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

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Setting Goals

Setting a measurable goal is important if you want to accomplish certain things in life. Working with horses is no different. While measurable goals are necessary for the big objectives, they’re also necessary for the small steps you take with your horse on a daily basis. If you don’t set goals every time you handle your horse, you run the risk of not only losing focus, but upsetting your horse as well.

Most of us that show have no problem setting a big goal for competition. That’s an integral part of competing, really. But sometimes what we don’t do is set a goal for every time we ride. Sometimes we get so rushed that we focus on warming up or doing our routine that we forget about the details. In the end, we ride mindlessly on our horses and /or we wind up drilling too much on certain things.

 Years ago a good trainer friend of mine said that horses have the mentality of a three year old child. That concept has come back to me time after time and it’s a good one to hold on to. While the image of a three year old child conjures up a limited understanding, it also brings up the subject of attention span. Most three year old children can’t concentrate on something for more than just a couple of minutes before they’re thinking, “Ooooohhhhhh…. Look at all the pretty colors!” Then most parents are struggling to get their attention back. Horses are absolutely no different.

 Your first basic goal should be to keep your training sessions short, especially when working with younger horses. You want to focus on the important stuff while you don’t have to fight for their attention. If you work for a longer period, they’re going to get frustrated because you’re going to have to battle that desire to “look at all the pretty colors.” Quit before that happens.

 You might think that short sessions don’t do any good. Horses learn by repetition and have a wonderful memory. It doesn’t matter how long the session is or really even how long it is between sessions. What matters most is the consistency and number of sessions.

Another goal should be to focus on only a couple of things per ride. Don’t start your ride thinking you have to accomplish everything that’s needed to do your class or event. Focus on only a couple of things and accomplish those. Then the next ride, focus on something else.

For instance, green horses don’t travel well in a straight line. They also don’t keep a consistent speed, and depending on how far along they are they may not know how to take a correct lead. The absolute worst thing you can do is go out there and try to make that green horse do all three of those things during your work session. Break it down and focus on only a couple of things, like a straight line and a good forward tempo at a trot. Then next time you can work on your canter.

A repetition goal is also important and needs to be determined before you ever step up into the saddle. How many times are you going to lope on the left lead? How many times are you going to ask your horse to back? How many times are you going to jump over that particular jump? Decide these goals ahead of time and then keep track of them while you’re riding so that you don’t over work your horse to the point of being sour.

Last, and probably the most important goal is to quit your ride on a good note. If you have to set your horse up to quit on a good note, by all means find something he’s good at and quit on that.This is especially critical if there’s something that your horse is struggling with because quitting speaks louder to a horse than drilling on what you’re trying to teach.

If I’ve got a horse that’s really struggling with something, I’ll make that the goal for the day. If my horse reaches that goal in just a few minutes, I’ll quit for the day right then. I can always ride tomorrow but that horse just tried and accomplished something he couldn’t before. Quitting on a good note tells him he did the right thing, and it boosts his confidence.

So what goals have you been setting for your rides? How do you determine those goals?

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Sharing What You Have For Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner. It’s a time of giving but it should also be a time of reflection of how blessed we are. Often we get so caught up in the usual holiday obligations that we don’t stop and think how blessed we truly are to do what we do with our horses.

Most of us are pretty quick to be thankful for our horse. Our unique blessing actually goes a whole lot further than that, especially if you keep your horses on your own place. Most of us horse owners have a tendency to not even recognize just how fortunate we are.

Even at our old place that was just under 5 acres, I did feel very fortunate to be able to keep my horses at my house. It’s nice to just walk outside and dump feed and do stalls, etc. But as the new wore off, I complained about the barn, complained that I needed more pasture, complained that I wanted to be further out away from everything.

It wasn’t until some friends of ours from Pennsylvania came over that I began to see things completely different. They were from the city and lived in a subdivision. Our lifestyle, even on that small acreage, was completely foreign to them. What I thought was too crowded and too small was a rural paradise of quiet for them. They loved to just come and sit on the front porch of that old farm house and enjoy the country, or just come and pet the horses. What I had taken for granted was a great treat to them.

You might have competition goals and wish you had a more competitive horse. Keep in mind that while you’re wishing for another horse, some young kid or adult that can’t have one is just wishing for ANY horse. It doesn’t have to be a blue ribbon winner. As competitors we have a tendency to set our standards so high that we forget about the blessing of just having a horse in the first place.

As you stop and think about the blessings that go with owning your horse, also stop and think about those folks that don’t have that blessing but that would love to. Find ways to share that. It doesn’t have to be a two-hour trail ride through the mountains or an hour-long lesson in a dressage arena. It can be simple. Sometimes something as simple as inviting someone over to just pet your horse can make someone’s day. It’s amazing how a simple ride while you lead can bring a huge smile to a person’s face, adults and kids alike.

Pass the blessing on. Who can you share your horse with today?