The Indoor Riding Arena Project (AKA I love my Hubby!)

My hubby is amazing.

Last winter I didn’t ride at all. Mostly because I was pregnant, but also because from November through April, our outdoor arena is either covered in snow, ice, or is so wet that you can’t ride in it.

This winter, I really, really, really wanted an area to ride that wasn’t snowy or icy so that I can get Molasses ready to show in Foundation QH or Ranch Horse shows next summer.

It didn’t take much persuading to get my Hubby to clear out 2/3 of our shed to make space for a 60′ x 80′ indoor riding arena.

With some help from his brother and a few friends,  over the span of three weeks working evenings and weekends they turned our shed into a really nice riding arena!

shed part 1 shed2 shed3 shed4 shed5 shed6 shed7 shed8 shed9 shed10

 

We were three boards short to be completely finished as you can see from the last photo.

It might be windy and snowy and icy outside, but I now have a space out of the wind with decent footing to ride this winter. Which is great, as we have a 2 year old to start under saddle, Molasses to keep legged up and get ready for me to show next summer, and a broodmare that was started as a two year old, then not ridden to restart.

And it will be a great place for Colton and our nephew to ride Mr. Potter the Perfect Pony over the winter too!

20141122_152858

 

Did I mention that I love my Hubby?

Advertisements

Flashback Post: Our First Year

I know I haven’t done a good job of keeping up the “Farm Wife” posts. I did, however, put together a slide show of our first year this spring to celebrate our first anniversary, so it should bring you up to speed and give you an idea of what a year in the life of a farm wife is like! Enjoy!

Just for Fun-The 5 Pieces of Tack I Can’t Live Without (AKA Gift Buying Guide for the Picky Cowgirl)

Over the years of training horses I often have had people ask me what tack I would recommend. The tack listed below is what I use personally. None of it is cheap-but I have found that spending the extra money to buy higher quality tack does make a difference in your horses comfort-and your horse’s performance. I also linked where you can buy the tack I recommend, so if you are wondering what to buy the picky cowgirl in your life, here are some ideas. Keep tuned-I will also be posting a fun western fashion guide highlighting the riding attire and accessories I like.

So here are a few of my favorite things:

1. Don Dodge Smooth Snaffle Bit by Greg Darnell

If I could only own one bit, I would own the Don Dodge Smooth Snaffle bit made by Greg Darnell. This snaffle bit is balanced and has nice feel, and I like the D Rings so it doesn’t pinch or pull through the horse’s mouth as easily. They are really reasonably priced too. You can get one for yourself (or as a present for a friend) by visiting http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=46

2. Schutz Brothers Reins

Good reins make a huge difference is cuing your horse. Reins that are too light flop and wiggle excessively, giving your horse signals you don’t want. Too heavy and thick reins are hard hold and handle. These Schutz Brothers Reins are just right-soft and pliable in your hands, have enough weight to drape well, and carry the slightest signal down to the bit. You can get them from AD Tack when you buy your Snaffle Bit 🙂 http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=82

3. Mohair Cinch

When I was training horses I used only neoprene cinches so that I could disinfect them easily between horses and prevent girth fungus, but always had a problem with girth sores. I never even tried a mohair cinch until I met my hubby-and now I am a convert to the mohair, and now I dislike using the neoprene cinches. The mohair breathes better, these cinches last longer, and I haven’t had a single girth sore on any of my horses since. They are more expensive than a neoprene or cotton string cinch, but trust me, it is worth it, and your horse will thank you! Dennis Moreland makes a great one (http://www.dmtack.com/products/10cs-dm-straight-cincha/) or if you want to save a little bit of money, we have used some of these cinches sold by Smith Brothers and they work good too-I like the roller buckle on the Smith Brothers Cinch for our rope horses. http://www.smithbrothers.com/smith-brothers-100%25-mohair-roller-buckle-cinch/p/X3-02172/

