Saturday, May 14, 2011

This summer's training roster

Well, welcome to the mares and fillies in training this year! Due to my 2-2 schedule and thus only being able to work each horse 2 weeks at a time - leaving them sitting for another 2 weeks at a time between sets of sessions, looks like I will be working with most or all of them throughout the summer. I have already put 5 sessions on each horse in May, will put 8 sessions on this set of days home (June), and will from then on put 10 sessions per month on each horse (July, August, etc). At the end of each set of sessions (if not during also, optimally), I work with each owner and teach them how to continue their horse's progression while I am away. So, without further ado, I present (and photos will accompany my next reports!):

Skittles - 9mo AQHA filly, had some groundwork prior

Our primary goal was her lifting her feet as she was in need of a trim at the time I started working with her; our secondary goal was allowing her belly and hernia to be touched (the owner would like the hernia to be able to be pushed up daily, as per her vet). By the end of our 5 sessions she was picking up her feet nicely and allowing me to push up on her hernia and touch her belly without much concern. She also quieted some and became a little less skittish as she learned the first 4 Parelli games - friendly (using tarps, ropes, etc), porcupine (releasing and responding to pressure), driving (keeping out of the handler's space and moving away according to assertive body language), and yo-yo (learning to back and come in according to pressure via the lead rope). She did progressively well; still yet much to work on over the course of the summer, including further desensitization (ie, blankets, tarps, ropes, clippers), progressing the other games, and teaching her the other 3 games and some further patterns. Everything possible so she is prepared for being started under-saddle in the future. She's a cute filly who learns very quick.

Kismet - approx. 4yo Perch x QH mare, SPCA rescue

Kismet was extremely skittish and distrustful of humans when her owner originally purchased her; she has progressed immensely however in the past time that her owner has had her. When I started working with Kismet, I found her to be quite skittish and reactive at times, but with the right approach she started to quiet and trust. While at first she held a lot of tension and wouldn't lick and chew at the end of a lesson, by the second session she was licking and chewing after each lesson and was increasingly quieter. She became easy for me to catch and quickly grasped the first 5 Parelli games (friendly, porcupine, driving, yo-yo, circling), transitioning from nervous and reactive to progressively trusting, quiet and relaxed. By sessions 3, 4, and 5 she was allowing me to tack her up and stand over her, weighting and bouncing in the stirrup over her, was walking over tarps, and was mastering the games she knew. Though she was a little suspicious yet, more repetition will do the trick and I anticipate to have her walking under-saddle by the end of our sessions in June. I will continue to simultaneously progress her under-saddle as I also progress her groundwork from mastering the games to commencing and eventually mastering the patterns and other extensions of the games.

Bella - 3yo QH filly, some groundwork

Bella is what appears to be a left-brain introvert with some reactive tendencies so while she is yet a little reactive at times, she settles quick and isn't so keen on work! We've had to work a bit on catching and on creating draw so that she is happy and willing to work. Bella has done well with all 5 games also, with more of a focus on the games that earn respect (ie, driving, porcupine); I've also had to ensure though that I have included a lot of undemanding and relaxing moments of rest and rubs though! She tried to be a little pushy at first but I just maintained blase assertiveness and she fell into line; I anticipate she might further challenge me in the future though but if I am careful to balance our focus on the right exercises to motivate and inspire her, she should progress well. She too is accepting of walking on the tarp and having it tossed over her and also to the weight of me standing in a stirrup over her back, on each side; she should be at least walking under-saddle by the end of June also.

Mesa - 3yo (3/4) Arabian x (1/4) QH mare, some groundwork

Mesa is a real treat to work with in part due to her sweet nature and also because no one (ie, previous owners) has screwed around with her! She was imprinted as a foal and has been taught some groundwork basics, including how to longe. I've continued that schooling with the 5 games and am standing over her back also, weighting and bouncing in the stirrup on each side. She was quite quiet and accepting of the saddle, as she is everything, including the tarp! At first we had to work on a little respect, as she was quite okay with walking right into my space - including very rudely walking right into me at one point after she failed to stop when I did (lol). All it took though was teaching her what I wanted and asking her to mind my space and she keenly obeyed. She should be really nice under-saddle!

