moving on

Spring is sprinkling along. We've had a lot of wind, some rain, more wind, and our fair share of less then desirable weather. Sunnier days are a-coming, it's just so hard to wait.

Several things in our horse world have progressed. If you are a regular blog reader this update will make sense, as details leading up were played out in previous posts. 

Here is the rewind:

• Riding in my husbands saddle feels sooo much better. Needless to say, I am no longer riding in mine. I will be selling it, and putting the $ towards the cost of the custom saddle I ordered. 

• After consulting three vets (including a Chiro and an Acupuncturist), reading various resources, countless interrupted sleep, discussions, soul searching, over a month of very limited riding, two lameness exams and x-rays. I had Koda's hocks injected. The decision wasn't made lightly. Altho I don't like them, in the end I do feel it was in his best interest.

• I still haven't gotten back to loping. Different saddle, different horse (cuz he feels a whole lot better) and too much junk in my head. Right now I am trying to re-connect with Koda in other ways. It just feels right.

• I audited a Mark Rashid clinic. To put it mildly, I was extremely disappointed. I know (and still think) he is an amazing horseman and writer. However I was the only auditor among 6 of us, and the only one not from the less then accommodating host facility. It was all very awkward. With the exception of one, the lessons were all linked to previous days. Not at all what I expected. Very little instruction was given "that looks much better" only goes so far for the viewer/rider. I was stunned. I hope my experience would have been different, given other circumstances. After a very long drive to/from, and watching almost 5 hours of lessons, I learned to not audit one of his clinics on the last day. Yep, that's it. 

• Nemo had another bladder ultrasound. Our vet recommended not re-flushing at this time. "The sand" aka calcium build-up was floating (vs settled). We put him on a round of antibiotics. The thought was perhaps he had a bit of residual infection that was causing the kicking discomfort & sprinkling so soon. It appears to have worked!

• The photo's I took at the PRCA Rodeo (Midwest Horse Fair) have been well received. One of the trick riders asked to purchase her photos, and use them for promotion. It's a huge compliment! I chose to abide by the Fair's photo policy, and did not sell any of my photo's - but I did share them with her. I am pretty excited to have another (non-horse related) photo opportunity coming up this weekend!

With all that said, I am moving on.

snapshot from last weekend's getaway


sunday snapshot

Our humans are here!
Koda (L) & Nemo (R)


Midwest Horse Fair 2014 - 2 of 2

In addition to the presentations and general overview in my Midwest Horse Fair post 1 of 2, something has to be said about the sheer variety of shopping at Horse Fair. Vendors are everywhere, inside, outside, around the side - not really sure if we saw them all, but we browsed a lot and visited with our favorite vendors. 

Anyone looking for a cute kids sparkly pink cowboy hat (besides the kids) or any non-horse related items like a "whip-o-matic" (why are these even allowed)? We weren't either. Was it possible to attend fair, and not buy anything?? I was beginning to wonder if that was going to be the case, as we headed home empty handed on Friday. 

That night I thought looong and hard about my conversation over the years with Reed Tack, and the difficulties I am having with my saddle.  It's not news that I need a different saddle, one that not only fits my horse - but fits me. We got into the nitty gritty saddle details this year, and learned some new things. We own other items made by them, and know first hand the quality craftsmanship and honest integrity they put into their handmade products. Even with all this, I was on the fence until my wonderful husband encouraged me to order a saddle. I don't think I would have ordered otherwise, but I did. Gulp! It's scary to order the unseen, and custom anything is expensive. Thank goodness we don't pay for it all at once. Nothing is as expensive as not enjoying the ride, or worse yet hospital and/or vet bills. Presents for the next however many occasions from him are officially well covered. I still can't believe I ordered a saddle! It won't feel real until I ride in it, which won't be for 13 months. It's a long quality process, and there are many orders to fill before mine, however it will be worth the wait - and this will be the one I have forever.

I also made a much more modest purchase, a HipKlip bag. It made me so happy to be hands free, that my husband thought I was simply ridiculous!

