Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rack on!

My horse was glad to see me today! She perked up her ears (normal) and walked all the way over to the gate (not normal!) Dixie is not a snuggly cuddly pocket pony, so just having her walk to meet me at the gate is a HUGE breakthrough, and it made me so happy all day.

5.86 miles in 1:53. That includes our long walk-and-stop-to-stare warmup - it's less pitiful as 4.5 miles in 1:13. It wasn't really the ride I planned on, but I think it was the ride she needed.

I wanted to ride out to the Road to Nowhere, then cut up to Sky Canyon and do some road work. The Road to Nowhere is a real road that's not a real road. The Mines trail crosses it, and it runs about .7 mile from a cul-de-sac to Sky Canyon, but it's blocked off at SC with a chain between two posts. It's a perfectly nice normal gravel road, for a subdivision that never got sold. Every so often there's a short post in the ground with a numbered letter, I guess showing where Lot #Whatever is. Nobody uses it for anything, so it hasn't been plowed and it's still covered with a couple inches of mostly-virgin snow. Pretty nice footing right now. Interestingly, it predates Google's sat maps of the area, and it's not listed on road maps.

When we got down to the Road to Nowhere, Dixie was pretty wired, so I let her rack up to Sky Canyon, about a quarter of a mile. Then we turned and I asked her to walk to the cul-de-sac end, but she thought that was a horrible and unreasonable request and kept breaking into a rack. Every time she'd break out of the walk, I'd circle her, she'd slow back to a walk, and we'd walk in one or two big circles, then continue on our way. Sometimes we'd go 20 feet, sometimes we'd go 5 feet before she tried to take off again. I just kept at it, and eventually she figured it out and we walked at a good clip down to the end. The gravel cul-de-sac, on the side of a hill, is the closest thing we've got to a dressage arena, so that's where we're going to work on bending nicely.

You know how horses are affected by an invisible black hole centered over their barn, so they always want to lurch toward the barn and balk on the part of the circle away from it? That's what I worked on today. I'm left-handed, so I tend to make left turns whenever I'm circling her, and it really shows. She figured out what I wanted and made some surprisingly nice counterclockwise 20 meter circles, but clockwise? Terrible. She really can't bend at all to the right. Ugh. We kept at it til I got a couple of nice half-circles, then we quit.

We headed back down the R2N to the intersection with Sky Canyon, then went down into a little wash and back up a trail that would lead us to home. Once we got up the hill onto the flat sand trail, I asked her for a rack and just let her rack on as far as she could. I've done this once before with the GPS, and she racked for .16 miles before she slowed to a walk - and that day she was pretty fresh. Today, after all that previous work, she went all the way from the canyon to the turn for the trail leading home, .28 miles! That's decent improvement, I think.

A couple of times today she'd offer a trot, but it was that super-bouncy Big Trot, and when I'd post it she'd break up to a canter. I know it's because my weight is shifting off her back, but I'm not sure how to deal with it. She'd trot, I'd post, she'd canter, I'd sit back down and half-halt her, and she'd rack. Gaited horses are even more of a mystery than w/t/c horses.

Today I offered her barely-soaked beet pulp with delicious alfalfa leaves mixed in. Obviously I was trying to poison her. I put a little more alfalfa on top, and she delicately nibbled off the dry hay and tossed her head in a fury when she'd get wet nasty beet pulp in her mouth. I suppose I will break down and buy some bran for her. Silly spoiled horse! Eventually I put it in the feeder in the pasture, in the hopes that another horse will eat some and she'll get mad and eat it just to get revenge on the other horse. It's not poison, really it's not!


  1. When I was a kid, I rode several gaited horses, and I remember that wonderful feeling of a good fast rack! Sounds like you had a great ride!

  2. Haha! Dixie sounds like my mare! My girl is sooo not a cuddly horse! Usually when she sees me she has this look of "feed me and go away!"

    Ah mares, they are just so wonderful!

  3. try shredding a carrot or two into the beetpulp. my horses think that is the Very Best Thing!

  4. How dare you feed her beet pulp!! LOL

    I've neve ridden a gaited horse before... maybe one day!

  5. HAHA Nasty Beet Pulp eh! Wa will take hers and run with it!
    Be careful with the bran...many vets don't subscribe to it anymore it binds up and may cause colic.
    Too funny aobut her walking to you..yea..I always think.."what's with you"? when Wa does this too...her norm is to watch me walk up to her and she really gets a kick outa when I do the natural horse walking ziggy- her all the more time to stand there!
    Well, keep up the good work!

    WOW.Your rack sounds fabulious!!!

  6. Hey, Funder. Great post! Just in case she gets sour to the circling, here's another thing that works awesome for me when my horses are trying to hurry home. Instead of circling, as soon as they start to get that head up and hollow that back, we turn around and walk back the way we came about 100 feet. Then we turn back around. Head up, turn around and walk back. It really works well. As does turning their ass in the direction of home and making them back up until they calm down. That one works on my husband's horse tremendously.

    Also, to change that trot, stretch your bit and ask her to flex at the pole. She will rebalance and fall out of the trot back into the rack or some other smooth gait.

    Gaited horses really challenge us when it comes to gaits. My friend's endurance TWH gelding is built like a draft cross and gets mistaken for one. He will flat/run walk on the flat, flat walk uphill, fox trot downhill, and will do a very smooth, very well balanced "rackalope." It's like a four-beat canter or a rack that has one leg support all the time. He will actually pop himself up in the front end like a canter but will be racking along. We were worried it was back issues, but it's not--it's very natural for him.

    Apache, my mare, does what I call the Apache Scramble. It might be a single-foot--I don't know. I watched her do it the other day in the turnout and it looks like a lateral fox trot. It is SO weird, but it's smooth and fast!

    Hey,we're both riding spotted gaited mares now with mental issues! We're so lucky!

  7. A gaited horse is definately on my list of "horses to buy someday". :-)

    I've also used the method of turning away from the barn when the horse starts getting his head up and it seems to work pretty well.

    One other method I've used is to go for a ride, return to the barn, tie the horse at the rail, wait about 10-20 minutes and then go for another ride. After awhile, the horse begins to figure that returning to the barn doesn't necessarily mean they're "off the clock".

  8. Oh yes, the magnetic pull of the barn. It's related to the "magic corner", a distinct point on a ride (even a week-long ride) where a horse realises that it has turned for home.


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