Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trailering Chex to Colorado

Easter, 2009! A 4 day weekend! We headed to Colorado! This was part horse business, part store business, part trailer trading, and part seeing family. It was so much better to travel 7 ½ hours over 4 days instead of 2 or 2 ½ days!

We left Friday morning with a 4 horse trailer, yearling colt, and 30 bales of alfalfa! We are selling a horse and some hay to our daughter, who wanted to buy our little reining colt, Chex. She is planning on starting him under saddle and showing reining.

Chex was brought into the barn about 4 weeks ago with the other 2 yearlings. Two stud colts needed castrating, all 3 needed their hooves trimmed, all 3 needed their yearling vaccinations, 2 had wolf teeth removed, and since Chex was leaving the state, he needed blood drawn for a Coggins test and health papers. The vet and farrier were scheduled the same day to get this all done! Worked like a dream. Sedate, castrate, vaccinate, give a shot of antibiotics, pull wolf teeth, and trim hooves, on one yearling at a time, with each one done within a ½ hour time frame!

A day later, all 3 were turned back outside to be with their buddy, Red, the older gelding who is babysitting them. Two of the colts didn’t move too fast! Honey, the filly acted just fine, even though she was slightly sedated the day before to have her wolf teeth pulled. She actually acted too fine! I increased their grain to put on a little weight, and Honey was feeling good! Kicking out as she ran around her lot. She made me watch my back side as I carried in hay and grain each day. The other 2 were swollen and walked slowly. One colt was fine after a week, but this time, the other colt took 2 weeks for the swelling to subside. And this colt happened to be Chex. He didn’t put on weight during this time, and I could feel ribs. Then about the time I was going to call the vet, the swelling decreased in half, and a few days later, he was back to normal. Whatever was inflamed, had finally healed. I was glad! I was starting to get a little concern and thought an infection had set in, even though the colts were given a dose of antibiotics.

I had started giving the yearlings alfalfa to put on some weight. We backed our trailer up to the barn and loaded 30 bales into the first 2 horse stalls of the trailer. I wanted to make sure that Sara had enough alfalfa for 2 months to continue building up his weight. I’m sure Chex will drop some weight in the move, and I want to make sure he has the best nutrition available to keep his weight on, especially as he is still growing. All the yearlings are getting tall and lanky. Alfalfa hay and 4# of Nutrena Compete each day should help promote weight gain and growth. He needs some fat cover over those ribs!

The next morning, it is time to load up for the trip to Colorado. And Chex hasn’t been in a trailer yet. The night before, we lead Chex and Red to the barn. In preparation for separation from his buddies, Chex spent the night in a stall, with Red in the stall next to him. The next morning, the trailer was in place in front of the barn door. Part of the barn door was closed so that only the opening of the trailer was seen. The back trailer doors were opened and the stall divider was collapsed to make room for both Red and Chex to be loaded at the same time. Then once Chex was loaded, Red could turn around and be led out.

Loading didn’t go as planned. Not bad, but not as easy as Chex walking in on the first try either. I thought for sure he would follow Red in, especially since his grain bucket was there. But he was interested in the cats, and in the cat’s water, and just in smelling the trailer, but not going into the trailer. After 10 minutes, we unloaded Red and haltered Chex. We didn’t want him trailering with a halter on since he was going to be loose in the back part of the trailer. After loading Red, we tried leading Chex up to the trailer edge, and while Tom pushed and I shook the grain bucket, we got Chex up to the trailer again. Then Tom stood behind Chex while I shook the grain bucket. First 1 foot stepped into the trailer, then the next, and as he took a bite of grain, he stepped into the trailer with all 4 feet! He definitely was interested in his grain, so I set the grain bucket down up at the front of the 3rd stall, unhaltered Chex, and as he ate his grain, we lead Red out and closed the doors.

Tom lead Red to his lot with the other 2 yearlings as I watched Chex eat at his grain and hay. He didn’t whinny or act up! What a good boy! We moved the truck and trailer to the gate entrance and closed the gates. We drove the 2 miles to the highway and I got out and checked on Chex. He was just standing there, looking around. No whinnies, no kicking. Wow!

