Thursday, April 30, 2009

Standing around and doing nothing...yes, this is horse training at its finest...

April 29

Just a brief overview of the sunny-but-chilly-I-can't-make-my-mind-up-if-I-want-to-be-winter-or-spring day...

Yes, don't we all just LOVE winter coats? C'mon now, sense the sarcasm...oh, oh...there, there's so much of it it's dripping now...

We did some circle work on the ground, including w/t/c, transitions, and changes in direction. I am anxious though to get a temporary/makeshift roundpen set up (ie. electric fencing sticks and rope), as we are only getting into the year and I want to get off to a good start. I do not have his full partnership on the ground - I have much more drive than I have draw with him, so I'd love to do some liberty work in the confines of a roundpen to work on that draw towards me. I rode him under western with the cradle bit (little cross-dressing here, I kept the bit on my english bridle and used it rather than transferring the bit over to a western bridle - the shock! The horror!!); Silver was a little reactive at times but was otherwise soft, supple, and relaxed - and collecting nicely for me. I think we'll continue for awhile in the cradle - C3 - and see how goes before moving up into a similar curb (ideally a Myler; approx 1'' port for tongue relief with a copper roller, sweet iron mouthpiece that curves in the horse's mouth and that preferably is double-jointed but solid - ie. the joints allow rotation side-to-side without up-and-down action that places additional pressure on the bars, and short shanks) to eventually show in (time willing). Lots of refinement work left to do obviously but we are getting there slowly but surely. We did not do much for patterns work though this time - next time.

Same as with my little silver horse, Koolaid and I did some groundwork first. I am also anticipating some liberty work with him as well to balance out our drive:draw (currently drive is more in our favour, given his nature). He had a blast showing off for Venus in the arena before we commenced (none of his 10/10 extended trot though...I guess she's good enough to impress but not that good hahaha). I worked him a little under english and in the C3 cradle bit as well, which he seems to love. We did some basic dressage intro work - leg yields, circles, figure-8's. We worked a lot on that bend on circles (without falling in! haha) at the w/t/c, including 10m circles at the canter even. He was fabulous and was collecting nicely and consistently for me, though we definitely need to work on our leg aids further to get them sharper and also on creating some further impulsion (beware: this one's a speed demon!...sense the sarcasm...). We kept the session short and sweet though so that he would not be sore for me after all the collection work (lots of relaxation in between collection asks though).

BAM was much quieter today than usual, she was very trusting and soft. I kept my "communication" quiet and soft for her as well, using minimal direction and quiet movements. We also did a lot of relaxation in the form of stopping and rubbing to reinforce that "draw" and trust with her, which is uber important in her case since she tends to be so jittery and untrusting. So lots of standing around and doing nothing. All in the name of training. Yes I love this job. We got through all 7 games easily and lightly and so moved on to some saddle work. After a little desensitizing with the western saddle (which looks so completely ridiculously small on such a massive creature!), she was finally tacked up (she has carried an english saddle previously) and we did a some work - flapping the stirrups, moving about, placing weight in the saddle, etc. We ended the session after she was consistently and relaxedly allowing me up in the stirrups so that I was hanging over her back. Something Jonathan Field said in his vid Inspired by Horses (and also at his clinic at the Mane Event) was that he always ends his sessions at the height of connection. When you really succeed and really have that connection with a horse, that is the time to finish your session rather than to get greedy and ask for more. Finish on a fantastic note and soon what happens at the end of one session starts happening at the beginning of the next session. So that is what I have been keeping in mind and that is what Venus and I did today. She finally let me up into that saddle so that is where we called it quits - after a high. Overall she was very soft and relaxed today with very very few reactive moments (unless you include the time she tried to split Aly's head open because pup was in the way...oh wait...not reactive, lol).

He came out today initially for some under-saddle work, but his back was slightly sore (definitely need to re-adjust my saddle) and so instead he was simply groomed up and vaccinated. He heads out to a NH trainer May 1 for 30 days. I originally could not fit him into the last-minute schedule my mom had wanted him in and so Sonny is off to enjoy some time with someone else! We drop him off tomorrow; personally I am hoping he comes back with even further balanced emotions (ie. calmer, braver, smarter v.s. reactive at times) and with leg aids! Just makes my job a whole lot easier (as well as more enjoyable riding when my mom chooses to ride him), then I can work on further developing him when he returns.

Yes, Murphy's Law dictates that my camera (yes, the one with the filthy lens), shall die before I can take photos of the two new fillies. Actually it died before I even got to Venus. Oh joy.

Little Queen Bee and her buddy Little Roan Filly (Vienna) marched right up to me as soon as they saw far so good. I don't anticipate them being this easy to catch consistently throughout the 30 days though, especially as the LQB learns to work and is asked for respect. We had the entire arena to ourselves today and she was fabulous! So much better than yesterday. I did get the odd attitude, such as with the yo-yo: SURE I'll come in to you, but this is MY game and I run this show!! through attempts to run me over, or with the circling game (w/t on the 12'): hey, note I'VE got something to say about all this work!! via headshakes in my direction, but overall she was pretty pleasant to work with. Her sideways game as of yet is non-existent, so we'll work on the other 6 games before we try for the sideways once more. I tried to also make sure I threw in a lot of simple "chilling time", where I could earn her trust. Again...standing around. Doing nothing. There seems to be some sort of recurrent pattern here. Just kidding ;)

Poor LRF, by the time we got into the arena (after Queen Bee's session), riders were entering the arena as if there was some event going on or something. Some event being the Airdrie Rodeo Riders... Within minutes there were a good 6 riders cantering around us at any one time (not allowing us much room either, I might add, despite there definitely being the room available). One in particular made LRF jumpy, a little chestnut QH pretty hyped up and his head tied down way too low... Anyways, she was a little distracted but only made 3 or so attempts at deafening me (they actually worked too) and was great overall! We whisked through our 5 games and played a lot of friendly game as well....a.k.a. we lazed about and I rubbed her.

Yup, I saved the best for last! There was definitely some sparkle in his eye when I brought him in and he spotted all the horses and people milling about...perhaps too much sparkle? His inquisitive nose instantly set to work at persuading me to allow him to touch everybody. Me: 1, nose 0. These didn't seem the type of people that wanted horse snot on their Lululemon. I am taking a bit of a different approach with Link, and all my higher-level horses lately - limited 7 games (throw in a bit here, a bit there, something akin to confetti...) and more focus on the patterns. Of course this was our first time working in the outdoor ring (by now the Rodeo Girls' official lesson had begun) though, and with two other horses (a barrel horse being longed at the canter for an hour straight while his owner conversed on the phone, and a 16yo black-and-white Paint who had not been ridden in 8 months) to boot. To put it mildly, Link was ecstatic. Oh, and I had virtually no room to play any patterns, so our new focus on the patterns was restricted to circling with changes in direction. Link paraded around, tail in the air, head waving, air puffed through those flared nostrils excitedly (better make sure everyone knows how excited we are...). He was fairly attentive though and though he did break into the canter quite a few times, for the most part it was a relaxed canter where he even maintained some nice balance on about 10 meters of circle (prior to my slowing him). He was pretty excited under-saddle though too (english, C3 cradle bit - which he loves) but was still fairly attentive and very responsive. We walked until he was calm before doing some work at the trot - bending, suppling, softening, collecting. I won't lie, there was plenty of holla-backed-girl trotting, but there was also quite a bit of soft and relaxed trot. We also did a little canter work - it took a bit of work on my part (half-halts, uber relaxed seat) to attain some relaxed and rhythmic canter, but we did alright! He had trouble picking up his right lead so we will have to work some on that as well. As our canter work continued he did tend to become more reactive so we attained some short strides of relaxation before calling it a day. We ended without him so much as breaking a sweat or breathing hard (despite working for a good 30-45 minutes) and with his being relaxed and attentive to me. Oh, funny story. As the Rodeo Girls were loading up and leaving, someone made some sound behind us that Link took as the sound of a prowling cougar. Not that I blame him, I mean, I was convinced it was the sound of a prowling cougar (disguised of course as the sound of a trailer door opening or such) too. He did this huge flying leap into the air and came down, rocking me out of balance and loosing my left stirrup. Can we say....scope?? Yup, he's a keeper for the jumper ring, lmao. Luckily for me however he was actually very calm after his Pegasus-like-endeavor and he stood quietly as I re-collected myself...definitely a change from his I'm-a-wild-horse(!!!) Link days. We are definitely getting there, Link and I!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Because we all love going deaf

Today's day started off with a quick 30 minute session with the BAM (Big-Ass Mare). I wanted to reinforce what we went through yesterday - earning trust, without pushing her. I really wanted to create more "draw", have her want to be with me. Her leading was great, she followed me today on a loose lead without any hesitation a bit in the trust department. I dusted her off some before tossing some ropes over her for the rest of the session. By the end, she was fairly calm and much as she was ever going to be anyways (lol). I am hoping to spend a lot of time with her tomorrow - have some undemanding trust-earning time to start off, complete all 7 games, then perhaps get her introduced to my western saddle. Might as well start working on some things simultaneously.

Today was session one with each of the two new fillies, Havanna and Vienna. Both are rising three-year-old QH fillies, one a buckskin (Havanna) and one a red roan (Vienna). Photos tomorrow hopefully. They haven't had anything done except some desensitizing (saddle included) and halter-breaking. They're being kept the same place as Link and Sonny, with the indoor arena.

