Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Horse Show Afterthoughts

Saturday morning against my better judgment, I attended a show put on by the Capitol Area Quarter Horse Association (CAQHA). The reason I say against my better judgment was because it was bitterly cold, and I'd already been sick for a week. However, I'm happy to report that attending the show was definitely worthwhile, even if my butt was completely numb by the time I left.

I've had a tentative plan for a while to take Halo to one of the CAQHA's open shows as her first show. It seems like it would be a low stress environment for me, and they are usually put on at the Travis County Expo Center, which is not too far away from the barn where I have Halo boarded. Sounds like a great plan, right? Except for the part where I haven't shown since about 10 years ago, and have no clue what the stock horse world is even like other than what I've read on teh internets. Brilliant.

Going to the CAQHA show put my mind at ease. The showmanship pattern was a lot easier than what I remember dealing with when I showed in 4-H, which was extremely comforting, though the 19 & over class was quite large. There's only so much I can teach Halo by August, and even then it will probably be nowhere near perfect. Halter for the 2- to 4-year old mares was a small class of 4 people. I expect the summer shows will have bigger clasees, but probably not as many as the aged mares (there were 16 entries). Sadly, there was one other two-year old in the class and she placed at the bottom of the heap. It was easy to see why though - it's hard for a filly that young to compete against older mares, especially in January. Hopefully through spring and summer Halo will continue to fill out and grow. I don't expect her to win anything, but I still plan to put a lot of effort into showing her properly.

Another point of concern for me has been what to wear. I know I have to get a proper western show halter for Halo, which I'm dreading, because they are very expensive. Also, there's these ridiculous sequin and crystal covered jackets that women wear for showmanship. Men don't seem to have to sparkle, so I'm half wondering if I could show in drag...but I doubt that would go over very well either. So I think I'm going to try to look for an unobtrusive jacket on ebay or something. That way I won't spend too much money, and hopefully won't feel too silly. I know I won't show as well if I feel completely awkward and weird in what I'm wearing.

I didn't stay for the riding classes at this show since obviously I won't be showing Halo under saddle until 2010. I just want to limit my focus to things I can work on in the present, like showmanship and halter. I wish I had more control over her feed so that I could get her fit up a bit more, but she is happy and well-fed, so I'm going to do my best not to obsess about it. I'll throw the obsessive energy into something more worthwhile - like washing her tail!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Heavenly Gift for Halo!

She doesn't know it, but this week provided an amazing gift to my little yellow filly. Monday night on a whim I tried again to call her breeder, whom I had a difficult time getting a hold of last year. Miraculously, he picked up the phone and didn't hang up on me once I reassured him that I was not a telemarketer. Once I explained that I was looking for information on a horse he bred, he was more than happy to help.

The very next day I received by fax copies of registration papers for Halo's dam, sire, and grand-dam. I was in elated shock - I previously had no information about Halo's dam at all other than that she was a paint. Now I know that her registered name is Jo Palafox, and her sire is Magnolia Pere, who has sired APHA champions. Halo's grand-dam is Leo linebred, and a nice looking mare. After I found out about all this, the people I bought Halo from were kind enough to send over a couple of photos of Go Jo Maudie (the grand-dam). Here she is - what a tank of a mare!

Halo's sire is also stocky and well-muscled, though I was told that he is not a very tall horse. Halo has a similar set to her ears when they are pricked. I'm not exactly sure what color he is; his registration papers say buckskin, which would explain where Halo's palomino coloring comes from, but he looks more grullo, especially with how dark his face is. Sooty buckskins can be dark, but not usually quite this dark from what I know.

And here is a picture of her grandsire on her dam's side, Magnolia Pere. His most notable offspring is probably Impressive Proposal, an APHA world champion. Impressive Proposal's accomplishments include ROMs in Halter and Western Pleasure, Superior in Hunter Under Saddle, and points in Trail and Green Working Hunter.

And a final picture of her grandsire on her sire's side, Drift's Chip.

When I bought Halo, I was taking a chance on an unknown, but I didn't mind. I wanted a project horse, and the details were less important than the nature of the horse herself. However, it is exciting to learn that she has good bloodlines, and all this information helps me predict more about what Halo is going to wind up looking like, and what she will best be suited for. I think plenty remains to be seen depending on how she develops through this summer. She's turning into a very pretty filly under all the fuzz, and now I am beginning to understand why. I am not only appreciative that I now know her bloodlines, but I'm also thrilled and grateful that she has some lovely animals in her lineage. Her full pedigree is available online here:

Brigadiers Gold Halo (registered name pending)

 I mailed off her registration papers to her breeder on Tuesday and received them back in the mail very promptly. Now it's just time to take pictures and get them sent off to the APHA. I'm thinking about waiting until the winter fuzz starts to shed out...right now it's hard to tell the difference between my almost APHA filly and a woolly yellow yak!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Big Day (Night) For Halo

On Wednesday it was very quiet at the barn; only one of the other boarders was around, and she was out hand walking her mare. I like these quiet times because they help me focus more closely on what I'm doing with Halo without the distractions caused by other horses and riders passing by. And there is something about how still and silent it is at night that I find very comforting. It's a good thing we have a lit arena and round pen though!

Halo was a dirty mess after the rain we had on Tuesday (so much for last weekend's mane & tail bath). I got her cleaned up and took her up to the arena after setting a few things out, one of them being my battered Crosby close contact saddle. It was time to try something new - another step on Halo's path to becoming a grown-up horse.

