Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chicka Feb 28

Had a little trouble catching Chicka today, I think she wasn't too happy the past few sessions having to come out and work alone, particularly as a RBE! At first she walked off as I approached the herd and went to stand with her friend, but as I ignored her, she actually came trotting up to me! I fed her a treat and rubbed her all over before trying to halter her, and she promptly took off. So, I waited a few minutes before trudging up to her for another shot. She was happy getting treats but not being caught! Finally I did get her haltered though (not before my toes froze off though haha) and we walked off...she was pretty hesitant leaving her buddies (there's that herdbound RBE kicking in...) but did come with me (...slooooowly...) to the arena. Friendly game was pretty good, especially for an RBE all alone in the arena. Porcupine was Phase 2 though she did test me a bit at first by trying to walk off - right away though we got a 360 degree pivot on the hind though. Yo-Yo was great, as was her Driving game (no stick) and also her Circling game at the jog (did a little spiralling in and out). Sideways was better (several steps in either direction) and her Figure-8 and Weave patterns were really well done with little direction. I didn't hop up today (did not have my saddle yet, as it was in my car that was in the shop); she seemed pretty calm but I didn't want to push it with a herdbound RBE in an empty arena. Hopefully I get a little additional time in with her tomorrow to throw the saddle on, but on the other hand I feel she'll progress real fast once we've established more trust in my leadership with she's made quite a bit of progress even under-saddle already. I also found another form of the Friendly game to play with I tried wrapping her up in ropes to have her work through "untangling" herself through following the feel of the rope, solving the puzzle. I always start out small with a horse though, first just by walking to the other side and having the horse do one turn. As I passed around her hind with the rope though she spooked violently...she's pretty RB with anything around her bum, actually. That gave me an idea though, to use my lariat to play the Friendly game with her around her hind, which will really help I think with a lot of our trust issues. Next session!! We'll see how it goes... :D

Bareback hoorah!

Today I took Chickadee out for some playtime to find another horse under-saddle in the arena (our friend the LBI blue roan draft mare)...very distracting for little Chicka!! We did a bit of Friendly just with the carrot stick (she started a time or two but never moved her feet) before taking on the Yo-Yo to catch her attention a little better. She kept watching the other mare in the arena and wanted to ignore the game however she still did alright (Phase 1 and 2 for the most part). Her Porcupine was Phase 1 and 2 except the odd time she felt like walking off to visit - when I increased the pressure though she started moving around pretty nicely. I did not use the carrot stick for the Driving game today and she responded very lightly. Although our Circling game was good, we didn't try any extensions because I felt she was too distracted to succeed - next time! Her Sideways was much better today though we still did it three times on each side to try to cement it further for next time. Squeeze...we'll try next time over some barrels when she is not so excited lol. Her Figure-8 and Weave patterns at the walk on the 12' line today were great as usual! She was so calm and LB though (I think particularly since there was another horse in the arena) that I thought I'd do a bit of bareback work to get her further used to being under-saddle. The first time I jumped up a little too quick, all the movement seemed to scare her a bit and, in addition, I think my leg swished over her rump as I threw my leg over as well. She deeked off, threw in a little buck, and went completely RB on me. I jumped off, landing on one knee (ouch!) and she quickly calmed down again. We tried again (first hopping up and down next to her on either side before mounting up) and this time she was much calmer. I wiggled around up there over her back quite a bit on each side before finally sitting up. We just did a little maneuvering around but mostly I just wanted her to be comfortable with my being up there, so we sat and relaxed quite a bit. After a few moments I dismounted to end on a good note. Overall she did pretty well, especially with the added distraction of another horse in the arena!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Justa Short Blurb

I've been way too busy to blog much as of late but wanted to write up a quick short blurb on all the horses! It'll be quick too because my butt is freezing so I'd love to get to bed beneath some WARM covers! Haha.

Feb 23
Was pretty good throughout all her games though we did not approach the Circling Game extensions as her Circling game was a little rough. I was getting a little attitude (swished tail, ears pinned, attempting to change direction) on her right side and she wouldn't continue her circle. We did end the game on a relatively good note and left further improvement for next session. I'm thinking too her attitude could be due a bit to her being RB (wanting to control the situation so as to ensure her survival) and also to her being in heat? Not sure yet. Our Sideways game too was a little rough, like she does not quite fully understand it yet, so we'll keep plugging away at it and I'll try to be even clearer with her. Chicka was pretty good with the Friendly game with the tarp except over her back she was a little RB with it. She was walking over the larger orange tarp fairly well though. Our Figure-8 and Weave patterns were great!! No saddle work today though as I felt she wasn't quite ready today.

Did really well! All his games were great, including his Yo-Yo all the way to the end of the 22' line! Still needs a little work though at getting the Yo-Yo lighter but that will come with time. We worked at the full length of the 22' at the Circling game as well as the Weave and Figure-8 patterns. Time to add in some additional patterns and to try to add in the Weave and Figure-8 at the end of the 22' line and at the trot!

The over-sized toddler is doing amazing under the tutelage of his new buddy R.W. The two are taking it slow however Sonny becomes more and more LB with each session thanks to R.W.'s patience and natural ability to communicate with him. Can't wait to see the two of them progress even further!

Feb 24
Our Circling game today was very successful, with 2 laps completed in either direction at the jog. Since that had been our weak point yesterday, we ended that game on a good note. The Sideways game was still a little rough though I think I am picking up how to communicate to her what I want more effectively. The key with her seems to be to have my stick up and moving rhythmically from hip to shoulder, hip to shoulder - back and forth and increasing my phases. This seems to keep her straightest and stepping over nicer. We played a bit with the tarps; she was much better about having the small tarp over her back today. She also walked up and down the long ends of the large tarp with very little hesitation (and no further direction on my part!). Her Porcupine was fabulous all over - Phase 2 at most everywhere! Her Yo-Yo was the same, Phase 2 and extremely light. Of course her patterns were great, as always!

No work today! He was alright at most of his games but we just could not seem to progress past the Circling game. As calm and patient as I was he just kept trying to change direction on me and to take off in a RB explosion. We ended the session on a sour note but oh well - next time! I've been doing just light light work with him in the arena because first his left knee swelled up and then drained (blood) on me (a few times over the past couple of weeks) and now, as of today, his left knee has as well. I'm not sure what he's doing to cause his knees to fill with blood (on and off) but it's not causing him to be lame and it seems to be causing only very very minimal discomfort. Either way though, the day off today will likely do him good anyways (and I especially do not want him exploding as he does with those knees in the shape they are in!).

Came in a lot more LB for R.W. today and never once became R.B. (despite Link's exploding continuously within pretty close range of him)!!!

Feb 25
Did very well today, especially for working alone with me in the arena. When I first brought her in she was quite skittish, spooking violently at the slightest sound or movement. As I started playing with her though she did start to relax - the key was just to keep her mind busy! All her games were pretty good and fairly light (Phase 1 or 2 for the most part). We did not do any Circling game expansions though as I really wanted to cement our Circling game (alone) foundation. Her Sideways game was MUCH better today! I felt I was much clearer with her this time and we ended up with quite a number of sideways steps in either direction. Her Weave and Figure-8 patterns were great; she was a little RB at the Figure-8 though and so was jogging it but she still completed it nicely (though I had to be quick to be there to direct her through it), even at the jog! I then saddled her up (loose, rope looped over one arm) and had her do the Circling game under the saddle. This allowed me to get her used to the cinch at the trot as well as the saddle moving and also allowed me to tighten her cinch in phases. With no withers that saddle has to be fairly snug or else it moves all over the planet! She seemed a little confused at first but was soon jogging out fairly nicely. After I felt she was comfortable I mounted up and we did our three-part maneuver - little rough but she did it. She seems to be picking up the leg aids a bit yet. Her back-up too was fabulous, I barely have to lift the reins! She seemed a bit confused as to forward aids but did move off eventually. I had to keep her busy though, at first by doing the Figure-8 and Weave under-saddle to keep her thinking and her mind off of the horses outside. Eventually we did two half-laps of the arena in either direction before calling it a day. She did not seem quite comfortable under-saddle (though she allowed me permission to mount up no problem) and so had the tendency to be a bit RB, which manifested itself in her wanting to move her feet constantly. It was difficult to have her relax at a halt and she kept trying to move up into a jog. Some more time in this area though will help her become more relaxed!

No work with the two trouble-making boys, though I did check Link's knees today; they seemed in great shape (maybe the -30C had something to do with it? lol). Tomorrow I should have more time and so will take him out with Chicka (Sonny's just gonna have to wait a bit till R.W. is back to play with him!). It was great to see the two horses greet me at the gate both times I went out there (to pick up, then to return Chickadee), especially Link!!

