Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been thinking about what happened on Lola, and all her stumbling, and I've come to the conclusion that the poor girl probably does have a little something going on in the right hind, but I also think she is not well conditioned, and breaks down a bit more when she is tired. And right now, it's too easy for her to get tired.

I have consulted with a vet, before embarking on this problem. Lola is not obviously lame. I notice her right hind moving funny, but someone who didn't live with her and see her every day, wouldn't notice it. My vet didn't nor did my trainer. But I know it's there. But until it's more obvious, there isn't much to do about it. But I can work on her conditioning.

Yesterday, James and I embarked on a more scheduled pattern of riding, to build up the horses. We jogged (read trotted) Lola and Woody for 2 miles, splitting the time posting on either shoulder so as not to hammer one shoulder more than the other. We worked on gentle collection; I kept Woody VERY collected since he's in better shape, and James rode Lola lightly collected since she isn't in great shape. There were very few stumbles, and both horses performed well.

We then went to the round pen and worked on cantering in the correct lead. My round pen is big enough for riding, and we kept the horses on the rail to keep the circle as big as possible and avoid tight circles that could unduly stress joints. Lola was doing better at taking the correct lead, although still a little reluctant to take the right lead. James did a good job of riding her in the correct position to facilitate a proper lead departure.

We cantered in each direction for 4 circles, then rested the horses. We did this for 3 sets, or a total of 12 cantering circles in each direction. Lola was wet, but not soaked or lathered at the end of this activity. Woody was warm and a touch wet, but he looked to be in better shape than Lola.

I hope to continue this program and advance it as the horses respond. FYI: Lola's manners are much better since the frequent riding has begun. In fact, all the horses' manners are improved. Amazing what giving them a job will do to sweeten their disposition.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A fall on Lola...

Had a very eventful weekend, to include a lesson. But I'll skip to what happened this afternoon. I went to a friend's place to ride, in a very good arena. I've been riding Lola frequently, building up her conditioning. On Saturday, my instructor commented on what a good horse Lola is and how she appeared to be sound. But she did stumble a few times while being worked. Breathe was there and saw it happen. In fact, Lola stumbles all the time. She is a "stumbling horse". I've been concerned she has some source of lameness, but nothing has been obvious,to me or the vet or the farrier.

Today, I was riding her in the arena, and working on her right lead. She seems to be left lead dominant, so I wanted to build up her right. We were cantering, hit a slightly deeper sand area, she stumbled and went down on her head. I leaped off when it was apparent she was going down. I suffered a minor scrape, and Lola bounced back up quickly. She was dripping blood from her mouth from a tear in her lip. I checked her mouth well, but there did not appearto be any interior mouth damage. She alsomwas not limping in any discernable way.

Lola is a "stumbling horse". She stumbles at the walk just leaving the barn, she generally does better when warmed up, but the stumbles never leave her completely. She does not work off her back end, is heavy footed, and even heavy to lift her feet for picking. She is a lovely horse, nice buckskin color, 14.3 HH, 14 years old, loads well, doesn't rear or buck, and is probably for sale. I'm sure there is some reasonable explanation for why she stumbles, but I'm darned if I'll spend much money to figure it out. I'm sorry, but I can see 1-2k being spent to vet this problem, and she will just probably never be the athletic horse I want her to be. And all I can think about is what if itnhad been my daughter on her at the canter, with my knowledge that Lola stumbles often.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lesson this Saturday...

This Saturday, I'm taking a lesson with my horse mentor, Marty Wernle. Marty is an older gentleman that I worked with about 3 years ago.

You see, I had ridden horses in my youth, but had no formal instruction at that time. I just bumped along and generally did well when I was paired with an experienced horse, but did terribly with my own mount, a very INexperienced horse. I have described my adventures with Marty in a previous post.

Needless to say, I am VERY excited to be going back with the man that helped me so much to improve my riding skills. I use MANY of the things he taught me every day in my riding. I have no idea why I waited so long to call him him and continue my education. I can only say that I was anxious to get out there and start DOING. But 5 horses and 3 years later, I think I need to go back to school.

Specifically, I have certain things I want him to teach me, and I want him to teach me how to teach my horse. I want to be able to do some basic spins, and rollbacks. I'm not sure all my horses will be able to pull this off, but I want to try.