I free-longed her for about 15 minutes in both directions and decided to bite the bullet. I wanted to keep this training session very short, and hopefully productive. Previously I had put a bareback pad on Halo's back without buckling the girth. I also once made her carry my coat from the arena back to the hitching rail. She handled those experiences with aplomb, so I hoped for the same with a first saddling.

My close contact saddle is extremely light, and also expendable, which are the two reasons I chose it to use for this exercise. Considering my other options are a $1200 dressage saddle and an enormous hulking western show saddle I don't even have a cinch for, it was an easy decision. I left the stirrups off for now so that the only new experience would be the weight and the cinch, not anything clunking her in the sides if she took off running.

Halo snuffled the saddle curiously when I first led her up to it, and couldn't make up her mind whether or not it would make a good snack. I rattled the girth buckles at her a few times and they lay it over the base of her neck, which didn't bother her at all. Next I walked the saddle around to each side of her, flapping it around to make noise. She was attentive, but unafraid. I went ahead and slid it into place on her back. She sniffed the flaps of the saddle by bending her neck around to either side, but didn't have any reaction beyond that. I put the girth on very loosely and led her a few steps. Nothing. I really wanted to get the girth tight so that the saddle would stay on if she decided to bolt. So I walked her in circles in the round pen, stopping and tightening gently every so often. She was great!

In the end, there wasn't ever any spastic behavior, which was exactly what I hoped for. I want my first ride to be much like this first saddling was. I put it on, tightened the girth moderately, and walked her several times both directions in the pen. I decided against letting her loose, because I knew she was more likely to buck and pitch a fit. I wanted the first experience to be completely calm and relaxed. So after our few paltry laps, I led her out of the pen and back to the hitching rail where I got a couple of pictures of her looking oh so grown up! While she still looks gangly and awkward to me, I can't believe the hip she's developed in the past few months. Look at that butt!

I should add that on the way down from the arena I talked to the barn owner for a few minutes and she asked how old Halo was. I think she may have been concerned that I was doing too much with her too soon (who knows), but I explained that although riding her is still a ways off in the future, I want it to be a total non-event when it does happen. It's likely that I may not even saddle her again for a little while. There's plenty of things she can still learn on the longe line, and her main job right now is to eat and grow.

A great thing that came of the conversation is that the barn owner mentioned that she has an older horse I can ride and teach Halo to pony off of. That would be GREAT! That way Halo can get some trail experience and good exercise before she's ever ridden. I love the idea of her seeing trails first without a rider - mostly because I am a big pussy about trail riding. The whirl and bolt spook is never great, but when it happens amidst trees...blackberry bushes...stinging nettles...well, then you have an idea of what my trail riding experiences in the past have been like. Let's hope for a better future!

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Uniform Shade of Yellow

Halo and I had another longe session on Saturday afternoon. It was nearly 80 degrees out, so the poor girl worked up a bit of sweat with her winter coat. Fortunately for me, it gave me the opportunity to spend some time washing her mane and tail, which have become rather stained and nasty over the course of the winter thus far.

Longeing didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. She's learned the goals I set for her last fall when I first begain longeing her - she moves out promptly from the whip, walks and trots when asked, and whoas sharply, even without the line. However, it's time to make this more controlled. She still cuts into my circle, especially on the side away from the gate. She often pulls and tosses her head when I don't let her run off with me. Those issues need to be corrected. I would also now like to see her do quiet transitions from walk to trot and back down again while maintaining a good circle in the same direction. It's a lot to ask from her, especially as she's become bigger than ever.

On Saturday we worked first on the things she already knows and does well, but there was no free-longeing this time. It's spoiling her. It's time to get down to business, and learn to respect the line as well as my voice commands. She moved off well, but had a few moments of explosive spazziness where she leaped around and did her best to haul my arm off. Since I had merely asked her to trot, she got some tough love - loping around until she was sick of doing so. Fortunately with the warm weather it didn't take her too long to tire out. The footing is deep around the edges in the round pen, and I don't want her to injure herself zipping around in it. After that burst of energy, she settled down to work other than a few small moments of brattiness.

The most consistently bratty thing she does is toss her head and pull when we have a disagreement about the size of the circle. Like most babies, she wants to cut into my circle on one side, and pull on me on the other. Ideally, I'd like her to make a nice circle not only for the sake of control, but also because the footing is best around the perimeter of the pen. With my previous horse, I used to longe him with a stud chain on. He could haul the hell out of my arm, and after being kicked by him on the longe line a couple of times, there was no more room for monkeying around. With Halo though, I am not sure a stud chain is the right course of action. She's very sensitive over the nose and does not respond well to being jerked around. Does anyone have suggestions for an alternative way to keep her from pulling on me? I'd like to solve the issue before longeing her in a bridle, which is still several months out.

Despite the less-than-perfect longe session, Halo did make up for it by being utterly placid for the washing of her mane and tail. She stood there in the crossties with one foot cocked like she was an old pro about it. The crossties are still relatively new to her, and I've been impressed by how readily she's accepted them, especially given the troubles we had with tying at first. Here are a couple of pictures after her washing.

Halo likes to get as close to the camera as possible, which sometimes makes it hard to get a good picture...

She's finally growing into her goofy ears a little bit!