Saturday, May 30, 2009

A day with Kime

It started off with a 2 hour private with Kime. After the two hours, Jen, Tammy and Drew would be showing up for a short group lesson. I was looking forward to the private time, because I want to get my freestyle great so I can move on to finesse riding. I’m enjoying the freestyle riding and Z and I have come a long, long way in the last few months.

We started a little warm up and then I began to show Kime what I had in mind for my freestyle audition. I had my course all set up and she liked what she was seeing. I have all 7 games covered and pulled some creative tasks off the self-assessment sheet. However, as I suspected, I didn’t get very far into what I wanted to show her before we were stopping to fix things up. My circle focus needs help. I’ve got to practice that. My circle is no good and thus Z doesn’t ride a circle for me. We talked about the bend in my body, the position of my legs and torse, sitting slightly on the outside of the saddle. I should pushing my outside hip up and NOT bringing my shoulder down. It’s tough to do correctly and I just need more practice.

We worked on our backup w/o reins. Z isn’t paying enough attention and that’s because I’m not being particular enough. I must continue to up our game and ask for more lightness. It never ends, it’s got to get better and better. So, I have to remember, ask with phase 1 then quick 2-3-4. And 4 has to be effective. And 4 should be more than 3! Silly that she had to correct me on that. Then, she asked me to walk a diagonal line by correcting the horse only on the outside. I didn’t really understand what she was asking for so the first couple times were a bust. But once I figured it out, I realized we couldn’t do it. We didn’t have a bridleless disengaging hind. So, it was a good discovery and we stopped to fix that up. I’ve got to remember those phases, too. Eyes, belly button, leg, stick. I have to bring my hand in to my belly button as if my rein was there. It causes my body to simulate what I’d do with reins and Z knows what to do.

We got that going and then it was time to work on our jump. She had us start with a ground pole. She was testing my focus and our ability to go over an obstacle together. Z tried to avoid even the ground pole, so of course she’s going to avoid a jump. Duh! We fixed that up and then she had us circle some obstacles with the ground pole on the circle. It was more circle practice and I realized then that my focus is horrendous. I just struggled. She explained that I should think about every little detail of that circle and really make it right. Do less sooner and keep Z as focused on our task as I am. Once our circles improved, Kime had us do a course she thought of that included corner game, circle game and squeeze over the jump and then the barrels. It was a good course and I will do something similar in my practices. Another important thing is to reinforce the jump differently than I’ve been doing. Allow her to avoid it, but circle around and go back to it. Repeatedly. Until she goes over it. Then, when she goes over it, reward the heck out of her with a huge release and even a treat. She’ll quickly figure out we’ll move on quicker if she doesn’t avoid the jump.

We quit at that point. I want to go longer, but the others were waiting to start their group lesson.

For the group lesson, I let Z off the hook and grabbed Gemini. Our ground work needs more development and Kime was expecting a lot from us. She had us doing separate things from the group, which is fine. She had us start with 7 games and observed us. She told Gem and I to go work on the figure 8 pattern. I was not walking back and forth in a straight and I honestly don’t think I even knew that. It did make a huge difference, though. And Gem was doing much better, so she sent us off to play the squeeze game. She also had us demo disengaging hindquarters. Oh, how I hate to be chosen to demo. However, we did a decent demo and I was pleased with us. For the squeeze game, we moved to barrels and I tried to squeeze him over, but Gem was putting very little energy into things. We’ll keep developing and I can’t wait to take him to Pagosa!! I know we’ll grow tremendously when I only have him to focus on.

At that point in the group lesson, it started to rain. And thunder and lightening. And we tucked horses into trailers or the barn and we sat and talked in the barn. We talked for a while, but I was seriously disappointed. I was looking forward to riding Gemini. I really wanted to ride him finally. We’ve been on ground since I took him back over from Krissy. It’s seems like a good enough time to start riding again.

Oh well. It was a great day anyway. Too short, but great. Jen and I sat with Kime over wine and hot chocolate for a bit before all heading off for evenings. I had Kendall’s b-day dinner at Dave amd Busters to go to with the family. I had to fix my attitude and get on with my night. :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walking the trail

My sister came over to ride with me and I planned to take her on the trail. Kendall wanted to come, too. Doh! It was too many beginners for me to also be on a horse, so I decided to lead Kendall on Z and have Chrissy ride Rain. I walked 5 miles on the trail leading the horse. It was fun - giggling with Kendall and helping Chrissy overcome her fear of riding. My feet are a little tired, I wasn't in the best shoes for that long of a hike.

