Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Training News

I managed to get a quick "first-ride-of-the-year" ride in on Maddie last week, after returning from the vet's with Jackson (the It-Boy).

I really wanted to get at least three rides in during my spring break week, as this coming Saturday, Maddie is in for a workout! The KVTR's are hosting a little demo-clinic with a local trainer, and Maddie has "volunteered" to be one of the demo horses. He will be working on her confidence issues (and, indirectly, mine), and we may even walk out to Reecer Creek for a water-crossing session (if not during the clinic, before we leave the place).

She stood very quietly at the mounting stump, then moved off equally quietly when asked. We walked and jogged around the arena for a few, asking her to give to the left and right.
Then we headed out for a short loop around the farm. There were moments of slight hesitation, but only one or two full stops, mostly to look at things that were different than she last saw them in the fall (the empty irrigation ditch bothered her as much as it does when it's full of water!). At the back corner of Hank's cattle pasture, I had to dismount to open a gate, so we walked a bit to a log where I could remount. She fussed a little bit about standing here, as she could see her buddies at the barn, and Al had just pulled into the house from work, and Sandy the dog was getting all excited. But after a few tries, she stood again and I remounted and we walked up the pasture to the road, away from home, then returned down the driveway.

It was discouraging that the weather during my week off was not very cooperative. I had so many little jobs to get done, not the least of which was getting another 120 shrubs in the ground. Then I tweaked my back Saturday--must have been all the kneeling over for plants, or maybe the two sets of horses' hooves that I trimmed... At any rate, that was the only ride I got in. I even passed up two opportunities to get Kate (or even Maddie) out with the Trail Riders!

Sunday I loaded up with Tylenol and drove out the small ranch where the clinic will be. If I were just taking Maddie for the day, I wouldn't feel it as necessary to check things out. I had talked to Blake on the phone to let him know the issues I had with Maddie last summer (water crossing and loping), and liked what he had to say about his training approach (he's a little bit of a Clinton Anderson type, but, like me, draws from lots of different trainers' techniques and philosophies). I could always pull Maddie out if I felt he was taking the wrong tact.
But I had another thing stewing, and wanted to check his place and training methods out a bit closer.

Beth is Maddie's younger half-sister.
She is now four years old.
She is reining bred and very quick.
She is feminine and cute (but not spotted).
Smart and a little (okay, a lot) sassy.
And for sale.
But she is not broke.
I've done plenty of groundwork with her: She'll carry a saddle and D-ring snaffle. She lunges fairly well.
I have ground-driven her at home and around the neighborhood.
I have weighted her stirrups and laid across her back, flappin' and slappin'. I have done everything short of climbing up on her.
Why haven't I climbed on?
Mostly because she's quick. And smart. And sassy.
And because, when Maddie unloaded me last summer, I hurt my back a little. And shook my confidence.
As I've mentioned before, I'm closer to 60 than I care to admit (though I've admitted it several times, haven't I?). I can't afford to get hurt.

So Beth is the first baby I've raised that I am going to send to a trainer to start.
If I had some invincible teenager who was willing to climb on her the first few rides, I might have gone that way, though the insurance issues would have made me hesitate. But I don't, so I have been shopping around for a local trainer, that would work with Beth, and me, for a short 30-day stint. Then I can put miles on her until she is sold.

I found one guy who came highly recommended, and is only a couple of miles up the road--that would have been ideal, as I could have stopped regularly to participate in Beth's work. But he's got a full barn until June, and doesn't like to do less than 60 days (and preferably 90). I can't afford to put $2000 worth of training on a $1000 horse, especially since I can do much of the "wet-saddle-blanket"work myself.

