Friday, April 25, 2014

Part of the Deal and Setting The Compass

Elvis's former owners loved Elvis.  When Elvis had been given to me it was with the understanding that I give him a good home and care/love him as much or more than they did.

The day we met Elvis and his owners, Elvis was in cross-ties.  I noted that each time Elvis started to get restless or paw he received a mint (which resulted in more pawing and more mints).

Same when he was in cross-ties and the hose was turned on.  Elvis would frantically paw until he was fed water from the hose.  The running hose would be applied to Elvis's mouth and Elvis would lap it up.

Once he decided he was finished the hose would go back to the job at hand until Elvis decided he wanted more water (more pawing).  Pretty soon the task at hand was forgotten as Elvis determined he'd rather have the water vs where it needed to be.

Elvis had been a handful the day we'd gone to pick him up.  He didn't lead well, didn't want to load and when loaded had violently kicked and stomped in the trailer all the way home.  I was surprised the walls of our trailer weren't dented when we got to the barn where I planned on getting to know him with the assistance of my Frainer (friend and trainer).

Once unloaded I'd taken him directly to the round pen to get some of that trailer stomping freshness out of him.  It was a long walk from the trailer to that round pen and I had moments where I thought he was going to stomp all over me and/or get loose.

I still recall the first few times I put Elvis in the cross-ties and had to head into the tack room to grab something.  There would be the loudest ruckus in the cross-ties and my barn mates would dash into the tack room wide eyed to report that Elvis was rearing.  I can understand their concern - it was quite a site to see when Elvis reared in the cross-ties.

I inherited these traits and they needed to be addressed.

Elvis is a smart horse.  He couldn't figure out how come he wasn't getting mints or water. My lack of understanding what he wanted incited him.

But I've been down this road before and as a result I have a rule about treats.  I love my horses to death but it's rare that I feed treats to them. And if I do, rarely is a treat fed by hand.  Instead the treat goes into the feed bucket.

Elvis had a real problem with my philosophy.  Added to that was the fact that he didn't know me and I didn't know him.  I had brought home a fire breathing steed and with my rule of knowing what you have on the ground before you get in the saddle, I frankly didn't trust him.

My Frainer rode Elvis while I observed.  I took lessons to gain trust and learn how he ticked.  We both worked on helping him understand how one behaves in the cross-ties.  No treats were given and eventually Elvis figured out that it wasn't worth the effort to act up for no reward.  These days Elvis stands quietly in the cross-ties or when tied at a hitching post.

Part of the deal with Elvis's former owners was that I'd bring him home and let him be a horse.  Last May we had hauled Elvis home with very little drama in the trailer.  Not the ultimate haul but better.

Having Elvis at home was a good thing.  He got to be a horse, I hauled him up for periodic lessons and we bonded.  All those trips in the trailer (already saddled) added miles onto Elvis's travels and he became a good hauler.

Last fall I moved Elvis back to the barn for the winter so I could have access to an indoor arena. With our established relationship we had a lot of good rides but I still wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with him.  Was it Dressage, Western Pleasure, Trail Riding, Sorting? I just couldn't nail where we were going.

This really bothered me.  Being a goal oriented person I felt like my compass was broken and just spinning around.

In early January I found my answer.  A large answer...I wanted to try it all.

I sat down with my Frainer that second week of January and enlisted her help in exposing Elvis to various environments.  And from that meeting forward, our journey truly started.  These days my compass may swing from the north to the south.  But I always know where we are going.

Unfortunately, when you are the one on a journey that requires you to be involved, it's hard to take pictures.  I knew Elvis had been trained in Dressage and Western Pleasure but I can't show you how proficient I found him in showmanship or what fun he is on a trail course, backing/side passing, bridges, mailboxes, gates, poles, etc.

I can't show you how well he jumps or how he has no issue with being roped off of or dragging items behind him.

