Friday, July 31, 2009

My day as a Dressage Show Groom!

I woke up at 3:52am to support Loma in a dressage show. I was her groom. Not a glamorous title for sure, but I'm so glad I did it. I learned a lot and saw some very interesting things.

Loma is an extremely accomplished dressage instructor and won both of the classes she'd entered. We had some good time together, getting to know each better and even exploring some ideas for getting into business together. I got to experience a show from behind the scenes, a first for me.

I especially enjoyed watching the warm-up ring, seeing the various horses and riding styles. I saw some poor displays of horsemanship, but some amazing riding. Not all the people had uncontrollable horses from the ground, but certainly several.

I learned about scoring and how it's done.

Playing with Z

Had a great session today with Z, playing at Liberty, then some tricks, then finesse, then some freestyle, then back to tricks. The wind was blowing so no mosquitoes most of the time and lots of exhuberance and try from Miss Z.

We're working on backwards on the circle and that's going well. We pushed the ball around some and then practiced change of direction and transitions on a smaller circle (on the 12) from walk to canter and down again. We cleaned up sideways towards and then practiced spanish walk. She loves spanish walk!!

We then headed into the arena for some follow the rail and circles, working on bending her and suppling her hind end. I'm looking for her to cross over the hind legs while still moving forward and she's getting better. Our circles were ok, but she got out of balance at the canter very often and dropped to trot. I wonder if my circle was too small. I would then leg yield and ask her up to canter again. She was happy to transition up, but just couldn't manage to stay in a package in the canter.

Then, after I found a good place to quit, we were going to hit the trail together. However, as we entered the front pasture, I realized the breeze was dying and the bugs were coming out. When she starts shaking her head to avoid bugs, it's so hard to get her to focus. So, we just did some walking up and down hills in the front pasture for 5-10 mins and went to the barn for bug spray.

Finally, I practiced more spanish walk from her back (very cool!) and then into the round pen to practice bowing. She's coming all the way down at the bow and even holding it there quite nicely. Now that she's comfortable doing that, I'm going to move a subtle cue into the mix and transfer the bow to the subtle cue.

Funny thing... we finished up and decided to pull a few weeds while she hung out with me in the round pen. She was perfectly happy while I asking her for participation and engagement, but once I turned my back to do something else she got scared and felt she needed the comfort of the herd. They were completely out of sight and she called to them. It was an interesting thing to see that when I stopped "holding her hand", she did not have the confidence to manage it. She needs the herd for confidence. I may start putting her in a stall/run at night sometimes to help her feel more confidence in herself. I can't imagine how bad she'd be w/o Parelli - I know all her behaviors are very mild because of this program. Maybe I just need more UDT with her away from the herd.

Really good night.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Short Trailride on Cowboy

As Chrissy develops Cowboy, she is also breaking through her fear thresholds. One of these is the most common for horse owners... trailriding. She's more confident on Rain and she's most concerned over Cowboy's behavior when he encounters something scary. So, I agreed to ride him while she rode Rain so she could see how he manages stimulus on the trail.

I had to ride him English, as Chrissy's in my western for a few more days. I've never ridden him english and he looked so handsome in english tack! My saddle fit him nicely, too. I warmed him up on the ground and got some beautiful trot sideways, among other things. Once mounted, we started with lots of lateral flexion and I even added a treat to the deal when he flexed all the way. He started to magically get very soft with the treats in the picture. He was slightly hesitant to leave, he hasn't been ridden off the property in a lonnng time. However, he got with the program quickly and we headed down the road. The times that he was hesitating, I simply asked him to go backwards until he was soft, then asked him forward again.

The bugs were bad, so I asked Kyle to run us up some bug spray! Dumb mosquitoes. :-)

We didn't have a lot of daylight left, so we only went a couple miles. Cowboy was fine, calm and relaxed and happy to try and snatch the tall grass as we went (the grass is so high it's right at his face!).

Chrissy did well on Rain and I threw her some pointers to help her continue to improve. When we got back, Chrissy untacked Rain, put away some ropes and I threw hay. It's so very nice to have her more self-sufficient now and able to help. We're in a great place and she'll continue to improve rapidly, I'm sure.

It was a nice quiet ride - excellent for helping Chrissy gain confidence.

Should be a great weekend... nice weather and horses to ride. I'll forego a day of riding to get my kids doing something fun, too.

Freestyle Finally packed and shipped

I've been contemplating and thinking and filming and brooding... Finally, I'm sending my Freestyle. It's not fantastic. There are a couple times where I go to phase 4 with Z. I think there are some good moments, too. It's just time to send it.

We'll see what happens. Take a look:

Freestyle Audition Part 1
Freestyle Audition Part 2

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tricks and bareback

Z is now bowing!! Whoo-hooo! And the Spanish walk is coming along very nicely! I started moving to the Spanish walk que from her back and she was right there with me. How cool is that? I started teaching her to rear, but she wasn't getting it at all. I abandoned that and moved on.

We did some bareback and rode the Cloverleaf pattern. I noticed how nicely muscled she looks. I asked Loma the other day if she was seeing imbalance in her muscling anywhere and Loma noticed just ahead of the wither needing to muscle up better. I expect the more advanced our riding gets, the better that will be. Her rump looks awesome and so does her back. The cut on her leg is healing very nicely, too. I think it will only leave a minimal scar.

Chrissy was in the arena on Cowboy and I threw some coaching her way, but she's really become very self-sufficient at this point. I'm very happy for her!!