Z was perfectly calm and good for Kendall. Rain was perfectly good and calm for Chrissy. It was a nice, calm 5 miles and a couple white marbles for Rain and Z.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Walking the trail with Z

Did a nice, slow and easy 5 mile trail ride with Z and two of my dogs. Started out with me running, trying to get exercise for the first 1.5 miles. Then, after a little ground work on the trail, I hopped on and we walked the whole way. I never do that! I always feel the need for speed on the trail. But today, we walked. I've been spending a lot of time prepping for Freestyle filming and Z and I needed to just chill. She was great, relaxed, comfortable, and alert. We needed it.

When we got back, I groomed her and loved on her. She loves her face scratched and I complied. She was in a good place emotionally and when it came time to put her back with the other horses, she did not want to go! She balked when I led her into the stall to go out on the track! She's never, ever done that. She wanted to stay in the barn aisle. With me? To be with the hay? I don't know. But normally, she wants to go back with the herd and tonight she didn't. That's pretty cool.

Also, I'm riding the feet off of Z. She's not growing enough hoof wall to support all our riding. Time to ride her in boots. Wow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Z meets the riding lawnmower! Eeeek!

Liberty, full turn
riding in front, circles
freestyle course
moving the fore bridleless
sideways bridleless

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My first CTR!

A friend and I did our first CTR event this weekend. What a blast! Basically, CTR is a long trail ride where they stop you along the way to test your horse's physical ability and make sure he's ok and they judge you on your horsemanship. I could really get into this sport. They fed us, the trails were marked beautifully and the people were friendly and welcoming.

We left about 4:30pm in Tammy's trailer and truck. She has a rear tack so the trailer loading is single width. That was new for Rain and she wasn't so sure about getting in. We took a few minutes and she was good to load. I got in first so she could follow me, then I backed her out and sent her in. She was great, always looking to me for reassurance. We took the matress out of my trailer so we could sleep comfortably in hers. I had enough stuff packed for a 4-5 day trip. Oye!

We arrived about 6pm and unloaded our horses. Right away, we were fed dinner and given maps. The ride meeting was about 7:30 and took about an hour. Several spoke; the trail master, the judge, the vet, the president of CTR... The judge said a few things that struck a chord for me. She said, "Basically, I'm looking for a horse-human relationship that shows harmony." And then, "I want to see riders and horses with smiles on their faces." And the statement I loved most was, "I expect you to be asking yourself what your horse is trying to tell you". These were all very inline with how I view my partnership with my horse and I was so pleased.

They explained the trail and where the P&R's would be. They didn't talk about the obstacles or judging areas very much - those are meant to be surprises. They did explain what they were looking for with the trailer setups, the horses (groomed and clean hooves), feed and water neat and organized, etc...

We were ready to go about 7:30 am after a rough nights sleep in the trailer. The horses were restless all night the trailer was constantly moving. I slept lightly and I was a little tired at the 5:30am wakeup time. However, I wanted to make sure I put a fresh a mustang roll on Rain's front feet before we took off and I knew we'd probably be feeling unorganized with our first time doing a CTR. And as we tacked up, down came the rain...

We waited for the open riders to leave. The starter calls them by number and they leave one by one. Then came the Competitive Pleasure riders. There weren't very many CP riders. Then the novice - this was the biggest group of all. We were safety riders for the novice group. This meant we'd carry safety gear on our saddles (no one told us what was in the pack) and we'd wear orange vests. We were all covered in rain gear, too. There were several safety riders - probably 7 or 8 of us.

We left camp about 8:15am, bringing up the rear of the group. The trail started off just amazing - soft trail, very few rocks, trees and beautiful scenery. The safety riders had varying skills and it seemed some of them were on horses that hadn't been ridden in a while. A few displayed terrible horsemanship and I was sad for their horses. One jigged for the first hour or two and the rider reacted by hitting the horse with the reins in the face and sometimes punching the horse in the neck. I was appalled. Several showed their frustration by pulling on the horse's face repeatedly or kicking them and calling them names. These were not my people.

Rain and I went happily along, however. She and I have a great partnership and a clear communication system established. She was willing to do what I asked, ride in front or back, slow or fast, up close or far behind the rider ahead. I was so proud of her! She's a gorgeous horse with a great foundation of training and just a fantastic partner for me.

