Friday, October 14, 2011

Concepcion Trail Ride Part 2...

Joey and me...Here I'm texting and riding a horse.

I'm not trying to be coy with the reader by breaking up this post in two parts. It's been busy at work, and haven't had time to finish this story!

When last I left you, I was preparing to ride Joey, my 4 year old grullo gelding, in a 13 mile trail ride with a LOT of other horses. How did he handle it all?

He was a champ. He loaded well, with only slight encouragement needed. He was understandably anxious during tack up, but so was every other horse. Even my trusty mount Woody was lifting his head in excitement. There were all manner of new horses around, calling to every horse, and the vibe was strong with nervous energy.

I mounted, and I could feel his energy. I spent time flexing him from the saddle, and making him yield hindquarters often and vigorously. I could feel him connect up. We also did a little longeing. It helped him to go ahead and release the energy he was carrying.

I felt good. But the hardest part of this trail ride is the start. Horses buck, sidepass, crow hop, kick, bite, and do all kinds of general nastiness until they get some miles under their feet. The riders are all bunched up, and the spacing is terrible. Herd mates get lost in the shuffle, inciting panic in the little herds that have just joined to become a large herd of chaos.
You could tell Joey was not immune to the excitement, but he stayed steady under saddle, and we had no ill events.

The rest of the ride was a dream. Once we had some spacing, I was able to walk, trot, and do some nice sidepassing on the trail at a trot. I received THREE compliments on his looks! He never acted up. My only complaint is that his short stride made it hard to keep up with the longer striding horses at the walk. But we just did walk/trot to keep up.

He was a fabulous water drinker at the halfway point, guzzling up gallons of water. He has always been a good water drinker, and I felt like a proud Papa watching my boy drink water eagerly, while other riders were reduced to saying"Well, you can lead 'em to water, but you can't make 'em drink".

He maintained good effort in the last part of the ride, but you could tell he wasn't as fresh as he was at the beginning. He stumbled some, and I know it was because he was dragging his feet. But his good attitude prevailed.

It was a hell of a first trail ride for this young horse. I'm VERY proud of him. I've ridden him some since our return, and he has been steady, and he and I are connecting on every level. I can't wait for more adventures.

Getting down to stretch my legs.

Talk about a challenge! Look at all the riders!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Concepcion Trail Ride Part 1...

Well, it was that time of year again...The time of year where I saddle up and travel to Concepcion, TX for the Fiesta Del Rancho and its accompanying trail ride. But as in the past, there is always important prep work to complete.

I had to lay off the horses for a few weeks due to a busy work schedule. That left Joey un-ridden for 3 weeks. I had started back to ground work, but there's just no substitute for saddle time.

I had a group of riders over, about 14 total, on a Sunday, a week before the Concepcion Trail Ride. I jumped on Joey cold back. We walked around some of the arriving horses and riders, and then suddenly, after being on him about 10 minutes and while doing nothing more than walking, he went into a bucking fit. He threw about 10 bucks in a row. I rode him through it, and then worked yielding his hindquarters and getting his focus back on me. I had kind of anticipated this was coming, because he was unfocused from the second I pulled him from his stall. I attribute it to nervous energy. And while we survived the trail ride that day, it was clear we were not in sync.

I used the rest of the week to ride him. For the first few rides after the bucking fit, he would throw some bucks in the round pen or while longeing. Gradually, by the 3rd or 4th ride of the week, all the buck seemed to have left him, and he was buck free.

I had a thought that I had been leaning on the bit while asking him to canter, out of my own fear that he would buck. I took to riding him in a bosal to break me of the habit, and I tried to "grow a pair" and just accept what happened. I also committed to a quirt, since he tends to be a little lazy. Well, the results were great. Without me in his mouth, and with a little encouragement from the quirt, we had some good buck free rides and some good sustained canters in the round pen. Truth is, he rode as well or better with the bosal as with the bit.

Now I was ready for the Concepcion Trail Ride. This is a ride with plenty of challenges. There is the haul over there, and yes, I did have a trailer tire blowout on the way down that resulted in a 25 minute tire change. Not my best time, but the tire wrapped around the axle and I had to work it free. It also means an overnight stay in a new environment for the horses. And it's a trail ride with about a hundred other horses. Throw in some VERY loud music being blasted from following cars and wagons in the procession and you get the set up. It is a problem rich environment. And I'm doing this on a 4 year old horse that earlier in the week, decided to try out for the rodeo as a bucking bronc.....