Monday, October 5, 2009

Fiesta Concepcion Trail Ride...

What a weekend! Vaquero and I rode in the Fiesta Concepcion Trail ride, traveling from Realitos, TX to Concepcion, TX, a distance of about 15 miles. It was a total blast, and a great time was had by all. I have stories and adventures to last me until next year for sure.

I guess I was really in a mood to ride, because after we did the 15 miles, we trailered to my brother's ranch in South Texas out side of Benavides, TX, and rode some more! Winter and Adam joined me, and we did about 3.5 miles on the ranch, with some fast trotting and loping thrown in for good measure.

Then, the next morning, I did about 3.5 miles riding to the front gate of the ranch to let Winter and Adam out to the FM road. I just couldn't get enough riding this weekend.

All told, I think I rode about 22 miles this weekend, all on Vaquero. He looks visibly thinner, and I'm going to give him some R&R this week, and concentrate on Woody.

I'm looking for some endurance rides, because I think I like long rides...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Great ride on Vaquero...

After two terrible rides on Vaquero, I was getting very frustrated with my fire-breathing paso fino. I admit, I had been losing my cool with him the last few times, and our rides had been a disaster. But I sought advice from the good folks at, and set about adjusting my attitude.

I worked him on the ground yesterday, and we just focused on little movements, and just relaxing with each other. We did some deep breathing with each other (seriously) and just tried to be pleasant with one another.

Today, I did much the same, but I went on a trial ride. But before going anywhere, I just sat on him and rewarded him for relaxing and just standing in one spot. For about 10 minutes, we just stood there until he stopped quivering and we reached a state of zen like tranquility (seriously).

We then went out on the trail, and he was uncharacteristically calm. Or was it me? Even James, riding with me, commented on how calm we both were.

We had a great ride, and I enjoyed his silky smooth gait. We stopped several times and refocused our energy to that zen like place, before we would tackle a section of the trail.

It was awesome. Best trail ride on Vaquero in months.

Yes, I know. It was me. I just needed to calm myself, find my center, and share that peace with my slightly neurotic horse so he could perform at his best. When he is "on", he is the best ride I have. I just want to get that ride from him consistently.

Damn, I'm really tired of that expression "there are no problem horses, only problem riders". It's always true!

Want to see some video of me and Vaquero? Go to and search "1234vaquero".

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woody Reborn...

After the debacle with Vaquero at ranch sorting at the Cibolo livery, I decided to give me and Vaquero a break from our relationship, and see other horses.

Specifically, I wanted to lope some circles, and I have been missing that on Vaquero. Since Vaquero is a paso fino and a gaited horse, loping circles isn't his strong suit.

The last two days, I hopped on Woody. I used my usual bit, and one with which I am intimately familiar, and is easier than the bit I usually have beginners use when they ride Woody. We went back to the basics. We worked on lead departures on the correct lead, forehand and hindquarter transitions, side passing, and backing up. He was rusty yesterday, but today he was ON. He was getting his leads on cue, and his forehand transitions were brisk and quick. I concentrated on unloading his front end with good body position, and it made all the difference. You see, with the QH, I have more things I can work on and do, and I get to be a more active rider. With the paso fino, I sit more passively, because being active in the saddle sets him off because he's so sensitive. And with the paso, the emphasis is on smooth, not really athletic activities.

Woody's stop in just two days is MUCH better. He damn near jammed my back on one of his stops today. So in two rides, we went from a drifting kind of stop, to jamming my spine. I just persisted in working his back up, and being very deliberate in asking for the stop with my body BEFORE I pulled on the reins, and it made a big difference. I also have been riding him with a little more bit pressure, something I picked up from riding the paso, and it seemed to make him more responsive, I think because he is already "on the bit" even before I ask for the stop. He'll never be a western pleasure horse, so riding on a completely loose rein may not have been working for him.

It was awesome. I was opening my gates from Woody's back (he was doing all the work for me, no struggles), loping big circles, and running through the front pasture. I was in the front pasture, running him strong for long stretches, when one of my neighbors walked by. She is someone I'd never met, but I'd seen her horses from the trail. She stopped and we talked for a bit, and she marveled at how Woody would just run and run, and how even after just stopping, he didn't seem short of breath. That's my Woody.

It was quite a thrill today. One of those days when you know exactly why you love riding, and makes up for those days when you wonder if it's all worth it. It is DEFINITELY worth it!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ranch sorting at Cibolo...

I had been trying to find time to attend the ranch sorting practice at Cibolo livery for some time now. It's the closest thing to team penning around, and they stopped offering team penning at Cibolo some time back. The problem is that the ranch sorting practice is only held once a month. That's a tall order with my schedule.

I loaded up the horses and kids, and headed to the stables. Christine came along and was a huge help in handling the horses.

They started with a jackpot, which was basically ranch sorting for money for the teams that really knew what they were doing. I passed, of course, but I watched closely to see what the "pros" were doing. I made some small talk with the other riders, and made some new friends. There were some very impressive horses and riders in the jackpot round.

The practice session opened immediately after, and I gave it a whirl on Vaquero. I though he did pretty well for his first time out, and I looked forward to some more runs.

