This Months Features....
All the Dirt
Ground Savvy
Ease on Down the Road
Ease on Down the Road Cont...

Seasoning Tips
Winners Thoughts

 

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GROUND SAVVY 

          When you find an equine athlete, itís your job to keep him working at his peak level. You are asking him to give three quick turns at full speed. Itís hard on his mind and hard on his bodyÖand the ground is a big determining factor on how well he will work.
          Study that ground. Check it out. Some times it can sure be deceptive. It might look great, and turn out to be shallow with a hard pan underneath and dangerous because of the chance of slipping and falling.
          Or it might look wet, so you would not go at maximum speed to protect your horse, only to find out that the moisture on it had packed it and made it a faster arena. So go out there and check out the ground. Kick it around with your foot. Finding out about the ground lets you do a better job of preparing.
          With ground that is real deep, I know I will generally have to push harder. The deepness seems to make the horse anticipate the turn more and set harder, so I will usually ride a little more aggressively at the pattern to keep the deep ground from slowing me down.
          Also, with deep ground, I sometimes change the headgear on my horse, going to something a little lighter but, of course, it will be something my horse is already comfortable with. I would NOT switch to a strange bit for the first time at a jackpot or rodeo.
          On hard ground, most horses will run a little faster and not turn quite as good because they canít get into the ground. With that in mind, when the arena is hard, I will emphasize the ďsetĒ for my horse. I will warm him up with that in mind, then when I run, I will cue him to set harder than usual.
          If I felt it necessary, I might go to a bit with a little more control for a hard arena.
          For a horse to really be a great barrel horse, he has to be able to work well on both hard and deep arenas. I have been lucky to have several horses that would work well no matter what type ground they had to run on. But remember, no matter how great your horse is, there is going to be some ground that is difficult for your horse.
          When you get to the barrel race or rodeo and it has been raining, you really need to know your ground. Probably the type of ground condition most likely to hurt or cripple a barrel horse is the boggy, muddy arena.
          This is the kind of mud that, when you walk across it, it pulls your shoes and boots off. Usually you find this when it has rained a lot, and it was a slow, steady rain on an arena that was worked pretty deep.
          But not all arenas get boggy in the rain. Sometimes the rain can pack the ground so it is a fast track. A lot of big rodeos have been won after a real, hard rain packs it down.
          I prefer ground thatís not too hard and not too deep, but has a cushion where a horse can push without going to the hard pan.
          Sometimes an arena can look good, but not be deep enough and have a slippery hard pan underneath. This is easy to slip on and you have to use your own common sense to deal with it. If you watch two or three barrel racers ahead of you go, and they fall down, you might lope through the pattern. You wonít win anything, but you might save your horse from injury.
          Just use your own judgment to decide what is best. I do and I have turned down a run instead of hurting my horse but I know which ground is terrible for my horse and the more experience you get the more you will learn to study the ground.
          I really like to use leg protection on my horses for a variety of reasons on all types of ground. On hard ground (or in deep sand) the back ankles (fetlocks) can burn as the horse sets. If heís not protected back there, sooner or later he might decide to stop working because it hurts him.
          Also, in deep ground, horses can crossfire in the back. You also see them overreach in deep ground because the front feet can stick a little so that the back ones come up and hit them. In shallow ground, the sliding behind can let those back legs get far enough up front to interfere.
          A lot of girls take their leg protection off their horse when itís muddy because they are afraid they will lose them or ruin them because they might not stay attached good in the wet ground. If youíre afraid the boots will come off, use gray duct tape to wrap around the boots after you put them on the horse to cover and seal the area where the fasteners are. Donít wrap them any tighter than the boot fits and remove the tape immediately after the run.
          The good thing is that the people in charge at many arenas are dragging more and more. I remember when we ran forty or fifty barrels racers on the same pattern without a tractor ever coming into the arena. So, we really do appreciate those committees that take great care of the ground such as the NBHA. Their big shows have great ground and do a lot of preparing, I give them a lot of credit for making better ground conditions for barrel racers. Even in the slack, many of the committees have tractors and equipment on hand and that is really appreciated by the barrel racers. We also appreciate those committees that prepare the arena in advance, not just waiting until the day of the rodeo to work it up. What happens when they do that is that the ground is really deep for the first performance, then it gets faster and faster with each performance.
          I have had people ask me if I shoe my horse for the ground, and I really donít shoe differently for different types of ground because I want my horse to be used to the shoe he's wearing. If you have a horse and heís having trouble keeping his footing on all types of ground, you might want to talk to your farrier about doing something different. I hesitate to put any sort of grabs, cork, or borium on a horse unless I really know him. A lot of people just experiment with different devices on their shoes and this can really get a horse sore.
          Overall, when dealing with ground and learning to make your best run on every kind of ground, use your common sense, study each arena carefully, and I know that you will soon become more comfortable with all kinds of surfaces!

 

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