Monday, August 31, 2009

Chrissy's Eventful Evening

Oye! Chrissy and I planned to take an early evening trail ride after getting some hay put away that was delivered today. I planned to ride Rain and pony Nina. Chrissy was looking pretty positive and ready to go and I was the weak link, slowing things down. I did not ground work Nina first and I should have. I played with Rain a bit, not much though.

As we started going down my long driveway to make our way to the trail, I realized I had a lot of horse under me! Rain is usually my calm horse, eager to go, but level-headed. Tonight she was full of life and Nina wasn't any better. I was trying to get Rain to ease into the ride and Nina to find her spot as my pony-horse. We were nearly 2/3 of the way up the driveway when I looked back to see where Chrissy was. I had looked back several times, always checking to make sure she's cool, but I'd had a stretch of time - maybe 100 yds, where I didn't look back.

I looked just in time to see the two of them braced against each other and Cowboy's brace escalated into a little crow-hopping. Chrissy rode it for a bit and then tried to dismount. She nearly got off gracefully! But at the last moment she lost her balance and landed with a thud! Honestly, she was so close to just making it look good. Of course, she was a little stirred up then and walked him the 1/4 mile back to the barn.

I of course, still had my hands full with mares and decided to make my way back to the barn while making some changes in my situation. I did circles and figure 8's at the trot and canter, teaching Nina to hold her spot and Rain to partner up. They were both so full of energy and it was probably 5 mins of that before we calmly made our way back.

After some talking, we decided that I should hop on her horse and see what I get. First we worked on suppling as he's become quite bracey. We also worked on maintain gait at the trot. When I felt like he was blowing and calm in the brain, we walked off to hit the trail alone. The sun was going down fast and I knew we couldn't trail ride, but I let him know that leaving wasn't so bad by giving him a grass-eating break when were out a ways. I hopped off and everything.

But then... MOSQUITOS!! OMG - they are so bad this year with all the rain and I'm hating them with all my heart. He was sprayed before we left but I swear the mosquitos think that fly spray is like gravy. I was swatting them off him the best I could but decided we should just get back so Chrissy can hop on him and remember that he's a good boy. I rode him back, hopping off at one point when the mosquitos were so bad he was just shaking around like crazy. I got back on before we were at the barn and then rode him some more, getting him more soft on the bit.

Then, I convinced Chrissy to hop back on him in the round pen. She noticed that he was a lot softer - a good thing for her to see that 20 mins of good timing can change a horse's response to the bit pressure. She played some more with lateral flexion then walked him around playing with direct rein.

But then... a Big Spook! Seriously?? He scooted away and Chrissy bailed off to the side. She hit the round pen rail and landed pretty hard. Wow - what a night. We took care of her, got her some ice and motrin. Checked that nothing was broken and went back out to put horses away for the night.

It was a tiring and frustrating circus of an evening. As we cleaned up and fed and got horses out for the night I realized something that probably played a role. I've been feeding alfalfa at night. I normally feed only grass and will sometimes throw some alfalfa as well if the horses look dull-coated or need an energy boost. However, I wonder if I simply have overdone it the past week or so. There just seemed to be a buzz in the herd.

Sometime during feeding Abby cut her forehead and needed doctoring, too. Are all the horses just on an alfalfa buzz? Did I cause the mayhem by not being careful enough with the amount of alfalfa I've thrown? What a night.

For Chrissy, this is the stuff that will turn her into a horsewoman. For me, I don't know... watch what I feed? And make sure I know what horse(s) I'm headed down the trail with before I even mount? Getting in a hurry often doesn't pay.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gemini in the rain

Had a successful, but shorter than I hoped session with Gemini. His catching game in the run was beautiful. He partnered very nicely, bending his neck around so I could halter him in front of my stomach while in Z2. We went to the arena, started on the ground, practicing the rock slide and falling leaf. Moving his fore w/o moving my feet from 22ft away is a challenge. He's very in tune with me, which is nice, but he seems to get a little lost. So slow and easy, one step at a time, we got some nice movements.

Then, my plan was to do cloverleaf with transitions. I also wanted to practice getting the lead out of the trot that I asked for every time. Z and I are struggling a little bit there, but I realized with Gem it was a piece of cake. Why? Because he canters slowly, thoughtfully, rhythmically. Z canters like she's running from a fire and her rhythm is erratic. It was great to feel that I can actually get the canter lead I ask for with Gem. Now to develop that with Z...

Gems canter departs were so soft and I was focused on asking with the correct hind struck the ground. We got some very nice transitions up, like butter. It made me full-on smile.