Sorting.  Something I'd wanted to do since I retired Bob.  He took to the cows but had issues standing still for long periods of time in-between runs (35/45 minutes). I think if we'd had any space to move (it was packed full of riders), we'd have been ok.

And only recently, the one discipline I now believe will be a huge part of our future...Elvis, compliments of my Frainer, went on his first trail ride.

When I look at this picture I hear my compass go DING!

The future?  Elvis comes back home on Monday for the summer.  He now hauls like a king and I will be going up to the barn each week to take a lesson and also to attend weekly Ladies Night sessions.

Thanks to the barn and my Frainer (Rachel Koehler, love you to death!), I've met some Cowgirl Pals who are avid trail riders.  Some do the yearly Chief Joseph Trail Ride with their Appy's (something Elvis and I are qualified to also participate in...a goal for 2015).

Some also participate in the John Wayne Trail Ride (which ironically actually starts about four miles from our cabin...another goal for 2015).

For 2014 I plan to ask some of my Cowgirl Pals to accompany us on some trail rides locally and also at the cabin so we can get some miles on us.  I also plan on playing with poles here at home and intend to participate in a local horse show this August.  Note the riding here at home.  Last summer I never rode Elvis at home because I was still uncertain about him.  To me, riding at home is a testament to how far we've come in the last year.

Part of the deal of receiving Elvis was the love and care I give him.  These days I have a good guy who stands quietly when tied and respects my space.  Elvis is a respectful, happy, content horse who no longer needs treats to behave.

It took some time but my compass is set and I know where Elvis and I are going.  What I'd forgotten about setting the compass was that it never points in just one direction.  It depends on where you are going on that certain moment (day).

Where we are going will allow Elvis to get to be a horse and me to continue to work on being the rider I've always wanted to be.

The Future Is Ours!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Elvis has Cow!

So much happened in the month since Elvis met his first cows.  In our merry truck that first trip were two of my Cowgirl Pals, my Frainer (friend/trainer) and me.  Behind us in the horse trailer were our gallant steeds.  In what would be a day with so much heavy rain that it broke our 64 year record, we'd slogged home with horses and riders all having a lot of fun.

But a month later on this second trip, found Elvis and I on a gorgeous, sunny day hauling over by ourselves.  Elvis hadn't hauled alone since September and I was pleased to see how easily he loaded/unloaded and behaved when I took him into the arena.

My Frainer was there to greet us.  She had agreed to take the first two runs to make sure all was well before I got on.  Elvis had a bit of confusion when he first saw the cows; I think he'd forgotten what they were.  But he caught on quickly and then finally!  After 3 years of waiting to return to sorting, I finally got the chance to do it again!

What a joy to be up on my guy!

Our first run together.  Look at how intent Elvis is.

I found Elvis to be really responsive to the cows - in fact almost too responsive.  It had been a long time since I'd been in the pen and I wanted to feel my way around a bit (i.e., take it slowly) the first few times.

But Elvis had other ideas.  He was quicker than I was comfortable with and actually got me rattled. However, I own this issue - Elvis was doing exactly what he was supposed to do, trying to get a good time in.  It was ME who wanted to take it slower!

My Frainer had other places to be so she bid us good luck and left us on our own.

The wait for our second run was long, about 30 minutes or more.  Elvis had a hard time waiting. He became fidgety, wouldn't hold still and was into everything.  Space was limited and I didn't have any place to do more than walk him between and around other horses.

So while everybody else sat on their quiet horses, Elvis and I were moving all over the place, pawing, backing up, moving forward, sideways, etc.  The more we waited the more agitated he got. On our third run he was ignoring me and getting more amped up to the point where I decided to scratch my last two rides.

So we've both got stuff to work on and that's ok.  For a horse that up until last year spent his whole life in show barns, I'm really pleased with how he did for his second time. He exhibited the traits of what will become a good cow horse.  I can truly say, "Elvis has cow"!