Friday, June 26, 2009

Reason for lack of posts

So this obvious lack of posting is not due to a lapse in memory on my part of how to click my fingers across the keyboard (for proof, check out my sister blog) nor is it due to a suddenly-incurred deathly sickness. It is entirely to blame upon a blown up car. Yes, that's right: blown up. Or as close as I ever want to be to a blown-up car, anyways. So while my car is stuck in Westlock, we are deciding what to do. Up in High Prairie. It's a long story. I cannot get back down to Airdrie until Tuesday night/Wednesday wee hours of the morning, which definitely involved some calls to some owners, promising I'd work their horses longer than the 30 days so that they would still get the regular time in. Meanwhile I wander about the hotel room and with Aly, our pup, and investigate cars to possibly purchase down in Calgary. One thing good: the market right now is in the buyer's favour for sure. So, as soon as we get back we are in the desperate hunt for a new car/light truck, whilst working a minimum of 5 horses (preferably 6), fitting Silver and Koolaid's feet in with the farrier (Thursday 11am - Silver's getting front shoes for the purpose of the parade), and preparing for the Stampede Parade - in addition to riding in it. I foresee a week of absolutely no sleep. Some people get all the luck. See y'all at the next posting, sometime next week hopefully. Might have to do a few catch-up posts after the fact (time dependent), but we'll see. For now, enjoy the lack of demand to read this blog.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New bit for Silver!

On my way up to Slave Lake yesterday I stopped in at KC Saddlery in Red Deer (just along the QEII highway) for some browsing. WOW they've got a ton of bits! I spotted a number I really liked for Silver, but this one (below) is the one I thought most appropriate for him at the's almost exactly what I was looking for. As our level increases we'll increase the bit to refine the communication, but I feel like this one might be the perfect transition bit into curb work. I was pretty excited to find it!! So, here it is:

The shanks aren't anything overly fancy, but they're nice and should look good in the parade, which is a bit of a bonus. It's labelled a FG Futurity Bit. It's got a low port for some tongue relief (but less bar pressure), curved short shanks, a roller for play, sweet iron inlay, a little bend/shape to the mouthpiece to wrap around the horse's mouth, and independant movement of each side of the bit via swivel joints on either side of the port, beneath the roller - so if I pick up the left rein, only the left side of the bit lifts. We'll try it out and see how Silver likes it, but I think it might be a great refinement bit for us at our current level. We'll try it out Monday or Tuesday, depending on how my day goes Monday and if I have time to fit Silver in that day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just the two buckos today

Headed up to Slave Lake today, so today's sessions were short and I only worked with two of the horses on my roster today. The next couple of weeks are busy!

He blocked me out a bit during our games. His trouble is with the sideways game - he gets psyched up and reactive and forgets that he can just think things through and play the game! We did finish with a relaxed sideways on either side with a little work. His impersonation of a pufferfish today while tightening the cinch was slightly less than yesterday; we worked on it a bit more when untacking, getting him comfortable with my playing with the cinch. I'm not sure what's gone on in this guy's past but he has a real aversion to being tacked up! Nevermind being ridden! I know his owners are not in the least bit abusive towards him though, but I just cannot figure out why he's so reactive towards being tacked up and ridden. Is it a time thing (ie. such a long layoff from working under-saddle)? Maybe he was never quite confident under-saddle and it just worsened? He seems to really know what the games are about and I appreciate that strong foundation - he does most of his games at Phase 1 or 2 already. On the other hand, he's quick to get reactive at times - I don't understand where all this fear-based reaction comes from. Anyways, I tacked him up and had him circle as well. This time there were no blow-ups, though I found out he becomes quite reactive when I cluck to him, like he's expecting the earth to split open beneath his feet or something when I cluck. Several relaxed circles in either direction though before I stood in the stirrups on either side - he's still a little leery of that. I had planned on roundpenning him, but I saved it for next week's first session for a number of reasons. First, I was pretty short on time today. Second, it will allow for a good intro for us next week, before I get on. Coincidentally, he'll probably be a little tired out from the roundpenning and so I'm hoping it will help him think - in place of becoming reactive and bucking - when I go to get on. I won't work a horse to make it tired so that I can ride it, but I will certainly use a horse's being tired to an advantage! We'll see how it all works out. We finished on a good note with lots of work to do next week! Next week will be a very full week, particularly due to this week's time constraints and missed day when my car broke down!

I actually had some difficulty catching my little roan mustachio man, so today we just did some laid-back work in the pasture. He did a great job at the 7 games before I left him back to his busy day of grazing. He's done well so deserves a day off of under-saddle work and I don't want to sour him from working with me, particularly since next week will be a big week of work for him as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Of rope burn and broncs

Wow, it's been a long day. Played with 5 horses and ran the dog before hitting the gym, cleaning up the basement, walking the dog (she's now passed out on her cushion - princess, haha), and did laundry. My legs are killing me haha. Okay, so on with the horse part of the day!

Well as we increased the challenge of our lesson today, we unfortunately hit some of that blocking me out on the ground during the sideways game. All his other games went fab and eventually though we did get the sideways in either direction, mostly calm. Saddling up he was better as well, he didn't puff up quite so much and was more relaxed than yesterday at least. During the circling game though we hit a bump. The first time I asked him to disengage his hindquarters, he ignored me. Little bunny-in-a-horse-suit locked down in panic mode and took flight. Leaving me with the much-welcomed gift of rope burn, he took off and bucked - hard - around the pasture I was working him in. After a good solid few minutes that would make any rodeo horse proud, he suddenly froze to a stop and allowed me to catch him (speaking of which, he was great to catch today and even walked right up to me when he saw me). He was great (relaxed) with his circling game after that! Haha. I also stood in the stirrups and just rubbed his neck, trying to get him to relax (he did, but not wholly). I sense some roundpenning with the saddle on in the near future! Near future being...ah yes, tomorrow. Haha. I'll also start riding him (next week) in the smaller pens. Good progress, but some more yet to break through...once we break down the wall he's got up he'll be a breeze to work, it's just getting that wall down that's gonna take some work. Someone suggested to me I use something mechanical to keep his head from bogging and thus preventing him from bucking. Trouble is, that nails the physical end of things, but not the mental and emotional. The key is to solve the latter so that the former disappears!

When I played with her a little at one end of the alleway (just using body language) she actually walked right up to me, several times. It took a bit before she'd allow me to snap on a leadrope though. Seems she likes her face being rubbed without the trouble of having a leadrope attached ;) Well I guess everyone prefers pleasure to "work". Hehe. Once I did catch her, I spent time just running my hands all over her and allowing her to graze. She refused to graze when I was with her, but as long as I was 4 feet away or so she would eat. I carried an armful of grass to her pen before turning her loose ;P Still working on developing and cementing that trust and partnership so we can work on all the rest.

