Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A little of nothing

Not much has been happening around here as of late, as I have been gearing up for a visit to Ontario. Twist has hit the mountains with his owner, and Gypsy's been turned out with Sunny. Missy's had a bit of groundwork done, but honestly not much extreme (particularly not in the 30C weather!). I will get back to work on everyone when I return late next week - we'll be back to rigid schedules! I worked with Link on the 45' line the other day but honestly he had way too much energy for his own good (which resulted in some liberty time for him, which he used tearing about the arena, snorting and blowing madly, hahaha). We did finish the groundwork with his doing the Figure-8 around the barrels at the trot 45' away from me though! He looked a little off to my eye though (reminder: he was trimmed too short by the farrier two weeks ago) and he became increasingly so under-saddle, so our work under-saddle was cut short within minutes. The good part about my being away at least is that he should be sound for work by the time I return. Today I did a little groundwork (7 games, figure-8 at the trot, serpentine at the trot) prior to hopping up at liberty. He did ignore my cues at first (he was quite happy as a clam with following mom about on her horse, Sonny, as I gave her a lesson), but pretty quick he started to tune into me. Soon he was (at liberty) backing when I asked, pivoting on the hind end, doing patterns we hadn't done in months - he was brilliant! Needless to say, I was excruciatingly proud of him. I do believe I foresee more liberty work on the agenda? When I return!

Well, off to Ottawa tomorrow, back in a little over a week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dental visit

Today Missy had a vet appointment to have her teeth floated and since it was easier to load her if Koolaid came along, we also brought him along as well ;) Oh, and then of course the vet clinic had an emergency that put them behind schedule, so we had to wait quite awhile (an hour) before we were seen to, lol. Murphy's Law, right?

Koolaid was first up and while he had a few sharp edges, he had no sores on his cheeks or tongue, no waves, no major sharp edges, etc, so the vet felt it optional to do his teeth. Koolaid's teeth have not been actually done in at least five years, a testament to there being a variety of factors that contribute to a horse's teeth needing being done (ie, husbandry, genetics, etc) and that a horse's teeth do NOT necessarily automatically need to be done every 6-12 months. The vet had recommended he either be done now and then would be fine for another few years, or we leave it another year. I opted for choice #1, that way it is over and done with for awhile.

I was actually quite pleased - the vet went over with me how some horses do need their teeth done yearly (as I have always been taught - some vets have even recommended I take our horses in twice yearly!), but that some horses, just as some humans with the perfect set of teeth, just don't need to be done that regularly (Koolaid and Missy are such examples). They don't develop waves, hardly develop points, and their teeth stay in great general shape. I asked about feeds and their effect on teeth, but he told me that there is so little research out there concerning equine dental health that we do not know yet the effects of various types of feed. Teeth requiring to be done though likely depend on a variety of factors.

Missy's teeth were the same as Koolaid's actually - needing to be done in about a year, but not causing her any discomfort right now. Since that was my main concern - her comfort during work, I opted not to have her teeth done this year, as she (hopefully) won't be sticking around all that long. I can't say how appreciative I was that the vet took the time out to check her mouth and see if she even needed doing! He pointed out she still had her wolf teeth, and asked me if I wanted them removed. I opted against that as well at this time, since she doesn't seem bothered by their presence thus far.

The vet and his tech were quite impressed with both horses' structures, particularly Missy (everyone falls in love with this mare, now if only someone will buy her! Hahaha. I guess I should advertise her first, lol). I wasn't sure how my big TOAM was going to do with all the noise from the drill and such, but she was fantastic with everything throughout, even the men doing construction on the barn. She loaded to and from the vet clinic without a problem either - booya! She still needs some finishing, but she's on the right track and just about ready for sale. Tomorrow's work with her: leg aids. Actually tomorrow, everyone is in my books. I want to put two more days on everyone to complete their set of 30 days. Then they (Sunny and Gypsy) start their August 30 days!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eau de Skunk

Wow, today was a bit of a longer day with the horses! I spent a lot of extra time with the three stooges today (Twist, Sunny, Gypsy), namely talking with owners, taking Twist out on a ride on the road, and chasing Gypsy around her pasture for a good 20 minutes before she finally came in to where I could pen her. Aaaaah.

The now mustachio-less man was my first up of the day - we did a couple of games (circle and driving) before I clambered on up into the saddle and we headed out for a short ride on the road (where we encountered *gasp* grass/gravel footing transitions, tractors, vehicles...and Aly, barking at a skunk - and being subsequently sprayed, though by a different skunk). He was actually very good, a little unsure at times, but mostly relaxed and willing. A couple of times his feet got a little "stuck", at which point I just lightly tapped him with the end of my hackamore lead, and we were back off calmly!

At one point, Twist's owner approached us with the tractor (at a fair pace), I could feel Twist seize up beneath me, wanting to bolt. I didn't feel I could take him into the ditch, due to the long grass obscuring our view and thus judgement of the footing and slope - the last thing I needed was to guide a near-panicked horse into footing neither of us knew. Also, the ditch is only so wide and paralleled on one side by a barbed wire fence. Not exactly my favourite type of fencing to be run through if a horse panics, and Twist is not entirely trustworthy yet. So, I dismounted and led Twist along the road as the tractor passed. Twist did panic and almost bolted over me, however I was calm and he was thinking enough to respond to my cues on the ground. As soon as the tractor passed I re-prepared Twist and mounted up.

On a related note, I have been doing a lot of pen work with Twist, as opposed to riding him out. I am not all that sure where I could ride him out in the first place, other than the road, as all the fields are now filled with crops; I am not all that familiar with the property. The road is great (I love that it provides a "path" to the horse, which certainly helps), however it is gravel, so I am careful of the time I spend on it with a horse. Also, while I had felt that trail riding was important at the beginning of Twist's training - for this specific horse, after our issues in the field (where he was rather rebellious as opposed to reactive), I had felt that it was time to further cement some basics (and thus his trustworthiness). While Twist is not a show horse every horse, regardless of its future career, needs a basic foundation. They need to be relaxed and fluid under-saddle (which relates to bending on circles, etc), they need to know what "woah" and "go" are, they need to understand how to handle themselves (ie. turns on the forehand/hind), etc. By teaching these things, not only do you provide the horse a solid foundation of knowledge, but you teach them confidence. A horse who feels like he is successfully learning, grows in confidence. You may then take that confidence and use it for whatever - out on the trails, in the show ring, etc. It makes a huge difference to a horse, particularly a reactive one such as Twist. The other major factor (why I chose to work on more basics with Twist and why I dismounted with the approaching tractor) is that I don't want to get hurt. Why push a horse into situations I know he is not prepared to handle, at the risk of my own safety when he blows?? Pushing the horse past the point where he blows also constitutes a negative experience, which can be detrimental to that horse's experience under-saddle. I realise people used to rope down, chuck a saddle on, and bounce into the saddle of a young horse to "break" him in, but that's not how it has to be - we know better. Regardless, that is not my way and I like my bones staying in one piece thank-you very much, so I go about things a little differently ;)