I fed my kids and then jumped back in the action. Only everyone had pretty much paired up by then, and I was struggling to find a partner. After my oldest daughter, Victoria, declined to try it, Christine agreed to give it a whirl on Woody. Wow! This was going to be interesting, two novices trying to ranch sort!

I don't know who was more nervous. As we waited in line for our turn, we discussed strategy. As if we needed to! This was just about getting some experience.

We headed into the round pens, and they announced "ride when ready". After encouraging Christine that the announcement meant she should get started, we were off. Well, we managed to get a few (two or so) calves sorted, and many more that shouldn't have been, but we survived the 90 seconds. Vaquero performed poorly, and was barely containable. His extra energy was not helpful in this event, and I found myself getting very frustrated with him. But Chrsitine was hooked! She wanted another round.

We waited our turn again, and hit it for our second effort. Christine and Woody did better, but Vaquero was a total disaster. He had no clue as to what we were doing, and his energy was excessive for the event. but we had fun.

A few observations after trying this event: Vaquero is ill suited for ranch sorting. It's not that he's not "cowy" or quick enough. He has plenty of skill in those areas. It's that he can't stay put, and he has to move FORWARD, and this is an event where you're required to "hold" the cattle, and that often means staying put or just side-passing or just yielding hindquarters but staying in place. He just can't do any of that and NOT move forward. And once he moves forward, we are out of position.

This event is not something I'll be doing often. It's not offered enough and my schedule won't allow it. But it's apparent I'm going to need a good QH to do some of the cattle events. I'll try to make a few play-days with Vaquero, but I suspect he won't do well there either. And I miss loping, and Vaquero doesn't do that well.

I rode Woody a bit in the arena while we were there, but his trot was torture for my back, and I kept him in a lope. I was very envious of al the QH riders there with some beautiful looking QH's that OBVIOUSLY had smooth trots and slow lopes.

I need a smooth trotting, good looking QH. It's that simple. It's time to start saving pennies. But it was one heck of an experience, and I'll be back.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Clicker training with Vaquero...

I went for a casual trail ride with Vaquero yesterday. I started by working on his clicker training in the barn while tacking up. He was asked to touch an inanimate object (a feed lid), and was rewarded with a click and a treat. He likes the apple treats, and seemed eager to earn more.

I took him out of the barn and went about mounting him. He has a habit of taking a few baby steps when I mount him, but this time he stayed still, and earned a click and a treat. Again, he seemed pleased with himself.

We went out to ride one trail, and I kept asking for the walk and rewarding him when he slowed and maintained his walk, with a click and a treat. But I found out it's a lot harder to give a treat while mounted, than while on the ground. I would stop him, and he would bring his head around to take the treat from my hand. But he didn't like to stay that twisted and still for too long, and I found myself pushing the treat in his mouth. Well, of course, my fingers were presenting the treat instead of a flat palm. Can you guess what happened? Yep, he caught my fingers in his teeth and I got rewarded with pain! That pretty much ended the treat offerings for that trail ride.

I'm going to continue with his clicker training. I may even just give him a "good boy" and a neck rub along with the click, but I do think he is responding to positive reinforcement...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5 miler on August 5th, 2009

James and I did a 5.2 mile ride in 55 minutes. We had been riding slow and easy, but our goal is to get in 1-2 rides a week at a brisk pace. We alternated between a trot, slow lope, and a run.

Vaquero was a little rough at first, and I worked to settle him into a nice largo. He gets a little excited sometimes at the beginning of a ride, and his normally smooth gait comes best to him after a warm up. I kept him in a largo while James rode Bullseye in a slow lope beside me.

When James picked it up to a faster lope, Vaquero's largo couldn't keep up, so I let him slip into a slow canter, still very smooth. The best part of riding Vaquero is that when you transition between the lope and largo, it's smooth. There is no jarring transition into a hard trot from a smooth lope, like in my QH Woody. On Vaquero, you just keep your seat, and everything feels under control at any speed transition.

At one point, we opened them up, and I had Vaquero at a full run (I later clocked him at 20mph using my GPS) and I was goosing him to see just how fast he would go. At that point, James and Bullseye came thundering up behind me and easily bested Vaquero's speed. Bullesye, the QH, definitely has another gear that Vaquero lacks. Still, I really enjoy Vaquero's smoothness, and I'll use that more than I will top speed.

The horses were panting for a good 10 minutes after the ride. And James and I grudgingly admitted to one another that the extended loping had left our abdominal muscles hurting. It was loads of fun...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ride for August 3, 2009.

Rode about 4 miles with James. He rode Bullseye and I mounted Woody, my grade quarterhorse.

Woody has been ridden by mostly beginners for the past few months, and he has completely lost his handle. He has a very poor stop if it's not maintained with lots of firm stops and backing up. Currently, I would rate his stop a 2/10. It will probably take me a month of riding a couple of times a week to get his stop back to his personal best, which is about a 7/10. He never "stops on a dime", but rather slows down and then eases into a stop. But right now, he's tossing his head and I'm using the "emergency brake" (a one rein stop) to get him to slow reasonably quickly.

