Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gym Can Uh

After the "incident" of last Saturday, I was very hesitant to be on my horse for any extended period of time. This was my first scary incident where I lost control of my horse, and my muscles were sore and I had a huge bruise on my belly from the saddle horn. I think I'll re-new my search for a saddle without a horn.

However, I had already agreed to go with my barn posse to a Gymkhana. What is a gymkhana? I hear you asking, and you're trying to sound it out in your head too. It's pronounced just like the title of this post, and is an event where a series of timed events are held. Barrel racing, weaving in and out of poles, and similar things are set up to challenge riders and their horses.

There were quite a few people and horses there, and I was very vigilant, watching for any possible trigger that could upset the great white whale. I rode him that day in his twisted snaffle bit, and I found I needed a very light rein, and he responded very well to it. I could also tell that he hates it still, but I wanted to be sure I could get his attention in case something spooked him.

He seemed just fine though, even happy/excited to have a task to do that we have practiced before.
They broke up the competitors into classes, Over 18, Under 18, Walk/Trot, and Lead Line. Over 18 and Under 18 is pretty self explanatory, Walk/Trot meant that if your horse broke into a canter, you would get bumped in the regular over/under 18 category, and Lead Line meant that your horse would be led through the course by someone on foot. We chose the Walk/Trot class, simply because his canter isn't polished enough, and I don't feel comfortable cantering on him, especially during a public competition!

We competed in the following events:

Barrels: The typical 3 barrel set up you may have seen at a rodeo
Bi-Rangle: 2 barrels set up, you have to go around both
Poles I: Poles are set up in a straight line, you have to weave in and out of the poles up and back
Big T: Poles like the above are set up, with 2 barrels at the end like Bi-rangle that you have to go around before you go back through the poles
Speedball: The rider is given a small ball that they have to take to a traffic cone at the end of the arena, drop it in to the opening in the cone, and come back

He only walked in the first challenge, and then after that, offered a trot with very little encouragement. My imagination would like to think that he figured out that speed was a factor, but my logical brain says he probably just wanted to get things over with quickly.
Competing on a draft horse who would rather not move at all is a little more difficult, and I know we'll never be competitive in a gymkhana, it was good to expose him to a busy setting, with trailers and trucks roaming around, some horses who were less than happy about being there, tiny little ponies running near him, and a loudspeaker announcing things.
Here we are trotting across the line after speedball.
After the competitions were all over, they started announcing the winners of the categories. One of the ladies at the barn has a very zippy horse, and even though it was her first competition too, she one quite a few ribbons!!  Yay!
Then I heard my name called. Whaaaaaaaaa-!!!!?!?!?!!
We won fourth place in Bi-Rangle!! (And yes, there were more than 4 people competing...)
I was shocked! We collected my very first ribbon in our very first competition!
He tried to eat it, so now it has a smudgy lip mark on the bottom, but I don't care! He got a celebratory flake of hay as I untacked him, and then we made our way back to the barn.
What a good day!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I stayed on!!

Interesting title of this post, no?

Well, let's talk about that. Today, a Poker Ride was held. A Poker Ride is a type of event that is done either on foot, in car, or on horse, or other type of conveyance for fun. Basically you are give a playing card in a sealed envelope at different stops along a preset route and when you finish the course, you compile your cards together to create a poker hand, hopefully a good one. The person who gets the best hand wins a prize, and it's pretty much all by luck, since you don't get to see your cards until the very end. Since this poker ride was on horseback, the envelopes containing the cards were put into large bags hung from trees, so you didn't have to get off and get back on your horse.

So this morning, after grabbing coffee and a bagel, I and my barn mates headed off to this poker ride. It was on a pretty wooded trail that at some points followed a creek, and for a little bit, followed a paved bike path. I didn't get a ton of pictures, and I'll tell you why shortly.

After registration and number assignment, (I was assigned number ominous hint to turn around and go home maybe? hmmm) we tacked up and Altivo seemed very nervous. There was a road near the staging area that he didn't like, and he decided to back up in fear for a few moments. I calmed him, and after riding him around for a few minutes, he seemed ok, so we set out on the trail.

Oh! Also for funsies, along certain points of the trail, judged obstacles were set up that you could opt to take your horse through for points, and the person with the highest points would win a prize.