The big paint man was fantastic today - we did our ground games while he was tacked up today, prior to my jumping up. He was very calm throughout the whole ordeal under-saddle - I actually ran out of things to do with him (at this point) under-saddle! We did circles on the rail, figure-8's, halt, back-up, turns on the hind/fore (a little), etc - all our basics. He was very calm and relaxed in the rope hackamore and I felt he had a lot more confidence today - I certainly had a lot more confidence in him! His owners seem very pleased with his progress (they watched him a bit today) and have opted for another 30 days (as per my recommendation). He is doing extremely well and I feel like maybe they could start riding him now and take over the rest, but I would really like to further cement this new mind frame with Sunny - I just get the feeling that he is just past the tipping point and that he could progress really easily and quickly, but could also revert back to his old ways easily yet if a mistake or two was made. Another 30 days should produce a very solid horse whom his owners can take over easily. He (Sunny) is very knowledgeable (leg aids, etc), so it really is just a matter of building his confidence and teaching him to be relaxed, as opposed to teaching him any basics. I am quite proud of this one, as I was seriously concerned over the first couple of weeks that this horse could be beyond my skill level (or that perhaps he could never be "fixed"!), yet he is turning out beautifully.

I saved her for last after being unable to catch her in the pasture and therefore penning her while I worked with the other two. When I finally got around to her, I started off by roundpenning her a bit. She did keep wanting to come in to me, and she was allowing me fairly easily to approach her and such, but I didn't particularly feel we were getting all that far. I finally caught her with a halter and rubbed/patted/desensitized her all over. I also worked a bit on her tail - a horse's tail is a huge tool for communication, and if it's pressed in tight to their hind end, you can bet their spine is also very rigid, and thus their entire body is tense as opposed to relaxed. So, I played around a bit with her tail, just gently manipulating it in an effort to get it relaxed. It seemed to work though! I was talking to Sunny's owners about her as well - this horse is the most fearful of humans I have ever met, and I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do with her (continue as I have been, or do something else?). I've never spent so much time with a horse on the ground. They voiced their thoughts too, that she was just going to take a long time to overcome whatever it is. She is making progress, but unfortunately it's at a snail's pace - she's just not willing to let me in at all, to let her guard down. Something has made this mare absolutely terrified of humans. Unfortunately, I get the feeling her owner doesn't understand the time it takes or where this filly's really at - he wants me to throw her to the ground and desensitize her that way. I have considered throwing her, but I am not all that handy with ropes, and so for me to do it would be fairly traumatizing to her - the last thing she needs. I need someone who could put her down extremely gently. On the other hand, I'm not even so sure that that wouldn't make her more distrusting anyways. On a related note, desensitization is important and possible without laying her down, but in steps, starting with what the horse CAN handle and progressing the horse forward.

I have to admit I was a little frustrated with the TOAM today, as she kept asking - every single time we passed it - to leave the arena via the gate. Continuous - stupid - questions get annoying after they've been asked the 20th time or so! On the other hand, she did do w/t/c nicely on the ground as well as some patterns (oh, and we did a couple of games before I mounted up) - quite a bit of impulsion today. Her work can be cleaned up a lot though via leg aids, so we spent the rest of our session working on that. Tomorrow I will do some carrot stick riding with her to establish those leg aids better. Once she's got those down, she'll be all set to go. She was very willing today and while the new gullet plate I put in the saddle unfortunately did not quite fit her, she still worked well. Tomorrow I'll put the next size wider on the saddle, which should definitely fit her.

Anyways, that was it for the day! It was definitely a long and dreary one, but we lived to die another day. Off to bed so that I can work more horses tomorrow! Tomorrow I've got the usual 4 plus I will work with Link and give mom a lesson on her OTTB, Sonny. I'm trying to fit Silver into my days as well, but they've just been so long and my excuses not to work with him are endless when I'm exhausted after such a long day..

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 14-18 update

Aaaah my apologies for not keeping up either blog this past week, the days have been long and hard, and by the time I get around to the potential to blog...my mind is fried. If anyone has a remedy for unfrying a brain, or heck, even making days longer, please feel free to give me a nudge ;) SO! What's been up the last week (and it's been mostly sunny - 29C sunny this week!).

I changed tactics on the TOAM (Tank Of A Mare) this week, mostly on the ground, but it followed us up into the saddle. She was quite grumpy whenever I asked for her to play games with me, the circling and the driving (hindquarters, specifically) games in particular - she'd pin her ears, swish her tail, and generally have a bad attitude about whatever it was I had asked her. Of course, this followed us up into the saddle. So, I started "interrupting" her grumpy thoughts - aka sending a wave down the rope (on the ground) whenever she pinned her ears or looked irritated. It worked wonders! At first she seemed a little surprised, but it really knocked her out of the mind pattern she was in and allowed her to change her attitude to one of willingness. I also started riding her in the western saddle and rope hackamore, and we got her w/t/c down pat with a good attitude on her part and also worked on some of the basics. We even took a little "trail ride" down the driveway and back, her "stallion" Koolaid screaming at her to come back the entire time (it's a wonder that horse doesn't lose his voice). Which brings me to the next funny story.

Yesterday I had a bit of a difficult time catching Missy (not today, even though she worked up quite the sweat yesterday!!). Well, while I was trying to catch her, I sort of half noticed that Koolaid had started acting hard-to-catch while I was out there. So I approached him to test my theory, and he took off on me! I was a little indignant (how dare he! haha), and confused - I mean, what has he been doing with me that would make him not want to be caught! My own horses are never hard to catch! I definitely grumbled a "what's his problem" under my breath as I watched him bolt off. Then it hit me, as Missy joined him and they cantered off together. He wasn't willing to be caught because he wanted to lead his mare away from me. He was tired of my taking her away from him all the time and had it set in his mind to just keep her out of my reach. What a twit!! Finally I tied him up and let him scream away, luring her into the smaller pen where he was at, where she quickly gave up the ghost to be caught.

Today luckily I didn't have that problem - I caught Koolaid's mare before he had the chance to lead her off (haHA! Koolaid: 1 Me: 1). Yesterday Missy worked up quite the lather trotting about, doing circles, etc, and today (though I had promised her otherwise - I underestimated the humidity factor and also her lack of fitness) was not much different. I worked her in the english saddle today and she was fantastic! Walk/trot/canter, circles (we need to work on leg aids so we can get rounder circles), figure-eights, serpentines, etc. The saddle definitely did not fit though, so I will have to change the gullet plate back over to the "wide" that fit her previously. She also worked in the cradle bit today and was very willing! She is booked in to have her teeth done next Tuesday though. She was very light (on my hands) though and was even engaging her hind a little (we need a little more impulsion yet though, but it is coming). I've got another week to work on her before putting her up for sale beginning of August.