Guilt was setting in, and there was no way we were leaving Fair without something for Brad. On the last day, I steered him towards a nice straw cowboy hat that was on his wish list. He also picked up some Brute Rope reins, and ordered the same stirrup's I will be getting. I could see the interest in his eye's when we were putting together the saddle order. If I was a betting person, I bet he'll order his own saddle from Reed one of these years. In the end, I think we pulled off some wise purchases again this year!!

Of course there are dreams yet to fill. We walked in/out of many trailers, and I didn't like a single one - until I got to the last one. Has anyone ever heard of a "Merhow" aluminum trailer?? We haven't either, and we look at trailers every year at Fair & in our travels. Wow, the craftsmanship was different and it was a smart use of space. Instead of wasting empty space, it had storage tucked in everywhere. It will be many years before we can afford to get one, and have time to use it. I'm keeping this trailer in a reference file, just incase this dream ever comes true. Hey, it could happen?!

Merhow Trailer interior

On a different note, they held a PRCA Rodeo both Friday & Saturday night. The rodeo is usually only in town one night, on Friday's. This year they held it both nights, and Saturday night's rodeo sold out all 10,000-ish seats. I brought my big ol' camera to the rodeo for the first time, here are a few of my favorite shots:

Saddle Bronc Rider

Dan James - Saturday Night Performance

Wisconsin Bull Rider (high point!)

Jessica Blair

Bareback Bronc Rider

Dan James - Friday Night Performance (spinning)

Jessica Blair

If you are interested in viewing a few more of my favorite rodeo photo's, click here

Thanks for joining me in wrapping up another enjoyable year at Midwest Horse Fair!!


sunday snapshot

colorful purple crocus


Midwest Horse Fair 2014 - 1 of 2

Another Horse Fair has come and gone. We typically spend three days trying to soak it all in, and this year was no exception. It was enjoyable, and productive! We get odd looks when we tell people we attend the fair all three days. On the other hand, I think it's odd how many horse people don't attend at all. Where else can you choose between eight different learning opportunities all at the same time, almost every single hour, from 8-5:30, shop until you drop, see barns full of different horse breeds with their people, visit with familiar faces, and then be entertained at an evening rodeo/show? 

The Fair was not crowded compared to years past, with Saturday being the busiest day. It changes every year. Friday was sunny, warm and beautiful spring weather! Saturday was not as warm but still pleasant, altho it rained for a short time while we were inside buildings. Sunny one minute, cloudy the next. Mother Nature gave us cooler weather on Sunday, but nothing bad. Forecasted storms didn't hit our area until Sunday night. We never did get wet! 

Saturday was the only day parking spread into the back 40.
The Colisium is the big round building that hosts the main events.
You can see some support building & barns between it and the sea of vehicles.
These support structures are getting torn down
and rebuilt in time for the September World Dairy Expo.

Equine Affair (in Ohio) was held the same weekend due to Easter being so late, and likely affected attendance. The EHV-1 outbreak didn't help either. Entire breeds chose not to attend, and I don't blame them. It was sad to see so many empty stalls, and most that did bring horses had plastic covering any open bars to stop people from petting and horses interacting. 

Pet Me Please

Below are the presentations that we attended in their entirety, and a brief review. We did see parts of several other presentations. Plans of action always change, and you learn to take in what you can. We never did end up seeing any Chris Cox clinics. 

• Dan James (Double Dan) "Fundamentals to Riding Bridle-less & Bareback" 
No worries mate, I don't plan on riding bridle-less any time soon! At the last minute we found out Koda's half brother (and Nemo's once removed) was participating in this clinic. He looks & acts nothing like Koda, and resembles Nemo in many ways. 

(out of Koda's Dam & Nemo's Grand Dam)

Altho the information presented was good, and Dan James is always fun to learn from, he had three local riders participating and only enough time to work one-on-one with a more advanced rider. The other two participants warmed up (and warmed up and warmed up) and got as far as bareback in the general arena area (vs round pen with Dan). 

