Just like running barrels tends to be seasonal depending on your location and association, it seems to be the same for my blog! Winter time isn't as crazy, evenings when it is dark and to cold by 7-8 I am in the house and actually have time for the blogs. That got me to thinking though, do you put your horse on the back-burner during the winter? If so, do you have a spring get into shape routine to keep your horse happy and performing their best? In the south I am very fortunate to not have negative degree weather, and I am actually close to some indoor arenas for rainy season. I teach lessons, obviously, so that makes me have to mess with alot of the horses when I don't really care to do more then feed and clean, but a lesson horse is different then performance horses. Barrel horses have the rep for being high strung, that gets worse in winter alot of times. Sometimes you don't want to have to do a training session, or deal with high-strung, and the less you ride the worse that gets and the more prone to injury they are. Something I do alot with my hyper boy is as much turn out time with his pasture mates as possible, usually 9-10 in the morning until around 5:30 in the evening. Also, my horses have 12x24 stalls so they are not confined even inside. But that still isn't riding, when I ride him, circles are my friends, as are trail rides, and I constantly "mess with" him. I do not mean pick on or handle, I mean keeping his brain working, turning into panels, serpentines, turning tires after working barrels, throwing ropes, anything to make him pay attention. Time off is an excellent thing, but I also believe that horses are made to be active and work, otherwise they start showing out. Set down one day and draw out a weekly goal, maybe it is only riding your horse bareback twice a week or for a total workout time of an hour, or possibly lunging. My biggest downfall is after lessons, cleaning 8 stalls and the 100 million little things that life with horses throw my way, I don't care to ride, so find a friend, or someone that wants to ride with you, and make it a set thing. Sometimes you have to make time and force yourself to do things, but many times the benefit is beyond worth it.
I keep swearing that I'm going to set down and write out my blog every week, (kind of like people saying they are going to the gym..) but life just has this way of interfering with your plans, or best intentions. Basically this all ties into this week's, months, or post... I have a horse that I absolutely LOVE, most days, he is just my favorite horse. I've had Cash a little over a year, and I have literally tried everything with this horse, being nice, being mean, ignoring his "attitude", and basically making excuses about him. He's that kid, you know the kind that is a saint for everyone but me. So finally I had my last straw with him, in the words of Clinton Anderson "Do what you have to to get the job done". When he is mean to me; being lippy, a look, etc, he has been getting his hind end lunged or worked off. And you know what? His attitude has changed! In a matter of days, he is already acting like a new horse. Being mean doesn't do anything, tiptoeing around issues doesn't do anything, but making him work super hard when he does something wrong, and letting him rest when he doesn't has done the trick. Just like in a herd, when a horse gets in trouble they are run out and kept from the herd, then one day they are allowed back in. He is no where near finished, and he will never be a loving, sweet horse, and he won't be a one time discipline horse, it will be constant, and a challenge to everyone, but it will teach people something, and how to not pick at a horse. Like in my last post, don't make excuses. You don't have to be abusive or mean, but do what you have to to get the job done.
Last week it was all about no more excuses, that there is some instances where its not an excuse, and a bit of a beginning of where to go. So where do we go without making excuses? First of all, how often do you work out your horse, and how? Do you drill every single day repeatedly on the barrels, causing your horse to hate his/her work? Or do you find yourself with a horse knocking barrels, hanging up, diving or other issues? Sometimes we need to take a serious look and ask a trusted person their opinion. For instance, did you buy a finished automatic barrel horse, that suddenly has started to hit a barrel, run by, or showing issues, but when the old owner rides there is no problems? Chances are you are sending the wrong signal, you could be rating to soon, not rating, giving to much pocket, not enough, and the list just goes on and on. There will be a lot of negative feedback from this statement, but I think there is way to much emphasis put on a horse hurting being the problem. Am I saying that you shouldn't get your horse checked out? NO! If you have a consistent horse suddenly giving issues, by all means you need to check what is going on, but there is some horses that know they can get by with stuff with a certain rider, and that is what they are doing. Some horses even fake lameness. I had one horse that loved to do that, and no vet could ever find anything wrong because there was nothing to find, while another mare had so much heart, she would hide her injury, to the point a vet would even clear her as sound. Here's a quick little check-list:
Am I riding correct?
Am I training/tuning/exercising my horse and myself correctly?
Has there been a sudden drastic change with the horse? (EX: bit change, pasture mate/buddy being gone, rider change, new saddle, etc)
If you have had this horse for a long time, is there a lameness issue?
