Monday, October 15, 2012

Is that snow in your whiskers?

Wew!  We are all settled into the farm and currently have 4 of our 7 horses here: Link, Soraya, Rayne, and Koolaid.  Turns out moving is a lot bigger to-do than I had anticipated (lol) and having the horses shipped in was greatly delayed - Rayne and Koolaid were the last to get here and arrived last Tuesday, just under a week ago.  There is still a TON of work to do on both the house and farm, even to prepare for winter (and the snow has already been a'flyin'!), but we are slowly but surely making progress.  Phoenix and Lady will be the last to arrive, hopefully by December.  I am starting everyone in a regular work routine but for now have ridden Link 3 or 4 times, Soraya once, and Koolaid twice.  Everyone is getting into a regular work schedule this week so I will try to post updates weekly!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moving time!

It's almost the end of May and we're a bit of a mess as we scramble for our upcoming move in a week and a half.  We are moving ourselves first then are moving most of the horses June 11 and the rest in July/August latest.  In the mean time since my last blog post, I have been working hard both with our own and with client horses!

Skittles - 2yo (fall) QH filly
I have been doing all the usual exercises with little Skittles, plus more – including saddling her, sacking her out with the saddle, teaching her to yield her head and neck and to yield her haunches from the saddle (but doing so on the ground), and mounting/dismounting.  I have been working her 3 times a week and the last two weeks in particular she has done exceptionally well – she has been very respectful, very light, and very responsive.

Kismet - 5yo Draft x mare
I have put a few rides on Kismet over the past month and a half - the most recent was last week where she was extremely braced and tense throughout, but we ended on a good note with a relaxing trail ride.  She is doing very well overall however; she just needs a lot of time, patience, repetition, and consistency.  Her trot is VERY forward and she holds her canter very consistently; we continue to develop her balance and lateral work.  Out in the fields on our trail rides she is extremely relaxed now.  Recently - I think with the new sugary grass shoots popping up - Kismet has been more on edge but with time she will come around.  Her and her owner did very well in their lesson last week - I have her scheduled for two rides and one lesson with her owner next week.

Charlee - 5yo QH mare
I have had several recent breakthroughs with Charlee, all pertaining to her propensity for shutting down.  The first breakthrough we had was related to her shutting down after only 3-4 steps of disengagement to the right (ie, disengaging her hind off my left leg).  After 3-4 steps, Charlee would usually simply say "no" - at that point if I continued asking she would grow increasingly anxious and desperate.  I decided to approach this on the ground - dismounting each time Charlee shut down to move her haunches from the ground before remounting.  After the third time I dismounted and remounted, Charlee finally exhibited some try instead of simply shutting down on me.  Henceforth her disengagement has been impeccable on either rein.  I have been using the same approach in regards to other times Charlee tends to want to shut down (the latest one was concerning sidestepping over a log) and it has really been working well.  Charlee has still been very inconsistent but slowly I have seen and felt Charlee increasingly relax.  She is starting to exhibit more "try" as opposed to automatically, almost robotically, giving me answers and not thoroughly listening and responding thusly.  I continue to use a lot of suppleness exercises and gradually I have seen Charlee have more and more moments of (almost) thorough suppleness, including more lengthening and a little swinging of the back.  I am also getting a lot more thrust from behind and increasing softness.  We have even been working on a little canter on the long sides of the arena and while at first it was pretty tentative and tense, now Charlee's canter is more forward and confident.  Charlee has a very long way to go still but has lost a lot of brace overall and thus far has not exploded once.  I continue to really focus on teaching Charlee not to shut down and to instead really listen to her rider, then on top of that my focus is relaxation, suppleness, and rhythm - she has got about 5-6 sessions left before she is done training.

Bella - 4yo QH mare
I started working Bella three times a week a month and a half ago, then reduced her to 2 sessions per week once she started to settle in a little.  Though she is still somewhat on edge initially and in general, she is mostly back to her usual self and we have been riding in both the outdoor and indoor arenas and have ridden out in the fields some.  Most recently we have been working some at liberty and have accomplished a lot as far as getting Bella into a better, calmer frame of mind.  With strong, assertive leadership and guidance, Bella continues to do very well - she is certainly a very fun horse to ride!

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
I have been working with Soraya relatively regularly over the past month and a half, in particular on her forwardness, responsiveness, and respect under-saddle.  She has been progressing very well and is an exceptionally quick learner.  I really had to earn her respect our first session back after a couple week break however her attitude has been great since.  As a part of all the aforementioned I have been working on really earning Soraya's leadership and as a result she has progressively been giving it to me.  Her lateral work is coming along and she is solid in her w/t/c in the arena.

