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3 Steps for Introducing a Horse to Mounted Shooting

This is a short video of Newt being introduced to mounted shooting. I have found that by hauling the horses to a shooting practice or show and simply having the horses near the sport it is possible to tell a lot about how they are going to react. This is a Friday night fun shoot before a Northern Ohio Outlaws show.

In ‘Step 1’ watch Newts ears. I could feel him flinch for the first shot but it was small enough that it is hard to see on the video. Also notice how he watches the other horses. Notice how after I pet him his ears stop flipping back and forth.

In ‘Step 2’ two seasoned horses flank Newt and those riders shoot to the left or right. This leaves my hands free to guide my new horse if he becomes upset. It also makes it possible for me to ride the same way I normally would. Once I pick up my gun I will subtly change how I ride. Having the seasoned horses is one more step in gathering information on how my horse will respond when I do shoot.

It should be noted that we are using blanks, there is no projectile. The black powder is enough to pop a balloon but also burns out after a short distance which is why this is a safe spectator sport.

Notice that we are firing at the ground and behind the saddle. If my new horse were to have a reaction, he would likely jump forward. If we were to shoot in front of the cinch a new horse would be more likely to shy left or right.

Newt was quiet so I moved onto ‘Step 3’ which was following an experienced horse and shooting from Newt myself. My primary goal is to focus on my horse and measure his reaction. Newt is very quiet for now and I was happy.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Training, Video

 

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Why did you start riding horses?

Remember why you started riding horses.What was it that made you fall in love with horses? Have you always dreamed about them from the time you were little or did you find them later in life?

The answers to this question always fascinate me. I have loved equines of all shapes and sizes from the time I was little and my desire to be with them has never changed. I know other people who rode for awhile and then moved to other hobbies.

I have also known people who have come to love them later in life. The first million dollar rider in the NRHA was said to have mounted up for the first time when he was twenty-three years old. I love that fact, not because money is the measure of success but because it just proves that you don’t have to start young to succeed.

Sadly, there are people that I see riding horses that make me wonder why…because they don’t seem to enjoy the horses at all. Often these people are focused on using the horse to reach an end goal such as winning at a horse show. I would guess that these people, at one point, rode horses because they enjoyed it. Would someone start riding for any other reason?

People aren’t perfect and horses aren’t either but if you can remember why you started it just might be the same thing that keeps you going.

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Life, Thought provoking

 

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Staying at show grounds, fairgrounds and friends houses while traveling with horses

 “My computer has been messing up I may have missed posts about your travels. How is it going with the bad weather? I have been concerned as last said in Texas and planned on being in Dothan, Alabama Saturday.” -Edee S.

I apologize for the lack of updates recently. We have been making our quick trip across the country and have also been squeezing in some visiting along the way. We spent Saturday night in New Mexico at Armstrong Equine which is a place we chose because we knew the family from the reining world and had mutual friends. The great news is that they also offer overnighting horses for anyone traveling through La Mesa as part of their business. I saw my first foal of the year while we were there and although we wanted to stay longer it became apparent that if we wanted to get ahead of the ice storm we would have to leave in the morning.

Barbra Schulte & Stacy Westfall, both inducted into Cowgirl Hall of Fame, 2012

Barbra Schulte & Stacy Westfall, both inducted into Cowgirl Hall of Fame, 2012

Sunday became the great race against the storm. We did managed to stay just ahead of it for the entire trip although we could feel the wind and temperatures dropping. We drove a longer stretch that day than we would have chosen normally but with the cool weather the horses were fine. They were happily munching hay and drinking water when offered. Newt seems to feel an obligation to drink a sip each time it is offered and my boys were having fun seeing how many times he would force down one more sip.

We found a facility that hosts horse shows just outside San Antonio to stay the night at, The San Antonio Rose Palace.  Many people we know who travel with horses look for rodeo grounds, fairgrounds or show facilities to over night at. One person even said that in a pinch you can often call the local sheriff who can unlock the fairgrounds. We haven’t actually tried that yet but it could be useful information down the road, especially in an emergency type situation.

We were just outside the freezing zone but we were also tired of traveling which lead to our next great idea: go visit Barbra Schulte! I have known Barbra for years but the last time I had seen her was in 2012 when we were both inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. I had to laugh because we had been playing ‘phone tag’ all last week and then I called her and asked if we could pull into her place and spend the night…quite a change of events! Not only did she agree but she also volunteered to cook us dinner. What a blessing it was to have a short day of driving and a long time to visit with friends.

Tuesday we hit the road again and drove into Louisiana making it possible for Jesse to say he had visited his 47th state. Only three left to go: Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. From where we are right now we only have about a six or seven hour drive to Dothan, Alabama where I will be speaking at Jeffers on Saturday.

