Sunday, March 29, 2009
Sadly, depending on your point of view, neither of my "rodeos" has been captured on film. If it should happen to pass that one is, I will of course post it.
I'm not one to cut and run at the first sign of trouble. But I also realize that to do the same thing repeatedly, while expecting different results, defines stupidity.
To assess this problem, I first need to assess what I am doing wrong. It's a rather long list, but if we don't make mistakes we don't learn.
1. Lack of consistency. I can't ride her on Sunday, Wed, and Saturday. I have to ride daily, least five to six times per week, at least one hour per session. I've allowed the other demands of life to interfere. A horse being started for the first time needs constant repetition.
2. My riding skills are rusty. I have not ridden Smokey very much this this winter. I could offer a list of excuses, but they are just that, excuses. While I have never been aboard a horse that reared, I have ridden horses through bucking sessions, and have never ended up in the dirt before. I should have been prepared and able to deal with both of her bad behaviors.
I am going to step back, and return to square one. I am going to ride Smokey at least five days per week, to polish my riding skills. I am going to return to ground work with Kenya, 5 to 6 days per week, until that area is finely honed.
The trainer I talked with is going to help me with a technique known as Ground Driving. I'm not real familiar with it, beyond knowing that it is part of the technique used to teach horses that will pull wagons. Apparently, in this case, it can be used to find out if rearing his her natural response, and if so, to possibly train it out of her.
That's where things stand for now. I'll keep you all posted.
Here's a video I found of Ground Driving:
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Kenya reared twice. And I don't mean that she just popped up a little in the front. I'm talking Hi Ho Silver. The whole event, from first rear, to second time in the dirt, elapsed over less than 2 minutes. I got back up on her both times, although the second time took some strong encouragement from Mrs. BR. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was scared to get on her the second time. I'm 43, and have long since entered that phase of life where I am aware of my own mortality. I'm not in a rush to reach the hereafter.
Rearing is DANGEROUS. No other word describes it. While it may look cute to see a Silver rearing with Roy Rogers aboard, that was a horse and rider who were trained to do it in a safe manner. In all other instances, there is a high risk of severe injury to the horse or rider, due to the horse flipping over backwards. Riders have been killed from this.
Why did she rear? I'm not entirely sure. In both instance, she reared immediately after I applied leg pressure, the cue to move forward. This was not new to her, and had always yielded the desired result, before today.
The first time I think was out of fear, although of what I do not know. I'm inclined to think that the second time was a result of her discovery that she could get rid of me by doing so.
I cannot say that I am entirely surprised by this behavior. In the past she has show a tendency to be a bit light in the front end, rearing up at things that scare her. If this is her initial reaction to fear, what happens if I am 50 miles out in the backcountry, something scares her, she rears, and throws me onto a rock, or off a cliff?
The problem is this: once a horse develops a habit of rearing, it is difficult, if not impossible to train this out of them. That's not just my personal opinion. I talked with a professional trainer, and also with my father-in-law, who is Old School Cowboy, and has been riding and training horses for over 60 years. The consensus seems to be: This can get me seriously injured, if not killed, and there are too many good horses out there to spend time on a dangerous one.
This causes me great pain. I really like this horse, and I do not want to be one of those people who cuts and runs at the first sign of trouble. However, it would irresponsible to knowingly place myself in such danger, particularly with a family who depends on me.
I have not decided the outcome of this, yet. I did feel that my readers deserve to know that things are currently amiss. I will let you all know more, when I know more.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The person tasked with caring for the hoof is known as a farrier. They are so titled because their work and skills go far beyond just simple shoeing. They must have a firm knowledge of the inner working of the hoof. The hoof is prone to any number of ailments and diseases, therefore a farrier must be skilled in diagnosing and correcting these problems. Proper trimming and shoeing goes a long way towards preventing these problems.
