Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick Ride on Gem and Time with KK and Rain

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

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

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Trailer Confidence with Z

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

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

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tina gets started and Gem goes to a show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Competition with Z

Had an amazing day with Z and so glad to have my main horse back in action! We went to Plum Hollow for a Pair Pace event. The course was about 3 miles and had 27 jumps! We did a lot of it at a canter but one of our team riders went off at one point, costing us some time. We also had some pretty neat looking jumps that our horses weren't sure they wanted to approach. We took our time and just had a blast!! We took 9th out of 25. I was worried we were going too fast, but were actually a little slow because of the hesitant approaches and the fall.

Z was so calm for the whole thing. She was trusting, easy and made the Thoroughbreds on my team look like maniacs. Her mouth was always soft and she was very responsive. All the training we've done was certainly paying off and my team mates made lots of comments on her good behavior.

Then, the Arapahoe Hunt club did a mini-hunt and invited any Pair Pace competitors interested to join. I, of course, was all IN! Three of the five of us there did the mini hunt, which was a blast. When they blow the bugle and dogs get a scent it's just full on gallop time! About 30 horses came along - total mayhem. But it was great fun. At one point, my friend and her horse came barreling into us causing Z to cut hard to the right and I went off. I almost stayed on, but I just couldn't get my center of gravity back on top. I wasn't hurt, I just gave Tammy and her horse the evil eye and got back on. I was, of course, giggling the whole time - even during the evil eye.

On the way home, we stopped at a new trailhead - Dawson Butte. It's a nicely groomed 5-mile loop through trees and across meadows. There were also cross country jumps everywhere. I was done jumping for the day, but a couple from our group are never done! We also trotted and cantered a bunch over the winding trails which was great fun. Z was hot and tired by the end and I think I pushed her a little hard for her first day back, but hey - she's an Anglo-Arab - she can do it!

I had a great day with her and I look forward to competing some more in the spring! Now we're prepping for the clinic this weekend. Can't wait!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A fat herd and Zarah's back!

Work was long today... way longer than expected. I had big plans for horse training but my day job won.

I came out to a sleeping and very relaxed herd. Gem was in the front pasture alone and the rest of the herd was looking pretty good. They all look fat right now! Even Tina, the newest horse here for training has put on some weight since her arrival. Hmmm... I can cut hay back a little I suppose, but happy to see them carrying a little extra as we head into winter.

The herd is getting along lovely and it's nice to see them take turns laying down while the others keep watch. It's just a peaceful scene.

We had non-stop rain the last 4 days in a row and the temps were so cold I had to put a few in winter blankets (Z, Abby and Tina). The others are so hearty, they don't need the blanket support. I was glad today to pull blankets off and stow them until temps drop again. Winter coats are coming in strong now and they all look hairier by the day. Goodbye sleek summer coats, hello wool and hairy mammoths. :-)

Tina's feet are much, much better after trimming. Another month of growth and proper trim and she'll be in great shape. Nina is due for her trim now.

I cut Z's bandage off and decided to leave it off. The wound has healed very nicely and I wanted it to get some air. I'll hose it and clean and rewrap it tomorrow as I think it's healing so nicely under bandaging. I'm hoping it will leave a minimal scar. I then decided it was time to ride my most developed horse! I've missed her.

We had little time since work was so long and late. I tacked her up, did a little ground work and then rode her out to the front pasture towards Gem. She felt great! We picked up right where we left off! I worried that 3 weeks off might mean a step back, but after a few mins on her back I realized that she was the same horse I put away the session before her injury. Her backup is soft and fantastic, her responses are positive and willing, her legs feel strong.

I'll take her to the Pair Pace tomorrow. Decision made. We played in the trailer a bit to be sure she'd be ready to load up and go. She'll do great and it will be better than pushing Gem his first time. I wanted to take him to the dressage show today to feel the air of a show, the excitement and the adrenalin, to see how he'd react. Work was too busy - I couldn't do it. I don't want to take him to perform for me w/o first taking him under zero pressure. I want to do it right w/him and set him up to succeed. I also want to set him up to trust me as much as possible.

I'm learning a ton. Preserve their dignity and put the relationship first and your horse will pay you back ten-fold. I will show Gem in dressage next year. It will be his time to shine.

