Christmas is a season of tradition, and no one knows that better than Michael Martin Murphey. The iconic, horse loving musician has worked diligently to keep alive the spirit of the first Cowboy Christmas Ball for more than two decades. This year, he launches into the next 20 years with his popular Cowboy Christmas Tour.
Sponsored by Spalding Labs the leading natural fly control company, Murphey and his acclaimed Rio Grande Band will spread Holiday Cheer through nearly 20 cities including a stop in Anson, Texas, where the Cowboy Christmas Ball originated in 1885. “The first time I came to the annual Cowboy Christmas Ball in Anson, Texas, where the community has celebrated the holidays with this event every year since 1934, I was floored that the community had worked so hard to keep it going,” Murphey said. “I fell in love watching the older couples dance and the dances being passed on to the younger people. It reconnected me to the tradition.” That tradition began on Christmas night, 1885, when arriving in Anson, Texas native New Yorker Larry Chittenden chronicled a dancing spectacle unparalleled in those days by composing the rhythmic, rollicking lines of The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball, a six stanza verse that is still remembered and anthologized in print and song. Modeling a show after the annual Anson event, Murphey took the celebration on the road, and has over the past two decades, performed the ball in such prestigious venues as Bass Hall (Ft. Worth, TX), The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (Oklahoma City, OK), the National Hispanic Cultural Center Journal Theater (Albuquerque, NM) and The Performing Arts Center at Texas A&M University (Austin, TX).
As Cowboys Christmas new sponsor, Spalding Fly Predators is proud to be joining Michael in this cherished holiday celebration. Per chief fly guy, Tom Spalding, "We've been helping horse and livestock owners keep their facilities fly free for over 39 years. Michael's passion for ranching and horses makes him the perfect partner in our quest to spread the word about enjoying the cowboy lifestyle without flies. Concert goers can receive a free copy of our 2015 calendar featuring the gorgeous paintings of renowned Cowboy artist Kenneth Wyatt, and they'll be treated to an onsite traveling display featuring Kenneth's paintings as well."
This year's tour begins on Nov. 21 in Colorado Springs and will continue through December. Visit www.michaelmartinmurphey.com for a complete listing of stops on the tour. “The Cowboy Christmas Ball is steeped in everything I hold dear of growing up in Texas at Christmas time,” Murphey said. “All the old dances are here... the waltzes, the mazurkas, the Paul Jones, the Virginia Reel... all these dances are still done here. The women make their own costumes and clothes and the men still wear string ties and frock coats. It’s a family reunion of friends. “This is my favorite season of the year,” Murphey continued. “We remember our fathers and mothers. We celebrate our children and we treasure our friends and the many blessings given by our Lord. It really brings out the very best in all of us.”
To register to win 2 VIP concerts tickets to a Michael Martin Murphey show when he is in your area click here.
See the newest Michael Martin Murphey video we've done in our video section.
Anyone who has ever felt a horse with completely optimized thoroughness in his back will never forget it. I refer to it as floating, doing nothing and just enjoying the rides’ subsequent carriage. However you choose to describe it, this is a feeling you’ll forever seek to return to in all your future rides yet, in all its glory, is something challenging to explain to students as you have to experience it.
