Come Take a Ride With Pie!

I  made this video the other when I rode Pie, to be able to share how cool it is to ride this fabulous pony..enjoy!

And of course, Pie had a nice roll in the dirt post bath..


Trail Ponies

One of the neat things about Chincoteague ponies, pretty much across the breed, is their pleasant, easy going demenor and their surefootedness on the trail.

Lately, we’ve been hitting the trails around our house…

Riding the pastures..

Beebe and Casey next to one of the HUGE piles of grubbed mesquite trees in our pasture.

Checking out the stock pond (which has water in it!!!)

Riding the path along the irrigation ditch

Of course, we can also encorporate competitive trail obstacles into our arena time..this is Pie practicing her “log drag” obstacle we may see at competitive trail events or stock horse competitions..she did pretty good!

Pie in the Bosal

One thing I have been aiming for, with training Pie, is taking the “traditional” path that many a reined cowhorse takes in their journey to becoming fully “broke”. Let me say, I have never brought a horse along like this, but I love the tradition behind it and heard such accolades about the process, I figured Pie would be as good as any horse to bring down this traditional path, progressing from snaffle, to bosal, to “two rein” and then to curb bit..

A bosal is not a bitless bridle..nor is it like many of the mechanical hackamores or even a sidepull.

They all function differently….

(above, a bosal and mecate, from Al Dunnings website)

(above a Jim Warner Hackamore..which encorporates a curb chain)

(above, a bitless bridle)

(above, Pie in a sidepull)

The bosal actually can trace it’s roots to the Spanish Moor’s, and was brought to America by Spain. For years, the Bosal was used pretty exclusively west of the Rocky Mountains and therefore was sometimes called the “california” style or “Vaquero”..for the spanish “cowboys” who employed this method of creating “bridle horses”.

The idea behind the progression of snaffle to bosal was

1. the snaffle teaches lateral flexion well..the bosal builds on that and starts teaching vertical flexion.

2. around the time a bosal was used, (3-4 years old), a young horse’s teeth were errupting, therefore carrying a bit could be uncomfortable.

3. the mecate, usually made of prickly horsehair, starts teaching the basics of neckreining.

(above, a bosal, mecate and hanger, made by Steve Guitron)

interestingly, the vaqueros actually started horses in a piece of equipment similar to a rope halter or sidepull, then the bosal..they progressively worked down to a smaller bosal and encorporated the spade bit the horse would evetually be ridden in..(this is where “two rein” comes in…the horse is ridden in a bosal AND a bit). When the english came to America, they brought with them the snaffle bit, and thus, the vaqueros encorporated the snaffle into their program. 🙂

A spade bit, while it looks monsterous to some, is actually only ment to be used on an older, well prepared horse with a FEATHER light touch. Riding a horse in a spade is akin to riding in a cadillac with power steering. Not every horse can “pack” a spade bit either. a traditionaly trained spade horse is the final step in this type of training..not every horse gets to this point..but the ones that do can akin their knowledge to having their PhD.

(above, Les Vogt on a finished bridle horse, complete with rein chains and Romel reins)

I bought a Bosal (bow-sal) and Mecate (Me-Ca-Tay) back in december and Ive been dieing to try it on Pie. This weekend, I finally got the chance..Although I havent gotten a traditional “hanger”, a browband headstall worked fine..and Pie did  really well.

The bosal is ridden abit differently then a snaffle, as you can lightly “bump” the bosal for a different cue, adding pressure to the horse’s nose and also using the knot under their chin(and why its totally different then a bitless, sidepull or hack). Gradually, the pressure is decreased as the horse starts to understand what the bosal means, while the rider continues to encorporate their seat and leg cues.

Pie really seemed relaxed and happy in the bosal..she kept wanting to stretch down into it and was very easy going and quiet..We will continue working on it, the first few rides are simply the horse getting used to the cues..but she is catching on quickly…I am excited to see how she progresses in this and the difference in her when she is moved into a curb bit evetually versus a horse that did not have time in the bosal. This type of training requires patience and time..but the benefits and rewards are great.