4. Quality Wool Saddle Pad

We like using these wool pads from Smith Brothers as everyday work pads. Like the Mohair Cinches, the wool pads are more expensive, but they do last longer and your horse will thank you! http://www.smithbrothers.com/smith-brothers-100%25-wool-pad/p/X3-1965/

5. Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle

When we first got engaged, someone jokingly asked my hubby how much money he had to pay for his bride-to-be. Without missing a beat, he replied “A truck, a trailer, 2 saddles, and a horse,” as I had instantly claimed as “mine” some of his things. One of those two saddles was his (now my) Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle. A quality saddle makes a big difference in your position, and when your position in the saddle is correct, your horse can perform better.  Visit http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=4 to get your own.

molassescowhorsesaddle

Molasses tacked up in the Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle, Mohair Cinch, and Wool Saddle Pad.

Performance Horsemanship or Natural Horsemanship? My Performance Horsemanship Philosophy in Detail

Performance Horsemanship or Natural Horsemanship?
My Performance Horsemanship Philosophy in Detail

In simple terms, I strive to follow natural horsemanship principles when training my horses, while keeping the big picture in mind that my horses have a job-they have to be broke enough to work cattle.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? However, I am somewhat reluctant to call what I do natural horsemanship.

Why? Because I understand that not all of what I do is considered “natural horsemanship” by some people.

What I have found is that the word natural has been taken out of context by some natural horsemanship enthusiasts. What should be simple has been made complex. In some people’s eyes, you cannot be a “natural horseman” if your horses wear shoes, if you ride your horse in any sort of bit, or if you feed your horses grain. Do a google search for Natural Horsemanship, and you will see what I mean.

I ride with spurs. I will use a curb bit on my horses. I will use a training aid like a german martingale if the situation warrants it. Sometimes our rope horses are rode in a tie-down. Currently none of my horses have shoes, but they will be shod if they need it. If we really think about, nothing that we do with our horses is natural!

I still like to think that I am a Natural Horsewoman. I own and have read all of the books by the “Fathers of Natural Horsemanship”: Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, etc. I follow their principles of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. I strive be gentle as possible, yet as firm as necessary with my horses. I am constantly learning, researching, and expanding my horsemanship knowledge. I want what is best for my horses. When I hit a roadblock with my horse, I try to think what the horse is thinking, and feel what the horse is feeling, to understand the cause of the resistance, so I can fix it without causing my horse undue stress. I want my horse to think for himself-if they notice a bear in the woods, I want them to get us outta dodge! I want my horse to be my partner-not a machine-because at the end of the day, my horses are not show horses. They are ranch horses, and we have a job to do.

So that is why I like the label of “Performance Horsemanship” better. In training my horses I strive to develop control the five main body parts of the horse-the head, neck, shoulders, rib cage, and hips. When I can independently control the different body parts of my horse, we can be more successful at working cattle. How I develop that control might not be considered natural by all people, but I never use fear, intimidation, or force to get the control I need. If a job is too much for a particular horse, I admit it. Putting a horse in a situation that they can’t handle would only cause injury to human, horse, or cattle. The most important thing at the end of the day is that everyone: human, horses, and cattle, are handled without injury and/or undue stress. It may not be natural, but it gets the job done, and my horses are sound and happy, so I must be doing something right.

Molasses Cows

Becoming a Horseman: Understanding the Social Hierarchy of Horses; and How it Affects the Horse-Human Relationship:

Image

Even domestic horses still have the herd instinct.

We’ve all seen it happen-a new horse owner, or even someone that has had horses for awhile, with a horse that is buddy sour, pushy, biting, kicking, bucking, bolting, or generally misbehaving. Sometimes it is simply because a green rider bought a green horse that was unsuitable for them. Other times they buy the right horse-an experienced, older horse-and gradually the horse’s behavior turns bad.

What happened?

The rider hasn’t earned, or kept, the horse’s respect. The rider hasn’t proved to the horse that they are a worthy leader. So the horse, lacking leadership, becomes the leader, and no longer respects the rider. The horse does what it wants, when it wants, and ignores the rider completely.

