Fun!

I had a conversation with a nice lady from Nebraska the other day.  She and her mom were looking at one of the horses we have for sale.  They live in an area similar to ours where there is a combination of farm ground and pastures so much of their riding is along farm roads or county roads.  They run into a variety of situations like truck, tractor, car traffic; deer and dogs coming out of corn fields; and the neighbors horses and dogs running up to them or at them.  They needed a horse for mom that would handle all of that without leaving the scene or blowing up.  They just want to have a worry free ride, they want to have fun.  The horses were important enough to their family that this lady had moved into a part-time job from a full-time job so that she would have enough time to ride with her mom and her kids.  She was serious about having the time to enjoy her horses!

We went on a trail ride yesterday in the Bobcat Ridge Natural Area southwest of Masonville.  It was a perfect day!  The temperature was mild, the sun was shining, the horses were relaxed and the people who we met on the trail were very pleasant and courteous.  We had fun.  I would guess that the majority of people we meet through our business have “fun with their horse” as a major goal.  We do our best to provide people with the tools they need to be confident, safe riders.  We want them to have the confidence to go out on the trail, to a cattle sort, to a horse show, or wherever and have fun.  Let’s face it, horses are expensive to buy, own, and outfit.  We spend a great deal of our recreation dollars on them…too many to not get some enjoyment from them.

Colorado is a great state for horseback riding.  In our area alone there are a dozen places to trail ride and when you look in the Horse Events section of The Fence Post, there is something you can do with your horse every day of the week!  If there’s anything Amy and I can do to help you gain the confidence you need to enjoy your horse, we’re here for you.  Let’s get out there and have some fun!

Catching Up

Our business is multifaceted.  What that really means is that there are 3 of us doing the work of 5 people.  We have horses to ride, pens to clean, fence to fix, manure to haul, hay to handle, tack store to service and lessons and clinics to give.  Behind all of that is the scheduling, phone calls, emails, website upkeep, re-scheduling, promotion, and marketing.  Bless Amy’s heart, she gets saddled with all of the scheduling so she spends a lot of time answering the phone, looking at our schedule, arranging and re-arranging days, and keeping up with email.  Neither of us really look forward to sitting down and taking care of the behind the scenes tasks that can make or break any business.  Because we understand the importance of good communication and because no business grows without promotion and marketing, we make the time to get those things done.  Cold, snowy, windy days help to make that happen.  We’re feeling a little more caught-up after that little cold snap we just endured!
Sometimes we need to take or make time to catch-up our horses too.  “All of a sudden, for no reason at all, my horse just started bucking!”  is something we’ve heard countless times over the 20+ years we’ve been working with the public’s horses.  We’ll check the horse out and find “holes” in their training.  Things in the foundation that were overlooked or not thought of or not kept up with.  As horsemen and horsewomen we have to be aware of our horses and our surroundings.  And, we have to be particular about where our horses mind and feet are every moment they are around us.  Many times, the little things become big things unless we catch ourselves up on what’s going on and then catch our horses up on what’s expected.  For example; I’ve worked with people on saddling their horse.  Not a colt for the first time, but, their saddle horse.  The symptom we’re working on is the horse not standing still while being saddled, the cause of the problem is the horse not being with them mentally so it leaves physically.  We work on catching the horse up on staying with us.  We work on ourselves about becoming aware of what’s happening just before the feet leave and being more particular about fixing that part up early.  Pretty soon, saddling is not an issue, the rider is happy, and the horse understands what’s expected.  The really neat things is that all of that catching-up will transfer to the riding too!

Horse for Sale

We are in the midst of marketing three horses for three different clients. Each of the horses has a different personaly, a different background, and a different riding experience. Amy and I value our reputation as knowledgeable horsepeople so, we do our best to represent each horse as it is, or at least how we perceive it to be. If the horse is not one we’ve ridden before, we take some time to ride it a little and get to know it so that when people call, we can represent it well. Our goal is not to sell a horse but, to find a good match between a new owner and the horse. Too often we’ve seen people buy a horse and then just not have what they thought they bought. That happens more with the really pretty horses. We all fall in love with that eye or that hip and shoulder or you name it….Amy’s Dad had a saying, “No feet, no legs, no horse”. Amy has added her own saying to that, “The best color of horse is gentle”. Both of those statements are really sound advice along with the admonition that we should always, ALWAYS get a vet check. A gentle, sound horse will save you thousands of dollars in hospital and veterinary expenses later.

A really interesting part of marketing a horse is having people come to try the horse. Since we ride lots of different horses, we’ve developed, through “knowledge bumps”, some basic things that we’ll check-out before we step on anything. Because the horse is a thinking, feeling animal, I’d like to develop a little bit of I’m okay, you’re okay rapport before piling on and loping off. Other folks have other ways. And, over the years, we’ve seen most of the other ways. I like ours best! It is amazing, though, how the horses will adapt really quickly to the new persons horsemanship or lack thereof. Sometimes the adaptation is one of survival but, most of the time the horses use their desire to get along to try to accommodate the new style being presented. That could be part of the problem. The nice minded horse adapts in the short-term to the riders shortcomings, waiting for them to come around, and when they don’t, self-preservation takes over. Just a thought. What are yours?

Harvest Time

We love living in the country! And, harvest time is one of our favorite times of the year. Across the section we hear weaned calves bawling, the combines have been busy in the bean fields, silage is packed in the pits, and the beet diggers are busy taking the first beets from the fields. Amy and I had our own harvest day yesterday in our garden. There’s a real satisfaction in harvesting the fruits of our labor and having something good to eat to boot! We’re not good gardeners. We don’t invest the time it would take to be really good. We do it for recreation and for a mental break from our other activities. It’s different than working with livestock but, in many ways, the same basic principles apply. There’s the preparation of the soil, planting of the seed, maintenance of the soil and seed or new plants with water and cultivation, and then, reaping the benefits of what you’ve planted and worked toward. There’s also that spot where you can’t do any more to effect the outcome. You just have to set it up and wait.

One of the real blessings in my life is a Bible study that I’ve participated in for the past 3 months. Yesterday we were reading in First Corinthians about planting seeds and reaping what is sown. The part of the lesson that stuck with me was that the seed has to die in order for a harvest to occur. Of course, my mind went immediately to how that would apply to my horsemanship. I’d be really interested to hear your point of view on this but, what I was struck with is that in order for me to improve my relationship with my horses, the part of me that’s getting in the way of improving has to die in order to make way for the things I want to be there. So, if I want to harvest different responses from my horse or a different feel between us, I have to be willing to let the stuff standing in the way of that dissapear and replace it with something that works for my horse. It’s quite a bit more challenging than knowing which rein to apply or what leg to use. It’s also quite a bit more rewarding. Let me know what you think!

Change

Hey! Did you notice the change in the weather from yesterday to today? Here at Bridle Bit it was 80 degrees at noon yesterday, today when I went to chore it was a balmy 32 with wind chills down to 26. I think I’m done complaining about this summers heat!

Tom Dorrace and Ray Hunt encouraged us to notice the smallest change and slightest try our horses give us. They are sensitive enough to feel a mosquito land on their hair coat in a wind storm so, many times we do too much and go right through the small change they offer. One of the things that has helped me the most is to follow Ray’s advice of feeling for my horse, feeling of my horse, and then both feel together. It slows me down and softens me enough to offer my horse the feel he deserves from me. In slowing down and softening, I find that I can do less and get more. It’s a neat feeling!

To get the kind of changes I want in my horse, I’ve found that I’ve had to change the inside of me. It’s taken considerable effort to change myself. Recognizing the need to change is a big first step, and, an ongoing one. Seeking mentors and supporters who can encourage the changes I’ve decided to make helps greatly too. Amy and I have a great support network of friends and clients who are as passionate about the horse and horsemanship as we are. They are a big safety net we fall back on regularly….THANK YOU!

Change is hard…even good change. If you would like to become part of a network of horse people working toward the same goals with their horses as you are, give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to give you support in the changes you’ve decided to make!

Debate

The first presidential debate of this election season is scheduled for this evening in Denver. Don’t get nervous, I’m not going to get on my soap box and go all political on you here. National and international events, local events, and yes, even interpersonal events, can all be related back to a set of foundational principles. How we perceive those events and how we relate to other human beings and our animals often times depends on our personal foundation.

The presidential election of 2012 and every election before and after this one is all about choosing a leader. The majority of us are looking for good leaders that we can get behind and who we believe will take us in the direction our principles tell us is the right one. We can debate what that direction is, we can cite facts and history and current events to support our argument but, the fact is, we rely heavily on our foundation for that “gut feeling” that tells us whether we are on the right track or not.

