Beri, the big little Shooting Horse

It started with the quick 'how about...' thought, progressed to an email, that quickly expanded to include a group and ended up with a fun and productive evening.

A fellow endurance rider, Kristen Fisher, also shows her Arabians, and manages several of the local Arabian Horse Assoc horse shows.

After exchanging a couple of emails, she agreed to let my shooting club, the Texas Smokin' Guns do a mounted shooting demo between classes during prime showing time Saturday evening.

Wow ~ the pressure was on! At least for me it was. Beri and Miree and I won the Arabian Horse Association Open Events National Mounted Shooting Championship last year and the minute I opened my mouth about taking Beri to shoot at a big AHA show, the butterflies started doing their flippy thing in my stomach. What would all those fancy show people think about my fat little pasture horse?

But, as they say ... onward and onward (or something like that).

I gathered my wits and took consolation in the fact that although Beri and I hadn't been able to shoot in several months prior to the March shoot, she did better than could have been expected with the little bit of training we'd been able to do with all the transitional (divorce and restarting life) stuff that I'd been going through. I'd have to count on her to remember her base training and run on that rather than what little we'd been able to do month to recent month.

Then Mike asked the exhibitors for their bio to be read for each horse and shooter at the demo:

I started pulling stuff together, trying to figure out something that made us sound good. Of course, I wanted to mention the AHA OEIP award, and that she was an endurance horse, and that she was a homebred, and of course something about her relatively recently-imported Saudi breeding ... and I looked at what she'd done over the last couple of years...

* 2009 Arabian Horse Association OEIP National Mounted Shooting Champion
* 2008 was the Texas Smokin' Guns Ladies 1 year end highpoint.
* 2009 TSG LC1 3rd place high point.
** 2008 and again in 2009 she earned a National Top Ten recognition from the The Institute for the Desert Arabian Horse for her shooting and other activities.
* She was the 2008 Blue Arabian Horse Catalog Reserve Champion Endurance horse
** also in 2008 High Point BLUE STAR Shooting horse in both the adult and wrangler division
*** and also still in 2008, Reserve High Point Ambassador.
* She's the BAHC Champion Shooting horse for 2009
** and also again, in 2009, their Reserve High Point Ambassador for local and community events which include doing events like this demo.

Also that she's an accomplished AERC Endurance horse, having completed over 550 AERC miles with six different riders. To date, she's completed rides of up to 75 miles, including completing 50 miles at the Bluebonnet ride last weekend in Decatur.

....not bad for a fat little pasture mare. It gave me a little confidence, but also a bigger case of nerves. I had the thought that with her standing a full 14.1hh, her list of awards ended up being longer than she is tall.

But - many thanks to Mike and Mary Brucia, Robert Carlson and Maddie, Mary and Collin Flick and my son Jared, the demo went smoothly and seemed to entertain the larger than expected crowd in the stands.

Thank you again to Kristen Fisher and the Mayfest Challenge management for letting us show off a little - and we hope to be able to do it again!

(...argh. I know I've posted video here before, but I can't get it to work now so you'll have to follow the links.)

Becky and Beri Shooting Demo

Collin Flick and Desert Khai Special thanks to Mary and Collin for participating in the demo with their Blue List, Straight Egyptian, Khai. It's especially rewarding to have been able to have two Arabians in the demo at an Arabian Horse show. Too many people think that Arabians may be too 'hot' or temperamental to handle the gunfire and that simply isn't the case.


First of all, apologies to my readers as well as to ANDI for leaving her hanging on a bad training day. She is coming along nicely and I'll get caught up with her posts shortly.

In other news, What a fabulous time we had at the Bluebonnet ride this year. Due to "life" (and such), I hadn't been able to attend an endurance ride in about 14 months, and, as they say, that's too long.

It sure was great to be back in the saddle and back on the trail. GWAIHIR had an excellent ride his last time out (not counting the rider option pull last April due to the weather and his wimpy rider) with a 1st in our division and a 3rd overall on the tough Hill Country trail.

