Friday, July 30, 2010

All Bit and Time with Gem

Had a nice afternoon with horses today. The weather was amazing and I had some good dedicated time to advance some horses.

I started with Gem. I tacked him up and we got started on the ground. He was thinking about the herd quite a bit but he still played nicely with me. He had a lot of forward response to my request for sideays w/o a rail, so we played with that. His isolation of the ends is phenomenal but what's interesting is that it's better on the fore than the hind - which indicates RB. I've always wondered if Gemini is a RB learner and with humans. I think that's learned, though - not inherent.

He did buck several times when I asked for the canter while we warmed up and once he was able to canter depart w/o any emotion, I went ahead and mounted. I coached Chrissy a bit from his back and asked to him walk towards to front pasture. We had quite a threshold very soon! He couldn't make it to the driveway w/o getting tense (we're talking 100 ft). We have a lot of building up to do.

While Chrissy finished up her warm-up, we went into the arena and started with passenger lesson. He can go wherever he wants, but he must maintain the gait I've asked for. I wanted the trot, so we trotted for a while. For the first 15 mins, he was tense! He was very tense. His head was high and he was overly concerned with the world around him. He started to calm down and I did some more coaching with Chrissy, allowing Gem to stand still and get his thoughts together. After about 30 mins, we went back to work and did a full 21 mins of PPL. He was much, much more relaxed this time and I got some nice soft canter departs the last 5-10 mins.

I have my most important clinic of the year in 3 weeks and I'm contemplating taking Gem instead of Z. Tina will go for sure and I'd like to take 2 horses. The clinic is a 4-day, followed by a 2-day. I will ride Z in the 2-day so I'd like to take Gem for the 4-day. I wonder if I can get him ready in time? He will call and call if he's not ready. He will be tense and he'll be likely to buck if I push him beyond his comfort zone. Can I get him comfortable enough in time? I wish I'd started sooner, but I'm going to give it a try. My other option is to take Tina for the 4-day. I'll make the decision when the time comes. For now, I'll get them both ready.

Chrissy had a great session with Cowboy! She is starting to understand "feel". Cowboy is quick to brace and it's up to her to eliminate the brace. Interestingly, when he gets bracey, it feeds her fear. Today was the first day I saw her really connect the brace in her to the brace in Cowboy. This is a huge corner for her to turn and Cowboy is going to really benefit from this. I fully expect riding to become less and less scary now that she feels the difference. I would be edgy riding a bracey horse, too. Chrissy has taken a huge step along her path to good horsemanship! Very cool to see.

Finally, it was Miss Tina's turn. I warmed her up on the 22', asking for isolation, sideways, yo-yo... I've got to continue working on maintain gait at the canter. Her canter is soft and comes from behind nicely, but she doesn't want to do it for long. It's time to build that gait and get her more efficient. Today was also the day I chose to build softness in the bit. We abandoned the rope halter and I committed to a full session of bit training.

Her behavior was typical, playing and toying with the bit, figuring out how to find the release from the pressure. I did everything I could to reward her slightest tries as I want her mouth soft and supple. We focused on bends and I made sure to use my seat cues clearly to help her understand the ask from the bit. By the end, her turns were quite nice and her fiddling was nearly gone. Lateral flexion came simply, now to continue to build soft responses from bit suggestions. She did very well for the first full session with new equipment! Proud of her.

I'm also working on her ears. When she came to me, there was something going on with the skin in her ears. It seemed as though she had sores from ear mites. She did not allow her ears to be touched at all. While she's been here, I've slowly worked on breaking that down and helping her find comfort and relaxation from ear handling. The skin in her ears is much improved as Colorado weather doesn't support ear mites too well. However, there is some residual irritation and I've started using my favorite treatment of all time - Dermafas. I've applied it twice now and I'll put it on everyday for a week or so and reevaluate. If that doesn't make a difference, I'll get the vet out.

Her ears are so uncomfortable to the touch and I think when she had bad skin issues in her ears she developed a huge aversion to anything touching her ears. Now that I'm bridling her every session (have been for about a month), I need to be sure she's positive about bridling and not resistant. So, we're working on her acting like a partner for the bridling process. Having her ears be clean and problem-free is critical. Right now, her bridling is "ok" - meaning she'll allow me to put it on w/ very little resistance. I expect her to nearly seek the bit when I bridle her so we'll keep building this.

It was a great day and I'm looking forward to another tomorrow. Steve got some more fencing done so we'll have a track in the west pasture soon. Yeah!!

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