Saturday, December 12, 2009

Welcome to the Great COLD White North...

As I sit up in Grande Prairie waiting for the rig I am to be responsible for (medically speaking) to start -38 weather (day temps including windchill - brrrr!)...I thought I'd spin a quick update.

Koolaid - has been leased out for certain. I had one individual willing to lease him, but a couple of hours north of us. The girl did not get back to me before I had to leave for work either, so we weren't sure if she agreed to the lease terms and thus opted to allow someone else to lease Koolaid instead (someone who was super serious and got the lease in to me asap). This woman, A, is doing a long-term lease on him and will be using him not only for pleasure riding and lessons for her boyfriend and their kids, but also as a dressage mount for herself until she eventually purchases something Grand Prix worthy. So I will keep you, my friends, updated as I check in on him or am updated myself. I think this will be a good temporary home for him where he will be loved and enjoyed! I am also concerned enough about the potential for arthritis in that previously-injured leg in the future that I want him used regularly, which he will be here.

Link - has an official rider now (she signed the waiver and it now sits in my hot little paws, so I consider her "official" now, haha), so, same as Koolaid, I wil update as I am updated. JM, as I will refer to her, is going to ride Link some but also take lessons on him with K, my instructor, which is bonus fantastic because then I know he is ridden well (though obviously I think he will be anyway!). I think Link will be happy with my choice :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Negotiations...and back-tracking

Link's lesson didn't go all that well today unfortunately - he was tense and anxious almost the entire time! ARG! My instructor K attributed it to his being ridden by two different riders this past week. I agree that it was partially that and I think also that the fact I didn't get a good session in on him to really work on suppling the left side contributed as well. Also, he is getting fitter and thus more energetic. He was quite tense on the left rein and heavy and leaning on that side. We tried everything and although some of it worked some of the time, we couldn't fully fix it. We got some good canter on the correct lead on either rein though! He was okay over the trot poles, but didn't do as well as he had last lesson. Some tracking up, some good work in general, but he just wasn't there and making the progress he has been the last few sessions. Ah well, next time. I will try to ride him Sunday but will for sure ride Monday and perhaps have a lesson Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


First half of my afternoon was spent showing Koolaid to an instructor interested in leasing him (we'll call her CS). She would like him for herself - just for pleasure riding, some trail riding, and low jumping, as well as for some of her students if possible. She really treated Koolaid well and rode well on him, so I did not feel I would have any problem with her allowing students up there - I am sure she will ensure her students show the same respect and appreciation towards Koolaid that she did. She would also take over all expenses, it would be a long-term lease (say a year or more), and she is fine with not being able to use any training aids on him. The only thing is that he would be going approx. 2 hours north of here, but I think I can live with that since I work out of that area and he is going to a good home where he will be used and loved. So fingers crossed it works out for everyone then!

The latter part of my afternoon was spent riding Link and allowing a rider interested in riding him for the winter to try him out. I showed her (we'll refer to her as JM) a little of the groundwork we usually do, warmed him up under-saddle, and showed her what he was capable of (well, some of it). He was a little stiff yet to his left, but almost has it sorted out. He was quite relaxed, tracked up quite nicely on several occasions (I felt some fab extended trot, with none of his running away from the extension!!), and was giving me not only excellent leg yields, but also some very quality changes in bend along a straight line. I did ask him to canter before we had really done sufficient preparation, but he did well anyhow (though he was a little excited and quite hollow through the trot leading into the canter after the first shot at a canter to the right). Second try he picked up the correct lead to the right and first try he picked up the correct lead to the left. He was a little quick around the arena and not quite as collected as I would have liked, however it was fine given the situation and such. JM then took him and just did a little walk and trot on him to try him out. She seemed to treat him well also and to dote on him, which is what he deserves :) I think Link fell in love with her after she brought and gave him an apple, haha. So, good workout today, and perhaps we have also found a good rider for Link! Fingers crossed again. Lesson (Link and I) tomorrow, JM returning Friday (provided she decides to ride him for the winter) to try Link out once more.

Dressage in jeans and a minus something

I did not get the chance to ride Link over the weekend unfortunately, and S (potential lessee) came out to ride Link again Monday. Her ideas and thoughts on training dressage definitely differ from mine, but I did not, at the time, feel I had the experience or knowledge to speak up on some of it. Plus, I usually have to mull things over initially (I guess mostly due to my lack of dressage experience) to see how or if it fits in with my overall ideas. For example, S mentioned that Link is quite crooked and that he needs to learn to be straight and thus she was going to work on straightening him out. She started by asking him to straighten out on the longeline, commenting after awhile that he "wouldn't do it". I looked at him and just noted confusion in his expression. He wasn't sure what she was asking. And of course he wouldn't do it, he needs to be relaxed to do it (to start), and he is not relaxed yet when he is confused and working with someone new. Furthermore, straightness occurs later on the training scale - after relaxation, suppleness, contact, and impulsion. It comes as a result of progression along the training scale and is not something that is forced. I told her that he seems stiff and asked her if he wouldn't just straighten out as he relaxed? She responded with a "yes", which made me wonder why she was working on the little things that are a result of his tension: not yet on the bit, being crooked, not fully tracking up consistently, etc?? Why would we not simply focus on relaxing Link? Seems to me like all the "problems" would disappear then as the root issue is solved. I posed the same dilemna to my instructor in my lesson today then and she agreed that I was correct and pointed out that there was already evidence of the smaller issues disappearing as Link's tension disappears within our sessions. Each session Link stays straighter for longer, reaches for the bit more often, tracks up more consistently - everything improves. So we do not have to work on straightness, being on the bit, or Link tracking up - directly. Instead, if we keep plugging away at relaxing him (and of course progression along the training scale), then we will see a general improvement everywhere else. So anyway... S has a lot of different ideas such as the one mentioned, however I do not think that her riding Link is going to hurt him nor that I will have to undo much (if anything) when I return. She did ask though if she could use spurs. When I replied no, she later asked me if I was against spurs? Again I replied no, that I wasn't against spurs, but that I thought they should be used as an extension of the heel - not to back up an aid. Particularly on a highly-sensitive horse like Link. S said that she was having trouble having Link respond to her leg directionally; I simply responded that he can be excruciatingly light to your leg and brought up the fact that I ride this horse bridleless regularly, something I could not do if he did not respond to directional leg cues. I think she missed my point though. K, my instructor, replied in response today that S simply does not have Link's respect. I guess I did not want to admit it and then have to say it to S (who treats me like I have little idea as to what I am doing), but K is right; respect toward the rider will translate to respect toward that rider's aids. That is not to say there are not days even I do not have Link's respect. However I either work on that directly, or I earn his respect indirectly through exercises. It is usually pretty simply obtained and once it is, it is there to stay throughout the session. So I have asked S to refrain from using spurs then as well as most other training aids.

It is a tough decision deciding whether or not someone can ride your horse, and balancing benefit to the horse versus possible harm to the horse. I want Link to be loved and exercised while I am gone, yet I do not want him to be unhappy nor do I want to have to undo any "training" someone has put on him. I am not sure if Link will be happy under S - she is pretty good with him however there were some times I sensed some frustration in her voice (frustration I picked up on easily and had to be careful not to relay to Link - it's funny how that can work, how sensitive we can be to others' states of minds and emotions!) and there were times I did not exactly approve of how she handled him, such as disciplining him for misbehaving while tied. It is not that my horses do not have boundaries, they do. However I do not discipline them for something specific - I instead address and solve the root issue. After all, they are just behaving like horses. Who's to say they should do what we want? For example, of course Link wants to move his feet while he is tied - he is a high-energy prey animal who feels compelled to move his feet. Rather than disciplining him, I can work on relaxing him - body and mind - through different exercises, and thus he stands tied as a result of said relaxation. You solve the root issue. On the other hand, S never did hurt Link and he should be exercised this winter while I am gone. I sort of decided though to see if it works out (S still has to agree to sign a couple waivers - from me and from the barn) - if it does, it does, if it does not, it does not. I also have someone interested in Link coming out tomorrow who sounds promising. Despite the rush (I leave Saturday and essentially will not be home the next few months), she still wants to see and ride Link.

Anyway! I am prattling on a bit.

Today's lesson on Link went quite well, and I was quite pleased for Link to do a number of things S had said (after her first ride on him, before he was warmed up or working up to his full potential) he would not be able to do yet due to where he was at and the type of bit I use (Myler/Parelli C3 Cradle bit). Link was a little sluggish in our lesson at first, but K had me do a number of transitions. It only took a couple before Link was raring to go and was tearing up the rail, lol. We actually succeeded at almost really revving him up too much, just through the use of transitions! Haha. What a sensitive horse! We did some work that involved directional leg cues as well, such as spiraling in and out on a circle at the trot - he was very very light and responded with barely a brush of my leg. On the rail I asked for some extension at the trot and got a lot of controlled power! I could feel his hips and shoulders swinging and the push from behind as he pushed forward - it was fantastic!! It was like sitting on a powerful bike and revving the engine, lol. He was very forward, very on the bit (he just grabbed the contact, but without leaning), and tracking up! K put us over some trot poles, which Link definitely seemed to enjoy. Contrary to what we thought, he was completely calm with the poles - no shying whatsoever. I thought he would be okay but wasn't quite sure. I could feel him questioning me a little here and there as we approached the trotting poles however I gave him his head and he was reaching down, lengthening, adjusting his stride as appropriate (especially if he made a mistake - he made sure to correct it next time over the rails), and was rhythmic! He was fantastic - I think he even surprised K a little, hehehe. We did a little work on canter, but after a couple tries he was just too revved up to do more, so we called it a day there. He tried to counter-canter on both leads today - HAH! We picked up the correct lead to the left and quit while we're ahead. I think tomorrow I'll work a little on suppling as well, as much as I can. I have someone else interested in riding Link coming out tomorrow afternoon, so we'll see how that goes and how much I can get in! Although our canter was not the greatest today, I was SO proud of Link today - it was our best session yet in many respects and he seemed to really enjoy it too. SO! Riding tomorrow, another lesson Thursday, and then I will see if I can ride him Friday or not (though if possible and if things turn out that way, I will just get the new rider to ride Link that day so that I can watch them work). Wish us luck ;)

I also have someone coming out to ride Koolaid tomorrow, and another asking to come out Friday (we'll see). I think I might still have someone to lease him come January if I do not find anyone this usual, we'll see. Hopefully everything falls into place to both ours and the horses' benefits.