Saturday, he never missed a beat. Other than being a little more overly ambitious than usual, I couldn't tell he'd been out of the game for so long. He ate and drank better than ever and, as always, was eager for the trail. We had a great finish, I haven't seen the official results yet, but I think in the top 20.

If I read the photographers captions correctly, these photos are at about 47 miles. I love having happy horses at that distance.

Courtney rode ELBERTH (Beri), a smarter ride, letting us run, she slowed down for an easy day, just missing turtle by a couple of riders.

Beri finishing another 50 is a real success story for us as she tied up at the Bandera ride last year. We researched all our options and treated and brought her back conservatively.

We looked at everything, exercise, conditioning and fitness level, nutrition and even her heat cycle. I'd changed feeds and so I changed back. Over the course of the next weeks and months, we did a course of selenium and a very slow, structured work schedule, a period of rest and then a repeat of the very gradually increasing work, bringing her up to a regular riding schedule.

And it paid off. She's been doing light trail work and arena work, including winning the AHA OEIP National Mounted Shooting Championship for 2009, but this was her first long distance ride since her tie-up.

I couldn't resist adding this one. We're racing no one for ... I figured 30th place ... turned out to be in the top 20.... but I just love to let them run across the finish line. It feels good to have that much horse left. I didn't know Jim Edmondson (the photographer) was there, but got excited when I saw him get out his camera. I thought I'd get a real good photo of GWAIHIR extended and working, I love those with the nostrils flared and all that going on...

*sigh* It's a fun shot, but the son-of-a-gun doesn't even look like he's breathing hard. I love having that much horse, but he's going to have to work a little harder next time out so I can get one of those dramatic finish line photos that I love.

Reclaiming Andi - day seven

Today, unfortunately, she backslid. She wanted the halter on and would approach me to target it but didn't want me to approach that final step (into the Andi defined comfort zone) to put it on. I just walked around the stall with her until she stopped, and once I was within the zone, she tilted her head toward me and was glad to have it on.

I think what has happened is that over the last couple of days, I've moved too fast and put too much lag time between the halter and the grain. Yes—we'll get to that point, but I see now that while the lesson was well-learned on the surface, the foundation is still shaky.

I'm not going to reduce the lag time, though. I'll simply up the repetitions and gradually continue to increase the lag time, occasionally putting the halter on and off without a grain snack while it's on because eventually she'll be wearing it without a specific reward. Remember at this point, our goal is still to get her to want to have the halter put on and to like wearing the halter.

On Guard

I talk about my horses all the time, but I like to show things as well and this photo very well illustrates a herd instinct that you read about in old westerns, but don't often see.

This is a domestic herd, none of them have been feral for generations. I'm standing in my front yard, they're in a side pasture, the road is just on the other side of the trees.

Yet horsey instinct demands a guard be placed. You can see the backs of the other mares just below the crest of the hill. They're munching on a round bale. Beri is the youngest of the bunch and so she got tapped for guard duty. Even with her hip cocked and resting comfortably, you can see by her ears how alert she is, she's taking her job seriously.

If your hero rides a good mare like this, he's going to be hard to sneak up on, day or night.

Reclaiming Andi - day six

Day six was another easy review day, which was fine since it was snowing and cold even inside the barn.

I'd been there a bit earlier with the ferret under my coat. He sniffed her, and she sniffed him back, uneasy at the predator, cautious and unsure but trusting when I encouraged her—another sign of her progress.

I went in her stall with just the halter before I even scooped her bucket. She's calling to me now when she sees me come in the alley, and she came right to me but didn't like my bulky, noisy jacket that smelled of ferret she couldn't see. I quietly insisted she not step away, haltered her, and let her sniff my jacket—all was fine. I left her in the stall and went to get her grain before I fed anyone else.

Reclaiming Andi - day five addition

A fellow trainer called me on a point I mentioned earlier, and rightfully so. I made a simple comment - that I was willing to wait and let her come to me, that I was letting her make the decisions as to how much of what I wanted she was going to do, that I was passive and letting her decide if she wanted me in her comfort zone.

