Happenings At Fairweather Farm

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot sure has gone on since then.

Just this month I wrote an article on Time Tips For Showing that Horse & Ranch magazine published. If you get stressed showing you’ll want to check it out!

My article in Horse & Ranch Magazine
My article in Horse & Ranch Magazine

I also launched Cowgirls With Curves a couple months back. It’s a blog and website for plus size riders to highlight their efforts, encourage them, and to help motivate and give them a voice. It’s something that I can relate to first hand, and it’s something I’m passionate about!

Back in early April I had to put my twenty-five year old gelding down. I had owned Matthew’s Bluff, aka Bluff, for twenty-three years.

I went to bring in the geldings that morning and he was unable to control his hind end and was falling. He was trying so desperately to come in because it was feeding time and I was worried he was going to fall into the fence. The vet suspected he had a stroke and I knew we had no other choice. The hard part was that I knew he wasn’t ready to go, but at the same time he hadn’t suffered. Quite frankly, had none of this happened and it was a case of planning his euthanasia I’m not sure I would have had any more peace. So I guess this was the least of the evils.

Bluff taught me so much, like how to ride big horses, and how to re-hab a track horse. I’m sure going to miss him!

Mister Decision, aka Bluff
Mister Decision, aka Bluff
Bluff & Fireman loved to scratch shoulders.
Bluff & Fireman loved to scratch shoulders.

About a month after that, my bay gelding Cool presented with what we thought was colic but then spiked a temperature of 106.2 and required IV antibiotics and fluids. I spent most of the time in the barn and needless to say there wasn’t a lot of sleep, and my pocket-book is a lot lighter. The vet suspected an infection but unfortunately we don’t have a definite answer. The good news is he’s back to his grumpy little self.

The cat hammock
The cat hammock
Ponying Cool
Ponying Cool

This past weekend was a nice milestone. Mister Decision, aka Bubba, won me the High Point award for the Smoky Mountain Show Series held at Tri-State in Cleveland, Tennessee. We showed in Ranch Trail, Horsemanship, Barrels, and Poles.

Last year, this same gelding left a nice big bruise on my leg when he acted like a bronc before one of my classes. Then later in the year he wouldn’t settle on the trail pattern and managed to knock over the gate and one of the boxes. So to just get through a trail pattern leaving everything intact was progress!

Smoky Mountain Horse Show at Tri-state in Cleveland, Tennessee
Smoky Mountain Horse Show at Tri-state in Cleveland, Tennessee

My barrel horse, Shawne Fire N Te, aka Fireman, is going to have several weeks off. Last year we struggled with keeping him tracking sound. I finally bit the bullet and had x-rays done. Although his feet looked perfect and were on the exact same angle the bones were nowhere near the alignment that we thought they were in shoeing. So we’re making some major changes and hopefully will be back to barrel racing later in the year.

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity
Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity

On an end note, Oscar the donkey that we rescued is still here. Last weekend he was gelded. And no, it didn’t go as planned but then when does it ever with a donkey? Yes, he still likes his butt scratched.

Oscar says hello!
Oscar says hello!

 

Advertisements

A Solution To The Slaughter Issue?

© copyright owned by F.J. Thomas

There’s been a lot of very heated debates world-wide over the horse slaughter issue. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of people like to complain about human nature but very few people actually offer a solution that’s realistic. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not offering a solution then you’re whining.” I think that’s true.

One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January.  This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January. This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
Foster donkey (spring 2015) - Working on getting him gentle.
Oscar – he’s a rescue donkey we’re currently fostering until we can find him a home.

While I don’t think there’s an absolute solution, I do think there just might be a way to save some horses, educate owners, help bring awareness, and support the Horse Rescues all at the same time. What it requires is for people to come together and think bigger, outside the box. A lot of rescues focus on getting more donations – I say they need to think bigger, much bigger.

What if all the local Horse Rescues came together and started a national or maybe even world-wide registry?

Think about that for a moment… Something along the lines of recognized breed registries already in existence but instead of getting papers through breeding, the Registration papers would be issued from the Rescue itself and the Rescue Registry. When you adopt a horse from a rescue, they would issue a Rescue Registration to the horse. Individuals that rescue on their own could apply for a registration by sending in pictures. The Registry itself could regulate breeding by not accepting the foal of a registered horse if it was bred after the horse left the registry.

It doesn’t end there however… 

What if the Rescue Registry held local shows and competitions where horses could earn points toward a national Rescue Registry show that’s held once a year? The only horses that could compete would be rescue horses with the Rescue Registry papers.