Well, despite a little bucking spree we experienced, my little Mustachio man did excellent today! I'm convinced he could have made a good bronc too. He's got this crazy bucking style; he bucked until I'd lost both stirrups, then began twisting. Perfect style for getting a rider off, haha. Didn't work though! Ahem...well...perhaps just barely didn't though, haha. His ground games (minus saddle) were great all-round and after we worked through his initial bucking under-saddle (fear-based, he'd been spooked by my reins being looped on the saddle blanket and then coming loose), we got all our basics done well. Though he's straighter on the left rein, he is even bending around my leg on the right rein, and is very soft at the back-up! Overall he's coming along real nicely. Oh, and bonus, he was great to catch! He sort of started walking away so I went to where he was about to walk (all of 3 feet, haha), and he turned towards me and walked all the way up to me instead. I met his breeder today as well (him and another guy, as well as Twist's owner, were taking the wagon team out for a practise run down the roads), who's keen on seeing the little guy work.

Her ground games were great, though we need to work on impulsion and respect. Not that anyone particularly revels in working in the sweltering heat of the day, but I do expect some momentum rather than a slow and resigned shuffle (lol). I think primarily we'll work on it under-saddle with some point-to-point. Today I actually tacked her up (english with a cradle bridle) and rode her around - just walk, trot, circles, turns on the hind and fore, back-up, sidestep, etc. She never flinched or anything of the sorts, she was great, despite it being a good 7 months since she's been under saddle last. She wasn't particularly fond of the bit so we worked in the halter - I think she needs her teeth done, which is our next priority (her, Silver, and Koolaid). Today I simply worked her in the paddock she was in, but tomorrow we'll work in the actual arena for a more official work. Today was just about seeing where she's at.

Time to prep for the Stampede Parade if we want to participate! I worked him in a snaffle today, a Happy Mouth, double-jointed O-ring. He did great and had a lot of bend! I tried out a curb bit on him next (double-jointed with a copper roller in the middle, shanks sweep back, about a 2 1/2:1 curb ratio, I think it has sweet iron). Last we worked in a curb bit was a number of years ago. To show western pleasure, Silver had to be in a curb bit since he was over 4 years of age, so our instructor put us in a curb bit. Well Silver spazzed out. I wasn't prepared, he wasn't prepared, yet we were both forced into it and Silver was having none of it (he was extremely reactive). No help from the instructor. Since then, he's never worked in a curb, so I wasn't sure how he'd be about it today, but he was fantastic! Our snaffle work was great, and our curb work was even better. We were on a completely other level of communication - it was almost surreal! Silver loves a long rein and made sure I gave it to him (haha), but he was so responsive to my every cue. His trot slowed to a jog today and we achieved a lot of bend and suppleness - even some engagement and roundness. No canter - he's a very forward-thinking horse so I wanted to do a lot of patterns and lateral work rather than forward work. It was pretty sweet. I feel pretty confident about riding him in the parade; we've got another week and a half to prepare. I think too I will keep looking for a more suitable curb bit for him - he did well in this one, but I have an ideal I am looking for: sweeping shanks, low curb ratio, shaped mouthpiece that's jointed to move laterally but not vertically (so the pieces swing around to fit nicely in the horse's mouth but they do not flex upwards into the palate and have a nutcracker effect on the tongue), 1-1 1/2'' port for tongue relief (under 2" so that it does not apply palate pressure) with a roller (Silver loves to play!), sweet iron mouthpiece... Haha, pretty complicated but I'll eventually find what I am looking for. Oh, cool story. Prior to tacking up, I noticed the neighbour trying to get her loose calf in, with the aid of one of the individuals living at the property I board at. The calf kept running amok, so I looped the leadrope around Silver into a set of reins and walked him over, intent on helping. Well we only were able to help a minute or two until the calf was in, but Silver had a blast those two minutes! Haha. He was terrified of the tiny goats flitting about and wasn't too sure about a huge woodpile, but he was pretty excited to see that calf, and so - despite his wariness of the goats (I'm sure they were just ready to pounce), he still kept moving forward without much prompting on my part, to get to this calf. I asked him to duck out sideways once to block the calf and BAM!!! he was there. It was pretty sweet - he got right down to that calf's level and cut. It inspired me actually to see if I can't find a place, maybe even just a ranch, through the Team Penning Association, where I can keep Silver and work cattle, maybe even compete. We'll see what we can't work out, because that horse loves working cattle (as do I) ;P For now though we'll be busy prepping for the parade and even just working on refining our communication and movements. Pretty excited. To quote Bolt: Let it begin, let it begin, LET IT BEGIN!!! Hahaha.

Man, I'm missing my Link horse, haven't seen him in a week and won't get the chance to work him until next Monday! I suppose I'll live. Barely. But I will ;P Working the same 5 tomorrow before jetting off to Slave Lake for the weekend. Back Monday to work the 6 (5+Link) and to get everyone on a more regular schedule. Got a call about working another horse today and another neighbour to where Twist is at asked about maybe getting some work done on his horse, so we'll see how things play out. For now, I'm hitting the shower before my close encounter with Mr. Pillow.

Before the thundershowers hit...

This is going to be a quick one before I take off for bed, it's been a long and busy day!

The big paint was easy to catch today - we played all 7 games beautifully (he now backs on the yo-yo game when I so much as glare at him, then comes right back in when I relax my body posture), including some improvised figure-8 (using the squeeze game but with a lot of changes in direction). Next I tacked him find a pufferfish!! And you thought they only dwelled in water... As soon as I commenced tightening that cinch, he humped his back and puffed out his which point I, surprised, took a short step backwards, eyebrows raised towards him, to see if he'd blow. He didn't. Lol. I had him circle in either direction until he was no longer humping his back up or throwing in little crow hops - until he seemed half comfortable with things. Next I did put weight in either stirrup and stood up on either side, but I never swung my leg over. He was uncomfortable enough with the saddle (prior), and then with my standing in the stirrup, that I felt it would be pushing it too far to actually sit on him and/or have him do something. My main issue is not the crow hopping, that's not an issue, we can always ride that out (though I'd prefer not to - I'd prefer if he did not feel he had to buck!). My issue is how he blocks me out when he gets scared. What I can envision happening is for me to mount up and ask him something, only to have him explode (and this horse has the power and ability to buck hard) and completely block me out, so that I cannot even a) have any chance of control, and b) have any chance at calming him down. It's a long ways down. So my goal is to deal with this in progressive steps. For the most part, we've sorted out all his ground issues - he no longer blocks me out on the ground as part of our regular work. Next is to get him comfortable with the saddle, then with my standing in the stirrup, and finally with my mounting up and us doing work. Piece by piece though. If I push him, I'm going to create a bad impression on him. If I take it slow, he should come along fairly easily and cleanly. I don't know about the next person, but I'm not particularly fond of bruises. Or broken bones. Never had a broken bone yet *knock on wood*, so let's keep it that way.

I had to herd her into the alleyway but once I did, I was once again able to catch her there. I spent a good 10-15 min just getting her comfortable with me and rubbing her all over. Much improved over last session even!

Mustachio man walked off when I first came into the pasture, but once I walked up to him and sort of blocked him a little, he turned and walked up to me and allowed me to halter him without hesitation or trouble. He did well at his games - very well, actually. We did them without tack today and my using my stick to extend my arm. He tacked up fairly nice (and untacked nicely too, actually - we worked on his remaining relaxed while being untacked last session and it seems to have held). He was great under-saddle. His circles are better, his stops are fabulous, his back-up is softer, and his turns on the hind and fore are coming along. His trot was more consistent as well, and his walk was pretty relaxed. He's even straightening out on the left rein, so that he is not arcing so much to the right when travelling to the left. Fab progress!

