Monday, May 23, 2011

Cal's First Session

I did not ride Cal last weekend as I was nursing some injuries inflicted upon me by Monster Monte and the Wonder Horse last week. However, I was sufficiently healed up enough today to give him a try. So far, I'd only ridden him once at his owner's stables.

Like last time, I had a bit of trouble getting him groomed and tacked up. He has some sort of issue with his back legs. He was reluctant to let me pick them up. However, with patience and determination we managed to get through that ordeal. He has a tendency to wander around the tie up post (I don't have cross ties) which is annoying but, again, I patiently moved him back to his position every time he wandered. He is also a little bit cinchy, but not bad. He took the bit with no trouble at all.

I took him to the arena to mount up and to my surprise he moved a little prior to mounting. However, he could see our other horses in the north pasture and he was completely focused on them. He can't wait to meet them and he told them so. I managed to get on him without mounting blocks despite his height. He's really no worse than getting on Monte or Charlie.

Once aboard this massive beast, we moved out at a walk and did a few turns. I know that I'm not using the cues he is used to, as he seemed a little confused by my directions. Next, we went to a trot, and he was smooth and slow. Again, we made a few turns and worked around some cones in the arena. Then, I asked him to canter. As I recalled from the first ride, he is reluctant to go to a canter. Of course, that is exactly what I'm looking for. Hot cavalry horses are dangerous, and you can get better performance out of a lazy horse since you don't have to worry about them bolting. His canter is unique, to say the least. I'd describe it as a gentle rocking canter. Sort of like sailing a boat. Although reluctant to canter at first, once he got going, he wanted to keep going. A good sign. Sort of like Charlie in that regard.

While I was rocking Cal around the arena, the cinch slipped back behind his belly into the bucking strap area. He was putting his head down and shaking it slightly which I didn't understand, but Debbie, who was watching explained what had happened. I stopped, dismounted and undid the cinch. I was amazed. Any other horse would have exploded into a windmill of tail, legs, and mane.

All in all, a good first session. I'm looking forward to learning more about Cal. However, I think I will bring a breast collar next time as there is something about the way he moves that causes the saddle and cinch to move backwards.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Prospect

We picked up another potential horse for B Troop last week. He is a very tall Canadian Warmblood named Cal. He passed his mil vet check on Friday and is currently residing at my ranch during his quarantine period. We will evaluate him for suitability for the cavalry, but so far seems like a good prospect. He is trained as a dressage horse and has very good cues. I rode him a couple of weeks ago at the owner's stables to see what he was like. The owner pointed out that despite the fact that my reins were all wrong and my seat was too far forward that the horse did fine. Ahem. Of course, my poor riding style was all part of the test. I was going to ride him this weekend but was too banged up from riding the Wonder Horse last Friday to get it done. Some of the ladies came by today to have a look at him and were amazed at the size of him. Cal was loving the attention and was upset when they all left. Hopefully, we can get him accepted into the Army soon so he can hang out with the other horses.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monster Monte

I've been continuing with Monte's anti-buck training for about a month now. I taught him the hip over cue which he does automatically at any speed. As a result I have to be careful when I give it because he will just about topple over if he's at a gallop. That is not what I expected. I expected him to slow down as soon as he saw my arm move out in anticipation of having to disengage his hips, but he actually just instantly throws his hip over regardless of the circumstances.

The ultimate goal, however, was to solve his bucking problem. The hip-over thing was meant to gain control of his back end and convince him to stay collected as he never knew when I was going to throw his hip over. The rest of the solution required that I be able to stay on his back despite the bucking and also teach him that dangerous behavior has consequences for him. Unfortunately, I was never able to get him to buck again on the jogging track after the first incident, so I decided it was time to take him to the arena. I can work with an individual horse alone all I want, but effective cavalry horse training has to be done with a group of horses because their behavior is so much different when they are together.

With six other riders in the group, I formed them into a column of twos and had them trot around the arena. I put Monte in the back of the column so I could work with him without the others colliding with me. I found out that Monte is so programed to turn sideways when I give the hip-over cue that it doesn't matter what his speed is or if there is a fence rail or another horse in the way. This was a little disconcerting. I also found that in the arena, Monte drags the bit. On the jogging track, he is very light in the mouth and requires little pressure. Not so in the arena. I had trouble getting him to drop his head and softening his neck.

