Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Years Eve ride with my levels partner

I managed to steal away on Z for some saddle time. She and I left the property, thinking to ride the trail. We went up the road, about 1/2 mile from home and I was watching the sun drop in the sky and the temps drop and darn it, decided to hang out there for a bit before turning for home.

It was nice to ride her though and I was so pleased that she was willing to leave the herd and barn with me w/o no argument after the little bit of time I've spent with her over the last 2 months.

I'm longing for warmer days and longer sunlight.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More fun in the snow!

Well, it's cold for sure. And there's plenty of snow on the ground. But, I'm getting my butt out there anyway!

I started with Z. More trailer loading confidence, then to the arena for some bridleless practice. We did the question box and after a little warming up with corners and FTR, we did canter to back up transitions with the question box. I did about 5 in each direction, with 3 canter - backup transitions on each circle. She was awesome! She had spunk and life and responsiveness. I think she finds that quick work to be fun. She's so fast and when she comes out of the halt straight to the canter, she feels like a cannonball shooting out of a cannon. It's very cool.

Then, I played with Miss Tina. I'm doing more driving and asked Chrissy to assist with more obstacle stimulation. First, we further developed her willingness to bridle. I am searching for a horse that seeks the bridle, not avoids it. I want her to accept the bit like she accepts the halter. I put it on, take it off, repeatedly and all the while use the halter to keep her head low and in a partnership position. She's doing very well.

Then, we warmed up and went to work on more tarp fun. She proved that she's ready to move on from the tarp. Chrissy shook it around forward, walked toward Tina with it held high, then I put the tarp all over her and covered her up. She's passed this test with flying colors - next stop, the umbrella!

I also started trotting in zone 5. Up until now, it's been a lot of walking. I think it's time to remove the surcingle. My arm is strong enough and she's got the idea of what I'm asking. Next time, we'll go w/o it.

Before the barn time was over, I checked Nina's hind foot for progress with her scratches. It's actually much better after just 2 days! I'm very pleased. I applied a topical solution of White Lightening and we'll see how it looks tomorrow.

I'm also itching to get back on Tina. It's time - she's ready. Maybe after the next ski trip - we leave Saturday for 4 days.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Riding Z, driving Tina and back to trimming myself!

My day started off with Gemini. He was in the neighbors pasture. He'd gone down the driveway (1/4 mile) through the gate and down the road. All in all, about a 1/2 mile walk but looping around our property. I threw out the hay for the others, then Deuce and I headed out to bring Gem home. Gem was happy to see me - I think he was trying to figure out a way into the pasture with the others. I think I need to put another horse out with him. He seems to be getting lonely. I want to play with him more, but he has to take the back burner with the horses I have here in training.

Then, I got Steve to give me a hand with a trim. Nina was pretty overdue and I also needed to get her hind soaked as she's developed scratches. I've never had a horse with scratches and I don't understand why one horse would get it and not the others. I have a clean property, but I know they can get it from the dirt. Is her immune system low? Anyway, Steve used the nippers where I placed them for me and I did the rest. I was able to rasp with my broken arm ok, not great - but I got the job done. I got her soaked too. Hopefully, her skin will start to heal rapidly now.

I did some chores while the horses got their fill of hay, then I decided to ride Z. I started by taking her in and out of the trailer. She'll get in fine, but I want her confident inside. Actually, she knows the difference between being in a stationary trailer and one attached to a truck and likely to take her somewhere. For the latter, her anxiety goes way up. I need to attach the trailer - or at least back the truck up to that position to fool her and help get her more confident.

After that, I hopped on and she and I just went around the property. We practiced nice, light sideways, up on the pedestal, then bridleless weaving around a little patch of trees I have. We practiced backwards a bunch and halting bridleless. Her responses are good, but they can always be better. I'm noticing that when I ask her backwards bridleless, it works better if I move my hips back in rhythm with hers versus being in rhythm with the foreleg movement. I think naturally, I moved with the fore. As I practice and play with it, it works better with the hind. Of course that makes sense, but I was just following my gut with the fore movement. Her bridleless back and halt are very good. We really need to get our freestyle film done. I've been saying that for months... Sigh. Just need to do it.

Then, I got Miss Tina out for move driving. I wanted Chrissy to help out by causing some commotion with a tarp. Tina is driving nicely and we'll continue to practice. But, she needs lots more confidence building too. Gem was hanging around when we got started and he finds tarps to be quite fun. He grabbed it with his mouth and shook it up and down for 15 seconds or so. Tina wasn't quite sure what to make of that!! Of course, if Gem isn't afraid, maybe she needn't be either. Soon enough, Tina was also mouthing it and moving it and lifting it.

Chrissy went around and I drove Tina behind the tarp. I wanted her to feel like she was "chasing" the tarp - a great confidence builder for horses. Then, I had Chrissy walk a circle around us. Tina was concerned when the tarp was in zone 5, but otherwise she was fine. We then followed the dragging tarp some more, but I wanted Tina to step on it. I also had Chrissy shaking it and doing more than simply dragging it.

We found a good place to stop and Tina was calm and in a very good frame of mind. It was a great session!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Driving Tina and getting lightness

Spent some good time with Tina today. We are developing her ability to drive and getting her used to a bit. I continue to make her happy to wear the bridle, eventually having her seek the bit and be helpful during bridling. She is calm in a comfortable wearing the bit now, a nice thing to see.

I'm still using the surcingle as my arm isn't as strong as it needs to be yet. But we're getting a lot done and now she's much lighter in the bridle and responding with light gestures. She's much quieter when I'm asking for turns and stops with the bit, too.

I'm spending a lot of time with the figure 8 pattern, which is perfect for developing the turning responses and the stop. The pattern has helped so much with developing my horses in general.

I wanted to do more with horses, but the day got away from me. I had chores to get done after the snow storm. The sun sets too soon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More driving and riding

The weather is so mild and the old arm is coming around. Things are lookin' up! I started with Miss Tina today and spent most of my day with her. I had tacked up Rio for KK to ride, but then a friend came over and she forgot all about that. I used the surcingle yet with Tina and the confidence snaffle to get her going. We practiced the soft feel first for about 30 mins. I just turned her each way and helped her get the feel of the ask. Then we went forward. It's a different feel with me in zone 5 and thankfully the surcingle helps me keep the ropes where I want them. I think another few days and I won't have to use them.

She was resistant at first, but slowly she got softer and softer until we were able to walk nice figure 8's. I also started working on backing her up, which got much better by the end of the session. I took her out to the front pasture and let her graze for a while, just wanted her to get some quiet time wearing the bit and being with me away from the herd.

When we went back to the barn, she was a whole different horse. Soft in the bridle, turning on my asks with ease and halting and backing with a slight suggestion. She's a smart horse and she learns quickly. Now, it's time to get her on the trail and exposing her to more "scary" stuff.

I then popped a saddle on Z for a quick ride before the sun went down. I decided my goal is to finish L3 Freestyle by the end of Jan. I want to mess with Z as many times a week as possible to reach this goal. I think it's a very realistic goal, too. We have to make sure her canter depart is happy and responsive, as if she puts her ears back that will show a poor relationship and an unhappy horse. I'm going to work on asking her to canter with the lightest cue I can think of to make her more attentive. Otherwise, we can do everything else pretty well. It's time to shut L3 down!! :-)

Great day. Tomorrow, Gem, Rain, Tina and Z. Need to soak Nina too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


After 7 weeks, I got on a horse today. My lovely Zarah. Oh, wow. How I love horses and seeking partnership with them. Oh, oh, oh... My passion is alive and well. I was slightly worried that I'd have some fear after the bad wreck, but not at all. Not the slightest bit. So, tomorrow, I'll focus on Tina and Gem and I'm getting my L3 Freestyle done. My goal is the end of January. I shouldn't need that long, but who knows what the weather will do and the days are so short.

Z left the property with me w/o any fuss after some warm up in the play area. My arm is still crippled and it's tough to do good groundwork. But she was just like I left her 7 weeks ago. What a fantastic thing! I rode to the gate, then around the 20 acres in front. We took it slow, a nice walk with lots of halt and back transitions. We can't practice those enough.

I got some barn things done and had hay delivered. Tomorrow I need to do more manure management and drag the round pen with the new rascal spikes. The work is never done, but I'm just thrilled to be back.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Groundworking 3

Gem - played at liberty and got some nice stuff!! Transitions on the circle and flying lead changes are looking great. He doesn't maintain gait in the canter well yet. Had a fun session!

Zarah - just worked a little online - mainly trailer loading and being in the trailer with confidence. She loads great. She doesn't want to stay in there though. Worked on her being very confident about the panel closing on her and staying facing forward.

Tina - driving from zone 5! Played using a surcingle since my arm is unable to be very effective. I used a rope halter and really need to use a bridle and snaffle. She tried very hard, but the halter knot was too far back to give her a clear idea of what I wanted. It was a a good session regardless. Before the driving, got some very nice figure 8's on the 22. She just needs me to have two working arms to do much more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tracking trims...

Nothing too interesting here - just tracking the trims... :)

Kris did Cowboy, Gemini and Zarah today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coaching in the barn

I've had Rio about a month now and his owner and I finally found time to get together to show what Rio and I have worked on. Started off with her tacking him up. Apparently, he's shown a lot of anxious behavior when tacked. I hadn't seen it, so I wanted to see if it was related to her. He showed a little nervousness, more than I'd seen but nothing extraordinary.

I asked her to lead him around outside. I wanted to observe their behavior together. We asked him to keep his head low outside too and she pointed out some behavior he showed that made her tense. I saw a horse just checking out his surroundings. To her it was full of negative possibilities. Interesting.

We talked about the behavior I started teaching where I tap his neck near the withers and he drops his head. He needs more practice but I firmly believe it will be a great tool for her if she uses it. Together, they can feed off each others anxiety and something simple like that could break the cycle.