Well it turns out Little Queen Bee (LQB) is definitely lacking in both ground manners and respect. A round pen really would have been useful today! LQB was extremely distracted throughout, which was to be expected, but her lack of respect and ground manners meant that her distractedness would result in my being run over. More than once. She's quite the bully - when she wants to go somewhere, or if she doesn't want me on her right side (...often), she just takes that left shoulder and runs me over with it. She's pretty fancy with that head of hers, with keeping me away from that right side! To make matters worse, there were three riders in the arena today to further distract her! Haha. I have to admit I was pretty ticked off when I was finished with her (I don't know about the next person, but I don't particularly care for being mowed down by an insolent toddler lol), but she did do okay overall and hopefully tomorrow there will be less distractions so we can get more done! She is quite sensitive (such as in her porcupine game) though so once I've earned her respect she should be a quick learner!

My new Little Roan Filly (LRF) was better than her counterpart, despite her lack of ground manners and respect as well. She pushed me over quite a number of times with that chunky shoulder of hers. On the other hand though, LRF didn't have the attitude that her buddy LQB had, she seems much more willing. She was quite herd-bound though! She is definitely the follower of the group, with LQB the dominant leader (today I came out to find the two lording over the hay piles haha). This is how I nearly went deaf...LRF Vienna screaming incessantly in my ear. Hence the title of this post. Same as Havanna, Vienna and I got through 5 of our 7 games together (two riders in the arena with Vienna and I). Hopefully tomorrow is a better session with more progress and less distractions!

Link, my favourite partner, didn't get much more than a good visit (and a few-too-many treats) silly as it sounds, I was much too tired and frustrated after being stomped and trampled by the two new three-year-olds to work with another horse, so called it an early day. Tomorrow :)

Completely off-topic, but I am currently watching The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. Not only is it extremely well done (filming, acting, etc), but it is a very powerful film. Very heart-sickening, but also very good, and profound.

New techniques and dressage

April 27

It's 1:45 am after already blogging over on The Perfect Horse and I am exhausted so just a quick dish on today's occurrences.

Worked the Big Orange Man on the ground first with our 7 games (mostly flawless), figure-8 at the trot on the 22' (excellent), and weave at the walk (fab). His circling game was a little rough - he was a bit reactive at times, but overall it was still excellent and very successful. I also did a little liberty work with Sonny, taking what I had learnt from Jonathan the other day at the Mane Event. He mentioned during his clinic at the Mane Event that he wouldn't get into the saddle of a young horse before doing some liberty work to attain a connection. I thought what he said made a lot of sense with everything else he had to say and demonstrated that day, so I threw in a little liberty work of my own with the horses today. Until I pick up a portable roundpen though I have the entire arena to work with, which makes things a tad more difficult. It also means that I ask less of the horse than I would in the roundpen. I discovered today that all three of the horses I worked with today had much more drive today than draw, meaning they had no problem running away from me when I first set them loose at liberty (haha). See already what liberty can teach us and the areas it can help us in? It wasn't very long at all though before Sonny was trailing me about, which was great (not all that advanced, but helpful and a great feeling nonetheless).

Afterwards I threw my english saddle up onto Sonny and we did some basic work (rope hackamore) - small circles on the rail, back-up, figure-8, cloverleaf (working on leg aids, which his is definitely lacking in), walk/trot transitions, bending. Sonny has a tough time bending to his left (though it does not seem to be a chiropractic issue), so we worked a lot on that side until he was softer and suppler. Overall he did excellent - he was focused, attentive, and very willing.

Figure-8 around the barrels developing some bend.

Finishing up with some liberty work

My favourite lad was up next. We too started off with his 7 games (beautiful, including a good 4-5 barrel jumps in either direction - including gorgeous jump frame and scope - with very very little direction on my part!) as well as the figure-8 at the trot on the 22' and the weave (finished in either direction at the trot, though I had him on the 12' going down - twice!! - on his right side) - he did amazing, especially for having been a bit reactive and unconnected with me at the very beginning of our session. His liberty demonstrated a lot of drive too but he was soon following me about and seemed very comfortable at my side. At the end of our session he sought me out and followed me everywhere as I cleaned up the arena, stored equipment, and gathered up tack.

Our under-saddle session was GREAT!!! We worked along the rail to warm up (english saddle, cradle bit), worked on direct and indirect rein, figure-8, rail circles, transitions, etc. He was a little hyped up but was overall still very good. Next we set up a 20m circle with cones and worked on our trot in it - combined with all I had picked up at the Mette Rosencrantz dressage clinic at the Mane Event, we rocked that arena! We of course still have a ton of work to do, but for our first official dressage session, we kicked some serious hindquarter. He was very responsive to my legs, was very bent around the circle, and developing roundness. His trot was very reactive and fast at first and although our pace was not even throughout, we had some long periods of strong trot during which he was thoroughly calm and relaxed. I was extremely impressed with how well our half-halts really set him back nicely. As our session progressed he sped up a bit and lost some consistency in frame but I think primarily it was that he was starting to become tired. Next we tackled some canter on a 40m circle (approx). This was only say our second time actually schooling in the canter successfully. Our partnership has changed much since then though and he himself has developed further into a more balanced (emotionally) horse. Today's canter was wonderful - the 4om circle was easily maintained on a balanced canter in a round frame a good 75 percent or so of the time - fantastic for our second successful canter of the year! He was calm and the good majority of his canter was calm and relaxed (definitely slowed). Like I said, still a ton of work to do together but we are on to an exciting start!! Finally, after cooling out (he never even broke a sweat throughout, lol) and untacking, I had the brilliant idea of riding Link at liberty. I wasn't sure how much I could trust him, but he proved himself a trustworthy partner to me 10 times over today! He was very responsive during a walk/trot cloverleaf pattern, which included a spectator and also the door opening and closing abruptly (no flinch even). At the end he just felt like he wanted to run, so I let him out, nervous of what he would do though. I have to admit I was a little terrified at first, but he took care of me and acted in complete partnership!! He had his fun around that arena but his actions were controlled and relaxed - and in partnership!!! It was a great feeling to be that in sync with Link.

We started off with 5 of our 7 games, which she performed decently (her circling game was the only game that was a little rough, going clockwise). I felt she was pretty reactive towards me though (it seems man-made fear, not the type of fear you get through not handling a horse...) and untrusting, so I set her loose for some liberty work. That horse wanted nothing to do with me, or people, despite all the trust I had already tried to earn with her during our previous sessions. I ran her for a good hour - I'd try and try to have her come up to me, but she wasn't having any of it. Gradually though there was some improvement and we finished with her walking up to me of her own volition. She did not seem 100 percent confident with me at that point, but it was a start for sure. I groomed her up and then sat on the ground awhile, just spending some undemanding time in an attempt to create 'draw' with her. It seemed to work somewhat - when I got up later to clean the arena she led much better than she ever had on previous occasions. Usually she pulls back and resists, but this time she left a lot of slack in the rope to follow me closely without my so much as tightening that rope once. If I can earn a high level of trust with this mare, I've got it made, we won't have any further major and hindering issues together - this is the only stronghold I have to break through with her, though it might be a particularly difficult one. So hopefully we can continue to do it! That was all the work we did today - roughly 2 hours' worth!! We both worked hard, hopefully it pays off in tomorrow's session.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The joys of frozen teeth

April 22

Got a good taste of Mother Nature's winter weather warning this morning! By the time I was finished with Venus, my teeth had nearly frozen off, nevermind working with Silver and Koolaid!

The long side of the arena where Venus, Silver, and Koolaid are boarded at. The weather looks decent in this photo, but photos can be deceiving! Haha. My fingers froze taking this photo lol.

The short end of the arena - decent footing


We did our 7 games today:

- friendly (45' rope and carrot stick familiarization)

- porcupine (180 degree turns on the hind and fore/chest/nose at Phase 1 or 2)

- driving (180 turns on the hind and fore/back-up Phase 1 or 2)

- yo-yo (end of the 12' Phase 2 at most, soft wiggling of the lead)

- circling (better than yesterday, she was much softer at the end of the lead and gave me 2 laps with confidence)

- sideways (still a little reactive yet)

- squeeze (between me and the fence - still some reactiveness here too but we finished on a good note).

I had wanted to do more, but as I mentioned above, my teeth were freezing off, and so I ended the session - on a good note - short, but sweet, to prevent any loss of said teeth. Due to the high winds she was a bit reactive in general today too, so I thought it best to leave the saddling intro to a day where she was in a better state of mind (of course if that day involves my owning a warm ass rather than a frozen-off one, that's okay too!)...which had been the next step I'd wanted to take with her anyways.

Silver and Koolaid...well they got a good look-in today and some pets on the nose...but that's all my poor teeth could endure, hehe.

I left my trunk open for literally 5 minutes while I unloaded equipment and my trunk interior was already covered in a fine layer of snowdust! We tore through our 7 games...the especially cool highlights of the day:
- driving game 360 turn on the fore and hind (could be cleaned up some but was half-decent and phase 1)
- porcupine game 360 turns on the fore and hind phase 1(awesome!!)
- yo-yo to the end of the 22' phase 3 at most (gentle wiggle with my forearm) and he even backed up when I brought the phases down to 2 (wiggle my wrist, no wiggling of the lead beneath his chin)
- circling game w/t/c - he actually walked without prompting on my part! He also trotted left-brained and remained as such throughout changes in direction, transitions, etc. His canter was pretty rough at first (he kept hitting the end of the 22' and then spinning to face me) but by the end he was balancing himself enough and was relaxed enough to complete 2 excellent laps in either direction.
- sideways without the wall

We also did some figure-8 (trot) and some weave...unfortunately only at the walk on the right side, trot on the left (my being on his left). I'll keep plugging away at it and hopefully we can get it so that we can progress to level 3 on-line. There were a few times he shot me a little attitude (he was ignoring me) but partially he was just being a little reactive too, so more time together will remedy that.