A farrier must be willing to work when the weather is cold, or when it is hot. They may occasionally be called for an emergency on the weekend or at night. They spend most of the day bent over, and are constantly at risk of being kicked by a horse. A good farrier accepts all of these as hazards of the trade, and will most likely develop a very loyal clientele.
Our farrier is a young man named Jacob. He is 22, and has been caring for our horses feet for about a year now. He is the most talented farrier we have come in contact with. He is patient, and makes a detailed assessment of the horse's feet before starting his work.
Today Bailey, Smokey, and Kenya were his customers. Bailey was well behaved as always, getting a new set of shoes. Kenya only received a trim. I won't start shoeing her until I am ready to ride her out on the trail. Going barefoot in the soft dirt of the arena should not cause her any problems.
One of Kenya's feet, post trim
Using my hand as a size reference, compare to Smokey's foot, below.
Following her trim, I tied her to the rail in the barn. This was intended to give her practice at standing quietly and patiently while tied. This decision, of course, provided the only brief excitement of the night.
While Smokey was getting his shoes reset (re-using the old shoes, as they were not excessively worn), someone leaned a shovel on a post near Kenya. Horses being naturally curious, and prone to finding trouble, she managed to knock it over. CLANG!!! Trying desperately to get away from this horse eating monster, she backed up pulling for all she was worth on her lead rope. I dropped Smokey's lead rope, got her attention, calmed her, and moved said shovel. The incident was soon forgotten (their memory is only about 3 seconds long), and she stood calmly after that.
Shoeing Smokey in the wet winter months is a little more involved than the average horse. His sire is a Thoroughbred. One of the by-products of this is the fact that his feet are a) BIG, and b) his soles get really soft when they are constantly wet from the rain inherent to the Pacific Northwest. This softening makes him prone to abscesses of the hoof, which are rather painful for the horse.
To combat this, a pad is placed between his foot and the shoe. It is packed with a compound known simply as hoof packing, to prevent the area from becoming a breeding ground for any bacteria. The finished product looks thus:
The black goo coming out from the back of the pad is the aforementioned hoof packing.
After Smokey's feet were done, I returned the Two Buckskins to there paddocks, where fresh grain and alfalfa awaited them.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
We did have one minor bucking episode, but I was not about to eat dirt a second time. She helped out by not bucking as hard as last time, although I'm fairly certain that, given enough time, we'd have been going for the 8 second bell. Without delay I reached down, grabbed the left rein close to her head, and pulled.
As soon as I had her nose on the fender of the saddle, she stopped. I released her, and sat up straight to assess the situation. My hat was on the ground, and my forehead felt as though I'd been smacked, but that was the worst of it. For the life of me I cannot recall what whacked my noggin.
Without ceremony I started her moving again. She kept looking at my hat as though it might be a horse eater, so I dismounted, shook off the dust, donned it, and climbed back in the saddle.
In retrospect, the mistake I think I made was failing to keep my hands moving, touching her neck, the saddle, and her hip in repetition. This keeps a young horse cognizant of the fact that the rider is up there. I realize now that I forgot to do that, and it's possible that she forgot I was there, and then got spooked when she subsequently noticed me. I'll chalk it up to another part of the learning process.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, and I am again happy with the results. I do have the video form the first ride, and as soon as I have time to edit and upload it, I will get it posted.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Initial reports are that while 15 sailors aboard the USS Hartford were injured, none of the injuries were serious. If that is the case, then that is the silver lining in the clouds.
Seems like there has been a significant increase in the last few years in the number of submarines involved in collisions of one sort or the other.
Keep these guys in your prayers, if you do that sort of thing.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Yep, I got bucked off tonight...but, let us go back to the beginning.
I saddled Kenya up, and went through the usual round penning exercises. Before long I was in the saddle. I was working without a helper today, making the transition to taking cues from the rider. At The sequence of events to motivate the horse forward is as follows: Apply leg pressure, by squeezing the horse's sides with the calves, cluck, and then pop her on the rump with the leather popper on the end of the reins. Within minutes, she was moving off at a walk from leg pressure and the cluck. Satisfied with this, I felt that it was time to proceed to the trot. So, at the walk, squeeze, cluck, spank...bucking.
