon enough about too much rain, and not being able to ride due to slippery footing.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The downside of the, well... the downside

So, I took a mighty impressive fall the other day.  In my history of falls, it really was only impressive because I blacked out.  I think that only happened because we had so much speed behind us.  But really, it wasn't that bad.

I mean, I wasn't thrown, I actually CHOSE to bail off the horse (before she met with the solid metal fence and put me between it and her).  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

You can see in this picture, the fence and the white trailer.  Yeah, that's exactly where she was headed to in a hurry.  This is also a good approximation of just how far she ran.   We started about where we are in this picture, and I bailed off just about 15 feet from the fence in the distance.

I'm not exactly sure why Amber chose to spook like that (I have some guesses).  I do know that I'm taking her back a step, and bringing her back up.  I do not blame her, I just realize that she "lied" to me about how advanced she really was.  The poor baby was putting on a brave face, and she really wasn't ready.  It was my fault.  I should have given her more time.  I totally read that situation wrong, and now I'll have extra training to make up for it.

And Amber is doing well.  She's a bit achy, has a minor sprain in her hind left, and a scrape on her front left, but nothing serious at all.  She's a bit sore all over, but enjoyed a bit of pampering.  She also walked right up to me, and was ready to try again.  That little girl is all heart. 

This time, it'll just be Jae, Amber, and me though.

I've done something similar before.  I mean very similar.  My first riding horse, Ash, decided that she wanted to sniff those funny blobby things on the top of the fence.  You know, the one that the smooth little wire goes through.  Yeah, the electric fence insulators!  I leaned over to see what had her interest, and saw the spark shoot INTO her nostril.  Yeah, talk about sitting and spinning.  Ash whipped around, and decided that she could cross the arena in 3 strides.  I was still learning how to ride a walk.  About half way across the arena, I let go, and leaned to the right.

My friends say it reminded them of a downhill snow skier.  My legs and arms went every where, and when I stopped moving, I was very very quiet.  Before they could make it over to me though, I jumped up and said "I have a bruise on my finger, that's ALL!".  I was laying still taking stock of all my body parts before I moved anything.

Then there's Dream.  A neighbor drove a tractor past us.  Not a little one, but one of those 20 foot mower beds, with the canvas covers, all flipped up so it fits on the road.  Yeah, you know, the industrial farm kind?  Of course, it hit a bump right beside the arena.  Of course it was my second ride on Dream.  Of COURSE she's bred to jump.

Man that filly put the Lippizanners to shame!  I have never seen airs like the ones she performed.  Sadly, I can't say I bailed off.  I simply had no horse near me!  I hit the ground HARD too (she is almost 16 hands, and was at least 4 feet in the air when I came off).  The driver stopped, Jae was in the barn and came to help, and it all ended up with a serious bruise in my pride... and my hip.

I can honestly say that Dream was my worst.  I had a serious limp for weeks after.  Amber was my most spectacular, but that's just because of the big audience.  I think my most serious injury was a stupid kid's trick which resulted in a broken arm at the age of 13.  With Dream though, I did have to get off her early on my third ride after the accident, because a car driving by gave ME the jitters, and I was setting us up for another accident.  Sadly, or gladly, I can't say that any of them scared me from horses.  In most cases I was ready to get back on right away.  In most cases I did get back on right away (tried when I broke the arm, which is when I saw the funny bent arm).  I think Amber is the only time I haven't even tried to get back on right after I fell off.

I could go on, but I'm dieing to know.... what's YOUR most spectacular fall ever?  How bad was it, and how long did it take you (if ever) to get back on a horse?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Heather decides to test the ground

The only picture I have, is the same one that Leah posted on her blog.  This is my helmet.  My 2 month old helmet.  It's an IRH Elite, super comfy, and the type of helmet that makes me WANT to put it on.

I had begged for this from my birthday.  I was so tired of the less then comfortable helmets, I tended to not want to put them on, and that habit lead to me forgetting my helmet more often then I used it.

Well, when I got this one, my barn buddies helped me get in the habit of wearing it.  THANK YOU ALL!  And it very likely made a very big difference in how I'm doing right now.  Those red circles are the cracks and splits in it after my little rodeo.

So, today was a pony party Sunday.  My friends show up, and we all have a nice and relaxing morning with the horses.  One of my fillies, a 4 year old quarter horse named Amber, has been doing great in her lessons.  I decided that it would he good for her to learn how to ride with other horses around.  Since the other horses would be packers, and her best friend, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The ride started out great.  Amber was dead on perfect, and being a little lady.  Ishka was the problem!  Keeley was good, or at least as far as I could tell, and Jaz was being Jaz.  About half way through, mom asked me if I could take a spin on Ishka, because she was being a pain at the trot.  I told mom I'd swap with her, and let her ride Amber.  Now, Amber is only doing the walk still and nothing more, but she's been perfect.  Well, let me tell you, the swap wasn't such a good idea.