Anyways, lots of progress - she is coming along real well and is almost back on par with where we left off last year.

Well, the Big Paint Pony has progressed from my sitting on him to my riding him! He's gotten less and less reactive and less and less one-sided as well. He rarely explodes anymore (very rarely) and is generally calmer and - he hasn't thrown up any "walls" yet this week! Not to say he won't, but most of the time now he thinks through a situation rather than going A-Wol on me and taking off all in a tither. We've even progressed his games to the point where he's starting to learn to have confidence and think through some of the extensions - traveling circle, spiraling in and out at the trot on the circling game, changes in direction, etc. Oh, and he's been much easier to catch as of late. I spent a couple of ground sessions with him though where we did no riding, over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday however he marched up to me the minute he caught sight of me ;)

At first (under-saddle) he fought me a bit - if he wanted to go somewhere he was going somewhere and he was going to fight through my hands to get there. I think part of his fighting me though might be because his teeth need to be done (as per my experimentation yesterday) - when I contradict what he wants, the rope halter puts pressure right over where he'd have hooks on his teeth. If your horse has hooks on his teeth and you push in along his jaw where his teeth sit, he'll usually raise his head because it hurts. Well in this case, Sunny tosses his head when the rope applies pressure in that area and fights through me, indicating it could be a teeth issue as well. I think another part of the issue (if not even all of it) is that he just doesn't like to be told what to do, and he doesn't like rein pressure - he wants his head. Which leads me to our huge breakthrough yesterday. I was trying to be light as possible with my hands, but at times he'd just plain right out ignore me and push through the little bit of pressure I was putting on. So I started using my legs more - previously it had not occurred to me to really make use of leg aids because I assumed he didn't have them. Never assume! It's been a good 4++ years since leg aids have been used on him, but he knows them - no doubt! As soon as I started using my legs more to direct him, he quit fighting me so much. I could correct a little with my hands and mostly just use my legs. We finished yesterday's session with turns on the hind, turns on the fore, figure-8's, changes in direction, circles, and circles on the rail - he was brilliant! So now it's just about really instilling some confidence (and willingness of course) in him. Next week is his last week (and that's with extra days being put on), so I am going to recommend his owners allow him another 30 days - from there the owners should be able to take over easily. I'll have some explaining to do to them, because they're going to need to understand how sensitive he is and how little it takes to communicate to him - he's the type of horse (it seems thus far) that if you start over-communicating (ie. using more rein than necessary, using bigger bits than necessary, etc), things are not going to go over well. *sigh* this is where horse training can only go so far - you can balance a horse out and get them working beautifully, but after that it is up to the owner to hold up their end of the bargain to the horse.

My little Mustachio man (whose mustache is now long gone - a few of his friends have good ones though, is it indicative possibly of some nutrient deficiency???) is doing great but doesn't seem to like to work! Despite the short and sweet sessions we've been having, he always gives it a go at first to see if he can get away with not being caught. Once he realises the impossibility of such a thought, then he gladly walks up to me and allows me to halter him, but it would be nice if he came around to the point where we didn't have to go through so much at the beginning! Buegh. Anyways. His saddle work has been steadily progressing (though he really needs some wet saddle pads, perhaps out in the mountains, to instill more confidence in him in regards to people and being ridden) - he now sidepasses, does turns on the fore and hind pretty well (just a few steps, maybe 180 degrees at his best though), circles (with bend!!), back-up (uber light), and walk/trot. He's extremely light on the reins and is becoming lighter and lighter to my leg. Next week I think we'll hit the road for a little "trail riding" and a break from "arena" work to finish off his "30 days". I've also been introducing him to the bit (my double-jointed Happy Mouth - I'd like to find one of these though that's a Full Cheek!) - next week my goal is to have the bridle on under the hackamore during our ride so that he can grow accustomed to wearing the bridle under-saddle and perhaps my using it a little. His owner plans on shoeing him soon here and shipping him off to the mountains though, so he should be about ready for the trip and trails by the end of next week (that's with extra days)!

I changed tactics with the little black mare as well, actually. It seemed like we were getting absolutely nowhere with the catching, rubbing, and releasing (I can't figure it out either!), so I digressed to simply walking up to her and rubbing her head and wherever else she allows me to touch - at liberty. My thought is that allowing her to do this at liberty, without the weight of the leadrope attached, will maybe earn her trust further because it is more her choice than if she's caught. So far she's been half decent to walk up to, and I did also remove her halter even the other day. That same day, she actually approached me and allowed me to pet her through the fence - something she has never ever allowed! Next week I think we will do more "roundpen" work as well to see if we can't get further. So it is progress, just very very slow - slower than I have ever had with a horse! What makes her so incredibly wary of people?? She will definitely need a minimum of another 30 days before she's good for the year. Today she was fairly good, I managed to be able to approach her twice in her pasture with minimal cutting her off. Next week though we are going to need to step it up a notch!

I have ridden Link only once since the trail ride in the Kananaskis, and it was cut short by his lameness. Ever since the trim last Thursday he has been lame, particularly on his fronts, though he has been steadily improving (to the point where I thought I could even ride him yesterday, but obviously not). I'll do some groundwork and see if he can do some saddle work (depending on the ground work as well) next Tuesday, which will make it almost two weeks since his trim. Gah! The joys of farriers. Link was jumping around quite a bit this last trim (The wind! My herd mucking about! Sonny's home! Lol) so maybe in his haste to do Link's feet the farrier accidentally trimmed him too short, as he did not lame Link last time. On the other hand, having your horse lame for two weeks is...well, somewhat less than ideal!

With all the ruckus of finding a new truck (etc etc) I have yet to find the time for Koolaid or Silver. I've finally got things settled though so (even though I keep saying this! haha) next week I should be able to start adding Silver, at the very least, back into my schedule. I HOPE!! I think he's been enjoying the time off though after the glitz of the parade (lol). Koolaid doesn't seem to mind the time off either, given he's so pre-occupied these days with watching over "his" mare! I am hoping to spend a month or more in Drayton Valley come September though (on a ranch), in which case I would take Silver (maybe Koolaid) and Link, as well as a horse in training or two. Silver would be in absolute heaven working cattle again - this week I caught him sidling as close as he could to the cattle on the neighbour's property! He would not even come in as he usually did with all the horses when I brought Missy in, instead opting to stay out with the cattle, all alone. Lol. It would definitely be beneficial for Link as well, to be out on the trails and working cattle, and of course it would benefit any horses I was working with at the time. So, please pray and cross your fingers for me that it works out that I can go! I would like to sell Missy prior to going, would like to find an EMS job PT in Drayton, and need to find a way to get all my horses up there as well - if all those needs can be met, I will be going. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rain? What - again??!

