Saddle Fit for Flicka

Good Evening, Friends!

There is lots to be said about saddle fit!  I’m very close to getting a saddle for Flicka.  She has been using the saddles at the barn, which are serving well.  I’ve been considering the weight issue, getting it up on her back, lol! and expenditure.  I’ve spent a little, and a lot.  While I like to keep things simple, Flicka’s comfort while doing the job I ask, is imperative.  Saddle pads can be high tech material, synthetic, or the classic wool for breathability and conforming to the horse’s back.  It appears that you can spend as much as you want!

I’m considering a barrel saddle, for the weight and purpose I desire.  I plan on using Flicka in working horse events, maybe some timed events and obstacle courses.  Cowboy Dressage is a thought.  I need a traditional set up with a horn.

I visited saddle shops with new and used inventory to see how this style measures for my seat, talked to friends who barrel race or use this style, looked on Facebook forums to see what people were selling, and checked out on-line shops and makers.

I recently had a session with Angela Tanner at the barn to compare saddles being used on Flicka, all of which have been doing the job.  I measured gullet width and skirt length, since Flicka is short backed and short coupled.

The first one we looked at was a Corriente.  Placed without a pad, we had good gullet clearance and nice shoulder flare.  A thin pad with neoprene, I believe, on the underside, worked well.

The second one was an American, which a local shop carries.  It also fit well.  These both had straight skirts, but were minimal with the barrel saddle styling.  It was the lightest of the three with a ralide tree.

The third one was a Saddlesmith of Texas, round skirted barrel saddle.  This is more of an upper end saddle, with prices of around $2,000.00.  The Corriente and American are similar, being around $650.00.  This was a full quarter bar and an eight inch gullet, needing a one inch felt pad to adjust gullet fit.

I’m leaning towards a round skirted semi-quarter with seven inch gullet.  I should be able to find something with a middle-of-the-road price tag for an entry level starter set up in case Flicka’s back and conformation changes.  I will likely stay with a wool pad, the rounded barrel design, and a contoured topline.

What is your process for changing gear and disciplines?  I’d love to know!

Terri

Flashback:  Here is my rig for being out on an all day ride, prepared to stay overnight if need be.  This was taken in the Diamond Peak Wilderness with my Morab, Charlie-horse.  Planning for your purpose is key!

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Fun With Elvis!

Good Morning, Friends!

Elvis has started  his education!  Z is sacking him out, having fun playing with him!

Elvis is started with giving him exposure to all kinds of things!  The round pen is used for some basics, followed with bitting up, using a pony bit to get him used to packing it, and and introduction to bridlework will follow.

Saddle pad, noodles, picking his feet up, and a start with “come to me”.

The sunshine is a wonderful change from the cold of early Spring!  I’m enjoying having the opportunity to have training time at the barn while I wait for temperatures to drop a bit!

Don’t forget some hang out time, what they really want!

Happy Trails!

Terri

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Five Steps of Preparation for Your Backcountry Riding Vacation

Friends, all I can say is that I have seen some wonderful country from the back of a horse! 

It’s a little different with a horse, they are doing the work for you, while you have the advantage of this perch to look around on.  While hiking, you are likely looking down and don’t have the elevated view!

  I spent twenty years riding and camping with my horse.  These are processes that have worked for me. My most recent trip was in 2012, after which my daughter, about nine years old at the time, wanted my company for vacations (!), and many areas, routes and destinations, were burning with rampant forest fires.  So I set it aside for a while.  I’ve kept track of favorite riding areas, and new ideas put out by folks gaining experience!  Hopefully, this will springboard you into researching your own ideas and what might work for you!

Where to Go?

This should be determined by the level of condition and trail experience of your horse, and of your riding buddies going with you.  In the old days, it was the folks who would commit to keeping their rig tuned and ready in good repair, and a consistent conditioning and exposure program for their horses.  Having dabbled in endurance riding for five years, I’d condition as if for a twenty five mile ride, and then I could be quite confident that I could go on my trip and not worry about my horse.

