Sunday, September 14, 2008

My New Peg Position

Some may have noticed I have been pretty quiet in the blog world lately. This absence has been a time of reflection for me. You see, on Tuesday I loaded up Yellow and we drove about an hour to see The Cowboy. I had arranged to get a lesson from him because, while Yellow has been doing pretty well, I felt like his hip was locked up a little and wanted to get some help.

We pulled in at 10:00 a.m., right on time. The Cowboy gets VERY irritated when I'm late. He unloaded Yellow and tied him up at a hitching post. He ran over him with a curry comb quickly and commented on how Yellow has put on a good amount of weight and looks real good. I actually think Yellow is a TAD heavy right now...he blew through a 1,000 lb bale in a little over 2 weeks, and has a small pot-belly. I think it's sympathy weight.

I thought he was going to groundwork Yellow and would see the work I'd put into keeping him alert and focused while "sending" him. No groundwork. The Cowboy just mounted right up and went to work. First he disengaged Yellow's hind end, which he said worked fine. Then he went to move the shoulder and something got jammed up. Yellow would rather sit on his butt and jump around on his haunches than step through his turn. The Cowboy was not impressed. He went to work fixing this problem, which required a few "motivators" to get him moving forward instead of stepping back. This irritated Yellow, who would then put his head down and jump around and get pretty light on his front end and do just about everything he could to get out of having to USE his front end.

While this is occurring, the Cowboy is cursing at the horse for trying to fight with him, and yelling at me that I've spoiled him and have him all jammed up for a number of reasons. I don't have him in the poll, and without that I can't do anything. Then I've been backing him into turns and he bangs into himself and that makes him not want to turn. After the first mini-rodeo, the Cowboy tried out Yellow's lateral flexion, something that I work on EVERY time I get on. I know he's soft. Well, the Cowboy told me Yellow isn't soft because I've been letting him twist his head and just bring his nose around instead of keeping his face vertical and making him give at the poll and the neck. So Yellow put up another big fight...backing into the fence, jumping around, and pretty much doing everything he could think of, besides buck and rear. I think even Yellow knew either of those actions was going to result in something really, really bad for him.

The Cowboy is not one to back down from a fight. When Yellow gets defiant, he would get a quick over-under and a spur. The Cowboy has a good seat and wasn't going anywhere. I could see Yellow's eyes rolling back in his head, his mouth gaping, and a total expression that said, "Listen lady...I don't know what you were thinking bringing me here, but was I really so out-of-line that I deserved THIS?!?"

Once the fighting was over and Yellow went through his paces with ease, the Cowboy dismounted. I asked if I could ride a bit to get a feel for what I needed to be doing instead of what I was doing. He said sure, but that I needed to walk him around a bit to make sure his new mindset was gonna stick.

So at this point, I've seen my horse be re-programmed, and kind of fight his way through it. And through out the whole process, I've been told what I've done to cause all this. Now, it's my turn to get re-programmed. But do you think the Cowboy is going to lecture Yellow on how he's trained me to let him get away with stuff? Hell no.

My hand position wasn't right, I wasn't pulling back in the correct position, I wasn't releasing fast enough, and at one point, the Cowboy told me I wasn't listening. Well, I was listening, but my mind doesn't translate to my body that quickly!

After about 15 minutes, the Cowboy thought I had it down okay. He told me I need to get the baby business done and then bring Yellow back for a month, and I need to come twice and week and ride. At the end of 30 days, I'll have a finished horse and I won't have to worry about messing any of his basic cues up. I think the Cowboy likes my horse (actually, I know he does) and wants to ride him for a month.

Everything ended on a good note. Yellow sometimes has issues getting in the trailer...not that day! I've never seen that horse more willing to jump into the safety of his horse trailer! On the way home I called one of my favorite cousins and attempted to find humor in the situation. I've had Yellow for almost a year now, and I suppose I could have ruined a lot more than just his front end!

The next day the Cowboy called me to see when we purchased our Oklahoma horse from him, and I told him February, and then he launched into an apology for being a little hard on me the day before, and said he just really wanted to get his point across. I think maybe his girlfriend, who was there the whole time, layed into him that night. I told my mom that had any of our horsey cousins been in my shoes, they probably would have cried. Or been pissed. But I know he's right. Everything that came out of his mouth made perfect sense, so I couldn't really get too upset. But sometimes, delivery is everything!

I told the Cowboy I knew he was right, and that I'm just a little sensitive with all the hormones. He really felt bad when I said that because he knows I can't ride as much as I'd like to, and that my poor pregnant mind can be a little unfocused.