Ah, thanks (note the sarcasm, note the sarcasm!!) Mother Nature, for another short day. This time I rushed out to Missy to get her done at the very least, if no one else. *sigh* the challenges of having to work horses outdoors, lol.

Today I brought Koolaid along with us and just let him graze while Missy and I worked, so that Missy would be perhaps more willing to concentrate on me (not a long-term solution, but while we work on our partnership, it's a helpful short-term solution towards progression). We only did a couple of games (circling game, etc) before I hit the saddle in an attempt to avoid the rain. She was pretty grumpy, but we did w/t/c in either direction as well as some nicely balanced circles, some turns on the forehand, and some turns on the hind. I am hoping tomorrow I can work her in the Happy Mouth maybe? Her teeth we will hopefully be able to do later this week, but I am hoping she lets me work her with the bit prior to having her teeth done - we'll see! Anyways, she did great; the issue isn't with her capabilities but with getting her to want to work with me ;) Maybe not being in heat will help as well! Hahaha.

Sure enough, by the time Missy and I finished (amidst loud thunder claps), it started raining - none of the flash floods like we had last week, but still enough rain to restrict any further work. Buegh. SO, here I am, blogging. Oh, and making preparations to pick up the new truck.

Enjoy the day, and hopefully the weather is better wherever you are than it is here!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Update: day off

Well actually for a day "off" I didn't work all that hard with horses, and unfortunately - what with all my running around today, Missy just didn't get a work in. So it has to be nose to the grindstone with her henceforth! Finally though I will actually have the time to do so; I finally found two trucks that we will decide between tomorrow, so after tomorrow I won't be "wasting" time looking for vehicles and I'll have more time for my own horses. Oh, and rest, more time for rest ;) Seems it's so hard to catch up and get in all that needs to be done some days, no matter how hard you try.

When I went out to work with Link and give mom a lesson on Sonny, Link was actually sore on his fronts, presumably from the trim he had on Friday. I am giving her another lesson tomorrow, so I'll bring Link out again to see how he is and to just spend some time chilling with him. My plan is to be up early enough to get most of the horses in before I have to pick up the truck we decide on (one inspection is holding up the decision - after the inspection we'll have made our decision), to include Missy, and then to (as aforementioned) give a lesson to mom and Sonny. I'm actually quite pleased with the lesson we had today; Sonny did very well with mom, though he was a bit "lazy" (read: disrespectful) with her, so I showed her some things we can work on over time with him so that he's better focused on her. Both did very well though; mom seems to be picking up a lot of speed learning.

That's it for today, I'm almost as exhausted as I was last night! For those of you reading The Perfect Horse, I apologize, I will probably write a blog over there tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. After that it should be fairly regular, just I've been absolutely swamped as of late. So much to do in so little time!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mostly groundwork

Ah, so today was an early morning (particularly for a night-owl whose perfect world would consist of rising at 1pm at the earliest) to get the horses done before I hit up Calgary to take a look at some trucks. Ultimately, I'd love to have a truck bought within a week here, and I think I might have one bought within the next few days! Keep your fingers crossed.

I worked with him first since he'd gotten out during the night (some panels were knocked down) and I had to catch him anyways, plus his owner turned out to be hanging around and had nothing better to do than to watch our saddle work! His ground work was alright today, though he was quite reactive for whatever reason (getting loose, the wind??). I was a lot more comfortable up on him today in the saddle, though I was still careful. We still mostly went where he wanted to and I didn't argue with him too much. I was nervous that if I argued with him over direction that he'd become reactive and buck - he didn't, but I was careful not to push him over the edge (though I was certainly feeling that edge out a little to figure out what we had and where it was). Monday I'll be a little more confident that I can argue with him a little (maybe with the Happy Mouth bit? I don't like to use a bit until the basics are done, but I feel one might be appropriate in this particular case), as he was mostly calm today. He was a little reactive though and still very unconfident - he felt like he could explode, but he didn't - something I was beyond pleased with. I spent maybe 10 minutes up there before dismounting and calling it a day on a good note. Once I've hit the threshold with him and just knocked down his wall (soon), then riding him 1,2, 3 hours, even all day, won't be a problem, but for now it's a little at a time. Once we've gotten through the tough stuff he should progress very quickly.

I had a very hard time catching the Mustachio man today - usually when I say I had a hard time catching a horse, it means it took longer than 30 seconds and the horse didn't walk/trot/canter up to meet me, or stand still at the very least. Like another 30 seconds longer. When I say that it means the horse didn't walk right up to me directly, but that he/she turned away then came back to me after I blocked him/her off or something similar. Today though it took me a good 10 minutes to catch Twist - he really didn't want to be caught, despite such a great, relaxing session yesterday! So I spent a good 10 minutes or so just rubbing him before turning him loose again. Sometimes spending time with a horse is just as important as saddle work; believe it or not just chilling with your horse can actually progress saddle work because your horse is working more in partnership with you next time.

I ran out of time by the time I hit this girl and she was being particularly difficult to catch today. SO, she's a Monday project. She is coming along though, so I am hoping she comes around to where I can catch her more easily by the end of next week. Wow, what slow progress though, this mare just wants nothing to do with people!

Once again I had to skip Missy; though I desperately need to work her(!!!), a vehicle to get me around to the horses has to take priority unfortunately. Tomorrow is supposed to be my day off from working horses though, so I think I will work her in the morning, which will make up for one of the days here I have missed with her. Hopefully I can get this truck thing all sorted out so that I can just get back to work! I'm tired of being tired and I'm tired of there not being enough hours in the day to get done all that I need to. I did look at a bunch of vehicles today though and have a few prospects so am hoping to have some money down within the next few days. One more to look at tomorrow as well. I will also be giving mom a lesson on Sonny tomorrow and so will be riding Link - I'll report back tomorrow evening!

Oh, and I had two things to comment on today, but can only remember one. While tacking up any horse, I always allow the horse to check out whatever I am about to throw up on their back if they'd like. To me, it is just showing respect towards my horse and a part of being polite. I don't care how many times you've tacked up that particular horse before, wouldn't you like to know what was going up on your back? If the horse just stands disinterested, then no worries, I'll just throw the tack up there. More often than not though, the horse will turn its head a little and their interest will range from "oh, that again - just making sure" to "wait, wait, wait! What's that going up on my back!". I just feel that if we expect our horses to be polite and respectful that, as partners, we should be the same. On that note, our horses should be involved in team decisions and thus also in anything that very directly pertains to them (or to the team), such as equipment being put on them. I feel like they appreciate it - I certainly would! So consider it and just keep it in mind :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day of client horses

Well, the gang I got in today only consisted of the three client horses, unfortunately.

