Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Have A New Friend!

How many of you know what a Hydrabull is? Don't worry-I didn't know what it was either until yesterday! But OMG! It is my new best friend that is going to help me and Hayden accomplish our goals!

Briefly,a Hydrabull is a 3-wheeled cow simulator that moves like a zero-turn lawn mower! It can go forward and back and move like a cow with great speed and agility! It saves trainers big bucks too as they don't have to spend as much money on fresh cows! Also it helps young and novice riders go slower so they can "get it" faster!

Luckily, Steve Foley has one and was kind enough to suggest a group lesson for all who wanted to better themselves and their horses for cutting,penning and other cow events!We had 5 of us working it one at a time for about 4-6 minutes a piece. For several of us it was the first time our horses had ever seen such a device! But each run we did,our horses got better and better each time! It was fun to watch everyone have a go and to hang out with folks that have similar goals with their horses.I can't wait to do this every week as my lesson! Plus to be able to see other's progress as well is rewarding too!

I told Steve before we started that my goal last night was to ride Hayden in the bridle (vs. the snaffle)and to keep him soft and relaxed.If that meant just walking the whole night then so be it. But as it turned out, in our first go he was loping after the Hydrabull and was relaxed and doing great!

By our 4th time he felt so confident and relaxed that I was giddy! He far exceeded my expectations of him especially in the bridle! At one point I felt like I could have ridden in one hand! Not "drop my hand" one hand but still! I tried for a few seconds but had no idea what to do with my free hand! Pushing on the horn didn't feel natural yet either so I just concentrated on keeping my hands together and low on his withers. Seemed to work! He was stopping on his own except for me cuing with my seat and legs. It was an awesome feeling!

Here are some pics that Miss Shannon took! Thanks Shannon!

For more info on the Hydrabull:

It's still pretty hot here in Alabama even in the evenings. We all had small coolers filled with water,sodas and ice.On the way to the arena from the trailer I put my little 6 pack cooler over my horn and Hayden carried it no problem. By 9:30p.m when we were headed back to the trailer I put the cooler back over the horn.Well the ice had somewhat melted and there was more room in the cooler minus 2 waters so it was making a racket as well as dripping water all over Hayden! I am not sure what he hated worse-the water or the noise but he went ballistic on me! He was headed to highway if I had let loose of the reins! I was talking to him,telling him "Easy", but it wasn't until I said,"Hayden-WHOA!" that he stopped and planted his feet! Thank you Karen Jones! I have been working on him with his ground tying a little bit (not like I should mind you) but I have been trying to get in the habit of saying,"Hayden Whoa.Hayden Walk.Hayden Ok.",etc. so that he'll get it. Well last night was a good test!He got it and it saved our tail!

Happy riding everyone! Keep reaching for those goals!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Ranch Cutting Under Our Belt!

Wow yesterday was a looooooong day! But a fun one!

But first I have to tell you about Friday night and how it effected my Saturday!Friday night Chuck attended a conference in Mobile at Dauphin Way Baptist Church. So I took the boys to a friends house (whose husband was working late) along with another friend whose husband went with Chuck. All 6 kids had fun playing while us moms hung out and talked about girl stuff! The boys and I got home around 10:30 and Chuck arrived home around midnight.Of course I waited up for him,so we didn't get to sleep until 1 am or so.The alarm went off at 5:30am. Some of you are probably thinking something along of the lines that I need to buck up and perform fine on 4.5 hours of sleep.But let me just tell you-this girl needs all the beauty sleep she can get! I need 8 to function normally!(Normally? What's that?)

Being that this was the first time I have shown in a long time, I wanted Chuck to go and watch (and take pics).But he's really not the horse show type."Show hubby/dad"is NOT a title he longs to have.I knew he'd be more comfortable if he had a place to get out of the a trailer with a living quarters(LQ-for all my non horsey readers)in it.I happened to have a very sweet friend who offered hers to me for the day! (Thanks Lisa G.!)

8:00 a.m.-Luckily Chuck (and the boys) went with me to get this trailer. It's a beautiful 44ft. 3 horse Sundowner,complete with bunk beds,dinette and a queen-size bed. It had all the amenities like fridge,microwave,stove,bathroom,shower,mud room,etc.Even had flat screen TV with DVD player. We packed a cooler,picnic stuff,and DVD's and Playstation for the boys.(Mind you the show was only maybe 4 hours long...)

8:45a.m.-Trailer and truck are hooked up.Lights work but brakes are locking up.Great.
Call numerous neighbors around to find out who has an adapter that works. Decide to just go to parts store in town to get an adapter.