Woody is also not riding collected, and he has lost some speed control. He hasn't had a rider on him in months that insists he lowers his head and flexes at the poll, and so he's not. He's got his head in the air. And he has walk, trot, and RUN. And I want the slow canter I know he has. Needless to say, it was a "working" ride yesterday, and we did a lot of flexing, lowering head, and fighting the bit to keep him from running and to get him to stay in a slow canter.

Despite our disagreements, he never reared or bucked, but I could definitely feel his displeasure at his not getting his way.

I have a million requests from friends that want to ride with me. I give them Woody, because I know he won't knowingly hurt anyone. But I'm afraid he's not reaching his potential with so many novice riders on his back. I may have to take him back, and be his only rider for a while, to get him back in form...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Better ride...

Rode with some friends this evening. This was one of those "low energy" rides, with mostly walking. And that's just what I wanted, because I'd been riding hard the last few rides, and I didn't want the horses to think that every trail ride was going to be wild and wooly.

Vaquero amazed me. He did some great walking, and was actually TRYING to check his speed to stay with the other horses. Just when I want to shoot that horse, he gets it together.

Leaving on a business trip for a few days, so I left the barn nice and tidy. I'll miss riding for a few days, but maybe my back and knees could use the recovery time. I plan to work on MY physical conditioning while I'm out.

Until we ride again...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tough ride with Vaquero. July 25, 2009

I headed out to front pasture to ride Vaquero, and I could tell right away that I was in for a rough day. He was acting very hot, and wanted to just boogie everywhere. Only this was the day I wanted him to have an easy ride. I tried one rein stops, and he circled several times before he would yield and stop. And then as soon as I released, he would fidget and want to largo or run again. I did this SEVERAL times (I mean like 10 times), and he never got calm and just stood there, which is all I wanted him to do. After about 10 minutes, when it was obvious he was NOT going to ride calmly, I decided to head to the round pen.

I moved him out in the round pen, thinking I would wear him down a bit and then try him again. I sent him out in the paso largo and canter. And I sent him. And I sent him. And he never got tired. Yes, he joined up. But he was still hot and touchy when I was working him on the ground in the round pen. I did some yielding exercises, and he did well.

I mounted him and worked on walking him. I just wanted to walk. He wanted to paso largo and canter. I decided it couldn't hurt to ride him hard and then try to walk him, when he was good and tired. And so we loped. And we loped. And we loped. I loped him HARD for about 10 minutes in both directions (that's 20 minutes straight), in the round pen, and he wouldn't stop. I'd never loped a horse this long. Surely, I wasn't going to kill him? Any minute he was going to stop, wasn't he? He didn't stop. When I was sure he would run himself to death, I let up and we slowly wound down to a walk.

He walked for about halfway around the round pen, and then he picked up speed and went into a paso corto. Are you kidding me? He still wasn't tired? I did a paso corto around the round pen and turned his nose in to the rail to slow him and hope he would see to slow down and WALK. Nothing doing. He would slow just enough to turn in the other direction, which I didn't want, and so I would turn him back. No matter how many times I tried to show him that the release from pressure and work was to walk, he wouldn't take it.

By this point it was dark, and I couldn't see to ride him anymore. I had ridden him for about 90 minutes, mostly at a canter the entire time. He was breathing hard, but I could tell he was recovering quickly. I surmised that the longer and faster recent trail rides had done a lot to condition him, and tiring him was NOT going to be easy.

As much as I hate to use treats with horses, I am getting desperate. I'm going to have to try to feed him carrot slices to reward him at a walk, and see if he gets it this way. If not, I'm looking for a trainer. I HAVE to be able to walk this horse reliably. We cannot just tear around the country EVERY TIME we ride.

This was the hottest he's been in a long time. I never felt unsafe and he never offered to do anything stupid, but it's very frustrating to ride this way. It's like driving a Ferrari, but the throttle is stuck on full, and there's no way to drive with any control...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Go all paso fino?

I'm seriously thinking about going "all paso fino" in my remuda. I am now very accustomed to the smoother ride of the paso fino, and I enjoy the enthusiasm of the breed. But having QH's in my string is difficult, because the pace set by the paso fino is too much for anyone riding one of the rough trotting QH's. Granted, a smooth trotting QH would be fine, but they aren't easy to find.

I looked around a bit online, and my ideal paso fino would be as follows: 14.2-15 HH, 7 years old or older (preferably about 12 or older really), well -trained, on the smoother side of the already smooth paso fino (they are not ALL super smooth, but ALL are better than MOST QH's), lots of trail experience, loads well, picks up feet, and should have LESS than average brio - a calmer temperament than most paso finos. Should be good enough for an advanced beginner to ride.

My dream horse would also have a neat color, like a liver chesnut or grey, or even a striking bay or black. And I would LOVE it if my 12 year old daughter, beginning rider, could ride this horse and join me on trail rides.

I enjoy my paso, Vaquero, but he's only suitable for an intermediate rider or better. He's tall, between 15.1-15.2 HH, and has better than average brio. He's a nice bay, but he could be even a little flashier to match his temperament.

I'm willing to wait for this perfect paso fino...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trail ride on Woody...

Did a quick solo ride with Woody, my trusty quarter horse. It was a nice ride in the cool of the evening.