Now, the first bag of cards was tacked on a tree on a narrow spot on the trail, and at this point, dear Altivo decided this was not where he wanted to be. He began to back up, and not having enough time to see what was behind us, I decided to duck into his neck and turtle myself as best I could. I asked him to move forward, and he refused. I dug my heels into him, and he stood still, having been stopped by a large tree, where his butt was firmly pressed. One of my trailmates helped pull him out of the brush, and while he was still somewhat upset, he carried on, and we met up with the first obstacle, which was about 50 plastic milk jugs, the one gallon size.
The object was to walk through the milk jugs calmly and without fuss. He was panicking about something, so I fought with him for a few moments, and once I got his focus back, we walked through the milk jugs perfectly.
He likes plowing through things.

The next trail obstacle came up- a truck with a small boombox on the top of it, playing a tape of vicious sounding dogs barking.
We walked by it, like a boss.

The trail was peaceful and becoming prettier by the moment, when we saw our next hurdle. The trail led us down into a dry creek bed, over which passed a road, held up by a concrete and steel bridge. A plain, sturdy overpass to you and I.
A creaky, unsafe, untested, and certainly horse-eating monster of a contraption that should be avoided at all costs to Altivo.
He stopped and looked at the bridge with concern.

Altivo: Whoa! What the....??!?!?!?
Me: It's a bridge. We just go down there and go under it. So go.
Altivo: Hell no! It'll eat me alive! How do I know I'll come out the other side?
Me: It's just a bridge, really. Let's stand here and watch it. See? It doesn't move. We'll be fine.
Altivo: Um, I'm almost certain that it's evil! Evil bridge!! It moved!! It's gonna kill us!!!
Me: No it won't! Now, listen here!
Altivo: EVIL!! RUN AWAY!!!!!!

And he did. Run. Although first he reared up, gave a half buck, and then turned around, and took off the opposite direction of the bridge. Now, I've been taught, that when your horse spooks, you do what's called an emergency one rein stop. Here's a link to a video I found that will help explain it.
I tried that, and couldn't reach forward for enough rein to pull on one side- I wasn't prepared for his spook like I should have been. Also, I was riding him in his bosal, which I now know, wasn't giving me enough control to make his head (and focus) swing around to me.
So off he goes, with me as an unwilling copilot, and I'm frightened, sure, but most of all, during the whole thing, I was ANGRY. How dare this horse not trust me to make sure he's not being eaten by a bridge? How dare he think I would put him into a situation like that? As I was hanging on for dear life for a tour through waist high sticker bushes, I reached up to grab the bridle at his poll. (the poll is the top of his head, sort of between his ears but a teeny bit back)
I was grinding out choice profanity at him through clenched teeth as he ran, and I yanked on one side of the reins with my left hand, my right struggling to hold on to his mane and bridle. Finally, he slowed, and gave another buck. His decrease in speed gave me enough time to grab more rein and yank, which caused my right foot to fall out of the stirrup, which made me angrier. I grabbed enough for him to realize he had to stop, and he finally halted. I sat there in the saddle for a second, and what do you know? That jerk of a horse, who, 30 seconds prior had been SO worried about a murderous road fixture, started to eat the weeds he was now standing in.
Of course.
I took this moment to collect as much thought in my brain as I could, and my inner voice of reason said, ok, now get off while you can and get back to the trail, you aren't going to get him under that bridge with you on him. I dismounted, apparently very gracefully, as some onlookers noted, and walked him back to the trail, through the sticker bushes and weeds.
My trail companions, by this time, realized I was NOT on the other side of the bridge, and were waiting for me with concern. Did I fall off, everyone wanted to know? Was I injured? No fall, and the only thing injured was my confidence in my mount.

We proceeded on foot, under the bridge, which he was still not happy about, but he did it, and up the other side. A short ways ahead, we found a log that served as a good mounting block, and I got back on, not completely out of determination to "get back on the horse", but also because I didn't fancy walking the rest of the course on foot. My hands were shaking so hard I had a hard time mounting, but I did it with one of my buddies holding the beast.
I was still shaking when we arrived at the next obstacle, a water task. The challenge was to walk into a small creek, then out of it. I opted not to participate, still trying to calm my nerves.
We found more bags of cards, and the next obstacle was a large log that your horse needed to hop over, or in Altivo's case, walk over calmly. No problemo! We had to cross a busy road, over yellow handicap ramps, on pavement, and he did well.
The last obstacle was a large tarp on the ground, which he also walked calmly over.

