Monday, December 13, 2010

Long time!

So it's been quite awhile since I last posted... nearly 4 months and a lot has happened since then!

No, due to finances, work (I've been working steady since June - home only one week per month since August!), and a myriad of other reasons (thrown in with the occasional excuse), I was unable to show. At all this year... which was a bit of a disappointment but at the same time, I was not overly bothered because I still accomplished a lot on my horses, all considering. This next year is shaping up to be another tight one but I am hoping I can at least get in a few shows, then come 2012 my goal is to really be able to dedicate myself to my equestrian goals. By then Link will be hitting 8 and Soraya, my other up-and-comer, will be hitting 5. The other reason I have been relatively content taking it slow was that I am not overly eager to push my horses, particularly when it comes to jumping in particular. Fusion of the horse's back is not complete until (approx) the end of a horse's 5yo year, so I would rather take it slow until then and not commence the real focused jumping until the 6yo year. Which allows time to build strength in muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc; it also allows for further development in general, both physically and mentally. I have much to catch up on personally so taking it slow is beneficial also in that sense.

So as far as the horses themselves go!

Despite my working so extensively, Link has been worked fairly regularly between me and a good friend who is also riding him, though granted not to a level that has brought him much physical condition. That said, he is consistently on the bit now when I ask, is straightening and balancing himself out, increasingly working from behind, etc. He picks up his "off" lead, his right lead, regularly now, usually on the first try (though obviously we still struggle with it, hence its mention!), and we have even done a little flying change work. We have much much more to accomplish yet before we can claim proficiency, but we are getting there! Transitions are getting cleaner, lateral work, back-up, etc are all being polished. His mind is really focused now and even on the days he is a little mentally challenged (haha!), he is easy to bring back - in fact, he usually comes back of his own accord and if he's bulging etc I can correct him and bring him back onto the aids immediately and without issue. The best part is that we have started jumping with more regularity and focus! He is PHENOMENAL. He's got power, scope, is balanced and sane, and most importantly, seems to enjoy it :) Hopefully I can get some vid and photos of us to better assess both of us, and better yet, some lessons. Either way, we will benefit a lot from some gymnastics and I have some great books to get us started. First time we jumped I kept screwing up atop him - clearly I can't jump the 3'+ I used to ;) So I had to bring things down a notch but once I did and got into the flow of it myself, I was able to raise the jumps back up to 3'. He actually started stopping on me after I had screwed with him a number of times (not with his mouth or anything, just in my position up there), but once I got with the program, he would even make up for my errors between jumps :-D He has a good eye we can further develop and really seems to enjoy the work. MY focus will be on improving my position over the jumps (I cringe to say this, but I am actually doing this in a dressage saddle, too, since it is what fits him best; it is not such an issue at such low heights, but I honestly realise a jumping saddle will help - that will hopefully be my springtime purchase!) and on building my core and general fitness, which will aid the preceding. While I focus on myself, I will start teaching him via gymnastics and hopefully the two of us, with some instruction, will start shaping up into something! I am pretty excited though - the feeling, when everything goes right, is pure bliss. Working a horse from bottoms up will be of great benefit to me I think, though sometimes I wish I could get on a schoolmaster from time to time so I could focus on myself without worrying about the horse. Link is really amazing though and is really good thanks to all the work on the flat we have done thus far - he keeps his head, is cool as a cucumber, puts in a lot of effort and honesty into his work, and is naturally athletic and good at what he does. Bringing him up from the bottom though is re-instilling the confidence I used to have in jumping as well - where, due to my absence from jumping regularly and at height, I was formerly intimidated by even the 2'6'' jumps (sounds so silly!!!!), I am quickly gaining confidence with him, back to the point where 2'6'' is nothing. I feel secure on him as my trust in him increases and I just learn to let go. My job will just be to stay out of his way and not inadvertently ruin him - if I let him he will take me up. The man has so much power, LOVE it! Last I rode him it had been about 3 weeks since he was last ridden, so tons of beans under the saddle! He was bulging and spooking and generally being silly, though I got him on the aids and kept him there pretty well; even so, I could feel all that power beneath just waiting for an outlet. Finally I decided hey, I can let him out down the long sides I guess... well all I did was think the word and open my hands and BOOM he eagerly powered forward. He literally LEAPT forward, tossing in a gleeful buck. Lmfao. WHAT a character, haha! I let him play a little more (he's pretty careful in his play to not act untowardly and unseat me or such) before asking him to work once more. We focused a lot on getting him lighter and really responsive to anything and everything I might request, including doing some rollbacks and such, which required a lot of emotional discipline and fitness from him. We ARE getting there, slowly but surely. My work schedule is the real hindrance - if I could be working him 5-6 times a week, we'd be far further along than we are now. That said, I suppose taking it slow is not really hurting us and he is improving in leaps and bounds. Another recent ride we rode through the fields with a friend, including through some huge belly-deep snow drifts that, in the past, would have caused panic in Link but this time he just took it all in stride. My goal is to be off the road and working from home come June, at which time my focus will be on getting him super fit and accomplished. Even if we did not show this year but were ready to hit next season with a bang, I would be pleased. I would like him Training or First season after this, and jumping 3'+ consistently. I would also like to fit in some further Parelli groundwork in there, as well as teaching him some of the funner things such as to lay down on command ;)

I'm not sure if I noted it yet in my last posts but she is here in AB now! A ride panned out for her end of September, so she was toted through the mountains and to Edmonton, where the SO and I picked her up. To be honest the little girl is a bit of a witch haha but she is progressing. I have only worked with her a couple of times, and very very briefly. She likes things her way though and is constantly questioning and challenging! My SO had some great insight as well and really further pounded into me the need to just spend time with her to turn her around into a willing partner (this, from the guy who is new to horses, aren't I lucky!). I have a number of things planned for her, including getting her started with long-lining and ponying if possible. She's had a pad on her etc but no saddle yet. When I return home from work (permanently) she will be started under-saddle, albeit very lightly. Otherwise, she is shaping up to be a good horse - she's gorgeous and has the mind I wanted... I can see her being absolutely phenomenal once I have earned her partnership :)

Buddy is currently leased, and has been for over a month now, to a young girl doing everything with him that I used to do, so he's positively on Cloud Nine!!! He's fed hot mashes, is blanketed, has a little heart shaved into his butt (haha!), is fit as a fiddle, and is getting all the love a horse could possibly ask for. S, his lessee, has been doing everything with him from bareback riding to jumping to even playing with barrels a bit and using him in 4H. Their focus though has been team penning - they recently won the jackpot against a number of adult riders who have been penning extensively!!! I am pretty happy with the home and hope everything works out that he can stay there awhile :)

My little grape koolaid man is still doing well though is not being used as much as previously...he is still teaching his lessee's fiance and is a really good confidence-builder. His lessees are taking great care of him though are probably going to give him back up in March or so, so I'll find a new lessee for him at that time - which should not be hard given what a great horse he is.

Continues to do well though my time with her has been sparing. I admit I've sort of let her sit after really trying to sell her a few months back. Prices are down though and unless I practically gave her away, she wasn't moving, despite being a great mover, having a wonderful mind, and being very talented. She has some very minor confidence issues still yet though so I'd like to knock those off (which will not take much) - with those gone she will honestly make the perfect kids pony or hubby/beginner horse. I have been contemplating sending her to a trainer come next April and May while I am still at work, so that when I am back in June she's got a really good head start. My thought has been to send her to either a feedlot or a NH trainer who will work her on cows - give her a job to do that will instill confidence. Then I can take her back and will just have to polish her up to sell her. I'm told too her build etc makes her an interest to barrel racers, though I am not sure she would have sufficient speed? She would make a great hunter though or just an all-rounder. She is solid on the trails (alone even is a non-issue), is a packer with beginners, is very athletic, and just has a great mind (pure honest willingness, NO fight in her whatsoever). Her flatwork is solidifying though her leads are still to come, particularly to the left, so we have work to do in that area. Her conformation though lends her to carry herself naturally balanced (when she is fit!), correct, and straight - love it! I have started her over jumps a little, for the purposes of marketing. While she requires some general confidence building, she is doing well over small x-rails and verticals. So if someone were to put a solid 60 days on her putting her to work and giving her a job, then I took over to polish another 30 days and took her to a couple shows to put some accomplishment under her, um, girth (lol), I am hoping her value will be more what I originally had wanted for her. What an economy though when you cannot even sell a young, talented, promising mare who is never marish and needs very minimal work. She's virtually bombproof in general, is not spooky, is willing and sweet, moves like a dream... what more could you want?? Lol. Ah well, as long as she goes to a good home, I'm a happy camper! Next project horse we buy in the winter when prices are low, work over the winter, and sell in the spring ;) I have had quite a bit of interest in her though, so we'll see what transpires either now or in the near future!

Continues to do well ridden by his intermediate riders 3x a week with a lesson once a week - they still love and dote on the man, so I couldn't be happier :) Only thing left to do is get my mom up there on him more, which will come in due time, haha.