The biggest thing to remember to keep an open mind. You can learn stuff for people you never thought you would, be it someone you don't really like, a kid, even someone from a non-horse background teaching you pre-event focus skills. Some people only want to be a weekend warrior, do it as a hobby, and others want to go to the top, but the common thread is your horse is your partner, you have to communicate and take care of your partner, you definitely want him taking care of you when you're running. Don't allow yourself to make an excuse. DON'T! The second you feel one coming on, bite it back, either don't say anything, or think of the most positive thing you can (EX: I have so much _______ to do, I just really don't have the time to ride.. No, you are beyond bless to be able to ride, to have a horse, a saddle, and legs that function so you can), that really changes perspective doesn't it? As a last note to think about this week, the No more excuses isn't just for barrel racers, barrel racing isn't even just about barrel racing, horsemanship has to come first.
"The ground was bad tonight." "There was a dog that barked, that caused my horse to lose focus." "My stirrups were to ________.." Excuses, excuses, and more excuses. Is there times when the ground is bad, and possibly your horse does stumble, or you are airing on the side of cautioned to prevent a possible wreck? Yes. Can things distract your horse? Yes. Sometimes are people just digging for reasons because they were ill prepared? Yes. Everything on horse, be it human or animal, will have a flat out bad day. If you run barrels or just mess with horses in general, there will be times when not a thing in this world can go right, then other times everything is absolutely perfect. Its part of life and horses, there are ups and downs and that is the only constant, but so much of the time, we are making excuses because we didn't put in the work, or pilot error. If you are a client you know that I have a clubhouse now for all the kids and parents. In getting it set up the to do list was quite long. I had to wire, insulate, panel, paint, mold, floor, and so much more stuff. I was immensely blessed to have people here that were able to do wiring and carpentry work, and just plain extra hands sometimes. The problem was though, being a clubhouse for kids, I wasn't going to sink a ton of money as I would in a house, etc. So there is some things half way done. I bought a set of doors for a killing, the guy completely took me on them, they wouldn't work, but thank God that a local contractor traded me some doors that would work. Except they were different widths... Also they are wooden interior doors... They swell more then my pregnant mini, and when they swell, you had better break out the sander and have some time because they will not close. I wanted to save money upfront so I spent it in the long run. How does that relate to a barrel horse? Picture this. A child wants to run barrels more then anything, the parents don't know much about horses, and there is very little riding experience on the child's part, but they are all in. You buy the trailer, the truck the saddle, and since we're going for the best, we buy a 1D barrel horse, or if you don't have much money, you buy a young horse with potential and you have trailer-pool (yes, I believe i did make that word up). With the 1D horse, the child just needs to hang on, but since the horse is used to a certain rider, cues, etc, there is soon a problem, then the child becomes fearful and before long, since its not fun, no longer is riding. The project horse is just that, it has never been ridden much, its at the age just like the child of testing boundaries, and not being an experienced rider, the horse takes and takes, and acts out until a best case scenario is your child either isn't riding, or gets very aggressive in order to control the horse. Not always will this be the case, but so many times it is. I have seen tons of overmounted riders. Lessons, or seeking advice, help, a role model, or mentor is the best way to start, along with a seasoned, forgiving horse that will not take advantage. Time spent upfront developing skills and how to ride and problem solve and to actually help and not hinder a horse, saves much time down the road, and heartache. Back to the clubhouse though. I had molding that has yet to be put up, needing it out of the way, its best to put under the building, right? That is much closer then the 50 foot walk to the horse trailer. Pretty soon though, you don't want to put it back inside, but you will tomorrow, or at least cover it with plastic to protect it from the weather. Until you don't. Yes this really did happen, so today the hundred some dollar molding that was left, has lost all the paint, is bowed, has snapped, basically unusable. I may can salvage a few pieces with the sander and paint, but the 5 minutes it would have taken to put this stuff in plastic... Panelling that is off center a little bit, because no one will notice, and more things that maybe no one else has noticed, but I do. IT DOES MATTER. When you are willing to take small shortcuts on things, its a reflection on you, it says little things don't matter, that you aren't aware of details, or just do not care, and don't want to invest the time. When you shortcut on one thing, it will lead to another and another until the big things don't matter. With horses you are so ready to have them riding, running, or whatever the case may be that you forget that first they have to know the most basic things: steering, whoaing, backing, their gaits.. I have been there, I didn't want to spend the time on getting a horse prepared, and it cost me so much more then money or awards. I've caught myself saying, "its just a lesson horse for the kids, he doesn't really need a supple mouth" "its just a kids place.." No one realizes that you get exactly what you invest into a horse, they are a mirror of YOU. If you don't like what you see, its all on you.