After getting the three done in the morning, I joined mom for her lesson with Sonny's trainer, down near Millarville and inside the Kananaskis. It was fantastic, she did a lot of things she would never have allowed me to push her to do, and she accomplished a lot! She also had a lot of fun ;) While she rode Sonny, the trainer handed me the keys to a coming-5yo Standardbred mare off the track. I'm in love. Haha. She was a pleasure to work with (we did ground work as well as under-saddle work) and I've fallen in love with Standardbreds. This trainer, from his experiences, feels STB's are more level headed than TB's, that they are less inclined to become "hot" so quickly. Quick interjection here: a Thoroughbred (same as an Arabian, or any other "hot" breed), while challenging and certainly higher energy for the most part (generally speaking), do not have to be 'hot' all the time. They can be worked with in such a way that all that energy is harnessed and channeled, where they are easily manageable and calm. But back to the main story. This little mare has not been off the track all that long and has not been worked under-saddle prior, yet she has only been there a week and a half and is already comfortable and working nicely both on the ground and under-saddle. What a great little mare. As a bonus, I love that Standardbred gait. The fast-paced trot is a little rough, but - I felt, still smoother to ride than a fast-paced "normal horse" trot (ie. TB or QH). The jog is absolutely fabulous - sort of in between a TWH and say a Thoroughbred. It's kind of got this rocking motion to it and you have the feeling you could go for miles at that pace. It was absolutely wonderful. On another note, Sonny looks like he's doing great under-saddle. When I rode him he was very responsive to leg aids and while he's not the softest yet, I think I can have him soft fairly easily and quickly. He was great with mom though, very relaxed and responsive to her.

Last note: I may be riding in the Calgary Stampede Parade!! It's pretty exciting. Twist's owner has offered me the chance to ride with him and his wagon crew. He actually offered me the chance to ride in both the Airdrie Parade as well as the CS Parade, but I don't think I will have the time to ride in both. I have to confirm with him, but if I do take him up on the offer (likely), then I will have to work Silver a good chunk over the next two weeks to have him ready! Pretty exciting though ;P

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spruce Meadows Nexen Cup Derby June 14 09

I was fortunate enough to be able to see most of the Nexen Cup Derby (1.60m...that's 5'3'' for all you stubborn imperialists like me) today - all except the jump-off between Deslauriers (who won) and Barrios. Thanks to Tash for joining me and for standing in line for a good 30 minutes for burgers for us! Here are a few highlight photos:

1st place in a jump-off against Pablo Barrios (VEN) on the 15yo Belgian WB gelding Paradigm. They took home $58,000; 4 faults in the event, 0 in the jump-off.

Pessoa (BRA) and the 10yo Holstein stallion Champ 163 were eliminated for refusals.

Captain Canada (CAN) on the 11yo Dutch WB gelding Redefin placed 3rd and took home $21,500.

Mario Deslauriers (CAN) on the 13yo Dutch WB gelding Obelix R ranked 12 and took home $1,150.

Beezie Madden (USA) on the 18yo Dutch WB stallion Judgement ranked 4th in the derby and took home $17,500.

Eric Lamaze (CAN) and the 10yo Selle Francais gelding Lord Du Janlie placed 7th and took home $5,500.

Leslie Howard (USA) on her 11yo Dutch WB gelding Raimond W placed 9th with $3,000.

Keean White (CAN) on the 9yo Zangersheide* mare Celena Z took 17th place and $650 in earnings.

Jorge Verswyvel (MEX) on his 9yo Warmblood stallion Artifice LS were eliminated for refusals.

Jonathan Asselin (CAN) on the 11yo Hanoverian gelding Coolio finished up 14th with $650.

John Anderson (CAN) on the 14yo Hanoverian mare Gesine 36 ranked 8th overall and took home $3,700.

John Anderson (CAN) on the 9yo Dutch WB gelding Terrific placed 5th and took home $12,700.

Jill Henselwood (CAN) on the 15yo Dutch WB gelding Black Ice finished at 6th with $7,500.

Emily George (CAN) on her 11yo Holstein gelding Quidams Ramiro finished at spot 18 with $650.

Eberhard Bahle (CAN) on the 14yo Holstein stallion Lamborghini Z ranked 16th today and took home $650. Loved this stud's colour, it's not too often you see the liver chestnuts!

Cara Raether (USA) on her 12yo German WB gelding Lord G ranked 15th and took home $650.

Beezie Madden's (USA) second mount, the 9yo Selle Francais mare Creme Brule, placed at 13th and took home $650.

A few non-photo'd highlights:

Mario Deslauriers, a Canadian, took away winnings of $58,000 by coming in first on Paradigm, his own 15yo Belgian Warmblood gelding, in a jump-off against Pablo Barrios of Venezuela on his 10yo Dutch WB gelding Sinatra.

Ali Nilforushan of Ireland took a nasty spill at the Devil's Dyke and was eliminated on his own 11yo Belgian Warmblood gelding, Green Sleeps Vioco.

Jorge Verswyvel of Mexico (on his 9yo WB stallion Artifice LS) and Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil on the 10yo Holstein stallion Champ 163 were each eliminated for refusals.

I felt the 'worst' horse/rider combination (placings aside) by far was Jeanne Hobbs (USA) on her 16yo Oldenburg gelding Night and Day 8. Her gelding spent the entire time switching his tail back and forth (never a good sign - often a sign of discomfort, pain, or frustration), and even threw in a buck at the end to further prove his point. He was completely unfocused and the horse/rider team just did not seem to be in sync with one another. Night and Day was pretty uptight and as a result, they left the ring (first to go) with 24 faults.

The most impressive horse/rider combination (again, as far as partnership goes), I felt was Ian Miller - Captain Canada, and the 11yo Dutch WB gelding Redefin. You never caught Ian once sawing on those reins or pulling on that horse's mouth. They were smooth, elegant, fluid, and quiet. They were working like a true team, and it obviously paid off because the pair took away 3rd place and $21,500 in prize money.

The results of the Nexen cup derby are here. Dutch warmblood geldings definitely dominated, with 7 of the 19 horses being DWB and 4 of the competing horses being mares and 4 being stallions. The youngest horses were 9 years (Artifice, Celena, Creme Brule, Terrific), with the oldest being Beezie's Judgement (18). There was also more than one half-sibling competing against each other - neat! Course designer was Anthony d'Ambrosio (USA). Canadians definitely dominated as well, with 11 Canadians competing, 6 being in the top 10 and a Canadian (Deslauriers on Paradigm) taking the cup! 3 competitors were from Calgary (Anderson, George, and Asselin).

*Zangersheide horses. Yea, I didn't know what they were either. So I did a little research. Seems to be a Warmblood registry based out of Belgium that uses primarily Holsteiner and Hanoverian bloodlines to produce jumpers. It's registered or approved horses are stamped with a Z after their name (which includes a few horses out today). See, you learn a new thing every day!