The muffin man is doing okay right now... I am a little disappointed as he is currently unsound and has been since his arrival home. I am betting he came out of his last race pretty lame but am giving the benefit of the doubt to his previous owner/trainer. I could feel he was "off" when I first purchased him however it was nothing note-worthy and not even anything overly noticeable on the ground, though you could (barely) feel it under-saddle. I figured he simply needed a bit of time and only rode him lightly a couple of times; I thought it could be chiro, or because I had just pulled his shoes off, or something minor. But after two months it wasn't clearing up and he needed his teeth done anyway, so into the vet we went! I expected the vet to tell me it was something minor like a stretched ligament in his stifle. He seemed to be off on his left shoulder, but his right hock also seemed not quite right. Well we got there and the vet felt his stifle ligament was fine - so we ended up doing a full lameness workup from flexions to blocks, though no xrays as per the vet as we were already sitting at $600 and our initial treatment at the time was likely going to be the same irregardless of xrays. Initially my vet had trouble seeing anything but Phoenix was reactive to hoof testers on both fronts and when we did flexions and worked him on really packed ground, we could finally see a head bob on that left front. With blocks, we determined it to be the left front fetlock joint and as that lameness cleared up with the block, we were able to also see a lameness in his right hind - possibly his hock but also possibly higher up. My vet felt though that the right hind lameness (if you can call it that, as it was barely there) might simply be a result of the two legs being diagonal pairs and thus that we should focus on the LF and then see how the RH fared after treating and clearing up the LF. SO, the plan was to inject the RF and see what happened. If he remained sound for a year, we were probably simply dealing with arthritis (he HAS run hard and long, after all), but if he became unsound earlier, it was more likely he had a bone chip or other such injury and we would need to do xrays at that time. Btw Phoenix was phenomenal with the vets, putting up with our shaving, flexions, forcing him to work on hard ground - everything. He didn't complain no matter the extent of our poking, prodding, and generally causing him pain. Well, Phoenix seemed much improved after the injection. For a couple of days. I came home from work to assess him and took him out for a ride - he clearly did not want to be ridden but humoured me and went with it. Walk I could feel him off a little, trot he was a little worse, but canter he was FINE!! Brought him back down to a trot though and he was DEAD LAME. Head-bobbing lame. I had ridden him a MAX of 10min and he was so sore he was not only reluctant to walk when I got off, but he was pointing his left front. I apologized profusely to him (though I had needed to know how he was and u/s had felt like the best way to assess him so I could compare to his last ride), untacked him, and let him be. I think he was a little miffed at me for sure, as next day I went out he acted a little PO'd. Some mash though definitely went a ways in making up for it though and I was back to being his best friend in a matter of days ;) While I was away he had dropped a substantial amount of weight too, despite his teeth having JUST been done, so we've been since shoveling the feed into him and he does seem to be picking up; in addition to the beat pulp and senior feed he is also on a roundbale 24/7 and by himself so no one can pick on him. We went through a good couple weeks of temps that dropped into the -40C's though too, so he is now blanketed too in an effort to keep him warmer and put those calories to good use. Vet says we are likely looking at a bone chip, a bone bruise, a fracture, or something of the like with that left ankle. So right now, Phoenix is on Previcoxx (an off-label variant of Bute, though one without all the side effects Bute has) until spring. At that time, we will pull him off the Prevacox, re-evaluate him with xrays, and see what we can do. Fingers crossed I am hoping that it is something simple we can fix for under a few thousand. If so, we'll do everything humanely possible to make him sound again - he's too good a horse to lose so early!! I am hoping it does not turn out to be something requiring euthanasia however I suppose we will see.

As I blogged on my sister blog The Perfect Horse (here), Cody unfortunately had to be euthanised back in September. It was a hard blow, especially since I was at work at the time, with no option (or reason) to come home. Due to a freak pasture accident, both tendons and arteries in his hind leg were severed. When the vet called me, he was bleeding out and going into shock, despite their best efforts. He had no use of his foot and we did not know how long that foot had been without circulation. Surgery would have been risky with a poor outcome at best, especially considering we had no idea whether or not the foot could even be saved with circulation restored, and it was pricey. The vet felt the best option was euthanasia so I made the call to end his pain and suffering. I wish I could have been there to tell him it was okay, but he had some really good friends (the barn owner and barn manager both were there with him) to comfort and love him in his last moments. They say it was all pretty peaceful. We lost a great horse that day. The vet walked the pasture with the BO and BM and failed to find anything suspect - she told me it is the safest facility she has been to (all round board pasture, board shelter, nothing inappropriate in the pasture). Both the BO and BM felt terrible but as I pointed out, there was nothing they could have done different and their actions at the end went above and beyond. My SO happened to be working in the area though and had positively seen a cougar pouncing around the field next door both the night previous and a couple days later, so we wonder if that had something to do with it? The vet felt it was not a cat-related injury (large cats usually go for the withers or throats) however the entire herd was pretty riled up that morning apparently; it is possible the cat was hanging around and Cody spun and kicked at a striking cat, whose claws ripped the tendons and arteries (no easy feat)? A human could never have approached Cody like that and there is nothing in the pasture he could have caught himself on, plus Cody was the smallest and thus perhaps easiest target there at only 14.2hh or so. We'll never know I suppose, sometimes those things just happen!

So, both good and bad news, but we carry on through. Hopefully next spring I can report that Phoenix is successfully on the mend or that he is sound, and I will strive hard to accomplish what I want with both Link and Soraya this year. Wish us luck and I will try to post more regular updates! In the mean time, feel free to enjoy some recent photos of Silver, Soraya, and Phoenix (respectively).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Welcome to: Lala Boom!

Well unfortunately it did not work out vehicle-wise (the truck I was to use became unavailable and friends either did not own pickups or were already busy with theirs!) to make it to the Kestrel Ridge dressage shows, which was actually pretty disappointing :S So, next spring we will find a way to make things happen, even if it means trading in my current truck for something bigger, that can pull all 4,000 fricken pounds of horse trailer (plus horse weight!). In the mean time, I am now back to work full-scale, so not enough riding and training happening to make any shows happen or to make any real solid progress. My goal however is to attain further fitness so that by the time we hit next spring, I am ready to go! In the mean time, I will work hard on my time off to bring Link along in both dressage and jumping (new jumps at our arena finally!!).

Link continues to do phenomenal and is really making a lot of steady progress in the dressage direction. I usually have to 'surprise' him into his right canter lead, but it works and he is learning to relax throughout it all. I have a friend at the barn who has expressed interest in riding him over the winter, which is great! I like how she works with her horses and how she has brought along her own OTQH, so I am excited for Link to stay in work throughout the winter, with someone competent.

Onyx of course continues to do well also and is currently being started over poles and cavellettis. Just small stuff she can step over, but I want her used to adjusting and balancing herself over and between jumps. She needs some confidence building yet going over things however has taken to other activities, such as working in the outdoor ring, like a duck to water. No troubles! She is listed for sale now as well.

Cody has unfortunately not had any work done on him; I would like to ride him at minimum once or twice next week during my time off - I will update afterward!

Silver was leased out - lease fee paid and everything, however the new lessee has only been out maybe once and is overdue for paying board already, so I am not overly impressed! She seemed to click well with him and had wanted to finish his reining training and run barrels on him - I was pretty excited about his having a job and was even more excited that he could do what he loved - run - but with someone who was going to use good horsemanship (esp with barrel racers, I am picky).

Koolaid is looking fat and happy at his new lessees' home!! Ok, well maybe not fat, haha, but he is no longer skinny! His lessees would like to see another 50lbs or so on him and I agree, however even if he stayed where he is currently at, I would be happy :) There is a nice covering over his ribs, his neck is no longer accentuated, he has a nice hind, and neither his hipbones nor the top of his pelvis are protruding (he is a horse whose hips are naturally angular, but there are no dips around them now and they are not sticking out enough to hang a coat off of!). I am very happy with his progress and he is doing very well for his lessees!!

Soraya continues to do well and after speaking with the vet, I have a better understanding of how and why she did not catch. He says she is reproductively very sound; I am considering breeding her either next spring or spring 2012. We'll see! Hopefully I will get some photos of her soon from the people I purchased her from and where she is staying, so that I can post them here; I will be bringing her home probably come November now. It was really funny though to hear the vet try to really really nicely put it that she was a rude b!tch at his clinic, lmao!! He tells me she needed 'careful, firm handling' and was sort of warning me about her behaviour, pussyfooting around it. So I came up and told him I had handled her before and knew how snarky she was and thanked him for all his work with her, knowing full well she was a little disrespectful brat for him. It was really funny though, listening to him try to tell me how poorly she behaved, trying not to offend me (as if! I know she's a little twit on the ground yet, you're not going to offend me telling me as such lol!!), then sounding relieved when he realised I already was fully aware of the challenge ahead of me and that I wasn't going to be offended that she was a little disaster. Very very amusing!!!!

