Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Focus on Breeding Rocky Mountain Horses

Bringing you quality horses scrupulously selected from the Appalachian foothills where the Rocky Mountain horses thrive. Our horses have old foundation lineage that is true to the origins of the breed. We exist to supply a growing demand for a quality gaited horse, the Rocky Mountain Gaited Horse.

We are conveniently located in the upper mid-west, about an hour from the closest airport in Minneapolis, MN.    Allow me to welcome you an ease confidence and convenience when searching for your next lifetime gaited Rocky partner!

 An ideal Rocky, Smith's Ginger!

What are our breeding initiatives and goals?
I apply several concepts when it comes to producing foals or buying brood stock:
  1. Bodies
    1. Specially trained eye for confirmation, functionality and biomechanics. Horses that are built for a purpose and built to do it well!
    2. We don’t want our horses breaking down- we look for strong hooves, bones and balanced bodies to take the rider on a lifetime of adventures!
  2. Sound Minds
    1. Choose mares and stallions for calm, friendly personalities.
    2. Gentling techniques with foals magnify great personalities!
    3. We begin gentling foals and turn that early handling into a horse with the brightest future ever!
    4. Foals are imprinted and taught to lead, trim hooves and load in a trailer from the first weeks of life
  3. Gait and Performance
    1. Part of gait is in the genetics and training but great gait also results from proper confirmation and biomechanics!
    2. Gait is equally important as build and mind - it’s a trifecta, if we find a mare that may not be the best at one attribute we find a stallion to overcome that attribute, our foals are all 10's!
    3. The best genes for gaiting were passed on from the best foundation stock- we choose the best gaiting lineage. Individuals who gait well will produce the best offspring. Our mares and stallions are proven to the highest level of performance. The stronger the performance the stronger the gait
    4. Lots of research has gone into the pedigrees of our horses. We know history of sire's sire as well as great grandsires/great grand dams.
    5. Cross training- we take it to the next level, all aspects of performance are taken into consideration like an athlete training on their off season. i.e. the better a horse canters, turns, stops, goes the better the gait is able to develop and the best individuals are chosen to carry on their superior genes
    6. Did you know that the gait gene can be tested? A horse can carry one copy or two and guarantee passing on the best gait 100% of the time to the next generation.
    7. Knowledge of genetic mutations in the marketplace, we avoid these!
  4. Cosmetics
    1. Our stock has to be gorgeous! This encompasses pretty heads to 100% pretty packages. We do not want anything out of place when you look at our horses.
    2. Color is a fad and the last thing on our radar. The equine market drives this and we offer what is popular to our clients, but not letting the previous requirements out of the mix. Color is not our purpose… but…
    3. Our horses are stamped with beauty!

You will be proud to own one!

The market
During economic downfall both during the initial creation of the breed and during the last decade, I found it difficult to obtain the best individuals. Many factors are at play. I theorize that location, availability, promotion could be inhibiting many breeders or owners from seeing the best of the breed. The owners and breeders during the great depression culled many great foundation horses. The breed was almost lost.

I often look at photos of the foundation stallions and mares from Sam Tuttle to center myself to what I desire for my herd. Outcrossing to other breeds has affected the RMHA and I find that the gene pool I am looking for is too small. Some breeders do not advertise and trips to the hills of Kentucky are needed to seek out the best horses first hand. I am careful not to inbreed. I calculate inbreeding coefficients to prevent my genes becoming too condensed. I also watch for genetic disorders such as MCOA/ ASD to ensure the foals I produce have the least chance of inheriting this genetic abnormality.

Responsible breeding practices are abided to!

