Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teach your horse to roll on command

So a lot of people have inquired how I teach Indigo her tricks.The tricks on you because she really just taught me how to fork over morsels of food.

But really, most horses are pretty motivated to amuse you when they know what you want and theres something in it for them.Rolling is essential to the horse. It scratches their backs and aligns vertebrae properly, dries sweat off them even in the winter and looks like so much fun that theres almost always guaranteed to be a chain reaction with all other equines within viewing distance. Rolling is a good thing.

So here are the ingredients, fool proof way of teaching your horse to roll.
First start with a sweaty horse. Especially helpful if there are a lot of bugs and it's hot out and the horse is a particular spotty grey mare. We just got done driving a few miles so Indigo was pretty sweaty.
"Who me?"

Hose said sweaty horse until cooled down and nice and wet.
"You ruined my stink!"

Optional: use a sweat scraper to avoid being shook all over. Do so quickly. I missed the punch and got sweaty water in my eyes when someone decided to swat flies and shake down wind.

Let horse out to mow down weeds in the round pen... Then turn your back for a second to get the camera to take pictures for this tutorial of horse eating weeds wile it dried off.

Shriek in horror!!

The faster you run and the louder you scream the quicker they get down and roll around in the filth.
Oh dear.
Oh my.
Not very lady like there Indigo.

Then you cry.
Cry long and hard because now you have to de-tangle this.
Once you are done sobbing tell your horse you love em anyway, no matter how much sticks and dirt and things they have stuck in their previously combed and clean mane.

Back to the drawing board.

But if you are really ambitious, teaching your horse to roll/sit this way is easy. Just add a few carrots when they get down to cover themselves in dirt. Works especially if they are a grey/white/dirt reveling colour or really, really need to be clean this instant.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday stills: Statues and figurines

Since I have been looking for a reason to post all these cool Irish gravestones I think this fits in there perfectly.
This cemetery is the Glendalough cemetery, round tower, Saint Kevins church, cathedral and many, many gravestones. It was established in the 6th century! I guess these buildings and graves have withstood the test of time.

These intricately carved gravestones are works of art, towering many feet over my head.This is the grave site I visited with Merel in Ireland after our walk at the upper lake down one of the Wicklow way walking paths.

Although not a stature or figurine the round tower and St.Kevins church are quite impressive.
I wish there were graveyards and ruins around here like this. I have a particular fondness for history and find old graves and historical sites like this intriguing.

For more statues and figurines check out Sunday stills

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Adventures in ink

Note: Do not look at the images in this post if you are needle shy.

As a very artistic person I often find myself looking to add designs to things.
I have designed several works of art and sold them. The catch is they were not for canvas or wood or paper. They were for skin.
From horses to guitars, birds and trees I have drawn and sold the rights to more than a handful of images for tattoo's. When I think of skin art it's something I have loved all my life, not something I decided I wanted when I was 16 and rebellious. I remember loving my dad's tattoo's he has on his arms and my uncles at a pretty young age.
I think too many people make quick decisions and do not think about the fact that they are going to have this mark all their life and that if it's right off a picture in the shop theres probably a lot of others out there who have the exact same thing as you. It becomes old news real quick.

So I drew my own. I looked at the image I had drawn of the same idea when I was a lot younger. I still loved it so I re-drew it and brought it with me when my best friend Lisa went to her cousin's to get her back piece finished that she designed. I think hers is totally cute with the ice cream cones and cupcake. She was going to get one ice cream cone finished.

I decided this would go into the "Happy birthday to me" since my birthday was last Wednesday. I was waiting ever so patiently for Lisa to be done hers. I wasn't even worried. Lisa got more worked up than I did and shes got that big back piece before and another one on her lower back.
When her cousin was done with hers he started on mine.

Applying the stencil.
Starting the outline.I have to say it didn't hurt one bit. I guess everyone has a different reaction but he could have done that all day. No more irritating than having to go to the allergist and get a whole ton of scratches then having itchy spots all over after.