Though she continues to be difficult to catch, she was not as frantic in her attempts to dodge me today, and I was able to catch her without fully cornering her. Once I caught her, she was pretty compliant with my rubbing her everywhere, and she walked off when I left her, as opposed to the normal chicken-with-its-head-cut-off bolt she normally does. She even stopped and watched as I left the pen only about 10' away from her! Seems ridiculous, but it is progress nonetheless!

I actually had his owner watch us work under-saddle today - to say I was terrified to actually ride this big beast given his prior history of reactions I've seen, is an understatement. I was absolutely mortified, and for the following, legitimate reasons:
1. He's big
2. He's big and highly explosive
3. Being a RBI, he really gives little indication of an impending explosion
4. When he does explode, there is no stopping him
5. He's good at being explosive (refer to #1 and also his photos that demonstrate a conformation that allows for fabulous athleticism, and...bucking)
6. He's terrified of anything to do with working under-saddle
7. He's studly. Refer to #1. Now, with the size and power of his hooves in mind, think of those huge feet smashing down on your head once you've been bucked off.
Now do you understand my fear?? Horses I am afraid of are few and far between, and horses I am always nervous around are needles in a haystack, but this is one I am wary of.

His groundwork went very well though, actually - the best it's ever gone. He was thinking, responsive, calm, and submissive. Two thumbs up! Mounting up and sitting in the saddle he was great, though moving out he seemed very unsure and very unconfident. His body was stiff as a statue, though I just asked him to do several sets of 3-4 steps, rest with me in the saddle, and that was it. Overall a very good session though. I didn't want to push him under-saddle, even though I know he has been ridden, albeit eons ago. If I push him now (when he is so uncomfortable and on the edge of an explosion), I risk backtracking a lot of our work.

Mustachio man was awesome today! His ground games were a breeze, and he was so relaxed under-saddle!! We only walked since the ground was still a little soft, but he was bending around my leg, sidestepping, doing turns on the hind/fore, turning off my leg, and was bending appropriately (rather than arcing to the right on the left rein, he was relaxed and arcing a little to the inside). I was very proud of him!!

I had to tear into town for a chiro appointment and had planned on working Missy on my way back but instead stopped in at a truck dealership in my quest for finding a truck asap. Then it was groceries (since I'd been putting them off to the point where I was now either living off fast food or just not eating - eugh), home, and more truck investigating so I'd have some trucks to look at tomorrow. Ciaos peoples!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ride in the Kananaskis

Wow, what a day - I am absolutely ecstatic with Link's work today! So today was the day we picked up Sonny, mom's Thoroughbred. We'd decided to haul down Link as well, so as to do some trail riding in the Kananaskis after her scheduled lesson.

While she had her lesson, Link and I plodded about the arena for an hour at the walk and trot, working on relaxation, suppleness, work towards collection, and bending. He was absolutely fabulous and very soft! He was a little distracted at either end of the arena by the outside door and, at the opposite end, the gate (open to the great outdoors, lol), but overall did very well. He was also very responsive to my hands, legs, and my seat. Immediately after the lesson, the resident trainer took us on a tour of the local crown land.

I didn't bother to change saddles and so continued the two-hour ride in my english saddle as we took to the trails. First thing we crossed a pretty deep creek - up to the horses' bellies, and Link plodded right on through very carefully!! Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with him! Next was a stop at a gate, which caused Link to get a little ancy with me - he wanted to get out and go! Our guide then took us up a very steep and slippery slope (though he hadn't realised it was as slippery as it was until he started going up it) - him first then mom on Sonny following behind, then me on Link. Link was still pretty ancy, so I held him back a little. I wasn't sure how much I could trust his judgement on the footing (could I fully trust him to take the slope safely without any rating on my part and just turn his head loose?), so I asked him to wait back a bit. At least that way if he hit the trail running and he bolted up through the mud, he wouldn't wind up on Sonny's tail with nowhere to go and end up doing something reactive without thought. Asking him to wait though caused him to become even more psyched up, which in turn caused me to ask him to wait even longer - I wanted him to hit the trail (relatively) calmly. This backfired on me though when he was overwhelmed with the fear of being left behind and reared - high. Just as he reached tipping point where I thought he might come over backwards on top of me, I skidaddled off his back end - mostly involuntarily. Oh, and with a nice bump on my head where his head intimately met mine. I climbed out of the mud to watch my horse calmly pick his way up the slippery slope and yelled up behind him to the riders above and out of sight that Link was coming up on his own. Y'know Link, if I had known you were going to be so careful with the trail - only your second time out on trails ever in your entire life - I would have just let you go and wouldn't have bothered with trying to get you to relax and halt prior to climbing the hill. Thanks, buddy (please note the dripping sarcasm). Apparently he appeared at the top looking calm but looking around, as if wondering where his rider had gone to. She was still climbing the hill. I reached the top to see our guide trying to catch him. When I called out to him not to bother trying to catch Link, that I would do it from the ground, Link heard me and turned around immediately to walk right up to me. Ah, there you are! I pointedly reminded him of where I'd been with a baleful glare. Moments after catching my wind, I clambered back up and we continued. Link felt like a time-bomb waiting to go off for the next 5 minutes or so, but after that he relaxed so completely that he was not even the same horse! We trotted and cantered through meadows (on a loose rein), crossed creeks (I and Link first - he never once hesitated), bogged through several patches of deep mud (no hesitation and always clear-headed), and he munched happily away on the lush green grass throughout. Despite the rough start, I was absolutely wowed by Link. Not only did he handle the ground so much more fantastically than I had anticipated, but he quickly settled down into a wonderful and relaxing ride!! Eventually our guide left us to our own wanderings (mom and I) - Link didn't even flinch when his company left, and a few times Sonny and mom would jog ahead to catch up with our guide on his horse (earlier in the trip) and Link would be left, looking about as if to determine what Sonny was running from. He was so completely relaxed!!

So, on that note, I took away one pretty important lesson today:

Trust your horse. If you properly prepare a horse, they should be able to handle whatever you throw at them. Personally, I tend to underestimate my horses. Time and time again (lol). In this case, Link and my partnership is still a work-in-progress so I wasn't convinced yet that he was properly prepared for challenges such as the slippery hill (plus, he has a jaded history of disliking people we've had to work through - how much has he changed?). Also, as only his second lifetime trail ride, I wasn't sure how much trust I could place in his judgement and maneuvering. Turns out, I need to invest more trust in him than I had previously thought. He's a brilliant horse - he can obviously handle the footing, and I think today intimately proved that to me. Also, he will take care of me if I let him. We have a solid enough relationship now where he is not going to hurt me purposely. He can only trust me if I trust him. As the ride progressed, he became increasingly calmer with me. He was able to trust me and to relax (rather than psych himself up) when I asked him to slow a little at the beginning of something - he learned that I wasn't going to hold him back from being with the herd nor was I going to take away his head (which he'd desperately need to maneuver through some of the tricky ground we were encountering), hanging off his head in an effort to control him, but that I was simply setting him up proper for the obstacle ahead. As soon as he responded, I would fully give him his head so that he could negotiate the footing. So in this case, we essentially both built a stronger trust in each other. On that note though, I think Link and I would greatly benefit from a number more of these "trust building exercises"...a.k.a. trail rides. Lol.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another short day...thanks Mother Nature...