Taking the time it takes.

The little black mare was first out of the gate today. I actually managed to catch her in the alleyway today, and even had her take a few steps towards me to catch her - great progress!! I spent the next 15 minutes just running my hands all over her and standing next to her (either side) with my arm looped over her back while she sniffed me, just trying to make her comfortable around me. Later, she even followed Twist and I down and grazed around us while we worked!

My Mustachio man was a little more reactive today than he was our last session, but overall he still did well. I've continued using the stick with his ground games now and he continues to progress really nicely. Under-saddle, he bends to a stop nicely on the left side, but not on his right, and today he was particularly spooky on his right side (my lifting the reins, bumping the saddle leathers, etc), so of course we worked a bit on that (and will continue to do so until we've evened out that one-sidedness). His back is okay, but not consistently good. His jog on the left rein was better today though. Overall he was great though. He hasn't been stepping away from me when I go to mount either, the past week or more now. When I go to step down though, he usually nuzzles my foot and then keeps his nose there as I fully dismount, lol. Pretty cute. Also shows his one-sidedness a bit though, as he does not do so on his right side.

The big paint was a little difficult to catch today (took maybe 5 min), obviously he wasn't so keen on sweating it up the other day! I think it was Jonathan Field who said "go out to catch your horse and you find out what he thought of yesterday with you", and it's so true. Today we went through all 7 games - he was much better today even than last session. We also spent some time going back and forth with the squeeze game between me and the fence, working on changes in direction and getting his left side more responsive, getting him thinking rather than reacting and blocking me out - he progressed fabulously! When we finished, he was changing directions nicely and was pretty responsive and calm with my direction on his left side. Afterwards, we just spent a little time hanging out, so that he associates me with good things rather than just simply work!

I particularly focused on being very quiet and very patient with the golden child today. Hard work! Lol. All her games were great and we had very little problem with the circling game. We finished the game when she gave me two consecutive laps at the trot without trouble, which was fantastic! I would like to see her snappier in her responses, but that will take least we're getting the games down nicely (first). I think introducing her to the patterns next week will really help as well. I was pretty tempted to saddle her up today and have to admit to spending the good part of at least 5 minutes looking back and forth between my car (where the saddle was), and Missy. I decided if I really wanted to make an impact on her, on how good she did at the circling game (versus the trouble we've been having the last few sessions), I should stop right there. Also, I wanted to end on such a good note between her and I, as she has been a little difficult to catch. So, we'll leave the saddle work for next week.

We played our games after saddling up, next to my car, before taking off for the arena. It took a bit to get him focused on me, but he finally did for the most part. We worked on a few of the exercises I've been working on with Link and while Koolaid wasn't as good at it as Link is, I had to remind myself that Link's had a lot more work on him than Koolaid has this year. Koolaid did fabulous, but I'd like to see a little more umph, more responsiveness to my leg aids, and a more even rhythm at the leg yield. We ended on an excellent note with more of all of the above and a lot of engagement. We also threw in a little canter to our session, which was very nicely balanced and engaged and consistently on the correct lead! A great session for essentially the first actual work (where we worked on something specific) of the year!

My my my, Silver and I have a lot to work on! Haha. He was pretty zippy under-saddle, but this is also his first real go at a regular schedule under-saddle too. His jog needs to, well, be a jog (too forward), his canter needs to slow down to a lope akin to something you'd see in a WP class (but still 3-beat, haha!), and I'd like to see more bend and softness in him!! He wasn't all that focused with me today either, but that's to be expected after my neglecting to work with him for so long! I should also be introducing both him and Koolaid to the patterns...maybe next week when I do it with Missy. He was pretty responsive to leg aids though, for the majority of the session I actually rode him with the reins looped around the horn. Still a ton of work, but we finished with some nice trot rollbacks and a very soft, droopy-reined back-up. I have been contemplating taking up reining, just for fun, but *ugh* there are only 24hrs in a day. I'd love to work cattle and maybe team pen on him, I definitely miss the cattle work with him! For now I guess we'll just focus on being the best we can be, which is a continuously evolving and lengthy journey.

Wow, I got out there today expecting Link to be all fired up from his 4 days off, but he wasn't! He was actually relaxed as can be!! We played our 7 games and patterns (trot on either side at the weave!) on the 12'...mostly because I was too lazy to actually walk over to the arena fence where I'd lain the 22' and snap it on. Hey, in my defense, it was 8:00 and I'd already spent the last 5 1/2 hours working 6 other horses, lol. I was tired. Under-saddle, he was fantastic. He was pretty impatient to get started and had, as per usual, quite the walk on him, but to start (during our warm-up), he picked up a nice long trot that was pretty relaxed for the most part. We did a bit of a different warm-up today, with lots of relaxed work at the walk and trot, just large figure-8's across the entire arena and just using the entire arena rather than doing smaller circles and such. I also interspersed a lot of loose-rein walking time into our session. Otherwise we essentially did the same exercises we've been working on as of late (time to throw in a few new ones!). He was very good, though I felt maybe he didn't have as much engagement as usual. Also, he was actually quite sluggish near the end - to the point of refusing to pick up the trot on a 10m circle, particularly when circling to the right. We hadn't worked hard at all and it was a rather short session (45 min). So I'm not sure if he's just really 'improved' and thus relaxed, and that that trail ride Monday did a lot for my partnership with him, or if something is up? He seemed like he could perhaps be ever-so-slightly off on his right shoulder, so if he continues I'll have the chiro out to check up on him. I didn't push the issue of the trot and just waited for him, as I wasn't sure all that was up. Otherwise though, he was absolutely fantastic!! Calm for the most part, but still with lots of energy (most of the time) and very in sync with me - it was perfect. I really focused on keeping my shoulders loose, my hands light as birds, and my legs constantly communicating to him. It was great, I felt we both did well :)

Someone had said on one of the blogs around here that we stop just simply spending time and such with our horses, as we did as kids. Kids are always running about, braiding their horses' manes for no reason in particular, carting their ponies grass, just spending time in the pasture playing with them, etc. Seems as adults, much of that disappears as we focus on workworkwork. We tend to see time spend just hanging out with our horses as time lost that could have been better put to use working on that 20m dressage circle, on that reining pattern, or on that course with the oxer, rather than time well spent deepening the relationship with our horses (which, ironically, furthers our work with them). I really took that to heart and have been trying to spend more time just chilling with my horses. I was thinking soon here maybe I'll just bring a lawn chair out and let Link graze a bit in the hayfield. Or take Silver or Koolaid out for some grazing time too (they might not appreciate it as much though, as they get to graze on long grass several hours each day, hahaha). Today I spent a good 10 minutes or so just toddling back to Link's pasture, letting him graze here and there, then carting grass back to him while he waited at the gate after I'd returned him to his pasture (his pasture is all grazed down to short stubby stuff). I haven't toted grass to a horse for awhile, so it was fun, and Link sure seemed to enjoy it ;P

Aaaah, for a day off now before another crazy week of horses! Oh, last neat thing to point out, while I worked both Silver and Koolaid someone was shooting something nearby (couldn't see them)...neither horse so much as glanced in the direction of the noise as numerous shots were fired. It was neat to see both so cool-as-cucumbers whilst shots rang out around us.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anyone feel like a snowman today?