I also tacked up Nina and played with her for a while tonight. It's time to get back on her and start developing the saddle work. She's doing quite well, calm and responsive. We played with the figure 8 pattern and she really got it figured out. I've also got to start putting a bit in her mouth.

I haven't spent time with Gem or Rain in nearly 2 weeks because of the all the video I'm trying to get and coaching Chrissy. That will be my next session.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fantastic Dressage Lesson!

Wow, great lesson! Today was the first day where I thought, HEY, maybe Dressage doesn't SUCK! My horse is getting lighter on the fore, more responsive, just better. We worked on transitions on the circle and getting the nicest, softest changes. We have come a long way! Loma mentioned how nice our cantering looked! We worked on walk-canter transitions, beginning to get roundness and collection on the circle. We started working on asking her to leg yield (disengage the hind) before every transition. It helped her get more collected, she got way more balanced and our transitions were just fantastic.

My take-aways: 1) keep her on the circle and when she falls in lead her back out and then use a leg yield to get her round again 2) ask for a leg yield just before a transition up or down 3) if she gets out of balance, slow her down and start again 4) keep her moving forward in a leg yield and keep the inside rein light, the outside rein keeps her from falling in 5) make sure to keep my chest high and energy forward in all gaits 6) there is no sidepass in dressage, energy is always forward.

I'm considering entering a training level dressage show. Loma thinks we could do it just fine and I'd be very interested in the experience of a dressage show. I've got to get my filming in for L3 and the instructor class, then I think I'll go for a dressage show.

I also helped Chrissy out with the catching game with Cowboy and then later with building her assertion and confidence. She's building her self-confidence as Cowboy's leader. He's being very patient with her, but if she's not clear he's not going to put much effort into it. She's doing great, she looks like every other L1 student looks at first. She's ready to move to L2 stuff and I'm pushing her along so Cowboy doesn't start to hate the 7 games.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Attempt at finishing Instructor App Video

Steve had committed to helping me get the final video bits done. We have a short list left before I go into full-blown video edit mode. I've still got to capture the freestyle section, 3 patterns on a casual rein, and some bareback riding and online.

We warmed up some, but our on online was definitely a little lack-luster. I made the mistake of using the 45' but then playing in an area too small to support that length. Then, Z was lacking energy and I was trying to bring her life up w/o causing her to get introverted. We got some nice things, but I think we could do better. I always think we can do better - hence the misery of video taping. I rarely think it's good enough. I just recently decided to get the freestyle video in the mail for L3 that I did a month ago. I want perfection. There's no such thing.

I imagine my Freestyle vid will pass level 3. Then, I can focus on L4. The thought of passing L4 is very exciting and motivating! I also need to pick a competition and get out there with my horse to see how we compare to others. Ok, I digress...

So, we did some liberty, too. It was just fun stuff. I'm teaching Z to spin when I spin. Right now, I'm only getting a change of direction when I spin. That's ok - it's a positive response and we'll develop it quickly, I'm sure. Also, I'm working hard on getting her to show exhuberance. She's more playful than ever and I think it's a direct reflection of my horsemanship improving. I'm getting better at having fun and being less serious - probably one of my biggest challenges.

We did some bareback filming, just a little as the ask on the application was to just show a little. Then, we went to do some patterns in the arena - specifically, we must show figure 8, cloverleaf and bullseye. Well, Miss Z had tons of energy to spare and I was having a hard time getting her to trot and not canter. We did PPL at the canter for several minutes, hoping she'd think slowing down would be ok. We finally started to get the trot consistently and I decided to quit there. We'd been at it for hours and she'd found a nice relaxed place to be. I guess I should be surprised since we hadn't ridden in 6 days and the weather was cooler.

I'll post some of the video moments asap. For now, I'm the video editor until I get this application submitted. Maybe we can get the freestyle and patterns done tomorrow.

Lazy Sunday...

I had the day to myself. I had no kids, no husband and the weather was decent. But for some reason, I just didn't feel like developing horses. I wanted to be with them, but I just wanted to chill out. I've been pushing hard to get video done and I think I've pushed myself to a point where I just need a break.

I edited video - I have a ton of video to get through so that I can submit for L3 Freestyle and the Instructor class. I have a freestyle vid ready, just needs some music. The instructor vid needs more editing. I need to get them sent off and done. I just don' t feel great about them - I think we can do better and it's hard to not put my best show out there. It's also extremely hard to get our best show filmed!

Anyway, I went out just about the time Chrissy showed up. It was a good thing - I can coach her and just hang out with my horse vs. trying to develop me or my horse. She was ready for a riding lesson! So, she tacked up and we went to the arena. I did a couple little things with Z, but mainly we just hung out. Chrissy mounted and started with passenger lesson at the walk. She's developing her independent seat and also better communication with Cowboy. After a while, she was asking him for trot and building up her confidence. He was being very good for her and I felt completely comfortable with how she was doing. I helped her with her rein position and feeling in charge.

I put a bareback pad on Z so we could practice some bareback in the arena while Chrissy rode. We practiced the cloverleaf pattern a little bareback cantering. Z and I are in a great place right now. We're getting some great things and our relationship is strong.

Chrissy rode for 1.5 hours! She was breathing, smiling and feeling good. Very proud of her! She'll be able to trot for 21 mins as a passenger soon. It's not a task anymore for the program, but it's a very important step to take for good riding. Also, she'll need to start developing her follow the rail pattern.

Good stuff!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Home from a trip

Managed to get home from a business trip before the sun went down. The family was out seeing a movie and having fun. I decided to steal an hour with Z. I took her straight to the round pin to practice more spins and backwards on the circle. The backwards on a circle is tough for her, being an RBE a lot of the time. She wants to turn around and shoot forward. The spin, however, is coming along quite nicely. We've been needing to advance our stuff and add more spice to our lives.