My friend that I'd come to the ride with had a little trouble with her Thoroughbred, but all in all they did quite well. Her horse can sometimes get jiggy and high on adrenalin, but Tammy always takes it in stride. Rain led the safety riders group for quite a while and she did a great job of steady leading. We rode in all places of our group, front, back and middle. She was fine everywhere.

The first P&R was at around mile 5. There was also a judging stop where riders mounted their horses for the judge. They could either mount from the ground or on a natural obstacle. There was a large rock right there that riders could use if they chose. The riders were lined up for their turn to be judged and it took a while. While we waited, a coyote went trotting past, not at all concerned with the 60 or so riders and horses lined up for judging or waiting to move on.

We seemed to ride for a quite a while after that without a judge or P&R stop. The trail was gorgeous and even in the rain, the view was amazing. The clouds were settled on top of the hills giving them a dramatic look. The sky was thick with clouds and I was just happy to be with my horse. There was some climbing but nothing too strenuous. The pace was often just a walk with the occasional trot or canter.

We then hit P&R number two. The judge was watching the riders trot by, making sure they were looking happy and using good riding position and techniques. Apparently, several riders had come in bunched up and they are supposed to be spread out pretty far. We saw one rider and horse team get pulled because the horse was showing some lameness. The P&R's are slow because 60 horses are showing up at relatively the same time. Interesting process of getting everyone back on the trail. They took our horses P&R as well, Rain coming in at a pulse of 48 and Ruby at 40. Both of our girls were doing just fine.

We rode out and stayed behind a solo rider who was going quite slow. Turns out, she really enjoyed the sound of nature and not the sound of other's conversations, so she kept a good distance between herself and those in front or behind. We tried to respect her and stayed far back. Tammy started to have some trouble with her horse at this point and I stayed back to support her. We ended up riding alone for quite a while, which was nice. I stopped for a moment in the bushes (more nature called) and saw a deer go hopping away. Sorry, Mr. Deer!

We played with our horsemanship and felt our horses wanting to hurry back to the trailer. Rain even got a little forward and anxious - a good time to work on sideways and shoulders or haunches in. We were the very last ones in and people were already taking off after the lunch break. We watered our horses, fed them, covered them up from the rain and ate sloppy joes!

Thirty minutes later, back on the trail for 7 more miles! We were the last to leave camp so we had an opportunity to gallop alone to catch up. Tammy's horse is way faster than mine! lol We laughed hard. Then, we caught up to the last of the riders and hit the next P&R. There was no judging at this stop. The trail from here was muddy and very hilly. That was kind of cool. We took our time and let the horses find their best footing. Then, the terrain changed again and we were crossing lots of water. It was beautiful here - lots of trees and a creek and pretty stone formations.

We were coming to the end and I have to say, I wasn't ready for it to be over! I'm a trail freak and I could trail ride every day. I'll be looking for more competitions to enter this summer. I love it.

My family was at the camp when we got back. The rain was coming down and we had to get our horses ready for the ride home. I could have stayed for the second day and I wished I'd planned it that way. It's ok, I had a great time.

We'll be back for more CTR's and I can't wait!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Liberty with Gemini

It's been 2 overly busy days of personal life and I havne't gotten time with my equines. Today was rainy and chilly, but I just had to get Gemini moving. He's not happy standing around and 2 days is too many.

I got the hay out and then took Gemini into the round pen. I haven't done anything at Liberty with Gem in many months, so decided to give it a try. He needed it! He ran, went straight up in the air, bucked a little, snorted a bunch and generally worked some of the willies off. He wasn't hungry, but he felt like finding something to nibble. Then, I just asked for the 7 games at Liberty and got them easily! He left a few times, but I wasn't surprised - we've done so little development in this area. He was learning that coming right back was a good idea.

After some time, I took him into the big arena. I was curious if he would play stick to me with that much space available. He tore off at first and I kept Zone 5 pressure on and after some time, he had it figured out and stuck with me. It was very cool! After a solid 45 mins of moving between the round pen and the arena, I took him to the barn for some trimming. I didn't get him done because the kids were calling me into the house, but it was a great session with him and my fondness for him continues to grow. I also really think he's greatful for the time I've been putting in. His trust factor is definitely improving and he's more eager to please than I ever remember. I know that I'm a better horseman now, too. Maybe this is just our time to sort it all out. Maybe I've needed the past 2 years to build my skills and be ready to take him as far as possible. Who knows - I'm enjoying it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rain and Gem on the trail

So, Rain and I cover 30-40 miles on the trail this coming weekend in our first CTR ever. I'm so excited! I've been meaning to get more training rides on her and I hope she'll be ok. I may switch her out for Z on day 2 because we aren't competing. We decided to be safety riders and experience the CTR for the first time w/o competing. So, we'll make sure everyone gets down the trail safely and help any that need it.