Below is a short video of her riding around abit in the bosal..

Robo Cow

Today, Pie and Beebe had a spring break adventure! We were invited by a friend of ours to go out to a local barn that trains cutting horses and introduce them to the “Pro Cutter”..aka Mechanical Cow..aka “Robo Cow”. 🙂

A mechanical cow is a training tool used by cutting and cowhorse trainers. It is a large stuffed cow, on a pulley system of sorts, that  is controled thru a handheld controler. the stuffed cow moves back and forth based on the buttons pushed on the controler. The benefits of working a horse on the pro cutter is that you can work on specific issues the horse may be having, as you control the “cow”..(something you cannot do with a real cow!) sometimes, the stuffed cow is replaced with a “Flag” (a piece of material) too.

the Pro Cutter Website

After the intial shock both Pie and Beebe had over seeing that stuffed cow ZING back and forth, both ponies gradually settled..Beebe was the bravest and thus earned a gold star today. Casey rode her very well..keeping her nose tilted abit into the pro cutter in proper form

Pie put in some good turns for me..watched the cow well (probably making sure it didnt try to eat her!) was a great experience for her…she put in a really nice stop at the end too..

It was definantly a unique experience for all of us and will greatly help in the ponies’ training for cattle events. Its always a great day when progress is made!



Nom Nom Nom

Drought Resistant cows, sheep and…ponies???

Well, mabey not 100% true..;)

We of course, here in Texas this past summer experienced one of our HOTTEST, DRIEST summers in history. We broke all sorts of records of consecuetive days over 100 degrees..100 days actually to be exact..ugh. The heat and lack of rain turned our pasture to dry crunchy grass and many folk’s hayfields to dirt. Cattle were being liquidated at a record pace..and horses were for sale left and right..”Out of hay” was a common sales pitch. 😦 Hay skyrocketed in price due to it’s scarcity..I myself made four trips east of our ranch to bring in roundbales for our animals on the our hayfield, due to the heat..was not producing as it should.

During this time..I came to appreciate easy keepin’ animals..Our cows all have from Brahma blood in them..this gives them a greater heat tolerance then traditional Angus or Herford..(not to say they liked the took it’s toll, but I think they weathered better then some cattle).

My sheep are dorper..from South Africa and they of their notable qualities is they are also more heat tolerant then other breeds of sheep…they also are easy keepers, staying quite fat on very little actual hay and feed

I REALLY came to appreciate my wonderful chincoteague ponies too..they are smaller then our fullsize horses..and seem to get fat on air! There is an old saying “A Chincoteague pony can get fat on a cement slab.” and while not entirely true, it is based abit in a notable quality these ponies seem to have of simply being able to process food very well and maintain their weight well on little..

Beebe definantly hasnt missed a meal!

Obviously with ponies like this..its important to make sure they are getting what they need, vitamin wise. Their hay, the basis of every horse’s diet (or it should be!) is high quality, fertilized coastal hay. They have mineral blocks they have free access too, and they get alittle bit of feed morning and keep them happy while  I am feeding everyone else…Id probably have a riot on my hands if they didnt get their tiny amount of horse pellets.

This winter both Pie and Beebe seem to have gotten abit more “fluffy”…weight wise (Pie moreso then Beebe) and are still on LESS then my quarter horses. It just amazes me how easy to keep these ponies are! Additionaly,  as Ive aged..Ive REALLY come to appreciate animals that are easy to care for! The ponies are just that.

As Pie doesnt seem to offended when someone makes a comment on how round she is..much more comfortable for me to be on bareback!

Whats in a name???

Whenever we go somewhere I always get funny looks when I tell someone Pie’s registered name. Pie’s “barn” name also has a unique story. Her breeder, Lisa Christian, Called her Moonpie, due to the white streak thru her mane, which looks like a moonpie. (and if you don’t know what a moonpie is, I pity ya..come down to Texas and you will try one, they are a southern delicacy..;) ) I shortened it to Pie evetually.

