Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Skeeter's Fine Day

Bill and I set out with this plan of getting my horse Washoe 'legged up' for some upcoming tough rides.  We borrowed GunDiva's horse Skeeter, to be a companion horse on longer rides.  Neither Bill nor I ride alone in the national forest or park; not a good idea for a horse to come back sans rider and not be able to go find the missing party because you have people at the lodge, so our granddaughter, Autobot, serves as an extra rider.

In our last post, we had picked up the horse and transported her to our guest pen - which she now claims as her own.  The following day served as a day off for the horses so we could get the weekly 'town chores' done.

This brings us to Thursday and the plan was to just pony Skeeter around town so she could get used to the sights and sounds of mountain living.  We saddled up Ranger and Washoe and discovered Skeeter does NOT like standing patiently at the hitchrail when different stuff is happening, i.e., noisy trucks going by, bicycles, crazy people making strange noises, etc.  Welcome to our life, Skeeter.  She tried her hand (hooves) at taking down the rail, with no success.  Finally decided to just watch and check-it out.  Good horse.  Then we got hit with large raindrops which quickly turned to hail.

We waited out the storm and when everyone was calm, we took her lead rope and started out.  Hmmm.  Ponying is not a natural thing for this horse.  She had her own ideas of where she wanted to go and it certainly did NOT include being next to another horse.  We learned many things about ponying that day - long, slippery lead ropes are not the way to go.  The first time she yanked it out of Bill's hand before he could get a dally done; but to her favor, she didn't run off, just stopped to look at whatever took her interest.  OK, next time he was prepared and got her dallied but she almost pulled poor Ranger over.  He's just a little boy compared to her, so I took the rope as Washoe could compete with her size.  I got it dallied in time, but Washoe did not approve of her behavior and gave her a major stinkeye, which she did not even notice.

Rethinking this whole plan, we decided to back up to Skeeter's comfort level.  We dismounted and I walked the saddled horses back home - all of two blocks - then Bill led Skeeter around a couple blocks on foot.  She got a few nasty reprimands about who was to do the leading, but came back doing pretty well.

Friday,  I led Skeeter for a much longer walk through and about town, with a handy boundary stick and by the time we got back, she had figured out it was best to stay in the proper position. Then I hopped on Washoe and we walked and trotted the Ski Road loop just to loosen up.  I had planned on two times around, but that didn't pan out either.  By this time it was late evening and I was riding in a halter and short lead rope, so when Washoe was not in favor of another trip, we came home.

Saturday,  Autobot and I led Skeeter on a longer and different route through town; she only needed a couple pops on the lead rope as a reminder.  Much improved!  I sent Autobot out on Washoe for an hour and half ride - I thought.  They were back in minutes. "What's the matter?"  A:  "He won't go."  Me:  "You have long leather reins; insist."  A:  "I did but he only backs up."  Well....I think that Washoe has decided (in his teeny middle-aged brain) that if I didn't go, he didn't have to go.  I start walking down the road and sure enough, he follows along like a puppy on a string.  It's a nice day and he needs to learn to trust Autobot, as she will be riding him a lot this summer, so I just keep walking toward the Allenspark trail head.  Autobot rides part of the way, and leads him part of the way.  When we get to the trail head, I tell her to just keep leading him up the trail until she can find a place to mount him easily.  This time he followed her nicely and I sat at the trail head and waited for some hikers to get there.  Once mounted, Autobot rode back to us very nicely, then right on past.  She and Washoe came the 1.6 miles home on their own. (I can't blame my horse for this.  I am constantly putting some non-rider on him and walking them around town.  He just follows me and listens to voice commands, so it's not his fault.)

Sunday, we had thought we would try ponying Skeeter again, then decided maybe it would be easier for her to be ridden, since that was not 'new' to her.  Bill opted to be the trial monkey, so Washoe and Skeeter got saddled.  I had planned on going, but we had people we needed to wait for at the lodge, so I was to stay behind.

Bill took Skeeter to the small pen across the street to mount the first time.
video
She's not used to being mounted from the ground, so it took a bit of persuasion.
We had a 'new bit to Skeeter' on her and wanted to see how she would respond; bits are not her favorite thing.  She took to it like a fish to water and walked around the pen on a soft rein.  So time to try going down the road.

Washoe was in the lead but that didn't last long.  Again, he said, "wrong person on me" and came home.  OK, fine.  I threw a back-soon sign on the door, grabbed Ranger out of the pen and hopped on bareback.

