Horse Do  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Years back a lady that I knew at Sun Fire Stables asked me to “look after her horse.” She was going to undergo shoulder surgery and would be out of commission for most of the winter. I agreed and promised to put the horse in question in “my rotation.” She wanted to pay me but I deferred since I do not do it for hire, it’s not my facility and I was glad to do what I could for a friend. She’s a fine horsewomen with years of experience and I was, quite frankly, pleased that she trusted me to look after the animal. In our conversation, she told me that her horse needs a “strong man’s hand” so I was semi-qualified.

The horse in question was a young mare and any work/training at this age will likely shape a lot of her behaviors into the future. I watched this same animal two years ago work for the first time with cattle at one of Steve’s clinics. She and her owner were a natural. I never saw a horse and rider take so quickly to cattle. The horse was well muscled, coordinated and smart as a whip. We did a lot of ground work as well in the saddle. This mare had a penchant for tossing her head so we worked on that. I normally learn as much or more from the training than I think the animal does and anyone who knows me knows that I believe in small steps and building on basic foundations. I worked her with my rope and eventually was able to throw a loop horseback. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from that little mare.

One weekend the owner made an appointment with her farrier. I promised that I would ride the horse first, then bring her in and hold her since the owner was still on restrictions due to her surgery. The farrier commented several times how much better the horse stood than in previous sessions and mentioned that I must be responsible for the change. She asked if I followed natural horsemanship and what particular method I used. I had no formal answer and was decidedly unaccustomed to being singled out for my equine knowledge so I told her that all I used were the methods taught to me by my equine mentor, Jennifer Gaudes Raemisch.

Believe me I know that the farrier was just being kind and trying to please a customer. As they say “don’t try to sell a salesman.”

If you read these blogs you know (and probably tired of hearing) that I am a martial artist and, as such, I am required to honor those who show me the way. One of the martial arts I teach is Aikido (eye-key-doe) which in Japanese means “the way of harmony”, the "do" meaning "way of." It felt good that I had found "the way" to hopefully help the horse, do a favor for a friend and acknowledge my indebtedness to those who teach me.  In this way, all benefit. That is harmony (aiki) in its truest sense.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- McCarty

Insights by Steve -- Horse Geology?

Insights by Steve -- Working Together

Insights by Steve -- The Circle

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

Saddle Tracks  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

I own a decent saddle. It’s not the best but it is adequate for the job. It was not made for me although it was ordered with custom stirrup leathers to accommodate my long legs. It is a bullhide covered Wade tree ranch saddle and what I like most about it is that it comfortably fits me and the horses I ride. I’m used to it and it suits me.

It is pretty plain in appearance and that’s the way I like it. Standing out from the crowd is not something that appeals to me. My mission in the saddle is to get the job done quietly, have some fun and stay on!

I get all kinds of comments concerning my saddle. Kids often remark that it is “a really big saddle”. Anyone who has lifted it says that it is “a really heavy saddle”. Jen calls it the “EZ Boy” saddle because, being a ranch saddle, it sits my heels way ahead of my hip and head thereby forever bars me from (that and so many other reasons) any success in equestrian competitions.

But once in a while someone looks my saddle over and remarks “I see you’ve got some spur tracks on this saddle” Well it’s true, it does, and they were unintentionally inscribed by me. Now I don’t always wear spurs. I use them only when they are required for the job and there are, as of this date, two distinctive rows of tracks that decorate my saddle. I recently had a conversation with Steve Lundean about it and he told me that each track was a story in itself and that they made a saddle unique.

The first one was caused by a wreck I had in Nebraska. I had worked safely all week on a ranch and I was literally getting ready to dismount and open the last gate on the last day (this is the type of irony that I excel in). As I stopped and started to swing over the saddle the horse apparently spotted a snake in the tall grass.  The horse spooked, bucked and reared. As is almost always the case, I recovered while still in the saddle and I thought I had ridden it out. I then dropped my guard and before I knew it the horse bucked again and off I went. 

Now I have had more than my share of “unintentional dismounts” and so much so that I have been able to rate my falls as to duration, body position and landing style. For me it is a surreal experience and time seems to slow down as I float through the air.  I find that I prefer the prone, belly up posture as I await the inevitable impact. During this particular performance I was able to hear one of the cowboys reprimand me with “don’t let go of that horse!”  Sure, I thought, I’ll get right on that!  My free fall was probably a 7 or 8 in scoring although I was pretty sure that I would land on the snake and be fatally bitten. I got up quickly, bite free but ego bruised, and noticed that my spur rowel had caught on the the right side of the seat and created an artful engraving right down to the skirt. But I did hold on to the reins!