Rain is such an awesome trail horse, but she doesn't really like to work too hard. It might be more miles than she's up for in a weekend. We'll see.

Anyway, tonight Rain and I ponied Gemini for about 9 miles at all gaits. Gemini remembers how to be a good pony horse and I was really impressed with his behavior. He hasn't gone that far on the trail in quite a while and he was rock solid. At our furthest point from home, there was a horse that called to him and he called back once. Otherwise, he was never nervous or overly concerned about where home or his herd was. Rain had some unconfident moments which surprised me. Otherwise, she had a good amount of go (by Rain's standards - ha!) and we had a great ride.

We came back in the dark and I had some super relaxing, almost meditative moments thinking about my horses, my life, and how much I enjoy my time with the equines.

I'll get another ride in on Rain on Wednesday with some good mileage and then she'll rest until Saturday.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

L3 Freestyle Filming

I had big plans for the day to get Rain exercised (CTR race is in one week!) and Cowboy moving and Gemini on the trail. However, I did a quick session with Z practicing for our bridleless filming and we had such good stuff going that I decided to go for some filming time. Steve obliged and we spent an hour or two capturing some freestyle riding.

I feel very good about we've got going and the one thing I want to practice a little more on is the circle at the canter. We are using only the neck rope and 1 carrot stick. I realized at one point that I was being unclear with the stick and I went to phase 4 when she was blowing through my ask to turn left. You just can't be bridleless on an Anglo-arab and have the horse thinking they can do what they want to do! :-)

I may send in some of what we got on tape and I may practice the circle a little more and send new film. I haven't decided. Either way, we're nearly there! Feels amazing - my partner and I have come such a long way.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More trail time with Gem in-hand

Convinced Steve to come along and made a hike of it.  We went several miles and Gemini was calm until a certain point when he got very afraid.  I had either a LBE on adrenalin or a RBE.  I think we was a bit a both.  I chose to move his feet a lot and change the game fast and furious.  Sideways, over obstacles, falling leaf, backwards fast, sideways again, only a few seconds of each.  He got it back together and we were able to move on.  It was very interesting seeing his behavior from the ground and I know it would have been much worse if I'd been mounted.

The terrain was perfect because we were walking in a ravine and I could send him straight up the ravine wall and down into a ditch and over holes in the ground.  We could sidepass easily down the trail and go backwards nice and straight.  

The dogs came along and it was a nice 1.5 hours of exercise and horse training.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Running with Gemini

Had a great run with Gemini again today. He was a perfect horse, careful not to brace against the lead rope while he eats grass (he's figured out how to do that and stay up with me, kinda cool). We walked/ran and at one point came across other horses that caused him to get his adrenalin going. We are practicing sideways a bunch and he's doing pretty good - his butt lags some still, but hes getting straighter. We've got nice circles and transitions on the circle are pretty nice. His change of direction is nice, too! He learns fast and he is so willing. I can reward him with grass munching and he's easy to please.

Getting Gemini out and more Freestyle

Today I took Gemini for a 30 min run with me. He ran along side me and we went down the trail together. My oldest, Kyle came along, too. Gem was really great - never worried, always listening, a good boy! On the way back, we practiced the 7 games and especially sideways, falling leaf and backwards. We stopped after so he could munch the nice green grass and he seemed happy.

Then, Z and I went into the arena for more freestyle practice. I don't think we had a great session. I was feeling irritable (not sure why) and she was very "go forward" thinking. I wasn't frustrated, but I realized I wasn't being my best for her. We did some corners game, cantering the circle, transitions, figure 8, and some other things. I decided to leave the arena as I just didn't feel good about what we were getting done. We went to the front and I asked her to jump a 2' jump, squeeze-style. She was so overleaping this jump! It got better and towards the (after 8 or so jumps), she got more efficient with her energy.