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
The infection we were battling in April cleared up and he was in sufficient condition for us to attend the Scott Hofstetter Green Hunter clinic at the Mane Event.  Not only were we greatly improved over last year, but we learned so much at this recent clinic - it was an incredible opportunity and a very fun experience!   Until this past week my work with Link has been very consistent and as a result he has been developing nicely both under-saddle and physically.  Three days prior to the clinic I switched bits; Link continues to do very well with the bit change and has really relaxed.  We have been doing a lot of lateral work and suppleness exercises and they are paying off in a quieter, even happier horse.  I can't wait to have him on our new farm and in work even more regularly!

Silver - 17yo Quarab gelding
Silver recently placed very well with his junior rider in their 4H club show in showmanship, english equitation and pleasure, and western equitation and pleasure; their year-end show between all local clubs takes place at the end of the month and 4H on Parade at the Stampede is the first weekend in June.  After 4H on Parade Silver will be heading up north to spend a year with my parents before we get him back.  I will get some recent photos of him up asap as he is looking very good with the recent work!

Koolaid - 12yo DWB x Quarab gelding
Due to time constraints and other complications I have not brought Koolaid up to the barn I board most of our other horses at and thus have been unable to work and sell him; instead we have decided to leave him behind until July/Aug then bring him out to our farm.  I'll use him for myself to build my confidence and further learn on and start showing; at that point in time we can decide to sell.

Phoenix is looking and feeling pretty good however I have been unable to work him; it will have to wait until we are moved onto our farm.  Rayne and PA Lady Daringer have been doing well - Rayne and Phoenix recently had their teeth done and will be part of the first load of horses to our farm.  Lady and Koolaid will stay behind for a month or two max before they are brought out to the farm.

Cisco - 4yo QH gelding
I did a test ride on Cisco prior to taking him on for training (30 days), during which he was very quiet and compliant even if a bit intrusive on my space.  Upon arrival for training a bit of 'tude' was evident - while tied he would paw with pinned ears and would even back and kick out rudely with a hind.  He was initially quite rude with his shoulder and always wanted to be in your space.  Earning Cisco's respect on the ground was important as it carried over to his level of respect under-saddle.  Under-saddle Cisco was a wonderful, very enjoyable ride - his movement was balanced, fluid, and very uphill.  He quickly became extremely responsive and soft and tried hard once his respect was earned.  I was very sad to see this guy go home as he was a very fun little horse to work with and a very athletic, nice ride!!  We walked and jogged around the fields both with and without company and amongst and turning cattle, dragged pool noodles and tarps and walked over tarps, mattresses, and wooden bridges, and developed really correct lateral work.  With an assertive leader, Cisco was a very obedient, confident, fun and dependable little horse!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March Spring Fever!

Another week and a half at home to work with the horses! I am currently out at work again - as of yesterday - but this is my very last hitch working on the road away from home. Two weeks at work and I am home. For good. Woot woot!! Here is what the horses and I were up to last I was home:

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
The above photo shows the nasal infection we have been dealing with the past several weeks (though the eye was not watering at that point and the bump under his eye had disappeared courtesy of the first round of Uniprim). It started as what appeared to be a blocked tear duct (something I figured would clear up on its own, as usual) then progressed to what was obviously an infection - eye continuing to water, intermittent green snot, swelling on face that moved. 5 days (well, 6, but I don't count the first day because Link made faces and only ate half his meds!) of Uniprim cleared up much of the infection, but it returned. I had a vet out who told me it was NOT an infection (despite the glaring signs) but that it was likely a cyst or a tumour - she wanted to do a head x-ray and likely also a scope. After some arm twisting before my last set of days off, I was given the clear to give Link another round of Uniprim. So he is on 14 days of Uniprim this time. The week prior to my coming home Link dropped a lot of weight and seemed really miserable. It's been 10 days of Uniprim as of today, with 4 more to go. Link appeared MUCH happier and much more comfortable when I saw and fed him Monday! The hair is growing back on his forehead and the bump on his forehead is gone. HOPEFULLY this last round of antibiotics does the trick and we're not in the vet clinic when I am back home next, getting a head x-ray and possibly a scope (meaning the infection is secondary to something else). Wish us luck! I did ride Link the Monday after I was home (March 19) and though he worked very well, he was not quite his usual self (as he has been throughout all this until the week prior to my return) and tired easily. Neither I nor his riders rode him all last week after that point (and his riders had not ridden him the week prior either) - this Monday (March 26) was the first time he was put back in work. I am still hoping we can attend the Mane Event, but at this point it does not look good as I doubt I can get the weight and condition back on him so soon. Though disappointing, we will play it by ear yet and at the very least I can still audit clinics at the Mane Event.