We traveled 2 hours without stopping. I checked on Chex as we filled up with gas. He just stood there, looking outside the rear window. I still can’t believe how good he was doing. We made 2 more stops, and each time, Chex just stood facing front. One time, he turned his head and looked at me while I talked to him. The last stop, he didn’t even turn his head. He just stood and dozed.

Once we got to my daughter’s house, we backed up to the round pen. We opened the gates and trailer door. After a few minutes of hesitation, Chex stepped out as he saw Sara’s horses, in the other pasture, come up to the round pen to meet him. He trotted around the round pen for a few minutes, then settled in to eating some hay that was ready for him.

I must say that this was the easiest trailering experience with a young horse that we have had. And he trailered by himself!

Now for trailer business. We traded in our 4 horse Exiss for a 3 horse Trails West with a living quarters. No more sleeping in the cold! We’re driving home today and it pulls wonderfully! Pulling empty so I hope it pulls the same with a horse or 2 in it.

And finally, this weekend, we spent 2 ½ days with our 4 month old granddaughter, Makenzie. We were able to watch her 4 month pictures being taken. We went to church on Easter morning together. As I held her, she looked at a picture of Jesus on the wall, and started cooing and smiling at him! Just like Jesus was talking to her and she was smiling back! I know that Jesus loves the little children!

As I gave her an evening bottle last night, she dozed off so peacefully. Her little body was cuddled in close to mine. It was so comforting to rock a little and pat her bottom. I laid her in her crib and covered her up. We said goodbye this morning as she cooed and smiled at us, her fingers in her mouth.

Within a few short years, Makenzie will be trailering with me, and Caden, too! I’m planning our rides together already!

Chex and new friend, Zip

Friday, April 10, 2009

Horses are part of our Dreams!

When we are excited about something, then we should try to do it. Sure, we have to take into consideration time, money, and ability. But why is it that, when we are excited about doing something, some people are along on the ride and other people see the negatives of what we are trying to do? Why would you want to ride all day? Why work in the barn that late? Why get up so early to go to a show? Why ride in that heat?

We should try to indulge our dreams. Definitely! We need to have something to work for and to work towards. But we can’t always be working, we need to work on achieving that dream. I’ve talked before about goals, and maybe that is what our dreams have turned into. Dream and set goals!

Our choices do change our lives. Sometimes, we do need to change what we are doing and go on a different course for our lives. Or maybe the same course, just a different route. I will always be on a course with horses, but I will let life change that course for me. Anyways, that will add some excitement! Look forward to change!

Horses definitely direct the paths that we take. Our decisions are based on what we need to do with our horses. I’ve told lots of non-horse friends and family that I’ll have to check my calendar to see what I’m doing with the horses! That was so true when the kids were home and we showed all spring, summer, fall, and part of winter!

Do we need to make it big to fill fulfilled? I used to think that, but I don’t think so anymore. We are fulfilled when we truly enjoy what we are doing! I now feel, or at least I’m starting to feel, more fulfilled than I have for a lot of years. Busy does not make us fulfilled. Enjoying what we are doing makes us fulfilled. Accomplishing something makes us fulfilled. Being happy and content makes up fulfilled.

I have never had hoof beats in my head, but I have felt the heartache when I haven’t had horses. I have felt that heartache when my dad was going to sell my pony. I have felt that heartache when I just wanted to give up and sell all my horses. Who wanted to work that hard anyways? To train, ride, give lessons for 12 hours or more a day, not have time for your own horses, and do it in all types of weather, from below zero to humid 100’s. But when I thought of the alternative, I had a heartache, knowing that if I did what I was thinking, I would be sad for a long time.

Passion? Yes, to do all of this, you must have passion. Something that is actually hard to put into words. A burning desire. A need. To give yourself to an animal that will love you back unconditionally. Give of yourself to an animal that you need to care 100% for. Something that fulfills you and makes you who you are. Without horses in our lives, who would we be? Who would care for the horses that are part of my life? Would they have existed without me?

I am who I am because of horses. I can’t help it. And I won’t make allowances for it anymore. People can just accept me for who I am and get along with me or they don’t need to be part of my life.