Bucking???? I don't remember that being part of the video!
According to those who witnessed the event, her skills as a bucking horse are very respectable. All four feet off the ground, back legs nearly vertical as they reached skyward. From my vantage point, I suddenly found myself looking at the ground underneath Kenya's head. This alternated with views form the horizontal, for what seemed an eternity. I tried to pull her head around, but I was completely unseated by this time, and having difficulty getting any leverage.
The whole event took perhaps five seconds to unfold, but from my viewpoint seemed like five minutes. Oddly enough I was calm through all of this. Those watching told me that I never uttered a sound. At first I was confident that I would recover, and all would be well. After the third time looking facing the dirt, I was well over her neck. It was at this point that I came to the realization that I was no longer sitting in a saddle, but, rather, and ejection seat.
Now I'm in the air, ass over tea kettle. Performing the age old "tuck and roll", I landed with a thud, ending up on my back. Not knowing where Kenya was, I immediately leapt to my feet. She was now standing calmly. I had to walk it off, but I knew at this point was that it was absolutely imperative that I get back on her. I calmly walked up to her, and got back in the saddle. I proceeded to walk and trot without further difficulty, even using the popper. I did have Mrs. BR come in and assist me with some of the maneuvers that she wasn't responding to as well as I'd like.
After about another 20 minutes, we called it a night. Despite getting bucked off, I chalked this up as a successful ride.
Mrs. BR told me that she was glad that "you didn't scream like a girl". I'm not quite sure how to take that.
I'm going to be really sore, tomorrow.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Submariners are a rather eclectic lot, and among other things, we usually end up with one or more nicknames. The basis for these nicknames is as varied as the names themselves. I, of course, acquired more than a few of these along the way, some of which are probably not repeatable in a family friendly blog, but I'm certain were well earned.
Today's tale relates to one of the two nicknames given me aboard my first boat, the USS William H. Bates (SSN-680). The first nickname I received was Bob. It was the name that stuck the longest. In fact, people who reported to the boat after I did truly thought that Bob was my first name, and I was always slow to let them in on the truth. The source of that name is for another day, perhaps. Because the story of how I got pasted with the second nickname is far funnier.
It was 1987, and I'd only been a member of the crew for perhaps five or six months. My underway watchstation was Engine Room Lower Level (ERLL), (not so) affectionately known as "The Pit".
One of the many duties of the ERLL watch was to shift clean and inspect the strainers in the lube oil systems, once per watch. This involved putting the other side of the strainer in service, draining the off service side, removing, and cleaning the strainer. After reinstalling the strainer element, the cover was replaced, a bar swung down over the top of the cover, and a large screw in the bar tightened to hold the cover in place. The strainer was then refilled by opening the vent, and cracking open the shift valve until oil issued from the vent. Close the valves, clean the mess up, and move to the next task.
So there I am, shifting a strainer. The Auxiliary Electrician Aft, whom I will simply refer to as Mike, was visiting me whilst this evolution was in progress. So needless to say, I was paying more attention to the conversation, than to the task at hand...
I reached the step where I began filling the strainer with oil. This oil is under pressure, as it just so happens. This is when I made the discovery that I had missed one step. Sadly, for me, it turned out to be the one that involved tightening the cover.
Without warning, the cover popped up about 1/4", and I found myself with Old Faithful on my hands. Doh!!! I quickly shut the fill valve to stem the flow, but not before I was soaked head to toe in oil. Oil covered every nearby surface, and was dripping from the overhead. Mike had vanished, apparently fleeing at the first sign of trouble.
By all rights, I should have been in the deep darks over this. However, the command figured that I had a valuable lesson, and most of them found the whole affair too funny to be very upset over it. It took me the better part of two hours to clean up the mess, although oil continued to drip from the overhead for months.
