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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm back online with lots to share!

All Righty!  This weekend, Jae experienced computer technical issues.  Ok, now I'm not a geek in any way, form, or fashion, but here's my understanding of it.  Windows Vista didn't like his video card and RAM set up, so needed to patch.  Sadly, the problem exhibited as the blue screen of death.  Hard to patch software when it won't stay running long enough to get fixed!

So that's where my downtime comes in.  I graciously donated my computer to Jae, to allow him to work his technical magic and make his all better.  Yeah, as you can see, I don't understand the whole deal at all!  I do know that he had my computer all hooked up to his, and it wasn't realistic for me to use it.  That doesn't mean I didn't get stuff done though!

During this time, I did some work with Ozzy.  He was simply amazing the last time I worked with him, but this weekend, oh boy.  It wasn't pretty at ALL!  He decided that he was so interested in what every other horse in the world was doing, that he forgot he existed.  As an example, he was watching Ash in the paddock behind him, and bonked his nose so hard he reared up and almost flipped while I was trying to bridle him.  When lunging, he was so focused on Voodoo in the pasture, that he stepped on his own feet, and stumbled hard.  When I made him pay attention to me, he became flustered, obnoxious, and tried to run through the lunge line.  This resulted in a lot of running out to the end of the line at full speed.  Now, I wasn't lunging him in the round pen, because of how good he was last time.  My plan was to simply tack him up and climb on, but the freak out when tacking up made me decide to check his mental state.  SO glad I did!

I worked that poor boy into a nice sweat, and ended with mounting up and then climbing off, just to get the win.  I figured I'd get a bucking fit from him, but he was simply too exhausted to try.  All of his issues were from one thing - he was more worried about what every other horse in the world was doing, and didn't think he had to listen to me.  Well.... he'll learn!

This pretty guy is working on gaining some back muscle, and getting over a minor back strain. I have been working him on learning to stretch on the lunge, which seems to be helping but is NOT in his nature. He also needs the work on manners for the little things, like standing still to tack up, and paying attention to me (yeah, it's a pretty common issue in horses... they would much rather check out the mares in the pastures!). Today, we did a total tack refit to make sure that saddle fit is not a problem. Because of his developing muscles, this will likely be a weekly event. Besides, it good for him to get used to different tack.

For his owner, today was all about pretty blues! Isn't he handsome?

And of course the walkers!

Now, Beaudreaux has been a doll.  He's just going very well, and behaving himself.  Granted, he still breaks into a pace, and he's not as fit as I'd like yet.  We had a week off for a minor injury, and most of his saddle work has been on manners and control at the walk.  He is just now starting to work on transitions (the last week or 2 that is) and his flab is melting away as his muscles are developing.  He does still jiggle as he walks though.

And Black Boy has his moments.  He's either really good, or kinda bad.  We've made it to the point that his bad isn't all that bad though!  He's much better at picking up the gaits, and hence has been worked both at the walk, as well as in gait.  At this time, when he's flustered and having his "issues" I can spot the reason (doesn't mean it's a good one) and it's rarely anything more then speeding up or slowing down, or wide turns.  No buck, rear, balking, side passing, or other tricks that he's used in the past.

So, Today, I decided to try something different.  My Assistant Trainer (and mother) Nita got to ride the walkers!  Now, Nita has minimal experience with gaited horses, having ridden one only a few times in the past.  She's a very capable rider, but her expertise is in ground work.  In other words, she's a perfect "step down" to test how well the boys will work with someone that is less experienced in the saddle.  Mom can handle her own if the boys are bad, but she's not going to be able to ask for gait, or advanced moves from the horses by second nature.

Beaudreaux was amazing.  I swear he did better for her then he did for me!  Granted, he missed his gait more times then not, and tended to stumble into the gait or pace, but he was sweet and easy to ride the whole time.  Black Boy on the other hand got jinxed.

I'm not kidding, every single time she headed to the road side of the arena, something horrifying happened.  First it was the jogger with a stealth doggy.  After that, the bicycle, followed closely after by the car with no exhaust.  Black Boy wasn't bad for any of this, he simply broke from a walk into the gait, and headed for "safety".  Not great, but it could be a lot worse.  He never bolted, he never lost his mind, he simply got worried and a bit faster.  Each time he tried this, a simple whoa and turn brought him back easily.

I got some very basic, cheesy, simply camera phone video of some of the rides.  I am pretty sure that I got the right horses in the right places in the video, but with the horrible pixelation, and no way to mark the video segments in the field, it's really a lot of guess work.

Warning:  Video may make some sick due to motion sickness!
Ok, seriously.  It's pretty much impossible to capture video while watching the horse and rider, not the screen, holding a phone in my hand, and yelling at my poor mother about commands to ask for the proper gait.  I am the multi tasking queen!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Please Stay Tuned, I am experiencing Technical difficulties!

Due to computer issues, my blog reports will be delayed.  Jae has had to commission my computer into service to assist with repairing his (if that makes sense to any one out there, you're more of a geek then I!). 

As I have yet to master the art of blogging by phone, you may see some less then stellar blog entries over the next few days.  Thanks for all your patience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Am I the only person addicted to the Weather Channel?

So, yesterday I had plans for a LOVELY day working horses.  It was cool, but humid enough to be tolerable (that means I didn't need a snow suit) and only 10% chance of rain.  Well.... I never thought that I'd be driven inside by lightning.  So, of course, I kept checking back all afternoon, and at one point even headed back to the barn, only to have more lightning strike.

Well, this is why I don't charge as much as other places.  I haven't spent the 100 grand to put in an indoor arena, so I am subject to the whims of the weather.  Most of my clients understand that, and work well with me on it.

So, that meant that Beaudreaux and Voodoo ended up with an extra long weekend though.  Instead of only 2 days off, they had 3.  Beaudreaux decided it was a good excuse to be BAD.  I mean VERY bad.  As I headed into the arena, he bolts past me and kicks out with both hind feet, at me.  I had to dodge.  Oh, that is SO not allowed!

The irony here is that I had him on a lunge just because I wanted to do some very nice and easy warm up work with him, because he had the long weekend.  It's a good thing I did!  I immediately put that boy to work, and worked him hard enough that he figured out his antics were NOT allowed.  Yes, that was a very sweaty pony.

He tried to kick out at me a couple of times, but the rest were half hearted, and I was ready for it, so able to reprimand him (the ugly seagul noise, and drive forward) immediately.  Once he was focused, and really regretting his bad manners, I climbed on.

He keeps doing this head shaking thing on me.  It comes and it goes, but it seems to be realted to stress.  Today, he was stressed after getting put in his place.  When I asked him to stand, he would do the flappy thing.  When we moved out, he was a lovely boy.  I mean he was just dead on for me.  We got some speed, and missed a few gait changes, but Beaudreaux was light and responsive.