We took the lead with Skeeter next and Washoe behind.  We needed to keep Skeeter slowed down.  Again, she took to the ride like an old pro, mostly just looking around.

We had cars passing us on both sides, dogs barking from cars, even a runner with earphones on who would not slow down or even acknowledge us as he ran up from behind.  Skeeter only had one instance of belligerence; when one of the cars came up on us from behind and Bill asked her to move over to the side of the road, she didn't want to give up her spot.  That driver was nice and stopped to wait until Bill turned her around to see the car and she moved over.  Otherwise, she did really well paying attention to rein cues as well as she knew how.  She is young and only has a very few hours of ride time, and has never been out on dirt roads like these before, so we couldn't have asked for more.

We finally let her take the lead and she slowed down on her own and led out very nicely. It was fun watching her want to smell the different trees and watch everything - all so different to her.
video
As we came around the final corner, there were llamas in the corral across the road.  I had noticed her staring at some earlier in the day, so I told Bill to watch her.  As they came around the front of a parked pickup, she saw the llamas, stared for a good two seconds, let out little snort and turned away to look at our old tractor in our own yard.  This horse is not a spook!  It was a very good day with Skeeter.
Bionic Cowgirl

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The New Foster Kid

Only this one has four legs.

Me:  "Hey, kid. How about loaning me one of your horses for awhile - like maybe a month?"

GunDiva:  "What?"

Me:  "I just realized I only have a couple weeks to get Washoe legged up for some long rides coming up, really soon.  Ranger has a one hour limit on our trails, so I really, really need a horse that can go out for 3 - 4 hours at a time.  Loan me Skeeter.  Please."

GD:  "Well, she does need a lot more wet saddle blankets and I am booked up with the Greeley Stampede for the next two weeks.  When can you get her?"

This conversation was a couple days ago.  Today, we picked up granddaughter Autobot and went to collect a horse.
video
All three of us walked into the pen with a halter.  We got met by three horses.  Pearl was closest so I just put my arms around her neck and Autobot slid the halter on while Bill reached for Skeeter.

Oops.  Not happenin' pal!  And off the other two went.  We were not the right people to be holding their halters and they were taking exception to that.  They spent a whole lot of energy running around the pen/track; we spent the time standing in the middle, shuffling our feet a bit every now and then.  They did eventually give it up.  In 92 degree hot sun, you can get really tired.

And the others?  Well, Pearl got to graze on the grass outside the pen.

And since it was that hot, I didn't want to leave Washoe in the trailer. (We had brought him with us to keep Skeeter company for the ride back up the mountain - a new experience for her.)
OK, so maybe getting caught has its benefits.  The trailer loading went pretty well; only a couple of mis-attempts, but with Washoe standing in the front stall, a large open window with ... wait ... do I see Grandma cookies poking in that window?  A flop of the flag as a reminder and in Skeeter went.
Where are we?  This is all new.

Skeeter will be in the smaller 'visitor pen' for now.  She knows all our horses except Alloy, who she met through the fence with no dramatics at all.  She unloaded better than I have ever seen her do, so I think having Washoe as a traveling ambassador worked well.  She was calm and quiet, and waited for the backup command before trying to step off the trailer.
She now has her own water tank ... which she promptly ignored.

... and her own feed bin, complete with slow feed hay bag.
... and of course, Jesse had to come visit.
video
After leaving them alone for an hour or so, Bill took a book and chair out to keep them company, but apparently Alloy is not used to that yet.  I guess only a couple pages got read, as Al kept poking and prodding at him for attention.

Stay posted.
Bionic Cowgirl

Monday, June 19, 2017

What Was Old Is New

Juanita and I have gotten a few.. odd... calls in the last few months.

"Oh, hi Bill.  You're still there?  We had read online the lodge had sold to new owners!"

"Hi.  We hear you are new owners and we were wondering if you needed our services."

And an assortment of strange calls of that sort.

We have owned the lodge since 1997.  Before the turn of the century.  We are at our 20th anniversary here.  We have owned the property longer than any other owner except for the builder.  He spent 34 or so years here, but he only lived here 3 months out of each year, so I think we have HIM beat, too.  The calls were leaving us sort of befuddled.

Yesterday I think I found the source of the confusion.  Google.  More specifically, Google reviews.