Like many of us, our horse is looking for a leader too. Ray Hunt used to talk about his partnership with his horse being a 51% to 49% partnership where he was the brains of the outfit, he was the leader. There are a variety of leadership styles and I’ve sat in classes that described those styles in great detail. As I recall, none of those effective leadership styles were described as being passive or a push-over. We have to be able to provide leadership to our horse in a way that fits our personality and our horses personality. But, we have to lead. When we don’t, the horse will feel it, not like it, and take over. He won’t do it to be mean, to hurt our feelings, or to show off to the other horses. He’ll do it to survive. His sense of self-preservation is stronger than his desire to follow a weak or non-leader. I choose to be a benevolent dictator. There’s no room for debate between my horse and I. What I say goes but, how I offer that leadership to my horses comes with a lot of feel for where they are moment by moment. I’ll give them time to search for the right answer. That answer is what I say it is and until my horse finds my answer he’ll need to keep searching. When he finds my answer, he’s rewarded for his effort. It works for me and, more importantly, it works for my horse. Give it a try!

Patience is a Virtue

Most of us have seen the cartoon depicting a couple of skinny buzzards sitting on a branch with one saying to the other, “Patience my ass, I’m going to kill something”.  And, to be honest,, my personality tends to have me run in that direction quite often.  But, the older, and hopefully wiser, I get, the more I find that patience in most situations really does pay off.

We gave a private Cow Working Clinic yesterday here at the ranch.  It was a really great group of people and we had a lot of fun.  Most of the folks hadn’t worked with cattle horseback very much so, Amy did a great job of helping them, and their horses, get prepared for the kinds of manuevers they would need to be successful when we did get on the cattle.  She talked about rating the cow, shaping the horse to the cow, proper turns, and stopping correctly.  All good stuff and some of it quite challenging for both horse and rider.  I never thought there was that much to it when watching the old western movies as a kid!

The cattle we have are big, 800 pounds and more, and slow.  Not to offend anyone, but, it’s hard to ride around them and not think of steaks on the BBQ.  They are perfect for people getting their first exposures to cattle handling from a horse and they are pretty good for horses that are unsure about being around cattle.  We had been holding the cattle in a corner of the arena, sorting 2 or 3 off, and driving them through an obstacle course.  The focus of most of the riders was to just get the cattle out of the group and get going through the course.  One horse would get a little bothered when the pressure of going into the herd came up.  He was holding it together but, he was not comfortable and the rider could feel it.

To help this horse get more comfortable, we decided to slow down the sorting process and really give this horse a chance to feel the spot where things were working really well between him, his rider, and the cattle.  The riders tendency was to push on through the group of cattle and out the other side with her sort.  Instead, we changed it up to have her really pay attention to how the group of cattle were shaped up and how the cattle on the edge of the group looked.  When one of those steers on the edge was shaped up just right, the rider and the horse would go together with just a little.  Sometimes all the horse had to do was turn his head, sometimes move a front foot in the direction of the steer.  It wasn’t so important what the horse and rider did, it was what they didn’t do when the steer moved off.  They didn’t do anything.  They sat together, rider rubbing and reassuring the horse that he had done what was expected.  Usually, the steer would stop and look back.  GOOD!  A chance to do it again!  Pretty sooon, as horse and rider worked the edges of the herd, They had their sort put together and ready to head through the obstacles.  The horse was really let down and feeling good about how the sorting process felt.  The rider was feeling good about how practicing patience helped her horse get comfortable in an area that had been bothersome to him.  They built a lot of confidence in each other through the process.

We hope you have some opportunities today to feel good about what you’re doing and can go about it with the confidence that you’re doing the right things!  If it doesn’t happen today, be patient, it will come.

Got Job?

I was watching some video of Bryan Neubert and Joe Wolter the other day.  In each of the video segments I looked at, both men were working with a young horse, teaching it something new.  They had a purpose for teaching the horse the particular task.  They had a job in mind that they needed to prepare the horse for in a more controlled environment.  It made me wonder if I was doing a good job of giving my horses a job.

Amy and I love working cattle horseback.  Because of that, we often times think about what our horses can do in terms of what skill set they will need to work cattle successfully.  Those of you that have attended our Cattle Working Clinics have heard us talk about the basics that a horse needs in cattle work; the ability to go forward at any speed when asked, the ability to stop quickly, the ability to move the front end and the hind end independently, and the ability to two-track or leg yield.  Sounds pretty simple and yet we are always amazed at how many holes show up on cattle that we thought we had pretty good in the dry work.  The job of working cattle has made us more particular about what we need fo focus on in our everyday riding.  And, the job of working cattle has given our horses a purpose and a meaning to what we are asking of them.

Trail riders and arena rider too have jobs that their horses need to perform with accuracy and skill.  When bringing along a young horse or getting acquainted with a new horse, it may be helpful to think of some of the trouble spots you’ve encountered before and ride to help prepare that horse for those spots.  We certainly can’t predict everything we will run into in the jobs we do with our horses but, if we focus on finding ways to help our horses stay with us mentally and ways to direct their feet easily, we will have a head-start in helping them have fun on the job.