Permantly bruised shins? Check. Sanity on a teeter totter? Check. Non horse friendships and relationships strained? Check. When you don't have horses (or in this case barrel race), you just don't understand. Things have been just crazy here. With Christmas, New Years, I was super sick, plus the every day horse things (that you know are never regular because they are always up to something!) makes things like keeping a website or blog updated hard. In the last two weeks I've got some barn help, it's been amazing! I still feed and handle all the horse stuff but now an hr and half of three of my days are cleared out, I have time to update the website, do house work, and anything else needing to be done, but most importantly I get to ride. Now that is a crazy statement coming from a riding instructor, right? No. The students get to ride, I get to fix ground manners, they get to laugh and let the horse goof off, I get to be the horrible dictator that puts them back into their bubbles (the space where they ARE NOT in my lap). So this week it's been ground work, riding in draw reins, and then teaching students feel. I've said it before and you will hear me say it a hundred more times, barrel horses have a bad rep because people DO NOT put the training into the local jackpot horses. They don't believe a horse should be supple, broke in the face, flex in the poll, or even stop when you say whoa, it just matters the horse is fast. We do such damage by not actually training these horses, then making excuses, using bigger harsher bits, and other things that just cause pain. I'll never forget that my best barrel horse "suddenly" started giving me problems. There was nothing suddenly about it though. I bought him as a 3 yr old who didn't really know the pattern, he wasn't broke in the face, he didn't know leads or much else, but guess what, he was little and I could kind of manhandle him to jerk him around barrels and stuff and pretty soon I had him keeping my placed in the 4D while my main 1D mare was healing. The problem is he started to get faster, and a lot bigger and pretty soon you have a 1D 1,000 pound animal that's not broke in the face and is all run and still doesn't really know the pattern. It progressed over time to the point I finally lost a saddle, all my awards, and a title that season because 3 years before I didn't want to put any time into seasoning him. I came so close to completely ruining an awesome horse. But around the time he was being a nightmare, some people had an automatic more push style horse that knew his job, but he was run in a steel twisted wire tie-down, a very severe bit, and it also had a steel twisted wire noseband that had done injured the horse so bad it looked like he had a grapefruit of scare tissue his nose. My question to the owners was this, if I decide to trailride him, do I have to ride in this, or what if he starts having a problem, where do I go from steel? This wasn't like a cable this literally was how barb wire looked. I've seen very few of these and even less used. I didn't get that horse, but instead my family stepped in and we put the time into my horse. If I'd done it from the beggining I would have saved the 2 years I lost. One thing about barrel racing is it's every little girls dream. That is GREAT! There is nothing like the adrenaline rush, the power and having the trust in your horse when you're going that fast. The bad thing to that is, no one wants to put time into it. It's just about riding "that fast horse" I mentioned above and you don't have to have training for that... There is so much that goes into barrel racing. My goal is to create actual horsemen/women first then whatever follows that. So many barrel horses hate their jobs and they are screaming at their rider and the rider just is beating them in the back alley. That is the sad aspect of what we do. But is that what we really want the newcomers to see/be? I'm going to start doing a weekly drill or lesson for everyone on this blog along with the regular one, I'm in the process of doing videos to show riders progress and incorrect and correct ways, and I'm thinking very hard about making anyone that comes to me learn groundwork, English, then barrels. Horses don't want someone flopping around on their back, whipping and spurring, neither were you. So as I wrap this post up, this is my end thought, this new year let's start to seek out more things that's in the benefit of our horse, let's start trying for a broke supple soft barrel horse, with one person going in on a truly trained horse and placing it will make an impact, and before long we could become and industry known more then unbroke crazy horses.
I pretty much agree with Maxine. Today I've woke up to 21 degrees. Now that may not see cold to some people, but in the south.... Let's just say I'm a summer person. What about horses? We know in the fall and when it's windy that bombproof kids horse turns into a snorting tornado that we can't hardly ride, but at what point do even our horses get cold? I've got "city" horses (it's kind of like city slickers, they're only used to city water, won't go outside if it's rainy, cold, dark etc). If it's to cold they stay inside their 12x24 stalls snug as a bug in a rug, if they ride, we stay in my very wide 100ft hallway. See my horses stay slicked out all yr long, they don't grow a winter coat do blankets is a must. But what about riding? If we have performance horses, should they stand all winter with no exercise at all? While it's good to have a break, no activity can be bad also. If you don't ride for a month, you will not want to start back, so your horse will set even longer. I'm lucky to live next to a long open power line which means tons of sunshine and enough trees to block off huge wind gusts. The winter is when I try to give my horse just a legging up and stay in shape without any drilling on the pattern. Horses get bored. I get bored. My students will if I always teach the same thing over and over. What is your winter routine? Or is this your first horse winter? Today why don't you set down and write out your goals. Maybe your horse has a few issues you need to work on, so what better time to get out of the arena, teach something new (maybe working cattle, roping, dressage... All have great benefits for the horse and you as a rider.) Set down with that list and work out a lesson plan for yourself, maybe eat healthier, workout, make one for your horse. Try teaching them to be supple, keep their muscles toned, just get them out (remember I'm hitting more on very seasoned horses but this is also good for colts, maybe with one day a week on the pattern.) and enjoying riding and being a horse! Set your goals for next season, but stay realistic! It is great to dream, with enough drive and dedication you can reach them, but if it's your first year running, you most likely won't qualify for the NFR this time around, but set a goal of consistency instead. Set them and then make notes, that way you can see the progress. Remember praise the horse also. Sometimes we ask the wrong way.