In this article, I will discuss the horse’s herd instinct, and the social hierarchy in a wild herd. By understanding this instinct, and “speaking horse” by acting as the boss mare, we can become the leader in our herd of two with our horse, earning their respect. And a respectful horse is a safe, fun horse to ride.

The Herd Instinct:

Horses are herd animals. They need social interaction to thrive. In a herd, the horse that can make the other horses move is dominant and the leader. Herd members respect the herd leader; the herd leader doesn’t get crowded or chased away from food. In wild herds, the herd leader (usually a boss mare) is responsible for finding food and water, deciding when the herd moves and rests, and determines who gets to eat and drink first. The boss mare can decide who gets to stay in the herd, and she will chase away unruly herd mates. Since there is safety in the herd, horses want to belong. The lone horse without a herd is more likely to be eaten by a lion. The horse is comfortable with the social hierarchy, they are ok with following a leader, as long as they feel that they belong, that they are safe in a herd.

How does this herd instinct apply when we are working with our horses? To put it simply, we must understand and use the horse’s herd instinct and need to belong, to ensure our safety. To be safe around these large and flighty animals, we need their respect. We need to be the leader, the boss mare, in our herd of two with our horse.

The Boss Mare:

The lead/boss mare is the boss because she makes the other horses move-first by snaking her head and pinning her ears, then by biting, and if needed, by kicking or striking. The lead/boss mare ups the pressure until the less dominant horse moves. She does not yield, or move her feet. The horse that moves is the less dominant horse. The lead/boss mare only uses as much pressure as necessary-she doesn’t go around kicking other horses just because. She gets the respect of her herd mates without causing them fear.  However, the boss mare has to earn the respect of the other horses. The other horses will test the boss mare, to see if she really is the strongest horse, the best horse for the important job of being the leader. The boss mare must always be prepared to defend her position as the leader, to prove that she is worthy of being the leader. Some horses will test the leader daily. This is a normal horse behavior-and they will test humans too, to see if the human is worthy of being the leader.   Don’t be offended by it-it is just how horses are-but you need to be prepared to be the leader, and be prepared to have your leadership tested.

Earning Respect Without Causing Fear:

To ensure our safety, and to earn our horse’s respect, we need to show the horse that we can make them move their feet, and that they cannot make us move-that we are the boss mare. Once the horse respects us by understanding that we can make them move their feet, then they can accept us as the leader. They key here is to use as little pressure as possible, but as much pressure as necessary, to get the horse to move it’s feet without causing fear. If we can gain the horse’s respect without causing them to fear us, then we have earned the role of the leader. If we earn the role of the leader, then the horse will be able to trust us, and with the horses trust we can achieve great things. I want my horses to trust me so that we can work as partners. I want their respect without fear.

Sleeping Mustang

The sleeping mustang trusts her herd mate to watch for danger.

Can’t I Be Friends With My Horse?

I find that many owners want to be friends with their horses, and that is great. However, they tend to think that they will get their horses to like them by bribing them with treats and making excuses for why they are pushy and run them over, saying “Blackie is just scared, he doesn’t mean to run me over.”  The problem here is a lack of respect. How much would you like a friend that has no respect for you and runs you over?

We all want to be “friends” with our horses, but we need to remember that our horses are big animals that can and will hurt us. Your horse will still be friends with you if you earn the role as the leader in your relationship, and you will have a much safer experience.

Does Your Horse Respect You?

So ask yourself-does your horse respect you?

When you lead him in from the pasture does he try to run you over, or follow quietly?

When grooming him does he move into you or away from you?

When you ride your horse does he neigh and whinny and worry about where his friends are, or does he listen to you?

These simple little tests can tell a lot about your Horse-Human Relationship.

DisengageHindQuarters

Useful Ranch Horse Skills (That are also handy if you need to run away from a posse)

(Please Note: This post is for entertainment purposes only. I do not actually advise running away from the law.)
Listed below are some useful ranch horse skills that are also handy if you ever find yourself in need of running away from a posse.