I have been out to see the grape-coloured kid every day now for the past two weeks. He has a nice-sized (a few inches at least) crescent-shaped laceration to the inside of his right foreleg. He is not all that lame but you can see he is certainly a bit off. The wound was quite deep (I gunked my fingers about in it for awhile the first time to determine the extent of the injury) and still is but seems to be a bit shallower now. It is definitely narrower though now which is great. The cold weather her has really helped I believe (no flies!) - there is plenty of pus and blood as it is as the wound repairs itself but I haven't really had to worry about any major infection. Yesterday though the knee and area was quite blown up so I am hoping that tomorrow when I get out to see it the inflammation and any minor infection will have subsided. He'll be fine but it's a work-in-progress!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chiropractors for a healthy equine back

As I pulled up to the arena today, another rider was leaving. A few days ago she'd come up to R.W. (the friend mentioned in my previous posts) and I, asking if we thought her horse looked off. He definitely did look lame in his left hind but did not appear to be swollen or injured anywhere. He kept dragging his toe though, as if something was wrong in his hip, which is what we mentioned. I prompted her to check into a chiropractor I have found to be great with my horses...well turns out she did! The chiropractor came out and found he had a whole bunch of vertebrae out, including 5 Lumbar and also a rotated pelvis!! After adjusting him he was 100% better (a few more minor adjustments will ensure he stays in place and any lingering chiro issues are resolved)!!! I was just so happy for the horse though that I had to post it here, and point out that chiropractors really can do so much for your horse!! I have a number of my own success stories but wanted to share an "outside" story :)

Little Chicka's 7 games were, for the most part, progressed today. Friendly we accomplished more with the tarp, her Porcupine was lighter all-round, and Driving was also better (still working a little extra hard on disengaging the hind, but she was pretty good with it today). Yo-yo was awesome - she was backing up to the end of the line on about Phase 3 (wiggling my forearm but very lightly), Circling - including expansions (spiraling, traveling, direction changes), was alright (she was intent on only walking or, better yet, doing nothing - lol), and Squeeze was perfect. Sideways was a little rough but we did it 3 times each side which I think helped a bit (for tomorrow's session). She seems to respond sideways best when she's actually a few feet off the wall, with me between her and the wall - it's a little different but works! Next we advanced our Touch-It to the point where she was playing with the two tarps on the ground and was walking on and off (both the long and short ends) the large orange tarp calmly. After saddling her up, Chickadee and I also did a little Circling game as well as Figure-8 and Weave (a few perfect runs at the walk). At one point, during Friendly game with the saddle, she did become quite RB as the saddle slipped and I tried to reposition it over her withers (the mare's got your classic QH mutton withers a.k.a. basically NO withers, so nothing for my poor saddle to grip to stay upright, even with a snug cinch!!). She raced around, almost taking me down a couple of times (a huge thank-you to the Driving and Yo-Yo games for saving my a** lol!!!) and even throwing in a few bucks for good measure, but with some Yo-Yo and such I eventually got her calm enough to reposition the saddle and re-cinch it up. Not much of a bucker, this mare! The bucks she did throw were pretty minor, but I am glad she got them out while I was on the ground rather than on her back. That's why we play these games! I did mount up however just as I was playing with her to mount up (ie. bouncing at her side, etc) a couple other horses entered the arena, greatly distracting her. She was also a little RB so I recognised that our session was finished, played with her a only few minutes more before returned her to her pasture to catch some feed. As we advance, other horses in the arena won't be such a problem - and probably would not have been in this case even had I been doing groundwork with her, but I did not feel it worth the risk to try and do any work under-saddle when her focus was obviously - very strongly (lol), elsewhere. You take what you have and build from there, and set the horse up for success.

With the new people in the arena I wasn't sure how much we'd get done but Link did awesome today! We whipped through a scrambled set of the 7 games in between Link's staring intently at the other horses and their riders (this horse is brilliant, so it's especially funny when he's so focused on other horses and riders, like he's evaluating them - there's just some sort of deep-seated intelligence there so I find it neat to watch him horse-watch lol). He was a little RB at times during the Circling game however he still completed it successfully, with only one split second of running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off (Link's favourite game). He was actually a lot softer this time during his spiraling in and out and even maintained his jog perfectly! He was a little RB and unfocused when I started the spiraling initially, however spiraling him in and out twice in each direction helped him hold onto that LB-ness with one little toe, to the point where he finished LB. Afterwards I had him do direction changes at the trot as well; I kept his circles pretty short at that point - half a lap or so, before asking him to change direction which seemed to keep him more LB with less forward movement. Next we moved onto the Figure-8 and Weave. He did each pattern perfectly on the 22' line at full length with little direction on my part (only pointing and lifting my string-less-stick every once in awhile) while meanwhile a barrel horse galloped crazily around the other end of the arena and a young blue roan draft (I'm pretty sure an LBI) walked throughout the arena!!!!! Absolutely amazing. He was completely calm throughout, only miss-tepping once (he started trotting past the right-hand barrel but I got him disengaged and back onto the pattern almost immediately), but still performing beautifully, despite so many distractions!! Right after we did a little Circling game on the 22' line - not only did he keep the line loose at all times but he was almost completely LB the entire time and remained at the jog throughout. There was one point where he sped up a bit and looked to take off into the canter so I quickly asked him to disengage (just by focusing on his hindquarters): the rope was completely slack and he ran right up to me!!! Each time I disengaged his hind he'd come right up to me, excited to play more. It was so incredible!!! Afterwards I did saddle him up and we did a little under-saddle work, just a little walk/trot transitions, some hindquarter disengagement, and some turns on the forehand (he was so light at both turns but particularly at the turn on the forehand - he easily gave me 180 degree turns!). We also worked a little around the barrels and cones and did some back-up - he actually gave me quite a few steps each time and was very very soft!! Rather than bracing or fighting against me, he quietly lowered his head and softly backed up at the slightest pressure!! We ended it there though as the other two horses and their riders had left the arena and Link was already a little RB to begin with (he wasn't initially when I mounted up, but became a bit so afterwards), so I did not want to push it with him. We'll advance more under-saddle as he allows :) Big guy definitely got a few treats today throughout the session haha.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Training" horses is quite possibly hazardous to one's health

Feb 21

Already there was a huge difference in little Chicka today. Yesterday when I brought her in she sashayed nervously back and forth from the spot where she was tied. I walk up to this little horse not knowing how she is going to respond, if she's so nervous that she might accidentally crush me against the spot where she's tied, or if she might try to kick me out of fear. Larry Stewart writes in a short bibliography that "It didn’t take me long before I realized this was very hazardous to my health..." He's referring to rodeo work, but that's how I felt as I walked up to that mare. "This could be very hazardous to my health," was what was running through my head at that moment. I took a deep breath though, strode up to her and started grooming. There were a few times I wasn't sure what she would do and another few where I had to avoid being crushed by ducking under the railing she was tied to. All in all though she enjoyed being groomed and did calm a bit. At the end of our session she was much much calmer and I feel I returned her to her pasture in a better state of mind than when I had taken her out. Today though she was calm when I brought her in! She actually even casually walked into the arena first (upon my direction), Link following behind and myself behind both of them. She was completely mud-encrusted but most of it came off with a little elbow grease (okay, actually a LOT of elbow grease haha). Good thing no one came into the arena at that time, as when I went to wash up afterwards I found I was now encrusted with a nice thick layer of dirt, of course mostly on my face. Nice. Real nice. So back to Chickadee.

Our 7 games went real nice today:
Friendly game: used the small blue tarp! Chicka's still a little convinced the thing might swallow her whole but we made a lot of progress - by the end I could rub her all over, flap it a bit around her, and lay it across her back (as long as it wasn't going to slide off!). She definitely is more aware and reactive to it on her right side though, so we'll have to work extra hard on that side.
Porcupine game: she was exceptionally light at her front end (ie. nose and chest), was pretty light doing a turn on the hindquarter (only moving the front end around), and was alright (but improved!) moving her hindquarters around.
Driving game: she was actually very light with her front end (seems to be catching on a little more) and was alright disengaging her hind. Her hind I think will improve too as she becomes more and more comfortable with the games; part of her trouble with disengaging I feel is that she doesn't want to because by disengaging now she cannot take flight should she feel the need to (ie, she is a little defensive of her hind).-+
Yo-Yo game: I tend to skip this game with my own horses (I do it but I usually only do it once then move on) and I realised how important it is and why I cannot just overlook it like I normally do when I was working with Link last night and trying to use it! Our first try at the Yo-Yo today Chicka tried every answer she could think of: go sideways, go forwards, go this way, then trying that way...finally she settled on back-up and I rewarded with a release. It's like a light-bulb went on. This is where I normally would have moved on, but trying to learn from my mistake I instead played the game with her twice more (usually I do everything three times each on each side when it comes to the games or such). That light bulb had definitely gone on and doing it those two other times, I felt, really really re-inforced what she'd just learnt!
Circling game: she seemed a lot more comfortable with this game, so much so that I did have to correct her a little more often to stay at the jog for two laps. We expanded into spiraling, direction changes, and traveling...a little rough but it'll come with more time! For only our second time together I felt we both did pretty damn well together.
Squeeze game: sort of neglected that one this time but we'll pick it up (thinking over some barrels possibly?) next session. We did do a bit of it inadvertently when playing the Friendly game with the tarp haha but otherwise we'll pick it up next time!
Sideways game: little rough around the edges, but she seemed to pick it up fairly well. I think too that next time I should make sure I do it three times on each side as well, as I did not do so this time.

At this point I thought I'd toss the saddle up onto Chickadee so that we could start working on under-saddle and ground work simultaneously. We played a bit of Friendly game with the blankets and saddle - she did not seem entirely comfortable with the saddle, particularly on her right side, but I felt that she wasn't about to blow up RB on me so did continue quietly. Afterwards I wanted her to get more used to the feel of the saddle, including when she moves out, so we did our Figure-8 and Weave patterns wearing the saddle. She performed both patterns a few times (at the walk) - all perfectly!!! I was so proud of her for doing so well on only her second time!