Sonny continues to do well with his novice riders, including starting to jump some now as well :)

Lastly, we have a new addition!! My steadfast rule now is: NO MORE HORSES, at least not until I have got property (and even then, I just do not need any more horses really unless for a very specific purpose such as up-and-coming prospects, long-term project horses, etc), however this is a horse I have been interested in for the past couple of years and whom I have been trying to purchase for the past year (ever since I knew he was still alive!). So, welcome to:

Phoenix! Registered as Lala Boom, he is a 16.1hh 2002 chesnut Thoroughbred gelding off the track. He has 50 career starts and has won over $40,000. Bred in Kentucky, he was sold as a yearling for over $90,000 and is a half-brother to Smarty Jones, winner of the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. As such, he has been virtually run into the ground (bowed tendons, bruised heels, and all throughout his career) and did not finish running until late July of this year. I purchased him and had him delivered 3 days after his last race and was home to feed him his first blueberry muffin 2 days after that! I groomed him on the track when he came up from Phoenix, Arizona, in 2008. At the time, it was the dead of winter - February, and he was the sleekest horse in the barn! It was funny, because though he was blanketed and never on the walker long on a day off (both due to the frigid temperatures and his lack of a coat), I would get his stall done as fast as I humanely could and he would meanwhile be pleading at me to get him off - whenever I passed by him on the walker to grab new or dump old shavings, he would whinny pleadingly at me. In the mornings, I couldn't come in late and sneak in as if I had been working all along and just no one had seen me, because the minute he saw me walk down the barn aisle, he would be watching for me and would whinny. I used to have blueberry muffins every time I worked; one day I was eating a blueberry muffin in front of is stall, visiting with him, and he starts reaching out and wiggling his little lips at me. I look at him, eyebrow cocked. Surely, he doesn't want my blueberry muffin. He continues. I shrug and cave, offering him a piece. Sure enough, he gobbles it up! I feed him another piece, same result. Until the entire muffin is gone. Henceforth, I always had to bring to work two blueberry muffins. One for him, one for me. There was no way he was letting me eat one of those delicious muffins by myself! While in my care, he bruised both his front heels as well as bowed both front tendons (though minor and the one even less so than the other), so 15-20min of cold-water hosing each day meant lots of bonding time! I lost track of him after moving on from the track and his passing on to other owners and eventually stopped even asking about him. I didn't want to know that he had finally met the meat truck. Then one day I decided to brace myself and just look up his race record. And lo and behold, he was still running! I had to track him through quite a few owners this past year, but it was well worth it and eventually resulted in his purchase. He was home 3 days and it was less than a week yet since his last race when I got the bright idea of trying him under-saddle. Typically I just do not do that - I re-start everything from the ground and in doing so fill in any gaps. He knew a little bit of groundwork from what I had taken the time to teach him on the track, so we did maybe 10 minutes of groundwork before I finally swung my leg over. I was pretty nervous. He is a powerhouse of a horse and fitter than a fiddle - it wouldn't take much to get me off and if he did, it was going to hurt. A storm was rolling in - high winds, the threat of rain and hail (and tornadoes, as it turns out), and thunder booming close-by. He was in a western saddle, probably for the first time ever, and a simple D-ring snaffle (shaped mouthpiece, sweet iron, low 3/4" port for tongue relief). And he had raced only 6 days prior. Though I was more than a little nervous, he seemed unperturbed. We walked around the arena. Relaxed. He obviously did not know anything about leg aids (why would he?), but already started catching on within the first ten minutes - he was very responsive to my weight shifts and simply turning my shoulders, etc. Okay, what about trot? I clucked and gently squeezed. The squeeze did nothing, but he caught my drift with the cluck, and ahead he jogged! Quietly! As if he was an old WP horse!!! Next day, we did some of the same and even walked in the fields! Despite the bugs being terrible and literally eating him alive (even with flyspray), he was relaxed and responsive. What a sweetheart!! So it looks like I have got my next pleasure horse!!! SO STOKED! I can't believe this horse. We will still do groundwork and all other sorts of fun stuff to fill in the gaps in his training, but I am beyond impressed with him and excited to use him as my pleasure/trail horse. Unfortunately he did feel slightly off, so only light riding. I was thinking possible chiro issue? He had been off at the track for that reason (very bad shape chiropractic-wise when he first came up to Calgary), so it was possible. I also had his shoes removed, so he could have been a bit sensitive yet to that (though he was not really ouchy on the gravel, just hesitant on it). Then, a few days later, I went out to ride him and noticed he was dragging his front left toe. I checked him out thoroughly and noticed a pronounced swelling on that shoulder - a good 8" long and maybe 4" wide. Weird. There was an open wound at the top with a little dried puss and blood, as if an abscess had burst. Still, plenty of heat and swelling, and he was obviously uncomfortable. I left him alone to play it out and came back the next day, this time to a much-improved shoulder! It continued to improve over the next couple of days, so I am excited to get home and see what it looks like now (should be fully healed) and hopefully get back to riding him!! This boy handles everything like a pro with such a sweet, willing, and calm mind, so I can't wait to go on some adventures with him throughout the winter :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To show or not to show

More rainy days than sunny ones, away from home - working - more than I am home, and we've got ourselves the recipe for a FANTABULOUS summer WOHOO!! Actually, it has been decent and all things considering, life is grand. However it could of course be better, hehe.

I had intended to show both Link and Onyx at a BRAVE show July 17 however not only did my nerves kick in and my back-up driver/'groom' have to back out, but both horses also turned up sore after their trims the Wednesday prior. Yipee kye yay. It would have been a decent start for us, a good way of softly entering the show scene once again and good experience for the three of us, however it just did not work out this time. I was feeling pretty burnt out and unmotivated as well, which certainly did not help and it contributed to my putting less days on the horses than I probably should have had I really wanted to make it to that show. There is another BRAVE show July 30 however I am opting to skip it as well (seeing how neither horse will have been ridden for a good week prior since I am currently sitting at work out in the boonies, and I will only have 1-2 days of preparation) and instead point both horses toward a dressage schooling show just afterwards. I am actually much more comfortable with this option seeing how both horses are currently already schooling decently in dressage (in contrast to our limited schooling jumping at this moment) and I feel it is actually something I can handle and prepare for better. My plan is to enter Onyx into an Introductory Test A and Link into a Training Level Test 1 - both pretty introductory and simple for either horses respectively.

This next week I will also commence advertising Onyx and attempting to sell her. She is coming along fantastic - she is actively working her abs and working from behind to lift her back, is lifting from the base of her neck, and is even reaching for the bit. Her trot is developing into something beautiful (not that it wasn't already, she flows like a dream!) and her canter is slowly becoming more balanced. She is an exceptionally athletic horse who is also becoming much less flinchy towards people. Overall she is nearly bombproof - I love this mare, as nothing seems to faze her, whatever the deal. I will be selling her with less days u/s and less experience than I had originally planned, however I have reached the point where unfortunately she has to sell and I just will not have the time for her soon. So someone will be getting a helluva deal!

Link is also doing fantastic, as per his usual! We start our sessions off relaxed, and we are finishing them relaxed - it is actually funny because instead of people snarking at me 'oh he must be a Thoroughbred off the track, eh!', I am getting the 'what breed is he?', hahaha. He is so calm and quiet and is filling out beautifully! No head in the air any longer; in fact, I usually have to amp up his impulsion and energy rather than tone it down, lol! He is developing into a beautiful horse in many aspects. Our canter is also developing nicely to the point where he is picking up his right lead pretty consistently. I have high hopes for my boy!

I have not done too much with Cody however I have him penciled in to be worked several times while I am back this next stint. A shitload of sand was added to the arena, so I look forward to putting him through some nice stops on the new (woooonderful!) surface!

I have quite a few individuals interested in leasing Silver and have him scheduled for a trim when I return, so he will also be ridden that day (the day the farrier is out)...with any luck I will find an appropriate lessee for him. On the note of leasing, I will be checking in on Koolaid the weekend I return from work, however he already looks much improved and happy in his new lessee home, gauging by video his lessee posted.

Turns out my Soraya (formerly Whiz), despite approx. a month and a half at the vet clinic and their missing her cycle twice I think it was, is not bred. They were sure they would nab her their next try and really there is no reason for her not to have caught. Yet here we are, with no foal. Am I pissed off? Yes, yes yes. I was hoping to offset her pricetag a little with that foal, but $2700 later (more than I had planned, of course), here I am with no foal to show for it. Most of all, if I had simply broken even or even had have had to pay for this first foal (likely), I would have been content if only I had something to show for it. To breed her at a later date means interrupting her training and career; the timing had been perfect for her to foal next spring prior to commencing training. Ah well though, what can one do...everything will work out and such is the world of breeding. And you can bet that that mare will be working her butt off now when I get her home!! Oh, and in case you are still wondering who this 'Soraya' character is - it is Whiz, in disguise. Yes, Whiz is the mare I recently purchased, who has also recently gone through a name change :) It is pronounced 'Sore-ray-ya' though I doubt she really cares how it is pronounced, haha!