I used to watch reviews more closely.  Trip Advisor,  facebook, Yelp, Yahoo (remember them?) and Google.  But lately, not so much.  It had been probably 6 or 7 months since I had checked our reviews on Google, so I was surprised to find this review posted about 5 months ago:

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(Edit to previous review. I have now found that they have new owners that were GREAT over the phone. They have done work to the lodge to address issues that I and others had. They also seem to be owners that will really care about hospitality to get us regular customers back! I look forward to being able to again visit this beautiful lodge again to rate it 5 stars!)

Have been coming here for MANY yrs., multiple owners/changes.
Perfect stopping off place between Denver and Estes/Rocky National Park.

The Lodge 'building' is AMAZING is why the 2 stars. Built by hand with native logs/lumber after turn of century to 1930's. (history varies).

Gorgeous! The perfect 'look' for rustic Colorado tourism.

Allenspark has been known also for a very exclusive 4-5 star eatery that is a limo destination from Denver in an amazing huge old long cabin w/gardens, reservation only type place that has probably helped keep the lodge in biz. Also has cabin breakfast place that is organic/4-5 stars with locals.

My family has been here through several owners over time.

It used to be always worth the price for friendly owners and the beauty of the original place even though has many shared bathrooms, dated furniture, creaky floors, thin walls on many rooms/floors.

The last/current? owners were the worst ever of anyplace I have stayed from Hawaii to NY. Somebody mentioned like staying at parents house! Exactly! He used to be Highway Patrol cop is what I heard.

We are not young party people, 50's-60's, upper middle class. Did not like his strict attitude/demeanor we got on phone and stay. Got lectured on his rules and 'why' he said was charging so many times higher was because other owners were idiots.

Yet, when I had loud people keeping me up all night, he yelled at me for disturbing his peace in his private apartment to move us to other end of empty lodge/other floor.
We knew all the rooms/floors over so many stays, and were only even asking to go to even lesser priced room too just to get sleep from crying baby they even acknowledged others had complained about too, etc.!

I have psych. degree/counselor, and can tell you this guy is the WORST personality for a hospitality business. Very controlling. Intimidating.
As a cop, he needed for that profession, but not this profession!

Heard he even closed off one of the neatest features for guests! A huge tall cedar hot tub in back screened addition with gorgeous old granite stone floor, etc. Very romantic. One of best part of stay, no more :(

Would not recommend for light sleepers if it is full. Floors do creak, some walls thin. Getting the right room is important!
Not recommended for long stay, or taking a risk for honeymoon when it could go so bad from perfect looking property.

Wonderful property, just needs right owners/hosts.

We did not even care they raised the price by several times X 4 if they would have been making worthwhile.

Writing review since looking it up to bring friend to mountains for first time, and wants to stay in 'real' log cabin type place for one night on way to Estes.

Called several times, no answer. Finally found may be closed for renovations/new owner?

Hate to say it, but would keep driving to Estes Park and get cabin rental on river/creek for same price and quiet, nicer owners.. We will just make stop to show him the place!

Such a shame, so much potential for a right owner to know how to price to compete with Estes, give appropriate rates since not in Estes/Aspen, market it/price right for that/what it is.
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Huh?!? 
 Reading the review makes me think that he was talking about the previous owner, probably on a bad day. They lived in the Apartment (we use it as a rental and just keep a bedroom), they had a locked door after 9:pm to the bar/hot tub area (we removed the door), they allowed children (we don't allow kids under 14, because of the noise), I had heard he was a cop, and I had also heard he was a fireman (I was a computer technician).
That means that he was thinking about this for 20 years! That's not holding a grudge. That's cradling it, nursing it and raising it to adulthood. I wonder if a psych. degree'd counselor would have a diagnosis for that sort of behavior.
I really don't feel much like a "new owner" at this point, but it looks like that's who we are. 
It does explain the weird calls.

Bill

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 2017 Snow Storm

I hear Bill muttering in the office; when I ask what's wrong he says, "We are under a winter storm warning for the next two days. 1 - 3 feet expected."  This time they were right.  Raining when we went to bed Wed. night; 14" on the ground in the morning - and not stopping.