The second instance was on my daughter-in-law’s horse, Emmitt, at a clinic at West 20. Of course it happened during the short time my daughter-in-law and my son were in attendance. I was not “in the moment” and Emmitt knew it so he intentionally stumbled, fell forward and I tumbled off. I didn’t get much air time on this one so I was unable to assume my normal approach to impact. I improvised something before I hit dirt and got up quickly in the forlorn hope that no one had seen me when of course everyone had (men always think that way). I soon noticed that I had rolled my rowel completely across the seat of my saddle. It was a perfect diagonal and, in my embarrassment, I quickly conceived the idea of running my rowel in the opposite direction. Maybe it would look like it was the original design!  But reality eventually set in and I realized it was no use. I got back on, suitably humbled, and made believe that as long as my butt was covering the damage it really didn’t exist. You know, out of sight out of mind.

I know you’ve got to “cowboy up”.  We all fall down but we have to get back up. I can heal the bruises to my body as well as my ego (what’s left of it) but I sure hate to mess up that saddle!  Nice try Steve. They all may be a story in themselves but, all in all, I would prefer that they were not there.

 ~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

Roping Practice  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

8/19/18

In my last post I mentioned a roping clinic that was put on at Sun Fire Stables back in 2014. A similar event was held in “16” and like the first I thought it was well received. 

A rope on a horse is as “Americana” as sliced bread. If truth be told a lot of cowboy culture, especially the rope is derived from the old Spanish “Vaquero” tradition. Whether you “dally” or “tie hard and fast” (and that argument still rages) the rope is an integral part of cowboying. 

Throwing a loop is fun off a horse or on the ground.  Find a roping dummy and have at it. There are so many types of throws depending on position and direction of the critter that you’ll never be bored. It’s gets to be habit forming.  

Lots of folks don’t realize that the rope is also a great tool for training as well as a device to communicate with your horse. Most folks that come to a clinic never intend to throw a loop over a steer and that’s just fine. But the trust and partnership developed with the rope creates a bond that will further enhance your horsemanship and increase the trust between you and your horse. 

I’d much rather work with the rope on the ground and in the saddle than most anything else.  All the horses I ride are soon familiar with my rope. I want them comfortable as well as respectful of the rope. I may catch them with it, log stuff with it or rub them all over with it. I have used the rope doing ground work many times. When you swing a loop while  in the saddle they hear it and at times see it. On the ground I will get it carefully around their legs and rear. All good sacking practice for everyday riding.  

The rope is a physical extension of the horse and rider. When you dally up (yes I dally) and ask for a pull you are one with your mount and the pull is a new sensation to you both as well as a change in your combined center of gravity. Eventually you and the horse learn to get short and long and to pop your dally. It’s an honorable job and I believe horses and people need that.

Now don’t get me wrong. The rope is an excellent training aid for you both. You need never have to interact with cattle to enjoy its benefits. Eventually, should you desire, it can be employed with cattle. Don’t forget that when you land that first head shot three brains are now involved and if you have not received proper instruction things can go south pretty quickly so seek knowledgeable instruction if you have a mind to try. You should be able to turn and maneuver your horse without thinking about it. Your horse should be familiar with cattle. I have roped cattle and sometimes they just stand there. Other times if they are alone or maybe on the prod they take off like a shot, bawling the whole way. Once in a great while they have been known to circle you and wrap the rope around your horses legs and under the tail. Cowboys call that a “rim fire” and as you can imagine it is no fun. Now you understand why knowing how to move your horse and ground work with the rope is so important. 

Whether it is made of poly, nylon, reata or maguey the rope is a solid training and confidence builder for both horse and rider. Find an experienced person or check online to know which rope is right for you. Ask someone how to “punch a hole in the rope” and throw a loop. Build a roping dummy and get to throwing. Of course there are a bunch of different throws but stick to the basic over the head throw and practice. We all know working with horses can be dangerous so take it slow and steady. Like all things worthwhile it takes work and practice but it’s really a lot of fun!

 

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

Support  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

This was a blog I wrote in 2014 and it is true now as it was then. Sun Fire Stables is a special place.  ~ Reno

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 We recently completed a Beginners Ranch Roping clinic this past Sunday at Sun Fire Stables in Waterford, WI.   It was a beautiful day at a great facility with a wonderful group of horse people. Everyone seemed to have a good, safe and enjoyable time.  Now I have to disclose that I am somewhat biased since Sun Fire is my home barn and I know all the riders who attended. Leading up to the clinic I had been approached by some nervous folks asking what would be expected of them during the clinic. They simply couldn't believe that they would not only learn to throw a rope but eventually do it from their horse! I tried to calm them best I could but they just didn't seem to think it was possible but, sure enough, by the time the clinic was winding down every rider roping and dallying and doing a fine job at it. Roping is a lot more than just throwing a loop and making a catch. It is about furthering the trust between you and your horse and you just don't know what you can do until you try.