Another day of horses, albeit a short one again thanks to Mother Nature, *sigh*. This time, a hail storm! Why can't we have our wet season in May, as opposed to June?? Note to self: the time it takes for a storm to get to you so as to - conveniently - rain you out is inversely proportional to the amount of time you will need to work all the horses. I swear, it looked far off, yet there I was, once again working horses in the rain. Yay. Hear the enthusiasm in my voice.

The little black mare was my first student today and she did alright! I had to move her to the smaller pen to catch her, but she was better to catch today than yesterday (though I still had to corner her of sorts). Just spent a few minutes rubbing her down before turning her loose once more. I did catch her again before I opened the smaller pen up and she was alright once again (and she didn't spurt away afterwards as fast as she normally does). I really don't understand though, all our sessions thus far have encompassed spending a little one-on-one time, doing - that's right, nothing (in the grand scheme of things). Yet she still runs away! She will not even eat if I'm standing too near. Why's this wall been so difficult to tear down with her? Has something happened to her in the past? Or is it simply that she's never been handled before? Buah. It seems like so much more than simply not being handled sufficiently. At least she is making progress, even if it is slow.

I had quite the trouble catching the big paint boy today, it took several minutes and a nice shiny corner. So, rather than doing any saddle work, we just did our 7 games in the pasture before turning him loose. The Right-brain Introvert was reactive as usual but he was better today, and it was good to end on a good note after just a short session re-cementing basics with him, hopefully it helps me catch him easier tomorrow!

By the time I was finished with Sunny, the clouds were really rolling in and thunder was booming, so Twist and I were restricted to a ground session as well. He wasn't so keen on being caught though either, so it was probably for the best anyways. Whether because of the incoming storm or his newfound freedom (he's in a new pasture), Mustachio was a little reactive, but we got through all 7 games nicely and called it a day (as the skies started opening up on us) when he was all cucumber-ish cool and relaxed.

No time for anyone else - I threw all my tack in the truck to race homeward-bound to escape the hail. Turns out it wasn't golf-ball sized, but here you never know - better to get out of it safely before your vehicle is destroyed than to sit around and see! Plus, no horse is all that happy about working in that weather - it's probably one of the worst ways to build rapport and partnership (lol), though I do work in adverse weather often anyway. Not to mention that I don't like working in that type of weather - hail hurts! So does lightning. Not that I really know, I've never been struck before, I'm just assuming here. *ahem*. But I'd kinda like to keep it that way (minus being struck by lightening, I mean). Thanks weather network, for telling me it probably wouldn't rain until evening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another day at the office...

All hell breaking loose...or about to, give or take 15 minutes...

I find it amusing that as soon as I head out to the horses, the clouds start building, and as soon as I am finished, the terrible rainstorm quits. Brilliant. Yesterday we even had flash flooding. I put up some youtube videos today of my work with Sunny and Twist (just a portion of it)...I'm going to try to keep the videos updated! I'd like to get some recent shots of Link up as well, but we'll see (without a cameraman it's hard sometimes, lol).

I started with the painted kid, who, I recently discovered, normally does act studly at times (such as around mares). I'm not sure if he was gelded late, but that would explain some of his behaviour! He's uber reactive at times, but will also (really) challenge my authority at other times. In the video (above) you can see it a bit. Today he did fairly well though - his ground games were mostly excellent. He was a little more thinking today and thus had great changes in direction for the most part (using the squeeze game) and his sideways was better than on previous occasions. His circling game was alright but his changes in direction at the circling game were a little reactive (and with a little attitude). His cinching up today was a little better however (no humping his back) and he was much better in the improvised "roundpen" (oh, to have my own facilities! hahaha) today - no bucking! Oh, and no fearing for my life. That's a good thing, lol. He was actually calm enough for me to actually sit in the saddle today, after testing his reaction out by stepping up in the stirrup. Don't think I didn't say a little prayer though before getting up in that saddle though! Anyways, he was calm and relaxed...I was even tempted to walk him out under-saddle but restrained myself in case it was too much for him. Last thing I need is for big paint to explode.

I actually convinced her to walk up to me a few times, eventually to the point where I could catch her. Of course, this was with the help of a pen, and specifically, a corner in said pen, lol. I worked with her until she would allow me to rub her anywhere before turning her loose again. Progress, albeit slow!

Note the leadrope on the ground...safe when a horse with prior and proper preparation - who will (and did) calmly stop, mull over the situation, and "unstick" himself

My little Mustachio man was fantastic today! He was a little reactive still and tense, but relaxed as the session progressed. I posted a video of his games up on youtube (above). You can see his tension especially when I ask him to do turns on the hind and he moves a little quicker than I'd have liked. Under-saddle though he was fantastic! Much more relaxed and supple than usual, with straightness (rather than bending to the outside on the left rein) and bend!! We did some circles, transitions (walk/halt), turns on the haunches and forehand, back-up and sidestep before calling it a day. He did great and so I wanted to end on a good note and also the slippery ground prevented us from doing too much more work.

The big yellow tank was great today! All her ground games went fabulicious and her under-saddle work was equally great. Walk/trot/halt transitions, circles, figure-8's (some excellent collection!), turns on the haunches/forehand - all the while with Koolaid in the background screaming for his mare to return and as the sky opening up on us with thunder and RAIN! No one likes working in the rain, in-heat mares inclusive, lol. Yet she still worked hard for me and remained focused - I was very proud of her! We'll be working hard this week, as I've got a prospective buyer possibly taking a look at her next week.

The pup calling it quits in the backseat of the vehicle

Monday, July 6, 2009


Okay, quick post because I need some sleep. I know I always say that and then write a novel, but I mean it this time!