Lastly I did some bouncing at Chickadee's side until I felt she was comfortable with me there before mounting up. I usually rub my leg over the horse's rump in sort of a Friendly game - eventually one day you are going to kick your horse's hind as you mount up and the last thing you need (and that I see all the time lol) is your horse spurting out from beneath you just as you're only half up. Lol. So it pays off to get them used to as much as possible. Well Chicka disagrees. Obviously she wasn't entirely comfortable with my being up there, her trust in me is not yet full, and so she did spurt ahead a bit when my foot rubbed the top of her tail. Immediately she halted and I removed my foot, but it's something I know we can work on during our next session! I felt this session though that I maybe was pushing her a bit so we just did a few minutes of quiet work with under-saddle before I dismounted. I asked her to bend her head to my knee as well as to do a little bit of disengaging her hindquarters (part of a three-part maneuver - bend to the knee, turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarter). I found she was so light on the leadrope (just the halter and lead on at this point) that I (accidentally at first) had her do almost an entire turn on the hind just using that halter (she does not yet really understand leg aids at this point)! It was crazy how light she was! I also had her move forwards in whichever direction she chose. By the end actually (which only totaled say 7 minutes or so) she seemed actually quite comfortable with me in the saddle for the most part, even licking her lips and lowering her head. I got this sense that allowing her to move forward at whichever pace (which was a walk anyways) and in whichever direction - by allowing her that control, that that caused her to relax more with me. So we'll continue next session under-saddle as well, though I want to make very sure that I challenge her but not push her, so we'll probably take more time incorporating the Friendly game with our under-saddle session. Last but not least, we played a bit of Touch-It with the large orange tarp on the ground! This time Chicka actually went up to the tarp pretty easily. I am really trying to bring out her curiosity and teach her to naturally seek things out curiously rather than flee from them; it took a little convincing (via Driving game) but pretty quickly she walked up to the tarp, mostly of her own accord (later, after I had initially drove her towards the tarp), grabbing it with her lips. A couple times too I walked her away from the tarp before it was her idea to do so, which made a huge difference. Afterwards I just stood by and let her play on her own - lipping the tarp, pawing at it and placing one foot on it, then pawing at it and placing the other foot on...pretty soon (completely of her own accord, I just stood there relaxed) she had all four feet on the tarp. Putting those hinds on the tarp though frightened her a bit and so she ended up shooting off the tarp, but she went the entire way across it rather than shooting backwards or off some side! I was pretty damn astonished and proud of her progress!! We finished on a good note with her back lipping at the edge of the tarp. More progress to look forward to tomorrow!

Not too much new to put here, though he did absolutely amazing today! I felt today that, for whatever reason, I was just in the right frame of mind to work with him too, like I knew what to do with what he presented me and such. I was a little discouraged when, during our 7 games (and expansions of the Circling game) - which were mixed up today to keep it interesting for him - he kept reverting to being RB with me but I accepted less from him this session and continued on to our patterns nonetheless. With our patterns we did the Figure-8 and Weave maybe twice on the 12' line before trying out the 22'. Each time he did the Figure-8 correctly I took a step back, until we were at full length. A couple of times I did have to step back in closer but we finished off with a bang, with his completing the pattern successfully at the full length of the 22'! First though I started off by removing the string at the end of my stick. I feel like this horse really needs me to be as quiet as possible, not for fear of spooking him or something (that's what the Friendly game and such is for of course, if that were the case), but because he wants to work at the lightest phase possible. I feel like when I have the string on the end of the stick with the patterns (and possibly with my other games??) that even something so small is like "shouting" to him, and that he wants me to just "whisper" instead (for now!). I am really really working hard to tone down my language in everything that I do with Link, but I felt this was one place to start. So first off I removed the string, only flicking the stick at him say a couple of inches in his general direction (from its near-vertical position at my side) when I needed to direct him, never actually lifting it up really. Second, a couple of times he did take off to the left after coming around that left barrel, trying to take flight around and then behind me in a large circle. On previous occasions I think I was reacting too loud, like I was shouting to him by standing up with assertiveness, pointing in the opposite direction, and trying to "drive" him back the opposite way and thus change direction. He'd of course react RB and then we'd really have a fleeing prey animal on our hands and a frustrated predator on the other end of the line, probably looking like she was about to pounce (without meaning to!). Great, first thing the poor RB horse needs is a frustrated predator holding him down via a rope! While I have been using the Yo-Yo to direct him around the barrels when he needed it, I find I cannot really use it when he takes off from a barrel, as when he is in that RB state he just runs through anything at the head (like yo-yo'ing or tugging at the rope) - in fact, it seems to make him more frantic. So today instead I left his head pretty much completely alone and instead really focused on being soft and quiet and just driving his hind around to disengage by focusing on his hind with my body language (no stick really) and leaving the rope slack. Other times when I finally got him stopped and turned he would then frantically bolt towards the barrels. This time however he waited for direction, I'd quietly point a finger towards the barrels, and he would just walk towards the barrels calmly!!! A couple of times I was able to intercept him before he took off at the left-hand barrel just by quietly zipping my hand up the rope for a soft but steady feel when I pointed towards the barrels, then releasing. I found out something about myself too today - with Link so far away on that 22' I feel like I have to still have that control, I can feel my entire body tense (I'm sure, to Link, that at that point I look like a predator crouching in preparation to spring lol) because I'm scared to lose control at that distance. I had to keep reminding myself today though that it didn't matter, that I did not have to be in control and that it did not have to be perfect!!! I know my entire demeanor really really made a difference in Link today! Not only did we complete the Figure-8 at full length but we also completed the Weave at a fair distance!! It just felt different, like we were working more in partnership this time. Afterwards we did roughly 5 minutes at the Circling game. A couple of times Link took off in a full-out gallop, he'd pick up speed from the trot and then suddenly just let 'em rip! Poor guy was desperately trying to gallop full speed on this 44' diameter circle, at times in deep-ish sand lol. I wanted to get him out of that pattern though so immediately I would (again, doing absolutely nothing with his head and keeping the line loose) turn and focus on his hindquarters. It was absolutely amazing, because not only did he leave the RB state to become LB, but he TROTTED right up to me!! He was pretty high on adrenaline, snorting in my face lol and a couple of times I had to ask him to disengage more than once, as he'd run up to me then excitedly take off in another direction (though he'd never move more than a few steps before disengaging again when I asked and so returning to me) but it was an amazing feeling! We ended on such a great note for the day - more fun to come tomorrow! Oh, and on a side note, Link has been meeting me at the gate each day the last couple of sessions! Not sure though if it's just because I have Chickadee with me (lol) but he does always seem genuinely interested in me and happy to see me, which is a great sign.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Intro to the new mare

So today was the first day working with the new mare, Chickadee! I am pretty positive so far that she is actually a Right-Brain Introvert. She is extremely willing to please and was very intent on having me only have to go through the lightest phases. Though she was left-brained for the majority of our session, she definitely demonstrated that right-brain "lean" - no dominant behaviour whatsoever (so far!) like such that you'd anticipate with a LBI or LBE. Very very "what can I do to please you??" Your classic QH in that if something startled her, she would start but return to LB within seconds. Also your classic cutting-bred QH: rather than turning a full circle she simply sits back on that big QH rump of hers and pivots cutting-horse style. Lol. She looks too like she would make an excellent cow horse - a few times she spooked when I turned her loose in the arena (while I set up for our games and patterns) and she'd deek as if cutting a steer from the herd! I think that she will be very naturally cowy for sure. She's inspired me...might just have to get myself a good cutting horse one day! Love the energy of that cutting movement and the quickness of a good cutter's feet and body. Oh, and she was in heat today! Haha just my luck. Despite being in heat though she was a fabulous partner throughout.

Of course first we started with the 7 games:
Friendly game: started a bit when I brought out the carrot stick but quickly returned to LB. Same followed for when I swung the savvy string at the end of the stick about her body, however it was only a few minutes before the string was whistling through the air like a rope and she stood quietly.
Porcupine game: wow she has NO idea how to move off of pressure and she did not really seem to get all that lighter at this game during our session. Judging by her responses to everything else though I think she will pick it up and be light in no time. I need to remember to go through my phases slowly too.
Driving game: I don't think she yet fully understands disengaging her HQ when I drive them yet, but she caught on for the most part rather quickly. She picked the Driving game up pretty easily at the front though, having that front end around; she just naturally sits back and pivots on that rump. Also a few times (during other games) her shoulder would get into my space so I'd have to quickly drive it out and even there she moved out instantly.
Yo-Yo: she actually picked up on this one rather quickly and was keen to come back in to me with a lowered head.
Circle game: poor girl had absolutely no idea what I wanted at first, but once she figured it out, she really had it and mastered it!! Within a few minutes she was circling independent and responsibly (very little direction on my part - she easily completed 2 circles on her own) at both the walk and trot and hiding her HQ pretty nicely. She is very very light on the rope (she kept it slack 100% of the time) so if she wasn't sure what I wanted as far as disengaging that hind, I just ever-so-lightly lifted that rope a bit to tip her nose in and help her know to turn and face me, disengaging the hind end. Later I expanded on the Circling game, having her spiral in and out at the trot (very minimal corrections, I think I only corrected her back into a jog once throughout the exercise) and also change direction. Her direction changes were amazing, I'd ask her to hide her hind and then point in the opposite direction (remember how she is so light? Well lifting my hand to point in the opposite direction, with slack in the rope still, would easily tip her nose in the direction I wanted her to go) and she'd split in the other direction as if she were cutting some steer. Nice!! Lastly, we did a bit of traveling circle, which she seemed to pick up well after a few shots at it.
Squeeze game: I rarely teach the last two games to a horse within the first session because a) usually it just ends up as brain overload and b) I find you usually require the first 5 games to be stronger so as to build upon for the last two. She seemed to really do well at the first 5 though so I thought I'd see how she was at the last two - she was great! She was a little leery at first but walked between me and the wall in either direction after only a few seconds of deliberation and turned and faced, completely LB throughout!
Sideways game: she actually sidepassed a few steps in either direction fairly easily, completely LB and even staying facing the wall afterwards.