Finally (Friday) this morning the sun comes out and we have a count of 36".  Wonderful spring storms.  Gotta love 'em!
The horses keep the corral stomped into baths, so all we have to do is shovel our way TO the corral, because you don't walk too far in thigh-deep snow.
We shoveled last night to get extra hay to the horses, and had an additional 6" in the track this morning.  The biggest problem we have found using our slow feed feeders is that they get packed with snow when it comes down this heavy and the horses can't paw the snow off to get to the hay, so when we went to feed this morning, the feeders themselves were still full after the snow melted off.
This is the horse's shed, which a couple of them actually used part of the night.  The horses themselves.....

....were happy to have their feed boxes back - except for Al, who has become quite the camera mooch.
Bionic Cowgirl

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Day

This morning I left Juanita fixing breakfast while I spent over an hour driving down the mountain for my annual physical.  I spent over an hour at the Dr's office.  Then I spent over an hour driving home.

Early this afternoon, I spent over an hour changing both radiator hoses on the mini-van.  (The top hose had blown out about a mile from home last night.)

Later this afternoon, I spent over an hour driving the tractor around the horse pen, heaping up the manure.

And then later today, I spent less than 5 minutes on Alloy.

There were llamas going down the road.
Alloy saw them.  There was snorting involved.
I climbed on anyway.
video


The horse time kept the whole day from being a total waste.

Bill

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Horse Can't Walk

One of the most feared occurrences in a horse owner’s life.  You look out the window and see your horse in “that stance”; the one that signifies the lame foot you noticed two days before is really laminitis.

Jesse, the horse known for stomping things, as in rearing up and stomping down in a mud hole to splash herself and other horses.  Sometimes there are sharp objects and you end up with an abscess.  Gone for three days to a farm show.  Upon return, find lame horse on right front.  Check for punctures, stone bruises, abscess.  Nothing.  Next day looks like maybe a strained shoulder muscle.  Ok, a couple day’s rest.  Then you look out and see the awkward stance.  Yikes.

Call the vet, the wonderful man who always comes immediately when we call.  She gets put on heavy doses of Bute and penned separately until we can figure things out.  He says call the farrier.  Your horse has foundered.

Jesse has always been a bit on the chunky side; even as a very young horse.  She has also been very active.  She was the horse who could go day after day without tiring, do heavy work and not care.  Always wanted to be going.  The last few years (5-6) we have fought the weight battle, going to a slow-feed hay system and purchasing special low-carb hay.  This winter was the ‘killer’ so to speak.  Instead of turning them loose for six months on many acres to roam, we kept them home so we could introduce a new horse.  It was a particularly snowy, nasty winter, so not much in the way of good exercise. Starting in Feb., I put Jesse on a diet; 20 lbs. of hay in a slow feed hay bag and nothing else.  She had weighed in at 1130 lbs. at 14.1 hands, but she has some draft in her which is very evident in her build.

Wonderful vet called back in a couple days to say he had been thinking about the circumstances and Jesse’s build, etc. and said he wanted to try some thyroid meds with her.  He thought she had EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) or the same as type 2 diabetes in humans.  Too much insulin her body just couldn’t use.  Worked.  She started dropping weight.  In the meantime, our also very wonderful farrier put wooden clogs on her feet.  As soon as the clogs went on, she was able to move again.   
Just finished being put on.  Yes, those are deck screws holding them on.  Her hoof walls were so hard, the farrier broke a drill bit making the pilot holes.  Her foot looks small here, but it's a size 4.
Both vet and farrier said she needed to be walked 15 minutes twice a day, and kept in a smaller pen.
She’s been in clogs 5 weeks now.  We have walked in snow, sleet, rain, and finally, sun – missing only twice in that time.  Once due to ice packing up too quickly on the clogs, and once because Jesse just didn’t feel like it.  (The farrier had said let her make the decision on how far.)  At first, we did well going around one city block.  Improvements came fairly rapidly.  Soon she was walking faster, so the faster you walk the farther you get in your 15 minutes.
This is at the 5 week mark.  See how she has self rounded the toe with the rocker motion?
I started by taking another horse along with us for company in the mornings and so another one could get a bit of exercise.  At night, it was just Jesse and me.  What a struggle at first – she has never liked leaving the herd and even just one block was pushing it – but we prevailed and she now looks forward to the walks as much as I do. 

Bill was gone for two and a half weeks of this time.  Soon neighbors showed up to help until the mornings entailed all four horses going for the walk, with different neighbors leading them.  Super way to welcome the spring weather in the mountains.

