Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trail Ride

Photos from our family trail ride today on the Shamrock ridge trail.

Waving at Craig.

Mom and Dad crossing the bridge.

Tommy getting brave and crossing a bridge first.

Mom leading the way back.

Dad on Ace and Mom on Diamond.

Craig on Nettie and me on Tommy.

Great scenery and a beautiful day! =:)

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Worlds First Purebred Akhal Teke Cutting Horse

This morning Tommy and I worked on the mechanical "string" cow out at my parents place. He is the first purebred in history to cut cattle - (well, at least a string cow so far). I've worked my sporthorse crosses on it, and it helped them immensely to sharpen their turns up. The nice thing about the mechanical cow is that you can work it as long as you want to fix problems, without wearing any real cattle out in the process.

It was another good desensitizing tool for Tommy. A few months ago my mom turned it on for the first time for us, and Tommy did an exit stage left at a million miles an hour. It scared the holy living crap out of him. Now, we are able to actually get into the pen with it and get some decent "baby steps" turns. He's still fairly timid and scared of it - because it has a jerking motion and makes a funny "swooshing" noise - but he's 100% better than when we first started. We're making progress. =:)

His head was up and ears at attention when we first started.

But the more we worked at it, the more relaxed his head carriage became and it came down to a nicer working level.

Catching up.

Went too far past it......working on backing up and staying straight.

My mom's two friends came out and worked their horses too. This is Debbie Scheuning and Grace above. Grace shadowed Tommy to build his confidence up to begin with, and I really appreciated her help.

Cathy Gettner and her horse Diamond, a young 3 year old filly in cutting training. A big thank you to Cathy for taking the photos of us!

My mom and Magic. A young 2 year old filly out of my mom's favorite cutting horse Maggie. It's easy to see where a horse that is specifically bred to do this kind of work makes it look so darned easy. Even when they are young and still trying to figure things out, they make it look simple and effortless.

Tommy and I are definitely nowhere near the effortless stage yet, so we will keep plugging at it.

There are some videos on youtube of how the mechanical cow works:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


A snapshot of us working on our trot to lope transitions and directional changes through the middle of the arena. Photo courtesy of Lee Farren.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tommy and The Curtain of Death

Over the weekend Tommy and I attended one of my mom's desensitizing clinics up in the mountains near Ukiah, OR. There were around ten people who came up to ride, and it was a lovely weekend - great hospitality, sunny weather, lovely ranch and arena, wonderful mountain scenery, and best of all GREAT food! What more could a clinic participant ask for?

The clinic was set up for people to work on "holes" that their horses have. (And believe me.... wether they are young or old, EVERYBODY'S horses have holes....) Tommy is still very young and has a ton of things that I haven't addressed yet, so this was a great clinic for him to attend. In my zeal and excitement to "just go riding" down the trail and sling my butt up into the saddle; I've neglected some sacking out exercises that are quite critical. One of them was the "curtain of death". A simple strip cut tarp that hangs over an entry gate. I've noticed in the past when I've rode him on forest trails he sometimes gets a bit ticklish when tree's brush against the saddle or my leg, or I have to push a low hanging branch out of the way when he go through the forest. Didn't think much of it, but well..... the curtain of death was a helping hand on that issue.

To start with, everybody's horses had trouble with it. (In fact, there was only one old dog broke gelding that really didn't care too much about it.) To begin with, we all led our horses through the curtain of death - which was a good safety thing. None of them besides the older gelding were ready to be ridden through it yet. Most horses blasted like rockets through it with their butts tucked up underneath of them like scalded dogs, and there were more than a few that locked up and absolutely refused to even start through it. Tommy made it halfway underneath of it, and then the motion above him scared the hell out of him and he ended up bucking the rest of the way through it. All that I could think of was - it was good that I wasn't in the saddle. But by the time that day two came to an end, we actually made the accomplishment of riding through the curtain of death in a calm and relaxed manner. YAY!!!!!!
Day one was focused on working on desensitizing tools. The first one was just getting the horses into the arena via the curatin of death. The second one was a plastic bag attached to the end of a stick.

This is where I have to get on my soapbox here...... a pet peeve of mine and one that makes me grit my teeth whenever I see it: witnessing people doing stupid liberty work - a.k.a. "chasing a horse around with a bag to make it run and act like a total idiot". Show people, (erh, should I say mostly arabian people?) are guilty as hell of this. They specifically train their horses to over-react to stuff like this. What happens when it's a windy day and a plastic bag blows up underneath your horses legs in the pasture? Or what heppens when you're riding your horse out on a trail and there is a plastic bag hanging off a fence or gate? What happens when someone wants to hand you your lunch that is wrapped in a plastic bag when you're out on a trail ride? Minor explosions and nervousness occur. I've witnessed liberty "chasing" in person, and seen more than one video of people getting their horses jacked up with plastic bags and rattling cans before they turn them loose into an arena to tear around like numbskulls in front of a big audience. What is the accomplishment in that...?