But I have to say, I'm getting very spoiled with my paso fino, Vaquero. With Vaquero, the pace is much quicker, and I can ride hard and fast without jolting my back. Woody's trot is too rough to sit, and I don't feel like posting the entire time, so my only option is a very slow trot I can sit, a walk, and a canter. But I really miss the speed of the trot because it's just the right speed to cover a lot of ground, and I can't do it on Woody because of his trot!

Woody is my babysitting horse, the one I can trust for a beginner. And he's fine when I'm running him or just walking. But he's not my favorite trail horse; there, I said it. I can't believe I'm saying that, but Vaquero is definitely my number one mount. He's agile, quick, smooth, and has improving endurance. He's showing enthusiasm for cows, and he does everything with style.

If Woody were my only mount, at this point I'd be selling him. I just CANNOT sit his trot anymore with my back.

If another paso fino, with less brio, and a little shorter was available, I'd be all over it; or a quarter horse I could trust, with a smooth trot. I guess that means I'm shopping...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick trail ride...

Did a very quick trail ride today on Vaquero. He wanted to give me a little grief about going out solo, but I quickly took the notion of any funny business out of his head by spinning him and making him work.

We did the 3.6 mile loop in about 35 minutes. I kept him at his paso largo most of the time. We were really moving there for a while. I wanted to see how fast I could get it done, because I hope to start doing the loop twice on him, for 7.2 miles. Maybe I could get two loops done in an hour. That would be a good workout for him.

He worked up a medium sweat, and was breathing hard at the end. I'm working on his conditioning.

The pic shows the view from a high spot on one of the trails.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Working cattle on Vaquero, Chapter 2...

I worked cattle for 2 hours with Vaquero for only the second time yesterday, and what an improvement!

Specifically: (1) He rested better. That is to say, he took advantage of "breaks" in the action and didn't stay worked up. This allowed us to work the entire 2 hours. (2) His neck reining improved dramatically. I had to be able to rein him with one hand so I could use the other to "push" cattle. I have usually ridden him with two hands, because I felt I had more control. He was very rough, especially turning to the left with a neck rein for the first hour, and I would often have to bring my other hand up to turn him in the narrow confines of the "alley" that we were using to push up the steers. But by the second hour, he was turning easily, and he was anticipating the action.

Problems: (1) He is still too easily bothered when I put a leg in his side and ask him to sidepass from a standstill. He wants to take this cue to mean "go forward", but when working cattle, sometimes I need him positioned just so, and the sidepass from a standstill is a useful skill. I'm not entirely sure how to improve on this, other than ground work and time. (2) Even though the neck rein is improving, it could be better, and I think this will come with me riding him with one hand more often.

One participant in the roping asked me "Is that a Peruvian Paso?". I just answered "No, he's a paso fino". I caught a lot of the ropers watching me work cattle on this funny moving horse. But I'm sure more than a few could appreciate how I was working cattle at a trot speed, but without a bounce. Vaquero was really "on" while working, and he stayed well-gaited for the entire 2 hours, so my back was feeling fine at the end.

I highly recommend working cattle on a paso fino!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Epic ride...

I think loping Woody hard yesterday left me fired up to ride again today. Only this time, I wanted to ride Vaquero and push him even more.

Vaquero was in a good place from the word go. He gave me his feet as best he can - he has rather stiff rear legs, so he's not as limber as Woody in giving up his rear hooves. He stood rock still for mounting, and he seemed content to ride at my pace.

But James had an idea to ride hard, and he started trotting with Bullseye, his horse, right away. I let Vaquero follow, and we ended up tearing through all 3 equestrian trails in my neighborhood at a fast clip. We absolutely RIPPED through the last one. I imagined there were bandits on our tail; or even better, I was the outlaw escaping a posse. Either way, it was lots of fast trots and faster galloping. I got Vaquero into a flat run, and I'm beginning to find his rhythm at his lope.

It was my most fun ride on Vaquero to date, and I truly enjoyed his paso largo and his gallop. I was whooping and hollering most of the ride, and the smile I wore while riding hard has yet to leave my face...

Back to an an old friend...

Lately, my quarterhorse Woody, has been relegated to babysitter. He is the mount I can trust to take care of any skill level rider. This Sunday I put my oldest daughter on him, and she and I did a climbing trail ride in my neighborhood. I trust him that much.

Woody will safely carry my youngest daughter and the greenest rider. But Woody is also the fastest horse I've ever ridden. If the right rider is on him, he comes alive. Once he knows you can handle the speed, he will give it to you in spades, and he loves to run.

Yesterday, I left my paso fino in the paddock and caught Woody for a ride. You could almost see his expression asking "Me? Are you going to ride me? I don't have to babysit anyone?"

I brushed him well - he is the horse that loves to roll, especially if there's mud around. He gave me all his feet for a good check and picking. He is the BEST horse I have ever had for picking up his feet. He is very limber, and picking up his rear hooves is a snap. He stood dead still for the saddle. I went to mount him, and he didn't budge. What a difference from my paso!

We started out, slowly. I mean, he was doing his usual walk, but I'm so used to my paso, Woody's QH walk feels like slow motion. In fact, all of his movements felt slow and sluggish. My paso is very sensitive, and the slightest leg bump or cue elicits a vigorous response from him. This was going to take some re-adjustment on my part.