Our Pride and Joy, Eureka Eldorado!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rewards and Punishment

This week's post will be a little bit about reward and punishment. Will this be the horse? or myself? I think I was rewarded highly as a person, trainer and a breeder by attending the Minnesota horse Expo and the Midwest Horse Fair.
 I was there representing the RMHA. I met a lot of really great people my horses got some really good exposure and I had a lot of fun overall. These two events were the first time my stallion and mares attended a show or expo! I am so very proud of them and the accomplishments of my horses. This can only build on itself and become even better.
 But what about this punishment.? I think that I've yet to see what kind of new training challenges await me after coming home and beginning to retrain my horses from the two large events. Horse showing is an interesting thing, horses often become untrained at your event! Have you ever thought about this? I've experienced it before and definitely will so again. That will be my punishment. 
A highly trained horse will never stay so highly trained if you take them horse shows. Should I explain? I think part of it is the stress that a rider undergoes (transfers to the horse) when you think about much much more than the task of handling a horse.
One becomes concerned about the pattern you're riding or the people who are watching or external stimulus -causes your mind to wander instead of paying attention to what the horses doing/feeling/being trained to do. So all-in-all the horse is allowed to behave a certain way and softening exercises may not have been completed or the feet are never moved around properly when energy comes up. 
Unfortunately, our mind was never truly in the training game because we're doing something else. Sometimes as riders we pull a little harder stay on the pattern or we ride a little stiff because we are nervous- then allow our core to fall apart. Sometimes horses will will never allow this kind of poor riding or careless rein management or leg management and I'll just buck you right off! Luckily for me, I ride my favorite intelligent and forgiving Rocky Mountain horse.
The stallion, Cotton, gets strong kudos for being forgiving.
So now I'll go into a few examples from real life from my weekend. The kind of hurdles that I think I'm going to have to overcome in the next few weeks riding my own horse come from what I've noticed in the behaviors that we're falling apart at the horse show.
Now yes I am a perfectionist maybe I'm not giving my horses enough credit but I believe there's always something more to strive for and I can always do better next time. Again, they did Fab...
Example number 1 : During the course of the two weekends, Cotton and his mares were stall bound which isn't a common thing at R Squared Ranch but that would be a reward for us we did very good, horses were patient most of the time. However Cotton was next to his mares the whole time and he became rather herd bound since it was a stressful environment away from home.

He was so pair-bonded that he would come up and energy whenever the mares were away from him. I never had a good chance to work his feet because there were always other horses in the arena so the next choice was to somehow I manage the energy he had by using maneuvers lower energy tactics. I found myself using more and more rein because I had nowhere to go in the pen.

And because I had nowhere to go my body became stiff at least if I had a place to move my horse completely forward and not run into other animals in the pen I would feel more relaxed and I know my stallion would too. AHH the frustration...

This comes to the second problem- desensitization to rein pressure the whole time I had been trying lower his energy... All the training prior was to soften my horses to my aids! I think he he may be slightly stiff and unresponsive to the rein now... maybe I'm being a drama queen but I want that horse soft as butter!

I am definitely an advocate of using as little as possible and using the legs or forward movement to help gain that horses respect for the rein.

Oh boy did I ever have stallion issues as well he has his own personal bubble and even though he wasn't calling and nickering every chance he got - I couldn't control every other horse near me and therefor on occasion- yes got me in trouble.... so embarrassingly my stallion kicked out.... his bubble was burst! Another case of I can't adequately discipline and apply that punishment for doing something that could be so dangerous ...now I have to show my horse that kicks NOT to do this behavior somehow... by mimicking the scenario over and over again? And rewarding carefully?

 Definitely not something I look forward to but when you own a stallion and you want to ride him there's a certain sense of trying to be safe for you and others around you, and carefully preparing him for the next big thing..

Stay tuned for Cotton Adventures....

It has been a lovely break for Rainy!!

Here are some pics for our Cotton adventures this month...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Coming or going?

My busy schedule got the better of me as I am preparing for the spring expos and scheduling training horses/ breeding horses as well as being a mother AND working a part time job. The saga continues.


I may have eluded to before that colt starting is a process. There are ups and downs. Such is life.


Rainy is a sweet girl but has all the capabilities of any adult horse. I.e. inherently dangerous and capable of killing you. Let me explain one issue I have with promoting the breed I love, The Rocky Mountain Horse. The Association has promoted in the past a slogan similar to, “they are born broke”. As one can see this may cause problems among the many beginner riders that are already flocking to the breed.