She did so well with the 7 games that I thought I'd try out the Patterns with her! To tell the truth though I wasn't sure how (or if) we had enough basics for the Patterns though (on the first day)...but we did! We started out with Touch-It. I had the huge tarp out (roughly 10' by 25' or so), which she was convinced was certainly horse-eating. Since she was so skeptical, we ended the game with her placing her nose on the tarp - great progress for her on the first day! At the end of the session I actually led her up to the tarp and she tentatively walked up and chewed a bit on the end! Great for Level 1. Afterwards we did the Figure-8 - she aced it immediately! She saw the barrels and took to them as if she thought she was born to do patterns on barrels. It took very little direction to have her moving around the barrels in the pattern, and completely LB! We also did the Weave pattern afterwards as well, which she also took to easily, not missing a single cone and taking very little direction on my part.

Finally, I looped her lead around her feet and asked her to pick up all four feet, which she did nicely and with very little resistance (no kicking!). I had forgotten to ask her owners if she tied but while she pawed a bit at first, she stood very relaxed and quiet afterwards.

Whipped through our 7 games as usual - this time I mixed up the games to keep it a little interesting, rather than just running through them one after the other. The same friend who'd worked with Sonny yesterday had mixed up the games with Sonny and had found it kept the horse interested, so I thought I'd take a page from his book and try to be a little creative too haha ;P Afterwards we expanded on our Circling game: spiraling in and out twice in either direction at the trot (I think I only corrected him once throughout!), direction changes (at the trot), and the traveling circle also at the trot (my walking from one point of the arena to another with the goal of him continuously circling). His Figure-8 and Weave were great, even at the trot, so I threw him on the 22' line. He was amazing, performing the Figure-8 perfectly as I gradually increased the distance between us to the point where eventually I was standing at the end of the 22' and directing him around the barrels in the pattern! He did amazingly well, performing several consecutive patterns at the full length of the rope, however he then switched to become completely RB with me (should have stopped while I was ahead!). We did get a bit of Figure-8 and Weave in after that, but very little and I had to be excruciatingly quiet in my body language with him. The hardest part for him was going around that left-hand barrel and turning into the center of the pattern. So more work ahead of us yet! He did amazingly well though for the session (particularly for it being only his second time ever on the 22' lead, and for doing the pattern at full length!!), so I think next time we will do the same but keep the session a bit shorter, quitting before he has the chance to go RB on me. The 22' is great because my non-creative-mind realised that I can actually use our yo-yo to help guide Link around the barrels lol.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A brilliant session

Feb 18
I had played with Link and Sonny for say 15min each prior to our trail ride on the 16th, but this time I enlisted buddy to work with Sonny instead! Turns out Sonny was much too right-brained for a trail ride but we had a fantastic time going through the ground games! My friend went through the first 5 games with him and he did great. Link was a bit RB at times but came around too to do well with all 7 games as well as the Patterns. His Figure-8 was a little rough (he kept stopping at each ends of the barrels) however he eventually did it well at the walk. We did saddle up and do a little under-saddle work, however Sonny was just too RB to do much. More groundwork!

Feb 19

This time we worked both horses at once!

The big toddler was quite the handful - I actually felt bad for my buddy ;) Buddy did amazingly well though and soon had Sonny focused and relaxed for all the same 5 games they'd done the other day. Sonny was a little too RB to do the Figure-8 and Weave well (he was challenging me quite a bit too!), so buddy took Link and did the Figure-8 - the two did awesome together!!

He was so incredibly relaxed with Sonny working with us in the arena. Both horses seemed to feed off of one anothers' calm energy and further relax each other. We whipped through our 7 games, expanding on the Circling game as usual. Spiraling in and out he remained LB and jogging; he also changed direction fairly easy and with very few "evil thoughts" (ie. spurting past me with ears back, tail swishing, and possible intent to kick - lol). We did a ton better at the Figure-8 (including at the trot!) and the Weave today, though I had a bit of a difficult time achieving the Weave at the jog with him (haha all he wanted to do was walk - unusual for the sugar-high Link!). He was doing so well that I couldn't help throwing the 22' foot on him to see what we could accomplish. I stood back a ways and let the 22' run out a ways (not the full entire length though) and guided him back a ways around the barrels for the Figure-8 and Weave patterns. He performed both patterns with ease and little direction, even at that distance and on the 22' line! Finally I took him out to the emptier end of the arena and played a little Circling game with him; I really did not challenge him too much (it was already so amazing that he was just on that line!!!) but asked him to trot in either direction, which he did well - hiding his hindquarters nicely at the end whenever I asked. Disengaging his hindquarters to turn and face me was a little difficult for him the first time or two but after a few shots he was brilliant! At one point he gathered speed at the trot into a canter and then later he shot into a canter (Sonny went RB for split-second next to him - though he, Sonny, immediately calmed down too). The first time I thought he'd keep gathering speed at the canter, into a gallop, and turn RB but he didn't! He remained completely LB. The second time he started off RB but almost immediately transferred over to LB again; a few moments later I even asked him to hide his hindquarter (ie. disengage), at the canter, and he did, with no further prompting from me (ie. such as picking up that lead rope and tipping his nose in or such). So not only was he cantering LB (a hard enough feat in itself), but he was paying enough attention to actually disengage quietly, from the canter!! That was definitely the end to the session for Link and I; that horse absolutely amazed me today!!!

On a separate note, my new horse to work with arrived today! She's roughly 14.3hh or so, a little 5yo palomino QH mare named Chickadee! The owners say they had a little trouble with her with the bit - she just kept chomping at it and did not seem comfortable with it. She hasn't had her teeth done yet, so I have a feeling that that has something to do with it. That and perhaps being uncomfortable emotionally/mentally with what was going on at the time. Usually chomping at the bit is either a sign of physical pain/discomfort, or of mental/emotional unrest, a manifestation of a worried horse. She also foaled last year, but she looks great - her ab's all tucked up nicely. She has definitely got your classic cow-horse QH bum on her though! I think that she might be a LB, possibly an LBI? I'll figure it out more when I actually interact with her (today really just consisted of unloading her from the trailer and letting her get settled out in pasture) and see how she handles things. She's here to stay for a month of work before returning to her owners; I'll let her get settled in overnight before starting our session tomorrow! Photos to arrive soon ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Trail ride

Today a friend and I took Link and Sonny out on a trail ride (trails encompassing a ride around the hay fields); it was an absolutely gorgeous day out, -12C when I left but with the sun shining down brilliantly on the white snow. Both horses were like kids in a candy store, so excited to get out beyond the norm! Sonny was a little RB at moments and tried to slowly take off a couple of times, however my friend was able to slow him down and relax him as the ride progressed...nothing major. Link however became a little more RB at times, to the point where I dismounted and walked with him for a short ways. Otherwise he was great - I actually rode him in the Parelli hackamore, just he tended to jig a bit as well as bounce. I could feel his frustration at times (he was kicking out and doing little rears as well as tossing his head), which is where my dismounting came in :) He did alright though, particularly in the end where I was able to ride him home on a loose rein. Just a short ride, but hopefully with more work on the two of them we can get out for longer periods of time in a safe manner!! It was a fantastic day though - we saw up to 30 deer within one herd as well as two coyotes!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The latest on the greatest

Feb 12

Yes as usual lil' mister Smartypants got to go first. He did quite well on-line today and remained LB for the most part throughout all our patterns: spiraling in and out at the trot with the Circle game, migrating during the Circle game, transitions downwards and upwards, Figure-8 and Weave.

By the time Link got his turn in the arena, we had visitors! Two individuals came in to longe one horse at a time; one seemed your usual english horse while the other was quite young, ie. just being started likely. For my perspective on side reins (which were used on both horses, check out my other blog, The Perfect Horse). Both horses were quite uptight and so had quite the effect on Link. I took it quite slow with him and allowed him to stop often and check out these new horses, who were tearing around their 40' circles at their end of the arena (at one point the youngest horse got loose). At first he was quite RB, tearing around me and threatening several times to kick; he had a lot of pent-up energy and was keen on expressing said energy in the form of a rodeo bronc. I had to take a couple deep breaths, allow him to do so, and just continue patiently until we got in our Circle game and its extensions to a satisfactory level (which was actually ultimately a pretty damn good level!). I was quite positive I wouldn't be able to turn him "off" and get him back tuned in to me, but found that was not the case whatsoever! It took a good 15 minutes probably but soon he was LB and focused on me (for the most part, those horses were pretty distracting at times haha). He further impressed me by performing both the Figure-8 and Weave at the trot and with little direction (eventually) with only a few minor RB moments and missed cones or barrels!! He is definitely picking up a lot of confidence in the patterns. All in all he did excellent, so we moved onto some under-saddle work.