Silver and Cody, poor guys, are going to have to sit on the back-burner over the winter - come spring I will make a point of riding both of them more (Cody especially). I love those guys and cannot wait to have our own property so that I have more time to at least just dote on my boys. I miss my boys and feel bad I do not have all the time in the world for them at the moment. So now let me go on about another horse I wish to add to my herd. I know, I am crazy, and I do realise how this sounds! But things will be better time-wise when we have our horses at home and right now it feels right to concentrate on my riding career and thus the horses who will take me there, at this time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Playing at liberty = relaxation

The following got me thinking (don't ask me why this one and not the millions of other similar ones I have seen, lol) I should maybe be doing more liberty work with Link on the ground to get him further relaxed. Just look at how relaxed and supple that horse is!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Wieeell, looks like Koolaid might be leased out for sure, though I won't have confirmation for another day or so. I also had someone (we'll call her S) come in and try Link out today! She was quite soft and gentle with him and while I felt she had a lot more experience behind her than I, there were a few other ideas/training thoughts she had that I wasn't sure about/didn't agree with. However, I did not feel that any of it was harmful to his training/health/well-being. I threw a million-and-one questions at my instructor today though and asked for some good dressage books to read ;)

Link worked well today, though I only rode him for about 15 min after a couple minutes of groundwork (during which he cantered nicely in either direction!). He was fairly relaxed, though not fully of course after only 15 minutes of warm-up, lol. We did a little canter as well - Link actually picked up the RIGHT lead again on the LEFT rein! Haha. He picked up the right lead on the right rein too, which was fabulous. I just need to work on suppling him on both sides equally now, as his left was a little stiff again. It was nice seeing Link work from the ground though today, as I was able to see a bit how he was crooked, but also how far along he is coming. S did well on him though he did not loosen up quite as much with her. I felt a bit disappointed after S rode him though, as she did not really give neither me nor Link much credit when he did not work as well for her as he does for me. Furthermore, we're both still learning and he's in the basic stages of being developed yet as I get into the dressage realm of things. Ah *sigh* I felt better after talking to K (albeit just a little), lol.

Mom had a lesson on Sonny today and both did fantastic together! Lots of w/t, including some trot where both parties were relaxed and where Sonny looked great ;)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The joys of ambidextrous horses

I've been feeling a little uninspired to write about our horses as of late, especially since I mostly babble about the same things each time, lol. So I'll just stick to a brief synopsis.

I have been showing Koolaid to a few prospective lessees as of late and spent the wee hours of this morning completing a 5 page in-depth contract, lol. I'm pretty laid back however I still just wanted to cover all my bases and have documented insurance to protect myself, Koolaid, and any potential lessee ;)

Link has been doing extremely well, including in today's lesson. However K has come to the conclusion that it seems I have an ambidextrous horse whom I will have to almost literally TIME as I work him in each direction, to make sure that I never unintentionally over-work one side and cause him to be one-sided, since this is so easily done. Lol. Proof? We were having trouble getting him to loosen up and bend his ribcage on the right rein, which was causing him to pick up the left lead going to the right. So, over a few sessions, I worked him extra hard on that side - longer trot sessions on the right rein, lots of bending to that side, the point where he was picking up his right lead without trouble. Don't get me wrong, he still has to work extra hard to canter to the right, however he was so soft and supple to that side and was picking up that lead rather easily! Today, however, he picked up his RIGHT lead when I asked him to canter on the LEFT rein!! What the heck!! LOL. We did some bending exercises and actually found him LESS supple on his LEFT side today!!!! Lmao. SO, I'll have to work slightly harder on his left side, but will have to otherwise keep in mind to just work everything equally (as I was previously). Why do I pick horses who make me work harder than necessary?!! On that note though, we obtained some absolutely beautiful canter to the right today (on the correct lead of course, with only a few tries at it); he was soft and supple, relaxed, balancing himself, rhythmic - he just felt so awesome!!! He was even tracking up nicely at the trot at times ;) Last Saturday I also worked Link in the outdoor arena while the ranch rodeo was going on in the indoor arena. Save for a lot of excess energy and a few sharp lost-his-head moments (where he returned to focus literally 3 seconds later, on a loose rein), he worked beautifully, including picking up the right lead to the right - easily and first try. I need to get him going on some other things though - Parelli Patterns, hacks outside, etc - to keep him from getting bored though.

Mom had a lesson on Sonny today as well and both did well, though Sonny was a little spunkier than necessary at the beginning of the lesson, lol. They have another lesson set up for Thursday, which is fantastic for both!

Missy seems to be doing ok in her new home - I finally spoke to the new owners and though they seem happy with her, they have had a few minor snags with her (she being a young horse and their being not so experienced). I offered them some advice; hopefully they will stick to it and will take up the lessons I advised them to! Missy very clearly loves their daughter though, so if they give her the chance (as I've said before) and stick to a lesson program, that horse will make a great partner for their daughter :)

Otherwise, I think that's it to report!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lesson mania

Link and I had a lesson both last Thursday and today. Last lesson he did very well - we worked on getting him very supple first prior to asking for the canter. To the left he did great, but to the right, we only got the correct lead the first time, when we "surprised" him. K (my instructor) left me with some new exercises to do with Link (such as changing bends down a centerline) and some stuff to work on (such as having him canter to the right on-line on the ground).

Yesterday was my first chance to work with Link since returning home from work; we started with our couple minutes of groundwork, as usual, including some canter. He picked up the correct lead on a 22-24' circle and balanced himself pretty well going to the left, but had a lot of trouble picking up his lead to the right (he'd either cross-fire or just counter-canter). Finally he did pick it up though and we ended there to take up our under-saddle work. Under-saddle, I primarily worked on suppling and relaxing Link throughout his body, both sides...particularly on the right side. We worked a lot on strengthening the right side as well - lots of trot. Lots of bending and relaxation at the trot before calling it a day. We finished by cooling out at liberty (including trotting some patterns - long side of the arena inclusive), which was pretty fun! Even down the long sides of the arena he was great and responsive to my seat - he didn't pick up too much speed. We even did some leg yield at the trot at liberty!! It's a challenge for me to figure out how to tell him to leg yield without any reins to use, but we managed to get a few steps here and there in each direction. K has also pointed out that as we continue working I'll use less rein to get him bent and more leg instead (like I do with Silver). At first I didn't really realize I use much rein - and I don't, the rein I use is primarily supportive, but I use more rein than I would on say Silver, for a bend. So I think the ultimate would be to practise some of these things (bend, leg yields, etc) at liberty - with no rein. Maybe if we take that rein away every once in awhile I will learn how to communicate with him effectively and he will learn what I am asking and to be responsive, without the supportive rein. We'll try it out ;)

Today Link's circling game was fabulous - he picked up the correct lead to the right 100 percent of the time and only cross-fired a couple of times. His left lead was fine. So, progress! I'll keep working him on the ground on the small circles as well, to help teach him to balance himself at the canter. Under-saddle, K had me work on some relaxed trot with Link as well as some spiraling in and out at the trot. I am finally figuring out how to communicate to Link that I want him to stay bent, not fall in, and still spiral. Lol. We picked up a nice canter to the left rather easily (he is really learning to keep his mind relaxed and not get so wound up when we pick up speed!), and picked up the correct lead to the right after a couple of tries! The best part was that he remained pretty relaxed - after I figured out I could use my outside rein to slow him down and forget about bend, hehehe. We took a couple of spins around the arena (achieving some amazing relaxation, suppleness, and even frame, complete with some tracking up) before calling it quits on the canter. Poor guy had to work pretty hard going to the right though, but he did well and tried his hardest for me. K mentioned that he seemed to be expecting pain going to his right - like he used to hurt when he cantered to the right and is expecting the same to happen now; then as he canters, he realizes that he's ok, that it doesn't hurt, and he relaxes. So, the more we canter to the right and the more he is relaxed (and pain-free), the more we'll improve. I think too this new saddle suits him better as well - he does not swish his tail at all anymore and there's no more uber-elevation/buck when he canters. Meanwhile probably our biggest challenge is teaching Link he can move forward - he is so used to being held back that when he gets excited, he just gets elevated and shortens his stride (at the trot, he basically does a peanut-pusher trot, lol) - even if I have left the reins loose. So now it's to teach the racehorse to have impulsion, stretch out, and move forward (lol) - relaxedly. We're getting there! Today we also obtained some good extended trot strides as well. Anyways, today was some awesome success and I am looking forward to working hard for our next lesson on Tuesday.