How are the horses handling this quick-ish trip? Amazing. We took them out for a ride today and they were fresh and spunky. Even after some play time in the round pen they were both bright eyed and excited when we climbed on. They are very fit from all of our riding in Arizona and Southern California and combined with the 40 degree drop in temperature has left them acting a bit more like deer rather than horses. It makes me happy to know that the travel is easy for them.

lousiana

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Life, Members Question

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 42 NRHA Futurity

I visited the NRHA Futurity to do some follow up videos with Jac. The National Reining Horse Association Futurity is one of the premier events the association hosts with a total purse and prizes totaling nearly $2.3 Million to exhibitors. The horses have to be nominated when they are born and then additional payments are made during the horses two and three year old years. I knew the payments had been made for Jac and that there was a chance he would be showing here.

I was initially a little disappointed when I talked with Jac’s new owner, Patrice St-Onge, and learned that Jac didn’t come to the show but that quickly changed. I respect Patrice for the decisions he has been making with Jac.

The first big decision he made was to geld Jac. We always knew that this was a possibility which is why we collected semen from Jac as shown in Episode 40. Pat felt that it was in Jac’s best interest to be be gelded. Sometimes a stallion will lack focus and the rider will need to repeat the lesson over and over because the horse is distracted. When I was going to college one of the main vets would say over and over, “A good stud makes a great gelding.” One of the points he was trying to make was that the horses often improve when gelded.

The other decision was to not bring Jac to the futurity. We all knew that Jac had missed training time and Patrice decided that rather that push Jac hard to get ready for this show he would save him for the future. I am very excited that Jac is with someone who is making decisions with Jac’s best interest in mind.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Life, Stacy's Video Diary: Jac

 

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How long did you ride while you were pregnant?

“Stacy, I know you have 3 boys, and I was just wondering how long you rode while you were pregnant. Did you compete, or was it more riding for pleasure?Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your response!”-Sharli

“Stacy, Just wondering what ideas you might have for a pregnant gal to keep her horse in shape for next year. I’m 5 months along now and my husband has asked that I stay safe and do not canter or trot my horse. We do mostly gaming. If you have any ideas I would appreciate it. Thank you!”-Crystal N.

I do have three sons and I received differing advice during my pregnancies from professionals. My first advice would be to follow your doctors orders. For fun I will also recap some of what I did.Stacy Westfall's son and horse

I became pregnant with my first son in the fall. I was newly married and I had a job as a bank teller. I had recently sold my only horse (with a promise to buy him back someday) and Jesse and I hadn’t started our training business yet. This made it easy for me to not ride. The temptation of riding a horse I knew wasn’t there and I wasn’t interested in experimenting with other horses. Over that winter Jesse started riding a few horses for people and I grew restless without horses to work. I cleaned stalls, brushed horses and watched Jesse ride. That spring I trained a filly for the yearling lounge line class. I have a win photo from a show shortly after my son was born…but it is buried in my storage unit in Ohio. My Doctor recommended that I wait to ride for 6-8 weeks after my son was born so I did.

When I became pregnant with my second son we were training horses and I was staying home with my first son. I rode, with permission, quite awhile into my pregnancy. I tended to lose weight for the first three months and then it took a month or two to gain back to my original weight. It didn’t seem like a big deal to ride because all of the horses were broke (no colt starting) and it didn’t seem uncomfortable…until around 5-6 months. At that point I noticed several things. First, my balance was affected. Not huge, but it was there. Second, I could feel the supporting muscles in my stomach being stressed-especially at a lope. At the time the doctor and I were both operating under the idea that ‘if I was in shape for it, it probably would be safe’. The thinking was very similar to the runner, Alysia Montano, in California who competed while 8.5 months pregnant.

Stacy Westfall's boys ridingI was due January 1st and when the Congress entries had to be mailed in August 20th I thought it was a good idea to sign up for the Ladies Reining. Keep in mind that shortly after this is when I started to notice the symptoms above. By September Jesse was riding the horse for me most of the time and I would get on occasionally. I did show at the Congress in October and my son was born December 22. I have a photo sliding and placing at the Congress while very pregnant. It is buried somewhere in my storage unit in Ohio…but maybe it should stay there, if I remember correctly it was taken after midnight and we all look worn out, lol.

The third time was a bit more interesting because of one woman I met. My third pregnancy started out like the rest and I rode. People didn’t even know I was pregnant for quite awhile and I continued riding aged horses and showing. One day I was at a small local show and a lady walked up and introduced herself to me. She told me she was a nurse and she worked with my sister-in-law. We visited for a few minutes and then she mentioned that she had heard I was pregnant. I confirmed this and then she said, “I know it isn’t any of my business but I feel the need to tell you something. I am a nurse. I specifically work with newborns. You are an expert in the horse world and I respect that. I also would guess that, as a professional, you have seen more than most when it comes to bad things that can happen.”

I nodded in agreement. She went on, “You have probably learned both from mistakes you have made…but also from mistakes you have seen other people make.” I nodded again.