I want to emphasis that this is part of step one. I don't ask for trust and submission without a basis, without first building a foundation.

In the past, I've had friendly, willing babies that went a year or more into training before I realized that they had NO training at all, that we were simply a couple of buddies hanging out and having fun. These horses like people and are bold and enjoy getting out and doing fun stuff. They did everything I asked so I naively didn't realize there would come a time that I would ask something they wouldn't want to do, and because it was a 'new' situation, that we'd have problems with that.

I'm going to try real hard not to make that mistake with Andi. The lines of communication are open. She knows I'm talking to her, and she knows I'm listening when she talks back. I'm going to take the time to build a relationship, to give her a foundation and reasons to trust me, but I will, over time, be sure she understands that while I listen to her and answer her questions, that I have the final say in our discussions.

Ideally, I'll be able to do this subtly and gently over time. It's all fine lines and shades of gray, trying to find that perfect balance ... to ask more than what she'll do easily and just for fun without asking her to do something she'll outright refuse.

Over the next weeks, I'll introduce her to Linda TJ's 'wand' and 'put her in the box'. She'll learn to move her feet for me, to move away from pressure on her body, and we'll start doing some simple gymnastics in-hand. The plan is that the "go forward" cue will become simple habit as we transition from walking the barn alley or the arena to tarps, creeks, and even loading in the trailer. I'll try to find stuff for her to cross that will worry her just enough to think about it before she'll go ahead. Over time, she'll learn that I won't ask her to do something she can't do, and when there does come a time—out on a bad trail or in a trailer accident or any of those bizarre situations that horses and horseman get into—that I have to ask her to do something dangerous or at least very strange, she'll lay that trust in my hand and let me guide her out of something that frightens her or that she doesn't understand.

What a day ~

I had an early start this morning, little knowing how really bizarre and busy the day would turn out to be.

The first actually stop was to pick up chicken and guinea cages from my dad, which took only a couple of minutes, and then to tank up the truck and pick up a large coffee and some snacks for the road trip.

The first planned stop was to pick up a board horse that now belongs to a friend who lives out of town and is going to be keeping him here.

But I didn't make it there without mishap.

Less than a mile from my actual first scheduled destination, an explosion rocked my world. In the next instant, I realized I was covered in glass shards. My first instant thought was that I'd been shot. Thankfully, I was too much in shock to slam the brakes and (weirdly) drove about another couple hundred feet before I pulled over to try to figure out what happened.

Looks like a bird hit the window (someone said) - but this is the back window, directly behind the driver's head, and I was going about 50mph down a winding country subdivision. Some suggested it could have been a bird flipped over the top of the truck in the draft ... which ... I guess the hole is about the right size for a very small bird, but that doesn't explain the very centered point of impact and the fact there's no blood and no bird. That hole obviously could have been made by a rock or baseball ... but not in the back window going 50. -no one else was on the road, no one passed me.

The final answer has been narrowed down to a random shooting, space debris or spontaneous combustion. So far, nothing except glass shards have turned up in the truck cab or the bed. I'll give it a better going-over tomorrow.

Picking up Chewy from a farm outside of Kauffman, the original first planned stop, was the next actual stop.

Then to Canton for four Red Cornish chickens, good laying and sitting hens, and a rooster. We were down from a mixed batch of six chickens and a rooster to only a couple of hens and that's not enough eggs for us. We're hoping to have an overabundance shortly!

I was almost home when I got a frantic call that one of the does we hadn't put in the pen had had her baby and was too busy fighting off the dogs and other goats to clean it or let it nurse. The boys snatched it up, dried it off and wrangled the mom into the pen and made sure the new little girl got her first good drink of colostrum. This little one now belongs to the young man who found her - I told him, that's what you get for saving her little life.

She's getting stronger, nursing good and mom is being a good mom, now that she's been given a chance.

We've had three little ones already, out of two does and four more does to go, although one isn't due for a couple of months - so we still have loads of cuteness still to come.