Jesse is now at an almost svelte 990 lbs. since her diet started exactly three months ago.  Getting quite toned up and marching along faster than I can keep up.  We vary the route every day, zig-zagging around blocks but getting in at least a half mile.  We have developed a great habit.  One more week of clogs, but they are an amazing improvement in laminitis treatment.  Check out this website for information:http://www.thehorse.com/articles/26368/clogs-to-treat-laminitis


Next?  Start ponying her for longer times.  She seems to have stabilized at that weight.  She still gets an anti-inflammatory med for her arthritis but she is looking good and her great attitude is back.  She still has a way to go to get the feet healed, but we are headed in the right direction.  She turned 16 this year and I am anxious to keep her around for many more.

Bionic Cowgirl

Monday, May 8, 2017

Outa Town

Three of the last four weekends of April I was out of town.

April 7th my niece got married down in New Mexico, so I drove down to attend the wedding.  In true Martin style, it was a court house affair followed by a picnic a couple hours away in the mountains.  I had fun.  Juanita and our youngest daughter and her kids stayed and worked taking care of a group that had rented the whole lodge.



































In March I had gotten a call that one of my closest friends had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was not going to be able to take his guests on a tour of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.  He had 2 different 6 day tours scheduled and needed me to fill in for him, so from April 19th to May 5th I was in Arizona/Utah working with the local Navajo guides taking about a dozen people through some of the most striking real estate in North America.  I had fun.  Juanita and our youngest daughter and her kids stayed and worked taking care of several more groups that had rented the whole lodge.


















I'm pretty sure I should be feeling really guilty about now.

Bill

Friday, April 14, 2017

Heads or Tails

B-  Hi horses!  Washoe, Jesse, Ranger and Alloy-  how are you guys doing today now that I have scraped the first layer of manure off and into a big pile?  I got down to a layer of ice and the tractor lost traction.  Must have reached the "perma-frost".  Or an old forgotten glacier.

B-  So, "Big Al",  I REALLY need to start working with you.  How about I climb up on the feeder and lean over you bareback...


*SNORT*

B-  Gee whiz, Ranger.  I was just messing with the new guy.

R-  No Beel.  You are my people and you should only mess with me the horse.

B-  Okay then, it's a beautiful day and it's almost 70 degrees out.  How about we take Alloy out for a drag?

R-  Okay Beel.  I will show Al-fred how to be a good horse.

B-  Alloy.

R-  Whatever.

B-  Juanita can take Washoe, and we'll pony Al.  Jesse will have to stay here.  She "foundered" this week, and is under doctor's care until her feet start feeling better.

R-  That Mare will not be happy.  She will yell for us.

B-  She'll get over it.  We'll only be gone for a half hour or so.  

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B-  Man-oh-man!  It is so pretty up here.  We haven't been able to ride this trail for 5 months or so.  Look at this- someone is getting ready to build a house up here next to the National Forest.  Juanita, let's leave the trail and see if we can spot where they are going to build.  I don't think we have ever ridden right along here...

B-  WHOA!  I said WHOA!  Just STOP, Ranger!

B-  Alloy, what in the world is wrong with you.  You are supposed to just follow along when we are ponying you, and you just stopped cold and almost drug me out of the saddle...

J-  Bill, Alloy is standing in a coil of barbed wire!

B-  Oh man.  Okay I'll climb off here and see if I can get him out of it...

A-  IAmSorryBill. IHadToStopBecuaseISteppedInThisBunchOfSharpWireAndItWillHurtMeIfIMove. NowIfIJustStepHereLikeThisAndThenStepHereLikeThis. OkayWeCanGoNow.

B-  Okay Alloy.  I am impressed.  You have a very good mind.  That could have been a DISASTER, but you just worked your way through it and didn't even get a scratch.  You are one smart horse.

R-  I do not think a smart horse would step in a big pile of biting wire Beel.  Al-loof is a goofball.

B-  Alloy.  Stuff happens.  He is a very smart horse.  Let's head home now.

B-  Nice ride.  Here we are...

B-  WHOA!  I said WHOA!  Just STOP, Ranger!

B- Alloy, what in the world is wrong with you.  You are supposed to just follow along when we are ponying you, and you just stopped cold and almost drug me out of the saddle AGAIN.

A- IAmSorryBill. ButWeAlmostCrossedAVeryDangerousWildRiverAndICouldHaveDrownedOrBeenEatenBySwampMonsters.

B-  Alloy, We are 10 feet outside of your corral.  That is the same stream you drink out of every day.  There are no monsters.  You crossed the stream 20 minutes ago with no problem.