While Link allowed me to walk right up to him today, he didn't seem so keen on the halter (he initially walked away when he saw it), so I guess it's time for me to get off my lazy butt and do some fun stuff with him - like progressing his groundwork (keeping his mind engaged) and taking him out for some hacks in the nearby fields. I wish we could do some riding in the mountains or something as well! Obviously though he needs more incentive to want to work with me (though he already does so much), so we'll have to work even harder at our partnership.

On another note, I haven't had much chance to work with Cody yet, but it looks like I might have a couple of weeks off here - so I will be using the time to work with both Cody and Link (and get some things caught up around home of course!).

I looked at an un-started 3yo Dutch Warmblood x TB mare and although I really liked her, we have decided not to purchase her. I just really don't want another horse on my plate right now, unless she is great. This mare is really nice and could be great, but it will be a long while before we can fully tell. She's a little light of bone, especially in her legs, and seems more suited as an eventer than a show-jumper. In the mean time, a lot of money would go into a filly we still have to have registered and whom I won't have the time and such to work with until at least next March, if not later in the year. There is a warmblood sale in March, so unless I see something that really catches my eye before then, I will attend the sale and see what I come up with there! Apparently good-quality, registered mares (about the equivalent of the mare I just mentioned) went for $1000 at this fall's sale. So I'll put some money aside and hopefully will spot something even better at the spring sale. We'll see, but in the mean time I have Link to concentrate on.

In another direction, I actually have someone coming out to see Koolaid tomorrow, and another on Sunday. I am currently looking to lease him out to someone, as I just don't have the time to put into him right now (I'd rather invest my time into Link and maybe another mare who has the potential to take me to the top, at this point). When we have our own property it will be different, because I don't have to spend time and gas to hang out with him and take him for the occasional spin - having our horses on our own property though could be while yet. Until then, I would love for someone to have the opportunity to learn on him and to excel on him - he gets used and is kept in shape, is loved, and the rider has a great opportunity... rather than him spending his time in a pasture. So, we'll see, as I am going to be pretty picky - they have to be good people who will treat him well. I'm not just going to send him on his way if it is not in his best interests :) Man, I would love for someone to even just keep Link at his current level while I am away through Dec, Jan, and Feb too, however I think it would be hard to find someone willing to take the time (who wants to take the time) and who has the patience and skill to not ruin what we've got so far. So we'll sort of be re-starting a bit when we start up again in March, but such is life!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holding my breath

Link seemed a bit tired today, but still gave his all and seemed maybe a little more supple to the right than he was yesterday? I tried him out in the double-jointed loose-ring Happy Mouth and while he did well (c'mon, he's Link, hehehe), he didn't do as well as he normally does in the C3 cradle bit (less resistance, more flexion, softer mouth in the C3). We worked on some extended trot (got several strides!), patterns, leg yields, sitting trot, and canter. His canter was okay but pretty speedy and thus also unbalanced; he did pick up the right lead though after a couple tries(!!), which is something we couldn't get yesterday. Tomorrow I think though we will work on more suppleness, softness, and responsiveness, particularly laterally....I think it will help our canter more than doing more actual canter tomorrow ;)

By the time I was finished with Link, the people who came to see Missy the other day (yes, Dad and family) arrived to try Missy out again. This time I let them do everything themselves, from catching her to riding her, to get a more thorough idea of her. Daughter #1 did great on her (90% of the time, a couple times she wasn't sure what to do), and Dad did great for awhile - especially since both were basically green. After awhile though Dad got a little frustrated because he was having trouble getting impulsion out of Missy. He was busy claiming she must be tired ("so soon!" he exclaimed disappointingly) when I offered to try. The minute I got on she felt fresh and we trotted, did transitions, halts, sidepass, and turns on the hind. I had to (nicely) explain to him that it wasn't her - it was him. He had to be light, ask in phases, do some exercises, and 'reward little' sometimes. He actually did manage to get off his high horse and admit that maybe, just maybe, it was him, and not Missy. Missy was doing fabulous! It had nothing to do with her! Anyways, he hmm'd and haw'd and finally decided to sleep on a decision. On one hand, he wasn't sure if Missy had enough get-up-and-go, but on the other hand, he knew he could trust Missy with his daughter. I explained to him too that as Missy is further developed (through consistent work), she'll develop more get-up-and-go too, she'll have the impulsion when needed, but that lessons would be of great benefit in the mean time to teach both rider and horse. Personally, I think she will be perfect for the daughter - she'll take care of her and she will have enough energy (she already does, the two just need to learn to work together as a team - something they have a good start at). Don't think the guy didn't try to talk our price down though! He would already have been getting Missy for a steal at the price she was advertised at, but refused to pay a penny more than much less than we were asking. I told him I'd talk to the owner, then left to let him sweat it out ;) A couple hours later he called me back saying he'd like to buy her, but that he still wouldn't go above his price. I pondered what to do, but finally decided to cave. We need Missy gone and holding onto her longer might just mean we end up dropping her price even further, meanwhile sinking even more money into her - we can't do it. Plus, I am only going to have less and less time here, to the point where she eventually wouldn't be worked with at all. Dad demanded too that he have Missy's breeding certificate (etc) so that she could be registered, so I passed him along to the owner. Of course she should be registered, but the man is getting a steal even if she were just grade! Anyway, at least Missy is going to what I think will be a well-intentioned home where she will be doted on by a young girl. The rest, the man can deal with through the owner - I am simply the trainer and negotiator for the deal :) Man, selling horses is's almost a full-time job on its own! Hopefully I can count her as sold though; I am holding my breath until the money is actually in my hands, lol.

Sorry if this (from some, to all, of it) is not all that coherent...I blame lack of sleep. Tomorrow is another full day, though slightly more laid back. At least I only have my own horses to work tomorrow (Link and maybe Cody). And I should probably go write my Class 4...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dressage brilliance and REALLY annoying (read: idiotic) horse buyers

Well it's the end of another long day and I am eager for those clean sheets, so this will be quick!

I missed the chance to work with any of the horses Saturday, as I ended up stuck in town. Yesterday though I had some prospective buyers interested in Missy and so had her ready for 3pm. My intention had been to work Missy in front of them, work Link before 5pm (feed time), then maybe even work with Cody a little. Well 3pm rolled around and the people wanting to see Missy had not shown up or even bothered to call. She still needed to be worked though, so I put her through her paces both on the ground (just the usual stuff) and under-saddle - w/t/c (her canter is getting a lot better!!!), leg yields, bends (she gave me some amazingly light and loose bends!!), etc. She had a LOT of impulsion, so I had a lot to work with, a lot of clay I could mould, so to speak ;) At ten to four, the people (we'll call them Dad and family) finally called - they'd lost my number. They were nearby and wanted to see Missy? No apology or anything of course. Of course though I said yes, and Missy and I cooled out and waited for them. When they arrived, they seemed surprised she had already been worked. Well, yea. My life does not (*gasp*) revolve around you and I still have horses to work. So they switched saddles (they wanted to ride her western) and all clambered aboard, one at a time: dad first, then daughter #1 (the one in need of a horse), then daughter #2. I have to say this: Missy did awesome. Dad definitely alluded to knowing more than he did; not only did he not know any correct terms (for example, he asked me if she "sat back on her feet"...he meant "does she collect"), he asked all the textbook questions you would ask from reading a book rather than through experience, and his equitation was lacking. That's okay, we all learn at our own pace however I need a buyer to be honest and up-front with their skill level, so I can ensure a successful match. Then he proceeded to tell me Missy was not trained as much as he'd like. SHE'S A GREEN HORSE! I TOLD YOU AS MUCH!! IF YOU WANT A FINISHED HORSE, BUY A FINISHED HORSE, NOT A GREEN HORSE! Don't expect some poor green horse to be finished. My horses take time, but they come out good horses. Better horses than the ones who are forced into frames and over-loaded with expectations and piss-poor training lacking in a strong foundation. Besides, SHE WALKED, SHE TROTTED (endlessly, I might add), SHE CANTERED (ALSO endlessly, and on the CORRECT lead each time), SHE SIDEPASSED (something she has just learned to near-perfect), SHE TURNED ON THE HIND. She backed, she did everything a green horse with her (limited) level of training is supposed to do. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A GREEN HORSE?! Apparently she was not "trained enough" because she was not "reined". Yup, "not reined" means "she doesn't neck rein". A dressage horse does not neck rein. *Ahem* a GREEN dressage horse does not neck rein. Neck reining, I point out, is NOT something I teach a green horse. It is something that just comes as you "finish" a horse in a curb bit (because you're riding one-handed). It is definitely not something that I expect or even ask for out of a green horse. You're just going to end up with a confused and stiff horse. The other reason she wasn't "trained enough"? She does not fully collect. May I insert a newsflash here? She's GREEN. Collection is something that is developed with TIME. It does not come with about 90 SPORADIC days on a horse (which they were aware of). You have to be working with them consistently. Then he has the GALL to tell me her trot is rough. Just as we watch Daughter #1 float past at a beautiful trot. I made sure to make it clear her trot was NOT rough. You know why it felt rough to Dad? Equitation. No offense, but don't walk in here and treat me disrespectfully, pretending to know ALL, and act like my horse is not properly trained or worth the pitiful amount we are asking for her. ESPECIALLY when I have had dressage professionals walk in here and really like her, compliment her gaits, and be impressed with where she is at, particularly with how little time this year I have had to devote to her. The fact that Missy carted around all three family members, at all three gaits, BEAUTIFULLY and without complaint (she worked for TWO hours between my working her and their working her), I think says a lot. She tried her best and worked very well for them, particularly for the 13yo daughter. For a green horse, she really wowed me - she acted like a finished horse, especially since she was under green riders. Anyway, I do make this sound worse than it actually was - Daughter #1 got along fabulously with Missy and though I didn't care all that much for Dad, Mom was fantastic and the daughters were great with the mare. Also, I know if Missy went to them that she WOULD be going to a home where she was well-cared for and she wouldn't be abused. I was still pretty irked at Dad though - the gall! Anyway, by the time I was finished with them, it was past feed time and I couldn't pull Link away from his food (not when I wouldn't have much time to feed him afterward and he cannot afford to miss a meal!), so catering to Missy's prospects meant I missed out on working with Link - which only served to piss me off further. Missy's awesome-ness did cheer me up though. I keep calling her green, but she has really almost crossed the line into "broke-with-basics-horse", or "young-but-solid-and-with-experience-horse". Now, really she is just a young horse who needs further developing.

