Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cold weather gear under $40

As an avid trail rider I have spent more than a few days out in absolutely miserable winter weather.  And over the years I have learned that having the right gear can make a world of difference at the end of a 8 hour misting and sleeting day.

Products I love:

Cuddl Duds:

I have worn them for years.  These legging play a huge part in my being able to enjoy hours outside on the colder days.  You can find them at most large clothing stores such as Jcpenney's and various online retailers.

Women's Fleece Earband by Duluth Trading Co:

Now I haven't personally used this yet but can't you just see it fitting under helmets and western hats.  The product reviews are all glowing and with the genius ponytail slot this product looks like it was made for horse people.  
$12.50- $14.50

Men's Shoreman's Ball Cap Ear Warmer:

Made with the same material as the Women's Fleece Earband, this version allows you to wear a ball cap with comfort and ease.  

Women's Duluth Winterproof Gloves:

Now I again have yet to own these gloves but after last year's sleeting episode while out on the trail they are on my must have list before I go on another week long ride. The reviews are once again stellar, and they look like they would be well suited for riding and general barn work.  If anyone is wondering what I would like for Christmas, size large please.

Cabela's Three-Season Jacket:

I love this jacket! I have two that are both a few years old and I would love another in a different color.  It is windproof, fairly waterproof, and it perfect weight for most cold weather in Texas.  In addition to the fabulous colors it is also cut to flatter your figure.  Best of all if you watch the sales you can get one for $20.  Cheap enough that you can have one for barn work and feeding and one for anything else. It is a well made jacket that will last for years to come.   

Women's Fleece Shoreline Gaiter:

Yet another thing I would love to have.  I love scarves but when riding and working they always seem to get in the way.  This thing provides the protection I need without slipping out of place.  Needless to say this gaiter is now on my need before a long winter trail ride list.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Riding tips, tricks, and words of wisdom

Many of you may have hear these from myself or other people, but here is a list of tips and tricks off the top of my head.

Tips for under saddle:

1.  If you are having a hard time picking up a lead try asking in a smaller circle.  The smaller the circle (small not tiny) the easier it is on your horse to lope/canter in the correct lead.

2.  If you are having trouble picking up a counter-canter work in a bigger circle and slowly scale down the size as your horse gets comfortable.

3.  Large wide circles encourage your horse to speed up (think reining) while smaller circles encourage your horse to slow down.  This works at both a trot and lope.  

4.  The more you move the faster your horse will move, think posting verses sitting a trot.

5.  Your horse's mind is where ever his nose is.  If he is hanging his nose to the outside of your circle he is not focused with or on you.

6.  If you can see your horse's inside eye/eyelashes or the buckle of your bridle your horse's shoulders are upright or close to it when working in a circle.

7.  When trying to lift your horse's shoulders you must first lift your hand before moving it over.  If you just move your hand over you will only tilt your horses head instead of lifting the shoulder.

8.  When your horse warping your circles to the outside.  Brace with your outside leg (leg facing to the outside of the circle) and direct with your inside rein.

9.  When your horse is cutting off your circles to the inside brace with your inside leg (leg facing to the inside of the circle you are riding) and lift your inside rein up and over to lift the shoulder and widen your circle.

10.  It is much easier long term to correct a bad behavior the moment it happens (yes this applies to a horse who normally doesn't do that) than to allow it to get out of hand.  Even the most well trained horse will try and push their boundaries at some time or the other.

11.  If they do it once they will do it again.  This applies to warping circles, dropping shoulders, walking off while mounting, and everything in between.  It is your job as the rider to recognize patterns in your horses behavior and work to fix them.

12.  All of a sudden does not exist in the horse world.  Your horse told you he was upset (high head, braced neck, distracted, tense) and you did not listen.  99% of all spooks can be avoided by paying attention to your horse.

13.  When in doubt move his feet.  It very hard to spook, buck, and or rear when all four feet are already moving.

14.  It is not the pressure that teaches but the release of pressure.

15.  When the going gets tough break everything down into tiny little steps and reward any progress in the right direction.