Mom got down the long side of the arena, and Amber stalled out.  She kicked, and tapped, but got nothing, so gave her a tap on the rump with her hand.  Oops!  Amber decided that was terrifying!  She tucked her bumm and scooted, then scared herself, and went bonkers.  Mom ended up on the ground, and for a second there, I thought mom would get hung up.  I hopped off Ishka, and grabbed Amber.  With out a second thought, I handed Ish back to mom, and climbed on the greenie.

Here's where it got "fun".  Amber was still nervous, because she wasn't sure why a rider had tried to eat her, or something.  But I kept it calm, and cool, and no big deal.  We went down to the far end of the arena, and were headed back to the front side, when Leah came trotting up behind us.  Nothing big, and Amber had been seeing this for a while.  The problem was, I gave her a solid tap in the ribs at the exact wrong moment.  Amber had a panic attack. 

My little Champagne filly went panic blind.  She bolted to the gate.  I almost had her under control, when she totally shut off her mind.  I could feel her fighting the bit and digging in, and worst of all she was bolting directly towards the pipe fence.  The fence isn't tall, only about 4.5 feet, but Amber isn't a jumper.  I knew that there were only 2 possible outcomes from this:  She would hit the fence HARD, or she would jump it, and drop herself on me.  I didn't like those options, so I made my own.

At a blind run, I tried the turn to stop.  Some call this a one rein stop, but since Amber isn't trained for a one rein stop yet, it wasn't a true ORS.  I simply was trying to control the bolt.  But no, it wasn't happening.  That left one good idea in my mind.  Time to leave!

I normally bail off to the right.  Not sure why, but that's my best side to fall on.  Sadly, Amber acted as if she was going to turn right, and that would have left me under her feet.  A place I really don't want to be.  I chose to bail left.

I'm one of those lucky few that doesn't fall in slow motion.  When I decide it's time to leave, I get very calm, and just go.  I don't remember it, I don't tense up, and I don't have many of the concerns others do about hitting the ground.  I simply bail, roll, make a mess, and then it's all done.  Because of the speed Amber had attained, today was a bit different.

I bailed left, went limp around 45 degrees, and that is all I remember of the fall.  The next thing I knew, I was confused, and couldn't breath.  There was sand in my nose, dirt in my mouth, and I felt like I had been buried alive.  I sat up, only to hear some woman (still not sure whom) telling me that I shouldn't sit up.  Screw that noise, I had to breathe.

I couldn't recall where I was, but that's not anything weird.  I always need time to figure it out after a good hard fall, and this was nothing different.  I did the self check, I knew I was in the arena, but mentally I felt like I had just woken up with too little sleep.  My mind wasn't working well.  Whom ever I was talking to asked questions, and I answered that I didn't know a thing, and I didn't remember how I got there.

Evidently, it was the paramedic I ended up talking to.  I never heard the ambulance arrive.  I have no memory of being loaded onto a stretcher, and my memories of the drive to the hospital are a bit blurry and much shorter then the ride should have been.  Of course, over time, I began to remember more, which is normal for me, and I realized I had on a neck brace.  Welp, that means I trashed myself good, so I should be a good patient, and not move my neck.

Once in the hospital, I kept dosing off.  I remember the cat scan, kinda.  I remember the morphine well (nausea, ick!) and then, I was doing much better.  Mom was with me, and was worried silly, but I'm just SO glad I didn't let her back on that horse.  I take a fall well.... mom.... she's um.... more then 50, and hates to fall (tenses up badly). 

In the end, I was diagnosed with a concussion, but ONLY because I blacked out in the arena.  Doc said that I basically have bumps and bruises and not a thing to worry about.  They seemed very confused as to why I had so few injuries, until I mentioned my helmet, and that it was trashed.  They asked me a couple of questions, and I told them that yes, I have a quality helmet, proper for riding, and it's fitted right, not loose.  The doctor said that might be what saved my neck and definitely what saved my brain.

I admit, they took cat scans, x rays, and did a battery of tests on me, because they were just positive that I had to have broken my neck by the reports from mom and whom ever else the paramedics talked to.  I have a minor pulled muscle in my neck... the side that did NOT hit the ground.

My worst injury..... scrapes and bruises on my hip.  Nothing serious at all.  Oddly, I have no fear of riding that horse again, no worries about taking another fall, and wish I could be out riding right now.  I know better, and by doctor's orders, I will be off horses for the week. 

My biggest concern..... how long will it take me to replace my helmet.  Man, that thing was so comfortable!  I haven't seen it in person yet (Jae won't let me out of the computer chair or bed) but I will tomorrow.  Just the right color, just the right fit.... and it likely saved my neck today.  Literally.