We got some great things together and I found a good place to stop. Then I sat with her for a while in the barn. It was a nice, quick but productive session.

So glad the weekend is here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventure on the trail!

Cowboy took a fall into the ravine... with Chrissy on his back! Ahhh! Nooo!

We went to Indian Creek, the girls, Chrissy, Kendall and me. We took our 3 horses - Rain, Cowboy and Zarah. I was excited about it - I love the trail and lately I spend so much time developing myself and horses on my property. It's great to get out and even greater to spend time with my daughter and sister with horses.

Anyway, Chrissy is developing her seat and trying to spend more time in the saddle. I was so glad when she said she wanted to go with Kendall and I. I was half thinking she'd bag out and spend some time developing more ground work with Cowboy. We got our act together pretty quickly, loaded horses and were on our way.

I coached Chrissy along the way in between singing trail songs. Things were going pretty well. Kendall was fine on Rain, she's ridden her on many trail rides. Chrissy was working on getting better communication going with Cowboy and just figuring out how to feel in charge. She actually did amazingly well!

He was only wearing boots on the front and we were on a pretty narrow and rocky trail that sometimes had a drop to a ravine on the side. Cowboy's feet really needed boots on the hinds, too. He was trying to avoid the rocks and walking along the side of the trail a lot of the time. Chrissy was trying to keep him on the trail, but he was pretty serious about avoiding the rocks. At one point, he either took a misstep or the soft ground gave way underneath him, and he and Chrissy slid down into the ravine! I hustled down to help her, trying to keep Cowboy down so he wouldn't go over her trying to get back up to the trail. She crawled up a fallen tree and made her way back the trail. Now, I had to keep him down long enough to remove some tack and get myself out of his way so he could scramble up to the trail. He wanted to come up and I had to keep him down or else he was going to scramble over me. I got his saddle loosened, but not off. I went for the bridle, but didn't have it all the way off when we decided to go up another way (not over ME!). I let him go - he knew what he could do and I was pretty sure he'd get out.

He did. He was back on the trail and gathering his thoughts. I was majorly impressed by both Chrissy and Cowboy. They both stayed calm and thought their way out. I was glad I was there to keep Cowboy down so Chrissy could climb out. I hope she takes some time to soak and think through what happened and decides to get back to it. She gutted through all 3-4 hours of our ride and she has the right stuff to become a great trail rider. She also has a good partner in Cowboy. I'll keep helping her undo Cowboy's braciness and gaining her confidence on the trail.

Z was awesome today. She led the trail out, always confident and calm. She was response to me and just couldn't have been a better horse for me. I was also very impressed with her!

A little more adventure than I had anticipated, but hopefully not so much that Chrissy doesn't want to do it again. Cowboy will be fine and he'll be ready to play with Chrissy again. I loved it and it really made me want to enter another endurance or CTR event. I love the adventure and covering trail miles!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Video with Z and Rain

Had a FANTASTIC session with Z today! Don't know why... I've been spending a ton of time with her. We did liberty in the arena and she was great. We did some close circle at the trot and just some good 7 games. I also practiced a backwards circle and the spin. The spin is looking really good. We are going to start speeding it up. I also practiced mounting bareback and bridleless and I've got that down too. Z stands nice and still for me. Things were going so well, I asked Steve to come out and get some video for me.

We got mounting, saddling and bridling as well as some nice liberty. The horses had moved out of site and she left me a few times at liberty. She came back quickly and ears forward, so hoping it looks ok on the video. Here's Z standing nicely for me while I bareback mount and stand on her back.

Then, I grabbed Rain for some time to see how she's doing. She didn't want to hit the trail alone and I don't blame her. I don't spend much time with her and I haven't ridden her alone in months. So, I rode her around the property. I just asked for different things and she's developed such a brace from being the "beginners horse". Darn it. At one point, Chrissy was working on groundwork with Cowboy and asked me to come over and help. She's trying to figure out the catching game right now as well as developing more feel and the ability to read Cowboy. I helped coach her and then I wanted to show her with Rain.

See, Rain and I had broken roundpen work. I had it very broken at the end of L2, the same point where I switched to Z about 2 years ago. I've never really gone back and fixed it with Rain. I was interested to see how it would go, as well as showing Chrissy how I handle it when my horse doesn't stick to me. Rain, as I expected, did not stick to me. What was amazing whas that 2 years of developing my horsemanship has changed me quite a bit. Within about 5 mins, Rain was bolting off... she was relaxed and sticking to me. It was pretty cool.

I played the catching game with Nina too, to demo for Chrissy. Nina didn't really know what I was doing, but she caught on quickly too. My skills have really grown. Neat.

Chrissy made some good changes and she's progressing so well. Proud of her.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Transitions and Coaching

Transitions with Z, canter walk transitions in the arena as the sun went down. Coached Chrissy with Cowboy as well. She's trying to develop the 7 games.

Trick-training Z, started the Spanish walk. She's really getting into the trick-training. I'm going to keep building on that and the draw that's coming from it.

I really left the arena thinking that Z's down transition should be much lighter by now. Some days it's consistently light, but other days she can't transition down softly. Obviously, I'm missing something and I'll work on that with my next coaching session.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trimming Nina and Liberty with Gem

Started off with Gem. I walked out to the herd with Chrissy and decided as I walked out who I would play with. Cowboy, of course, is the first to greet us. Then, Gem and Nina. I also heard from Rain and Z, both curious if I was worth paying attention to or not. I got the usual sniff and "hey, tia, how's it going" before everyone went back to grazing. I asked Gem to catch me and he did, with ease. We walked back and I played with ideas in my head of what to build on with Gem and what to show Chrissy to help her grow.