By the time we arrived at the under-saddle work the other two individuals had left the arena area but were still in the barn. Also, Sonny was gone by this point so it took a few minutes before Link was no longer looking for his buddy. Link was focused and attentive for the most part, but was only responsive to my requests if it suited him. In other words, if I asked with a little leg pressure and turning of my body to turn, he would, but only provided it was headed towards the other horses. If I asked him to walk in the opposite direction, I'd have to inject a bit of rein in with my request. For the most part though he was very good, even backing up very softly. He still isn't all that keen on the back-up and so will toss his head but as long as I am quiet and passively persistent he comes around quite nicely with a soft response. Afterwards we worked on his transitions; his jog was fantastic however he kept picking up speed as he gradually transferred over from LB to RB. This was mostly due to the fact that by that time the other horses and their owners had left the barn, as had Sonny of course (earlier) Link was left to his own devices with no herd-protection (from his perspective, anyway!). Eventually I allowed him to move up into an extended trot (he needed to stretch those shoulder muscles anyways), which he did for a bit before picking up the canter. I was just about to slow him back down to a trot however his canter was the softest, smoothest, and slowest it has ever been!! With a few half-halts here and there (me meanwhile poised to pounce like the predator I am to stop him should he move up into a gallop - bad habit!! I need to remind myself to just relax and move with the flow sometimes) he remained at the slower pace however the second time around I could feel him coiling and preparing for a buck as well as become increasingly RB, so I stopped him and stepped off right then and there. It's too bad we had to end the session there, but I could feel him becoming increasingly RB and so did not feel it safe for me to be up there any longer. Obviously with the narrowly-adverted-buck (he'd just bounced a little in preparation for the big buck) I no longer had his permission to be up there either!! I was rather disappointed however we did still make a lot of progress that day and it was not worth it to push the issue and possible get hurt. Obviously I need to work even harder at earning my spot as herd leader with him, as I am not yet there!! I've decided to start taking him out alone and just working with him for a number of sessions so that he only has me to focus on - I anticipate it might be a bit more challenging for us but I think it will really help us and enable me to perhaps better earn his trust in my leadership. All in all though, Link did do well. It was a first where I had been able to earn his partnership enough to take him from RB to LB so shortly within a session, particularly to the point where I could ride him!! He did do amazing, but we still have a ton of work to do!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Psycho horse? Yea, about that...

So the monkeys ended up with 3 days off rather than the 2 originally planned, but they seemed to have retained all that info we stuffed in last week. A lot of people told me I was crazy to get the psychotic "Link the dink", never mind to want him or even just to enjoy being around him on the track! But there was something about that big horse's character and sparkle in his eye that drew me to him and I'm glad (and lucky!) I was allowed the chance to bring him home. He is definitely a winner and we're gearing up to prove everyone wrong, that he's not the tool they thought he was but rather a brilliant horse who is making an amazing partner!! This horse is allowing me to learn so much and I am already so indebted to him for his advancing my savvy. He is incredibly smart and very very sensitive to everything around him, both in the physical and in the mental sense. What an amazing horse! Not to leave Sonny out though! He's still a fabulous horse, though a bit of a toddler at this stage - lots of energy and easily distracted! He'll be a great partner one day too, so for now we're just going to keep plugging away at it slowly.

Our 7 games went fantastic today but our Figure-8 and Weave patterns, though they ended on a good note, took a little longer today to complete as he kept reverting to being right-brained. He also wasn't so keen on squeezing over the barrels I'd laid out, but he did pop over them in the end. Today he was walking through the tarp curtain pretty easily and had no problem with the smaller blue tarp being shaken and tossed all over him today, including over his head. He started for a second when I whipped the carrot stick over his head lasso-style but immediately quieted without even moving his feet. A snow patch in the arena provided quite the jump a few times, but by the end he was walking through it as if it were nothing. Also, the little work on the 22' line we did went well, with him spiraling in and out at the canter fairly well and disengaging his hindquarters much easier even than on previous occasions. Under-saddle though Sonny was quite RB on me, which manifested itself mostly in his refusing most times to bend his neck to my knee and release. Eventually he became quite soft, but never 100%. Since the barrels and cones were still set up I asked him to weave and figure-8 through them as we would on the ground, but he nearly fell on top of me a couple of times as he reactively tried to make a turn and became RB!! Instead we worked a bit on transitions and a bit on the cloverleaf pattern; both were pretty rough however I am keeping in mind that it has been a few months since we've done any under-saddle work. Sonny made sure I remembered how long it's been with a nice long rub of my right knee (rubbing it raw, thank-you!) against the arena wall - ouch! All in all he did alright today, but I had been hoping for a bit more from him - oh well!! I've decided to drop the saddle work for now and instead really advance him on the ground; I figure if he becomes quite advanced on the ground then the under-saddle work will be that much easier later! Right now I'd like to focus more on my priorities, particularly Link; Sonny can follow along at a bit of a slower pace :)

Played our 7 games and ripped through our patterns as well; he did amazingly well, so we kept the ground session short. At the Figure-8 he again required very little direction on my part - I simply pointed towards the barrel I wanted him to go around and he went around that barrel! I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I felt that he was ready to trot around those barrels and so asked anyways; he did, and fully LB the entire time!! Next we did the Weave, with me facing forwards (very little direction on my part) and both at the walk and then at the trot - again he remained entirely LB, which was a HUGE step for us! I figured it would be quite a bit longer before we could move on to trotting the patterns without him being RB, which was what made today particularly exciting when we advanced further than I thought possible yet! I was ecstatic when at one point he felt he just had to blow off some steam during our Circling game and he gave a bit of a buck before kicking out hard; after his little show of exuberance, rather than then becoming RB and tearing around the circle like his tail was on fire (as he sometimes tends to), he quietly remained LB and we continued our game!! It has taken SO incredibly long (or at least it seems long!) to get through to this horse that I will remain consistent, quiet, and patient always, that I am not going to beat him or punish him. On previous occasions, he'd do something he'd normally be punished for, then go RB because he was just waiting for me to dole out the punishment. I think too that is why he kicked me, it was a "I'm gonna get you before you get me!" reaction because he was afraid I was going to get him one of those times around those barrels. There's been quite a few times though where he has become RB on me because he was expecting some violent reaction out of me. He's finally figuring out that I am going to give him all the time he needs to think things through, that I'm not going to punish him, and that he's safe to learn with me! Moving on though, I feel he is close to being ready to do some work on the 22' lead and perhaps even today we could have, but he did so well that I just wanted to end the ground session on a good note and not push our luck - plus leaving him LB would only help us under-saddle.

I was able to simply drape the rope over my arm as I tacked him up, and he stood quietly while I mounted. Doing our three-part maneuver - bend to a stop, turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarter, he was extremely light and was performing 180 degree turns easily and very softly. He was a little ancy to trot a few times during our cloverleaf pattern, but it was more akin to a slow jog rather than the sprint he usually would do. For the most part though he was very soft, responsive to weight shifts, pretty in tune to me, and mostly LB. At one point we were weaving through the cones and barrels and Aly (my pup) raced across the tarp in the arena, startling Link. His head came up and he sort of jumped, but rather than reverting to becoming RB, he immediately went back to being LB and we continued our pattern!! I was amazed at how well he handled the spook. We worked a lot on transitions and even did our cloverleaf at the trot (just a little bit - we did enough to get a LB-on-the-verge-of-RB pattern in either direction but left the game before he could become overly RB). Although at first (particularly if I asked for an extended trot) he tended to be a bit RB, for the most part he was very calm and LB, even giving me a very slow jog (something I have never gotten from him before). At one point he even transitioned down to a walk out of a jog of his own accord - something he never would have done at an earlier date!! He also seemed pretty responsive to my energy levels, even halting a few times when he felt me relax and stop riding in the saddle. We just worked a lot on maintaining that LB-ness and did enough to challenge him without pushing him. I was actually quite astonished with how calm and responsive he was. His back-up was great too, lacking (for the most part) in the usual braciness and resistance we usually have.

Funny story, near the end I could feel his back round up beneath me as his head went down. "Oh shit, this horse is going to blow," was my first panicked thought. This horse is no Koolaid (my WBx), who's bucks seem more akin to some complicated dressage maneuver or some carousel horse gently rocking you up then down. I've even sat some pretty mean rodeo bucks from Silver (my Quarab). But the prospect of this one horse, Link, bucking, legitimately scares me. He's got the power, and he's got the will. He doesn't want to be told what to do, and if he is unhappy about something, he is going to let you know in no uncertain terms. So meanwhile here I am panicking, but I also don't want to pull his head up just yet, because those bucks haven't let loose yet and so I'm not quite positive yet he even is going to what is this? It took me a moment or two, but I realised he was stretching out his back as he rounded it. I couldn't believe it!! Haha I can't believe I took so long to figure it out, yet I cannot really blame myself, because I never would have thought he'd be so relaxed as to stretch out and round his back like that for awhile yet! It was hilarious afterwards - after my heart slowed of course haha, as I realised his intentions hadn't been what I had thought they were at all. I just never anticipated him being so relaxed and LB under-saddle yet haha.

I was pretty damn proud of that horse today, he really did do me proud and he worked like a real solid partner!! Our under-saddle work was amazing and I feel the progress we made today is entirely attributed to the partnership we've established this past week on the ground. The little RB-ness we did encounter I know will fade as we continue our patterns both on the ground and under-saddle, just as it has been continuously doing so on the ground. Congrats Link, thanks for an amazing night!

On another note, I have a horse coming in on the 15th of February to be started, a little QH mare, so the notes as to her progress should start flowing sometime after (or perhaps including, we'll see) next Sunday!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The farrier visit

A nice roll after some play!