Then, I asked her to hop on. It was too cold and windy outside, so we did it in the barn aisle. We just did yo-yos, with her simply as a passenger. We did them until he was confident and calm. Surprisingly, that took some time! Probably 10-15 minutes of yo-yos, asking him to keep his head low the whole time. I would call him RBE, so I was seeking CALM. Once we got there, she hopped off and we stood and talked with him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flank rope work and liberty

My arm is healing and I'm missing the horses!! I decided to ask Chrissy to give me a hand. I started with Gemini, playing at liberty. We had a great liberty session! His lead by the tail is great now. His draw is strong and he's coming in at the trot. We're working on spins and COD's- which are very fun with Gem. Allow on the circle is progressing, too. I'm having a great time with him.

Then, I wanted to play with Tina. The main goal: desensitize the flank area. I used a flank rope (my 22') to apply pressure to the flank, ready to loosen it when she relaxed even the slightest bit. Chrissy had the 12' lead and we asked to circle us together. We started at the girth area and moved the flank rope back as we progressed. Her flank area was super sensitive! We played with this for about 45 mins and had a drastic improvement by the end. I was so pleased with her progress.

We spent some time relaxing int the round pen, rewarding ourselves with relaxation and soak time. Seemed like Tina's hardest lesson yet. Glad we figured this out and we're getting it fixed. Next I'll be sure she can handle ropes around her legs - another critical lesson!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coaching a friend

Today, I helped a good friend develop her groundwork. This is a good way for me to help someone without using my arm. It was a fantastic time and I saw some great progression with my friend and her horse. She has a very extroverted Thoroughbred who can be left brained and right brained. They've developed some interesting patterns together and we decided to focus on extreme friendly transitions, and a great circle game. In the end, she had an obedient, calm horse paying all her attention to her human. What a cool session!! I love to see progression.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberty with Gemini

Played with a horse for the first time in 2 weeks! Took Gem into the round pen to see just how much I could do with him. It wasn't too bad!!

We played stick to me, circle, yo-yo, cod, sideways. He did great! I was hurting from the activity, but I'm sure my sanity was better for it.

We've also developed the smile pretty well. I started teaching him the spanish walk from zone 2, also. He gets into the trick training. He's a blast.

So anxious to ride again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moving on... Single-handed!

After about three days in bed, I couldn't take it anymore. I just had to go to the barn.I spent several days thinking about all of the things that I can account for the horses with one arm. I can do work at liberty, I can work on desensitizing, create more draw, improve the catching game, undemanding time... my only limit is my imagination.

It's definitely easier to think about the things I can do with my horses then thinking about the things to do with the horses here in training. I feel differently about the horses that are here in training. I can develop things on a much deeper level with my horses because they're here forever. The horses here in training are only here for a limited time. I have to give them the best that I can in a short period. It's about giving them the best foundation that someone else can take to the next level. I want them solid. I want them confident to learn and confident with humans. I want them asking questions trying to give answers.

I decided my best move was to make sure my arm is as stable as possible before I move things forward. On Monday the 16th, I'll get the cast for my arm and that will give me more stability. I'm also thinking to get Chrissy involved and let her be my other arm. For Tina, I'll be focusing on building her confidence by desensitizing with various objects and asking her to touch and explore scary things. I also want to build her catching game. For Nina, I'll wait till I'm better. Nina is fine growing and learning in the herd, and not getting my attention right now.

For Gemini, there is a ton I can do. Largely, I can focus on level III liberty. We have a lot of work to do there. And really if I can get his draw very strong, we'll be well on our way. For he and I, a lot of the work is in building the relationship. For Zarah, I want to build more trick training and increase our general bond. For Rain, it's time to take tricks to a new place. She so motivated and so ready to do more. I want to teach her to lay down with a hand cue.

For Tina, I'm hoping I can get Chrissy to help me desensitize her flank area with flank ropes and cinches. I'm feeling very positive and I'm determined to not let this setback bring me down. I'm going to use this time to develop my imagination. And focus on some of the games that maybe don't get enough attention when I'm well and riding. It's only a few more weeks and we'll be back in action.

To keep things interesting, I'm working on all that's required to get the indoor arena built. There are things like financing, permits, project details, bids for work to prepare for the installation, etc. I'm also hoping that the horses feet can go for five more weeks so I can trim them myself. I have a backup trimmer to call if I need to but I like to just do that myself.

On Saturday, I spent a little time with Zarah, teaching her to do the Spanish walk from zone two. When I lift my leg, she lifts her leg. It's cute and fun, and it's an easy for her to feel like she's doing the right thing. She's never wrong. She knows how to do the Spanish walk from zone one, and when I'm back in the saddle that's our next place. Spanish walk from the saddle. Should be a breeze with all of the ground prep work we'll have done.

Horses are getting along well, the herd is settled. One week down to five weeks to go. I'm back to doing horse chores with my one arm and I'm about to do a whole lot more while wearing this cast. It's good to be back in the barn.

For tracking: Kris trimmed Tina's hinds for me today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rear cinches and tarps

Today, I started with Rio. Kendall really wanted to ride him. I thought it would be a good idea to use him for her riding lesson. He has lots of go and is a great listener. She likes him cause he's smaller and less intimidating. I warmed him up on the ground first and tacked him up with my endurance saddle. We went to the round pen and started with the walk. I tried to help Kendall keep her feet parallel to the ground. I also want her to stay on her balance point. She was holding the cantle and I asked her to hold her arms out. She enjoyed her arms straight out and felt like she was flying.

We did a lot of circles at the trot and canter. Her seat got better and she seemed more confident. Rio did such a great job being the lesson horse. He did everything I asked.Kendall really likes him and I imagine she's going to try to talk me into keeping him. We don't need another horse! lol

When she was done I went for Tina. I already had Tina tacked in my Western saddle for the first time. She has never worn a rear cinch before. I planned to spend extra time preparing her for that pressure. She is very sensitive, and I expected her to worry about the rear cinch.

We also worked on desensitization. I had the tarp and I played with her confidence by asking her to smell it, step on it, wear it, and let me stroke her neck with it. It was obvious that she had never done this kind of thing before. So I took my time and we spent about 90 minutes with a tarp and a savvy string. It was all about the friendly game.

She bucked several times while I was working her on the ground. But she seemed to be getting more comfortable with the groundwork and the tight rear cinch. By the time I took her into the round pen, she seemed calm and ready for some riding. I went to mount her and she seemed worried. So I played with her at liberty for several more minutes at all gaits.

She then seemed ready. So I asked her to stand for mounting and she did. Calmly and, it seemed, confidently. Once I was up there, I played with lateral flexion before moving off. She still seemed fine. I then followed the rail and asked her to move the fore. Eventually I asked her to move the hind and that was when she fell apart. My gut instinct is that the rear cinch hit her in such a way that really scared her. She bucked like a right brained horse! And as I laid on the ground after going off she was still fighting the sensitivity on her flank.

I realized right away that the reins were hanging down and just waiting for Tina to put in a hoof them. I asked Chrissy to try to grab the reins before Tina got stuck. Unfortunately, Chrissy got there a moment too late. Tina came up fighting the reins around her leg and landed a my ankle. Ouch!!

I knew my arm was broken from the fall. I hoped that my ankle wasn't broken. I couldn't really move but I tried to stay calm. Chrissy took Tina back to the barn so we could talk about what help I needed. I didn't need an ambulance, but I knew I needed to go to the hospital. She got the horses tack off and took me to the ER.

I have run the series of events through my mind 1 million times. What could I have done differently? What will I do next time? I know a few things. From now on I will always prepare with a flank rope for the rear cinch. I will also play on the ground with the rear cinch tight at least three times before I try to ride. Her reaction really surprised me. I haven't seen her react that emotionally in all her time here. Was it the wind? Was it the detachment from the herd? Was it simply the flank sensation? I may never know.

I realize that this is the stuff that colt-starters are made of. It's not easy. It's dangerous. But when it's done right the dignity of the horse is intact. That's my goal. And that's where Tina and Nina and Rio and all the horses I work with will be in the end.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Closing down a rough week

Phew! Survived it! Hubby was out of town all week and I played "single mom" for 7 days. By day 4, I was developing a twitch in my left eye from not riding a horse for son long. I decided to take Friday off of work to start filling my horsey time bucket. I have hooves to trim, wounds to tend to and horses to train. Luckily, my sister helps so much with the chores - the barn was under control.

Rio's wound is looking much better. It's going to need a few more weeks to close up all the way, but there's not really risk of infection anymore. The stitches came out easily (about 9 of them) and didn't hold very great after about 6 days. They were worth it, the wound got a jump start on the road to healing with the stitches. I think he'll be ready for an easy ride this weekend.

I promised Kendall I'd pick her up from her bus stop with horses so we could ride home together. I took Z and Rain (ponied Z) to her bus stop and waited while the horses grazed. That just made her day!! I put her backpack on my back and off we went. She was all smiles.

Z's face wound is looking better. I managed to get it cleaned up (which she HATED!) and put a lot of ointment on it for healing. It should be better in another week or two. For now, no bits. Rope halter or bridleless only. I took her into the arena and we did about 30 mins of passenger lesson at the trot and canter. I'm so confident with her now, I don't need ever need head gear for her - which is so nice. Her disengagement with just my leg pressure is fantastic! We are also working on backing up with no rhythm in my legs. I want her to feel me sit back and lift my knees and start quickly going backward. I have to make my phase 4 very effective. We got some nice backing moments.

Chrissy came into the arena with Cowboy while Z and I were finishing up. I helped find an even softer lateral flexion response from Cowboy. She's feeling fearful, so just did a few things. After flexion, I tried to help find a softer backup response. Perhaps knowing she has great brakes will help her feel more confident. I suggested she just focus on the backup and the flexion getting softer and softer and not worry about anything else until she's confident she can lead him with confidence. I think if she feels like she's always in charge, her fear will be less potent.

