Monday, March 30, 2009

4 Hours with Kime

A long lesson, a lot of talking and catching up...

Zarah - backed her out of barn through her thresholds backing her w/o my body - using my tools too much. We started to play stick to me where I ask her to go my speed in a circle. I realized I need to break it into smaller chunks - drive from z3, my speed, soft and clear transitions up and down, then add the circle. A BFO and then some.

Note to self: she got tense as we did ground work and got closer to the 2 horse trailer (from the loading practice we've done). We obviously have to get confidence about the 2 horse trailer.

Then we worked on my bridleless riding. This was probably the high-point of the lesson for me. She helped me with developing much better turn on the haunches and the fore using my seat and my stick. We also worked on bridleless back-up and I really made some important connections between what I'm asking Z and what it means to her. We did a pattern of 1 step back, 1 step of the fore, 1 back, 1 fore... We will practice that with the turn on on the fore (moving the hind) as well. Z will do whatever I ask if I'm clear.

At one point, we talked about the difference between Z and Cowboy. Z is looking for a leader, Cowboy is NOT. Do I find one of them easier? Nope, they are both unique and teach me different things.

Cowboy - studying his displacement behavior and helping me understand how to handle it. I have to be careful about circle game so I don't remind him of lunging. I have to keep things very interesting as he's LBI and easily bored. We played with the figure 8 pattern and Kime helped me figure out where he leaves the game and how to keep him engaged. He has good draw but when I push him away on the figure 8 pattern, he doesn't easily come back. Very interesting!

We practiced a lot of me using more body language and less tools. That was probably the theme of the day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pulling Kids in the Snow, Part 2

With Zarah! I rode her around and acquainted her to the sled behind us, next to us (moving sideways) and in front of us (moving backwards). Amazing how much harder moving backwards was! This is actually a L3 task - or used to be, before the new format. We worked on transitions (trot/walk mainly) with the sled. She was slightly hesitant to leave the barn and I tried my hardest to not brace against her, but to turn with her and follow her idea before suggesting my idea again. It ends up looking like I'm moving the hind end every few steps. It was VERY effective and we barely ever braced against each other.

Eventually, I pulled Kendall on the sled at the canter (which Kendall LOVED). We also got some video of bridleless riding (thank you, Steve) so I can watch and see where I'm fumbling. We jumped 1 ft bridleless and today, I'd like to jump the barrel. That's one of the tasks for L3 and I'd like to film L3 in a month or so.

I also spent quite a bit of time just sitting on her back. There isn't much grass to eat with the ground covered in snow, but we would just stand. I loved hearing her do the big sigh and she even fell asleep at one point. I'm really, really trying to keep filling the bonding and love bucket. Zarah needs it more than my other horses.

I spent undemanding time with her in the barn and then with the herd. Gemini told me how he felt by coming and standing about 1 foot from me, facing me, cocking a leg and taking a nap. The other horses slowly creeped over, as close as Gemini would allow, and also took their naps. I realize they generally do see me as the herd leader and place of comfort. That was a great moment and a welcomed message from the herd. Rain and Cowboy were the cutest, taking slow baby steps to get as close as they could and both of them looking intently at me as if to say, I want to be closer to you! I realize that Zarah doesn't feel quite that way about me and I'll keep working on it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pulling kids in the snow!

I busted out of work early today, tacked up Rain, and tied a sled to my 22' line. Then, I made sure Rain would be ok pulling sled. After she seemed confident, I gave the kids the "go ahead" to hop on the sled and I pulled them all over at various speeds! Delaney even tried to snowboard behind us, looking a lot like a waterskier. At times, his board would get stuck in the snow and he'd go face first into the snow. It was very funny! Kendall was only happy when I asked Rain to canter.

I've got video and pics to post. It was cold out, but so fun mixing horses into winter play with the kids.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Using Rain for Transportation

I had a little time and some letters to mail, so I tacked up Rain and grabbed my letters and cantered her to the mailbox. :-) Our mailbox is about 1/2 mile away, so we normally do it in the car on the way in or out. But today, I decided to make "real" use of my horse and actually accomplish a task.

I dropped off my letters, put up the flag so the mailman would know, and took the mail that was in there for us already. Then, I asked her to gait home at a fast clip. I was smiling the whole way. Rain is my favorite horse and she has a great 4-beat gait that is a blast to ride.