Lake basins are great places to visit.  Great views and moderate terrain that everyone can enjoy.  Diamond Peak Wilderness in south central Oregon is a good one.  Traveling through Crater Lake National Park, is wonderful.  Mt Adams is a repeat favorite, both from Mt. Adams Horse Camp and Keenes Horse Camp.  Author Kim McCarrel writes trail books that encompass many areas of Oregon and Washington.  She covers many areas I have ridden and her information is reliable.  Her website is http://nwhorsetrails.com/

Facebook site Holly’s Horse Tales and Trails is also good information on areas of Central Oregon that I have camped and ridden.  Her blog brings back many happy memories!

The Open Trail Project is a great site with a Facebook site as well, for an archive of national horse trails, and handy record keeping tools.  Check it out here:

http://www.opentrail.us

We Are Trail Riders is another .com and Facebook resource for the rider with national riding sites.  Check it out here:

https://www.wearetrailriders.com/

These resources will help with map selection and other land management resources.  I always used Green Trail Maps and checked with the Forest Service on trail conditions and closures.  Map stores are also great resources, Bend Mapping and Blueprint in Bend, Oregon, is a great resource for trails outside the Diamond Peak Wilderness area, which are every bit as nice to ride as those within the wilderness boundaries!

We all started out with camping in our horse trailers!  Over the years, we all managed to upgrade to some form of camper ( I had a pop-up for seven years), and while it afforded lots of comfort, what it really did was organize us!  It’s really nice to not have to set up camp when we arrived!  And it was really nice to have a sense of organization so we could concentrate on riding!  Not to mention sleeping with a warm face if you want to use the heater!

I found that year after year, August was a good time to travel the backcountry.  Late snow melt was generally gone, and bugs are scarce!  No issues with wasps or bees, and the no-see-ems are most active in July in those high mountain meadows. You have a little less daylight, and depending on elevation, you can encounter occasional overnight temperatures near freezing.  Still, I have found it to be the most enjoyable time to ride!

Thinking of packing in?  I always bring what I need to stay overnight if need be.  But I wouldn’t qualify that as packing in, lol!  There are a couple of near-30 mile loops that I would like to break into two 15-milers and stay out the night.  Tons of material out there, my favorite being the guys from Montana at Trailhead Supply.  Catch up on their blog!  They regularly attend the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW) Rondy in Ellensburg, Washington.  They have given a great mini-seminar on getting started in packing for women, always to a “sell-out” crowd!  Here is their website link:

https://www.trailheadsupply.com/

Here is a link to the rondy:

http://naturalhorsemanshipandyou.com/2983/backcountry-horsemen-of-washington-rondy-ellensburg

I like the idea of the over the saddle panniers to keep it easy!

What to Bring?

Food for a week!  The camper refrigerators, even the small ones, can hold a lot!  It’s fun to trade off meal duty with your buddies!  Fry pan burritos were easy after a ride, and quick!  And me, I can eat hot dogs the entire time!  Check around and you’ll find what suits you!  I’ve also done cheese fondue when it was my turn to cook!

A water resistant blanket for your horse and a lighter sheet.  When your horse has been working all day, they will appreciate a cover in the higher elevations, and whether it is your enclosure or a horse camp, not a lot of room to move around to keep warm.

Clothes to layer.  I used my cross country ski clothes!  I layer with tights and pants of choice for chafing, Sporthill sells a wind resistant ski pant that is tapered towards the ankle, which I found handy.  A stretchy vest, my Outback jacket, and  the Outback rain slicker that folds into a backpack, that is easy to tie on the back of the saddle.  Headgear of choice, which included helmet, or straw hat, or wool hat, or the Outback waxed hat for rainy days, all got their use!  Half chaps work well for bushwacking and for keeping the heat in your lower extremities.  I’ve used cowboy boots, rubber boots, riding tennis shoes, paddock boots with thinsulate, all had their place!  And remember, you are camping, so pack light, wear everything multiple times, its OK to get and be dirty!  I used conditioner for my hair so the dirt and sweat wouldn’t stick!  Maybe the suntanned face was part sun, part dirt!