I love the breed because they are VERY intelligent, willing, athletic, forgiving. However there are always exceptions that I commonly experience with these traits listed here. They are by no means born broke. They still require a professional or experienced horseperson  handling them to ensure they will remain polite on the ground and train the correct muscles under saddle. A novice should not train any horse or even buy a horse that has only had a small amount of training. It literally takes thousands of quality sessions or “rides” to turn any horse into a beginner safe or child safe horse. The animal must be forgiving to the mistakes of the rider. Even then the horse may not “survive” long term, and turn “sour”. This is no fault of the horses but a rider shouldn’t just remain a beginner indefinitely… they should be continually bettering themselves to better the beings around them.  True to both humans and horses right?


Back to Rainy, Over the last few sessions, we worked on not only accepting a rider but forward movement. She says, OK! She has been actually rather “squirty”. What does this mean? She squirts forward and to the side and all over the place! I personally love this because it tells me she would rather move forward then up or back or baulk. If a horses feet are free to move then you can stay out of trouble.


As humans we think. “STOP THE HORSE! STOP THE HORSE!” Pull the reins! I think NO! this puts in those nasty braces that build rearing bucking and balking. So I like them squirty at first. This can be tough since the athletic ones I have trouble keeping under me. Even though its not the easiest this will make a better horse. WHY you ask? Wont this make a spooky horse? Or a horse that bolts? Heck no. All horses bolt when spooked anyways, its called a prey animal. Thought education the horse is taught to “spook in place” or even become inquisitive (if they are smart enough).


Rainy at this point doesn't get a hand on her face. No pulling whatsoever. We go forward when I push and stops off my breath. That in itself is a basic need and quite impressive for a 3 year old just beginning her saddle career. I only lift a rein up to steer. With that being said. How to teach the other aids? Lets talk a little about feel. Feel is a extremely difficult thing to teach to humans. You have to know what the horse is going to do 3 or more steps ahead and alter your aids to accommodate the moves you need. You cant just sit there and start pulling or kicking.


Lets say I want to turn left. I look ahead and see that I don’t have room to turn left in the round pen. So I don’t try to turn left. I have to know my horses capabilities or else I am setting them up for failure. I need them to learn to succeed instead of fail. So the next time around the pen I create some room and finally have a large space for my young filly to turn left. So I lift my rein out, making it obvious. I do it softly and gently and slow. Then I wait. I don’t increase the rein pressure, I wait. Once you start pulling its all over. The horse starts to brace. This isn’t like driving a car. You start riding the legs of the horse not the face.


The horses balance point is their head and neck physiologically speaking. It affects their movement but it does not drive it.


So all in all if we want to start driving our horse and not our car, start knowing where your legs are and your seat, this will help drive your horse. This begins facilitating that “unicorn”, collection.


Let’s define collection:

Collection occurs when a horse carries more weight on the hind legs than the front legs. The horse draws its body together so that it becomes like a giant spring whose stored energy can be reclaimed for fighting or running from a predator. The largest organic spring in the horse's body, and therefore the easiest one to observe in action, is the back, including the spine and the associated musculature that draws it together in much the same way that a bow is drawn by an archer.


Let’s also consider physics. Momentum and potential energy.


That being said, we have to use the horses same muscles they use when they run from predators… interesting thought right? They have to be taught to run before they can be taught to collect. We have to create some momentum to have the potential for stored energy. In other words we have to move the horses feet (a lot) in order to start thinking about collection.


It’s never about putting the head down or in a tie, pulley or strap to hold it down. As I said before, it’s only an organ for balance not an organ for movement. So here is Rainy, in the infant stages of collection. This is something I hear many riders and trainers speak of. And it’s the holy grail of all horse things. I think Rainy has huge potential and athleticism to take me there… she is my unicorn.


I hope this has been informative for my readers and used as a reference in your daily riding lives!


As a millennial would say it: L8er <3

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Thrid time's a charm- Keep up the good work.

Horse training is a funny thing. There may not be any magic break through that "fix" your horse. Sometimes you have to just persevere and make tiny changes over the course of a very long time.

I had the third ride on Rainy the other day. This is not much different then the first or second. I basically made subtle changes that can amount to huge developments for the horse, and we as humans don't realize it. 

During this third ride, I planned to make it short and sweet. I also was in a hurry, another mistake in most cases. I am a strange animal and if I am in a hurry, I somehow automatically "pause" and take whatever is necessary when it comes to horses to finish the job. I blame this if I am late for a date with my husband.