More often than not, riders try to make a connection through force. They try to create a fictional rhythm and relaxation by putting weight in the reins with their hands and body and driving the horse into that weight with their legs and seat. This is hard work. Riding should not be hard. Riding should be easy. True connection is impossible to achieve with force as horses are significantly stronger than riders and therefore attempting to create connection with pure physical strength is, at best, futile. Fictional connection is the results of driving the horse into your hands creating the appearance of a horse that is “on the bit” but in actuality is a horse that is stiff in the back, heavy in the hand and not pleasurable to ride. By working in a systematic training style that focuses on finesse over force and resistance instead of restriction, riders’ true feel is achieved and the results of connection comes naturally. Feel is defined by how well you listen and how quickly you react with your timing. I focus on the systematic use of basic aids to develop the riders’ awareness and feel. With feel, the rider will not only excel leaps and bounds closer to that often-misunderstood word connection but also simultaneously advance in their personal strategies, competition skills creating a willing and unblocked horse. The end result of communication by a question and answer method is an unblocked horse. With the question and answer method you apply tactful mental and gymnastic exercises to entice the horse to become looser, in turn creating more physical strength and likewise, allows you to win his trust to work with you. Whether feel comes natural or is learned by the rider, it’s the main ingredient that leads to an unblocked, open, free moving, relaxing on the bit connected horse. I am often asked how to get their horses on the bit. With a question like “on the bit” and discussions of connection, it’s best to step outside the sandbox and take a look at the training pyramid. When all the precursors to this mystical “on the bit” are defined and understood is when a true connection through feel and harmony, not opposition or fake connection, can be achieved. Rhythm (Speed Control) The training pyramid starts with Rhythm, as without a decent tempo in life or in the sandbox, one goes nowhere. Rhythm is defined as with energy and tempo but I prefer to call it speed control. You need to be able to set your horse on cruise control with the proper amount of RPMs to create rhythm. Easy, right? Well, most people translate energy and tempo (and all too often the word forward) as running. This could be furthest from the truth. By using the word speed control we step outside the preconceived notions of energy and tempo and learn that the rider sets the speed and not the horse. Speed control exercise: Try riding to a metronome or gate matching music. Keeping with the beats of the metronome you’ll likely find yourself riding to the tempo. Don’t worry about where your horses’ head is at this point just work on asking him move in a steady beat matching pace. Next try riding over properly placed ground poles and note how your horse must pick up his feet, hopefully in an active manner, to step over the poles. This is an extremely basic way to explain energy without making one think energy means running or fast but instead focusing on the RPMs and activity. When proper speed control is understood, you’ll have the basics of tempo and energy and be riding with Rhythm. Relaxation (Advanced Speed Control) Next is relaxation. After you grasp the basics of speed control work on relaxation or advance speed control. Relaxation is defined as elasticity and suppleness. Most riders think bending is the only avenue to a supple horse. A bent horse is not necessarily a relaxed horse so I try to not focus on asking for a bend or flexing but rather talk about seeking relaxation in the swinging of the horses back. If you turn that metronome you rode to find your rhythm upside down it resembles a pendulum and when your horses tail swings like that pendulum naturally right and left with a soft poll then you’ll find you’re riding in relaxation naturally. Advance speed control exercise: A tap of both legs applies the gas and a squeeze on both reins equally is the brakes. We do not apply the brakes and gas simultaneously. I work with escalation of force principles or action, pressure, reaction, reward. Essentially you tap, never push, with your legs for the gas, if you receive a reaction from the horse you enjoy the ride and do nothing. If you do not receive a reaction from your horse you apply escalation of force or pressure in the form of an increased aid (in this example more firm tap with both legs), if you receive a reaction from the pressure you enjoy the ride and do nothing. Escalation of force with no reaction using this as an example would then become a tap of the spurs and lastly a tap with the whip until the horse moves effectively off the gas pedal. The horse receives your action, reacts and is rewarded by you doing nothing and simply enjoying the ride. Your action is the question and his reaction is the answer. When the question and answer method has been successfully applied your horse will relax and open himself to you. Connection (An Unblocked Horse) Stepping up the pyramid we move on to connection. Connection is defined as acceptance of the bit through acceptance of the aids. This is an open horse. You’ll feel when your horse is moving in rhythm with energy and a quality tempo (speed