What did irritate me was when he did the outline of the birds near my neck it was hitting a nerve and I could feel it irritating all the way up my neck, nowhere near where the needle was. Weird.
And the next day I washed it and put non-scented lubriderm on it and HOLY FFF IT BURNED! I danced around and said a few words that would have made a sailor blush. Did you know it's impossible to find a non-scented lotion without alcohol of some kind in it. It was fine that evening though when I put it on again.
It's also not finished, the birds are going to be filled in and the feather more detailed like my original picture but the tattoo artist wanted the ink to settle a little wile.
The It means a lot to me. It reminds me to be free and not follow the path others have tried to set for me. As a saying once said "Je suis comme un oiseau" Or in English "be as a bird"

Whats next? Well the other shoulder. I ain't showing anyone just yet. I'll tell you it's got horses in it, and designed by me.
Anyone have tattoo's? Why did you get them and do you still like them or would you rather have not got them? Did you design them or pick it out of a pre-made at the shop?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday stills: Metal

This blog was started because of a piece of metal.
This blog is about why I don't/others should not use a bit on their horses and start to think about the other bitless options out there.

I do believe a very large percentage of horses are over bitted. In the right hands a bit can be a teaching tool but there are circumstances that could happen out of any riders hands, like a horse stepping on a rein and breaking his hard palate into his nasal cavity requiring the horse to be euthanized immediately.
After all, the horses mouth is the most sensitive part of his body. Do we really need to use a method created back when Genghis Khan ruled the earth and the earth was believed to be flat and not spherical? I think not.

I will continue my journey without metal in my horses mouth and I know theres an alarming rate of horse owners joining me on this bitless path in every single discipline. Keep up the good work guys and if you have/know someone who has a bitless story to share please contact me to be featured on this blog.

For other metal photo's, visit Sunday stills

Monday, August 16, 2010

Science VS tradition: Some food for thought

Some things I have been thinking about this summer. I think I do too many monotonous things I have a lot of time to think.

The time of day you work your horse vs the time you compete.
It takes 14 days for a horses body to acclimate to a temperature change. In the hot summer months we work our horses early morning, late evening because it is cooler. If you are competing, doing trail rides etc. It is not very likely the event will be only in the early morning or evenings. Therefore even though the horse may be fit and able to handle the work you would be asking, does not mean the horse is conditioned to the humidity, heat and stress of all temperatures of the day. A good example of this was the Beijing Olympics. A lot of horses transported there could not handle the temperature change, even though they were extremely fit, world class athletic equines. Take into consideration how hot it is and when you work your horse vs when you are going to need him to compete. By compete I mean everything from competitions to trail rides.

I can get my horse in a "frame" with a bit but not bitless.
The terms on the bit, in a frame, round, on the vertical, flexing at the poll are all pretaining to the same thing but most of the time riders going about it don't know it's true meaning. The phrases I listed above are all about one thing: headset. Riders are so glued to the idea that if the horse is "On the bit" he is traveling correctly, off the forehand, round back, collected but it's far from the truth. Collection is the act of having a horse use his hind end (the motor) to propel himself forward. When riding collection comes from the riders seat and legs, not pulling the horses head into a "frame". This is false collection when riders just gather up the reins, especially in a bit and assume collection when the hind end is in reality strung out and not pushing the horse forward at all.
This is a horse at a local show. Although he is "on the bit" he is clearly on the forehand, traveling incorrectly with a hollow back , hind legs strung out, not collected at all.

It is easy to put tension on a set of reins that have a bit attached and force a horses head into a "frame" the whole thing is that the rest of the body is not there. Collection comes from the hind end as I said and if the horse is properly collected starting with that, the rest of his body will follow. His back will pick up and his head will drop and he will be collected and he will be incredibly light in your hands because you will not need your hands, it's all in your seat. This is what bitless riding is about to me.
It is also the #2 question asked after will my horse stop bitless(the answer is and always has been yes to that one too) that when they ride in a bit they can get their horse to give. When they put a bitless bridle on they realize they can no longer force a horse with the discomfort of a bit in it's mouth to tuck his head in. It requires a little bit of training to teach a horse to flex at the poll and not many riders take the time to do this, even with a bit when they put pressure on the reins the horse often tosses his head up first.

