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!