The COB (Chief of the Boat) immediately sent me to the showers, and had the cooks save some dinner for me. I threw away all the clothes I was wearing.
A couple of my creative shipmates immediately began setting my ordeal into a song. I can't remember what I had for breakfast today, but 20 some odd years later, I can still remember parts of that song.
Sung to the tune of "The Beverly Hillbillies":
Let me tell you the story about a boy named Jed.
A nubbly lower level watch who nearly lost his head.
He tried without direction, to shift, inspect, and clean.
Opened up a valve and out came a stream.
Of lube oil, that is, 2190 TEP.
Next thing you know, Jed’s got it in his hair.
The COB said, “Jed, get the hell away from here.
In the shower is the place you oughta be.
Well save you some chow, yea…”
And thus, my nickname became "Jed".
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I saddled Kenya up in the barn. Saddling has become a non-event, which always starts us off on the right foot. Then off to the arena, and into the round pen.
I spent plenty of time just trotting her in the round pen. I wanted to be certain that her mind was in the right place, and wear down any excess energy she had. She was being a little stubborn at first, turning to the outside, which is verboten. After a few gentle reminders she "remembered" how this is done, and all was well.
I like this picture of today's action in the round pen:
Notice that I'm standing, and she is trotting. It wasn't like this in the early days. It was as much a workout for me as for Kenya. Now that we have refined the process, I spend much more time standing.
At this point I was satisfied that her attention was on me, and that she wasn't distracted or feeling skittish about anything. It was now or never. I put the training hackamore on her head, and readjusted my cinch. It was decided that I would using a mounting block to get on, just to keep things simple. I stood up on the block next to her, banged my hand on the saddle a few times, and then leaned over across the saddle so she could see me from her right eye. Not a flinch. Without further adieu, I put my right leg over, sat down, and put my feet in the stirrups.
With the aid of my trusty assistant, Mrs. BR, we immediately began working on one rein stops. This is accomplished by pulling the horse's nose around to your foot, and putting pressure against their ribcage, such that one back leg crosses over in front of the other. When a horse is forced to do this, they can't buck, rear, run, or present any other bad behavior (hopefully!). They can only turn in a circle. This is a safety technique. At this point she is still yielding to the pressure from the stick, but by adding leg pressure, she should start associating that with the need to disengage her hindquarters.
About halfway through the maneuver:
At this point it was time to move on to walking and trotting. Again, she is still responding to the cues from the person on the ground, and I am, in essence, little more than a passenger. I am, of course, adding the verbal cue of clucking and applying leg pressure when I want her to move. This begins the transition into responding to the rider.
At the walk:
I'll admit I was a bit tense at first, but I relaxed pretty quickly. We progressed to the trot in short order. Occasionally she would just stop. The first few times I was caught off guard, and thrown forward in the saddle, but that was a case of me not being prepared. Her trot is a wee bit rough, and my back is a tad sore right now. Admittedly, few horses have a smooth trot, but Kenya definitely has room for refinement.
I did notice in the above picture that my legs are too far back. I need to raise the stirrups a little, and concentrate on keeping my feet forward.
At this point, Mrs. BR suggested that it was time to call it a good first ride. Giving in to reason, I dismounted. I could not be happier with today's results. Better than I could have hoped for.
There is a horse show tomorrow, so I think it will probably be Tuesday before I can put in a second ride, although I'm hoping I might be able to squeeze it in tomorrow evening, depending what time we get home. I'll keep you posted.
A friend video taped the event. She's going to burn it to a CD for me. Once I have that, I'll post some portions of it.
Sorry for the long winded entry.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I'm a bit of a Trekkie, as it were. I don't have a set of pointy ears, or clothes, or anything like that. I don't attend conventions. But I do love Star Trek, specifically the original series and movies.