I bought a mini. Now what does that have to do with barrel racing? Well, nothing really, but this is more about attitude. She is little, 33" at the wither, and overall she is really good. She rides, she drives, she is great with kids, but man is she trotty. For the list of things I liked about her in that week trial, there as also some stuff I didn't like. Every horse will have their quirk and you have to figure hot what you can live with right? Well to a degree yes that is true, but every horse no matter age or size can still learn. She tried to kick me one day, could I have let it go because it was honestly kind of cute. 33" kicking their little hinny up to get you in your shin, but instead you got a whipping. She has not tried it since or even acted like it. I'm not sayif a beating, but one good spank across her butt. Now what is the point to all this? It has absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, picking a horse, or anything, so this is a waste of time, right? Well just follow me for a minute. I got it into my head with this mare that I was going to live with her few quirks (trotting off on the lead, about to mow me over, etc) because she did so good elsewhere. I used to do that with my good barrel horse. He used to come wide off my third, like you weren't getting his nose, but I was still winning money so it wasn't a terrible issue. It kept going on and on and on until guess what? Finally that not getting his nose led to him not turning at all and he would run me down the panel from the third barrel because I had let the issue go for so long. One of my lessons horses is great to my students but is a complete jerk to me. Anyone can ride him, he will ride brideles thru the pattern, le lopes the best circles, but he will bite me and even act like he wants to kick me. And giving him a spanking? It doesn't do anything but really blow him up. Back to the mini. I started workig with her, now I can walk in her stall where she's waiting by the door and she gets a treat, halters, waits while I open the door, still waits then only when I say ok and walk out does she. She's not so trotty, isn't pushy, has started coming to me in the pasture, and when our big cactus scares her whenever she backs into it, I am the one she runs to. My barrel horse doesn't get by with not giving that nose. Not any. Horses learn we will never discipline them during a real run so they take advantage. If you hit a barrel or blow off it completely wide and have been for weeks, swallow the entry fee and fix it. I believe it with my whole heart you need to fix an issue right then. One entry fee is not worth your whole season. My big horse that's so crabby? We have been doing some serious ground manners on respect, and are slowly starting to make progress. I'm not against spoilingy horses, they are all rotten, but also they don't need to be 1,000 pound unruly brats. They have it made; are fed great, don't get cold, wet, to hot, or even have to work to hard, so or me to ask for a bit of personal space or respect is not to much. Some are always good, and some you have to constantly stay on your toes for it. Just remember even a 33" 300lb mini can become that nightmare.
Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. If you read my other blog "This Horse Life" on my website affordableridinglessons.weebly.com you will see what all has kept me occupied! But anyways the quote today really inspired me. What is success? Winning the NFR multiple times, owning the biggest, best barrel breeding program, clearing over a million in earnings or having horse of the year might be at the top of the your list, but what about someone that puts the first 30 rides on that horse of the year? What about the coach that helped the woman start riding horses and now she's just won the NFR. Is the coach or trainer any less of a success story? When does winning titles get tiring or boring or does it ever? Everyone starts out with goals. Some are higher then others, but there is always many people that are steps in the path to success. Who matters more? A foundation on the horse can make or break the whole horse and someone that trains multiple young horses takes much time and dedication. The reason I'm writing this is because I ran for years and I hit burnout, now I'm not running much anymore, but I'm teaching students. I have fears and insecurities every single day. I'm not Martha Josey, Charmayne James, or Brittani Posey-Pharr. I don't have Stringray standing in my barn. Why would anyone want to come to me, I'm mainly doing beginner lessons, I sure don't have the big names calling and asking me for advice, but am I a failure? Did I quit running because I wasn't winning? No I have a trophy wall to prove my record, but no longer was it fun for me or my horse I needed a break. To the second statement, of me teaching mainly beginners, does that mean that I'm not a good teacher or that I can't help others? Not neccesarily. Entry level riders are what will keep our sport going and if I am getting the opprotunity to put the foundation on them that is a huge blessing and honor. No bad habits have been developed so what I do is the whole start for them good or bad. Will I ever run again? Possibly, I've got some super great horses in my barn that have proven themselves also and I know we can do it again, but I want it to stay fun. So back to that question, what is success?