9:15a.m.-First parts store doesn't have the right adapter.Wonderful.

9:30a.m-Second parts store doesn't have the right adapter either.Call the neighbor who we think has the right adapter that we can borrow.Wait in parking lot.....tick,tock,tick,tock. My grand plan was to have everything loaded by 10:30 so I could start to load the horses up a few minutes early since this trailer had a ramp they had never seen.Not looking good,but we kept the faith!

10:10a.m.-The neighbor with right adapter shows up! Yay! We now have lights and brakes!

10:30a.m.-Arrive home.Load up stuff for 2 horses.(saddles,pads,bridles,brushes,buckets,hay bags,leg wraps,etc)RUN in and take the fastest shower known to this cowgirl! Run back out with show clothes,make-up and camera! Load up horses! Neither of them thought twice about the ramp! I love horses that load!

11:15a.m.-Down the road!:) This would have been a great time to take a nap but it didn't happen.

11:45a.m.- Arrive at show barely missing a power pole with the trailer as we drive in! Whew! Unloaded,went and signed up,paid. Chuck settled into the LQ and made sandwiches! Yum!

12:40p.m.-Tacked up and headed out to arena.Get in the arena that we have had lessons in for the past 3 weeks and there's a new fence with a scary sign and 2 herds of cattle in a holding pen that wasn't there the last time we were there. Hayden wanted nothing to do with that general area! Great.How was I supposed to ride into the herd when he wouldn't go into that scary,horse-eating area? But we loped around and seemed to settle in finally.He had me worried there for a minute!

1:00p.m.-The show started with the Open Class (these are professionals and folks who have won the big $$)There were 12-13 entries.I sat on Hayden and watched and chatted with my new cowgirl friends and of course the friends that rode with me there,Miss Dee and Miss Lisa A.! That was the best part!

3:00-ish:My class started around 3 and there were 12-15 of us I think.I warmed him back up after sitting on him and suddenly he's not stopping great or backing the way he should! OH no! My name is called and we enter the pen.(We start with a score of 70 and one can go up or down) Our goals at this point:"Keep the horse between you and the ground!",BREATHE,Don't embarrass anyone (namely myself!)Thankfully there were 4 sweet guys called "turn back riders" in the arena with me and one of them,"Les" coached me right along.(Thank you sir!) My first cow out ran us and got back to the herd.(Minus 5 points). The second cow quit on me and Les told me to go get another one. I heard the announcer say we had only 30 seconds left. This cow worked well for us!

I ended up with a score of 61.We did let a cow back to the herd and I was having to rein Hayden the entire time since this was our first time and we've had only 3 lessons on the flag.Overall I was happy with our go! (Is it time for a nap yet?)

4:00p.m.At this point I get the motion from Chuck that it's time to GO! We have a birthday party in Bay Minette at 6pm! After untacking,saying good byes,exchanging phone numbers with a few folks,hugging a few necks and loading up the horses it was time to go!

4:45p.m:Arrive home! Unload horses,tack,hay,clothes,picnic stuff,etc.! Rinse and feed horses! Run into house and change into pool clothes for birthday party!

5:15p.m:Stop by McDonald's for dinner to go! Take the trailer back to Lisa G.! (Thanks Lisa!)

6:30p.m: Arrive at party.Nearly fall asleep in lounge chair.

8:30pm: Leave party

9:00p.m. Arrive home.Let dogs out,get boys ready for bed,check email,take shower.

10:00 p.m. In bed and too exhausted to sleep. But finally do dreaming of working cows and continuing the journey.

So I am reflecting today.I have made a list of changes for next time. I think that's the smart thing to do;to look back and see what one can do to make the next time better,smoother,faster!

1.)I may leave the men folk at home.Or maybe they can just drive down for my class!

2.)I will take my own trailer! All my stuff is in it,it's familiar.Of course there's no bathroom or AC but I was on my horse the whole time!

3.)Next time I plan on getting there and letting the horse stand at the trailer! I will stand and watch or get a chair! I think sitting on him got him stale and stiff.Part of this competing thing is figuring out how and when your horse works best.I think Hayden would do better with warming up closer to the class.

4.)Don't schedule something else after the show!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So this is a rarity to post twice and don't expect it very often but I have to share this update!
Today when we got to Steve's (it was NOT actually raining!)he needed some turn back riders for himself and another gentleman who is getting ready to show in a Ranch Cutting there Saturday.My friend Lisa G. had ridden down there with me and so she rode my APHA gelding "Bullseye" and we turned back for them. (Of course on the walk to the arena it DID start to pour!)