Horses have shaped me and have molded my mind. They control my thoughts. My feelings. My decisions. Horses have taught me to think and react the way that they do. Horses have taught me to be true and honest. Horses have taught me to show how it is! No grey areas. Horses have taught me to bite and kick when something is irritating, yet nuzzle withers with their best friend.
What would I be like and who would I be without horses? Would my life be fulfilled? I don’t think so, as it makes me sad and depressed to think about selling everything, get a 9-5 job, and not have horses. I might enjoy not having chores for awhile, but what would I do when I come home? What would I do with free time? Now, that is a thought!

Horses are a part of my life as much as anything can be. I couldn’t breath without knowing that I could look out my window and see the horses. I don’t need to do something with them at that moment, but I need to know that they are there.

To keep horses in my life, I did stay home and raise 3 kids. I taught riding lessons, I trained, I raised some colts, and I took my kids to shows. I was extremely busy spring and summer, slowed down in the fall, and just about had winters off. I took the days off that I had to, and then I rode weekends, and Sundays (but very few) when I had to. I did kept Sundays as family day, and did no lessons that day. I tried not to show horses that were for sale on Sundays either. I needed a day for me.

I set my own schedule, I worked hard when I had to, I rode horses all day. I guess you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore! But I thing that I just realized is that I stayed home so that I could ride, train, and give lessons.

But now my life is taking a different course. I want to always have horses in my life. But I don’t want to work as hard. I want to come home and have time for my horses. I don’t want to be in the barn until 9 every night. I want to still teach riding to those who want to learn from me, but I don’t want to have every night filled with lessons. I want to have time to sit back and relax and enjoy my horses. I want to ride my young horses and make them better. I want to trail ride more. And I want to share my love of horses with my young grandchildren.

Life is definitely on a different course for me. I am excited to ride on that trail! I‘m dreaming a different dream! My goals have changed. I’m taking more time for what is important!
Come along on the ride with me! Let’s dream together!

Finally back to Riding and Training

Weather is warming up and I am finally back to riding and training. With a bang! One horse that needs conditioning for CTR (Competitive Trail Riding). One horse in training, a mare with an attitude.

That doesn’t seem like much, but I do morning chores, which consist of feeding a herd of cats (and as many as I have, it is a herd!), 5 dogs, 2-4 puppies (until yesterday, the last of the Beagle pups have sold!), a stud, a pasture of 10 horses, and the pen of the 3 yearlings and the older gelding who has babysat them all winter. Then I go to my tack store, Messick Tack & Feed, until 5 or 6 pm. Then home again for ride time and chores.

I try to be done riding by 7:30 , done with chores by 8, and inside to a hot shower. When I had a full barn of training horses, I used to be in the barn until 9. But either I am too old to be busy that late, or I just don’t want to be busy that late any more. I’ve gone from 8-10 horses in training to 1 or 2 horses. Geez…where did the energy go?

Anyways, I am finally back to riding after not riding all winter, and I LOVE it!

I couldn’t wait until winter was over! And I couldn’t wait until March decided to have warm temps, which it finally did, but every other week was freezing!

Except this past weekend, when I’m finally back to writing, and it’s winter out there! Luckily, temps were warm, and the snow that came, melted as it landed on the ground. Northwest Nebraska was harder hit. And I am sure glad that I don’t live in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
3 weeks, (now actually 4 weeks since it’s taking me a week to write this), have past since I have started riding. In the meantime, I have had my first Granddaughter’s baptism and the Nebraska Horse Expo. I have had a week, or 2, or actually 3 weeks, of putting my store back together. And I have had an evening of babysitting my grandson, Caden.

OK, back to training. The first thing I do is free lunge the horse. In the arena. No saddle. I want that horse to bond with me. I turn the horse, changing directions. The horse knows that I am boss and needs to listen to me. Typical natural horsemanship. Once the horse licks his/her lips and turns to me, I stop. Sometimes the horse never turns to me, and so I lunge for a certain amount of time and stop. I continue free-lunging the next day. Usually, after a time or 2 of free lunging, the horse accepts you as boss, and after a time of lunging, the horse will turn to you. If the horse never turns to me, I continue free lunging each day, know that the horse may never turn to me. I have only had a few of these horses, and even though they are respectful, I always wonder if they treat you as boss or just mind their manners while you are working with them, and don’t understand that you are boss or want you as their boss. As long as they stop and let me approach, I leave them alone, building respect this way. The mare that I was riding turns and walks towards me, letting me know that she wants to be my friend.