It's hard for me to imagine any other actors portraying the characters from the original series, but I'll give them a chance. They just better get it right the first time.
H/T: CDR Salamander
Monday, March 9, 2009
I honestly cannot remember it ever snowing this late in the year in this part of the world. But it is, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures about an hour ago.
Smokey sez: "Global warming is hoax!"
Kenya sez: "Got any treats, Dad?"
Bailey (DN3's horse): "Aren't I photogenic?"
Dozer (DN2's horse): "Leave me alone, I'm eating!"
Blue Boy, the retired roping horse, "This ain't nothin' sonny. I remember the winter of '89!"
Mrs. BR's dun mare is up at the trainers barn, so, sadly, no pics of her enjoying our dose of global warming. Will get some up when she comes up.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The steel trusses were creaking and groaning rather loudly, and all of the horses, particularly Kenya, were rather skittish about the noise. Here she is with a look that seems to say "are really sure you want to do this?"
Ummm, no, now that you mention it, I think not. One of the key things, in my opinion, is to be certain that everything is right before moving on. The noise and the wind were giving her the vapors, so I decided that, no, the time is not right. Which is a shame, because I really had myself in the right frame of mind for the event, and had been looking forward to it all week.
The weather today wasn't much better. It was one of those times where, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. Rain, snow, hail, sun, you name it. When it was hailing so hard that you couldn't have a face to face conversation in the arena, Mrs. BR suggested (rather wisely too, I might add) that perhaps today was not a good idea, either. Drat!!
I'm going to shoot for next Friday, although it could happen sooner. Hope I don't sound like a big weanie for not gittin' r' done! this weekend.
Meanwhile, here's a picture or two:
Friday, March 6, 2009
I started her out with the usual round penning to shake out the wiggles and giggles. Following this, and without ceremony, I saddled her up. And yes, this time I triple (or maybe quadruple) checked the cinch, being not of the mind to repeat of Sunday's rodeo. Thus assured that no harm would befall horse or saddle, I sent her off at the trot.
After several revolutions, she veered a bit too close to the rail, and with a loud clang, the left stirrup smacked the metal railing. Herself did not take kindly to this sudden turn of events, and she began humping up and dancing around in her best rodeo bronc imitation. As this event was not nearly as traumatic as Sunday's goings on, it only took seconds to get her settled down. For good measure I checked the cinch again, and sent her off for more.
No further incidents occured, and after a good brushing to dry the sweat, I put her out with her grain and alfalfa.
If the stars align correctly, I plan to take my first ride tomorrow. Provided 911 is not involved in the event, I will be sure to post the results.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
This filly was born about 3pm today, to our friends mare. DN2 works at the farm, and had gone to check on the mare, and discovered there was a baby on the ground. She called for reinforcements, and they quickly got mom and baby into a nice straw filled stall. Thankfully, mom is one of the most trusting mares in the world. This is mom:
I'll get more pics in the next couple of days. I wanted to keep my presence to a minimum, so they could rest.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Which of course brought to mind that find Blogger Buck, whom I know to be a fan of the New Belgium Brewing Company.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Despite waiting for the past two weeks, as of this morning, the problem had not remedied itself. Drat. The solution to this, however, involves two things I hate. Shopping and...shopping.
So I drug myself to the store, and after a painful couple hours, I've got enough clothes to at least make it through the first week. Which sadly, means I'll probably be shopping again next weekend. Ugghh!
I do have one question. Why does each item of clothing that I purchased have at least 5 tags and/or stickers on it? Size, cost, SKU, you name it. Isn't one enough?
Started out with basic round pen exercises to get her mind right. As usual, no problems. I put the saddle and pad on the rail, so that she would get to see them each time she ran past. She never shied away from them, and as usual, round penning went well.
Now it was time for the saddle. I put the saddle pad on, and she didn't blink. This was expected, since she wears a turnout blanket all the time, so something lightweight on her back was nothing new. Next, I gently placed the saddle on her back, working on the offside, to avoid any problems from the cinches banging around. She looked at the saddle once, but again, seemed unconcerned with the whole thing.