So whatever the case I had planned to make this session short. I haltered my willing pest, Rainy, Who always is in my back pocket when I head out to the pasture. I saddled and headed to the round pen. I always ride there, Why? So great you ask, I want the horse to always feel like they can move forward. This is so important for colts. I want to be able to go around in the circle instead of bolting off into the sunset!

During my session I intended to canter for the first time. I also wanted to test Rainy. I wanted to make the beginning steps seem less important and the later new steps the reward-able tasks. I turned her head loose, disengaged and turned her forehand on the ground, I also did a bit of short lunging. This didn't take more then 10 minutes.

I preceded to jump around like a maniac to test her ability to "find her feet". This is great cardio.

She was READY, I hopped on. We walked a bit and trot/gaited a bit. I am still riding in a halter mind you- never pulling back just switching directions. you never pull back on a young horse.... Why? you create BRACES!! Not the kind on your teeth. The kind that make a horse buck and rear, also many other horse problems that are really rider problems. Another blessing for the round pen.

Whats next? WE CANTER! Have you been told that you don't canter a gaited horse? Whoa Whoa Whoa, I think this is the most controversial topic and the most misunderstood.

Why do I canter the gaited horse? When they canter and/or gallop, there is a period of suspension that allows 3-4 feet to be off the ground. During this time they are able to redistribute their weight. This allows for better balance and allow for that hind end to reach up underneath their belly and pick up their backs.

Why pick up their backs? If they can round their backs they can begin to correctly collect, it starts from the rear and pushing it forward and reaching up underneath their bellies to lift their backs. FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD. This is step 1 for developing the muscles for collection.

This is an integral part and just a tiny piece of the large picture.

Why does the gaited horse need this? Collection? Whats that? Visualize above. Think of collection as holding a spring and compressing it. It has potential energy correct? If you let go it would "spring" out of your hands.

First we energize and develop forward movement in the horse, kind of coiling a spring. Muscles must be build and correctly placed in order to proceed to the next step.

Second the energy has to be controlled, the horse must be able to put the energy in the right places. ie, go left, right, forward, back. AND then do this with each one of their four feet. 4 X 4 that's 16 different possibilities I start off with with a young horse. I work all of their feet.

Did I mention the feet also can move up and down independently as well? In space they can move in different planes. This can be a game changer. This equates to collection.

Thirdly the coiled spring I mentioned earlier? How do we coil the horse? Well we use all of our aids to sustain that potential energy and only have it come out when we want. Kind of like a tube of toothpaste, if you squeeze the bottom (the horses hind quarter) and push it forward without the cap on, it just spurts out. This is what I want on the first ride but as the horse develops we slowly put the cap on and build potential energy while squeezing the tube of toothpaste.  Use the seat the soft rein and our legs to coil the spring to develop a round horse when we want it to be round.

When a horse is round it can gait softly on a loose rein. Here is the goal for all my gaited horses. Gait Softly.

So here is Rainy. Just beginning her journey. She rides off at a canter, she spurts, because I haven't put any cap on her yet.  She squirts off into a unbalanced canter. But she bucks once! Well that's just a completely natural reaction as her prey brain is telling her that I'm a cougar instead of her friend she sees daily on the ground. I don't want to yank her down with my hands on the rope- I could create a brace and she could buck more (plus create a habit when I punish or frighten her) She is frightened because I'm a cougar- if I punish her excessively she could be fearful of going forward.... I want her to free up and canter freely.  If she is fearful of this then she is fearful of becoming collected! I definitely  don't want that.

 So for that buck, the energy went up instead of forward, what i do is reinforce FORWARD. I spank her in the rear end a bit. and as she is accustomed to moving forward in the pen when i push her from the ground in the center of the pen. she then catches on and pushes forward at a bit of a gallop. She becomes a bit more comfortable with me up there at the canter. I RUB her neck. She slows. I take a breath. So does she. She stops. She breathes, I breathe.

This concludes our first canter session! The up and down transitions really do begin right from the start. The horse feels forward movement as a good thing. They also feel how it is to get really mentally and physically energized then LEARN to come back down from it. Do you see how this relates to anything spooking, bolting, running scared?

Starting a horse is so much more involved with those first experiences. That is what I love!