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.

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