Well I was asked by the visiting rider when I was going to have a turn at cutting one of the calves out! I answered that I would whenever Mr. Steve said we were ready! Steve answered WE WERE READY for a try!

Long story short we made 2 cuts and Hayden was awesome both times for never having done this! He'd only worked the flag 2 times before! Well,Hayden ended up staying flat and even got low a few times! He had his ears back and was working off that butt.Of course I was having to rein him but he was still doing great! What a great feeling!

Before we left,I told Steve I was going to try and make it to at least watch on Saturday,maybe even bring Hayden to sit on and watch,it all depended on whether or not I would need to bring my boys since Chuck had a prior engagement. He said I needed to COMPETE in the Novice Division! OMG! "Really?" I answered? He said it was a great time to get Hayden and I started! Alrighty then! I asked him if he was aware of my panic attacks!He said he'd be there to keep me straight and aware of the time.No worries.I'll still be sure to take my meds that day for sure!

So I guess I am going to SHOW on Saturday! How cool is that? Now what to WEAR?

It's Raining! Now what?

So it's raining here. It actually rains A LOT here! I have heard it rains more here than in Seattle!I believe it! It makes doing any routine thing outside a real challenge!It also throws me off with trying to ride or work my horses regularly.The only consolation about that is that most horse people in this area are in the same boat (no pun intended) as me! Unless of course they are blessed to own or have access to an indoor arena or covered pen.

Later today I am scheduled to take a my 3rd lesson on the flag at Steve Foley's place. HE has a covered pen so I am in luck!Of course I will have to load,drive and tack up in the rain but we're just about used to that since every time I go to Steve's it is RAINING!

I thought today would be a good time to fill you in on the some of the riding I HAVE been able to do this year that I feel is helping me to reach my goal.

In January of this year,my best friend Kim and I drove up to Madison,MS. to ride with Tom McBeath.No not the Tom McBeath from Stargate or The Watchmen,the horse trainer! He's a card holding judge for AQHA,APHA,and NSBA and has traveled around the world to judge the big shows.He's also trained several horses and exhibitors to the top level of their disciplines. Here's a link to his place: Anyways we picked THE COLDEST week of the year to ride with him! We all were bundled up in 5 layers from head to toe and rode ALL DAY long! At 11 am it was maybe 30 degreesF! Crazy! At any rate it was a great experience! Excluding of course the first evening I rode and I felt I had no riding experience,and had no reason to be on a horse! But after that it was much better!

We worked on getting Hayden to be soft and SLOW, which meant I had to slow my movements and thoughts WAY down! Tom kept telling us: "It's not a timed event!" What Kim and I tried to explain to him was that we were MOMS! Everything is a timed event!
And this was all over just picking up our reins, not even about walking!In fact we didn't get to jog until the second day!

We had the most fun picking on Tom when he wasn't around. Giggling back at the hotel as we repeated in our best Tom voice:"SLOWWWWWWWW. EASYYYYYYY." And our favorite: "Whooooooa." Writing this really does it NO justice whatsoever!

By the 3rd day,Hayden and I were jogging around great with head down like we were ready for a pleasure class! Ok maybe not that slow or consistent but we had great improvement! We even managed a few quiet walk to canter transitions withOUT catapulting into the air first!But we were far from great.We were destined to return to the land of "Whoooa-dom".In my own little dream world I think if we could just stay for several months in a row we might have half a chance of speeding this whole process up. But then I remember that I have a life back home and realize that will never happen...

I returned for a few more days in July of this year. Probably the HOTTEST days of the year there. This time I went by myself and so no one was able to get pics of me riding.But it was another great time and we showed some improvement from the last visit! We even bumped Hayden up into a shanked snaffle and are working towards riding in one hand. Baby steps. Our finesse is what Tom said we were working on!

If you ever get to ride with someone like Tom whose timing and "feel" are so much better than your own,you will be amazed and humbled. I love riding there and having the opportunity to learn so much! Lord knows I still have A LOT to learn!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

So What's VRH Anyways?

Two days into this blog and I figured you might want to know what it is that I am actually trying to do! So let's identify THE GOAL!

The competitions were started unofficially on ranches all over the country centuries ago but the AQHA started with organized competitions in 2002.They were developed to show the wide range of usefulness and handiness of a ranch horse.

Versatility Ranch Horse Competitions are made up of 5 classes that are all done with one rider on one horse.The classes are as follows:Ranch Riding,Ranch Cutting,Ranch Trail,Working Ranch and Conformation.

