More Than One Way

First of all — MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

With a new year and resolutions it’s time for new thinking which is what led me to my post this time. Sit down and think a spell….

Recently I had the wonderful privilege of being called the “Idiot Of The Day” when I responded to a post on Facebook about how selfish and cruel it was to clip the muzzle on your horse because they needed their whiskers to feel the wind and find water. My post stated that I clipped only for shows and in over twenty years I’d never had one that seemed harmed by it, nor had I had any accidents.

With a little research, I quickly found out that the arrogant person behind the community promoting “common sense with horses” is affectionately known as the “Jerry Springer” of the horse world. With narcissistic videos on YouTube and an open deep hatred for women, it’s clear he lives for conflict and he’s managed to sensationalize himself into a cult following.

Quite frankly, after seeing his posts and doing a little research it’s extremely clear the man has severe anger issues and I’m thoroughly convinced he’s got a few “Barn Witches”, as he likes to call them, buried under his basement somewhere!

At any rate, it’s obvious he would never even remotely entertain the idea that he might be wrong. The funny thing is that a lot of times the initial premise in what he posts has a small nugget of truth. But he goes in a totally different extreme direction and that direction is the only way and all others are selfish and stupid.

While I’ve always said the horse industry is like a soap opera and full of crazies, after the post experience I was still shocked at just how many there are on so many levels.

One thing that I noticed is that there are some people who are dogmatic when it comes to taking what someone says as pure gold. The mind-set that if “So and So” said it then it HAS to be true! They have lost their ability, if they ever had it in the first place, to think for themselves and try something to see if it’s actually true for them.

Another thing I noticed was that these same people usually think they have to be extremely hateful to get their point across. If they’re right why do they have to be so hateful? Maybe they’ve just been in the cult too long?

Why does the horse industry get so locked down into it having to be one certain way?

We all know people like that and we’ve all seen them. We all may have been them at one in point in time until we knew better — The clinician follower, the trainer groupie.  There’s a lot of money made on those two categories of folks.

Yet there’s lots of people out there, well-known and not so well-known, that do a fabulous job working with horses because they have an open mind and they love working with them. But because they’re not as well-known, they don’t hold as much as weight as the ones that have made a big name for themselves. Does that mean they’re not as credible or they’re not as good a horseman? We tend to think so but I don’t agree.

Circle C Clinic pen 1

There’s a saying that I see from time to time floating around Facebook that basically says that horsemanship is about realizing that everything you think you know about horses can completely change with the very next horse. I love that saying because to me, that’s exactly what it’s all about. You never know it all and there’s never any one way when it comes to horses.

Through the years, there have been many training methods that I’ve latched on to for a few years only to come back full circle to what I originally used. Maybe it took a while but after trying something different I realized that the original way was better. But the neat thing is that I learned something new that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had an open mind to try something different.

There’s also been things that I’ve been skeptical about that I’ve tried any way that wound up working so well that I changed how I did things. You never know where a good training idea is going to come from!

Speaking of open minds and horsemanship, I have to share the link to my other blog, Talking In The Barn.  I interviewed Sam Finden who is a young author that loves horses as much as he loves to write. He’s also a humble horseman that will get you thinking about horses and horsemanship.

SMGH New Cover Art

Have you ever been closed-minded about a training idea? What was it? Have you ever changed your mind about a training idea? How did it make an impact on you?

 

 

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There’s Only Two Things To Worry About…

This year I haven’t ridden nearly as much as I should have due to some overwhelming events coupled with some soundness issues. When it looked like I might be able to finally haul to a horse show, I jumped at the chance. I knew ahead of time my horses weren’t really ready to show but for me it was just an opportunity to get them out and hopefully have some fun. We both needed it!

I decided to take our green mare that’s been hauled a few times but never shown under saddle and one of my geldings that’s done everything from sort cows to extreme cowboy races.  Neither had been worked a whole lot but I figured we’d make the most of it. If we all survived, I’d be happy!

The morning of the show we happened to get the first frost of the season. Needless to say both horses’ energy levels were through the roof! We were able to get to the show about an hour before and let them see everything. Fortunately they kept their snorting and upturned tails to a minimum.

My husband showed the mare in In Hand Trail first. Although she’d never even seen a trail obstacle let alone navigate one she managed the ‘L’ shaped back through and the other obstacles beautifully well.

Next my husband showed my gelding in the same class. Now, this horse can pivot with the best of them but he tested my husband through every move and at one point had all four feet off the ground as they trotted over the course.