Afterwards, I got Rain's front hooves trimmed - I left her heel too high when I trimmed her last and it was really bugging me. I also got one of Cowboy's front hooves trimmed. The hay was going out when I started trimming and he was quite agitated to be tied up with me futzing with his feet while the hay went out. So, I finished one and set the boy free. :-)

Busy weekend ahead - Tina's first trail ride Sunday, hind feet trimming for Tina and Nina, teach Rain to lay down, ride Gemini and continue L3 online with him, ride Nina with a bit, see how KK feels riding Rio slowly in the round pen, Z - trailer confidence. I also want to work on my "Herd of Two Horses" list - a compilation of all the things a horse can do if he's been in training with me. It will consist of everything I think is foundationally paramount to a horse succeeding a human world.

Oh - got kitties for the barn! They are the cutest and meanest little things! We can't pet them. Oh well, hopefully they'll be catching mice soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pics of Tina in the herd (for you Nanni!)

Nina has gotten along nicely with this little QH gelding named Rio. He's only here for a couple months, but she really bonded to him quickly. Cute!

Here, several from the herd are soaking up the warm Colorado sun. I like to see Nina feel safe resting while the others stand guard. Rio is closest to her, Cowboy is my sister's gray and Abby is behind him. Abby is the mare that Tina has buddied with since early on.

This is a nice shot she and Rio. Rio is covered in mud! The snow is melting too fast for the ground to absorb, so it's been a slosy, muddy weekend.

This is just such a nice shot of her laying alone. My sister gets great pictures! I love this one. I can almost imagine her snoring - she seems so relaxed and peaceful.

Another day of catch up...

Gem first - cod, sideways, stick to me, sideways in the saddle, riding around the property, a scoot spook near the basement, a nice time. Quick ending for some filming with Tina.

Tina - filming her progress and getting pics. She did great - friendly game is much much improved. She can now manage extreme friendly. Nice figure 8's, good circles, some falling leaf, some sideways. Then, riding - practicing turns, disengaged hind, moving the fore, backup. Too wet and soggy to go more than a walk. She had another great session!

Nina - filming her progress and getting pics. Rode her for a long time. Started in the arena - skipped the round pen. Figure 8's, follow the rail, back up, she's doing fantastic. Warm up was fun - over the barrels, falling leaf, had to walk - footing is not good with melting snow. Seeking soft response to rein pressure. She likes lateral flexion and will try to use that to slow things down. She likes to stop, too. Interesting!

Gemini - pulled him out again. Practiced the smile trick and then started spanish walk. Had him bring his hind over for mounting and he had no brace about it. Pretty cool! We went over to the kids playing and took pictures. Then, sideways for quite a while - trying to get him soft sideways. Also, worked on backup and trotting little bits (again, footing is an issue). Practiced spanish walk (very beginning of that) and some more smile. Now, need another trick. He learns tricks so fast.

Z's new wound is ugly. Keeping her separate from the herd now. She's getting in trouble too much with the herd. I'm going to create a 2nd herd soon and she'll go back into a smaller herd.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Catching up

Tina - Friendly game (lots) and practicing yeilding to the halter. Wore a bit for the first time. trotting. disengage the hind, move the fore. sideways on the ground. Huge progress. She's getting more and more comfortable with her tasks.

Nina - easy ground work! sideways coming nicely, maintain gait on the circle, great responses after a few weeks off. Easy saddling, wore the bit. lat flexion is beautiful and soft. Time for a bit. Rode in round pen, moved to big arena and did figure 8's around the barrels. Softened turns, back up, trapsing through chest high snow and wet melting snow puddles. She did beautifully!!

Rain - pulled KK around the front on the sled, all speeds. KK giggling behind as we cantered over fresh snow. Fun! Then, KK hopped on Rain behind me, held me waist and we rode around together. We found a big snow drift and she jumped off rain and landed in the snow on her back and went straight to making a snow angel. Pretty cute.

Gemini - I ran out of time. I was ready to play with him, but the had to go. So took a few minutes and started teaching him to smile. Showed Chrissy how that trick is taught. He was learning it pretty quickly! Cute.

Chrissy - she did some nice figure 8's with Cowboy and some zone 2/3 driving. Then, she tacked him up and decided to just sit on his back. Cowboy was nice and calm for her. I led them around for a bit then she hopped off. She just needs to take things slow.

Zarah - hurt again. I'm moving her into either a smaller herd or living in a stall/run for a while. Not sure what's going on with her but she keeps getting hurt. She put a healthy gash in her face - looks like a kick to the mouth. Poor girl.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow, snow, SNOW!!

Managing 8 in this blizzard is a little rough! :-) I will be better setup for the next winter storm. We have about 20" in total, though it's tough to tell because the snow drifts are insanely high. Some of the drifts are 4 feet! The horses have been locked away and they are all starting to look at me a little sideways. They want OUT!

The storm is coming to an end tonight so I let them all out and fed the hay on the snow drifts. I hope they stay warm enough as their winter coats aren't fully in and only a few really warrant blankets (Abby, Tina, Zarah). Most of the herd is pretty hardy in the cold as long as there's hay.

Tomorrow I'll get Rain out to pull the kids in the snow and then maybe Z, too. The kids love that.

I'm dying for horse time. Seriously, been a sorry 8 or 9 days with weather and travel. My mind is turning over all the things I want to accomplish when I can get back to it. Hopefully tomorrow will work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quick ride with Z

Had a short amount of time after work to hop on a horse and I chose my main mare, Z. A blizzard was moving in and I knew I'd be struggling to ride for a day or two, so I wanted some quick and satisfying riding. Z was happy to oblige! She can be moody and cranky some days and cheerful and accomodating on others. Today was the latter.

We warmed up and then I tried to jump the barrels with her. She was giving me nose and neck, but not the feet. No worries, we went for smaller jumping. Then, we opened the gate together (we've gotten pretty good at that) - keeping constant contact on the gate at all times.

Then, some patterns (figure 8, question box) followed by some lead change practice with canter departs from the halt. We finished with halp-passing and sideways. She felt really great- responsive, happy, engaged, and eager to please.

We practiced the gate some more before going in. I got her feet trimmed and her left fore has a little wall separation which is interesting since she hasn't had a long wall or a lot of flare. I'll keep my eye on it.

A nice night with my mare!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Practicing flexion and turning with Tina

Today was time with Tina. I haven't gotten the time I expected with horse development over the past week due to travel for work and weather. I wanted to put another ride on Tina to keep her progressing. She's been coming along so nicely.

It was pretty cool when I went out to the front pasture to get her and Z kept her eye on me. She walked up to see me, so I scratched her and loved on her for a bit. Then I walked away to put the halter on Tina. Z kept her eye on me the whole time. Tina and I started our long walk toward the barn (about 5 acres away) and after a minute or so, Z came trotting up behind us. She walked to the barn with us and just kind of hung around. She's always surprising me.

Tina was all in and ready to get something going. She has a marvelous work ethic and I really enjoy time with her. I tacked her up with the treeless saddle and warmed her up on the ground with some COD and touch it. Her change of direction is amazing for the little amount of time I've spent on it. She's sensitive and sensible, so as long as I'm clear, it makes sense to her. Perhaps she knows something similar from a previous trainer.

We rode in the round pen. She stood nicely for mounting and we practiced lateral flexion then turning and disengaging the hind. I'm looking for softness and teaching her to feel the cue from my body and seat before I use the reins. At this point, we're still in a rope halter and I'm thinking to start with the bit in the next week or two. I'll have her wear it while we do ground work and riding in the rope halter a few times before I attach reins to it and ask for responses. I expect she'll be fine with the bit, though.

When we were done, I took her in and did some trimming on the front hooves. I'll get the back done in the next few days. The front right is coming along very nicely! The front left is a different story. The front left has a very flat sole and grows wide. I'm working on some solar concavity, but the sole isn't thick - the collateral grooves are shallow. I didn't need to take much wall off and I'll just keep at it.

She did great with the whole thing tonight - ground work, tacking up, riding and trimming.

When I first came out to get started tonight, I noticed Rio was injured. I assume he got caught in the barbed wire. He'd torn his chest and legs a little (minor scrapes), but had a good gash in his shoulder. I talked with the owner and I really thought he needed stitches. My vet wasn't available so we agreed to wait until morning. He stayed in a stall and run for the night - not his favorite thing. He's a more nervous horse and gets a lot of his confidence from the herd. He's better off in the run, but he sure was worked up about it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rio joining the herd

Today, I put Rio out with the herd. He's a cute little Quarter Horse gelding here for a couple months of training. To my surprise, Tina is playing a crucial role in keeping Rio far from the herd until he's accepted. Tina is really changing here. Last night, Loma came to give me a dressage lesson and she was really surprised by how calm Tina was. I like to see how the horses adapt and they all do things their own way. Tina came here timid and submissive with a lot of extroversion. I'm seeing her show confidence and comfort in her own skin with the herd. She's showing her full potential.

I'll be riding her in the large arena very soon. She's ready to leave the round pen and start riding some patterns. Good for her!

Rio looked to be doing fine with the herd on his first day. He respected the boundaries set by the herd and found Rain to be his buddy. The two of them were hanging together the first day. That's unusual - most of the time, my herd keeps the new guy standing out alone for a week or so. Rain was accepting Rio the first day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rio gets a dressage lesson

Tonight I was ready for my dressage lesson on Gemini. I had him tacked up and ready and as I started to warm him up, I realized he was off. He was tender soled and stepping gingerly. My guess is that the long trail ride the few days before on the rocks had caused him some injury to his solar plane. I realized I couldn't ride him and then realized I needed another horse!

I thought of Z, but I'd spent nearly 7 hours on her the day before. It didn't seem right to ask her for a dressage lesson the next day. Rain is gaited - that would never work. Hmmm... Rio! This would be a great test of his capabilities!

So, I tacked him up in my english saddle hoping that I had enough shims. He seemed comfortable and we were ready to go. I warmed him up, focusing on sideways and backwards. I needed to be sure he was thinking and listening. I hadn't yet ridden him in the large arena and I didn't want to find out that he was not paying attention while I was on his back. We found a good place where he was thinking and I was ready to mount.

