A New Mustang

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After all the issues that have come up with the black mustang mare that I call “Jive” for now, I am uncertain of her future. All I mean by that is that we are given five months to take these horses from wild to competition. They have to be able to handle a certain level of stress, both physical and mental. At this point Jive cannot handle the physical and therefore we really cannot know of her mental ability. We discovered she was 7, not 4. It’s a much different experience when training an animal that has a few years experience wild compared to all of its youth. SO, without my husbands permission-I’m sorry honey. This is an “ask for forgiveness later” situation.

Because I made this decision to check out the LAST adoption of horses that qualify for the Mustang Million, I did not make the preview.

This is such an amazing gathering of horsemen, that once again, a cowboy helped me out with horses that really stood out to him. So, surprisingly, I picked up a 3 yr-old buckskin gelding for $200. I had several people tell me that had they not already bought another horse-this guy was way toward the end of the sale-that they were going to pick him. One guy said he rubbed all over him yesterday! I’m excited to get him home. Right now I’m waiting to load him up.

Days 2&3

Getting back in the saddle of horse training (bad pun intended), I continued working with Joe. I saddled him with a full sized adult saddle, without incident-meaning he didn’t buck, bolt, or jump. I also got him used to a plastic baggy all over his body. I attempted to get into the saddle, but he was really scared about this. Knowing that I have forgotten all my groundwork strategies, I backed off. It had been raining, and I was having a hard time keeping traction in the stirrup so that I could step up and get Joe accustomed to this simple motion anyway. I ground drive him with a halter and long ropes and he did very well. Again, very willing with no incidents.

I had placed a tarp in the round pen the day before the rain so that Joe could get used to something new on his own. On this day, it had water standing in it as well. As far as horses go, he was or was not going to cross that tarp regardless of the water. Because he had never seen one, he didn’t know the difference. So, I sent him around the round pen and eventually he jumped it, then stepped on it, then had no problem running over it.

People think that things you do from the ground, transfer to the saddle, and it isn’t always true. Similar in case here is that he would cross without a halter, but it was different when I asked him to follow me across.

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It didn’t take long, and eventually he followed me across as well.

I still was not feeling like I was doing something right. At this point, I felt like I was getting the horse to do what I wanted-but the horse was only doing it so that I, the predator, wouldn’t eat him! Something was missing and I was on a journey to figure out what was going on with me, and fast.

I have been keeping up with my old friend, Mark Rashid for years. He was the foreman, my boss, at a dude ranch in Estes Park, CO. He left the ranch a year or two after I did. We lost touch for a while as this was before everyone had a cell phone and Facebook. I went to equine college, and eventually moved back to Texas. I was married and had my two boys. Mark started a new family as well, and began traveling all over the world performing horse clinics. He also began to master the Martial Art of Aikido.

When I was browsing through Facebook one day I saw that Mark was coming to Texas, and it was time to reunite with my friend. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had expectations anyway. There is a song called House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert. I felt like seeing Mark again and attending his clinic would be like getting back to my roots and the house that built me in horse training.

I will write about it next, but I will tell you for sure that I was right. If you really want to change your perspective and interaction with horses forever, I highly encourage you to get to a Mark Rashid clinic or invite him to your place and host a clinic. Those three days fit divinely in with what I thought I was missing. The teachings from Mark also confirmed my thoughts that I have a renewed heart for training horses.

By the way, Mark has written many books, one of which is in the makings for a movie. Watch the trailer for Out of the Wild. You can also find him on Facebook under “Considering the Horse,” which is also the name of his first book.

A New beginning for Little Joe

As I mentioned earlier, I have this horse I call “Little Joe.” With all the horses I have met in my life, two were named Joe. Both were well-built, short, stocky ranch horses. One was the owner’s horse at 4UR Ranch in Creede, Co where I worked in the Summer of 1999 (I think.) The other belonged to a very rich man in Cranfills Gap, TX that has invented things that some of you probably have in your home. Anyway, I really liked both of these horses.
When my Joe was born he reminded me of them as all three were sorrel (red/orange) with a sorrel mane and tail with great Quarter Horse muscle tone.

(Read “The Reason for this blog” for Little Joe’s history).

The day had finally arrived for me to start training Joe. Since I couldn’t catch him in the middle of an open pasture, and because horses are naturally herd animals, I simply put a halter on whichever horse walked up to me first and lead the herd (which was 5 in this pasture) to the corrals. I caught them all individually and put three back into pasture, leaving Joe and our pony “Outlaw” in the pen.