We warmed up in my round pen area, and then the sand arena. But I knew I felt like running, and I was taking my time to remind him this was no greenhorn on his back. After a nice warm up, we were ready.

I rode him out to the front pasture, and we started our lope, skipping right through the trot. I made sure he had the correct lead, and we started our BIG circle. When I felt he knew the footing, I stepped it up, driving him with my hips on the straight stretches. After a moment's hesitation that felt like "Are you sure? Really, I can run?" we were off. He was in a flat out run, and the pasture was whizzing past. The wind was in my face, I had his rhythm matched with my hips, and we were enjoying this moment. I slowed him just a hair for our big sweeping turn, and kept him wide open on the straight-aways. Wow! What power and speed! And the best part is, you can tell HE likes it as much as I do; it's not forced from him, it flows like a child's sprint to her parents' arms. It just one of those things he truly likes to do.

We did this for several laps around the pasture, in both directions. He never lost his footing, his wind, or his desire to keep going. I checked him up after a bit, because I didn't want to push him too hard, when his routine lately has been slower. But he had plenty left in the tank, and I rarely see him winded.

He has the best endurance of any horse I've ridden. I seriously think we could contend in endurance races, something I'd like to do on him. Except that his trot is the roughest of any QH I've ridden. It's a very predictable trot to post, but if you don't post it, you'll bounce to the moon or until your back is shattered. It's his only true flaw. And he's smooth at the lope and run, it's just the trot that's hard to sit.

We finished quietly, and he got a rinse after he cooled down, followed by his grain, hay and his stall for the evening. I hope he had pleasant dreams of running through the pasture. I know I did...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Battle with Vaquero...

I decided to forgo the trails today, and just ride Vaquero, my spirited paso fino, in an enclosed environment. With no warm up, I led him to the front pasture of about an acre or so on size, and we engaged in battle.

As is his usual 90% of the time, he had issues with me mounting. That is to say, he wants to dance when I go to mount him. So, he got sent around me longeing, and then finally calmed enough for me to mount him safely. Then, of course, he was bristling underneath me and calmed JUST long enough for me to get my stirrups positioned. He's always ready to launch as soon as I mount him. I decided that today, I was going to let him work all he wanted to.

I sped him around the pasture, following the fence line to maximize our path. We stayed in a largo and his funky paso fino lope most of the time. I only slowed him to a corto if I needed to adjust my position. We did this for about 30-45 minutes, until he had a good sweat going. Then he got a reprieve while I talked to my neighbor.

After his brief respite, I rode him to my sand arena, and proceeded to work him hard, paso largo and canter in ever tightening circles. This was good for me too, as I had to really concentrate to keep my position in this quick moving, easy to change direction horse.

We backed up, worked on our side pass, and keep our feet moving in the deep sand. His side pass is good, but he always has to overcome the idea that I can put my leg into his side. That just freaks him out, and he gets light up front and very bothered with his tail and breathing. Too bad for him, because he's going to have to get used to it. I tested his hind quarter yield with my legs, and it sucked. At least I identified what we need to work on from the ground: side pass and yielding hindquarters. Actually, maybe just yielding in general, as he develops major attitude with the notion that I can make him yield.

We rode for about an hour and a half. He was panting and soaked in sweat. I'm feeling well enough from my back to do more of this. It's time this paso got ridden to the limit...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Overdue update...

It's been a while since I posted, but I'm going to try to keep up.

Vaquero has conquered a few issues since my last post. He is backing up well, with vigor even. It took me a while to get used to his back up, because he REALLY picks up his front feet when he backs up, and it almost feels like he is going to rear, but he doesn't. It's just part of the exaggerated movements of the paso fino breed.

He is riding much straighter or "between the reins". I've taken to moving him with my legs when his body isn't in position, and he moves readily to my leg cues.

He side-passes well if he is moving slightly forward, but he kind of freaks out with the cue to side pass if he's at a standstill. It makes opening gates a little tricky.

We are working on his flat walk. He will do it, but his flat walk is still faster than the QH's I ride with, and I'm constantly having to check him or let him go and circle back. This gets him sweating profusely, because he's frustrated and wants to go. I wish I had 30 miles of fence-line to scoot past, because he'd be great at that!

In short, he's come a long way and has not offered to do anything too stupid that could get me hurt, thus far. If I was riding alone, or with other gaited horses, he'd be an acceptable mount. but it's frustrating to ride him with slow moving QH's.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Patience...where do I buy some?

This post might be more of a rant, so be forewarned...

I've ridden Vaquero 3 times this week, and my hope was that frequent riding would straighten out some of the problems we've been having. Or maybe not...

(1) He isn't tracking "straight" when I ride him. He wants to sort of side-pass while going forward. I've straightened him out some by riding with my hands spread apart and working on him "riding between the reins", and by constantly adjusting him with my legs. But it's annoying. This horse is 14 years old, and riding straight is a beginner lesson. This horse should know how to do this by now.

(2) He has no back up. When I ask him to back up, in the manner I've backed up dozens of other horses, he gets hot under the collar and rears, about 1-2 feet off the ground. I can understand having to "refresh" a horse's backing ability, but to have to teach it de novo is freaking ridiculous. He did the same thing when I asked him to back when I was driving him from the ground, so obviously, he just does NOT get it. Rather than risk my life and limb, I'm going to have to commit to driving him from the ground until he does get it. I cannot stand a horse that won't back.

