The Days Are Getting Shorter…

Being the horse girl that I am, I can’t post without sharing the latest horse news!

Beavis, the young Dash For Perks barrel prospect that I posted about last time, is back home at the Sherlin farm where he’s being used for riding lessons. The horseman in me wouldn’t let him go back until I got one last decent run actually around all three barrels. So we ended on a good note and I feel truly blessed to have gotten to borrow such a terrific young horse to ride. Lots of great lessons learned!

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

At the end of September, I wound up with Dynamic Host, aka “Louie” thanks to Prancing Pony Farm owned by Julie & Justina Faunt in Riceville, Tennessee. He’s a 17.1 hand, 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding by Dynaformer. Dynamic Host won the Tokyo City Cup while in training with Art Sherman who trained California Chrome. I’ll be putting some foundational training on him as an Eventing Prospect so it looks like I’ll be pulling those breeches back out that haven’t seen the light of day in several years!

With an added horse that’s big and needs a lot of training, and days that are getting shorter, I’ve been thinking a lot about time management and how to save time. With a 45 minute commute to a full-time job, giving lessons, and 9 head of horses – 6 are stalled – my days are always full.

My husband has to be at work at 5am so most mornings I’m up at anywhere from 3:30 to 4am. The mornings are usually when I’m catching up on social media and book promotion. Sometimes I’ll get in some writing. That’s also when I fix my lunch, get in a real quick work out, and fit in my prayer time. If I’m really industrious, I might even throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher! Then I’ll start feeding and cleaning stalls, which normally takes about an hour to an hour and half – it depends on whether or not everyone cooperates coming in! Donkeys can be cantankerous at times!

On the days that I don’t get up early, not only do I not get as much done, I also feel like I’m running behind. So getting up at least a little earlier not only helps me accomplish more, it also helps to keep me more focused and prepared.

Doing all my barn chores in the morning is a critical piece  of the day as well. Sometimes my husband will pick stalls in the evenings but most of the time I’ll pick stalls and spread manure in the mornings. This frees up my time in the evenings to ride.

I also try to prep in the mornings for the evening feeding as much as I can. I feed soaked cubes and beet pulp before evening turnout so I’ll pre-load the feed tub with the dry cubes so only water has to be added. I’ll also mix feed for any horses that get special feed.

I do my feeding out of a wheelbarrow — that wheelbarrow was the best investment ever! Instead of making multiple feed trips to the feed room, I can just load up and dump feed as I go down the hallway. This saves a ton of time!

I usually don’t get home from work until a little after 6pm, at which time I’ll quickly get in a few updates for the social media pages before I start working horses or give a lesson. I’ve learned to give myself a time limit on the evening updates and usually try to keep it at around fifteen minutes. Otherwise, I’ll spend too much time on that and not get my riding done!

Horses learn by repetition. So even if they’re only learning something for ten minutes, if they do it the same way three times they’ve usually got it. Over the years, I’ve learned you can accomplish a lot of long-term training  in short intervals, which works great for people who are busy, or if you’re like me and have a lot of horses to work. Those short sessions over time add up if you’re consistent with what you’re doing.

I try not to do long marathon sessions with a horse. I’ll set a goal for the ride and the second that horse meets it, we’ll quit and either take a little trail ride around the pasture for conditioning, or we’ll quit for the day. Not only does that save on time, but it gives me a better chance of ending on a good note with my horse.

There are three tools that I use as time savers for working horses – ponying, lunging & ground work, and riding bareback. All three of those allow me to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time:

  • Ponying not only allows me to condition two horses at once, it also helps them to learn to traffic, and work on their reining skills.
  • Lunging is more than just getting the edge off of a horse. You can work on things like balance with transitions, speed control, and just paying better attention. Working on lateral movements from the ground can definitely help improve the lateral responses you get under saddle.
  • Riding bareback saves a lot of time because you don’t have to tack up. You’ll also improve your riding and your horse’s responsiveness.
Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Getting up early, preparing ahead of time, and maximizing your ride time can all help you to be efficient in working with your horses.

What are the special things you do to help save time and be more effective with your horse? What are the things that you struggle with?

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Enjoy The Journey

I just returned from the Tennessee NBHA State Finals in Franklin, Tennessee. Although I’m wore slap out, and we didn’t have the perfect runs, I had a wonderful time.

building

I can’t go any further without giving some extra kudos to our NBHA State Director, Kenny Lane. Putting on a show of any caliber is an extremely hard job as people like to complain, and there’s a large amount of money that comes out of your own pocket with the hopes that you’ll make at least some of it back. Even in the midst of catty comments made about needing some extra help covering the $500 a day air conditioning expense, Kenny was gracious and put on a terrific show that was well run and had plenty of added money and prizes. The ground held beautifully, the holding area set up was very efficient and safe, and the alleyway was long enough to get a horse stopped. The air was cranked up too so we were all cool, which was a real treat considering most of our shows are either outside or in an arena without air conditioning! Plus, my mom came to see me ride and she never would have lasted if it hadn’t been that cool. Good job Kenny!