Charlee - 4yo QH mare, previous training under-saddle

This mare was actually pulled out of training last year by her owner due to her high level of reactivity and unpredictability under-saddle; the trainers told this owner her horse was dangerous under-saddle. This mare is very sweet and quiet on the ground in general, though her reactivity and lack of trust at times has become apparent. The key with her is to not push her... which is not easy at times given her high level of reactivity/low threshold. She can be quite quick to respond, but because she fears an adverse response if she makes the wrong answer; she is quieting as she learns it is okay to make mistakes and that we won't push her beyond what she is capable of. When I first saddled her, she actually blew and bucked out quite a bit (which is unusual her owner tells me) - I think it was a response to her feelings of fear in general and her lack of trust in me, as a relative stranger, at the time. As she gained trust and confidence in me, she increasingly quieted - some good licking and chewing! She too is walking over tarps, having the tarp tossed over her, and is accepting of my standing over her and bouncing around in that one stirrup. Essentially, we are re-starting her on the ground as if she has had no prior training - in such a way we can hopefully fill in gaps in her training and develop her emotionally so that she is a calmer, braver, smarter little mare. Though I tend to under-estimate where a horse will be at such-and-such a date and point, I think she will be walking with the rest under-saddle by the end of June also.

Plan is to continue everyone as I have been - to simultaneously progress groundwork (teaching the last 2 of the 7 games, extending on those games, and teaching some of the patterns) while introducing and progressing work under-saddle with each horse. Groundwork will include working with tarps and ropes thrown all around these horses as well as some liberty work, and under-saddle work will start in the roundpen and hopefully soon progress to working in the (outdoor) arena. I am pretty excited to continue these mares and will try to update regularly for a more interesting and fuller picture :)

A summer of potential

So, it's been almost 4 months now since I last blogged here. This is mostly due to the fact that I was working on the road a lot - 3 weeks a month, and thus it was difficult to accomplish much, if anything, with the horses, let alone find the time! I've been doing a lot of work on me personally as well and am learning, growing, and accomplishing much. While our work was supposed to run out (break-up in the oilfield) in March, it was instead extended and we have been working through since last June. Furthermore, it looks like we will be working through next spring (break-up) also. Currently I am working a 2-2 schedule (2 weeks out, 2 weeks at home) and while this still hampers my work with the horses, it is a necessary evil at this point and still allows me sufficient time at home with the horses to accomplish some goals this year. My hope is that, after having gained some ground financially this year and especially this winter/next spring, that I can 'retire' and find work elsewhere that allows me more time at home with the horses. Ultimately, I have my eye on a specific Master's degree but am content on taking a few years to achieve said goal. In the mean time, I am trying to balance work and personal life with accomplishing what I need to with the horses! I've made good strides toward such a balance thus far however and intend on continuing along this path.

I felt it apt to re-commence blogging though as I drop more work on the road and take up more work at home with the horses. My primary inspiration has been all that I have been accomplishing with my own horses as of late, in addition to my want to blog about the horses I currently have in training. I have made showing (Link, in particular) a #1 priority this year and have already taken Link to a Greg Best clinic at the Mane Event (more later!) and also am planning on attending a show at the end of the month with him and Onyx. Sonny's lessees will be taking Sonny as well (more later!). Several weeks ago the BO at the primary facility I board at sent out a mass email noting a local barn was looking for a trainer. Seeking to spend more time at home, I naturally inquired, and eventually struck a deal whereby I am home 2 weeks a month, and working on the road the other 2 weeks a month. During the two weeks I am home, I work with 5 fillies and mares - 4 to be started under-saddle, 1 to be taught basic groundwork. So the proceeding blogs will be filled with my adventures with these horses and also with my own.

So to start, an update on all my own horses first:

Phoenix is to be moved at the end of the month - with Soraya - to the facility where Link, Sonny, and Onyx currently are boarded. This puts him closer to me (only about 15-20 min from my house). I also plan on (likely) handing Phoenix over to the hubby, provided we can make him sound, as hubby has taken quite the shine to him. Phoenix has got the right 'tude I think to make a good first horse for hubby, especially with my guidance. Keeping Phoenix so close to home will better enable hubby to work with him, especially if I am already out there with my other horses. Phoenix dropped a lot of weight this last winter - it was a hard one; keeping him here at this new place I think he should put that weight on. I currently have him scheduled in for the vet Monday the 30th, so I will update at that time, when we better know what is going on. Last year we did flexions, blocks, and a Legend injection and narrowed the injury down to the left front ankle, but beyond that, we need x-rays, which is what we will be doing the 30th. He has been off the Previcoxx though now for several weeks and appears to have the same level of soundness as he did on the drug (now), so I am hoping that is a positive indicator. Fingers crossed!

