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From Maine to Texas and back

Published: 3/29/2009
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Kim's Excellent Adventure

Follow the travels and tribulations of this 40-something Mainer as she treks to Texas with her young horses, Tabasco and Shinan!

Scroll down for most recent entries!

Trailer Ready
The other day, I watched my friend, Kim, fill up the horse trailer. In the process, she was fulfilling one of her dreams.

After lengthy preparations, many distractions and hurdles, she was finally headed off to Texas!
Here she stands in front of a packed-to-the-gills trailer with traveling companion, Kathy.
Last fall, Kim attended a Martin Black clinic sponsored by Terry McClare at Footloose Farm in Brownfield, Maine. After several days of hard work, she came away with an invitation to join them at their ranch in Sanger, Texas.
Here she stands with Kathy, another Black attendee from, New Hampshire.
Kim took her 5-year old gelding, Tabasco, and her 3-year old filly, Shinan. They will all attend the Western Horseman Special Session for three weeks.

Kim shares her thoughts from Sanger, TX:

Day One:

Things are going well. Tobasco has been good, but REALLY lazy!! He hasn't offered to buck or rear. We worked some cows and he was really good with them....

Hillary, a young bronc rider here, rode Shinan this morning - she was really good (made a liar out of me). I said to Martin, "Hillary did a really good job with Shinan."
Do you know what his reply was? Of course you don't, so I will tell you...He said it was the timing: three days in a trailer. Not the answer I was looking for. But he knows Shinan and her energy. So we will see as the week goes along how she does.
We hope to be riding her out in the field before I leave. Jen Black (Martin’s wife) wished I could’ve brought Indy (Kim's older mare), too, since she needs a lot of the things that we are I will have to try and remember EVERYTHING!

Day Two:

I feel like a beginner here! I have so much to learn!
We are not allowed to ride with contact of any kind with our reins on our finished horses. That is a big NO - NO!!
Tobasco is easy to do that with. However, they have put me on several other horses and I have had to learn to let the horse make a mistake then correct, but NEVER to have contact with their mouth! Makes sense though….

Shinan is doing AWESOME!! We will be taking here to a big ranch a few miles away and riding out in 115 acre pasture with cows etc. This is where the encourage us to let them go and go…then bring them back, and go again! Should be interesting...

It is chilly here in the morning, but by late afternoon and evening it is really nice, upper 70's and sun. Good riding weather - a lot of wind though, 40 to 50 miles an hour all the time.

Day Three:

It has been a true learning experience for me here. I am learning a lot about me and my horses, and horses, in general. I have been riding Tobasco (pictured here with Kim last summer) and a few other horses, and some colts. It is really interesting.

I have been letting Hillary work with Shinan. She was here last month for the colt starting clinic. She does a really good job. And I've enjoyed watching her.

This morning, we worked on pivoting on one particular foot, whether it be the right front, left front, or right hind, left hind. Learning the subtle differences that it takes to maneuver your body, and how much to get one movement - and to get your horse to even begin to think about going forward or backward or side-to-side... it was really interesting.
Then I worked Shinan in the round pen, asking for right eye, left eye, circling in between one panel before asking her to go on... then asking her to back up straight.
All from the ground. No halter, just body language...Fascinating! She did well. And I learned a lot!

This afternoon we worked on "stopping” - learning that you must be in a straight forward motion before you can set yourself up for a perfect stop.
It is a MUST that you have NO contact with your horses mouth while you are moving forward.
I pick the gate I want to horse to move at, then get into the same rhythm with the horse moving off your calf, setting yourself up for a nice, straight, hard stop. The key is to set them up then sit deep, say, “Whoa” (long and slow like in a yoga class - ha,ha) and lift the reins.
Then we worked on rollbacks, when to ask, how to ask etc. All very fascinating....

So much stuff to remember!!

Day Four:

Today was Hillary's last day on Shinan. She road her in 50+ mile-per-hour winds on the 115-acre ranch. They went up and down steep rocky hills, through gorges, through a herd of cattle, a wild pig came out of no where.
Shinan was awesome! She was lead horse. Imagine that ?!? She did sooo well. She trotted and loped and looked like a million bucks!

Tobasco was rotten!! Jiggy and popping up and spinnin' circles... Jen worked with Tobasco and me for over an hour on the trail - she is GREAT! I learned tons about how to position myself and work with him - when to ask for what, and how, how much and what maneuvers to get what I need.
He was good by the time we could see the barn. He, too, walked right through the cows, etc. Just amazing!!

Then I went to an indoor arena with Jen and four of her finished horses, along with another girl (and her horse) from Colorado. I got to ride her reining cow horses - AWESOME!!

Tomorrow we are going to a cutter's barn for a lesson on cutting - should be interesting!