How about water?

We mostly camped in designated horse camps, or primitive camped when there was an appropriate area, as in the Ochocos out of Prineville, Oregon.  It used to be that a trailer water tank only held about 25 gallons.  There are more options now, check out http://thedistancedepot.com.

I’ll take advantage of streams and nearby lakes to make my water last, and carry a camper hose that spirals into a convenient carry tray to take with me.  Those can be purchased most anywhere, I bought mine at the local Bi-mart discount store.

My horn bags are designed to carry a water bottle in each side.  I use a refillable stainless steel one, and the other is my Seychelle water filtration bottle.

Most campsites will have pens, either wood or metal, many in Washington State have highlines.  I carry my swivel attachment that will allow my horse to pull back and not panic.  I also carry my own highline kit.  You can purchase a highline attachment for your trailer, lightweight corral sections, or use an electric corral set-up.  Mainly it’s what you prefer and what you think is best and easiest for your horse.

Feed and Supplies

Equipment is quite sophisticated these days, but even with a simple rig set up, you can manage to have fun!  I take weed free grass hay and alfalfa, I find my horse appreciated a little extra after an all day trail ride!  I organized daily feed rations in baggies, and took loose salt to add.  Dynamite Specialty Products has an excellent loose salt, as even the vets rarely carry it anymore, our past go-to source.  https://dynamitespecialty.myvoffice.com/ShoppingCart/index.cfm?FuseAction=CategoryShop&CategoryID=91&ParentCategoryID=4

We would buddy up in twos, one hauling the horses, and one hauling the hay and supplies!  It worked great, and gave us the advantage of the extra rig in case we experienced any troubles!

Enjoying Mother Nature

We want to set up our trip in our favor.  Do our homework, plan our route, and also be flexible if conditions change.  Respect Mother Nature, and your limitations as humans, small pebbles on the beach.  Be thoughtful of choosing your horse buddy, and your riding buddies.  There should be a sense of responsibility and support towards each other when traveling the backcountry.

I do travel with a cell phone and battery pack. Will your battery pack last a week?  Likely not.  Will your cell phone work everywhere?  Likely not.  However, that is the part I like the best about horse camping, going far enough away to make you feel you are “away”, and not having to worry about anything except the needs of yourself and your horse.

Horses have a great sense of direction, they have never failed me.  They always prove the “no, it’s thatta way” person wrong.  Take some orange surveyors tape to mark intersections.  Everyone should pack a gun.  Three shots is the universal signal for help.  I figure if I had to wait it out while someone rode for help, I could stave off a few critters, or put my horse down if necessary.  Stay on the trail.  Avoid game trails that may look inviting.  Keep well hydrated and graze on saddlebag snacks.  Becoming dehydrated and having low blood sugar contributes to poor decision making.  Turn around if you encounter unexpected obstacles that will deplete your horse’s energy or put them at risk.  Use common sense.

Even though these methods and tools may be considered “old”, I would still be comfortable today traveling as such.

As a basic overview, I hope this inspires you to research for your own camping adventure with your horse!  There are lots of dude ranch offerings, but nothing to compare with your own fine animal taking you down the trail with cooperation and enthusiasm!

Happy Trails!

Terri

Photographs:  In order of appearance:  Blue Mountains, Oregon, Olive Lake in the background; Metolius-Windigo Trail from Sisters Cow Camp, Sisters, Oregon; Rim Trail, Newberry Caldera, La Pine, Oregon; Sister Mirror Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon; Croften Ridge Trail, Mt. Adams, Washington; The Ochocos, Oregon; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Muddy Meadows, Mt. Adams, Washington; Stag Lake, Diamond Peak Wilderness, Oregon

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An Interactive Day With Elvis

Sometimes they surprise you when you start making an impression!

I came out in the middle of the afternoon and there was Elvis standing under the tree by himself.   Whiskey and Smokey were disbursed in other parts of the pasture.

I opened the gate and Elvis made his way towards me.  The others started to gravitate in my direction but he was not deterred.

