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Friday, August 21, 2015

Learning from Vaquero Boone Campbell

One of the reasons I'm even able to compete in the Vaquero Heritage Trainers Challenge is my history with the Whoa Podcast about Horses and Horsemanship.  Through the show I've met and interviewed many excellent horsemen and woman.  I interviewed Boone Campbell earlier this year for a show we did at the Ojai Cowboy School.  I was able to get a great video of Boone describing the workings and effects of the hackamore and spade bits.

Working with Scratch and trying to stay true to my limited knowledge of the Vaquero way has been tough.  I called Boone and asked if he would give me some pointers.  He invited me over to the ranch for a few hours of just hanging out and talking horses.

It meant another 2 1/2 hour trailer ride for Scratch.  He is getting great at riding in the trailer.  We arrived around two in the afternoon and did a little ground work.  Boone was riding a horse at another ranch and showed up just as we were finishing.  We talked about the hackamore in general, then he looked at mine and showed me how to tie the reins to give Scratch a little more room.  It's not that Scratch has a big snout or anything, I'm using some thick horse hair reins.

Scratch was energized by the new location.  The arena had water troughs on the outside he could see.  There were trees and cones and halters along the fence.  He was really sensitive and when he's like this he just wants to move.  I let him.  We trotted around the arena.  The sand footing slowed him a bit, but he finally broke into a lope and kicked up a bit.  As we went along, Boone would call out instructions or give me his take on what and how I was doing.

All the years of using the snaffle have created a set of muscle memory that doesn't really work with the hackamore.  I need to keep my reins shorter while loping.  When Scratch is in a circle and doing well it's important to not micromanage him.  Wait for the mistake, then correct it, instead of correcting the mistake he is about to make.  One other tendency I have is to keep my reins at a fixed length.  I need to be constantly adjusting them for the situation I'm in, especially during the learning process.

Boone also talked about keeping the horse's front end up and light.  "In order for him to change directions quickly he will have to move off his back end.  That's where his weight needs to be to pivot,"  Boone told me.

We did get a few compliments.  Boone likes the build of Scratch.  He is stout and has a wide base.  We showed him our sidepass and stop.  The stop is definitely the more impressive of the two.  Scratch really gets his back end under him.  The back up is coming along.

The philosophy of the hackamore is to keep the horse in balance.  To get him to work with you because it is easy for him to do so.  I was able to learn a lot in the couple of hours we rode together.  Now, I just have to put it to practice.  Scratch has been working hard the last three weeks.  After a long day in the trailer and working in the arena, I'm giving him a couple of days off to recuperate.  It will be interesting to see how he handles things when we get back to work on Sunday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Good Days are Starting to Pile Up

Making Progress

A little more than a week ago we visited trainer and friend Matt Sheridan in Tehachapi.  Matt is an all around good hand and very knowledgeable in the hackamore.  I was getting frustrated with the hackamore and considering just using my snaffle.  It seemed I just could not get control of Scratch with the hackamore.

Matt walked me through some of the techniques. Bumping instead of pulling and using my legs more were great suggestions.  He told me I needed to release quicker too.

One other excellent suggestion was to ride Scratch in the halter.  "Tie the reins like you would the hackamore, don't worry if they are straight, and just see what happens.", he said.

On the first ride I put him through some basic exercises.  I was much more comfortable using the halter.  He seemed more comfortable in it too.  Then asked him to lope.  He needed a bit of encouragement, but off we went.  What a grand feeling!  We loped around the medium arena and when I asked for the whoa he set his back feet under him and stopped on a dime.

And, there was another plus since my last post.  We have access to two arenas.  Both places were very nice to let me bring Scratch in, but there were things in each one.  One was an old roping arena and had the chute and boxes.  The other had a bunch of obstacles.  Now we'll get to obstacles soon enough, but when Scratch gets going, I did not want to worry about him running into something.  I talked to Helen McKee at our local Rancho Rio Stables and she loved that I was participating in the VHTC.  She's letting me use the round pens and arenas.  The are very nice.  A variety of sizes and we get to practice with a lot of other horses around.  I shot some video today too.  I am getting ready to edit it and hope to have something posted soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

We are Moving Along

It has been a hectic couple of weeks.  Not only with Scratch, but just around our place.  July is usually when we get our hay in for the year.  This was made more complicated by the presence of Scratch in two ways.  First, we had to secure more hay for a third hungry, hard-working horse.  Secondly, we store the hay at the back of our property and we now had a round-pen and Scratch's pen right in the middle.  But, we got the job done.

We did shoot video of Scratch's 6th ride and I finally got it edited:

 It hasn't all been peaches and creme.  I took Scratch out to an nearby arena and while he was tied there were several scary goings on.  He pulled back, jumped forward and scraped his head pretty darn good.  He'll have another Scratch to add to his collection.

Loping continues to evade us.  He trots easily enough, but no desire to lope.  We'll continue to push ahead.  The hackamore remains a challenge for me.  I am getting some instruction on its use from a local, knowledgeable trainer, Matt Sheridan, but the techniques are challenging.  Once again, we just keep pushing on.  It will come.