Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome to: PA Lady Daringer

It's that time again - time for an update! I spent a full 10 days at home my last set of days off so had some decent-ish time to work horses. Mostly I am trying to slow down and take a little time for myself and my own horses - my tendency is not to do so, which is exhausting and leads to my feeling burnt out at times. Sub-optimal!

Rayne - 7yo APHA mare
Guess who whinnied to me the first time I went out to catch her?! I've really developed a connection with this little horse over the course of our 6 sessions thus far, and really look forward to working with her each time. First session back she was forward and off my leg right off the bat. We struggled a bit with SI but she eventually relaxed and got in a few steps of decent SI. We worked a lot on developing that softness and relaxation and also straightness and of course developing even more responsiveness to my leg. There was a lot less resistance than in prior sessions. That evening we took Rayne out to Thorlakson's feedlot to work cattle in the Bullpen! Special thanks to Rayne's owner for taking us to Thorlakson's and also thanks to Wendy for such a great experience; she really did a great job providing me the right guidance for introducing Rayne to cows in the arena. First thing when Rayne saw the cattle entering the far side of the arena was to SHOOT backward from the center of the arena, to the end furthest from the cattle... lmao I don't think I've ever felt a horse back so fast!! Forward was an issue but it was all in her head, though of course responsiveness to my leg and relaxation and softness in general are also contributing factors. There were some pops and attempts at flight and evasion, but nothing extravagant and we finished the night on a great note with Rayne standing quietly as heifers approached her and even shot past her at times. She successfully turned a few back, and moved the herd from one end of the arena to the other a couple times, then finished by walking through the herd with me on foot. I am thinking by session 3 or 4 on cattle, that she will be (albeit perhaps tentatively at times) working the cattle effectively. It was really nice to see the level of athleticism and confidence she demonstrated though, given good guidance. Session #2 with Rayne went wonderful. We worked a lot on that SI, on a PROPER TOH (she really wanted to be lazy and just drop the inside shoulder on her turns on the forehand!), on leg yields, and on transitions and straightness. One of the exercises we focused on was to halt and back-up every so often down the long and short sides. My focus started with having her be very responsive to moving off my leg (trot to halt, halt to trot) and to also sharpen her halt, but we inadvertently also incorporated straightness when she tried to both halt and back-up crooked each time. Our hard work paid off when she was much straighter in her halts and back-up in session #3, with minimal and infrequent correction on my part. Her SI was also very successful, as were her TOH's, sidepass', and TOF's in session #3. She was very light off my leg in her halt-to-trot transitions - no resistance whatsoever. Session #2, with high winds blowing, we had some difficulty having Rayne relax and connect back to front on circles, but with good improvement session #2, she was immensely improved session #3 to the point where she was consistent in her circles and was even maintaining bend and softness in changes in direction and spiraling the circles in and out at the trot. Overall, Rayne is becoming very soft and relaxed, which is our ultimate goal. From my understanding she has never really specifically been taught to be relaxed and soft, which I feel plays a large role in the resistance and sourness she offered when I first started riding her. I like the consistency Rayne is showing between sessions - she is getting a good two weeks+ break each time between sessions yet is not regressing whatsoever and is actually making substantial progress within each ride. She seems to be becoming a much happier and willing horse under-saddle. This is translating back to the ground in that she is also no longer cinchy and is more co-operative (ie, more still) to saddle.
As far as any thoughts as they pertain to purchasing Rayne, I have decided to wait until spring to see where we sit financially as I make a job change and we (likely) move onto our property earlier than previously planned. I think all might work out where I can make an offer on Rayne in the spring, but I do not want to make such a decision now where it might not work out in the near future, which could negatively affect both myself and Rayne.

Link - 7yo Thoroughbred gelding
I was lucky enough to get in 3 rides on Link this time I was home! I really enjoyed working with him and experienced a lot of success, especially as it pertains to finding a suitable warm-up routine for Link and developing better straightness. He is really softening, relaxing, and learning to loosen up and reach over his back and streeeeetch. What I have found to work best at this point is to warm him up at the walk with of course a lot of bending and circles, but with specific focus on the SI. Counter-SI and renvers, travers, half-pass are all also in our toolbox but still require more work yet. The SI however is proving to be a very beneficial exercise in developing straightness and suppleness (it's recently really clicked how beneficial an exercise it is so I have actually been using it on a lot of horses with great success) in him. We've also worked a lot on his level of responsiveness, especially concerning his responsiveness toward the dressage whip and to my leg asking him to shift his haunches over. On the ground, I am expecting and am getting some very nice TOF's and TOH's, which is carrying over u/s. I thought that maybe I was a little too hard on Link last time I rode him - although I was both quiet and patient, I was persistent in asking him to respond to my leg to shift his haunches over, and also to respond to the wiggle and tap of the whip when he ignored the leg cue. Of course a few tantrums ensued but I was quiet and kept persistent in the proper position until he tried. Of course it sounds silly now to say that I was too hard on him considering where he is at training-wise, but he made quite the protest so at the time I had wondered if pushing him on this particular issue was the right answer. I wanted him to, instead of blocking me out and reacting, to THINK and respond appropriately. It paid off however in that he was MUCH quieter to the whip now when I had to occasionally use it to remind him to move off my leg (just with wiggling or gentle taps), and he was also MUCH more responsive to my leg when asking his haunches to move over. This especially paid off in our leg yields, SI's, and asking him to be straight in general. He tends to get a little lazy on the left rein and does not bring his haunches under sufficiently, which results in his being crooked and lugging on the left rein. A successful warm-up has really helped this, as has targeting his response to moving off my leg when I ask him to engage his haunches more. This was just an extra push in that direction and it really made the difference to our work. Overall we are developing a lot more actual impulsion and straightness, which feels absolutely phenomenal!!!!! I always ask a lot of my horses - expect a lot, accept little - and am usually happy with their progression however I am particularly chuffed at this recent sort of 'breakthrough' with Link: I CAN expect more of him and can push him more and I NEED to push him more, at the level he is at. When I do, the results are beautiful. Lastly, we worked both on canter and counter-canter, successfully.
Our third ride consisted of a lesson; we did some flat work and worked on the aforementioned but finished with some jumping, up to about 2'6. Contrary to (recent) prior jumping experiences, I actually felt very confident and secure on Link this time. I learned the mistakes that we were making over fences were NOT actually MY fault, that he had a large role to play as well (haha!) and that I could also push him harder in certain areas. The additional confidence and security really allowed me to focus on myself and though I am not back up to par with where I used to be (or at least, where I think I used to be - hah!), I made great strides and am happy with not only Link's progression over fences, but also mine. We are focusing particularly on developing a rounder jump in Link, which is where all our flatwork and dressage work comes into play. Overall he is doing very well and I look forward to building to a course over our next couple of lessons together (hopefully over the Christmas break). I am aiming toward a couple of spring shows with Link, likely hunter to start.

Soraya - 4yo CWB mare
I had the chance to put 2 more rides on Soraya while I was home. She did wonderful - her groundwork was great (she is really learning to respect my space no matter the circumstances, for one, she is learning to WATCH me and to be responsive yet relaxed, etc) and under-saddle she was relaxed and accepting of everything. She was fantastic at the trot for the first time (u/s) - her trot was beautiful to ride (so nice I badly just wanted to sit it and revel in it, haha). A little head-shaking ride #2 as she wanted her own way, however she responded well to my gentle corrections. The second ride we rode with one other horse and rider in the arena - horse and rider would be 20' away and Soraya was already giving them the stink eye, haha! By the finish of the session however, with a few corrections, she was much better at focusing on her own work and ignoring the other horse. While she took to the process very well, I did not feel Soraya was actually looking to me for guidance u/s as much as I wanted her to, so more work to do in that regard. I think some work with her at liberty might be the key, as well as furthering our current work (preferably, on a consistent schedule!) of course. A lot of athleticism and power there though - I am really liking this mare the more I work with her.