Ranch Riding is judged on the horse's movements in natural working speed at all gaits (walk,trot and lope)in both directions.Contestants are also asked to reverse on the rail,stop and back.The extended trot and canter may also be asked of the contestants.Think of it as Western Pleasure before they were asked to put their noses on the ground and go super slow!I'm not too worried about this part.Seems pretty basic and in 5 years-heck we'll be pros at this part!

Ranch Trail is made up of at least 6 obstacles that may be found on the ranch.Three of these are mandatory(opening and shutting a gate,dragging a log in a straight line or a pattern,dismounting/removing bridle/re-bridling/picking up all 4 four feet/mounting).Optional trail obstacles might also include crossing a water hazard,being hobbled or ground tied,and crossing a bridge. Hayden is pretty good at most of these especially the mandatory ones! He may question the water depending on how it's set up...

Ranch cutting involves the rider/horse combo to cut or separate a cow from the herd and pen the cow.They have 2 and half minutes to demonstrate the horse's natural ability to work the cow. Reining the horse will not be penalized.This is where it starts to get tricky. Remember I don't live on a ranch! No problem! We have started to implement the help of a local cutting trainer! And the best part is that he said Hayden has a lot of "cow" to him! That's good to know! I thought he was just ultra sensitive!

Working Ranch Horse combines 3 sections:reining,cow work and roping.The contestant first performs a set reining pattern.After the reining pattern is complete the rider calls for a cow to be turned out in the arena.They then show they can control/contain the cow in a set area of the arena for a set time.Next they would take the cow down the fence,making a turn each way on the fence. After reining and working the cow,the rider then ropes the cow and stops it.5 point reduction for not catching!-Ok! So remember-I do NOT live on a ranch,so I am just going to have to implement the help of yet another local trainer who does rope! Don't worry! It's all in the 5 year plan!

Finally there is Ranch Conformation. This class is based on balance,structural correctness,degree of muscling,breed and sex characteristics. Horses are to be shown in a working halter! No SILVER! No clipping of ears! (Hayden is SOOOO happy about this!)I think we have this class down. Hayden will stop and square up and stand there all day and I have an excellent source that says Hayden is pretty easy on the eyes and the conformation to back it up! Yeehaw!

So do I sound like I know what I am in for?

To help get me prepared I have read the book "Training and Showing the Versatility Ranch Horse" by Laren Sellers. I have read and printed out the AQHA Rules on the class as well as the judges guideline sheets for each class.Yeah I'm a nerd I admit it.But wait! There's more! I have also bought AQHA's educational video on the classes! Told ya I am a nerd! But that's ok! I won't suck because I wasn't educated!

So where are we now? Well today it was raining and I took the day off to be with family.But tomorrow is a new day and I will fill you in on the training we have done since January to get us where we are presently!

In the meantime, here's a picture of me on Hayden at the local covered arena.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Success with THE TARP!

Let me just tell you what has been at the top of Hayden's "Hate List":THE TARP!

In March of '08, we competed in a local extreme cowboy competition. One of the only obstacles we practiced at home was THE TARP.I had it hanging in his stall,laid outside his stall,made him walk over it,etc.During the competition THE TARP was the only obstacle out of 16 that the silly horse wouldn't go over! Frustration doesn't even begin to describe what I felt!

So anyways,during these Versatility Ranch Horse Competition(VRH)there may possibly be a slicker involved.You know the type;big,loud,yellow,long,horse eating slicker! So I figured that if he can handle a tarp he can handle a slicker right?

So a month ago I started just messing around with THE TARP and had it laid over a fence.I was on him and side passed over to it,took it off the fence,rode around with it,etc,and it never seemed to bother him! I was excited! Next day I attempted the same thing only when I took it off the fence he acted like he'd never seen it before! What's up with that? Only difference was that the day before we had done THE TARP after a 2 hour trail ride. Hmmm....

So for the past 3 weeks or so I have been seeking the advice of others who have more experience than me in this sort of thing. I am Facebook(FB)friends with an extraordinary horsewoman,Karen Jones( so I emailed her and asked her advice! She was so sweet and answered back diligently with a lengthy and helpful tutorial on what to do. I followed it to the tee as much as possible. I won't go into all the details but it involved MORE GROUND WORK! So that's what we have been doing A LOT of and tonight it paid off! For the past few weeks I have been instilling "WHOA." for ground tie training and so with that I have been sacking him out with the tarp. Every night I have been dragging it around his feet,over his back,pull over his neck and head, all while making sure he stood still! If he moved,I put him back where he was and said "WHOA." Sounds pretty basic huh? Some nights it was no big deal and others it was like it he'd never seen THE TARP before!

