Monthly Archives: January 2016

Only 2 More Workdays Till Monday!

Like a friend of mine once said, “Thank God it’s Friday…only two more working days ‘till Monday!”

In the livestock business, and particularly in the horse training business, that’s certainly the way it seems.  Rex Peterson, the famous Hollywood horse trainer recounts the first day he signed on to work for the legendary Glenn Randall.  He was told he would be at the barn every day at seven AM.  “Every Day?” he asked.  Mr. Randall answered, “Them horses don’t know one day from another!”

Rex tells stories about amazing feats of training, but adds that one of the reasons for the “miracles” was the method of working every horse multiple times per day, often six lessons a day, every day!  No lesson was long, just to the point of “learning.”  Then after two weeks, a horse would have had eighty four lessons.

It’s the difference between riding and training.

The Crust

Okay, so I promised pie crust!

The hallmark of a chuckwagon cook is to be “fast and nasty.”  Don’t take the word ‘nasty’ literally.  Nowhere is fast more important than in pie crust and biscuit making.  

All the ingredients must be cold, and must be kept cold until they go into the oven (dutch or kitchen).  My mom had cold hands (warm heart!) so she worked the shortening with her fingertips.  My mom-in-law and Aunt Betty used a pair of butter knives, and Carlos’ grandma used a dough cutter, so their hands wouldn’t warm up the shortening.  You see, the thing that makes the dough flaky is the thin small plates of unmelted shortening that evaporate and leave air pockets between the cooked dough.  

To make one pie crust, heat the oven to 400°F (that’s at least 10 coals under and 14 over the lid on a dutch oven).  Then pour a cup of cold unsifted flour in the cold crock and add a teaspoon of sugar and a fourth of a teaspoon of salt and stir them together.  Mix in a third of a cup of shortening (cold Crisco or cold leaf lard) and cut it in, until no piece of dough is larger than a pea.  It’ll look a little like cornmeal.  Then add about 3½ to 4 tablespoons of ice water and cut it in with a fork, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Dump the dough ball out onto a lightly floured board, mash it down and flip it.  Then use a rolling pin to flatten it out to a disc larger than your pie pan (probably about 13 inches).

Roll the dough up on the rolling pin, and unroll it onto the pie pan, and work it down into the pan.  Cut off the extra, and pinch the rim (you can fold some of the overlap over the edge to add thickness).  The pinching makes the dough stick to the pan, and will become your trademark.  Mom used a thumb and two fingers.  Bake it at 350°F (turn the oven down from 400°F) for 15-20 minutes, until it turns golden and the smell is good, not burned!

Put whatever you want in it.  Some things bake in the crust, others get put in an already baked crust.  It depends.  Remember, keep it cold and work fast!

Epaule en Dedans

Here we are in the manége.  It’s still and quiet and cool in here.  Despite the blustery snowy weather outside in the northern French town, you can hear a horse breathing, and muffled hoofbeats, as a single gray stallion trots by.  The rider sits very erect, his pelvis seemingly glued to the saddle, tilted very forward, while shoulders are well back in nearly military position.  The rider’s torso absorbs the movement of his hips so that his hands are steady.  

As we watch, the rider turns his chest somewhat toward the center of the school, as he slides his inside leg backward on the horse’s ribcage.  He gently lifts the outside rein just a little, sponging the rein in time with the movement of the horses legs.  The horse begins to travel on a slight diagonal, such that his inside hind leg comes up and forward under his body, tracking into line with the outside foreleg.  The horse’s tempo slows, he appears to crouch slightly for two strides and the rider releases, and sends him forward, saying “ahh!”  This is epaule en dedans or shoulders in.  Look for it on youTube.  And spend the rest of your life trying to understand it!

One Thing, Shoulders-In

Balance and signal.  To us, this is the essential formula for good effective equitation.  The horse needs to develop the thought and muscular conditioning to hold himself and his rider in a balanced position while in motion, so that he can move in any direction when asked, and with the least signal from his rider.  Teaching this to the horse can be a long process.  Any single lesson may be fairly simple, but there are a thousand individual lessons.

Since the horse naturally carries sixty percent of his weight on the forehand, balancing requires shifting weight off the shoulders, onto the hind quarters.  Then the hindquarters, while taking unaccustomed weight, must develop the ability to move with grace and strength.

This is accomplished mostly with slow movement at the walk.  First, we ask for a shoulder’s-in movement, unmounted, in hand.  Then we repeat the lesson mounted.  As our revered master, Nuno Oliveira said, “the shoulders in is the aspirin of equitation, I do nothing before I do shoulders-in!!”

Take it slow, and reward the slightest attempt, and keep lessons short.  Like curly in “City Slickers” says — “One Thing!”