Wow, what a hot day! At one point I was standing there in the sun, in jeans and a tee, watching Twist circling about me, wondering why I couldn't just wear shorts while training horses...I could feel the heat being trapped in between my skin and jeans - not a pleasant sensation! When your eyelids are sweaty, you know it's hot out. Just in case the sensation of melting hadn't tipped you off already.

I finally actually feel like Twist is a real bona fida saddle horse! Today he came running in with everyone else (the lead mare, the little pony I call Nubs almost always comes roaring in to greet me - all outsiders get the once-over by her first, so of course everyone else usually follows) and walked right up to me to be caught (with a few rubs, of course!). We started off today with our grooming session as usual, then tacked up. Yesterday's work using the carrot stick and just throwing in some small things really cleaned up today's ground games! He was pivoting on his hind end quite nicely and on a very light touch today, was very responsive to the driving game, and overall just did excellent with all 7 games. So, time to mount up! No bucks whatsoever today, he was much more comfortable under-saddle. A few instances where he felt the need to scoot his bum beneath him quickly, but that's about it. Our session today consisted of working more on all our basics in the pens. We worked on walking relaxedly, halting (he eventually did it from a trot when I relaxed my seat!!), circles on the rail, figure-8's, turns on the hind and fore (not so pretty today, I was right yesterday in thinking that he hadn't quite picked it up yet...yesterday's success can be attributed to his wanting to move his feet and my setting him up correctly to succeed, but today he didn't fully understand and was relaxed enough to not feel the need to have to move his feet about), back-up, and trot! His jog was relatively relaxed (after a few strides) to the right, but on the left rein he kept arcing his body to the right, so we worked quite a bit on that side at getting it straighter (which will come more once we've developed leg aids as well) and just more relaxed overall. The arcing is simply because he is tense and feels the need to watch that side (for Velocoraptors, of course - never know when they might pop out), once he relaxes he'll be a little more straight and supple. Establishing leg aids will also help me later at developing a better bend in him. We finished on an excellent note with a horse that is pretty confident in the basics. Though he is only meant as a trail horse, all that we have been practising thus far remains important because it serves to develop him into a more confident, relaxed, and thinking (as opposed to reactive) partner under-saddle, even if his rider say, never asks for a single turn on the forehand in the future. It's not about the exercises and maneuvers themselves, it is about the mind those exercises and maneuvers (challenges, learning experiences) develop, thus making him a (potentially!) successful horse under-saddle.

The big paint pony is hanging out with Gypsy, who is still terrified of people, so of course when she got all hyped up over this red-haired version of a Velocoraptor, so did he. He wanted nothing to do with me today, despite his laid-back ground sessions the last few days. So I trotted him on down into one of the smaller pens and roundpenned him. It took a bit, but pretty soon figured out I was the good guy: stand next to me and you don't have to work, run amok like some chicken with its head cut off, and you run around the pen on a sweltering hot day. He voted for option #1 rather quickly and was soon following me about. His ground games (all 7) went well, though today we stumbled across some future work for us and a possible reason for his prior poor behaviour under-saddle (for his owner). Fear. While he's a pretty balanced horse, has a relatively short flight path (ie. short spook, doesn't go too far), and is not all that reactive, he can at times get into this fear-based mode where he blocks everything out and just flees. Everything, being code for: me. For example, while having him circle, if I want him to turn and face, he might turn and face, or he might just run faster. Or, while playing the driving game and asking him to move his front end away from me (we did finish successfully in the end, with a thinking, responsive horse moving his front end around several steps when I asked) - on his bad side - he would back and back and back, then bolt (despite my not escalating my phases though continuing to quietly ask). During his bolting phase, he completely blocks everything out. No thinking whatsoever. So I'm working on him to first: earn his trust so that he doesn't feel the need to bolt from me, and second: teaching him to think rather than blindly react. I definitely got through to him today and made progress, during the driving game, so I anticipate we will make more progress quickly. He's a smart horse, when he's thinking. We finished the day with a pretty sweaty horse, but overall relaxed - plenty of the lip smacking going on.

She wasn't too bad to catch today, but it did take a few minutes of roundpenning. A few times she actually looked like she wanted to come in, but I sent her out regardless, to further cement what I wanted. She didn't really walk up to me today (optimal), but she did stand and allow me to rub her face, then snap the leadrope onto her halter (we're getting close to the point where we can remove it, after only 3 sessions now - I think I will remove it after a session or two next week). I spent the next fifteen minutes or so just rubbing her and brushing her (uber shiny!) coat. I'm in no rush so we'll work slowly. I think though next week I'll try to wedge a foot into the door of her Buddy List by taking her out for some grazing time. She already grazes 24/7 where she's at, but not the real long nice grass! And I'd love for her to feel comfortable enough around me to graze.

Rather than working her in the arena today, I voted on working her in the pen with her buddies, to see if that made a difference. It didn't. Not really, anyways. She was great with all her games except for the circling game. She'd circle some, then (usually in Koolaid's direction) she'd stop and back. She's a powerhouse, there's no holding her, lol. If she backs, you back with her. Hence, the need for a roundpen! Lol. I tried telling her to back when she wanted to back, I tried just passively backing with her while continuing to ask her to circle, I tried everything. I think what I really need to do are a couple of things. 1. Forget about the fitness plan, or at least forget about doing it for 5 min straight on each side (for now). Maybe have her circle for 5 minutes, rest for 2, then circle another 5 (as we've been doing), but doing circles in either direction each set (rather than having her circle in one direction for 5, then the opp direction for the other 5; include both directions in each set of 5). I think she's using boredom as an added excuse. Keep her changing directions. Or, even just forget about so much circling and get her under-saddle and getting fit that way. Or pony her off of Koolaid! 2. Spend more friendly time with her. Since she's come back, she's had 2 weeks to herself really before being tossed into sweaty days in the hot UV rays. No wonder she really could give a rat's a** about me. I'm making her work. Hard. Lazy horse being made to work hard...yea I'm thinking she's probably got a reason to protest circling so much. Maybe just take her out for some good 1-on-1 grazing and rubbing time. So, I'll have to change some things up a bit with her, get her wanting to work with me. I'm proud of the foundation she's got on her and of how much she retained from our work last year, but I need to re-establish that partnership with her. Ugh, so much work. Hahahaha. Whoever said training horses was easy?? I also tossed myself up onto her back, bareback and with a halter, today. I guess I was, y'know, feeling a little like I needed to live more on the edge...what with Twist on such good behaviour now. Man I'm brilliant (jk!). She started at first but relaxed immediately afterwards. I didn't ask her to do anything, but just sat up there for a moment before dismounting. Yup, she'll be fine for some saddle work next week ;P I'm proud of my mare. As much of a challenge she is, I still love her. She's doing a good job and she's teaching me enough to last me a lifetime.