But let me tell you, there is nothing like a day like that to knock your confidence and peg and make you think twice about jumping on your horse and doing whatever you feel like! I haven't had time to ride since we got back, but hopefully my horse will still be talking to me the next time I jump on his back. After all, if he won't, I can just threaten to take him back to the Cowboy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Re: Forever Homes

Most of you, I'm sure, read Pony Girl's blog about "forever homes." Well, being the college debate club officer that I am, I feel it is my duty to present the other side. I started to leave a comment on her blog, and then realized my comment was blog-length! So I might as well state my case here. Here we go.

Horses are not children, and really shouldn't be considered pets either.

Novice riders should never buy their first horse thinking it will be his/her forever horse.

Horses don't feel, reason, or depend on humans emotionally the way a lot of riders/owners hope they do.

Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Okay, so horses are not children. That part is obvious, I'm sure everyone will agree with me there. I joke a lot that I hope horse training and parenting are similar so I'll have a little more luck raising Baby Grace. Well, they are and they aren't. Horse's CANNOT reason. They don't predict the consequences of their actions. They don't say, "If I listen to all my rider's cues today, that will make my rider happy, so I'm going to do that!" Sorry. Not how it works.

Now, the "horses not as pets" statement may be a little more controversial. I know of several horses who have been raised by someone with the mindset, "I will raise this horse from a baby and we will have the most amazing connection." They picture bareback, bridleless gallops through pastures, a horse so intuitive it seems like he/she can read your mind. Immediately, they adopt this horse as a pet. It's cute when the horse rubs on you when she's younger, she must like you! It's okay to let your baby snack on grass during a training session...she must be hungry. Be careful when putting fly spray on her, you don't want to scare your baby!

In other words, when people start seeing their horses as pets, they start spoiling them. This is how horses become dangerous! They are very large animals, and the second they think you are equals is the second they realize, "I don't have to do this. I'm bigger." They don't care that it will make you mad. They just want to see what it takes to go back to the pasture. They are waiting for their RELEASE!

Just an example, everyone and their dog has seen the Stacey Westfall bridleless video. It's fun to think that that horse works so well with her because he loves her and can read her mind. Not so much the case. Stacey rides that horse PERSONALLY 5-6 days a week. That horse is broke. No other explanation.

Moving on, I've already mentioned that horses don't feel or reason. Everything a horse does is based on release. A horse doesn't "like" fly spray, so he starts jumping around when you spray it on him. You stop spraying. His release? Yep, he got it when he started jumping around. Also, I would like to point out, THIS DOES NOT MEAN HE WAS ABUSED WITH A FLY SPRAY BOTTLE!! I will be the first to admit there are legitimate cases of horse abuse. But it is usually not training-related! It's just that bad behavior has been rewarded with a release, so why should a horse straighten up and fly right? All he has to do is jump around a little, and he avoids the issue all together?! Shoot, if I could avoid household chores by jumping around a little, and my fiance finally said, "Just go outside and play with your dogs," I would do it EVERY time. And horses remember the last thing that happened. Not the time before that, where they stood perfectly still and it was no big deal. They remember the last time, where they got YOU freaked out and got away with it!

With all this said, I think it is a huge responsibility for horse owners to only own the horses they are using. Dead-broke horses who have taken 5 kids through 4-H and are being passed on to a new, novice rider are how we get more people in the business! We need that turn-over. We need new riders to be on safe horses, and then when they have outgrown that horse, to pass it on to a new, novice rider! Then they go in search of that junior level horse that will--not just take them to the next level of the show ring--but take them to the next level in their horsemanship skills!

It can be extremely dangerous for a new rider to own a horse that isn't broke. My definition of broke might be different than some people's, but my definition of broke means you can take a horse anywhere and have anyone ride him and he's the same horse. So, you get a novice rider who picks out a pretty horse. The horse isn't broke. The rider has no idea how to handle this horse, and becomes afraid. But she loves the horse because the horse is pretty. She will never sell the horse, but she doesn't want to ride him because she is terrified the horse will kill her. Then you have the gal who has been riding the 22 year old thoroughbred mare who has put 4 kids through 4-h and one through pony club. The gal assumes all horses stand quietly when being saddled, can be taken to a show, a roping, or on a trail ride and behave the same (so why all the fuss with safety guidelines that don't apply to her horse?) and will never sell this horse because she is comfortable and confident. We have two trainwrecks, waiting to happen. Horses that don't match rider capabilities for different reasons. We know that both horses are probably happy. Neither of them is ever challenged. But this is bad news for the industry! And it's just not reasonable.