It's things he does like this though, that confuse me.  He goes from doing something very bad for a child or novice rider, to being a complete angel, within seconds.  This makes it hard to answer some questions honestly, with out rambling on.  Like,  is Beaudreaux good for a novice rider?  I'd have to say no, but I think he COULD be.  He's just amazing 90% of the time.

Beaudreux got an equal amount of lunge work to correct the attitude, then we spent some time on standing at the mounting block and NOT walking off while I mounted (and I feel the burn from the ups and downs.  I will have skinny thighs one day!) and with gait transitions.  I am going to start playing with bits with him, as I think that might be a part of the problem.  He ended up working for well over an hour and 15 minutes (I didn't get a chance to check the time when we started, because of the misbehavior) and the last 45 minutes was flawless in his effort.  He never could consistently pick up the gait though.  We did a lot of "step up" and pace, only to return to a walk, and "step up" again.

Because of the hollering and bellering coming from the barn, Voodoo got the second work out.  Beaudreaux was turned out in his pasture, but he would NOT leave the gate.  Instead he called to Black Boy the whole time.

Voodoo on the other hand, was very well behaved at first.  Because of where Voodoo is on his training scale, we need to work on building muscles up.  This means lunge work to get the proper muscles.  By using lunge work to warm up, Voodoo gets more time working, with out being worn out and made achy from carrying a rider.  He's had some time off you see.

We had a few seconds of him lolly gaggin at other things (like Beaudreaux screaming for Black Boy) but it was only seconds.  For Voodoo this is a wonderful thing.  He was dead on with his upwards transitions, his downward transitions were greatly improved, and he reversed perfectly.... from right to left.  From left to right, we had some "oh, this isn't as easy" moments.  All in all it was nothing but honest effort, and a good hearted horse.

So then......

The mounting issue returned.  Remember those thighs of steel I talked about?  Well, I forgot to mention that I also have no legs.  Yes, Heather of the short legs here.  So, first he wouldn't step up to the mounting block.  When I went to stand beside him, he tried to turn away, or back away, or anything to prevent me from mounting.  He stopped that pretty fast once the mounting block was out of the question.  So up and down and up and down I went.  When he would stand and be good, he was praised.  When he was bad, he learned real fast that I can mount up while he's moving.  Oh, he didn't like that.

We got him standing, and then I headed back to the mounting block.  Yes, we learned again (!) that he has to stand there.  Love, hugs, and kisses when he would.  Work when he wouldn't.  And, no, I will NOT post the picture of me standing on the mounting block, and him trying to walk off while I am mounting.  It's not a pretty sight folks!

Now, standing to be mounted is one of Voodoo's known problems.  We've been through this before, but he's not a stupid horse.  If he thinks he can get out of work, well he'll sure try it! 

Finally, he just gave up.  Like all of a sudden there was a wonderfully mannered horse there, letting me climb up on him, and settle myself.  He has a lovely sweet way of going, and is a joy to ride.  The wind was kicking up though, and my arena sand was blowing in our faces, so we kept the work to some basics, which Voodoo needs anyway.

See, I believe that in so many cases, trainers push through the foundation work, and focus on the "fun" things.  Walk is a sadly neglected gait, and mounting... that's something that I often have to deal with fixing.  Unlike some trainers who say "we will be doing X by Y date" I take a different method.  I'm sure this is from my classical dressage up bringing, but I was taught that you deal with what you have, and only move on when the horse is able.

With Voodoo, we have some spoiled baby behavior to correct.  He spent some time trying to root me out of the saddle.  I simply locked my hand there, and let him pull.  When they get no response, the game becomes dull, and most horses will give up.  Voodoo was no exception.  Rooting lasted only seconds.  From there, we worked on seat and leg aids.  It was... rough.  Voodoo was trained to do all of his work from the bridle.  When he had nothing to listen to there, he got confused.  I began using slight and very light hand aids in conjunction with seat aids, and leg aids, and we got some lovely moments.

He will listen to the aids, but he's very insecure on what they mean, so at this stage, any honest effort got him praise.  Because his owner had just started learning this concept, and started with backing, Voodoo has that down very nicely.  When he got confused, we went back to what he knew, and built on that.  Of course, this is not glamourous work, cantering off into the sunset, but hey... it's why I make the "big bucks" right?

To end with, I decided to put on some more mounting.  I figure, hey, we want to make sure this idea of standing still is THERE.  Well, it was, but we ran into a few snags.  Talked with his owner about how to go from here, and what she wants to do, and it looks like we're on the same page.

From there, I had plenty of daylight left to work BB!  Yep, good as gold.  This is going to be a boring report, but BB was a doll.  He tried everything I asked, he loved his pampering, but like Beaudreaux, he keeps missing the gait transitions.  I have to say, I am not a fan of riding the pace.  Wow is that weird!  BB is at the point where the bad behavior is gone (seems to be... where's some wood for me to knock on before I jinx myself?) and we can start working on a correct and proper gait, and his saddle aids.  This horse is a good horse, but he's going to be ridden by an adult novice.  He needs to have everything SOLID.  I can't tell you how many times we went from walk to a gait, back to walk.  These are a variation of the yo-yo I use.  The main part of a mature horse chosing the right gait, is the transition.  BB prefers to have his face free (which is strange for a walker, most need to be bridled up, or collected) but he also has to have the proper amount of forward.  Too much, and he gets pacey, too little, and he won't gait.    We seem to have worked through the "I don't wanna" thing he had yesterday, and ended up with a lovely work session today.  Sorry, no pictures today, as my camera person headed back inside.  I haven't yet learned to take pictures of myself riding a horse!

And the rain held off.  As you can see, it was grey, cloudy, and gross... and I kept checking the weather channel, but thankfully, it looks like we have a lovely week ahead of us to get some work done!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

After the weekend

Oh wow, how time flies.  So this weekend Cali went home, Nox went home, and Cruz went home.  Hanna leaves tomorrow I believe.  This leaves me with Beaudreaux, Black Boy, Voodoo and Ozzy to work.  Of course, I also have Poko (and Jae) plus Scorch, Katy, Dream, Cayenne, and the lesson horses (Ash, Boo, Ishka, Keeley, Diesel, and Doodles) who get worked.

Well, my weekend is Sunday/Monday, and on Sundays I spend the day with friends/clients who come up to hang out and play.  Mondays I completely veg out and usually try to rest.  So today is my Monday.  I head out to the barn and decide to work my way down the stalls.  Closest is Black Boy, so guess who is first up?  I haltered him, headed out, and started grooming/tacking up.  He was a wonderful gentleman.  A bit heavy on the left hind (as in lazy and not holding it up) but if that's the worst I can say, well... we've made progress!  Normally he fidgets or fusses in some manner.  Fixing this habit is just a whole lot of routine.  Ignore it, and most often it goes away, especially if it doesn't get him out of work.