Before the sun went down, I coached Chrissy on her stuff with Lakota. She warmed him up and then I stayed close for her to mount and dismount. She's working on overcoming fear after going off her horse weeks ago. She got on, practiced lateral flexion, then got off. She got back and did it again. It may seem simple, but she's preserving her own dignity and rebuilding her confidence. It takes the time it takes and I'll help her however I can. She then asked that I ride her horse. I'm sure it's nice to watch him be ridden and I appreciate the opportunity to supple him and remove more brace. He did very nicely for me with serpentines and then simple disengagements at the walk. I just wanted to practice things that would supple him and relax him. He was very amenable and trying hard to do the right thing. He's a great horse - Chrissy's lucky.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Only time for Gemini

But a great session!! Took him down the road, for the first time alone since I bought him. He was calm, easy and willing. We were about 1/2 mile from home, which seems like nothing to most but I know how hard this has been for Gem. He's had to learn to trust me and to be trustworthy. He's had to gain confidence away from the herd and confidence in me as his leader. We've put in some good time and I've learned a ton along the way about preserving his dignity and putting the relationship first.

We could have gone farther, but I didn't have a lot of time and I decided it was better to reach this new milestone and let him graze at the farthest point away. I decided to try to make him sweet on that spot. I expect that next time he'll be happy to go there and graze and maybe we can push the bubble farther away from the property.

We did it alone... easily and calmly, Gem needing only my leadership to get him there. The sky is the limit now. And we'll keep reaching for it.

Oh, before we left down the road we were working in the roundpen on maintaining gait at liberty. We also are developing better COD's and working on lead by the tail and the hocks. I'd like to film L3 Online with him in the next 4-6 weeks. He's ready and so am I.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gem and Tina

I've been keeping Gem separate from the herd. I'm trying to help him develop some independence and thus less pull to home when I take him away. Today, he was out on the front pasture, about 15 acres, by himself. This is big for Gem. He was calmly grazing for hours. A big change.

After work, I walked out to the edge of the pasture to bring Gem in for some training. He saw me across the pasture and came cantering to me! It was so sweet. My poor, lonely boy. We went to the barn, tacked up and started in the round pen with online work. His transitions on the circle are looking good. Actually, we had a nice, smooth round pen session. Then I mounted and we went to the arena for cloverleaf, some haunches in and leg yields, disengaging the hind and the fore, and transitions. His canter transitions were the most beautiful they've ever felt. He's mind is softer and more amenable to our partnership. He's changing, I can feel it.

Then, I haltered Rain - another one of my horses who was happy to see me and came right over to me - and tacked her up. I wanted to take Tina on the trail and lead her with Rain. I wanted to see how she'd respond to the stimulus on the trail. The weather was yucky! Cold drizzle and wind. I haltered Tina, did a quick ground work warm up with Rain, and off we went.

Tina is so concerned about being too close to Rain that she will allow a lot of pressure on the poll - it's a problem. I fear that she'll develop a serious pull-back problem. I want her giving to pressure on the poll always. We'll do more pony work and get her soft and light on the poll. We didn't go far, but she was adamant about staying behind Rain instead of next to Rain. I'm assuming Rain was giving her signals and language that reminded Tina to get out of her space. I'll continue to keep Rain focused on her job for me and continue to ask Tina to have a little courage and walk on the side of Rain and not behind her. She got better as we went on and by the end, she was leading up much more nicely and walking with her zone 2 in Rain's zone 4. That was a huge improvement.

It started raining on us and my face was getting pelted as we headed back. Brrrr! Rain wanted to hustle home and I kept reminding her to mind my seat and go the speed I asked. When she gets her druthers, her 4-beat gait is so gorgeous! Tina was trotting and actually doing better than she was at a walk (with staying on Rain's side).

Once in the barn, I started to work on hooves. The damp weather helps me trim - the sole and bars are just a tad softer. Tina's front hooves are shaped up much more nicely and I'm still working on the hinds. The amount of overgrown bar is unreal and I'm slowly trimming that back to find the sole. She has a lot of striation in the white line where the wall has been forced away from the solar plan. Her lateral grooves are not very deep, which tells me her sole isn't very thick - I'm curious to see how much I can influence that in 6 months. Her right foot seems to be a little clubby and her left front is terribly underslung. Watching her walk away after getting the front's fixed up was interesting. It was obviously a different sensation for her! She could feel the ground again! I'm hoping now that we can get her frog healthy.

I wanted to get a saddle back on her today but decided not to with the rain. I was fighting illness all last week and decided to wait until my health had returned. We say goodbye to the Rain on Friday, so I plan to back her this weekend and start getting her feeling of a rider's weight on her. Once I know she can manage being a good pony horse, I'll start trailering her around to different trail heads and exposing her to more and more. She's doing great! I'm amazed to see her move my dogs. She lowers her head, pins her ears, and moves Deuce all over the place! That's a confident and brave thing to do. Still figuring her out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

No riding, just watching

Cold rain... yuck. Reminds me of home and not something we get much in Colorado. I had to skip training after work and get ready for keeping horses warm and healthy. I pulled all the blankets out and tested them for waterproof capabilities. I put blankets on a few of the horses (Tina, Z and Abby). The other horses are heartier and don't have as much trouble in the cold. The cold weather has come before the horses have developed their thick winter coats so...