We lessoned for about an hour - all circles. Rio did awesome! He is definitely western trained, so I tried to keep him contained and upright. He wants to lean into turns, a good thing for a western horse. I wanted to keep him up, vertical and straight on the circle. It took him about 10 minutes to blow and begin to let down. He was quite extroverted in the beginning, but over the course of the lesson he was beginning to look for the release to stop or walk.

We worked on stretching him out forward - long and low. He loved that! He wanted to travel like that a lot of the time. I tried to pick him up so he could ride with the contact in that position and he did very nicely. We practiced getting him contained and packaged and then changing my seat to get him to stretch and extend, then back to packaging him up again. The goal was to teach him to move forward with power and engage his whole body. That was very cool. By the end of the lesson, his short and choppy trot strides become much longer and much smoother to ride.

He was comfortable and seemed proud of himself for making us happy! I tried to reward him often and talk to him so that he knew he was doing all good things. I don't want him to think he's wrong - he's a sensitive boy and I imagine he's been wrong a lot.

He's a mighty little horse and I think he'll make a great performance horse for someone. He can do anything.

Rio: add 1 hour

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Play day with the Parelli girls!

Had a fantastic day with friends and horses from 11:30am until 7pm!

I started off with Gem, just wanting to do some ground work and get him moving. He was excited with all the horses around and even reared a few times during COD on the circle. I thought about riding him and spending the day with him, but I really wanted to be with Z after giving her the week off for her hind leg injury. I really, really want to finish L3 freestyle, so I put Gem back and asked Z to come play.

Jen played with Rio in the beginning, too. She was curious how he'd feel to her and what I thought of him versus how she'd think of him. She did very well with him but could feel the "buzz" he gives off. He's an extrovert for sure and probably a RBE innately. He's a very cute little horse and Kendall is dying to ride him. I'll let her this week.

I realized when I switched horses that everyone was warmed up and ready to go! I was not and I tacked Z up quickly and played on the ground very briefly. She ended up in a "bad mood", pinning her ears a lot. She was listening and doing what I asked, but not happily. I tried to stop and help her get "in the game" several times. She was slowly improving, but I realized I should have warmed up stronger so I could ride softer. She wasn't off, which was good. She was just feeling annoyed and let me know often.

We did patterns first and even Kendall wanted to join us. She rode Rain and tried the patterns a few times. We partnered up and we all took turns going through the patterns mirroring each other and trying to stay in synch. We did some "follow the leader", but that didn't go so great as we didn't do a good job of staying in a line and following what the leader did. At one point, Chrissy was trying to hold Cowboy back and he got insistent and got his head low. I believe he's reaching to get more reins as Chrissy's learning to ride with a casual rein, but sometimes holds pretty tightly. Jen and Amy thought he was ready to buck - I didn't think so, but still, Chrissy needs to be safe.

She asked me to ride him and I did. I checked his flexion, then rode him in some large circles at the trot and canter. He was doing pretty good for me, so eventually Chrissy decided to get back on.

We moved to drill team and tried to synchronize going forward, backward, sideways, and swinging the gate. We didn't look too good, but we were having a great time!

Christy and I went through the 8 bends and Z did a good job of demonstrating for me. She's learning to yield the hind in fore however I ask, with her head in all positions (bent into the turn, straight and bent opposite of the turn). That's pretty cool! Amy and I played with sideways some and I tried to do some sideways on Cowboy. He's pretty bracey, but he was picking up what I was asking. Another couple sessions and he'd be great.

At one point, I grabbed my dragging obstacle (a wood step thingy) and the other horses and riders followed. Cowboy and Lynx showed off their "cowy" nature! They were both ready to herd that obstacle and show it who's boss! That was very cool to watch. Amy took a turn dragging it and helping Molly gain some confidence about this moving wood thing.

Jen practiced trot/canter transitions on Lynx and looked really confident and strong! Jen and Lynx have made great strides this year and they're looking beautiful together. Amy rode the whole day bareback - way to go Amy! Christy showed off her stick riding skills in the patterns and her calm Thoroughbred. Christy and Bently have a very nice relationship - he's a big boy, too! Kendall didn't last too long out there with the horse-crazy big girls. She was pretty bored pretty quickly, so we lost her early on. Chrissy stayed out pretty much the whole time and I imagine she was feeling pretty good after not riding her horse for several weeks while rebuilding her confidence after a horse accident.

About 4:30p, Jen and Amy started to head out and Chrissy, Christy and I decided to hit the trail. Chrissy wanted to ride Rain so she tacked her up and off we went. Before we left, Christy and I played with the teeter totter and the pedestal obstacles. I jumped the barrels with Z a few times, too. I can remember when I was afraid to do that!

Z led the whole way on the trail, which was good for Z - she likes to lead the trail. Chrissy was doing nicely on Rain, too. She's learning to give Rain more freedom with the reins and I imagine it's tough for them both as I ride Rain bridleless for the most part. I ride her in a rope hack, but I rarely use the reins as I'm often ponying 1 or 2 horses and use my hands for the lead ropes. Rain and I have a language and it's probably tough for Rain and a new rider to figure things out together.

At one point, we met another group of riders who had a pretty aggressive German Shepherd. Their dog came at Deuce and the two of them started to fight. Oscar then jumped in so we had a 3 dog scrapple. Of course, our dogs weren't listening to us anymore and I decided to ride Z right into the middle of the dog fight to break it up. Z was so amazing - she ran right in and broke up the dog fight with me! She didn't hesitate or ask a question - she just did it! It was a great moment for us. I was very proud of her.

At one point, there was a short but pretty steep downhill and Rain hustled down. I'm not sure if Chrissy had her head tight or maybe Chrissy's body was tight, but at the bottom Rain crow-hopped on the fore and Chrissy went off. Dang it!! She was ok, a sore elbow, but basically ok. Christy and I tried to make light of it, but I know Chrissy was feeling her confidence falter. I felt so bad for her and tried to remind her, each fall makes up her experience. Experience is what makes us good with horses. We don't want to fall off, but sometimes we do. It teaches us and helps us develop our seat. We keep riding because we love it and we want to conquer our fears and master our horsemanship. I hope Chrissy won't stay off a horse's back for long, but she's going to have to learn to relax in the saddle. I'm thinking PPL in the arena for a month or two could work wonders.

We encountered the people again with the aggressive dog and Z and I took off ahead to get my dogs away from their dogs. We went about 50 yards ahead, not far, but Chrissy was fighting with Rain who wanted to come with Z and I. She hopped off (good girl!) and once things settled got back on. When she got back on, she felt like she and Rain just weren't partnered. They just couldn't get it together - Rain had her own ideas about what to do and Chrissy was struggling to figure out how to take the leadership back. She hopped off and decided to walk. Christy and I headed back - I rode Rain and ponied Z. It wasn't far for Chrissy to walk - maybe 1/2 mile before she could get a ride home the rest of the way. Not a great way to end her day, but she'd had a ton of break-throughs and I hope she sees the good absolutely outweighed the bad on this day.

Christy had a long drive home and so we said our goodbyes. She'd had a great trail ride, maintaining a good partnership with her horse the whole day and feeling confident on the trail. I was just glad to have these great horse women share a gorgeous fall day with me and my horse. I spend a lot of time alone with horses and I love the camaraderie and feedback from a group. It was just fantastic.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Riding Rio

I spent the day servicing my trailer. Kendall and I took out the mats, cleaned up with bleach, sprayed out the trailer, and Steve put a fresh coat of paint on the wood boards on the floor. That didn't leave a lot of time for horses as we had dinner plans. I decided to focus on Rio and get on his back to see what he's about.

Again, not a single concern with tacking up. I shimmed my pad to fill the hole in behind his withers and he seemed quite comfortable. We practiced lowering his head to the tapping on his neck and then did some ground work. He has a little trouble switching from the left eye to the right eye, a common problem for horses. He can switch from right to left unemotionally though. We played with the figure 8 until he got better about the left to right eye change. We went over things (bridge, tire pedestal, barrels). He jumped the barrels beautifully for the little horse he is! We practiced falling leaf, a good exercise for him. He was ready to ride.

We went in the round pen and I mounted up. I wasn't quite sure how he'd be, but he was perfectly still for mounting. His lateral flexion was pretty good and we got started. I'm very focused on two things with Rio: relaxation and teaching him to use his back better so he can improve his posture. We started with disengaging the hind at the walk. Then transitions. This horse can practically go bridleless! His responsiveness to my seat was a huge surprise. He knows quite a bit. We did w/t/c transitions with some halts and backups mixed in. His backup can be soft, but he has some brace there, too. We worked for a while in both directions and I would say this horse is a perfect "5" on the impulsion scale. His whoa equals his go. Very cool.

Then, I wanted to build in more relaxation so we worked on dropping his head in response to my combing the reins. It took no time at all for him to learn that the combing was timed with his lowered head and within a couple minutes he was trotting with his nose on the ground. I have to believe that felt great on his back. He was enjoying it so much, he stopped to prepare the ground to lay down! I hated to thwart that behavior - it's exactly what I was after. But sorry bud, you just can't roll when I'm on your back and you're wearing my $3k saddle. LOL

I hopped off though, took off the saddle, and tried to encourage him to roll. No dice...

Then, I wanted to teach him some catching game and "stick to me". I've noticed when I go to get him in the run, he leaves. He has no understanding of the catching game. So, we played that for a bit, first at liberty with no real success, then online. After playing a bit with that, we went back to liberty and he was starting to get it. Stick to me was working and I found a nice place to quit. He learned to move with me, at my speed, very quickly! He is a pleaser, just a very, very nice horse.

Next stop... the trail.

Note to self: Rio - so far 2.5 hours.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Leaving a trail of dust!

I had to go see a friend and I decided to take a few horses in the trailer for some trailriding since it would take me too long to see my friend, come back, and still have decent riding time. I loaded Rain, Gemini and Tina and planned to take them for a nice long trail ride.

They had to wait in the trailer for a bit while I helped my friend out, but we managed to get to the trailer around 5pm. With the short days, I knew we needed to hustle if we were going to cover the whole 7.5 mile loop. We went to Hidden Mesa, which has some great open areas for moving out and some steep climbing and rocky areas - great for conditioning the horses. It's dark by 7pm now, so I knew we'd have to move out on the open areas to make it back to the trailer before dark.

