Friday, April 29, 2011

A great ground session with Gem

Wanted to ride, cold, windy and Gem was pretty spirited. Time was short so I decided to simply focus on the ground.

Really nice build of zone 3 yo-yos!
Worked on maintain canter circle with COD at every break of gait.
Lead by lip/ear/tail. All soft and very improved.

Started the session with herd sweetness. Took a few minutes to bring him around to me.

Sideways towards is really coming along nicely.

Spanish walk is better, but I need to step it up to get more improvement.

Nice ground session with some marked improvements!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An easy ride with my mares

Wanted to meet at Hidden Mesa, but Z couldn't handle the solo trailering. I planned to then bring Rain and help Z with her trailering concerns and decided to load Z first, then Rain. I futzed with that for another 20 minutes and finally loaded Rain first and Z second.

I wasn't pushing too hard, but the bottom line is that Z wasn't ready to do what I thought we'd do. She couldn't trailer alone or load first. It's just something we need to work on. Meanwhile, time got so short that we weren't going to make it.

Canceled on Deb and rode around the neighborhood instead. Walked the whole way. Z wanted to move but I insisted she stay calm and walk. We went about 4 miles, nothing big, but it was nice to be out.

Did some frog maintenance and White Lightening gel on both mares after the ride.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stretching the rubber band

Best ride!! We went calmly and quietly up to the gate and then out and down the road. I could do this with him before, if I pushed him through his thresholds. Today, we went that far w/o violating his dignity by forcing him forward. He was fine and comfortable to go that distance. We did not hit a threshold actually, but I had all the dogs and didn't want to keep going with the whole dog pack. It was the perfect place to quit, anyway.

It only took a few rounds of canter back to the barn with some nice soft trot/canter circles to get him thinking it was ok to be alone with me off the property.

I trimmed him and soaked him afterwards.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Riding Gem at home

Another mind-altering session!! I really wanted to take him to the trail in the trailer, but time was short and I decided riding at home would be the best move. I don't know if I want to call this session 3 of my program. I really think it's session 1 of another program - riding him out from home.

Anyway, right thing easy, wrong thing difficult. A short warm-up and I mounted. The plan? To see where his threshold is and to make it easier to be near it and harder to be near the barn/herd. We rode up and down the driveway. The herd was hanging out at the feed shelter 1/2 way down the driveway. So we did lots of trot and canter circles near the horses, we cantered back to the barn and we walked when we headed toward the gate (away from herd/barn).

His threshold moved at least 50 ft by the end of the session! He was working hard and the canter to the barn is uphill, so that work was intense over time. We rode about an hour. He was really doing great! I was in tune with him and he was telling me what was uncomfortable and what was easy and I was responding accordingly. As he got more tired, we got to a point where he decided bucking was a better option than cantering. He's bucked enough that I'm able to really start thinking through the bucks and respond with brains instead of instinct. I brought his head around and spanked him. I think I surprised him! We then cantered in tight circles until I felt the idea to buck leave him and his partnership thoughts enter the play. He was now working WITH me and abandoning his own ideas.

This has to be the most successful moment we've had from his bucking. We then immediately trotted back to the herd and walked towards the gate. Lo and behold, his threshold was even farther and I stopped before we found it because we'd made such progress. We cantered back to the barn and he was soft and responsive and never even thought to drop to trot or buck.

I hopped off, rubbed him, and praised him. He'd earned it. Great session!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 2 of Gem Program and a visit with the vet

Zarah has had some interesting behavior on our longer rides (over 7 miles) lately. It's happened twice and had me very concerned. She was starting to try to urinate on the trail, under saddle (odd for her), and repeatedly. She was straining and generally trying to relieve herself of discomfort. I decided, after the 2nd trail ride where she showed the behavior, that I'd better get Tom to look at it. He suspected estrus at first, but I quickly convinced him that I know estrus and this is much different.

He came out and inspected her back. He suspects that the saddle is putting too much pressure on her back over her kidneys! This is a perfectly logical explanation since it was only happening on the longer, more strenuous rides. Darn it! So, I'm going to use a different pad (one of my CSI pads) and see how she does. I'm also hunting for a lighter weight trail saddle for my endurance riding, so I'll ramp up my search and see what I can find. I learned something today and while it occurred to me that it was her back, I was worried that it was something much worse. I'll take my mileage down a notch and try some different tack. We'll see what we get.