We were back pretty fast (after all, it was only a mile long ride) and I still had daylight for manure management and feeding. Before I hopped off, we practiced more bridleless sideways and she is moving so beautifully of my lightest suggestion. Love HER!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dressage lesson #3

Had a great lesson today! I'm pretty excited about it. We worked on better arm position and function at the walk, trot and canter. We worked on my core following the forward motion clearly and transitioning from sitting to posting trot and staying in rhythm at all times.

I really enjoyed it! We got a lot of compliments on our improvements which is surprising since we haven't done any dressage practice in about 2 months. We haven't had a lesson in that long either. I haven't been riding Z that much - maybe 1-2 times/week.

When we started, I mentioned that I'd like to strive for a dressage show. We discussed that and how far I could go with Z. She said my best horse would be Gem for dressage showing. She said that the way Z moves in the canter won't do will in a dressage ring. After our lesson though, she changed her opinion and said Z and I could get to dressage level 2. Our lesson was that impressive to her! Z was more uphill, more working from the hind and happier than she'd seen in previous lessons.

I'm going to practice it more and see what happens.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ponying Nina and Undemanding Time

Today, I took Rain and Nina out for a trail ride. The wind was insane - gusts up to 40 mph. I could tell Nina was affected as she was bracier than normal and generally tight. Rain was even a little more on edge and looking to move out instead of her casual walk.

We went only about 5 miles and Nina got ahead of us a few times. I was looking for different ways to handle her forward behavior and tense feelings because commotion in zone 5 wasn't enough in those moments. I circled her around us and that helped some, I tried using my stick to increase Z1 commotion (marginally effective) and we tried waiting. It didn't seem any worked more than the other and I'll be working on helping her more in future rides. She had some good moments of pure prey animal behavior.

Rain was also a little more agitated as I noted, and when we got back I tied off Nina and played with some mounted work with Rain. We worked on a very soft and bridleless sideways in both directions and isolating the ends. She got much more calm and I called it a day. She's my favorite horse - just love her.

When I got back, I spent more time with Z - filling up the "love" bucket. I see my bonding time truly paying off and realizing that will be part of our deal. I'll have to consider that to be as critical and slow down our challenging learning sessions by putting in sessions of bonding only in between.

I trimmed some hooves, too. Rain's fronts are especially interesting and the hoof capsule is turned inward from her crooked legs. I'm trying to keep the hoof as balanced as possible while allowing the heels to expand. I'm not crazy about the way they look and I may get my mentor out to coach me some more.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Advancing Cowboy and riding bridleless

Tacked up and rode Cowboy today. I was very interesting in studying his displacement behavior where he works his jaw and fiddles with his lips. He looks as though he's trying to work a piece of grain out of his back teeth, but it's actually a perversion he developed as a coping mechanism somewhere before Jen bought him. He does it when he's stressed or feeling unconfident and impatient. He actually does it while he waits for his grain at feed time. He does it the most in the arena, though.

Today, I started by riding him outside the arena. Well, first we warmed up on the ground and I got some great, great canter-trot transitions on the circle. Very pleased with his progression there! I also loaded him into the 2 horse straight load. He was a little worried at first, but settled nicely and stood quietly in the trailer. He wasn't relaxed, but it's a great start. I then rode him up my driveway (1/4 mile) at the canter. When we got near the gate, we stood. I wanted to see if he would work his mouth. He didn't! He was calm and ready to move out. We walked back and worked on sideways and half-passing. He's quite bracey when I ask for lateral movement so we're doing a lot of that to get him more supple.

I then took him into the arena for some PPL at the trot. His perversion went into full drive once we walked into the arena. How interesting. I rode him at the trot until he seemed to relax. It was a mild change, but a change nonetheless. Poor guy - someone really worked him hard in an arena and he stresses out immediately upon entering the sandy fenced off area.

We finished with a little liberty time in the round pen. This was our first liberty session! He got so playful and I had to laugh! How neat! Obviously, no one did that with him and he has no preconceived notions about what liberty time will mean. He was comfortable and playful and tuned in. We'll build on that with ease.

It was a great, progressive time and I tied him and put a halter on Z. Z and I worked on a very quiet, easy bridleless session where we weaved in and out of trees and around obstacles. Our bridleless sideways needs some more practice but otherwise, she was quite amenable to my asks and stayed very calm. It was windy as heck and she was unaffected. We were slow, I rubbed her often and tried to make it an easy session. We had started off with some nice, nice ground work and some more practice loading into the 2-horse.

It was a great time with Cowboy and Z!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Finding the "Holes" and Trailriding

Took Kyle with me to Hidden Mesa for a nice evening ride. Kyle's kind of a trail snob - he'll only ride with me if I trailer somewhere. HA! So we brought Cowboy and Rain. First of all, Cowboy's trailer loading lessons truly paid off. He was confident and comfortable with the panels and staying in the trailer. I was so pleased!!