PA Lady Daringer - 3yo Quarab mare
So we finally got up to Edmonton to see our most recent purchase! We were very happy with what we saw in our new filly - she seems sensitive, responsive (ie, light to moving off pressure, etc), intelligent, and confident (ie, not excessively spooky). We really look forward to bringing her home to work with. Of course she is intended as a project horse however we will see what she is all about once we start actually working with her and once we start her u/s, and decide at that time where she is best suited. Very nice mare from working bloodlines (Doc's Blonde Buckshot x TW Fire Whorl) - should be a pleasure to work with! Her prior owners are currently boarding her for us over the winter and have been very gracious in a number of ways. It was lovely to see both her sire and dam on site, as well as a number of full and half siblings!

Lastly, I did ride Bella once - she was recently moved to a new facility (just across the road from the facility I board at, actually!) and has been settling in well but had not been ridden in the indoor yet. She was initially quite nervous and forward but did not take too long to relax and really work nicely from behind. We went over some trot poles with minimal fuss (just a couple looks initially!) and she surprised me with some beautifully balanced canter in either direction. Her owner took over from there and confidently rode her around at the walk before calling it a day on a great note!

Silver is currently being prepped for 4H by the young rider currently riding Onyx (mom's Thoroughbred mare) and is now moved into the same pasture as Link.

Oh, last note - first weekend I was home I also traveled down to Longview with Charlee's owner to check out a prospective trainer to continue Charlee's training (since I am not specifically working any horses over the winter on a schedule). Keith Stewart is blunt and to the point and seemed a very effective trainer for Charlee, in my opinion. I saw a lot of Buck Brannaman in what he does. I learned a little I can add to my arsenal of tools and much was reinforced. Something I had not considered that he did mention - the horse who is cinchy is also likely to be sticky in transitions. Reason being is that the horse is not entirely comfortable with the entire process - the catching, the saddling, the cinching - all are indicators of what the horse thinks about work under-saddle and thus are predictors of the horse's behaviour and tendencies under-saddle, including what he is going to do in transitions (ie, potentially buck). I had not thought about cinchiness as it relates to transitions but it makes sense to me and I found the note interesting. I sensed a wealth of knowledge in the man and look forward to the opportunity to learn more from him.

I am looking forward to being home for Christmas and New Years; hopefully I can get in some more good rides on each of the horses!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall has arrived, me amigos!

So it was another busy week home in which I had literally only 5 days to enjoy before I was back off to work, which unfortunately meant a sparse few days to work the horses.

Skittles - yearling QH filly
I spent 3 days doing a re-fresher with Skittles, working on all her basics such as picking up all four feet (including the injured leg), having her bridlepath trimmed, being loaded into the trailer, and walking all over a tarp and having it tossed all over her. She was pretty good throughout; the first session she was actually 'angelic' but made up for her unusually good behaviour by aiming a good kick at me session #2. We continued to really focus on respect and good behaviour (including incorporating all the 'usual' groundwork, albeit lightly and in consideration of her former tendon injury) and finished on a good note. No problems with the tarp, she was self-loading even when I threw the rope over her back and let her load herself completely (she even walks deep into the angle-haul and angles herself correctly), and she tolerated clipping and having her injured leg lifted. I'm not so sure this little one will ever stop testing her handler, though!

Rayne in the summer, photo courtesy of her owner. The three photos below I took of Rayne in pasture a little over a week ago.

Rayne - 7yo APHA mare
I'm not sure how exactly this transpired, but it seems I've only worked with mares all year, as it pertains to client horses! I agreed to put 3 sessions on Rayne, mostly as a way to evaluate her for spring training and for sale, but also to of course improve her. So far I have been extremely pleased. While she is quite resistant and has a bit of a 'tude, Rayne has actually responded quite positively to the work we have done thus far. Over the three sessions I've done a little groundwork each time - she obviously knew her stuff and proved to be a very sensitive, responsive mare, and by session #3 her respect level, already decent, had already greatly improved. Under-saddle, she is clearly a VERY intelligent mare who is also extremely sensitive and responsive. My work has been cut out in challenging and pushing her to learn and progress (and in a willing manner), while remaining quiet and passive when need be, to not play into her provocations. She is quite resistant and tried just about everything in the book to not go forward, to start! First day u/s, Rayne decided backing was the best method of evasion. I sat there, my leg off even, and waited. When she'd had enough, I re-asked. More backing. More waiting. Finally she got the hint - I wasn't going anywhere, not even with a little hop and later, with a little rear and lots of head-shaking. Once moving out, she proved unconfident upon leaving her buddies, wanting to move her feet (too much forward!) and trying to go above the bit (or, hackamore, rather) and head-toss to evade my hands. Our u/s work was composed of a lot of walking and mostly trotting along the fenceline in one larger paddock/small pasture, some 20m-ish circles, and lots of serpentines along with some point-to-point pattern (to create impulsion off my leg). My goal was to have her moving forward off my leg, then to channel that forward into a balanced horse with a relaxed back. I feel like she is extremely tight in her shoulders due to the tension (read: resistance) in her back. It wasn't long however, by the finish of the third session, where she was moving out mostly consistently to my leg and where she was learning to balance and relax. I found that she was very adamant I use the lightest pressure possible (akin to Bella - see prior posts - in that way), so she learned that I would be extremely light in my aids provided she gave me a response, at least some try. The result was that she was quite light and we got a lot of relaxation and thus increasingly good flexion laterally. Her willingness improved substantially, from a '0' out of 10 (no forward) to start, to about a '7' out of 10 (forward mostly consistently, little resistance). We even achieved some 'lateral' work/etc - leg yields, sidepass, and even a little SI (shoulder-in) and shoulder-out. The SI/O was probably the most difficult for her because she had to remain between my aids and give up a lot of tension/resistance, which was hard for her at first; we achieved a few steps either direction however, which was great progress! The only speed bump we experienced was session #2 where I gave Rayne her head and allowed her to trot up a slight incline. She felt like she wanted to offer the canter so to see what she was all about, I allowed and even gently asked for the canter. Immediately she popped a little buck and I was on the ground. I don't usually come off that easily however I feel the combination of her compact body and my longer torso (in comparison) resulted in her just being able to pop me out of that saddle easily, with little effort. Once she had me off she simply stood there (having achieved her goal, haha). I took a moment to catch my breath, remounted, and she was great. We ended focusing on a lot of relaxation. Lots of work yet to do at the trot before we try again for the canter! Since she has proven so inconsistent in the past, I am hoping she continues to progress but am banking on the fact she may go backward at some times. The more sessions I can put on her between now and spring (when her owner may decide to put her in 30 days' training prior to selling her), the more accurate a feel I can get for her and thus the better the idea I can give her owner of Rayne's potential (etc). I feel like what this horse really needs is a job. That, and to be worked such as I worked her the past 3 sessions... until she decides a) resistance is futile and b) becomes willing and learns to really enjoy her work, consistently. The latter could take anywhere from a few months to years. The preceding starts next I am back home - plan is to take her to a cow sorting/team penning event! I'm really excited to bring her and to see what she will give me... plus I am just excited to go, myself, haha! It will be a blast working cattle again; Rayne has apparently been on bison so I am hoping it is not too much of a transition for her to 'get' working cattle. Obviously (if you couldn't tell already by the multitude of photos!) I really like this little horse, but the last thing I need is another horse. I'm thinking about it though! If I did decide to purchase her it would probably be with the intention of keeping her a couple years, making her into a dependable little cow horse, then selling her down the road when she's consistent.

