Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tina trotting patterns and Gem Online

Nice night! Cool and breezy...

Started with Tina in the arena. We did a little groundwork, but I wanted to focus on riding. We rode the bowtie pattern at just the walk for a bit and I was asking her to feel of me and talking specifically to the inside fore as much as possible. Then, we trotted the pattern for a while. She was relaxed and calm and very responsive. She kept pulling to the other side of the arena and after we'd been riding about 40 minutes, I decided to let her take me where she'd been wanting to go.

My arena has some weeds growing around the edges and that was what she wanted! Some of the weeds must be her favorites. I let her take a few bites and then we went back to work. It was a nice, confidence building ride focusing on building softness.

Tomorrow we'll go back to the large circle and work on transitions on the circle. We'll also get some cantering in.

I then pulled Gem out for a little Level 4 groundwork. We didn't spend much time, maybe 30 minutes. Worked on transitions online, sideways, and teaching him to follow my focus on the feet to change gaits. He was soft and easy, but thinking about the herd more than I'd like. Still, we got some nice things done. I drove him from zone 5 through the trees before going back to the barn. He did nicely with that!

A good night with a couple great horses.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gem Online - Trailer loading

Spent a good 90 mins online developing Gem. Had a fantastic session! We played on the 45' in the front pasture. We started with zone 5 driving and point to point. Then, I moved to transitions online and COD's. We also did some trailer loading and I started to build distance into his loading. He and I will need to trot (minimally) into the trailer from 45' away to get L4 ratings. I want to slowly build up to the distance. Today, we got to about 15' trotting in, so we have a clear path to get to 45'. He has no trailer issues, which makes this easier than it was with Z.

I also need to build his circles and gait maintenance. I was able to get 3-4 canter circles before he broke gait, which is an improvement. I'm using DE's technique of COD every time he breaks gait. This technique is VERY effective at getting him to stay on the circle and maintain his job. Neat stuff.

Afterwards, I hosed him down and took him into the round pen. I'm trying to use "scan and capture" to teach him to lay down when I ask. For now, I paw the soft sand when he does and when he goes down, I give him treats. He's so smart - I expect him to figure this out in no time.

Fun session!

Then, I spent some time with Tina while coaching a student. This was great for Tina and me. I wanted to ride Tina through the lesson, but I'm not positive she's relaxed enough and I didn't want anything too exciting to occur during the lesson, so I stayed on the ground and demo'ed some of the things I wanted the student to do using Tina. Tina did great for me! After the coaching, I got on Tina and we did a nice trotting session. She seemed relaxed and back to normal, so I think we're back on track. I asked for a canter, but she felt tight going into it so I brought her back down and stayed in the trot. We'll canter tomorrow.

Chrissy had Cowboy out today and had a change to try the sheepskin seat cover I bought her for her birthday. She seemed to like it! I sat in it and I was definitely a huge improvement over her hard seat. I think I need one now... :-)

A nice afternoon with horses and a student.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Horse Time - Tina and Gem

I started with Gemini today and played a little before hopping on. I wanted to ride the cloverleaf pattern for a while and build his stamina and while engaging his brain with transitions. However, he was a little tense so I started with just serpentines and getting him soft. I used the snaffle bit today instead of the C2 as I'd used the C2 in the clinic and I wanted to see if I felt a difference. He had nice, nice feel and was extremely responsive to the snaffle. I'll be switching back and forth between the 2 bridles to see if he shows a preference.

I didn't ride him long, just some nice work at the trot. He was a little anxious about being away from the herd, surprisingly. I finished up with spraying him down and taking him to roll in the round pen. I treated him once he was down as I want to start building the lay down as a response to a cue.

I then warmed up Tina and decided to ride her in the round pen. I want to get her going steady at the trot and bending on the circle. She's been a little tense since her Jeffco experience and I want to keep any excess energy contained for now. She warmed up nicely and we headed into the round pen. We walked for quite a bit and I was paying special attention to her mental state - checking for tense muscles or nervous behaviors. We sat at one point and stood still to see how long it would take her to lick. Surprisingly, it took several minutes! We then moved on and got some movement going. She didn't feel tense any longer and I found a good place to stop. Tomorrow we will steadily trot for a while.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A surprisingly tense Tina!