I groomed him, tacked him up and took him to the roundpen for some liberty. He and I haven't done much liberty. I thought to try to develop more of his responsibility on the circle in the roundpen. I swear, once he again he impressed me immensely. We worked on stick to me, the allow on the circle, and change of direction (a little). He had a moment when he thought about bucking, but it was only barely more than a thought and it didn't last.

He got a little unconfident when I asked him to stick to me on the left (with me on his right). I know he's much more accustomed to people on his left - as in traditional horsemanship. However, he was quickly learning that he would be ok while I asked him to play with me on his Indian side. I found a great place to quit and he did a lot of licking and chewing and relaxing.

Then, I helped Chrissy some by teaching her how to lift all 4 hooves from one side and how to hold a hoof. I also started helping her learn to halter from her knees. She's nearly ready to assess out of level 1. That would be a good thing for her and Cowboy - time to move on. She's had about 6 sessions with him and she's understanding things nicely. She's gaining confidence every day and Cowboy is really being a great partner for her. She's officially calling herself a Parelli student!

Then, I got miss Nina ready for a trim. I'm trying to use my rasp more and my nippers less. I like the nippers, I get more done quicker. The problem is I'm not always happy with what I have at the end of it. The rasp allows be to be more in control of what I'm taking off. For now, at least, I'm better off rasping only. I have to get better with nippers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Filming... Alone!

OK - I suck at filming myself. We had a good laugh over the footage though. I'd set up the camera, take a look at my viewing area, then take Z out to see how it goes. Well, when I watched it later, I had a ton of footage of me and Z in the upper left corner of the video and pretty small OR footage where Z enters the upper left corner and then disappears! Doh!

So, we had some interesting things going, but no big deal. We'll get more filming done with help this weekend.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Helping Chrissy grow...

Helped Chrissy with 7 games and then she mounted up for her first riding lesson. The idea now is to teach her to relax, develop her seat and find being on a horse comfortable. I hopped on Z and we rode around in the arena together. I wanted her to do at least 21 mins, at the walk, riding Cowboy wherever he wanted to go.

At first, Cowboy just followed Z around. Z was defensive and I finally realized I needed to protect her! Duh! I got my savvy string and kept Cowboy far away. Z and I had a good time! Just easy riding, no stress, no developing, just hanging out and supporting Chrissy. Good for us!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trail riding with Rain and good friends

Haven't trail ridden with my old riding group in quite some time. Today I caught up with two of my greatest friends, Lynn and Nancy. We went to Cherry Creek and rode for about 2 hours, mostly at a trot. It was fun! The weather was "iffy", but the clouds stayed over the sun and never dumped rain on us. I was grateful for the break from the hard core sun of July. I'm not much for the crazy heat.

I took Rain so I wouldn't have anything to worry about. Z gets worried in the trailer alone and sometimes kicks out on the trail, Gem isn't ready and Cowboy feels like Chrissy's project for the moment. So, I took my favorite mount - Miss Rain. I gave her a quick trim before we left, too. She was great, as always. She was gaiting beautifully!

When we got home, I found her with her leg stuck in the hay net. Doh! I went to set her leg free, but she wanted to leave the trailer. It happened fast, but she tried to walk off before I could free her leg and landed on her side. What's funny is she just got up and went on her way. She wasn't worried or panicked or anything. I asked her to go back into the trailer and she was fine with that idea. She's a brave horse that doesn't have much RB behavior at all.

I was hoping to get home and ride Z and more transition practice, but I needed to get some kid time. I finished trimming Cowboy, then went for the tramp with Kendall and Delaney. A great day of kids and horses. Trying to not think about Monday morning... Blech.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Trail ride prep for Gem and Liberty with Z

Another great horse day. Getting a lot of those lately. So happy to be getting all the horse time I'm getting. I started with Gemini. I want to start getting him confident enough for the trail. So, today the plan was to simply see what he thought of the idea of hitting the trail. We started with a little warm-up on the ground, and then tacked up followed by a little more warm-up before I mounted.

He's just so doing so well! We're working on transitions on line and getting some great up and down transitions. His change of direction is better all the time, also. When I mounted, I checked lateral flexion - it was light and nice. Then, I checked disengagement - not that soft, fixed it up a little and moved on. I made a mental note to work on improving his disengagement. His movement on the hind is nice - he's nice and light in front and I ask him to yield his fore.

Anyway, then, I asked him to walk to the front pasture with my thoughts on the trail. He was willing for a few strides, then began to turn back to the barn. His thoughts were on the barn. We were not together. I decided to try tit-for-tat. Don't know if we've played that before, but this was a good time for him to understand. His idea to go back to the barn lessened over the 20-25 mins that we played, but I admit that I was surprised how strong his desire was. He comes across as so brave and willing and inside, he's terrified of leaving his comfort zone. I plan to nurture that and develop him slowly so that he can trust that I won't throw him into the deep end. It was a good realization for me - he needs time.

I also spent time with Z. We went into the round pen and practiced liberty. We also continued to develop backwards on the circle. She was feeling energetic and at first I had a hard time asking her to transition down to the backup. She got better but we probably should have gone back on line. I'll do that next time. We also practiced change of direction at the canter, as she struggles changing from right to left. We did go back on line to fix that one up. She was playful today and having fun. Her lead by the tail is amazing!