A- IJumpedOverTheRagingRiverSoTheMonstersCouldNotCatchMeTheFirstTime. ICanNotCrossTheMonsterInfestedWaterBecauseIMightDrown.

B- You are going to make me get off of my horse and lead you across a ONE FOOT WIDE TRICKLE of water, aren't you.  Jerk.  You are a lot less smart than you were 10 minutes ago.

R- I think he is afraid of Al-e-gators Beel.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Harnessing 101 (long video)

Farm Days in La Junta, CO.  Friends of ours have been asking us to join them there for several years now.  If you want to see big teams – as in draft horses – work, it’s the place to be in the Spring.  I had an ulterior motive this year; I want to teach Jesse to drive and there would be a well-known harness maker and trainer there.  In fact, it’s at his farm site.  The idea of the weekend is to get his fields plowed and ready for planting – using horses instead of tractors.  He owns four well-trained gray drafts and there were going to be several other teams; everyone there to pull a plow or disc or whatever was needed.  I was promised huge information on all things to do with harnesses, driving, horses, and a great time.  I must say, the information part turned out to be overwhelming.

When we arrived on Friday, the teams were just coming in from the day’s work in the field.   We stood around in awe of the giant animals moving around us; some of every different breed; even a couple teams of mules; some matched; some mismatched; very large ones and a Halflinger team; one that appeared to be Mustangs.

Dinner was served cowboy style; outdoors on planks set up on props; a cook fire going outside as well as inside the bunkhouse.  We all pitched in somehow, whether helping to setup, cook, clean up afterwards.  The kids got put to work; nobody was left out.  And of course, afterwards, the music started with first one guitar/singer, then another adding in, and another.  You could just sit and listen to the wonderful old cowboy ballads or join in the singing.  Talk about days gone by!

My big objective was to learn all I could about fitting and harnessing horses, before I actually bought tack for Jesse.  On Saturday the plan was to spend as much time as possible ‘shadowing’ the ones with the info.  Del is a local legend in the industry and was willing to take me under his wing.  It was like drinking from a firehose, following him around.  He had brought his horses in and tied them off on a trailer.  I was pointed to curry and told to get busy.  Lots of white hair flying and are these guys BIG?!  We took a break for breakfast and then the real work started.

Del was great about explaining how and why for all parts of the harness.  I watched him harness three of the horses, then was told, “Your turn.”  What?  OK, I got this.  Want to take a guess what all those straps weigh?  When you get the collar and the rest of the harness, you can have anywhere from 75 to 100 lbs., depending on how fancy you want to get.

video

The fun starts when you get to sit on the collar and bounce up and down to ‘round it back out’, since when you hang it up, it is wet and tends to elongate downward as it dries.  You have to get it back to a rounder shape to put over the horse’s head.  Some of this stuff is done differently than for the show horses.  Remember, these are work horses headed out into the fields, and they and their gear come back mighty sweaty and dusty.  Now you get to lift this (maybe 20 lb.) collar onto the horse by pushing it over their face – nose, eyes, ears – and settling it down just above the withers.  Not bad when you have a great horse who helps by sticking her nose in and pushing to get the ears through.
Next, get the rest of the harness settled on your arm and lift off the hook.  Much easier said than done, and then you get to settle this mass on your hip and kind of hitch yourself over to the horse.  Feels like it weighs about what my 50lb. saddle does, and most of the time I can get it slung over my horse.  But this is a totally different configuration, lots of straps hanging down to the ground, and by the way, the horse is 16 or 17+ hands (at least 8 inches taller than my mare in the real world).

I give it a good toss – and it goes nowhere near where it should.  Del says to squat down to the ground and give a big heave.  Right!  I try again and sort of get most of the straps up and part way over; Del comes to the rescue and helps me shove it the rest of the way.   Obviously, there is a practiced technique to this.   He shows me how to set the hames in the groove on the collar and bind them into place.  He isn’t any bigger than me so I have to laugh when he literally swings all his weight on the buckle to get it tight enough.  Then the buckling up starts, walking around the horse connecting straps as you go, pulling the breeching over the rump and getting the tail settled over the strap, and making sure everything is absolutely straight, so you don’t cause any sores. 

video


Time for the bridle.  That head is a long way up there and these guys don’t figure it necessary to teach your horse to lower its head and be accommodating.  However, this mare was great about lowering her head when I asked, taking the bit like a lady and being patient because I had never handled blinders before, which are permanently attached to the bridle.