I saddled him at liberty today! A huge feat for us, as he's always tended to get anxious being tacked up (he was always very anxious being tacked up on the track). It was fantastic to throw that saddle up and have him free to walk away but not doing so, head lowered to the ground and even yawning (lol).

Under-saddle we did some freestyle level 2 - carrot stick riding. Figure-8 at the was pretty tough but we got it, he's not so balanced at the trot around the barrels on a direct rein anyways so that definitely played a role too (we'll have to work on it). His right side was especially difficult, he'd block me out and thus ignore me, running right through my request, but we did finish on a good note with some good solid rounds around the barrels...more improvement to come with more practise! We also worked on some carrot-stick back-up (twirling the stick at his shoulder and having him back) and small circles on the rail (pretty responsive) at the walk. Last for the carrot stick work we did the weave at the walk and the "question box" - basically a series of circles and transitions within the walk and trot.

When we got to the finesse end of things, he was a little tense I think from the carrot stick work (he's not yet entirely comfortable with the under-saddle work with the carrot stick) maybe we'll reverse things next time - finesse first freestyle later, at least until he grows more comfortable with the carrot stick work (another few sessions perhaps). We worked on level 2: walk-trot, circles on the rail, trot figure-8, weave trot, back-up, question box (various circles centering around a square of cones), sideways (no wall). Lots left to do and a lot of cleaning up to do, but we did great together for our first official shot at the finesse patterns. He is definitely very sensitive and responsive to leg aids (I had him cornering nicely according to leg position, etc), most of the time he was responsive to my energy level (ie. downward transitioning when I relaxed), and he was mostly left-brained during our trot. Just for kicks I pointed him towards a downed barrel (just one, so it was a fairly narrow jump) and while he avoided it the first couple of times (nothing violent, he'd just step around it), he finally did squeeze over it with me under-saddle! It was pretty neat!!

I have to admit there was the odd time I got a little frustrated with Link today but he did awesome! He was definitely a partner most of the time and we did do awesome together - sometimes I just need to relax and accept less-than-perfect, especially for his first time at something!!!!! It's hard for a perfectionist to let go though sometimes! He was fabulous today - left-brained mostly and he is always so much improved each time we work together, today was no exception. Today when I let him loose with Sonny in the arena, Sonny tore around like a madman on a sugar high, getting himself all sweated up. Normally Link joins him and races about the arena, high-headed and sharing that same sugar high (lol), but today he was relaxed and while he cantered around a little and even tossed in the odd hand-gallop, he was pretty relaxed (no sweat, no snorting and blowing - he was very left-brained) and failed to even join Sonny most of the time - he actually spent a lot of time following me around! A huge change from the Link who used to roar about and get himself all worked up!!

Sonny bolting about the arena...Link lagging behind

The big orange twit was tied for a bit beforehand (no way I was walking through that terrible ear-freezing weather twice to grab horses!) and so he was definitely a little anxious by the time I untied him to work with him. His games were great, very light (he yo-yo'd back when I glared). His weave we only did at the walk and his figure-8 was decent at the trot (after a few initial high-tailed explosions and squeals as he rudely tore past me haha), but that's about all we did. He was fairly reactive and I was freezing up so we called it a day at that. He's a great horse...but annoyingly childish sometimes (squeals, playful bucks, and striking forelegs as he roars about, included). Oh yea, when I first haltered him, he bit me! I had turned to halter Link when I felt Orange Dink's teeth on my arm in a playful (but domineering) nip - usually I won't do anything when a horse bites but in this case I did spin around and play some driving game with him. I'm not quite sure how to explain it but I just felt like I had to react by driving him this time, as opposed to other times horses had bit me. Anyways, like I said - good horse just a retarded toddler sometimes, lol.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A good start to the year

Hey look at that, a post actually written on the day it says it was written...haha. Today was a beautiful day - warm but cloudy so not too hot!

My little cowhorse was pretty awesome at his games and the patterns we tried out today! Just a quick run-down of all that we did:
- 7 games (at which he did fantastic, including squeezing over a jump with little direction, sideways no wall, procupine Phase 1, Yo-yo Phase 2, driving Phase 1)
- figure-8 at the trot on the 22' (not full length though, his second time ever doing the pattern and he aced it with few mistakes) Level 2
- weave at the walk on the 22' (again, not full length, his second time ever doing the pattern) Level 1
- walk-trot-walk transitions at the circling game Level 2
- change in direction at the trot, circling game Level 2
- change in direction at the canter on the circling game, including flying lead changes Level 3
- w/t/c under-saddle (western, Parelli hackamore), including flying changes (most auto) - no rein contact (just legs and seat). He was very balanced and sensitive to my requests!
- turns on the hind and fore under-saddle
A friend and I also took Silver out for a little ride, both in the arena and out in the nearby field. Little twit was convinced he should be back with his buddies so I had to ride him for a short while but once he was back on the right track Deb, my friend, enjoyed some riding on him as well. It was so relaxing to ride an accomplished horse! We still have a lot of partnership and developing to do, but it's still great to work in such partnership already.

The run-down on my renegade:
- 7 games (including squeeze over a jump with little direction, sideways no wall, porcupine Phase 1 - lighter than Silver's actually - yo-yo Phase 2, driving Phase 1)
- figure-8 at the trot on the 22' (about the same as Silver's) Level 2
- weave at the walk on the 22' (same as Silver) Level 1
- walk-trot-walk transitions on the circling game (better than Silver's...the man loves to walk in lieu of trotting! Haha) Level 2
- changes in direction at the trot on the circling game (snappy!) Level 2
- changes in direction at the canter while circling (no flying changes, though he did pick up the correct lead - he'd go down to the trot to pick up the correct leads then back up into the canter of his own accord) Level 3-ish
- w/t/c under-saddle (english, cradle bridle). He was very balanced and sensitive...could have been a little lighter to my leg aids but he did fabulous for our second ride of the year (and was very light to my hands). Very soft, supple, and collected! Picked up the correct leads appropriately and was even flexing at the poll nicely; when I changed the reins to the smaller ring on the cradle bit he was even softer in the bridle, even at the canter!
- some half-pass under-saddle
Koolaid was taken out on that same excursion around the arena and field as Silver; I rode him a bit but he was doing so well that I threw Deb's husband up on him, and he did great! None of the head-tossing, foreleg-striking, or general pissy-ness that was present our last trail ride, haha. As with Silver, it was great to ride a developed horse.

BAM did fantastic today! As usual, most everything was done 3 or more times each side. Her friendly game via ropes (my 45' line) took far less time today before she was quiet and left-brained, I was even roping her ears and tossing the rope about all over with a few whistles overhead, hehe. She really picked up yesterday's porcupine game lesson well, when I applied pressure to her front end on her left side she instantly moved off, Phase 1. Her right side was more difficult and took several repeats before she was moving off of Phase 1 correctly and consistently, but we got it! The rest of her porcupine (nose, chest, hind) was Phase 2 at most. Her driving game was about the same as her porcupine - it took a little more work on her right side on the front end before she was moving off consistently and left-brained rather than reactive, but once again, we got it ;) Yo-yo was Phase 2 by the third shot. She was a little leery at the circling game, but we finished with her circling consistently at the walk (a lap in either direction). We even approached the sideways and squeeze (between me and the fence) games today, at which she was flawless (though more reactive than left-brained, so I'm not sure that the lesson actually sank in fully...). Lastly, we attempted some ponying, but Silver seemed a little intimidated by her and was not so anxious to be in close quarters (I suppose I can't blame him, she is pretty damn big after all haha); I had wanted to get her used to having someone above her and since my ponying plan backfired (we'll use Koolaid next time I suppose haha), I had to do it from the ground. We finished then with her being comfortable and calm with my bouncing next to her (pretty scary at first! lol), grabbing hold of her mane and sort of pulling myself up further, and slapping her back. A great session with some quick progress...can't wait to see how our next two sessions go! Afterwards she gets a three-day break, as I am attending the Mane Event over Friday, Saturday, Sunday!!

Venus Session #1

April 19

Well the wind was pretty damn strong today so I have to admit I was leery Big-Ass Mare would probably startle easily, but the draft in her held true. She does definitely have strong right-brained tendencies however I can definitely see that disappearing as she learns to trust in me and in my leadership. Mostly she is left-brained and most of the time she was just reacting because she was unsure as to what I wanted and did not trust my intentions. I tried to be very clear with my body language and throughout the session she did become more and more left-brained and trusting in me. I finally left her munching her hay with a look on her face that read "WHAT the heck just happened there? That was different!!" So. A quick brush-up on today:

Friendly game - Grooming. The top of her hind did indeed become acquainted with Mr. Brush however I cannot honestly attest to how clean it actually got. I definitely could not see anything up that high. I started out tossing my 45' line all over her. At first she gave me a look like I was death - black cloak, skeletal hands, reaper in hand and all. She quieted fairly easily though, eventually to the point where I was twirling the rope overhead a loop or two and dropping it on her quietly. She was a little distrustful of the rope around her head though, however more work earning her trust will get me into that area easier.

Porcupine game - as you can tell in the photo, I was on Phase 4 - "touch bone". She seems like a very sensitive mare however she had no idea what I was asking when it got to her front end. Moving her hind around and backing up though (both nose and chest) were decent. I think she's going to be a superstar here though once she figures it all out.
Driving game - having her disengage her hind was a breeze but I am not convinced yet she really knew what I was asking, I think she may have simply been responding (a little reactively) without fully understanding. Moving her front end around took a little work (she was pretty adamant I remain on her left side and away from that right-hand side of hers!) but she seemed to understand after a few shots.
Yo-yo - she backs fairly easily and also comes in nicely, though I think she is just coming in without yet having a full grasp of what I am asking.