Today was Tina's first ride in about 11 days. She spent 6 days at the Jeffco Fairgrounds during my clinic and I did not ride her there. We did extensive groundwork on 3 of the days, but I was always alone after the clinic and decided not to get on her alone.

So, after that clinic and a few long days of my day job catching up from missed days, it was time to get back on Tina. We had a good warmup, but I could tell she was a little edgier than she's been in months. I assumed the Jeffco "experience" might have set her back a bit, but I also thought getting back into our routine was the best move.

We walked around, stretching out and warming up in the arena. I decided to use the bit/bridle as well. At one point she started to buck and I don't know what caused it. I guess it doesn't matter what caused it, she just felt unsettled. After a couple bucks, I came unseated. I'm fine, it was an easy fall. It did surprise me though.

I took her into the round pen and we went back to work. I kept her at the walk, but did a lot of bending and waited to feel her relax and get mentally calm again. She did feel better and I found a nice quiet place to stop.

I believe I will put her back on Magnesium to see if that has an impact on her tension. I'll also get her back into a solid routine now that the clinic is over and we'll rebuild from there. She's a young horse, early in her training and these things happen. I need to continue paying attention to her tightness and responding to it quickly to make her feel safe and secure.

She's an RBI (Right-Brained Introvert) which makes her more likely to seem fine and then surprise you with nervous energy. She needs more circles and consistent patters to continue building trust.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ellis Clinic Notes - Rough Draft

Natural horses - look for the comfort. Normal horses look to get out of trouble or avoid an angry human.

Focus on where you want the horse to be, not on getting the horse to get there.

Muscles along his spine are as sensitive as the inside of his mouth or his genitals

Don't release until the horse gets to where I asked him to go/be.

Pick spots on the circle to get a good circle. Make each spot on the circle more comfortable than the last.

Only disengage if I need to regain control. Otherwise, just bring energy down.

We did focusing on the feet from the ground.

Gem still calling when tied, but had a good morning.

Turns at the trot - teardrop turns along the rail.

Teardrop - circle the drop shape, canter out of it along the rail. Bowties.

Larks lesson

Bit figiting. 12-18 months after the first time they wear a bit, or if things are stressful.

Slap ur leg when the horse is by the gate - make it undesirable.

Breathe in as you make your way to the focus point, breathe out when u get there.

Refind bowties vs freestyle bowties. Use a supporting rein on the inside for refined. Otherwise use the direct all the way through the turn.

Day 3 - circling by cod every time the horse isn't circling correctly. Huge change in gem.

We moved from cone to cone.

Afternoon - all abt moving the hind with the stick. Then moving the hind off the rail, the leads by moving the hind off the rail. Quick backups to the center.

Watched dave and kristins horse.

Jimmy williams, look him up.

Day 4-

Precision pen and 8 bends. Gem did pretty well. Used my stick to support my leg as much as possible.

The top half controls the front, the bottom half controls the hind.

Bar of soap analogy for squeezing energy from a horse.

From day 2: move the whole horse, move the zones, move the feet in isolation when you can advance.

Afternoon - shoulders in, haunches in.
Shoulder exercise: move the shoulders off for 15- 20 ft, then let the horse go off the rail until they're straight. Should take 2-3 steps to get straight. Then sidepass back to the rail. We did 1/2 turns from the shoulder in - follow the bend of the horses neck into a 1/2 circle, then once facing the rail go straight.

Hauches in- hind off the rail with the nose to the rail and the walk straight back to the rail. Much easier than shoulders in.

Gem was a little dull to my leg. Answer: use my stick in 4 phases. Phase 4 should be firm enough to get my horse to the next gait. This helped Gem a ton and he became much more responsive to my leg.

Did the precision pen with Gem at the canter and he got quite responsive. I was pleased with him and spanked him into a fast canter/gallop with no concern of him bucking. It was cool.

Watched Patsy and Annie get private lessons.

Day 4 was great with gem. He's starting to trust me.

Reins - partial disengagement and loping off. Neutral lateral rein.

Day 2 - figure 8's and teaching the horse to focus with me.

Day 5 - on 22s. Worked on refining our ask and use "its coming"! Concept.