Today I commenced the day with another dressage lesson on Link. His trot was fantabulous today - absolutely amazing. My sitting trot was also really good. We started off with a sitting trot, something I have never been able to do on him (because I was too stiff and because he was always so hollow, making it even more difficult for me) at the very beginning of a session! We continued it for a good 15 minutes or so, which felt absolutely incredible. Later we also worked on some extended trot (which was really neat to feel beneath me, it was crazy!) as well as some canter! His canter transitions were much better today than last time even, and my seat was a little better for him (I lose my seat credibility at the faster trot as he moves up into the canter). Also, his canter was calmer all-round - so calm we actually cantered down the long side of the arena!!! When I first got him, he was not even safe to ride - forget about trotting down the long side! Now, he trots down the long side, but I didn't think he was ready to canter down the long side - I was wrong!! He had a lot of trouble picking up his right lead (he never did get it this time around) because his barrel was too stiff on that side, but he definitely tried his heart out for me. Man, I am impressed: we both did very well today. I have another lesson Thursday before leaving for work over the weekend (should be back either Sunday or Monday), so I am looking forward to working with Link tomorrow and Wednesday prior to our next lesson!

I admit, I went home for a nap before returning to the horses (lol): I brought in Cody and helped mom prepare for her lesson on Sonny (who did very well for her, I must add - both did very great today, and in a dressage saddle nonetheless!). While she rode in her lesson, I took Cody out for some liberty work - we did all 7 games quickly, including the circling game at liberty (I actually got him to circle in close to me in either direction today), before returning to the arena. Poor guy was pretty stressed out though. I had initialy, after catching him, jogged him from his paddock to the barn, saddled him up, then taken him into the arena. Too much for the poor little guy - he was really nervous. Normally I work with him on the ground first before tacking him up, so he was pretty uptight to be saddled up first - I think it just made him wonder what was going on and what was going to happen to him. The liberty work helped though, and we rode around in the arena (doing nothing much, just some really basic stuff and transitions) for about 45 min, until the end of Mom's lesson. By the end, Cody felt relaxed-ish, so I was happy. I didn't feel the need to really work him, as he had done well and I didn't need to push him too far today. He felt really good today - he is always super sensitive and responsive, but it was so nice having him trot off when I simply "lifted my energy" (NO leg), and stopping when I "drained all my energy". It was pretty neat!

Sorry for the vent, but people can be frustrating at times!

Last but not least, I had to get Missy ready for some other individuals to see her: the lady trying her out was doing so for a friend, who is coming down on Wednesday to see Missy. I got Missy warmed up - she had a lot of impulsion but was not bending much or anything within the first 10 minutes (but I usually don't ask for much from her at all for the first 10-15min so she can just relax and warm up) but she did w/t/c (as well as jumping some jumps on the ground first, before riding). First thing Lady does before getting up into the saddle? She puts spurs on. Why? No idea. Missy had a ton of impulsion and I had a dressage whip to wave at her to get her to move off my leg (of course though I wasn't being as assertive in that respect yet because she'd only been working about 10 minutes so was still warming up). I let it be though, because I wanted her to give a good report back to her friend, who is the real one interested in Missy (she has a daughter in Pony Club). This woman used to be an eventer but was now into the dressage and this woman's ride was nothing like that of the dressage professionals that came out to see Missy awhile ago, the women who were clearly knowledgeable and classical-ly dressage based. This woman boasted to me how she works her horses hard and over short sessions: she used to do 20min sessions but now does 10 minutes of medium work. What horse can actually work, or, really, should be worked, hard, in 10 minutes?! Where is the respect for the horse?! It takes that long just to get warmed up! Of course, she (inadvertedly) showed me what those ten minutes look like (albeit a bit longer because she was trying out Missy): forcefully push horse into frame using spurs and hard hands? Check. I have to add that the frame she pushed Missy into was very artificial - Missy was behind the vertical much of the time, strung out behind for the most part, and working with her nose to her chest - hyperflexed - during some of the time. Push horse through every maneuver possible? Check. Kick horse with spurs when she doesn't understand/respond? Check. Pull back on reins at the canter in an effort to push horse into frame, thereby causing horse to think she should slow, which she does, then get kicked with spurs for? Check check. Pop mare in the head when she turns to have her face rubbed? Check. As terrible as I make it sound, it wasn't quite so bad. It was really just the normal horse world, from my experience in it. I felt bad for Missy, but I didn't want to say anything (and I was a little taken aback, I mean, the woman was checking her out as a Pony Club prospect!!). I would never let Missy go to a home like this, however she wasn't going home with this lady anyway. It wasn't abuse either, just not how I handle or work my horses - I did not feel it was fair or "nice" to Missy, but she wasn't really being "hurt" and our training was not going to digress with only one poor session. Missy bared with everything so well and tried so hard. On the other hand, I hope I made the right decision tonight in allowing this particular woman to continue riding Missy for as long as she did. I did feel pretty upset and pretty bad for Missy - that mare did so well today and didn't show any attitude whatsoever, despite being forced into a lot. I almost would have expected her to act out a little - and I would not have blamed her had she done so. Anyway. I think tomorrow will be a light day for her, just some moseying around and being spoiled. She deserves it after the last two days!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, for a week or so anyways, then I am off again. However so far I seem to be on a very productive roll ;) I spent an entire day driving yesterday - I left camp at 8am and did not arrive home until 2am. In between driving, I had to stop in at base and drop off (after fueling and washing) my work truck, trading it for my own truck... do a quick interview and sign all appropriate paperwork for a side-job... round up cattle and wait to help load... then, uh, more driving! In total, I spent a good solid 11 hours or so dedicated solely to driving. Phew!

I had hoped/planned to be home yesterday early enough that I could work both Link and Missy, but obviously that did not happen, thanks to work. I was up bright and early this morning though for my dressage lesson on Link. I have to admit, I really did have to - no lie, drag myself out of bed. After only 5 hours of sleep after a 19-hour day the previous day, the thought certainly did flit across my mind (*ahem* - briefly) to cancel my lesson. Link warmed up well and was fairly prepared for our lesson by the time our instructor arrived. He did very well today, though he had a ton of energy. We let him move out some (trot), just to burn off the edge, before asking him for bends, circles, and leg yields. No canter today, as he wouldn't have been able to handle it emotionally! He was not as responsive to me in general today because he was so focused on all that pent-up energy, however he was still pretty responsive (he just made me work a little harder today, lol) and did very well in general. He settled into a nice 'frame' where he was starting to round a bit and where he was hanging his head in a nice position. K, my instructor, called him a "cat" though because for a large part of our lesson, he just coiled up all his energy and became super elevated. It was hilarious and it felt like I was riding a spring ;) We actually got in quite a bit of sitting trot today though, which was fantastic for both of us. I am looking forward to working him tomorrow and Sunday prior to our lesson Monday! Best of all, he's actually developing some topline already.