In fact, after his freak out, he was pretty good on the trail, and I was hyper-vigilant about everything, even planning escape routes off him if he took off again. 

So what happened?

Well, for starters, he hasn't been on a trail in about a year. The last ride I went on, he was having lameness issues, so he couldn't go, and the last ride before this one today, I already had family plans, and I couldn't go. So trail time for either one of us isn't what it could have been. Also, I have always been confident that he's "bomb proof", which as I should have known, really isn't a guarantee for anything. Yes, I think, in my limited scope of things, he is pretty laid back, and not a lot fazes him, but I can't assume that he'll feel that way about everything in the world, especially since that's an unfair expecation to place on him, a prey animal. It also gives me false assurance, which can leave me unprepared for emergencies.

1: Not enough trail time.
2: Should have had him in a bit because of reason 1.
3: Not thinking ahead, assuming he'd be ok with anything thrown at him.

What did I do right?

For starters, I wore a helmet. Next, I tried to keep a clear head when he was running, and while it took me a moment, I executed a one rein stop, which stopped him. (Or maybe the realization that he was standing in a field of food. Let's go with the one rein stop idea.) Finally, I got back on him. I didn't let my nerves and new fear stop me from enjoying the rest of the ride.

So that was my day. I'm now mentally exhausted, and I'm waiting for my muscles to kick in and start complaining. I'm considering sending him to trail school, where someone with more guts and experience will ride him around trails till he's better about scary things.

Oh, and the kicker? After we got back and I untacked him, he ate lunch like nothing had ever tried to eat him.

Silly sweaty horse.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So how y'all doin?

So my sister has a niece. For her birthday, my sister and I decided to take her niece on a trail ride. She doesn't get to ride too much, so this was an event that she way waaaay excited about. (ok, I was disgustingly stoked too!) It would've been better on my horse, but hey, trail rides is trail rides, am I right?

We went to Copper Valley Trail Company, in a tiny town called Copperopolis. Yes, it's a real town!! After going over basic safety precautions, we were each assigned a horse or mule. After learning that I have a Percheron that I ride regularly, I was assigned a half Draft horse named Ocho. I'm not really sure that there was a reason for it, other than I like tall Drafties, since I'm sure that any horse on their string was completely dead broke in a windchime factory on a rainy day during an earthquake. No matter, I was just excited to be out on a horse. We rode for around an hour up and down hills, across streams and through fields. It was so relaxing, it just made me wish I were out on Altivo, on our pace and terms.

The trail boss was knowledgeable and friendly, and I have to say, if I were needing to take visitors out on a trail ride, they'd be my first choice.

So I went on a short vacation, as I'm sure you noticed, right? Anyway, during my absence, we visited South Carolina, and I ended up not riding for TWO whole weeks!! Thankfully, I asked one of the girls at the barn to ride my boy for me while I was gone.
You know, I think I read somewhere about a study of horses and their long term memory, and apparently it seemed that they DO remember people from their early stages of life, so I figured two weeks shouldn't fade the beast's memory that much.
Ok, ok, so it didn't. But my first day back to the barn, I decided just hopping on and going for a ride probably wasn't the smartest idea. I decided to round pen him
That's where you put the horse in a round fenced area, and, using a really long whip, your hands, and voice, you control which direction he runs, how fast, and when he can stop. It's not necessarily for exercise, but more for the psychological control of it. In the horse world, people say it teaches the horse to respect your cues and directions.
In Altivo's world, it's a major inconvenience, and usually he just plugs through my direction, as if to say, "Okay, stoopid human, I'll let you think you're doing something meaningful here, if only to get you to be done sooner."
However, this time he threw a few kicks as soon as I asked him to canter, which are usually interpreted as a temper tantrum. After his fits, he settled down and seemed fine.
I ordered new reins from Handmade Homestead, which is where his Bosal came from, that fancy nose piece that directs his head without a bit in his mouth. They are a perfect fit, which is good, since we are going on a trail ride this weekend!! Whooooooohooooo!!!
I'll bring pictures back, I promise!

That's it for now, but I'll return soon to tell you the Tale of the Tiniest Saddle Ever. I leave you with a picture of my niece, her friend, and yours truly in the far back!

Friday, July 1, 2011

How cool is this?!?!

Just ran into this breaking news article, about a draft horse that's been hired to lay fiber optic cable...