Wanted: Sleep. Dead or alive

Mustachio was fantastic today, little spooky, but overall great. We did our 7 games with the carrot stick today (which he was still a little suspicious about) before moving to under-saddle work. He was a little uptight under-saddle and was flexing a lot to his right while on the left rein, I'm actually finding it very difficult to get him to bend to the left when we're on the left rein! More work and his learning leg aids will eventually solve it though, so we'll keep plugging away at it. He did buck a bit, but mostly just some nervous crow-hopping; he did give me a little attitude though at one point, but he came around with some passive persistence on my part. I had originally planned to take him out today and tomorrow, but I felt like today (and tomorrow) was better put to use working on some basics. He's comfortable under-saddle, enough that I do not feel a trail ride would have been of great benefit - I felt like a stronger foundation would be a better choice. So we stayed in the pens and worked on figure-8's, circles on the rail, halt, back-up, and even turns on the forehand and hindquarter! He did very well and I look forward to making further progress with him tomorrow!
Today I had quite the trouble bringing her in from the pasture. Where yesterday I had been able to chase her into the alleyways and thus funnel her into a smaller pen, today she'd caught on and wasn't about to go anywhere near that alleyway! Eventually though I got her in and funneled her down once again to our "roundpen". 2 minutes later she was at the end of a lead. I think more roundpenning might be in our future, but today we spent time just touching her all over (except her legs) and grooming her. She was pretty nervous overall, but fairly good and less nervous than yesterday. I also left her this time, with Sunny, in the alleyway and closer pens rather than the pasture with Twist and the other ponies, so she should be easier to catch until I can catch her without trapping her!!

I can definitely see that I had better be on my toes with this horse. I couple of times he gave me a little attitude, like I'd better watch my back, and several times when he was nervous about me, he swung his hindquarters into my face. Several periods of "oh shit, I'm gonna get the shit kicked out of me". He seems like a great horse, but I need to make sure I have his respect at all times and that I am a really strong leader. He did well at all 7 games today, very well. He seems to be becoming more and more comfortable with me as well, which is great - that's my exact goal with him this week. Next week we intro the saddle and get into some basic under-saddle work.

I didn't have too too much trouble catching her today, but I definitely need to work on earning her friendship, just spending some chilling time with her and such...there were a number of times during our work where she just wanted to be back in the pasture, so my work is cut out to get her to the point where she wants to work with me. She definitely seems to like being around me and she fully trusts me for the most part, but she doesn't necessarily want to work with me, lol. Nothing that involves sweat, at least! Haha. I ran her around the arena a couple of times to try and get some nice photos, but all I was able to get were these:

Nice, but not her usual movement, none of the really nice extended trot. Next, we worked on our 7 games and tried to clean up the porcupine (really trying to get her lighter - I know she can be, but she just doesn't want to yet, her focus isn't quite there so far), etc. For our circling game, we did some hill work. She's got a pretty nice topline, but I'd like to see further development on her topline and also overall fitness of course. So we spent 5 minutes trotting each side over a hill, with a 3-4 minute break in between. Except it was more like 7-8 minutes each side, because she started to throw tantrams to get back to Koolaid. She'd get to a specific area then just balk and back-up, taking her closer to Koolaid in the pasture. She'd refuse to move forward...ugh!!! Oh well, work in progress and it's only session 2 so far. I'm expecting to be able to pick up where we left off last year and that's unrealistic. She certainly remembers everything, but our partnership needs to be built back up again. Right now, Koolaid's her herd, not me. So, as usual, more work for me! Lol.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dog killers!

After sweating it up...see, she looks trimmer already! Well, one can dream.

Expressing mutual "missed you's". 60 minutes apart must have felt like an eternity, how did we ever survive?? *roll eyes*

I was looking for action shots from Missy, but I guess I should have taken them when she was floating around the arena, rather than trying to entice her to do so in the field...

Our little (okay, big) golden powerhouse did fabulous with her groundwork today; we played all 7 games and included some fitness work in with our circling game - 5 minutes of trot in either direction. We also started off with some liberty work in the roundpen, just getting her tuned in to me - she worked up quite the sweat! So much so that Koolaid gave her shoulder a good lick when she returned, despite my raised brow directed towards him. Real suave, Koolaid, real suave. I feel like she could be started under-saddle right away but I want to create a stronger partnership between us first...she spent a good part of her time with her neck craned around towards Koolaid. He screamed and screamed until he finally figured out he could supervise 'his' mare from a nearby pasture (thankfully quietly). So my plan is to do one week of groundwork with her - including some hill work, patterns, and ponying off of Koolaid, before starting her under-saddle next week.

Silver reacted pretty badly to his vaccinations (given Wednesday evening), poor guy. It's happened previous years, so I'm hoping to do something different next year - blood titres, holistic work, I'm not sure but I guess I've got some research to do! Luckily he was feeling much better by today though, but I'll probably give him the rest of the week off before I start him into a regular schedule.

Someone neglected to notify Koolaid that Missy is his half-sister (same sire)...that same someone also neglected to remind Koolaid that he is still a gelding. No, stallion parts do not regrow. Sorry to be Johnny Raincloud, Koolaid, but it's just not gonna happen. So, whilst Koolaid awaits the good news, he's taken to guarding his mare as if she were made of gold.

The big paint pony was great! We started off with a thorough grooming session - a bridle path, a mane that wasn't entirely composed of dreadlocks, a tail you could actually run your fingers though, and a shiny coat! I was shocked at how much old winter hair I pulled off of his back, and really only his back (well, you can see it littering the ground in the photo) - we could have made another horse out of it all! It seemed to have been collecting for a rainy day...which is fabulous because we actually had thundershowers today. Well, somewhere we did. I missed all but a few sprinkles, but I'm told by the ever-so-trustworthy weather report that we had, or were to have at least, thundershowers. Myself, I'm still waiting. Anyways, so today being the rainy day, the hair had to go. He learned 5 of the 7 games very easily and quickly - I saved the last two games for next time or so. The yo-yo game I had to throw in some driving game to help him get the hang of it, but once I did he was immediately backing up on a light Phase 2! His circling game was good too, as apparently he has been taught to longe before. Overall he was pretty good; he seems to have a pretty nice foundation already in place and he's not overly reactive or unbalanced (no major right-brain tendencies apparent, at least yet). The circling game is where the dog killer part comes in though. Aly, our pup, was lounging about in the sun and lazily walked past where Sunny was circling. That was, until Sunny the Hun spotted her. As he came around the circle, he suddenly leapt into the air and came down, inches from Aly's head, both feet smashing hard into the ground. He reached out another time or two to deliberately grab at Aly's darting figure before I could correct him. The angry expression on Sunny's face was actually pretty hilarious (afterwards, that is - during, I nearly had a heart attack) mistaking those intentions! Good thing Aly's such a quick pup, lol.

I couldn't catch her whatsoever (very reactive) and so had to funnel her down into one of the small pens to "roundpen" her (well, it was a square pen, but it definitely served the purpose). With some approach and retreat, she eventually allowed me to touch her head and get ahold of the halter she normally wears. We tried a little circling game out in the larger pen I usually work in, but she was too reactive so we settled for some simple grooming time and friendly game (my running my hands all over her), which she seemed to enjoy somewhat. When I first started with her today, she was absolutely terrified when I first touched her neck, but once my hand was actually there, she'd relax a little. She definitely loves her head rubbed! Plenty of lip-licking and chewing before we finished. She's going to be slow work, perhaps even slower than Twist, but she seems smart and like she can move along alright given time and careful handling.