Silver - 16yo Quarab
Unfortunately things with Silver started to quickly disintegrate with his lessees just prior to my returning home from work. Nothing to do with Silver himself of course! While I wish it had not been necessary, I ended up having to pull him from his lease after the contract was defaulted on a number of times. The last straw was when he was moved once again without my being kept properly informed (after the lessees were booted from yet another facility). Unfortunately for the lessees, my horse's needs come first and I did not feel that, with those several breaches in contract, his best needs were being served. Furthermore, it had attained the point where I felt I could no longer trust their word, intentions, or motives.
I did fortunately find time to fit in one ride on my boy! He is quite fit and as usual, very athletic, which was very nice to feel u/s. He feels like he is maintaining a 'frame' however, rather than being truly collected as a result of being ridden back to front. He did willingly stretch down a bit when allowed, but did not understand the idea to stretch down into contact. As a result, I felt a lot disintegrated at the canter especially. I won't have much time to dedicate to working him, but I am hoping that I can get him moving a little better within the little time I do have to work him. I took him over a few jumps, up to 3' and he was fantastic! He was rhythmic, slow, relaxed. It was really nice being able to work on myself and not have to worry about him. When I made a mistake, he simply carried on to the next fence. Hah! It's soooo nice, after having been riding greenies for so long. I forget that riding can be so relaxing, and that jumping can be so much FUN!!! I've lost a lot of confidence simply not jumping as much as I used to, and in working on greenies over jumps (who make you pay for your every mistake, haha, and I make a lot of them over fences since I have not been jumping consistently the past several years), that I've forgotten what it should be like, or rather what it will be like even on my greenies as we work our butts off and they eventually progress to Silver's level of consistency. I'd like to put a little work into Silver and take him to a couple shows this spring to show him at the 3' level (for my own benefit), but we will see what is in the cards as my parents will likely take him out to where they are until we get settled into our new farm. In the mean time, I will do what I can and enjoy him for as long as I have him!

Link - 7yo off-track Thoroughbred
For a variety of reasons, I only got one ride in on Link, unfortunately. He was a trooper and did great, but there is so much I want to work on with him! His flatwork however was good and I even took him over a couple jumps about 2'6-3'. Of course he pretended they were monstrous 4'-ers but that relaxation and confidence will come in time. Check out his photo though (taken within the last couple of months) - the man is finally learning how to move better... on his own, too!! It's really neat to see how he moves at liberty to be affected by what we're schooling u/s.

The only time I had for Soraya was to take her into the barn, tack her up, have her stand in the arena while I rode Silver and Link, then turn her out, haha. My time with Phoenix was even less, and I did not get the chance to see Koolaid at all. Plan is to see Koolaid and maybe even take a lesson on him when I am back home next. We're also planning on taking a trip up north to visit our new girl, 3yo Quarab Lady Daringer, whom we purchased as a project pony for the new year; photos to come!

Monday, October 24, 2011

End of the training year

...for client horses anyway!!

Since my last blogging episode, I've worked with the horses an additional 2 sets of sessions - 10 days in August and 10 over September/October, which equates to about a month of actual training (when I take a horse in for a month of training, horses are usually worked 4-5 times a week, resulting in approx. 20 days of actual training days in a month). September also included a trip to Saskatchewan (which somehow resulted in the purchase of a farm, of all things - hah!), and October marked the end of my year training client horses for the year, once I returned to work (last week). In total, Kismet, Charlee, and Bella received approx. 53 days' training... so the equivalent of just over 2 1/2 months work. Mesa, the star student, was excused early for 'good behaviour', so finished at about 2 months and Skittles finished at about the same due to injury (yes, on top of the bowed tendon!). I also worked with another horse, Tonto, also owned by Charlee's owner, over August (5 days) and September/October (10 days). That's on top of working with the odd other horse here and there and also teaching lessons. And working with my own horses. It's been busy!!! So, without further ado.

Skittles - yearling QH
Unfortunately Skittles sustained a rather nasty wire injury tail end of August and so work with her was canceled. I did however put a couple sessions on her in October, primarily focusing on her lifting the mostly-healed-injured foot, clipping her bridlepath, and having her load into the trailer. The foot took about 30s to re-establish and she was great for the trailer, but the bridlepath was harder. For some reason, despite near-angelic behaviour when clipped (everywhere!) during earlier training, Skittles had up and decided the vibration of the clippers on her mane was no longer cool. It took me well over an hour to re-establish clipping was okay, during which she rather ferociously and persistently attempted running me over and batting me with her head. We finally settled on her tolerating my clipping her bridlepath. She was fine being clipped everywhere else, of course! *roll eyes* I'm happy to report though that her wire injury and bowed tendons seem to be healing well, and she is turned out with the main herd after a few healing weeks spent confined in a pen.

Mesa - 3yo QH x (3/4)Arabian
After some time off due to an acute injury to her sole, Mesa finished her training with me with a last set of 10 days in August. We finished mostly with refining what we already have - asking for further engagement, balance, etc. She was VERY nicely picking up contact ('on the bit' in the rope hackamore) and working back to front, lifting and swinging that back, throughout. In typical Arab fashion, her tendency was to go in too low a frame but with the occasional reminder, she really lifted and worked well and worked hard. Our work was comprised of a lot of transitions and changes in pace on a 20m circle and also occasional smaller 10m circles, and a lot of lateral work. Developing the lateral work is what helped me figure out what really worked to supple Mesa - shoulder-in! It really forced her to focus and relax on days where she was rather spooky, and it helped further increase engagement. We finished with teaching her owner all the aforementioned exercises so she could continue in my shoes - her owner is a very lovely soft-handed rider who really 'gets it' in terms of asking Mesa to move correctly, which is fantastic! The two are continuing successfully - a little arena work to develop and refine, but mostly a ton of trails. This last set of sessions in fact I joined the two of them on several trail rides in the nearby fields, on some of my other client horses at the farm. Mesa's owner continues to ride her in a hackamore, to boot :)

Charlee - 4yo QH
The red mare actually finished the year on a fantastic note with a relaxed walk u/s and even quite a bit of jog! We left off end of July with her and I doing a lot of liberty work - loose in the roundpen on the ground and also riding her without anything on her head. Come late August it was time to start riding her in the rope halter and also introduce her to the arena. I was glad we spent so much time with the liberty work both on the ground and u/s, because this time when we put the ropes back on and I started riding her in a halter, she was quiet and relaxed - a huge difference to prior, where my lifting the reins would be a trigger for her! With her comfortable at the walk u/s in the roundpen, I felt it was time to get her out into the arena and push things a little. In the arena, she did fantastic on the ground at liberty (sticking with me at the walk and trot) and took to walking around the arena u/s without batting an eye. Times when she was nervous, rather than exploding violently, she would instead tense and straighten her body, pivoting toward whichever direction she felt most comfortable in that moment, and pausing. She allowed me to intervene by halting her and while at first I allowed her to change directions and stand, we progressed to my eventually asking her to halt whenever she was (too) tense, but remain facing in the direction in which we had been traveling. From there she even progressed to allowing me to simply maintain contact and keep her 'on the bit' (in the rope halter) most times, pushing her through her fears with solid guidance and keeping her at the walk! We worked on a lot of windy and even a few rainy days and throughout it all, Charlee was a doll to work with. That's not to say she was not really nervous at times - she certainly was, but much of our work consisted of her acting like an old dude ranch trail horse - totally relaxed, head down, ears flickering, nose stretched out, back relaxed, and her breathing out. Times she was tense, she placed her trust in me and allowed me to 'help' her, then relaxed afterward. Our September/October sessions even involved (re)introducing the jog - while at first she was extremely tense, unconfident, and unsure, she soon relaxed to a much lower level of tension where she allowed me to guide her and keep her in the jog for extended periods of time. This even included a lot of patterns at the jog (serpentines, figure-8's, circles) and other basic work such as back-up and sidepass. Last day with Charlee was actually a lesson with her owner, who rode her for the first time in well over a year!! Seeing as my training season has ended, her owner is considering continuing Charlee's training this winter by sending her to a trainer just south of us, a man who's trained under Buck Brannaman. We'll check out this trainer together end of November to see if it is a good fit but I anticipate it will be; having another trainer continue Charlee's progress (and on a ranch) would be of GREAT benefit. I am really looking forward to seeing her progress to where she's more solid in what I have worked so hard to establish and develop this year. She's such a great mare and could be an outstanding athlete, so this could be a fantastic opportunity.