Now for the reins, all 25 ft. of them.  Sling them over the back and out onto the ground behind, then thread them through the proper spots and attach to the bit on the left side of the horse to be on the left.  Repeat on the right side of the horse to be on the right.  Now, to hook them together in the middle and learn how the reins work, so you as a driver only have two reins in your hands to signal two horses to do the same thing.

Then I got to watch Del move the team to the plow and get it hitched up, again getting instructions on the proper order of attaching the harness to the tongue of the plow.  By this time, I was beginning to feel like I had info overload, so I just watched the plowing for the rest of the morning!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Manny" the Mannequin

At the Rocky Mt. Horse Expo this year, we watched one of the clinicians working with colt training.  I became interested as I was walking by and heard her say it was best not to get bucked off the first time you climb on a horse.  Boy, do I like that thought – also knowing we had just taken on a horse who had proven to enjoy bucking.  Maybe she had a hint or two, so I sat down in the stands to listen.  Of course, she was working with a couple of young, unhandled horses, but she progressed pretty quickly to the first time things are on their back – also mentioning that this process could be used on any age horse that would have the inclination to buck when first feeling weight.  Several of the ‘firsts’ had already been passed with Bill’s new boy, Alloy, but we were at the stage of restarting him under saddle.

Hence, we ‘built’ a mannequin, to be the first rider up.  There are products out there you can purchase, if you are going to do this a lot.  There is also the simple method:  take an old pair of jeans, sew up openings, and fill with ‘stuff’.  I think she said one pair of hers had clean shavings.  We don’t use shavings, but we use a lot of wood pellets, and hey, they cost approximately $5 for a 40# bag!
I took a pair of Bill’s jeans that were headed for the trash (we have a lot of our old jeans laying around here for various projects), sewed the holes together in the knees – so what if they have a bend in the knee; doesn’t your knee have a bend when you are riding – and stitched the bottom of the legs shut, and stitched the waistband together, leaving the zipper operable.  We used the zipper opening to fill/empty the ‘stuffing’.  So far, it has worked like a charm.  Yes, our mannequin weighs in at 42# when we got done, but both of us weigh considerably more than that and we wanted a true test.
Bill and 'Manny'
Today is test day.  We plan on saddling up Alloy in a small round pen type area and placing “Manny” in the saddle, hopefully tying the legs to the stirrups.  With young horses, you start with a smaller, lighter bean bag type and just lay it on their back, letting it slide around and fall off as they walk, so they get used to things that do fall (at some time in their life, something IS going to fall off them).  You want them to learn that it isn’t scary and they soon learn to even try to balance the item so it does not fall off.  As they progress to the balancing stage, you move on to a bigger, heavier mannequin like we made.  Al is past the first parts, but needs to learn it is not OK to buck with weight in the saddle.  Since neither of us is good at bronc riding, Manny gets to do the job; hence the reason for tying it to the saddle.  It needs to stay on!
Whatcha' got, Bill?  Notice Alloy is just ground tied.
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Wow!  Can that horse buck?  So happy he waited until he was unsaddled and in his corral before the show started.  The mannequin in the saddle was such a non-issue.  He stood so still for saddling, then walked to the round pen and waited patiently while Bill ‘mounted’ the dummy rider and tied its legs to each stirrup, even tying a piece of twine from the waistband to the saddle horn.  
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Hardly a blink of the eye, except when the camera would turn on or off, which caused the ears to come forward to alert position for a moment.  Walked around in the pen, got led outside in the driveways, stood tied to the hitchrail while we talked to a neighbor.
Walkin', walkin' outside any pen.
It was decided we should go for a short walk around the area, so I grabbed Washoe (who desperately needed some action) and we walked around a two-block area, stopping at the post office to show off a bit.  How nice – the post mistress had an apple to split for two sweet horses and another neighbor joined us to finish the walk home.  

Please?
I think Al has been taught to ‘smile’, because he showed off the flehmen grin a lot, asking for more apple, we’re sure.  He has one very proud owner right now.

Happy, happy, happy.
He finally got turned back out with the other horses and we expected some rolling in the dirt.  What we got was a bunch of ye-hawing and very nice bucks all around the corral!  Then he walked up behind Bill and followed him to the fence.  One big, huge non-event.  Expectations, according to Bill.  He behaved exactly as expected.