As we were getting really warm and having nice success, the rain started. Bummer. I took him into the barn, trimmed his feet a little, then when the rain stopped, we went back to the arena and played with the other side (the left lead).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pushing the envelope with Kime

Amazing lesson! Really pushing me to take things to the next level. I watched some of Jen's lesson first, then let Miss Z catch me to warm up for our lesson. We ended up going from about 1:30 to nearly 5pm. I was tired!! Some notes:

1) Falling Leaf - Z's shoulders are caving in. I need to move the fore around more and keep the distance between us the same all the time.

2) Modified Rock Slide - moving Z1, then Z4, then Z1 again the other direction. At the end of the 22, I could influence the zones, but Z would not stop moving when I stopped asking. How interesting! I worked on bringing my life down more clearly and quicker.

3) Back-up - we started out just showing transitions on the rail. We got our backup card pulled because it was slow and I was working harder than she was. Sometimes I get our back up good and then other times, it's like moving her through cement. Is it just me? Anyway, Kime helped by adding a ton of commotion in Z1 while I when through the phases. She became our phase 4. That helped, Z got lighter... Now, how long before I add the cement back in? lol

4) Transitions - if I feel the need to use my reins, then use them effectively and drop them again! I was not being clear and not being effective, which forced me to hold the reins more than I needed.

5) I have tight shoulders. Yup, I sure do.

6) Tailbone to the cantle! I love this one. First time I really could visualize what I wanted my body to do and get it done. This really helped me round my lower back and keep it that way.

7) My horses pushes me up in the rising trot and I control my down. I know that. I wasn't doing it though. Also, the sitting trot is a backwards rising trot. This means that I push myself lower and deeper on the diagonals. This is the way to ride the trot bareback. Ohhhh!

8) We used the western saddle at first, then switched to english. I've been gripping with my legs in the english saddle. Turns out my legs are stiff when I ride english. If I swing my legs a little, I find a lot more harmony. How interesting is that?

9) We did ride the rail, transitions, and then a ton of passenger lesson at the canter. I realized the canter PPL in the english saddle was a little harder for me. Neither is very difficult, but I have to keep building my independent seat in the english saddle.

10) 9-step backup! Remember, the horse doesn't move back until step 8! If my horses starts to halt on step 5, keep her forward until step 8. This builds the soft feel on the reins and prepares the horse for contact and finesse riding.

11) LEADS! Detecting the lead, knowing the lead, bringing my lead hip forward, asking for it from the hind and not the front. So much to know and I've got a learning curve to ride still. I was a little chastised because I'm not always asking for a specific lead. Apparently, I'm too advanced to not be that particular. Doh! We rode around at the PPL in the canter and I called out the leads. With Z, I was wrong a lot of the time! If I sit in the lead position, and I'm in the right lead position, it should feel better. I had to do that a while before I started to feel the difference. Wow! I've gotten pretty far w/o this info. Now, I have to rebuild some skills with that knowledge. What a blast! It's like building a house. It's one thing to build the frame, it's another entirely to put the electrical system in. So, I'm now going to be very particular. Lead arm out and moving, lead hip forward, feel the hind lead take off. Time to pay close attention to the feet at the canter. Also, if I could get Z to canter a little more slowly, that would help a ton.

12) Swing my legs at the canter in the english saddle - at least until I get more fluidity. Lean wayyy back and keep my tailbone to the cantle. And at the trot, follow with the shoulders. I do that at the walk, time to follow-up at the higher gaits.

13) Z and I were both cooked when it was over. I was starving, we were both sweaty... Z had given me her all. I'm learning so much with her and she's a great horse for this. She has tons of go and endurance naturally and when I'm a good leader, she'll never quit me. I'm lucky. She's a champ.

Thanks, Kime!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feeling moody...

And maybe that's why my catching game with Gemini was so broken today? I went out to catch him, he walked up to me, like normal and checked me out. No treats? Oh, later then.

Gasp! Seriously? Where are you goin? He was too busy hording hay from the herd and being king of the hill to be bothered with me and my "junk". So, we had to play catching game. On the track. With the herd, especially Z and Nina in tow. He would even stop to eat hay until I could get close enough. Gem and I have NEVER had this in our relationship. I was laughing! And surprised.

I managed to get him with his 2 mares in tow to the south pasture (about 5 acres). One by one, I pulled the mares out. Z had been trying to catch me through the excitement. She knows the catching game well and prefers to end it and come to me. However, she's a big fan of Gems, so wasn't very pleased to leave the pasture he was in. Nina was still a little "up" from the game we'd played so far, but still easy to catch.