Well today I didn't play with either Link or Sonny but instead had their feet done. Both horses stood very well, despite someone snapping a longe whip numerous times at their horse in the arena. All our hard work, particularly during this last week, is starting to pay off! The two boys get the next two days off (I am in a course over the weekend) but are back on a regular schedule by Monday!

While we're on the subject of farriers...

The feat of finding a quality farrier in this area sometimes seems impossible! Today's farrier was great, but I'll explain further below. The last farrier I had (the one who did Silver and Koolaid just yesterday) was well enough but he lost me as he went on about having one of his clients use a twitch on her horse. He also lost me further later when he refused to listen to any insight I could offer into my own horses and when he refused to listen to my advice as to how to ask my horses to pick up their feet (my horses sort of respond to different cues to pick up their feet than your usual horse) and thus experienced difficulty. As a note though, for sure it is our responsibility as horse owners to make sure our horses are sufficiently developed and have sufficient trust in our leadership to stand nicely for the farrier. I cannot imagine bending over a multitude of horses each day and the toll it would take on my body, nevermind should those horses shuffle around and fight me the entire time! On the other hand though, when we don't properly prepare our horses (or our horses just are not "there" YET), there are things a farrier can do to help themselves out. For example, don't fight the horse! Koolaid, my Warmblood, WILL test the farrier (or anyone in his presence) - guaranteed. I can hold that horse's foot all day if I wanted, but when the farrier comes along, he is going to try to pull that leg away at least once. Now the farrier has one of two choices at this point:
1. try to hold the leg of an 1,100lb horse or
2. release the leg before picking it up again immediately after and try again
Let's look at what happens with #1. By pulling his leg away, Koolaid's started a game, testing the farrier's authority. By trying to hold that leg, the farrier is actually challenging Koolaid and is continuing the game! So what happens, the fight escalates.
With #2, the farrier is ignoring the challenge to his authority and is refusing to continue the game Koolaid has started, thereby actually starting to earn his respect.

Of course though, first off, the farriers never seem to introduce themselves to the horse. They march up to the horse, typical predator-style, and expect the horse to stand still while a complete stranger walks into their personal space and starts disabling them by picking up their feet. Then, when the horse (such as in Koolaid's case) does try to pull away - either out of distrust or disrespect, what does the farrier do? He holds onto said 1,100lb horse's leg. With a horse like Koolaid, he's going to fight you. Koolaid tried to pull his leg back and when he found he could not, he reared. Luckily for both him and I, I was able to work with him enough to get him to stand relatively still afterwards and he later gave the farrier little trouble. However there have been times in the past (prior to Parelli) where we had a huge fight on our hands - horse rearing, striking, very angry horse. For the distrustful horse, you've just grabbed his foot - his method of escape. From a prey animal's perspective, of course he's going to panic; he is going to do whatever it takes to get that foot back in case he's going to have to run (which he's thinking by this point, is increasingly likely).

The last thing that irritates me about farriers is that I have yet to find one that listens! I'm not going to try to tell you how to do your job, but I know my horse better than you do. So if I ask you to drop my horse's leg rather than fight him, please do it! I know my horse! Also, when I tell you that my horse has no idea what you are talking about when you ask him to pick up his feet that way, I know what I am talking about! If I tell you the cue to pick up his feet - the cue he knows - is to pinch his chestnuts and the caps of his hocks, please do it! Don't try to cue my horse in a way he doesn't understand (ie, pulling on his feathers), then get upset with him when he "disobeys" you! He's not disobeying you, he just doesn't understand what you're asking!

Link and Sonny's farrier today was actually excellent. He was very quiet with Link, which is what Link really needed. Unfortunately though he is not in the area for long, so I'm still in need of a permanent farrier. The second last farrier lost me when he smoked the green mare I was working with in the belly with his rasp. She was testing him a bit but also just green and so was unused to having her feet worked on by a farrier. So what is his first reaction? To yell and hit this prey animal. To add to the problem, this mare had been formerly worked with very harshly by another trainer. I had spent a lot of time gaining her trust and convincing her that I was not going to take her down and eat her alive. So naturally the rest of the time was spent trying to convince my mare that the farrier wasn't actually out to kill her. Even I didn't know what the man was going to do next, so how could I expect my mare to trust him?! This was supposedly a very good farrier - so...what does a 'bad' farrier look like, then?

Ultimately though, it is our responsibility to ensure our horses are adequately prepared for the farrier. On the other hand though, particularly with the green horse or with the horse that is a little distrustful of strangers, there are certain things the farrier can do to help him/herself out. Ultimately, when we cannot all work together and with the horse's best interests in mind, it is our horses that pay the price.

Barrel horses and their riders

I was just finishing up my session with Link when three individuals entered the arena, two with horses, one a barrel horse.

While the one woman starts longeing her blue roan, the other hops up onto her barrel horse and tears around the arena at full speed. No warm up, nothing (I know if I work out that way at the gym there is usually a painful price to pay). Horse is wearing a long-shanked curb bit and has his head tucked to his chest in an attempt at evading that harsh piece of metal. This is no beginner rider, either; this is and older woman whom I know has been in the barrel horse industry for a number of years and who has ridden for some top trainers in the western horse industry. As she is warming up her horse, her horseless friend on the sidelines shouts out:
"Why does he look so mad?"
This horse is thundering around the arena and you can tell he's not very comfortable with his nose to his chest and also that he is on edge.
"Oh, he's not mad," the rider shouts out. "He's a barrel horse! This is how they are, they're just really competitive!"

So my question then is, is this how all barrel riders are? Horses aren't born thinking "oh, I'm a barrel horse, I'm competitive, so I'm going to be fast, reactive, and upset by my rider all the time." Horses are made this way, by us. If a racehorse can work in partnership with its rider (as Pat Parelli has demonstrated on previous occasions), then why can't a barrel horse? If someone can turn a stallion "on" and "off" as if flipping a switch, and be in total partnership with said stallion in any situation, then why not a gelded barrel horse? Why does the barrel horse have to be high-strung, reactive, upset, and only controllable via a large piece of vicious metal? Personally I think there is another way - I know there is another way, whatever our disclipline is, for us to work in partnership with our horses. It frustrates me to see horses so upset, and it irks me that people refuse to look at things from the horse's perspective.

On a better note...

Quite the reactive little kid today! I was impressed though; when I originally brought him in he stood quietly without much pacing back and forth along the spot where he was tied, as he usually does. I turned him loose while I set up the arena though and he took off, tearing around like a madman on the rampage! It took several minutes for him to relax enough to come in to me to play. For our 7 games we've been focusing quite a bit on the Porcupine game, as Sonny's response as of late has been pretty lax. I think though it's just because he's been distracted and needing to move his feet, as on previous occasions he has been phase 1 or 2 with the Porcupine game. We expanded our circling game with the usual spiraling, transitions, and change in direction on the 12', all of which Sonny did well for where he is at. Lastly we did the Figure-8 pattern as well as the Weave. He had the tendency to become right-brained and thus bolt a couple of times, though he relaxed and worked with me by the end, so we finished on a good note! This guy is getting tall though! At one point, standing next to him in the arena, I realised on that particular footing that I could not see over his back! Really need to get a stick on this guy one day and accurately measure where he's at height-wise.

Wow, I pulled him in and tied him up for him to cock his hind leg and stand completely relaxed - a first for him! He was a little excited as Sonny tore around the arena, however he calmed down quickly afterwards. Pulling him out of the pasture also he seemed happy to see me and stayed put as I walked up to him to halter him. Our 7 games went extremely well today; by asking less of him he has been giving me way more!! His Yo-Yo is improved (though still say a phase 3 most times) and he is definitely much more responsive at the Porcupine game! I usually use the flank region as a pressure point to move the hind over, but yesterday I tried just using a spot over Link's muscled hind rather than his flank. He was responsive to the new location and seemed much less irritated by my application of pressure on the large muscles of his hind as opposed to on his flank. While the flank location I find works with most horses to initially teach, I think the area is too sensitive to Link not to frustrate and irritate him. I really focused on keeping my body language extremely quiet at the Circle game so as to encourage Link to remain relaxed. This is a game that he tends to become quite right-brained at at times and where he has threatened me the odd time; by remaining quiet and keeping my phases low I found he was more willing to work in partnership with me. Changes in direction were amazing - he remained rather cool and did not challenge me, venting little frustration but one or two tail switches. Spiraling in and out on the Circle game also went off well and he is definitely picking up those transitions well!! Afterwards we took to the Figure-8 pattern, which he completed (albeit at a walk, though he really strides out at his walk!!) without problem! As he turned around each barrel towards me, I simply pointed in the direction I wanted him to walk, he took note, and marched off in that direction. He was constantly watching for my next request and was working in complete partnership. There was only a time or two where I had to slightly lift my stick and point at his shoulder to ask him to move it over and around the barrels. Afterwards we also did the Weave with the same results: I pointed towards a cone/barrel and he would walk around it; only occasionally did I have to point at a shoulder. Although he did fantastic, I did not feel he was quite ready to do the two patterns at the trot - maybe next time! His walk stride is so long and forward though that to transition up into a trot is really a huge difference.
Link did so well I felt that a little bareback work was in order! Link was a little excited at times however he was still quite responsive to my requests on the cloverleaf pattern. I feel that I could have perhaps gotten some liberty work if we had continued our session under-saddle (working on transitions, patterns, etc) to get him focused, but I did not feel we needed to and I was a little short on time. Bareback it's a little difficult at times, as I feel, particularly with a horse like Link, that I have to be absolutely perfect in my body language for an accurate request; a saddle (and particularly, I find, a western saddle) allows a more secure seat so as to remain completely relaxed and also allows for some room for error in communication. I was pretty happy though with Link - as distracted or reactive (though to a small extent) as he was, he was still very responsive and for the most part, left-brained! As the three individuals mentioned above entered the arena, I thought I would lose all Link's concentration, however that was not the case whatsoever! He remained completely focused as I asked him to go through the Figure-8 and Weave patterns bareback. At one point I thought I heard a disruption outside just as Link spooked forwards with a jump (he's so smooth though it hardly felt like anything!!). As he leapt, I was pretty sure he'd land right-brained and so would take off, me bareback and losing my seat with the leap. Instead though I was able to move with him and re-adjust my seat as he landed, as he instantly became calm once more!! I was surprised too when later I tied him up, at how calm he remained as the barrel horse tore around the arena! Usually he paces back and forth around where he is tied, particularly if another horse nearby is in a reactive state or is running about, however this time he stood completely relaxed despite those thundering hoofbeats! A fantastic end to a great evening!