Since I know the gelding very well, after seeing that little display of attitude I knew he was going to be even worse under saddle and I had two classes before it was my turn. I decided to use a nearby paddock to get the buck out except he managed to crow hop, buck and rear a couple feet off the ground. Although entertained with the show he put on, I think several of the pleasure folks were a little mortified at his rodeo ability. For him and I it was just par for the course! I’ve kind of gotten used to his antics over the years.

Our first Trail class he practically eradicated the trail pattern. If they had given out an award for most destructive trail pattern of the day, we would have won it! Of course, I was still on a high from the bronc ride I’d just taken so I’m sure my nerves didn’t help any at all so I can’t blame it all on him.

The second pattern he didn’t settle too well either but at least we left some of the elements intact. But the last three obstacles it was like I was on a totally different horse. He settled and handled them like the horse I know he can be at times.

The last challenge was to rope the calf dummy. He side passed in to pick up the rope like a pro and then stood perfectly still while we roped the dummy and then recoiled the rope. Then he calmly side passed to put the rope back. Where had this horse been the whole time? Or, maybe he just wants to be a rope horse. The jury is still out on that one!

After that I tied him to the trailer and I looked up a little while later and he had all four feet up in the air. He wasn’t pulling, just bucking away. Some terrified soul came and untied him but had he been at a barrel race he would have stayed there all day, which is what we normally do.

The mare, on the other hand was a totally different story. I rode her in two walk/jog pleasure classes. She wasn’t as finished as the other horses and she broke a time or two but she trafficked well and didn’t look at anything. Considering we’re still working on being able to walk a straight line, she did incredibly well.

In her walk/jog Horsemanship class, she kept a nice little consistent stride and gave me one of the smoothest stops I think she’s done so far. I couldn’t have been any happier!

The next weekend I judged for the folks that ran the show. They gave me a bottle of wine and a sign that read, “Ride Your Best Horse First”. We all had a good laugh over that one and I think we all know who my best horse is after that last show!

I had worried all week about the green horse and what she might do only to be outdone by the horse that had the most experience. I had played all kinds of crazy scenarios in my head about what the mare might do but in the end it was the gelding that gave me the most to worry about.

I should have remembered a clinician that I went to see a few years back – Josh Lyons. He said he worried all the time about riding young or tough horses. He imagined all kinds of crazy “what ifs” just like I’d done. His dad told him he was over thinking- there’s always only two things to worry about– staying on or falling off.

If you stayed on, there was nothing to worry about. If you fell off there was only two things to worry about – not getting hurt or getting hurt. If you didn’t get hurt there was nothing to worry about. If you did get hurt there was only two things to worry about – living or dying. If you lived….you get the picture.

Nerves and a crazy imagination can certainly get the best of us. Maybe if I hadn’t been worrying about more than two things my nerves would have been a little calmer and I might have had at least a little better ride on that gelding.

What are some of the things that you’ve worried about when it comes to riding your horses? How often have they come true? How has your nerves impacted your riding or horse’s performance?

PHOTOS 

Here’s some links to the pics that Keith Mooney Photography took –

My husband & Mare in Trail – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/42-45-ALL-Trail-Classes-1/i-29xpr7c

My husband & Gelding in Trail – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/42-45-ALL-Trail-Classes-1/i-VW56GjX/A

My ride on the Gelding in Trail – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/42-45-ALL-Trail-Classes-1/i-R5ZTKSh

My ride on the Gelding in Trail – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/42-45-ALL-Trail-Classes-1/i-hqdsLt7/A

My ride on the Mare in Horsemanship – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/68-W-J-Horsemanship/i-FsM3VPH/A

Mo in her In Hand Trail Class

MO STEVE

Taking Risks….

Giving lessons and being an active part in the local horse community, the topic of fear or the inability to do something comes up on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s a conversation about being afraid to break colts, other times it’s the inability to work with a difficult horse. Other times it may be as simple as not being able to do an exercise that’s needed to ride better.

When I was young, I was probably the most cautious child you’d ever meet. Even as a toddler, I was famous for saying, “I not hurt me!” when they would get on to me for doing something. I did it anyway, but I was very cautious about it and had already thought the whole thing out. As an adult, I guess I’ve kind of kept that same mindset.

Yes, I ride my horses when there’s no one around. I’ve been known to get on a colt the first time without anyone at home and my phone back in the barn. While those activities are taking a risk, they’re a calculated risk taken with a certain mindset and certain preparation.

Before I step up on a colt, I make sure they’re broke before I ever get on the first time. It makes no sense to me to get on a thousand pound animal that you can’t control. That’s dangerous. It’s a lot less dangerous to get on a horse that’s had enough foundational ground work that getting on them is the next logical step to you and them both.