Now, from there, I went into the arena, and climbed on.  BB was great.  We started with a simple warm up to stretch all the muscles (walking and stretching into the bit).  A few laps later, he decided that he was done with this, and it was time to head home.  He would NOT go forward.  He side passed left and right, and would back up, or try to spin.  Bugger.

So, after trying to get SOME forward, and the problem slowly getting worse, I went the other way.  Lunge line at the ready, we worked on FOCUS.  He was totally blowing me off, and checking out the girls in the pasture.  The more he looked, the harder he works.  After a few minutes, he quit, began to focus, and back up I go.  We do another 5 minutes, and he pulls the same stunt, only this time it's the gate: "I know that's the way out, and I'm DONE".  Oh I don't think so bud.  So, I ride him away, across, and back, and each time we get to the gate, he's blowing off my commands.  Headed down and to the back of the arena, and he tried to do the first problem again, no forward motion.  Ok, fine.

Back to the lunge, and away we went.  Reverse, gait changes, more reversing, and a whole lot of "listen to ME" and eventually he went back to a good boy.  Evidently, BB has a habit of being lazy, and after a nice weekend off, he thinks that not working will get him out of, well, work.

But after the second set of ground work, I had my BB back.  He walked out nice and calm, and I could finish the "warm up".  Yeah, so it was pointless now, but it's the principle of the thing.  I get him walking, circling, and working SO WELL for me, that I'm really having fun up on him.  We get into some gait transitions, trying to get him to pick up the right gait (i.e. not pace) and he's struggling with that a bit.  I would say that 2 out of 3 tries I got a pace.  The third though was lovely, and he got hugs and love for it.  Just as I am starting some yo-yos, I see a big bright flash of lightning.

Now, let me mention that it was a humid and decent 55 degree day, very overcast, but only 10% chance of rain.  The air was still and some what eerie.  I had wondered if this was working against BB's mind set, but it really doesn't matter.  He has to learn to be nice and calm and trust worthy regardless.

But, lightning is a whole different story.  The bolt hit a few miles away, much closer then I'd like.  Yeah, and I don't mess around with that sort of thing.  I figure an arena is like a golf course.... and I'm the tallest thing there!  So, after only 32 minutes of riding work, with about 17 of those being good honest effort, I had to call it quits.

Right now, I'm sitting here waiting for the lightning to stop.  I really don't expect rain, so I should be able to head back out once the front passes.  I have more daylight to work with as well!

And yep, I got pictures =)  Sadly, the camera battery is dead, but once it's charged, I will either add them here, or in the next update, which hopefully will have the rest of my rides.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I Hate Cookie Cutter Training

Today, we dealt with mud.  Yeah, that silly little rain storm, left me a mud pit.  Even my farrier said "wow, you must have had one big storm!".   So, we did shoes today.  Everyone was very well behaved, and well, I always enjoy farrier day!

Sorry, I tried to get pictures, but all in all it was very uneventful.  Jae did put up siding while Black Boy was getting shod, but was done before it was Beaudreaux's turn.  The boys were great.  A few of mine were in the line up as well.

So, naturally, we talked about my work training horses.  The Walkers got a lot of compliments on their nice manners for the farrier.  Jon (the farrier) was shocked that I actually bought that psycho crazy gelding of Leah's (ok, that's not what he really said, it was more like "Oh!  You know, I bet he's a ton of fun!").  Now, Poko and his little behavioral issues got us talking about how I addressed his problems - by challenging his mind.

So, when I came in, I started thinking about Kris, Voodoo's owner asking my about my opinion of NH trainers.  Hmm.  I'm not sure I ever answered her completely.

Now, just so you know, I don't hate any of the popular trainers out there.  I've watched Parelli and Clinton Anderson in person.  I actually do things very similar to how they DO them (not necessarily how they tell others to do them though).  My problem is not in how they train horses, but in the lack of communication available in any form of DVD training series.  ANY!

Oh sure, there are always basics.  Don't let the horse do anything aggressive or harmful to you.  Do praise the horse in some manner for doing the right thing.  You know, things like that.  But when you try to write a book or publish a DVD on how to completely and totally train a horse (which is often how both Parelli and Anderson, as well as many other trainer's work is advertised) then you're setting yourself up for failure.  Why?  Because there isn't a person around that could lift the book that contains all the possible information YOU need to know about YOUR horse.  Trying to phrase things so that a horsey novice can understand them, in many cases, results in a concept that is vague or incomplete. 

As an example, I watched Anderson correct a horse's bad behavior simply by altering his body language to say "Hey, I'm the alpha horse here, do not push me around".  The horse, being a submissive type personality, naturally stopped trying to be pushy, and became respectful of personal space.  This is a horsey instinct after all (because more dominant horses KICK HARD!).  Anderson never explained that body language, nor how to be in control of your body language.  Why?  Maybe because he didn't know he did it?  Maybe because he didn't want people to think he was a "big meanie"?  Maybe because he had no idea how to put the entire idea of how horses relate to body language into a 5 minute segment?  I honestly don't know.

Another example; I watched Parelli guide his horse through an obstacle course using seat and leg aids only.  The ordeal was presented as one of those "how much the horse loves working with me" thing.  The idea that the rider needed to learn to control his/her own body, and that there are ways to communicate with touch only, were never discussed.  It looked "amazing" and "miraculous" to so many people.  To me, it looked rough, and unbalanced, but then again, I watched the Stacy Westfall video.

I have to mention here, that I doubt I could sit a horse in any type of reining moves.... and bareback!  OMG!

My problem with cookie cutter trainers, is that in most cases it's all about selling an idea to a lazy person.  Yes, I'm calling fans of most "fashionable" trainers lazy.  I mean, if you're not lazy, then you'd be out asking people questions, either on forums, in person, or calling tons of trainers to get personalized help.  Instead, the mentality is that the horse is somehow to blame.  As an example "my horse is mean" or "My horse won't go".  Well sure, any horse can be mean if allowed to think it's in charge.  I mean, have you WATCHED a herd of horses?  Those alphas aren't always the kindest ones out there!  And if your horse is not obeying your commands, it's most likely because your aren't giving the commands properly.  Now, ok, those were blanket statements.  I have to admit here, that the only "rule" I believe in with horses, is that there will always be a horse that breaks the rules!