Then it was ON! Me, Gemini and about 5 acres. He ran and ran and I pushed zone 5 whenever it was facing me, with gusto. I got quiet and drew him in when zone 1 was facing me. About 2 mins in, he came trotting to me, breathing hard and licking his lips. I played a few minutes of the games at liberty, hoping to impress him again with the idea that with me was much easier. He was sticking nicely, then saw his mares, forgot about me, drifted a little away and let me see zone 5. I applied an effective phase 4 and played the game for another 30 secs. He was trotting back to me quickly after that half minute passed and licking his lips again. Good boy!! Then, we stood quietly, I stroked his neck and shoulders and got extremely soft. I know he understood.

I then decided to hold him with me while I gave Chrissy some coaching. She's working on figure 8 and getting ready to film level one. We didn't stay in the arena long, the mosquitoes were bad. Then, I put Gem in a run and still where he will live for a week or so, until catching game is stellar.

Wasn't the way I expected my time to play out with horses for the night, but it was an important step for my journey with Gemini.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Harmony with Gem and Cloverleafs

Cloverleaf with Gem, both directions at least 20 mins each way. Harmony, soft, really nice! All gaits. I realized that I can ride Gem in so much more harmony at the canter than Z. Actually, the harmony is better at all gaits. Because he's LB, thinking, even at higher speeds. Z is not always doing that.

Then, up and down the driveway at a walk. Chrissy following on Lakota/Cowboy. Her horse is bracey, tried to give her some help, but she's got to find a place of resolve and assertiveness she hasn't found yet. She's doing great, either way.

Gem was amazing and calm and willing. I've never ridden him alone to the gate. That was a first for us. He would have gone farther. I let him eat grass for quite a while at the gate. He was content and satisfied with me on his back. So interesting.

Then, Z for some cloverleaf at trot and canter. In rope halter, Z was braced and RB. I rode her each direction until she started to think again. How interesting. She goes RB at the canter and we have to get out of that pattern. Poor girl - I've missed that. We know what to do for our coming sessions. I also focused on making sure my thighs aren't tight at the canter. I felt a change and more awareness of what I do when I ride Z at faster gaits. I have to relax more too... for both of us.

Oh, and I have saddle sores. I've been riding too much. So funny.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fast riding and starting Nina

Had a great 10 mile ride with Tammy, Drew and her friend this morning. We really moved out and Z was looking to canter all the time. She could walk, but the trot always went straight to a canter. It got better after a while, it was a hot day and it got easier for her to maintain a trot speed. A couple times I just let her go full gallop and she seemed to be really enjoying herself. I know I was! It was a lot of fun.

I hosed her down afterwards and gave her a touch up trim. Her feet are looking awesome. Really proud of how they're doing. Her rear feet are better as she stays fit and drags her hinds less.

I went off for kid stuff for a while and got back in time to get a little more done. I grabbed Miss Nina, tacked her up and warmed her up on the ground. Her ground work was great! No bucking under saddle, much less toughtless extroversion, much more respectful and listening to my suggestion vs. just doing "anything". This was more of a horse I'd mount than I've ever gotten.

Once I felt like we had some good respect going on the ground, I took her to the round pen and Chrissy helped while I mounted her repeatedly from both sides. I spent more time just hanging out on her back than normal and she was calm, reaching to eat grass, looking for face scratches. She was calm and comfortable with me up there. I rubbed her all over and when I dismounted, I did it sloppily and let my leg hang all over her rump. I want to desenstize her to sloppy mounting and dismounting. She was unphased and perfectly content. She's ready to move more with a rider on her back. We took a few steps, nothing big, and she was just fine.

Next mount with her should be walking around the round pen. She's ready. I'm starting to trust her more, so I'm ready too.

I trimmed her front feet up a little in the barn, but her feet are too dry to give a good trim. I just want to keep her quarters strong. She grows wide naturally, so I want to keep the shape and not let the quarters get too long. All the horses have great frogs and good feet right now. I trimmed one of Gemini's hinds yesterday - I've got to get the other hind trimmed! LOL - I forgot until just now.

Busy day but got some really good horse time in. Back to work. Big yuck.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cloverleafs, Liberty and a Trail Ride

Had some non-horse things to do today, which is always tough on the weekends because I'm all about getting some good horse time on the weekend. I struggle with my own selfishness.

Anyhoo, Steve had baseball today so I woke up early, did my barn chores and haltered Gemini for some ground work and riding. His level of respect is amazing compared to Z. It makes me scratch my head. Is it because I spend less, but much better time with him?