After, I wanted to spend some UDT with her, so I put her in at stall and run, put a chair in the stall and chilled out. I actually fell asleep. LOL! Me, the dogs and the horse were napping in the stall. Funny.

I'm spending a lot of time now putting my ideas together for my application to the instructor course. We'll see what happens, but I've got to get going on all the things I need to gather.

More time with the new student...

Three days in a row for Chrissy and she's got a decent circle game going! We started learning the squeeze game, squeezing over a log. She's starting to really understand how to use her tools and communicate with Cowboy. So, we started with some grooming, then tacked up (I was getting Nina going). Chrissy is getting her horse caught, haltered and tacked up on her own now. I'm so happy!!

We went into the arena, she started going through the games and I played with Nina. Nina hasn't worn a saddle in a while, so it was nice to get her going again. She was pretty good about fly spray, too. Funny, she could manage it every except her rib and flank area.

Then, the rain started coming just as I was helping Chrissy learn to mount. So, we took it into the barn and practiced in there. Chrissy was able to get up on her own a few times, which was a great thing! She can keep working on her mounting skills and she'll be mounting herself on the trail easily. The uneven terrain will give her the added 4" or so that she needs. Now, I need to work on helping her get her own saddle! I want my saddle back! :-)

After that, I tied Nina for some time, to have her practice being tied, and started to trim Cowboy. I've let him go a little long and I had a lot of work to do. He wasn't that cooperative and I had Chrissy stand at his head with a toy, giving him something to do with his mouth. That helped a bunch, but I just had a lot of work to do. It took a while and I only got 3 hooves done. Cowboy has a long hoof naturally, and I feel like I just can't bring his toe back enough. His frog is also long, though - just a long, large hoof.

We also did a little trick-training with Cowboy in between hooves. We started to teach him to shake his head, but oddly I couldn't get his head to shake. He would bend his neck and tilt his head sideways, so I used that instead. Then, I taught Chrissy how to teach Cowboy to lift his leg. He got that in no time and Chrissy learned how easy it is to teach a horse tricks. Cool!

Anyway, have a hind to finish on Cowboy and then Nina's up for her trim.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Making the right thing easy...

I had a good chunk of time to dedicate to horses after work today (love those days!) and I wanted to start with Z. It's getting to be the time to focus on my application for the instructor class with Parelli and I have to put a 30 min video together showing my horsemanship. I want to show all the things we can do, with multiple horses, but I also want to finish L3. I've decided to focus on this application video and worry about my Freestyle vid for L3 later. I could probably do it now, but priority should be on the app video.

Anyway, I just love riding Z. She has tons of go, tons of try, and a pure heart. She simply wants to do what's easiest and most comfortable. We did a little groundwork to warm up and she was light and responsive. Then, I wanted to ride her in the pastures and practice transitions. Down transitions are tough for us at the faster gaits. Z was not comfortable with leaving the barn/herd, however. There was a time when I would have made her leave. I'm happy to see I've progressed far beyond that point in my horsemanship and I was happy to work on transitions right by the barn. When she seemed tired, I'd ask her to slowly walk away from the barn - making the right thing easy (walking) and the wrong thing hard (staying by the barn and working).

Sometimes we can leave the barn and hit the trail alone without a single problem. Sometimes she thinks going on the trail alone is just too much for her to handle. I really wonder if it's directly related to the trail ride before. See, our last trail ride was in a thunderstorm and I tried to hustle her home and she got very emotional. She remembers every time she gets even a little emotional and she works to avoid it the next time. She's a very interesting horse - sensitive and emotional.

For our work near the barn, we did canter yo-yos, circles (really practicing keeping her on the circle and riding her straight on the circle!), transitions on the circle, sideways (always towards the barn), disengaging the hind and riding into the trailer (mounted into the trailer!). My trailer isn't very high so I'm trying hard to keep my self safe.

Finally, after about 45 mins, I rode her into the front pasture in an s-pattern and we stopped at a jump. I hopped off, she ate grass and relaxed. I stroked her and helped her feel safe and comfortable. It was a win and a positive session for sure. After about 10 mins (the mosquitos are just stupid today), I hopped on and we walked the long way back to the barn. She was relaxed and left-brained.

Then, Chrissy and Cowboy were ready to have groundwork session #2. So far we've covered games 1-3 and it was time to talk about #4 and #5. Circle and yo-yo. A new student feels very clumsy with the tools in the beginning, but Chrissy's doing a great job of fumbling through it and having some great moments! We covered haltering properly and driving game to keep him out of her space. Proud of her. Cowboy is doing a good job of being her lesson horse and though he gets bored, he still tries to give the right answer. We have squeeze and sideways left. Then, she can start practicing on her own. I think she's ready to ride him, so in the next day or so I'll teach her pushing passenger lesson so she can practice getting her seat more independent. She's on her way!

Steve took some quick, short video of Chrissy playing the yo-yo game with Cowboy and me playing with Z.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A new Parelli student!

My sister, Chrissy, decided today to start the Parelli program. I'm really excited because I can help her get through things rather quickly and maybe eventually she can help me with my horse business. She is a soft-natured person who's got a ton of try and desire. She couldn't decide if she wanted to partner with Rain or Cowboy, so I chose for her. I chose Cowboy because Cowboy could use the time where Rain has been my sacrificial lamb for long enough - being the lesson horse for me when I need to coach someone. I also want to be able to ride Rain whenever I want to pony others or for trail competition. Where with Cowboy, as Chrissy progresses, I'll step out of the picture and she can be his sole human partner. He's also nearly a hand shorter than Rain, easier for Chrissy to mount.