But really, how many of us looked forward to spending YEARS trying to perfect our skills, knowing that we would never master them?  (Ok, I have to admit that I've always thought this was one of the neatest things about horses, but I'm weird).  And how many people are excited to know that solving their problems will often take months?  We all want a quick fix, so who can really blame any one for hoping that there really IS a pill that will make you skinny, or a trainer who can make a perfect horse with only a $150 dollar book/DVD/training tool?

But then there is the reality.  In every partnership, there is a horse, and the human handling it.  If you change one of those, the entire partnership changes.  We easily accept this with people, but for some reason we expect horses to be carbon copies of their species.  No horse should ever be an individual!  That's just crazy talk!

A few examples:

Your old boss, and your new boss.  You never think it's "weird" that the new boss acts differently.  Maybe the old boss liked to give you words of encouragement, and the new boss doesn't?  Maybe the new boss has an open door policy, while your old boss wanted a printed memo of anything you needed to talk about?

That waitress at your favourite coffee shop?  The girl who worked there before knew that you wanted 2 creams and raw sugar, but the new girl tried to bring you milk and equal!  Why can't she just get it right?

And horses.  My last horse would walk down the street with out a problem, but my new horse spooks at everything when I take him away from his herd!  My Chestnut horse is always so calm and mellow, but needs strong aids to perform the moves I ask for, while my Grey is so light and responsive, but tends to never stand still when tied up!

See the similarities?  They are all unique "people".  Some just have 4 legs.  We need to have training systems designed to treat them as unique individuals.  Who would want their kid to be taught in school exactly the same way as every one else's kids?  Why would you expect your horse (as most animals have a similar level of intelligence to a young child) to be treated that way?  And really, what is "natural" about anything we do with horses?

The concepts that Cookie Cutter Trainers (CCTs) use are not bad ones.  They just aren't enough to properly train a horse.  Oh sure, you can do somethings, and you can probably do them well.  But what do you do when the problem isn't in the book?  I honestly believe that most people can train a horse.  I also believe that most novice horse owners are attracted to the exactly WRONG type of horse for themselves.  This is like playing the video game on hard mode, and then wondering why the guy playing on easy mode has a higher score, and gets further. 

So, I guess it's not really the CCTs I hate, so much as this idea that there's a way to solve all our problems for only $19.95 (+ shipping and handling).  Owning a horse is like a marriage - it takes WORK and YEARS of dedication.  Both parties have to be able to work together, and both sides have to learn new things, and learn to accept that their partner isn't perfect, and understand that time will change how things work on both sides.  But, with that said, if you put in the time and effort into doing it as well as you can, in the end, it's a rewarding experience.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ok, lets talk about Horses and Values

Since I was rained out today, and ended up getting a whole lot of nothing accomplished, I've instead been doing more paperwork.

One of my ultimate goals is to reduce my herd a bit more.  Sadly, that's very unlikely to be happening quickly!  Between the horse market, my end goals (reviving the Sugarbush Draft Horse) and a little bit of unrealistic love of a few horses.... culling my stock is HARD!

So, a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd have a nice little announcement to make one day?  Well, remember this pic?
This is a registered American Cream Draft Colt.  He has DNA tested as ee AA CRcr CHch prlprl.  He should be arriving at Iron Ridge Sport Horses (that's my place!) some time this spring.  Details are still being worked out.  My friend is giving me a great oportunity to buy into this lovely guy, and to use his (amazing conformation) genetics to help further our breed.

Now, he's not the normal black based color that Sugarbush Drafts are seen in.  And he has an 87.5% chance of passing along some dilute color, either cream (palomino or buckskin) Champagne, or a combination of the two.  Kinda cool.  Granted, I'm a fan of bays myself, so that AA kinda makes me happy!

But this (breeding colorful foals, as well as looking at my herd critically) leads me to the value of a horse.  Everyday I have people comment on my lovely horses.  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE that!  But what so often confuses me is that many of the best horses I have are overlooked because their half sibling beside them is very loudly marked.

As an example, these are full brothers (both are shown at the same age, yearlings):
Now, which one would you think is the better horse?  Which one would you pay more money for?

Here's a hint, the bay blanket is listed on my site for sale, but I'm keeping the black as a stallion.  Now, don't get me wrong, Rico (the bay blanket) is one NICE horse.  He's got a lot of talent, he's very sweet, well mannered, and will be a tall boy (probably taller then the black), but Scorch (the black) has it, except for the loud pattern.  Scorch has moves, he has brains, he has moves I've never seen on a horse I thought I could afford.... And did I mention that he has moves?  So, because I have 2 to chose from, I chose to keep the more athletic of the pair.

I have another similar thing with a couple of fillies.
Now, neither of these girls has loud spots on them, but the first one has a ton of chrome.  While Soli (bay with chrome) is a wonderful horse, Olivia is actually the more athletic and better mover of the pair.  Naturally, no one notices plain boring chestnut Olivia next to her loud exotic bay sister Soli.

So, it's obvious that color sells horses, and is one of the main things that [most] people look at when they are shopping.  Does this mean that color should increase the price of a horse?  I honestly don't have an answer for that.

As many people know, horse businesses are NOT a good way to get rich.  Oh, it's possible to pay the bills, and to make a great living at it, but it's a lot of work.  And, as most people know, the horse market (and most of the economy) is not the best right now.

But, so often I am asked why I charge 'so much' for my horses.  Um, since it costs around $1000/year to keep the horses, plus my time in training them, my expertise in planning them, and all the other things, I do like to get paid (this goes back to that whole paying the bills thing!).  And because I plan to sell my horses as broke to ride, I rarely expect to get buyers for them before they are 4.  That means I've invested about $5000 into the horses, plus my time, effort, and knowledge. 

Now, do I expect to actually break even on my horses?  YES!  If I didn't, then I would be a really stupid business person!  (In all honesty, if I couldn't, then I would simply sell the horses into good homes, and show my pets, and train more).  Of course, I also know that MY horses are well mannered.  I know that I can catch them (usually it's more a problem to NOT catch one) I know that I can bathe, clip, tie, crosstie, and all those other things that should be common but so rarely are.

Basically, if I consistently sell horses for less then it costs me to breed, raise, and train them, then wouldn't it be cheaper to simply go out and buy a horse for a stranger?  Doesn't make much sense to do that, but so often it's what people expect breeders to do.  Here's a hint:  If they are doing that, then they aren't a good breeder!!! 

Lets look at my darling Poko.  When Leah got him, he would not pick up his feet for the farrier.  His first vet visit was... exciting.  Leah spent 4 years working on that horse everyday, to make sure he had the basic ground manners that any horse needs to be a safe companion.  And now... he really does!  Did I pay what he's worth?  Oh hell no!  But it was all I had to offer at the spur of the momment, and I KNOW how lucky I am to have a well trained, nicely handled horse.  Now, if you calculate what it would cost to have that kind of training.  Lets just say a cheap trainer, at$350/month, for 4 years.  If I had paid for the value of the training, I would have spent $16,800 on that horse!  In most places you can't get training for that price!