This is awesome! I need to get a harness for Altivo now, haha...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Independence Day Story

I ran into this story at a website I check daily- Neatorama. There's lots of interesting stories on it, and it's updated frequently.

I'm a big softie when it comes to working animals who go the extra mile just because they're good souls.
In honor of our upcoming Independence Day, I present to you, Sgt. Reckless!

Here's a link to an article about the following brave horse- Sgt. Reckless of the US Marines.

Read more about Sgt. Reckless, a brave mare- clicky clicky!

It really goes to show how much we really need animals in our lives, whether they're co-workers or friends.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Western States Horse Expo 2011

In 2010, I planned on heading to the Western States Horse Expo, held every year in Sacramento, at CalExpo. What is this, "Western States Horse Expo", you ask?

I'll tell you. It's a 3 day exposition, with lots of horse related products on display and for sale, from tack to barns, trailers to fencing, and anything in between. Also featured at the expo are horse clinicians, people who have spent years training horses who are willing to share their knowledge.

Last year, I had to work all three days, and ended up being able to go on the last day for around 3 hours. I made the mistake of bringing the husband along, and knowing how bored excited he is around horsie things, I felt rushed, therefore I didn't get any enjoyment out of my visit last year.

This year, I took a day off for the expo, and went alone. All by myself! At least until I ran into my friends and trainer from the barn, which was great because we were all there for the same reason: Horses!

I joined up with them just in time to watch my first clinician ever, Richard Winters. He spoke on "Riding like a horsemen", meaning making a connection with your horse, instead of just riding them.
I only saw the last bit of his talk, but he explained things so easily that I would definitely seek out a clinic of his in the future.

Following his talk, we headed over to Johnathan Field's talk, "Restart your Relationship: Ground Skills to Cause a Big Change." He spoke of teaching your horse respect on the ground, and finding the respect from a horse by using groundwork. Some of his stuff was confusing, though he seemed to be doing fine, the heat and bright sun had me just wishing for shade and a tall glass of water. Here he is putting a horse between two targets to reinforce the respect idea.
After Johnathan Field, we headed over to grab some food, then one of the other boarders and I decided to break off to head to the halls- where all of the shopping was!
She was looking for a blanket, and I was looking for shorter reins, so we started making the rounds. We headed to every booth, and when we got to Clinton Anderson's booth, she spied an entry box and empty ballots. She handed me an entry form and said, "Here, fill this out!" She started in on her entry form, and I figured, why not? I never win these things, and I'll probably end up on every mailing list known to man for giving out my information, but I'm already on Clinton's mailing list anyway. I filled it out and she dropped it into the box. I didn't even look to see what the prize was.
We gaped at purdy saddles and squished and squeezed all of the saddle pads we could. She bought a new helmet and I made a mental note of all of things on my wish list.
I ran to pick up husband so we could come back for that evening's entertainment- the Magnificent 7. It's a reining competition that tests a horse and rider in many events that would be used in the cattle ranchin world...cutting cattle, roping them, and keeping excellent control of your horse. I was very impressed that such control could be's sort of like "Cowboy Dressage". Pretty neat stuff, and if you ever get to see a reining competition, it's great fun. Even my husband's interest was kept.
So that was Friday....Sunday, I came back!!
I met up with HorseFriend, and we started out by shopping! Oh...and I had a teeny tiny little thing to pick up...I won I won I won!!! I won a Clinton Anderson Fundamentals Kit!!!!
It's a very expensive DVD kit, explaining the very basic ideals of groundwork and riding. Perfect for big green girls everywhere!

The box is even green....haha! I'll keep you updated on my progress with my new set of DVD's and booklets.
We then went to watch John Lyons, with "Dealing with our fear, How to make a great performance horse".

He showed that by keeping a horse's focus on his work, and yielding to his rider, fear in a horse can be overcome. I would have like to have seen it in action, like maybe someone trying to spook the horse as he worked it, but he explained that the horse he was working with was green, and he had only been working with her for 2 days, so I can see how that would be a potentially unsafe situation.
*Happy Update!* I was told in the comments below that the horse's name is Bella, and she and her rider are doing wonderful thanks to John's wisdom!
After John Lyons, we headed over to watch Charles Wilhelm, with "How Trick Training Builds a Relationship and Confidence in Horse and Rider". He explained simple ways to begin teaching your horse how to "Park", where his back feet stretch back like a show horse's, and how to begin to teach the bow. It was getting incredibly hot and his microphone started cutting out, but I was enjoying his presentation.
He had an easy way of working with his horse that I liked, and if I see any clinics with him around my area, I'd make it a point to go.