Circling game - this game was a nightmare for her, she had no idea what I wanted and she was convinced I was just waiting for her to blink before viciously tearing out her jugular. She was pretty heavy on the rope as well (too much 'drive') - I think I gained a few new arm muscles...oh yea, plus some rope burn. Once she gets turned around on you, that thick neck and huge hind just plows through, there's no turning her around. I had to retrieve her twice when she escaped, haha. We finished with 2 laps in either direction; she tossed in a little anxious trot but was fairly relaxed and walking by her final laps. She seemed very balanced though so once she figures everything out and learns to relax she should be very light on that rope.

That was it for session one! I would have liked to have done more however my time was somewhat restricted today and we spent a fair while on the ropes. Also, she was a little sweated up with all that thinking in the hot sun and I would rather keep my sessions short and sweet so that she learns best. Next session we'll do more rope work, including around her feet. Apparently she can be a little reactive picking up her hinds. Additionally, I would like to see if we cannot get in all 7 games next session!

Spending a little one-on-one time afterwards

Monday, April 20, 2009

Venus aka BAM

April 19

Well, today is the day Chickadee went home. We ended up trailering her down to her owners and picked up another horse of theirs, featured below.

So to start Chicka and I played our 7 games out in the open (indoor arena was in use by 4H) before tacking up and taking to the outdoor arena. She was a little wary of the bleachers, boat, camping trailer, cattle chutes, and grandstand outside of the arena. Not that I blame her, I mean that grandstand was pretty menacing, wooden boards and all. I could just see it's old wooden planks gnashing down on us as if it were nothing. Her leg aids today were absolutely fabulous, she moved off my leg with very little rein back-up, even on small circles on the rail. Figure-8's, weave, sidepass - all were part of our routine, as was walk/trot/canter. She even did a little leg yield (insert amazed raised brow here). Her trot was a little anxious and her canter was downright hilarious, as she kept nearly toppling over (well at least it felt like she would, she was leaning so dang far over) in attempts at cutting corners at the slightest touch of the rein to turn, all as an excuse to evade all those aforementioned horse-eating objects. She was pretty good in all, no huge spooks or anything - and I can hardly blame her for being leery, as this was only her second time ever in that arena (which was quite awhile ago) dealing with all sorts of new objects. We did play touch-it and she walked up to said objects with very little resistance, placing her nose nicely on them. Apparently touch still did not transpire trust but it did help somewhat. Her canter leads too were off but we finished on a good note with a relatively relaxed and balanced canter (or at least as much as we were going to get that day - she was already a little excited to begin with). Next, we hit the trails! We walked, trotted, and cantered throughout 70 acres of pasture, even crossing a bog in which she sank up to her knees. She was a little careful in the bog (the footing was quite bad and I could feel the mud sucking her in) however she did it with little hesitation and very willingly and calmly, despite sinking in up to her knees the entire way. She did offer a little hump during one of her canter strides but nothing more as we cantered away from her pasture buddies and out of sight. Overall Little Yellow Mare did great and was very relaxed returning home. Second shot at the trailer later (first shot she put two feet in but backed out) she hopped all fours in - she wasn't entirely comfortable in there (some pawing) but that's something that will come with more work on her owners' part. She seemed quite excited to be home and back with her old buddies!!

Big-Ass Mare (BAM), as I have aptly nicknamed her, is a good 17hh and is just coming three years old. She's a Thoroughbred (1/4) x Percheron...a huge brute of a mare - she literally towers over me. Oh, and her head is as big as my body. Okay, so I'm exaggerating only slightly. But she's still big. Her owner is the daughter of Chickadee's owners and plans on eventing with her. I'm pretty sure that by the time this mare is finished growing, she'll only have to step over the jumps on course. Apparently she doesn't always tie all that well and tends to have explosive episodes, but has had a bit and saddle (if I recall correctly), though no weight. She's been free-longed (ie. round-penned) and so knows w/t/c/halt voice commands; she's also quite respective of my space (my own observation). Her owner basically just wants her started (30 days) so that she has a good foundation and start on her when she goes to take her on in June. So, here goes! Here's to hoping she's a quick learner, as I would love to get her going well under-english in contact even. Oh, and here's to hoping I don't take flying lessons...because it's a hell of a long way down. And I already know I don't fly so well. No feathers does that to a person.

Good look brushing the top of her tailhead.'s staying dirty.

My making some pretense at preparing to climb the Sears tower. Oh yea and no, those are not "ghost orbs"...they're courtesy of my camera lens. Time for a new camera?

Almost...there...hey, pass me a stool so I can pet her nose...

Chowing down on some hay after our tour about the paddock. One seemingly pretty laid back lady (in general), I must say.

I also took a look at the gelding I am to work with for May, Hard Twist. He's a coming-3yo red roan gelding situated just outside of Airdrie - between home and the location I board Link at, actually. He's a QH with some great bloodlines; I think he might turn out to be a pretty good looking little man. His owner is a carriage company owner/trail guide and just basically wants this little guy comfortable packing people at walk/trot (30 days). He is currently unstarted (only halter-broke). All I can say is I hope he doesn't live up to his name...though I have to admit that if I am doing my job properly he shouldn't. Lol. I am thinking I will start him about May 1.

Two more May horses are coming in from Red Deer April 27, both for just 30 days so they have a good start on them for when their experienced owners take over. Both are 3yo QH mares, one a buckskin, one a red roan, and both unstarted under-saddle though apparently they have some ground work. They'll be boarded where Link is at.

So, 4 outside horses total for the month of May and I am trying to line up 5 or so for June. Plus I have 3 of my own to work on, so 7 horses a day! I will likely try to rotate a bit and leave one day off for all of us. Like I said, no rest for the wicked...but the wicked is lovin it haha.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a...human??

April 18
Chickadee April sometime...before the snow melted. Yes,
that is Sonny the Oversized Toddler in the background...

Chickadee under-saddle April sometime...approx the same
time as the photo above

Link and Chickadee
Played a quick round of 7 games with both Chicka and Link before saddling the two (Chicka under western and in a Parelli rope hackamore, Link under english and in a C3 Parelli cradle bit) for a trail ride with my friend. We worked both horses in the arena for a few minutes (I did figure-8's, small circles on the rail, w/t transitions, shoulder-in, haunches-in, half-pass, sidepass, and back-up with Link) before hitting the trails. Link was fabulous - he was slobbering all over that new bit (without chomping at it), giving to pressure with some nice poll flexion as well as some down-and-out stretching during our arena work!! Out on the trails he was ancy and did tend to spook a couple of times, but within reason (stack of boards being loudly dropped out of tractor bucket, Chicka spooking), and was otherwise very calm. When he did spook he was a bit of a challenge but was not once rebellious (normally he wants me off at this point - I guess he figures I am more of a hindrance should he need to take flight from that stack of horse-killer boards, plus I'm a distraction and bait to the "predator", all rolled into one - I swear his loud snorts are really shouts of "Take her! Take her!"). I enjoy missing out on attempts to unseat me, I really do. I was very impressed with his attitude and partnership out on the trails overall.

Chicka. Now Chicka's another story. She seemed a bit uptight at first and she ran my friend through a couple of tests first, which he passed quite nicely, actually. Well apparently PMS (she was in heat...liiitle attitude mixed with liiittle high-headedness) + wind (that blade of grass - I swear! - it blew the wrong way!!) + feeding time (why do they get to eat without me!!) = green rider is sent on a flying lesson. My friend reports that humans do not fly so well. I second that. Now, her buck was more of a humped-back-canter-stride...but her intentions were clear: she wanted back to her pen. We collected her and my friend walked the rest of the trail, leading her. At one point he tried her again, but the minute he mounted she prepared to take off back home, so he dismounted once again. I rode her some of the ways and she behaved with little to-do (she pranced for a moment or two but never really tested me) - she was relaxed for the most part but I could feel she was ready to take advantage of any opening I may - but did not (hehe) - leave. My friend re-mounted in the arena, where she was much quieter and more willing.

In the arena meanwhile, Link was somewhat anxious, which resulted in some fast-paced trot and canter, however he was bending nicely, softening at the poll, and responding brilliantly to my legs. Canter was a little rough, as he had a lot of power behind it...yea, I admit, it was basically a hand-gallop. Haha. More work for us! He just needs to learn he can relax into some softer gaits. Not bad though...he relaxed quickly afterwards and was pretty left-brained for the most part!! Meanwhile, I found leg muscles I had forgotten existed. Hahaha.

Chicka goes home tomorrow after our session! Hence the photos above.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Horse-eating trailers

Friday April 17


Today none of my brilliant ideas consisted of performing Batman leaps onto the backs of green horses. Green horse, or more appropriately, little yellow horse, looked a little uptight again today with that wind blowing strong and so I - very wisely in my opinion - opted to walk the long way around to avoid the mud monster rather than vote for LYH carrying me and possibly dropping me directly into the mud. We entered the arena today to find another green horse at work, so needless to say, I was quite pleased when LYH stood quietly ground-tied despite distractions whilst I perhaps got a little too carried away with the grooming tools. Yes, Show Sheen was involved. I am ashamed. But my little horse was clean.