I also got Z's wound rewrapped and cleaned. I'm so pleased - it looks a ton better and I think she'll be good to go for the clinic. Excellent.

I watched horses a bit, paying close attention to how Tina is doing. She's buddied up with Abby, the nice Thoroughbred mare that I board. Abby has been the lowest on the totem pole around here. Tina has allowed Abby to leave the bottom rung and become 2nd to last in the herd. However, Abby is pretty good to Tina and they stay together most of the time. I'm glad Tina has a buddy now. She's extremely submissive with the herd and I'm curious to see how they develops while she's here.

I did my chores, cleaned up and called it a night. Darn. I had plans for horse development tonight.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gemini and Rain Day - Chrissy films!

Still trying to focus on Gemini so that we're in good shape for the Pair Pace next weekend. I was feeling a little lackluster today, still fighting the virus and probably doing too much yesterday. The weather is gorgeous and I have lots to do to keep things moving, so I decided to do what I could and sit down to contemplate when I felt over-utilized.

I got the chores going first and then brought Gemini in from the west pasture for hay and easy accessibility. Chrissy wanted to get her L1 filming done, so that was first priority. Her filming went well and I'm sure it was great for her to see herself on camera and imagine ways to improve. We ended up doing 3 takes and I really think any one of them would pass fine. She's not quite satisfied, so we're going to film again tomorrow and see if she can get her best take on film. Filming is tough, something invariably goes wrong and when you watch it, it's so easy to wish something looked better. It's a tough, tough process.

When we took a break from filming, I haltered Gemini thinking to just ride him a bit and see how he'd do. I expected him to be better as I've been giving him good, focused time lately. Each day should be better than the last - if I'm doing the right things with him. He was amazing today! We played some, getting some exhuberance at liberty in the round pen, lots of changes of directions, a little cantering at the circle game (this needs work), transitions on the circle, and moving the hind. He was a little dull today and I wanted to create some more energy.

After some time at liberty, I decided to ride him down the road. I wanted to feel where his threshold was and know when he got tense. I felt it twice as we headed to the gate at the end of the driveway. Each time, he looked back and paused. I allowed the pause and when he relaxed again, I asked him forward. I thought about taking him back when he hit the threshold, but for whatever reason I decided to honor the threshold, wait for relaxation, and ask for forward. I was just trying different approaches to see what has a positive effect while feeling and listening for his state of being and respected it.

We got to the gate, I let him eat grass for 5 mins or so, then we quietly and thoughtfully walked back to the barn. He was relaxed and thinking the entire time. Just what I want. Tomorrow, I'll take him back to Hidden Mesa and see how he feels about being out there with me alone again. I expect improvement over Friday, but if there's no improvement it just means I have to reapproach a different way. I'm really enjoying the time with him and appreciating what he's teaching me about being in the moment and honoring thresholds.

Then, I tacked up Rain and ponied Gem on the trail for about 5 miles. I wanted to see if he was better about leaving the barn/herd for a longer ride. Last week, when I ponied him after months of time away from the trail, he was very stressed. He called and called and just became right-brained. Today, he was calm, easy, looking to eat grass. He was back to the Gem I used to pony regularly - minding his position as the pony horse (head never ahead of Rains zone 2) and keeping pace without worry. I was relieved. He made a lot of changes in a week. We'll keep building and we should be ok for Saturday. If not, I won't ride. No pressure.

I touched up his front hooves and let him stand tied for a while with Rain. Rain had been my awesome trail horse ponying Gem. The trail took a beating this summer from all the rain and a ton of erosion has occurred even from last week. We are having to make our own trail in lots of places and Rain is so good for trudging along, following my suggestions and trying her heart out on the trail. At one point, we came upon a huge new water feature! Erosion caused a new little pond - 2 feet deep and about 30 feet in diameter! Cool! I've got to get the young horses down here to play in this! Tomorrow, both Nina and Tina will get a turn to feel water that deep.

I wanted to play with Tina and do some more saddle work, but I was feeling very drained. I'll play with her tomorrow and for now I just need to cut myself some slack and get better.

Z's wound is healing nicely and I'm thinking I'll ride her in a couple more days. The would will probably support the riding work with a few more days of skin growth. I miss my mare!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Building Gemini and Riding Nina

Today, I took Gem to Hidden Mesa, a local trailhead to see how he'd do by himself. I've actually never taken Gem by himself for a trail ride so this was quite the test. I was perfectly prepared for whatever he might offer and very willing to simply lead him down the trail and play on the ground if that's what he needed.