I had to jet off afterward but returned awhile later to work Missy. By this time I was falling asleep, but I somehow resisted the urge to both sleep and become frustrated and grumpy (which tends to occur easily when I am that tired, lol). Missy actually had a ton of impulsion today, even playing around a little on the 12' line during our 7 games. I even had her play her squeeze game over a couple barrels I laid out; it took a few jumps in either direction before she found her rhythm, but once she did she was sailing over them with very nice form. Under-saddle she maintained that impulsion for the most part - I even let her blow off some steam just by trotting her out at first. We played some impulsion exercises as well, to both maintain and mold that impulsion into what we wanted. Afterward we worked more on bending and leg yields. A couple times she really surprised me by being really light. With every horse the key is to find what motivates them (in this case, as it pertains to lightness) and work with that. All horses respond to general "rewards" such as rest and a partnership with their rider, but some horses are motivated moreso than others in some areas. We worked on a lot of trot exercises; she was rounding and starting to balance herself quite well - our job now is just to balance the impulsion with the rest. For example, when I ask her to bend (outside rein, inside leg), she tends to slow, so the key will be to teach her to maintain her impulsion while doing all these exercises - responding to my leg, etc. Essentially, teaching her to multi-task. Strength - conditioning - will also play a role in this of course. Once we have that, I think her trot really will be all set and mostly balanced and rhythmic. We did do some leg yields today as well - while they were not all that rhythmic, she got the job done and was responsive. She's trying her best to learn and to figure out what it is I want, so I had to give her a lot of credit today - she tried really hard! Lastly, we tackled some canter. I have been neglecting her canter as of late as we focus on the trot, but she felt good enough under me today to work on some canter as well. She did excellent, picking up the canter in either direction, on the correct lead, and even balancing (mostly) herself on a 20m circle!! At first she did crossfire and pick up the incorrect leads, but I think it was partially (or even wholly) because of me. I have a tendency to sit forward when asking for the canter, which puts my weight right on the horse's forehand, and I was so stiff trying to keep her together (which really wasn't necessary, I would have accomplished much more had I just relaxed, lol) that I wasn't even positioning myself in such a way that would enable or encourage her to pick up the correct lead. Once I fixed myself, she cantered beautifully. So, a good day! I was pretty proud of the girl, because she had a lot of energy today and had not been worked in a good week and a half? Somewhere around there. She worked just as if she hadn't had a day off, perhaps even better ;) I will continue to work her every day I am home until I leave so that she has some consistency...I have people coming out to look at her both this weekend and next week, so she should be good and ready :)

As much as I wanted to work with Cody today, I still had a number of things to get done at home, was tired, and didn't want to pull him away from his hay (I know, excuses). So I settled for petting him and scratching his chin, which he seemed to enjoy anyway :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Workout with the boys

Back home again! Unfortunately I can only stay home a couple days before heading out to work for a couple of weeks. I have finally come to the realization that I may not get in as much time with my horses this winter as I had anticipated or hoped for. Right now I am trying to cater to my new employers a little - gotta pay the bills.

Missy got in a good, albeit short, session today in the rope hackamore and western saddle; she worked pretty well, especially after some initial work. I was really assertive with her today, despite people being in the arena (lol), which made all the difference! She had impulsion, some balance even, a good walk, and a good stop on her. I will probably ride her english tomorrow (the A/P fits her better), though I'm not sure whether to put her in the hackamore or the cradle bit. We'll see :)

One of the boarders permitted me to ride her mare (she wanted another opinion on how the mare was riding), who is a lot like Silver. She was brilliant to ride though and it was so nice to ride a finished horse! I get so used to riding all these greenies that it is just a real treat to ride something at a higher level, lol. This mare was about the same level as Silver, though she's had some real reining training, so she was definitely better in those areas (stop, quick back, spins, etc). I think I could bring Silver up to that level, which is kind of day! For now, I'll work on bringing Cody on up to that level, time permitting :)

Next, Link and I had our dressage lesson; he did very well! I started him off with some liberty work (a little rough, he wasn't quite focused on me but he was starting to get there at the end) in the roundpen as well as his 7 games, at which he obviously did great (got to move him back up into the patterns again and get us progressing there!). He was quite calm and relaxed, though I didn't get much warm-up time prior to the lesson. He had a lot more rhythm in his trot today and was rounding up sooner. We didn't do any collection or lateral work, but K had me do some exercises and work on Link's canter (which is much like how his trot used to be - very rushed). We had trouble picking up the right lead, so I had to remember to position my shoulder and hips correctly (inside hip and shoulders ahead), as well as to sit back!! I know I do this a lot, but initially without realising it; today it really sunk in that I've been doing this for awhile, as I reflected back, when K pointed out that I sit forward when asking for the transition. Say on Silver or something I wouldn't, or even Koolaid. Not good, because then you make it more difficult for the horse to lift its front end and pick up a balanced canter on the correct lead. Anyway, no worries, but it is something I will keep in mind now :) She had me sit back more while still staying light, and Link and I eventually worked out the canter in both directions, on the correct leads - fantastilicious. We also worked on my sitting trot, which can be quite messy (eep!). I can keep it pretty good in a western saddle, but english is somewhat different because you're trying to sit back and deep while still keeping your legs back and the rest of your equitation in order... and in this case, on a tight-backed horse. I can do it easily once I get a horse balanced, in rhythm, and engaging from behind, but soon as they hollow, my sitting trot goes to shit. Plus I like to be as light on a hollow/young horse's back anyways, so I have never really worked on my sitting trot. But, now I obviously have to, lol. Link and I figured it out pretty good though by the end of the lesson, though of course I still need more work, particularly when he is hollow. I need to get some weight on the guy though! He has lost all the weight, maybe even more, that I had put on him while he was with me on the ranch. Winter blanket (to prevent shivering), beat pulp mashes daily whenever I am home, and a roundbale in his pasture are all in order. Hopefully he keeps some okay weight this winter; I am growing weary already of having to deal with such a hard keeper, but obviously it is worth it :) The best part of my day, besides a great lesson? Walking into the barn later, after working Cody, to see Link's head pop over the stall door and whinny at me several times :)

Cody was next up and while he still did great, we were not quite as great as some of our last sessions - this time though we were unable to do any liberty work in the roundpen (too dark), which I think was the reason for the difference. We did do our 7 games though, at which he was fabulous, even transitioning down from a trot in the circling game when I so much as relaxed my body (I never had to even lift the stick to direct him to slow)!!! He's so perceptive - I love it! Under-saddle though he was a little less willing to trust me; he started off by moving out immediately as soon as I swung my leg over, with a strong desire to really move his feet. At first I did let him trot out, which seemed to help him a little, but it still didn't get him relaxed and trusting in me like I wanted of him. Shortly thereafter I ended up taking the bridle off and just working him in his rope halter under-saddle, to work on the basics. I knew I should be working in the rope hackamore, but I had gotten a little greedy because he was so good, lol. He's got a lot of intermediate skills and so I was skating a bit on that, but he needs to build up more of a solid foundation yet before moving on to the bit, especially since he does like such a droop in the rein. So, today we worked a little on transitions and stops, but mostly on our three-part maneuver (turn on the hind/fore, bend to a stop), sidepass, and leg aids. All the basic stuff. He did well, but not as excellent as previous sessions, so I decided to finally just end on a good note. I just couldn't get him to really relax and trust me, which was really hampering us. I did, however do a little carrot stick riding and got a couple really good spins out of him! So it's in there, lol, I just have to work on developing it. He was pretty nervous about my riding with that carrot stick but I feel he did alright...all the work we have been doing is really paying off, as he is developing more curiosity. I hate when curiosity has been beaten out of a horse - he's scared to check things out because he is terrified of the consequences of doing so, and it can be a little difficult to re-teach a horse to be curious, especially an introvert like Cody. Slowly though he does seem to be becoming a little more extroverted, which is great to see :) Last note before I take off for bed is that I also had Cody leading by his mane, forelock, front and hind legs, and tail again ;) We also did some extensions of the circling game, including transitions (as previously mentioned), changes in direction, and traveling circle - all of which he caught on rather quickly. Now just to get him started on those patterns...

I will hopefully have the chance to post here tomorrow after another session with the boys (provided I am not having to travel up to work tomorrow evening and/no have no internet access up there), but if not, see ya in two weeks!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cody: liberty video

Just a quick update of today's goings-ons. Brief because I need my sleep and I am finally packed up and ready to go up to Edmonton tomorrow for a new job. Unfortunately today I didn't get back from Red Deer until later and only had time today to check in on the boys :S

seemed maybe slightly better (health-wise) today, but definitely no worse (and very perky!) and he had been I turned him out. I am pretty sure he is fine :) He seemed pretty keen on taking off once I had him in his pasture, but he actually took a couple of moments to visit with me after I removed the halter before walking off, rather than spurting off like I expected (and like he acted, lol)!! I hardly dare to say it, but I think he might be coming around and turning a new leaf!

I had removed Cody's halter yesterday and although he initially walked off today, after I pushed him away from me he turned back around and walked right back up to me, allowing me to rub his head, etc! He was slightly suspicious still, but definitely enjoyed the rub, especially when I hit a sweet spot under his jaw, lol.

The following is a video of Cody's and my liberty work yesterday! As I said yesterday, he wasn't as in tune with me yesterday as he had been the day prior, but he was still fantastic to work with! As you can see, any time he decided he'd rather not work with me (like when his buddies walked past us to his pen, lol), I pressured him off, then whenever he decided he wanted to come in (for the most part), I let him in to create more draw. It's a delicate balance and I am still working on things with him, trying to balance draw and drive, but we're getting there :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strangles scare

Well the afternoon was commenced with a work on Missy. I had intended to take her out on the trails but our roundpen liberty work ended up being carried over into riding and I just felt it more appropriate to continue our session in the roundpen than on the trails. Her groundwork was ok, with her coming in to me regularly, but her draw was not strong enough to circle me or such - if I asked her to move out, she was gone. Yet when I asked her to come in, she would come in, though she was not as in tune with me as say Cody was yesterday. I'd have to make it very obvious to her that I wanted her in, as she was somewhat focused on the great outdoors outside of the (outdoor) roundpen! Needless to say, it was a bit frustrating! I think next roundpen session I will work her a little harder to get her attention, but this time I took it a little easier on her - w/t/c though (and she picked up the correct leads!). I figured it out too after watching the Parelli Lead Changes DVD; horses will often crossfire because they are not balanced sufficiently and are not wide-stanced in their hindquarter. Linda explains it much better than I, so I'll have to go over my notes, lol. So when a horse is injured or such and cannot have a wide stance, they will also crossfire. Though Missy is not really "injured" and she certainly was not lame on the leg she banged up awhile ago, I could tell - because I knew her movement, that she was slightly off on that leg. So my theory is that the injury did have an effect (which I had been suspicious about) - she wasn't standing wide because she didn't want to bear so much weight and impact on that sore leg and thus was crossfiring. It wasn't noticeable, except for its effects - the crossfire. Anyways, as her leg heals, she seems to be able to pick up her leads easier as well. Much of it is likely just a balance issue as well. Not that we've been working on it much, but I have had her canter on the ground a bit and she has been picking it up alright lately. She is starting to balance herself a little, though she is still having issues balancing herself with the weight of a rider. Anyways. Under-saddle she was ok at first, but it took a bit for me to earn her respect before she was really responsive. At first she simply walked through my aids, but we trotted (transitions, point to point, etc) and did a little canter, really working on impulsion (in the trot), and eventually she started responding beautifully, to the point where I didn't have to use reins to direct her or have her transition. It was beautiful! It took a lot of painstaking work to get there (lol) but we did it and ended on a good note, with her sappily snuggling into my arm for a rub, as usual (*roll eyes* mares, lol). Turns out she was also in heat (which I figured out later as she waved her tail at Cody), so I guess I can forgive her a bit for her unresponsiveness and grumpiness at first, especially if that is the worst she is going to do, particularly while working outdoors, where it is already more challenging to keep her focus, lol.