Our 7 games were great, including squeeze over a set of barrels (no walls involved). She sprang over nicely as the deer out in the fields had so taught her. Wish Sonny would pay the same attention to the deer's lessons as Chicka so obviously does. Swinging a rope off of her was pas de problème, her circling game - including changes in direction at the trot, was fantastic, and her figure-8 took all of six seconds to complete on the 22'. I'm not moving her up into Level 3 due to time constraints (she goes home Sunday) but rather lately have simply been maintaining and further improving details of what we have already accomplished on the ground. Under-saddle she was fantastic, soft and supple figure-8's around the barrels, nice weave (little stiff on her right side though), relaxed jog and canter. Today there was no cross-firing; she picked up the correct lead going counter-clockwise but not clockwise...that will come with more time. Sidepass was great too, a few steps in either direction. Her turn on the hind to the right was pretty brutal (esp when yesterday we got a good 180) but the turn on the hind to the left was great (I only asked for a 180 - yesterday she gave 360 though). Her turns on the fore are pretty good, she actually understands and does it well now.

My instructions to her owners when I send her home are definitely going to be to work on leg aids with her and to help her find her balance, particularly at the canter; this will eliminate the cross-firing and enable her to start picking up the correct leads automatically - circles circles circles!

Prior to saddling up we also took both horses out to the trailer to play and apply some of our games. My usual friend actually took over Chicka, who loaded quite well - being sent in on her own and backing out rather than turning around in the trailer, within no time at all. We started out though by playing some sideways, squeeze, and touch-it with the trailer.


I did not actually see some of Link's 7 games as my friend played them with him, but his yo-yo was definitely on track with where he's at (light Phase 3, wiggle forearm), his squeeze was most excellenté (he popped over the barrels quite nicely in either direction and with even a bit of eagerness haha), his sideways was good, and his circling was fantastic. I did the circling with him, on the 22' - trot, traveling circle at the trot, and changes in direction. He was actually very calm and left-brained and trotted a number of circles no problemo! His changes in direction were snappier than a piranha yet were not reactive at all. His figure-8 was a little tough for him and my friend, but only because buddy is still learning too. I worked on some switchback (changes in direction back and forth in front of me as I calmly walk a straight line forwards) with him and figure-8 at the walk before getting him on the figure-8 at the trot successfully. My buddy finished off with the figure-8 at the walk - awesome for those two as Link is a challenge and my friend is still learning how to "talk" to him effectively as a partner.

At that point my friend and I traded horses outside for the trailer loading exercise, as I wasn't sure how challenging Link would be. Turns out...challenging. Haha. The minute he stepped foot outside, he came ALIVE!! LOL. Everything was interesting and we were hyper as a cat on catnip...essentially, gerbil-on-crack Link took over. The trailer was interesting but nothing special. That blade of grass over there was very interesting! Not in the "it's-gonna-eat-me" sort of way, but in the "oh my, what's that - a blade of grass?? I can't believe it!!" sort of way. The way only Link can come up with. One word: wait...ADHD. We squeezed, sidepassed, touched - everything but sneezed on the trailer before trying some actual loading. When the loading came about, Link earned some raised brows and some good laughs out of me. He was so hyper he just couldn't stand still, so everything was fast forward. I'd ask him to walk up to the trailer, he'd walk up, touch it, check it out with his nose, back out, then already start walking back towards the step - he'd touch it some more, back up quickly, walk forwards into it quickly...and so on. It was a bit of a challenge to manage all that energy, as everything he did was in fast forward mode - not because he was reactive or right-brained, but because he just had all this energy waiting to go somewhere. Lol. Long story short though he did walk right in without too much time or effort on my part. He wasn't entirely comfortable standing in there, but mostly I think because he just wanted to keep moving - he was so excited to check everything out. Even standing in the trailer, he'd stand peaking out of the top slats watching everything (aka nothing) happening outside. He backed out nicely and easily too once he realised that's what I wanted, then he'd dash about outside, playing with his fronts and cantering a few steps before spinning around to face me again. What a kid *roll eyes*.

The trailer rests empty tonight. I swear I can hear it's horse-eating belly growling from my resting spot on the couch tonight as I write this blog.

No under-saddle for the Linkage today, it was getting late and well, I was tired. Plus he seemed pretty excited and I was content with our session as is. I'll catch my boy under-saddle next time, perhaps tomorrow.

I thought I'd get the chance for a week's break from working with outside horses, but of course Murphy's Law has clashed with my original plans to ensure no rest for the wicked... Sunday we drop Chickadee off home and pick up another horse owned by Chicka's owners' daughter, a 3yo TB x Perch, Venus. The 27th two mares come in from Red Deer to be started, then approx the first of May I take on a couple more. Busy!! Like I said, no rest for the wicked.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I swear, I thought I saw a lion!

Thursday April 16

So everyone knows how horses get when the wind is blowing, right? I mean, that wind could be allowing huge-*** mountain lions to sneak up in the waving grass! The horses' eyes bug out at any sneaking suspicion the grass moved untowardly in their direction. So keep that in mind as I mention in passing that the wind was blowing today.

I had the brilliant idea today of utilizing a specific little yellow horse with four perfectly good legs to carry me across the Human-Eating Bog...HEB. As usual, my brilliant idea did not encompass much prior thought on my part. I trotted up to the little yellow mare, haltered her up, tossed the lead rope over her back, and fashioned a set of reins. I siddled her up next to the large tire she'd just finished eating out of and took a flying leap any flying squirrel would be proud of off of that tire and onto spooky little yellow mare's back. The grass was waving wildly and suddenly some predator had leapt out of said grass and onto her back. Well, that's how she saw it, anyways. I had only just landed and had not yet established neither rein nor mane grip, nor was I settled into a balanced seat yet, when she spun and humped her back. As I was sliding off from her albeit small but sudden get-this-predator-off-my-back-before-she-sinks-her-fangs-into-me buck, I couldn't help but find it ironic that I had gotten on that back of hers with the intention of avoiding the mud, and here she was going to dump me straight into the HEB itself. But I was determined. Left hand on my makeshift reins, I slid off of her and landed on my feet in a crouch, right hand reached out and spreading across her hind style. Or cat style. Whichever you prefer. Personally I just prefer being on my feet. After talking spooky horse down a moment, patting her back, and generally instructing her that she should aim for a drier spot next time, I again lined her up with the tire. This time she stood quietly as I performed another flying-squirrel-worthy leap. She was a little tense the first few steps but quickly relaxed as we made our way to the gate - what a great little girl!

We played a bit with ropes today - bum ropes, ropes being swung off of her, ropes landing on her, and ropes swinging all around her. She was generally a bit reactive but was also pretty calm throughout our session, particularly as we progressed. Her calls to her girlfriends soon stopped as she became focused on her and I. Figure-8, 7 games - all were fantastic. Her circling game we worked a bit on her picking up the correct lead at the canter and not cross-firing - we did end with some great canter in either direction. As usual, she was great to saddle up. We did our 3-part maneuver, small circles on the rail (walk and trot), point-to-point (trot and canter), and figure-8 (walk and trot) under-saddle. We also got some nice relaxed jog in either direction - she was a little tense however her jog was relaxed enough to sit with the odd correction here or there. For her being a little reactive to begin with, I thought we got some fantastic jog. We also did some canter in either direction, finishing up with correct leads minus cross-firing. Lastly, we did a little cloverleaf and some sidepass. A great session! Tomorrow we'll add in some tarps, trailer-loading, bitting (just a little here), and trails!!

Silver and Koolaid

Silver did great working with my friend on the ground (7 games, figure-8, weave) and then toting my friend around and accompanying Koolaid and I out on a trail ride :)

Koolaid was definitely distracted during our arena work by the appearance of a little shetland a good half a kilometer away...but otherwise did great haha. We tore through our 7 games and even did the weave (at the walk) and the figure-8 (trot). The patterns were really his first time ever doing them so we had to start small so he could figure them out. I then had the brilliant idea (yea - oh no, another one!) to ride him at liberty. Take note I hadn't ridden Koolaid really since last fall sometime and the only odd time between then and now was bareback and at liberty out in the pasture (but when he was more relaxed and not shetland-pony-scouting). He was great initially but his sheep and shetland pony scouting caused some loss of focus for a bit. Some panels nearly nipped his heels (I must have somehow been looking elsewhere at the time though when they so viciously attacked because I didn't see it *roll eyes* lol) so we ended up playing some touch-it (at liberty) with those panels afterwards too so that we could travel that end of the arena minus ducking out with snorting and blowing. He was great once we got started, we even got a little sidepass in! We did walk/trot (including figure-8's)/canter (sooo smooth this horse!!), all at liberty and despite distractions (ie. wind. Cows. Sheep. Nippy and retarded dogs.). A great start to the year! We took off for a trail ride afterwards - he was great in the new C3 Parelli Cradle bit but seemed a little standoffish at times under-saddle (english) and even rebellious, which included some head-flipping. I know his teeth are about ready to be done though so perhaps that is part of the problem? The saddle fits well and it certainly wasn't me in this case (ie. hands or such), so we'll try with the teeth, maybe a chiro, then focus on our partnership to see if we can get him working better. The only other thing I could think of was that perhaps the way the new cradle bridle works could be ticking him off - it has a rope over his nose he wouldn't be used to and applies a little more bar pressure with the tongue relief. Something just seemed to be bugging him, so we'll try to figure it out and solve it for him!! Otherwise he was great, the new bit is amazing - he just works in it so well otherwise!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Green horses and green riders

Today was an interesting day, as both Chickadee and Link packed around a couple of green riders! My friend had invited out his sister and her fiance so after the two of us played with both horses, we saddled them up and tossed up the two visitors for a little riding in the arena. Oh, and I actually rode Link in bareback today! It was pretty mucky out and we all know how I feel about mud, so Link was put to use. I wasn't sure he was going to allow me to stay up there long, he was feeling pretty good and excited, especially as some of the other horses rared around a bit, so I wasn't so sure I wouldn't have to slip off after a moment or two. That wasn't the case though - he was excited but completely left-brained and responsive as I rode him to the gate, through it, and into the arena! What a great horse ;)

As far as games, both horses whipped through all their games and patterns, including squeezing over two barrels laid down - Link was amazing and jumped with little hesitation and correction!! He was also excellent with the circling game (traveling circle, changes in direction) and also at the weave (trot going up with me on his left, walk with me on his right) and figure-8 (trot). I also worked on jogging next to him at the trot; it took a few minutes but pretty soon he was jogging next to me (me on his right) on a loose rein and licking is lips relaxedly while trotting!! Chickadee did well at all her games and patterns with my friend.