He started out pretty calm and I was suprised. We walked a bit, I did a little feet-moving with him, asked him to go sideways down the trail some. But he was really just fine. Steve was with me so we walked and talked and I paid attention to how Gem was doing. We came upon a bridge over a creek and he crossed the bridge w/o a single worry. I was trying to decide if I should mount and decided to wait a little longer.

Another 1/4 mile of the trail and he all of a sudden got very worried. A couple of trailriders were coming behind us and he started to frantically call for them and seek comfort from them. I was actually just starting to mount when they came in view. He moved his hips away and started to get emotional just as I was putting my foot in the stirrup. Now, he wasn't crazy or anything, he just didn't want me to mount and he wanted those horses to call back and make him feel more comfortable.

Steve went on down the trail to do his run and I stayed with Gem in that spot to work with his state of mind. Tons of sideways, falling leaf, backing, and when he started to look calmer we'd stop to rest. He'd munch grass for a moment and then lift his head, call and we go back at it. He was slowly getting calmer and finding more comfort with me in our quiet moments. He finally found a reason to feel ok - after about 20 minutes, and we slowly started to walk back. He was fine from then on. We crossed the water - he stood in it and splashed a little. We did transitions, we stopped to eat grass. I just wanted him to realize I wasn't going to let the boogieman eat him, I was going to keep him safe and comfortable. We found a picnic table and stopped while he ate grass. Ahhhh...

At that point, I thought very hard that I should mount. He seemed ready to handle it. I decided not to, though. I decided it was enough for his first trail experience alone with me. I kept my desire for MORE under control so we could hit this trail another day and pick up from this nice quiet spot. His trailer loading was pretty good, but loading up to go home had him more hesitant. We just took our time and he was blowing and loaded after about 5 mins. I refuse to push him - that's what people have done to him in the past. I want to give him reasons to be trustful of me forever more.

When we got back, I rode Nina. She's ready for the next step in her training. We started with ground work and she was calm and respectful and just a joy. Then, we went to the round pen for mounted work on walk/trot transitions, more soft feel to me on her back and beginning to apply some good communication with my body. She did so well! Next, patterns!

I helped Chrissy next with her porky and her personal space (trot to back up on the ground). She'll be filming in the next day or two, I hope! And Kendall rode Rain for a while. She worked on weaving in and out of trees, go and whoa, and then finished with standing on tires with Rain.

It was a great day! I didn't get to Tina today, I plan tomorrow to start backing her.

Tina begins and Rain gets a job

Started off with Tina today. I'm really keen to get her going and figure out her strengths in character and where I can help her become an all around smarter, calmer, braver horse. She's been super impressive in the short time she's been here.

I started by seeing what she knows on the ground. How she yielded to pressure and how she feels about following feel. I'm pegging her now as a left-brained extrovert, but she's not quite as playful as I'd expect to fit that title. She's extroverted in her feet, but not her mouth. She's left-brained about a lot of things. I'll continue to assess her personality.

We played all 7 games and she actually seemed to understand quite a bit. I'm not surprised, as she's had considerable ground work by a Texas trainer. She's not quite sure how to maintain gait yet and it seems that she's used to being fairly close to her handler during ground work.

Then, we started to play with the saddle and pad. I asked her to wear the pad on her head, her rump, I swung it over so it stimulated the opposite side of her, just basically thoroughly desensitized with the pad being all over her body. Then, I did the same with the saddle. I use my endurance saddle, which is treeless, so that nothing bothers a new horse's back and helps make the transition to carrying something like a saddle easier.

I walked her into the round pen and let her move her feet. She needed some time to sort out wearing that saddle and there's nothing I can do to help her with that except give her time. She bucked very little, a rounded back and few humps, but then she was ok. There's only a front cinch - a rear cinch will be tougher for her. We'll move to that once this saddle becomes a breeze.

Then, I got my trusty assistant - Rain. Rain and I lead Tina around the arena and let her feel the saddle more. I also begin to create commotion above her head and her back to gently prepare her for having a bridle go on and a rider mounted. She was having a hard time leading up, but I'm sure that's because Rain was giving her dominant signals. I tried to keep Rain on her job and not worrying about being in charge of Tina. It was important for Rain to focus on her job and not on herd dynamics. She settled down quickly and Tina was leading up better and better. I wanted to take Tina out on the trail to see what she thought of the world, but the sun was going down.

After a while of asking for different things from Rain's back, and getting some nice, comfortable responses, I took both mares out and tied them. While Tina stood tied, I took Rain into the arena to practice follow the rail and give Chrissy a little coaching. After her tough session with Lakota where she bailed off during a spook, she's been having a hard time getting back on. She wanted me to pony her and her horse in the arena until she felt more comfortable.

That didn't work so great. She wanted to get off as soon as she'd gotten on. She'll have to work through her fear on her own and I'll support whatever she needs from me. I hope that it won't take her too long. I worry that the more time put between her and being on her horse will only make the fear worse.

