glenatron: (zorro)
I got home this morning at around 7 am after a comfortable enough but largely sleepless flight.
In which Zorro behaves in a way that shows clear understanding of narrative structure. )
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So I didn't have time to edit down pictures from the last few days before I left...
Illustrations ahoy! )
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My bags are packed, I don't know of anything I have forgotten, I leave for the airport in about half an hour.

It's been an amazing experience and I have learned so much here. There will be a few more posts on this theme to catch up on pictures from the last few days and maybe as my brain starts to process what I've learned but for now it's a fond farewell to Texas.
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My last day on the course ( tomorrow morning I don't think I have time to ride ) and we began with a talk from Martin's dentist. He explained about how horses teeth develop and how they work and where problems arise, which is almost always where the tooth is unopposed, so if the top molars end in front of the bottom ones expect a problem with the top molar at the front and the bottom molar at the back. He worked with a few horses here and showed us how to check a horse's teeth for sharp edges ( with the mouth held shut feel inside the cheek with your thumb, or feel outside along the cheek) and what signs of abscess you might look for ( bad breath is often a marker ) as well as showing some teeth and caps that he had removed lately. It was interesting and reassuring for me in that this guy, one of the few dentists Martin will trust with his horses, works a lot like our dentist at home.

In the afternoon we shipped out to Grady Carter's place to use his large arena to work with some of the better trained horses. We played a bit with going over the bridge he had set up there before ambling into the working space to work on things we needed to get. In my case this was really more work on settling to the lope and I was riding a horse named Jane, a lovely bay mare with the most comfortable trot in the world. Her canter is a little less so, certainly not up there with Chili who I rode yesterday and my seat could best be described in terms of "inelegant but staying on."

There was one slightly unfortunate moment, which requires a bit of background about Fred to really make sense. Fred is a great guy but he is guaranteed to be the one who will be late, will have to just dash back and get something, who will happen to wander across just as you are going somewhere or who won't hear the instruction to the class. We would assume it was a Belgian trait but he assures us he's just as bad there. So this has been noticed for a long time as we've repeatedly narrowly avoided leaving him behind in various places or asking a question just moments after Martin has asked it.

So because I was having a little trouble concentrating on my position and steering Jenifer suggested I could maybe do some passenger work, just keep Jane going and let everyone else keep an eye out and get out of our way if we got too close. We set off, got into a brisk canter and Jane decided to go and talk to her buddy who Fred was riding. Unfortunately Fred hadn't caught the instruction about getting out of my way, so he was wondering why I wasn't steering to go around him, I was wondering why he wasn't moving, my horse was wondering why I wasn't steering her at all and Fred's horse was dozing quietly. I looked at Fred, Fred looked at me and then I crashed into him at top speed.

Given that Fred had an old injury he was trying not to make worse and that our collision certainly made it worse, this really shouldn't have been absolutely hilarious, but it undeniably was. Fred was very generous about it and retains a remarkable sense of humour with regard to his moments of being totally off the planet, which was probably lucky as we have been giggling about that one all evening. I feel worst for Fred's horse, who had the whole thing come as a total shock to him-I'd feel bad for mine but honestly she could have stopped quicker when I hit the emergency brake...

Anyways, it was dangerous, harmful and in no way funny- I don't want to be a bad person so I'll try and stop laughing every time I think about it.

We came back and after a brisk turnaround went out for a meal to a really nice restaurant a few miles away, with the whole class reunited ( Jake was back after his time away to recover from his injuries a little ) and a few other family members along it was a very pleasant evening.

I guess I have to get ready and prepare myself for real life again now. I think the Reality Drag from this may be the strongest I have ever experienced.
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The course began winding down a little today.
Concerning various matters )
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Today was windy at first, later extremely warm. We rode horses out through the woods and around a lake. Good times were had by all.
Later we visited stallions and there was a small degree of injury )
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In the evening we went to a Honkeytonk (the world's largest, in fact) drank some beer, watched some bull riding, shot some pool, listened to some country music and got a crash course in dancing the two-step. I feel I have experienced Texas in a whole new way.
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The morning started bright but very cold with an icy wind coming in and the temperature dropping fast, so we declared it a classroom morning. We spent a while looking at saddles, with Martin explaining how they work and why he tends to choose the ones he does.
Saddles, Q&A on hobbles, balance and philosophy )
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This morning began with some extra chores as the cows had licked their way through their feed sacks (left on the lorry in their field overnight ) and we needed to rescue the feed we could and get it bagged up again. After that and our regular chores we ended up starting a little late with Martin working the black horse who arrived yesterday. Today Arlene was crash-test bob and sure enough at just the moment I put my camera down because they were going along fine she had a bit of a sproink to deal with, which she did absolutely fine. She got bucked off her horse a week or so back in a freak goat-chasing accident, but that was after a serious run of bucks and this was no problem by comparison- an advantage of being crash-test Bob when Martin is starting horses is that he is very good at controlling another horse while riding- while the black horse was being turned loose, Martin was working him in the round pen, getting him to make small circles away from the side of the pen around and back to the side in the same direction- he was doing this from the other side of the round-pen just by moving his horse around a little and maybe gesturing with the flag slightly.

After that we packed some of the experienced horses into a float and went over to another training yard to meet some horses there ( people who know quarter horses have heard of some of the ones they have) we met Gunner just as he was starting his shower and he pulled some very funny faces when his nose was washed. We have one of his sons here actually, who is very sweet and also tiny.

