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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Making History At The RFD American Million Dollar Barrel Race

If you’ve got anything to do with the barrel racing industry at all, you’ve no doubt heard the buzz about the first million dollar barrel race, The American, hosted by RFD-TV and sanctioned by Better Barrel Races. With the semi-finals held in Mesquite, Texas and the finals at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the American is a not only the most lucrative rodeo in the United States, it’s also the first time in history that men have been allowed to run barrels at a rodeo event.

Some of the top male riders in the country qualified to compete at the semi-finals but only one young man made it to the top twenty. That young man is Clint Sherlin of Athens, Tennessee. Bully By Design, also known as Red, is the horse that took Clint to the semi-finals. Red is the product of a long standing business partnership between the Sherlin family (Clint, his parents Joel and Nancy) and the Hayes family (Chris and Shelley, and daughters Bayli, Lilli, Maddi) of Philadelphia, Tennessee.

Clint and Red first shined in the spotlight when the pair won the NBHA World Championship in 2012, appearing on the cover of Barrel Horse News. The Hayes’ daughter, Bayli, has also gained notoriety with Red at several large barrel races as well and is becoming quite the jockey on such a powerful horse under Joel, Nancy, and Clint’s tutoring.

Having purchased two barrel prospects from the Sherlin and Hayes families, I have watched The American with great interest. However, it goes a whole lot deeper than that. You see, I’ve known Clint since he was a young kid riding any horse that was  thrown his way and making it look good. Joel has also been my farrier for many years, not to mention that Joel and Nancy both have invested countless (and selfless) hours in me while trying to make me into a better jockey.  We’ve went on road trips to barrel races together, and it’s always been an adventure from dodging tornadoes  and mud to dealing with flat tires. All those memories are very precious to me and are the reason that I’ve taken such an interest in The American.

For Clint, and the rest of the Sherlin family, the road to The American has not always been an easy one. They definitely didn’t start out with the best horses. In fact, it was horses that no one wanted that gave them their start. For many years, they honed their riding and training skills on horses with issues that most people gave up on. Although difficult, and most certainly with a delayed pay day, those years of riding problem horses  and making it work have not only turned them into one of the best riding and training teams in the country, but it’s also created a family that I would describe as “salt of the earth” type folks.

In a sea of top kicks and hundred thousand dollar living quarter trailers, it’s not unusual to see the brown and yellow  “Double OO” trailer, or a 1975 Mercury Grand Marquis if the Sherlin clan is in town. While the rest of the world has to have the latest and greatest, its their genuine down to earth practicality and their focus and dedication to making the best horses that make them a rare gem in the barrel industry.

Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s been a historical race as full of hopes and dreams since the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. The common man was a contender in that race too. In a couple of days Clint and Red will be making their run for the finals at The American. Not only will that run be making history, but it will also represent the hopes and dreams of two of the finest and most down to earth families in the barrel racing industry.

Ride hard Clint & Red!

Joel & Nancy at the parade with their draft horses

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Joel shoeing SV Shawne Fire N Te, aka Fireman.

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Our trip to the Futurity in Fort Smith in the Double OO

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The Mercury on the way to the BFA in Oklahoma City. By the way, we’d blown a tire!

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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

Big Changes For Fairweather Farm

I’ve gotten behind on updating my blog the last couple of weeks but it’s with good reason. We’ve been moving!

It’s been eight days since we started packing and moving and we still have several loads to move. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate over a period of eleven years and even more amazing how you think the whole process will take less time than it winds up taking! Fortunately we moved only a few minutes away. Had it been any further and I’m not sure we would have survived! Moving is hard work!

Our old farm was a little over four acres and the new farm is a little over twenty one acres. Considering all of our horses were previously stalled during part of the day and rotated out on the same pasture, having full turnout on good grass will be a welcome change for us all.

We’re still having to rotate everyone on one pasture but fortunately it’s temporary and it’s much bigger than the previous one. The first day we turned the horses out, they weren’t sure whether they wanted to stretch their legs in the big field or eat knee deep grass. I think the first few minutes were a combination of both as they trotted and cantered with their heads buried in the tall grass. By night’s end however they settled close to the gate and I don’t think they moved until the next morning.

NEW BARN

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THE MAIN PASTURE

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BACK PASTURE

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We still have quite a bit of work to do. Electric fence has to be put up on the back side of the back pasture, a second run shed has to be built, the round pen put up, and gravel and mats put in the stalls are the biggest items we need to get off the list. Even though it’s hard work, it’s exciting to see the changes taking place that will make chores much easier!

What changes are taking place in your life? Are they making your life easier or harder? 

Rain, Rain, and MORE Rain!

This year has really been wet. We’ve had more rain in a month than we get all year. For horse people that can really play havoc with your schedule, among other things.

For instance, by now we would have normally put our second cutting of hay. Around here hay takes at least three days to bale so that it can dry out and cure. Because we’ve not had three days in a row where it didn’t rain, our hay is still growing out in the field uncut.

We don’t have a big  place and I use every square inch that I can to keep the horses from getting bored in the pend. One place that I do a lot of riding at is around and in the wet weather pond in our pasture. When it’s filled with a little water, I can lope nice big circles around the edge. When it’s all dried up, which is usually June through October, I can ride in the middle of it since the bottom is somewhat nice and flat. As of today, the wet weather pond has about three and half feet of water in it and I can’t even ride around the edge.

Of course with as heavy rain as we’ve had, in some cases raining three days straight non stop, the weather really plays havoc on a training and conditioning schedule. There’s been a lot of days it’s just rained to hard to even saddle up and just walk, let alone do anything else.

The horses, on the other hand, have enjoyed all the rain. Not only do we have good grass for what little pasture we have but the horses have gotten to keep their swimming pool through the heat this year. They love to play and splash in it and had rather drink out of it than the water trough.

I’d like to hear what your weather has been like and how it’s messed with your plans? Has it kept you from doing what you would normally be doing this time of year? Image

You can see how they’d rather drink from the nasty pond! 

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You can see how deep the pond is now — even outside the fence! There’s no where to ride.