16.  If you want your horse to always do something you must always be willing to make them do it.

17.  Always make the right behaviors easy and the wrong behaviors hard.

18.  When you teach your horse to move forward without constant kicking, kissing, and general encouragement you are then able to use your legs to cue other maneuvers, you will also be a lot less tired after riding.

19.  If you want your horse to learn to do something for themselves (moving forward, traveling with up right shoulders, etc) you must be willing to let go.  You must be willing to let them try and mess up over and over again.

20.  Riding a horse is a lot like driving a car.  You are very likely to crash and burn when you take your hands off the wheel and stop paying attention.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If your horse's great grandfather could trailer in this....

Thought of the day.

If your horse's great grandfather could ride in this.

(dated 1926)

Your horse has no reason for not riding in this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Definition of Quit- Cute Cowboy and Cow Horse Video Edition

It is no big secret that I am a big fan of the working remuda horses and general lifestyle.  When I dream of heaven I picture big beautiful countryside and spending the rest of my days with my equine best friends and family chasing cattle and experiencing nature.  So I naturally know of and follow many of the big ranches and the 6666's in Guthrie, Texas has always been one of my favorites. When I saw that they had horses offered in the AQHA World Show Sale I obviously had to take a peek.  Needless to say I was not disappointed.  

Now while the horse and cowboy are cute they are doing much more than looking pretty. 

When the video starts I see a well balanced rider a top a free moving horse traveling on a straight line (plus or minus a cactus or two) on a loose rein.   The horse is responsibly observing his surroundings and traveling at a steady pace.  The horse and rider are working as a team and neither party is getting in the other's way. 

The next scene is my least favorite but we see some arena work and while not perfect the horse is moving steadily (just a little stiff) but still on a decently loose rein.  If I were in charge I would change his bit.  

Then we get to the cattle pushing scene where both horse and rider are again on a loose rein, working together, and focused on their targets.  The horse obviously knows his job and the cowboy is willing to allow him to do it. The cowboy has quit babying the horse and the horse has willingly become quite self sufficient at his task.  

Next we find the roping scene.  We see a horse ready to do his job but willing to wait and listen to his rider.  We see the chute open and the horse bursts out in a quick but controlled fashion.  He then upon his cowboy catching up and roping the steer positions himself to keep tension on the rope.  

And the best part of the whole movie happens 40 to 48 seconds in.  The cowboy drops his roping rope and gives the horse his head.  The horse immediately drops his head and walks off as if nothing ever happened.  

Both horse and rider quit.

Meaning the rider stopping babying, kicking, and cueing.  He put his hand down and rewarded his good horse by not bothering him.  He gave his horse the chance to work without inference and was rewarded with a horse that did so willing.     

They each trust the other to do his part and as a result each is better able to focus on what they need to do to get the job done.   

Which is why this video is a pretty good definition of what it means to quit and what you can achieve when you do.  


Friday, October 19, 2012

Bits and Bitting Part 5: Leverage/Curb Bits

Sorry for the delay in the series, life at times tends to get in the way.

Over the years I've found that leverage bits on average have a bad/harsher wrap when it comes to public opinion.  Many people consider it a point of pride to ride in snaffle over a curb.  But what most people do not realize is that comparing a snaffle to a curb is like comparing chicken to pigeons.

To refresh your memory on snaffle bits and mouth pieces please check out-

According to "A Whole Bit Better" by Dale, Ron, and Bob Myler a curb bit consists of shanks "of two or three rings, one at the top of the bit for the headstall/bridle and one or two at the bottom for the reins, attached to a length of metal in between where the mouth piece is attached.  A curb strap or chain is attached to both shanks."

"Shanks can be straight or curved, long or short, or any variation thereof.  The length and shape of the shank determines how much pressure will be communicated to the horse. Shanks are categorized as quick, offering more direct pressure to the horse with light pressure on the reins, and slow, offering a more subtle signal to the horse with pressure on the reins."

Where a snaffle bit exerts pressure on the bars, lips and tongue, a curb bit also applies pressure to the poll, chin helping the horse to break at the poll. Depending on the mouth piece a curb may also put pressure on the tongue and bars.