I then, decided to take Rain down the road. She and didn't go far - the day was nearly over and I still had chores to do. I wanted to get started on Tina's hooves and see if I could get some shape going. I started, but her hoof wall is so overgrown and so thick. Her bars are very overgrown and her hoof wall has nearly an inch clearance from the sole. When Rain and I got back, I got started on Tina's hooves. I have more to do for sure.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Down for 2 days!

Oh man. For two days I've been sick and too drained to go out with horses. I've gotten up to feed and Chrissy's helped feed and do chores. But, I've been just laid up, feeling terrible. What stinks is the weather is gorgeous, the mosquitoes are much better and work is extremely light. It's the perfect week to get a bunch of time in with the equines.


The new mare is doing great on the track with the herd. Z's leg is slowly healing, growing a lot of new flesh and coming along infection-free. Nina and Tina need trims badly and Gem could use a touch-up. 10 days until the Pair-pace and I don't know who to take. Also, I've been watching Ray Hunt's colt-starting videos and learning some interesting things. I've should get Nina into a canter (Passenger lesson style) early, we'll do that our next session. Also, I'll start teaching her to yield the hind and fore right away. We've done that a little, but Ray did it much more. Lateral flexion is huge to him, as it is to me - we're good to go there.

Also, I want to start using Rain or Z to help me start the young ones. I see where that can be very beneficial for both the mounted horse and the horse getting started. My mares would be great for that kind of work. Lots on my mind, now just need my body to heal and fight off this virus.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nina and Tina

Had a fantastic session with Nina today! Maybe the best yet. We started with tacking up and some warm up on the ground. Warm up was very interesting tonight. I've upped the game and asking her for more advanced things. She's jumping with ease, circling better all the time (maintaining her gait and taking responsibility), staying out of my bubble, following the feel I give down the line and understanding that it's safe to try.

She was feeling extroverted and playful, so we practiced falling leaf and s-patterns for a bit in the arena. The playground was getting too tight and crowded for the amount of feet-moving she wanted to do. At one point, her adrenalin got the best of her and she galloped off. She came back and we started again. We practiced more figure 8's, circle game with consistency (tough for her because she's so extroverted), leading up and maintaining the space between us no matter where my feet go. She was doing great, working hard and giving me very soft responses. By the end, she could walk a couple circles without going into the trot and I knew it was time to ride.

I'm still using the rope hack, but ground working her in the confidence snaffle. For now, it's about soft responses to the pressure from the halter. I took her into the round pen and made sure she was ready to ride. I mounted up with ease and she was confident and stood perfectly still. She's got this part down pat now. We played with lateral flexion for few minutes until I felt that she'd really turned loose to it. Then we worked on forward. I want a forward movement on my suggestion, not after a lot of commotion, so I play with this quite a bit. We also follow the rail and I ask her back to the rail whenever she leaves. This will set her up nicely for future work. Then we practice bow-tieing back to the other direction - asking her to follow the feel on the halter and follow her nose where the halter suggests it to go.

We're ready to trot. She's nice and warmed up to having a rider on her back and she's ready to move a little fast. We practiced back up and that needs work. Our halt is simply a bend at this point, also. We'll continue to build strong fundamentals so the advanced work comes easily. She's doing so well - I'm proud of her! And she's gotten so big!! I think she's 16hh now. She's gorgeous.

After, I sprayed Nina off and played friendly game with the water from the hose. She was standing still by the end and I tied her off to let her soak on the session. She cocked a leg and relaxed for 90 minutes or so while I halter Tina to see what she knows.

Tina was on the track and saw me coming out from the barn. She came trotting from the other end of the pasture - looking forward to some interaction. Although the horses are spending time with her, I'm sure they haven't "accepted" her yet. She's going to need more time to feel at home here. She seemed genuinely happy for the time and attention. I haltered her, asking for some partnership and give while I tied the halter knot. She holds still, but doesn't quite understand why I want her head turned toward me. She's a very quick study though, very eager to please. She'll be a quick learner - I noticed that right away.

I lead her toward the barn and through the water and rock patch on the track. I love this track feature. It's so good for the horses to walk over rock and water every day. She wasn't too sure about the water, but I waited and asked her to re-approach when she retreated herself. I didn't push, only used some driving game to move her feet when she was ready to re-approach. It only took a few minutes, a foot forward, then back, then two steps forward... She will do it easily next time I'm sure.

We then played with the vinyl strips a little. I'd like her confidence strong for those quickly as she'll need to know she can go inside if the weather turns. Right now, they are like a brick wall to her. We'll work more on that tomorrow.

