What IS Competitive Trail Riding?

First off-it is NOT endurance-while it does involve horses and distance, it is most definitely in no way shape or form linked to endurance. The two sports are like apples and grapefruit-both round, delicious, and good for you, but not the same.

Let me explain:

Endurance: This is about the HORSE only. It is primarily a RACE to see who can get to the finish line first. There’s more to it than that-otherwise, there’d be a lot of dead or dying horses-and there have been in some of the early years. Things have changed-mostly-and the horses are better protected by the rules now. American Endurance Ride Conference is the governing body if you are interested in further exploration of the subject.

In some respects, it is simpler than competitive trail. I know some people that do ride both. They’ll train a horse first in competitive trail to get the miles and sound mind on them, then go for the speed. It does seem to make for a more ‘sane’ horse that will take care of himself (and you) on the trail.

I’ve never tried it so I don’t know. A good many people ride just to complete and get that completion ribbon. You don’t have to finish in any particular time frame-you can walk the entire way. (I think that’s the ‘turtle’ award?)  JMHO-if you’re going to pay to get in-compete at some level. Don’t just trail ride. You could get out there any afternoon and do that. But that’s just me. What do I know?

Competitive Trail Riding (CTR)–There are several organizations out there, but the biggest one (and oldest, I think) is North American Trail Riders Conference. They all pretty much do things the same way with some variations on the theme. I’m most familiar with NATRC, so I’ll describe theirs. Just be aware that it is not the same all the time. Capture

CTR is a sport that evaluates the horse and rider as a team. You ride a defined route each day at a certain pace so that EVERY horse is tested at approximately the same rate of exertion over the same obstacles by the same set of judges. Each team will be seen multiple times during each day. The rider is also judged at the same time. There are two DIFFERENT judges-vet for the horse and horsemanship for the rider. Two score cards are kept-one for each. A baseline exam/judging is done to start the event-the horse is examined for lameness, soreness, and to mark anything that might be marked off later if not identified at this point (little boo-boos or nicks). The rider is judged on presentation to the judges and handling of the horse during the exam.

During the course of the ride, the vet and horsemanship judges will use natural obstacles to further test the trail suitability of the horses. They will stop the ride at least twice to check pulse and respiration recoveries. The vet judge will check for lameness and tack checks for rubs, while the horsemanship judge may do things like judged off-side mounts, side passing over a log, backing up an incline, or pulling brush with a rope.

In camp, the horses will be kept in pretty much the same stabling conditions. Often this will be tied to the trailers, but can be high lines or stalls if provided. Individual corrals are not allowed as some will have them, but others won’t. It skews the results. high line horse

A final checkout exam is done shortly after the final miles are completed to assess the horses’ fitness to continue, lameness, etc. Again, the riders’ will be judged on presentation to the judges, grooming, etc. Then score cards will be tallied. Ribbons will be awarded by the vet judge on horse condition, while the horsemanship judge will award placement to the riders. COMBINED awards will go to those teams with the best overall scores.

There may also be breed awards depending on sponsorship and the ride. There are levels of competition-Novice, Competitive Pleasure, and Open with Junior classes for those 12-18 year olds. Horses must be a minimum of 4 years of age to compete. Stallions can compete-with special rules. No junior may ride a stallion. Any breed of horse, ass, or mule is eligible. Shoes, barefoot, or boots are permissible. Saddles must be used.

What do I like about CTR? The naturalness of it-the judges are out there WITH the horses and riders. There is no artificality about it. No bleachers, no microphones and loudspeakers, no sponsor banners, no glitzy outfits or special tack needed. It’s just you, your horse, and a bunch of like minded people camping out and having fun. Everybody does the same thing-we have the same goal-having fun, but with the safety of everyone in mind. If something does happen, I know for a fact that the competition will go to hell as everyone available will pitch in to help the person and/or horse in need. We’re one big family-even if we’ve never seen each other before.

You don’t find that at show rings. They get cutthroat-and they’ll actually hurt or sabotage another person’s horse or their tack. Doesn’t happen at NATRC. Or if it has, I’ve never heard of it.

Okay, so we’re a lot crazy about trail riding-both kinds of distance riding. But it’s a  good kind of crazy.

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NHR–WTF Is Wrong With People?

heritage

These are the flags of not one but TWO causes that lost BIGLY.

I’m not talking itty, bitty fist fights, but major wars that cost 100’s of thousands of lives in the first and MILLIONS of lives in the second. We are NOT talking ‘heritage’ either, people. That is a freaking red herring. There never WAS a heritage-except in books like Gone With The Wind-which was FICTIONAL. Oh, there was also Uncle Tom’s Cabin-and we were carefully taught that the villian in that piece came from New England so he ‘really wasn’t a Southerner any way’. The implication being that no Southerner plantation owner would EVER treat their slaves so poorly. The hell you say.