We started with about a 90 min session learning the 7 games. I tried to not drown her with info, but I know it can feel like drinking from a firehose in the beginning. The learning curve is dramatic the first 6 mos. I'd like to see her truly stay in Level 1 for a couple weeks and move on and progress. I've watched so many linger and go stale and their horses become tortured. I'd like to help Chrissy avoid that if possible.

During Chrissy's coaching time, I had Nina. I've got to get her back in gear and start developing her some more. For now, she can do most things at a L1 level, but I need her doing more at L2-3. Our friendly game needs some time invested so we can progress with the other games. She's such an extrovert and she has some good tricks up her sleeve. She managed to get away from me 3 times before I got my act together enough to stop that behavior. She's learned some very non-partnership responses that we'll have to get through. I'll be getting her back on the trail soon, too.

Then, I haltered up Gem for some session time. I'm so proud of him! We had a nice, progressive ground-working session. His sideways has come along nicely and it's time to get farther away. His responsibility on the circle is better and we're now building his canter circles. He can barely canter a single circle right now. His change of direction looks fantastic going one direction, but we need to build changing to the right. Our transitions online are coming along very nicely, too!

I then mounted and used a loose ring snaffle for some arena time. We followed the rail, practicing walk/trot transitions. He was light, responsive and just generally in synch with me. I swear, I don't think he's ever felt that good. He was just willing and happy to provide a yes answer. We did a few trot/canter transitions and a few circles (me practicing counting the footfall). His down transition is sooo light and easy. I had a big smile on my face most the time.

Now, I want to start taking him off the property and teaching him to trust me away from the herd. I'm excited about the possibilities.

I trimmed his hind feet and made sure his feet were doing fine. I've got to get a few more trimmed this week.

But a simply fantastic lesson with Gemini!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dressage with Loma

7Had a simply fantastic lesson with Loma! I got Z ready, warmed up and tacked up before Loma arrived so we could get right to it. We set up a circle so that I could work on getting my circles better. We started by just showing Loma how we're doing.

We talked a lot about correcting her on the circle sooner, using my reins to keep her on the circle. We worked on the trot and canter and eventually made it to transitions. She talked a lot about me keeping the outside hip slightly forward while my shoulders stay straight. I should lift and slightly swing my outside hip in to keep my horse's ribs bent and straight on the circle. We also worked on my down and up transitions and keeping them smooth. Here's where I got the golden nugget of the lesson...

Counting the footfalls! I've never, ever done this, but I can see where it could be the missing link to my ability to progress! So, on the circle, the outside fore is count #1. Then, 2,3,4 in the walk gait. For the trot it's a 2 count - outside fore again is the #1 count. The canter, a 1,2,3 count. Loma explained that I should only ask for something new when I know my horse is prepared. This is something that Ray Hunt taught with fervor. However, I've never learned this and it's critical. I was actually pleased as hell to have someone break it down for me. Actually, it took me some time to get the count right and I'll need to practice.

Loma said I have a great natural feel, so I've been able to get by, but to get really good I've got to get more technical. I'll need to know where the feet are to get great flc's. I'm excited to put this new info to use. I got some of the nicest transitions up and down by asking for the change on the #1 count. OHHH!! Asking your horse a question at the right time so he/she can give the right answer! Awesome.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trailriding with Kendall

Today, Kendall and I took Rain and Cowboy on the trail for a quick ride. It was my first time taking Cowboy on the trail in quite some time. I knew I wanted to take one of the geldings on the trail (Gem or Cowboy) and I decided that I'd take whoever wanted to go. So, Kendall and I walked out to the far pasture to the herd and amazingly, both Cowboy and Gemini came trotting over! Kendall and I laughed and tried to decide who actually made it to me first. I thought Gem was a nose ahead of Cowboy and then he moved Cowboy away, so I thought he was the winner. As I went to put the halter on him, he decided to move Cowboy away with some energy. I decided to take Cowboy at the moment instead. Not sure why, maybe just didn't feel up for Gems energy. Cowboy was happy to be haltered. I also haltered Rain and Kendall and I led them to the barn for tacking up.

Of course, all the other horses wanted to come too! So, it was a wild horse frenzy on the track while Nina and Gem (mainly) monkeyed around behind us or in front of us. Deuce didn't help matters. Oh brother! So many antics and playful horses.

I gave everyone a bit of grain and tacked up Rain and Cowboy. Kendall grabbed a snack while I made sure Cowboy was in a good place mentally and emotionally. We did some groundwork and I pushed him just a tad, making sure he would have appropriate responses to the pressure. He did ok and I felt confident about riding him. We did some figure 8's, some circles (some canter circles, too), cavalettis, and some sideways.

We were ready to go. We mounted up and off we went up the drive to the road that leads to the trailheads. Kendall wanted to trot, so we trotted most of the first 1/2 mile. Cowboy was doing fabulously - softer than normal to the bit, willing to go and whoa, just a nice partner. Rain was also doing very well for Kendall, which was why KK felt confident to move out.

The sky was gray and looking like storms could hit and after my storm experience from the other day, I wasn't up for getting way out there on the trail to potentially get hailed on. So we only went a few miles. It was a nice short ride, but a very good ride! We played leapfrog - something KK and I have never done. She did a great job of taking Rain into a trot-speed gait and back down to the walk. She also kept Rain at the walk nicely when Cowboy and I trotted past. I was pretty proud of her and she was proud of herself.