Next we saddled up the two and tossed up the two green riders. Chickadee was great with my friend's sister and took good care of her; she did need some motivation for forward movement later, but she behaved very nicely and was rather compliant, even with someone bouncing on her back at the trot (new rider thing :P), so I was pretty proud of her! Link was even better, especially since he remains my most challenging horse! At first I simply led him around, but as his rider gained confidence and knowledge and after seeing Link remain completely calm, I let the two run loose. Link was very responsive and did very well with his green rider. I supervised the entire time and while there was the odd "surprise trot", it was left-brained. He did not mind the bouncing at the trot either; he handled a green rider very politely and happily! Both horses and riders did the serpentine as well as just some simple go's around the arena, walk and trot.

After our guests had departed, my friend did some work on Link (small turns on the rail, back-up, cloverleaf pattern) while I did some work with Chickadee: circles on the rail, serpentine, figure-8, back-up, w/t/c, etc. Afterwards we switched horses and I got on Link saddled for some good w/t, back-up (he was backing up when I simply "thought" back-up and lifted the reins off his neck!!!!), and cloverleaf - no reins. Since he was doing so well, I thought I'd prep for some liberty work: bareback with a halter, string (looped around his neck), and carrot stick. He was pretty sticky with the carrot stick on his right-hand side (he actually got quite ticked off at it and tried to bite at it lol) at first, but I think we worked out most the kinks by the end. Part of it too was that I accidentally touched him with it on that side at times I'd just meant to wiggle it at him, but a few times I did have to touch him and he wasn't too pleased with that (he'd walk right on through my aids if he wanted to go somewhere - rarely, but a few times, even if I was wiggling the stick in huge fan motions at Zone 1, his nose). Once he figured out though that there were phases, same as on the ground, and that I wasn't going to touch him if he responded to the phases, he started to relax. For the most part he was very responsive, but we did some figure-8 and that was where I needed to just bring the stick down, several feet away from his face (no wiggle even) to reinforce my leg to go around the barrels - we ended up with some very tight, but left-brained and relaxed, turns!! It was our first official time using the carrot stick riding, so I felt we both did great together!!! Meanwhile one of Link's herdmates, Cisco, came and went and Link still maintained his focus on me! We did a little leg yield as well and also some sidepass. Once Cisco had left the arena, I pulled our safety net - the halter, off and we went through all our patterns commando (well...Link was, I wasn't hehe)! Serpentines, figure-8, cloverleaf, even some trot, all with the carrot stick and savvy string around his neck only!! His trot was left-brained too, which was fabulous! He responded well to the savvy string when I did need to use it, mostly just to follow through on my slow-down cues and for back-up and also as the odd reminder to focus on me. At one point Chickadee actually spooked and Link, at liberty, spooked for a moment but remained left-brained and completely calm!! Chickadee actually handled the spook very well afterwards, very proud of that little girl as well.

I never thought that I would get to ride Link at liberty for awhile yet, and I have to remind myself to be patient, because it might be a little longer before I can do so again, particularly consistently. We're building a strong foundation but still have a ways to go yet! Today was amazing though, it was great to work in such partnership with Link!!! He was very responsive and sensitive to my cues and we were completely in tune with one another. What's great too is that every time I put him away now - the last several times, he's waited at the gate and watched me until I was out of sight, rather than just walking away! I seems like something so simple and perhaps unrelated, but it's not - it's great to see our partnership manifesting itself in other ways.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hitting the trails

April 7

Only time for the one horse today, so Little Yellow Horse got her session in...


Once again Chicks packed me bareback to the gate today, sloshing through the muck and genuinely playing the part of the long-time trustworthy mount. It did not even take a second thought after her great performance yesterday, and today's was no exception. She even stood quietly while I did my typical flying leap from a nearby tire, to land gently on her back. What a great little horse :P

Today the Dee and I hit some trails - it was such a beautiful warm, sunny day! We started out with our games and patterns as usual...her yo-yo was incredible though, she backed up when I simply glared at her! At first I thought it was maybe just a fluke, so I tried it again. The second time I had to softly wiggle my finger and then my wrist - the wiggle had not yet reached her chin though before she started backing up. Once she'd started, I backed my phases down to a simple glare and she backed all the way to the end of the rope! Her 22' circling - changes in direction, traveling circle, were excellent, so we took on the patterns. Her weave was fantastic at the trot, as was also her figure-8 around the cones! So we saddled up and headed out into the nearby 70-acre field. We sloshed through tons of fetlock-deep water, muck, and generally soft ground at the walk, trot, and even a little canter (in the drier areas). She was a little distracted (so much to observe out there!) but handled everything beautifully, even walking past a dump site the owners had been burning and over a massive sawdust pile the owners of the place had spread out for the cattle. At one point the sawdust pile shifted beneath our feet and there was a snap like cracking ice - scared the s*** out of me but Chicks just plodded calmly on. She handled everything like a pro, even when footing changed beneath us suddenly (ie. puddles were deeper than they looked, etc). She had no problems leaving the herd whatsoever (not even an ear flick or a call in their direction), and she was pretty calm throughout. Out of site of the pastures and barn she was a little tense - she kept trying to jog on me, but otherwise that was it (being comfortable out there will come with practise!) - no calling, no right-brained behaviour, and she remained very responsive. Most of our ride was done on a loose rein and her pretty relaxed!

Next week is our last week before she heads home so my plan is to throw in a lot of tarp and rope work, get our leg aids going nicely, and hit the trails each session for some experience out in the wild!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring cleaning!

April 6

Today was spring cleaning day! Haha. Link already looks pretty good because I've been using the shedding blade on him regularly, but Koolaid and Silver are another story altogether! Those two haven't set sight on a grooming tool all spring yet, hehe.


Lil' grape-coloured horse was first up. His knee is looking much better - less swelling, very very little heat, and full range of motion. First job was to take the shedding blade to his coat...his very very thick coat. Koolaid's summer coat is always thinner than Silver's, yet his winter coat is thicker than Silver's - explain to me how that makes any sense. Grey hair flew everywhere, up my nose included, thank-you very much. Afterwards Koolaid got a little jawline trim, a bridlepath, and a shortened mane...he actually looks like a possible jumper or dressage horse now instead of some ragged little pony haha...

Definitely not as heavy-coated as Koolaid, but he got the full makeover as well: trimmed jawline, shedding blade, trimmed tail so he's not tripping on it...leaving his mane long though reining style hehe. He was a little excited, but after swallowing no less than 34 1/2 white hairs, I did saddle him up and take him out for a spin! What I had planned to be a 20 minute ride or so turned into just under an hour - it was so nice out I couldn't resist! The breeze was warm, the sun was out...aahh, utter heaven. We started out with some basic work in the nearby field, sidepass, leg yields, turns on the forehand, spins on the hind, w/t/ it was amazing to feel the jog of a solid horse! It was so amazing to ride a smooth and accomplished jog in lieu of a green horse's trot you have to post to. I wasn't sure how Silver would go for me - it's been a little while, but the ride was fantastic!!

Today, heading out to the pasture, I had to tromp through a lot of muck and water...5 words: thank GOD for waterproof boots. I was utterly ecstatic to have dry feet through all that! At one point I FELL through a sheet of snow I thought was shallow into a POOL of water that submerged my foot completely. So anyways, there I am, standing next to a haltered Little Yellow Horse (LYH), staring out over a sea of mud in an attempt at determining the best path to the gate. There wasn't one. Then the thought occurred to me. Why am I plotting ways of best mudding myself when there is a perfectly good horse with 4 legs, a mane, and a tail (aka perfectly capable of carrying me across the Great Ocean of Mud), standing next to me quietly munching hay? So I did the only thing any reasonable human being would do. I fashioned a set of reins out of the leadrope, jumped onto the nearest feed tire, and from there hopped onto a green horse's back. LYH was a little unsure at first but picked her way carefully through the mud and safely toted me to the gate that seperates the mare pasture from the gelding pasture. Since I had not yet had my fill tempting fate, I even hopped on her in the gelding pasture (this time I used the roundbale feeder)...clutching Link's leadrope in one hand and annoyedly waving off geldings like flies with the other hand. Not only did she carry me as I ponied Big Black Kid to the gate, but she carried me and led Link to the barn too (after my literally flying leap onto her back from my perch on the gate)...very calmly and quietly too.

Flew through our ground games and patterns (using only cones for the figure-8 and weave patterns, rather than barrels for the figure-8) with her doing well as per usual. Under-saddle she was a little lacking in momentum for the canter, but otherwise she was great and very light. We picked up the canter 3 or 4 times on the right rein; the first time she was on the wrong lead, the second time she felt like she was crossfiring, but she picked up the correct leads in the end (3rd or 4th try) and was fairly relaxed about it so we ended on a good note! A very successful session!