But her registered name is even more interesting..The Duchess of Lightning. Now, this name encompasses alot, its a “big shoe” to fill..

The Duchess of Lightning was a diving horse that traveled the country during the 1930’s. A diving horse was a unique act in which a horse cantered up a long ramp at a gradual incline. At the top, the horse “dove” off into a deep pool of water. Over time, a rider was added, who made a moving mount right before the horse jumped off. Dr. Carver, a member of Wild Bill’s Western Show created the act and he traveled the country, until finally getting a consistent billing at the world famous Steel Pier in New Jersey.


Many have seen the Disney movie Wild Hearts Cant be Broken..this movie is loosely based on the book A Girl and Five Brave Horses, written by Sonora Webster Carver, the main rider of the diving horses, including The Duchess of Lightning. Sonora is famous for diving 60 feet into a pool of water horseback..even after she went completly blind!

Sonora and an unidentified horse diving 60 feet in atlantic city..(notice the smaller ramp below, which was used during training)

The Duchess of Lightning was described in Sonora’s book as a large, big boned dapple gray mare of draft blood. They originally called her Lightning due to the speed at which she worked and learned. While in Canada one show, a Duchess tried to buy her..Dr. Carver refused, but added “Duchess” onto Lightning’s name in honor of the Duchess’ interest.

The Duchess of Lightning diving with Sonora up

Bear in mind, these horses were not forced to jump. Numerous accounts from the people who rode, trained and cared for these horses attested to this fact..while it may look incrediably scary, the horses doing it were handpicked and weeded out of many, they truly loved what they did.

I have always been facinated by this act, the horses and the riders..and The Duchess of Lightning was my favorite horse of Sonora’s troupe.

My choice of Pie’s registered name was solidified when I considered her sire and dam’s names..

her sire, Lightning of Chincoteague

her dam Denim and Diamonds

Ive always felt that a horse’s name is important..a name should fit the horse, should sound great said in a whisper or over the should cause a person to want to SEE that animal. All my animals names have significant meaning to me too…Pie’s name is extremly special as it encompasses so much, it is all tied together. My vet said it sounds like something a little girl would name her pony…;)..Ive gotten used to the good natured ribbing by now..:)

Stock Horse of Texas Clinic

On Friday, September 9th, Pie and I trekked out to Vernon, Texas to take part in the Stock Horse of Texas or SHOT clinic.

SHOT is an organization that puts on shows thru out the year in Texas. One could call these shows something along the ranch versatility line of events, except for a few small exceptions. Ranch Versatility has 5 classes-Pleasure, trail, conformation, cutting and working ranch horse(like working cowhorse). SHOT shows have four classes (there is no conformation)-Pleasure, Trail, Reining and Cowhorse. They also offer separate divisions within the show, depending on the rider’s and horse’s experience level, which offers a very encouraging atmosphere for everyone. 🙂 Classes are placed individually and then an overall champion for the day is determined in each division.

One of the other great things about SHOT is that they always have a clinic the day before their shows, which covers each class.

Which leads us to the Vernon clinic. The clinicians for each event were

Cowhorse- Chance O’Neil of the 4 6’s Ranch

Reining- Ben Baldus of the Waggoner Ranch

Trail- Mozaun McKibben of Whitesboro, Texas, AQHA Open Ranch Versatility World Champion

Pleasure-Laurie Shelton, 2010 SHOT Open World Champion


We arrived and Pie was cool as a cucumber..shes always been a good girl like this, in regards to traveling alone.

We were all divided into four groups in the morning, depending on our and the horse’s experience. We then followed a schedule thru out the day, which had us visit each clinician for a certain amount of time.