“I am asking you to consider not riding. I know it feels safe because you know the horses but think of the risk. I work everyday with children who are born premature, who are injured before they are even born. I see the problems and the pain it causes their families. If they could go back and change things they would. What if your horse trips? Just a simple trip could cost your babies life.”The barn help

As you can tell, she was very convincing. I had seen a horse trip and go down in a smooth arena, on a loose rein, for no reason and the rider suffered from a dislocated shoulder. Accidents do happen and as soon as she gave me her perspective I couldn’t erase it from my mind. I went home and didn’t ride for the remainder of that pregnancy. I still cleaned stalls and spent time in the barn. I am aware that accidents can still happen on the ground or driving in a car, but I also had two small children and when I looked at them I knew I wanted to do all I could to reduce any chance of hurting the baby I was carrying.

I believe that if I had met this lady during my first pregnancy I would never have ridden during any of them.

I wouldn’t feel bad turning my horse out during my pregnancy and accepting the idea that we could both get fit together after my baby was born. I can imagine doing groundwork once the doctor has cleared you for lifting weight, etc after the baby was born and then, when cleared by the doctor, I could see my horse getting fit along with me. Horses that are turned out will stay in shape pretty well. Another option would be to lease the horse to a friend or someone you trust. The options are almost limitless when doing this-you could choose to keep the horse at your house, you could give lessons, you could allow the horse to go to someone’s barn that you trust-the list goes on and on.

Congratulations. Enjoy this time. I loved being pregnant. Keep safe and remember there will be plenty of time for riding in the future. Getting back on after some time off is a little bit like a Christmas present to yourself.

 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Life, Members Question, Thought provoking

 

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Horse training as a lifestyle: Thanksgiving on the road

I had the opportunity to speak to the students in the Equine Program at the University of Findlay last week. Many, if not all, of them are planning on a career of some sort involving horses. Years ago when I was a student there things were pretty much the same including the desire of many to become horse trainers.

The students were great, asked lots of questions and I found myself repeating one phrase frequently:

“Training horses is a lifestyle.”-Stacy Westfall

In many ways this can be seen as the perfect choice if you love horses. For others the reality of what it also means can come as a shock when you begin to

A photo of our Thanksgiving meal in our motorhome while headed to a horse show.

A photo of our Thanksgiving meal in our motorhome while headed to a horse show.

live it.

Training and riding the horses is the fun part but, remember, I said it was a lifestyle. This isn’t casual anymore. A lifestyle means that you will be ‘living’ this job choice in many cases seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Here is a photo of the Thanksgiving meal that we had in our motor home today. We are headed to Oklahoma City for the NRHA Futurity show that starts tomorrow. I have had the privilege of attending this show as a spectator and as a participant.  Horses showing in the Futurity began arriving two days ago. The show is always scheduled for this time of year and they even host an annual Thanksgiving Dinner right there at the fairgrounds. Unfortunately we left later than we had hoped to yesterday and won’t arrive until after the meal is over…hence the meal in the motorhome.

Giving up a traditional Thanksgiving, or at least modifying it, is just one example of this career path being a lifestyle choice. Even if you choose to skip showing there will still be the every day, twice a day, minimum need to feed and care for the horses that have been trusted to you. It isn’t a typical 40 hour per week job you can walk away from easily on your days off.

Most jobs involve some kind of lifestyle choice but some require more than others. Embracing this knowledge makes it easier to see a career choice from a different angle…as a lifestyle.

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Life

 

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12 hours at a horse show with Stacy Westfall and Newt

I asked the question: “What behind the scenes info would you like to know about living, showing attending, or generally being at the Quarter Horse Congress?” This short video will answer many of these questions. Below are the answers to three specific questions that were asked:

“It would be great to see a day in the life of Newt at Congress! When does he get out the stall? What’s the warm up pen like? How do you burn off energy from being couped up all day – and translate that into a good performance?” Morgan S.

I think the video shows you the process of the day leading up to showing. We don’t always ride late at night, sometimes we ride during the day in the covered pen. I chose to show the two extremes in the video; the craziest 12 hours and the easiest day. The short clip at the end shows a ‘down day’ when Newt gets out to play. Sometimes we ‘trail ride’ around the grounds. Other times he plays on the lunge line. Once we leave Congress he will get pasture playtime again.

“How do you schedule your time effectively to perform, see friends perform and cheer, & see other events without being dead dog tired every day.” Bridgette F.

Hmmm, I have never considered being anything but dead-dog-tired at Congress…is that possible?!? The day I made the video we (humans) had been up for 44 hours with only 5 hours of sleep in that time period. I will spend weeks trying to catch up on sleep…but we were having fun and visiting with friends! The horses get a lot more rest then we do 🙂

“One of these days I would like to make it to Congress…I’ve been told to go watch first. Do you have to qualify to show there? How do you know if you are good enough to show there?” Dawn N.

You do not have to qualify for most of the classes. In general, I also recommend coming to watch first. It is a pretty tough show because they offer pretty good awards, etc. If you don’t get a chance to come then consider either watching live or buying a video of the class/classes that you would compete in. Then you could compare your riding/showing with what you see on the video to make your decision. Or you can just come and show. Many people have it on their ‘bucket list’ and they consider the experience worth the trip.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in A Horse's View, Life, Performance horse, Training, Video

 

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