But anyway, stepping down off of the soapbox....the bag desensitizing exercise was great. I was able to get the bag up around Tommy's nose and face, and petted him down the neck on both sides with it. There was only one horse at the clinic that still couldn't be touched with the bag by the end of the day, but he was clearly much calmer and better about it being closer to him by the time the clinic was over. We also worked on dragging tarps around our horses and getting them used to stepping on them and walking all over on them. It was surprising to see some older horses that weren't too thrilled with it being dragged beside of them. Tommy didn't have a problem with a tarp being on the ground, he handled it like a pro. He just didn't like the tarp being elevated above him like how the curtain of death was.
Everybody worked with big plastic balls too. We kicked them away from the horses, and then rolled them back to their front legs. Some of the horses even tolerated them being gently bounced off of their hind legs. A well desensitized horse can handle having a huge ball bounced off of their butt and playing a game of basketball from the saddle. Tommy isn't quite there yet. He liked the ball and nibbled at it a couple of times and I was able to bounce it next to him and off of his front legs, but he wasn't ready for any hindquarters encounters yet. A lot of people in the general public have boredom play balls for their horses in the stall - but rarely play a zinging game of handball using the horses butt as the wall.
In the afternoon of day one we all had a group riding lesson to work on speed control and handling traffic. Nobody's horses were anxious or nervous about being in arena traffic, but there was one that was grumpy and didn't like being near the others. That rider spent time doing exercises to get him to not pin his ears so much when someone else rode up close to him. This traffic arena work was good practice for Tommy, because when we go out on endurance rides I don't want him tailgating other riders too closely, or else having a panic attack because he thinks that everybody else is leaving him.
Everybody worked on seeing how slowly they could make their horses walk and trot, and how fast they could get them to go without using their legs or reins. It's honestly a very hard thing to do to regulate your horses speed without using leg or rein aids when all you've got is your weight and sense of timing.
Trotting past the curtain of death. It was well worth the whole experience to be able to ride through that damed thing by the time the clinic was done! Although we won't be doing any extreme trail challenges any time soon, it was a huge accomplishment for Tommy to be able to calmly go through that.
Working on collection at the trot.
On the first day the flashy zinging little noisey pinwheels bothered him a little bit, (they were several of them positioned all over the arena), but he got very used to them by the time we were done.
Each one of us got an individual lesson at the lope (or canter). Some people had trouble controlling their speed - as their horses were wanting to go too fast and blast around the arena, while some other horses were wanting to be lazy in their transitions and just trot a million miles an hour to get into a lope. Everybody had different issues that they were working on. Some horses were very green and didn't know how to carry themselves at that speed very well and needed more help from their riders, while other horses were older and hadn't had the proper foundation in order to relax and smoothly lift off into a lope. Tommy's issue was in the middle. He had beautiful transitions and lift off along the rail and nailed each lead, but when we would come through the middle of the arena he would noodle around and look like a drunk sailor trying to decide which way to go. We clearly need to work more at that.
He's a lovely boy when he collects up. We worked on arcing the ribcage into the corners and keeping the shoulder out. A bit of "cowboy dressage", I guess.
On the second day there was an obstacle course out in the pasture that everybody rode through. There were tarps, logs, poles, barrels, and a big upside down trough looking thingy. We had to go in between two big telephone poles and back up the entire way out of it without touching the poles. Tommy nicked it the first time with his right hind due to my piloting error, so on the second time through we went very slowly step-by-step and made it straight back without touching either side.

It was a really nice weekend. There was more than one person who asked me what kind of horse that I was riding, because he looked so completely different from the other ones that were there. He got to experience camping in a strange place again, and also venturing out on a little Saturday night trail ride. Overall, it was a great experience for Tommy and I had a fun time too!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Ak Towshan"

"Ak Towshan" - white rabbit in Turkmen.

A recent exercise in leatherwork. I'm still not the greatest at beveling and stamping yet....(and I suspect that my crappy ol' junk tools might have something to do with it). But practicing as much as possible helps. I made TONS of mistakes on this little 8 x 10 piece -and it certainly isn't my greatest work - but it was another experience to learn from. Gotta keep practicing a bunch more. Leather is a very difficult and unforgiving mistress to work with. I'm hoping to get better the longer that I keep plugging at it....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Another Mini Show Winner

Another mini wins big at a show! This is "Prada" owned by Brooke Smith of Cookeville, TN. She earned a Championship of Breed award in her stock horse class at Big Orange Bash Live. Pictured with her Champion ribbon and NAN card courtesy of Brooke. Thanks for sending the photo!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mini Saddlebred Wins in California!

These are a few photos of a stablemate scale (3") grey saddlebred mare that I did a few years ago for Diane Keiter of California. (The photos are courtesy of Diane, thanks!) She recently took Overall Grand Champion at a mini show in California. I'm thrilled that this little gal is doing great for her owner! I'm makes me happy to know that the models coming out of my studio are being competitive and winning for customers who purchase them. I've heard good things, but rarely get pictures. Thanks Diane!