First, we visited Mozaun in Trail. I admit, we haven’t worked a WHOLE bunch on serious trail “stuff”..outside of bridges and trot poles..and I saw a “hot heels” over there of the few things that Pie hasn’t quite figured out what to make of yet..

the course we were to ride was a bridge, to a sidepass, a back thru L, trot logs, lope logs (big logs), an arbor, groundtie and then a pick thru obstacle..with branches set at strange angles. I really should have more faith in my pony..she did phenomenal..and even though we’d never loped over anything..after we walked over the poles, then trotted, we loped over them NO problem. She also did the arbor and groundtied.

the pickthru gave her alittle trouble, I really think she wasn’t entirely sure what she was supposed to do..she followed Mozaun’s horse thru…I think with afew more times, she would have no problems. (and the hot heels wasn’t on our practice course..but Pie and I did investigate it.)

I am always aware that I am on a pony at these events..I get curious looks and then someone gets brave and asks about her..:)..Mozaun liked her alot. She actually wasn’t much smaller then his horse(a mustang). He is competing in the Mustang Makeover next weekend in Fort Worth and this little horse was going good.

Pie watching another rider on trail

Next we moved onto Pleasure. Pleasure in stockhorse is supposed to showcase a horse that would be a “pleasure” to ride across open country. the horse performs a pattern individually which showcases ALL gaits..including extensions. We worked on small parts of the pattern with Laurie. Pie did well and put in a good stop and 180 degree turn. Our 70/30 right lead gave us a pinch of trouble..but we worked thru it.

After lunch, we went to Cowhorse with Chance O’neil. Now, Pie has never worked a cow before..she’s seen cows on our place, but never worked them. My goal was a good experience, not rushed or crazy..EASSSYYY..

She did very well..better then I expected actually! see the video below, Pie’s first time on a cow.

At about 0:22, you can see Pie stopped deep..Chance and afew others along the fence, laughed and said they surely didn’t expect to see a pony stop like that. you can see the goal of this was to get Pie to “box” the cow, as in keep it up at the top of the arena, and let Pie learn to “mirror” and follow the cow. Chance commented after afew more times, I’d need a seat belt..meaning, she is going to be quick once she understands what she is supposed to do.

Our final stop of the day was reining with Ben. We went over alot of body control, which is the basis for a good reining pattern. One thing I did learn, which seemed to help Pie was regarding the turnaround or “spin”..when asking for the turnaround, if the horse gets lazy or decides to not listen, instead of schooling them IN the spin, drive them out to a circle, school out there and then go back to your spin…Pie got a pinch dull in her turn, so I tried this, came back to the turnaround and wow!..she was much more receptive and turned around VERY well with just me clucking to keep her going!

That is why I love these clinics…you always walk away with knowledge and different perspectives on things!

I was beyond proud of Pie..I had lots of people complimenting her, including the clinicians. I felt like I told her story and the story of chincoteague 50 times yesterday..but the interest in her and acceptance by everyone was great. I sometimes doubt my ability to get her where she needs to be..she is the first horse I have started myself remember..I think alot of what she is is due to me..but also to HER..she is such an easy going, good pony..she is smart and tries really hard to do what is being asked of her.

We came home..tired, but I think we both felt like alot had been accomplished.

Gift of the Horse Contest WINNER!!!!

Afew months back, I came across a contest called “The Gift of the Horse-Biggest Fan” sponsored by Horse Coupon Book.

This contest took 24 Famous trainers and asked people to write an essay on why they felt they were this particular trainer’s “Biggest fan”.

Carole Fletcher was one trainer featured. When I saw this, I knew I had to enter..Carole’s book, Trickonometry, was the book that started Pie and I’s journey into trick training..I thought how cool would it be to spend a day with her and get all her literature! see here for what the package contained.
Click here to go to Carole’s website.

I wrote an essay about Pie, myself and how trick training has shaped our relationship. Well, we got enough “likes” on Facebook to make the semi-finals..pretty cool in my mind!

Imagine my surprise when I saw the judges had chosen MY essay as the winner!

You can view my essay here

I am beyond excited and honored the judges chose my essay as the winner. The great thing is, this will benefit PIE too..and don’t worry, we will keep our fans and followers updated on this!

Thank you finally to all those who “liked” us on facebook, Gift of the Horse and the judges who chose my essay!

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