I brought my dog Deuce, too.

Hidden Mesa is shared by bikers, hikers and equestrians. Sometimes the bikers are not so horse savvy and don't share the trail well. I was slightly concerned that with my "wide load" of 2 pony horses and a dog, we might run into trouble. I was counting on Friday night at dinner time making the trail a quiet place to be. I mean really, don't people have plans on Friday night?? :-)

Anyway, Tina did so so well. We cross a running creek and she was very unsure about crossing it. Rain and Gem think nothing of it, but I did not allow the lead on Tina to get tight. I saw her hesitation and we waited - Rain and Gem standing in the water while Tina decided if it was safe. After 20 seconds or so, she put a foot in, then another... Having two horses to follow makes it much easier for her. Giving her time to think about things is just what she needs to gain confidence. Then, we were in the open area - time to cover ground!

This trail has a high population of prairie dogs who leave hoof-sized craters in the ground everywhere. I'm not inclined to steer horses around holes in the ground. I treat them as obstacles and I want my horses to pay close attention to where they put their feet. Also, if one foot steps where there is no ground, the horse will use the other 3 to regain balance. I would not take a horse galloping over a prairie dog village but a walk or trot? Absolutely.

Gem did slide a front into a hole for a moment and quickly rebalanced on the other 3 and he never did it again. Tina was meticulous about where she landed her hooves - never once hitting a hole. That takes thought and I was very impressed by how much "thinking" Tina was doing. This is her 3rd time ponying on the trail and definitely the toughest trail she's encountered. I always ask myself, would I ride this pony horse? Is this horse ready to be mounted on the trail? With Tina I say, "Yes, she is!". She's ready. She's thoughtful and responsive - she does what she's asked as long as she can and she aims to please.

Gem was actually great too, except for the desire to be in front. He wants to lead the trail - he's a brave and confident horse with a desire to be the leader. I expect that from him. I would have ridden him on this trail ride too. He was a very rideable horse tonight. I'd like to someday develop him as my trail horse where I can pony others from his back but at this point, I do not trust him like that.

Gem had some trouble on the rocks and I wished I'd booted his front feet. I forgot how rocky some of the trail is and he does not have great, strong feet. He has a nice shaped hoof and a nice solar dome, but he can barely walk on the rocks at home and he's been barefoot his whole life (to the best of my knowledge). Next time, I'll boot him. Sorry, Gem. After a while, I let him off the lead rope so he could pick his spots to walk and give himself more comfort on his feet. We came upon a biker while he was at liberty and I'm sure we were quite a site. Me on Rain ponying Tina, my dog right close to my horse's feet, and Gemini behind us with no strings attached. The biker stopped to let us by and Gem trotted straight up to him to check him out. Gem is a huge horse and I quickly said, "There's a lot of us, but we're all perfectly harmless!". The biker seemed to get a kick out of Gem coming up to him and he pet Gem's face for a moment. I just had to laugh.

We made it back to the creek and Tina crossed it with only a slight hesitation. Rain was sweaty and thirsty so we stood in the water for a bit. We'd trotted and cantered a lot of the trail, only walking with the rocks were dangerous and it didn't make sense to move faster. Tina wouldn't drink and I found that interesting. I'd like to know she'll drink on the trail for the times we take even longer rides.

We made it back just as it was getting dark. It took us 1:45 to do the whole trail and the horses were well exercised. Everyone loaded with ease and we headed home. Deuce was asleep in the front seat before we even left the parking lot. Now, that's my idea of a great Friday night!

Note to self: teach Tina to back out of a trailer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rio, Nina and Z's recovery

I took a new horse in for a short training period. He's a smaller quarter horse that hasn't been ridden in a year and not much at all in the past 4 years. His owner has developed some fear of his reactions to things and she's looking to get him evaluated and determine if she should keep him or sell him. I was expecting a "crazy" horse to show up, but he's actually a very nice boy with a great personality. And for some reason, my mares LOVE him. He bonded to Nina immediately and now he calls if she leaves his sight. That was a 36 hour courtship, folks. My oh my.

He's got some nice responses built in - he yields to pressure, he's great with the friendly game, he leads up nicely. He understands some basics, so we're moving quickly through groundwork and straight to tacking up and riding. I was told he has a lot of anxiety about the saddling process, so I tacked him up slowly with my treeless saddle. I wanted to see his responses to the pad, the saddle, the girth... He was ok with all of it. Perhaps his owner is doing something in the saddling process that triggers his anxiety. We'll figure that out.

I started teaching him to lower his head on cue. This will be a great thing to develop with him and that Kris can use when he gets worried. I think I'll make this one of his new things to leave my barn with and teach Kris how to keep it functional.

He tends to get a wide-eyed look about him and as I get to know him, I'll try to figure out how much of that is emotion versus how much is just the amount of white that shows in his eye. I saw him be very relaxed, but his head comes up high and his eyes get pretty dang wide. He also has a crazy swayed back just a 10-yr old. His middle back is sore and he is constantly in "bad banana" position. We'll start with hill therapy and transitions to get his back in better order, as well as teach him the fluid rein so he can stretch his back and move with his nose low and near the ground. I think some good riding and some back building/stretching techniques will go a long way with Rio. I'll take a "before" picture tomorrow.

I practiced the bow with Rain. It's time to bridge the cue for "foot" so that she bows on a more subtle cue. Then, I can teach her to lay down once I teach her to hold her bow from a different cue. She loves the bow and she loves treats! I'm moving to the 50/50 reward system (a treat every OTHER time) while I teach a bridge to the bow. She's the coolest horse. I just love her.

Then, I got Z out and doctored her hind leg. The swelling is nearly gone and I expect to be back on her by Saturday. I'll put her back on the track tomorrow. Thank goodness it wasn't more serious. She's definitely a cut-up looking horse right now, though.

Finally, Miss Nina needed more trimming done. She's also developed scratches on her hind pastern that has the sock. It seems that scratches affects a while pastern/fetlock much more often that a non-white one. I treated her with white lightening and I'll do so for a few days to get the scratches under control. I have lots of white pasterns in my herd - why did only Nina get scratches? Low immune system, perhaps? Maybe she had a cut there? I got another one of her hooves done, too. The second hoof this week. Like I posted earlier this week, I'm focused now on teaching her to partner up during trimming and not look at trimming as a time to play games with me. We got into a bad pattern of trimming time becoming a fight and now I'm trying to fix that. I'll do a hoof at a time until she's more willing to relax during trimming and doesn't want to take her hoof back so often. It's working - I got that one hoof done in a very relaxed way and was even able to sit on my stool while I trimmed her. Oh happy days! It's always great when you can see where you've gone wrong and get it fixed up. Hopefully, her scratches will look considerably better tomorrow, too.

Our weather has been great and the weekend looks fantastic - 60's and 70's with abundant sunshine! Time to get back on Miss Tina and start teaching her some things! Playday at my place on Sunday, too. Should be a great time.

Note to self: Need to hang a list in the barn of all the things every one of the horses under my training should be able to do. And then I need to make sure they can all do it! This would be a great reminder to me to build a solid foundation with no holes for every horse that passes through my barn. Also, need to build Z back up in the trailer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gem on the 45' line and more trimming

Beautiful, warm and calm afternoon/evening! I wanted to work with Gemini online to start building up for a level 3 assessment. He had lots of energy today! We started by driving from zone 3/4 and heading out to my front pasture. We got far enough away that he was just slightly on edge. We went from driving to falling leaf, circle game and then some COD's. His COD needs work, he's losing his momentum and turning like he should with falling leaf. He doesn't know the difference yet. With the circle game, he got emotional and went at full gallop back to the barn. He can get a lot of speed on the 45' and I tried to pump my grip - slipping it then grabbing it. That can sometimes work to get a horse to stop running for a moment. I ran out of rope too fast and he went back to the barn. That is called being BUCKED OFF from the ground! LOL I got him, brought him back to the same pasture spot and started again. Again, when he was cantering on the 45', about 30' away from me, he 'bucked me off' and ran for the barn. Darn! Twice and he's learned how to get it done!

OK, got him back out there and this time, kept him closer - about 20 feet maximum away. I was looking for him to be more with me, putting some pressure on Z3 to keep his body bent into the circle and playing at a slower pace. Now, we were getting somewhere. We got some better COD's, but still not great. However, we were able to canter circles at about 30' - together! Finally. No galloping away and leaving me in the dust. That was good, then we could move on to something else.

I wanted to help Chrissy with her figure 8's as she still doesn't feel like she's getting good ones. She's been doing lots of driving from Z3, which is a great game for her. Her horse is still challenging her authority quite a bit and she's struggling to be clear and deliberate with her ask. We talked about Suggest, Ask, Tell, Promise. She tends to get stuck at Ask, never getting to Tell or Promise. She's working on her assertion which will translate directly to leadership. It's not about whacking the horse. It's about a clear intention and request with the willingness to follow it through.

She was starting to get some really nice figure 8's. Once she clearly pushed his Z1/Z2 around the obstacle, they were on easy street. That's been the hardest part for her. Which makes perfect sense for a Left brained horse to be sticky in the front. We talked about her playing with Rain and I think that's not a bad idea. It might help Chrissy understand the nature of a horse to play with another horse and see the response she gets.

Before I put Gem back, I asked him to yield his hind toward me for mounting. I just want to teach him to bring his hind around and not get upset by that type of request. He was much better than the first time we played with it, but still defensive. We'll keep working on it.

Finally, I wanted to trim Nina. I ended up getting only one hoof done because my wrists were so sore. Trimming two horses the night before had my tendons irritated in my wrist. I spent a bunch of time just working on softening her to the idea of trimming. In the past I've allowed her to brace during trimming and forced her some to comply. I made a mistake and I realized that Nina has developed a negative reaction to trimming time. I'll get that fixed up right away by taking the time it takes and allowing her to understand it's her choice, but holding her foot up is a much easier way to go. I also won't brace against her! If she wants her foot back, she can have it. I need the horses to all cooperate and it starts with me having a natural attitude and letting the horse choose to cooperate. Trimming is hard work and it's so easy to become predatorial about the process. I've caught myself thinking, "Dang it, just hold still!". That's not a natural approach to horses at all and it's doubly ineffective. Always learning...