Today I was awokened by dark clouds - another muggy day, ugh. Unfortunately, thanks to a number of phone calls and a whole long list of "to-do's", I was caught up until early afternoon before I could work with the horses. At which time, the heavens opened their gates and promptly flooded the area. I'm told a huge thunderstorm is headed our way?? What's with that? Isn't that what we got today? Complete with flooding? Heck, I almost drowned on my short trip from the vehicle to the pharmacy. I felt like a drowned rat, and must have looked it too, because as I tromped past the make-up-counter-girl, she asked me if "that" happened from my vehicle to the store, indicating the flood of water running off my forehead. Yup. As a result, I could only work Link today, who is the only horse at an indoor arena. Tomorrow I'll have more time in the morning and so will try to get everyone worked before (or if - the weather network claims I'm safe, but the radio station speaks of disaster weather storms headed our way - someone is lying to me, lol!) another storm hits. Yesterday, a tornado touched down in Red Deer, even. So, back to the topic.

I expected Link to be fairly high-strung, and he was somewhat, but settled down nicely with me once I allowed him some "Link" time. When I brought him in he immediately took to shivering - violently. I felt pretty bad, so gave him a quick brush-over before taking him into the arena for some groundwork to warm him up. Well there was no concentrating the big man, so I eventually turned him loose. He promptly tore about the arena in a near-flawless replication of Red Deer's tornado. Round, and round, and round...all full speed ahead. Eventually he pranced up to me to shove his nose in my chest, and we got down to work (by this time, he was warm too, which definitely helped him focus). His games were excellent, though I only worked him on the 12', but I threw in all sorts of additions to the circling game - changes in direction, traveling circle, transitions, canter on 24' of circle, etc. He did great, including phase 1 at the porcupine game! He was a little ancy to get going while being tacked up, but worked fabulously under-saddle. We did all our usual and while he wasn't quite as responsive to my leg today, we accomplished a lot (even leg yield) - progression towards collection (circles and patterns), transitions (trot to halt), canter (super laid-back, particularly on the right rein), work on shoulder-in/haunches-in, etc. He was brilliant and very calm and relaxed - I was very pleased with him! Having to buy the new truck has put a bit of a damper on our finances so I'll have to wait a month or so to get into some lessons, but I'd like to aim Link towards a few schooling shows this year, at the very least...fingers crossed it becomes possible :)

Okay, off to bed. I'm not one of those bright-eyed-bushy-tailed people after no sleep - I need my beauty rest! This week's gonna be a long one...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

First day back on the job

Well by the time I woke up this morning, I was pretty exhausted from the events of the day prior, so it was down to the three customer horses today. Ugh, what a hot and muggy day - it was cloudy so all the clouds kept the heat in, and the moisture from the impending rainstorm is creating a lot of humidity in the air.

I had her approach me a few times in the pasture, but I was unable to actually catch her until I penned her into a smaller area. Her half-brother really helped me out just by being a calm shadow (a calm, clothes-and-skin-nibbling shadow, that is, lol). Once I caught her she wasn't too keen on being touched much, so I just spent some time with her and rubbing the areas she was more confident with (neck and head) before turning her loose again.

It's been a good two weeks since we last worked, so I wasn't even sure I would be able to ride him today, but it worked out! We played our usual ground games plus I incorporated a few extensions - he was phase 1 at it all! Afterwards, I tacked him up and "roundpenned" him a little before mounting up - his roundpenning was great with a lot of focus on me and a lot of "draw", ie. willingness to come in to me without pressure. He was a little skittish but no bucks and he did all he was asked without any reactive episodes - turns on the haunches, turns on the forehand, sidepass, bending (his nose to my knee) on either side, all at the walk only though today. He did fabulous, particularly after such a long break! I'm trying to get in all the days I can now before his owner takes him out to the mountains :)

While he wasn't all that one-sided today (he was actually very balanced, considering) he was quite reactive. Not that he was really blocking me out much, but there were a couple of scary moments where he almost exploded at, or on top of, me, just because he was so worried. For example, while playing the sideways game, at one point he felt like he was cornered and so spun his haunches in towards me and went completely reactive on me. I was extra careful after that to be sure I didn't accidentally push him too far. I worked at staying very quiet with him and tried my best to keep his focus on me. His games went well enough on the ground, so I tacked him up (he really doesn't like that cinch being done up and kept puffing his belly out) and eventually just let him loose. After some roundpenning he seemed a little better (he couldn't get enough of a straight stretch to really buck it out either and so his focus seemed to come around a little better maybe) and I stood up in the stirrups on either side. He was pretty worried about that though, so we called it quits there for the day before pushing him possibly too far. Tomorrow hopefully we can do a little more work in the saddle, but it will definitely involve some roundpenning first to get him focused in on me!

I'm not sure how this week is going to go, but I will definitely be working with Gypsy, Twist, and Sunny to finish up their 30 days (that would originally have been drawing to a close real soon here - being stuck up in High Prairie set me back a good week), as well as Missy. I'll be getting Silver, Koolaid, and Link in wherever I can, but hopefully on a regular schedule (*sigh*). Enjoy the day!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Calgary Stampede Parade

Well, this was our first parade (Silver and myself) - I guess it's go big or go home! Silver did excellent. We were up by 4am this morning, to arrive at the compound by 6am. By 7am we were all tacked/hitched up, judged, then it was all standing around and waiting. The day dawned cloudy and chilly, but the sun burned off all the clouds nicely for a bright and sunny parade day. Our horses had to wait a good solid 3 hours before our group (number 126 or so) finally hit the parade route sometime after 10am (parade officially began at 8:55am). Silver and I hit the road only to have a bit of a tack change though - he wanted to gogogo (poor Silver, a very forward horse anyways, couldn't understand why he couldn't just move out, why he had to walk at this snail pace!! haha) and wasn't happy with my trying to gently pull him up in the curb (we work primarily off of weight shifts, so I normally very rarely touch his mouth - with a curb he usually asks for a very very long, droopy rein from me to work, which works very well actually... furthermore, we're still a work-in-progress with the curb), so I raced back to the trailer and changed out his curb for a snaffle of similar style (almost exactly the same, actually, just no shanks), which he was much happier with. I couldn't find the Happy Mouth in time, so my friend missed out unfortunately. Then we spent a good 10 minutes or so jogging to catch up to our group!! We jogged past chinese dragons winding their way down the street, bands, banners, flags, dancers, army tanks, other horses in costume, balloons, - all sorts of stuff. I sat deep in my seat and prayed Silver would stay true and follow my leadership - one wrong step, one shy, could have meant going into the huge crowd and possibly hurting people. Silver looked, but never once flinched, and held true!! I was extremely proud of him. We even got to pretend we were Andalusians at one point when we got stuck for a few steps at one particularly crowded and slow corner ;P Once we were caught up, Silver was keen on keeping at a solid walk, which just wasn't possible. He did very well though and did for the most part eventually figure out what I wanted and respond nicely... especially given how little prep work we have been able to put in prior to such a large event. Needless to say, I was very proud of Silver!! At home, he took in a well-deserved roll.

