Friday, October 31, 2008

Trail Riding with my herd

I found the time to get all 3 horses about 8 miles of exercise. The weather is amazing and so warm, we're breaking records (will be 76 on Halloween!). After work, I hopped on Rain and ponied Z and Gemini. Kendall was going to go and ride Rain, but some friends of hers showed up and that was all she wrote.

Typically, I ask my horses to canter off from home. This seems to get them programmed to leave home with some energy and I like that. Gemini has become quite a nice pony horse - staying in his "box" and not lagging or leading. Z on the other hand, much prefers to lead and she's so much faster. When we canter, she gets ahead and I have to remind her to stay in her spot. She's much better about quickly recognizing my "get back" ask, but she still finds herself out in front.

Rain, the horse I usually ride when I pony two, is the slowest. :-) She's gaited and although she can gait so fast Gemini and Z have to canter, when we canter she gets passed up quickly. It's interesting.

What I do these days is keep the Natural Hack reins on the horn and ride Rain "bridleless". The reins are there if I need them, but these days I rarely use them. I have a carrot stick which I use to talk to the pony horses and for Rain if she's not listening to my body cues. I think back to my riding 2-3 years ago and realize I have now developed a pretty good independent seat. Ponying two and riding one bridleless has really helped me improve.

At one point on the trail, we were cantering and both Z and Gemini got the adrenalin rush and started to get playful/energetic. I had Z on one side bucking and farting and Gemini on the other side determined to "win the race"! I had to laugh. I asked Rain to transition down immediately and both horses shot out ahead and nearly head-butted each other as the hit the ends of their lead ropes. I had a thought to let them go since they had so much momentum but I held on and it worked out ok. Again, so glad I've developed a good seat!

We went about 8 miles and came home in the dark. There was no moon and so, it was DARK!! I had Deuce with us, my lab/shephard mix, a great trail dog, and he tends to keep any surprises at bay. The horses are pretty wooly in preparation for winter and were pretty sweaty, too.

I trimmed Gemini's hooves after we got back. It's much easier to do after he's worked off some steam. :-) He can be quite a treat to trim. He's LBE and has a good time with me at trim time. He was actually pretty tired after the ride and the last mile or so, I had to keep asking him to "keep up". He's fat right now - I need to fix that.

A great night with my little herd of equines. Looking forward to finding more time now that my job is settling. I've got 2 months to get something sent in for the 3 savvy's (Liberty is in and started). After the new year, the assessments will change and I'm a little hesitant to change gears after I've worked so hard against the old assessment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bowing and L3 Liberty

I had a short bit of time available to get some things going with my horses. I also was able to snag Steve for some video footage. I got some video of Rain doing tricks:

Rain fetches her doll:

Rain Bows:

Z and I got some Liberty taped (again). Ugh - each time has a blemish I'd like to fix. This is a hard, hard thing to do.

Sometimes I'm having fun, sometimes I'm just pushing my horse and I into a brick wall. I'm learning to take it easier on myself and my horse... slowly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just a kick

Damn, I got caught in the cross-fire between Rain and Nina and Rain got me really good on the thigh with a hind kick. Sore, swollen, and out of commission for a couple days for sure.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cantering Bareback

With Steve out of town, it is TOUGH! Kyle needs shuttling to work, kids have homework, Kendall is newly in braces and miserable, Kendall also has a cold, I'm about to go on a trip that is my first organized meeting, horses need care (Nina needs a trim), work is tough (con calls all day), and I'm not getting nearly enough horse time. Good thing I'm not having PMS. My head would probably explode.

Today, in spite of all that, I managed to squeeze 45 mins of horse time in. Ahhhh, felt better. I grabbed Miss Z, did a few mins of ground work. I asked her to manipulate the teeter totter, she was perfect. I took her into the round pen and practiced some sideways, some yo-yo, some lead by the lip, tail and hocks, transitions on the circle, and trot in to me. All were great - she's highly motivated by carrots.

Then, with the bareback pad, I asked her to walk, trot and canter with me mounted. I haven't done any bareback riding in a while; I've been focused on Finesse riding. We had the softest, easiest bareback riding canter I can remember after a few minutes and so I hopped off and took her back to the barn. She was great and it was just what I needed to go back to my crazy world.
I've been considering other horses, mainly as I'm being asked more and more to take horses on or start horses. A friend has a horse she wants to sell and I think he's an amazing horse and he could be mine, if I wanted. I already have 3, I don't need another. He's cool though and he'd be fun to train. Tonight with Z reminded me that I need to stick it out with her. She's offering great things and when it's right, it's awfully damn right.