We did some really nice ground work first. He was very connected and answering yes to all my questions. Then, I rode him in the arena - doing the cloverleaf patter for 45 mins. He never bucked during the ground work or under saddle. I then rode him down the driveway towards the road. I was curious to feel when he would start to worry about leaving home. His threshold was right about where the curve is in my driveway. We trotted back to the barn and then walked back out several times. It was actually a great session and I felt like we left things in a great place.

After some kid time, I came back and decided to play with Z. We started with Liberty and I think it might have been the best Liberty session ever with her. We worked on transitions and the spin. The spin is coming along nicely! I took our transitions to a new place by making my body turn phase 1 and the stick phase 4. That was pretty cool and she caught on fast!

We also worked on putting all 4 feet on the tired pedestal. It didn't take long before she was doing it. That was a first for us.

Afterwards, Chrissy and I decided to hit the trail. She was having a little trouble with getting Lakota consistent and maintaining his gate. She also had a grass snatcher on her hands. I tried to give her some tips and by the 2nd half of the ride, she and her horse were doing just fine. We went about 5 miles. It was a nice breezy evening and I got to see some deer and some owls.

Z was a rock solid trail horse, as she seems to be more and more all the time. She marches out, takes the lead or falls behind, doesn't snatch grass, goes the gait I ask, turns with only my body. Very cool and very proud of the partnership we've created.

More in store for tomorrow...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I started with Z tonight, some nice ground work and plans for riding circles at the canter in the english saddle. I wanted to reenact my private lesson with Dave Ellis and try to find ways to make it better.

Our ground work was strong and we did some liberty in the large arena. Our connection was pretty strong and she didn't leave me. I set up a circle with cones and mounted up for some corner pattern and follow the rail at the trot. Once she felt warm, we went to circles. In the meantime, I tried different stirrup lengths. After a few adjustments, I found a better length for my stirrups. We trotted and cantered circles for quite a while. I realized that I ride the circle at the canter much, much better to the left! How interesting!! To the right, I have a hard time staying balanced on her back in the english saddle. I tried to lower the inside stirrup and that helped. However, I just felt less balanced and less "correct" to the right. I will now start riding twice as much to the right.

It was a good workout and she was riding the circle nicely - not looking to collapse the circle or leave it. So, I decided to take her on the trail. Two of my dogs, me and my horse went on down the trail. I got off out on the trail right by a nice patch of green grass, pulled her bridle off and let her munch away as a reward. She was doing so well - calm and brave. I wanted to reward that. I'm loving my horse more than ever. We practiced haunches in on the trail and leg yields. She was soft and willing. Just really nice.

Once we got back, I wanted to play with Nina and mount her some more. She was a wild child for the first 20 mins and even got away from me a couple times. I had to really work on my slip grip and then preparing to be ready when she hit the end of the line. She's so strong and athletic. And she's a classic LBE. However, after playing for a while and doing some nice falling leaf, sideways and backwards, she was interested in finding more obedience. It was a big change from where we started.

Then, I tacked her up in my western saddle and played some more. I haven't put my western saddle on her in a while and she was extremely irritated by the rear cinch. She bucked, and then she bucked, then she bucked some more. Once she was able to canter w/o bucking, we started to make our way to the round pen for more mounting practice. I mounted from each side about 8 times. I want to build her ability to stay very still for mounting while making the mounting process a non issue. She actually had a leg cocked for a lot of it. It's time to move on with her. We can start walking circles in the round pen next. She's so athletic that I worry about her starting to lose it with her first rides. I'm going to do some more reading up on colt-starting and try to make sure I've thought of everything.

At what seemed like the right time, we finished up and took Nina's tack off. It was a great session with both horses! Tomorrow... Gemini.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Days getting shorter...

Wow - dark at 8:30 :-( I don't like summer heat but I love long days. Tonight I worked until 7pm. I'm making up for 2 four-day weekends in a row. Chrissy was trying to play with Lakota and incorporate some of her new knowledge from the clinic she audited. She audited 3 of the 4 days (pretty cool!) of Dave Ellis and I know her mind must be reeling.

Lakota was giving her the "what-for" as she walked out with a new mission and a different attitude. She said he even warned her with a hip and raised leg. That made her a little nervous and so I finished work and came out to help. She and Lakota are just coming to a place where she's got to step it up. I took her horse for a bit and just got him thinking about partnering instead of dominating. Then, I helped her with isolating the ends softly and quietly - while ready to back up her request. Then, she circled and I made sure she disengaged nicely on the bring-back.