Needless to say, none of us that breeds quality horses is looking to get "market value" for the time we put into our horses.  We expect good homes that will love the horses above all else.  In some cases, we have to take a loss because we realize that the horse will never be able to achieve the cost of it's care.  I did this with Crash.  I sold him at a loss, to the most amazing home, because I realized that the money I would spend to get him broke and ready to be sold as a riding horse would be much less then what I could get for him as a broke riding horse.  I found a wonderful home, and I get updates on him, and lost some money.  In the end, it worked out so much better then losing a LOT of money, and not knowing if I could get a great home for him.

But, I'm kinda of getting off on a tangent here.  Forgive me!

My point is, what makes a horse so valuable?  I "know" what the market is willing to pay for (color, show points, showing levels, bloodlines, etc) but are those things really valuable?  Isn't the true "valuable" horse the one that you can climb up on, regardless of what you did yesterday or last week, and ride out, knowing that you will return in one piece?  Isn't it knowing that you can just reach down for that hind foot to pick the rock out, with out wondering if you will still have a head when you're done?  And yet, so often, these are the things that people do NOT pay for!

As a breeder, I feel that it's my job to make sure that a horse I make has good conformation, so the buyer never has to bother worrying about that.  I believe that the horse should have wonderful manners, so that the buyer can take them for granted.  My clients should look at the horses, and fall in love with their hair, or spots, or big lovely eyes (or what ever it is that gets them) and buy a horse based purely on an emotional attachment, with out having to WORRY about all those other things, or having them come back to bite them.  I offer payment plans, 14 day trials, and a home if needed for the life of the horse (even if it's no longer sound).

To me, this only makes sense.  The best homes are so rarely the ones with money oozing out of their pores.  Because my goal is to revive a dieing breed, make sure they have great homes, and not lose my own home doing it, well, I get inventive. 

But everytime I get a call asking me about a yearling intact colt, or a low cost Second Chance horse for their child, because they don't want to spend a lot of money on a horse, I have to ask myself WHY!  They can kill you!  I won't drug them to make them show well, I won't lie to you about their flaws (if I know them) and I will do my best to present the horse as honestly as possible.  So why are you trying to save a few hundred dollars at the risk of your child, wife, husband, or other family member?  Am I the only person who wonders this? 

And if you're wondering, no, I don't sell my horses to the first person with enough money in their hand.  Because sometimes there's more to "value" then just the value of the dollar.  I want my "kids" to get the best "value" in the home I choose for them - a home that is a good fit.

Weathermen! Bah!

Chance of scattered showers, but nothing too bad... supposedly.  Before I went to bed, the forecast said showers over night and in the morning, so naturally, with dark grey cloudy skies, I naturally started off on paperwork.  Those great jobs like invoices, websites, and such.  I hate paperwork.  I got all my running around finished up.

Then, it never rained.  I kept checking the radar, and the forecast, and decided I had enough of waiting.  I headed out.  First up was Jae's "lesson" on Poko. 

Jae walked out, grabbed his pony, and I got tack ready.  I pulled out a few options, just in case Jae preferred this bridle over that, or these reins over those.  Poko was a doll, got caught, and headed up at a nice march.  Tied him up, and Jae began prepping his pony.  Feet picked, body brushed, and just as he was brushing down the legs, we both felt a few drops.  Looked up and... we saw a large dark blob.

Ok, the storm was making a late entrance.

Checked the time, and my vet (for Cali's check up) was about to leave his clinic.  Better call, since my stocks are not under cover (yet).  Played some phone tag there, as the vet was already in my area at another farm call, and decided that since he was close, he'd just go ahead and drive by to see how bad it was.

No sooner was I off the phone then:
The skies opened up.  That's about 20 seconds after it started raining, and already that much water running!  From there, it only got worse.
I didn't even have time to get the horses pulled up (yeah, that's poor Quagga standing with his butt to the wind).  And just to make it more fun, pea sized hail!
But, before we even had the stall doors opened, and halters in hand........
It stopped.

The vet arrived shortly after, and Cali got her check up after all.  Jae didn't get to ride, and the arena is very gooey.  I think I missed my window, but I'll give it another hour then check.  The wind has picked up and things should dry out quickly.

I have to say, I spent 4 hours trying to avoid a 15 minute rain storm, and still managed to get nothing done.  Silly weathermen!  Noon is NOT "morning storms".

Although, I have to say the grass is VERY green all of a sudden, and we did need the rain, so except for it's late timing, I'm not complaining at all!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ok, controversy time! Riding Helmets

 So, because I have been backing so many young horses lately (both my own and client horses) I have gotten into the habit of wearing a helmet every time I ride.  Before last summer, I rarely wore a helmet, but I still backed many horses.  I ride at least 4 horses each day, about 5 days per week on average.  In other words, I am on horseback approximately 20 hours/week.  For another 10 hours each week, I am working horses in hand. (yep, there's a reason for this)

I have been "involved" with horses since I could be.  As a child I was in 4H, but I didn't own a horse.  Instead, I was trained to be a judge's assistant, and I learned a ton about conformation, gaits, and how to compare one horse to another.  After that, I begged to work in barns.  Not to ride, just to shovel poo!  The smell of horses was addictive, and just to be privileged enough to smell and see them was all I needed.  More was always great, like a pet on the nose, or joy of joys, being allowed to brush one!  My parents didn't know about such things as riding lessons, so instead, I spent weekends paying for dude type trail rides.  Evidently I was charming enough of a child, that the "wranglers"  (mostly students in the dressage courses) would give me pointers and let me try things with the horse I was riding.  A little canter, how to sit a hill, and such.

Now, let me just say, that back during that time, helmets were a rare thing.  Yeah, I'm old enough to remember those days.  One way that I impressed many of the wranglers, was when as an 8 year old, I was on a horse that spooked.  Well, the horse behind us bolted, almost running into my horse, who took off toward the rest of the group, and at the last minute, my gelding darted sideways so as not to hit the horse in front of him.  Me, I didn't go sideways so well.  I landed with my chin on that mare's tail bone, and flopped to the ground right behind her.  The next day I found a hoof shaped bruise on my thigh, so I was RIGHT behind her.

I was 8, my horse was 16 hands.  It was a long fall.  As soon as I could, I asked where my horse was.  The staff were all paranoid (since my parents were not with the group) and offered to take me back walking if I chose.  I looked the poor guy right in the eye and said, "oh no, I'm still riding!  But I think I'm going to need help getting back on.".  Yes, horses were my addiction.