After I practiced the hip-over maneuver a few times at a trot, I put the column into a gallop. Monte immediately dropped his head and threatened to buck. I instantly threw his hip over and revealed to him my secret weapon--a riding crop. With this I laid three sharp whacks on his shoulder and then put him back into a gallop in order to rejoin the column. Monte again put his head down to buck and again I threw his hip and applied the riding crop to his shoulder. That was enough for Monte. I had no further troubles with him despite repeatedly giving him his head to invite another bucking session. To be sure he had learned the lesson, I formed the other riders into a skirmish line and had them practice some charges. I moved through a sequence of walk, trot, and gallop but Monte would not buck anymore.

I don't for an instant think that Monte has given up on bucking. He just gave up for the night. We will try again next week and see if we can cement the lesson. It was an important breakthrough for Monte though and reversed a trend that has been growing in intensity for a couple of years now. Hopefully, Monte can soon again be used without endangering our riders. We will see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Last weekend a few of us drove up to Globe, Arizona for their Old West Days festival. We had been requested to ride in a parade in the morning on Saturday and to carry the colors in the opening ceremonies in a rodeo that evening. We were treated royally by the City of Globe who put us up in the Apache Gold Casino.

We were a little worried about the reception we'd receive as Globe as the casino is on the San Carlos Indian Reservation which is where Geronimo escaped from during his last rampage through the southwest. We memorialize the unit that chased him down and forced him to surrender for the final time in 1886. The last time we were in this neck of the woods, we were roundly booed by the Apaches.

However, we had no problems this time and we were warmly received by the people of Globe. The people who live their are very proud of their city which is an old mining town. It has plenty of good history and Al Seiber the famous German Army scout is buried there.

I rode Apache in the parade in the morning and Charlie during the rodeo ceremony. Apache was his usual interesting self. We started the parade with him doing his famous "galloping in place" act. This behavior is scary on a normal day but particularly terrifying on asphalt. He settled down after a while so that he was at least manageable, if not calm.

Charlie was his usual laid-back self until another horse bumped into him at the end of the national anthem, causing him to spin away from the formation. Otherwise, Charlie is about the easiest horse to ride in situations like that. He is perfect for color guard duty as he proved last December at Las Vegas. He still has some rough edges during other events, but is basically an easy ride.

All in all, it was a good trip and the City already wants us to come back next year. The weekend was exhausting but we had a good time and I'm sure I'll have volunteers to go next year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More Training with Duke and Monte

We managed to get some more training in today even though the sky looked like murky water. There are a couple of fires burning in Mexico that are filling the sky with haze. Martina rode Duke in the gray pen as she fired off rounds with the starter pistol. She kept Duke moving and not thinking so much about the gun. She changed directions and gaits frequently. Duke is progressing well. He still hates the guns, but he doesn't react to them so much.

Monte is progressing also. He can do the hip-over maneuver at a canter now. Naturally, he put his head down to buck as soon as we went to a canter, but that is exactly what I wanted him to do. I instantly disengaged his hips as soon as his head dropped. Since he reacts almost automatically to the hip-over cue, he instantly slows down as soon as I move my hand out. In fact one time I accidentally dropped the rein and he disengaged his hips over even though there was no tension on the rein. It remains to be seen if he will react when in a full gallop. No hurry though. I'll work at the lower speeds until I'm sure he will answer the cue before I try at higher speeds.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Charlie's Bucking Charge

I rode Charlie in a ceremony on Friday at Chaffee Field. It was his first charge since his surgery last summer. Things went well at first. He stood still during the entire ceremony even though he was on the end. Not all horses are good in the anchor position so I was very pleased with his demeanor. He also did very well during the pass in review even though the crowd began applauding as he rode by. That all changed, however, when we began the charge. Charlie couldn't seem to make up his mind about whether to buck or run. He had his head down and was shaking it side to side during the entire charge. I had images of being launched through the air when we got to the end of the field. Fortunately, he didn't do anything crazy. I suspect he will be calmer during his next charge. He was just probably a little excited to get to do one again after so long.

You can watch the charge via the link below. The charge is at the very end of the video. You can see Charlie acting up in the background.