We'll get the other 3 hooves trimmed over the next 2-3 days, focusing first on her willingness and choosing to cooperate. We'll focus secondly on getting the trim done. My horses should always be getting easier to trim, not harder. I'm actually proud of myself for admitting my mistake and moving forward with the correct attitude.

Finally, Tina was showing some interesting behavior. The west pasture lines the neighbors property with numerous miniature horses and a couple paints. My herd will sometimes go and hang out with that herd of the fence. Well, yesterday and today, I noticed my herd coming in to the barn to eat or whatever, but Tina has stayed out in the west. She stayed out there when the other herd was nowhere to be seen. She stayed out there all alone, against the fence. What does that mean? She's ok to stand alone, acres away from her herd? She could still see the other herd (though I couldn't) and preferred that to coming in for feed? Very interesting. Chrissy drove her back on the ATV and we closed the west pasture gates for now. Surely, there's something she really likes about that other herd - all my horses feel that way about that other herd. I also wondered if she didn't know how to get back on the track as I saw her call once or twice to my herd. Horses aren't great problem-solvers and the west pasture is fairly new to Tina. Maybe she thought she was locked in? Just interesting behavior.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trailriding before the sun goes down...

Tonight, I was determined to hit the trail! I used to trail ride all the time and these days I spend so much time training horses or developing my Parelli skills that I forget to just go cover some miles and enjoy the sounds of the trail. I wanted to take a couple horses with me and after thinking it over, I decided to take Gemini and Tina as my pony horses. So, I rode Rain and ponied Gem and Tina for about 5 miles. I'm sure we're quite a site as 2 of my dogs come along and they both like to follow right on the heels of the horses.

It was getting dark as we were coming back and cooold! But Tina and Gem had done really well as pony horses - especially Tina. She's learned how to lead up nicely and to not be afraid of being close to the lead horse (Rain). She seemed to really enjoy the trail, her ears were forward the whole time and she even got confident enough to try to pass Rain a few times! That's a big thing for her and her submissive nature. She's getting more and more comfortable with what I ask of her and her ability to handle it. She's also getting softer and softer with her responses - I was able to just gently ask that she lead closer up or slow down and she responded quickly and nicely. Good girl!

When we got back, I worked on hooves. I started with Rain and it was mainly just a balance trim with some frog management. She made my job easier and really cooperated. Then, I trimmed Gem. He started off wanting to give me some trouble, but I made a point of not giving him anything to brace against and he quickly let go of the idea to be obstinate and I had his feet done in no time. He's developing some nice concavity on the front hooves. It's taken a long time as he had pretty flat soles in the beginning. I wanted to get Nina done - she's very due for her trim. I'll get her trimmed first tomorrow. I'll also give Tina another trim to help bring her bars under control.

Z's leg looked less swollen after her cold hosing tonight. The wound on the outside is pretty rough looking, but the others on the inside of her leg will be healed up fast. Her front leg wound looks great, but the healing is slow. She looks a mess! She's locked in a run, which she hates, because I want her taking it easy on her leg and not straining it any more than she needs to. She's not happy about lockdown. Perhaps tomorrow, if the swelling is reduced, she can go back with the herd and I can just cold-hose it and treat the wounds every day.

Nice night.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2nd Go-Round on Sunday

After missing Saturday completely due to kids b-day parties, coooold temps and snow, I was pretty gung-ho today. So this is my 2nd post of the day...

I wanted to ride Mr. Gemini on my new pattern course with the question box. Wow! He was awesome! His stop got soooo good and his canter depart from the halt was soft and nice. Gemini has a talent for getting me to work harder than he does, so it was amazing to feel him anticipate the question box, keep his energy up for it and stop in it with the slightest suggestion. Wow.

We did figure 8's and circling the barrel, also. He was really a great partner today. I tried to open the gate with him, but he is not sensitive enough to my leg. We worked on moving the fore and hind w/o reins and I'm starting to build to bridleless riding with him. Before I rode, we worked on circles cantering and he's getting better about maintaining gait. We practiced trotting sideways on a fence and falling leaf at the canter. I rode him around the yard and house first before going into the arena for the pattern work. He didn't want to go down the driveway and I decided not to stretch him that way today. Why? Dunno - just didn't seem like the way to go today.

I never got to ride Rain today and I didn't get any feet trimmed because an old friend came to visit. I've got multiple hooves needing attention and Rain needs some work. I'll try for tomorrow.

Tina is officially started

Started my day with Tina today. We worked on confidence, following my body language and my focus, lots of friendly game in motion with the stick and string, and just calmness while doing what I ask. She started off worried but after we played some of the games she settled and started to understand that she was safe and things were easy as long as she followed my suggestions. Driving from zone 3 was fantastic with Tina figuring out where we were headed very quickly each time. I played falling leaf with her quite a bit until she started to understand to watch for me and she'd know when to lean back on her haunches and turn her fore around.

Then, when I felt like we'd made some good progress in our communication, I tacked her up with my endurance saddle and let her stand tied for a bit while I doctored Z. Z hurt herself again (ARRRGHHH!). This time, looks like she struggled against a blanket strap. It's her hind left and she's pretty sore. And I'm pretty upset. Hopefully she'll heal up quickly but in the meantime, I'll just be spending more time with the others.

After I'd cold-hosed Z and cleaned her up and applied some first aid, I went back for Tina and we headed to the round pen. I let her loose to see how her catching game was coming along. She never left my side - she stuck right to me. It's not a surprise, she's the kind of horse looking for a good strong leader and I'm proving to her that I can play that role. So, I put her back on line and started to practice mounting. She was very relaxed about mounting which made me happy. That means that the last time we did it was good and she'd learned it was not a negative thing. Keeping her relaxed is key and she'll do anything I ask. I went from the left side to the right side, back and forth, mounting and desensitizing her to my leg swinging into the stirrup and then my body on top of her back. I want her standing completely still for mounting and I'll get some of that now and fix it up so it's perfect later. I want to build good ideas about things right now, not seek perfection. She was doing great so I swung a leg over and there we were. She was calm, accepting and doing just fine.

I sat for a minute, giving her time to lick and chew and accept. Then, I started to ask for lateral flexion. It wasn't as light as I want it, so we practiced. Then I dismounted and mounted on the other side. Again, she was calm and accepting. More lateral flexion, more licking and chewing... then back to the other side. Then, it was time to ask for forward. I want her forward and then bending to a stop. So, I asked for a few steps and then disengaged her... then again. She got softer and softer and I found a place where I felt we could stop. I had her in such a nice state, I wanted to leave on that note. I hopped off, stood with her a few minutes and then we left the round pen.

Then I tied her and left her there for a couple hours. She was calm and relaxed and stood with a cocked leg for the whole time.

Now, Tina and I can start having some REAL fun - learning to be a mount and follow feel and suggestions from her rider while staying confident all the while. We've got lots of desensitization ahead of us, too. I want her as rock solid as she can be with the innate characteristics she was born with (extroverted, very forward, very submissive, and extremely sensitive).

Good day for Tina!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Freestyle Patterns with Z

OK, it's time to get back to L3 Freestyle with Z. This is our toughest savvy. She's impulsive and it's tough to keep her relaxed when we're bridleless. We've got a nice pattern set up for our Freestyle audition. Now, we'll just practice it until it makes perfect sense to her and she can stay relaxed throughout.

We're using a question box, barrels for a figure 8, a tarp, a pipe for an obstacle and for sidepassing over, a jump, and an obstacle that we drag. We'll canter depart from the question box and show canter to halt. I'd like to get it good enough that I never have to correct with the neck rope or stick. I'd also like to do it bareback, but I don't have to. I'll stand on her back to complete the 10 mins of film. I'm excited and ready to get this accomplished.

We practiced moving the fore and hind bridleless and some sideways. Then we went and started in the question box. We practiced left lead canter departs from the halt and trotting the pattern relaxed. The question box will help us with our flc's. She gave me a couple of very nice flying lead changes during our session.

There are times she gets annoyed with me and I think I finally have it figured out. She doesn't like when I use phase 2/3. It's soft phase 1 or phase 4. Anything in between is weak and lame and she resents it! So, I have to get better about asking and then going straight to promising. She's demanding that from me.

I had Gem tied off for riding and planned for time with Tina, but the weather turned and I wasn't feeling well. Tomorrow it snows, the front is moving in. We blanketed horses, got the hay out, put the heater in the water and called it a night. I wanted to do more. At least my audition course is set up and I know where I'm headed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Successful Night with Horses

Got a lot of things going tonight! It was a great night. I started off with Tina, teaching her to drive from zone 3. She's new to zone 3 work and she did quite well for her first time. She was over-reacting to me when I asked her to mind her shoulder and keep it out of my space, but she walked forward very well (of course) and touched her nose or hoof on everything I asked. The longer we played, the better she felt about the game. She was actually started to seek the object I was focusing on. Pretty cool.

A couple things worth noting: Tina doesn't like things touching her ears. We need to get beyond that. Also, she has such left-brained tendencies. When she's got even a little confidence, she investigates lots of things with her mouth. I'll keep watching and rewarding that sort of behavior. Bravery is her biggest hole.

Chrissy was driving her horse from zone 3 too, for the first time. She was a little soft at first, but she was quickly learning how to get effective with phase 4. After a short time, she was getting a much better response. Her horse was staying out of her space and going forward with a subtle ask. I think Chrissy was feeling more empowered, too! We talked about trailriding that way until she gets all her confidence back. I hope she gives that a try.

The sun was setting quickly and the temp was dropping. I decided to load up a few horses and head to my friend's indoor arena. It's a good situation - I give her lessons and she lets me use her indoor whenever I want to. So, I loaded Gemini, Rain, Tina and Cowboy. Chrissy wanted to come along, which was great!