Then riding. This was hard. We worked on direct rein in rhythm with the feet. We also time the indirect rein with the inside fore so the timing matched the footfall better.

When uve asked for the turn witha direct rein, go back to a neutral rein in the turn. He should be on the bend of the circle from the first step and neutral reins mean don't change.

We did a lot of riding with the suspension rein and timing it to the footfall of the inside fore for direct rein movements and the outside fore in prep for haunches in.

I thought this was a tough day.

Jodi talked to me abt zones within zones and trying to move my energy towards my horse in a way to got him moving nicely in isolation.

Keep my rein hand over the mane line!! This was hard.

Watched Lisas lesson on cantering the precision pen so that the horse would have less opposition reflex at the trot.

Had an amazing lesson with Dave on teaching Gem to move into the bit from behind. That was very cool. Pushing the hind into the fore and releasing it at a specific point. Asking for transitions just as the hind was moving into the fore

Afternoon note: using step 7 to get a feel, then ask for a transition and immediately butterfly to 0. Teaching the horse to hunt comfort of a casual rein by doing the transition.

Supporting talks to the diagonal hind

Some days play with teach control, some reinforce refine. Hunt the comfort some, refine others.

Practice the 8 bends and asking the horse to move in a counter arc along the rail.

Dave demoed with gem. Gem was so thoughtful.

Dave Ellis Clinic

Six days with Dave! What a treat and enormous growth experience. I chose Gemini for this clinic as it's time to bring him along through L4. He did quite well for me and grew plenty himself. I have notes I'll be posting as well as some video of a private lesson I took with Dave.

I brought along Tina for the exposure. She stayed in a pen by herself some of the time and with Cowboy some, as well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prepping Gem and Trimming

Rode Gem around the play area, through the trees and over obstacles. He felt great.

Trimmed Cowboy (didn't finish the right hind).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Starlet is here!

A friend who's had an amazing Thoroughbred mare gave her to me. Her daughter has ridden this mare for years and they've never gotten along great. I've always thought highly of this horse and even temporarily traded Gem for a few months a couple years ago.

She was on her way to another home and turned out not to be right for the new home, so I'm keeping her. She'll have a ton to teach me and her athleticism will make her a fun challenge! Looking forward to playing with her and seeing what she offers!

She had pretty agressive shoes on (clips, pads, wedges). I remember her feet being pretty good, but the shoes have given her contracted heels and and her shape showed extremely high heels and long toes. We pulled the shoes that night and gave her initial trim to get her going. She wasn't sore - a good thing.

I'll let her settle in a bit and then get started with her. Exciting!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Full speed on the trail!

I started with Tina today and focused on more harmony with the bit. We had a nice session and did some cantering at the end. I rode her english and that saddle fits her so well I believe I'll use that with her from now on. She was good today moving off my seat and we started to really build the halt from my seat.

After warm up on the ground and riding in the arena, I took her to the obstacles and then we started to simply ride around the property. Again today, she was interesting in heading off the property. I let her go farther than yesterday, but we stayed on the property for safety's sake. I'll keep riding her and moving farther out into the world until I get a buddy organized.

We had another great session and I ended it by building more tolerance from her on her ears being touched on the inside. She's fine with the outside, but the inside is very hard for her to handle. I've been applying Derma Fas and the skin in her ear feels smooth and healed. At this point, I just need to build her tolerance to her ear being handled. She no longer has any issue with the outside being touched and rubbed, so we've made some good progress. This was important for bridling.

Next, I decided to ride Z. I haven't ridden her in 2 weeks and I was missing her. I gave her a trim before we headed off down the trail. We only rode 5 miles but we did it fast!! We rode the 5 miles in about 45 mins - cantering a lot and some trotting. She felt so great and I have no inhibitions on her back. I realize as I'm focused on Gem and Tina that I'm just no where near as confident as I am riding Z. Z and I just have so many trail miles behind us.

Anyway, it was a fun, fast ride and my amazing horse was only sweaty under her saddle pad. She's built and bred for this fast trail riding and one day I will use her for what she's bred to do. We'll get back into endurance and go for a 50 miler. Once we cover 50, I want to do Tevis. Z's the horse for that job.