I wasn't in the mood and I realize I probably need a day off of riding. I've gotten lots of horse time lately and I'm grateful, but I think I need to just sit with them if I get the time today. I just need to enjoy them and ask them for nothing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Taking Gem for a walk

Today, I put Gemini on the 22' and headed out for a walk down the road. We did lots of circle game, sideways, backup and falling leaf. He wasn't nervous or worried to leave the barn and he was extremely responsive! I went to my neighbor's for a quick chat and tied him off. He was ok until he couldn't see me anymore, then he whinnied a few times. My neighbor has cows and he was tied pretty close to them. It was obvious they were a mystery to him.

Once I came back into sight, he calmed right down and was happy to have me close by. He's just that kind of horse - not confident alone. He needs buddies. Over time, he'll get more confidence as I spend more time teaching him that he's ok. He's just acting like a prey animal and he doesn't have calmer, braver, smarter down yet. I really enjoyed him, though. We stopped for lots of grazing time and worked on floating circle game. He was happy to be out and willing as hell.

Then, I tacked up Z and we went back out to our obstacle course. We cantered our best circles ever!! We played bulls-eye, corners game, did lots of squeeze over 18" - until it was a non-issue for her and me. She refused the jump just a couple times but after many jumps, I could feel her getting comfortable and gliding over the jump with ease. It was a great session for increasing her jumping confidence and next session we'll go for the barrels. I wanted to move to the barrels in this session, but I held back as we had found the perfect place to quit with the 18" jump. It was a smart move and it took some work from me to not forget ahead. It'll pay off, I know.

Our circles were awesome. She really has the idea now of the circle. We gently trotted some circles and we easily cantered nice circles. They were the nicest circles I've ridden on Z. We used the bullseye technique and I put a treat on the barrel in the middle to up the ante some. She is pretty barrel sweet now, very useful for a good circle.

Tomorrow I'll get Rain on the trail and pony Cowboy. Rain will probably be my CTR horse in a couple weeks and I want her as fit as possible. Cowboy just needs to get moving.

A great day!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers Day, Chores and Riding

Had a great Mother's Day! I did chores outside, which is quite rewarding. I weeded the arena (not all, big arena!), fixed some fence, moved some rocks for drainage and cleaned up the barn. Then, I got Gemini out to run in the arena. He tears off with so much gusto and then comes charging back to me. He stops just in time to not plow me down. I know he'll stop so I don't flinch or move. I'm sure to a non-horse person, it would look like madness as he's running towards me at a full gallop. He puts on the breaks beautifully, though. And he gently reaches his nose towards me to say, "So, what's up?". Then, I gave a slight gesture to move him away and he tears off with a fart and a buck. He's fun.

I then trimmed Rain's fronts. Her front legs are crooked so the front hooves are a little strange. They capsule wants to turn in and I'm trying to trim to keep the capsule as straight as possible. I'm not sure how good of a job I'm doing - probably time for some advanced coaching. Otherwise, her frogs look great - all the horses have nice healthy frogs lately and everyone seems to be going along just fine. I'm so pleased! I thought about having someone come and trim a few horses for me since I have 5, but I really enjoy it and I'm not ready to give that chore up. I'm learning a ton about horses, their hooves, their behaviors, how to succeed and get them to partner with me, just great stuff.

I then tacked up Rain and took a nice, long ride with Z as my pony horse. We went about 10 miles, mainly at trot speed. We cantered some, walked a little, and stopped for grass munching in strategic locations. The grass is amazing now - the best it will be in our area for the entire year. Rain now knows our regular munching spots and it works in our favor for keeping her motivated on the trail. She moves out quickly as we approach the next munching spot instead of dragging herself down the trail wishing she was home in the herd.

Z was an energetic pony horse and I had a harder time than normal keeping her in her "spot". I want her ears lined up with my knee and I try to keep her there. It should be her responsibility, but she was so forward today! She's much faster than Rain so when we canter, she shoots off like a rocket and gets ahead. I add commotion to Zone 1 and get her back in her spot but at higher speeds, it's a constant game of reminding her to stay in her spot. I realized today that I'm not setting her up for success. I need to do more practice in the arena or at home, making sure she understands her responsibility. She's such a go horse, she forgets as soon as we turn up the speed.

About 1.5 miles from home, I found a tree with grass all around it, hopped off and laid down. I let the horses graze for a while and stared up at the clouds. I just relaxed, listened to horses munch and tried to enjoy the moment without thinking about anything else. It's a very hard thing to do - turning off my mind to just enjoy the moment I'm in. I'm trying to teach myself to do that occasionally. My mind is always so full and spinning, I'd like to learn to shut if off - even if only for a moment. I had 2 dogs with me for the trail ride and when I laid down under the tree, they laid down right next to me. It was really nice.