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My barrel horse, Fireman, has been going through some corrective shoeing since spring. I had hoped he would be ready by the State finals but unfortunately he wasn’t. I had another horse that I’d hoped would be a possibility as he has a ton of potential but by mid-summer it was evident that he wouldn’t be ready in time either.

So, in August I borrowed a Dash For Perks bred gelding that was a sale prospect from my farrier and friends, Joel and Nancy Sherlin of Athens, Tennessee. Having bought a couple of horses from them and having ridden with them a good bit, I knew anything they had would have a phenomenal foundation. Their horses are light and effortless to ride.

I started riding “Beavis” at the end of July. He’d been used for lessons on their farm and had been running a good pattern in their pen. The catch? He was only four and had never been hauled…anywhere!

My goals for the State finals suddenly changed! They went from having a good time and drawing a check to challenging myself even more as a rider and helping a horse get some seasoning so he’s more marketable. It wasn’t about winning anymore.

In the weeks that led up to the State finals, there were more times that I can count that I felt like a complete idiot riding Beavis. Having broke a lot of colts, and shown in everything from hunter and western pleasure to trail, I tend to be a pretty quiet rider most of the time but there were times I couldn’t even get Beavis to the first and second barrel-and it was MY fault for picking up too much or not using enough leg!

It wasn’t the horse – I needed to step it up as a rider. I begin to doubt if I was cut out for barrels, thought maybe I needed to quit barrels and just pursue those things that I’ve already done well at. There were plenty of crying, snotting, mental breakdowns right in the practice pen. There’s nothing like a tough to ride horse to make you doubt your ability, or to show you the truth.

Quite frankly, as I was hauling a green horse, I wasn’t sure what to expect as our trip didn’t start off well. Then again, every trip that’s memorable has to have a story to tell, right?

The first hiccup was that as soon as we reached the interstate, one lane was shut down and we had to take a detour. Then we barely made it to the next county before we had a blow out… and my husband broke Joel’s lug nuts on the tire and then hit himself in the jaw with the wrench! That story will be around for YEARS!

"Team Blowout"!

“Team Blowout”!

We stayed in the Sherlin's trailer known as "The Double OO". It's famous!

We stayed in the Sherlin’s trailer known as “The Double OO”. It’s famous!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we pulled Beavis out of the trailer his nose was four times bigger than it should have been, and he was swollen clear up to between his jaws. We suspected he’d been stung by a wasp in the trailer. Fortunately, a few hours later he was back to normal.

The State show was Beavis’ fourth show, his first long over night trip, and his very first indoor pen. I’ve taken a lot of young and seasoned horses on their first trip to an indoor and had many that couldn’t make a full lap around the pen. On his very first trip into the arena, Beavis didn’t hesitate or spook, and did whatever I asked him to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

Although our runs weren’t perfect, with the exception of the last Sweepstakes run, we made every barrel, improved our time every go, and he ran harder than we ever have so far. Our very last Sweepstakes run was a disaster but it was completely my fault and wound up being a learning opportunity in the end.

At the end of the weekend, instead of choosing to focus on our slow times, wide turns, or that last disastrous Sweepstakes run, I chose to focus on the positives and the lessons learned. I had ridden a young green horse that had never even seen an indoor arena that ran down the alley way without any hesitation and did exactly whatever I asked. He’d worked well, ran hard, and had been an absolute dream to haul and because of that he was going to make an awesome youth horse some day. That’s what mattered.

I also learned the value of eating well. You see, prior to every run but the last one, I had made it a priority to eat a good source of protein to make sure I was focused and thinking clearly – and it worked! The last run I didn’t do that because I didn’t want to take the time. As a result, I wasn’t focused and paying attention and it most definitely effected my ride.

Another lesson I was reminded of was the value of close friends and good times. I won’t ever forget that this race was the first time my mom ever saw me ride, let alone run, and all the memories of the weekend.

Beavis was hungry!

Beavis was hungry!

It’s hard to imagine as I look out the window at Beavis grazing with my mares, that just a few weeks ago I was ready to shut the door on barrel racing and instead focus on something I’m already decent at. I’ve shed a lot of tears, and still have a ton of work to do to improve but I know in the long run Beavis will make me a better rider and he’ll make an even better youth horse for it.

Beavis did say he was wore out!

Beavis did say he was wore out!