AFterwards, Gem and I hauled over to the trail for day 2 of our solo trailriding program. There was a definite improvement today! He was calmer, never once got silly or acted out, and never once (not a single time!) did he call for other horses. I enjoyed this session quite a lot. We worked on some half-passing, sidepassing, lateral bending, canter departs, and then found a spot right near the trail head sign to eat green grass. He was quite comfortable today! I didn't ask him to go down the trail, but I did feel him hesitate when we went to ride near the trail head. He was positive I was going to ask him to do something he didn't want to do. I hope I blew his mind a little when I only asked him to trot in patterns and not go down the trail. This is a fun experiment! For a lark, I did a minute or so of passenger lesson, just to see where he'd go if he had the choice. He walked in the direction of the trailer for about 10 feet, but then he dropped his head for grass. That said to me that he wasn't nervous or dying to get back to the trailer. He was truly comfortable hanging out with me on his back at the trail head.

What will the next session bring? Can't wait to find out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 1 of new program - Riding Gem solo

My attitude has changed as I've decided to do this 7-day program with Gem. Our goal? To haul to the trailhead 7 times and get him comfortable being alone with me, his human partner. If we can get down the trail - great! But the main goal is to find a place where he can understand that I'm not going to push him off a cliff. I'm his partner and I respect his thresholds.

So, we got there and he unloaded fine - he was calm. I tacked him up and did a minute or so of groundwork to get us connected. Then I hopped on and asked him to start down the trail. There's a sign on the trailhead that gives a little trail info and I felt him hitting his threshold before we even got to the sign! Poor guy. I honestly didn't know his confidence was that lacking about riding on the trail. I haven't been listening.

So, with the goal to build him up, we played on gaining confidence in the parking lot and towards the sign. We never once passed the sign. I also responded to his thresholds by retreating every single time. We rode for about an hour doing figure 8's, lateral bending, canter/trot transitions, sideways, half pass, whatever I could think of to keep the trail head interesting and help him understand that he's safe with me and I have a plan.

About 20 - 25 mins in, he had what I'll call a "temper tantrum". He lowered his head, bucked a few times, and seemed generally annoyed. I rode it out then asked him for forward again. I wasn't worried about this and honestly, I was expecting several more tantrums from him than just one. He called several times during our hour, too. When he seemed calm and relaxed, we calmly walked to the trailer, loaded up and went home.

We'll see tomorrow if today was a success. Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rain and Z on the trail

I was ready to meet Deb at Hidden Mesa. Z however, was not.

She'll always load for me into the trailer because she's obedient. However, she's not confident and she worries enough sometimes that I just have to abandon mission. Today, i really wanted to get a training ride done so she'd be ready for the upcoming endurance ride. However, once in the trailer she told me she just couldn't really handle it. Now, I was late! The human in me tried to emerge, but luckily the horsewoman in me triumphed. I knew what the remedy was - get Rain and pony her on the trail. Z gets a trailer buddy, Rain gets some exercise.

Luckily, Rain is happy to go so she loads right up and Z immediately sighed. Poor Z.

The ride was good - fast and Z was a true trail warrior like always. Rain however, was not into the whole "fast moving on the trail" thing and I had a tight lead line some of the time. That's one of the things that makes Rain amazing - she's in no hurry. That's also one of the reasons I added an Anglo-Arab to my herd. :-)

At the end of the ride, Z was showing some odd signs of trouble with urination. This didn't seem like estrus. I'll have the vet out to check on her. We went about 7.5 miles and she started acting funny right around the 7 mile mark.

Lexy wouldn't load at the trail head after the ride, so I dropped her off for Deb. She'd had a rough ride over, so Lexy and Deb will have to continue developing Lexy's trailer confidence. I know that story well.

Fun day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conditioning Z

I hustled out of work, finished homework with the kids, and jogged out to the barn. I grabbed Z, tacked her up (tried to slow down so my rushing didn't cause her any distress) and we were on our way for some neighborhood mileage.

I'm planning to ride in an endurance ride in 2 weeks. Z's not quite ready, but if I can get a few good rides in over the next 7 days she should be ok.