control) and relaxed with a swinging back (advanced speed control) that he’ll reach to the contact of your reins. This rein contact is often misconstrued as front to back, originating from the bit to the hands with everything else falling into place thus the whole “getting on the bit” misconception. True contact originates from that swinging tail and thrust of the hind leg created from relaxation. Hence, “getting on the bit” is never achieved by pulling on the reins but rather the horse coming equally and gently into both reins from the hind end. Unblocked horse exercise: Practicing the question and answer method and starting with the basics of speed control your horse will naturally soften off your legs and in your hands. Building on your speed control exercises gradually lengthen and shorten the reins. Your horse should continue to reach for that contact and stay open and unblocked to you. This is not to say the horse reaches down or up but stays with you open to hearing where you’re going with the connection. If your horse begins to hang in your hands or get sticky in his pace, soften your aids immediately and tap with both legs to get your horse to move forward until you feel him carrying himself again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until your horse remains unblocked and until the speed you have set can be maintained throughout all gates, transitions and connection positions. It’s often easier said than done but with the question and answer method it truly is simple. By utilizing proper speed control to develop an unblocked horse the next steps in the pyramid; impulsion, straightness and collection will naturally happen. A good dressage horse is only a pleasure to ride when he has nothing blocking him and only on an unblocked horse will you ever feel true connection and ultimately collection. Angelea Kelly started her career in Internet Technologies at OpenDoor Networks then accepted a post university position with start-up WebRing. After WebRing's acquistion by Yahoo, she began freelancing and traveled the world with her dachshund, Piccolo. Angelea founded HorseGirlTV.com in 2007. She is a USDF Gold Medalist training her last horse from an unbroken 4 year old to Grand Prix and has been a Fly Predator and Bye Bye Odor customer and fan since 2012!
If you’re not absolutely delighted with the effectiveness of your Fly Predators this season reach out at 800-737-2753. Now is the time to make adjustments to your Fly Predator program to get it working as it should. Spalding Labs agents have years of experience helping customers with tough fly problems and can get almost any fly problem under control!
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Now, here’s the...
In 1949 my father gave me a Christmas present; a pair of kangaroo cowboy boots. They were handsome but a size too large. No matter! I only used them for riding.
One day I was practicing calf roping. I threw a bad loop, began to dismount prematurely, lost my balance, and fell over backwards. My foot hung up in the stirrup, the horse veered, and I found myself dragged down the arena at top speed.
It was a frightening few seconds. Then my over-sized boot came off.
Many years later, I made a video called Safer Horsemanship (Video Velocity, 1999). It teaches methods of avoiding injury to both horses and humans who work with horses.
Because of my 1949 experience I included footwear. One of the recommendations in the video is to wear riding boots a size too large.
I am on the equine and veterinary lecture circuit, so I attend many expos, clinics, schools, and other equine events. Since Safer Horsemanship was produced I have had three identical experiences; all of them separate unrelated events. At each event an older gentleman came up to me and said, “You saved my life.”
I asked how that was possible. Each told me the same story. They had ridden all their life but, obviously, no longer had the agility and coordination they had when they were younger.
Riding a trusted and well-trained horse, it spooked on the trail. They went off, hung up in the stirrup and got dragged. But, because they had seen my video, and promptly bought new boots a size too large, the boot came off preventing serious injury.
Safer Horsemanship is based upon my experience. I started working professionally with horses at 15 years of age. In my twenties I became a wrangler, a cattle ranch hand, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service, a rodeo contestant, and, most important, a “bronc buster”, starting “colts” mostly four or five or six years of age that had never before been handled. Then, as a vet, I mostly did horse practice. I still ride.
In seventy-five years of working with horses only once did an injury caused by a horse put me in the hospital, and that was when a 90-day old foal ran into me at top speed and knocked me flat, injuring my knee.
However, I learned how to minimize the chance of injury, knowing that the equine, a flighty, fearful prey species is also very swift and strong, and highly reactive.
So that’s what inspired me to do a video on Safer Horsemanship.
I have never owned a gaited horse. I did own one mule out of a Tennessee Walking mare and she did have the walk.
However I have ridden every popular gaited breed in the U.S.A. For example:
To summarize, I love the gaited breeds. Some are more versatile than others, but all of them are such a pleasure to ride. I’d be very happy to own one.
Maybe when I get old?
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