Kismet - approx. 4yo Draft x mare
The big mare is probably the one who progressed the most this last set of (2) sessions! As usual, our primary goal was teaching her to be more extroverted than introverted and withdrawn. While she still has the tendency to block out leg aids much of the time, she does clearly understand the concept and will perform some leg yield and changes in direction off the leg. She was also allowing me to influence and balance her (ie, inside leg to outside rein) at the walk and some at the trot. Her sidepass has also much improved and her turns on the haunches and forehand have become even cleaner, with her back-up being very soft! Where she's progressed the most however, has been in her 'forward' work, which is the primary focus given her tendency for withdrawing into her introvert shell. Under-saddle she's progressively learned to relax her back and really move out at the walk, trot, and the canter! Her canter has been especially progressive; she is now able to produce several laps in either direction (though on the right rein she is most fluid). Upon completing her training, she was being mounted from the mounting block without issue every single time, was great ridden in both an english saddle and bareback, and was absolutely fantastic out on the trails! On the trails she was ridden out in company and in the plain rope hackamore; she was quiet and relaxed to the point of giving me some of her best (relaxed) forward ever!!! The only (rare) spooks she gave were usually the result of other horses spooking, after which she always quieted within seconds and remained responsive in the hackamore. She stepped over poles, walked past loose horses, and even walked past flapping plastic and styrofoam. Not an issue! I finished her training with a lesson with her and her owner; her owner has since ridden her quite a bit both in the arena and some in the (small) fields on the property, with great success. While she's still got a lot of progress to make, I am very happy where I finished off with Kismet and anticipate her and her owner will do very well together. Their primary goal right now is a lot of wet saddle blankets to further Kismet's confidence u/s, after which her owner's got some great goals to specifically work toward.

Bella - 3yo QH
Last but certainly not least, the final report on Bella! Not too much new to report by way of progress, as we mostly worked on developing and refining what we've already got. We did a lot of work focusing on balance and more engagement, mostly by way of lateral work (including some SI) and correct bend in the corners - she's extremely intelligent so picked up on what I wanted rather quickly and was soon balancing correctly without much influence or correction on my part. She especially loved when we worked on extension vs. collection around barrels (what she's bred for)!! She really tried to anticipate me, but was soft and responsive and very correct in maneuvering around the barrels, really lifting her shoulders and engaging from behind without much correction on my part. She was really giving me some nice turns on the haunches (almost spins!!!!) where she REALLY lifted her shoulder, some turns on the forehand, sidepass, back-up, etc. Her w/t/c was very nice, as also were transitions - both upward and downward. Over her July sessions, she really learned to open up and gallop (and loved it!), but after that we had to balance that work over August and September with reminding her she could also canter nicely WITHOUT lengthening (hahaha!). We did a lot of fantastic-ally successful trail riding particularly in September, and also introduced her to the bit (no problem, transition was made within one session!). Her training also finished with owner involvement by way of lessons. I focused on teaching her owner a lot of shoulder and hind end control (TOF, TOH, sidepass, back-up, leg yield) so she could properly influence Bella and have sufficient control, and also worked on building her confidence at the walk and trot. Both did exceptionally well and even partook in a trail ride out in the fields on a day I joined Mesa and her owner with Kismet :) I am very happy with where I left off with Bella and actually thoroughly enjoyed working with her this year!!! I look forward to continuing some lessons with her and her owner over the winter.

Phew! I've already got one client penciled in for next May and anticipate more as we approach spring (it's always a busy time!). I am really looking forward to both being able to focus on my own horses and also work on client and project horses. The plan is to only do relief work (one week a month) out in the field while maintaining a schedule working at home. Doing so will allow me to really progress my own horses and goals in the way I want. So, to continue this blog with an update on my own horses!

Phoenix - 9yo off-track Thoroughbred
After several consecutive chiropractic sessions, it appears that our boy is finally on the right track! After the first session he had one session 2 weeks later, another 3 weeks after that one, and a last one a month after the prior session. At the last session, the chiropractor felt he was sufficiently progressed that she would not have to see him for at least a few months. She (and I, of course!) LOVED how freely he moved out and she was impressed at how well he was maintaining his adjustments, which means we likely do not have any underlying issues to be concerned with. She gave him the clear to be lightly ridden and was excited at his finally (albeit slowly!!!) picking up weight and muscle. He' just looking SO much better and now even trots out just to show off ;) Of course, this also means more exuberance behind everything he does, which includes being rude at times :P So, recently, the SO and I took Phoenix (me riding Link) out on a trail ride in the large fields where we board. Phoenix was great going out, even trying to trot every so often, though was a little sore returning (grinding his teeth but no irregularities in gait). I attribute this however to us overdoing it a little - though we had a break somewhere in the middle, we did ride out for well over an hour. Nonetheless, Phoenix moved out freely and without any irregularities in his step the following morning. We're extremely excited to see so much improvement in him! The SO (D) has determined that since Phoenix looks to be out of the woods finally, that he take him as his own then - the two get along famously. Phoenix actually really seems to respond positively to and 'click' with D - the two are like old beer-swigging poker pals out on the trail :)

Soraya - 4yo Canadian Warmblood
Throughout everything, I have not gotten as much time on Soraya as I should, but she has been doing very well nonetheless. She's been fantastic for the farrier (as always), is great to tie (she had a little slip-up after Link taught her the wonderful skill of pulling back but has since returned to her tying awesomeness), and was even great to have her teeth done recently. Thus far I have been on her back quite a few times now - she's very non-plussed about the process overall. She's learned to walk out in the indoor arena and has also been just as consistent in the outdoor (even her first time - didn't even bat an eye!). There's a tiny bit of resistance the odd time - namely when she 'asks' if she can just do things her way (lol) - but that's all a part of the learning curve a baby goes through. I'm persistent in my requests but also soft and polite, and she comes round. I have a great level of control with her on the ground and though we still have a ton of groundwork to cover, she's doing well. Now that I'm through with the client horses I am really excited to work with her a little more these next couple months, then a whole lot over Christmas. I would like her really solid w/t/c - 60 days sort of progress, by spring. She certainly has a propensity for jumping - once she got the hang of it from the ground, she was practically dragging me over jumps!!!! She has a lot of athleticism and ability, has a phenomenal mind, and a great temperament. She certainly is one to be encouraged to work with you - she is rather independent yet ;) As mentioned in the past though, that's exactly the type of attitude I was looking for when I purchased her. I am extremely excited about this mare - increasingly so the more I work with her! She's absolutely lovely :)

Link - 7yo off-track Thoroughbred
While I have not gotten the quantity of days on Link that I would have liked as of late either, he continues to do very well. His canter in the arena is very hunter-like - very balanced, relaxed, slow. His transitions are smooth and his leads are solid as he starts schooling flying changes; I also intend to start schooling counter-canter now and we've even touched a little on some canter pirouette!! His lateral work is excellent - we've continued to refine the leg yields, the shoulder-in and shoulder-out, the travers and the renvers, and the half pass. He's really developing a beautiful tempo in the trot and is carrying more weight behind - both u/s and even on his own out in the field!! I've got some great exercises to progressively continue developing his trot over the next few months. What's most exciting (to me) is how consistently he is on the bit now - I can actually ask almost immediately within the warm-up (though I don't, as a habit, I've just done it now and again as a very brief test) for him to pick up contact and work back to front. With sufficient warm-up, I can ask with a few half-halts and appropriate seat and leg for him to engage and he does - and holds it with my holding him together; we're progressively working on his holding it more independently. He's straight, rhythmic, relaxed - and allowing his back to swing. It's just such a lovely feeling!!! I unfortunately have not done as much schooling over jumps as I would like as of late, but we've got some jumping lessons lined up for us now over the next few months, so that will help in that respect. Though we didn't get to competing at the level I would like this fall, a huge reason has been finances, time, and the lack of a truck and trailer (aaaaah!)... we'll get there! I have a lot more hope given our progress and some of my immediate future plans that will greatly aid my goals for next year's show season. This last time off at home, Link and I joined a few friends out in the mountains! As excited as I am about our work in the arena... we still have a lot of work to do to take that outside! Link's still convinced he might die in the big bad wilderness and as a result just is not the relaxing trail horse I would love to have, hahahaha. However, he did do very well out in the hills, all considering. He really stepped out well and was relaxed most of the time, save for a couple little outbursts. I would have liked to have seen a quieter, more relaxed canter out there, but that will come with more work, as will also his ability to watch his feet (lol). I can't expect everything to be perfect ;) He was really great for my shorter trail ride with the SO (D) and Phoenix the week prior. Really, nothing but good news though, with much to look forward to!