Good ride tonight. She worked hard and we did all trot/canter. I love her and covering miles with her is so amazing. I enjoy riding her alone most of all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick ride on Z

Just around the property. Working on responsiveness in the rope hack and just generally moving about. Did some large canter circles around jumps. She's such a lovely mare.

Trimmed her, too. Shew as getting out of balance.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tough ride with Gem

We went through the neighborhood with Deb and Lexy and Gem really struggled. I got off of him several times and tried to build the partnership from the ground as he was giving me the feeling he might bolt home. He's never bolted before, but I could feel him considering that and I trusted my gut.

During the ride, I felt that I really needed to step up my leadership. One the ground, I didn't really have the right tools to do a great job so once he seemed rideable again, I'd hop on and show leadership by moving his feet where I wanted them. We did transitions, isolating the ends, sideways... and I tried to make things quick and abrupt to interrupt the pattern of him thinking he needed to save himself. It was effective for the most part, but tiring and I got off once or twice just to take a break.

I rode him off and on, but multiple times it just seemed that he was so unconnected to me that he could get us in trouble so I'd hop off. About 1/2 mile from home, I got on and stayed on. He was calm close to home and I was not worried about riding him home.

Bottom line: he and I have some work to do on our relationship and his confidence. We'll keep going. I'd like to start riding him more alone. I just want to be sure I can do that safely.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 miles with Z

At Hidden Mesa. Great ride with Deb and Lexy. Finished the loop then went south on Cherry Creek trail to add another few miles. Z was out of gas by the end and I hope I didn't over-extend her. It was nearly dark by the time we got to the trailer.

Great ride! Lots of cantering and moving out. Thinking about doing Kenlyn again. Maybe if I put some good rides on Z in the next 2 weeks, we can do a 25.

Gave Z a quick trim on the fronts before leaving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Riding in the rain!

The sky looked ominous and the air was cold, but trailer up and went anyway! :-)

Went to Hidden Mesa with Gem and picked up Deb and her mare Lexy on the way. I decided to try to ride Gem in the rope hack this time. I'd never ridden him off my property w/o the bridle and I thought to give it a try. I also took my boy Deuce.

It was drizzling as we tacked up, but we were bundled up and ready to go. Started out rough!! Gem was high and brought his head down to buck a few times (though he never did). Deb and Lexy were working some things out, too. We played some interesting games (Deb and Lexy circled Gem and I, for example).

We took Lexy over the water for her first time, too! Deb was thrilled. Her mare did very well! She was trembling at first, but she worked through it and by the end was pawing in the water and having some fun. That was cool to watch. Gem struggled with Deb's approach and retreat as they would get farther away before coming back. I tried to keep Gem focused on me, but it's obvious that he and I need to continue building our relationship. I also think I need to ride him alone on the trail more now.

He was quite bracy in the rope hack and I almost got that feeling that he felt "free"! He was silly acting, high in the front, then bringing his head down to the ground and getting round. He was nodding a lot and just took some time to get used to me talking to him on the trail with the rope hack. I played with sensitivity the entire 7.5 miles and as he settled in, the brace dissipated. By the end, he was very soft and working with me in the hack.

It was dry most of the ride but the last 1/2 mile it started to rain pretty good. I had my rimmed hat on so my face stayed dry, thankfully.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the trail with Gem

Today was a very interesting day on the trail. I met a friend with her new horse for their first trail ride. It was very interesting to see Gem be timid and nervous and I'm pretty sure he was feeding off of the nervous energy from the other horse. His bravery and confidence was very shaken! He had a hard time leading the trail (mainly in the beginning) and when we saw a herd of elk, he became so worried we had to abandon the trail and play some games in the field.

There were times with the other horse, again, on the trail for the first time, led because Gem just couldn't. So, it's very true with him - he shows arrogance and seems "cocky", but he lacks genuine confidence. He never did anything silly, no bucking or other dangerous behavior - which was fantastic. Hats off to him! We focused on building his confidence and not pushing him through his thresholds. We played approach and retreat in several instances and even a game of "Chase the Cow" to get our horses minds off their worries and focused on a task.

All in all a great developing ride for Gem and I and my friend and her horse were extremely successful! I learned a little more about Gem and I'll keep on getting him out to help him gain confidence. He's growing by leaps and bounds and our relationship is better every time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pity party and trimming

Arrrgghhhh! The wind is really tough this Spring. We had gusts to 40mph today. I don't worry about my horses in the wind as they handle me on their backs in the wind fine. But, I just wasn't happy about the wind and decided to get some things done in the barn instead.