Ah, so I picked up Cody out of his pen while taking Missy back to the barn, with the intent of feeding him while I worked Link, seeing how he would likely miss dinner if I worked him after Link. This way though Link would get back in time for dinner, which he really needs, but Cody could be fed both before and after his session, so he'd get a pretty full meal. I left Cody tied long in the barn, eating out of a pile of hay, and dropped off Missy, retrieving Link on my way back to the barn. He seemed pretty mellow, maybe even a bit lethargic, which set of warning bells for me...on the other hand, I wasn't sure if he was just relaxed and in a better frame of mind since all our ranch work? He'd lost a bit of weight though and his eyes somehow didn't seem as expressive. To top it all off, we'd noticed what seemed to be perhaps a swollen vertebrae the other night after my lesson; not only was it still there (I don't think it's been there before? I have such a terrible memory, especially if I deem something irrelevant, lol), but his throatlatch was 'swollen'. Not under his throat, like in the lymph nodes, but at the side of his head, directly behind the jaw. Of course Strangles was my first thought, so I called the vet out. I wasn't sure if it was an emergency or not, but I had rather be safe than sorry! I immediately sequestered him and started disinfecting everything, including myself, before I would have anything to do with Cody. I told the barn owner and asked if we could keep him in a stall, isolated, for the night if we thought it was something contagious, and she agreed. The vet came out though and within minutes determined it was almost guaranteed not to be Strangles. He wasn't sure why both areas were swollen, but though Link was slightly sensitive in both areas, he was able to turn and even shake his head and neck easily. Also, Link lacked the snot and feverish temperature of a horse with Strangles (though I knew he didn't have the snotty nose, I figured maybe it could be because the Strangles was only just starting to manifest). The vet felt his throatlatch would be much more swollen should it have been Strangles (and his lymph nodes should have been enlarged); he showed me how it was actually his salivary glands that were enlarged. Apparently they (vets) have no idea why this happens yet (it is suspected to be an allergic reaction to different grasses, or the result of a feed change, etc etc). Oh goody. I did not work Link (it was getting late by the time all was said and done and I wasn't sure how he was feeling) though and the vet said just to watch the swelling and make sure it didn't become enlarged. We stalled him away from the other horses though just in case. Tomorrow evening I will be in and I'll exercise him and make sure he is ok - if so, I'll turn him back out with the others. I was looking forward to some liberty work with him though! I'll try to do some with him would be nice to get some under-saddle time in on him too, since I could be away for a couple of days prior to our next lesson on Friday.

Anyway, by the time all this was said and done, I didn't really feel like riding Cody and was running short on time, so I resorted to simply doing some liberty work with him...I actually recorded it on my camera :) Cody was not quite in sync and responsive to me today as he was yesterday - yesterday his entire focus was on me, whereas today I had to work for it a little (I know, poor me - so spoiled, lol) by having him move out some or disengage, etc. We played the circling game though at liberty, with his circling in close proximity to me at the walk going in one direction - going in the other direction though I tended to "lose" him. That's ok though; even though we didn't achieve as much as yesterday, it is still a lot, especially coming from him! We built up draw too as we worked and he began to sync up more with me. We also did some friendly game at liberty (just with the carrot stick) as well as driving game. After that, we attached ropes and played the sideways game, yo-yo, porcupine, and more circling. I finished his session by teaching him to lead by his forelock, mane, front legs, back legs (back-up) and tail, as well as to porcupine his head down. He is such a quick study! He couldn't get the tail thing, so I started by playing the yo-yo while standing at his shoulder. I gradually worked my way back towards his tail until I was standing almost directly behind his tail and yo-yo'ing him back towards me. Then the next step was just to pick up his tail and apply gentle pressure; if he didn't respond (which he didn't at first; he had no idea what I wanted, lol), then I yo-yo'd him back to help him figure it out. Within a try or two he was moving back by light tail pressure without my having to use the yo-yo game. It was awesome! While I might question how much someone has taught him in other areas, I think I can pretty confidently say that no one has ever taught him to ever lead by the tail and thus that his quick progress today was a result of his thinking and intelligence rather than previous knowledge, lol. He is so responsive though; for example, even when I picked up the tail the first time (very lightly - only about a third of the hairs or so and only lifting, not pulling), he was already starting to ask questions and trying to figure out what I wanted. Leading by the legs, he picked it up as if he'd been doing such thing for years, lol. He had a little trouble figuring out how to lead by his hinds, but he got it in short order. All this makes me question how much he really was taught. For example, all our arena work yesterday - maybe he really didn't know thing such as leg aids and hard stops on a light mouth but had simply learned, over this past month of quality trail riding, how to read me and put together the rest with his smarts! I can recall my first ride on him, just trying him out to see how he was, he seemed to have absolutely no idea of what leg aids were, he had a hard mouth (ie. directional) and was not all that responsive (ie. to weight shifts or such). My first time taking him out on the trails (ie. looking for, and herding, cattle all day) he grew lighter and lighter within moments it seemed, until he had a light mouth and was responsive to my weight changes. He didn't seem to fully understand leg aids, though it seemed he had a bit of an idea of them (I've been using them a little when I ride) and when we actually worked on them yesterday, it seemed to just click with him, like he was thinking "oh, so that's what that meant all those rides ago - now I understand!!" And *boom* like magic, he had leg aids. Lol. So I'm leaning more towards the "he's just plain smart" theory, lol. All our horses are brilliant and are great partners and individuals, but this horse just never ceases to amaze me. I think I'm falling in love, haha. Not to put down Link, Silver, or Koolaid though. They're all so different and great to work with and each has their unique talents, just Cody is not only willing but he is so light and responsive too! From Link to Silver even (who are both very light and responsive, just as much so as Cody), I still have to work (even if just a little, as in with Silver) to get that willingness to work with me, but it's like Cody just hands it to me, on a silver platter. He's so focused in on me and waiting to do what I ask. And despite all he has (obviously) been through. It's beautiful!!

The hope tomorrow is to get in as much as I can, but I am not sure how much I will get in... busy schedule with a course to do and a new job to start over this week. I'll be back Friday though for Link's and my lesson :)

An exceptional day

I've got a couple posts for The Perfect Horse in the making, but in the mean time, please be patient with me - I have not been updating it as regularly as previously due to major time constraints.

Well, I had wanted to work with three horses today - Link, Cody, and Missy, but as it often seems to go, things did not go as planned. I decided to give Missy the day off in the hopes she would have a fresher mind come tomorrow and due to time constraints. Link didn't get out because by the time I was finished with Cody I was running short on time and Link was being fed. I don't mind Cody or Missy missing out on feeding time (I just allow them to eat most of what they would have eaten, in the barn prior to turning them out), but with Link or Sonny, I try not to miss feed times - they cannot afford the weight loss with their metabolisms. At one point I could have decided to finish up with Cody and take Link out, but Cody and I were doing so well that I thought I would go full out and ride him in addition to doing the liberty work we had already done, plus, Link had already been fed by that time.