I had decided that the pony would serve two purposes: he would be a companion for Joe, and my sons could start learning to care for and ride their own horse. It would be easier to have them both in the corral every day when we arrived.

The first thing I did was place a saddle on the ground in the middle of the round pen and let Joe in as well. Horses are prey animals and the first thing he did, was ensure himself that the strange, new object in his pen was safe and not going to eat him for lunch. Horse’s (prey) sight is different from ours (predators). Our eyes are in front of our head, and their eyes are on either side of theirs. This causes a blind spot, and their depth perception is not like ours. See image.
Because of this, Joe was very alert, and bobbing his head up and down at the saddle and snorting at it. Then he walked away and ignored it, but kept going back to it for reassurance. That’s what he is doing in these pictures. I did this so that he could introduce himself to the saddle, because at this point, I hadn’t even introduced myself.

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I first got Joe moving in the round pen to establish direction and to let him know that I was going to be asking him to do some things, but wasn’t going to hurt him. I got him to go to the right, and because of fear (horses number one motivator), he ran circles around me. I let him run until he calmed down and then sent him in the other direction.

Something funny happened. After I had established direction, and he began to understand that I was in control, I allowed him to stop and he swung around and stared at me. I was excited this happened. Now remember, I have started 100’s of colts, and it had only been 6 years since I trained my last one (after 17 years of training)-but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what to do next! Well, Little Joe didn’t have a clue either! We just stood there and stared at each other and I said out loud “Buddy, you’re doing great, but honestly, I don’t know what to do next.” Then I remembered my goal was to eventually get closer and halter him.

For the rest of our “session”, I worked him in the round pen and worked on him trusting me. I was able to eventually get close enough to get a hand on him, and then pet him, halter him and I even saddled him. I felt like that was way more than he probably needed, but he was just so willing, I kept going.

Over the next week I would learn that on this day I made some mistakes…

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The Round Pen Discussion

Training a horse, for me, requires a round pen. I have worked with many trainers over the years-started in Texas, but moved to Colorado where I trained with the most variety of trainers. My first trainer, Shelly, used a 60′ round pen. Maybe even 70′. I believe she used such a big one because after she did ground work with a horse, she would get on a “using horse”-a big, broke horse that wouldn’t let the colts knock him around. Then I, or some other “lucky” person, would get on the colt (honestly, I LOVED it). Sometimes this got pretty cowboy with bucking and rearing and snorting. I learned a lot from Shelly over the years, and even though I don’t “cowboy” my horses now, I got an extensive, useful education that every horsemen should learn. I can ride a bucking horse, usually. I can get bucked off a horse, hit the ground, and hit the ground in a way I don’t get hurt too bad, roll out of harms way, come up to my feet, and still have the reins in my hand and sometime still have a bucking horse attached to the other end. Sometimes it will freak the horse out that you are no longer on his back and both of you just end up staring at each other and recovering from the moment. It may seem dangerous to hang on to the reins, but where we were riding-on open Texas hills-it was a long, HOT, walk back to the barn for another horse. And you sure didn’t want to spend the rest of the day searching for your horse, and I was going to have to get back on regardless of WHEN I found him.

Where was I? Oh yes, the round pen. The next trainer I worked with was in Estes Park, CO. Mark Rashid opened my eyes to a whole new world of horse training. We didn’t really label it, but later I learned its what people call “resistance-free” horse training. Whatever, it’s just the way we trained. Mark used a 50′ round pen and I sure liked that a lot better. I believe we even had a 40′ round pen. Over the years and through many different ranches and trainers, the 50′ round pen became my comfort zone.

So I bought a 60′ round pen. I know this doesn’t make sense. I got an amazing round pen for an amazing price and I guess my thoughts were that its easier to pull panels out to make it smaller than it was to order more and travel to get them. That’s good logic.

Late one evening, as I proudly returned from Weatherford, TX with the best round pen I’ve ever owned (thanks honey!), I had to put it up! Each panel weighs 54 pounds. Lucas and Ely (ages 5 and 4) were with me and eager to help-for about half an hour. First they fought over who was going to bring me a pin, or help push the panel off the trailer, but that quickly turned to sighs and eye rolls when asked for help. They cowboyed up and helped me anyway. We were out long after dark and past their bedtimes, but my new round pen was installed!! The picture is of Fool (on the left, born on April Fools Day,and he reminded me of Tonto which means fool) and Little Joe in the new round pen the day I pulled them up out of pasture.

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