So, I started trimming. I got Gem done and his hooves have the nicest concavity they've had since I bought him. I know it's because of all the riding we're doing. Fantastic feet!

I cleaned up some, prepped horses for manure samples for worm tests (before realizing I don't have any fecal sample packs -oops!), and just sort of milled about.

Let Gem out so he could run around on his fresh trim on the dry packed track. I put Starlet in his run and stall for now. I'll move horses around tonight for the snow coming in.

I shouldn't ever complain, I am living my dream. Sometimes though, the wind just becomes irritating.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trail ride after work

Awesome ride!! I brought Gem and Rain (Kyle rode Rain). We really moved out and I felt Gem offer the most amazing trot. He tends to trot with short strides and not much energy, but today he offered the most lovely extended trot. We were moving fast and smooth! We went 7.5 miles at Hidden Mesa. The horses were very sweaty and I felt glad that they got a good workout. Gem was the perfect trail horse today.

I think that's our 3rd ride with no bucking or sour behavior. I'm so pleased. I even galloped Gem today. First time I've galloped Gem on a trail (we've galloped in the arena).

Fun time! Love riding with Kyle.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Transitions with Gem

Had the MOST amazing ride on Gemini tonight! Every session is better than the last. Amazing.

I didn't have a lot of time and it was drizzling, so I knew rain was coming soon. I really, really wanted to spend some time with him and decided to tack him up and ride him in the arena. He started off a little tense but within a couple minutes, he blew repeatedly. I just think he is still getting over some baggage about having a rider on his back and he tenses up by default. We walked for a minute or two and then moved into the trot. He felt light and under himself and his transitions were amazing. When he felt soft and relaxed, we went to trot/canter transitions. He has become so in-tune to my seat and his transitions were the softest and lightest I've ever felt. I was seeking a nice working trot, but he wanted to go into the canter. We played with that a bit and I would reward him any time he stretched those legs out and gave me a nice working trot.

His transitions down were equally soft as up. I played with transitions through all 3 gaits and then added the halt a few times. I was so impressed by his try and attentiveness.

After about 30 minutes, I got the nicest transitions of the session and called it a day. We played with the gate a little, helping him learn to sidepass over lightly for opening and closing the gate. I tried to find him some grass to eat, but he wasn't all that interested. It was getting dark and wet, anyway.

Looking forward to some Gem time this weekend. The trail rides are really turning him around (as well as the play time, of course!).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Runnin' and Jumpin'

I haven't ridden Gem in a few days and I knew I needed to get him moving. He's been in a stall and run (large run) for a few weeks now. It's great if I can keep him exercised, but if he's in there for more than 2-3 days I pull him out and do something to get him moving.

I pulled out Rain, Z and Gem and put them into the arena together. Then I sent them in different directions. Boy, how fun! Bucking, kicking, rearing... they were having fun! What was super interesting was when I asked them in, Gem came trotting over from the opposite end of the 120' arena. My mares came too, but Gem came with energy and they really seemed to be be conflicted by his leadership and mine. Made me smile to watch them think things through.

Next time, the video camera goes with me. Z was especially animated with her movements in mid-air. Awesome.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cowboy and Zarah

Zarah was quite the RBE today. I decided to do PPL on the property at the trot. That horse is so fast! It seemed to really calm her and after 5 minutes or so, she started to move her feet slower. We then went into the arena to try PPL at the canter and just move her feet more. She calmed way down and I got a great, soft trot that had tons of elevation. Lovely feeling.

Then, I played with Cowboy for Chrissy and tried to help her understand to bring her phases down and start giving Cowboy something to think about. He was very fun to play with! We played with a very subtle send on the circle, some sideways, some falling leaf, and transitions. Then, I hopped on and really focused on the bending/suppling exercise I learned from Josh Lyons. Basically, I ask him to turn until he's soft and supple then go the other way. We did it at the trot and he was really getting better as we went. He's a stiff necked horse and I really believe that's partly why he's so bracey. I offered to ride him a few more times for Chrissy to soften him up and get him moving and partnering. Such a nice horse.