  P.S. - Went to National Reining Horse Association Hall  of Famer Clint Haverty's barn today.....saw Gunner (NRHA Hall of Fame horse)!

Day Five:

I rode Shinan today!! I felt like a kindergartener. She was awesome - Martin helped me see that when Shinan became tense I was mirroring her, and that was a no-no! 
I needed to act as if nothing was wrong and just go with her, if she left quickly, just go with her, NO TENSENESS!  NO PICKING UP ON THE REINS. 
If I needed to turn her to slow her down, then ask for the nose, and let pulling! 
After I got adjusted, he worked with me on walk, trot, then shutting her down - after a very few minutes of that, we were off to the big cow pasture.  So here we go... Shinan and I out into the big pasture - walking and trotting - looking around, walking through cattle, over objects, weaving through gate panels...
AWESOME!!  She was great! 
After this exercise Martin asked if I was breathing...really breathing - taking deep breaths!  I was really excited about this accomplishment: 

Me on Shinan, the 4th day out - and in a cow pasture!  Where do you find that in Harpswell, Maine?

After that I rode Chewey, a finished cow horse, and he helped me learn to basics of the A pen.... fascinating!

This afternoon I rode Tobasco.... I walked him around others who were roping to get him used to the noise, then began swinging a loop myself.  He was quiet and accepting of the rope, so then we began walking with the rope, throwing the rope, working off a stationary dummy and a live dummy.  He did great! 
Some of the seasoned ropers were roping our horses legs, and Tobasco was very tolerant of this activity, so we were the moving target. 

Tobasco and I dragged the roping dummy around the arena at a walk, trot and lope for those that wanted a turn at roping the moving dummy - He was AWESOME! 
After a hot, sunny afternoon, Tobasco and I went for a relaxing walk out in the big cow pasture, moving a cow here and there enjoying the beautiful scenery!

That was today's adventures!

Day Six

Things are going well.  We are busy, busy, busy! 
Saturday, we had a lesson in properly backing our horses. I was on Shinan. She had never backed before, so Martin asked if he could use her to demonstrate teaching a correct back-up!! 
I wish I had pictures of him riding Shinan....BUMMER! 
However, she has a wonderful "correct" back-up!  Nice and light.

Then we worked on some roping. Tobasco got used to a swinging rope - yeah!  I roped off him for a while. Then the more advanced riders wanted a moving target to rope - and Tobasco was okay with being the target  - so they would call out front or hind legs and rope that one as I would trot or lope by. He did really well with that - and it was super good for him!

Day Seven

Sunday was busy with errands and here and there.

Day Eight

Yesterday we went to some local tack shops. Then riding again in the afternoon.
We visited stallion barns - Peptoboonsmal, Smart Little Lena - Gunner - Shining Spark etc.
Later in the afternoon  I took Shinan out into the big open arena. I galloped with her, then asked for lope, then the trot, then the walk, the stop and back-up!! 
WE did it!! 
Then again - gallop, lope, trot, walk, stop and back-up!  It was sooooooooo cool and there were about seven other horses running all over the place at different speeds, weaving in and out of each other. It was really awesome!!

Day Nine

This morning we went to a cutting futurity. Then we rode again all afternoon - cow work on Tobasco. Then I worked with Shinan on transitions and leads - Can you believe it? 
In 10 days, Shinan has gone from four days on her (last October) to walk, trot, lope, gallop, stop, back-up and working on her leads!!   Tomorrow, we are supposed to be going on a long trail ride again. I will be taking her.

Day Ten

  I am sure you've heard about the brush fires going on down here -- they are to the East of us - very smokey here last night.

I rode a colt by the name of Flower, a standardbred. She belongs to Jack Brainard. He has Martin start a lot of his colts.  I also met Jack Brainard and had lunch with him.  I was glad that I didn't know that this was his colt until after I had finished riding her - I would have been nervous!  She was a high-energy colt, with lots of go, and little whoa! - Great experience. 
In the afternoon I worked with Tobasco and Martin was honing our roping skills, or at least teaching us the necessary basics for the branding that we would be going to on Thursday.  I learned how to heal, dally, and drag. We worked on this ALL afternoon.

Day Eleven

"Get you rope horse" was the order of the day from Martin.  I went and retrieved Tobasco, traded my stiff, too short rope in for a 50-footer, one of Martin's well-used ropes. 
We loaded up the horses and off to the branding. Once we arrived we were split up into three groups: one to go around the perimeter to the right, one to the left, and some down the center to begin pushing the cows to the branding area - I felt like we were in Bonanza movie!
 It took about an hour to gather the cattle - then the fun began - we were allowed 5 shots each.
Tobasco and I were the first to go, we missed the first and second shot, but got the third. When the calf squealed, Tobasco wanted OUT as fast as possible.
We were pretty close to a near disaster - a quick spur and a sharp turn saved us on that one! 
We missed the next two, but Tobasco was quieter and more willing to track the bouncing cow so that I could get a shot.
When our turn to rope came up again we landed the first two shots!  Yahoo
Then calves were sneaking through the fence.  Martin asked me to "plug" the hole with my horse.  After we had roped all the calves, we herded the cattle back across the river and a large field into another pasture - what an exciting day! 
Things were so busy and so fast I wasn't able to even think about holding my camera!!  Bummer!