We tacked them up before we loaded so we could get there, get on and go. So, I found some important holes in Cowboy's understanding of "how to be a mount". I had to kind of laugh at myself for all the training we haven't done yet and what I've glossed over. He doesn't really know how to yield the hind or the fore from the saddle. Subsequently, he has no idea how to go sideways or half-pass. Those are handy, handy tools when you have a horse that is more impulsive than you want. Well, I wouldn't call Cowboy an impulsive horse, but there were moments where he wanted to trot and I was asking for a walk. Next lesson, we get those things going!

Then, he seemed to be tender footed on the rocks. That surprised me since he has great, solid feet. I've noticed that since having him here with me, he doesn't walk well on my gravel driveway. I truly need to get some gravel in my track! At one point, he seemed super sore and I hopped off to check and found a big rock lodged in his hoof. Poor guy - he needs to toughen up those soles. I'll add gravel this week.

He crossed water just fine - I figured he would. He walks soooooo slow. OMG. I'm going to try to find a faster walk in him. Also, our down transitions were not so good on the way back. He got more impulsive going home, as all horses tend to do, but he immediately got bracey as well. We'll be focusing more and more on getting rid of the brace. He's got a lot of built-in brace for us to get through.

It was a great ride, good time with Kyle, and a great test of what we've built and where Cowboy and I are headed. I needed it to remind me of all the things we have to fix up if I'm going to use him for L3.

This weekend: trimming hooves. Everyone needs a touch up.

Very cool!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Undemanding with Z and bareback riding

Amazing how a little undemanding time with Z brings her right around. I'll keep focusing on staying more balanced with undemanding time between the progressive riding and ground sessions. She's much happier to see me, nickering when I come out, not leaving when I have a halter in my hand. It's so interesting how she goes in and out of feelings of fondness for me.

I sat with her in the aisle after grain time, brushed her, talked on the phone while she nudged me repeatedly demanding that I scratch her face. She loves her face scratched! Then, we did a little bit of ground work and more trailer loading into the 2-horse straight load. I had some things dropped off for my horse playground (2 large tractor tires, 3 barrels, some 12' piping). It made a huge pile and she was extremely suspicious of this changed play area. We did approach and retreat and she gained confidence with the new stuff. Then I squeezed her over a few of the new things. At the end, she stood with the new piping under her belly and I was pleased. We moved on... Oh, an interesting note - my horse is so RB when it comes to new stuff! She was curious, but very unconfident!

Then, I hopped on for a few minutes of bareback riding. I haven't ridden bareback in a while and I may want to do my freestyle audition bareback. I'm permitted to ride in a saddle, but then I wouldn't possibly be eligible for anything L4. Anyway, I need more bareback practice - it can only help. I used to ride bareback all the time; on the trail, in the arena, wherever. Z's impulsive nature has made me feel less confident bareback. I'd still ride Rain bareback anywhere. Z is not quite a 5 on the impulsion chart - she's probably more of a 7. Makes a big difference.

The weather is amazing but I have kid stuff to do! More time tomorrow perhaps. Want to progress more with Cowboy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Riding Cowboy and Undemanding Time

I had the most amazing session yet with Cowboy today. I was shocked by him and really felt a partnership from him beyond what I've felt in the past. He's very cool! We started with some brushing and he seems genuinely just happy to be chosen and messed with. We then did some circle game, and some sideways. I realize I have to be more creative, so we walked out to the large south pasture and played circle game while I walk, all the while transitioning between trot and canter. I asked him to jump multiple things and I honestly wonder if he likes jumping a little! He goes straight for the jump and although he seems to use the least energy possible, he jumps whatever I point him towards. We got way out, near the edge of my property and sat and chilled. He messed with me, flipped his lips all over, just general jovial behavior. I discovered that he likes his tongue itched.

We then started with sideways w/o a rail. We haven't done it without a rail, and he had the general idea. I was very careful to reward every try and not get critical. His try has become absolutely amazing. He checks in constantly, too. He soaks up the rewards and praise. I also have started to strategically use treats - he's highly motivated by treats. I want it to be fun for him.

Once we got back to the barn, we played with trailer confidence. He gets in beautifully and confidently, but he doesn't appreciate the panel being closed. So, approach and retreat, playing with opening and closing the panel, allowing him to back out if he needs to. My plan was to try to get him standing in exactly the spot he'd be if the panel was closed. He's not completely confident, but we'll be working on it every session.