I lunge with the saddle. No play time. With a saddle on, there is no bucking or kicking out or running around the arena like a crazy fool! Once again, I change directions, building up dominance while letting the horse get used to the saddle. If a horse doesn’t give to the bit, I like to bit back. In the beginning, I use baler twine so if the horse reacts and tries to pull his head up and fight the tightness, the twine will break. I tie from the bit to the rings of the cinch. Once the horse knows to give when he is bit back, then I use the reins. I lunge both ways, walk, trot and lope. This may take awhile for the horse to know how to lope off . This is the beginning of collection and it is hard for the horse to understand and to do. The horse needs to use the hind legs with impulsion to push himself up into the lope. The horse usually just trots faster before breaking into the lope. In the beginning, this is fine as they are learning how to lope with their heads down. Necks are level though, and they learn to break at the poll and at the withers. Once they learn to lope off, then I try to keep the trot slow as they lope off.

On to riding. Bending the neck in both directions to loosen up the horse. With the mare that I just got done riding, she bends well. With her, I worked on keeping her neck straight and her body between my hands and legs as I rode. She was definitely a wiggle worm to start with. But within the first 2 days, she could travel straight. She already gave to the bit, so that was easy for her to do and I thought, to understand. I did have to work with her mare attitude. She gave to the bit, she understood where to carry her head, and she easily traveled straight, yet she wanted to head toss. My first thought was that she had a sharp tooth that was causing pain. After checking with the owner, her teeth had been checked and were fine. She was in a very nice, balanced bit.

I believe her head tossing was part of not wanting to work. I understand mares, so instead of fighting her, I just got back off her and lunged her more. Part of why I lunge is to make sure there is no buck in them, part to wear them down if they are excited or anxious, and part to get them to a point where their minds will listen to me. She did act better and did less head tossing after a 2nd lunge time of 10 minutes. During the next few minutes, her head tossing stopped as I continued to trot her. But each day, she would go back to a little head tossing as I wanted to trot off. She clearly was showing me that she didn’t want to work. I started to leave her trot off on a loose rein even though her head was up. As she moved on and didn’t head toss, I slowly picked up contact on the reins until I had her head perpendicular to the ground, making sure that she was not behind the bit.

This mare was in for training and I had 2 areas to make sure to work on: to side pass better and to lope slower and with collection. I first worked her at a pace that was easy for her, at the trot. Nose tucked, neck down and level - not head up and nose out where she wants to be. She likes looking out into the distance to see what is there. But riding a horse when they are like this is not comfortable for the horse or rider. The horse is not balance and has hollowed her back. If she is on a long trail ride, she will get a sore back. The horse will bounce on the horse’s back more if they are not posting.

She trots beautifully and the owner took a picture of her with full extension of her front legs. She rides beautifully when she is like this. Smooth, ground covering, extended trot that is easy to post. But she did not want to keep this frame and lope off. This was hard for her to do. She needed to learn how to propel herself with her hind legs. This was hard work for her, either her body couldn’t do it easily or she plain didn’t want to! She left me know it as she would kick out as she loped off. I needed to get that kick out of her. So we did a lot of transitions. Trot to lope. Walk. Trot to lope. Change directions. Trot to lope. Walk. Trot to lope. Walk off on a loose rein and let her alone for a few minutes. I didn’t want her being a mare and getting mad just because she was working. I wanted to get her to a place where it would be her idea to lope off in collection.

A few times, if she kicked out, I would lope her a little, stop, roll back and lope off again. I would keep doing this until she wouldn’t kick out as I loped off. Then I knew she could do the lope off without kicking out, and I would stop and rest her. I would go through this lope pattern 1 or 2 more times, but not too long as she would become tired and irritable. I’m hoping that, with the owner riding her and working her in small stages of work mode, in another month, she will lope off easily and without irritability.