(3) His attitude kind of sucks. He gets frustrated when trying to learn something new, and he not only reared a little yesterday when trying to learn to back up, he bucked a little when I turned him away from home when the homestead was in sight. Granted, I could barely tell he bucked, but the "attitude" was there. I spun him hard in place, and normally, I would have backed him as many as 100 yards if that's what it took to get his head straight, BUT HE DOESN'T BACK UP! In contrast, when Woody (my QH) was having to be broken of "prancing" back to the barn, I backed him up for probably 50 yards NUMEROUS times, and he NEVER offered to do anything stupid. He would just sigh and get a little bothered. Thats a much more reasonable attitude.

I know, I know...There are no problem horses, only problem riders, and I'm sure I'M the one that needs to slow down and get more patient...The horse needs to be shown the "easy" way out and only learns on the release, etc, etc. Yeah yeah, I know. I'll try to pick up a pound or two of patience on the way home, but right now I'm pissed and frustrated.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ground driving...

I finally did it!  I've been talking about ground driving Vaquero for a few weeks, and today I mustered up the courage and tried it.

It was a complete disaster, for at least the first 15 minutes.  Neither of us knew what we were doing.  Vaquero kept thinking we were longeing, and kept turning in to face me.  That makes a mess of the 30 foot driving lines, to say the least!  I was repeatedly dropping the lines and untangling them from his legs.  James was watching, and he became so frustrated watching us, that he snuck off and did his riding with Bullseye well out of range of the disaster unfolding in the round pen.

But then, I uncharacteristically found some patience, the horse started to get the idea, and we were ground driving.  We did well going counter-clockwise.  I just stuck with that for a while, learning to manage the 30 foot long reins, and giving him subtle adjustments to control the arc of his circle.  

But we had to turn at some point; disaster again!  He was all over the place, reared once, and just generally refused to turn.  But wait, a small lightbulb is beginning to burn dimly over our heads, and we are turning.  Yes!  I then worked on his stop.

We finished the session lathered.  This is the most I've seen him sweat, and I was pretty soaked, too.

We have a lot more to perfect, but I'm getting the idea, and I think he is too.  I can't wait for our next session...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Green grass...

I had a busy weekend, and no time to muck stalls and feed, so I turned the horses out to the front pasture and let them eat some of the new, green grass growing there.  I figured, "Why waste the nutrition, and I'd just have to mow anyway?".  Well, all their body conditioning went to heck in a hand-basket just like that.  They had 3 days at the all you can eat buffet, and it shows.   They're still nice and shiny, but they're walking around with grass bellies and an extra layer of fat over their ribs.

I had no idea that just 3 days of green grass would turn them into "sumo" horses.  There WILL be extra round penning...

The pics are of "Woody", the biggest pig of the bunch.  I don't think he picked his head up from the grass in 3 days.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another good day in the round pen...

A great day in the Hill Country, even with a bad back.  I loaded up on pain meds, and decided to test if the last round pen's session was a fluke.  Would Vaquero flat walk again?  Or will it be a case of regression and frustration?

We hiked to the round pen, after a little struggle to be caught.  Actually, the struggle was more to get Woody, the herd leader, caught and out of the way; after that it was pretty simple.

My neighbors are nice enough to let me use their round pen.  We had to wade through their horses to get to the round pen.  It's not always easy to lead a horse through another horse's "turf".  After getting through Yaweh, the mare, and Canyon, the paint gelding, we reached an oasis in the pasture: the round pen.  The neighbor's horses stuck around for the show, however.

He did great! He was much more responsive to me being in front of his "driveline", and adjusted speeds quickly.  When his largo broke into a canter, I could easily bring him down just a hair to get back into the largo.  He worked for an extended period in the corto.  And he walked.  He really walked.  I mean I brought him to a walk at least a half dozen times from the corto and largo.  And he genuinely seemed relaxed at the walk.

I worked him for 20 minutes or so, until I saw lather.  Then we worked on his flexion exercises.  He remained mostly focused on me, even when Canyon would make runs and charges at the round pen and try to drive Vaquero.  Vaquero responded very little to the other horses, and his inside ear and speed, stayed with me.

I gave him a good bath after, and that's shown in the 2 photos, one from each side.

A great day in the round pen...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Working in a girdle...

OK. I know I shouldn't have done it.  I know I have a horse problem.  But I just couldn't stop myself.  So in spite of being less than 48 hours post-op from neurosurgery to my back, I worked Vaquero today.

I just worked on lateral flexion, vertical flexion, and some round pen work.  And I did it all in a girdle!  Maybe a better term is an orthopedic, orthotic, lumobosacral spine stabilizer, but it sure feels like a girdle.

After some excitement when I couldn't move fast enough to catch him quickly in a small paddock, we settled in for some work.  He did great.  I even had him at a flat walk for about 3 times around the round pen.  Our best effort to date on a flat walk was maybe 20 feet.  That means I'm better able to get him in, and maintain, all of his speeds: the flat walk, the corto, the largo, and the gallop.  That took about 2 weeks and 8 different sessions.  I'm going to keep building on this, and keep him in his various speeds for longer intervals.  I feel confident this will translate into better speed control from the saddle.  

