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.