He kept his focus….

 

Elvis ended up putting his nose right on the phone camera!

He’s a funny one!

Terri

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A Challenge For Smokey

Good morning, Friends!

img_1993One of Smokey’s major “holes” or task in need of tune-up, was mounting up from the mounting block.  When she wanted to move her feet, or move off from the block while I wanted to mount up, I moved her a little away, bridle work, disengage, back, and a head down cue, then back to the mounting block to rest, and basically ground tie.

She caught on to ground tying quickly.  It isn’t about the mounting block.  It’s about standing quietly anywhere I ask her.  These things, while giving a chance to learn, cannot be compromised on.  I’ve had horses, that, if they move one of their feet, and you don’t notice, and ask them to give it back (reverse that motion), then they have won!

Every day in clinic, it would take a dozen times up to the mounting block, sometimes resting, relaxing, nothing being asked, and then going to mount up.  My persistence had to outlast her resistance.

Teaching Smokey the hip over helped a lot, I felt.  It gave her a different focus, a clean focus, without past resistance issues, to prepare for me to mount up.  I used the hip over to mount up in the outside arena.  The last day I walked her over to the mounting block, stepped up, and did a combination of forward cue and hip over, and mounted up without delay.

I’m been guilty of not giving these issues much thought.  If someone wants to hold your horse for you while you mount, how will you do it by yourself?  I like to present myself as a self-sufficient rider when I go somewhere with my horse.  If you hold your horse, and bring the mounting block to your horse, they are similarly not learning anything, not learning the process.  Stumps and logs don’t move in the woods when trail riding.  These short cuts only short our partnership with our horse for working together!

Here is a short video on the hip over exercise.  I posted it in a previous entry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shRdOFinyMY&feature=youtu.be

How are you fine tuning your partner?  I’d love to hear!

Terri

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Smokey’s Silver Lining!

Good Evening, Friends!

Thought you might enjoy a quick catch up on Smokey’s progress, going forward!

14702501_1245484572139033_3138255733801437839_nOne of the first things achieved in clinic, was Smokey self loading into the trailer.  This was accomplished with the forward cue, which we use during bridlework warm up.  She caught on to this quite quickly.  Later, we had opportunity to give her a load up, tie, and back out.  I’ll work on that going forward.  I always enjoy having some follow-up goals to work on.

The next major achievement was an emergency one rein stop with disengagement.  We were shown in the following manner, which is a little different in how I’ve learned it in the past, but things do evolve, rider biomechanics has shown us that!

First, develop it on the ground.  It should be automatic when asked.  It should be clean and snappy, not sloppy.  I never gave it much thought, having horses that have been able to do it quite easily.  Smokey could not do it, so she required a bit of practice.  It is not the easiest thing for a gaited horse to do, but she should still have it instilled as a habit.

I used to bring my rein to my knee or waist.  Now I bring it to my belt buckle.  Sit tall and centered, leaning a little back.  Beware of any tilt to the side.  Have your left rein loose and your left hand on the swell of the saddle.  Bring the right rein up to the belt buckle, at the same time giving the right leg towards the hindquarter, asking for a disengagement to the left, as you look towards the back, seeing and feeling when it happens.

Here is a brief video of establishing this on the ground during bridlework.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RREg-stc-0&feature=youtu.be

I practice it enough for Smokey to give it softly.

Summing up Smokey’s and my work and achievements, are as follows:

  • bridle work from the ground to work on saddle skills, disengagement, and head down cue
  • mounting from the block
  • standing still for mounting up
  • standing still after mounting up until asked to move out
  • shoulder work, as in shoulder over, done on a circle, serpentine exercises, the start of backing in a circle
  • head down cue, leading to loose rein riding, including moving out on a loose rein, and stopping on a loose rein.
  • power steering, incorporating loose rein riding, lifting rein one side or the other for direction, then giving release, riding straight.  Work this with leg cue.
  • practicing learned skills in different environments, with the outdoor arena, and two outings to an extensive trail obstacle course.
  • starting liberty work, with a stay, come-to-me cue, playing and progressing
  • leading exercise to have Smokey stay behind me for trail riding skills
  • hip over cue to enable many situations, including mounting up
  • ground tying for as long as I want
  • roll back along the rail for teaching, and keyhole game for practice
  • de-spooking with various stuff

For the future, Smokey’s trail skills will be assessed.  These newly learned skills from our clinic, will be worked on and reinforced for them to become habit, for both of us!