It was a fantastic day and I love my animals. Thank you to my husband for allowing me this time. It's very healing.

Playing with the Geldings

Had a great day with the geldings! I spend so much time with Z and Rain lately - Z as we finish L3 and Rain because she's Kendall's mount and just an all-around fantastic horse. I leased Gemini out for a month or two, but it didn't work out so now he's back in my development program. I have Cowboy and I'm working on helping him be more productive in the human world. He's a great horse, a nice mover, but he's pretty dominant and can easily get his own idea about things. For him, my main goal is to eliminate the brace.

Gemini now lives in a run/stall. I learned recently that when I put Gemini away for a week, all bite marks ceased. All this time, the only horse actually leaving marks on other horses was Gemini! I thought they were biting each other all this time. Wow! So, obviously he's not the benevolent leader I thought and he needs some time alone. It's fine, I'll play with him and develop him and he can live in the large run/stall until I can turn him out in one of the pastures (after the spring grass growth). He's fine and all the horses look better w/o bite marks. :-)

I put him in the arena so he could run and roll as hard as he wanted. He tore off bucking and farting, rolled wildly, then ran some more. He looked awesome. Then he hung out eating the grass growing around the arena's edge and I went for Cowboy. I haven't spent much time with Cowboy lately and he does well whenever we play. I want to help him overcome the brace and I want to help him feel comfortable with humans. He's doing quite well and his displacement behavior is more mild all the time. When he starts to get concerned and "swallows his tongue", I offer him a treat. He's so food motivated, that he snaps right out of his shell!! I groomed him for a while, tacked him up and then we played on the 22'. We now have a nice figure 8 pattern and he's not feeling threatened from the squeeze in the figure 8. He really wanted to eat grass, so we had to have some "discussion" about that. He's welcome to eat grass - but if I ask for something, he'd better pay attention because Phase 4 will come. He figured that out darn quick.

I hopped on and we went around at all gaits. He tried to eat grass and again, I tried to make it clear that it's his choice. What was funny to me was that he would go to eat grass, I would ask for forward and when he decided eating grass was better, I instituted phase 4 by reaching around and spanking his rump. The first time, he was startled and when back to work. The second time, less startled but he went back to to work. The third time, he actually lifted his rump in defiance before going back to work! I had to giggle. The fourth time, he showed defiance, but much more mild. The fifth time, he responded to phase 1 - he didn't move forward but he responded. That time, however, when I raised my arm to phase 4 his rump, he moved out and went back to work! So, I'd call that a phase 2/3. In short order, we had established some rules of engagement. It's his choice to eat grass while I'm asking him for something, but it will have a consequence. I learned some things about him and I believe he learned some things about me. I thought about going in to the arena so that grass wouldn't be such a challenge for our progress and I decided not to. This is one of Cowboy's challenges and it was appropriate to go through these motions so he could figure it out. I have expectations and I respect him enough to let him make the choice. I'm clear and precise in my ask and he has a job to do. By the end, we were doing beautiful trot/canter transitions, figure 8's in the green grass, sidepassing and absolutely no tongue swallowing. He had gotten with the program fairly quickly and I found the perfect place to quit. I'm so much better at making good use of time with the horses - I know he'll be better next time we play. He'll soak on that and so will I.

Then, I wanted to get back to Gemini for some groundwork. Gemini is a fantastic horse for groundwork - he wants to please but he can show some great exhuberance that makes it so much fun! We worked on sideways, lead from Zone 3 (first time for us), change of direction at the trot, maintain gait on the circle, figure 8 (beautifully done by Gem!), and some transitions on the circle. He was having fun and was so locked on to me. Whatever I asked him for, he gave it a hearty try. I was so pleased with him. I am thinking to stay off his back for a while and just get our relationship stronger and his groundwork excellent. Then, I really think he's a restart at this point. His bucking response is alive and well and the 4-6 weeks as a lease horse only reinforced it. I'm going to take him back to L1 riding and get everything solid once we get good strong L3 groundskills going. I think it's a good plan and I'll be spending good time with him this summer. I really love that horse.

I couldn't decide, after Gemini, if I wanted to play with anyone else. I've been reading a book about the Power of Now and starting to think about quieting my mind and finding time to sort of meditate. My mind is overly active and I rarely quiet it and simply enjoy the moment - the details of the moment, really living in the moment. I decided to try to do that with the horses.