Also, I want him to confirm that some of the things I THINK I do well, I am indeed doing properly. For example, I think I'm good at teaching a horse to yield hindquarters, depart on the correct lead, stop, back up, side-pass, and cross over in the front reasonably well. But I want to be able to REALLy have a horse corss over on their front end, REALLY do a good rollback, and at least do a decent spin.

And I want to hear some of his stories. He has a way of teaching where he gets his point across, and you learn something about the history of the horse in the process.

I can't wait to ride with him again...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just one of those special days...

I love these days...the days when everything you've been working on falls together...when you and the horse feel like one organism...when the trot is held with a steady rhythm that allows you to post ever so gently, your bottom gently hitting the saddle for just a moment before it's back up again...a trot so steady and consistent it's easy to switch shoulders during posting...when the canter comes easily and with just the slightest shift of energy...departing on the correct lead....when the horse stays collected with just the slightest pinky rein pressure of bit contact in the mouth...when the stop is sure and fast...when the back up gives you 3, 4, and 5 steps backwards without resistance...when all the gates are opened as if the horse knew exactly where you needed to be to get that stubborn latch while mounted...when there is no rush to get back to the barn...I love when Woody and I are connected and united in our riding...these are the days you live for as a horseman.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend rides.

A great weekend in Bulverde. Ideal temperatures, mild days with high around 70.

Good ride on Woody this weekend. He's doing well, but seems to be riding better with spurs. He side-passes to open gates better with spurs to remind him to move. He is still lacking in motivation to give a great stop and back up, but improving. Continuing to ride nicely collected.

Rode Lola on Sunday night. She is doing well. Attitude improving from the frequent riding. She gave me that great fast walk I like so much. She is starting to show better conditioning, sustaining the canter for longer stretches without slowing to the trot and having to be reminded to canter. Taking both leads reasonably well, but still smoother on the left lead. Great stop and backing up like a champ. Still needs reminding to stay collected. No spurs for this girl, as she would react too much. But she needs work side-passing to the left. To the right is not a problem. I'll probably try to reinforce that with some ground work, but making her open and close a gate gives a lot of reinforcement too; nothing like a gate bumping her right side at the same time my leg is bumping her to remind her to move over to the left!

I'm never sure if the horse is the one that's more comfortable side-passing one way, or if it's me. I too am more comfortable side-passing to the right to open/close gates, and I may cue better in that direction, or may have given my horses more practice going that way inadvertently.

Ah well. Nobody's perfect.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Too long...

It's been a good while since I've posted, but as Spring approaches, it's time to fire up the blog and the horses.

I gave the horses the winter off, for the most part. They have been ridden occasionally, but only maybe once a month. They got fat and woolly. Several days ago, they received their spring injections and vaccinations, and I started to get them back in shape.

Rations were cut back. They all need to drop their winter weight. Woody has been ridden about 3 times in the last 7-10 days. He was also round penned. He didn't take long to sharpen up. Already, he is stopping well, cantering on both leads easily, and riding in a collected manner. I want to focus on round penning some more, because he is my most reluctant horse to "join up" in the round pen. And I think he and the others ride better when they are more "joined up'. But he is still "the bomb" and I have serious plans to enter an ACTHA event with Woody this year.

I've been riding Lola, the grade QH mare 14 years old, as well. She has about 4 rides on her in the last several days. For the first few rides, she rode without a hitch. Quickly thereafter, she began to stumble and displayed reluctance to take the right lead. She took the left lead, but was nowhere near smooth. However, for the last few rides, she has begun to smooth out and displayed the smooth trot that she has always possessed. I am working on riding her in a more collected fashion, and working to strengthen up her neck and flexion. Her stop is excellent. And she is backing up much better than last year. As a reminder, this is my second year with Lola. Hopefully, she will remain sound. I'd like to enter some cow working events with her this year.

Vaquero, my fire breathing paso fino, has been ridden once. He did well, but is clearly out of shape. Since I do not have any plans to enter any events with him this year, it's going to be hard to find time to work him properly. I still enjoy him, but I cannot see entering him in any endurance events or ACTHA events due to his excitability. He is a great trail riding horse, but one cannot open gates easily from his back. He is so touchy to even the slightest touch, that cueing him gently can be a real challenge. He may be relegated to ground work and desensitization. Also, since I am the only one willing to ride him, he'll be my mount if guests are riding Woody and Lola. It seems no one can get past his fast moving feet long enough to realize the smoothness of the rider on his back. And frankly, he is not for a beginner. You have to watch your feet and legs so as not to cue him inadvertently.

That's it for now. Updates and pics to follow.