Been there.

Done that.

How many of us would be competent riders if we were on push-button horses all of our lives? And how many of us would have felt confident riding these more complex horses if we hadn't started out on the push-button horse? This is the way my horse progression worked, and I should really thank my mom every day. It's probably the reason I am so confident on my horse now. I can count on one hand how many times I've been thrown off a horse in 19 years of riding. I have never owned a horse I couldn't handle or that I didn't feel confident on.

Now, I am not saying that no one should ever keep their horse forever. Shoot, I've said plenty of times that I will never sell Yellow. But there is a reason for this: He's earned it. And if you met my horse, you would know why. He is tried and true in every aspect we've exposed him to. And, I take him back to the trainer for tune-ups every so often to make sure I'm not spoiling him. (See my future blog about that!) I just would like to point out that before we start assuming every horse that has ever been sold or passed along has seen a Black Beauty-type life, we need to consider that horses are animals, and most are not needy. They like being in the pasture with other horses, some like going to work, some like human affection, but they lack the mental capability to be sad that the girl who used to ride him never comes to visit.

I love my horse just as much as the next girl (or maybe more!) but I've waited quite a while for a horse like this to come along, and I made damn sure I was a good enough rider for him before I found him!

And my last controversial statement for this blog: Horses don't trust the way people trust. It's based off respect, herd mentality and pecking order. As long as your horse sees you as the herd leader and knows that he is below you in the pecking order, he will work for you and even do things he's uncertain of because he knows you're the boss. He doesn't sit there and think, "Well, she's never lied to me before! Except for that time she said she would feed me alfalfa and gave me grass hay...but I guess I can forgive her for that and trust her one more time!"

Ignore all this if you would like, I sing a completely different tune if we're talking about my dog and many dog trainers have told me I've spoiled her beyond repair! Well, I don't care. She's 9 lbs of spoiled yorkiepoo and I am pretty sure her sun rises and sets on whether or not she gets to be by my side all day long. And no one is going to convince me different!

She likes being dressed up, I swear!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

You like me, you really like me!

I have received my first (but certainly not last) blog award!! This is a proud day for my blog team, consisting of me, Stella, and sometimes I borrow my mother's assistant, Rory. I might even have to treat myself to a decaf extra powdered white chocolate americano with an inch of unsteamed soy!! Got all that? Anyway...

Courtesy of TWO wonderful fellow bloggers, Saddle Mountain Rider at Middle of the Road and Crazy Horse Woman at Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind. Thank you ladies!!

Here are the details about this award;

1. The winner can put the logo on her blog.

2. Link the person you received your award from.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

4. Put links of those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs of those you have nominated.

I believe that most of the blogs I read have already received this award. For good reason. I don't want to read some blog that no one has ever loved! So for that reason alone, I am not going to nominate any blogs at this time...I would like to reserve the right to nominate a blog or two in the future. I think it's only a matter of time before more horse-crazy bloggers find us!

So, for my acceptance speech, I would like to thank all the people who made this possible.

First, my fiance, for knowing to leave me alone when I'm at my laptop because I am CLEARLY either reading about horses or writing about horses.

Second, my wonderful pony cousin Pony Girl, who has inspired many of us and continues to humor me almost every day with her adventures with My Boy. Who, you should all be jealous to know, I have ridden. And let me tell you, he is lovely. Well, once he figured out I'm not a beginner who is going to let him wonder back to the herd...but lovely, nonetheless.

And finally, to Yellow. My dream man. He is the peas to my carrots, the Coco to my Chanel, the wind beneath my wings.

Thank you all for reading, and stay tuned. Life is only going to get more interesting from here on out.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Michael Caine and John Wayne

I'm watching a re-run of The View, and Michael Caine is being interviewed. Joy Behar just asked him about some advice he once received from John Wayne, and that advice was, "Talk low, talk slow, don't say too much, and never wear suede shoes." Well, obviously the suede shoe comment raises a few questions. As John Wayne explained it, "Because you'll be in the restroom taking a pee, and the man next to you will recognize you. He'll turn and say, 'John Wayne?!?' and pee all over your shoes."

Hahahaha! Isn't that the truth? And aren't we lucky to be females??

So, then I had to do a little research and see where Michael Caine and John Wayne worked together...but as it turns out I don't think they did. They were just good friends, and Michael Caine visited John many times while John was hospitalized toward the end of his life.

Who knew?