The local and national approved shows could get Sponsorships from businesses – much like Jumping and Barrel Racing already do – and offer added money as an incentive. Look at the RFD-TV American Rodeo that offered a million dollars. People came out of the woodwork to compete for the American – money talks!

The Extreme Mustang Makeover and Retired Race Horse Project are already doing this exact thing. They both have been very successful at not only saving some horses, but also bringing an awareness of slaughter, and bringing new people into the horse industry. If the Horse Rescues came together, they could do the same thing on a national or even global level.

Some points to ponder for shows would be: 

  • Get major money behind the movement in the form of sponsorships & media  -people love heart string stories
  • Make the shows much more affordable than the average breed or discipline show to encourage new owners to show their horses for the first time
  • Get involved with local 4H & Pony Club 
  • Offer scholarships to the national show
  • Offer classes for all breeds & disciplines as rescue horses are all breeds – Include Donkey & Mule classes!
  • Co-Sanction with other associations as much as possible to offer approved classes within the show.
  • A high percentage of rescue horses are trail horses – offer an ACTHA or Ranch Trail class for those folks 
  • Offer an In-Hand Trail or Agility type class specifically for retired horses that are not rideable due to soundness issues – this would open up an opportunity for people with those horses to compete 

One concern that comes up is when rescue horses are placed in the homes of well-meaning people who honestly don’t have a clue. The Registry could get local trainers on board and get them to donate their time to locally held Horsemanship clinics. They could cover basic Horsemanship and basic showing and make it affordable.  New owners would learn about horsemanship, trainers would get the word out about what they do, all the while helping horses.

Again, I don’t think this would be a complete solution to the problem of unwanted horses and slaughter. You can’t change human nature and things people do which is why regulation doesn’t work very well. However, money does talk and it motivates people to get involved when they might not be otherwise. When you give people an incentive and an avenue to compete, it makes a difference as we’ve seen with the Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Retired Race Horse Project. 

Obviously there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out and a lot of work to be done to get the ball rolling. But the first step is discussion and building the momentum behind the idea. It’s amazing what can happen when people start talking about what started out as a simple idea. Legendary things have happened by just taking that one step.

So what can you do to help? Share this post. Talk to your friends and fellow competitors. Talk the local trainers. Talk to your local rescue and encourage them start holding shows for the horses they adopt out. The main thin is to just get people talking and get them asking how they can do something instead of saying why they can’t.

 

Lacy - She's a rescued mare that we've had for a lot of years and she's now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!
Lacy – She’s a rescued mare that we’ve had for a lot of years and she’s now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinal Rules Of Showing – Tips For Your First Show

Spring is almost here and if you’re like a lot of folks, you’re already thinking about the show season. Some of you may have already scheduled your entire show season, and others may be considering showing for the first time. Either way, now is the best time to set your goals and schedule accordingly.

SHOW RING

Being a competitor and a judge, I see a lot of new comers to barrel races and horse shows. Remembering what it’s like to be a complete novice and not know anyone, I always try to reach out and help folks that are new to showing. Regardless of what level you ride at, or what event you decide to compete in there’s a lot to learn and a lot of “unwritten rules”.

MO STEVE

The first cardinal rule is always bring your Coggins test even if it doesn’t say it’s required!

The second cardinal rule is thoroughly read the Show Bill or Prize List and pay attention to all the details. The show bill will tell you when the show starts, what the rules are, how much entry fees are and if there are any miscellaneous fees.

The show bill will also list the classes that will be offered. You’ll want to decide way ahead of time which classes you want to ride in. Write down the number and name of the class on a sheet of paper and keep that with you at all times. It’s also a good idea to keep a show bill in your pocket. This way you won’t forget which classes you’re entering at sign up – you’d be amazed how many people forget. This also helps to speed up the sign up process.

100_2248

Speaking of sign ups, one question I often get is “What do I do to sign up and where do I go?”

Every event will have either a sign up table or an actual show office. This is where you sign up and pay for classes and get information about the show. Another tip is always bring cash. Not every show takes checks so be prepared.

 

Another cardinal rule of showing is be ready for your class! Always know what class is in the arena so that you’ll know when it’s time for you to be close to the in gate and ready to go in. If you miss your class, you can be disqualified and in most cases entry fees won’t be refunded.

cool halter1

If you think you might not have enough time between classes to get tack or horses changed, request a “Tack Change” at the time of sign ups. That way the judge and ring steward will know you’re running late and will allot a little extra time before the class.

extreme 114

One cardinal rule that is frequently broken is know your patterns. Most shows will post the pattern early on to let contestants memorize it ahead of time. Look at and memorize the pattern as early as possible so that you know what you’re supposed to be doing in the pen. One tip is to take a picture of the pattern with your phone – that way you can carry it with you.