Then, I tacked him up and we went to the arena. He's so much more relaxed in the tacking process than he used to be. We started off with 21 mins of PPL at the trot. I'm looking for his mouth to settle, gait maintenance and leaving the barn side of the arena. He did quite well and was less mouthy with the bit. He's still fidgeting, but relaxing more and more. Then, we worked on trot canter transitions. Wow! Best transitions I've ever ridden on ANY horse! He feels my seat and moves with it! Granted, he's innately an LBI and he'd rather trot than canter, but his down transitions were beautiful and he willingly transitioned back up to canter within a stride or two. I've never asked him for those before and I was shocked by how well he did them. I wonder if Z will ever be that good.

I was so pleased and we stood and I gave him some treats and we just relaxed and reveled in his glory. He literally shocked me with his willingness and desire to partner up in the arena in this session. I'll have to keep it interesting and progressive and I think he and will go very far.

As for Miss Zarah, well - she saw me messing with the trailer and she went as far away as she could. I'm devoting undemanding time to her for now. I went out to get her and she willingly comes to me and sticks to me all the way to the barn - no need for a halter or lead. But the fact that she leaves when she thinks she has an opportunity to when I first come out and look full of intent needs to be fixed. We'll have to have undemanding time until she realizes time with me doesn't ALWAYS mean leaving the comfort of the herd and/or a boring and uninteresting training session. She's a challenge and she's teaching me. I'm learning that I need patience more than anything.

Nina hits the trail and Trailerloading

Great day - gorgeous weather and time on my side. I started with Cowboy. My plan was to get him more comfortable with the trailer. So, we played online, especially sideways, back, squeeze and circle. I'm asking more for cantering in the circle online without any guff. :-) He's doing really - progressing nicely. Then, we went for trailer loading. He knows how to load, but he's not comfortable in there alone and he seems to feel claustrophobic when I close the panels on him. So, I worked on loading him and unloading him, closing the panel when he's in and I even asked him to step only the front feet out and then back in with the hind feet already in the trailer. It was a good session and he was quite accommodating. More tomorrow. I'd like to get him on the trail and load him some more. Time to progress with our games, also.

Then Nina. She was quite an LBE on adrenalin and got away from me a couple times. I have a couple new learn burns from her. She's learned to whip her head away and I had to be ready to hang on and not allow her to think that was a worthy solution. She eventually learned that pattern was not so effective - that's after I learned that it was coming and to be effective. After about 20 mins, she was calm, cooperative and obedient. She still needs more friendly game with the stick and string and we'll work on that next. Then we worked on loading into the trailer. like Cowboy, she loads fine but doesn't feel confident about the panel being closed on her. So, we took our time and gained some confidence. She was doing great after about 20-30 mins and I moved on.

Water! It was warm enough for the hose and my horses are all dirty and dusty. I also thought it was a good time to see how Nina felt about being sprayed with water. She struck at it with force and kicked at when it splashed behind the drive line. I played approach and retreat and she got better, much better. She looked nice and shiny with all the dust removed. She's so much bigger than last summer, too. I sprayed off Cowboy and Rain - they both needed it badly.

It was time to go hit the trail. I loaded Rain and Nina and headed to Hidden Mesa to pony Nina on her first trail ride. It was a fantastic ride! The first 1/2 mile, we came across a man running while driving his 2 donkeys in front of him. That scared the crap out of both of my horses! He was running towards us, which didn't help a bit. Nina went completely right-brained, moving her feet, pooping... I hopped off hoping that I could be more effective on the ground with her fear. Luckily, the guy cut me a little slack and came to a walk. That helped tremendously. We watched him go by and I hopped back on and off we went.

Nina crossed water - she had a little trouble, but following Rain she quickly realized she was going to be fine. We encountered numerous bikers - some who yielded to us (as they're supposed to) and some who zoomed by (very annoying). We encountered walkers, runners, even an ATV (not supposed to be there!). It was a busy day at the local trailhead and great for Nina!

She loaded up beautifully when it was time to go and we all relaxed into our journey home. When we got back, Abby was laying in the pasture and I was sure something was wrong. She didn't move at all when we drove up, which was bizarre. I grabbed Steve and went to check her out. She didn't move until we were next to her, touching her. It was doubly-unusual that the other horses were standing over her and also didn't come to meet us at the trailer when we returned. It was a somber sight. I walked Abby to the barn and checked her out. She stayed in a stall/run all night for monitoring. She seems ok - lethargic and tired. Not the typical Thoroughbred.

