A Few Weeks in the Two-Rein

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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We're having a really lovely late summer. Really, the whole summer has been surprisingly nice, but the last few weeks have been particularly gorgeous. Accordingly, we are logging lots and lots of barn hours. With King gone and Nevada getting a little break, Brian and I have reverted to our previous breakdown of mounts. I'm riding Steen and Aiden. He's riding Laredo and Oliver. (This choice is mostly due to the fact that my saddle fits Aiden better and his fits Oliver better.) All the horses are doing well, but the most exciting thing going on for me is that I've finally made a total transition into the two-rein with Steen. I dabbled with the set-up on and off for quite a few months, but every time I rode in it it made me aware of things that were missing or not quite right with my communication in hackamore. We'd go back to the hackamore to work on the deficiencies. Finally, ...

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Oliver, Aiden, and Playing Cow

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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A lot of the time I find it difficult to get out to the barn on Friday afternoon. After a long week, it seems easier to just stay home and read a book. When I succeed at motivating myself to get out there, I often do it by giving myself permission to just have a super easy ride on Steen. Today, though, I rode Aiden. I mostly did it because it's been a hot week and it's supposed to be a hot weekend, and Steen suffers in the heat a little. I know we'll ride all the horses both days this weekend, and I figured three consecutive rides would be more useful to put on Aiden. Brian was having similar thoughts about his string, so we ended up doing our Friday ride on Aiden and Oliver. The outdoor arena at our barn is currently undergoing some renovations. Mainly, it is being converted from grass to sand/dirt. This is nice as it was not mowed regularly before, and the grass was patchy and...

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King Goes Home

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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It's hard to believe the way the summer has flown by. Our two months with King ran out on Saturday, and his people came and picked him up. Working with King was a very interesting experience. In recent years, we've been working almost entirely with stock horses. In the past I spent quite a bit of time with Arabians and a mustang and a few other high spirited horses, but I'd never worked with a horse of a cooler tempered breed. King, being half Fresian, half Tennessee Walker, was different both physically and mentally than the horses I've grown most used to. While he doesn't have any bonafied Walker gaits, his locomotion is not like a stock horse's. His hind end is on the scrawny side while his front end is huge and stocky. His neck is big and powerful. His head is massive. This combination makes him really, really inclined to be heavy on the forehand.

Sad Friday

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Settling back into our routine after vacation is always a little bit of a challenge. This week I didn't make it to the barn. But this afternoon we rallied (barely), and headed out for an easy ride. The horses were way out behind the distant hilltop. As Brian and I walked out, we noticed a dark streak on the shoulder of one of the horses in our herd. The horse in question was a gray, 7-year-old Andalusian named Bean. He belonged to the trainer at our barn. From a distance, both Brian and I thought the streak was blood. As we drew closer, we were relieved to see it was just sweat. We patted Bean on the head and looked him over. Other than being a bit sweaty, he seemed fine. We concluded we must have just missed the trainer working him, and continued on. We got Steen and Laredo, and had a nice ride in the trees. It was a beautiful afternoon - cool and breezy, and the guys were good...

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After a Week Away

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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We spent last week in Arizona visiting family. It was a nice time. We got to hang out with my parents and my sister and the new Great Dane puppy. There was much sleeping in, drinking of tea and coffee, and lounging around. We also got to spend my mother's birthday with her for the first time in many, many years. We caught up with more extended family as well. We got home to Iowa City late Friday night (really, early Saturday morning), which meant we had the weekend to get back in the groove here. Even though we'd only been gone a week, it felt like we hadn't seen the horses in ages. We're going to give Nevada some time off now. We've only got King for another two weeks, and we're hoping to sell Aiden relatively soon as well. Oliver has ended up on the backburner a bit for various reasons anyway, so this weekend we decided to just focus on four. Both days, I rode Aiden and Steen....

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Nevada Time

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Brian, of course, has been doing almost all the direct work with Nevada. But I've been around for most of it, sometimes supporting them from the back of another horse. This has been pretty fun for me, because it's not something I've had the opportunity to do before. Since she arrived, I've done basic yielding work, helped get her used to bumps from feet and legs down by her sides, and deal with movement up above her back, all while riding another horse. Yesterday, we got out the barn and brought Nevada and Steen up. Brian wanted to work on getting Nevada trotting behind him on the line, but every time he got to the end of the rope she'd start to pull back. I offered to work on getting her into the trot using Steen, so he handed the rope over. I've only ponied horses off Steen a handful of times, but he's good with it. We had to work out our angles and I had to remember how to ge...

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The Polar Vortex in Summer

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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This winter, the crazy low temps we experienced here in Iowa were ostensibly caused by the polar vortex. And last week, it was here again. But instead of plunging temps from the single digits to the negative double digits, this time it gave us a beautiful week of days that were dry, sunny and in the 70s. For July in Iowa, that kind of weather is unheard of. We tried to make the most of it, and logged many long, long barn days. Since I've gotten behind on my blogging again, I'm going to do a quick rundown by horse to try to catch up.

Steen

Is doing great. Lately, I've been spending the bulk of every ride focused on the simple directive "ride the feet." This isn't a new concept for me. But lately I've been able to keep track of the feet a lot better, and the idea of influencing the feet when they are in the air is becoming more and more possible. My timing is getting bette...

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And Then There Were Six

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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When we originally started talking about Brian getting a young horse, we thought we'd do it in the fall -- after we'd found either Aiden or Oliver (or both) new homes. But then we found a horse we really wanted. So we bought her and thought we'd just leave her with the breeder until the fall. Except then King arrived, and having five horses is kind of awkward for two people. A few other things happened too, and it got to the point that it just made sense to bring Brian's new filly, Nevada, home. She arrived on Thursday, and her introduction to the herd went well. As usual, Jester the Shetland Pony adopted her immediately. It's nice that he's always so keen to show new horses the ropes.
So, we had a lot to do this weekend. I've be...

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Hello to King

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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A few weeks ago, we went to visit Bear at the therapeutic riding center. We found him hanging out in a pasture with a horse named King, who we were told was often kept with only one or two companions because he had a tendency to run the show in a herd environment. Being the curious people we are, we asked more questions about King. We learned he is 10 years old, which made him the youngest horse with the program. He was also the only horse on the premises they don't actually use for classes. Reason being, he's reputedly a bit hard to handle. I approached King, and he was happy enough to accept some pets. I asked about his breeding, and we learned he's half Fresian, half Tennessee Walker. We learned a little about how he'd ended up there, but soon enough the conversation moved to other things. King did come up between Brian and I once or twice in the following days. We talked ...

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The First 100

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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2014 is the 4th year I've kept track of how much time I spend riding. In retrospect, I rather wish I'd kept records when I was younger. I've been riding for about 22 years. It was just weekly lessons until I got my first horse in 1994. After that, I definitely rode a lot. What I don't know is how much 'a lot' really was to me back then. However, my unscientific memory notwithstanding, I believe I can safely say I'm riding more now than I ever have before. Maybe even a lot more. And, sheer hours aside, I am definitely getting more done with horses than I ever have in the past. What's interesting is how what feels normal can change. In 2011, my goal was to spend 100 hours horseback. That year I logged 109 hours. It was a stretch, and I was thrilled. This year, I'm already at 101. Here's how those hours break down across horses: