Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shot in the Dark: Anticipation

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality;
our desires being often but precursors of the things
which we are capable of performing.

~ Samuel Smiles

The Owyhee Tough Sucker is less than two months away! Aaruba and I have our eyes on the 50-miler -- April 18 at the Teeter ranch in Oreana, Idaho. Who else is coming?

The above photo was taken on the morning of Aaruba's first Limited Distance race at the 2008 Owyhee Fandango, also in Oreana. You can read the ride story here.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

An Affair to Remember

Every year, I spend thousands of hours alone with my horses. I prefer it that way, but the truth is that it occurs as much by default as by choice: None of my equestrian friends live nearby, and the only stables in my area zero in on the bling and cha-ching of reining, cutting, and reined cow horses. (No offense, but if I wanted to go around beating up two-year-olds' knees, I'd dispense with the snaffle-bit futurities and buy myself a crowbar.)

Training solo has myriad advantages, including plenty of independence and time to build deep relationships with my horses. The downside is that it's easy to become myopic. My methods are effective, but they're not the only ones out there. Furthermore, I spend so much time with ungentled and green horses that I tend to forget what a finished horse looks like...and it's mighty hard to hit a target you can't see.

So, every February, I look forward to Boise's Horse Affairs. It's the usual equine expo featuring tack and supplement vendors, shiny horse trailers that cost more than my car, vet lectures, a rodeo clown, local stallions, and a few rare breeds. All that's fine (except the clown -- shudder), but it isn't why I attend. I go for the trainers.

This year's lineup included Julie Goodnight, Charles Wilhelm, Richard Shrake, Stacy Westfall, and a mixed bag of other trainers who have yet to achieve household name status. I spent half of Friday and all day Saturday with a liberally highlighted show schedule in one hand and a notebook in the other, plowing through the crowd between round corral and main arena in accordance with my pre-determined agenda.

I made it to at least one seminar by each presenter, with the notable exception of Richard Shrake, who I avoided like the plague. (Sorry, Shrake fans, but that guy has one of the biggest, false-humility shrouded egos I've ever had the misfortune to meet.) As usual, there was a heavy emphasis on natural horsemanship. As usual, I was already familiar with most of the concepts presented. And, as usual, I came away with a few new techniques that made the 2009 Horse Affairs worth $20 and a severe case of bleacher-butt.

Three Horse Affairs ago, when I started my tradition of spending all weekend at the expo as a kickoff for my own training season, I had a farm full of completely unhandled horses. I attended that year's expo with a laserlike focus on gentling techniques and came away with an enhanced understanding of pressure and release as a cornerstone of training.

Two years ago, I gravitated toward information on early groundwork and took home a new appreciation for lateral and vertical flexion that has served me well both on the ground and astride.

Last year, I was all about starting horses under saddle, particularly translating groundwork into mounted work. I came away duly reminded that the slow way is the fast way, and just about everything I want to accomplish in the saddle can and should first be introduced from the ground.

This year, I was drawn to training techniques for basic under saddle skills, particularly shoulder control, leads, and collection. I added a number of exercises to my training toolkit and, more importantly, I found my training theme for this year: Expect perfection.

I'll write more about that later. For now, my point is simply that none of these lessons are rocket science. They aren't even front-page news. But they are easy to forget or lay aside unless we grasp the occasional opportunity regain perspective. Next time you get a chance, take some time to step above the trees. There's a beautiful forest out there.

Speaking of broadening perspectives...

Every year at the Boise Horse Affairs, I observe the sea of cowboy hats, sequins, belt buckles, and lariets and wonder what equine expos are like in other parts of the country.

Our expo features western art, western saddles, and at least 95% Quarter Horse types. I struggle to imagine all those rowel spurs and appaloosas loping around, say, Boston, but what do I know? Do your vendors sell breeches instead of bandanas? Do your presenters talk about cavaletti instead of cows? Can your announcers pronounce the word "dressage?"

I'd be much obliged if'n you folks back east could enlighten me. Thanks, y'all. ;-)

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Stonewall Poster, Take Two (Hundred)

Are you going to the 2009 AERC National Convention? If so, keep your eyes open for me and Aaruba. We'll be on a poster in the Stonewall Saddle Company booth.

You might recall that we had a bit of trouble with our first photo shoot for this poster. The second wasn't a whole lot better:

This shot has potential...except that my partner seems to be snoozing.

NOW whose eyes are closed? How's this for a new logo?
Stonewall Saddles: Secure Enough to Sleep In

Hmm. It has a nice ring.

Excuse us, we're having a temper tantrum. (But I'm smiling!)

Where's Ichabod Crane when you need him?

I don't even know what to say.

Oh, here's a nice shot! Except...what's that hanging out of Aaruba's mouth? I told him, no bubblegum on the set!

Finally, we managed to snap a lucky winner. Here's a nod to my fellow bitless barefooters in the endurance world -- and helmets off to my gracious sponsor (dismount first, if you please).

Anyway, if you're at the convention, I have two things to say to you:

1) I'm jealous.

2) Be sure to stop by the Stonewall Saddles booth and give owner Jackie Fenaroli a hug from me.

Psst! I think she's giving away business cards with my endurance conversions chart on the back...conveniently sized for your saddlebag. Enjoy!

Related Posts
Upward in the Night (my Stonewall story)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Excused Absence

Have you noticed that posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately, here at The Barb Wire? A few of you have made me feel very warm and fuzzy by sending emails to make sure I haven't fallen off Aaruba and landed in a coma.

I haven't.

It's worse than that.

I've gotten involved with a novel.

I wish I could say that I was just reading it, and I'd be done in a day or two. But, nooooo. I have the nerve to go and try writing the thing. I'm at about 70,000 words now, which puts me somewhere between halfway and two-thirds done with my first draft. For the past month, I've poured every spare minute (between keeping Aaruba fit, dinner on the table, and money in the bank) into completing the blasted thing before daylight savings time demands that I start training in earnest.

But never fear. This too shall pass, and soon. I have a new photos I want to share with you, and Aaruba's Stonewall poster, and plans for the upcoming endurance season...and on, and on. Soon you'll be so sick of me that you won't want to buy my book.

Oh, dear.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Aaruba Goes Rodeo

Aaruba is going to be featured on a poster at the Stonewall Saddle Company booth at the upcoming AERC Annual Convention. Naturally, we need a good action shot to enlarge. So, I groomed him as well as a gray horse can be groomed in the dead of winter (which is to say, not very well!) and headed for the nearest hill.

He was a

They did ask for an action shot:

Hmm. Perhaps we'll trot ten miles or so before trying this again. The light wasn't that great today, anyway. Allow me to point out that I kept smiling for the camera, secure in my beloved Stonewall, as Aaruba bucked all the way up the hill. The show must go on!

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