A great day with a lot of progression for multiple horses and for me. I'm missing Gemini - maybe I'll do something with him today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bridleless practice with Z

Up until today, most of my bridleless riding and practice has been with the safety net of a rope hack or bridle on my horse. I've tied off the reins, but didn't trust enough to remove all head gear. Today, for the first time I can remember, I walked the rope w/o the safety net. I even had a moment where I thought to myself, "what's the worse thing that can happen?". And that's when I realized, I can ride whatever Z offers. It's possible she could catch me off guard and offer a buck, but I think the odds are very slim. And if she did? I could probably ride it. It was a very liberating and empowering moment.

This is where we needed to go next. So, patterns - figure 8 and corner game the most. She got a little "up" at first, so I cantered her doing PPL, waiting for her to think slower was a better idea. We did the figure 8 at the trot with no head gear. I did some with the neck rope, so with just the carrot stick. I focused very hard on riding her with only my body and she was typically with me. There were times when we circled on the side closer to the barn and her circles were bigger, pulling in the direction she wanted to go. Otherwise it was pretty good!

This is where we need to go to get our Freestyle taping done. I watched a few auditions on youtube and realized we aren't far away at all. I watched one that passed with a 3++ and I felt very confident that Z and I are nearly that good and will be with another month of practice. Whoo-hooo! I have to progress to jumping bridleless - that's next. We've started doing more jumping in general and her confidence over jumps is better all the time. Now we'll practice jumping with reins tied off, then bridleless.

I've also been working on loading her in a 2-horse straight load. She's not an extremely confident trailer traveler and I doubt she's ever been in a 2horse straight. We had our 3rd session of trying to load, each session progressively better than the last. She's going in as far as she can w/o putting her back feet in. It's cool - it's a big challenge for her. I have to keep raising her confidence level with trailers. We may battle that for years to come. I don't know.

I have to find more ways to progress our groundwork. I'll start looking at the L4 stuff and start advancing. I've been watching more Parelli vids on horseanality and I think I might sometimes be mistaking her behavior for right-brained when it's actually left-brained on adrenaline. I might get some video today to watch later so I can analyze easier.

Z and I have gotten to a new high in our relationship. I'm so tickled and I want to keep being a better and better leader for her.

At the end our sesison, I wanted to ride her to the front pasture. Z is very wary about leaving the property and I find that I have to ride her very consistently to have her leave the barn and herd without losing her confidence. I haven't done that with her in months - leaving the barn alone and heading out for a ride - and she was quick to tell me that was a mistake. :-) So we did what I know - I didn't brace against her, asked her to disengage when she pulled back to the barn and then rested. We didn't go far, but she never got emotional, she only showed her opinion on things. And I did not push her - I've known that pushing her doens't work, but it's only recently that I have the insight and patience to break the pattern of pushing her anyway. This is what approaching L3 completion has taught me. I'm slowly realizing what partnership on my part means... truly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More time with Nina

Met with Loma today to get one more mounted session on Nina. Work ran late and I was hurrying to get something going quickly. It was very cold today, too. I brushed her and tacked her up while she munched some grass in the barn. Then, I took her out to warm her up. We're spending more time squeezing over things - that's what she needs now. We had a nice warm up play session and she thought to leave me once or twice, but came back quickly. She bucked a little with the western saddle, but it was much better than it's been.

Then, we went in the round pen and prepped for riding. I asked her to back up and one point and she was oppositional. So, I took a few minutes to fix that up and get her softer in her back up. Backing up is hard for such a dominant horse as Nina! I asked her to canter under saddle, too - to me a very important test before mounting. She bucked a little, but settled into the canter nicely after that. I asked for a little sideways w/o the fence and she went sidewas but leaked forward quite a bit. We'll work on that some more.

Then, I asked Loma to hop on. Nina was great - confident, non-plussed, easy. I led them around a bit and had Loma hop off and on several times from both sides. All was well. Then, I had Loma hold her while I hopped on. I thought it was important for me to swing a leg over and feel that feeling of being on her. After all, I'll be riding her eventually. Her neck is so long compared to Z's! I can't touch her head at all from the saddle without her laterally flexing to my leg. Funny the things you notice...

We walked around with me on for a moment and I hopped off. I got back on the other side and sat for a minute. She was calm and easy and so was I. I'm very proud of the work we're doing - taking it slow and doing it right.