Anyway, it was a fun time with horses. Tomorrow I'm taking my boys up Mt. Quandary (a 6 mile hike to the top of a 14k ft peak). Hopefully, I won't be too sore to ride Monday!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gem online and riding Tina out

The weather is gorgeous and the air is breezy and I got a few hours with horses tonight. I started with Tina. I've been meaning to video tape our progress and I've done a terrible job of it. Today, Chrissy was willing to help me out by playing camera man and I wanted to start riding Tina in my english saddle. Perfect - time to get it done.

So, I tacked her up and started on the ground. I got video footage of the ground work and the riding. I'll post asap - need to edit and upload. Our riding session went well. She felt great in my english saddle and it fits her nicely. Her back is so muscled and level that no adjustments to the fit were needed. She looks so handsome in english tack, too. I decided to stay in the rope halter today as we were trying a new saddle and she's more accustomed to the rope hack than the bit still. It made sense to me to have her feel the new saddle and not add more bit training in this session.

After riding in the arena, Tina and I went out of the arena and played with the obstacles mounted. This was a 2nd time doing the playground mounted. I was curious how she would feel if I pointed her out towards the trail. Tina was so forward and ready to go on an adventure!!

I really would have loved to take her out because she wanted to, but I just felt like doing that alone the first time would be a mistake. So I turned her around and went back to the barn. Surprisingly, she was pulling to go back "out". We went again, a ways down the driveway and then again I convinced myself that her first mounted trail ride needs a buddy. When I ride her again tomorrow, if she's willing to go further, then we'll go. Amazing.

I had about 30 mins left before date night with my sons, so I decided to build some ground work with Gem. He's been doing great and our groundwork is progessing nicely on the 45'. He's more and more engaged and I'm trying to do things faster and be more interesting for him. We worked a little on trailer loading and sideways. I wish I'd had time to ride - our partnership was at a great place and I bet we would have had a great riding session.

A fun night with 2 awesome horses.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great evening with Tina

Tonight I wanted to put my western saddle on Tina and let her carry me, the weight of the western and feel the leather straps flying around while we rode. I just feel this to be good cross-training and a testament to what she can handle. Since our accident, she's worn the western a few times but I never rode her in it again. I felt it was time for both of us to test this and move beyond it.

She did buck a small bit while I warmed her up on the ground. I'm sure the rear cinch felt constraining as she hasn't felt a rear cinch in months. However, it was short lived and we were warming up nicely after the first few minutes.

Once I hopped on, I took it slow to be sure she was calm and thinking. After about 10 minutes I realized she was fine and we went to work. We did large circles (25m) and changed direction through x repeatedly. I did not canter her tonight as I decided not to push with me in the western for the first time. It was a good, good session and she felt very balanced.

After our time in the arena, I rode her out to the play yard. This is her first time leaving the arena with a rider on her back. We weaved through trees, stood on the obstacles, played with backing up a bit and just relaxed. It was fascinating to me that she blew and blew when we were on the playground out of the arena. I'm guessing it's because we were closer to the herd, but she was happy to be there and remained responsive. What a great girl she was!

I got her trimmed after riding and her hooves are shaping nicely and amazingly hard. I hope she stays barefoot for life - she's got the feet for it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lesson with Gem and Cantering with Tina

Amazing lesson

1. Let him have some fun and work out the bucks first! Work on getting softer responses and by giving him full information and going through all phases! I've been a lot of quick 2,3,4 and need to do more equal phases or experiment with other versions of the phases.

2. Floating circle - commotion, keep him moving. Walk slower but maintain my direction and pick my point to walk to.

3. Never, ever pull on 2 reins with Gem until the bit issues are worked out. We have to work through that before we can get to finesse.

4. Play by doing this faster, let him move his feet if he needs to.

5. Canter leads - make outside of my body longer. Hold the outside rein and transition down with that rein if that's the lead he takes. Immediately ask again until the correct lead is offered. Gem did great with responsiveness to transitions up and down! Make sure the transition down starts in my seat and not my reins.

