Monthly Archives: June 2016

A New Face Among the Horses

Once upon a time my neighbor, of Czech descent, and a rancher, called me on the telephone to offer a horse. Like I needed another one! It turns out he’d been given a cutting horse as gift, but since he didn’t ride he didn’t know what to do with it. He worked his cows with a sack of range cubes. I must have said yes, for in the dark that night his stock trailer with lights blazing rattled into my yard, and he deposited a sorrel gelding in my corral.
The next morning I walked out with my cup of coffee to see the plainest little quarter horse imaginable. He didn’t have a speck of white, his mane was short and thin, and he was munching hay like he didn’t have a care in the world. Well, I saddled him up and tested him in the round pen, and to my delight he was nicely broke to ride! So I trotted out to the corral where I had a few cows and calves penned to see if he’d “look at the cow.” I walked him into the herd and out cut out a dry heifer and dropped The reins on his neck. His ears pinned to the his neck so he looked like a snake, he dropped down in front, and mirrored every move of the heifer. It was as if they were connected by a wire. I was startled, and almost fell off, mostly from giggling. When I recovered my composure, I rubbed his neck and told him “my friend, we’re going to get along fine, and I’m going to give you special name, since you sure had that heifer in your sights I’m going to call you “radar!”

The Vernerable Quesadilla!!

Do you ever have one of those days when you want something to eat but you don’t know exactly what it is? You’re hungry for comfort food, but you don’t want to take the time required to really cook? Well, in Texas that’s when we resort to making quesadillas. (ée.yahs) they’re pretty quick to make and only have two ingredients, tortillas and cheese (queso). That’s unless you want to get more elaborate, and embellish the simple fair, then your imagination’s the limit! But it’s hard to beat toasted gooey cheese sandwiched between two almost charred tortillas!
The way we make them is to grease up a skillet (Pam works!) And lay down a tortilla (and by the way corn tortillas work just fine too and they are gluten-free!) And over medium heat pile grated cheese, cheddar, Swiss whatever, on the tortilla, drop a few sliced pickled jalapeños on the cheese, and cover with another tortilla. When the cheese starts to melt, flip the whole apparatus over and continue to fry until both tortillas are toasted and The cheese starts to ooze out the sides. Let it cool a little while, then slice it into wedges with the pizza cutter. Now there’s finger food – and it goes real well with a cold beer!

On the Bit or On the Aids 

Sometimes when speaking of collection we refer to a horse being “on the bit.” This is meant to describe a horse who accepts good contact with the bit, making an elastic contact from his jaw through the reins to the rider’s hands. This is good if one other element is in place. That would be the impulsive force. That force comes from a combination of a horse’s natural desire to move forward enhanced by forward urging of the seat bones and legs. Once our friend Baucher described this as being “behind the bit and, and in front of the legs.” later authors described the condition as being “on the aids.” This situation puts the horse in the arched position with the connected tension of a strung bow, able to respond instantly and in balance to the rider’s wish.
The mechanics of this dance is to teach a horse to go forward from light seat and leg cues, not kicking, but a “whisper of the boot,” then receiving the surge with soft rein hands, and spongeing the reins for a half second, then releasing. This suggests to the horse rather than forcing him, to reach up under his body with his hind legs, and elevate the withers rather than the neck. By repeating this procedure we reward the horse with short periods of “liberty on parole.” This strategy prevents resistance and stiffening of the horse;s body, if you’re careful, and rhythmical. Perhaps a better way to express collection, is “awakened and put together,” which in French is “Rassemblé”

Collection and The Ischial Tuberosities

I’ve spent a lot of time these past decades trying to understand the term “collection” in regards to riding saddle horses. Early on I thought it meant to pull back on the reins and “compress” the horse. The mere use of the word “collect” implies to me the use of the hands, like collecting eggs in a basket. Well, once I finally “got” that contact with the rains should be soft, and independent of my balanced seat, I changed my focus from my hands to my pelvic bones. It turns out that “seat” is also a bit of a misnomer. You actually balance on to little bony protrusions called the ischial tuberosities which are considerably forward of your actual seat or butt, a.k.a.the gluteus muscle. Using these bones we can direct the movement of the horse kind of like we would move a beachball if we were sitting upon it. If I sit to the left, the ball will try to get out from under me to the right, and vice a versa. The horse responds much the same way as the beachball. Likewise if I want my horse to move forward I apply pressure on the back of my seat bones, and if I want to move him backward, or slow down if he’s too forward I imagine lifting my tail out of the saddle, rolling my tummy down toward the saddle. This must not involve leaning forward with the upper body. Like salsa dancing, the torso must remain upright while the pelvis moves. If I want to urge him forward I use my pelvis to push him, then when he surges forward, I receive the movement in my soft receiving hands. If I sponge the reins for a second and then soften, he will begin to carry his weight, balanced a little more on the hind legs – self carriage!