So, Cody. He was absolutely phenomenal today and completely blew me away! Keep in mind throughout all this that though I have been working with him about a month and a half, it hasn't been a lot of "foundational" work that would develop him or teach him the basics. We have been doing the 7 games but not really focusing on them (or anything else that has cropped up); we mostly just did a lot of quality riding out on the ranch. So I was not expecting much of our liberty work today - we haven't built up a sufficient partnership for it. I was actually full-out expecting to, when I turned him loose in the roundpen, be unable to catch Cody again - at least not without a lot of work! Instead, he did about 3/4 of a lap before turning to me with the question: may I come in now? Of course I responded with a "sure," upon which he promptly walked right in to me to receive a rub. I was shocked. Did that really just happen? I should mention too that he even allowed me to catch him easier today - I walked right up to his shoulder and made my way easily up to his head today, rather than having to work my way up slowly from his hindquarters. So back to the rounpen. I asked him to circle, and he would circle within about 6 feet of me, rather than taking the entire roundpen. The entire time, he would be bent, asking me if he could come in. He did this at a walk, with some trot. With some of the trot though he did use the full roundpen, but even then he would be watching me carefully (this, despite tractors running about, people, and horses being walked past the roundpen); if I relaxed and backed up a step or two, he'd turn right in on the circle and walk right up to me for a rub, lowering his head to the ground within seconds as I rubbed his face! Not only did he allow me to rub all of his face (well, except the ears, we left those mostly alone today), but he didn't try to "put" me on one side or to keep me at his shoulder. He gave me full submission and trust!! We also did our friendly game at liberty with the leadrope and the carrot stick. On-line, he'd wanted nothing to do with the stick rubbing him or the rope being tossed over him. At liberty however, he seemed to feel more comfortable because he had the power to move off whenever he felt too pressured. If he moved off, I would just get him to circle a lap or two, then I'd allow him in and we would try again. It only took a mistake or two before he was standing quietly while I tossed the leadrope over him and rubbed him all over with the stick, even as I walked all around him and did it from at his rump (previously if he was nervous about something, he would allow me to do it, but only if I stood at his shoulder for security). He is getting braver and learning to trust me more from a distance! We also did the driving game - back, fore, and hind, and I got him started on doing that "spin" away from me (ie. drive his fore around completely so he does a 360 whilst I keep my feet still). After that, I snapped the line back on and we did the sideways game, yo-yo, and some more circling game. We played our squeeze game both prior to the roundpen - I had him walk over that trail-type bridge I mentioned yesterday (well, he jumped it, but going over it is a start and is still the squeeze game) and then after, in the arena, when I asked him to go between me and the mounting blocks and between me and some barrels he was unsure of.

Oh, and prior to the roundpen, we also clipped him a bridlepath! It took a minute or two to get him to allow me near with the clippers, but it was not long before I was clipping away! At first he still stood pretty rigid, at the end of his rope (I had the rope through a ring and was holding the other end, so that he couldn't get too too far, but it was not tied, in case he really needed to get away) and frozen, but after a little bit he relaxed. He was never entirely relaxed, but enough (lowered head, some slack in the rope, etc) that I felt we could end there, on a good note. He is definitely a LBI - he'll freeze (rather than fleeing), but then as he's frozen he gets thinking, which prevents his exploding and allows him to relax. It's pretty nice. He still is not overly comfortable in barns though, which led to his being frightened with things I have normally done with him outside (such as spraying him with a spray bottle today) - he did relax fairly quickly though. Afterwards, we saddled up and headed to the arena. We had already spent a good hour or so together, so I could have decided to put him away after all the good work we had done thus far, but I really wanted to ride him and see how our liberty work had impacted our under-saddle work! Plus, Link was already eating by then, so I did not really want to take him out, so I had might as well take full advantage of Cody!

In the arena, I actually did a lot of the exercises I did on Link yesterday in our lesson. We did some serpentines to loosen up his barrel, which coincidentally also seemed to loosen up his stride a bit and get him moving off my leg nicely. Once he figured out the pattern (which took only a loop or two), he started moving off of my leg so I wouldn't have to use much rein. Afterwards we did some transitions walk-trot - he got to the point where he would transition down as soon as I relaxed and transition up whenever I so much as picked up my energy (nevermind using any leg, even lightly!); he is an incredibly fast learner and he is unbelievably sensitive to everything you do in the saddle. Every shift, every movement you do, you'll feel him asking "what was that? What would you like me to do?" Even if I so much as breathed differently he would prepare himself to respond to my next request. We also did some circles and figure-8's, to which he easily bent around my leg, and then also some turns on the fore/hind and sidepass. The turn on the fore to the left (using my right leg to push) was more difficult - he wasn't as clean about it (well, not clean at all, really) and so then when I would use more rein (still being light, but picking up the slack he liked in the rein), he would fight me for the slack back - he really loves a loose rein and will respond to my requests (when I use rein) when I simply pick up the slack, before I even actually touch his mouth really; uber sensitive (which is fantastic, especially considering how hard-mouthed he was when we got him!). Anyway, so then he would be focused on getting his head rather than the turn on the hind, and both of us would get a little frustrated. I finally figured it out though. Add more pressure to the right-hand side, and give him back his head. By adding pressure on the right side (keeping the leg on and rhythmically swinging the rein end towards his shoulder), he would move over cleaner - with slack still in the rein, he'd have the focus to respond to my pressure on his right shoulder. I'll work on it more with him tomorrow! We also did some cloverleaf pattern - a pattern I usually use to teach responsibility in the horse (continue to do what I asked originally until I say otherwise) as well as leg aids. By the second run (or even sooner) through the pattern, each side, he was moving strictly off my leg without my using any rein guidance at all. I am going to mention here too that all of our work today was done on a loose rein with plenty of loop. As we progress, I can add even a little more loop and on a curb bit, I can add even more loop thanks to the more intimate communication the leverage allows. He was very light and very responsive in all respects. It was pretty neat though to have him moving off my (directional) leg so lightly, so quickly! This one is pretty smart and very motivated to learn and work with me. The odd time he did not respond, I would simply cluck and he'd respond - it was like he was off in his own little world and my cluck would break him out of it and remind him of what I was asking, lol. Lastly, we did some impulsion work. I would trot him down the short end of the arena then down the long end, picking up speed as we went. Then at the corner of the long end, I would sit and ask for a stop (just sit, relax, and pick up the reins without touching his mouth if need be). After a few shots in either direction, he even slid some!!! I couldn't believe it - he is built to sit down and slide, but I was not really expecting such a hard stop from him at this stage. Can you imagine what some further development, could do for us?! All in all, the little man was absolutely amazing today, he really did blow me away with his willingness, his work ethic, his partnership, and his talent! He was responsive to everything I asked - he would even slow or increase his jog according to my breathing. For example, I always breathe out (usually audibly) when asking a horse to transition down. How much energy I remove from my body reflects in how much air I breathe out, which in turn reflects in how much of a transition I want (ie. trot to walk, trot to halt, canter to walk or halt, etc). Then when I wish for a horse to move into an upwards transition, I "pick up" my energy accordingly. Link is quite sensitive to this and will slow his trot as I breathe out in such a way that indicates I want him to relax and slow, but not change gait. This has taken awhile to develop though! Cody however picked it up immediately, though I am sure that riding him on the ranch has helped him figure out how I operate. Still, he was slowing his trot to a slow pleasure-horse jog when I breathed out gently (without really thinking about it), and if he felt me breathe differently, you could feel his stride questioning me, trying to make sure he was doing whatever it is that I wanted, at all times. It was neat! We have more work to do, like developing greater relaxation and confidence, but man this horse has got a good start, and I can only see him flying through everything I teach him. Oh, last point I should mention is that we did canter today, though he was quite unbalanced so I only asked for it down the long sides mostly and I kept it short in duration. He did pick up the correct lead each time though, I think in part because I made sure to make sure my body was in the proper position to ask (ie. appropriate hip and shoulder forward according to the lead I wished him to pick up). What a good boy! I did leave the halter on him again tonight, but if he goes well again tomorrow, I will take it off, likely for good now. I still can't believe the trust Cody put into me today, and how much he worked like a real partner!!

Tomorrow my goal is to work with all three horses currently in my focus - Link, Missy, and Cody, with liberty work for all three. Missy and I will hit the trails, the other two will be in the arena. That's the plan anyways, and I am pretty determined to see it through! It'll be a long day but I should be able to get it done.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dressage in jeans

There actually is a blog by the same name that I saunter by occasionally for a good read - check it out: Dressage In Jeans. I felt the title was appropriate for this blog post though because a) it is a title that often represents me (I can be quite unconventional at times) and b) well, I've been working on dressage - in jeans. Today in particular.

I forgot that I was to give Missy the day off today (now I'm stuck with deciding whether to give her a day off this weekend or to just work her through in case I can't ride her as regularly next week...I think I'll ride her through the weekend) and so ended up riding her anyways, albeit just for a short time today. She lacked a lot of impulsion today and used the other riders in the arena as an excuse in particular. Anyway, I didn't have much time anyways and so restricted our work to the basics. Turns on the hind and fore. Back-up. Transitions. Impulsion. Bending into the outside rein on a corner. Leg yield. Side-pass. She did well and actually did put some effort in - we picked up some real impulsion during our point to point! We called it a day at that and I dismounted. Tomorrow we'll have more time, so I think we'll just do some field riding. Heck, maybe we'll ride in the fields both tomorrow and Sunday.