What are you plans going forward for you and your buddy?  I’d love to know!

Terri

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Week Ending With Smokey

img_1997Our last day of the week saw continued consistency and a variety of work and demonstrations.  The weather was beautiful to be in the outside arena!

Smokey is doing great with her warm-up of bridle work and hip over.  We had a demonstration of the sit down, and the lay down from the ground, as opposed to asking from the saddle.  During this time, Smokey ground tied, never moving a step!

The pattern I practiced today was the flower.  It’s challenging, I can become addled!  The goal is to become soft and fluid with your horse.  We have improved!  It was a real tug-of-war at first!  Poor Smokey!

img_2011Start in the middle, going counterclockwise around the cone.  Head toward a corner and go around that cone clockwise.  Come back in for a counter direction in the middle.  Go out to the next corner cone and to clockwise direction, and so on.  Then reverse direction!  Use inside leg, inside rein and alternate with outside rein and leg.  It really takes coordination!  It’s nice to have had some improvement from the previous week!

We also did some loose rein walking and gaited walking, practicing our power steering!

We finished up outside, with all the outside distractions of the busy corner intersection on the highway, with horses across the street and in the next pasture, and some spots of mud and puddles.  We did not do any speedwork.  We did bridle work through the mud and puddles.  Smokey was not too sure about that but did accept it.  I took her over to the mounting block, I asked for a hip over, she gave it, and I mounted right up, first time!  Lovely!  We rode on a loose rein!

I wish for you such an ending for your week!

We are off for a week and then resume for a last three days!

Terri

Here is the link for the hip over exercise.  The goal is to slap your leg once or twice to have them move the hip, making it easier for you mount up, whether from a block, log, or fence.  Take a look!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shRdOFinyMY&feature=youtu.be

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Higher Education for Smokey

img_1790Fast forward to Fall!  With my goal of finishing up the season strong, Smokey and I are taking a series of lessons that comprise a clinic with the emphasis on foundation training, all the things we like to have automatic on our horses!

I threw a lot at Smokey the first week, three days in a row of mind and body work!

We started with bridle work, we imitate our rein placement on the ground, and ask that she stays out of my space.  Instead of leading/dragging, I give the forward cue and move forward when she moves out.  It mimics what happens in the saddle.  It builds lightness.  We follow with a disengagement and a back up.

Mounted up, I worked on a lot of serpentine work, raising the inside rein, alternating between the cones, building smoothness!

Smokey started out heavy in the face, which, unfortunately, makes me respond with heaviness in my hands, it can be a vicious circle.

We’ve started!  We will only improve on our partnership as we clarify the lessons needed for both of us!

Terri

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Private Invites to Ride

post-ride bliss!
post-ride bliss!

We had opportunity to ride out today with a friend.  We rode from her place, fun and interesting!  Handsome was right there this morning, ready to catch me up, and loaded up.  This is always a great opportunity to ride unique areas that you may not have access to otherwise!  Take advantage, but return the favor if you can!

We did a little warm-up through the pasture looking for discarded fly masks.  We found both, crossing a little pasture creek along the way.  Handsome has no issues with riding out on the trails, but it was our first time out in a while!  He was enthusiastic!  So down the road to our trail ride, two-tracks through a canopy of trees making for a nice, cool ride on an early hot summer day!

We crossed two bridges twice, (the ride was an out and back), offered to have him wade in the creek, but he declined today, he does cross water, but we didn’t have to do everything today. . . . .there was some pretty good up and down hill work, some good pulls, and on the way back, my friend’s horses following us on the fence line.

’til the next trail ride. . . . .

Terri!

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