Well he ponied well! Haha. He actually stood tied for a little while and was say a 5/10 for anxiety rather than the 10/10 he usually is...minimal head bobbing, no pawing that I saw, and I closed my eyes so missed the odd sashay around the spot he was tied. When I untied him he was actually very quiet (so obviously his anxiety level had not climbed all that much) and even stood ground tied (for the most part...his little lips insisted on playing with a few things - they're his hands as a toddler lol) while I groomed him. Our 7 games were great; yo-yo is so hugely improving each session (it's getting so light!!!!) and he remained at a calm LB trot during the circling game, traveling circle, and changes in direction. We even picked up some superific downwards transitions! I also started out our ground session with some switchbacks just to clear up our communication, earn his trust, and get him LB when I asked a lot of him....sort of raise his threshhold level. The weave at the trot was great on his left side and at the walk on his right side...but there was no getting any trot on that right side. So we took it back a few steps. What about my running alongside him in a straight line, cones and weave pattern aside? No way, he'd get RB and take off. I tried over and over, moving closer to him each time, but nothing worked. Jogging alongside him along the arena wall was the worst for him, it was like a continuous squeeze and he couldn't seem to trust me at all. The whites of his eyes would show and he'd BOOM!! hit flight mode. Finally I thought the best way I could convey my goodwill towards him was to be right in his space and jog next to him. I had yet to fill my "tempt fate" quota: the only way I was going to achieve my quota of the day was to jog in close quarters with a right-brained horse I knew would likely kick me in self-defense if he flew off the deep end...which was likely. Hand on his withers, I coaxed him into a trot. I kept his lead short this time though and sort of corrected him back into a slower jog. My hand and being in his space actually really seemed to calm him, and it enabled me to keep him from going Dante's Peak on me. He wanted to speed up but I gently applied pressure to his lead and talked to him gently, my hand on his withers as I jogged next to him along the long side of the arena wall. Got my treadmill exercise in for the day!! We did a few rounds of this with short breaks in between (during which he was entirely left-brained) before I started gradually moving greater and greater distances away from him during the jog; we finished with my jogging a good 3 or 4 feet away from him on a loose lead!! It doesn't seem like a whole lot, but to have him jogging comfortably on a loose lead next to me on that right side was a huge challenge for us and I feel we made a lot of progress today - more to do for sure, but I feel like we've made a dent. We did a couple minutes of figure-8 at the trot around cones before calling it a day. I was too tired to ride a third horse, particularly after jogging the Kentucky Derby and running around all day. Link was a terrific partner today!!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mmm Advil...haha

I was supposed to work with both horses today but by the time I finished with Link the headache I'd had had worsened to a killer migraine....sooo it was just Link today...who did amazing, by the way!

Today was the very first day that I ground-tied Link while I groomed him. I had to curb his curiosity maybe once but otherwise the leadrope remained on the ground, untouched, as I worked my way around him with my brushes. It was pretty neat to have him so calm (the large arena door was open), just gazing curiously outside while I brushed.

We tore through our 7 games today with another individual and her horse in the arena working alongside. Friendly game, check. Porcupine (pretty light), check. Driving game (very good), yo-yo (very light phases), sideways (used a wall but it was very good), squeeze (between me and the wall), check check check check. Our circling game was fantastic, I did not even need to talk to him today he was so calm and LB! His herdmate, Cisco, was there though in the arena (also calmly and quietly doing groundwork), which definitely helped. We did spiraling circles at the trot, changes in direction at the trot, and just some responsible circling. For the first time ever he stretched down and out today, rounding his back fully relaxed! We took on the weave afterwards - we're still having trouble on his right side but we got a walk on that side at the full length of the 22' and we got a trot through the pattern on the left side. I felt like we didn't progress much in this area today, but perhaps re-cementing the pattern is progress in itself I guess. Our weave at first was a little rough, Link kept missing the barrels. After a little bit though he calmed down enough to think through the pattern and complete it flawlessly at the trot, mostly LB.

When I saddled the big kid today he was extremely calm; I let the rope dangle again and he did not even bob his head in anxiety this time as I saddled him. We got through our 3-part maneuver (super light) before the other person and her horse left the arena. I thought I was going to have to dismount and end our session because he'd be too unfocused and RB to work like a partner with me alone in the arena (especially after a herdmate left) I started him on some patterns to keep his mind as focused as possible as the other horse left. He was a little unfocused, but I had him do circles on the rail and as we continued he relaxed. After that initial period of anxiety (calmed through the patterns on the rail), he was absolutely fabulous! We worked on w/t transitions along the rail and did our figure-8 pattern (trot one ring, walk the other) as well before doing some point-to-point - I wanted to clean up our downwards transitions. As our p2p progressed Link became more confident, calmer, and quieter - more LB. He'd listen to me and thus respond when I relaxed in the saddle to go from the trot to a halt; he was also standing quietly at each "rest point", licking his lips and lowering his head rather than waiting, tense, for my next cue. As he grew quieter, I lengthened our "lines" to the point where we were soon trotting down the long side of the arena. Since he was doing well there, I even allowed him to do a couple laps of the trot in either direction along the rail. I did have to talk to him a couple of times and even correct him with a few half-halts, but for the most part I had the reins slack on his neck as we trotted around the arena, and he was calm and LB!! His trot even felt more relaxed than I'd ever felt it before; there was definitely still some tension there but it was much more relaxed than on previous occasions. I can't wait for further sessions to relax him further as his confidence in me is instilled further and our partnership grows! We did infuse a little canter into our work too; I just felt I might as well get a little in, as the more we build on that (albeit in small amounts) simultaneously with everything else, the more he can be relaxed at it. He was quite high energy with it today and immediately (upon my canter cue) charged to the other end of the arena (where I was directing him); he relaxed fairly easily afterwards but only more work will create a more LB canter. His canter though was better than yesterday's - yesterday's was full of humped backs (contemplating bucking to get me off so he could have his way and run) and uber-charging, so today's was definitely a step forwards, as rushed as it still felt. Afterwards I wanted to make sure he was back on the right track so we did a little walk/trot along the rail for a couple of minutes. Just for fun I thought I'd throw in some contact work (still in the hackamore) as well, even though that is not where we are at yet - I just wanted to see what we could do based on the foundation we'd built so far. It took a tiny bit of work (all of a minute's work lol), but I had him doing haunches-in and shoulder-in along the rail in either direction!!! We also did some side-pass along the rail and some leg yield in the center of the arena at the trot!!!! Lastly, we tried out spiraling our trot circles in and out - he was great!! We've still got a long ways to go but wow the foundation we've already built is amazing. Oh, forgot to mention as well that we also did the cloverleaf (no reins for the most part) pattern and his back-up was very soft as well (asking for 10 steps, no pawing, bobbing head, or other anxiety - he was very soft with the back-up). That's about it! I was amazed at how relaxed he was with just him and I in the arena and the large door open to introduce distractions; obviously our partnership is growing! Once I untacked him he followed me about the arena and/or watched me curiously, no pacing the fenceline. At one point I thought he was going to pace, however he simply walked down the line to the barrel at the corner and played with it some before snuffling the ground and sauntering back to his food. He was completely thinking and not once in that unhealthy "zone" he gets into when he's pacing the fenceline. So so excited about our progress today!

Link's Secret

April 4

Today I decided to take a day off and only work with Link. I spent the day catching up on things at home so it was nice to just relax a bit with my own horse and have a shorter horse day!

When I initially brought Link into the arena, the place was empty (as usual); I thought he'd be a little ancy but he wasn't really at all. There was the odd time he spooked at something (ie. when I closed the large arena door), but otherwise he stood still to be groomed, head lowered and completely 100 percent LB and relaxed. No expressions of anxiety whatsoever!

On the ground we definitely had our challenges, though he did very well. Our driving and porcupines were great (working extra hard on that right side of his), and I got him down to a very very soft Phase 3 (wiggling my forearm) at the yo-yo, where the shank was barely swaying and he was backing up gently. I backed him all the way down the 22' twice and he was much softer than he usually is both times. Our sideways and squeeze (over a set of barrels) were also pretty good; our friendly game was injected in between all the games, particularly when I did use the stick for direction. Our circling game was a little first he was great, we got traveling circle, walk-trot transitions, and changes in direction and he actually stayed at the walk rather than immediately moving up into the trot for the most part. He did get a little RB though a little ways in and so it took some time and slow and patient work to get him back to being LB, but we did it! I was very proud of him for returning to working in partnership with me; soon we were back trotting and disengaging and such completely LB. Talking to him definitely still makes a difference and I ended up using my voice to keep him calm quite a few times. Next we tackled the weave; he was great to walk through the pattern with me on his right side, and then trot up it with my being on his right, but we could not seem to get a trot on the right side that remained calm and controlled (despite my body language - it helped to show I was uber relaxed, but did not fully prevent him from going RB). Since we just weren't getting it, I took him off the pattern and we did our figure-8, which we did until he was trotting calmly (he did it beautifully with very little direction on my part) before moving once again to the weave. We were still having troubles there and so went back to the driving game to re-cement his moving off of pressure (when he goes RB at the weave he misses cones by blocking me out and therefore not responding to my cues for him to move off and away from me around the cone) and also the switchback "pattern". At the switchback he was incredibly RB, bolting around violently as if I were about to beat him with the carrot stick - I just continued walking very calmly and quietly, giving him minimal and consistent direction and working hard to show him he could trust me and relax to listen to my cues. By the time we got from one end of the arena to the other (long side), he was relaxing much more; going back down the long side to the other end, he relaxed even moreso to the point where he was mostly LB and doing the switchback game. So we took on the weave again. We never did get much of a trot on the right side - we got a few tries of trot that were fully successful but started only about halfway through the pattern, which was an improvement for sure though! We also re-iterated our walk through the weave, with my being at the full length of the 22' - I had to be quite assertive in my body language on his right side (ie. very assertive pointing towards the cones), which seemed to help and ensure he was successful at the pattern. I'd like to see the weave even better, but today was an improvement within the session and about the same level as yesterday, which was still great to see.