We rode with Fort Calgary. Twist and Gypsy's owner at the reins (on the right in the front seat) is the one who generously extended the invitation to Silver and I to attend the parade. Two Clyde x mares, a mother-daughter team.

Hurry up and wait! Sitting around for 3+ hours... A friend and I as Fort Calgary outriders, my friend on Hombre, a 6yo QHx (great-looking horse who also handled the parade very well!!)

Silver and I - hurry up and wait! Just hitting the road, Silver checking out the peoples.

Sunday I start up work again with all the horses and will follow a schedule I've set up for the next few weeks. Tomorrow, it's Gypsy, Twist, Sunny, Silver, Missy, and (hopefully) Link. Adiosa amigosas!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stampede Parade prep

Today was another quick day with our own horses, though this time Missy and Silver. Silver and Koolaid each had their feet done today, Silver getting fronts on.

Much improved over yesterday even! Our work was shorter today, cut short by the farrier finally arriving (late). We worked on pretty much all that we had worked on yesterday though, and made a lot of progress already! Our sidepass to the left was great (I was very delicate in my communication to him though), our lateral work and circles were great (obviously lots of cleaning up to do yet though, but he was great and we were able to work on a lot of refinement and advanced work!), and we even got in some nice flying chances! Some cross-firing though, so we'll have to work on that (which will include a chiro workover). I will have to get his teeth done soon as well, which will probably help our communication some. I was pretty happy with our work today though, Silver is such a hard, honest worker.

Afterwards we hauled Silver off (he loaded great - I can't imagine after the type of partnership we've worked so hard to develop, him being difficult to trailer!) to the same facilitv Link is at to bath and stall him. Not the greatest day for a bath, as it was a little cloudy and windy - luckily the sun came out afterwards though and evaporated poor Silver's shivering.

I worked the big tank whilst Koolaid and Silver's feet were being done, and for her first real work under-saddle, and away from her love (*ahem* Koolaid), she did great! She was a little excited at first when under-saddle (after some quick groundwork) and gave me some attitude (headshaking at me and refusing to move out on the right rein when we changed direction), so I actually did dismount and did some groundwork with her before remounting. On the ground she was very light and responsive, though a little reactive. Under-saddle the second time (after earning a higher level of her respect on the ground), she worked great for me! Her attention was not 100 percent on me, however it was nonetheless very good (say at 90 percent as opposed to 10 percent or so our first shot at under-saddle today, lol) and I was overall very pleased with her focus and work. We did sidepass, walk/trot, figure-8's, circles, etc - some engagement work, and reminding her she knows what leg aids are (it was more than a little hilarious feeling her 'remembering' underneath me, hehe). A great work, especially considering Koolaid was screaming at her to come back in the background - I am looking forward to making more progress with her! We'll work the next week or so in the rope hackamore before putting her in the cradle bit - her teeth need to be done first.

That was it for the day! Prepped Silver for the parade at the other barn before moving on to scouting out more vehicles. I checked in on Link though did not ride him, to find him contentedly chewing down grass. Koolaid had lost weight with Missy's introduction (I think he was spending a lot of time and energy protecting "his mare", haha), but has regained it back after being left out on pasture at nights (24/7) as opposed to days only. It's funny too, because I think he may have lost weight too because he spends so much time staring off into space rather than eating his share of grass. That and the ultra-good metabolism of his, haha.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back in the saddle

Today was spent with my own horses - I missed them! Silver and I needed to work a little too to prep for the ride in the parade. Otherwise I did not have much time, as we are now searching for a vehicle to replace the car I left for parts in Westlock.

Wow, after about two weeks off, I expected the big man to be a HUGE handful - I wasn't even sure if I would get the chance to ride. He was a blast on the ground - weave at the trot on either side (working out a couple minor kinks to perfect it, but we got it), figure-8 at the trot (with cones), and all our games (including spiraling in and out at the trot, transitions, changes in direction, and canter). I was a little lazy though, so we did it all on the 12' line (doing it on the 22' would have involved walking all the way over to the arena fenceline, where I had left it...hahaha). Plus, I wasn't sure how much I could ask of him, where he'd be at, and I just wanted to do a quick brush-up on the ground before riding. Under-saddle I was a little frustrated at first, as he wouldn't stand still for me to mount - he just wanted to take off! On that note, a quick point:

A hard to mount horse is telling you something - either he's excited (anxious, tense) for whatever reason and wants to get a move-on, or he's reactive or disrespectful and doesn't want you up there. It is important to know the difference! Sometimes it is simply a matter of desensitizing the horse further to being mounted and developing them into a calmer individual, sometimes it involves further earning their respect. Sometimes you can do the work under-saddle, other times it needs to be done on the ground - or risk your horse telling you later, in no uncertain terms (read: bucking) that you are not wanted up there! I'll blog further on this on The Perfect Horse at a later date.

Once I was up however, Link was fabulous. He was pretty excited to get going, so get going we did! I put him to work doing patterns at the walk before moving him up into the trot. We did all our usual patterns under-saddle - approx. 6m circles at each change in direction of a serpentine, 10m circles on a straight line down the centre of the arena, 20m circles, figure-8's, etc. He did great and even needed a little impulsion at times!! I had expected him to be quite the handful but instead we were in perfect harmony most of the time. Our canter was a little fast and he had trouble picking up the right lead (out of alignment perhaps?), but pick it up he eventually did. We even did some trotting down the long sides of the arena in either direction, working on keeping a bend and attaining some collection. He did very well, with some fab work towards collection. Of course we can still clean up our work quite a bit, but I was very pleased with him after such a long break, and he did well even had he not had a break!

On another related note, I switched out gullet plates on my saddle to ride Link. I had bought the narrowest gullet plate possible, hoping it would at least give me an idea of where he was at - the tack store did not have the gullet plate sized in between what I had and the narrowest possible, but told me I could return the plate I bought if it didn't fit and instead order in one that did. Well, surprisingly, it did fit!! It seemed to fit him very well! I'll keep evaluating him though, particularly as he changes shape with work :)

My grey man did fantastic today! We worked on rollbacks at the walk, sidepass, shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yield, jog, canter, etc, using some of the same patterns Link and I work on. He did great and slowed his paces quite a bit during our work. We worked in the new curb bit and while he didn't love it as much as he had the Happy Mouth (I'll probably switch that in and out with the curb during our work), he seemed to not mind it and to work well in it. We had some trouble with the sidepass to the left, but I think it's simply an issue with ironing out our communication yet. We eventually got it and I figured out how to teach him and work with him when he was ready to react, without frustrating him so much as I have in the past (lol). It feels so funny though teaching Silver - when I am with him it feels like he knows so much more than me, that he's the wise one that should be teaching me, since he has taught me so much already! It's such a funny feeling, LOL.

Just the two, as I had to then take off to look at some vehicles! More tomorrow ;)