I return from work soon here and will try to keep this blog updated at that time, but if it comes about that I am unable to update here (likely), I will for sure update the minute I return to work and have boatloads of time on my hands - promise! Ciao!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Better late than never!

What's the latest and greatest?

Well I am back to work out of town as of this last Wednesday, so I have got a little more time to blog. Consequently, I also have less time for the horses unfortunately (work started back up a lot earlier than I had anticipated but being single now and having some decent bills to pay off myself, well I could use the work anyway so I am not complaining, haha) and thus the client horses have all gone home and I have yet to replace them. I had a few I had to turn down unfortunately! On the other hand, I was getting a bit burnt out and will greatly enjoy the time I have at home to just work my own horses.

Toffee went home after being worked both in the indoor and outdoor arenas - he is a bold horse who really handles everything new like a charm. Not that I expected anything less though, since that is the same type of attitude that was giving us troubles, haha. He finished though responsive to weight shifts/leg aids, consistently stopping on a dropped rein, working off a loose rein, some sidepass, and w/t/c. His canter was beautiful - he was doing several laps of the arenas, no bucking or resistance. I did not feel he was ready to do any trail riding in the fields so we abstained there, but he certainly is ready for trail riding in the bush with other horses, so his owners will be doing that for sure!

Princess left two days after Toffee; our work ended on a high note also. I had done some additional tarp and rope work (including turning her loose in the roundpen with ropes flapping around and between her legs) as well as quite a bit more trail riding in the fields. Her w/t/c was excellent, her canter was starting to slow and balance nicely. Her sidepass, leg aids, leg yields, turns on the haunches/fore, back-up, etc were all fantastic. The day she left I saddled her up for her owner and showed her all Princess' 'buttons' - she seemed very pleased and took her home to do some trails and lots more arena work.

Cody continues to do well and is starting to warm up to me even more. The last few sessions he was not so quick to move away from me after I had turned him loose, so I would pet him then make sure I was the one moving away right away - several times he simply stood and watched me go, as opposed to moving off himself. Our last session together however, he actually followed me to the gate!!! I rubbed him some more before walking through the gate, and he moved closer so that I could rub him through the gate!! It was phenomenal - a small step, but such a huge step for this little guy. I could tell he wanted to be with me and that he wanted the attention, but that he had just been too nervous to actually do it - he is slowly starting to overcome that, which is fantastic! Under-saddle it is still difficult to get him moving loose, relaxed, and supple, but he is getting there. His sliding stops, spins, etc are fantastic - he is so responsive and willing to please.

Not too much new going on with Silver yet. I would like to move him to where I can use him more regularly, but we'll see, this winter is going to be a busy one. I hate that the poor guy is not doing much other than sitting in pasture, but I have yet to find someone appropriate to lease him, and there is no way I could ever bear selling him for fear of what his future might bring. So, the two of us will just have to suck it up for now!

Koolaid is another story. I had been unable to see him for the 4 months he was down at Woodline Equestrian Center (Calgary) and to be honest I did not put a whole lot of effort into the matter because I trusted this well-known, supposedly decent facility. So one can imagine my shock when I went down to Woodline to show Koolaid to a potential lessee and found this:

For reference, this is what he looked like this time last year:

Yup. The photos do not do him justice, but more bones were jutting out than should be, and he had lost that spark in his eye. At first honestly I did not know what to do (except try not to cry); all I knew was that I needed to get him out of there asap, with the least amount of people knowing ahead of time (for fear of some type of backlash somehow). Three days later, I pulled him out and placed him at a different facility, one who is actually *gasp* feeding him! I actually called the SPCA as well as a vet out to inspect Koolaid for documentation purposes; the SPCA, as well as the individuals managing Woodline itself, all told me Koolaid was in good condition. In fact, in their letter to me - that I received after I picked up Koolaid but that had been written prior to my picking him up, the lessee's proclaimed proudly that Koolaid had lost weight and put on muscle. Had I read it prior to my seeing Koolaid, I would have been down at Woodline instantly. Koolaid was at a proper weight when he left, but he did not have weight to lose - he wasn't overweight. He had been at an ideal weight but just lacking muscle. However I know my horse and he needed a good 200lbs - his hip bones were sticking out, his tailbone was prominent, his neck and shoulders and even head were accentuated, and his back was lacking fat. The vet I had out also agreed that Koolaid was underweight (as well as all the individuals at the new facility we moved him to!) and scored him at below ideal as a 4/9. He still had some weight to lose before he was at death's door of course, but he was probably about halfway there. He was nowhere near his alert self and seemed tired and blase about the world. He is since picking up weight and still is being ridden lightly, and you can bet my ass that this time I will be checking up on him reguarly rather than simply relying on a facility's reputation! Lesson learnt here: CHECK ON YOUR HORSES!! We all lapse at times when we are busy, but when something happens, it comes at the expense of our horses.

Link has been doing great; he is at a decent weight and is picking up a bit of condition. He has filled out so much that my instructor, who had not seen him for a few months, mistook him for his bulkier sister - she did not recognise him at first at all!! I actually feel like I have a ton of horse beneath me now ;) Unfortunately I was feeling pretty burnt out and was constantly short on time the past month or so, so he was only ridden here and there. Now that all the client horses have gone home, my time will be dedicated solely to him, Cody, and Onyx. I am hoping we can still hit up a show or two this year, just for the experience at least. We have been jumping a little under instruction and are doing well. It's taken me some time to re-find my seat jumping, but I am getting there quickly and Link is quickly learning to balance himself underneath me as well so that his jump is not so flat. Lots of fun!

Onyx continues to be pretty shy but she is exceptionally intelligent. She should make a fantastic youth or kids horse, so I am excited to get more work in on her and market her as such. We will definitely have to attend a show or two this year prior to her sale (finances and time willing). She handles everything new very calmly and is just an overall absolute joy to work with.

That is about it for now! I will try to keep this blog up-to-date, though I will not be home until after July 7, so it will be a bit before I am back on the horses and have something to blog about :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Welcome to: Onyx!

Alright, I admit it is a bit intimidating posting after so long away, because then I have so much to say - so I keep postponing it for 'when I have more time'. *snort* As if THAT is ever going to happen ;) So this is me, biting the bullet, and updating anyways. I will try to be more regular and with work starting back up and thus my being away from home on the road, the one thing I can look forward to (other than actual money in my pocket as opposed to hay and crumbling horse treats) is more time to write. Oh, and being away from people (of course I miss some people, but not the general populace, not gonna lie!). For the most part.

We worked on a lot of trot before we hit our next bucking episode since I last posted. Toffee had decided he didn't need to trot, I gently attempted to pursuade him otherwise, and he declined by throwing some bucks my way. I came off - some profanity may or may not have been involved in the entire unplanned and rather uncomfortable dismount - and found myself kneeling, facing the arena wall, with someone's hocks digging into my back. All I could think was "oh shit, please don't let this horse kick me," because if he did, he was going to nail me real nice to that arena wall. That was the day I emailed his owners and asked for more time. He was already staying an extra few days and I asked them to extend his stay by another 30 days so that I could have time to work out all his little issues. I promptly (and yes, I did ride him immediately after he bucked me off that day) gave the man a few consecutive days off and did nothing with him but bring him in and love on him. Food and grooming. The way to any man's heart. I hoped I wasn't just wasting time, but I desperately needed to change his perspective from one of resistance to one of willingness - he had to want to do what I asked. I felt the key was spending undemanding time and creating that 'draw'. The problem wasn't his misunderstanding me and becoming fearful, the problem was he wasn't trying and had no care to do as I asked. After three days of catering to him, I finally strapped the saddle back on and re-tried this thing we call riding. He was much better!!! Our last major bucking stint happened a few days later. Some boys had just finished roping at one end of the arena. So far, so good. Except Toffee was pretty convinced he should be allowed to stand quietly at one end of the arena. You know, kinda like all the cowboys' horses tied up at that end, enjoying some quiet time and relaxation. Toffee thought they had the right idea. It started with slowing at that end of the arena and finally progressed to stopping completely at that end and generally being resistant. I would push him through my phases and spank him lightly with the end of the rein, and we'd be off again (albeit crooked) go through it all again 30 seconds later as we passed the same spot. Finally he'd had enough. I am going to stop here. What - no? Should I rear and flip instead? No? Okay. Hmm. What's that? You want me to move forward? Oh I'll move forward alright...and a pretty spectacular bolt and bucking spree ensued. The cowboys all turned their chairs to smoke their cigars and drink their beer with a full view of us. Thanks boys ;) Toffee bucked as hard as he could, he bolted, I yelled, I pushed him forward, and finally he gave up and the two of us continued on our way. Henceforth, Toffee has been extremely willing. His w/t is up to par, he rarely spooks (and if he does, it is mostly simply a jump in his own tracks), he does sidepass and leg yields, is moving off my leg directionally, and stopping and backing without rein - all pretty consistently. We have even managed some canter! Today was the most we achieved, with canter down nearly the entire long sides of the arena, with very little buck. Rather than the bucking sprees I was seeing before, if he bucks now it is simply a gentle crowhop that is easy to sit. I am gradually getting more canter out of him and am better able to push him with his decreased resistance. The last hiccup we had was a few days ago when he became a little reactive on me and started bucking - but promptly stopped when I brought his head to my knee. Apparently one should never give green horses 4 consecutive days off for a long weekend. Lesson learnt Captain.