The better I get, the more people will want to give me horses or have me training/starting their horses. The opportunities will grow and become more available. I have to take it slow and easy. This is my journey with Z.

At least for now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

8 miles on the trail

Did a nice ride on Rain and ponying Gemini. Both are fat! Have to cut down on the grain I've switched to. Lots of cantering, and a full-out gallop.

Rain was very nervous going through the gulley (same place she normally gets nervous). Gemini had a hard time staying in his spot and snatching grass with no feel for me at the end of his halter. He does not have a soft feel. Rode Rain mostly w/o reins. All body and stick cueing. Makes ponying easier for sure. However, we need to work on down transitioning. She's not clear what my down transition means. Should be easy to build on as she'd rather walk anyway. :-)

Both of them have better looking feet. Rains hoof walls grow fast and I need to trim her every 2 weeks, I think. Want to build a more conical shape.

I need to ride Gemini, but lately I always manage to find something else to do besides ride him :-( I'm not afraid, just not up for the hassle. He needs the exercise!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Helping others understand Parelli...

... is TOUGH! oye.

Z was great - did what I wanted and then I rode her around a neighborhood with tons of dogs and noise and sprinklers and bags stuck to barbed wire... Stimulation all around. She did quite well. She had a few times of fear but mostly she was confident.

I didn't feel good after spending the time with the 2 people I was trying to coach. It was tough and I'm not sure I got my points across very well. Good practice for me but want to be sure I'm doing the program justice when I talk about it. Hard to do with non-Parelli people.

Bowing and Riding Z

I've been practicing the bow with Rain for a few years now. I started about 3 yrs ago and barely new what I was doing. She understands the concept, but she would never stay in the bow for long. Recently, I started working on it with her again and now she bows beautifully. I'm going to get some video and put it on youtube. It's pretty cool.

I recently started teaching Z to bow, as well. I'm using a very different technique with Z. We'll see how that goes. A horse has to have a lot of trust and confidence to get in such a precarious position as the bow. It's much easier for Rain than Z, as Z is not near as trusting. I also asked Z to circle me and practice transitions up and down. Her down transition is not as good and she tends to break back into a trot. This is important for us as we go back and retape L3 Liberty.

Kendall and I rode our horses bareback in the round pen after bowing. I asked Z to follow the rail at the trot. We also had the Equiball with us, so we had our horses kicking the ball around. A fun little session.

Then, I tacked up Z and we went for a ride. We practiced canter/walk transitions in a figure 8, snakey bends, sideways over a log (very softly) and canter transitions in a straight line. She gave me the nicest canter depart and down transition so I hopped off and let her eat grass. She's giving me more and more great stuff. My leadership is better and I'm expecting more. She also offered me a very vertical trot, nearly a piaffe, and a rode that a bit asking her to maintain. So cool.

Monday, October 13, 2008

4 hours with Terry Wilson


1) Fixed sideways by: being more particular, asking for more impulsion, sideways at the trot, sideways from barrel to barrel. Got the sideways for the L3 task after 30 mins.

2) Fixed our back up: that broke a few weeks ago. Slapped her hind end for more impulsion. She was lacking respect. Doh!

3) Did transitions with more meaning - got lots of elevation and impulsion. Just being too nice about things. Raise hand and correct her if she ever goes past it!

4) Started asking for a hind qtr yield with her head facing the opposite direction as her hind was traveling. Get a step or two and move on.

5) Practiced moving the hind, then following through with the fore on the rail. Keeping hands in small "box" and asking for vertical collection

6) Half-passing - set up a pattern along the rail with barrels/cones on the rail and on an inner track. Half-pass from rail marker to inner marker and rest. As horse gets the idea, move to the trot. This was tough and Z is very out of balance, one side is much softer than the other.

7) Terry set up large box with barrels and a pattern where you half-pass from one corner to the opposite, trot past, square around and half-pass in the other direction. Tough pattern. Terry got on my horse and tried this one with her.

8) Sideways on circle with me in the middle, Z5 in front of me, asking her to go sideways around me (like a tire spoke, horse moving from spoke to spoke)

9) Played with question box. Liked it - need to set one up for myself.