1. Wait patiently saddled and tied.

StandSaddled

A good Ranch Horse will stand saddled and tied, waiting patiently until they are needed to work.

This trait is also useful, just in case you need to get outta Dodge quickly-you can’t be wasting time saddling your horse!

2. Walk through water.

ZebMolassesWater

Whether you are out in varied terrain rounding up cattle, having a horse that is willing to cross water is very useful to be sure that you don’t miss any strays.

If you need to outrun a posse, being able to walk your horse in the flow of the creek is even more useful for making your trail hard to follow.

3. Lean off the side and pick up objects from the ground.

GroundPickUp

Dismounting to pick up a dropped object takes time, so being able to lean over and pick up and item from the ground is super handy when you are running short on daylight and still have a lot of work left to do.

It is also handy if you are trying to outrun a posse-you can’t let dropped items leave a trail marking where you have been!

4. Stand on their back.

Zeb Standing On Molasses

Ok, so this really isn’t safe horsemanship, but it can be useful! Standing on your horse’s back increases your field of vision, allowing you to more easily look for strays.

Or, to allow you to check if a posse is chasing you!

Kids-don’t try this at home.

5. Run. Fast.

RunAway

Having a fast ranch horse is handy if a heifer decides to break loose from the herd and make a run for the back section.

Having a fast horse is also handy when out-running a posse.

6. Ground Tie.

GroundTie

This is a handy skill, having a ranch horse that will patiently wait for you while you fix fence so that the heifers don’t become bovine escapees.

It is also handy if you horse will wait patiently for you to wipe out your trail with a pine bough, so that the posse can’t track you.

Hope you enjoyed this fun list!

Becoming a Horseman: The Top 5 Qualities That Separate Riders From Horsemen

What qualities do the top horsemen share? What separates the “riders” from the “horsemen”? I have come up with a list of the top 5 qualities that I think separate riders from horsemen.

5. Balance

A Horseman is balanced, and not just in the saddle. A Horseman has learned how to balance their emotions, to never get angry with the horse, to remain calm, cool, and collected in every interaction with the horse. A Horseman strives for balance in all things with their horse, from their position in the saddle, the horse’s balanced way of moving, to balancing the horse’s training to provide variety and prevent boredom.

4. Timing

A Horseman has great timing. They know when to apply and release pressure/aids to the horse to maximize the horse’s learning and understanding. The understand that the horse learns from the release, not the application, of pressure. They take great in the timing of their aids when they ask the horse to do something, and do not ask the horse to perform a maneuver they are not ready for.

3. Feel

A Horseman has great feel. They know where the horse’s feet are at all times, at all gaits. They ride in rhythm with the horse, using their hands, legs, and seat to communicate with a “soft feel.”A Horseman is also aware of the horse’s mental and emotional states, and can feel when to ask for more, and when to quit for the day.

2. Experience

A Horseman is experienced. They have spent a lot of time, with a lot of different horses, and usually spent a lot of time with a mentor, to become the best horseman they can be. Through their experience they have learned how horses think, and how to clearly communicate with the horse.

1. Dedication

A Horseman is dedicated. They never stop learning, and are constantly striving to become a better horseman. They are dedicated to the welfare of the horse. They work consistently with their horses, to ensure that the horse is capable of performing the requests of the rider. They expect 1% improvement everyday.

A Horseman is constantly working to improve their horsemanship, constantly working on these 5 qualities.

I am always working on these 5 things, from balancing the demands of life and work and family with my horsemanship, to developing my timing and feel, always increasing my experience by working with my horses and expanding my knowledge by reading books, watching training dvds, and spending any time that I can with mentors and trainers that I admire. It takes a lot of dedication to keep working on improving my horsemanship!

I would love to hear from you! Do you possess these qualities? What do you do to work on these qualities? What qualities should be added to this list? What do you think separates Riders from Horsemen?