I did get out to see Silver (see photo above), but not Koolaid this time (next time!). Silver continues to do well with his 16yo lessee - he has been schooling up to and over 3' and is generally 'fat and happy'. Onyx is doing well also - she is currently in both english and western 4H and continues to be ridden by Sonny's previous 11yo rider. Nothing but good things!

As of October, D and I made the decision to purchase a project horse for next spring. She is a 3yo QH x Arabian filly, unstarted but apparently quiet to handle and is registered as PA Lady Daringer. We've bought her sight unseen though I anticipate going up to see her on my next set of days off (photos to follow!); she will remain with the breeder/seller over the winter and come spring we will bring her down to be started. The idea came after a local public auction of Trakehners sparked the topic between us of purchasing a project horse - while we ultimately decided against the Trakehners, we decided instead to casually keep our eyes open for a suitable prospect for re-sale in the spring. I am also hoping to attend the Canadian Warmblood sale spring 2012 and maybe pick up a few prospects there for re-sale also. We also recently made another, albeit larger, purchase - a property! It is out in Saskatchewan and is pictured below. The plan is to make the big move spring 2013, though there is the possibility we could decide to move earlier. We would like to have the property set up for our horses first however, and all the fields re-seeded also. The house is a bit of a project, but ultimately exactly what we wanted. It's got a lot of character and will be a lot of fun to work on and make our own. We're very excited and really look forward to this exciting future!

I think I've covered about everything; I will update in a few weeks with more photos and news of everyone!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

An exciting July!

Yikes, I just realized I did not update at all since the past two sets of sessions with all the horses, so here goes! Since I last reported, I did one set of sessions (10 days), then a break while I worked out of town, then another set of sessions (10 days), so 2 sets of sessions and 20 days total.

So far she is great with the tarp on her body, walking over it, and even (mostly) backing over it now. She's also great with the clippers (ears, nose, jawline, bridle path, fetlocks) and also lowering her head to make the task of a bridle path easier; there really was no issue here, she was great from the start as far as the clippers go ;) Bathing has come along even further than previous, as well as have all her usual ground exercises. The primary task we worked on this last set of sessions was trailering: first time in the trailer she put up some fight but gave in after less than 10min. By the third time she was walking in without further ado, to stand quietly awaiting her next cue - wohoo! Unfortunately however she sustained a bowed tendon during the last span of time off so all our work since the diagnosis has been done at the walk and with care to take it gentle and easy on her. The tendon did seem to improve however over the two weeks I was home and I am sure after 6mos of pasture rest she will be good as new... in the mean time we're reducing her 'school time' by half, so 5 in lieu of 10 days every time I am home. I was happy to hear the vet was impressed with how much better behaved Skittles was this time round!

Unfortunately Mesa had this previous set of days off due to sustaining a penetrating injury to the sole of her hoof! She looks to be on the mend though and hopefully will continue with at least one more set of sessions (ie, 10 days) next I am home, then her owner will likely take over from there. Previous set of sessions however, Mesa was absolutely fantastic! Save for her tripping and falling on my leg one day (complete clutzy move from the trot, on a straight line - hah!) of course, hahaha. Her owner is present for just about every single one of her sessions and usually rides her after I have finished my session with Mesa, but one of the sessions her owner was not present Mesa and I took a leisurely stroll down the road for a little trail ride - she was fantastic of course (in the rope hackamore, to boot). She was w/t/c not only with me but also of course with her owner, by the end of her last set of sessions in July, and we ironed out all the little kinks her and her owner were previously experiencing (well, they ironed out most on their own and we just refined it a little more). What we've been focusing on at this point has been furthering her balance and engagement and lateral work (including leg yields across the arena at the canter!) - all has gone phenomenal! I really look forward to putting another set of sessions on the mare.

Since Charlee bucked me off I was a little cautious however she has progressed in leaps and bounds since! First set of sessions since our last report, I started incorporating liberty work into our sessions. This translates to doing most of our usual ground exercises, at liberty (ie, no ropes - no halter or lead, etc), and includes having her play 'stick-to-me' at liberty also. The goal of 'stick-to-me' is to have the horse seeking you out and following your movements (gait, direction, etc). Being at liberty really allowed Charlee the freedom to move off if she absolutely had to, and allowed her the choice - she could choose when to move off and when to stick with me. Obviously my goal is that she never leaves at all (!), so I work toward that end goal. I find when horses have that option to leave however, that they grow more confident in responding to your requests and are more likely to stick by you because they feel less restricted by the lack of ropes. Playing at liberty, I found Charlee was not especially keen on my being on her right-hand side and also that she was wary of traveling between me and the fence at the walk and especially the trot - manifestations of her trust issue. We've been working on developing and furthering everything we've been doing thus far and especially the liberty work and thus far she is growing increasingly comfortable with herself between me and the fence (even at the trot), both sides. The right side is still our challenging side however she tries and is greatly improving! With the liberty work I've been able to see her confidence and trust start to bloom, albeit tentatively. The other boarders and her owner also report that she now follows people around in the pasture and tries to interact with them too - something she never previously did. She also approaches me now when she sees me coming with the halter (rather than just allowing me to approach). All great news! I've also carried this liberty work into her saddle work... which means mounting without any ropes on her head. At first I just mounted and dismounted, but increasingly I've progressed her to the point where she is now comfortable walking relaxedly on the left rein, at liberty. The idea was the same as doing the groundwork at liberty; should she blow (which she has not yet *knock on wood*) I simply immediately dismount - I can't stop her blowing with a halter or hackamore on anyway and since they seem to actually trigger her blow-up to substantially worsen, it's worked really well to just forget them altogether. At first she was fairly tentative but now she's actually breathing under-saddle (so simple but so important!), chewing and licking her lips, blowing out (ie, snorting), trying to eat when she's bored, etc. There's moments when I will feel her tense beneath me but I can now actually push her through those moments and she is SO much more relaxed overall with the entire process!!! Last ride on her we actually had people pounding posts maybe 40' from the round pen - she was a little tense at times but was generally relaxed walking about. She's fairly tentative walking on the right rein yet but we're just picking at it in bits and pieces thus far and she's coming along in that respect also. My tentative plan is to have her walking comfortably, both directions, before introducing the trot, and having her both walk and trot relaxedly in either direction before re-introducing the halter when we ride. I think by that point she will move along rather speedily! Last tool I used the past two sets of sessions (ie, 20 days total) was treats! I GREATLY underestimated how food-motivated Charlee was and hand feeding her treats both on the ground and u/s has increased her receptiveness and willingness to be more open, trusting, and interactive... by huge degrees!!! It has made her a LOT more interactive and has allowed me to just get my foot in the door to her trust so that I could peel away the layers of mistrust. One example: she doesn't like to turn her head when I'm up in the saddle, and bend her neck - she'd rather keep her body straight, ready for flight. But she'll reach around for treats! So reaching around for treats she now bends both to the right and the left when fed from the saddle - since nothing bad happens each time, we build a bit of trust each time. I've also been toying with the idea that if licking and chewing is a sign of relaxation after the horse has exhibited some tension, that inducing that licking and chewing (after tension) via treats can also encourage relaxation? Something I am trying out and will keep at the back of my head anyway! The fearful horse in flight mode is not stopping to eat so encouraging the food-motivated, currently fearful horse about to go into flight mode to eat, might help in transferring them from reactive to thinking. Food for thought (pun intended) anyway! It's been such a relief to see so much progress in this mare the past two sets of sessions; I greatly look forward to progressing her further this next set of days with the horses. I think once I've got her progressing even more, her training will pick up increasing speed and she'll be soon up to par with our goals this year (ie, acting like a relatively normal horse u/s!). She clearly understands her 'job' u/s (ie, moving off leg, etc), it's just the fear issues so I think as we evaporate the fear issues her actual u/s work will progress rapidly.