Now, my focus will be to expose her. I won't put more mounted time on her for now, I'll take her out and build her up. So, ponying on the trails, trying new groundwork, building up her brain for more riding later. That's what Loma wants and I 100% agree - that's the best place to take Nina now. Should be some fun trail times coming now! My favorite thing...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Steppin' up my GAME!

Had maybe the best play session with Z ever. It was at least the best I can ever remember. She was playful, energetic, in tune, ears forward...

I've gone through a couple months of darkness with my Parelli vids and progression. I run every single day now on the treadmill and I'm using that time to catch up on videos and reinforce my learning. I watched the Jan 2009 Savvy Club DVD where Pat spends a lot of time trailer loading his horse Vision. It was great timing for me to watch that video! I thought it was a phenomenol teaching tool as Pat has so much savvy with his rope handling, his communication with the horse, his expectations of the horse... I'm at a point where the teachers for me are fewer because I've progressed farther than many around me. I have to spend more time looking deeper at the videos or into the discussions I have to progress my knowledge.

Anyway, Z and I played with squeezing over barrels, loading into a 2-horse straight load (extremely hard for her), moving with precision and being very in tune to my body language from the ground, quick-snappy responses and shadowing me.

I just can't remember a time where she showed more respect, impulsion, PLAY!, and the ability to overcome her confidence issues. I felt like I could actually be a great leader for that horse. I have to teach her more and continue to challenge her mind. I believe I've become boring over time to her. Time to step it UP!

I'm still trying to teach her to shake her head on cue. So funny how challenging it is for her to connect my ask with a head shake from her. Rain would have learned 8 tricks in this amount of time. How interesting!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cowboy and Nina Day

I was determined to spend time with Cowboy and Nina today. I have some work to catch up on and with daylight savings kicking in, feels like the day was getting away from me. However, I got out there, did my horsey chorse and got to work with Nina first.

I touched up her hooves, trying to keep her from flaring. Her hooves are very wide and short by nature, so I try to stay ahead of the wall that grows in the quarters and shape the toe to help the toe grow out nicely. She actually has pretty nice feet. She was so calm today and when I went to get her, she was laying down sleeping along with Gemini, Cowboy and Rain. I sat down next to her and just scratched her all over. She was loving it and rested her head on me. We sat there for a solid 5 mins. She can be such a sweet horse.

Once I had her hooves trimmed, i went ahead and tacked her up. Getting the saddle on her has become a non-issue, which is fantastic. She accepts it willingly and doesn't move her feet. Then, I checked on our friendly game, asked her to cross some obstacles, and just generally tried to see where her head was. Again, she was calm and easy - even the wind was ridiculous today. I played with her and the tarp for the first time and she was non-plussed. Part of that is her personality, part of it is that she trusts me and she's confident with me. I took her into the round pen for some squeezing over barrels. She is not confident about going over things. My guess is she feels clumsy (she certainly looks pretty dang clumsy!). She got a little emotional about it, so I spread them apart and just asked her to squeeze through the opening. That was much easier and we moved on. We played with the circle game at different gates, with her following my body. When I trotted, I asked her to trot (like a jog in place), when I canter, she should, too (kind of like a skip). She's really great at that and we started to transition back down and up together. She gets that game! After a time, it felt like a good time to climb on. I asked Steve to hold her while I mounted from both sides repeatedly. Then, he led her around while I bellied her. I would have liked to swing a let over, but it seemed to risky with Steve as my ground person. He's doing everything I ask beautifully, but he's not a "horse person" and it would take a split second for Nina to act out and catch Steve off guard. Both of us could end up hurt in a hurry.

She was very calm and I'm proud of the good start she's getting. A few more weeks and I should be riding her around with ease. I tied her to the hitching rail and asked her to stand there for a while. She's calm about being tied and she cocked a leg and took a nap. She stood tied about an hour. She's a good girl.

Then, I got Cowboy out and tacked him up. I'm watching him very closely to see when he's shows stress so I can address it. I'd like to understand him better since he'll be my next L3 partner, most likely. I brushed him, messed with him, checked him over (he's got lots of bite marks from Gem). Then, I tacked him up and watched to see where he showed displacement behavior. He was ok with the pad, ok with the saddle, but when I started to cinch, he got stressed. Next time, I'll have a treat. He's very LBI and highly motivated by food. I tried to go very slowly and minimize the stress. He seemed to be settling when I took my time and then I mounted up out near the play area. I was completely comfortable hopping on and really felt trusting of him. The more I know him, the more I trust him.