From that time on, I got rides anywhere I could.  For my first anniversary (of my first marriage) I got my first horse.  2 weeks later, I bought an unbroke 8 year old mare.  I decided to try to back her myself with nothing but advice and book knowledge.  Shockingly, it went well, but it shouldn't have.  Not long after, I began working with friend's horses (I was SO unqualified, but hey... free help!).  For the last 13 years now, I have been heavily involved with horses.  I can't even count the number of times I have fallen.

The only injuries I have sustained during all of those falls include breaking my arm as a 13 year old, and knocking myself out cold last fall.  Besides that, it's been a few achy muscles, and some bruises.  Very few bruises in all honesty.  I'm lucky, and I fall well.  I can feel I'm losing my seat, or I decide that the best course of action is not to be on the horse any more, and I just relax.  I have heard that it's very ugly to see me fall.  Because I relax, my limbs fly in all directions, and I often tumble.  But like a drunk in a car accident, I always seem to walk away unscathed.

And yet, when I decided to take on outside horses - horses who I am not completely familiar with - I began to wear a riding helmet.  I have embraced the mentality of a hard head being a safe head.  But, both falls I have taken since that time have had one thing in common..... head and neck pain.  I've never had that before.

Well, yesterday, when Jae rode Poko, I asked him if he wanted a brain bucket before he climbed on.  (I allow all adults to make that decision, as it IS a free country, and killing yourself is.. um.. a right?)  At any rate, he made a comment that made me start thinking.  He said:

"Thank you, but no, I like to keep my neck in one piece, and I don't think I'm gonna crack my HEAD on the arena dirt".
Yeah, that's a touque, not a helmet on his head.

After his ride, he was telling me about motocross and how it has been found that a helmet is more dangerous when worn with out a neck brace/support.  Well, this does kinda support what I have been feeling lately.

Oddly, I haven't seen any type of neck support for horse riding.  Now, I understand that we need to use our necks a lot riding (looking out for those lions in the bushes, and defeating them before our trusty mount realizes they are about to be eaten!).

And this is not going to be the old debate of "helmet, or no helmet".  That's been hashed out and done over and over.
(me riding Ash circa 1999)

I'm sitting here listening to research on concussive accidents, and how they affect us later in life.  I've been reading research on neck injuries in many sports (a lot about football) and how helmets are designed.  My big question is, why don't riding helmets, for both horses and bikes, have any neck support?

Why haven't we seen any comparative data on riding accidents of similar nature, and the damage sustained from wearing and not wearing a helmet.  I'm almost willing to bet that helmet wearers are more likely to have neck pain.  When I was knocked out, my only complaint was that my neck hurt.  (granted, most of that was from the stupid neck brace digging into my neck....)

So,my quest now, is to find more data.  For the next week, I will be reading those weird and boring scientific reports about sports accidents, and seeing if there's some commonality to neck strain.

I'm thinking, if we can't have neck support, then maybe I need to strengthen my neck muscles.  Gain the ability to compensate for the slight extra weight of the helmet, so that I won't have as much force pulling on my neck.  I will also be looking for some ideas on that.

And of course, if any of y'all know about some type of neck support that really works.... please share!  I'm not about to give up my helmet, but I would be willing to work to be even more safe then I am now.

After neck support, comes an eventing vest!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A man and his horse

So, as you might have noticed, I "accidentally" purchased Poko, with the intentions that he would be a wonderful horse for Jae, my better half.  So, this morning I asked Jae if he wanted to take a spin, if Poko was working well.

Now, I kinda left him no room to back out.  I had Poko haltered, and leading behind me, when I mentioned that I was going to be working him, and Jae should make a lap and see how he felt.  I would have ridden Poko regardless, but it seemed like the right day to push a bit.

I tacked up Poko and took him for a spin.  Shockingly, he was light and responsive on the bit (for Poko, which is about the same as all normal horses).  He was listening, and in a great mood.  I put about a 5 minute warm up on him, and asked Jae if he wanted to try.  Now, Jae is a tall boy.  I stand 5'6", he is 6'1".  Poko is all of 14.2.  Looking at that picture, you can guess how wide he is!

Now, if you compare how Jae looks riding Poko to me, well I think Jae fits better.  I look like I have no legs!  And as you can see, mom was riding her mare (in the back ground there) and Poko was still being sweet and well mannered.

Here's the most interesting thing of it all.  Poko kept drifting over to the gate for me.  Now, I don't mean a slight drift, I mean half passes and side passes heading to the gate, trying to give me a "subtle" hint.  I kept having to ride him through this.  For me, this was his only problem today.

For Jae... he never tried this once!  At once point, Jae even tried to trot.  He clicked Poko up to a small trot, and the big lug chose a tiny little trot, and as soon as Jae wobbled, Poko slowed back to a walk with no command from a human!  Yes... Poko.  I think this was Jae's 3rd time on a horse (it might be a couple times more then that, but definately less then 10 rides in his life).  Jae is a natural calm and relaxed rider.  He's got a natural seat and a good feel, and isn't afraid to fall, so I am willing to let him try (or put him into) situations that might be too much for most novice riders.

Leah always said that Poko loved Jae, and today we just proved it to be true.

Now, from those pictures, you can see that it was a gross day here.  We had a few moments of mist, and a ton of wind (wind + arena sand = BAD) so I ended up with a long lunch.  Black Boy was VERy distracted by all the wind today.  I had a lot of moments where he completely wasn't paying attention to me, and I ended up doing more lunge line work to get his focus back on me, then I actually was in the saddle.  Id get him working, the wind would gust, and my herd would run, and there went his mind.  Yeah, my whole herd was out playing, which never makes training easy, but is actually a good thing to have to work through.

Now, Beaudreaux is getting a few days off for a booboo.  He has been a saint about his meds, and even let me clean up his owwie with out too much fuss.  He does get annoyed when I take too long, and tries to paw and dance when tied.  I figure this is a good chance to work on patience with him.  He got a lot of pampering though, and that seems to make it all better.

And then the Voodoo.  Voodoo has been getting the basics this week.  I have been tacking him up, and doing ground work with him so far.  This lets me feel him out, and identify specific issues.  So far, he's been better behaved then normal, so I had this thought.  Every time he's been wiggy, it's been when we have a lot of people and horses around.  When his person takes him to the round pen, he behaves.  So, is it stage fright?  Is it a problem on focusing?

I tried lunging him in the icky weather.  This means distractions!  Now, I can't be positive, but like BB, Voodoo was very distracted.  Granted, the weather today was perfect "any horse will be bad and spooky" weather.  If I kept giving commands fast enough that he had to focus on me (whether that's keeping the pressure on, altering the gait, or reversing) and he was better.  Give him a chance to look around, and he started to fall apart.