The more I work my horses the quieter they will be.
This is something I have grown into this year. Before I would work my horse hard for an hour. They knew when that hour was done and we were just tooling around int he field they got to go back outside. When we were training they did not have a job, they farted around and spooked and sometimes did stupid things they shouldn't have. This year I have been all business. I take less time at the slower gaits and more time doing harder, longer, faster gaits like canter and galloping. I want my horses to gear down and trot/canter slower when I first get on because they think "Gee we might be cantering for a wile, I better slow down and conserve energy or I am going to get tired real quick" and you know what it works. I took Indigo the infamous spookalot, goofalot mare to a show this weekend and a 9 year old rode her, and did halter with her and she won, I won. It was her first driving show, first time doing halter and first show with a little kid. She was absolutely perfect unlike other years where she was a total wing nut at shows screaming and dancing around and acting silly. She knows when I get on her/harness her there is real work to be done so she just chills out. We placed in every single class she was in. I couldn't be more pleased with my goofy spotty mare, shes finally getting the point, 18 years into her life because I get the point. (more on that show later) I need to WORK my horse, give them a job and make them work hard, much like kids and young adults to give them a good work ethic.
Same goes for the other horses I am working and I am getting a lot more to train this year because word spreads and people want sensible horses to ride and drive. .

Treat the horse just like every other horse and it will act like every other horse.
People make excuses for horses and it limits them from doing things they could perfectly well be doing. There must be a lot of horse abusers in this county because I'll tell ya, everyones got an abused horse here. The thing is when I go to work with a lot of horses the owners start making excuses "You can't do that to clip clop because his previous owners did this to him and he freaks out" they avoid the horse acting up and never do anything with their horse so the horse goes nowhere and continues to do said bad behaviour and get away with it. Horses do not stop being horses just because of past experiences. For example a horse that was abused isn't going to go out into a new herd and the lead mare isn't going to say "Look, don't kick or bite this horse because it was abused. He needs extra grain and hay too so let him have first pick until he is fat and shiny again" Quite the opposite. They are going to bite and kick and squeal and probably shove poor "abused" clip clop around and guess what, clip clop is gonna act just like any other horse and become part of the herd.
When I work with an abused horse or a jumpy horse or whatever it is I am going to move around like I normally do, keeping in mind the horse might jump around or do something unexpected but I do not tip toe around. I want to be predictable and although I might be scary and do scary things I'll keep doing them until the horse has no reaction to them, just like any other horse.

Most importantly: Train the horse you have in front of you, not the horse you wish you had.

Do any of these relate to what you do with your horse?

What have you been thinking about this summer? Any AHA! moments?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday stills: Smoke and fire

Or as I like to call it, playing with fire and aperture.

Being a Leo and born in the year of the dragon I have a natural tendency to like heat rather than cold. Fire has always captured my attention.

This Sunday stills is brought to you by my camera remote and tripod. It is dedicated to the eyebrows and what knuckle hair I singed for these shots.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Science VS tradition: Not all bitless are equal

I have got the request for explaining and comparing bitless bridles. It may surprise you to know what I do not endorse all bitless bridles as a "good" alternative to a bit. Some can be worse than a very severe bit.

When I look at a bitless bridle I see it as a way to train and enjoy your horse without intentionally (pulling back on the reins with a bit in the horses mouth to stop him) or unintentionally (the horse getting loose and stepping on a rein, causing pain from the bit without the rider in the picture at all) causing pain to the mouth, which is the most sensitive part of his body. I know the horse is responding to my commands, not the pain the bit can create when I am bitless. So basically when I look at bitless I am looking for a bridle without a bit that creates communication and understanding; not pain.

However not all bitless bridles are equal, better than a bit or kinder than a bit.

Today we talk about mechanical hackamores. They are one of the most common types of bitless bridles. Hackamores consist of a usually rigid or textured noseband, shanks of some sort that the reins attach to lower than the noseband and a curb chain or strap.

To clarify: A bitless that does not have shanks or a curb chain that tightens on the mandible (lower jaw) when the rider tightens the reins IS NOT a hackamore. This is a side-pull or bosal. You often have "english" hackamores but really they are just a nose band with rings on the caveson. They act on direct pressure on the nose and face, therefore they are a sidepull. A bosal is a rawhide, leather or metal teardrop shaped noseband that works off pressure of the nose in a similar way as a sidepull but the reins are placed on a knot at the bottom of the teardrop. A bosal also works on poll pressure along with nose. Rope halters and nosebands made of rope are not hackamores. They either attach the reins with rings at the noseband and are sidepulls or attach the reins on the lead loop and have the same stopping action as a sidepull but the steering of a bosal. See the difference between these commonly mislabeled bridles?

Back to hackamores.
There are two reasons why a hackamore can be worse than a bit.
First the shanks. The shanks give a rider leverage. On a direct rein bit/bitless which attaches at the mouthpiece/nosepiece you are communicating pounds for pounds of pressure. When you have a shank you are amplifying that pressure on two sensitive areas of the horses body. Depending on the shank's length and curve you can be pulling on your horses, nose, poll and pressing on what is referred to as the mental nerve, amplifying many more times the pounds of pressure that you are actually pulling.Which brings me to the next reason; the curb strap or chain. There is a very sensitive nerve under the horses jaw that is part of the trigeminal nerve branch called the mental nerve. The trigeminal nerve branch runs all through the horses face having a few more sensitive nerves stand out from the rest. The mental nerve is one of them. When pressed upon it creates pressure and pain, every time it does not matter if your curb is padded with cloudy memory foam, it's still pressing on the mental nerve. A lot of horses ridden in a curb bit for the first time (a curb bit is any bit that the reins attach lower than the mouthpiece) will toss their heads, shake them and even rear right up. The same can be said about hackamores. This is because of the curb strap on the sensitive nerve. Horses learn they can avoid the pressure or seek it's release by a) tossing their heads as commonly seen with mechanical hackamores b) stopping fast and quick. c) rearing, bucking, headshaking etc.

If you put a rigid noseband with a medium shank or bent shank and the most common type of curb, a chain with leather buckles on each end you are setting your horse up for a painful experience in inexperienced hands. If you should not be riding in a bit with shanks and a curb you should not be riding in a mechanical hackamore. The same pain can come from a "bitless" hackamore as a shanked bit, if not more because a lot of hackamores are commonly misplaced very low on the nose, thinking the lower the noseband the more leverage they will have over the horse. They are right, but the nasal bone is very thin there and it is common knowledge a horses nose can be broken by a mechanical hackamore.

With the right training a mechanical hackamore can be a decent tool but I would say a good majority of people who use them did not take the time to teach their horse to woah off very little rein pressure or flex at the poll when pressure was applied so they are going to have head tossing, a lot of curb chain action and possibly even a hurting horse.

So when searching for a bitless as a kinder, gentler way of communicating with your horse stray away from anything with shanks and a curb chain. I put bitless bridles of the hackamore category with people who resort to the bigger bit because the regular snaffle did not make the horse listen. Time to go back to the training pen and fix why the horse was not light and why we now need something stronger, more severe. Horsemanship should be about communication, not pain. That is what my goal is.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday stills: Clouds

It seems to be more sunny lately.They keep saying rain.
Rain, what does that word mean again?Oh yeah, it means the weather is going to be wrong.
A couple weeks ago we got over 4 inches in a couple of days so everything is still nice and green. Some places nearby got 4 inches in and hour and another place got 6! What a record. So long as there are no more tornadoes here I am good.

Driving Larry the welsh pony on one of our carriage club's drives.

This is a beach a town over. This is close to as dramatic as the sunsets get in this flat, flat county.
I do wish for more summer thunder storms.Storms that bring big billowing clouds and chain lightning, despite the fact that they make my coward of a dog try and seek shelter under my desk, ripping the cords out from the back of my computer.

This ones an interesting cloud picture.
This one is from above the clouds. This was taken on my way to Ireland at about 6 am. Nothing like seeing the sun rise from several thousand feet.

Check out my clouds from last years challenge.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I love the summer. It's my favorite time of year.
People complain about the heat but I love it.
Ok, other than the bugs that seem to eat me alive and make some horses difficult to work with, I love it.
I do not love that I just killed a woodtick off my pantleg. Now I have the creeps. What if there are more?
I work horses, my own and others 7 days a week. I get up early and go to bed late.Work, work, work, work. I think I would die if I had an office job in the summer and got to sleep in until the unmentionable hours of the late morning. Being outside, doing a physical job, sweating and rolling around in dirt are essential to my well being I think.

As much as I love summer that means I also have an un-countable number of things I need to get done in a week. Overload.
Like hay. How I love baling hay. How I hate seeing it when I close my eyes. I also hate the hay crumbs that get into places you wouldn't think hay could get on yourself. But the horses love it, so I love it.
Of course theres a lot more. A lot more like odd jobs fixing fences that horses push over to eat grass thats greener on the other side or building stalls for the next winter (I did not just say that word!) Or 4-H or the next horse show or writing submissions for magazines or attempting to finish all my horse hair commissions and have them out on time or watering horses or feeding horses and watering some more and maybe watering myself somewhere in there. I washed my hair yesterday with a hose at one of my barns and some really good smelling santa-fe horse shampoo. That is my confession.

But in the middle of all this chaos I still love summer. Loving summer along with being spread so thin like too little butter on a slice of toast means every once and a wile with all this work I get to sneak away and do something that that happens every time this year. Things year after year I mark on my calendar and never have to be reminded they are going to occur because when the new year flips I am already marking their date in January.

Like the Rawhide Rodeo coming to town.
Take this photo post as my apology for not blogging much or commenting on all the blogs I follow frequently. I promise someday I will be back when the leaves start to change and I can carry my camera around all day without risking it's integrity. I know I have such fantastic readers, thank you all for sticking around wile you are getting a few measly posts a week. I'll make it up to you all. Promise.

How about a cowboy on a horse.

That same cowboy chasing a calf? Ooh motion blur, fancy.

Tying up a calf? I mean, he does have wranglers on.

Several cowboys on a fence? So many hats, wranglers and boots in one place.Not even?

How about a cute little girl barrel racing on her pony?

How about one for the boys.
One of the Canadian Cowgirls?
No dice?

Oh I get it.

This little cowpoke and his kitty. How adorable. I know, really weird thing to see at a rodeo but that cat took a lot of mauling from this little boy and just took it in stride. Purring away.

Totally tickled pink to be in his little guys arms.

Cute overload yet?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Riding face

I think I must make the oddest riding faces sometimes. Unintentionally of course unlike the rest of the photobombing that may or may not be intentional.
Maybe I concentrate too hard when I am riding or driving to smile.The horse, shes got her ears forward looking at the camera person. Thats how easy it is being a horse in a photo. Ears forward, concentration for a millesecond. Easy peasy.

But Indigo, shes got the cute face nailed. I mean how could you resist this? Sheepskin fuzzies and all. She had me sold at nicker.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday stills: Graffiti

Just because I love you all I actually went to the city to get the following pictures. Because you know kids in the country just make crop circles and stuff.
GASP! Sydney? In the city?!?

Encountered a sketchy looking bum along the way that promptly made me and my friends scurry up the side of a hill.
I couldn't resist. I don't know if you all find this as funny as I do but some graffiti artist had some sick sense of humor.
I think it's a bear eating a deers innards. Theres also a few other messages near it like "die young and save yourself" the classic portrait of male anatomy, lots of gang symbols and such.

To me graffiti is like a persons way of lifting their leg on a tree like a dog only dog pee does not leave a stain for your eyes. They draw (pee) over and over and over others graffiti. I actually do enjoy some graffiti because it is a really neat form of art that makes an otherwise grey and polluted city a little more colourful. Next time I go through Detroit across the border I will try and remember to take some pictures because there really is some outstanding graffiti there.

Of course we have the classic I love u.
Though I do this this guy has the right idea about graffiti and art. Check out what this London man is doing to some snails. Neato.
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