Finished with Mr. Mustachio today, but just groundwork after last week's session. He actually trotted then walked right up to me and then even kept getting in the way as I worked with Gypsy, sidling in for pets constantly, haha. I used my carrot stick to work with him during our games for the first time (usually I just use the end of my rope or my hands), which seemed to help us clean up our games a bit! He did pretty well today with very little reactiveness. Returning Twist to his pasture is where the second part of the dog killers comes into play...I had my back turned to him as I unchained the gate when he suddenly (after standing quietly behind me) tore past me like a madman as Aly trotted past, tearing after her with ears laid back before I quickly pulled him up. Not Aly's day in the horse world, obviously, hehe.

The third and last part of poor Aly's adventures with the dog killers involved my favourite pony gelding, whom I call Pip. The little yearling tore after Aly, a good 150m or so, down the alleyway! Last thing I see is this baby's tail as he chases Aly down the alleyway and around the corner to the front pens. I couldn't believe he kept up the chase for so long, and poor Aly couldn't believe it either, she kept looking back at first, seeing if he was still after her! Hehehe. Aly, maybe you shouldn't have chased after those ducks in the water...karma's a b**** eh?! Lol ;)

Kananaskis trails!

Well, I'm back! Wrote my exams last weekend. Long weekend but it's over and done with - what a relief! SO. Back to daily blogging as well as new posts on my other blog board (tomorrow, hopefully). To catch up/back-dating:

June 2

Getting the green horse to stand still when he's yet only just barely comfortable quite the chore, lol

Prior to my exams still so it was only Twist for the day! I rushed him a little; started off with a quick run at our 7 games before saddling him up on his left side (he's gettin' there!). Definitely somewhat spooky but after riding around the pens a bit until he was comfortable, we took off for a short ride in the nearby field. He was a little nervous but was otherwise very good, and also very willing.

June 3
Twist was okay to catch this session, so we tacked up quickly, played our games, and hit the trails for a good but short ride. This time we took a tour of the entire field, passing by Moustachio's buddies...he was not impressed. He was pretty willing to continue onwards but as we hit the last bit home he started throwing a bit of a tantrum - tossing his head to try and head back to his buddies, then progressing to a little bucking and even rearing. Yea that's about when I decided it was time to dismount, haha. No way in heck I had to stay up there as he continued to escalate. I tried remounting a few times in the field, but Twist had other ideas, so I waited until we left the field to remount. A little trip further under-saddle to end on a good note and we were finito for the day. Hopefully we can look forward to a better ride next ride, though at least we still did make progress today ;P

June 08

Looking back towards more Kananaskis country

Back at Wareabouts Ranch, nestled in K-country - where Sonny is currently temporarily residing

Link and I enjoying the ride...well actually I think Link was more or less eyeing up the scrumptious grass beneath his feet at this exact moment...

His herdmates were past us at the gate en route "home"...this is Link panicking as he honestly believes I intend to keep him - alone - in this "wild" and "dangerous" forest. Racehorse meets wild country alone. And panics. Lol.

Link eyeing me up at the trailer after our ride. This horse "bounced" in the trailer the entire ride here. 3-hour ride bouncing. He was quiet the entire trip home, haha.

First day back with the horses after exams!! Mom and I hauled Link out to where Sonny is currently at, out in Kananaskis country, for a solid 3-hour ride through the mountains! I wasn't sure how Link would handle it, but he did awesome. He walked over roads with creeks passing beneath, walked over a long (approx. 25'?) and narrow (like 4' wide) wooden bridge over a wide and rushing creek, passed through three wide creeks (he rushed the first one but by the last one, the widest and deepest, he walked through completely relaxed), made his way up and down muddy hills, went through fields of cattle, and made his way over all sorts of rough ground (which seemed to surprise him at first - what? ground isn't always flat?? LOL). What a great horse! He was pretty energetic - as usual, but there was so much to keep his mind busy so for the most part he was pretty relaxed (loose rein, low headset, etc). A few anxious episodes the odd time I asked him to keep his feet still, but that's to be expected. All in all Link completely wowed me, completely blew me away. He handled it much better than I had anticipated and - as my mom pointed out to me - he was pretty tuned in to me, which was great!! The first couple of logs he walked over he accidentally tapped with his toes but after that he was much more careful with his feet and rarely touched another log lol.

Sonny back at the trailer later

Sonny did fabulous as well, he seems to really be coming along nice with the trainer who's got him. And, joy, mom listens to him (the trainer) haha, so not only is Sonny benefiting from all the mountain riding, but she is being pushed to do things she wouldn't do if it were just her and I. Sonny handled everything beautifully with a calm head. I'm going to take him on for July and put some additional work onto him, including (hopefully) some dressage work. The guy working on him now doesn't think he's all that smart, but I personally think it's simply lack of motivation and immaturity on Sonny's part. When I do teach him he picks some things up quickly and other things...he just doesn't pick up at all. But I think it might be because he just doesn't care. Like how he raced, lol...or failed to. So, how do you motivate him? My other horses and others I've worked with, I don't have that problem. You develop a partnership and they want to work with you, it just comes. But Sonny seems to just. not. care. Sometimes too I'll be working with him and he'll just completely play around, bolting and squealing on the ground, rather than work with me. *sigh* So we'll see if we can't get him motivated, or if it maybe comes with age? Or with a job (cattle?)? We'll see.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Looks like a good day to ride

Hard Twist, 3yo QH gelding...looking great after losing those winter fuzzies and filling out with some muscle! The second photo, above, is of him rendezvous-ing with Sunny, whom I hadn't kicked out of the paddock yet.

Sunny, investigating my saddle. On of my June horses belonging to the neighbour of the property where Twist's owner keeps some of his horses. He's a registered Paint gelding, about 8 or 9 years old, in for a tune-up...aka ground work and some miles under-saddle.


The yearling colt I've dubbed Pip. He's a Welsh x Arabian, a brother to the filly behind him. He was unfortunately injured as a foal when he went over backwards - too bad, especially considering he is such a looker!

One of the cute little pony fillies chilling with Twist. This one's cute as a button, but not very tame yet.

The one out front is boss mare, believe it or not! She's about half the size of the little 3yo Twist, yet she rules the roost around there! I call her Nubs due to her lack of ears. She's very assertive, but pretty cute and very laid back!

The 2yo Welsh x Arabian mare, sister to my favourite little guy Pip (pictured with the little pony filly with the wide blaze).