The horses loaded fairly easily. Tina is probably accustomed to being lead into the trailer and I want her able to be sent in - so that's how we did it. She doesn't know how to back out of the trailer, so we worked on that a bit. I made a mental note to get that fixed up soon. Gemini is still slightly concerned about the panel closing, so we took the time and her was ok. Cowboy loaded last and he was happy to follow after 3 others into the trailer.

Once there, I started with Gemini. He has a swollen area on the right girth behind his elbow. I decided not to saddle him. Guessing he got a defensive kick when he was trying to boss another horse around. We played on the ground just a little and then I taught him to bring his hind end to me - the beginning of sidling up to a mounting block or fence. He's never done that and it took a few mins. Once he understood, we went to the mounting block and I rode him bareback. We practiced backing up, disengaging, moving the fore and simply walking around quietly. He was calm and really doing nicely! I was impressed as the other 3 horses were running around the arena willy-nilly.

Then, I tacked up Rain to get some things done with Tina. I need Tina to be a good pony horse for me so I can get her out on the trail for more distance. First, Rain was pretty bracey from Kendall riding her the last few times. So, we practiced lateral flexion for several minutes. Then, once she was softer, I took Tina around working on yielding to the poll pressure and yielding to my carrot stick when I asked her to go from side-to-side. She was overreactive at first and we just kept at it, with me being as subtle as possible and releasing on the the slightest try from her. She got braver and more confident as time when on and by the end, she was beautifully switching from a left-side pony horse to a right-side, walking when we walked, stopping when we stopped. Ahhh - a huge improvement! We'll be able to get some good things done on the trail now. We finished by standing quietly for maybe 10 mins, me on Rain, Tina next to us with her nose nearly touching Rain and Gemini right behind. Gemini had followed us at liberty the whole time - that was very interesting and surprising! He wanted to fall in line and follow, unusual for a boss hog horse like him.

While I was playing with the my three horses, Chrissy had been enjoying Cowboy. They practiced driving game, circling, and some other things. She also enjoyed just watching the horses interact while we were in a more enclosed area. Cowboy and Gemini played a little, Rain didn't do much at all, and Tina trotted around everyone stopping often to check every object out. Tina has become much calmer since she arrived and I expect to see her get calmer every month she's here in training. She's learning the language we use and she's finding her place. She's a little fat right now- which means she's getting plenty to eat in the large herd. I'm super pleased with how she's doing.

At the end, I asked Chrissy if she'd get on her horse bareback and she surprised me by saying YES! So, she got on and I helped her find her balance and ride with her horses back. She didn't seem too afraid and her horse was super calm for her. It was a triumphant moment as she hasn't ridden a horse bareback since she was a kid. I'd love to see her do that more - it's the best way to learn balance and building an independent seat. Good for Chrissy!

We loaded all the horses up to head home. My trailer light isn't working, so we had to load the horses into a dark trailer. Rain was not at all worried and I loaded her first. Then Tina. Tina was a little reluctant, but I didn't force her and just applied approach and retreat. Gem was a little concerned about the panel closing again, but it took 20 seconds for him to find calmness. Cowboy loaded last, but he kept turning around and wanting to come out. It took a few minutes to get him calm enough to stand while the door closed.

It was great to get that many horses going last night, loading, playing in an indoor, ponying, bareback riding... Fantastic.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 4 with David Lichman

Today was just a great day. We started with questions and discussion for about 90 minutes. We covered lots of topics and Dave showed some great video of a circus trainer doing liberty in a round circle with 6 - 7 horses at a time! Then, we went out and we each got 2 carrot sticks to practice doing the horses gaits ourselves. We hold the carrot sticks as front legs and our own legs are the hinds. We then go through all the gaits of a horse (besides galloping), including gaiting horses gaits like running walk, fox trot, pace, etc... We also did flying lead changes, which was really hard! My legs and arms kept getting out of synch and it helped me realize how easy it must be for horses to feel the same way. I didn't have someone on my back adding "noise" either. What if I had a rider too, who kept telling me what to do and telling my wrong? Oh, what we put these horses through...

This was a fun session and there was lots of laughing and smiling. I enjoyed the group and really feeling 4 legs. I found trotting to be quite easy, but the canter was tough for me to simulate. We did half-passing, shoulders in, haunches in, renvers and traverse. We also did some shoulders in and haunches in with a partner - helping our partner get their body correct to ride those maneuvers.

During lunch, I grabbed a little food and then took Z out for some long line playing on the hills. She was full of exuberance and gave me quite a few playful rears!! I'd like to develop the rear - it's time. She's so cute up on her hind, too. I also want to go back to spanish walk and get that going again. I just have to be more particular about her doing only when asked. I tacked her up then and played some more while the others finished the lunch break.

I started asking Z to bring her head below the withers on my tapping cue to her shoulder. She understand fairly quickly and was dropping her head to my subtle cue. Then, I tried to start playing the games and asking her to maintain her low head. We didn't do much, just a little circle game. We'll play with that more at home. After that, I hopped on and we played on the playground. Sandy has a great mailbox setup with a pink flag inside. Z was bothered by the mailbox, so I asked an auditor to open and close the mailbox while I worked on Z's confidence. We got some nice relaxation going, especially when I put a treat on the opened mailbox door. I need a mailbox in my playground.

After the lunch break, we went out and he worked with the other group on yielding the hind and rocking the horse back to glide into yielding the fore. When they had that going, we went out and played bullfighting with them. The advanced students had a carrot stick and would "charge" the hind or shoulder of a horse, helping the rider yield the hind or fore. If the horse was sticky, we'd tap the horse for the rider to help them get a better yield.

Then, Dave wanted to focus on the advanced students. He took us into the indoor arena since the rain was coming down good and we worked on the 8 bends. We started with just disengaging the hind, rocking back and then yielding the fore. Z and I can do this well and he used us as the demo, always a great compliment. We can do this with a lot of seat and very little reins, so he complimented us on barely being able to tell how I was cueing Z. We'd had a rough couple days, not on our best and so it was nice for me to feel like we were really great at something. The 8 bends were a little tougher, but Z and I got it done. She got a little tight, but she relaxed fairly quickly and Dave reminded me to not walk out of the bending until her poll was at or below the withers.

I had 4 different students come to me asking the breed of my horse and commenting on her beauty and stature. I had one woman ask that I please let her know if I ever decide not to use her for whatever reason. She wanted to add Z to her breeding program!! It's unusual for Z to get that kind of attention, but really we don't ride in front of people often. Still, it was intriguing to get that much attention from the crowd for my bay Anglo-Arab. Was it because we had gotten our act together and Z was looking so great? Or would they have thought that if they saw her just standing in the pen? I guess I don't think so. I think her nice collected movement and extended leg movement won her the attention. Proud of her!!

I'd brought Gemini in the morning thinking to give him more time away from home, but especially to give Z a trailer buddy to ease her worries. I commit to not trailer her alone until we fix her trailering issue. She's just fine with a buddy. Z never likes to be alone - but especially not alone in the trailer. We've got some work to do.

Side note: Tina is actually getting too fat! She's very settled into the herd and has her hay eating buddies. She's happy to find her own pile of hay off to the side as well. Whatever, she's put weight on here!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 3 with Dave Lichman

Today, we got our groove back! We were finally back in action and I was so thrilled. Our warm up was fantastic - Z was right with me all the way. Today, Dave wanted the advanced group doing Spotlights. Ugh! I didn't want to do one!!

Z and I were able to try the question box exercise with counter cantering and we got a wonderful lead change! She changed in the front and then in the back, but it was a blast. Her canter departs were fine and we stayed in large circles.

He showed the L2/3 students how to ride the falling leaf. He talked about teaching the horse to put their head down in a scary situation and beginning to discuss the 8 ways to bend (moving the hind and fore with the head into the turn and away from the turn).

Dave talked about overuse, misuse and underuse of tools - the 3 ways to dull tools.

We should teach our horses to trot sideways with their head down. There are many reasons to drop their heads: eat, because they've been trained to, they're ready to buck, submission and to stretch. Practice head down with controlled catastrophe! Have someone stimulate with scary things while you ask the horse to drop their head.

Check out Jec Aristotle Ballou.

Dave talked about things to do with obstacles, like a barrel: push it, jump it, 1/2 jump it, stop at it.

He talked about the importance of learning to straddle a ditch. We went out into the pasture and all practiced. Z and I did it mounted with no issues. Dave told the story of how they had to straddle a ditch every single day at the study center during a 3 month training stay until the horse would stop and ask every day - do you want me to straddle the ditch?

Day 2 - Clinic with David Lichman

I finished Day 2 of a 4-day clinic with David Lichman today. It's a L3/4 clinic and the most advanced clinic I've ever done. Z and I are doing our best of course, but I feel that we're struggling a bit in our relationship. She's not happy. Day 2 was better than day 1. She's had 3+ weeks off due to her leg injury and I don't know if that's the problem. She's telling me she doesn't want to do things. David thinks I'm fluctuating between being too soft in my ask and then being effective enough in my phase 4. She was much better under saddle than on the ground, but still - not very happy.

Her sweat pattern on her back looked off with a dry spot on the left by the withers and ruffled hairs. I believe my shimming needs a look and I'll do that before riding on day 3. Otherwise, I'm working on making things more interesting for her - and being more provocative myself. Her draw is amazing, her drive is snotty. David was actually quite perplexed by us.

Anyway, it's a big learning curve and we'll keep figuring it out. More, I'll keep figuring Z out.

What I've learned...

He had us doing question box patterns with counter canters in an effort to get easy flc's. Z and I didn't have a good enough canter depart to get it done. I knew something was wrong with her and at the end of the day, I really think I discovered saddle fit as the problem.

We watched videos in the basement in the morning and one of them had music by Jennifer Warnes that was lovely.

We talked about playing all 7 games with the head down and teaching a horse to be that relaxed always. Z could do a few things that way (circle was pretty good right away).

We develop our horses in this order: Mind, Weight, Flexion, Feet. First get the MIND!