Tomorrow, I'm going to lunge him again, and then the plan is to ride.  Now Voodoo is well broke, but he needs to get up to the next level.  His person wants to do some small local shows, and Voodoo is a bit hot and unpredictable for that.  He'd make a NICE show horse, but he needs more experience.  I'm getting the gut feeling that all of Voodoo's issues are symptoms of the same problem, lack of focus.  He's never had to concentrate on a task.

Does that sound familiar?  It's kinda the same problem Poko has.  When he gets bored, he gets bad.  Of course, Voodoo's manifests in a completely different way, but both horses were taking advantage of their rider being unable to stop them.  They start acting up, and the rider feels like she's about to fall off, and the horse wins.  There's 3 options for this.

1.  Sell the horse.  A perfectly acceptable option, but the hardest I think.

2.  Send the horse to a trainer, and have the problem fixed.  This is probably the easiest and wisest option for most people.

3.  Learn to ride better.  Yeah, easier said then done!  It takes YEARS to learn how to ride out some of these issues.  Bucking, rearing, spinning.... I've been riding for eons, and I started training horses 13 years ago (mostly for personal use) and I still can't handle a bad buck.  Rearing doesn't phase me, and I'm even ok with flippers (dunno why, but I'm just not scared of that).  Spining, well, depends on how good the horse is.  A slow spin is easy, but no WAY could I ever be a reiner!

Now, ideally, everyone should combine #2 and #3, and it'd all work out.  But this is the real world, and we don't all get to ride 8 hours/day, 6 days per week (like, ahem, I do!).

Using Poko and Voodoo as examples (with no offense to their owners, and not a bad thought, but they are great examples!) they show the various levels of bad.  Poko was a pro at being a lot of horse.  He is smart, to the point of being too smart.  He always knows what buttons to push, and how to achieve that "he's going to kill me!" feeling.  Voodoo, not so much.  Voodoo isn't nearly as logical as Poko, instead Voodoo is an emotional horse.  All Voodoo cares about (right now) is what Voodoo feels.  Voodoo is lazy, so Voodoo acts up.  If the human is worried, then that's not his problem.  If Voodoo is having fun, then he's great.

The difference here is that Voodoo is an easy fix.  Get him in shape, show him that being challenged is fun, and that success equals good things for Voodoo!  On the flip side, Poko is a HARD fix.  There's 1 option that I know of.  Out ride him, and completely control your emotions.  This means his rider needs to always be calm, and be "just fine" with the idea that we might eat dirt.  As soon as the rider gets nervous, Poko "pushes" a bit more, until he wins.  Voodoo on the other hand, "wins" when he gets praise, or anything else he likes.

Now, at this point, I'm only working on a theory with Voodoo.  Next week I'm going to be testing it.  My goal is to set him up for success.  Make sure we have a lot of good boys, scritches, and loving, and see how hard Voodoo will work for more of that.  Wish me luck!

And of course, my last horse of the day this week has been Cruz.  I totally admit that I waited for the wind to die, and that meant I was starting to run out of daylight.  I didn't push him as much as normal because of the bad weather, but I did do a lot of the same.  More driving, more leaning, and a whole lot of tack slapping.  I have to say, he seemed very calm, and he was being VERY good for me.  My problem is, that he only seems to spook (and hard) when he has 2 scary things at once.  Riding is one, and well... a windy day....... Yeah.

My goal with Cruz is to make this all a pleasant experience for him.  I've spoken with his owner, and he's going to be getting more learning and growing time.  Now, he looks like a kid, but he's almost 4, so I think he's just one of those slow maturing boys.  He's SO sweet.  I can't stress enough how adorable this horse is!  And truth be told, I really really want to put a leg on each side, and have at LEAST one successful walk around on him before he heads back.  I think having some time to mull that over will do him a world of good.  As well as more time in the hands of his owner, who is an excellent trainer herself, and can only do more good with him. 

And my dear Ozzy got postponed today.  Too windy, too much sand blowing, and I just flat ran out of time.  Besides, it's not fair to eval a horse on a day like this.  Fingers crossed that tomorrow is better.

But I admit..... THIS made my DAY!

And like a man, his only complaint..... is that he hates my saddle.  After the ride, we tried HIS saddle on Poko.... and it fits!  It's got a ton of padding, and needs to break in, but it's going to fit that horse like a glove.  Now I just need to buy him an Aussie girth to go with it.  Where do you find a nice Aussie girth?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I run'd out of daylight!

Ok, I have 2 new horses to introduce, but I didn't get pictures taken, because by the time I was done getting all my work done, the sun was setting fast!

Beaudreaux has a booboo that will keep him from working for a couple of days, but he's really being pretty good about it all.  Black Boy, well.... his owner came to see him today.  Naturally, he was "bad".  Now, BB's bad is not that bad, but it's a bit annoying.  First he started "drifting" on the turns, and from there it got worse.  He wouldn't pick up a gait and instead tried to trot. 

On the upside, I learned a few things that I need to do with him.  One is to play with him first, offer him treats, and just hang out, and THEN try to work.  He kinda acted like maybe he thought work was done before we started.

Cruz has been getting drive and lay on him lessons, and he was SO tense about it, but is now calming down.  I'm hoping to be astride him by tomorrow.  Needless to say, I have been working him last every day.... just incase I bite it again.   He's not a bad boy at all, but I think he can only take 1 scary thing at a time, and some one on his back is it.  Add any other scary thing, and he has a melt down.  Poor sweet baby.

And Voodoo is my new training horse.  He's a lovely seal bay Saddlebred gelding.  Nice, tall, and oh so full of himself.  I planned to get pictures, but ... oops!  I have been pushing all of Voodoo's buttons this week to see what I need to work on first.  So far, it looks like it's just a whole lot of "do what I say, when I say".  He keeps hoping that if he is distracted, that I will give up.  HA!  But Voodoo is a very good boy and I like him.  He's not bad, just a bit spoiled.  Of course, all horses SHOULD be spoiled!

And my last horse to introduce is Ozzy.  He's a 15.1 hand ApHC chestnut snowcap gelding.  He's here to be evaluated, trained if needed, and then sold.  He's out of shape, out of work, and a bit LOVELY and sweet boy.  So far, I have only one thing to say about him, "he's so well mannered!".

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday, and so quick today.  I came in and passed out last night (and that long sleep made the sore muscles all better) and I'm running a few hours behind tonight.  The babies need their dinner!

Off to the barn I go!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cruz's big day, not as well as I hoped.

This is Cruz.  Cute adorable little Tiger horse.  He's mastered the driving, and he's very sweet and well mannered on the ground.  But he's timid and insecure.