Anyways, we got to ride in their huge arena and I was absolutely made of fail- I couldn't find my horse's canter at all and just kept being knocked out of the saddle the whole time, I wasn't going to fall off but it was uncomfortable for everyone involved and really no fun. So we had a session where everyone else was building up their lead changes and I was just trying to sit normally in canter. It's not even like it's something I can't do on most horses, but the horse I was riding ( Boogey, by name ) just had a really powerful movement that threw me out of the saddle and kept me there. I really felt like I was letting him down. Not a good feeling at all.

We also got to watch Jack Brainard ride and do a little talk with us about getting control of the parts of the horse and then show some of the things he was working on with his horse. They may have been things he was still working on, but the cantering in place, transitions from canter pirouettes to reining spins and spanish walk were all very impressive. Being Jack Brainard he also showed some of his lead changes, which are quite something. I can see why he is such a legend in his field and being in his eighties doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all.

I spend most of the rest of the afternoon working on straightness and getting a clean stop, but I did get to experience a few proper reining-horse spins ( if you ever did that thing as a child where you sat on a swing and wind it up and up and up and then let it unwind and get really dizzy, the sensation is similar ) which was really something. I just ended up feeling like a total n00b - which is fair enough, relative to everyone else here I am one; I've just managed to keep things looking OK up until now. Still, onwards and upwards, hey.
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Today began with a short talk about bits from Martin, specifically about the spade bit, a much misunderstood piece of equipment.
bits and pieces )
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Today was less about the riding, we began with a classroom session ( which those of us in the Donut Club were bringing donuts for -all four of us guys were owing by this point ) which was going to be about bits but ended up being about dentistry, shoeing and various other interesting topics- Martin is a mine of information on all things horse-related so this was really interesting. There was some interesting stuff about teeth and how they wear- because the horse eats with their neck and head stretched down it means the lower jaw tends to be pulled back a little, which means that you tend to have a problem where a hook forms at the front of the upper teeth and the back of the lower teeth, the latter being the really difficult one to get at. Another problem related to that can arise when you ask the horse to work on the bit, because that can put them in a position where their lower jaw is level or slightly further forward if their head is tucked in, at which point if you have anything like those hooks, or the teeth are too unevenly worn then it can be very hard for them to move over each other and cause other ridden problems. Also because a lot of nerves go through the temporo-mandibular joint a problem in the mouth can be pretty serious in terms of the horse's general wellbeing.

We went off to spend a couple of hours watching a cutting-horse trainer at work in the afternoon, which was interesting. But not the type of interesting I would necessarily want to see more of.

This evening we've been watching video of Martin riding in some NRCHA competitions in past years, which was very interesting- in spite of being at a high level competition there's no compromise in the relationship between the horse and rider, which was telling compared with the work we were watching earlier in the day.
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So here we are, half way through the month, pretty much- and the first Saturday at the ranch.

We worked for the morning, spending some more time in the A-Pen. I was riding Indy the light palomino pleasure-horse:

"Martin, this is the most uncomfortable horse I have ever ridden"
"Do you know why they call them pleasure horses?"
"Because they're sarcastic bastards?"
"Because it's a pleasure when you get off."

Indy really is the fidgetmaster, shifting his feet, trying to wander off to his buddies, no interest in being still or calming down, just constantly wanting to shift around and go places. It was actually a little trying after a time- the constant shifting around and complete lack of focus. I've ridden him before and it was fine then because we were doing things most of the time, but waiting our turn in the pen was pesky. Also he wasn't sure about cows at all, doing the classic thing of wanting to investigate them and run away all at once. That's fine on the ground but I'm not so hot on it in the saddle- the running away can be a little hectic and I didn't want to go through that in the narrow entrance pen beside the A-Pen there. Once we got into the pen he sort of started to get the idea pretty well, although he still couldn't stop moving so he kept pushing on the cow the whole time. I think I probably needed to get more control of his feet by actually going there rather than just redirecting his movement when he started wandering off, but that only occurred to me after working in the pen a little and having Martin getting me to really kick him on "He doesn't even know you are there- kick him!" That was exactly what he needed.

Because of the short attention span he's a horse with a really small window of opportunity when it comes to getting things done. This whole window-of-opportunity principle is something I've really had to take on board while here -I tend to take things too slow and that doesn't work with horses like this one.

After that we did some work on roping - there was a cow that needed doctoring,so Martin broughtit into the pen and roped it and then Fred roped her's heel and Jake roped her front feet so she could be laid out and given the medication she needed. I chose not to do any roping there because although my throw isn't bad I don't have the slightest idea how to dally the rope so I think if I actually did have a live animal on the rope I would potentially be a total liability.

Martin ropes the steer- very lucky timing with my trigger finger here...

Saturdays we only work the morning, so the afternoon was free for shopping. I bought a hat. It makes me look ridiculous, of course, but it's a proper hat and may assuage certain people's concerns, [livejournal.com profile] spoondog.
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Today was another day riding out in the wider world at Martin's friend's ranch.
More riding out in the open )
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Today began with work in the A-pen. This is a pen that is narrower at one end than the other and has a pen full of cows in the middle of the wider end. The principle being that you put a cow in the pen and you can use it to train a horse to understand cows and to be able to keep a cow from the herd when needed for work like we did the other day.
Also we worked on backing up )
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An important part of getting a good start on the youngstock is giving them things to do.
Today we went out exploring on the trails )
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Today there was a cow. Actually there were several.
Oh and we watched some other people start colts )

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