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!