The dogs are always with me. I enjoy the dogs, but they can be quite annoying with the horses. UDT can be tough with the dogs. So, I decided to take a chair and sit in a run with the gate closed. This way, the dogs could hang out, I'd be with the horses but not touching them, and I could try to explore the Power of Now. Nina, bless her cute soul, was just aching to be close to me. She was pawing the ground, reaching her feet through the panels, pushing the panels with her chest - she wanted to be closer to me. I scooted my chair closer to the rail and rubbed her face. Ahhh - she felt better and closed her eyes in total relaxation. Zarah did something super surprising. She stood at the gate to the run, looking at me through the gate, ears perked forward towards me. She wanted to come into the run and be with me. Wow! Z and I have really reached a new place.

All the horses had appeared from wherever they were when I setup camp in that run. Rain wanted to be close, but Nina had chased her away. She stood as close as she was comfortable and took a nap. Cowboy wasn't interested in my presence, nor was Abby. But Nina demanded closeness and Z asked politely, can't I come in?

I got up, opened the gate, Z walked in with ease, I closed the gate behind her and went back to my chair. This was upsetting for the dogs, but oh well. Z came over immediately and hung her head over me. She got as close as possible and just hung there. Wow - what a wonderful thing to have a horse feel that way about you, a predator, a human who's often asking for difficult maneuvers. She hung out with me for quite a while, until I had to go in and get back to life. I focused on living in the moment - hearing her breath, focusing on the areas I scratched that made her feel the best, managing Nina's demands for touch all the while, watching Z just feel comfortable and relaxed in my presence. It was maybe one of the most rewarding moments of my horse experiences. I've won Z over. I owe it to Parelli and to my tremendous desire to get to this point. Just an amazing moment. I've achieved something great and anything else I accomplish with Z is icing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Practice for Freestyle Filming

Had a nice, quick session with Z, practicing our choreography for L3 freestyle filming. I've got a course setup in my arena and I asked Steve to come out and film so I could study my riding and what Z is telling me. It was cold, cloudy and windy - not great weather but my gem of a husband stood out there and filmed anyway.

I'll post the video asap.

Z refused the jump twice before she jumped it the 3rd time. It's only about 18", so I'm surprised that she's refusing it. Am I looking at the jump instead of out and beyond? We need more jumping practice. She's also still trying to avoid it. I'm sure I could help her more. I suspect I'll see something on my video.

What's so nice is that Z is ready to play with me when I show up. She comes right up, walks into the barn, stands for saddling, just a pleasure of a horse. She did something else interesting, as I was readjusting the obstacles that were blown by the wind in the arena, she followed me around. Then, I stopped and started to get ready to mount. She did a large exhale at that moment! How interesting.

We did serpentines and figure 8 at the trot and a little at the canter. I'd like to get it at the canter for the filming.

After the arena session, I walked her out to eat some grass while I hung out on her back. She was determined not to leave the property - which was interesting since I rode her yesterday and we left the property fairly easily.

Anyway, a great session with my mare! We're nearly there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Preparing the Freestyle Course

Tonight I had a little time with Z and I decided to prep our course for the Freestyle filming. It was really helpful to think about a game from each savvy and imagine how we'd run through it. I realize we need to practice our jumping much more - another week or two. Our figure 8 is pretty good, we can drag an object very easily, she stands still for mounting. We have a lot of good things going, I just need to make sure we can manage that 2' jump bridleless.

She's is really happy to see me and be with me and that's where I'm the most pleased. We are having good moments and Z is telling me she's happier to play with me. We're ready to learn the next trick, too.

I also took Z down the road alone to see how she'd do. I'd left my carrot stick down the road from my ride with Kendall the day before. She was great - confident and willing. She had some moments of hesitation, but few and mild.

Evening ride with Kendall

Spring is here and the weather is warm and the days are longer all the time. I love winter, but this is pretty darn nice, too! Kendall and I got back from the tutor and my errand running about 6:45 and I decided to try for a late day ride with my cute daughter. Luckily, she wanted to as well! I did the fastest tack-up ever and we were off by 7:30. The horses were hungry, which wasn't good. The grass is green and long and Rain knows how to reach down and get grass whether Kendall wants her to or not. I've taught Kendall rhythm in the reins to get Rain's head back up, but it's much more natural to Kendall to simply Puuullllll! This of course, makes Rain MORE bracey and determined, not less. I remind Kendall and she does it, but her initial reaction is always to start a game of tug-o-war. Doh!