Soraya will also be moved, seeing as she is at the same facility as Phoenix. This will allow me a lot more time with her since she will be closer... the indoor arena, too, will be a bonus! Currently, after training the horses at the barn I am training out of, I head on over to work with Link and Onyx; it won't be difficult then to include Soraya in my schedule. She really needs to be started under-saddle this year - that is my other #1 priority besides showing this year; it would be nice even to include a show or two under her girth by the end of the year, but we'll see! I am beyond excited to work with her - she is showing so much tremendous potential! I have worked with her once yet this year (though I have of course been out several times) - last I was home, May 2. Hubby and I went out there on a bright, warm day - he brushed Phoenix and spent some time with him while I worked with the big munster. Initially she was quite reactive and tried to intimidate and dominate me, even turning her hind in towards me a multitude of times - it didn't help that she was in heat and that when we arrived, she had been running the fenceline and working up a lather! We quietly worked through the first 5 of the 7 games, with a few spurts of her reacting poorly to my requests, and finished with a notably quiet horse and some good grooming - I'm sure it felt nice to remove some of that old winter hair still lingering ;) She was extremely responsive and light and sensitive, and as I worked with her, she became increasingly willing. None of the really bad behaviour I've seen from her over the past year - the blatant disrespect. I think she has actually got a decent nature and will sweeten up further with a little more work... keeping her in with Phoenix though we have noticed a drastic improvement in her nature, and I think also putting her in with the herd initially last fall - where she learned some boundaries and respect - was of great benefit also. All in all, I am quite pleased with her. She showed a lot of athletic ability even in our short work, and a lot of change in behaviour and receptiveness with only 20-30min of schooling on the ground. She is so bold and confident though! I can't wait to get on her back. I will probably start her a little slower than I will my client horses, but she should be under-saddle by end of June. So much potential! She is filling out and maturing much, so I will try to get some photos of her next I am home, and post them here. She's yet a little bum-high, so I am hoping that evens out this year, as she turns 4 end of July.

I've done a lot of in-depth research on Soraya's bloodlines though as of late and am quite impressed with what I've found. I had considered doing a broodmare lease on her but have decided against it fully, now. It's just a lot of hassle for me, limits my time to work with her, and is going to be costly. My hope is that next year I can breed her myself - after researching her lines my thoughts are turned to Landkonig, though I have much research yet to do and advice to seek. I love Viva Voltaire as well and am also considering him. I love the Quidams though, but temperament will be #1 and some of them are known for throwing more of a difficult temperament. Since the foal would be sold, I would be breeding for an ammy ride, but for pro potential. It would be optimal however if I could breed Soraya now so she is a proven broodmare prior to her career. So I am in the market (within the next few years) for fresh semen from a jumping stallion who will complement Soraya's conformation, temperament, and bloodlines... I have in mind a stallion auction in the spring I might go for next year. First things first however will be to have Soraya inspected - preferably by both the Hanoverian and the CWB associations.

Link continues to progress and demonstrate a ton of potential. Though I didn't feel the least bit ready and the mere thought of jumping and schooling in front of so many people struck the fear of God into my heart - I decided to enter him and I in a Greg Best clinic at the Mane Event. Our schooling sessions leading to the clinic were okay but increasingly progressive; the day of, Link warmed up very nicely. I was literally shaking with nervousness though, which really did not help relax such a sensitive horse! Poor Link! He did phenomenal though, earning the compliments from Greg that he was quite brave and athletic. I will try to post video and notes of our session asap! When I exited the clinic, tired but happy, hubby immediately commented to me - "he said everything you always say!". *facepalm* - haha, he was right! I loved Greg's approach - it was all about setting up parameters for the horse and not micro-managing... exactly as I teach and train. I wasn't doing it though when it came to jumping, down to telling Link when to jump! When I finally let go of my biases and just allowed Link the freedom to jump, he excelled. It was incredibly challenging however to let go of those old habits (from where I acquired them I have no idea!) but they were the only thing hampering Link. I will delve into the clinic further in a separate post dedicated solely to the Greg Best clinic. Too much learning to share here, and I still want to review the video hubby took, for more to sink in and so I can recall things correctly. Anyway, I learned enough to really feel confident in implementing a program for my jumpers. I am going to take some of the exercises Greg taught me and apply all my other new-found knowledge also to further lesson plans (ie, there are a great many excellent exercises in the book by Islay Auty - Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping). I am showing Link at a small local show at the end of the month (May 28/29) - an excellent start for us. Hopefully I can quiet my nerves enough not to interfere so much with Link! I am also hoping - if I can get a ride for Link - to take Link down for some schooling rounds at Spruce Meadows while I am home (and continue to do so throughout the summer). I think the schooling rounds will be of great benefit!! Ultimately, I am aiming for an RMSJ show at the end of August and a Spruce show at the end of October. I'd love to have Link competing 09-1.10m by the end of the year - bit of a reach for the stars, but I think if I push myself, that we can really do it. My recent experiences though are further proof it's all about us, the rider. I have done my homework with Link and will continue to do so - not it's about improving myself so as to not hamper Link.