We started out in the arena and I was planning to do a passenger lesson. He kept dropping his head because he was stressed and fiddling with his mouth. I didn't want to stop him, but he wanted to slow down when I allowed it. Hmmm... a dilemma. I wasn't sure where to go with it, so I tried to ask for more action. We cantered around and he seemed fine and confident - more than he was at the trot. Then we'd go back to a trot and he'd go back to displacement behavior. After about 10 mins, I decided to try the front pasture instead. Maybe he's been pushed too hard in arenas?

He did seem better and the displacement behavior stopped, but he was very inclined to be with the herd. So I walked him away and trotted/cantered him back. We did that a few times before I got interrupted by a visitor. Darn it! Once I got back on to get started again, I tried to simply walk him around the property. He was going along ok and trotted without being asked at one point. I realize he will NOT do that in an arena. He seems to go lights out in an arena in no time flat. He is much more interested and alert outside of the arena, in the open.

We trotted and cantered some around the property and found ourselves back at the barn pretty quickly. How interesting! I've always thought of him as the horse that doesn't need the herd. The horse that will willingly leave the herd for a trail ride. Not so at this point. We'll have to build back up to it. That's ok. Typical stuff.

At one point, he stopped and so did I. We just stood there together for probably 5 minutes. We were next to a pine tree and he just relaxed. I'd like to think he was waiting to see what I wanted. I'd also like to think it was relaxing to carry a rider who was happy to do nothing.

I'll keep getting inside his head. I have lots of tricks and tools in mind and I'll try them all until I figure out which one intrigues him. I do know that I've got to start incorporating treats into our sessions. He needs a reason to feel motivated. He's an unmotivated horse and I need him to show some life. Right now, I think he'll be tough with some of the L3 stuff because of his introverted nature and lack of desire to move fast. I'll be learning how to build that with creative play - a good challenge for me.

He's such a great-looking horse and I'm completely interested in developing him. What of Gemini? He'll be with Krissy for a while starting soon and I will watch from afar how he's doing. He could/should be #3 for my levels horses. That's where my head is now, at least.

Side note: Z and I are doing much better. She came up to me multiple times today while I had a lead in my hand. I'd like to think I'm more interesting to her lately and maybe taking different horses out of the pasture for play time makes her feel less like fleeing when I show up with a lead rope. It's good, I'm watching and learning - she's teaching me tons.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

'Riding in the snow', 'to load or not to load', and 'canter much'?

Saturday, at last. And a license from my great husband to get some horse time. For the past few months, it's all about the weekend because my job doesn't allow weekday horse time right now. Life is tough lately with my job and very little time to do things that I enjoy.

The plan was to go to Jen's place, coach her a little more with her horse and spend a little time with a couple of my horses at her neighborhoods large arena. I was thinking to take Nina, for trailer experience, and Cowboy for large arena passenger lesson riding. I started off loading Cowboy...

He was happy to go in, but he was not cool with staying in. I had hay in the trailer and he'd go in relaxed, eat it, but when I went to close the panel, he became unconfident. I'm doing my best to get Cowboy past the unconfidence - I didn't want to force him to stay in the trailer.

I decided that it might him if another horse was already in the trailer. I decided to get Nina since she's pretty confident and she really needs more exposure. She, like Cowboy, was happy to get in the trailer. She wasn't confident to stay in, though. I need to spend some time getting the horses comfortable with being IN the trailer. Darn! I let Nina go back with the herd.

So, I decided to get my trailer-nanny, Rain. She walked in, took her spot and I closed her panel. Cowboy was even happier to get in, but still wasn't happy to see the panel start to close. I was surprised because I've loaded him and trailered him before with no trouble. I realize I haven't played with him much lately and maybe that's part of the problem. I'll be spending time with him tomorrow for sure. I decided to get him in successfully, let him stand quietly a couple times, and then send him back out with the herd.

Finally, I decided to take Z with us. I didn't want to take her originally. I wanted her to see that not every trailer ride would include her. However, I didn't have other horses ready to go. I went to get Z, she came right to me. I walked her out, thinking to play with her a few minutes before loading her. She was pulling to the trailer as soon as we walked out of the barn!! I was shocked. So, i went with it. She hopped in and off we went.


Got to Jen's and went to the arena to work on some freestyle riding. Z had a ton of energy and so I cantered and galloped her around as long as she needed to. We did some nice flying lead changes and jumped a few of the lower jumps. I let her go as fast as she wanted and then some. It was chilly and even snowed on us some. It didn't last, though - I had to keep opening her up. She just had so much energy! Jen made some great break-throughs and I was just ecstatic for her. Then, Z, Rain and I went on a nice 2 hour trail ride with my trail buddy Nancy.