Then, the fly sheet. She'll need to wear that until the mosquitoes fade away (I hate mosquitoes!). A lot of approach and retreat, growing the size of the sheet by unfolding it while asking her to tolerate it and retreating as she got calmer. She seemed tolerant at first, but she was introverted and not blinking. It's good to know that there's some introversion there, in her mind. She seems quite left-brained, but very extroverted typically. She doesn't seem to use her mouth for her curiosity, except when she's checking my hands for treats. I won't be using any, unless I think we need them for motivation. With her extroversion, I don't think that will happen. We'll see...

After 10 minutes or so, I felt that she'd gained some confidence about the fly sheet. It wasn't where I'll want it at the end, but it was a good place to quit and she was able to wear it. We dragged it around next to us and that bothered her quite a bit. We've got some desensitizing to do.

Once I had her sheet on, I wanted to see how well she could tie. Two other horses were tied so she wasn't alone and she seemed to do ok. Soon, I'll add stimulus while she's tied and help her find the release on her own (moving towards the halter/tie to release the pressure instead of fighting it).

Tomorrow I'll start trimming her feet. I got some pics of her and her hooves for comparing later. I'm looking forward to getting some concavity built and bringing in the flare on the hoof walls. She's got very overgrown bars as well. She's going to move even nicer on properly trimmed hooves. She's going to be fun! I like her mind, she'll be great to play with and start.

Most of the time while I played with horses, Chrissy stood with Lakota tied after grooming him. She had dental work done today and she was feeling a little slow and tender. She played with Lakota a little, but mostly she spent UDT with him. He's truly warmed up to Chrissy and he seems to know he's her partner. It was nice to watch her spend time close to him, relaxing, w/o him being mouthy or bothersome. She's got the "love" down, now for more development of "language" and "leadership". She's doing so great.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tina Arrives and Kendall Rides

Tina arrived from Texas today! She's a beautiful 3 yr old bay Dutch warmblood. She's here to get started and will probably be here through the winter. She traveled very well and I'm looking forward to playing with her and seeing what she knows.

Kendall decided to spend some time on Rain this afternoon, too. The weather wasn't great and I'd spent the morning catching up chores thinking I could get some riding done after. It drizzled on and off all day before the skies truly unleashed about 6pm. But, Kendall was able to get about an hour on Rain. I had her practice weaving and s-patterns, stop and go, and over small jumps. She, of course, loves to get far away and come cantering back! Kids!

I had Gemini, thinking I'd warm him up on the ground and then ride some patterns in the arena. Kendall wanted to learn, so I just let Gem eat grass while I coached Kendall. Once the rain started, it was all over. I didn't get to ride the whole day!

Tomorrow should be better...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Can you??

Nina and I, Chrissy and Lakota.

I ended up working late, still on the phone at 6pm. Unusual for a Friday night and I was anxious to get some horses going. I came out to the barn, thinking to play with Nina and maybe put another ride on her. I got her haltered and started tacking her up. Chrissy was looking for a little coaching, so I thought I'd use Nina to show how I'd get things done and talk to Chrissy while I played.

We started with squeezing over the barrels. Nina wasn't too sure, but she tried her heart out. She put her hoof on, hung her head over, really tried to figure out what would make me happiest. Once she stopped trying, I would send her around the 1/2 circle to try on the other side. We did that for a few minutes and the first time she jumped, I sighed, cocked a leg and stroked her face. Then we walked away.

Chrissy gave it a try with her horse and had him squeezing over pretty quickly. She's still figuring out how to use phases and how to motivate him to go forward the speed she's asked.

We then played "Can You", a game where one leads, does something with their horse and the other then tries it. We played with left front over a log, back legs only on a bridge, figure 8, and back over the barrels. Chrissy had a little bit of trouble with figure 8 and I tried to help her keep her horse moving. He's not very motivated at times and she can keep working on having a plan in her head before beginning to execute.

Nina did a great job with the figure 8, she was jumping the barrels with ease on the first ask by the end of the session and our communication was improving rapidly.

It was getting dark and it was time to go in. I didn't get to ride Nina, but it was good to tack her up, practice some ground work and never get on. She's coming along very nicely.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cloverleaf with Gem

Great session! Working on maintaining gait at the canter on the circle on the 22, then isolating the ends with soft asks (suggest). Squeezing over barrels isn't great yet, but he's getting it. We also had some nice figure 8's after a few minutes of him getting with the groove. He struggles going from the left eye to the right eye. I'll try to back up more and give him more of a release on that side.

Then, cloverleafs in the arena in the western saddle. Transitions and looking for softness and snappy transitions. His back up is very nice, but he over collects. Not sure how to fix that. Maybe I need to use just the stick in zone 1 and no reins at all. I got the most beautiful transition from trot to canter and we stopped on the X of the cloverleaf and called it a day for arena time. He's doing so great.