10) Need to keep taking up more and more of the reins - still giving too much.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gemini Day

Hooves, playing 7 games with Gemini from Z's back (great!!), figure 8 pattern with both of them - teaching Z to be a better lead horse and Gemini to be a better pony horse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Playing in the rain!

Well, not really. Stuck in the barn with a few hours to dedicate is more like it. Still, there's plenty Z and I can accomplish in the barn aisle. I just have to get creative, which typically I don't suck at. :-) Today, I took about 45 mins to give her a nice trim. The front left didn't please me when we were done, but the others looked pretty darn good. I have to watch the hinds. She's had true bull-noses on the hinds and I finally know how to fix it. Now I have to be sure the toes don't get too long. I'm so thrilled that I can do this myself now. Absolutely thrilled.

We practice lead by the lip getting it softer, then played with getting her to sidepass to the stool I stood on for mounting (she's great at this now) and then yo-yo from walk to backup w/o reins and bareback. It was a nice, rewarding and calm session. Once I put her in the stall, she stood and looked at me for a moment through the bars - almost asking me if we were done. I didn't act, just stood and watched to see what she'd do. After a few moments, she walked into the run and waited. I wondered if she was waiting to see if I was truly finished goofing off with her. She looked back, then she walked out onto the track with the others - back to the hay under the shade shelter with Rain and Gemini.

I feel like I'm starting to be able to read her mind a little. There is no secret better kept than that between a man (or woman!) and his horse.

Using Horses for Transportation

I had an appointment scheduled to play with a Parelli student's horse. I've been playing with him over the past 3-4 months and this was probably our 5th or 6th time together. Today, he turned a corner... big time. Another time where I've had to say out loud, "Man, this shit really works!".

I could tell he was different from the start. Normally, Pat catches him in his stall and he's hesitant. I try to help her understand the Catching Game in these first moments. Today, he thought to walk away from Pat and then changed his mind. He took a few steps, stopped and allowed her to gently halter him. His initial reflex, to walk off, was stunted by his new found pattern of THINKING. I love a thinking horse.

We took him to the grass area and I started with Friendly Game. For the first time, he was completely fine with my stick and string. My jaw dropped. Then we did some driving, some yo-yo, some circle and some falling leaf. He was fine - no excitement or fear. He understand the language and the games and he was - for the first time - showing some confidence! Pat and I were both very impressed. For the first time, I thought the horse would someday be rideable. I'd had my doubts in our previous play sessions.

I quickly decided we needed to make things more interesting and get an obstacle. Pat brought out a rail and I started asking to squeeze over it. Then, I'd ask him to stop with it under his belly. I was doing this all from Z2 and Z3. Then, I moved to Z1 and asked him to yo-yo over it. The entire time, he didn't get excited, worried or fearful. He licked and chewed a LOT and he stayed calm.

It was getting cold and dark so we called it a day. I walked away so satisfied - we'd gotten through to him. He had no reason to trust a human attached to him by a rope a few months ago, now we could actually have a conversation and do some things together.

To add to my moment of glory, I got to her house by horseback. I rode Rain and ponied Z. They hung out in her arena while I played with her horse. When it was time to go, I went to the arena gate and they both saw me and immediately to me from across the arena. Z actually came a little ahead of Rain. I realized Z's draw has gotten much better than 1 year ago.

We worked on transitioning together the whole way there, something I've done very, very little practice on with Rain. It was good for Z to learn to maintain her position as pony-horse during transitions. We cantered some and had a nice ride over. On the ride back, it was cold and getting dark. We found a nice stretch and galloped together for about 1/2 mile. Z kept her spot, Rain kept her speed, I rode fluidly as possible. I was smiling the whole time and my horses were both partnered up with me very nicely. Everyone was holding up their end of the bargain. Rain broke into a nice sweat and I found a place to reward them both with some super green grass left over from our rainy summer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Time with a new horse

I spent some time with a new horse, an Arab mare about 5 yrs old and just recently started. She's a rather spirited left-brained extrovert from what I could tell. She sure liked to move her feet and at first, I had a little trouble convincing her that it wasn't necessary. The owner was looking to get her into the trailer for her 3rd or 4th trail ride. I was looking for the mare to tell me she'd be ok with that.