My painted warhorse has been absolutely amazing as of late! I have done less liberty work with him as of late, but he has been much more willing to trust with the increased schedule, and I have mostly figured out how to 'unlock' him under-saddle. While he continues to remain pretty tense under-saddle and tries to keep his body straight rather than supple, he is slowly starting to supple up and relax. The key was galloping him out. Where before it was difficult to get him to trust you enough to canter out, now he actually seems to enjoy moving out, and his walk and trot become so much more relaxed after he has been allowed to move forward. Today, he actually volunteered to canter and gallop, and even do sliding stops!!! So we have been doing a ton of forward work, from galloping to sliding stops (he is just built to stop!!) and rollbacks. Today was absolute bliss, though he was a little reactive, particularly at first. He was so willing to please and nervous he was continuously trying to anticipate my next move to do what I asked - I had to be careful how I even so much as breathed (no joke!), else he'd misinterpret me, haha. I am trying to teach him to stop the minute the reins hit his neck (when I drop them, as if I were roping) and he is quickly picking it up. Otherwise his stop is fantastic the minute I weight the stirrups and sit deep, but I have to sit properly if I want that beautiful sliding stop, so I have been working on myself for that. I also switched him over from the french link full cheek snaffle to a D-ring with a low port. Enough for tongue relief, but not for pallet pressure, plus each side of the bit (on either side of the port) moves independently, so I can communicate to each side of his mouth independent from the other for more specific movements and corrections. It's sweet iron as a bonus and is even rusted out a bit, so he seems in love. I had forgotten though his fear of having his ears being handled and touched and slipped on a bridle with an earpiece while chatting away with another rider. I'm watching Cody out of the corner of my eye, and he's got one ear right back, so at the back of my mind, as I chat, I am racking my brain to figure out what is going on. It didn't make sense with the rest of his body language - was he about to do something? I was almost ready to jump out of the way, just by what I was picking up from his body language, when I laughed as I realised what was going on. He had never worn an earpiece with me and was trying to figure out what to do with it - haha!! He seemed ok with it though so I brushed any worry aside and mounted up - he was fine. With the new bit (which is very simple and actually gentler than the french link), his mouth was really soft and he was really flexing at the vertical and playing with it. He also gave me some absolutely fantastic spins! He almost got me off once or twice even, as I had not been expecting his spins to be as quick as they were, lol. I might have myself a little reining horse here!

The little Arabian is also doing fantastic and is learning to relax. I also have her in the same bit that Cody is in and she has been much improved even since that switchover! We have been hitting the fields both with other riders and alone, and she is even working well in the outdoor arena without being too spooky or otherwise distracted. Her biggest challenge is relaxation - she tends to try to keep her body really straight so she can bolt, and she travels crooked down the long sides. Slowly though she is improving and learning to relax, particularly since we have been working outside - it's like she conquers working outside and so figures working inside is not so bad and so she can, y'know, maybe relax! Haha. She is developing a really nice low and long frame at the walk, which is a huge step for her. I would love to see that same frame at the trot, then at the canter, but we might not see it at the canter before she has to return home - we'll see though. The other day she and I hit up the fields for some trot and canter - she was pretty hesitant and I could feel a few times where (at the canter) she considered bolting, but she went very very well and never really made any missteps (a couple spooks at some scary shadows that that suspicious-acting grass was casting, but that's it!). She is really allowing me more and more to move her barrel and bend, and I've been teaching her inside leg to outside rein to really encourage suppleness and relaxation. Her leg yields and sidepass are beautiful though, as are her w/t/c transitions and her halt and back-up (both the latter occurring on a loose rein). She is making a ton of advanced progress simultaneous with the basics, so she should go home to a very happy owner come mid-June!! The highlight of my day is walking to her paddock and having her whinny happily to me as she follows me down the fence and meets me at the gate - even if we had both left the last session a little frustrated! The girl's a trooper!!

THE MAN has been a charming young lad as of late (ok, so he always is, haha!). He is consistently on the bit and his transitions (including walk to canter) and leads (particularly that right lead) continue to improve. We have been gradually progressing our work - essentially plugging away at all the same exercises we have been. Our key challenge right now is straightness, particularly on the left rein, but we are slowly getting there. I also purchased another book of exercises I hope will help us. The highlight ride for me, with him, was a few days ago because a) he and I had so much fun and b) I had the workout of my life! The following day I looked like...well, like something unpleasant had happened to me the day prior. I won't lie, it took a lot of focus and concentration to attempt to walk properly, and even then I am sure others weren't fooled and saw the wounded duck waddle I was attempting so desperately to hide. Thankfully, the guy I am seeing made no mention of my inability to walk, either because he was too polite to poke fun at me over it or because he was too afraid to ask (lmao!), I will probably never know. This fantastic ride started off with a little outdoor arena work - Link was focused and completely in sync with me. It felt so amazing to have all that power beneath me, just waiting for my next request. He is really starting to fill out muscularly as well now as he matures, so I really feel like I have a lot of horse beneath me! You could feel the energy before, but now you feel so much power beneath that energy. It's like feeling the difference between a nice domestic sports car and american muscle (hehehe). Mmmm. But back to the ride. We did all our usual exercises with my chilling to my ipod as I rode - I really enjoyed the rhythm and relaxation as a result of the music, and as a result Link seemed to be looser and suppler. So we threw in some jumping. I say it like we jumped a course, but really all it was, was about 18'' of cavelleti. But it was fun nonetheless! The first time he dropped his hinds on it for what I am sure was a very comfortable bruising on his hooves, but after that I gathered him a bit beforehand and ensured he put more impulsion in at the base of the jump. It was a blast!! We did both trot and canter to and away and even tried some tight turns and quick maneuvers. He really worked well with me and did not get hot at all. After say the third jump he went to rush the fourth, but I just quietly backed him down and afterwards he was pure bliss! My legs were already protesting slightly when I decided it was a good day for a run in the fields. I couldn't bear for the fun to end! So off we went. No psychotic episodes, not even once. There were a few times he froze up, but rather than losing his head, he simply continued on when I asked, albeit maybe with a jig or two once or twice. We actually did a lot of galloping and I even felt sufficiently comfortable to trust him to gallop downhill and even let him out some for an honest run. A few times he got a little swept up in the moment and would pick up speed, but it was never much to gently bring him back down - he was incredibly responsive. Finally, headed home, I decided I could trust him to let him out all the way. I think he was a little surprised, because at first he ran - but didn't switch into any of his higher gears, really. Not that he wasn't already going fast! But when he hit one of his higher gears, tears started streaming down my face, the wind was hitting my face so hard, haha!! I say 'one of his' higher gears, because although he really kicked in, I could really feel more reserve power. He wasn't done, but we were running out of road, hahaha! There was SO much power and speed there, it was incredible. My legs were burning by that time (what? I have legs? That's funny, I can't feel any...), but I wanted to do some last arena work outside and cool him out. That boy hardly even dropped a sweat, even though I picked up a mild sunburn due to the warmth. Apparently though he has been practicing his running skills out in the field though and annoying all the other horses with his competitiveness. Apparently he always has to win and outpowers anyone and everyone...surprise surprise ;P

Meet Link's little sister! Well, half-sister, actually. She's four, she's gorgeous, and she has got the best mind I have seen in awhile. She was re-started as a 3yo after being 'cowboyed' when she was started as a 2yo. She certainly does not wholly trust people at times, but she will come around. She has a short flight distance when she reacts, is incredibly intelligent, and thinks the situation through. She doesn't spook easily and moves like a dream. Did I mention she is gorgeous?? And built like tank (well, for a 4yo TB filly!!) - as a 4YO!! I wish I could keep her, but I picked her up as a project horse and a project horse she must remain. If I had the property, she'd be here to stay in a heartbeat, but I cannot afford to board another horse for no other purpose than that I love her, haha. So instead I will make sure she goes to a good home. So far she has allowed me on bareback in a halter and has been fantastic under-saddle with w/t/c. Very balanced, very soft, very responsive, sensitive, willing, and supple. She is almost where Link is at now, really - she has none of his challenges or obstacles to overcome. My goal is to advance her further, have her jumping small jumps (cross-rails, maybe 2'6'' at most), and showing by July. She is very well bred too, which is a bonus. And she's gorgeous. Oh, did I already mention that? Oops, sorry (PS. I am not really sorry...really) :P

Still hanging around and desperately needs his feet done but my dad (my farrier!) has been busy as heck. Might be time to hire someone (oh joy) to come in and do his feet instead. Last farrier told me to shank Onyx when she fearfully pulls away. Yes, yes, great idea buddy. Scare the already scared horse. How bout this: you train your horses your (*cough* *cough* shitty *cough*) way, and I will train my horses my way - without fear. I took buddy (uh, Silver, not the farrier) out though for a ride the other day. He did fantastic in the arena, so we headed out for a quick trail ride. He was great, our ride even encompassing a flat-out gallop...until we headed back. He was hesitant further out from home (away from home) but did as I asked politely, but headed back home he started to lose his marbles a bit. I think he was trying to blame it on the bugs and while he did have a bit of a case there (he is hyper-sensitive to bugs *roll eyes*), I think he made a bit of a bigger deal out of it than really necessary. All in all though I was proud of him, because he certainly did well and placed a lot of trust in my leadership after my not having even seen him for a few months now. I miss my boy. I am hoping that by next spring I can afford to bring him over to where Link is at, so that I can work with him more, but in the mean time I will keep searching for a potential lessee.