We went to the barn and started working on mounted sideways. That's tough for him and we haven't done very much of it. I tried to use the carrot stick to motivate him to move, but that didn't work so well. I need to go back to isolating the ends and getting him softer - right now I'm doing too much work.

It was a really nice session with him and I'm trusting him more than ever. We'll keep growing like this together and have some great things going in no time. We need to work on confidence away from the herd.

I redressed Z's wound and cut off more necrotic flesh. What a mess. Dang it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Short session with Gem

Mosquitoes! Oh man!

But a short session in the round pen, focused on maintain gait at the canter. Had to quit, the bugs were ridiculous. Probably 15 mins was all we could stand.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Trailriding and a worried horse

Today I didn't have a lot of time. I got a late start and had to finish early to go to a labor day get-together. I started by cleaning and rewrapping Z's leg wound. I'm still upset by that - how did she do it?

Then, I decided to take Rain and Gemini out on the trail. I wanted to trim a few hooves, too. I trimmed Rain's fronts, then warmed her up a bit on the ground. I haltered Gemini and we set off.

Gemini hit a specific spot on the trail, his threshold spot, and he started to call. I'm trying to pay more attention to how he behaves before he gets noticeably scared. I'm sure there are signals that I miss. He called for other horses about 1 mile into the ride. He was calm, he would stop and eat grass and chew slowly and thoughtfully, but he would fairly regularly call out in a frantic way. If he heard any horse call back, he'd call again. I believe he's trying to locate his herd and I believe it's because he's very worried that he can't protect them if he's not with them. It's such a left-brained looking thing with him that I don't think he's scared for himself. He's scared for his herd.

We didn't go far, I wanted to study him just a little longer once we hit his threshold. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure of the best way to handle his behavior and how to help him feel more comfortable that the herd is ok. I suppose it's simply a lot of approach and retreat. He never got panicked, he always stayed pretty much in his pony-horse spot, once in a while he'd want to rub his face violently on my leg or Rain. His stool didn't get loose. It just feels like a bodyguard would feel when he's been taken away from the person he's supposed to be protecting.

Anyway, the weather was gorgeous. We found a place to stop where the grass was green and 2 feet tall. He chewed slowly, but still called. I would say he was calling less, though. Once we got about 1/2 mile from home, he didn't call again.

I think I might post this question to the parelli group or the Parelli's themselves.

Building a good foundation

Today, I spent about 2 hours with Nina. I recently started Nina and today I wanted to spend some time building a nice forward ask and continuing to build her confidence with me talking to her from her back. We had an amazing session!! I played with her on the ground for quite a while, getting our communication softer and softer. We built on the figure 8 until she could calmly and thoughtfully make the pattern. Her circles are much better and her sideways is very nice. We practiced disengaging the hind and moving the fore.

Then, in the round pen, we worked on "stick to me", circles at the walk (hard for her!) and the bring back. It was then that I decided she was very ready to ride.

I had Steve come watch, just in case she flung me. lol Don't want to be laying alone in the round pen if I get hurt. Then, I mounted up, her feet perfectly still, and asked for lateral flexion until it was soft as butter. Then, we started to build the forward movement. A little commotion and her response was either backwards or sideways. HA! To keep things calm, I enlisted Steve's help, simply asking him to be my phase 4 by putting a little pressure on the halter. Worked like a charm.

Once we had forward down, I started asking for turns. Thanks to lateral flexion, that was quite easy for her. She was a little unsure about turning while walking, but after a couple tries, she was doing fine.

We found a great place to stop and I dismounted and gave her a treat. I then hung out with her in the round pen, sitting on the ground while she put her head in my lap for lots of scratches. She didn't want to leave me and roll, like I thought she would. Maybe next time. It was a nice, soft session and I think she's getting a great start.

The next horse I'm starting comes next week. Glad to have Nina at this point so I can bring the other one along right behind her. I've got to get Rain on the trail as my ponying horse and get more trail experience under Nina's belt. Then, I'll do the same with Tina - the filly arriving next week.

Lots of great progress! Ready to quit my day job!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Relaxing with Z

I spent the day doing chores... stacking hay, managing weeds, fixing fence. I wanted to be sure I spent time with Z, the other horses could take the day off. So, with so many chores accomplished, I haltered my levels mare and tried to make a plan. I really didn't have a good plan, just to spend some time.

It rained for about 30 mins and I decided to trim Lakota while it was raining and Z was waiting. I got his front feet done, but he was not so cooperative and I wasn't up for the back feet. His feet are so hard, too!! I soaked them in water to help me get the trim done. I was happy with the shape we ended with and I got some good frog trimming and bar trimming done. I'm trying to lift his solar dome more to help him find more comfort on rocky terrain.