There never was that many plantations in the south. People have the idea that they were all over the place. No they weren’t. Very few could AFFORD to have them.  Don’t believe me-go do some research. Maybe 45 in Georgia. Maybe 15-20 in Alabama. The rest of the farming was done by sharecroppers and families-like my great grandfather 5 generations back. They didn’t own slaves-didn’t want to. Picked their own cotton and hauled it to the gin themselves.

Patriarchal societies have-throughout history-done two things really well-go to war because it stimulates their economy mostly in some respect, and beat the living hell out of women and children-always their own, but they’ll pick on the captives from the other side, too, if they can. Lord knows, the Bible is full of it. Abraham took Hagar, the slave girl of Sarah and had a son by her-and the Jews and the Arabs have been fighting ever since. Moses was hidden in the bullrushes by his mama (a slave) and found and adopted by the king’s daughter. When the Israelites starting leaving Egypt, the Egyptians woke up and realized “hey, all the slaves are leaving us!” and went after them. That’s the reason for the drowning of Pharoah’s army in the Red Sea. Slaves running away from their owners.

Jews had their own slaves. Just keep reading-all of the Old Testament is just chock full of this stuff.

Why am I bringing it up? Because back in the early days of this country, that was used to JUSTIFY the owning of  black people as slaves in this country-mostly in the southern states. If you ever saw the musical 1776, the song ‘Molasses to Rum to Slaves’ is all about how the traders ran the ships from the sugar cane fields of the Carribean to New England to Africa with those cargoes.

Nowadays-the same backwards mindset still exists-primarily because people have never taken the time to learn that people with darker skins are just people with darker skins. There are some cultural differences, but there are those between white folks, too. I don’t eat lox and bagels for breakfast-but lots of people in New York City think that’s pretty tasty. They can’t see what I see in grits.

There is absolutely NOTHING that makes anybody’s skin color inherently superior racially to anybody else’s. Or more inferior, for that matter. It’s the way you BEHAVE towards your fellow human beings that determines that-and, for the record, the way those people behaved this weekend in Charlottesville, VA put them on the level of earthworms. Fish bait. Terrorizing people just for the hell of it is unacceptable at every level. Trying to blame their behavior on other people is childish. Driving a car into a crowd? That, folks, is pre-meditated murder and attempted murder with malice. That is a hate crime. Second degree murder my fat fanny.

Wanting law enforcement to treat you and your family like human beings is a reasonable thing. If I were  black, I would be fighting mad about it. It is unjust. For the record, I have had sheriff deputies try deliberately to intimidate me-and, quite frankly, it got every bit of my Scottish heritage working overtime. I was furious. So, yes, I can easily see the why and how these black folks come at cops yelling, screaming, and trying to fight with them. I didn’t, but that incident was a real eyeopener.
Don’t push people like that. You’re asking for that response-and you’re going to get it.

In my mind, these people in charge of our government need to repudiate all connections to the Klan, white nationalists, white supremacists, and Alt-Right groups loudly, strongly, and as a united front. That includes the Executive, Congress, and Supreme Court. These Nazis and fascists must be told that their campaign of fear, violence, and terrorism will not be tolerated, their racial and sexual bigotry is unwelcome, and that we will fight them with law and guns if need be. But  they cannot have our country-EVER.

en nuestra America

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Tying That Pony

halter barnNow I’ll be honest-as if you’d know if I weren’t-I have no use for a horse that won’t stand tied or a human that caters to one that won’t. “I’ll just have to hold her because she pulls back.” Well, sister (this is almost invariably a female) get your big girl panties on and teach that pony how to have some manners and stand hitched. It’s not that hard. Well, I take that back-it can be hard on both the horse, the equipment, and the owner, but the training sure as hell isn’t complicated.

BTW-Do NOT leave a halter hanging like that. It isn’t that it is bad for the halter, but you are just ASKING for some klutzy something-like me for example-to come along and stick a foot in that thing, and go flying, ending up with sprained wrists, dislocated shoulders, and god-only-knows what else. HANG YOUR STUFF UP.  For heaven’s sake, folks. All you have to do is hang it from the ring it is already attached to! 

Why do horses set back-pull back-can’t be tied-or whatever you want to call it?

Claustrophia and that sense of being trapped. Those two phobias will set them off and they cannot help themselves. They have to break free. They are open area prey animals and they have to have a certain degree of freedom or they’re not happy. (Which is why you will only find ulcers in stalled horses.) Let’s think like a horse-I’m being asked to put my head into something that restricts my freedom to move around (the halter). My head is what some predators will go for first in order to bring me down to eat me so this is a big deal for me. They’ll grab me by the nose and behind my ears. (Where does a halter put pressure? on the nose and behind the ears). Now you want me to be even more restricted with my head fastened in such a way that I can’t move it the way I’m accustomed to doing! (The horse can no longer turn its body 360 degrees to see all the way around itself.) My fear is building-I’ve got to leave-NOW! and they pull back violently.