I also was out to see Silver and Koolaid today, though to hold them for the farrier rather than do any real playing with them. Both horses are quite herdbound (yes, even the lone wolf Koolaid!) at this point, so today I had the opportunity to see the level of work I have yet to put into our partnership(s) this year to get us back to par! I rode Koolaid in from the pasture though and he was quite responsive, which was great. I played the 7 games with Silver within a few minutes and jumped up for a couple sidepasses, turns on the hind, turns on the fore, and back-up. He did excellent, though had a little bit of a tendency to become right-brained with the we know what to work on!

Tomorrow Sonny and Link are due for the farrier, so fingers crossed our work so far makes for a successful trimming!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ever seen a horse duck??

Link standing in front of the tarp curtain, just to lend an idea of how far he had to duck to get beneath it without touching it!!

As usual, Sonny was my first victim of the two boys, as I hate leaving little mister Right-Brain-Extrovert tied up by himself first (yet!); at least after we've played some together he's in more of the right frame of mind not to get himself into too much trouble!
So today we started out with our 7 games - as usual - just to re-iterate our partnership and see where we were at for the day. He did very well except for having to use Phase 4 at the Porcupine game; we ended with Phase 2 or 3 though and left it at that. Just a rougher day for the boy all in all, as he seemed quite distracted - I had left the large door of the arena open to allow some of the warmth in but apparently it also let in a whole lot of distractions haha.
We played some with the tarp as our Touch-It Level 3/Obstacles Level 3, shaking the smaller of the tarps out all over his body and focusing particularly on dragging it over his head. Today he allowed me to rest the tarp over his head for several minutes before I chose to pull it off, which was fabulous! I also set up a sort of "tarp curtain" for him to walk through, which he eventually even backed through! Our Figure-8 was a little shady at first, as he kept getting too hyped up at the trot. Several times he ripped past me as if his tail were on fire, until I took him aside, took a couple of breaths with him, and we started again, but at the walk. Afterwards we did our Figure-8 and Weave perfectly (the Weave at the trot). We also spiraled our circles at the trot during our (7 games) Circle game and also worked on transitions as well as change in direction all on the 12' lead. Afterwards I threw him on the 22' for a little more work, spiraling at the canter again. By this time he was pretty responsive and focused, though he wasn't as responsible for maintaining his gait as he had been yesterday - no worries though! Lastly, I knocked over two of the barrels and asked him to pop over them from either direction, which he did!! I was extremely impressed with his jump, as I normally have to line the barrels up against a wall before he'll jump them (to block off the one side), and usually with a frantic I've-got-to-get-over-these-before-I-die(!!) look. Today, however, he popped over them calmly with little guidance and at the first request!! Job well done! A little reactive and distracted overall today, but he did well, particularly for an "off" day!!

I kept our 7 games extremely brief today and kept my asking phases uber light (ie. phase 1, phase 2 at most), which really seemed to please him. I think sometimes I get going through my phases a little fast (as I've mentioned previously), which frustrates him. I also asked him to work through the tarp, same as Sonny. Ever seen a horse duck? Well Link hesitated very little when I asked him to go through the tarp curtain, but for the first several passes he would sneak his head under the tarp, then "duck" his entire body underneath so that the tarp would barely brush his back - quite the feat for such a large horse!!! Pretty soon though he was walking through as normal (though he was always trying to go for the far edges lol) and even backed through once. We also worked on transitions (getting there) as well as spiraling our circle at the trot and change in direction. I really have to be careful with the change in direction to push his shoulder out though to ensure he doesn't come in too close to my space (ie. kicking range), but he was quite polite today and moved out when I asked, albeit with a tail swish or two (haha). After playing with our circles a bit, I began stepping towards the barrels (backwards); as I was turning around, he actually walked past me and started doing the pattern himself!! He was a little leery at first, but I was actually able to really tone down my effort today!! Usually I lift my stick to block as he comes around the barrel towards me, then lift the stick again a moment later (pointing in the opposite direction now) to guide his shoulder away from me and around the next barrel. Today however it only took a pass or two before all I had to do was point and block his shoulder every once in awhile as a reminder going around the barrel away from me (just by lifting the stick off the ground really, not even lifting it up). For him to walk around the barrels as calmly as he did and with so little direction was fantastic!! I never once felt threatened by a possible kick either, which is definitely a step in the right direction ;P As we moved on to the Weave pattern, I found the same. I rarely had to lift my stick off the ground (perhaps 1' off the ground and only a time or two) - for the most part all I had to do was point and he moved around the cones in a perfect Weave!!! Lastly, I tipped the barrels and asked him to pop over them as well. On previous occasions we had been unsuccessful at obtaining a successful Squeeze game over the barrels when they were not set up against the wall; today he tried a couple of ways out but he did finally pop over in either direction! We finished there for the day, as he had made so much progress in the one session!!!

I know the breathing thing probably sounds a little odd, but I find it really helps under-saddle (transitions downwards I use it all the time with all my horses) and I've been finding that it actually makes a difference on the ground too! I have been using it when I want to encourage Link or Sonny to transition downwards and also when they're a little right-brained and I want to have them relax. Our horses are constantly reading our body language (particularly if we're in tune with one another and playing games in a partnership), so if it works under-saddle, why wouldn't it work on the ground?!

On a final note, though Link didn't walk up to me today, neither did he walk off, which is another steady step in the right direction! After our session together he followed me for a bit before taking a roll and taking to pacing the fenceline. When I see a horse doing that, I see an unhealthy (mentally and emotionally) horse; I've found on our really good days, Link just doesn't run the fenceline. When he does run the fenceline, there is usually no getting him out of that state of mind; he is too worked up to relax and get himself out of the pattern (a manifestation of his stress) he's started. So today I walked over and just spent a couple of minutes with him before returning to taking down the obstacles in the arena, just to see if this time it would make a difference. Well it did! He followed me calmly for the remainder of my gathering up objects and putting them away. I thought I might lose him when we had to walk up to the fenceline a couple of times, but he stuck with me rather than reverting to his pattern! He was a whole lot calmer at the end and was definitely acting in partnership!

Trainer's Quest 2008

Trainer's Quest was held Oct 24-26 2008 in St.Paul, Alberta at the St.Paul and District Harvest Festival. It consisted of a contest between 3 trainers*:
1. Shantel Perreal. Owns Martin Stables and has had over 25 years experience in ranching, training, and showing. Shantel studied Pat Parelli's program and completed Level 3 through the clinics of Don Holiday. She has also graduated from the John Lyons program. Shantel is a certified and registered massage therapist for both humans and horses and holds certification in Equine Chiropractics.
2. Katelyn Carter. She was the youngest of the competitors. In her few short years of training she has developed a style of training young horses that parallels no other and she will be the first to tell you her techniques are always in evolution as the horses she meets continue to teach her. Her website is here.
3. Myself, of course!

I was quite nervous going into the competition, particularly when going up against someone with more experience than I and with a higher level of PNH!! Turns out though that Shantel's methods followed John Lyons more closely than Pat Parelli's. While John Lyons' methods are certainly effective, having experience with both methods, I have to say that Pat Parelli's methods are more focused on the psychological and partnership aspect, in my opinion.

We were each given a 2yo Morgan colt, each of a different horsenality and each only halter-broke. Shantel's horse was very right-brained and reactive; Katelyn's horse was definitely your classic Left-Brain Introvert, and my horse was likely left-brain but had very right-brain tendencies. First session was Friday evening (I was 2nd to go), second was Saturday morning (1st out of the gates), third session was Saturday evening (3rd this time around), and our final session was Sunday morning (2nd to go) - all four sessions were done in a round pen. Our finale was Sunday evening and held in the open arena.

I started out with a little join-up but immediately started teaching my colt the 7 games to allow for effective communication between us. Initially I started out with a lot of obstacles (tarps, saddle, blankets, poles, ropes, bridges, etc) in the arena so as to desensitize my colt as quickly and easily as possible. Our first two sessions consisted strictly of ground work, our third session consisted of roughly half ground work, half under-saddle work, and our final session consisted primarily of under-saddle work with a good 20 min at least of 7 games. By our third session my little Morgan's left-brained horsenality was starting to shine through as he challenged my authority. I simply ignored him and we continued on our way.