Nice little ride with my girlie. Hopefully she'll want to ride again soon.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Transitions and UDT

Today was about Z.  I had gotten all 4 horses ridden and exercised yesterday, so today I wanted to focus on my main development project, Miss Zarah.  I went out and caught her with ease.  I stood about 30 feet away and she came to me.  Of course, so did Rain and Cowboy and Gemini and Nina...  You get the picture.  But, Z was first and she knew I had come to see her.  I gave her a cookie to reward her efforts in catching ME!  

I stood with the herd for a bit, checking everyone over, inspecting Z's leg wound, looking at Cowboy's fly spots (don't know why, but flies LOVE Cowboy more than any other horse).  Cowboy has a small area under his chest where flies congregate.  I have to keep him a fly sheet pretty much all the time.  

I then walked Z up to the barn, gave her a little grain, some alfalfa (Rain got some, too) and took her to the arena.  I wanted to pull some weeds and hopefully she could eat some weeds while I pulled them.  She was a little worried about not being with the herd and I was at the far end of the arena.  She came to be with me a couple times, but never stayed.  She wanted to be close to the herd.  I pulled weeds along one side of the arena (a lot of work - geesh!), then as I walked to Z she walked to me - almost as if to say, I'm so glad you survived that side of the arena and now you're back.  She doesn't have a ton of confidence in herself - she seeks it from her leader.  

I then tacked her up and we set off for a little ground work and riding.  We practiced sideways towards - which is tough because then everything she does is sideways towards for a bit.  We did some bridleless riding in the front, weaving in and out of trees.  We worked on bridleless disengagement, moving the fore and just generally warming up.  I rode her in the front pasture a bit and then decided to ride the horse pastures with her.  We've never done that and I imagine she was interested in the plan.  We rode all three along the rail, practicing canter walk transitions, and following the rail.  Her canter was soft and smooth!  I was really pleased.  A lot of times, her canter is very strung out and she's moving fast.  I had some nice soft moments of suspended cantering today - very nice.

After a while, we simply walked around and I tried to make a friendly game of it.  We went to the herd and moved them around a bit (good for Z's confidence).  We crossed the water on the track (it's half-way up her cannon bone!) and just generally mosied around.  Then, I took her to the front for UDT - letting her eat grass while I chilled.  She sidled up to me so that her belly was nearly in my lap.  Weird!  I tried to scratch it but it didn't seem to be giving her an enormous amount of pleasure, so I just sat with her ribs in my face.  LOL - she then took a nap.  So funny...

We just hung around, me trying to move more dirt for my tractor tire pedestals and just general clean up.  It had been a few hours of time together and I decided to head in and clean the house before Steve and kids come home.  I put a fly sheet on her, another coating of Dermafas (great stuff for wound healing), and set her free in the stall.  

She hung around, checked the stalls for yummy morsels, then made her way out to the herd.  It was a really nice time with my levels mare and I enjoyed her immensely.  

Hail hurts!

The day was dedicated to training horses as the family is still out of town and there's not much I'd rather do with my free time.

I started with Gemini. He and I are making such great progress and I'm just super pleased. We worked on the ground some, continuing to build online transtions, more figure 8, change of direction and sideways. We played over the cavalettis some using the squeeze game. His responses are more positive all the time and he's interested in my asks. I've been playing with him on the ground while tacked and his rear cinch response is nearly gone or gone. He hasn't thought to buck in the past 2-3 sessions. He and I did something incredible. I asked him to stand on the teeter totter, then I asked him to rock it back and forth, never moving his feet. A simple weight shift in response to my ask and he was rocking it back and forth. I wish I had that on video!!

Then, we rode in the arena, doing 21 mins of PPL at the trot. He's taking his responsibility on much more nicely and I'm rewarding him with breaks at the far end of the arena. That helped tremendously as his slow jog became an energetic trot after a few reward sessions. What a good boy! I look forward to getting him down the road soon. I'm trusting him more and more and he's finding the right answers are easy to give. He gave the nicest, most forward trot I've ever felt at the end of our 21 minutes and I decided it was the perfect place to hop off and reward him. He stuck to me beautifully across the arena and I tied him to the hitching rail for some soak time.

Then, I wanted to get some time with Cowboy. He's been getting the least amount of my attention, which is just fine for me. He's having a good time being a horse in the all the pastures and he's settled in so nicely in the herd. He's always happy to see me and happy to play and get some human attention. He's got a nice brain and a nice demeanor. I look forward to truly developing him. At first we played the catching game for about 45 seconds. It was interesting, I was 2 feet away and following him closely at a walk in zone 5. I really think he thought I was driving him away. I have to drive him away sometimes because he can be quite the pocket pony. All of a sudden, he turned and faced, as if to say, "Oh! You want to catch me!". We never have to play the catching game, so I'm convinced he was misunderstanding me.

I put him on the 45' and we played some ground games - figure 8, circle game, over obstacles, over the teeter totter. Then, I tacked him up and started with lateral flexion. This is one of Cowboy's toughest areas - he has so much built-in brace that a simple thing like lateral flexion is a big challenge. He lolls his tongue, he works his mouth, he just doesn't find peace or comfort in a bit. He can stand with it in his mouth just fine, but when I try to communicate with him through the bit, he braces and goes introverted. I took my time and stayed patient, asking for lateral flexion and rewarding the slightest tries. He was getting quieter and quieter and I found a place to quit. We have to keep working on that and perhaps for the rest of his life. Humans before me have left their mark on Cowboy's behavior and I'm a little sad about it.