The saying that if you get a horse’s mind you’ll get their feet is very true. That’s why I don’t like stepping up on a horse if they’re not focused on me. Again, it’s dangerous to get on an animal that big that you can’t control.

You also have to know your limits and your horse’s limits. If you’re not a great bronc rider, then most likely you don’t need to get on a horse that likes to buck during warm up. By the same token, if you take a young horse to a crowded show for their first outing, they’re not going to be able to handle it. Staying safe and not getting hurt means knowing your limits and working inside of those.

If you’re not a bronc rider and your horse likes to buck when he’s fresh, then maybe you need to lunge before every ride to stay safe. Instead of taking that young horse to a crowded show for the first time out maybe haul over to a friend’s house or a much smaller and safer show. Find ways to set yourself and your horse up for success.

Even with the best laid plans and the best horses things can happen. We’ve all heard of stories where horrific things have happened that never should have. The truth of the matter is that riding a dangerous sport, period. But then life is as well. None of us are guaranteed the very next breath no matter how healthy we are. But that’s not reason to live your life in fear and let fear dictate your life with your horses. Life is too short for that as it is.

 

Every time I’ve gotten hurt with horses it’s been because I got in a hurry. I either left out a step in training, or I pushed my horse into something he wasn’t ready for just yet. Being patient and building the proper foundation, reading your horse well and planning your rides and your path can help not only to keep you happy but it can also help you take new risks and experience new things with your horse. Don’t be afraid to get out and try new things or even ride new horses. Just be smart about it and enjoy the ride!

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The Loss Of Versatility

When the AQHA was started decades ago, their goal was to promote a horse that could do anything. In fact, in the early years it was a expected that horse be sensible and useable. For many years, the motto of the International Arabian Horse Association was the “The most versatile horse on earth.” In the early years, it wasn’t uncommon for both of these breeds to spend their week days doing jobs such as cow work, pulling buggies or even plowing fields, and their weekends running races or showing. Legendary ranches such as Al Marah and the 6666 Ranches were producers of such horses, especially in those early years.

While both breeds are still extremely multitalented if given the chance, it’s rare to see a show or competition horse that gets to do more than their assigned discipline or event. In addition to that, show horses are often kept in the pen and rarely get a chance to step out of the show environment to a herd of cows or an open trail. Sadder still is the acceptance that it’s ok for these horses not to behave well in a non-show environment because they are show horses. In a lot of cases it’s expected. For instance, Show Trail horses aren’t expected to be ok with throwing a rope because that’s not part of the show trail requirements.

A discipline shouldn’t limit a horse but enhance it. Yet in today’s world, that’s pretty much what specialization has done. We’ve created horses that are limited in what they can do, and even where they can go. Show horses spook on the trail or barrel horses run off in an open field or jumpers bolt at the sight of a cow. It didn’t start out this way but our attitudes about the ability of these horses were different.

While I can appreciate the fact that today’s horse business and level of competition requires more specialization than it ever has before, I also think there is still a place and a need for a certain amount of versatility in all horses. I also realize the fact that few horses are going to be national champions at everything they try, but I also think that shouldn’t keep us from at least trying it on a small level. Furthermore, I believe that when done correctly, versatility can in fact enhance the skills that are used in their specialized event.

I have a good friend that puts on Horsemanship and Ranch clinics. He also breaks high dollar colts for a dressage trainer. I’ve been to several of his Ranch clinics where he’s used a young Trakehner or Oldenburg to herd cows. It’s also not uncommon to see a couple of english riders at his clinics sorting cows because they know the value of versatility in their horses. While they may not be the best or the quickest at cow work, in the end the horse has benefited from time doing something different.

There are plenty of low key and inexpensive opportunities out there to let your horse try something different. Trail riding, open and schooling shows, cattle sorting practices, and ranch clinics are all ways to let your horse try something new. Try your barrel on a ranch trail pattern at an open show. Try showing your jumper in a training level class at a dressage schooling show. Try your pleasure or dressage horse on cows at a sorting practice.

By including some versatility in your horse’s routine, not only will you see your horse’s attitude improve since they’re doing something new but you’ll also get a chance to work on the same skills they use in their main discipline but in a different way.

What event or discipline is the main focus for your horse? What other events can you try that are similar to his main event that will offer your horse a chance to do something different? If you feel that you can’t try a different event, why? What training can you do with your horse that will improve him so that he can do that different event?

Sorting on a barrel horse & an Arab hunter horse

Sorting on Barrel Horse & Hunter Horse