So when I was chatting with Blake about the clinic, I was also feeling him out about taking Beth on.
The visit Sunday was positive. I met with Blake and his wife Annette for a bit, in their house in the sagebrush region at the rim of the valley (above the irrigation system). They have been building their place over time, as have I, but things are sturdy and safe, much more important to me than "fancy." There is no shelter in the training horse paddocks, so I'm glad Beth will be going in the spring, rather than the heat of summer. There is immediate access to thousands of acres of national forest, and, just like me, Blake believes in getting young horses out and about as soon as he gauges their temperament and cooperation.
Then we went outside and Blake worked an older mare he has in for re-training (she's been a broody most of her life), who reminded me a lot of Beth's mama, Misty. Did some "lunging for respect" in the round pen, then we walked down the drive to the creek for her second lesson there. He was consistent and patient with her and it only took a few minutes before she was circling quietly in and out of the water--he said the first time took about 35 minutes, so she remembered her lesson well.

I was impressed enough that we shook hands and I will be bringing Beth along with Maddie in the trailer on Saturday.

The major glitch is that he's way the h*** and gone, 30 miles at the opposite corner of the valley. So I'll have to bribe Al with something sweet, to stay in town a little later after work, so I can run out for an hour a couple of days a week. Or we could just drive separately, but that means 40 extra miles on the gas-guzzling truck (and gas prices are creeping up again).

I'll have my friend Anita along on Saturday to take lots of photos of the clinic, and I'll keep you posted on Beth's progress.


  1. Maddie is such a pretty girl - I love seeing her pictures.
    Take care of that back - it took me many years to take my own advice on that issue, but now that I have learned to listen to my body (even if it means that a task doesn't get done when I want to do it) I have far fewer "oops.....OUCH!" moments.

  2. More shrubs - wow! I was amazed at the last 1,000 you planted. ;)

    You really do have such beautiful horses. Why don't you raise gaited horses? I would totally buy one if she did any extra gaits! (Alternatively, why don't I do western games? I would totally buy one if I were a reiner.)

    Your trainer friend sounds very promising. Keep us up to date on him!

  3. Jean--the trouble is, some tasks can't wait! The trees going in while they're still dormant, horses feet before they get too long, and so forth. You get my drift. I have stayed home from school now three days, and am trying to be careful. Really.

    Funder--it wasn't quite 1000, tho sometimes it felt like it! At this point I've gotten about 340 in, between last fall and last week. I've got about 60 left to go, but they're a slightly different project.
    With my back issues, I suppose I should take a look at the gaited breeds. I rode one part-Walker back in the '70's who was really a nice guy. But the last Walker I had anything to do with (belong to the dad of my little Arab gelding boarder) was a jerk! Guess I shouldn't let that prejudice me.
    I am not so much of a "go-fast-cat" so the typical western games (barrels, poles) don't appeal to me--reining maybe, for it's similar skill set to dressage. But Beth is certainly put together physically and mentally to be a speed horse. But slow and easy to start--we'll see ow she does with Blake.

  4. Oh drat...blogger has eaten another rather lengthy comment!
    Okay...second try...
    I too have the same darned problem with the weather...it does not cooperate with my time off schedule! I am glad you had such a good "First ride" with your Maddie mare. And Beth is a nice looking mare too! Nice job with her and there was a committee standing behind you in the photo of your leaning into the saddle...cute!

    Holy cow...120 shrubs! I think that could have contributed to the back aches!( Never Hooves!) '~"
    I am so glad that you are taking Beth too...sounds like a nice facility, having the outdoors lessons involved!
    Cant' wait to hear and see your events!

  5. Love that first picture of Maddie bending so beautifully, and Beth's perky personality really comes through in these photos. Driving 30 miles and investigating whether someone's training methods are in line with your own philosophy, especially when you teach full time, really highlights the fact that horses are not for the weak spirited. I appreciate the time and energy you put into building a good life for your horses with their future humans. Wishing you the best with that back!

  6. I don't blame you for wanting someone else to do the first rides and starting for an unbroke horse, especially if you recognize in Beth, a little too much sassiness and speed than you're willing to risk it all for. Just not worth getting hurt, imo. You've already done everything you possibly can in ground work and handling her, so at least she'll be ready to focus with Blake.
    She sure is pretty and once she's broke you'll have no trouble selling her to a home looking for a well bred reining horse.

    All your photos were great. I really enjoyed seeing you and Beth working together and you riding Maddie, too.