But first, she needed to understand how to be around people at the end of a lead rope. She's a nice mare, but she hasn't been taught much about manners or having respect for the human nearby. So, we worked a little on building a language and me establishing some leadership. I wanted to teach her to lead nicely and I wanted her to start yielding to pressure at the poll. That was interesting - when her feet got stuck, I'd add pressure in Z4 or Z5. With the pressure from behind, she'd go jamming out in front, so I'd have to ask her to get back behind me. Then we'd go again...

She learned, there's no question. She was ears forward, licking and chewing, dropping her head in submission, all good stuff. I wanted to work on her confidence more. We played a bit more after I felt like we were starting to communicate and then I took her near the trailer so she could tell me how she felt about it. She said, loud and clear, she was not ok with the trailer! She pooped, lost her cool, ran around, called to momma (who was 20 ft away). I felt sad for her, she'd been trailered a few times already and she was obviously forced into it those times. I tried to explain that to the owners and hopefully I got my point across.

Just because a horse will do something, does not mean they are willing. There very nature makes them want to do what gets them away from pressure and that's what gets us into trouble. We have to listen when they tell us they aren't ready. And it's up to us to help them be ready for what we're asking.

In the end, I never asked her to load. I asked her to be ok with playing near the trailer and we accomplished that. Then, I had her owner take her and try a few things. That went well as her horse was much more calm now and had a clear understanding of what she was being asked to do.

It was, in my mind, quite successful!

Groundwork with Kendall

Lately, Kendall has been wanting to do more groundwork. I think she watches me and sees herself having more of an upper hand with Rain. Today, we seriously got started. We've tried a couple times before and she usually goes angrily marching off for one reason or another. One day, a little mud got on her pants. Another day, she refused to use the stick and again went angrily marching off. It takes a serious amount of patience on my part, but I'm willing to do it. However, she's got to listen to me and do what I ask so I can keep her safe. She's got an 1100lb animal at the end of a rope and I can't risk her getting stubborn and willful.

We started with games 1-4. Her friendly game is much better than it was. She's getting better at using the stick and string. We tried some porcupine and Rain was way interested in eating grass. I tried to help Kendall not get too frustrated. She actually did very well! Then, we did the Driving game and Kendall was awesome at that. Finally, we did a little yo-yo and again Kendall and Rain looked really great.

We'll do more games when she asks.

Then, I took Z off and did a little trailer loading, some circle at the canter on teh 45', squeeze over a 3ft jump and some flc's on the 45'. She had a ton of energy and she galloped her circles a bunch. I just can't remember seeing her go that fast on a circle. I was shocked and had to laugh.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Riding into the sunset

Tonight, I managed to get both Z and Rain tacked up and ridden. The shorter days are making it harder and harder. I started with Z and took her into the arena. We worked on more of our 1 million transitions, corner game, some sideways barrel to barrel, some figure 8. It was quick and I hated to feel like I didn't have much time, but that was the way it was.

Then, I took Rain in the arena. It was the first time in eons since I'd asked Rain to do something in an arena with me on her back. I wanted her to follow the rail and maintain gait. Both needed practice. I was riding her in an english saddle and I'd set out thinking to work on longitudinal flexion. She wasn't ready for that, so we went back to more basics. It felt good to ride her and I forgot how fast she can gait down an arena! It made me giggle!

She wanted to do the right thing and she felt a little energetic. I didn't want her to feel criticized but I realized I must of made her feel that way a lot when I was using her in L2. Sorry, Rain. I'm better now.

I also worked with both mares on bowing. Rain was able to bow quite nicely, but she's not holding it for long. We'll keep building her length of time in that position. Proud of her. Z is nearly down in the bow. Cool! I'll try to capture video and put it on my youtube page.

The sun was gone and I had to get chores done and spend time with kids. I could have done more... hours more. That's why I need 3 horses.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stealing Time

I managed to get out with Z today for a couple hours. It was my first time getting out with her in a week because of work travel. We worked on more transitions. We practiced backing. Z used to have a great backup, and all of a sudden it stopped working. Together, we were able to get a soft feel back in action and a much better backup.

We rode in the front pasture and played figure 8 with 2 trees. We did 5-step canter transitions and worked on trot/canter downhill. We practiced circles and we need to keep working on them. They aren't very round. :-p

I loved spending the time and she seemed pleased to. I can tell by how much she things about the barn or the herd. When I'm doing well, she doesn't think about them and stays in tune with what we're doing together. Love it.