Z was still full of energy and we did some good cantering. Rain was a little slow and I felt like Olive Oil a couple times with Z moving out fast and Rain trying to keep up but lagging behind. It was a really great ride and a great day with my mares. Nina and Cowboy next session...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Some time with Z and a nice FLC!

It's feeling like the right time to get back with Z and forge ahead with L3 Freestyle. She seems ok with the idea, too.

We started by brushing and tacking and headed to the new 2-horse straight load sitting on my property (my boarders trailer). I doubt she's ever been in a 2 horse straight load and she wasn't thinking it was a bright idea. She got most the way in and I moved on.

We played some games with the cavalettis. I asked her to go and stop over each one. She felt inclined to side pass, so I tried to quiet my energy as much as possible. She's a smart, smart horse. We played some quick games of stop and go over obstacles and quick sideways.

She seemed pretty right in the brain to me, so we went to the arena and got ready. I wanted to move the barrels from the rail and I asked her to come with me. She stuck right with me w/o a moment of hesitation. She followed me while I went and fetched all three barrels. Good girl!

Then, I got on and started with corners. She had a lot of go, so we cantered and galloped hard until she wanted to slow down. Then, we tried to play with follow the rail, cloverleaf, canter-walk transitions... until her GO button came back to life. She had so much go today! Kendall came out and we started to work on jumping. Z doesn't care too much for jumping, but she actually seemed to enjoy it today! She was pulling towards the jumps after a while. We did squeeze game over a 2ft with a turn and face each time. She got more and more confident and so did I. She would come out of the jump excited and we cantered around until she was ready to transition down.

At one point, we went for a flc and got the most beautiful and soft flc I've ever felt (on purpose). It was so cool! I laughed and hopped off and rewarded the heck out of her. I got back on and we did some more jumps, cantered large circles and ended with herding the dogs. She was finally getting the hang of chasing dogs down at the end. I'm thinking to buy a cow or two and chase them around. Something with no horns and small. They're such messy animals, not sure I want to do that.

We ended at a good point with a final ask into the 2-horse. The saddle's stirrups hit the walls and I think she feels that resistance. I'll have to try it w/o the saddle tomorrow.

It was a great session with my mare! Feels good to be getting this close to finishing L3! It seems that Gemini may not get leased out - my leasor is still looking for a free lease horse. We'll see. I still think I'll take Cowboy through next. I like him a lot.

Need to get some time with Miss Nina this week!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chenango ride

I took the day to ride with Jen (one of my very best friends) and Amy from Chenango. Jen has been looking for ways to get better with her horse on the trail and she and Amy ride together all the time. Another Chenango gal came along and rode Amy's 2nd horse.

I wasn't sure what to expect and I was really focused on giving Jen a boost of tools to use with her horse. I was pretty serious the first half, trying to help Jen and focused on her being safe and successful. The other riders were socializing and it worked out pretty well to be paired off. We did a lot of walking, stopping, and talking. It was the right thing to help Jen progress.

We were out for a few hours and made our way to Antelope. I started to get the itch to make some changes with my horse and she had so much GO she was holding on to. I found a place to work on transitions, a little confidence gaming with a run-down playground, some leading, some following. I rode in a rope hack and wished I'd had my bridle. We needed it. I found myself bracing against her a few times and tried to quickly adjust. She was not comfortable or confident much of the ride, but she worked on staying calm. She was happiest out in front of the group.

It was my first time riding Z in weeks and I'm honestly not sure if I put in black or white marbles yesterday. Maybe some of both. When we first started to canter, she was not happy and I need to investigate if that's coming from a discomfort or a general unhappiness in how I'm asking/riding. She cantered with a better look after a while and we worked on canter/walk transitions for a bit.

At one point, the group got a little ahead and Jen needed me to stay back so that her horse didn't rush to catch up. We were going up a steep hill. I started to hold Z back and she started to buck. I wish I could have ridden her hard yesterday.

In the end, it was a great day and it was good for Z and I to take it slow. I'm so motivated and ambitious and I don't need to trail socializing time like some. I want to get out with my horse and make some positive changes. I want to progress! Maybe I need to find time to hang with a group and not try to strive for something? I do that with Rain, but with Z I am all about making it better.

Last thing, I think getting to a bridleless point on the trail with Z is a ways off. We can do it in an arena but on the trail, with a group of horses, her down transition is not there. That was interesting to discover. Maybe because I haven't ridden her in weeks? Or because she has ridden in a group so few times? Or because she was worried?

Anyway, eye-opening and we'll keep progressing.