After the rain, Z and I headed out. The mosquitoes are so bad that it's hard to do anything that requires standing still or nearly still. Gotta move! So, a little warming up on the ground, working also on confidence with my new big pedestals. Then, I mounted and we headed towards the trail. I was thinking to practice transitions, but I was feeling very ADD and we goofed around on the jumping course for a bit. We jumped while I practiced keeping my tailbone to the cantle. Then, we headed down the road. She was so soft in the bit, softer than normal and she's normally quite soft. I'm not sure what we did last time that made her so soft, but it was nice. I tried to whisper to her with my hands to match her softness.

We stopped occasionally so she could grab some of the various plants and weeds that she finds so delicious. It was just a casual time and I occasionally asked for walk trot transitions and walk backup transitions. The mosquitoes were hideous and I just couldn't imagine them getting any better further down the trail, so I let her graze and then we headed back. I'm annoyed, and I'm missing the trail. No amount of spray seems to keep those bugs away. I will try to trailer some places this week, places where maybe the mosquitoes haven't completely taken over.

Anyway, Chrissy had dragged the arena since a little rain had moved through and I decided to take Z there. There was a breeze now and the mosquitoes all but disappear if there's a little wind. We practiced cloverleaf, then feeling the leads and asking for the correct lead, then a little isolation of the ends. It was a nice, casual and very fun session. Z's level of partnership has really gone up a notch lately and I'm enjoying her immensely. I can't imagine it can get better and yet, I know it can. If this was all I ever got from her, I'd call it wildly successful.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nina - really started...

Had a very successful session with Nina tonight. She started off wooly and wild and we played lots of games (falling leaf, put your feet on it, sideways, circle, squeeze over barrels, figure 8). The figure 8 was quite funny for a while - she was all movement and silly as heck. After a while, she came back to center and could walk a figure 8, but it took some doing.

I had her walk on a tarp, stand on the pedestal (front feet), stand on the bridge, and go over cavalettis. She was being so silly, she demolished one of the cavalettis. I could just hear her saying, "Wheeeeeeee..."! LOL

Anyway, once it seemed like her brain was in working order and she was willing to be calm, we started on the mounted work. Her mounting is great - stands still and behaves herself. Then, after several mounts on both sides, we walked off for the first time. Chrissy stayed with us so I'd have another hand in case she broke apart. She was calm and easy-going though. I'm slowly learning to trust her some. She's so athletic that I know she could leave in mid-air if she got excited.

We worked on lateral flexion, then bending at the walk. She was confused and I was very patient with her, helping her find the answer. I plan to get back on her over the weekend and really get some things going well at the walk. She's well on her way!

Very cool...

Dressage with Gem

Had a great lesson with Gem from Loma tonight. He is going so nicely and often over-collecting a little. We worked on building his working trot to a nice energetic place so he looks like he's going somewhere. We also focused on maintaining the rhythm and relaxation through turns and changing reins on the circle. He was a willing partner and really trying. I was comfortable and confident in our ability, as well.

Apparently, I'm turning my body into the circle and I have to focus on staying straight. I have to lift my inside shoulder and hip and ride Gem straight, but on the circle. I have a tendency to turn my body on the circle (Parelli training) which is incorrect for dressage. Interesting!

We did some nice cantering too. His transitions up were soft and easy and we would pretty quickly come back down to the trot. I have to be sure I don't squash the forward momentum for the down transition. I should ask for the down with my seat while I'm in the air. I'm going to keep working on that concept. Gemini, in the beginning of the lesson, would fall into the down transition, getting heavy on the fore. However, by the end, I had him softly transitioning down while staying engaged and forward.

When he over-collects, I can ask for a little more forward and that should bring his head out some. If I feel the need to ride with my stick aid, use it wisely (I practice this everyday thanks to the Parelli program). I have to be sure to engage my stick as phase 4 and then go back to neutral.

I also have to be sure to not get behind in the canter. Loma wants me more with the energy than I usually ride - more on top of the momentum. It's a different style than with Parelli, for sure. So far, I think I can manage the two worlds ok.

Cool stuff!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Z and I pull it together

Wow - for the first time in my life, dependable and consistent flying lead changes!! We used the figure 8 pattern, worked on transitions and my feeling her lead and asking for a specific lead and we got it down! Z was with me, our backup was so soft and responsive, our departs were light and beautiful. It was simply the best riding we've done. I kept my tail to the cantle, Z's ears were up, she knew what to do and stayed calm. She was as happy to walk as she was to canter.

Before riding, we worked on the difference between asking for zone 4 away and zone 4 towards. The mosquitoes were so bad, we didn't do that long and skipped to fixing our falling leaf pattern and keeping her shoulder from falling in. That went very well and she was not caving in after just a few "discussions". What a good girl!

We've come such a long way!!