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
Link being off gave me a little extra time to work with Soraya - we fit in 3 rides and a mane trim ;) Each session started off with some groundwork, twice including in the roundpen. In the roundpen, we started with brushing up on our exercises on-line, after which I removed the halter and worked with Soraya at liberty. It was only a matter of minutes before she figured out I wanted her to stick by me and follow my direction as opposed to running around showing off for her friends in the nearby paddocks ;) She quickly sought out being with me and progressed from there to walking, trotting, halting, and backing next to me (at liberty, both directions) and staying at my side as I changed directions, walked little patterns, etc. Of course all our on-line work thus far has set her up for success but I was still extremely proud of Soraya! It felt really good to see her choose to be with me and to put forth so much effort - and with respect. U/s the first ride we worked in the arena while Link stood tied (after I had ridden him) - she did everything I asked, including some canter! Second ride we were alone in the arena. The first few moments Soraya was pretty distracted and anxious so I ultimately dismounted, got her attention via some groundwork exercises, then remounted. After that she was a doll, including past spooky objects and at w/t/c. The second ride was mostly alone before another rider joined us. She's figured out she's not supposed to make nasty faces at other horses (though she still slips in the odd one here or there) and that she must continue to work regardless of what the other horse(s) is doing. Again, she was a doll and we achieved almost a full lap of canter in either direction. Her canter is a-ma-zing. Obviously she lacks balance under a rider yet however she was pretty decently balanced overall and she was so uphill! Her canter felt so effortless and powerful - I can feel the potential for so much more power there with conditioning and further growth (of which she still has a lot to do - I think this will be the year her chest just "pops" and she adds a lot of bulk!). We've also been working on achieving a lot more forward at both the walk and trot - check, and also more softness in the rope hackamore - check. While she is quite soft and responsive already, she loses some of that softness when she is really distracted because she takes over control and tunes me out. This is where the roundpen work and a lot of our groundwork is helping because she's learning to look more to me for direction and to follow my leadership. We rode a little outside Day 2 and while she was very good, Soraya was a little distracted and thus not entirely looking to me for leadership - so more work to do! She is a very independent brilliant little mind; she still however has the mentality of a baby (ie, that look of wonderment in her eyes, lol), which lends to her rather easily following guidance (with effort on my part!) because she is already seeking that direction. I feel like we have been really developing a connection and I am really loving working with this little superstar! I would like to have her solid (balanced and forward) w/t/c u/s, solid in her lateral work, really solid on the ground at liberty and performing the Parelli Patterns, solid riding out in the fields (ie, quiet under my direction), and ultimately ready for a bit (ie, soft and responsive in all conditions) by the time we are ready to move this summer. I will try to remember to video prior to our move so I can chronicle our progress a little!

Koolaid - 12yo WB x gelding
I had two individuals come out and ride Koolaid this time I was home and he did exceptionally well under both riders. His lessees are no longer using him so I think when I get home I will move him to my barn so I can ride and sell him easier. I can't stand the hour-long drive to get down to him!

Skittles - 2yo (well, later this year!) QH filly
I will definitely have to get updated photos of Skittles next I see her since she's grown so much and is looking so fab! Not much to report here - I worked with Skittles three times when I was home and she was a star for all of them! We worked on all the usual - just one attempt at being rude with the one hind leg (when we were working on picking it up) and she was polite after that. Apparently she was even good for the vet recently. In addition to all the usual groundwork, trailer-loading, and bridlepath clipping, we also worked on the foundation for future liberty work - having her maintain pace at my side and keep at my side through changes in direction, transitions, and backing up. At first she tried to be lazy and resistant but it was not long before she was performing to near-perfection ;) We'll continue progressing her and start to include preparation for u/s work in the future. The liberty work I think will be important in earning her willingness to follow our lead and direction though.
Kismet - 5yo Draft x mare
Though she was a bit difficult to catch Day 3 (took me 30 min - she seemed quite riled up by the wind and weather, etc though!), Kismet made a lot of progress this set of three rides! The first ride we worked in the arena before hitting the fields for a bit of a "trail ride". I was not sure how far we would make it, but she was fab for an entire circuit of the fields! We quietly passed dead coyote carcasses, had birds spring up into the air in front of us (she started but immediately continued our route at the trot completely on her own!), and trotted and cantered quite a bit, all without ado. No herdboundness, no spookiness, nothing. She really followed my direction and was a little star. I was so proud! Day 2 we rode out in the fields with a friend - Kismet was a little unsettled or unsure trotting at first but settled into a relaxed and long trot quickly. Day 3 we were unfortunately restricted to the arena but did w/t/c, leg yields, etc. She's becoming a lot more confident every day and thus is becoming increasingly relaxed. Love it!

Bella - 4yo QH mare
I thought the last time I had rode Bella was back in December but it turns out it was actually in January. That said, when I rode her this last set of days off it had still been about 2 months since I rode her last. What a mess! The first ride actually someone potentially interested in Bella watched from astride his own horse in the arena. Initially Bella was a little anxious and energetic but was okay. She settled down quite a bit and seemed to be working well when I asked for a leg yield at one corner of the arena and BAM! she almost shot out from beneath me. After pulling her up we continued on a circle and tried again. With the same result. While she was okay with my leg asking for bends on circles and changes in direction, it soon became apparent she was NOT okay with my sliding my leg back slightly for leg yields, etc. Then she progressed to bolting at other times, when my leg was NOT on her. *sigh* She was quite keen on stopping at the arena door and as a result was also ignoring my outside leg near the door end of the arena. Both of us thoroughly exhausted, I finally called it a day when she exhibited some improvement at the canter responding to my outside leg (ie, maintaining a circle as opposed to trying to use the wall to stop and stay at the entrance end of the arena). She was still very jumpy though - VERY uncharacteristically so! It was the weirdest thing. When the potential buyer tried to ride her, she would not even let him up initially and when he did get up there, she bolted and he bailed. To her credit, she never did progress to bucking however her intense reactions were still very unusual and unnerving. Second ride on her was in front of a different potential buyer, the following day. I had anticipated Bella being better our second time around, but she was actually worse! What the heck!! Was this a physical (pain) issue? The inconsistency of the explosions, Bella's lack of being worked, and her movement all seemed to point to it being behavioural but this was just so abnormal for her. I knew she had not been handled aggressively, but she was acting like someone was getting up in the saddle then beating the living sh!t out of her!! The second day I did not even swing my leg over - I halted the session when I felt her hump her back when I put my foot in the stirrup. No point in pushing her to buck. Third session with Bella I decided we were going to start from the bottom up - in the roundpen. If this was behavioural, we needed to find any holes and fill them. We had to start at the beginning. Unfortunately however the roundpen was too wet to work in, so we worked in the indoor arena. By really pushing Bella on the ground, I found several (new) holes that highlighted her mistrust in me (and people in general) and her anxiety and need to take over control (in lieu of allowing us to lead her and keep her safe) - she was anxious walking and jogging between me and the wall, she was explosive when I really drove her front end around at times, etc. She did not trust our intentions nor did she trust us to keep her safe (likely started with the latter and progressed to include the former). Speaking with her owner, I think we figured out how it happened. In November Bella was moved to a new facility - she has been a little anxious since, especially inside the barn (something she is not accustomed to). She is the sort of horse who needs structure, guidance, and leadership - without it she will take over control and push you out of the way. This is what happened. Now add a couple seemingly minor incidents that perpetuated Bella's distrust in peoples' abilities to keep her safe (ie, where she was spooked and did not feel her people kept her safe) and voila. Her owner relayed to me other signs Bella had lost trust in people - such as being defensive and on edge about her hind feet being handled. It was a HUGE relief to not only see progress on the ground within that one session but also to see progress in regards to being u/s. I had several approaches I used, from simply being consistent, persistent, and patient in my actions and requests to pushing Bella and showing her she had nothing to fear, and making the wrong answer hard and the right answer easy. While I did not swing my leg over, we finished with Bella being mostly relaxed while allowing me to put my foot in the stirrup and stand in the stirrup over her back. I think a few more sessions and she will be back to her usual self *knock on wood*!! I have never seen a horse act so extreme and digress in such an extreme way when not directly negatively impacted by its owner's/rider's actions (ie, abuse, rough handling), only as a result of ineffectiveness - so this was a huge learning point for me! I think it being spring, her being young and energetic, and her being green all were contributing factors. Sheesh! Fortunately her owner seems receptive to my working with Bella further when I am home again so we should be able to get her back on track and more ready for sale :) She's a GREAT little horse - extremely lovely to work with.

Rayne - 8yo APHA mare
Phew, I am starting to run out of breath here! ;) I managed to get out to ride Rayne once while I was back, Monday March 16, though at first I was not even sure I was going to have the chance to swing my leg over the little brat!! Rayne seemed happy to see me and was great to tack up but when I first started working with her, all the spring willies came out (lol). It came in the form of extensive rears and bucks when she was simply asked to circle (after our other groundwork) and especially in trot to canter transitions. So what did we do? Lots of transitions until we could be polite! I ignored most of her behaviours and made small corrections as necessary and pretty soon Rayne was back on track. When I finally felt I had a handle on things and that she was tuned into me better and more respectful, I swung my leg over. While she was tense, she had progressive of relaxation and was very obedient. Finally we finished off with a little riding down the road! I wanted to see what Rayne was like on her own - while she started out confidently, she became increasingly nervous and spooky to the point where I did dismount and walk her for a few moments because I did not want her spinning on the pavement. However she did do very well overall and made me proud - and we confirmed what we know we need to work on... getting Rayne really tuned in to me and following my leadership. Which is hard, given she is SUCH an independent and dominant mare. April 18 I have Rayne (and Onyx, Silver, and Phoenix) scheduled to have her teeth done, at which time I will have her at the barn I board at for a couple days which will give me access to the indoor and a roundpen - and I fully intend on taking advantage of it! As bratty as she can be, Rayne is SUCH a character - absolutely love her!

I will try to remember to get some photos of Phoenix up next blog, too, as he is looking excellent!! He is not fit of course (yet!) but has gained a ton of weight and is finally looking very healthy. Silver is doing well too and will be showing with his young rider in 4H at the end of May and start of June!

Just as the terrible memories (chewed possessions, accidents in the house, crying...) of Chaya's puppyhood have worn off, we've signed up to add a new puppy to the fam! Chaya is 2 this year and is at the point where we feel very good about her level of training so felt capable of adding another dog. Furthermore, we felt it appropriate to add a puppy at this time - just prior to our move - when we have the most time to provide a lot of structure and where we have the ability to expose the new puppy to all sorts of stimuli and training situations living in town allows. We chose a female Boston Terrier, born January 27. I will pick her up as soon as I am done work, probably mid-April. This ensures I have the time for the new puppy and also allows her to spend a little more time with mom (she will be about 11 weeks old), which I love! In my opinion the longer a puppy spends with mom, the more he can learn from her, which is crucial to his confidence and development overall. Anyway, here are photos: the top is Chaya of course (Dec 2011), who is a 2yo Redbone Coonhound x Rottie... the bottom photo is of the new pup (courtesy of her breeder).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February update

I was only home a week and a half last days off but here is what the horses and I were up to:

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
I fit in three consecutive rides on Link that included both flatwork and jumping - by Day 3 he was mighty tired by the end of his session! We focused quite a bit on our jumping versus flatwork, with the goal of attending a (green) hunter/jumper clinic at the end of April. On the flat, we continue to work on really softening the poll so he is truly and thoroughly relaxed and with a quiet mouth. This remains our primary challenge because this horse just has too much chaos going on in his head!! He has grown a lot louder in his mouth since I have been making increasing demands on him, so I anticipate with further conditioning and further time whereby I am consistent, persistent, and patient, he will come round. Over fences he was awesome! He gets his distances over the singles and is doing one-strides exceptionally well, up to about 2'9. Link is getting more and more consistent over the jumps each ride and (as hubby noted) I am getting increasingly confident with the fences too - booya! It is a struggle for me to sit back and just let Link do his job, but I am slowly getting there. I am looking forward to my next set of days off whereby we will focus primarily on the flatwork with a little work through grids. I just cannot get enough riding in on Link to show him at the end of this month and I have no idea what my work schedule is going to look like as we finish up our work out here, but I am still planning for the Red Deer Mane Event clinic!

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
Given all the goings on's that accompany being home after working on the road, I only managed to get two rides on Soraya this set of days off. She was incredibly responsive under-saddle, is progressing in learning to move off the leg (ie, leg yields and being held on the track as we pass scary things), and is solid w/t and over small x-rails. Next set of days off my goal is to work her at least once in the roundpen and to achieve canter in the arena. She is definitely ready to start being pushed forward forward forward. She seems to be very tuned in to me and is accepting of me now as leader but still needs a little polishing. Looks like I will have some time over April and all the month of May to work on both my horses and client horses so I anticipate we will be quite solid with the extra work and consistent schedule. I am very excited to take her out on a trail ride soon, maybe with Phoenix and hubby one day when the weather is clear :-D

Koolaid - 12yo WBx gelding
I rode my boy twice last I was home, once as an eval and the second time to put him through his paces for a prospective buyer. The eval was wonderful - after a sufficient warm-up he started to really engage from behind and to soften into my hand. It was a very lovely feeling and we achieved a lot of forward with some encouragement. Unfortunately I was too chicken-shit to try him over some jumps in front of other riders in the arena (yes, I have people issues, hah!) - next time! He was an incredibly lovely ride both times however - very responsive, sensitive, compliant, and just a joy to ride all-round. His gaits were soooo nice - he offered the canter quite a few times as I pushed him into more forward trots and a few times I actually let him continue for a few strides, the canter was just so nice! It was like riding a rocking chair. So refreshing and such a pleasure to ride! I remember though why I have not seen him in so long - one hour each way *groan*. Who has 4 hours or more to spare out of their day to ride ONE horse??!

Skittles - yearling QH filly
Day 1 of our 3 sessions last time I was home Skittles received an A+ on everything except lifting her hinds - she was so persistent in fact that she decided kicking me was a good option. Nuh uh. We soon put a stop to that, courtesy of the end of my rope. After that she was very compliant with her hinds for the following sessions. Even clipping she lowered her head politely for her bridlepath to be clipped, and she stepped right into the trailer and positioned herself on an angle when I asked her to load Day 3. The bad news however is that while I have been at work she has been a little bit of a brat - she lunged at both her owner and owner's SO. For a treat. I am concerned at her constantly testing boundaries and her persistent in her challenges, despite all the work we have put into her. Unfortunately I do not think the herd really draws the line with her sufficiently either. In fact, recently I observed that one of the mares even seemed to protect Skittles after Skittles so kindly viciously and repeatedly attacked one of the very quiet geldings she is pastured with. Hopefully if we keep at it we can nip this in the bud before she becomes bigger and stronger. In the mean time, her owner is being even more diligent by keeping Skittles on a lead so she can maintain control (she was loose at the time she lunged).

Kismet - 5yo draft x
I just realized I somehow keep forgetting Kismet in my posts!! I should be ashamed!! Each time I have been home the past several months (since I blogged in October, including every time I have been home and have blogged about riding my own horses and working with Skittles), I have ridden her 3 times (3 times each set of days off). Days off before this last set we were restricted to riding in the arena two of our sessions due to very high winds however this last set of days off we rode out I think twice. She has been progressing nicely in that she is becoming increasingly relaxed and a lot more forward as her confidence increases. She has grown a lot more comfortable with the whole u/s process and is really starting to loosen up; she is good now despite any weight shifts and most flapping of my arms and coat when I am up in the saddle. Her increase in confidence, relaxation, forward, and extrovertedness is showing not only showing at the walk but also the trot (in a very forward, flowing trot) and the canter (in a lengthened frame, snorting out as she canters, etc). At the trot she also has some very nice leg yields now and she has become sufficiently balanced and relaxed now to hold the canter for several laps of the arena, in a (mostly) balanced manner. No little hops in the canter either, a result of her increased relaxation!! I noticed one session when we were forced to stay in the arena that arena work really seemed to benefit her and aid her in relaxing so now, prior to our trail rides, we work in the arena. If the weather is nice we enjoy a good ride in the fields afterward. I have started having her wear a bit and bridle after our sessions too and am contemplating introducing the bit next I am home. Her owner has applied for the Jonathan Field clinics at the Mane Event and hopes to take Kismet so I am doing my best to prepare both of them for the endeavor - I think it could be a wonderful experience for both of them.

Unfortunately I did not get the chance to visit or ride Rayne. Silver and Pheonix continue to do well; Silver continues to be ridden in 4H by his youth rider. Hubby and I wanted to take Phoenix and another out for a trail ride but the weather just did not permit such, so maybe next time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome to: Coos Its Rayn N Gems

It's been 2 1/2 months since I've blogged last: reason being I had very little time to even SEE the horses over Christmas, let alone accomplish anything with anyone (!) and since then I have only been home one other time (and... hence this blog!). Christmas and New Years, despite my lack of time spent with the horses, was actually quite enjoyable in that we spent almost the entire time at our new farm in Saskatchewan. It was exciting spending time in our new home and dreaming up what is to come. Over January I was home almost two weeks and - between everything that is life - fit in some really good sessions with the horses. This also managed to include, as the title infers, a purchase. Of Rayne. Continue reading for the explanation!

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
I feel compelled to commence this blog with my dinky Thoroughbred boy given how much progress we made in albeit only a few sessions last I was home. With a solid foundation, I have been really working hard to push him to the next level - and the fruits of our labour is paying off! Our first session was incredible - I really pushed him from behind into my hand and used all our usual exercises to encourage such, while really being on top of him as it pertains to his sometimes lazy haunches. The result? He came over his back - a sort of "popping" sensation whereby suddenly his back just PUSHED upward (!!) - in a way he never had before. On the straightaway! It left such an impact, I can still envision exactly where in the arena it occurred. Words cannot describe how good it felt, I was elated!! Of course we lost it after a few moments but just as with anything else, the more we (correctly, classically) work toward that goal achieved (if even for a brief moment), the more we will get it, to the point where one day it becomes the norm. This is so incredibly exciting! It can be SO frustrating to be so limited in time to work with your horse and as a result to see such slow progress when you know you are both capable of more. It can be a de-motivator. That first ride really provided me the incentive, the reward, the motivation that I needed. Link lost quite a bit of muscle in his topline and especially his neck at the start of this winter; I am EXCITED to see that weight put back on and to be able to get him REALLY fit this summer. Of course I am also intimidated by the prospect of his being so fit and the monster I might create (haha), however a higher level of fitness brings with it a progress toward our training goals as he has the strength and power to do more and do better. But back to our regular programming! Our second and third rides consisted of a lesson whereby I experienced a few epiphanies and my instructor drove home some lessons I had not been applying. It was fulfilling to find we continue to be on the right track however, that I have been pushing him in the right ways and in the right direction, to obtain the results I have been getting (such as that FULLY lifted back). Both lessons included education in both dressage and jumping (to about 2'6-2'9). The first lesson my instructor taught me a couple ways I can really ask Link to lift the base of his neck (something he does everything possible to avoid). Another related lesson was that when Link lugs on that left rein tracking left, I need to RELEASE that inside (left) rein and simply use my leg (and back-up that leg with my dressage whip, as I have been doing). *smacks forehead* D'oh!! I KNOW this, but you think I would APPLY it? This also led me to the realization that I need to just let Link go and accept that I am intimidated by his power - and let go anyway. This realization came about when I noticed I was holding Link back from picking up speed and powering up like a freight train - obviously I cannot or will not release that left rein if I am at the same time trying to hold him back. It was a bit of a release myself to just relax and TRUST in Link and let go. Deeeeep breath. This horse hasn't killed me yet, today probably won't be the day either. Link responded by engaging from behind better, softening, and lightening. At which point I could then mould what we had, including his speed. Our next lessons learnt concerned our schooling over jumps. First time or two were a little rocky - my instructor pointed out where I was correcting Link and screwing up his takeoff point, without ever realizing it. On a related note, I obtained glasses recently and wore them for lesson #2 - there seemed to be a difference! My eyes are not bad but the glasses upgrade my world from 'normal' to 'HD'. The (seeming) result was that I did not do these minute corrections I was not even aware of making, second lesson over jumps. Instead I developed that rhythmic canter and let Link do his work - and he did. There were even a couple times Link had the opportunity to refuse (the first lesson particularly - there was once or twice I gave him EVERY reason in the book to refuse!) yet instead he picked up the reins to save my @ss. His acting like a PARTNER really helps my confidence and trust in him over fences. We had some very successful rides and now have some homework to work on. Plan is to set up a bunch of individual jumps (then maybe one combination) in the arena and practise maintaining our rhythm before and after the jump. We also have our dressage/flatwork to continue to improve on of course! Our instructor also left us with a really good exercise to stretch out Link's shoulders, which will be added to our warm-up. Don't underestimate the importance of your warm-up!! So long as I can fit it in to our busy moving schedule, I am hoping to attend the Red Deer Mane Event again this year with Link. I will be applying for the Green Hunter clinic under Scott Hofstetter. I am VERY excited about the potential opportunity to work with what seems to be a very successful and highly regarded trainer! I've filled out the application form, I just need to video us under-saddle and over fences and send everything in. If I am accepted, we'll go from there to make a final decision.

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
Everyone is a year older this year, myself included! I am a little behind in regards to Soraya's training but hope that being able to keep the horses at our farm this year will really enable me to get Soraya on track this year. This year will include only very limited showing - maybe a show at the end of March and (fingers crossed) a clinic at the end of April. After that my focus will be limited to everything farm and I will have to hold off on showing until next year. I did ride Soraya several times while home last however - every time I rode Link I also brought her in and rode her too. We have been furthering our groundwork though I need to quit procrastinating (something I have been doing due to a shortage in time!) and take her into the roundpen to work with her at liberty and develop more of a connection with her. So far however she is doing most excellent, including trotting under-saddle and over small x-rails and cavelleti. She's very light and responsive to leg for TOF and TOH and is easily learning to sidepass and leg yield. Not much phases this mare and with strong structure and guidance she really looks to my leadership (willingly). I was proud of her one night recently when she was given an opportunity to spook right over top of me - I was obliviously and stupidly standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time - but she thought through the situation and respected my space instead (!!). What spooked her should have pushed her over top of me but instead she shuffled back a couple steps, toward what had spooked her, so she would have an opening to bolt without smushing me. By the time she had stepped backward she had thought through the situation and had ultimately decided not to spook (lol). I was proud of my girl however, she's really applying what she's learning, well. She has become so much more sociable now, too, and is showing a lot of talent over fences on the ground.

Phoenix - 10yo Thoroughbred gelding
The chiropractor was out to check in on Phoenix while I was home - and was astonished to find him in AWESOME condition!! The flexibility in his hips and back was better than she had ever anticipated it would be. He has also put on a lot of weight the past couple of months and is looking so much better. Of course, along with this comes his acting like a fool :-D I longed him the day prior to the chiropractor coming out, including over some toys in the arena (ie, a mattress, etc). Not only does he gallop around like his tail is on fire, he also leaps through the air and acts like the silly idiot he should be acting like. Yes! Hopefully we get to take him out for a ride when I am home later next week. I'll take some new photos when I am home and post them.

Rayne - 8yo APHA mare
So... we bought the silly critter! I went out to work her once before Christmas and finally broke down and made the deal with her owner. The day of, I went out to ride Rayne: it was a cold and WINDY day - the wind was TERRIBLE!!! As I was grumbling to myself about walking to the back of Rayne's pasture (Murphy's Law the horses just HAD to be at the far end of the pasture!), where the horses were grazing, I get to the second gate to hear a loud throaty whinny. Who should come GALLOPING up to me but the painted girl herself! She ran directly up to me to be haltered and put to work. That was the day I finally agreed to buy her (lol), and last I was home we signed the papers. Rayne's previous owner very graciously took some photos of Rayne and I working in amongst the shelter of the trees (above) that day. Last I was home I only managed to ride Rayne once... that one ride she was pretty distracted and as a result, fairly resistant. Very in front of my leg (for her at least), just resistant to relaxation. All in all it was still a good ride though and I look forward to the next one! I'd like to take her for a ride down the road next I have a little spare time on my hands. Unfortunately we have not been able to work any cattle since that last time - first the woman organizing the events was sick and lately they have not had any cattle available to work with. Fingers crossed that cow works are not cancelled week after next! If not, I should be able to take Rayne. Her former owner is very okay with taking her there for me (something I am very grateful of!) as she would like to see Rayne work and progress. Fingers crossed!!

Bella (4yo QH mare) and Skittles (yearling QH filly)
Both continue to do well, individually, in their sessions. Skittles is learning to be very respectful and almost seems to be really turning a new leaf *knock on wood!* Bella is fantastic under-saddle with the right structure and guidance. Her owner however has unfortunately decided to sell - I will continue working with her to help her prepare Bella for her new home. Her owner is very talented and a natural but lacks the skill and confidence yet to be working with a young horse who is forward and requires structure yet. She is hoping to instead purchase a horse who is more laid back and quiet so she can continue to learn, with confidence. It's always sad when any owner and horse part company but sometimes it is the best situation for both involved! Ultimately, it is always up to the owner - what they are comfortable with, what they find does and does not work for them, etc. I know Bella's owner will find her the best home and that she will find a lot of success herself on a perhaps better suited horse.

Koolaid - 12yo DWB x Quarab gelding
Unfortunately (for me) I have also decided to sell Koolaid. I want nothing more to keep him around - he is the only real solid horse, laid back horse I have. I have a history with him - giving him up will be one of the hardest things I have done. That said, I have to be a realist and even though we are moving our horses onto our farm, we still need to limit the number of horses we own. If I sell Koolaid and return Silver to my parents this summer, we will be down to Link, Soraya, and Phoenix. This allows me more time to devote to Link and Soraya, who will further my career and are an investment (well, Soraya is); Phoenix is primarily my SO's horse and requires only little conditioning. It doesn't make sense to sell Link or Soraya of course, and it would be difficult to find a good home for Phoenix given his maintenance and soundness issues. Downsizing will also allow me more time to focus on project horses such as Rayne and PA Lady Daringer; I would like to always have a few project horses around and to focus on selling a certain number of horses per year, in addition to bringing along my own horses. Tough decisions!