I walked around to the near side, to begin cinching her up. The 30" cinch that I ordered for her hasn't arrived yet, so I was using a spare 32" cinch. Remember this. It will become important later.
I pulled the cinch around underneath, ran the latigo thru and gently tightened it up. As expected the cinch was too long, and while it didn't quite reach from one side of the saddle to the other, it was darn close. But I still had enough latigo to reasonably tighten her up. And since I wasn’t planning on riding her, it didn’t seem like a big deal. I buckled up the back cinch, and let her stand for a few minutes. All was well.
I grabbed the stirrups one at a time, and slapped the fenders up and down until she stopped flinching. It took longer for her to quite shying at the noise than in the DVD, and my arms were pretty tired after slapping the fenders up and down for what felt like an eternity.
Time to trot her, so she could get the feel of the saddle. I checked the cinch to ensure it was still tight, and then sent her off. The first couple trips around the pen were accompanied by the expected bucking and crow hopping, but she settled down fairly quickly.
Then it happened. The saddle slipped, and began to roll down her right side. She exploded, bucking and rearing for all she was worth. It was a sight to behold. If this doesn’t work out, she may have a future as a rodeo horse.
By now the saddle was entirely on her right side. If this continued, it would end up underneath her, and then things would get really ugly(!). This is where the work I’ve done to this point paid off. I got her attention focused on me, and used the cues to get her to stop and face me. She did. She was shaking, but clearly looking to me for help. Talking in a calm voice, I gently approached her, and rubbed her on the neck. Satisfied that she had calmed down enough for me to fix the problem, I grasped the saddle, and pushed it back up in place. I then tightened the cinch up further, until I was satisfied that it would not slip again.
I let her stand with me for a few moments until she was relaxed again. Then off at the trot, and even a little loping for good measure.
While this could have had some unfortunate consequences, it turned out for the better. Mistakes are part of the learning process, and I learned (or re-learned in at least two cases) at least three things:
1. ALWAYS use the correct equipment.
2. Make darn certain the cinch is tight.
3. This mare trusted me to get her out of a bad situation. Which can be oh so important once I start riding her.
I forgot to bring the camera with me, but I'll get some pictures of her saddled later this week, so I can post them.
I don't show by the way. I'm just not into prettying up my horse to ride in a circle. Give me a wilderness trail any day.
Anywho...there was a young lad of about 18 or 19 there. To cut to the chase, this lad is a cowboy wannabe. I know a few cowboys (I'm not one by the way), and he was clearly a poser. He had a big goofy feather in his hat, a very large belt buckle that I'm certain he bought, as opposed to winning as a trophy. And cue the Washingtonian trying to talk with a Texas accent. Since no one else in his family talked like that, it was clearly contrived. That's not a dig at Texas accents by the way...just at people who try to fake it.
The way to tell he was a poser was simple. All I had to do was watch him ride his horse. Actually I got to watch him ride two. He had absolutely no control of these rank nags he was riding. At one point when his horse was bucking and rearing, he shouted out "Boy, he's acting like he's a stud colt". No...he's acting like that because he wants to use you for a lawn dart, since he's tired of you riding like an asshole.
But the icing on the cake was his spurs. They looked something like this:
It looked more like he was wearing a pair of circular saws than spurs. Note the two little items hanging from each spur. Those are called Jingle Bob's. They cause the spurs to make that noise you hear in the movies when you walk. I don't anybody that actually wears them. Or at least I didn't.
When he was riding, they sounded like sleigh bells. LOUD sleigh bells. They echoed through the arena. I heard more than a few people in the stands make snide comments about them. They were annoying and distracting to the point that, after a few classes, the judge made him remove them. I did not witness this, but apparently boyo threw a bit of a temper tantrum.
At least the arena got quieter.