Many, many people will tell you to tie horses solidly to a big post or tree with heavy ropes and heavy halters and just let them fight it out. You can do that. You run the risk of having a permanently injured horse or a dead one because they can break their own necks. I’ve heard of using something like inner tubes to have the give, too. That’s a little less dangerous, but not by much. I’m not crazy about either one. In fact, I’d call them abusive.

I’ve used a soft cotton rope tied in a bowline around the girth line and run through the front legs, through the halter, up and over a high tree limb, and over to a tree with a quick release knot for my pullers and I ain’t gonna stand tied. It has the advantage of the tree limb having the natural give in it, the bowline won’t slip but it is secure, and the tree won’t leave. The student can dance, protest, and generally raise the biggest stink in the horse world, but they will go no where at all and they can’t get hurt. I don’t-however-ever leave one like this. But they do learn that standing tied will not be the end of their world.

Two things that must be learned and learned well before you start: how to do a bowline that will not tighten, and how to do a proper quick release.

THE best quick releaseThis is the BEST Quick Release knot-there are others, but this one keeps ALL of your rope on ONE side after you pull the release. The only thing the diagram doesn’t show is the ‘lock’-which is to simply pull the tail through the loop.

underhand bowlineMake sure you learn how to do the bowline correctly. You do not want it to slip.

 

 

 

bowlineI included two diagrams to help learn how to correctly do the know. Please practice until it is habit.  All it takes is one slip and you’ll be reaching for a knife to cut loose a choking horse. I know because somebody did that at my barn-and swore they had tied a good bowline.

 

 

Another thing is to use the devices know as ‘Tie Blocker’ or ‘The Clip’, or some people even make their own out of old snaffle bits. The principle is the same as wrapping the tie rope several wraps around a good STURDY hitch rail. (Please don’t do this to a fence rail-you’ll be chasing a horse with a fence rail slapping him in the butt.) The idea is that they get enough slack when they pull back to satisfy the urge, but remain tied. With the devices, you can adjust the tension via a screw or just tie a knot in the end of the lead so the horse cannot pull out and just leave. With the hitch rail, you start with four or so wraps, and as the horse improves, you can reduce the number of wraps needed thereby reducing the amount of resistance. It takes patience, but it does work.

Please be respectful of the horse. Being tied is not natural to the species, but it is necessary to interact with humans and for their own safety. Kindness and patience gets to the goal faster that force and fear.

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Coyotes-Misunderstood? Threat?

These are some of the most adaptable critters around-and they have learned to live in amongst humans regardless of what we do. There are coyotes that live entirely in big cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. And why not? The cities are full of their prey-rats, mice, feral cats, stray dogs, possums, and raccoons. Most of the time, humans rarely see them. Coyote

The problems arise when-and because-humans insist on thinking that because they have a piece of paper that says they have title to a bit of land that it ‘belongs’ to them and no one else. The mistake they make is thinking this applies to ALL CREATURES. Got news-the animals don’t know a thing about property lines, titles, quit claims, deeds, or anything of that real estate stuff. We live in THEIR WORLD-not the other way around. If you think of things being as though you are a guest in THEIR home, and you need to be careful about not staining the carpet, picking up after yourself, not being a pig hog at the dinner table, and minding your manners, it makes more sense.

So here is an article offering suggestions about what to do if you encounter coyotes while out with your dog. Coyotes are not normally agressive, but they will defend their dens. (Any mama will defend her babies!)

  • For heaven’s sake, do not feed them.
  • Do not allow small dogs and cats to run loose particularly in the evenings and early mornings.
  • Lose that retractable leash. I know you like it and your dog likes it, but lose it. You can’t reel that dog in fast enough if you come face to face with a coyote.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Do not run.
  • Retreat calmly-even if you have to walk backward.
  • Haze the coyote into leaving-throw rocks, yell, wave your arms, whatever works.

article on coyotes

 

Safety and Being a Spoil Sport-This Lady and I Have A Lot In Common

It’s time for the annual reminder that horses are not dirt bikes.

via Safety and Being a Spoil Sport. — Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

One of the reasons that I don’t board horses and almost completely refuse to teach is that I am a “Nazi” for safety for both horse and rider and insist on respect for the horses. Breach any of that and you will have some tart, sometimes cutting remarks made in your direction-with no apologies offered. I won’t apologize for caring about safety-yours or the horse’s. When it comes to respecting the horse, while I will demand that the horse respect my space, I will also demand that YOU respect HIS/HERS. There are no ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, or anything horses. There are, however, inconsiderate, thick, and downright rock-headed people.

So this other writer’s blog sounded rather familar to me. She might even be on the same wavelength.