The last cardinal rule I’ll talk about is getting to the show early. A good rule of thumb is to get to the show at least two hours before it starts. That way you have plenty of time to acclimate your horses and warm up.There’s nothing more stressful to you or your horse than dashing into a class at the last-minute.

0510141050

By planning ahead way ahead, allotting for enough time, and paying attention to the details your first show experience can be a positive one.

Are you planning on showing or competing this year? If so, what events? What are you looking forward to and what are you worried about?

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

The Horse Is Always Right

At times we get so locked into a certain way of training or thinking that we can’t see, or believe in, another way to teach a horse how to do something. We think because “so-so” says a method doesn’t work or isn’t the way they do something that an outside idea holds no merit. Well, there’s nothing like a horse that doesn’t fit “the mold” to pull a good horseman out of that way of thinking. I’ve always said that difficult horses make the best horsemen and this is one of the reasons why.

 

The usual give and release methods will work on most difficult horses – if they’re applied correctly. But every now and then you run into a horse that’s a little harder nut to crack and the usual give and release methods will only go so far. That’s when the real work begins.

 

Sometimes all a tough horse needs is a lesson to be broken down a little more so they can grasp it better. Contrary to popular belief, these types of horses aren’t stupid. In fact they’re quite the opposite – they’re often incredibly smart. The problem is that they’re so smart they get ahead of you and themselves and they get overwhelmed, or they get over stimulated and don’t know how to handle it.

 

At other times a difficult horse may need an entirely different approach. Horses like that require a good bit of analytical thinking to figure out where they’re coming from and why. Once you figure those two things out, then the next step is taking that information to determine the best way to help the horse out.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is the big picture. If a horse makes a big stride in one task, don’t hammer on them for one small infraction or the big lesson is lost. Focus on the main thing that you’re trying to teach that day.

 

As Ray Hunt said, the horse is always right. A lot of horsemen bristle at that remark but it’s entirely true. For one, we’re supposed to be smarter than the horse and expect the horse to be a horse so horse actions shouldn’t really come as a surprise no matter how bad they are. Horses will be horses because that’s what they are and what they do! Not only that, a horse is just a product of what someone made them to be. If they act out it’s because something was missed somewhere –remember, we’re supposed to be the smarter species?

 

It pays to have an open mind when working with any horse. Just like us, they don’t all fit into a mold and they have good days and bad days. The key is to remember that and be flexible in your approach so that you can figure out the best way to help your horse, not make your horse do something. If nothing else, remember the horse is always right.

 

So when was the last time your horse did something wrong and what was it? Why do you think he did it? What did you do to help him out?

Mo TOAD LOAD

 

 

Train Your Horses Well

“Train your horses well because it means their future.”

When I’ve been asked about breaking horses or working through a problem, I’ve always said those words and I’ve always believed them. This last week or so in going through an unexpected family crisis and having to thin my small herd drastically on short notice, those words have hit home harder than I ever imagined.

In working with my horses through the years, I’ve been competition focused. I’ve trained for good manners but have primarily focused on things like taking leads well, consistent movement and speed, softness, body control, etc. While those things may make for a great show prospect, the majority of good homes out there are not looking for a show prospect. The majority of good homes out there are looking for a horse their five year old can ride – that requires a whole different set of skills.

Although I’ve spent a lot of hours in bringing each of my horses along, when it came time to finding them good homes, it’s evident that some of them could use even more time and work. Suddenly things that you just deal with without thinking about become a bigger issue of whether or not the horse will find a good home – not everyone can handle what you just deal with.

For instance, one of my horses has been shown quite a bit in Ranch Trail, Ranch Riding, has sorted cows, and even has some ARHA and EXCA points on him. He’s pretty solid on a lot of things. You can throw a rope unexpectedly around his back feet all day long yet this same horse will cow kick if something hard like a rake suddenly touches his back legs. Although he’s been hauled a lot, if he gets excited he can be pretty explosive.

I’ve had this horse since he was a yearling and although I’ve put a lot of time into him, the things that I need to put more time into suddenly become big issues when trying to place him into a therapy or lesson program. It’s clear he’s not a horse you can place just anywhere so where does that leave his future?

Having to make the decision to get rid of horses I’ve had for ten years has been a heart breaking process but it’s also been a learning process that I think in the end will improve me as a trainer. While I’m sure I’ll still focus on skills needed for showing, the primary goal will be to produce a horse that could be used for therapy or for children so that emergency placement into a good home would be much easier.

Could your horse be a therapy or child’s horse? If not, why? What changes can you make in your training to change that?

Bubba Extreme cowboy race bubba rope

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