Still, we had a nice and fairly short ride watching the sun go down and the beautiful Colorado sky. We stopped here and there to let them enjoy some grass and I took that time to soak in the warm air and let my stress melt away. Very therapeutic.

Z was a dream - the first trail ride in a long time where she simply marched down the trial, not thinking about home. She was determined and doing her fast walk. It was phenomenal. I had a glimpse of what I'd built with her last summer where we could leave and ride alone wherever we wanted and not have her concerned about home or feeling insecure in any way. It's not easy for Z to feel that way, she's a more nervous horse by nature.

I've been focusing intently on down transitions w/o reins always... Z has become very sensitive to my seat and slowing down, halting or backing w/o the reins and often without any rhythm in my body. This is huge! My confidence with her just soars when I know I have so many ways to ask her to slow down or stop.

I got off and walked some since my work-outs are less frequent lately - it seemed like a good time to move and exercise myself some. Steve and Delaney came home about the time we were nearing our front gate. Delaney hopped on Z and I led my 2 kids home on my two favorite mares.

A very nice night!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Horses with a great friend...

Had a great day with Jen - 6 hours of horse time.

helping her with L2 audition
train riding
disengaging rein and hind end
rode her horse
change of direction
backing from z3

Z on the trail - great ride!! Forward and only slightly worried.

I'm ready to film L3 and then I've got to focus on the geldings. They need me too.

Endurance Racing and Controlled Catastrophe!

Wow, I had the kind of horse day I dream about. It was just a phenomenal day. Started out with an early rise for the endurance race my friend and I decided to enter. Awake at 6am, watching the clouds and checking Endurance in the rain? Bring it on, Mother Nature!

It was about 45 degrees, perfect for energetic horses and long-riding! I decided to use Rain a couple weeks earlier since Z and I are about to tape our L3 Freestyle. Nothing messes up bridleless riding like a fast ride with adrenalin in the air. We'll get there, just not yet. Rain and I had done a few conditioning rides but not enough for a 25 mile race. Tammy, my riding bud, felt the same. We didn't want to ask our girls for 25 miles w/o prior and proper preparation, so the 15 mile was our only option. Perfect distance for the first race of the season!

Tammy's mare is a large Thoroughbred and she can be pretty right-brained. She was nervous and it was obvious. We got through registration and vet check and went back to tack up to go. I didn't have my english girth (CRAP!) so I rode in my western saddle. No big deal - it's heavier but Rain is a strong horse and the western displaces weight very nicely. I, of course, rode her in the rope hack - like always.

About 9:03, we headed off for our first loop. We would ride a loop, vet check, rest for an hour, then go back out for a 2nd loop. The first loop was great fun, but Tammy's horse was pretty excited. She was worried and up and jigging and using a lot of energy. Rain was calm and did a great job, as I expected. She had a good amount of energy and was willing to move out quite nicely, often cantering for good stretches.

Rain pulsed out at 52 at the 1/2 way and 52 again at the finish. That's pretty good considering I haven't ridden her very much at all and she's only somewhat conditioned. I found myself many times wishing I was riding Z with all her go and spunk! I love Rain, but I appreciate a more energetic horse.

It took longer than I expected to finish the race, but I was so glad we did it. It was a great day!

When I got home, I took a lesson with Kime. I had it set up that I'd lesson with Kime on Z right after the race. The weather was falling apart and by the end of the 3 hour lesson, it was raining on us. However, I had a fantastic lesson! I learned a ton of new things and it was all about Freestyle. We worked on squeezing over a jump, she helped me tweak my bridleless riding and my seat (open the inside leg in the turn instead of closing the outside leg), worked a ton on moving back w/o reins.

Kime said a lot of what she was doing was just tweaking and that felt great to hear! I've obviously had good sessions with Z where we've made positive changes and I'm so proud of what we've accomplished. We are ready to film!

Other noteworth things with Kime:

- butterfly reins for jumping, focus out and up
- controlloed catastrophe - someone on the ground doing scary things and then riding what your horse offers while using butterfly reins to keep the horse facing the catastrophe
- disengaging the hindquarters and taking backwards steps after each squeeze
- disengagement and then moving the fore and walking off with fluidity
- freestyle disengagement - picking up the reins, straight arm, then running your hand down to get your disengaging rein
- lots of jumping with fluidity - butt staying in the saddle