I rode him around a bit, circling the round pen and asking for walk/trot/canter transitions. His canter feels a little rough right now. He's not balanced or using himself well. Some more riding and many more transitions should get him framing up better and using himself in his gaits. We did a lot of serpentines, trying to loosen his brace and get positive responses to my asks for bends. He loosened up quite well and rather quickly. We moved the dogs a little - he enjoys that tremendously! He's a very cowy horse. We also worked on disengaging the hind - which is great because it incorporates lateral flexion with a bend in the body. At first, he wasn't disengaging, he was stiff and rigid. After a few minutes, he gave the nicest, most fluid disengagement with a soft feel and I laughed and hopped off. He knew how happy he made me - he had a proud look about him. He could give the right answer and find harmony with his rider. I think he has very little history of finding harmony with his rider from his younger years.

Z's leg is healing nicely and I was trying to decide if I should/could ride her. I took Rain for a little bareback riding around my house while I decided what to do next. Chrissy was over and ready to try out some new riding attire, so I decided we should get some time on the trail together. The sky was "iffy" and it seems to rain every freakin' day. But, the storm that I thought would produce rain had moved off and out. There were more clouds, but the looked far enough out that we'd be ok. I gave Chrissy some hints on tacking up and getting her horse ready. It can get a little old tacking up multiple horses when the rider is fully capable of doing it themselves - with a little coaching. I'm all for helping her become self-sufficient.

We headed out, Z not especially happy about leaving home - I hadn't ridden her in 8 or 9 days and we didn't do a proper warm-up on the ground. I had the sky in mind, thinking it was now or never with the potential storms all over the sky. I tried hard to not compromise our relationship, allowing her to turn back if needed and then asking her to face the trail again. It was a subtle brace, just her saying, "I'd really rather..." and me saying, "I hear you, but how about my idea." About a 1/4 mile later, she was tuned in and not thinking about home.

I took Chrissy on a more challenging ride, some inclines and declines, crossing roads, trees... We also talked about developing her seat. She asks great questions and she really wants to improve. I'm excited for her to gain confidence with Rain and become a great riding partner for me. We are building to that and maybe one day, we'll even do some trail riding competitions together.

We got to a point on the trail where I could look up to the sky. Uh oh, we are TOAST! The storm that was brewing looked menacing and we weren't going to make it back in time. Zarah was not in a good place for fast speeds. She was impulsive and a little emotional. I also didn't know how fast Chrissy would want to go - most of our riding has been at the walk. Even if we galloped the whole way, we wouldn't have outrun this storm. CRAP!

So, one of my fears... lightening. Lots of animals and people get struck by lightening in Colorado. Being out in the wide open trail on a high hill during a thunderstorm is not my idea of a wise decision. Our Colorado storms typically bring hail and heavy rain and there was no place to hide. First drizzle, then rain, then torrential downpour with wind! We abandoned the idea of making it home and found a tree to hide under. A single pine tree, with less than thick branches and down in a gulley. My expensive saddles were also getting soaked. Arrgghhh!

Chrissy and I tried to take refuge under this slightly pathetic single pine, while the horses did their normal "butt to the wind" stance, waiting for it to let up. We were getting cold! And then, to add insult to injury, the hail began. Geesh - hail hurts!! I had my back to it and luckily we were wearing helmets, but the hail balls hitting my back... OUCH! We just had to laugh. The gulley now had a fast moving river running through it and I hoped it would end soon. The sky was so dark and the thunder was constant. Just a constant rumble and roar - an angry sky.

The sky started to show the slightest signs of getting lighter. The rain started to let up. Luckily, it was going to be a quick storm. It lasted maybe 20-30 minutes and Chrissy and I were drenched - head to toe soaked. It was time to go the last mile and get home. The sun was actually starting to show. We decided to walk home. Our feet were squishy and water bubbles appeared with each step on the top of my shoes. After about 1/2 mile, Chrissy's fiancee appeared at the trail head. Chrissy rode home with him and I rode Rain, ponying Z. The horses were excited and "up" and Rain wanted to get home FAST! She does her best gaiting when she's got druthers and she was moving so beautifully in her 4-beat gait. Z had to canter to keep up next to us.

It was a great day with all the horses, adventures in the rain, trailriding, arena riding, just everything. Loved it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Passenger Lesson with Gemini

After traveling for my uncle's funeral, a very tiring trip, I finally had the energy to get out with my equines. I'm trying to get Z's leg healed up and in the meantime, I have time to play with the other horses. I decided to halter Gem and do some things. I brushed him, sprayed him to keep the dumb mosquitos out of our way and we started the 7 games. Lots of great things going - great sideways! I used the 12 to help me do things on valium today. We practiced a slowww change of direction, subtle sends on the circle, nice yo-yos and great porupine yielding the ends.

A couple notes... we played the games tacked with a tight rear cinch and he never thought to buck. I asked for all gaits to be sure and nothing - no issues. Hmmm... Also, he didn't want to circle to the right and he kept stop at 12 o'clock when going to the right. I'll pay attention as our games progress.

I felt perfectly comfortable with the idea of riding him and I wanted to do some passenger lesson at the trot. So, I took him to the arena, practiced lateral flexion (OMG - what a huge improvement), moving the fore, back from my seat only and then we walked off. After a minute or two at the walk, we started our trotting lesson. I had my ipod to keep my relaxed and he went off trotting. I want our forward ask to be more soft and his response more positive to my forward cues. I think he just gets lazy in the arena and I need some impulsion to get anything done.

He found any excuse to transition down and needs work with maintaining his gait and understanding that he has a job. We'll keep building that.

We finished up when he took us to the tarp in the middle of the arena. He's doing great and I think it's getting to the time to start asking him to adventure off the property with me.

I got his front feet trimmed after our session. Tomorrow, the hinds. Nice night. Mosquitos are stupid.