Tacking Link up today he was quieter than yesterday; a little head bobbing but for the most part he was quiet and still throughout. Mounting up took two tries (the first he started to slowly walk off once I was up but hadn't swung my leg over yet) but he gave me permission and let me up on the second try. We did the same patterns we did last ride - walk-trot transitions, back-up, circles on the rail, figure-8, point-to-point. He was again great at all of them, though a little higher energy level today so we did not incorporate any canter in the point-to-point. He was fairly calm though at the point-to-point and his downward transitions (trot to halt) were a little cleaner than yesterday. All in all a great session though, it's great to be riding him and to have him LB and working like a partner with me! He is a very challenging horse and I'm amazed at what we are accomplishing thus far, particularly under-saddle (which is his most challenging area), it's great :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Oh...oops...okay moving upwind

April 3

Our groundwork today was rather quick, as her owners were coming out to see her under-saddle and I wanted to have her saddled by the time they got there. We whipped through all her 7 games and the patterns - she was great and even improved over yesterday's session. Her owners got there just as I was saddling her, which was sort of neat because I was saddling her ground-tied and she stood still throughout the process (as usual), so they got to see that part as well. I wasn't quite sure what they wanted to see so I just went through everything we normally do under-saddle, but in a shortened format. We did walk-trot transitions along the rail, circles on the rail, etc. I think they were sort of starting to doubt me at this point; Chicka was spooking at the far end of the arena so I played a little touch-it under-saddle with her, having her walk up to the areas that were spooking her and putting her nose on them. She did it fairly easily, but her owners seemed like they were wondering what we were doing and whether it was her or me having control, haha. I explained the procedure to them before moving on to some stuff that would help them see better where she was at (by then she was pretty good about the far end of the arena). We did some trot and came down the center line weaving through the cones. I wasn't sure if she'd miss those cones or not because I could feel she was a little anxious, but she didn't which made sure we did look good haha. She looked great weaving through those cones at the trot. We also did some figure-8 at the walk and trot, showed her owners her back-up, and did some canter in either direction. They seemed very very pleased with her progress, which was great. She is doing very well, though today she was a little on edge so I was hoping she could accurately show them where she was at, which she did nicely. Over the next two weeks here I'd like to re-cement tarps, ropes around her rump, ropes being swung off of her, and get her leg aids down better than they are. Generally I'd just like to clean up what we have, ie. snappy downward transitions, clean corners, relaxed gaits, etc. She's doing great though and should go home in good order on the 19th :)

Wow my favourite man was amazing today! When we entered the arena it was empty, so he was pretty uptight initially, spooking at everything and generally restless. I did not tie him and although he calmed down throughout the grooming process (so much damn winter hair! haha) he was still pretty restless. Doing our games though he slowly relaxed as we worked our way through them, but he still had that tendency to be RB. We tackled all other 6 games (which were great, most phase 1 or 2) before trying out the circling game and its associated patterns. I spoke to him a lot today, constantly saying 'easy' while he circled at the trot - it really really made all the difference today!! For the first time ever, we did the traveling circle at the trot, full 22', and he remained at the trot and relatively calm. He was a bit on edge, but never once tipped over that edge, which he usually does. We also did some transitions, which he started to pick up really well by the end, and we did some changes in direction; today he was anything but reactive. He was a little excited but held gait at the trot and was very responsive! We worked a little more on the driving game at this time too because he had the tendency a bit to just ignore me (out of disrespect, from what I could see); with a little work though he was soon hiding his hiney quite nicely and very quickly. When I asked him to disengage today, rather than disengaging and trying immediately to take off in the opposite direction, he was actually pretty calm (he looked like he wanted to take off, but didn't) and just walked up to me instead of taking off. The taking off is a manifestation of his feeling the need to continuously move his feet (flight), so it was great today to have him feeling like he did not have to move his feet so much. Next we took on the weave pattern - I really had to work uber hard to relax my body so that he wouldn't get RB and pick up speed on me. Once I learned to pay attention to myself and relax my body (I'd thought I was relaxed, but when I really evaluated myself I realised I wasn't completely relaxed - it was like I was trying to be relaxed but was poised to spring after him to correct him and him being so sensitive he definitely was picking that energy up), he really responded. He has a really long stride, so at the trot it was hard for me to stay super relaxed and still keep up haha but I figured out how to do it, and in doing so he also relaxed his trot so that I could keep up and he just naturally did the pattern well even when I fell behind, because I was allowing him to think rather than (inadvertently) pressuring him to be almost RB. The figure-8 he did perfectly at the trot...he was a little RB at first and even threw in some canter (!! haha) but he still did the pattern perfectly and then relaxed.

I've been really studying Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer on National Geographic), including reading his books - for awhile now, and have been finding a lot of it applicable to horses even!! One of the points was to not reward excitable energy, for example, you wouldn't put the leash on the dog until it's calm submissive, rather than excited dominant (for example). Excited submissive is a step down and is okay if it's part of the progress, but ultimately you do want calm submissive. Well with the horses then, and in particular then Link today, I didn't reward his RB behaviour by halting the pattern, even though he'd done it perfectly a few times already. Instead, I waited until he was calm and submissive before asking him to halt. It doesn't matter that he does it or not, it matters how he does it (which can affect whether he does it or not too). Pat I believe mentions this in his patterns dvd though, to not stop until you have the horse doing the pattern calmly. There's a lot more that I have found transferable from Millan's dog ideas to Parelli's horse ones.

When I originally brought Link in I had not planned on riding him, I did not think that I could get him LB enough to do any under-saddle work, as there was no other horses in the arena and he does not yet fully trust me as his leader. When we finished all our groundwork though he was great - he was very LB and I'd seen a drastic transition and a lot of thinking on his part from beginning to end of the ground session. He was a little ancy saddling, he kept his feet still after one correction but bobbed his head quite a bit, a manifestation of his anxiety. At that point actually someone came in to watch us a bit and so I wasn't sure how that would play in with Link's need for a herd - when she went to leave later would he be upset, or would he still see me as an adequate leader? We did all our level 1 patterns, walk-trot transitions, circles on the rail, figure-8, back-up. He did well at all of them and was much more responsive at our 3-part maneuver - particularly the bend to a stop!! His right side was hugely improved to the point where he wasn't moving his feet much and he was bending his neck with no resistance!! I was very proud to have him working as a partner with me. At that point the individual who had been watching us left, and Link's partnership with me did not change whatsoever. We did some point-to-point on short lines to relax him at the trot and work on our halts from the trot. His halts from the trot got better and better with each short line, to the point where I threw in some canter as well, on slightly longer lines. At first he was a little RB, wanting to take off and he felt like he might even buck, but by that point we'd already be at the halting point, so he'd have to halt. With a number of repeats he was giving me an actually pretty calm canter!! Still a ton of work to do, but I was very proud of him to get such a nice trot out of him after the point-to-point lines and to actually get a decent canter without his becoming too RB!!! All in all he was amazing today!! We finished with him completely LB.

The best part too was afterwards when I untacked him and he followed me about rather than pacing the fenceline. He paced a couple of times when I'd leave to take tack out to my car, but would immediately stop and remain LB when I returned!! Normally once he gets into his pacing pattern he doesn't stop for anything. It's like he gets into this unhealthy, unstable (mentally and emotionally) zone and cannot leave it for the world. So to see him pace, but still thinking while he did it, was amazing - and therefore to have him leave that pattern to follow me again was even better! He'd go from his grain bucket to follow me, then back to the grain bucket, then check out what I was doing, etc. A huge difference from some of our past sessions, it was great to see him so LB and thinking, and to see him working as a true partner with me. It was a fabulous feeling!!

His knee is still a little swollen, but there was less warmth there than yesterday, which is an improvement for sure. Full flexibility and no cracking noises or anything else unusual today!

When I was out checking in on Koolaid and Silver though I thought I could see out in the next field over (under different ownership), two cow bodies. So I went over and checked...the rest of the herd was a little ways off and I couldn't tell if they were pregnant or not, but there definitely wasn't a single calf on the ground out of say 12 or so cows that I could see (some were behind hills and such though). The cows I found were definitely pregnant. The first one had been torn apart a bit by coyotes, but she hadn't been dead for more than a day or so. The calf was still inside (very visible though thanks to the coyotes) :S I couldn't tell if he was breech or something, it was too hard to tell and I wasn't going to pick through everything with bare hands (lol). The second cow hadn't delivered either, and there wasn't a mark on her as far as coyotes go. She hadn't been dead for more than 15 minutes, maybe up to 30 but that's it; she still had foam around her mouth, she was still actively bleeding, etc. Her vulva seemed torn and she was definitely bleeding, but not enough to kill her...but perhaps there was more going on internally? I found it interesting that the second cow had chosen to lie (and later die) so close to this other dead cow... Also, I found it pretty maddening that these cows had died fruitlessly. Cows are expensive to lose, especially two, PLUS their calves! Where was the owner of these cows??? Why weren't they in? Why were they left to calve out in some field far away from any watchful eye?? Were these the only pregnant cows in the herd and so the owner did not value them or their calves?? I don't understand, but it's such a waste and it makes me angry that two cows suffered and died without someone even trying to save them or help them. To lose a cow or a calf despite every effort is one thing, but to lose one because you didn't (seem to) give a shit, is another. I'm not in that rancher's shoes so I cannot really judge - maybe the two calved earlier than the rancher had anticipated and so were not brought in yet, but it is still upsetting to find two cows and their calves in the shape they were, with no apparent care. My only recommendation is to stay upwind. Don't walk downwind of dead I did. Lol.