His lease is up and his lessee wants to keep him an additional month, so he will not be available again now until July 1, at which time I do hope to have him leased out once more. He was doing very well though with his young rider and is apparently jumping about 2'6...they say he is maxed out at that height, but *snort* there is no way. I am sorry, but this is a horse I myself have jumped at 4' (oxers, to boot). That is not to say he can do that now and on a consistent basis, but 2'6 is nothing for him and he is only 10 this year. Oh well though. I think what has happened more likely than not is that he is not 'hot' enough, not that he doesn't have the scope. It's ok though, as long as he is happy.

Ah, yes, Skylar. The first horse I have ever returned to an owner. I have not done much with her (well, not successfully), but I thought her being the first horse to ever be returned warranted a brief spot on this blog. This mare is 7 and is definitely not halter-broke. And she is probably a hefty 1,300lbs. Now, normally in halter-breaking a colt, there will be some resistance, but at maybe 200lbs or heck even 500lbs, it's pretty easy even for some flaky stick girl to prevent said animal from taking off (unless they are Paris Hilton, of course). Colt turns to run, handler simply turns colt back. Colt looks back at handler, surprised, and so the process begins. Colt learns that it is easier to lead and to move off of pressure than it is to try to run off (which won't be successful). Yup. Now try that at 1,300lbs. On a horse you thought was halter-broke. I thought she was coming in to be started under-saddle. Granted, I knew she probably needed some ground manners 101 installed (they all do to an extent, usually), but I figured she was at least halter-broke. I knew she had not been tied, but I was not really worried about that. She leads, right? I mean, you guys get her to places somehow? Yes? Great! Fantastic! *hands clap* let's get started then! Yes, fantastic. Fanfuckingtastic. Everyone loves rope burn, right? Well all 1,300lbs of this mare is most certainly not halter-broke, nor does any ounce of that muscle have any respect for humans. This is how day one goes. I enter pasture, horse comes trotting up. Ooo, fantastic! Horse promptly turns bum in and trots off. Sub-optimal. I toss a rope at her to move that hind end away. And I plod after her, finally catching up to her at one end of the pasture. She walks up to me, I quickly strap on the halter, very aware that she is poised to run over me, particularly as all the other boss mares crowd us. I can't chase boss mares away for fear of scaring stupid mare here (I don't really mean that, she probably isn't stupid, but I like to think she is - makes me feel better), and I can't get little miss mare off of me (correction: BIG miss mare) for the life of me. Ok, no worries. My heart in my throat and fully aware I am in an accident waiting to happen (you had to be there to feel it, but it was there - I am rarely afraid of such situations, but this was one to be wary of), I lead mare up to the gate. Where she promptly crushes me. Ok, ok. So far...uh, sub-optimal. So I lead mare through the gate (a more complicated procedure than necessary, thanks to stupid mare) and have to now keep another boss and very snarky mare off of us. Oh joy. I finally get mare into the barn, where she promptly dances about. But I get her groomed up, I spend some time with her, I even play a few games with her. She's ok and I decide that is enough for both of us that day. I am tired of having to have my guard up constantly and the eyes on the back of my head are working overtime, plus she has had a good experience without pushing her too far. She is dull to pressure and immune to body language. Day two. I catch miss mare and lead her all the way up to the barn, albeit with some halts and eye rolling as she takes halting steps. I brought a spur this time and have a chain over her nose. The spur is to hold against my side so she cannot run into me (I just hold the spur and allow her to run into it so that it is her choice to move off the pressure), and the chain is to maintain some illusion of control. Extreme measures on my part and not something I usually do, but extreme situations call for extreme measures, and if it is going to be either her or me, it is going to be her. My safety comes first. I snap the chain maybe once, gently, so she knows it is there, and she seems to understand and even maybe start to mind me a little. She crunches me into the gate again but after an intimate encounter with the spur, where she thought my hip would be, she moves off of me, surprised, and gives me a little space. I am impressed and even pocket the spur, thinking I might not even have to use it again. I am even a little proud that it was that easy to overcome such a bully on the ground. She 'forgets' a few times afterwards but is essentially pretty mindful. We get to the barn and she suddenly decides she has never seen such a dangerous contraption. She backs away. I gently lead her back. With some gentle persuasion, she walks all the way in. I breathe a sigh of relief. And she promptly backs out. Though I am not applying pressure on the lead rope or the nose chain (that is not what the nose chain is for), she backs out of the barn as if it were on fire, rears once she is outside, and spins away from me. Helloooo rope burn. She tears back to her buddies, my lead rope trailing through the mud. I grudgingly go back and get her, having to corner her (because by now she's got herself worked up), and lead her back to the barn. Before we even get to the entrance, she rears again, pulls away, and goes back to her buddies. I give up. Day three I decide to try forgetting the barn and see if I can instead lead her to the indoor arena (indoor, so that I hopefully have her focus). My goal is to spend some quality time with her so she is not reactive and so she is trusting me, but I also want to teach her to move off of pressure and body language. By some miracle, I get her into the arena and we start. Sort of. She half pays attention, half starts working herself up. I can't get her to do something she doesn't know, so I am stuck with trying to gain her focus by teaching her something new. What does she do? Ah, classic: she rears and pulls away. At first, I try to approach her. No go. Then, I decide maybe I can use the arena like a roundpen and teach her to come in to me. No go. Finally I simply stand back and watch. She tears around frantically, as if her tail is on fire, screaming to her buddies outside. I wait, and wait, and wait. She is lathered, sweat is dripping off everywhere, and she is still running. Finally I have had enough. I open the gate at the near side of the arena, she tears through, and I manage to (somehow, without being run over) corner her and catch her. Leading her back to her pasture is more akin to water-skiing. Day four is much the same with even worse results - because she now knows she can simply pull away (after all, what is all small human weight of ME going to do about it?!), so she does so immediately, without even trying to do what I am asking (allow me to pet and rub her), and resumes her maniac run-around once more. Day five I have the brilliant idea of working her in the now-dry roundpen. Oh, and did I mention that I find out later that her rear and pull away thing is something she also does at home? And that the supposedly halter-broke horse is really only 'barely' halter-broke? I mean, not that I hadn't noticed the latter and guessed the former... Apparently she is also fond of pushing over people at home too, which was obvious by the practiced way in which she barreled me with her shoulder and threatened me with her hinds. Yup. So, round pen. I manage to lure her into it with the aid of a grain bucket. I may or may not have been grumbling under my breath at this point, for having to stoop to such low levels. We actually have some success with the roundpen and although it is not perfect, she is not pulling away so much and is actually responding. Apparently fat horses don't like to run in the sun. So having her connect and 'join up' with me is not overly difficult, considering. Since she now likes me (because she doesn't have to work when she chooses to be around me), she actually focuses on what I ask of her. So far, so good. The next sessions are decent. She is learning pulling away gets her nowhere really, that she can move out of my space (yes, even when I am on her right-hand side, surprise!), that moving off of pressure is another possibility, and that turning your bum in to me is sub-optimal. We are making progress and although it is hard work, I am satisfied. Then all hell breaks loose. Heaven forbid, I actually try to ask her to work for me on a - *gasp* overcast day. Then it starts to rain. Miss mare runs me over, rears and pulls away, refuses to circle to the right, and goes into panic mode. I can't stop her, so last resort is to open the roundpen gate. She bolts over to me and I just manage to pry her off my being. I lead her to her pasture and although the session was a wreck, I at least have some satisfaction in her being a little respectful to lead to her pasture. It gets worse, don't worry. Next session she again refuses to work with me. And the next. Finally, the last straw was another (oh no!) overcast day in the roundpen. I ask her simple things. Like, you know, allowing me to pet her. Relax. No go. Move off of pressure? Sort of. Move out of my space? Decent, actually. Yo-yo game? Ok. Circle game? Wha-? To the left she is fine, but to the right, she decides (and you can actually see her thinking - this was not reactiveness) that she doesn't want to. So what does she do? Yessiree, she pulls away. She pulls away then trots over to the side of the roundpen where she can see and scream at her friends. I try to roundpen her. She decides instead to climb the fence (again, very clearly thinking - not fearful). It is only a matter of time before she actually successfully scales the fence and learns that is an option in addition to rearing and pulling away. Not worth my time. I was tired of being run over, mauled, crushed against things, feet dangling in my face, asses threatening me, rope burn as she kindly decided now was a good time to leave, and general disrespect. What this mare needs? An enclosed roundpen with high walls - the kind she cannot see out of. She needs to be fed and watered by her trainer, so that she is dependent, and solely dependent, on him/her (and said him/her needs to be strong enough to stop her plowing through them). Then maybe she will focus. Even then, to teach her to think through situations and not go into complete right-brain melt-down mode would be a challenge, and to teach her she cannot simply do as she pleases - would be a challenge. She is 1,300lbs of spoiled horse. I couldn't even imagine her under-saddle and honestly it was not worth the risk. I feel a bit of a failure for being unable to do much with this one, but I felt like I tried everything I could within my capabilities and given the facilities I have at hand. I cannot keep her by herself, which I really feel would be important to her progress. In addition, it was not worth the risk to me, even if I could continue working with her. She was downright dangerous - not because she was mean or anything (she wasn't), but because of her disregard and disrespect for people. If she wanted to do something, she did it, and if you were in the way - you were shit outta luck. Lastly, I did not feel right charging her owners to work on simple groundwork with her, halter-breaking her and instilling manners. If it was progressing her and we did even 30 days of groundwork but she was a completely different horse by the end of that month, then I would have no problem with it. We could work on under-saddle work over the next 30 days she was to stay with me. But that wasn't the case. I was working on leading. Basic halter-breaking. Not worth my risk and not worth their money. She had might as well be somewhere where the trainer has the appropriate facilities and skillset (and physical strength!) to handle her so that she can be progressed further than I could given my situation. I hate to admit a failure, but this one was unbelievable...she really was worse than I make her sound, even. *shiver*