6. Forward request: Smile with all 4 cheeks, turn the smile into a squeeze, touch yourself, touch your horse.

7. My inside shoulders are uneven. Work to bring the inside shoulder up without letting the outside shoulder go back.

8. His canter transitions were amazing and he offered the canter unlike ever before! It was just the best riding with him ever.

Lots more...

Tina - wanted to start expecting more as I felt in the last session she wasn't advancing and taking her job more seriously. We started slowly for a few mins and then I asked for some trotting. I asked for some figure 8 and she fell onto the forehand a few times. I decided to ask for more life in the trot and got some absolutely beautiful floating trot from her! Best I've ever felt. She fell into the canter so I rode and started to ask for more forward. We trotted and canter a 20 - 25 meter circle for 30 mins or so and she was a gem. She was forward, safe, happy to go, responsive. So proud of her!

I'd like to start riding her english now as I've been using my treeless saddle for some time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tina and Gem

Rode Tina and for the first time, really felt like I needed to start expecting way more from her. She felt like she was getting overly confident (what a total turn-around from 4 months ago). I had to effectively ask her for forward where previously she'd move forward with just a suggestion from my seat. I also felt her getting a little heavy to my leg cues that we've built. So, next session I will be "upping my game" and ask for more. She's getting too comfortable with the way I'm asking and I need to get her lighter as we go.

On the other hand, she's a safer and safer horse all the time! I like that for the job she'll do for her owner. I don't want her dull of course, but I like that her inclination is to be relaxed and less forward. I do want her "whoa" to equal her "go", so we'll keep building.

I also rode Gem tonight and focused on passenger lesson after a good ground warmup session. He did nicely on the ground, so I did 21 minutes of just trot in whatever direction he wanted. He just had to maintain the trot. After about 10 mins, I added transitions between trot and canter, while still not steering him. It allows him to relax and focus on the transition. Passenger lesson is very good for Gem.

I'm feeling great about Gem and his progression. He's coming along nicely and should be just fine for the clinic in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Had a nice, nice riding session of trotting large circles (2o-25 meters) and figure 8's at a good working trot. Tina was solid and forward, engaging nicely from behind.

Her riding work is really coming along! Proud of her.

Prepping Gem for Clinic

Spent a while with Gem on the 45' line today. I want to take him to the clinic in 2 weeks and we need some work together to prepare. We left the property also, checking to see how herd sweet he's become. He didn't call, but we didn't go far. He was definitely tense about leaving. For the most part, he did what I asked anyway. :-) We did some falling rock, lots of circles with varying sizes and gaits to keep things interesting. We did lots of sideways and I worked on getting him softer and more responsive. He knows the games well, but the longer line is a challenge for us still.

I'd like to pass L4 online with him, so we need to play with trailer loading from far distances and at liberty. He's an incredibly fast learner, so as long as I keep my savvy in check he'll come along with me quickly.

We finished off with some liberty, just working on flying lead changes and his fitness level! He's outta shape! His left hock has me concerned and I'll watch it for lameness and swelling. He's got arthritis in that hock at an early age (he's 10).

The rain came, as it seems to do every evening lately. I didn't get to play with Tina. I got Gemini trimmed in the barn, though. Never enough time.

Personal note: I passed L3 Freestyle which means I'm officially L4 now. I'm not as excited about that as I thought I'd be. It's nice to be official.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gem online

Left the property and worked on the ground with Gem. I wanted to see how upsetting it would be for him to leave the herd. We went to the neighbors and played on the 45' line. He actually showed a bit of tension, but worked well for me anyway. He got a little more dominant as we headed near the herd and I had to correct his behavior a few times as I asked for sideways to the left along the rail, a half circle and then sideways to the right along the rail the other direction. He was persistant about wrapping around and heading home and nearly got away from me at one point. However, we played with that until he abandoned the idea of and stopped leaving me, mentally. I didn't have his mind sometimes, but I knew how to get it - which was a good experiment.

Work went late, so I started late and then rain came before I could ride Tina. It's ok, I had a good night with Gem and I'll be on Tina first tomorrow. Because of the rain, I took Gem into the barn and trimmed him. He was a little upset in the barn w/o the herd, but he did ok for trimming.

Need to trailer Gem away, alone, and see how upsetting that is for him. We'll see. Excited to truly develop him finally! :-)