We moved on to 2 tracking (half pass) and side passing. Once again, she remembered how to do this and we just need to fine tune. Her neck became a wiggle worm again. She needed help
moving her hip more. I reinforced the hip moving with forehand turns, keeping the front feet planted and moving the hip first one way around the front feet, then the other way. Then I would move off into a straight line first. As she traveled forward, I would add my leg, as far back as I could reach, to pushed the hip over. Both the outside front and hind feet should cross in front of the inside feet, while maintaining a straight line, and without allowing the horse to turn the body towards the direction that you are 2 tracking to.

Side passing was next. Once again, keeping the body straight and not allowing the front or the hind end to move ahead of the other. Sometimes, I put the horse on the arena wall, facing the wall. They can’t move forward as they are side passing. We practiced side passing logs next, keeping the log below our leg, which gave the horse room to slightly move either leg forward or backward without hitting the log. We practiced side passing to the rail and to the gate.

I didn’t have the time to put a whole month of this mare. With only 3 weeks of training, the mare lopes slower and with her head down. She will need to be told to keep her head there as she lopes. She has the basics of collection. She will need help to keep her neck and body straight as she 2 tracks and side passes. The mare may need more time to deal with her personality.

But on the trail, the mare moves out beautifully and without hesitation. She stands quietly to cut back brush while on horseback. That is what the owner wants and the mare cooperates. I’m sure the owner will have the mare loping with collection, willingly by the mare, before the end of summer!

My fat Finny needs lots of trotting!

I’m looking forward to being out on the trail together. And I hope you have a chance to be out on the trail somewhere too!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Vendor Booth, Messick Tack & Feed, at the 2009 Nebraska Horse Expo

Nebraska Horse Expos just keep getting better and better! Featuring nationally known clinicians: Ken McNabb, Julie Goodnight, Richard Shrake, and, for the first time in Nebraska, The Magical World of Dancing Horses! Featuring Dianne Olds Rossi.

The Nebraska Horse Expo is a big event here in eastern Nebraska. National clinicians, vendors selling horse related product, a horse barn full of different breeds of horses, round pen demos by local trainers, and topics by veterinarians and farriers. 3 days of clinics, Parade of Breeds, demonstrations, a youth rodeo on Friday night, and a Saturday evening of entertainment by the clinicians.

This year was full of clinicians and horses. Gentle horse training by Ken McNabb.

Dancing horses of Dianne Olds Rossi.

Natural Riding by Julie Goodnight.

Resistance Free Training by Richard Shrake.

Common Sense Jumping by Camie Stockhausen.

A demo by the Omaha Mounted Police.
(Pictured are some of the product in the store)
Once again, I missed most of the events. I spent 2 months planning, going to the Denver Market in January to order and purchase new product, checking in and pricing new product, repacking t-shirts, purses, clothes, night lights, and packing store items that are already in the store. My vendor booth kept me busy. I packed up items in the store, set up racks and tables at the Expo, and spent a day setting up the booth. Even with 3 friends helping, I only found a short time to walk with Tom to see the horse barn and the other vendor displays.

I presented a round pen demo on Outfitting the Rider and Trail Horse. I talked about appropriate tack for the trail rider, including Tex Tan endurance saddles, Classic Equine and Mayatex saddle pads, and Reinsman and Down Under breast collars. I shared ideas for what to wear, including Ariat boots, Kerrit breeches, and JPC Equestrian and Kerrit jackets. Layering windproof and waterproof items are a must. I showed some accessory tack, like saddle bags, water bottle carriers, and horn and cantle bags.

The greatest event that happened for me at the NE Horse Expo was that my family was all together since 2 of the kids had babies in December! What a treat! 2 new grandbabies! And I got to dress them in cute new western clothes!

Packing the trailer, unloading at Expo, setting up a display, then 12 hours later the display is almost ready. Finishing touches on setting up Friday morning, 2 ½ days of selling product in my vendor booth, and ready to pack up again. 2 hours of packing, 2 hours of unloading, and a week of putting the store back together again.

Expo is fun. I visit with a lot of friends from my seat in my vendor booth. Next year my goal is to see the Saturday night entertainment and to walk all of the horse barn and non-profit area. Next year, I plan on seeing some of the clinicians. Next year, I will help to plan Expo once again!
Watch for details for the 2010 Nebraska Horse Expo!

Enjoy some pics of my store, Messick Tack & Feed!


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