Thursday, December 29

It's so Wednesday

What a soggy day at the barn! I'm going to have to dig out Cricket's water wings if it keeps going like this :) I was looking through some old photo albums (remember those?) and found a photo of  me riding Cisco while visiting my grandma in Kansas.

And also.. this gem
 (Camp Berachah, Age 9ish)

Here is a better view of what is apparently my favorite riding outfit at this period in time.
(Note the different helmet and location. omgimadork)

And with that, I wish you a happy Thursday!

Monday, December 26

Take Charge

So I wrote the other day about a pet peeve of mine- owners who don’t make their horse mind. While often times owners to not realize this is actually what’s missing in their relationship with their horse. They think old Rusty is just a little ornery in his old age, or maybe the people who sold him to me weren’t 100% truthful, or perhaps he was abused in his past and he just can’t! Any and all of these reasons MAY be true, but the fact of the matter is that they are just acting like horses- taking liberties where they see opportunity to. Many horse related injuries happen when a horse is startled and forgets there’s a human around to watch out for. I insist that my horses pay attention to where I am and what I am asking at all times. That way, if there’s a scary noise or something blows up out of the grass, the last thing at the front of their mind was me.
Not only is this a safety issue, but it just makes interacting with horses so much more pleasant when they do what you ask without a lot of argument. It’s a slippery slope to arrive at the place I described in my last post- silly little habits and routines develop between horse and owner, and many of them are pretty harmless. Who cares if your horse stops to catch a few bites of grass on the way in? Or walks off from the block when you try to mount? Or moves every time you approach with a saddle? If you are planning on keeping your horse for their rest of their natural life and you don’t mind these issues… there’s nothing wrong with that; but, what if you ever have to sell that horse? It’s something we don’t want to think about but it’s necessary to do so. Is anyone else going to want to put up with all those little idiosyncrasies? What if the horse is sold to a child? My goal with any horse I handle is to make them as simple and straightforward to work with as possible.
Another perspective on this issue is that of the horse. The horse in a relationship like this with their human wears a very grumpy expression most of the time. This is because they are constantly being fussed at and corrected. In general, horses respond best to very clear black and white rules- this is how they communicate with one another and it allows very little room for confusion. If a horse is never shown what the rules are by their handler but instead is constantly corrected and moved around, poor pony is going to get not only a little confused but also frustrated! A horse will be much more at peace when they understand the rules and the consequences for disobeying the rules.
Over at “Mugwump Chronicles” Janet, the author, used the term benign dictatorship to describe her relationship with her horses, and I think that’s just about perfect. She also explains how she reacts to a few of the most common “naughty” behaviors from her horses. Pop over there for a little more reading and some great conversation in the comments J

Thursday, December 22

Pet Peeve Day!

Today, I’d like to write about one of my personal pet peeves. We all know a rider like this- it’s most common with ladies who got horses as adults and they want everything to be special and perfect, but this also happens with kids and other folks who aren’t sure what the rules of engagement are. They love their horse a lot, so much so that they never want to do anything to make sweet, little Fluffy uncomfortable in any way. Even though they are doing what they think is best, it gives me heart palpitations watching this person handle their horse.
As they’re walking in from the paddock, Fluffy reaches down and starts to graze.
“No, Fluffy. Quit!” followed by a tug on the lead rope.
 Fluffy continues stuffing her face.
“Come on!” Big pull on the lead rope and Fluffy begrudgingly follows along munching on a large mouthful of grass. This whole sequence may repeat again if it’s an especially long walk to the tie rail or if Fluffy is a world champion speed eater.

Approximately 4 years later, Fluffy is tacked up and headed down to the arena. The grooming and saddling process has been lengthy and Fluffy is in a bit of a mood. Nice lady parks Fluffy at the mounting block and steps up on the top step to get on. Fluffy swings her hindquarters away from the block. Nice lady hops down, resituates the horse, and gets back up on the block. Fluffy takes two steps back.
“Step up.” Owner politely asks.
Fluffy says, “No”
“Step up!” Owner musters a little more enthusiasm this time.
Fluffy falls asleep.
“Come on, Fluffy, STEP UP!” and Fluffy obliges by walking straight past the mounting block, and now nice owner lady has to lead Fluffy in a circle to get her back to the mounting block again. I’m not sure how nice lady eventually gets on Fluffy because usually by this time I have left the arena in an attempt to let my blood pressure return to a normal and acceptable level.

But the fun doesn’t end here! Nice owner lady now proceeds to ride Fluffy. I use the term “ride” here loosely because Fluffy spends most of the ride wandering around the arena at a walk while owner lady fusses about this or that. When she tries to pick up the trot, Fluffy pins her ears and sucks back against her leg. Maybe owner lady’s instructor or trainer makes her ride with a crop. Maybe she gives Fluffy a few half-hearted taps on the shoulder, or maybe nice owner lady just kick-kick-kicks at Fluffy’s dead sides, but definitely there is lots of clucking, a few come on’s, and a plethora of trot!’s. After a lap or two, Fluffy picks up a half-hearted jog which she maintains for approximately five strides before breaking back to the walk. This happens over and over again.  Eventually owner lady ends the ride, and now it’s time to go up to get untacked and eat treats. This is Fluffy’s favorite part of the session.

If you ask this kind owner she will tell you how she is working on Fluffy’s “issues” and how they have such a strong bond and so on and so forth. If you ask Fluffy, she’ll give you the scoop, “I’ve got my owner so well trained. I can make her do all sorts of tricks instead of working me!”
This is an issue many newcomers to the horse world fight with, where is the line between being strict with a horse and beating them up? We’ll talk more about that later, but in the meantime, what are your barn pet peeves??

Tuesday, December 20

Riding Cisco

Do you remember the moment when the horse bug bit you? I sure do. I was five or six years old and this was my first ride on a “real horse”. Oh sure, there’d been lots of talk of horses; there had even been a few pony rides, but for some reason this time was different. We were visiting my grandma in Kansas, and one of her friends offered to give me a ride on her horse, Cisco.
 My dad lifted me up onto his back and I reached forward to pet his fuzzy neck; my feet dangled at least eighteen inches short of the stirrups, but I wasn’t afraid. I loved the feeling of sitting on his tall back looking at things from a completely new angle. As she led me around on Cisco, she explained to me how to ask him to walk, halt, turn, etc. On one of our loops around the paddock, he started to pick up the pace. She brought him down and reminded me that I should only squeeze when I wanted to go faster. I smiled and said, “Ok”, but inside I was delighted; I had done it on purpose…If only my parents knew what that one little horse ride on a breezy day in Kansas would start. 
Do you remember the day it all started for you?

Saturday, December 17

Epic Title for The First Post Ever

We here at The Red Horse Farm are a fun loving bunch, and we want to wish you a Merry Christmas! There will be a more substantial post coming up in the next few days, but it just didn't feel right to set this blog up without at least one measly post.