The big mare has progressed very well the past two sets of sessions (ie, 20 days) to the point where she is now walking and trotting relaxedly under-saddle - in the arena! I've still got her in the rope halter but she's about ready to move into the rope hackamore and my hope is that we can progress to include canter under-saddle also, this next set of sessions. She too has continued to progress in leaps and bounds (she's not hugely motivated but does look for the treats too, haha): she is so much more relaxed than previous and is very interactive and receptive. In the pasture, now she's just about always following me around. The other boarders report she's doing it with them also - as with Charlee, Kismet never really did it before either. Again, great news! I've incorporated not only the treats with her also, but also the liberty work - both together (and especially the liberty work) seems to have been the key to her recent substantial progression. Under-saddle she's starting to learn about lateral work though is not fully receptive to leg aids yet - she definitely understands them but is still blocking me out a little, due to fear... same with back-up sometimes. It's coming though! Last I rode her I even used the mounting block to get on her - she never batted an eye. She's been much better about my waving my arms around (etc) in the saddle, is quite soft and responsive (ie, doesn't block me out in that respect hardly ever now), and allows me to push her through most hesitation. I think we can start incorporating her owner riding her a little by the end of the next set of sessions, and more the following sessions after that.

The first set of sessions we worked a lot with increasing Bella's willingness and work ethic and developed a little w/t/c in the arena. She was great but by the end was a little footsore, so I recommended her owner have her shod. Second set of sessions, the first day she was rather sour (I think she was expecting the footsoreness?) but by the second day she was almost back to normal and third day she was a happy camper. The difference in her movement was substantial - she's striding out more upfront and is just a whole lot happier with the shoes! I told her owner she could remove the shoes at a later date and slowly build up sole, etc, or use boots, but that shoeing her now during her training was probably the best option. Glad I was correct! She's been w/t/c and though we've been building everything in baby steps, she's doing absolutely fabulous. Once she picked up leg aids it was as if she were like "okay, I've got this!" and the minute she did, she wanted me to be uber light. Now she actually gets quite annoyed with me if I dare put on more leg than she required ;) She's been doing leg yields and side pass, back-up, etc, and I've started teaching her to bend and balance proper on her circles and corners. Her canter she will now hold for the entire time I ask it of her (at this point, 2 laps of the arena at one time), and we've built sufficient work ethic that I feel I could ask even more (but I don't of course at this point!). She's a very intelligent horse and is picking up everything beautifully. Her groundwork too of course continues to progress however our focus has been more on u/s work. Her owner has been riding her some, as has her owner's dad, and so far so good. One of the days during our last set of sessions I even took her out down the road also - though she was a little looky she obeyed my every request and was a great, relaxing ride.

So that's it for the client horses! Now on to my own horses, whoop whoop!

Last set of days off (last week, actually) I had a really really good chiropractor work on our boy. What I thought was simply funky conformation actually turned out to be curvature of the spine due to misalignment. He has a bit of a 'rounded' back anyway, so I just thought the increased rounded look was due to the loss of muscle and fat (we've been struggling with his weight and he doesn't move around enough) when in fact it was mostly due to misalignment. He was an absolute mess for her to work on and was obviously in a lot of pain as she manipulated different areas but he was notably more comfortable throughout his session with the chiropractor. His back came down quite a bit and his gaits were a lot freer and more relaxed afterward also. The chiropractor wants to see him again in two weeks (when I return from work again) and will do another work-over at that time. At that time she is hoping to give a more definite prognosis but so far so good and she seems rather hopeful she can fix his multitude of issues. I have a lot of confidence in her ability based on word of mouth, based on what I saw in practise as she worked on Pheonix, and based on the things she confirmed that both I and others have noticed (including vets). What we're hoping is we can solve any alignment issues and get him comfortable in that respect; at that point we can then evaluate for any lameness that might still be present and follow up with injections or x-rays or surgery or what. I told her we have absolutely no expectations of Phoenix except for him to feel better, but that of course we would love to be able to ride him if only lightly. So fingers crossed the latter can occur, but I'm glad to see my friend at least become more comfortable. I was in tears at one point - I hate seeing any of my horses in such pain but especially such a softie as Phoenix. Since I had him adjusted when I first bought him (and he was relatively fine), I had not thought to do so again until now - I'd been focusing on the lameness aspect of it all and following my vet's orders in that respect. Anyway, I'm glad I did and hopefully this will all give us an idea of where to continue to look for this mystery lameness, with the vet. I only wish I had done so sooner - but lesson learnt! He's getting good hay now but I will probably top that off with a complete feed and also will start adding some Glucosamine.

I'm happy to report a huge change in Soraya's demeanor toward people ;) She ties well without pulling back (not that she really did previously though, but I now have even been able to trust her tied while the farrier is working on her) and without pawing (mostly, lol), and leads quietly and respectfully on a loose lead, at my shoulder. I've put in two sets of sessions with her, albeit not a full ten days each time. She's fairly solid with her 7 Games now though and next set of sessions the goal is to further those and throw in some Patterns (Parelli) and liberty work (ie, stick-to-me, etc). At that point I will also start her walking under-saddle and will henceforth continue to progress both saddle and groundwork simultaneously. She's so willing and receptive now, with only the occasional time she's annoyed and pissy (and those times I am usually able to reprimand her now a little - when appropriate, without fear of retaliation). She's also very accepting of most things I do around her (okay, except clipping a bridle path, she hates the clippers so far!), down to saddling her and girthing her up (first time she just accepted it all without any thought) and using the stirrup to mount and stand over her, run my leg over her, and lean my weight in the saddle. Emulating a Pez dispenser for horse treats certainly helped (very food motivated, as expected!), as has earning everything from her rather than demanding it. She is a young horse though after all and is still looking for that direction so offering that direction and leadership in a quiet but commanding and confident manner has served us well. I would not call her 100 percent trustworthy (etc) yet, but she's almost there! She was never really a bad horse, she just didn't have the experience to go off of where she knew she could trust and thought she should respect people. Once she gained some solid experience, she's been phenomenal. She was never mishandled in my opinion - she just hasn't been sufficiently handled, specifically in recent years, to learn to trust and respect people. After the first session with her, there was already substantial improvement. Second session her responses were even better, and by the third session there was no more attempts at dominating me or at being disrespectful - she was all ears to learning and was very willing and quiet. It's been a relief to know I did not get in over my head and to know she really was a sweetheart with just a little attitude on top ;) That attitude will serve us well later - the only question was how much it would hinder us at the start. Turns out, not really at all! Bonus when it comes to breeding her, to know she is not an innately badly-behaved mare on any level or under any circumstance. Being a naturally confident horse though is definitely an asset in so many respects - she is naturally so accepting of most everything when it is introduced in an appropriate (ie, quiet) fashion. I love building the trust and partnership with her and really look forward to the relationship I am going to build with this mare. Words cannot express how wonderful she is to work with and how excited I am at both her and our potential!!! She's got such a positive energy about her and is already obviously very athletic and talented - cantering a 24' circle (just being silly, she was only supposed to trot!) is a breeze for her and she makes jumping a 2'6 vertical even with hesitation at the take-off point look easy. Anyway, I am absolutely ecstatic with her - I definitely made the right pick and am in such love with this mare. I'm glad it has all worked out for me to be able to keep her and am lucky to have a family who helped in that respect and also an SO who pushed me to pursue my dreams and not give up throughout some of the difficult times thus far. This mare I am sure will continue to be a challenge but she is incredibly smart and talented so I have no doubt we will progress in leaps and bounds. I'm excited to get home and get her started u/s! The SO has expressed interest in being there Soraya's first time u/s so I am hoping for some video and photos :)