Ultimately, I'd like to be able to trail ride him in a flat walk to keep pace with my QH buddies (let them keep up rather), and use the corto and largo as spine sparing speeds to keep up with the faster parts of the trail ride.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Last Ride for a While...

I went on a trail ride with James on April 15, 2009.  This is going to be my last trail ride for 6 weeks, until I'm healed from the back surgery I underwent today...

The ride was quite an adventure.  I didn't round pen Vaquero, as daylight was fading fast, and I wanted to maximize our riding time.  This was to be Vaquero's first trail ride with me.  I warmed him up in the arena for about 10 minutes. I rode him in a bit-less, rope halter bridle, equipped with two split reins that joined under the chin.  I could tell right away, that we were in for quite a ride together.

Vaquero is pretty responsive with a bit in his mouth, and I have close to "pinky finger" control of his speed with a bit.  But I had to go bit-less, because he had his teeth floated the day before.  I was having to really crank on his reins to get him to respond, and he was basically pushing against the nose pressure the entire ride.

He didn't spook on the trail, and his smoothness was greatly appreciated, especially going up and down hills that normally I have to post with Woody.  But it was a tough ride because of the physical force required to control him without a bit.

Vaquero is obviously not a "finished" horse.  I suspect he has not been ridden in several months.  With the help of some information from, I think I have the solution to the problem.  You can read more in the forums there, and my handle is "Vaquero".

He needs to be ridden in the traditional headgear for the paso, a type of bosal that will have two sets of reins.  The first set of reins will control nose pressure and head height.  The first set will also work to steer him by positioning his head, and will put him in the right "frame" of head.  That is: flexed at the poll, head held higher than his withers or above his topline, and moving his head in response to bosal pressure.  A second set of reins will control his bit, and will help to control his speed and stop.  Ultimately, I want to be able to ride him with one set of reins, probably the bit, but flexed at the poll.  This type of bosal is different from the one used in western riding, but serves the same purpose.  In fact, if successful, I anticipate using this same set-up in my quarter horse, to get him riding more flexed at the poll and collected.  It seems like I have a lot more to learn AND teach my horses.  But I enjoy the challenge.  I was kind of getting to the point where I was bored with the level I had reached with Woody.  This next goal of riding collected, is going to be tough, but will get me to the point of a more finished horse in both of my mounts.

The picture in this post is of the beautiful sunset I enjoyed with Vaquero, Bullseye, and James.  I plan to keep looking at this picture as I recover over the next 6 weeks, as a reminder of the last trail ride, and to keep dreaming of the next one...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Great ride for Vaquero...

It's a beautiful Easter Sunday.  The sun is shining, and the wind is blowing just enough to keep things cool.  Great day for a ride.  I hope the horses agree.

Vaquero was first.  He was caught fairly easily.  He worked like a champ with our lateral flexion exercises we've been working on, giving to the pressure of the rope halter easily on both sides.  I am convinced that he is just very out of shape, so I looked at my watch and committed to 15 minutes of continuous round pen work before I'd let him in.  

He was hot at first, and wanted to canter around the round pen.  I let him, thinking it'd be a good work out for him, even if I've heard gaited horses shouldn't be allowed to canter much.  I needed an edge.  I wanted him tired.

After a while, he was more content to do a largo, and then a corto.  He was licking his lips and kept looking at me to let him in, but I resisted and sent him around again and again.  We did 15 continuous minutes, and in the end, he was even willing to do a flat walk.  He was sweating, but not breathing nearly as hard as he did just several days ago when he was lathered and nostrils flaring after 5 minutes in the round pen!

We repeated our lateral flexion exercises, and he was butter.  OK, now time to practice standing still for mounting.

I kept the rope halter on him, and put weight in his stirrup with my hand.  He stayed still.  I put a foot in the stirrup, and he danced.  That's it!  I sent him around on the lead rope.  If he wasn't going to stay still for mounting, he was going to work!  He licked his lips quickly and came in, as if to say "OK.  I get it.  I'm supposed to be still.  I just forgot".  We started over.  He was still, and I picked myself up in the stirrup, but did NOT swing my leg over.  I just stayed there, weight on him in the left stirrup, and demanding he be still.  We did this several times, and after one more trip around on the lead line as punishment for moving, he was solid!  No more moving while I mounted.

Now for a ride.  I bridled him up, making him drop his head for me.  He just eats the bit.  I mean, you'd think I dipped it in molasses, that's how eagerly he takes the bit.

I mounted slowly, easing my right leg over.  Would he be still?  Would he tremble underneath me and move off before I could get settled in the saddle, as he had been doing?  Nothing.  He was still.  There was no tremble and he let me get settled and pick up the reins before we began our ride in the round pen.

We spent time in the largo and corto, and even a flat walk at times.  He tolerated changing directions with only an occasional tail swish, but none of the buck he had been giving me.  I've gotten used to his fabulous neck rein, and I just ease him around for turns, lest I go over the saddle with his quick direction changes!  After about 30 minutes, we called it a day, ending on a high note.