The finale consisted of being judged on having our horses do the following under-saddle:
1. walk across a wooden bridge
2. drag a long heavy pole 25'
3. walk over a large blue tarp
4. trot through a series of poles
5. back-up
6. walk/trot/canter
7. have a lariat swung from the saddle
8. freestyle

#1/#3/#4/#5 were no problem at all; we had tackled these obstacles in the round pen during our sessions. #2 we had not yet had a chance to practise under-saddle during our sessions, though I had dragged it along the ground with him during one of our sessions. My colt and I performed flawlessly, though something spooked him just past that 25' line and he shot forwards. #6 we had been unable to obtain a canter in the round pen and the same followed in the space of the arena, whether due to balance issues on the colt's part or due to a not yet sufficiently high level of respect, it would be hard to tell at that point. #7 we did not have the chance to practise either, but the little gelding stood perfectly quietly as I swung the rope overhead! #8 I asked my gelding to do a turn on the hindquarter (either direction), stood on his back, slid off his rump, then also loaded him into a step-up stock trailer. I wasn't sure if he was prepared at that point to be sent into the trailer so instead I led him in, but I asked him to back out, which he did!

The judges took into account not only each trainer's approach and how they handled different scenarios, but also their horse's horsenality. They were not only judged on which tasks they could accomplish, but also which ones they couldn't and why. For example, I decided not to ask my colt to canter after a few shots and so was graded not just on being unable to accomplish said task but on handling the situation as appropriate.

All in all it was a close race and my gelding and I won!! I look forward to future challenges and experiences for sure and am thankful for the fabulous opportunity!

*trainers info as per Harvest Festival pamphlet

Check out photos of Trainer's Quest here!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A session with the boys

Sonny wearing his new tarp-friend
As per usual, we whipped through our 7 games before continuing on to the patterns. Yesterday Sonny became pretty adept at handling that horse-eating tarp, so today I used a smaller tarp and desensitized him to having it rubbed all over him, thrown up over his body, and swished around loudly on all sides. He did so well!! At first he was quite skeptical, but within minutes he was back to being cool and collected! We also video taped our Weave (at the trot, so Level 2!) and Figure-8 (Level 1), which he did awesome at. We also did a bit of Circles #6 (change direction and w/t transitions), as well as Circles #7 (walking a straight line from one end of the arena to the other while he continuously circles), the latter on both the 12' and the 22' leads. I also spiraled him in and out of a circle at the trot on the 12' before throwing him on the 22' and doing the same at the canter. He's not quite "light" enough to really excel at the task, but this was his first time, so obviously it will come (along with the balance that will aid in becoming soft) with time! This horse is used to leaning into pressure (particularly on the reins under a rider), so it will take a bit of time to develop that soft and supple feel. At the end I asked him to pop over some barrels laid out (both on the 12' and the 22') and he popped over them nicely while remaining left-brained and with little direction on my part!!

Link getting up from a roll

Same as Sonny, we breezed through the 7 games with me focusing on being excessively light. He did very well; the rest will come as the patterns are developed and everything starts falling into place. Link of course did not have any concern about the tarps so we did not really focus a whole lot in that area. His Figure-8 was quite rough at first, with him stopping on the far side of each barrel each time, then tearing past me like a madman going around the barrel on the left (which is the side he kicked me from the other day). I was a little nervous, but found that if I just stood back further he would still follow my directives around the barrel and I would be at a safer distance. As I focused on remaining extremely calm, he relaxed as well (I actually stopped him at one point and took a DEEP breath with him lol - seemed to work though!!) and started working through the pattern calmly and perfectly!! When I asked him to Weave at the trot he became pretty uptight, so I instantly stopped him and quietly re-asked for the pattern but at the walk. Trot will have to come later! We did a bit of circle work: #6 (transitions) and spiraling in and out, but not too much as he was not quite focused enough to ask too much more of him. Afterwards I popped up onto his back so we could do a little cloverleaf pattern. He did well but was inclined to tense up and move up into the trot, so we did not attempt any liberty work and instead ended the session on a good note! Our video-taped session of two of the patterns is viewable here.

Next to come is (finally!) news and photos of my time at the Trainer's Quest Oct 24-26, 2008, a competition between 3 horse trainers, including myself.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Equine carousel Feb 2

A brief overview of playing with all four horses today!!

Feb 2

On-line (12' for most, 22' for the last game)
7 Games - breezed through, including side-pass towards me (still picking that one up somewhat).
Figure-8 (improvised: no barrels/cones/etc, L1) - he wasn't quite sure what I was asking; his circles around snow patches were actually turns on the hind haha, but he performed the pattern perfectly several times first shot!
Circles #6 (L2) - he figures a raised stick means changed direction rather than slow, so I'll have to keep working at communicating to him otherwise. His direction changes are perfect though!
Circles #7 (L2) - no problemo, as we have done this one before.
Circles #15 (trot/22'/L3) - kept checking in on me ("what do you want from me, woman!") but held a continuous trot spiraling in and out by the end

On-line (12' for most, 22' for the last game)
7 Games - Koolaid was actually lighter than Silver at his 7 games! Silver was phase 1/2 but Koolaid was (except for turn on the hind) phase 1, brushing hair!
Figure-8 (improvised/L1)- same as Silver...apparently neither horse really knew which snow patch I was referring to lol....still performed perfect drive/draw/pattern though!
Circles #6 (L2) - same as Silver
Circles #7 (L2) - aaand, same as Silver!
Circles #15 (trot/22'/L3) - wasn't quite sure what I wanted and so kept checking in on me, but I he seemed to understand the request by the end.

On-line (12' lead)
7 Games - entirely phase 1 or 2
Touch-It (L1) - it was hard work touching that horse-eating tarp, but we did it! Figure-8 (L1) - stayed very left-brained throughout several cycles of the pattern!
Figure-8 (L1) - performed it perfectly multiple times from either side!!
Weave (walk/L2) - very cool and collected
Circles # 6 (L2) - no changes in direction, but we practised slowing from trot to walk, which he did well!
Circles #7 (L2) - maintained a trot very nicely!
Obstacles - We walked over that same tarp (roughly 25' long), trotted over it, and even managed to quietly back onto it and down all those 25'!

Overall Sonny did amazing! He remained left-brained 100 percent of the time and performed all his patterns while very in tune with me. At the end I threw him on the 22' and asked him to maintain a canter until I asked him to disengage - all he did with ease, even at the longer distance!

After our session together, I turned Sonny loose to meander about while I played with Link. What was hilarious was that three people entered the arena, startling Sonny. Sonny jumps up and races over to stand behind me to watch the newcomers with bugged-out eyes. As the people prepare to enter the arena though, he dances over to greet the (horse-less) newcomers...after they pass his "non-horse-eating" test, of course.
"Is this horse hot?" one of them asks. "He looks hot!" Of course it was said in that negative, must-be-a-Thoroughbred tones of voices.
"No, not really..." I reply, confused at what was the point of what she was asking. He naturally has a lot of energy and of course he's a RBE, but at the time, though excited, he was very calm and left-brained.
Apparently she thought Sonny was going to run them over. I tied him up anyways of course so that he'd stay out of their way, but Sonny's the last horse you have to worry about running you over!

On-line (12' lead)
7 Games - we breezed through them quickly and without really working too much on driving or porcupining those hindquarters. He did well though, moving his front end around nicely with just body language and no stick to extend my arm. Sonny joined us at the Yo-Yo game, backing as nicely as Link, and at liberty! (this was prior to the other people on foot entering the arena, of course)
Touch-It - well, being left-brained, it is sort of difficult to find things that intimidate Link! I think the tarp intrigued him more than it did scare him (as usual, haha.
Figure-8 (L1) - remained left-brained 90% of the time...only had to dodge a couple of times when I thought he'd kick, but he never did. A couple of times he took off on me so I just worked quietly with him and he instantly calmed down so that we could continue again, even when Sonny kept annoying him (I had turned him loose after our session) and when others joined us us in the arena (on foot measuring barrel patterns) afterwards!
Weave (walk/L2) - did very well!
Circles #6 (L2) - same as Sonny, no changes in direction, though we did do some w/t transitions! Link slowed down to a walk easily, despite being that GOGOGO horse he is!
Obstacles - Link walked all over that tarp, the loose Sonny following close behind. Afterwards I threw the tarp over him and had him carry it a few steps (which meant also dragging it), which he did so, completely laid back.

The last three games Link and I played with people walking all over the arena, and although he was distracted at times, he continued to remain calm. I also noticed during some of the games that his right side is definitely his harder side, the side he tends to stiffen up and block me out on. Overall though he still did extremely well!! I never threw him on the 22' as I felt he was not quite ready for it - maybe next time!

At the end of Link and Sonny's session, I turned the two horses loose while I cleaned up. Link was content to follow me about (and roll) but Sonny was intent on forcing Link to play. The next 15 minutes or so both horses burst around the arena, Sonny kicking up his heels, bucking, and enticing Link to play. Later I came in to pick them up and Sonny bolted up to me, steering clear at the last second and turning back around to see me, Link close on his heels.

A great session!! Link walked away when I first went out to bring him in, but this time not as far and he turned around and walked a few steps up to me when I ignored him to halter Sonny. I was really really happy with how Link was working so well in partnership with me today!! At the end of our session he rolled multiple times (always a good sign he is relaxed) and even followed me about for a bit (at least until Sonny stole him from me for play lol). A few times I was nervous he would try to kick, particularly when he had right-brain moments where he was quick with his hinds and reactive, but he worked extremely well with me!!!