Today, Cruz got to carry a rider!  Yep, that is me.

When I back a baby (regardless of age) the first time, I always use a ground person.  I have a good solid halter on under the bridle, but all tack and ready to go.  I have a few safety precautions that I like to use. 

First, helmet!  Second, those reins are looped through the bucking strap.  This prevents him from catching a leg in them if I drop the reins for any reason.  Third, that ground handler is told exactly what to expect, what could go wrong, and how to handle it to keep the horse nice and calm and prevent any fear.  My goal is to use something the horse knows (leading) and slowly work away from the ground handler.  All horses learn at different rates, so I can never be sure how far I will get the first day.  The horse gets to make that decision.  When he's scared, I back off (to a point).

So, Cruz could care less about me putting weight in the stirrup.  You can see that he's a bit camped out in back, but I repeated stepping up and down a few times, and he was truly at ease for most of it.  This picture is from the first time, and his most tense for this part.

Once he was ok with that, I went on to step number 2, carrying all of my weight.  Now, I'm not a little girl, so for some horses this can be a shocker.  I have found a way that seems to work out, and gives me a middle step.  I lay on the saddle.  Trust me, it's not as easy as it sounds.  The idea is to rest my weight just below my chest, and balanced on the horse's back.  My legs are loose and out of the way, and my hands are able to touch the offside.  In this way I can get the horse to feel the weight, walk with the weight, and get exposed to something moving on their side.

Cruz aced this!

As you can see, he thinks it's a bit odd, and he wasn't sure who to listen to, me or Jae (his head man) but a few repetitions of it, and all was well.  We went left, we went right, we stopped and started.  I tapped, rubbed, and tickled.  He seemed like a pro!

So then I decided to move on to putting a leg over.

And we will NOT talk about how very unflattering that picture is for me!  (Ick, I can't bear to look!).

As you can see, Cruz wasn't so sure about the whole person on back thing.  I was up high.  I talked, and when he moved, I wiggled.  We spent some time standing and talking and petting, and he seemed to relax very nicely. 

I don't rush a horse at all.  It is my belief that this leads to bad habits and fear issues (which I often end up working out later!).  So it's all about baby steps at this point, especially with a horse like Cruz, who is timid and needs a confident leader to tell him it's ok.

Truth be told, I kinda expected him to spook a few times during this process, and I really didn't think I'd get this far with him!  Every step, he went from "oh no, is it ok?" to "ah, I can do that!".  When Jae asked him to step out, he did it eagerly and nicely!

As you can see, he's not really positive of himself, but he also doesn't look scared either.  We walked around a bit, and then I dismounted.  Now, swinging my leg over to dismount is one of the "explosion" points for most horses.  Cruz... stood like a champ!

So i got back on, and we went again.  At this point, I'm thinking, "the poor baby has to be mentally full, so we'll call it quits when we get to the center of the arena, and praise him well".  Sadly, that was not to be.

When we got to the center, I went to pull my foot out of the stirrup.  The leather creaked against the saddle, and I had moved my leg.  It was more then he could take, and he scooched.  In other words, he tucked his little hiney, and darted forward fast.  Not a problem, Jae had it handled, and all I had to do was be calm, confident, and QUIET.

I failed.  When he darted, I had too much weight in the right stirrup.  Cruz sucked his abs up, and as you can see, he's broad in the chest, and narrow in the hips.  The saddle slipped slightly to the right.  I leaned left to correct, and had to put my left leg on him, and he decided a monster was about to eat him!  He got so scared!

This is the point where I'm thinking, "ah man, and we were doing so well too, how do I save this with out terrorizing the horse?"  Well, since Cruz is only a little guy (as compared to some of my other 16+ monsters) there was a very simple answer.  Get off.  I looked at Jae in that slip second, and he looked at me, and I relaxed.  I know Jae will keep the horse off me, and not get upset.  I know Jae will quiet the horse, and reassure him with out praising him for spooking.  A nice quiet calm "ignore what happened" type of attitude.  I always think of it as "see pony, there's nothing going on here, what was all that about?"

I slipped off, of course on the wrong side!  Cruz's inclination was to face his handler, which meant swing his hind end over where I hit.  Lets just say I didn't stick around on the ground long enough to see if that happened.  Jae told me that Cruz was pretty good though, he leaped forward, and hopped a time or 2, and then sought a human (him) for reassurance.

Worst part of the fall?  I came off chest to ground.  I turned my head, but my helmet visor threw dirt right into my nose and mouth, and when I got up, I inhaled... lots of SAND!  I did wind myself a bit, because I hit my chest, but nothing bad.  Oh, and my buckle left a bruise.  In other words, headache, sandy nose, and ONE bruise.  Yeah... that doesn't really count as a fall, and it really doesn't count as being thrown.

But, that also means that Cruz couldn't quit. We have to end on a good note, and dumping a rider is not it.  I did a few more lay overs, and we walked around.  I despooked and wiggled, and he was all good.  Rather then tempting fate, I decided to let his brain stew on the whole concept of a rider astride for a bit, and figure we'll pick it up again tomorrow.

I have also decided that I will ride Cruz last, just incase.

Now, Poco is no longer in training, as I'm sure you know.  BUT, I have a "replacement" for that spot.  VooDoo is a lovely seal bay tobiano Saddlebred horse, owned by another of my friends.  Our goal is to get him show ready, and work out some attitude.  His owner is also taking lessons, and we plan to make them into one hell of a team.  Voodoo got his "eval" today, with basics on how I do things.  Yeah, it was rather boring, and since he's been here a while, it was nothing spectacular at all.

The walkers, well, they deserve their own post, but I figure Cruz's first time ridden gets priority.  Both of them were good though.  Beaudreaux was much better then last time, especially after the "weekend'  (My weekend is Sunday/Monday) and Blackboy is getting better every day.  My plan is to have Nita (my mother and assistant trainer) ride him, and see if I can get the 2 walkers working well in the arena together.  BB hasn't broken gait on me yet, but I also haven't pushed him too hard yet either.  Beaudreaux has, and Beaudreaux is a bit sensitive about getting back under saddle.  I have decided that this lip flapping is a sign of concern for him.  He only did it a couple of times, but it always happened when I pushed what we did last time a bit further.

I have to say though, I am really having so much fun with the gaited horses!  I find myself with this silly gin on my face as I zip around the arena on them.

I love all my boys (well, not MY boys, but you know what I mean) and I'm so happy to be seeing progress.  I hope Cruz really shocks me, and takes it all in stride tomorrow, and makes me eat my words!

And tomorrow.... I have another surprise! If all goes well, I will have a very lovely Appaloosa gelding here.  Only a few more days (ok 12) until daylight savings time!  I'm SO excited!