Much of the instruction done in the round pen revolved around getting the horse to stop, and progressed to turning into the fence, with increased gaits. First with a bridle, then no bridle contact, bridle-less using a neck rope, and eventually with body cues only using hands as an aid.

• Ken McNabb "Overcoming Spooky Obstacles"
Ken landed on the bottom side of a horse several days before Fair, and therefore did very limited riding. His apprentices rode in the presentations, while he coached. He doesn't script polished clinics, instead works the subject with whatever issues surface. They are full of practical horsemanship, and infused with ranch stories that bring the point home. 

I tried to tweet some key points that resonated with me, but it was impossible to keep up. It was also distracting, so I only noted and sent a few (found in blue quotations). 

The local horse that was used, was a whooole lot of horse! The apprentice that rode him did a fantastic job. They started with ground work, close to the handler - his message "the horse you lead is the horse you ride"Ken began spooking (aka desensitizing) from the ground while talking the rider through it, and then added the dreaded white plastic bag(s). He had the rider face the horse up to scary objects, and give release & reward the smallest of positive efforts. They progressed to crossing a wooden bridge, where Ken had the crowd in stitches. 

His coaching continued "if you do not commit to your horse, don't be surprised if they don't commit to you". This was my favorite presentation of his from the weekend. 

• Ken McNabb "Demystifying the Flying Lead Change" 
Different apprentice, different horse. A newer apprentice rode one of their ranch horses who had never been cued to do a flying lead change. Much of this presentation was spent getting the horse & rider working together, and the horse to slooow down and not race around the arena. "the faster a horse moves their feet the slower you move your hands"

To cue a flying lead change, Ken suggests a slight shift sideways from the waist up only. He used someone from the audience to drive his point home. He had them shift their weight over to one leg and then asked him to lift that leg. Obviously he couldn't lift his leg with weight shifted on it, the point was riders can get in their horses way - and a slight shift is plenty. 

Once Ken got the rider going on the rail at a counter canter, he asked him to shift, lift his outside rein "everything that's pretty happens with the outside rein" and cue with the outside leg - on the straight side of the rail. 

I've watched flying lead change presentations before, and they are not only tough to follow but apparently tough to coach "your horses attention span is 1/10th of a second longer then yours". The apprentice did eventually get the horse to change leads, altho not always from cue. He was a good sport, and clearly Ken has great rapport with his apprentices. Ken rode the last few minutes of the clinic, and got a couple more changes cued on the fly "lead change happens in the hind end you see it in the front end". 

• Ken McNabb "Developing Lateral Movement Using Hands, Seat & Legs"
Ken chose to ride this clinic, my guess is because he used the "whole lotta" local horse from the spooky obstacle clinic. That horse was ready to come unglued in the new big white tent arena, over any and every thing. Much of the time was spent getting the horse to be present. Ken doesn't do much groundwork. I noticed what he does, is all done very close about an arm with reins distance away. 

He got the horse to pay attention to him and moving off his leg pretty good. Near the end of the presentation, the horse lost his mind (apparently some kids jumped off the end bleachers) and caught Ken by surprise. It almost bucked him off! 

We got an unplanned lesson on what to do when the bit slips out of your horses mouth in a heated moment...he used the rein, calling it "the cowboy way". He got the horse to stop bucking and crow hopping, and his mind back, before getting off to try and fix the bit. Eventually he was able to, and yes - got back on. Altho the audience was sitting on pins & needles, Ken kept calm and worked through a tough situation. This was surely not what he thought about covering in this presentation.

• Dan James "Long Reining & Lungie Bungie Fundamentals"
I am really interested in learning more about long reining, and have only done it once many years ago while warming up for a special driving lesson on a seasoned horse. 

This time Dan coached one local clinic participant, who recruited her daughter to help demo so she could learn the feel before long reining Dan's horse Swampy. Meanwhile Dan's apprentice worked with the clinic participants horse, who had never been on a long line.

