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!

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