Tuesday October 14 2014
Steph has found her new passion of learning Natural Horsemanship in her journey with 5-year-old Smokey. Smokey went to school in Ted Nicholes' training program, and Steph and Smokey just attended a 3-day clinic with him.
Dudley has been my spring-summer-fall project. He's also Steph's horse, and I adopted him as my personal project when he got fat (i.e. obese) last winter. I stuck him in my ODE Program: the Owyhee Diet and Exercise Program. Over the Tough Love months, he lost weight, did his first 50-mile endurance ride in 6 years, and in fact completed 3 50-mile rides so far this year (aiming for the last one of the season in 2 weeks!).
So now what?
Dudley is a smart horse. A good local cowboy broke him about 10 years ago, and had him doing tricks then: While standing on Dudley's back he could crack a whip; he could lay Dudley down. So Dudley already has some trick training in his foundation, and he learns fast, especially when treats are involved. (Once years ago, I gave him a treat when he first stopped and peed out on the trail, since that is a good endurance horse trait to have; after I gave him a treat the second time he peed, he started stopping every half a mile, trying to squeeze something out so he'd get a treat. He didn't forget that for years. Years.)
I've long had it in the back of my mind that shoot, Dudley could learn tricks. Somebody just needs to teach him. He'd look mighty snazzy doing the Spanish Walk, or bowing beside someone. Then I thought, wait, why don't *I* try to learn to teach him tricks? Dudley can become a Trick Horse. He can Spanish Walk beside me! He can bow beside me!
So I joined the Horse Academy.
Horsetricks101.com, the Horse Tricks Academy, is Jain from Australia, with her horses Trigger and Bella. Her method is a well-explained step by step process of building the basic steps and foundations of tricks. She's got videos and ebooks and worksheets, and she uses her horses in her videos to demonstrate the process.
Interacting with your horse by teaching tricks is not only fun, but it improves your communication and trust with your horse. I am lucky (says Jain) that even though Dudley has a weight challenge, he is motivated by food, and he loves treats; and those kinds of horses are easiest to train (I just need to find some very low-cal, or very tiny treats!). I really am lucky that he is already a well-behaved horse who respects my space and won't hog me for treats, and will back up out of my space with a flick of my hands and stand there. (And backing up, and standing and waiting, are two of the foundation tricks!)
The Dude started 2 days ago, and I'd have to say he's already got one of the basics, Touch, down already. He made me laugh today, because he already gets it.
I have a feeling Dudley is going to be teaching me a lot more things than he's already taught me.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Tuesday October 7 2014
You'd be forgiven if you mistook him for a rock star: a polished costume (brand name jeans, a clean starched shirt with his logo on it, brand name boots), a polished show, announcer, sound system, and a cult-like following of screaming fans. But if you can overlook all that (or enjoy it, if you like it), you can always learn something from watching these natural horsemanship trainers with horses, particularly problem horses which are used to demonstrate their training methods in the clinics.
Nampa Idaho was natural horsemanship trainer Clinton Anderson's 8th of 9 scheduled Walkbout Tour stops this year - a two-day tour described on his website as "the most inspirational two days any horse lover can have. Whether you ride English, Western or just love to hit the trails, learn how the man behind the Method uses his techniques every single day to develop respectful and fun horses. Watch in awe as Clinton puts one of his standout horses through their paces during a spectacular demonstration." An Australian, Clinton now has a spread in Texas where he trains horses and people, in addition to traveling the country and the world on tours like this one.
We Owyhee Crick Women fit into one corner of the arena of Clinton Anderson's followers: females. But being primarily Arabian horse endurance riders we were rather to the far left of his normal fan profile of females who mostly ride Quarter horses in arenas.
I've come a long way in learning not just riding, but horsemanship over the years, and I know I still have plenty more to learn, which is why I really enjoy watching the pros, the real horsemen who know how to get the best out of a horse without bucking him out, or beating him into temporary submission. By teaching the horse to choose the right behavior, and building on basic lessons of respect, the end result is a 4-legged partner - not just a slave - you can come to trust to share your adventures with.
It is inspirational and awesome to watch Clinton or one of his certified clinicians bring a rogue horse around to showing respect and willingness within 5 minutes of the horse's normal often-outrageous behavior, to see the transformation of the horse as the light bulbs of understanding turn on in his head.
And there's absolutely nothing wrong with expecting a thousand pound animal to respect you, give you space, accept you as his leader in your relationship; and in fact it's downright insane to let your horse wear the pants in your family. I'm always astounded by the people who bring their problem horses to the clinics for the trainer to 'fix' - a horse who is dragging them into the arena, shoving them around, running over them. As Clinton Anderson repeated over and over, if you don't have a horse who respects you, it's not a matter of *if* you're going to get hurt, but *when.*
Clinton did sound a bit worn out and a bit jaded at times (albeit with a sense of humor)… tired of the ladies in particular (a majority of his clientele) who let their horses run all over them because they love them (one lady answered Clinton when he asked "Why do you let him do this?" "Because he loves me") … the same things over and over...
Clinton probably does enjoy the attention, the fame, the work of teaching horses and people safe ways of handling and riding; but after seeing the same problems over and over and over, year after year, the same ignorant owners with dangerous, disrespectful horses over and over and over, year after year, and after hammering the same message over and over and over, year after year, I bet there are times he just wishes he could go saddle up his old pony, put on a plain ol' Tshirt, and go on a fun, relaxing 20-mile trail ride in some scenic country.
Friday, October 3, 2014
Friday October 3 2014
A whole new stable full of Spirit Horses just galloped out of the studio, waiting to hang on your Christmas tree, or Festivus Pole, or your dinner jacket, or the inside of your horse trailer (living quarters!).