Wow, I am so proud of the progress we have made and looking back the past (almost) three years, it's been substantial! When I first bought Link he was difficult to handle on the ground, let alone u/s and it was awhile before I returned to riding him, he was so reactive and at times dangerous. Now he is so incredibly relaxed and responsive and just has so much try and heart to give! Lately we've also been doing a bit of liberty work (first in the roundpen, now just in the arena) - it's really strengthened our relationship and is a whole lot of fun! He's great keeping pace with me on the ground, even flying over jumps with me at his side, at liberty in the arena ;) We'll have to practise a little more bridleless work :P U/s we've now officially got our leads and are starting to school flying changes (he can do them easily of course thanks to his track training, our job is just to include them in our arena work now). He's got some wonderful leg yields at the trot and is even getting them at the canter, and is doing shoulder-in/out and is starting haunches-in/travers (for whatever reason that one eludes me, haha!) and half-pass (the latter all being at the trot thus far, though we'll soon start schooling them at the canter). I no longer really intend to show dressage (we'll see!) however I still feel it is an important foundation nonetheless so will continue our progression in that respect. His canter is absolutely beautiful now (he actually could potentially pass for a hunter, haha!) and he remains on the aids much of the time now and can be pushed onto the aids just about every time he does have the inclination to hollow. It's an incredible feeling! Still a lot of work yet to do in respect to flatwork/dressage, but we've started schooling jumpers now simultaneously. The 18'' cross-rails and cavelleti are nothing to him, as are even the 2'6 and 2'9 verticals. I'm sure he can handle much more height with ease. Now me... that's another matter entirely! Hah! I still have some work to do as it pertains to re-building my confidence over fences, even at a measly 2'6 ;) Otherwise, I'm happy to find my position (ie, lower leg, etc) is rather secure... I'm working out now however so as to obtain a higher level of fitness and thus make my position even more secure, but other than the leaning too far forward on my horse's neck partially in preparation for a stop (a stop I cause by doing so, the irony - hahaha!!), we're all good. I'm confident once we get this last piece of the puzzle in place that there will be no stopping us. I'm just excited for next spring - I have a deadline to get off the road and work at home. From that point forward my work with my own horses will be more consistent, which will lend to even better progress. We did manage to attend a small schooling show end of July though! Though I was intimidated at first, I actually had an absolutely wonderful experience. It was a schooling show and I was lucky enough the judge's daughter even volunteered to coach me over the 2'9 class. We had quite a bit of difficulty with the 2'6 course also (refer to the above!) but got through quite a bit of the course. Another issue I have to take note to remember is rein length - at a couple points my left rein was shorter. Bad me! Lol. Link was a blast though - he flew over jumps he'd never seen before in his life including things like flowers and yellow oxers (all the usual for a jumper ring!) without barely even batting an eye. Each time I corrected my posture (ie, leaning forward in distrust) and just trusted in him, boom, he was there for me. So though we were not competitive, I learned a lot and we both had a fabulous experience - I am keen on actually returning to that venue for some follow-up lessons with said judge's daughter as soon as possible. Link's novice riders are tentatively planning to attend a show and jump him up to 2'3 or so later this month - I'm sure they'll be very successful and I might even attend a class or two myself. Next show I am anticipating is at Spruce end of October... provided the entry fees prove affordable, haha. I'd like to just take Link in something small though who knows, maybe we'll be ready to compete at the 2'6-2'9 at that time. We'll see! If we can get another couple shows in this year I will be ecstatic - we'll be better prepared and have our foot in the door for next year's show season. I'm also aiming for another jumper clinic at the Mane Event next year at the very least (again). So much exciting to plan! I have to give a HUGE thanks to my friend L at the barn I board at for trucking Link and I out to the show last week and for staying and supporting me, and also to my SO for supporting and pushing me to go to this show. He's always there to push me and to encourage me to progress and do well with my horses and for that I am extremely grateful.

As for Silver and Koolaid.... I STILL have been unable to get out to Silver. It's just been tough time-wise for me to work it into my schedule. However the SO, my step-daughter and I all went down to see Koolaid the one day! He looks great though has seemingly taken to emulating a hippo - there's a large pond in his pasture and he's the only horse who will float around in there literally all day, eating pond grasses and finding relief from the mosquitos. Lmao! His lessees still love him; they actually recently took him to a show straight out of the field with essentially no prep, to win their 2'6 class at a show. The barn he is boarded at (close friends with his lessees) also love him and use him (limited) for lessons and have expressed interest in keeping him if his current lessees ever give him up. Silver seems to be doing well by all reports and photos - hopefully I will get to see him this next set of days off. Fingers crossed, haha! Onyx has sustained a few injuries out in pasture but is otherwise doing fine and will continue to be ridden by the 11yo novice who has been riding her the past months and later by my mom also. Happy to have her around!

Friday, June 10, 2011

All the drama of an opera

Much to report after my last set of days off with the horses - phew! Good news first though, as I hate to taint the good news with the bad. So, without further ado, we'll start with the client horses in training:

The mini pony did fantastic throughout her sessions! We started off just building and expanding upon what we already had, including the circling game and some work with the tarp and also water (bathing) in our sessions. Asking increasingly more of her, to focus and respond more intensely now that the tasks were becoming a little more challenging and thus demanding of more respect, allowed me the opportunity to further build on our level of respect. First intro to the tarp, Skittles seemed quite concerned with the tarp - yet she rarely actually focused on it. Rather than make any effort toward my request that she approach the tarp, she felt bolting over top of me was appropriate ;) We slowly and progressively (re)established first that this was my space and therefore bolting over top of the human was not an acceptable answer, and then continued to set up parameters and ask her to focus on the task at hand. Once her focus actually turned to the task at hand (in this case, the tarp), she responded beautifully and was quite bold and unconcerned (overall) with the tarp itself. Respecting my space, she started to make attempts towards my request to 'play' with the tarp and was soon jumping over, then later walking over, the tarp. With her, it might not be so much that she is scared of something, but rather that she is a little apprehensive and so just decides to do her own thing rather than focus on the task at hand and exhibit any effort. She displayed this same type of thinking toward the circling game and also bathing. Within a few seconds of the bathing process however, she was standing relaxed on a loose lead, with water sloshing all over her. Only the very occasional correction was necessary to remind her of the parameters I had established. Same followed for the circling game - a few spunky rebellion-inspired kicks in my direction later, she finally understood the task and parameters and thus that the easiest and quickest way with which to get me to stop correcting her, was just to do the task, or to at least try. I'm looking forward to really cementing and building on all we've worked on thus far, over our next set of sessions! Oh, and she's pretty comfortable wearing her pretty-in-pink rain jacket now, though we're still working on desensitization a bit when it comes to putting it on ;)

The star student has been doing wonderful and has been progressing rapidly. Since her owner will be primarily riding her bareback, we've started riding her with a bareback pad now. First intro to it she was a little cold so I think that might have contributed to it, but she was a little apprehensive. Second session with it, I not-so-gracefully leapt onto her back from the fence - she quietly ignored me as if it were just another day at the office, and moved out quiet and relaxed when asked. She was fully comfortable with a rider throughout it all! Despite a few snorts and spins aimed at some suspicious-looking bushes and logs, she was also great bareback out in the pasture - no apprehension toward the rider at all, or my losing my balance a little in the spins, or what. My goal with the spooking outside in the pasture was just that she remain facing our initial direction - no spinning and/or bolting! Ultimately, you are teaching them to think (ie, spook in place and survey whatever is suspicious while focusing on you, the rider) rather than react (ie, fleeing). We finished our set of sessions with her owner riding her in the round pen, and her owner has continued with her while I have been away, including progressing toward the trot! They have had a little trouble picking up the trot together yet, however I have full confidence we can iron out the details upon my return, if Mesa's owner hasn't worked it out with Mesa already (I've given them a few exercises to try). Looking forward though to furthering Mesa u/s, including w/t/c this time I am home. She is a very soft, responsive, willing, intelligent and brave little mare - all ingredients to a great horse. Last point is that we further progressed Mesa's groundwork with traveling circles (ie, my walking all over the pasture and her maintaining gait and path as she circles me) and the figure-8 pattern around cones at the walk. Due to the mucky, slippery footing in the roundpen my first week home, most of our work was done out in the nearby pasture, but Mesa took it all in stride.