Friday, April 30, 2010

Back down to business

This is my attempt at getting back into blogging regularly ;) So, a brief outline of how everyone is doing, as well as future blogs I promise to publish:

Princess - Right-brain extrovert
She did not know anything about leg aids, but this little mare is brilliant. Just by using my legs as I do naturally, on all horses, she picked it up - I did not even have to really take the time out to teach her leg aids specifically, as I normally would! I have taken such time out, however it was only to further cement what she had already obviously learnt from our previous rides. She is also very keen to move off of pressure, hence the reason I believe she picked up the leg aids so easily. She already side-passes like a dream, is starting leg yields, and is moving off of my leg into the wall and such when she is spooky to the wall. She is pretty relaxed at the walk now and really stretches out her frame nicely, and her trot is starting to have less arc to the outside wall and is becoming more relaxed and rhythmic. All in time though! Her canter I have been mostly letting her pick up on her own when she feels like it, to motivate her to do it. If she does it by her own volition, then hopefully she will do it when I ask it of her as we progress ;) We do a bit when I ask too, but just short stints with lots of praise at the end, as she has a bit of a sour attitude about it for whatever reason. We also fixed some initial sourness and reluctance by switching saddles from the one she was sent down with, which was obviously pinching, and one I have that fits her alright (much better than the one she was in at least). Lastly, last week I even took her out for a short trail ride alongside another horse!! She was fantastic. Today huge gales battered the sides of the arena and snow kept sliding off the roof but as spooky as she was, she trusted me and did very well. So far we have also worked with tarps and ropes - she becomes more comfortable each time. She is extremely curious and is developing confidence and thus relaxation. Very very responsive and light!! She also stopped pacing her pen as well and is no longer pulling back when tied (though I do not tie her hard), more signs of her progressive relaxation.

Toffee - Left brain extrovert
Toffee Toffee Toffee. The little man is doing well but still has a bit of an attitude. Overall though I think I am overcoming it. We lost a lot of time initially with his being sick and today we lost another day - there was no way I was taking him into that arena with the weather the way it was - I just did not feel the benefits would outweigh the potential risk and lack of progress (or even digression) we would likely make. So I am hoping that tomorrow is a bit better weather-wise, and I will likely ask his owners to leave him with me a couple extra days so that he can get all his days in. He is pretty good but just is a bit independent - wants things his way. So it's a challenge molding him so that he wants to do what I want! We will get there though ;) He is comfortable with w/t but no leg aids or such yet, and no canter. Canter was our nemesis when he was a 2yo at the Trainer's Challenge as well - I anticipate it has to do with a lack of strength and balance (and so I have been very cautious in my asking for the canter and building him to it). I might try ponying him at the canter?? I did ask him to canter the other day, but it was on a day where he was already feeling unconfident, and I knew I was pushing him. He just picked up speed at the trot and I thought that if I could just get him to canter a couple strides along the long side of the arena, then stop him, it'd be good. He had other ideas however, and became quite resistant. Finally, he jumped from the trot...into a buck. Okay, so into several bucks. For such a little guy who needs to pick up weight, that little horse can buck!! I can usually ride it out, but not this one, not this time. He went up, I started to come off, he went up again, and I was off. I caught a lot of air and smashed down onto my right knee and left hand for an intimate discussion with the dirt. That conversation may or may not have lasted several minutes (hint: it did), my dog circling me protectively as said little horse approached me cautiously. Somehow I even have bruising on the inside of my left thigh - from the saddle? Lol! I did climb my way back up and back onto that horse for some walk and trot. He was quite jittery, but some walk and trot throughout future sessions will fix that ;) As I always say, a horse bucking is usually the rider's fault - you can't blame the horse for acting like a horse, he is simply responding. This horse is not going to make the progress a horse such as Princess will, however I am hoping I can have him comfortable with w/t/c (the canter being limited to his lack of strength and balance, so along straight lines and such) and halting/moving out based on my weight shifts, as well as very light and responsive to my hands on the reins. I think I also might move him into a bit this week - not something I usually do but perhaps appropriate in his case.

(just look at that bum! It's just made for sitting and spinning after cattle!!! Haha)

My little painted man is doing fantastic! He is developing a great stop on him, is moving off my leg fairly well, and is even up to the canter under-saddle!! He is starting to relax a little more, though sometimes it takes some liberty work on the ground first to get him to loosen up and 'let me in'. I am very pleased with his progress though and look forward to getting him into some reining patterns soon :P

(he actually looks a lot better than his photos portray, haha, it's just that I can never seem to catch a good photo of him standing proper!! Lol. We just need to lay down more topline and rip up those abs!)

Same as Cody really, Link is doing greatgreatgreat. He is loose and relaxed, engaging at the trot, and is mostly picking up the correct lead in the canter going to the right when asked within the first try or two. I tried him out in a Nurtural bitless bridle the other day though and have to admit I was rather disappointed. He was great in it and moved out mostly as usual, however I did not feel the subtler communication I had been hoping for: for example, he really had no idea I was even wiggling my fingers up there - I actually had to use arm muscle. I realise it would grow more refined as he and I get used to it...but it just was not the same. Even when we picked up the canter, rather than picking up the bit and just focusing, he really hollowed on me, like the old days. We did end up jumping in the bitless though! I had jumped him over the barrels (approx. 2') on the ground initially - it was amazing, because he usually tried to duck out in the past, and I always had to have the barrels against the wall. But since all the progress we've made, this time was different! He was so calm and jumped so easily and willingly! So, why not try it under-saddle? In a dressage saddle! Lol. He was a little unconfident, but when I just let him go and pushed him forward, he jumped very well!! I was so surprised though, he handled it so beautifully. He was cool as a little cucumber going over those jumps. We are definitely going to continue with the dressage, but I think he's ready, mentally and emotionally, to start jumping!! Luckily, the owner of the arena is going to bring in some jumps as well - bonus! End of our ride yesterday I even let one of Sonny's riders, an 11(?)yo, take Link for a good 20min or so spin. He was doing well with me and I thought he'd do well with the younger rider - he did not disappoint :) Our current 'project' though is to develop more straightness, as right now he tends to really lean to the inside on the left rein and to really grab the bit on that (non-hollow) side. We'll get there ;)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New trainees!

So reeeal quick I thought I would update here to start back into the swing of blogging (and yes, I fully intend to blog on The Perfect Horse, I am hoping tomorrow!