The last several nights he's been super great, so I wanted to do something different with him and THE TARP. Tonight I saddled him up and put him in the round pen and set up THE TARP on the ground next to the rail with my 3 step mounting block acting like a wing to help guide him. We lunged quietly and slowly over THE TARP for 20 minutes. Sometimes he'd jump it and other times he would try and skirt past it on the rail. Going to the left he'd stay near the mounting block.Going to the right he'd stay on the fence. He only avoided it one time in the 20 minutes so I thought that was pretty good!

So after 20 minutes I decided he was pretty calm and relaxed so I thought it was a good time to mount up. He wasn't sure I really wanted him to go OVER THE TARP with me on him but we went slow and easy and ended up walking right down the middle.After changing directions several times and making him stand in the middle of it,I felt that he had passed for the evening!

The next step I did in achieving our TARP goal was to place it on the fence and make him walk by it without me on him. I again used the mounting block to make him a lane to travel through and squeeze him closer to THE TARP.After several passes both directions at the walk, I would make him stop next to it and even walk past it and back up past it. He did this with flying colors and continually looking at me as if to say,"Really? You didn't think I could handle this?"

So then came THE TARP TEST. After moving the mounting block out of the way,I mounted up and rode him in both directions past the tarp hanging on the fence. Then we would stop next to it and side pass to it if needed. Stop. Rest. Pat good boy.Walk on. After doing this in both directions, we then would walk to it,"WHOA." and take it off the fence! He stood still! So then I would walk around to the other side of the pen and lay THE TARP over the fence, and walk off only to come by and pick it up and lay it over the fence on the other side of the pen again. We repeated this at the walk,jog,and lope both ways and called it night! SUCCESS with THE TARP! YAY!

If anyone actually does read this,you may be one of several different types of folks. If you're a non-horse person, you're probably thinking:"What's the big deal about THE TARP?" If you're a horse person that has never had to deal with this type of issue you may be thinking the same thing as the non-horse person! However,if you're a horse person that has had or are now dealing with this type of issue,then you're probably just about as excited as I am right now! Cheers!
Below is a picture of me on Hayden practicing for that extreme cowboy race I mentioned earlier.My great friend Amy Boddie took the picture!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Really? Another Blog?

So I thought I might blog this journey,not really for anyone but myself,but if it happens to inspire or otherwise motivate someone else with a similar goal then GREAT!
Let me begin by introducing myself.I am a 30 something year old mom of 2 boys.But before I was a mom-I was a wife,a friend,a sister,a daughter,dreamer and a horse owner! Many titles and labels.Blah to labels btw!

Well I have always,deep down in my soul loved ranch horses. Growing up in Salinas,CA. wherever I went there seemed to be a good looking rope horse or cutting horse that was always catching my eye and making my heart skip a beat.Their calmness,willingness and loyalty never seemed to tire or waiver.Jump ahead 20 years.I STILL have that admiration for such a horse! Agile,athletic,cowy,and an all around hand and partner to get the job done.

This blog is about my journey to make my horse a better horse,the training he and I will have to do in order to make him good enough and myself good enough to compete in AQHA's Versatility Ranch Horse classes and the NVRHA classes as well.

I am giving myself 5 years to get to an actual competition! Nothing like long term goals!

We've already started our journey before this blog was even an inkling of an idea. I know that makes you feel better! Like I said earlier,the journey began with a dream as a young girl in Salinas.More recently,almost 2 years ago now,I bought a horse that I fell in love with online.He was bred at Foothills Ranch( in Canada and raised in AZ and CO by a good friend. I was lucky enough to buy him as a 3 year old and he had already been started under saddle and had had a rope thrown off of him and at least seen cattle.
But now my horse ("Hayden") and I don't live on a ranch.No we live on what some might call a ranchette! 3 acres of pasture,house,and pool. (Pool's for us not the horses!)Not a cow/steer/or buffalo in sight.Not even an arena.But we will NOT let those small details deter us! Oh no! We have the cowgirl spirit and those minor details we will just toss aside into our hurdle pile and conquer on!

Here's a picture of my trusty steed.

Well,this will be fun! I will try and update tomorrow and catch this blog up to where we presently are in our quest for this personal challenge but right now I have to go out and do barn chores and work with Hayden on an obstacle or something...until then,happy riding and stall mucking!