The shank on a curb bit amplifies the pressure exerted by the rider.  So if a standard curb bit has a 1 1/2" cheek and a 4 1/2" lower shank there is a 1:4 ratio of cheek to full shank.  So when 1 pound of pressure is applied to the reins 4 pounds of pressure will be felt in the mouth.  The slope of the shank also affects the amount of pressure applied.  


The mouth pieces of both snaffles and curbs can be the same and can work off the bars, tongue, and soft pallet.

So if both snaffles and curbs can use the same mouth pieces why have a curb bit in the first place? 

Where a snaffle bit is a direct rein meaning if you want to turn left you pull on the left rein and is generally used with two hands a curb bit is a indirect rein bit that allows the rider to use.  With more leverage a rider is also able to use lighter cues. 

A stronger bit is never a substitute for training, and no one bit is right for every horse.  A curb should be used on horses who already comfortable in the bridle and also work off seat and leg pressure .  A curb bit is best suited for a finished or nearly finished horse which is best defined below.     

"The ultimate goal with riding and training horses is to have a finished or broke horse.  The finished horse will do what you ask, willingly and relaxed.  He'll go wherever you direct him.  He will always try.  He has enough confidence in the rider to trust that he won't be put unto a situation that will hurt him.  To be considered finished, a horse needs to be relaxed in the bridle.  In the bridle means that the horse is broke at the poll with his head set on the vertical.  He's supple and giving to the hands and his head stays in position with little or no contact.  When a horse is broke at the poll you can feel it.  He's got his shoulders up, he's round through his back, engaged through the hind end and balanced underneath you.  It's a wonderful feeling for the rider.  You can gather him up to collect, release and he stays in position.  No matter the level of training, a horse should always be relaxed in the bridle. Always."- A Whole Bit Better by Dale, Ron, and Bob Myler

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reclaiming your horse life

They say horses are like potato chips, you can't have just one. Given their social and accident prone nature it makes since to keep a few good horses. I personally have two and one in the “oven” and I can't imagine my life without them. Since childhood my horse life has been about doing stuff. Trail rides, shows, clinics, parades, and numerous other events, I have horses because I like doing stuff with them. I love the thrill of galloping alone down a long dirt road, and riding in the surf. I love what I experience while riding, and I am not the only one. How many riding dreams have been you lucky enough to experience? How many goals still remain on your “riding bucket list”, and what is holding you back? If your answer is the training level of the horses in your barn you also are not alone. Hundreds of horse owners have several horses who are not trained enough to do anything. These owners dream of trail rides, shows, and other events and yet years go by and they still remain dreams. Friends it is possible to reclaim your horse life but you must be willing to start somewhere.

If you are truly committed to reclaiming your horse life and fulling your dreams you must first be willing to put in the work long term to reach your goals. This means setting aside time on a regular basis to work with your horse. Can you imagine what the school system would be like if we only sent our children to school 1-2 days a month? The horses learning curve works the same way, the more consecutive days (or close to it) you spend training the faster you will progress. You would be amazed at what you can accomplish with a few months of steady riding.

You must be willing to prioritize. This is where it gets hard. If you really want to change your horse life you are going to have to focus on just one horse. I know that they all need work, but it is nearly impossible to bring along several horses equally in a timely manner unless you are doing it for a living. If you decide to spend 6 months but better a whole year with 1 horse out of 4 at the end of the year you will have one horse you can do something with instead of 4 horses a ¼ of the way there. When you have a horse you can reliably ride you can then start to do things with them and build your confidence and skills for your other horses. But most importantly you will be able to start living your dreams horse back and will be on the road to sharing those dreams with each and everyone of your horses.

You must be willing to be scared, repeatedly. Fear is a completely natural part of riding, and after years in the saddle I still still get nervous the moment I do something new with my horses. John Wayne said it best, “Courage is being scared to death- but saddling up anyway.” In my experience with horses the more scary something seems to be the more fun it is when you finally do it.