Woody was next.  I spent some time round penning him, because I've been often getting on him cold back, and I think he could use a little extra exercise.  I only worked him for about 10 minutes, enough for a sweat, but not enough to get him breathing very hard.  He has awesome stamina, however, and it would probably take 30 minutes to get him winded.

With Woody, I repeated the lateral flexion exercises I've been doing with the paso, and he wasn't nearly as good.  He is stiff as a board with flexing to the left, and much better to the right.  I'll need to be more consistent with doing these exercises.

We did a medium length trail ride of about 45 minutes.  After riding the paso, I've got to say that Woody feels absolutely pokey.  His walk feels like a crawl compared to the corto of the paso.  And it's got even more bounce than the paso's corto.  I'm anxious to get the paso out on the trail, where I suspect I can do the same trails I ride with Woody in half the time, and with less bounce.  I can't wait to see how the paso negotiates the tougher, rockier trails, and see if he can maintain the smoothness.  But I'll wait to do a trail ride with the paso when another horse can join us, just so he feels a little more secure.

I left the paso hanging on a swivel line while I rode Woody.  I left him pawing and "talking".  He resumed the pawing on our return.  So it wasn't perfect, but it was close...

Friday, April 10, 2009

This is what it's all about...

The kids and I grabbed some outdoor time today, and it was awesome.

Victoria and I spent some time in the round pen working Vaquero.  He did great, and was responsive with lateral flexion on the ground and better with maintaining his speed and going through speed transitions. He was doing so well, I put a saddle on him.  He danced a bit for mounting, but MUCH less than our first few rides.  He was still trembling under saddle at first, but within 30-45 seconds, got it under control.  The experience on the ground was duplicated in the saddle (shocking) and he kept his speed easily at paso corto for most of our ride, going into the largo only when I asked for it.  He still doesn't walk well, but he can't do that from the ground yet either, so we still have work to do.

Victoria was fascinated by his different walk.  Sofia said he moves like he's walking fast, and proceeded to demonstrate!  V was so intrigued, that I was able to sell her on the idea of riding him while I led her in the round pen.  She was grinning from ear to ear, and enjoyed the smooth ride.  It was good for Vaquero, because I held him while she mounted, and he put up with her crude efforts to get on him without dancing underneath her.  He also got to practice his flat walk, because I kept it slow while leading V for most of the ride; although, I did get him into a slow corto for V to "ride the glide".

The girls then proceeded to pamper him with endless brushing after the ride.  It is CLEAR that Vaquero likes to be groomed.

I grabbed Woody next, and Sofia was led around.  She and Woody were doing so well, I gave her some instructions on the reins, and she rode Woody free, with me walking ahead, but off the lead rope.  She was turning him well, and using both hands.  She is clearly a natural, and understands horses well.

Weather permitting, we'll make some time for more horse adventures tomorrow.  I am very encouraged by the progress the paso fino is making, and I got the sense that he genuinely likes children.  He was very attuned to the kids, and calmed down in their presence.  Just one of those days when it's good to be a dad and a horseman.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New feet for Vaquero

Vaquero got his hooves worked on today.  The bottom picture shows his hooves before his trim.  I worked him on a long lead to see if his gait got any smoother, but it's hard to tell without getting in the saddle.  I'll check THAT tomorrow. 

It took Vaquero all of about 2 minutes to work off the long lead line.  He wanted to come in to me, but I shoved him out, and he picked up what I wanted pretty quickly.  That horse is no dummy.  You just have to show him twice, and he's got it.  It also means you have to be very consistent, because he WILL remember what you asked for and how you asked for it. He is the smartest horse I've worked with to date by a wide margin.  If I can keep up with him, there is tremendous potential there for a beautiful partnership.

He is flexing laterally very easily to both sides from the ground.  I think I'll work on his standing still for mounting tomorrow in the round pen.

Saying goodbye...

Went to my old stables to ride with Winter. James came with me. We warmed up well in the arena and then hit the back trail. It was just a great, uneventful ride in the beautiful, central Texas hill country. The full moon (seen in the pic) lit our path for the ride back.

I'm very much going to miss riding at my old stables. The trails and memories there will always be in my mind.

James's "Bullseye" is riding much better with the Myler bit. In fact, that bit, together with his conditioning and the frequent riding, led James to comment that "Bullseye is riding the best he's ever ridden".

Now if I can just get my paso fino "Vaquero" to that level...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Went for a trail ride with James.  Got on Woody problems. He was his usual reliable self, and we hit the trails after a short warm up.  Did 2.5 trails, including one with a climb.

Highlight of the trip was seeing James get "Bullseye" up on a boulder after I told him he'd never do it!  This boulder was no bigger than a coffee table and 2 feet off the ground.  Quite a sight.

I left "Vaquero" tied the whole time we were gone, about 2 hours, and I did not notice him pawing in the 45 minutes we spent un-tacking and cleaning up the barn.  I think he may finally be learning some patience!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blocker Tie Ring

Installed two "Blocker Tie Rings" in my barn today.  Placed them close to the tack room and under cover, for all-season ease of use.  I was pretty impressed with how they worked, although I'm not sure the horses cared how they were tied.