Sandy had the Craig Cameron headstall and I loved it. I want one.

We talked about haunches in at the trot being very similar to a canter depart request. Make sure you are clear with your horse between the two asks.

We worked on developing the spin. Dave taught us how to do it with a line by looping it once over the horse's neck. Tip: Don't hurry into the spin, don't hurry during the spin, hurry OUT of the spin. I got in Z's way at the end of the spin - we've only ever done that at liberty.

Test ourselves by riding with no reins and getting head low, going slow, transitions, move the hind and fore, 8 bends, figure 8 and canter circles.

The horse should do nearly all of it's work with the poll at or below the withers.

Dave showed a video of Katja doing a circus act with 7 horses at liberty called "Arabian Nights". She had the horses all rearing, doing spins, going in opposite directions of each other. It was simply beautiful.

My homework was to practice cantering in the open pasture and build canter departs. I felt that I had a different problem to fix so I didn't do my homework.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 1 with David Lichman

This was a tough day for Z and I. I had a bit of an attitude and was struggling with not feeling like the best student in the class. There were a few students who were L4/5 and I was having ego-issues. LOL. Once I admitted it to myself, I could address it. Emotional fitness, Tia!! I went home after the first day and really put myself in check. I'd paid for the clinic, I had the time off from work, it was up to me to get the most from the 4 days. It was entirely up to me.

The first day, we talked in the basement, watched some videos and then headed out to do ground work. The 12 students were split into 2 groups - L2/3 and the advanced group - L3/4/5. I was in the advanced group. A couple of the students are working on L5 stuff, so quite advanced. We started with figure 8's on the ground and Z was having a hard time driving away from me. She could come into me just fine, but driving away was a challenge. We were the only ones with that problem. Typically the problem is with the draw, not the drive. Dave had Z and I work on the S-pattern to fix our figure 8. We went out into the pasture and built the S-pattern. It was going nicely after about 30 minutes. I was very pleased.

With the L2/3 group, he worked on the Touch It game (target training). He talked a lot about reinforcement and using a 50/50 schedule so the horse is always wondering when he'll get rewarded versus expecting it every time.

Some other notes I took:

The first pattern is touch it. Why? Because it teaches FOCUS! The human learns to focus and the horse learns to read the humans focus. Use positive reinforcement so they're motivated to follow our focus.

When Dave lays a horse down, he gets the bow, but then he holds the leg up and tucked until the horse goes down for comfort. I'm going to try that with Rain and then Z. They can both bow nicely, but I haven't ventured to the lay down yet. It's time to do that.

We discussed the 6 methods of teaching: mimicking, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, manipulation, scan and capture and ?? (shoot, missing the last one). Positive reinforcement uses bridging and target training.

Dave made a great point - you should be able to drive from zone 3 and play touch it before you ever ride a horse. I'll be working on that with Tina next. I also think Chrissy could really benefit. Dave had the early students using treats to enforce the touch it game. The treat on the object they were headed so the horse started to like the game.

Dave showed us sideways on the circle to get the horse thinking about the human. He demonstrated teaching the horse to circle with their eyes on their human. He disengaged the hind everytime the horse looked away and after a very short time, the horse (Ray's horse) was circling him in a nice curved way with her eyes always on Dave.

He talked about bonding exercises such as letting the horse rest the front of their face on the humans belly. He also talked about teaching the horse to rest it's jaw bone on their humans shoulder.

For teaching target training, hold the treat in 1 hand closed. If they touch the target, open the hand and present the treat. If they dont touch the target, keep the hand closed. They will learn quickly to seek the target!

Dave talked about clicker training and the problem with it: the click is terminal. This means that when you click, the behavior should end and the horse is rewarded. How do you encourage the try with clicker training?

Dave does a ton of voice command training and he also uses voice to encourage try. I do that as well and I know my horses respond.

Dave made a big deal about teaching horses their names. He also talked about how to teach a horse what his name is NOT. This way, you can single a horse out when playing with multiples. He said you need a group name, too - like ALL. Each horse has two names, their own and the group name.

He praised Alexander kurlin's book on clicker training and he talked a lot of the sea lion training done by a group in Florida (google: Slewths).

It was an interesting first day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Squeeze and Sideways with Tina

Tonight, I wanted to build more sideways and squeeze game patterns with Tina. I started with asking her to go sideways over an obstacle. It's obvious that she's never done sideways or sidepassing. She was able to take small steps sideways over an obstacle, but she really wasn't comfortable going sideways so we have some work to do.

We continued to build those 2 games and by the end of the session, she was licking and chewing and giving some nice sideways with hinds and fores crossing. Squeeze is tough because the horse can get scared when they can't go forward. I was looking for relaxation and Tina not wishing to go forward and leave. She had learned that she could find the answer and forward wasn't it. Her answer is typically forward, which is very natural for a prey animal so I'm trying to build a more confident and inquisitive mind in her. I want to try other answers besides forward.

After our ground session, I spent some more time shaping up her feet. The left fore is extremely flat, so I'm trying to lift the sole and build the solar dome. The right hand is the nicest, for whatever reason. Things are coming along. She's getting lots of good concussion on the track and her hoof wall grows stong.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick Ride on Gem and Time with KK and Rain

Rode Gem to gate and back, then cloverleaf and follow the rail in the arena. Then, KK came out to ride Rain and practiced bareback while getting on obstacles. She also stood on Rain's back - very scary for her! She was a brave girl!!

Chrissy didn't do much with Cowboy, not feeling up for the challenge I imagine. She tried a little liberty, but didn't want to break anything. She needs a little motivation, I think.

I had bigger plans for my evening but got a late start and the days are getting shorter. Time to start using the indoor arena. Good to have friends with indoor arenas!

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Trailer Confidence with Z

Another long day at work and I was feeling very tired. I didn't ride today but I wanted to spend a little time building more trailer confidence with Z. Z is great about the trailer - great for loading, great and calm unloading. With another horse on the ride, she's just fine. However, she's never been very confident about trailering alone. She'll load because I've asked her to, but she's obviously wary and I want her to have more confidence about surviving the ride.

This coming weekend I'll be in a clinic for 4 days and Z will have to load and unload every day. Maybe this weekend will be great for getting her more confident about riding alone, but I decided to also spend these days prior to the clinic helping her along. So, I decided to feed her grain in the trailer and some alfalfa. She loaded up fine, I closed the trailer door and then I put her grain and alfalfa in through the window. I did my chores while she feasted in the trailer. Once she was done eating, I could hear her pacing. I decided to go in the trailer through my tack room and sit with her. I wanted to see just how nervous she looked. She was thinking, definitely not panicked, not sweating, not even pawing. But she wanted out. Of course, what horse wouldn't want out.

I decided to sit with her until she decided to stop moving her feet. She kept coming to me and then to the trailer door and then back to me. I had a bucket to sit on and I just watched and waited. She would eat some hay and then go back to the trailer door. Finally, after about 45 minutes, she cocked a leg. Ahhhh! That was when I decided it was time to come out. We'll do that every night this week with her grain and some alfalfa. I want to see an improvement in her attitude about being in the trailer alone. I want her more comfortable when we travel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tina gets started and Gem goes to a show

First for the day was Gemini. I've been wanting to take him to a show and walk him around. I wanted to see how he'd act and expose him to the show environment when we have no agenda, no time limit, no worries. There were two shows going on... one was H/J and the other dressage. There were horses everywhere and people, dogs, flags, excitement, just a great place to take him to let him experience things. He was so calm and cool! He did call once in a while, but I can't help but think that would go away pretty quickly. He was great and I realized he'd be great in that environment with me. I will definitely try some dressage shows with him next spring.

He loaded in the trailer both coming and going with ease and confidence. Our work together is really paying off! Now, we're going to start filming our L3 ground stuff.

When I got home, I did some chores and started next with Tina. I tacked her up with my treeless endurance saddle (great for the young ones!). We went to the round pen some ground work. She's trying very hard and I'm doing my best to reward her slightest tries and mind her sensitive nature. I can make mere suggestions and she's doing her best to accomodate my ask. I want her to be careful about assuming so I gently ask again if she's given the wrong answer. I don't want her to feel wrong and I don't want to stifle her thinking process as much as possible. We're developing quite a language in a short time.

I got my horse play ball out and played with her confidence. We started with just stick and string friendly and she tried to move her feet to shut it down. When she realized if she calmed down the stick would too, she quickly made that part of her plan moving forward. Staying calm! Smart girl. With the ball, I asked her to put her nose on it. She was already curious about this huge ball, so that was easy. Then I rolled it while we followed it. She licked and chewed. Then, I started bouncing it and she thought moving away was wise. However, she quickly learned that, like the stick, the ball calmed down when she did. :-) Then, I challenged her to have the ball in zone 3 and finally on top of zone 3!! Then, with the ball on her back I asked her to walk around. She was trusting that I wouldn't allow this ball to devour her and she took one step, then another, then it was a breeze.

At this point, we'd been playing about 45 - 60 minutes and it was time to put a foot in the stirrup and get her accustomed to the practice of mounting. I asked my husband to help by supporting her in zone 1 with calming words and strokes. At first, my foot in the stirrup was strange for her and she got tight and tense. I stayed there, stayed with her until she got more relaxed, then I rewarded the relaxation by getting my foot out of the stirrup. That made sense to her quickly.

We practiced mounting, rewarding with retreat, relaxation, calmness, and after she seemed ok with mounting, I laid on her back. She was getting better and more relaxed. We got to a point where I thought she was unsure so I stopped kneeled in front of her and waited for her to lick and chew. It took her about 90 seconds. Ahhhh... she needed a minute to think about things. Then, when I want back to mount and lay over her some more, she was a pro. She was fine with it, calm and accepting.

I found a good place to stop the mounting practice, rub her all over, retreat, retreat, retreat. She had her head low, her confidence was high and she was super. Later this week, I'll throw a leg over and make sure she's ok with that, then we'll start the teaching of being a calm, smart, brave mount! She took a huge step forward today. It was a great session.

I will take some more time to shape up her feet this week. She's looking good!!