Onyx continues to do well and to progress, albeit not at the pace I would like for her to, as I have not been home much. Now that I am on a 2-2 schedule and home 2 weeks at a time however, she should progress at a greater rate. Her only issue is her confidence - when she is in heat, she loses confidence too. That said, she continues to progress w/t/c, is great going out by herself on the trail, and I have her going consistently over jumps 18" and under at a trot without hesitation, though with a little work encouraging her at the start. She continues to be ridden by one of Sonny's riders, an 11yo girl who does wonderful with her. Mom has expressed interest in possibly purchasing Onyx from me and selling Sonny instead and though I am hesitant to offer any bias, I am of the thought that Onyx might be a better fit for her. I expect a decision by the end of the month, at which time I will commence advertising Onyx if mom decides against her. In the mean time, Onyx will also be entered in the same show as Link at the end of the month and will be entered hors concours in the poles division. Entering her in a couple classes will allow her some great experience but running hors concours will be necessary given show rules and also given the fact Onyx is not ready yet to be actually jumping in a show (yet!).

Sonny is shaping up to be quite the little hunter! He isn't 100 percent consistent yet under his novice riders but continues to progress. He looks fabulous though and is also entered in the same show as Link and Onyx. He will be ridden by his two lessees, the 11yo and her father and will be entered in the 18'' and 2'-2'6'' classes. He's got to be at least 17 hands now! If mom decides to sell, I will put some intensive rides on him and refine what he's already got - he's actually got a lot of potential and really is proving a great little horse.

Silver and Koolaid are doing great in their lease homes. Koolaid is being used in weekly lessons and as his lessee's 'fun' horse to relax on. His lessees decided to continue leasing him throughout the year, at least until this fall. Silver is being ridden by a 15(?)yo girl who does all the same things I did with him at that age - cows, barrels, poles, jumping, etc. He looks great and seems happy; he is entered in a yearly lease but his lessee's intend to keep him indefinitely. His lessees decided against moving away and I decided against an indefinite lease or other. Both horses are settled in good homes for the year.

I think that is about it for now - I will blog about the new horses in training and the Greg Best clinic, separately in my next blogs. For now, I am really looking forward to getting home next Wednesday and commencing my work with my own and my client horses Thursday.

With my own horses, after reviewing some of my previous blogs, it really struck me how much some liberty work (ie, using it to create draw and cement our foundation) will be of great benefit. I also would like to focus on on-line work simultaneously. So I am really excited to dedicate say one day a week of work as liberty work in the roundpen and on-line work in the arena with all my own horses (more with Soraya of course since she is not yet started under-saddle). Check out this link - I recently discovered it and feel it really articulates what I've heard Pat Parelli discuss (albeit in other words)... I feel it has much to apply to Link and Onyx especially! So, incorporating even more relaxation, more rest breaks, and more work on a loose casual rein (ie, trail rides!) will be a priority. Since I work the horses Mon-Fri (with exceptions, especially given weather at times), my line of thinking with my own horses - Link and Onyx specifically - is to dedicate one day to groundwork, two to flatwork, and two to jumping. Any extra days I throw in will be dedicated to trails (which can be included also during the week of course) and anything extra we need to work on (ie, jumping), if we are not showing. I've become so focused and work-driven that it's time to also incorporate some play and to cement and progress that foundation, language, and partnership all our work stands on! I anticipate it will greatly benefit all the horses and particularly Link and Onyx.