May 31
Vaccination and Spring Fling potluck day at the barn today! I volunteered to help vaccinate horses - it's surprising the number of individuals with horses who cannot vaccinate their own horses or who are not aware of the basics of vaccinations such as where to vaccinate, which shots to give and why, or the no-no's associated with vaccinating (such as riding your horse immediately afterwards). What we had originally hoped to take only a couple of hours turned into an all-day affair; individuals trickled into the arena (where we set up to do vaccinations) with their horses throughout the day, despite the 12-1pm start plan we had been aiming for. This pushed the potluck down to later (particularly for the two of us vaccinating) and meant I was out there all day rather than home studying as I had hoped to be! Oh well though ;)

First thing in the morning I was out working with Link so that I would be finished with him around the time we were to start vaccinations. It had been a few days since I rode him last and so he was pretty hot; he'll have to wait a week here for more work as I throw everything into studying for my exams that I write/perform this Friday and Saturday. Plenty of time for riding after the exams are written! I've also been hunting down dressage coaches, trying to find one that will come out to the barn for lessons - wish me luck! So far it's been quite the challenging process, as there seem to be few; the ones that are available request that you haul in and also pay really high lesson fees (as in, $110/hr).

He was pretty reactive and explosive when I first commenced ground games with him, so, after rolling my eyes as he once again bolted during an attempt at the figure-8 pattern (note: "attempt" lol), I actually resigned myself to only doing groundwork with him. Hey, I would have bolted too. Never know when those little puny orange cones are going to leap out at you and rip your hide off its bones. So anyways, after a few miserable attempts at the figure-8, I took him to the circling game, during which, of course, he bolted. Surprise surprise. This time though I pushed him to stay at the canter (read: gallop) when he wanted to stop, then asking for more canter in either direction. Everyone say hello to reverse psychology. And boy does it work! Within a few minutes (and several deep breaths on his part, encouraged by me) he was content to just trot, though I kept him on a 10' or so circle at first, asking for transitions and such so as to regain his focus. Next, we took on the weave pattern at the trot, on both sides and he did beautifully (even on his right side!), so we re-attacked our figure-8 pattern at the trot...little hot but he did it pretty much flawlessly...around the killer cones. He was calm enough after all our games (30 minutes worth) that I felt he could indeed handle some under-saddle work, so we tacked up.

Under-saddle I could feel he was pretty excited. I took him down the long side of the arena at a walk and got him working on some circles at the trot at the far end of the arena. 5 minutes or so and he was relaxed and calm, even switching direction on figure-8's with a relaxed and rounded frame without throwing up his head through the change in direction. The rest of the session we did, at the trot, serpentines with circles, circles along the centerline down the arena, leg-yield (walk), and 20m circles. The 20m circles were the most challenging for him, but we finished with him in a rounded frame rather consistently. We also trotted down the long sides of the arena, with balancing circles at the top prior to trotting down, and I had him engaging himself several strides at a time, on the straight line. Lastly, in between some relaxation we tackled some sitting trot, which of course requires a softer rounder trot out of him (pretty good) and finally some canter as well. His canter was somewhat rough and he had a tough time picking up that right lead, but we did get it, and rather rounded at that. It was probably our best session yet, despite the challenges at the beginning, and there was even another rider (nice and quiet) in the arena working with us! Not only did he greatly improve over the session (at engaging from behind, relaxation, suppleness, etc), as usual, but I had the softest hands I have ever had with him. I maintained him on a short to sometimes long-ish rein, but very very very light. It was pretty neat to be able to communicate together so well with such light contact - I finally fully felt like how Mette Rosencrantz had described, in her clinic, a dressage rider's hands to be - "light on the steering wheel, merely relaxed and lightly guiding, while your legs do most of the work". I can picture her demonstration on the ground and I finally felt this session like we had it, which was pretty awesome! As I always say, still a long ways to go, but we're progressing and having a blast doing so! What a great horse, and he even stood nicely for his vaccinations (two pokes and a syringe up the nose for strangles!).

June 1
Check out all the photos from today (above)! I took several snapshots (okay, more than several, hehe) of the little herd Twist is in with, including one of which I am to start, and also of Sunny, the paint I am to tune-up over June.

Twist did fantastic today, especially considering it was blowing and threatening to storm our entire session. He was somewhat reactive, as usual, but I had expected worse today actually (due to the weather). Mustachio had other ideas of being caught but was all-in-all actually pretty willing to be caught in the end. Saddling up he was spooky but ok, and we ripped through all our games pretty quickly. The reactiveness showed up most playing the driving game on his right side, but we finished with him moving around rather relaxed. His left side is tough too because he tries to just move his hindquarters around towards me to move MY feet away from his front end, rather than just moving his front end over. His circling game continues to greatly improve on his left side though, to the point where I sort of zoned out as the trotted around me, then came to to realise he'd done several laps of trot calmly and successfully, on his 'bad' side (the left side)! On previous occasions it has been at times difficult to get full laps on that side, particularly if he is spookier than normal (read: more velocoraptors lurking in the woods) that day. He didn't really have any objection to my standing at his side today, and neither when I stood in the stirrups; I mounted up (without swinging my leg over) three times each side before finally swinging my leg brush the opposite stirrup. Oh shit! The raptor's beneath me and attacking my right stirrup! Well, that's what Twist must have thought, anyways. Because he immediately humped up, scooted his bum underneath him, and jumped around a little. To his credit, no actual bucks though. After really thinking the situation through (whilst hopping about) though he realised he was - surprise surprise, still alive, and so stopped, standing frozen a minute or so to make sure the raptor had truly disappeared. This was about the time I quietly slid my right foot in the stirrup so that I would have a better seat should he decide to pop around again. I ask, how is it that I always only ever have one foot in the stirrup when Twist goes to...well...twist?? Yea, I'm rolling my eyes at myself too. Anyways, while Twist hasn't quite seemed to grasp the concept of halting yet (I've been sort of bending him to a stop...I say sort of, because he's not fully bent, just enough to sort of turn his head and ask him to stop moving forward), but he seems to be catching on a little. That and back-up and also bending his head around to my leg. He's a little too nervous yet though to keep his feet still, which is why the former give him a little trouble. He moves out nicely though! He seems to understand that rider lifts energy up in saddle+little squeeze+cluck = forward movement, to the point where he was soon moving forward when I simply lifted my energy in the saddle. Helps though that he wants to move forward in the first place! I have to admit that the first few rounds of the pens, I had my right hand on the horn a good, oh I dunno, 100 percent of the time...yea right about there. Lol ;) Despite any trepidation though he never bucked, or even humped or hopped, or any version thereof, at all throughout our ride (after those initial ones previously mentioned, of course). We toured the pens in either direction a number of times, to the point where I released my death-grip on that horn to guide him fully with two hands (he's so soft and responsive!) and he was walking about with a lowered head whilst licking his chops and chewing for me. A few moments where he was tense here and there and the odd bum-scoot-beneath-him, but that's it! I actually felt confident enough to take him out into the nearby fields, but convinced myself to save that treasure (lol) for tomorrow. Very proud of the little guy, as he was very relaxed and responsive rather early in our ride. He is very willing and doesn't fight with you at all about path. He's definitely scared at times, but is willing to invest trust in his rider/handler and seems to just want to please. Also, today was the first time I untacked him and he neglected (read: forgot? Haha just kidding) to spook at the saddle when I pulled it off. He stood quietly throughout the entire untacking process and allowed me to quietly slide the saddle off without a care in the world, in lieu of spinning out from beneath it as it came off and facing it, blowing hot air through his big nostrils. Pretty good, pretty damn good job, little horse. Thank-you.