My sister, the real artist in the family, sent me some of her collectible yarns to use for tails. Each Spirit Horse is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns. Each pin is approximately 3" long by 3" tall. . . not counting the long fluffy tail, are $20 each and $3 shipping for up to 5 at a time. Contact me at TheEquestrianVagabond at gmail dot com.
oops, the slide show went away!
here it is:
Monday, September 29, 2014
Monday September 29 2014
I don't know if he'll ever be an easy horse to ride. So far, I can never just sit back and enjoy the ride, like I do on Jose. I've got to ride Dudley. Always using my legs and hands and seat to communicate, keeping him at a steady pace, staying alert. It's exercise riding Dudley. He can wear me out. I feel like I've run a marathon after I've ridden him 50 miles. And he's got a little buck in him.
It's always somewhere near the start of an endurance ride. Dudley and I rode Day 2 of the Owyhee Canyonlands with Carol and August. It was Dudley's third 50-mile ride this year, and we picked up the pace a bit, keeping up with Carol and August. The start was a single track trail up a steep hill. That's always good for getting a horse's attention right away. All went well until we got off that short steep hill and flattened out onto a two track road, where Dudley could see horses miles ahead of him.
He puffed up, got very big and tense, thinking this was some big important race (it wasn't), and I knew if he got his head down, he'd buck. He's bucked a few people off before, so he's got it in him, and I felt it those first couple of miles, like sitting on a lit stick of dynamite, not sure when it's going to go off. But Carol and August were great escorts, setting a good steady pace, giving us a good working rhythm to fall into.
After a couple of miles the Dude settled down and got to work with his big rolling trot, and all was well until about 8 miles, after we descended the steep hill down to Sinker Reservoir. Once we got to the bottom, he could see horses in the canyon ahead of us, horses above us descending the hill, then, oh no, a 2-legged monster!
Both August and Dudley were suspicious and spooky of photographer Steve Bradley, even though they've seen him countless times, and they could hear him talking so they knew that it was indeed Steve; so Carol and I had our picture taken together so that we would not individually get dumped in front of the camera. Don't the boys look fabulous together in Steve's photo above?
Dudley settled down the rest of the ride and worked well. He got tired the last 7 miles, but I wanted him to get tired. He walked when he needed a breather, trotted after August when he was ready. We ended up finishing 10th - Dudley's first Top Ten finish, thanks to August's excellent pace! Although, since there were only 14 horses, you could just as well say we finished back of mid-pack. It's just a number anyway - Dudley was pretty proud of his effort. He's just a big handsome beast I love to ride (most of the time)!
Dudley's favorite parts of endurance rides are still the eating parts
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Wednesday September 24 2014
Sure, he's been on the cover of a few magazines, and he takes attention in stride, but Stormy really hit it off with the Owyhee Avalanche reporter that showed up here to do a story on Stormy and me.
Karen Bresnahan is one cool gal, an ace reporter and writer, and a kindred spirit. "The Horse Whisperess," she named the story that's in this week's Owyhee Avalanche paper, though with the editor's slicing and dicing (that's what editors do), both the title and part of the story changed a bit. (The title changed to: "Merri Melde: Owyhee's Equestrian Vagabond.") Karen brought me a copy of the full story she wrote; I keep it safe and hold it dear, because she got it just right about me and my love Stormy - Owyhee's newest celebrity.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tuesday September 16 2014
I didn't start it! It's bordering blasphemy, but last week I saw a Christmas display out in a chain store in town, and had to listen to Christmas music already!
Therefore, as it's never too early for Christmas, don't forget Spirit Horse pins! Each is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns picked up from around the world. They're fun and fanciful; they shimmer different colors in different light. You can bend the legs to stand straight, trot, gallop, or fly. Spruce up your outfit for dinner out on the town or the Oscars. Or hang your Spirit Horse in your home for good luck. You can also hang on your Christmas tree or Festivus Pole. Each one comes with a little hanger like you'd use for a Christmas ornament.
Each pin is approximately 3" long by 3" tall. . . not counting the long fluffy tail, $20 each and $3 shipping for up to 5 at a time. Contact me at TheEquestrianVagabond at gmail dot com.
[or link to album]
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Tuesday September 9 2014
WBUR's Here and Now just ran a piece, "Do Animals Have Emotions?"
I've seen similar studies before, and the more I hear these, the more I wonder if researchers who take the time and money and thought to do these studies have ever spent any time around animals. If so, I don't see how they would even come up with these questions.
Being around dogs, it is blatantly obvious that dogs can be happy, sad, jealous, in love, have best pals. Our dog Austin who recently passed on to the next rabbit-chasin' world *knew* his time was up. One look in his eyes, and anyone (or, perhaps anyone who is not a scientist researching if animals have emotions) could see he knew it, and he was sad about it.
Not everybody is lucky enough to be around horses, but if you are, it's so obvious that horses have emotions. If there are researchers reading this who are considering undertaking more of these amusing studies, let me save you some time and money with these examples:
Finneas, Grandson of the Black Stallion, is conceited and he can get embarrassed, if he's humiliated in front of his subordinates.
Stormy is very possessive of me, and when I'm loving on him, he gets jealous when other horses get too close, even if he's risking a thrashing by another more dominant horse.
Horses can get mad, as Finneas did when I left for the winter; he thought I'd up and abandoned him, and when I came back he wouldn't let me near him.
Soul Deep in Horses, about my horse Stormy, you'll know all about how Stormy and Tex became pals. Even if Tex leaves for a while, he always returns to Stormy's side, because they are BFFs.
Horses can have fun; some of them love to play. Just ask Jose, the Owyhee Social Director, who gets the entire Chapter 22 in my book.
I guess this all might be news to some people, or, perhaps I'm missing something here, but, Do animals have emotions? Uh - hello!?