We headed back to pick up some "We're closing and don't want to haul this stuff home" sales, where I found a trail bag that hooks onto your saddle horn. I also tested out a Black Forest Treeless Saddle, and I must say, it was way comfy!!
It was more comfy than anything I've ever sat in, so I'm going to do a little more research on them.

Well, tired, sunburned, and a little sweaty, but all in all, a great horse experience!! A must see for any horse lover!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Ok, so let me preface this by saying: I know that horses need certain nutrition, and that some foods are not good to feed to horses on a regular basis. You may not agree with this blog post, but it's all about learning, and this was something offered to my horse with the utmost discretion. I normally do not make a habit of feeding my horse anything except apples, carrots, oranges, and the occasional banana. Now, on with the story!

Cheetos, YuckyLip, and You.

I planned on heading to the barn straight after work. I had brought my "barn clothes" with me- jeans, a scrubby (and probably permanently stained) shirt, my Ariat boots, and thick comfy socks. I waited until it was time for my work day to end, and then changed into my horsie attire. Then I realized the horror. The horror of ALL horrors.

I had brought NO offering for the horse.

See, I usually bring a piece of fruit for him to enjoy at the end of our time together. It's usually an apple or an orange, sometimes other offerings, but always in the scope of what is "acceptable fare" for horses. I searched frantically through my purse, my backpack, the break room at work....I had brought no such treat.

Now, let's be serious. Would Altivo really care if he didn't get a treat after our ride? Would he hold it against me the next day, angry that I had not brought him something to nibble on? Probably not. He would probably just dig into his hay and move treats is as much a psychological gift to me as it is a gastronomical joy for him.
Regardless, I lamented my oversight out loud to a co-worker. I told her in whining tones how horrible of a horse owner I was. I wailed that I was ashamed to show my face to my horse, of having to explain to him my drastic oversight. Taking pity on me, she searched her desk, and came up with this:

Yes, a single serving bag of Cheetos. (Please note, I have yet to be paid or compensated for any endorsements on my blog, so this is entirely non-biased. I haven't eaten Cheetos in years, and this tiny snack bag was more Cheeto-ness than I had taken possession of in a long time.)

I immediately exclaimed, "Horses can't eat Cheetos!!!" She shrugged, and dropped the snack size bag onto my desk. "Well, they're yours now, so take 'em!"

I looked down at the orange bag, and did what anyone needing validation would do. I googled it.

This is what I googled: "Can horses eat Cheetos?"

I didn't see any immediate danger signs pop up, and I figured, well, they were corn at one I jammed the bag into my purse and headed for the barn. It rained earlier in the day, so I had a muddy horse. Rather than rinse him off for a ride, I figured today would be a good day for ground work. Then I remembered the bag. The tiny little orange bag in my purse....the crinkly foil bag.
I crosstied him and groomed him as usual, then I couldn't wait to give him this new, exotic treat.

I showed him the cheery bag with the flashy print:
When he knows I have a treat for him, he arches his neck, perks his ears up , and gives you the sweetest look on earth. It just screams, "You WANT, nay, NEED, to give me a treat!"
 It's very I offered a single cheeto.
 He chewed it eagerly, then slowed. The look of excited anticipation faded from him, turning into one of concentration and confusion. This was not a familiar food was crunchy and salty. He lifted his lip, trying to process the taste and smell.
I have named this look, "YuckyLip".
I offered one more Cheeto, which he took slowly, chewing slower now. He thought for a moment, then it happened.
He gave me a solid YuckyLip.

Poor Altivo!
Not at all what he expected, and certainly not at all tasty!
I offered a third Cheeto, and he clamped his lips shut, dropped his head, and looked defeated.
It's not a bad thing, really. Horses shouldn't be eating junk food, and since there's no mini-mart near his stall, I'd be the culprit supplying him with Cheetos. I'll stick to fruit and veggies, and leave the Cheetos for me.

And don't worry, I took him out to eat a few mouthfuls of grass to cleanse his palate after the horrible episode, now known as Cheeto-gate. An apple followed the day after, and he seems to forgotten about the whole incident....for now.