Roping is really addictive. Once you start it is hard to put the rope down. You are always looking for a shot. My youngest granddaughter, Chloe, helped during the clinic and she did a great job. I encouraged her, as did Steve Lundean, to come on into the arena to give it a try. She deferred, feeling that her job was to help, as she had promised, and she is a real hand. As soon as the clinic was over she grabbed a rope, went into the arena, and asked me to show her how to make a loop. I took care of her that evening until her parents and brother got home and that little girl practiced her throw on a bucket in the backyard, until nightfall.

I was also struck by the number of folks who volunteered to help during the clinic. No matter what the job was, people would just pitch in. If the arena needed picking someone took care of it. If something was to be unloaded or returned to its proper place willing hands appeared to help. That is the true cowboy spirit. If a job needs doing you just pitch in and get it done. I took my obligatory spill during the riding portion of the clinic (it's expected of me by now) and at least two kind souls in the audience offered me an ice compress or some such as I remounted and rode past them.  Thanks to those folks as well.

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It also occurred to me that all the riders in that arena owed so much to so many. The kids relied on parents, extended family and friends to support and nurture their efforts. Transportation, fees, rescheduling family outings and cheering on the sidelines are only a few of the things that go on in the back round to get these youngsters into the arena. Adults spend their hard earned money and take time from chores and family obligations to pursue horsemanship. It really is a team effort and thanks to all those who sacrifice time and money to help the riders fulfill a dream.

Thanks to Jen and Dean (who won the timed team roping by the way) at Sun Fire Stables for hosting and Steve Lundean, Katryna and Bob for putting on another great clinic. Looking forward to the next time.

 ~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure--see below.

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now

I Can't  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Seems everybody is in a “rush”. Modern living demands we pack as much into our day as humanly possible. Everything is structured to minimize downtime and achieve goals whether imagined or real. Everyone is on a fast track to some destination

Whether it is sports, a career or the newest machine to quickly and efficiently cut your lawn, the race is on. Sabermetrics tracks every detail of a professional baseball player and to save time and increase performance some athletes turn to artificial methods to boost their stats.

Such pressure is bound to leave some on the sidelines (literally). Eventually all of us succumb to the inability to take it to the next level. The phrase “I can’t” is uttered and we are at least in our own minds “a failure”.

To the Western mind when you to fall to the ground you have lost. To get knocked down is a failure. In Aikido you are trained how to roll up from a fall and start again. There is no disgrace or stigma to losing your balance as long as you use that energy to rise again both physically and mentally.

Of course we all must realize our limitations. Typically, as well as correctly, a teacher should never ask more of a student than they can do. I had an instructor some years ago that would never allow the phrase “I can’t” to be used. He would say “Don't say I can't, say I am unable to do it at the present time Sir!”  He simply wouldn't tolerate it.  He expected you to at least try and certainly not give up. Maybe success wouldn’t happen today, tomorrow or ever but it was the attitude that counted and that can take you a long way. You would be surprised how often that methodology produced positive results.

I think it is the same for our work with horses. Everyone wants that DVD that guarantees success in thirty days or expects those memorable breakthrough moments with their horse on a regular basis. But that strict adherence to schedule doesn't always work when there are two “brains” involved. Horses have good and bad days just like we do and sometimes it doesn't take long to realize that no matter what your plans for the day are, your horse just isn't in to it.

It's also important that we do not ask the horse to do more than they are most likely be able to do. A horse may respond to that request by becoming frustrated and just shut down. If you work on the moves needed to perform a technique the concept can be more easily understood when they are put together.

I just like to sit on a horse and I try to give both of us a rest when we have been successful or felt the “flow”. It gives me a chance to clear my mind and get back to employing what hopefully is best for both of us. I was taught that horses don't learn from the application of pressure but from its release so the rest is a reward for good work done.

It's not always what you want. When my grandchildren say they “want something” I tell them “there is wanting and there is having. It's two different things!” and it's true (don't worry, they get plenty). I am not saying just to settle for things but try to appreciate the positive things you do have.

I don't think horses ever say “I can't!”. I think they express frustration when they don't know what you want or you aren't attending to their needs. I stick to basics, build on them, move as well as encourage stillness and try not to “rush”.  Remember, it's the journey not the destination.

~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now