We hope that you have a good day on your job today!

Beneficiary

Amy and I had the opportunity to go help some friends gather and move some cattle pairs this past week.  The sky was threatening rain when we arrived but, the temperature was perfect for an afternoon move.  The cattle we were to move had just been purchased by the ranch and had been processed earlier in the day.  Our friends told us as we approached the corrals that the previous owners had used motorcycles and 4-wheelers to do most of their moves and they weren’t sure how these cattle would work horseback.

The horses Amy and I had chosen for this trip were a couple of younger Arabians who had had quite a bit of riding but, not a lot of exposure to what we knew we were about to get into with these cattle.  We had loaded the horses at home, driven 2 1/2 hours through Denver traffic, unloaded, saddled, did 2 minutes of groundwork, and stepped on.  The cattle were penned about 5 minutes from the trailer and we found out what the cattle were about 4 minutes into the ride.  Our horses were a bit fresh!

Our hosts made the wise decision to go into the corrals and see how the cattle reacted to people horseback.  They seemed okay, moved off of pressure pretty well and acted like they wanted to get along.  We opened the gate with plan that our hosts would push them out of the corral and the rest of us would point them in the right direction and keep them from scattering across the meadow.  The cattle struggled to find the gate so Amy and I ended up in the corral helping to guide and push them out of the corral.  Once the cattle found the gate and got out on the meadow, they found new life and headed east at a long trot and lope.  We were already behind from the corral work so, we needed to catch-up, on fresh horses, woohoo!

Fortunately, we were beneficiaries of the good foundation we had put on these two horses we were riding.  They were really tipped up from the new place, new job, new horses, and speed of things.  Because they trusted us, they stayed with us.  Because we trusted them, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and let them move their feet and do their job of getting us back in place on the cattle.  We did the job we were assigned, together.  It wasn’t super pretty and it wasn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world but, it worked!  

We run into a lot of horses in our business that haven’t benefited from a good, solid, foundation.  We look at it as our responsibility to provide them with that.  We’ve found that horses that have that foundation know what to expect from us and find an inner peace in that knowledge.  They are more settled and better prepared to handle the things we expose them to.  When they get unsure, they have us and the foundation we laid to fall back on.

We also deal with a lot of people in our business.  We find that those folks with a good solid foundation of values tend to “get it” with their horses more easily.  As Christians, Amy and I do our best to reflect the values that our God and our parents instilled in us early on.  When we are exposed to things that cause doubt or uncertainty in our lives, we have that foundation of principles to fall back on and trust in.  It gives us  an inner peace and strength to deal with an uncertain world.  We are the beneficiaries of a loving God who forgives our weaknesses and sins through His Son, Jesus Christ and gives us the peace of knowing that we don’t have to face things alone.  We can live through Him and He through us.  That’s what I call being a beneficiary!

Rain!!

As I went out to do my chores this morning in the dark, I stepped in something squishy. Darn dogs, I thought, but, my next step went squish too! Enough rain to make mud!! How exciting to finally get some measurable moisture on our parched pastures, .38 inch, to be exact.

Since we live in a hight desert, there are very few days where we can’t get horseback because of muddy or snowy conditions. On a day like this, Amy and I like to find little projects related to the day. For example, we may check out our horses with a slicker. Yes, we did that when we started them but, after a spring, summer and fall with little or no moisture, I wouldn’t want to assume that the slicker hadn’t grown teeth and a tail and may get my horse bothered. A few minutes of checking something like that out may save you from a new knowledge bump!

The other thing we like to do from the saddle is check out how accurately we can direct our horses. Wet sand or mud is perfect for making a track that can be seen easily the second time by. Pick a little project that is appropriate for the conditions. We like to see how pretty a circle we can make, how straight a line we can make, or how perfect a figure eight we can make. Sometimes it takes quite a while just to get those things just right. Of course, we mix it up with a little trotting, a few serpentines, a little riding around on a loose rein, and lots of soaking after a good try.

After we make the first track, we’ll head back over it again. We look for spots where we can improve it. We try to be early on the corners of the horse that are struggling. Our goal is to support the whole horse and help them find softness and balance throughout their whole body. The track lets us know how we are doing. I find myself tensing up as I try to get more accurate. Amy has helped me a lot in this area. She reminds me to stay spongy, spongy, spongy and in the rhythm I want my horse to find with my seat. I stay relaxed and my horses appreciate that!

We hope that you all were blessed with a little moisture too and that you have a safe and productive day!