I just had time to grab Link and Cody, saddle Link up, and walk over to the arena, when my instructor showed up, early. I didn't have time to warm up Link and get him in sync with me much, so that ended up happening during the lesson time I'd like to have him synched-up with me beforehand, to make even better use of our lesson. I had been a bit worried that I wouldn't be on the same page as this instructor. I knew her a bit, but couldn't recall how she taught and if it was along similar lines of thinking to mine - I've found that instructors who possess "natural horsemanship" or "classical dressage" type of thinking are (seemingly anyway) few and far between. To my glee however, I discovered throughout our chatting during the lesson that we have pretty close to the exact same line of thinking - putting the horse first, using seat first, hands second, not forcing the horse, etc. She seemed quite impressed by Link - he was definitely further along than she had anticipated, as a track horse, plus he is very smart and very light. I think even I was more advanced than she (and I!) had anticipated, considering I have not had a lesson now for a few years. The only thing she told me to focus on thus far was to slide my leg back slightly and to try not to hunch my shoulders when I concentrate. She also pointed out how I haven't interfered with Link and that he is very relaxed, in sync with me, and loose. It was great to hear, because I feel like my biggest job as a rider is to guide the horse and put them through exercises that encourage what I want (ie. collection, etc), and then to just stay out of their way!! I was glad to hear that I am doing a good job on him (and thus the other horses I apply my techniques to as well); it was a much-needed confidence boost to someone who is so critical of her own riding. He's got a great walk, he started picking up a good rhythm and tracking up nicely during the latter part of our trot work, and even his canter was decent (lots of power, was her primary observation) on a 20m circle (we tried along the rail to see how he was, but he hollowed and picked up speed, I went up too forward, and we generally fell apart, lol). She thinks he will fill out a lot more, has really good bone, and that we can develop his topline a lot more as well. She also pointed out how he has a lot of elevation (he has incredible elevation sometimes - at times he'll just put all his energy and impulsion up!!) and power and how he is never on his forehand, which was not something I had really thought about overly (not on a conscious level anyways, because it wasn't a problem). She - I'm going to call her K for future reference - had me do a number of exercises: transitions, leg yields, circles, figure-eights, etc. Today was mostly a recon mission, but I still learned quite a bit already and feel like I have a considerable more to learn, which is exciting!! My homework until next lesson (tentatively scheduled for next Friday - I may have to reschedule due to work) I think is to do some of the exercises we did today to get Link more in sync with me and to get him tracking up and such. I'll also apply some of what I learned today (building/cementing impulsion and ensuring relaxation FIRST - through exercises) to our regular works as well. Oh, and I'll incorporate some leg exercises (that K taught me today) to strengthen my own legs, as a rider (stretch-type exercises). Oh - and on a last note, K mentioned that a facility nearby (actually, it is only about 10 minutes down the road, I used to board there) is holding a schooling show in December that she thinks would be appropriate for us, to get Link and I accustomed to the show atmosphere. Yay! I really couldn't be happier. I walked away today with some good confidence and a lot of exciting things to think about. The neatest part of the evening was that we took it slow with lots of breaks for Link to relax, lots of loose-rein work (esp at the beginning, but some in the middle and such to encourage him to stretch out), and he really started working in partnership with me. At the finish, I removed his bridle and threw on his halter, tossing the lead over his back as I walked away to pick up the poop with which he had fertilized the arena. In my peripherals, it looked as if Link was pacing the fenceline, which disappointed me because it indicates to me that he is not in a healthy frame of mind (because it is a repetitive, mindless behaviour/pattern he does when stressed). Then, movement flickered at the corner of my vision. I looked up to see Link leaving the fenceline to walk directly up to me!! This was astounding to me, because he walked the entire length of the arena to find me and he left the fenceline - something he would previously never do!! It was an indicator of our growing partnership when he sought me out to put his head in my arms and generally hassle me into rubbing him (well, he didn't have to hassle too hard, I was pretty willing, hehehe). He really acted like a partner today, the result I think of all our work on the ranch. Working in the mountains and out in the "big bad wilderness" (as Link treats it) I think really drew him closer to me - it always seems to quiet him and benefit our partnership. So we'll keep up the outings throughout his career - don't think that as a big bad jumper one day (hopefully) he's not going to still be climbing mountains and trails! Lol.

I was glad I did take Cody into the arena as well - I had just wanted to be around him today and for him to be exposed to the hustle and bustle of a busy barn and arena. He was pretty nervous (as evidenced by the soupy manure he so kindly left me, lol) in the arena, so I was especially glad to have brought him in - he needs it. He didn't disturb my lesson and he benefited from the experience. The more we do these things, the more comfortable he will become! I am hoping to do some liberty work with both him and Link tomorrow, and I found a new toy to play with with Cody - a wooden "bridge" outside the outdoor arena...the type you would find in a trail class. All my horses go over it without question (well, Link skirted it today, but if I hadn't had my hands full he would have gone over it better, but we'll do it another time), but Cody wanted nothing to do with it. I hear a (Parelli) Touch It pattern calling! Hahaha.

Can't wait for tomorrow! Nevermind next lesson!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lazy horses

Well, I guess if people can have lazy days, so can horses, but MAN it can be annoying! Missy wasn't entirely sharp on the ground (though she did do everything I asked) but I neglected to really take conscious note and address it: big mistake! In the saddle, Missy was more relaxed than the past couple of sessions...uh, maybe too relaxed. She was pretty responsive at first but gradually lost all impulsion. To the point where I had to dismount or risk being frustrated, lol. We were working a lot on leg yields and pushing her into a bend (via leg) into the outside rein, but every time that I pushed her into the outside rein, I could just feel all the energy draaain away. So I'd work on impulsion, and she'd go straight (ie. straighten her body) on me! Arg!! She did do well overall and she was trying though, so I have to give her some credit. After dismounting, I made sure to be super assertive though and play some circling (lots of changes in direction and transitions!) and driving game. She seemed to still look sluggish, but she responded very sharply and quickly nonetheless. Obviously it just wasn't one of her days, partially perhaps because she wasn't all that inspired in the indoor arena. I'll probably give her tomorrow off, then just do some work in the western saddle and rope hackamore, building impulsion and such, next session. I'd also like to just take her out for a trail ride, likely Sunday (which gives her 5 works this week), to help keep her mind fresh, prior to putting her back into the arena for the next few sessions. I think she needs some fun stuff to do to motivate her :)


Well, for once, I saw more than myself and my own horses at the boarding facility we currently keep four of our horses at! Actually, I do often see one other boarder or so, but of the 50+ or so horses that have got to be there, I find it disturbing to see so few out working with their horses! On the other hand, sometimes the time just is not there or there is some other obstacle preventing an owner from visiting their horse, yet owners cannot bear to sell their horse(s), something I can honestly understand. I would rather see a horse of ours sitting out in pasture for a couple weeks, months, heck even a year or two, rather than the back of a truck bound for slaughter one day (though I understand the importance and necessity of slaughter, our horses don't have to go there and I certainly do not like to see horses with potential there!) or being misused or abused in someone else's barn. I harbour a distrust of most people, so selling a member of our family, even with a buy-back clause, is hard (read: impossible). Anyways, today I was privy to watching a whole number of boarders interacting with their horses - from the open-minded students to the experienced/pro's, to the supposed pro's. An example of the latter would have to be a reiner in the arena today. I appreciated someone who was not fumbling about the arena, who flowed and wove gently throughout the arena as we both each did our own exercises and patterns without ever once getting in each others' way. I also appreciated her horse! He seemed young, athletic, of sound mind, and moved quite well. Just as I was judging him to likely be a reiner, she started moving him onto reining exercises - back-ups, spins, and the like. He did very well and was trying so hard for her (no attitude whatsoever), but something was making her unhappy with his performance, because it wasn't long before she was jerking on his mouth and kicking him hard, a multitude of times! I know I can lose savvy sometimes and gain frustration too - we're all human, but man, she was really goin' at 'er! The part that flustered me, was that this horse, to all appearances, seemed very willing. He honestly was trying to do what she asked. Ah well *sigh*.

Missy did exceptionally well, even with blow-dryers going around her in the barn (a first for her), people and horses mucking about, and horses entering and leaving the arena during our session; she is still pretty energetic in the beginning of our ride and trying to anticipate me, but after a whole lot of fidgeting and about 5 minutes under-saddle, it finally clicked that she didn't have to do anything. Standing was actually *gasp* permissible. Lol. Her groundwork was great, as per usual, including some side-pass without the wall. Under-saddle, we worked on all the usual basics of a foundation that we have been working on recently, with a good portion (about 25 percent?) of trot today. Patterns, work on that outside rein (today was the first day she was 100 percent good with it, and its purpose seems to be clicking with her more), leg yields (at the walk), yields on the hind and fore (using that outside rein as well), side-pass, impulsion work (point to point), transitions (w/t), etc. We are getting some great bend and her trot today was actually much better balanced thanks to our recent works (ok, thanks to yesterday's work, mostly). This mare is funny (in a good way) - each work we do, seems, with all the progress she makes each time, as if we've worked more times than we actually have. If that makes sense. Take today, for example. Everything improved so much that it was as if we had been working on all the specific tasks all week! She is a wicked fast learner for sure, faster than most horses I know, I think in part because she has such a quiet, open, pliable, and mature mind. Link, for example, is brilliant, but his (reactive) emotions often get in the way of his learning and retaining information. Anyway, my last point to mention was that she was pretty easy to catch as well and was very good-minded overall!

No time for the other boys today, just a few pets to each (Link, Sonny, and Cody), though I will likely work with Link and Cody tomorrow. Petting Cody (as simple as it sounds), is actually very important to earning his trust anyways. Something I believe I neglected to mention in my post concerning our trip to the mountains, is Cody's behaviour on our second day there. We came out the morning of Day Two after the boys' morning breakfast; Koolaid made a point to make sure it looked like he was still eating (when we approached, he promptly took up post over the hay pile and started wolfing down hay *roll eyes*), but Cody actually left Koolaid and the hay to walk right up to us! I am not sure what was going on in his head, because both before and since he still acts the same (looks like he wants to approach but is scared to, initially walks towards you but then turns and walks away - watching you the whole while, if you approach him), but it was amazing. He strutted right up to me, his nose only inches from my chest. I was shocked, but also thrilled. It is still going to be a long road, no doubt, but there is trust down there (albeit deep) somewhere! Even so, he has a lifetime to learn to trust humans again, we're in no hurry ;)