Day Twelve

We loaded up two horses each to go for a long trail ride - I took Tobasco and Shinan.
Tobasco was full of energy - I couldn't believe it after we had worked so hard yesterday.
He wanted to be lead horse, I kept trying to keep him back a little bit.
Finally, Jen said, "Kim, just let him go" - and go he did - passed all the horses and kept right on going!  We made a wrong turn and had to double back - when we caught up to everyone he was still full of go - so Jen sent me up on the ridge - so off we went out on our own in this beautiful country loping up a hill.
We loped for a long while. When he got tired, I asked him for more.
By the time we met up with the others, he was content to walk wherever he was in the line of horses and didn't feel the need to be the lead horse any longer! 
Back to the corrals where I switched my gear from Tobasco to Shinan - we all left on trail, Shinan was great!  She was nice and quiet - doing well - she too likes the lead position.  Martin sent Tammy and I off on our own - then we met up with Jen - and she sent Shinan and I out on our own to see how we would do  Shinan did great!  She wasn't bothered or worried and went where ever I asked.  She is a great horse!

Who knows what tomorrow holds!

Day Thirteen

We went on an extreme cowboy trail ride today.  I felt like I was in the movie - A Man from Snowy River!  The ride was crazy nuts!  loping down steep ravines, then back up areas I wouldn't want to hike on foot!  The first ride I rode Tobasco and he was awesome - kept up and he was like the energizer bunny go, go , go and then go some more!
 He was fantastic!  
The second ride I was on Shinan, and we weren't ready for the fast crazy pace of the ride - even though she thought she ought to take after the horses that went galloping off. Martin saved the day helping me to get her on the right trail ride.......the slow poke train. 
We rode with them for a while, then went off on our own looking for a happy medium of crazy fast and ol' foggy slow......
She was really good - we went down some steep terrain, and up the side of steep hills - she did whatever I asked, she was beat when we returned back to the holding pen.

Day Fourteen

We sorted about 250 cattle - young cows  to the wheat field.
Then we broke out some of the older cows to leave in the grass pasture. 
The last 100, we herded two miles down the road to the summer grazing pasture. 
I used Chewey (one of Martin's horses) for the sorting - then for the herding I used Shinan - she did AWESOME! 
I couldn't believe that Shinan and I were herding cattle - and I was swinging my rope off her - I have far surpassed my original goal of being able to leave here riding her safely!
Day Fifteen

Today was hackamore day!  Learning how to use a bosal - I opted to use Shinan so that we could learn together - WOW she sure looks beautiful in a bosal, and seemed to enjoy it a lot - it was really great. 
I also rode a couple of two rein horses and learned how to hold the reins and move my hands and fingers to get the feel of the horse - that took some coordination! 
I have no idea how Martin and Jen can ride in a two rein, and throw a rope and catch cattle!
This afternoon we worked on more roping - Tobasco is  my rope horse, so I practiced roping with him for 4 hours today - to get ready for another branding on Friday! 
Yipee!  Early mornings and late nights - I am beat - but in a good way...

Tomorrow we are headed to watch a cutter - should be interesting - then possibly some cow work in the afternoon.. I am not ready to return to Maine - I need a couple more months of this........I am just started to get to the point where I feel like I can really learn........and develop a muscle memory so that it just becomes natural to ride this way!

From the Road:

I am staying at a wonderful B&B in Carlisle, PA - It is beautiful here!
The horses have a great turn out, with a run-in shed... I think that they're thinking they got off the trailer (after a 15-hour ride) and went to heaven!!
I wanted to send the happenings of the last three days at Martin's clinic- so here they are:

Day Sixteen

We went with Jen and two of her horses, Hickory and Rolly, to a famous cutting trainer - Doug Jordan. It was quite a trip. We had to take a detour due to a big traffic accident - we were treated to a "Real Estate" tour as Jen called it.
Once we arrived and unloaded I was so impressed with Doug Jordan working with Jen - helping her with how to sit properly to move a horse for cutting.
The first exercise was to get her horse to read the cow without her help - so that she just followed her horse, keeping her legs and feet out of the way from his shoulders, making sure to keep her legs soft.
The absorption of the riding should be between the abdomen and the knees, not from the knees down. Very interesting!
Doug rode his horse on a drooping, long rein, never picked them up. His horse moved like a ballerina around that cutting pen! Beautiful!!!
It was late when we returned back to the ranch - so I opted for a nice, short ride on Shinan - I saddled her up and off we went to the big cow pasture. We rode around it a couple of times. She was quiet and willing. I have far surpassed my goals with her!