I learned you start by using the rings higher up on the surcingle on new horses, and was reminded the stop is on the outside rein. They used a one "rein" bungie (so it has give) before moving onto two lines. They were working the local horse on the far end of the arena, and I was watching the participant work Swampy in front of us. I didn't catch as much as I would have liked on teaching a new horse to long rein. 

Learning how a horse feels long line cues, blind folded.  

• Ken McNabb "It's all about the Fun"
This was an interesting clinic, and not what I would have expected from the title. Ken had two apprentices working horses, the "Flying Lead Change duo" and another doing ground work.

The horse being ridden had been rounding and dropping it's front end at every stop during the Lead Change clinic. Ken worked on helping the rider fix that by coaching him to hold the horse, driving him more into the bit instead of just letting him drop down. The third and last vet I consulted on Koda's sore hocks returned my call, so I missed a good chunk of this part of the clinc.

The gal doing the ground work, started with a halter & lead and eventually worked up to liberty. All the groundwork was again done very close to the handler, I would call them quick short asks. While at liberty the horse would get distracted, and run off to be by the other horse. It was their first time in front of a crowd. Ken took over (because the apprentice had a knee injury) and worked the horse using the entire arena, talking through what he was doing by giving the horse a chance to find the right answer. It found it, by walking back to it's handler. First with Ken, and then when sent back to the apprentice. They briefly re-started the horse using the halter, and went back to liberty when the horse was tuned into them. The handler would snap her fingers, and the horse would turn on the forehands and side step closer to her - impressive!

We were enjoying ourselves at Fair, but tired after three days and opted to skip out watching the last late afternoon presentation we had planned.

Stay tuned for Horse Fair post #2 to include a special purchase, and rodeo pictures!! 

Thanks for reading along!


spring update

Spring has sprung in WI, altho my garden doesn't show it. It appears the harsh winter took a toll on bulbs and spring perennials. The only positive way to look at this is there are spots to fill with new plants, a girls gotta have something blooming in the Spring!

Now that the warmer weather is here, our horses are shedding like crazy! Nemo always starts earlier then Koda, who has a long way to go before loosing all that extra fluff. Besides brushing off horse hair rugs, here are some other updates from my horse world:

• Midwest Horse Fair is this weekend! Hoping to attend some sessions on horsemanship given by Ken McNabb and Chris Cox. There aren't as many presentations of interest to us as in years past, but there is so much other stuff going on all at the same time - I doubt we will even notice.

• Nemo is already dripping again, which is very unusual. He is usually okay for a year after getting flushed. Needless to say, we have another ultrasound scheduled. You can read about his calcium urinairy condition by searching "calcium".

• We've been riding in the outdoor arena! It's so nice to be outside again!!

• While gathering more information on sore hocks, I've been riding Koda for much shorter sessions at a walk. We've been doing lot's of poles. He is unsure about this change in routine. We trotted for the first time last weekend. Koda tends to do things before cued, and started to collect. I didn't ask for it, had no plans to lope. I noticed he tensed up some, which could have just been activating forward movement. Judging by his huge sigh when I dismounted after our last ride, he was relieved we didn't, or that we were done so soon.

• There are a couple horses for sale at our barn, it prompted me to check out DreamHorse.com out of market curiosity. I am not shopping for a new horse, and haven't been on a sale site for years. Wow, there are a lot of low end (poor confirmation or untrained) and a fair amount of high end horses. Not much has changed. All I can say is, I am very thankful for the horses we have in our family!!

• Cierra continues in training, and get's prettier by the day. 

Koda, Nemo and Cierra (L-R) 

• Harmony lives at "my old barn" so any updates come from our daughter. She is doing good and tolerates her over active one year old labrador well. I hope they go to some local shows this season.

• Mark Rashid clinics start this weekend. After a short break from Fair, I am planning to audit one day at each host facility. I am pretty sure my brain will be on overload.

Looking forward to a fun-filled horse week! What's happening in your neck of the woods?