The red mare was progressing quite nicely albeit slowly, despite the mucky weather we were dealing with the first week or so I was home. The weather not only had everyone on edge, but also cold (which makes for a very distracted horse!), and me worrying about footing. As such, I was using the roundpen sparingly - primarily for u/s work, where groundwork was being done just outside the roundpen in the surrounding pasture area. All this meant I had to be very slow and careful with Charlee, since she is so highly reactive - as I mentioned in my previous blog, she goes from 0 to 10 in about 0.03s, which leaves no room for intervention of said explosion. She was actually progressing quite well, including a lap or two at the walk u/s in the roundpen, but Day 5 it was too much for her and she blew. She was on about step #2 before I felt her tense and react and BOOM I was on the ground. The good news is that she did not continue reacting after I was off - she dropped me, then stood with big round eyes...but no bucking! An improvement on past situations where she's taken several seconds of bucking before she calmed sufficiently to stand. It took me several minutes to catch my breath but as soon as I did, I remounted her. I waited a split second, then dismounted, did a little groundwork, and called it a day. The rest of our sessions were comprised of expanding our groundwork - traveling circle and figure-8 at the walk, which allowed us opportunity to further teach Charlee to be relaxed and thinking as opposed to reactive. Due to the mucky footing in the roundpen, we did all our work outside the roundpen; as a result of both the footing and thus being unable to work in an enclosed space, I did not feel it appropriate to re-try walking Charlee u/s. Instead however, we further cemented mounting and allowing me to sit on her back quietly. Next set of sessions I am actually hoping a friend can help me just by leading Charlee with me on her back - we will continue hashing out Charlee's reactiveness on the ground, however I feel some of her reactiveness (that is directed toward u/s work directly) needs also to be dealt with u/s at this point. Having someone lead us might be what Charlee needs and what I might need to get my foot in the door with her, so to speak. If we can establish a few good rides u/s at the walk while being led, we then have something to build off of. So wish us luck! I will continue patiently progressing with her and slowly, gently pushing and developing her.

Situation has been much the same with Kismet with respect to weather and footing and where we have been working. Until the last couple of sessions, our work was primarily comprised of building and expanding our groundwork (including the traveling circle and the figure-8 pattern), and cementing her being comfortable with my being on her back in the pasture. As the ground dried the last couple of days, I started asking her to move out u/s and last session in front of her owner was a great success with her walking calmly u/s! Her owner was very excited at her progress and I am very excited with how far Kismet has come and how much calmer and less reactive she is with me, the more work we do. She is still quite tentative and apprehensive though, so I am careful to always push her to learn and grow, but not to blow and lose confidence. I'm not sure she will be ready for the trot yet u/s upon our next set of sessions, but I am hoping to at least have her fully comfortable with the walk. Her owner will be able to start riding her in August, so my hope is that by that time Kismet will be comfortable enough with a rider to transfer what she has learnt with me, to another rider.

Though she's been a little iffy to catch (and by that I mean I've just had to really use a lot of body language and be very aware of my approach, etc to have her willingly approach or at least stand) but we're getting there in the 'draw' (ie, willingness) department. Our last set of sessions, we did much the same and her progress was much the same, as the other mares. We expanded our groundwork outside the roundpen and she did well, including seeming quite comfortable with me on her back out in the pasture. Only reason I did not ask her for more progress was that I need her to be much softer and more responsive before we leave the roundpen u/s. Right now she can still be quite resistant and want to do her own thing - as we build that softness and responsiveness and thus set her up for success, then I will have confidence in bringing her out. Her comfort level with a rider's weight and balance though does not seem to be an issue, so once she's sufficiently responsive, I anticipate she will be w/t/c within no time. My challenge is to make everything fun, enjoyable, and engaging for her - so that's my job this next set of sessions!

Unfortunately this set of days off I did not get the chance I had wanted to work with Link and Onyx. I continued to work all the client horses each day despite the rain, which meant I was pretty exhausted and freezing cold by the time I finished working with all five mares. After Charlee so kindly dropped me in the mud the one day, I also had to add being very sore to my list of excuses ;) In fact, over two weeks later now, I'm still quite sore - definite bone bruising! Furthermore, the rhino outbreak from the Ogden, Ohio cutting event meant everything stopped - nothing in or out and many shows were cancelled... including the small show we had anticipated taking Onyx, Link, and Sonny to. Fortunately though, just prior to my leaving for work things lifted a bit and we were allowed to move horses, which meant we were able to bring Soraya and Phoenix in to where Link and Onyx are at, and get them settled in! I made sure all the horses got their vaccinations though and were dewormed, squeezed in a lesson with another client and also Phoenix's vet appointment, and put my mom on Onyx to give her a try and see if they might be a good match. Though Onyx still lacks confidence in some areas, she is a very naturally quiet and non-spooky horse overall, so when my mom expressed interest, I told her to give it a shot.

Onyx was absolutely fantastic with my mom and my mom really enjoyed riding her, even trying some trot at the end! For an unconfident rider she did exceptionally well, and Onyx really took care of her. I will probably still put Onyx up for sale in case it does not work out, but in the mean time mom will continue trying Onyx. When I rode Onyx, I noticed she was quite unbalanced though and a little rusty, though she is being ridden a few times a week. Her novice riders are doing well on her (including trail riding and jumping her over small jumps now!), but I am looking forward to doing a little refinement on her this next time I am home. Should only take a session or two to get her back on track and from there it's all progress :)

The vet was out as planned, the 30th, but after doing several flexions and watching Phoenix move out on various surfaces, felt that x-rays at this point were unnecessary. While Phoenix was footsore in both fronts, he did not seem unsound on one leg over the other - indicating the left front ankle that was the problem last year, did not seem to be a problem this year (at least not at this point). The vet recommended having his fronts shod to hopefully resolve the footsoreness, then working him over a week or two, then re-evaluating from there. I managed to sneak Phoenix in to a good farrier the day before I left - after looking at Phoenix's feet he basically parroted back to me the vet's concerns re: angles (ie, lowering the one heel and matching the angles to Pheonix's conformation and his two front feet being different). He felt Phoenix's feet could be improved upon over the course of a few shoeings, and shod him up front. It will have been 2 1/2-3 weeks before I can get home and riding him, so first things first I will see how he is on the ground, then swing my leg over! I'm excited and am knocking on wood, hoping he is no longer footsore after the time off (shod) to heal, and that whatever was occurring last year in that left ankle, is resolved/healed. He's had a good 11 months off since racing, which should have been (hopefully!) ample time for something to heal (depending on the injury though of course).

I am quite excited to get back and working with all my own horses. There is another small show at the end of this month so if I can get a ride for Link, I am going to be attending the jumpers day with him. I'm considering the hunters for Onyx though it is the day prior, or I might ask Sonny's lessees if they would like to ride Onyx (and maybe Link) the day prior. If so though, it would only be to ride her hors concours over poles though, so I might just bring her the jumper day, and get her accustomed to the show scene, warm-up ring, etc... she's not quite ready to show over jumps yet!

The sad news to report is that we lost Sonny Friday, May 27, due to colic. The vet clinic did all they could to help him, but it was likely a twist in his (large) gut and surgery was unfortunately not an option. It's been a hard loss for all of us, but especially my mom and his lessess - the latter being the ones who spent so much time with him over the recent year. He was a fantastic horse and was shaping up into such a super little hunter - he had a lot of life left to live. It's still hard going out there and not seeing his perky little face in the pasture, but we're getting through it okay now.