Day Seventeen

Pouring rain here today. The branding has been called off - BUMMER!!!
Martin had Kathy and I retrieved Shinan and Cando for a trailer loading and unloading lesson. What a show Shinan put on!
She was determined not to be "driven" into the trailer. At one point she pulled on Martin. He tied her to the center beam of the trailer to prevent her from exiting quickly again.
The second time, she left with such force she fell over sideways, landing in the sitting position.
The third time, she pulled and was caught with "whiplash."
Then, she decided getting into the trailer might be her safe-haven, so in she went.
The backing out was another story.
She tried everything she could think of to get out of the trailer without having to back out.
Martin worked with her for a long while.
He demonstrated and talked to us about how whenever she would just try, he would leave her alone. That meant if she even leaned backwards he would offer her relief.
He explained that we should do this with everything we do with our horses:
Acknowledge the slightest try and leave it alone. Only ask again when the try goes away.

Needless to say Shinan is now loading and backing off the trailer like a pro!
After this lesson we headed into the bunk house and learned how to braid leather for bosal hangers - WAY COOL!
Martin also helped me finish off the mecates that I had braided - teaching me how to braid a turksnot in the end of the mecate - what an art!

This afternoon we worked on our roping again with cows in the big indoor arena - Tobasco and I heeled another big cow!
Martin needed to school his horse while we were holding the cow. It seemed like we were dallying onto that cow for a loooonnnggg time!
The girls got to laughing at the fact that I wasn't heavy enough to keep the back of my saddle in place and that they could have put a tent between Tobasco's back and the underneath of my saddle!
So I decided to try and adjust my weight. Even with the back cinch tight, I couldn't sit that saddle back on his back while we were dallied to the big cow.
We all got a big laugh!

Day Eighteen

Today, we had a lesson with Jack Brainard. What a treat!
Since Tobasco left at midnight for home, my horse of the day was Shinan. We trailered over to Tim McQuay's stables, home of Colonel's Smoking Gun.
Jack worked with us on "refining our horses." We worked on turning on the forehand, turning on the haunches.
We learned how to two-track and the half-pass.
Shinan picked up on all of this quite easily and looked great doing it!
Jack gave us a beautiful demonstration with his 5 year old horse he has been preparing for Cowboy Dressage: loping in place, loping while sidepassing, changing leads on every other stride at the lope, piaffe......It was beautiful.
He then asked if we would like to work on loping. We each took a turn. When it came time for Shinan and me, we headed around the large arena at a trot. The first half at a nice jog, then the second full lap a long trot. At the corner, Jack asked me to put her into the lope. I had to really ask and she gave it to me, then exploded! Bronc bucking!! YIKES!
I was able to stay on and regain control. Jack smiled and said "How many rides do you have on her?" I said about 10 - he grinned and said "Oh, she is not ready for loping."
As the next girl began the circle for lope, Jack turned to me with a big smile and grin and said "She was really mad."

So that is how I ended the clinic.
When I asked Martin to ride her, he simply said: you know now where not to push her until she tells you that she is ready, like maybe 10-12 laps of long trotting instead of one and half.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon packing the trailer.

This has been an incredible experience, and I am still not ready to return to Maine...
Here are Kim and Shinan setting out for the trail ride in New Hampshire, almost home!

View Reader Comments:

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4/3/2009 cindy
GO KIM! All is well here
4/3/2009 Candy
Keep up the good work Kim!!!
4/4/2009 Carol
Sounds exciting, fascinating and exhilerating. Am sure I'll hear lots more alllll summer long as we as we mow and rake and weed together.... looking forward to the stories.
4/6/2009 Annie
I'm so proud of you Kimmie!! :) :) Can't wait to see the pictures!
4/12/2009 Nora
Kim you're a inspiration. To have a dream and follow it. To set golds and achieve them and not let them faid away. (Plus your OCD helps - LOL). I cannot wait to see you riding Shinan. But you're killing us with no pictures :-) Big hug. Love, Nora
4/13/2009 Carol
Awesome accounts of your packed-full-to-the-brim days. Gave Indiana a pat today. Phantom was completely unaware of the possibility for some attention since she was sound asleep, lying next to Indy. A lazy twosome..awaiting your return.
4/14/2009 Cindy
Keep up the great work, and most of all enjoy each and every second of it.

"Anyone who is concerned about his dignity would be well advised to keep away from horses." - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh