Sunday, December 16, 2012

Breakthrough!


Ever had one of those moments when you’re all like “I have no idea why this is happening – but ohkay!  Let’s go with it.”?

Joey decided to walk himself over to his spooky spot right next to the horse-eating-fire-breathing-monsters-of-doom-ed barrels today.  I don’t really know why, but he had his head down on a loose rein and proceeded to amble on the outside track RIGHT NEXT to the VERY same barrels he’s been freaking out over since, oh, last December…  

Which only makes it a year for him to make up his mind that they are ok, and as for why?  I’m not really sure.  He was determined last time I rode him not to go near those things, but this time he was willing to work with me. 

I do think that part of it is toughening up on our ground work.  I have determined to get full control of his feet – he will put them where I say to, and not move until I say “Jump!”.  

As he’s moved up in the herd hierarchy, I have noticed his confidence increasing, but also his bossiness.   Drawing firm boundaries appears to be helping him to deal with his trust issues – because even though his confidence is increasing, he still needs his person to be in charge or he’s going to resort to bossy and rude behaviors to make himself feel safe.

The first thing I started with was picking up his feet.  Joey would do it, but he’d take his sweet time deciding when he was actually going to pick them up.  That’s not going to be the case anymore – I want a prompt response when I ask for his foot.  A “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, three bags full ma’am” and nothing less.

That, and really letting him know about it when he crosses the line into my space, seem to have helped.   It’s totally true when they say (Mugwump is a big advocate for this) that if you can direct the feet, you can direct the horse.

It’s a psychological “battle” as it were – horses are all about body language and space relation to their herd.  The alpha mare or stallion can put any horse they want, in any spot they want, and they don’t even think about it.  If you can’t control the horse’s feet – i.e., their body, their direction – then they are not really listening to you.  If they’re not listening….  Well, true communication hasn’t been established, and there’s still work to do.

And I’m working on that with Joey!  We will get there one day I hope.  If I don’t have to sell him yet.  Only time will tell either way.  : /

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Contact – so THAT’S what it feels like!


dressage-contact 
I’ve recently had another aha! moment with my riding – this time it’s all about contact.  I actually am starting to get what it is/feels like now.  It’s only taken me donkeys years of riding to finally understand it; but hey…

Basically, the discovery came when I figured out that I should really be bending my elbows.  Yah, I know – basic stuff, but honestly, if my instructor isn’t telling me to bend my elbows then how am I going to know?

That is, until I do something like take a video of my riding and go “Wow, what straight arms I have!  That’s not good!!”, which is essentially what happened…

And then Joey started to work into the contact and I was like – “Oh, okay - I can actually feel my horse’s mouth… It’s heavy!”  But the thing was I knew it was finally right.  We were getting a give-take connection that was elastic and soft, although it felt weird and ‘heavy’ to me.

You see, I blame it on reading too many pony books when I was growing up, and essentially teaching myself to ride.  They all talked about fantastic riders who “held the reins like strands of silk” or “wonderful light hands” – or in complete contrast “he had beginner’s hammy hands”!   And as a result I got the idea that the lighter and softer – the better.

But that’s not quite the case – I tend to ‘throw’ away contact before/after upwards and downwards transitions so that I don’t “pull” on my horse’s mouth.  That means I’m not providing any support for those transitions either, so my horse pops his head up and asks “Where’d you go?”. 

I also taught Copper to carry his own head which meant that he wasn’t on the bit correctly – he broke at the 4th vertebrae, rather than his poll, tended to be a bit ‘behind’ the bit and didn’t engage fully through his back. 

It still LOOKED pretty, but it wasn’t correct.  We didn’t have any 'throughness’, which is a weird dressage term I tend to understand as being the horse’s flow and energy coming from behind me.  It has to come through unbroken from the rear, across the back, over the neck and down into the bit.  I shouldn’t break it with my seat or hands, and if my horse isn’t fully engaged then we won’t get it either. 

So I have learned that if the horse can’t feel the rider’s hands and receive connection with them, then even though the rider’s seat might be connected effectively, the connection for the front part of the horse (shoulder, neck, head) to communicate with it’s rider is still going to be missing.   Rider’s core, seat & legs = horse’s back, quarters, hind legs.  Rider’s shoulders, arms, wrists/hands = horse’s shoulder, neck and head. 

If the rider provides a steady contact, and an effective seat aid that drives the horse forwards from behind, then the horse will naturally offer to round up and come on the bit by itself.  It sounds simple, and it sort of is, but sometimes it still takes a lot of work to get it right!

I’ll keep at it though, and practice a ton of transitions to help.

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chiro for Copper


I had the chiropractor out for Copper today – he was a mess.  The chiro adjusted his neck, shoulder, pelvis and released the static nerve in his back which was being pinched.

I also found out that his left shoulder muscle has withered away – and as a result of course, his right one is far more pronounced.   Apparently this has been a problem for a while (developed while I leased him out I think) so now I have to rewrite his muscle memory.

This means riding every day for the next 7-10 days, 20-30 minutes a day, straight trot, or as close to.  Hill work is perfect, trails ideal.  Basically, Copper needs to extend his front end out so that he can rebuild his shoulders evenly.  

It’s amazing how poor work, poor saddle fit, or lack of rider knowledge – any one or all of those things can almost completely break a good riding horse.  And I would say that Copper was very close to being completely broken.  When I hopped on him, anyone that didn’t know any better might say that he was unridable, but no, all he needed was to be put back into alignment!

I have always been big on the benefits of chiro for your horses, and now I am even more so – particularly after I’ve also learned that a handful of bi-carbonate of soda in his feed at the end of the day will neutralize the lactic acid he’s going to get from working a whole bunch of muscles that he hasn’t in a long time.  A neat trick if you ask me!

There are probably a whole bunch of expensive supplements to do the exact same thing, but I love this simple and cheap solution provided by my chiropractor!

So it’s going to be a busy week for me, but it does have one benefit; at least I can treat the rain scald that’s beginning to pop up on his hind legs again…  Gah!  Wretched stuff.

Another simple and cheap treatment I’ve discovered for rain scald is a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar – pick off all the scabs, spray it on and you are good to go.  Repeat daily (if you can) until the rain scald disappears.

See ya,

bonita

Top Tip: 
Copper also has tears under his barrel where he’s been girthed too tightly, and they are causing him quite a bit of pain.  Check your girths at the side of the horse, about half way down the barrel, at the horse’s widest point – NOT near the elbow.  Because of the way the barrel is shaped, there is ALWAYS going to be space between the horse and the girth near the elbow. 

Pulling the girth up to eliminate that space just causes muscular problems, as well as painful tears underneath the horses’ barrel, and is the reason a lot of horses become girth-shy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

…In which we turn and turn about


Because it seems like once I make up my mind, something happens to change it again.

As I now handle two horses and make side by side comparisons, it’s interesting how it confirms the choice I made in the first place to lease out Copper and move on to a horse with more aptitude and ability.

I was thinking to half-lease Copper out after selling Joey, but now I am wondering if it might not be more advantageous to seek a half-lease for Joey and sell Copper instead.

The reasons I have for this thinking are these:

-  Copper is still a horse that I’ve moved on from.  Though he’s quieter on the ground and less baby-ish in manners, I have been riding him, and boy, he needs work.  He hadn’t been ridden in a while, and I think that he’s lost a lot of education that he had.  Poor riding position on the part of the rider I leased him too, and perhaps something more.  I’m not sure yet, but it’s work time for him!

Still, even with the work I know I need to put him into him to improve him again – I can feel the limitations he has – conformation-wise, mentally, and definitely background training.

-  Why half-lease Copper when I could half-lease Joey?  Yes, I have already thought of this, and yes, I had previously dismissed the idea because I thought it would be too hard to find a rider that would work with Joey.  But I realized that even if I was to lease Copper instead of Joey, I’d still want to share him with a rider that wasn’t going undo my work; i.e. – someone up to my level anyway; so why shouldn’t I do that with the horse I really want?!

-  Copper is Copper – he’s just as much work in his own way as Joey is.  Go figure!  I think I haven’t realised that until today after riding them both, one after the other.  Guess who was the better behaved?  

Well, you’re not wrong if you guess Joey! 

Long dissertation over, congrats if you managed to stick with it this far!
So what actually happen on the rides today? 

I lunged Joey first – he had a bit of a humpy back, so there where a few bucks in there…  I was like, oh.  Bother.  Still, I hopped on anyway, and gee – it really isn’t wasn’t a big deal.   

He got a little stuck up in front when I ask for trot circles – I forgot that he likes to move out when first trotting so I switched to an X pattern across the diagonal with half 20m circles on either end.
I got a lovely soft trot on the long lengths by pushing my seat forward and encouraging him to move up with his back end and loosen up his back, by the end of it, he was moving forward into the contact.  It was awesome!

It was a long frame – very beginner, but ohmygoodness!  He was connected, through, soft in hand – he felt like he was at the start of something, and I loved it.

Copper….  Well.  Humph.   Sure, he’s had time off, but eep!  What a mess. 
: P   He was as skittery as a rabbit in the grass, one touch of the leg (and I mean that literally – I couldn’t even settle my legs on his sides without him jumping like a crazy roo!) and we were off!  Walk wanted to be trot; so we worked on slowing that down, then trot wanted to be canter aannddd…  it was.

On the upside Copper has a lovely balanced canter in him now that he didn’t have before.  Downside; he also has a buck in him that he didn’t have before!

So we worked on establishing trot and when we got that on both reins it was time to finish for the day.  Whew.  Fun times, but I’ll be glad when I’m back to one wee beastie, not the both of them.

See ya,
bonita

Friday, October 19, 2012

And then there were two...

This is just a quick note to say - I've got Copper back!

Nope, it was not planned, and yes, it really is inconvenient at this point in time.  *sigh* I still have to sell Joey, but can't at the moment as he came up lame in the paddock the other week as is taking a while to heal. Now I have two horses to deal with and I'm not sure what to do!

I do plan to ride Copper as long as I can, but after that I guess I'll have to see.  I was going to sell him to the person that was leasing him - I thought that they were a good match, but that's not happening now, so I have to decide whether to sell or keep Copper.

Part of this decision making involves certain things that have happened at the riding school which I am not very pleased about - I won't go into details, but I do feel like they've been a bit rude and just kind of manhandled me a bit.  Sort of in a "Do as I say and don't cause any trouble or else... And by the way, we are awesome for doing this, so you'd better be grateful!"

Um...  Hello?  I'm supposed to be training as an instructor - that doesn't make me a 14 year old junior that is so happy to have anything to do with horses that they'd put up with any kind of treatment to do what they love.  I'm an adult, and I'd really prefer it if you'd treat me that way.  I work hard for you, and one day I'll be an valuable employee...  But only if you LET me get that far.  Pfft.  Not happy Jan.

'Neways, that was a bit of a sidetrack, but it is related.  I'm not going to be getting as much riding there as I thought I was, so now I am even more stuck as what to do with Copper.  Unlike Joey, does not do well with a patchy riding schedule, Copper is quite level headed and easy going, plus he doesn't break easily {for a horse!} and he is a good doer.  Standies are great like that.  Which means if I was going to keep a horse during this rather hectic and crazy time of life, Copper would probably be it.

Yeah.  This isn't going to be an easy decision.  Especially as the Hubby has gotten rather used to the idea of having the extra money and time available that is currently getting sucked up by the ponies and is quite fond of being a-for-the-time-being horse-free family.  He'd support me either way, but I know he's keen for me to sell them both.

Stuck again.  Ohwell, I guess I'll just cross that bridge when I come to it I suppose.  In the meantime, I can enjoy my pony again!  Yay!

See ya,
bonita

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hard Decisions


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Some riders are very lucky to never have to face this, but all to often it’s a place I end up coming to – to sell or not to sell.  I’m not sure if it’s because we tend to have a history of passing horses on in our family.  When you have five to three people sharing the same horse, it’s really hard to find one that suits everyone, so after three or four years with us, we’d sell them on, usually far better educated then when we brought them, and for a much higher price! 

Sort of like a long-term dealer I suppose…  Anyway, back to my present situation.  I’ve decided to sell Joey. 

I’ve actually been putting off this decision for at least a month now – not willing to admit that for the moment, my life circumstances will simply not allow him to fit in.  There are also some financial logistics that are rearing their ugly head, but it’s mainly life. 

We are expecting our second baby around the end of March next year.  That means I am currently three and 3/4 months pregnant, and that I haven’t ridden Joey at all for at least three months.  And I don’t see how I will be able to work him consistently any time soon.

I was considering finding another rider to help train him – not a lease, but kind of a co-ownership.   Though honestly, at this stage though I can’t really see that happening.  I’ve inquired around, but there aren’t really any experienced riders that are interested in training up a green 4 and a half year old that don’t already have their hands full with their own mounts.

I also considered just giving him a year off, but this is where the finances came into play.  We can afford to keep him, but it’s not really worth it when he’s just eating the money.  And, again, I’m not even sure how long it would take for me to get back into riding with a just under two year old and a new baby.  Then, once I can ride the logistics (there’s that word again..) of what to do with said babies while riding is some other headache altogether!

I have been supremely blessed as my husband has been working from home the last two years and that meant that basically I could go for a ride whenever I wanted, as long as it didn’t interfere with his work too much. I’d just leave the baby with him, and swan home when I was finished.  He is talking about a new job however, so that means that in the foreseeable future, I’d have to manage the children – find a babysitter or something, or find a way to ride in the am before hubs is off to work.  Neither options really seem like a go at the moment. 

Particularly when you consider that I’ve had about roughly one and half years riding before falling pregnant with baby number two (not including months off for mastitis and any other numerous aliments that have come my way), and there’s every likely possibility that that might be happening again any number of times within the next however many years!

*sigh

All of which, compounded by the stress and guilt I feel over not having enough energy to go and look after him, let alone exercise him (thank you all-day-long morning sickness!) has finally brought me around to the realization that Joey is just not the right horse for me at the moment, and I am not the right owner for him.  Let’s not even go into the “feeling like I am giving up/failing him” department and leave it at that.

What has to be, has to be.  While I feel some release over the resolution to a problem that has been bothering me for months now, I also feel a great deal of sadness.  I really like Joey, he has taught me a lot and I really wish I could have had a better chance to bring out the potential in him.  I also feel a bit… Relieved somehow.  I have sort of had a niggling doubt as to whether he was the horse for me all along.  Maybe I sort of knew we would never fit together.  He needs time I just don’t have. 

I know I could keep Joey, but ultimately, that’s not the best thing for him.  I can ride him, I can train him.  He’s come along quite well in the few months I have been able to work him.  He’s calmed down, he’s learnt to trust me and we’ve been building on that.  He’s taught me a lot about training young horses, and stretched me a lot as a rider.  Unfortunately life circumstances – his and mine! – mean that we have to part ways now. 

I’m okay with that.  

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”   ― Ernest Hemingway ”     

See ya,

bonita

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Best photo bomb ever!



Guys have you seen this picture?  Totally faked, but totally hilarious none the less!   Lolz!  > U <

See ya,

bonita




Thursday, August 30, 2012

Problem solved…


So I was right about my canter transitions.  They are still a little shaky - I don’t always feel completely ‘plugged in’ to the saddle/the feel of the horse as I ask for them.  Again, I think that has a lot to do with the lack of practise, but I was right about the shoulders tipping forwards thing.  Shoulders back and I got all my transitions when I asked for the them yesterday.  Yay!

I was riding a different horse as yesterday – Buttercup, and while she was sweet, she was definitely more work than Ernie, whom I think I might be slightly smitten on.  I keep on having thoughts about taking him away and tucking him up in a big lush paddock of green grass and spoiling him rotten.  *sigh*  I would if I could, I really would.

He’s not that popular with a lot of the staff at the school, I guess they think he’s too push-button and easy to ride, but honestly, in my mind that’s not the case.  I just feel like he’s a well broke horse; what I am aiming for with my own beasties!  He still has a high enough level of sensitivity that requires precision on the part of the rider, he's not obedient if you don't do it right.  Though, having said that you probably can get away with a lot on him - he is a riding school horse.  What I appreciate about him is that he still requires you to ride correctly or it’s just not pretty.

In my mind that’s the pleasure of a well broke horse.  You get to focus on the harmony between horse and rider, working on perfecting your understanding of each other, rather that just working on making things work full stop! 

Like for example, Buttercup didn’t feel like bending yesterday, which meant I really had to ride hard to get her to respond to me, whereas with Ernie I have to work on timing – making sure that I am asking juuustt right.  I like that.  I like precision and sensitivity. 

I guess that’s just the wanna-be dressage diva in me.  I know people can be rather contemptuous of a push-button horse, but I think that bringing your horse to the level of commitment where he KNOWS his job and will do it practically no matter what – that’s not a bad thing peoples!   It's called work ethic!

Obviously, you don’t want the horse to become deaf to the rider, or at the point where he won’t respond to any different stimuli, but I don’t think that’s were Ernie is at.  I have a lot of respect for him, and I think that he is a good example of what I am hoping to achieve with Joey. 

What do you think?  Are push-button horses just an easy ride for riders that don't want to put in the effort, or is there something more to it than that?  I’d love to hear what you think. 

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Figuring it out - Canter Transitions


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Things have been a bit slow at the moment; but I have been busy at the riding school, teaching the Tiny Tots class and in return…  Riding lessons!

It’s so nice to ride a horse that isn’t going to fuss, or freak out unexpectedly - I am really enjoying it as a wee bit of a break from my never-quite-know-what-you-are-going-to-get Joey lad! 

Also, I get to practise cantering!!  Haha.  I know, I know – I sound like a total n00b saying that, but it’s true.  When I had Copper I had to go back and teach him the basics of using his body and balancing himself with a rider on his back.  While he liked to canter, it wasn’t pretty, nor particularly safe as he’d race around like he was a motorbike on a racetrack, leaning over on a really sharp angle.  I’d have to lift up my seat and plant my butt over on the outside of the saddle to counter-balance his weight so that we didn’t go over sideways!

Needless to say, I stuck with walk and trot work before moving up to cantering.  The only problem is that we were only just getting to that stage when I discovered that I had outgrown him, so then of course I leased him out.

Whereupon I replaced him with Joey.  Hmm, young, green, unbalanced horse?  Huh.  Guess we’re back at the walk and trot….  *sadface*   Not that I mind all that much, but it does mean that I haven’t done any serious canter work in years. 

And as a result I found out that my canter transitions suck when I got a horse that knew the job and I couldn’t get a canter out of him.  : /  
I fixed that by changing the rein, for some reason I find the right rein canter easier than the left, then when I switched back I got the left rein canter lead.  However, I was still not satisfied with that solution.  

I had noticed that when first asking for the canter transition I was dropping my left shoulder down and I knew that was the problem, but I didn’t know why.   So back home I did some research and felt like a detective when I figured it out!

I was actually tipping my shoulders forwards in an effort to produce canter, however, in doing that, I weakened my driving seat aid.  To compensate I dropped my weight down on the inside to try and strengthen the inside leg aid.  Of course this resulted in my dropping the left shoulder, blocking the horse’s inside shoulder which he needs to be able to LIFT in order to strike off with canter!   Also, in tipping forwards, my weak seat would have allowed him to string out in the back so he probably couldn’t get his hind end under him to lift his shoulders up either.   *whew* 

While all of this was happening, my instructor couldn’t actually see my shoulders tipping forwards, but I am hoping that the solution for me will to be “sit back”, keep my shoulders upright/slightly back, and drive with my seat. 

We’ll see if this turns out to be the cure for my crappy canter transitions, but I know for sure what I am doing wrong so at least we have half the diagnosis!

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A bit silly…


IMG_20120419_083521_thumb[1]     IMG_20120624_140039_thumb[1]

…And embarrassing to admit, but here’s the thing.  I sprained my left shoulder/bicep by reaching up to smack Joey for wiggling while I was cleaning out his hoof. 

Now I am in quite a bit of pain and can’t do anything much at all.  When I did it, it hurt so badly that I thought I dislocated my shoulder, but the doctor doesn’t think that I did.  I am not so sure…. 

Either way, it’s annoying. Can’t ride, can’t move properly, can’t pick up anything or even button up my pants!  I am in a bit of a pickle, aren’t I? 

I can’t even say it was because of a massive fall!   Oh well, I suppose I would much rather hurt myself in such an innocuous manner than by eating dirt, so we’ll leave it at that.  : ) 

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My First Days


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I am totally excited – I just spent my midweek (Tuesday afternoon & Wednesday) shadowing two lovely riding instructors for my first taste of coaching training!  It been a couple of months coming, but I am sort of semi-employed at a local riding to learn coaching and start instructing. 

I will be starting with the tiny, tiny, tiny tots – a leading rein class for 2 – 6 yr olds.  The parents lead the children and I have to figure out how to teach them something (anything!) without going above their heads or tangling the parents/ponies up.  Hmmm… It’s going to be a challenge but I am sooo up for it!  I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity!

Of course at this point I am busy trying to learn the names of the 30 odd herd of school ponies and horses, what their temperaments are like and what constitutes their good/bad behaviour.  I am also learning a different school routine; you know, how they muck out, tack up, teach a lesson, reprimand their horses (this one is more important than you might think!), etc.  It’s a lot to take in, but seriously, one and a half days into it, and the place already feels like a home away from home.

I love it.  I am really looking forwards to this new term coming up, and you can be assured that I will be jotting down all the details on the good ol’ blog. 

See ya,

bonita

P.S  - Joey is still going well; in fact I’m beginning to think that our lovely straight-ish walk and trot on the outside track (on both reins too!) is no longer a fluke and we have actually moved past the silly-shying-for-no-reason-phase!  Hip hip!!

Now I am working on:

  • a driving seat aid for impulsion at all times – no slopping along allowed!
  • hands together at all times to prevent over bending
  • closed fingers and consistent contact (I tend to throw the reins away because I’m not used to providing a solid support for the horse to lean into.  I just figured out in my last lesson that that means that Copper was probably slightly behind the bit, thus, he had a hollow back and that’s why he such short strides and could never reach underneath himself properly!  D’oh!)
  • and lastly, sitting trot practise for the win.   : D

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

He’s no angel…

 

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But at least he’s not trying to kill me any more! 

I have been surprised and impressed with how well Joey’s been doing lately - perhaps it’s just that young horses take that much more time to really settle into a new place, or maybe that he’s finally decided that I’m not such a bad egg after all.

Either way, I’m seeing an improvement in Joey that I am very much liking at the moment.  He’s a lot calmer, and far more relaxed about things.

We’re seeing less of the bad attitude, and more habitual silliness now – like jogging when he’s fresh, spooking at the barrels for no good reason, or if he gets bored he’ll spook at nothing.  Plus, he’s a bit on the lazy side, so if you push him too hard he’ll buck and be jig around and be generally stupid.

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I find that he really does need to be ridden at every moment your on his back, because if his mind is not engaged he’ll get into mischief and if you loose focus for one second, he looses his focus too!  I am discovering that this is the hard slog of riding a young horse; not that they are necessarily worse to ride then an older horse, but rather that they require that much more work under saddle.  You can’t ever switch off and leave it to the horse because they don’t understand that kind of partnership yet.  You must always be leading them – directing them and making the choices.

It’s exhausting mentally and physically, but it’s worth it when you realise that you’re making progress.  And we are! 

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Currently we are working on forwards, (ie, legs, legs, legs), lowering his frame to bring him on the bit and prepare for the first stages of collection, and canter. 

I have cantered him a couple of times now and he’s been really good – no antics, just a nice medium canter, if a little unbalanced.  Joey really can be quite sensible at times which is nice!  Anyway, I must be off to ride my horse. 

See ya!

bonita

Monday, June 4, 2012

Getting the job done


So last Friday I had a lesson on Joey which turned out to be… interesting, to say the least!  He was very fresh (totally my fault), very spooky (totally his fault) and generally an all-around silly boy.

It started as I was longing him before the lesson, a couple mopeds came up the driveway, and he had a good whirl’n’spin to goggle at them in giraffe mode.  I knew it was going to be an iffy ride when he stood like a rock for five minutes staring after them even after they had long disappeared!  He wouldn’t even twitch an ear in my direction, so my first order of business was to ask for his attention when I hopped on his back.

I soon found out that that wasn’t going to be easy so my instructor got us trotting on and I do mean trotting!  I was asking him for forward – the shapes of the exercises we were doing weren’t important at this stage.  What we were looking for was forward movement from Joey, which would calm him down and get rid of the fizziness. 

I think we were trotting for a least 20-30 minutes straight, we did an hour glass figure (20m circles at A and C; changing diagonals across the arena), we did the 3 20m circle loop up and down the arena – basically we went around and around until I was dizzy and my legs were about to fall off!

It took quite some time before he started listening – we had arguments about which direction we were going to go in, and whether or not our circles where going to be 20ms rather than 18 or 15ms, and where or not we go past the “scary” side of the arena (which is TOTALLY not scary at all, it’s just the corner closest to all his paddock mates as well as being the corner he can see them from – ie, he was just being a moron.); these disagreements where met with one-rein stops, growling, and some rib thumping on my part.

No.  It was not pretty.  In fact, I felt like a right idiot snapping “Trot!! Get on!!!” rather loudly while thumping his sides repeatedly, but the fact of the matter is it got the job done.   No, I do not advocate that manner of riding if you do it without asking nicely first, but I follow Mugwump’s principles:

1. I ask with a whisper (actually, it's a touch, I'm not much on whispering). Once.
2. I say what's required with a firm explanation (using legs and hands). Once.
3. I make it happen. No matter what it takes, I make it happen.
  
Then I take a breath and go back to step one.

She developed this whisper, ask, TELL method from her own years of training experience and what she’s learned from other trainers, like Ray Hunt.

If anybody ever went to a Ray Hunt clinic they probably saw what would happen to one of his well broke horses if they quit listening. Ray got their attention, fast and hard. Whip, spur, bit, whatever it took to clarify his position, he was using it. His misbehaving horse would go scurrying back to soft obedience as fast as it could. Because Ray made the wrong thing very, very difficult if his horse knew better.

I think that the crucial principal is this:

Horses don't become soft if they don't understand there's a consequence for not being that way.  They need to understand the gentle touch of the rein or leg will be followed with a much firmer reminder of what's needed.

So even though I know my riding Joey in such a git-after-him manner wasn’t the best equitation, it was what he needed at that point in time.  Because when we stopped trotting, I took a deep breath, relaxed and softened my aids back to a whisper, and then he produced some soft, obedient walk work practising our 10m circles up and down the centre line.  By the end of the ride, he was listening to me. 

Like my trainer said; I had his number.  And if thumping his sides and growling at him was what it took, then so be it!

See ya,

bonita

P.S.  ~ All of Mugwump’s wise words sourced from here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Training Schedules and Updates


IMG_20120422_204810

A few dot points about what’s between happening with Joey while I’ve been on enforced radio silence.  

  • We cantered!   It wasn’t great, but it was there.  I was very happy with it at the end because I was actually brave enough to canter him for the first time since I brought him home, and it was just me and him – no one else.  Go us!
  • Contact -  Joey has basically started to disrespect the bitless bridle I’ve been working him in, so I switched him into a French Link/Double Jointed Eggbutt snaffle, and we are working on achieving soft, firm and consistent contact so that he respects the bridle, but more importantly, his rider!
  • Trust under saddle –  On that note, I know that Joey’s disrespect is founded in the fear and distrust he has in his rider to be able to ride him without hurting him.  He basically feels that he has to control the contact, and keep it loose, or he will get hurt.  I think we are making progress in that direction; it’s taking time, but we are getting there.

Plans for moving forwards:

I have committed to working Joey five mornings a week – I get up at 6:00am and go straight to the horse.  The idea is to work him before I start my usual day.

So far, it’s there’s a 50/50 success rate.  The first week I said I’d do that, my 11 month old boy got sick, then so did I.  That was the end of that.  Then I managed to work him Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, NOT Thursday, Friday, Saturday…  Which brings us to this last week. 

Of course I got injured at soccer on Sunday and couldn’t use my left hand/fingers properly until Friday.  Even now it’s still sore, but at least I can get back into it.  Yeah, not a great if you think about it – that’s two weeks off and one week on, but I am trying and I am committed.

I’ve already seen some results with working him that regularly, so I know that it’s beneficial.  It makes me feel heaps better too!  There is something to be said for early nights and early mornings, even though I am a total night owl and I really don’t know how I got myself roped into this….. 

Oh, that’s right.  I just don’t have enough time to progress Joey’s training otherwise.  I literally have to MAKE the time, and the only way to do that is to cut two hours of night time activities – be it watching TV, or socializing -and then paste those two hours into the morning.  crtl + x, crtl + v = horse improving.   At least, that’s the plan.  I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. 

See ya,

Bonita

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Offline….

 

nocomputerlolcat


Hey everyone, this is just a super quick post to say that I’ll be offline for the next two to three weeks.  My RSI has flared up in both my wrists and now my elbows too so I’m cutting all computer work to try and let it heal.

Talk to you when I get back!

Bonita

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Return of the Beast – Episode 600


IMAG0356

~  * The culprit himself looking all cute and innocent in his new rug… *  ~

*sigh*  What is it they say?  One step forwards, six steps backwards?  That sounds about right…  After Monday’s nice and fun ride, today was something of a blow out. 

It started off well enough, he was so quiet on the lounge that I only did a couple of circles at walk/trot on either rein – yup, I wanted to get on and RIDE!

We walked around the arena, we did our 20m circles and we even went past the scary stuff ok!  Then I tried to sneak in some pole work like I did on Monday.  *huff*  Yeeeeaaah.  That didn’t work. 

Joey would not go over those damn poles.

And I know it wasn’t because he was afraid.  He just didn’t want to, so he was being an absolute snot about it.  We ended up wrestling over this for a good 30 to 40 minutes – he was doing everything he could not to listen to my seat, leg, then spur aids.  He was kicking out, jacking up, walking backwards, scooting sideways, bucking; you know, the lot. 

The darn horse actually stepped over the first pole at one point then went backwards again when he realized he’d done that!  > x <

My approach to the situation was pretty simple:  he could stand and look at the poles for a little while, then I would quietly ask him to move forwards, my aids were applied stronger and stronger until he stepped forwards, then I would immediately release the pressure. 

He would actually eventually get up to the poles with some fussing but when I asked for the next step that is when he’d get shirty and start trying to run sideways around the poles/go backwards.  As soon as he started going backwards I would rouse on him and make it very uncomfortable for him to be doing that, he would chuck a tanty, then would eventually stop facing the poles again because I wouldn’t let him turn or run away from them.  No circles, no side steps, just plain old facing straight at the poles.  That’s when I would sit quietly. 

We went backwards and forwards too many times to count and eventually I decided that unless I had all afternoon to keep this up I’d need a slightly different tack or we’d get nowhere. 

I pushed him up to the poles one more time and before he could get sticky or tense I hopped off him.  I asked him to walk forwards and when he refused I made him go backwards and sent him around in tiny little circles around me when he wouldn’t go backwards anymore.  Three or four attempts like this and he went through the poles as quietly and calmly like there had never been a problem in the first place.  Honestly, butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth.  Not a foot wrong, not a fuss.  I KNEW it!  He was just being a brat – testing the limits.

One good thing that came out of this is that I know I can handle pushing his buttons.  He wasn’t happy with me today, and he let me know it.  I could handle it and even doll out the appropriate disciplinary action when he needed it.  No, kicking at the leg or spur aid is not on.  Neither is running backwards, bucking or jacking up.

That does up my confidence level – I now know that I can handle his temper tantrums and that even though he doesn’t want to obey, at no point did I actually feel unsafe/in danger.  Not happy, and definitely not comfortable or relaxed{!} but still, okay.  I didn’t feel like he wanted to kill me, he just wanted to do his own thing. 

Still not sure where I am going to go from here – I don’t think that getting on and trying the same thing tomorrow is going to be any kind of productive solution.  So I am thinking that I am going to cull it back – get him used to going over one pole on a lounge circle and then transfer that to a 20m circle over one ground pole under saddle.  One step forwards, two steps back.

In the mean time, he will still be doing pole work on the lounge/in hand and I think we’ll definitely be doing more work on backing up.  He has to realize that if he can only back up if I want him too, not as an evasion, and he also has to realize that if I want him to back up the length of the arena he had better darn well do it, just because I said so!!

See ya,

bonita 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Aha!


I have just finished up my first ride on Joey in about three weeks {thanks to rain, a head cold, a bout of mastitis and some ‘flue….  Yay. Sick.}.  I am really pleased to say that he did really, really well today!  He was soft and listening for most of my riding lesson; there were a few times I could have used my spurs, but I forgot to put them on today. 

Still, I am super pleased with today’s ride.  I had some serious “Aha!” moments with my riding position and some really good feedback from Joey.  There is nothing like getting it right and getting an instant response!

The first big one that made the most impact on how he rode was a tip I picked up from Val of Memoirs of a Horse Girl:

-  Close your outside upper arm against your side when riding in a circle.  OHMIGOODNESS I can’t believe how well this worked!!  Basically, Val wrote that she was told to pretend that she was carrying a ‘precious piece of paper’ – like a cheque for $100.00! – between her outside upper arm and ribcage when she was riding in a circle.  I tried that today with Joey and you would not believe the difference it made to his circle work!  I was really catching his energy that was escaping out through his outside shoulder and channelling it forwards.

I found this tip particularly was also extremely effective for controlling his spooking away from particular points in the arena.  Joey will flex in a circle, but he’ll often bulge in and out depending on whether he finds parts of the arena scary.  So, for instance, we’ll be doing a 20m on the left rein at C.  He’ll cut in on the circle when we are heading towards S because he didn’t like the tall weeds waving in the wind.  I had to really support and use my inside leg to push/leg yield him out while opening up my outside rein to create space for him to move into. 

Once past S on the centre line, he would promptly spurt forwards and out, trying to get away from the scary weeds.  So before the centre line, I would half-halt, clamp down my upper outside arm and close the gate by really applying my outside leg.  I was amazed at how much of a difference that made to his bulging out/evading issue.  The outside rein reinforced my leg far more efficiently and I was able to actually execute a circle rather than a corner from the centre line to R.  

- Direct with your thumbs.  This means to hold your thumbs up and point in the direction you are going; creating “rails” from your shoulders to the horse’s mouth that guide the shoulders.  You can open your inside “rail” to turn, or close it to keep that shoulder in.   I found this super helpful because it helped me to a). keep my wrists straight and even, without breaking/bending to try and turn him, b). it helped me to keep my fingers closed on the reins which is great because my coach has been nagging me about my bad habit of open fingers for ages, and finally, c). it made Joey’s turning much smoother.

-  Use your belly button to turn.  This also helps to create a smooth turn if you twist your belly button in the direction you want to go.  Useful!

I can’t believe how much of a difference these little things are making to my riding and to Joey, and I am so glad I can see the results of using these tips! 

My homework:

-  Working my half-halt and halt.   I tend to brace against the stirrups and lift out of the saddle when I am halting which is bad, bad, bad and totally ineffective.  I know what I am trying to do, but I am not doing it right.

My lower leg needs to go ON, and THEN my spine needs to draw up.  I want to think of actually creating energy in the halt and half-halt, not just stop.  This also applies to downwards transitions.

-  Lower leg position.  I have been working on this, and I am not doing to badly, but I need to be more consistent and really aware that during downwards transitions and halts/half-halts, my lower leg tends to swing forwards which also ruins the effectiveness of my halt aid.

-  Turning the trot poles into a comfort zone for Joey.  We didn’t do trot poles today in the lesson, rather we snuck them in when we had rest breaks and just got him to walk over them calmly.  I was so excited to see how well he did with them today.  He was a star! 

I have to make sure I don’t tense up when approaching them in a trot though; the first stop he pretty much stopped and then walked over them.  He was a lot better at trotting over them when I was relaxed too.

I think that’s it; I love writing all this stuff out so I can remember it properly.  It’s super helpful.  Oooh!  And I also got an accidental walk-canter transition from him today!  It was all very exciting, because even though I didn’t ask for it at all, he did it beautifully.  He just stepped under himself really deeply, lifted up his shoulders and flowed up into a canter!  I was so shocked, but it was so beautiful and neat!   I didn’t let him canter on after the first few strides of course, but I didn’t scold him either, because that was a lovely forwards transition and he did it so nicely.  He wasn’t trying to bolt or pull, he just went up a gear, skipping trot on the way.
 : D   

I love that he has that athleticism – I can’t wait to see where we go in dressage.  I had a fun ride on my horse, and that’s really cool.  > w <

See ya!

bonita

P.S. -   Ack, more text I know – sorry for the super long post, but I also have to add that we had some really good tying up training after our ride today.  Joey has sucked back a few times and learned that he can escape being tied up by breaking the baling twine/and or his halter{!!} which is really not good news. 

So today my riding instructor double haltered him {his rope one underneath and a nylon halter over the top}, twisted both lead ropes three times around the solid metal pen rail, leaving only a small amount of rope, so that Joey was ‘tied’ short, while she had the other ends of the lead ropes.  We both stood on one side of the fence and he was on the other, and then I went to town picking off the rain scald scabs on his forehead.  I wasn’t hurting him, but he so didn’t like it so the first thing he tried to do was suck back, and when he found he couldn’t do that either he wasn’t happy!

My instructor would release a little bit of rope for him as he went backwards, so that he knew that he could go backwards, but she didn’t let him pull right back or go very far, and she didn’t make it easy for him either!  After a few minutes of dancing around and fussing, he was standing still and letting me touch his forehead and his ears and gently rub the scabs off.  It’s a really great training technique for horses that suck back, but a bit difficult to ‘set up’ when you are a). by yourself and b). don’t have anything specific that’s going to make him suck back so that you can implement the training!  As a result, I was really glad the timing worked out on this lesson for Joey. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Training Tip: Loosening the base of the neck

 
Remember when I wrote the Training Tip: Slow him down post?  The basis of that post was to use lateral flexion at the poll to soften the horse and slow him down by asking for concentration on the gait and balance, rather than just speeding around. 

To do that, I would signal for flexion by pulsing/vibrating my inside rein, asking the horse to flex his head in from the poll and bend his nose marginally so that I could just see the eye.  Hold that bend for two to four strides, then pulse/vibrate the outside rein and ask for the same degree of bend to the other side.  This can be done on a twenty meter circle or on the straight.    

This exercise is great for slowing down a fast canter on a 20m circle, but as I found out today it is also great for loosening a horse’s neck muscles.

Val from Memoirs of a Horse Girl writes her take on using in-out head flexion in this post Riding Reflection – The base of the neck.  She doesn’t go into the specifics of asking for the release of the horse’s neck, but she does go into the results saying

Asking him to release the muscles at the base of the neck allowed him to relax his entire neck and back… When he wanted to release those muscles more, I moved both of my hands slightly forward, toward the bit…

I experimented with transitions and changes of direction, always looking and feeling for the muscles in front of the withers to be soft.  Sometimes I opened the rein quite dramatically to prevent myself from pulling back as much as to encourage him to let the muscles go.  I was focusing on the withers, but the effect was on his self carriage.  I could feel him stepping evenly with both hind legs and becoming lighter in front.  I was concerned that cantering would introduce too much excitement and spoil the magic, but he actually carried the feel into the canter.  He bounded in front of me, lifting his shoulders with each stride.  The best was the last transition. 

We went from canter to a nice trot and then I asked him to walk.  He lifted his withers, making a place for his hind legs, and I felt him step deeply underneath our weight as he shifted gears.  This is so difficult for my horse, and he could not have done this if I had pulled on the reins...” 

I find it so interesting because she describes that feeling of her horse stepping under himself, and the softness in front of the whither.  I remembered how that felt with Copper’s canter – I hadn’t realised that’s what I was getting, but I was!

I also knew in a flash that the in-out flexion technique I was using in canter for Copper would be excessively valuable in walk/trot as well for loosening up Joey’s neck.  A light bulb moment if you like!

So adding on to the benefits of softening a fast gait, we can also achieve softness through the neck, which in turn allows softness through the back and then the horse can engage his hindquarters and lift/use his back.

Training exercises can produce more than one result!  *ding*  Useful to know.

See ya!

bonita

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rain, rain go away.


As you can guess from the title, not much has been happening around here. The radio silence has pretty much been due to some heavy rains for the last two weeks.  Which brings me to the topic of my agistment. 

One thing I really dislike about keeping my horses at a government paddock is the fact that I don’t have access to an indoor arena.  I will go out and visit the ponies when it is windy, dark, hot or foggy; pretty much any weather but rain. 

Not only does the ground get really soggy and slippery which is pretty challenging in itself, but I don’t have any where dry to put Joey while I groom or tack up either.  It's basically all open paddocks.  

Which is very budget friendly, so the price is right, but also, again, a pain in bad weather.  Or when you have a lame/sick horse and you have to pen him up in the yards in the middle of summer with no shade…  Yeah, that’s not good either. 

Not that it’s been a real problem for me yet, but I know it has been for other horse owners at my yards.  In fact, one of the owners had to put up some shade cloth to shade her horse when he was being kept in everyday because of a bout of impaction colic.  Thankfully, the sails are still up, so if we do ever need to use them, we can.  They aren’t the best form of shade out there – I think well a ventilated stable or a great big shady tree would be better, but they certainly are the best thing for the set up we have. 

One day I am dreaming of my own property with a big barn with all the niceties, an indoor arena, an outdoor riding ring, a round pen, jumping paddock and perfectly fenced paddocks for the horses.   I don’t want much do I?  In the mean time, you can see some of the set up we have. 

OurArena

Our arena.  It’s not a very clear shot, but you can see the crazy amounts of grass growing all through our riding area.  It’s nuts!

OurFeild

Joey, grazing in Paddock 1, up the top end near the gate.  The rest of the herd is hiding down by the dam as it’s the only dry ground in the paddock.  The field is literally a swamp at the moment; most of it is under a couple of inches of water.

OurYards_2

Rusty, my sister’s horse, in the metal pens/yards that is the main holding area.

OurYards_3

Another view of the yards – we have two small pens that share a water trough and a larger pen on the end that is usually where I tie up Joey to tack up and feed.  You can see the sail cloth that’s on the end, shading that pen. 

See ya,

bonita

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three Things


I haven’t been doing much with Joey due to the rainy weather, however there are three things that happened over the last few times I visited him.  I was pleased about them, so here they are.

  • Lounging:  I went and lounged him yesterday as the ground had finally dried out.  He was just in a rope halter with a line, and he did really well!  Yes, he had excess energy, and yes, he still cuts in on the left lead {I’m trying to fix it, but it’s proving difficult} but when I was watching him trot and canter around I couldn’t help but remember the first time I ever lounged him.  

    He was hopeless! He pulled and yanked on the lounge line, even though it was clipped under his chin to his bridle, wouldn’t obey my voice commands, tried to bolt off and circle?  What’s that?  It was more like, um, random squiggles.  Yesterday?  Reasonably soft, willing, listening and engaged in nothing more than a rope halter, plus, actual circles!  He really has improved!
  • Trot poles:  We did them on the lounge line quietly, and even kicked it up a notch by raising the end pole up on tires.  To be sure, that blew his mind a bit, particularly when the pole MOVED if he kicked it.  Still, we walked over them all calmly with nose stretching in the end and didn’t even freak out when I picked the pole up after he knocked it down several times.  Methinks he is learning.  Yay!  Break through!
  • Trust:  This is the biggest one, but two things have happened that make me think he is learning to trust me more.  One, the other day I led him into the pen that has sails stretched over it with out a single bit of hesitation.  Sure, he did boggle a bit when he realized where he was and he had to have a good sniff around, but that was it.  I couldn’t even lead him near the gate of that yard when he first arrived at the paddocks.

    Secondly, he freaked out yesterday when my dad went to try a new saddle on him – mostly because he had eaten his dinner and didn’t want that thing near him.  It wasn’t good that he did that, we really need to work on his attitude towards saddling.  But what was good was that even when he was ‘trapped’, stuck between the fence and the saddle – he still responded to me.  I could see him thinking about charging past me and trying to get away; very dangerous because he would have basically pushed right ‘through’ me.  But I blocked him with my shoulder and told him to stand and I could see him listening.  He didn’t like it, but he did listen.  I got my dad to back off a bit then, and I hope it was enough of a release that we put the saddle on and then basically took it off again. 
Small events, but good ones none the less I think!  Now if only I wasn’t so scared to ride him.  *sigh*  One step at a time I guess.

See ya,

bonita

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More progress and the scary trotting poles of doooooommmmmm

 

trotpoles

This is what I wish my arena looked like. Not what it actually does…. > < ~


Hmm.  Today was interesting.  Again.  I’m not sure how I feel about it; and that seems to be happening a lot these days!

Joey {yes, Joey was Joey, then Sparrow and is now Joey again…} was pulling grumpy faces and stepping away when I went to saddle him.  I’m not sure how to stop that, but it’s a good indication of where his mind is at at the moment.

Horsey’s all like *dumdumdunna- wait!  Is dat a saddle??  Ohnoes!  *pulls grumpy face and sidles away…*  “Maybe she won’t notice if I tippytoez over herez…  I dun really want to do this today…

Anyone got any ideas for keeping his feet planted?  It’s not too bad as in I can get him to walk back to his spot again and then put the saddle on, but I really don’t like the fact that he thinks that he can “get away” from work.

Besides that we had fun lounging – he’s gotten a lot better at staying out on the line and working through his transitions.  He does a little “humpy” buck on the right – I growl at him and get on his case.  I don’t think that has been the most effective response from me though, because he tends to race around like a maniac on the end of the lounge then.  I don’t want him learning that discipline = running fast, so I am going to change tactic and work his butt off on a tighter 15m circle.

After that then we had a discussion about the scary trotting poles of doooooommmm.  Backstory – Joey thinks that any type of trotting/ground pole or jump is super-duper scary because his last owner would jag him in the mouth every. single. time. he went over a pole or jump.  He is so scared/worried about them now it’s not even funny. 

I basically have to work him over poles every time I go down there until the new response of over poles = calmed and relaxed, as apposed to over poles = *arrrgguuh! They’re going to eat me! Quick! Jump-forwards-so-they-can’t-catch-me, run-away, jump-sideways-just-in-case, buck, snort*

It did get hairy on the ground because he tried to escape the poles by barrelling right past me at a canter.  I wacked his chest/shoulder as he dashed past, but I was not impressed, so he worked his butt off for that one as well!  Once he’d done a few more circles he did walk quietly over the poles in both directions.  And that’s one of the things, if not the only thing, that keeps me coming back to this horse.  He will freak out like any TB green four and a half year old, but he’s teachable. 

If you can get him to go down a gear and relax, you can actually see him working things out.  I like that.  That’s the part of him that I think has potential.

So more lounging after that episode as he was not ready to be mounted yet, and then I got on.  We just walked around the arena and did some trotting and 20m circles.  And then I just had to see if I could push it didn’t I!


jump with poles

~  You’d think that I asked him to do this!  ~

Yup, I tried to get him over the poles.  First time, he was sticky, evasive and unwilling, but we did get over them; mind you at a very fast clip!  He spooked away from them sideways – trying very hard to teleport out from underneath me, and I sort of lost my seat, but not that badly so I wasn’t able to sit and quietly ride the crazy.

Second pass?  Uh, no bueno.  Things got really hairy this time – I was gritting my teeth and focusing reaaaaallllllly hard on the other side of the poles as well as directing myself in my head with “Forwards!”  *nudge-nudge-nudge*  “Straight!”  Gentle guide with reins.   “Forwards!”  “Straight! Crap-I’m-going-to-have-to-use-spur-do-it-only-on-the-side-where-he’s-running-through-your-leg!  Straaaaight!” “Forwards!”, etc.  He wasn’t having much of it, he was tossing his head, backing up{though not scrambling backwards thank goodness!}, and he was really pipped at the application of the spur because that meant he had to listen.  Still, he did walk up to the first pole.

Then my dad walked his horse past us and around to the other side of the poles, and it got ten times easier.  Joey went over, trotting a bit frantically to Mercury's side{my Dad’s horse}, I scritched his whithers and gave him a few seconds to relax, then turned him around for another pass.  He was still sticky, but he went over and from there on it just got easier.  We went one way, then the other, we followed Mercury over, we had Mercury walk beside the poles and we went over, and then we finally finished with a loose rein, head stretched down, calm walk over the poles AWAY from home AND Mercury which was really good.   I just walked him around the arena a bit more then hopped off.

I am glad we finished so well, but I do have mixed feelings about it because it only worked out that quickly because of my dad and Mercury.  I know I helped Joey deal with his anxiety, but I’m not sure that I’ve really dealt with mine by doing that.  See, it was easier to get him over the poles with the help of another horse/person, but I sort of feel like I needed to ‘win’ that one by myself for my own confidence….  I don’t know. 

It was the first time I had tried to get him over the poles myself.  We did do it once, but it was that second time that I needed to get with him.  I think.  Maybe I just need to help him first and then help myself.  I don’t know. 

I am less nervous about riding him, which is great, but I am still really nervous about pushing him outside of his comfort zone.  Today, half the battle was that it was scary for him and half the battle was that he didn’t want to listen to me.  It’s that not listening to me part of him that gets the ol’ hamster spinning in my tummy.  I don’t like it.  It’s not fully licked yet. 

I don’t have all of his respect yet – and I am still stumped with how to get it.  I really am trying to bring it with the ground work and have everything just so, but under the saddle it’s still eluding me.  And that’s why at times I am still scared to ride my horse.  : X

Gah.   

bonita

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Changing names…


IMAG0177
So Sparrow doesn’t seem to be sticking as a name for the pony.  I have had comments about how he looks like anything but a Sparrow, and to be perfectly honest, at this stage I’m not really surprised.

I did mention that the boy has been filling out right?  Well, everything has gotten bigger.  I had to do up his noseband a hole looser – his head has even grown!!

Sparrow
So I’m thinking of going back to plain old Joey.  Or do you think there is another name that suits him?  It has to sound similar to Joey or Sparrow – he already knows those names. 

…Or does that mean it has to be Joey again?  Do you think it’s fair to change a horse’s name once they know it?  I tend to think it’s a learned response, so the horse probably doesn’t care altogether that much.   In fact, Sp-er, Nameless One probably thinks that he’s really called “Steady Boy”!  

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Lion’s Share…

 

*rwar* I eated youz upped!

Of laughter and fun!  You know, I think I need a miniature pony now…

See ya!

bonita

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whoo hoo!


woman_riding_horse
~  Not Sparrow and I yet, but someday…  ~

I am about as jazzed as I ever could be.  Today for the first time ever, with Sparrow,  I had my horse fully with me! 

It all started with the same routine – except that I had not ridden him in the last two weeks. 

Oh, this is going to be interesting. 

I went to get him and he was hanging out at the gate for me{isn’t he so cute?}, we groom and get ready to ride – uhoh, it that a saddle?  *Sparrow pulls face*

He looks grumpy as I tack him up, but I am prepared to lounge it out of him; no way am I just hopping on after the nice long holiday he’s had! 

He works really well on the left rein on the lounge line, but when we switch directions he doesn’t want to stay out on the track and keeps cutting in.  I use the whip at his shoulder to stop that, and he takes off at a canter.  He then proceeded to buck a bit which got him into trouble!   I don’t let him do that, and he knows it, so I growled and pushed him forwards; making him work hard for that bit of bad behaviour….

Now for the scary part.  Yup, it was time to mount up.  At this point I am moving slowly and methodically, forcing myself to concentrate on being calm and just breathing.  I have noticed that when I get nervous I tend to rush or ‘flutter’ about; so if I concentrate on each motion as accomplishing a certain task, that helps to calm the stampeding hamsters in my tummy!

I get on, thanking my lucky stars that he stands like a rock for mounting, which is always nice if you are feeling a bit squiffy about riding.  I settle into the saddle, marshalling my thoughts.  I have a plan today – I want to try out some new training techniques that I have been reading about.  So here am I thinking out loud as I absently scratch Sparrow’s whithers, as much to calm myself as the horse!

“Ok.  Think forward.    Get off his face.   Remember the 1-2-3 aid; seat bones, leg, then bucko-you-so-don’t-want-to-go-there with a touch of spur.   Control his feet with your legs.  Bump one side then the other if he’s sticky.  Keep your shoulders level.  Stay out of his face….

I take a deep breath, asked for forwards with my seat, then had apply a touch of leg as he obviously hasn’t figured out a seat aid yet! 

And then we just walked around the arena.

Big deal?  Oh yes, it is!

It’s the first time since I bought Sparrow home that I’ve been able to get him just walk around the outside track of the arena.  Yes, he didn’t like the boggy muddy corner.  Yes, he was looky.  But he was looky at a loose, head-down, relaxed-ish walk.  When he felt like he was going to come off the track I nudged him ever so slightly with my inside calf, then the outside, alternating until he straightened up and relaxed. 

By the time I had gone around the arena twice on the left rein, changed rein and made my way down the long side on the right rein, I was grinning so hard my cheeks were hurting…

I had him.  He was there, in my hands, in front of my leg – listening…  I felt the tears well up.  I have spent the last two months stressing.  I didn’t know how to break through to him.  I didn’t know if I would ever get past his resistance without some serious fighting with each other.

Before today, even when he was obedient, it was like he was literally obeying because it was easier to do that then to make a fuss.  But the problem with that is that I could still feel the resistance. That slight stiffening in his back.  The tiny drag of his hind quarters.  And the hard neck.  My goodness, that neck!  I knew I didn’t have him, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

But today?  Nothing but softness…  We trotted in 20m circles.  We spiralled and leg yielded, and did even better spirals after that.  Sure,  he was crooked at times, and I would check my shoulders to make sure that the crookedness wasn’t my fault.  He would also loose focus once in a while, and I’d have to remind him that I was there, but you know what?

He always came back to me.  And that is just great.  I even decided to walk him out on the first little part of our trail ride, despite the fact that he’s been so spooky and boogy when riding without a trail buddy.  I felt confident doing so because I had a plan and I knew what to do!

I made sure he was pointing forwards while maintaining a loose rein, and kept him moving by nudging one side then the other when I felt him getting ‘sticky’ and worried about leaving his buddies.  We walked to the end of the jump paddock with minimal fuss, I halted him, and we just sat there for a few minutes then I dismounted.

I loosened off his girth and bridle and gave him the signal to graze.  He had a few mouthfuls of clover and then we walked back up the paddock together.  It was so funny!  You could see him thinking about the ride as we walked back.  When he’s doing that he kind of knots his brow and chews a bit, looking very thoughtful. 

I lead him back while he was ruminating, and pulled off his saddle.  He stood so quietly while I unbridled him and put on his halter.  Then he looked at me.  I looked back and…  I don’t know.  We just had a moment together, acknowledging the connection we found today.  I kissed him on the forehead and hopped over the fence to get his feed.  He dropped his head to graze – the moment was over. 

I am still euphoric.  What a day – what a ride!! 

And for those of you that are interested in the new riding/training techniques I’ve picked up – go read the Mugwump Chronicles if you haven’t already.  And I mean start from the beginning and read all of her posts type read.  Seriously.  Do. It. 

I learnt the nudge-nudge trick from her{although she calls it “bumping” – I just translated that to mean an English riding nudge.  Dunno if I am right, but it works!}, how to get your scaredy cat/barn sour/herd bound horse out on a trail ride by himself, why thinking forwards is so important, the principle of feet {control the feet and you have control over the horse},  and stuff that I haven’t even had time to process yet, but I know is lurking in the dark recesses of my brain… 

Best three days I ever spent.  And I proved that today by riding Sparrow and finding my horse.  I am so stoked.

See ya!

bonita

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Goals for Sparrow


I thought I’d write this down so that I had it clearly in my head.  This way I can track my progress with my real goals and not get side-tracked with perceived goals in competitions and the like.

  • To ride him bareback on a trail ride/over jumps/where ever
  • To have a ‘broke’ horse that trusts me, no matter how scared he is
  • To have him soft and forward going – engaged in the work
  • To enjoy our riding together!

Yes, I want to train and compete in dressage to the highest level we can make it to – but I want that as an aside; something that happens on the way.  It’s not the sole purpose, or even the focus of our riding together.

See ya.

bonita

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rewards and work ethic – Guest post by Mugwump

 

I love this post – it makes so much sense when you are looking to train good work ethic in a young horse.  Release and reward: use it wisely and it’ll work wonders!  Here’s how, as detailed by Mugwump from the Mugwump Cronicles.

 

Rewards

Can you tell me what you mean by rewards in this case that the owners should have provided? What should they have done in this case? And why would the horses rebel? How can you make it so they are happy and don't rebel?


I had a different plan for today, but this question is so good, I'm going to cover it in today's post.


My training method is a fairly common one, I've developed it in bits and pieces from the clinicians I've seen, the trainers I've worked with, and the horses I ride.  I'm sure that many, if not most of you, will recognize things I say and do as methods that come from other trainers.  I never will claim to have invented any of this stuff, so if I sound like I have, understand I am continually learning and trying new and old things. It's all mixed up in a jumble of what works for me, and I have made it my own. But I sure as hell had to learn it somewhere.


When I start a horse the first thing I set up is a reward system.  To my mind, the horse doesn't really care if I pet it or praise it. Horses spend their life looking for the big four {Eat, sleep, run and poop!}, none of which have anything to do with me. I like to pet horses, but that's for my benefit, not theirs.


To them, a reward is to leave them be.

When I step to them, that creates pressure.

When I step away, it relieves pressure. Stepping away is a reward.

The first time I saddle I step to them with the pad, then away with the pad when they tolerate it.  So the reward is to have the pressure of me and the pad taken away.  And so on.

The horse learns that if it does what I ask, I'll relieve their pressure.  After the first ride I step off and loosen the cinch, then I put them up. The reward is the release of the cinch, and quitting for the day.  In the beginning I release them by putting them up for every positive step they take.

They really start looking for that positive step.  As I get farther along I increase what I ask for.  I want more and more from them before I give them the big release.  In the middle they get small rewards for being good.

After each properly executed manoeuvre I let them stand for a few minutes on a loose rein.  All my horses will stand rock still with the reins hanging after the first 10 rides or so. They know if they are quiet I'll let them stand. If they move I don't pull them down, we just go back to work. With enthusiasm. 

I rest them often.  I try to make a clear decision with each horse, for each ride. I will either ride them past their comfort zone, and deal with the fall out, or I'll quit before they get to the point of arguing with me. 

If a horse starts to fade or misbehave because I've pushed them, I make them mind, and we work until I have their focus again. Then I quit.  This builds a try into them that's really satisfying.

If I have to ask for more, they'll always give it.

Not because they love me.

Not because I give them carrots.

Because they trust me.

They trust my consistency.

They trust my leadership.

They know for a fact that if they try, I will get off, and leave them be.
I'll let them continue their equine quest for the big four….

….[to read the rest of the post go here]….

All the hugs, kisses, pats on the nose, or whispering sweet nothings in their ear, will never replace being fair.

If you're not sure how, start reading….

And now it's time to get riding. Later.

Wise words from Mugwump – I love her blog and her way of training; it just make sense to me.  Check out the Mugwump Chronicles for more Mgwumpy goodness!

See ya!

bonita

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Progress


Yes, I think I can say it: we are making progress.  I am so excited! 

Yesterday it was lounging time again.  Particularly as he’s had a five day break over the last week - though I am sure he and everyone else thinks I’m nuts for asking him run around in endless circles!

In fact, I got asked yesterday if I ride him much, sort of in a “Are you one of those only ground work people or do you actually ride your horse” sort of way….   > <   Yes, yes, I DO ride him.  I just try to make sure that the majority of our work together isn’t schooling at this point.  I am focusing on learning by experience{trail rides and in hand ground work} and balance and obedience conditioning{lounge work}.  I am trying to create/encourage a good work ethic in my boy, and I think we are going in the right direction.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard to find people to trail ride with at the moment; either the timing doesn’t work so well for one or the other of us, or the type of horse/ride I want doesn’t work.  We are walk-only trail riders at the moment and calm, experienced horses are essential trail buddies for Sparrow’s peace of mind.  Which means that my options are rather limited at times.  Still, that tangent aside, I really think that all this ground work/lounging is good for him.

I can really recommend it if you have a young, green horse that’s a bit squiffy under saddle, or bolshy on the ground – lounge, lounge, lounge them until they can run in circles in their sleep.  I find that it’s helping me to learn to read and lead Sparrow and I think he’s a lot more relaxed after doing it too.

We also spent some time chillin’ and relaxing down by the new jumps that appeared in our jump paddock.   The new girl brought in her set and boy, oh boy, are they pretty!  We now have proper stands, wings, jump poles, cups and even a few ‘scary’ fillers for the ponies to get used to. 

Sparrow was actually really good facing up to all the new, bright horse eating monsters.  We just walked around and through and over some ground poles and although he was ‘looky’, he didn’t really turn a hair. 

I know it’s because I was on the ground leading him.  I have learned that he will pretty much relax and calm down for anything if there is someone by his head leading him over/near the scary things.  Which is really good on one hand – he trusts me enough to listen even if he’s spooking.  On the other hand, I have to figure out how to transfer that trust in me on the ground to when I am in the saddle. 

I am not sure how to do that at this stage, but personally I think that the more we do together, the more that will happen.  So we will wait and find out.

More updates later – I am trying the Pessoa system on him today so we will see how that goes!

See ya!

bonita

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