Wednesday April 7 I ended up working with both Link and Cody; work under-saddle with Link and simple groundwork outdoors with Cody. Both were absolutely fantastic, with Cody doing exceptionally well at all 7 games as well as initiating some confidence and curiosity toward a pair 0f blue horse-eating barrels, despite the high winds. Link worked well in the indoor arena seeing how by the time I got to him it was too windy to do anything outdoors! He came into my hands and on the bit, lifted at the base of his neck, allowed his rounded back to swing, and stepped beneath himself quite nicely with very little encouragement! He even picked up the correct canter lead on the right rein without too much difficulty - it took a few tries but he kept at it and instead of going hollow when he was uptight, he actually stretched down and forward and picked up contact! All the impulsion he obtained from the canter was beautifully recycled through my hands - I loved it!! Eventually he did get the correct lead at the canter to the right, and he immediately picked up the correct lead to the left. We wrapped it up finally with some liberty work; at first I simply removed the bridle but left the reins around Link's neck, but ultimately I even removed the reins, since he was obviously in tune with me and very responsive. It was funny though, as I directed him near the fence during one pass of the arena at liberty, and laid his bridle on said fence as we passed. Of course (Murphy's Law!), the bridle fell, spooking Link, who shot forward a little. Immediately, my heart leapt into my throat - I was on a horse I wasn't sure I could trust, who had bundles of energy, who tended to 'lose his mind', who loved to run, and on whom I had nothing on his head. Fan-frickin-tastic!! As I leaned forward and panicked though, I reminded myself that I just had to relax and ask him to slow. Sure enough, as if he were reassuring me as well, he dropped right back into a walk immediately. He could easily have taken advantage of the situation and the 'Old Link' undoubtably would have, but this Link instead acted like a true and honest partner!

April 8 my time with Cody was limited to grooming him and his standing tied, politely, for a good hour or so (outdoors, in the wind), while I was busy with some clients and their horse coming in for training. However I had the great opportunity of riding with J (Link's rider over the winter), who rode Sonny, in the arena! Link was actually quite distracted and while pretty calm, he did not focus on me and follow my leadership quite as easily. We worked quietly at it though until he was collecting and working correctly from behind, which did admittedly take longer than usual due to his lack of focus. I was so proud of him though when he started to finally come around, and then especially as he held contact consistently! We finished with some amazing trot (plenty of impulsion while collected consistently and on the bit!), after finishing up the canter in either direction. This time it took only two tries to pick up the correct lead to the right, and the first time I asked for the canter to the right, from the trot, he picked it up incredibly quietly as if he were an old plow horse :) So proud! A huge blizzard hit while we were in the arena and so of course rain and hail could be heard on the metal roof and the wind was gusting all round, banging one of the arena doors loudly and also blowing snow in beneath said door. What most impressed me was how quiet both horses were, but especially Link, and how willing he was to go onto the aids (including picking up the bit of course) despite his fear at times! I would feel him stiffening and eyeing up the snow gusting in (initially) and simply bent him in the opposite direction and he instantly relaxed and went back to work - but the best part was that he allowed me to put him on the aids and ask him to relax! What a partner :)

April 9 was my first session with the new gelding and another session with Cody. The new gelding is a tiny (right around the 14hh mark) 4yo black Morgan gelding, Toffee. I actually competed on this little guy as a 2yo in a Trainer's Challenge, so I have had him under-saddle performing various tasks and w/t, though he has probably had maybe an hour and a half total under-saddle and no other work since I worked on him. He is definitely a little challenging, since he is definitely opinionated on what he wants! He will rear or even kick out occasionally, though not necessarily really to challenge my authority (not directly), but rather he'd just prefer to do what he wants, haha. As such though, he does not put a whole lot of effort behind it though and is fairly easy to work with. Our first session I pulled a good horse's worth of hair off of him, lol, prior to our work in the indoor arena. He was not sufficiently focused to learn the sideways game and just did not quite grasp it, however he did all 6 other games! He was fairly unfocused however did very well for his first outing. Cody did fantastic as usual - at all 7 games, despite riders in the arena, and he and I finished off with a short bareback ride. When I first threw my leg over, I could feel he was extremely tense - his back was very humped up and I wondered if I had made the wrong decision by getting on his back. This horse has never been ridden bareback, to my knowledge, and has not been ridden under-saddle for a good several months now (7?), plus he was only in a rope halter at this time. As I quietly urged him forward though and gave him the time he needed to think, gradually he 'unfroze' to walk calmly at one end of the arena. I only asked for simple patterns - primarily circles and figure-8's, as well as turns on the fore and hind, back-up, and turns off of leg and seat as opposed to hand. He was actually extremely responsive and light, even to leg! All in all, I was quite impressed with his demeanor and how he handled himself and what was requested of him.

The following day, April 9, ended up being a Toffee and Link day! Toffee progressed on the ground, though still no sidepass yet. He was quite a bit more focused though, and did very well (plus, we pulled off another quarter of horse worth of hair, lol!). Lastly, I worked with Link once more, starting off with our usual ground exercises (at which he excelled of course) prior to swinging up into the saddle. By the time I was in the saddle, it was just after 3pm...with roping starting in the arena at 4pm, LOL! So next thing I know, all sorts of cowboys are pulling up in their trailers and unloading their horses (eager beavers these ones, since they weren't actually looking to start until 4! Haha) - whilst I am on this big Thoroughbred, in a dressage saddle. I think we all found it just a little amusing! Lol. Link was absolutely amazing though, especially despite all the commotion of horses being unloaded, the horses tied to the arena fence, ropes whistling, and people moving about. I could not have been more chuffed, he just behaved amazingly well and worked so in tune with me. I was especially surprised that he did not spook at anything at all at times when I knew he was in deep concentration - it was like magic! It took very very little coaxing before he was on the bit and working from behind. He was also exceptionally light at leg yields, was picking up his left inside shoulder (he tends to drop it and get heavy on the bit on that side at times), and was super responsive. When I asked for the canter, he picked up the right lead on the very first try!! He was a little more reactive this time round and was not straight, but I was not complaining ;) Of course his left lead was fine as well, and I actually had him mostly straight in that direction. We finished with a relaxed cool-out that encompassed dropping my reins (despite other horses in the arena) and simply guiding him with my seat and legs. Wow! I have to admit, as much as I loved that first 'magic' ride on Link awhile back, I was scared I would not see it again for a long while; yet instead he is only becoming increasingly consistent and is moving absolutely beautifully!! :)

While I lacked the time to do any work with my equine trainees, Sunday our new arrival was Princess, a 6yo grey Arabian mare! She is apparently quite well bred and is a very nice looking RBI mare who is in for some remedial training. Her owner's issue with her is that Princess can become quite right-brain reactive at times, especially if she is pushed. Her owner has done plenty of groundwork on her but is looking for 60 days for Princess to be more confident and reliable (calmer, braver, smarter) under-saddle. Photos of both her and Toffee soon!

Monday April 12 was my Princess and Toffee day! Toffee was first and it was soon discovered he had a bit of a bad cold (poor guy), so we kept our work down to a walk and very very little trot. He did very well though and we worked as well on his allowing me to lie over his bare back...something he was honestly not quite that fond of! He's still a pretty narrow and undeveloped colt and came out of winter a little on the thin side though, so I think partially he just wanted his own way, but also that he did not appreciate my weight upsetting his balance and my elbows inadvertently digging into his back! He actually got quite indignant about it and even crow-hopped once and kicked out at me another time, but we plugged away at it patiently until he was standing quiet while I lay over either sides briefly. I think I might just work with the saddle from here, and I will have to be careful how much I push him - he really is not physically capable of too much at this time in his development, in my opinion. I am thinking strictly w/t in the arena and wait to canter until he is outside in the hills and has more of a straight line to balance himself out. We'll see though. I was fairly excited to work with Princess and see how she was, and I was certainly not let down! She was careful and tentative, but also very curious. If I asked correctly, it was literally only a matter of moments before she was walking up to and sniffing previously-deemed 'dangerous horse-eating' objects :P She was a little opinionated with her front end (she is also in heat though), as expressed by the occasional flattened ears and not being quite as responsive with her front end. I was extremely impressed though and left playing the 7 games with her feeling like it was my privilege to be working with her - and I'm being paid for this?!! Haha. I am very thrilled to be working with her - she is light, responsive, intelligent, and has a strong ground foundation to work off of. Just the horse I would look for for myself! I laid over her back as well, but she completely ignored me as if I were not even there ;) I look forward to riding her these next two months for sure, especially in the mountains if possible.

That's about it! I was in a course both Tuesday and Wednesday and will finish off the course next Monday/Tuesday. I am also away this weekend and so the horses will not be worked Saturday/Sunday/Monday, between my travel and my course. I have it all worked out though - Link, Cody, Princess and Toffee are all up on my roster and both client horses are set up for 20 days of work over their 30 days. So stay tuned for updates! My goal this week (and henceforth) with Link is to get him in condition and to continue his consistency at collection. I am so pleased with him - not only is he developing physically into a very nice horse (he has definitely filled out everywhere and has grown an inch to now stand 16.2hh!), but he is also really acting like a prime partner when we work together. I will probably start all three other horses under-saddle this week - Cody, Princess, and Toffee, though my expectations of Toffee will obviously be quite low yet. At this point, I just want him to accept weight on his back and to be desensitized to the saddle and all its riggings. Next week I would like to throw some curve balls at both Princess and Toffee by playing with tarps and other such 'terrifying' objects, lol. Should be fun!

Already Toffee's owners have booked in another horse with me over May and I have another owner with a formerly abused 7yo Paint mare who is also requesting to be booked - so it should be a busy summer!!

I will post photos of everyone soon!