Finally, I helped her get a nice respectful backup. Backing and sideways are the way to go for a horse like hers. Chrissy is still figuring out how to be the leader in her herd of two and Lakota is starting to think maybe he should take over. She'll be fine. She's getting it and coming along just fine. She'll keep finding the strength inside and show it to her horse.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Riding with Dave Ellis

This is my first time riding in a clinic with Dave Ellis. I've heard for years how great he is and how much he helps people. I finished Day 3 of his clinic today with one more day to go. I'm having a blast and I hate to think that there's only 1 day left. I'd like to ride with him for many more days. I'm making big changes in my attitude, my feel, my relationship with my horse, my skills... the whole picture is changing.

Here's some important points from the clinic:
1. When turning the fore, if the inside hind moves it shows the horse is submissing. If the outside hind moves it shows that the horse has not let loose.

2. New technique: if a horse isn't going back, bet really big with your stick. Whip it around high in the air and slam it into the ground. Also, take the string across zone 1 forcefully.

3. Attitude: Don't move your horse away from you. Instead convince your horse that there's a better place to be. Help the horse understand that you won't make your horse move, but cause him the move by helping him understand that there's a better place to be.

4. Technique: Hold the rope in the lead hand with the thumb down and the palm facing the direction of travel for the circle game. The turn the palm up to allow the horse to circle.

5. Swing the fore to and fro in the circle game - new circle game transition. Use body language!!


Day 4 -

A fantastic day for Z and me. We had our private with Dave which was quite challenging. We worked on circles at the trot and making a serpentine through the middle. Then we worked at the canter and that was super hard! I was losing my balance and losing my stirrups a lot! I rode english and it was good for me to realize that I need to ride english more often and develop my skills in the english saddle. After privates, we did formation riding which was a blast!! My horse seemed to really love it. Was it because I had a purpose for us? Or was it because she loved the patterns? The morning was focused on haunches in and developing suppleness in our horses with leg yields and disengaging the hind. We learned to ask our horses to move the hind with the head tipped left, right and straight. We also learned to look in the direction that the hind was moving instead of looking at the end and pushing the hind away from our focus. That was brand new for me. That's a leg yield where a disengagement is when you look toward the hind to move it away.

I learned a ton in 4 days and I would definitely ride with Dave again. I'm considering going to his ranch and learning with him over the winter. We'll see if I can pull that together.

My horsemanship really grew this weekend. My relationship with Z is better than ever, also. She loaded into the trailer with so much respect and obedience - I was shocked. She wasn't afraid or worried.

Now back to work... Yuck.

Monday, August 10, 2009

4 days of horse camping!

Had a freakin blast with horses!! Rain barefoot on all the rocks and did beautifully. Z started to get sore-footed on day 3. Cowboy (Lakota) in boots all the days.

Covered lots of miles and had a great time. Chrissy did great with Cowboy and rode him day 2 and 3. BLM land trail riding, some Colorado Divide trail. Great pens right next to us.

I loved it. I want to go back.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Z thinks it's opposite day...

It was so funny! We were working on the bow and the spanish walk and the spin and other neat stuff and she decided to the opposite of what I asked several times! I asked her to send on a circle to the right and she sidepassed (beautifully!) in the opposite direction. She was spanish walking everywhere, too. Oye!

I laughed and laughed and decided to just pull some weeds while she stood next to me. Some nice undemanding time. She stayed real close everywhere I went to pull weeds.

A funny night where I found value in just letting it go and laughing it off. I love my horsey!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A quick trail ride with Kendall

And a really fun one! She wanted to move out quickly and I get protective of her. I like things to stay controlled and managed so I can keep my baby girl safe. She, however, wants to fly down the trail! We did a lot of trotting and she was having a blast. It made me smile to see her having so much fun. Rain was, as always, the perfect trail horse for Kendall. Z was doing a great job of staying calm in the faster gaits - she normally becomes a rocket with just a small request for a faster gait.

When we got back, I gave Chrissy a riding lesson - more just supporting her and Cowboy in the arena. She's doing a great job with him and they simply need the time now to find their groove on their own - without me. Still, I'm happy to throw tips her way but now it's about developing her own feel for Cowboy. They rode until it was too dark to see and I wished I had my camera. Her riding against the setting sun and then the pink sky of dusk was gorgeous.

Before the ride with Kendall and Rain, I spent some good time with Gemini. We went into the arena and practiced transitions and follow the rail. We did some cloverleaf and eventually practiced bending at the trot (Josh Lyons method). I took him out and found a place for him to eat grass while I sat on his back. He was good and calm and something then spooked him and he bucked a little. I stayed on and we were ok. I was even really afraid - a bit excited for the moment, but otherwise ok. I rode him around for a while longer, stopped and trimmed his front hooves, then rode him some more. It was a good development time for he and I. I wish he was ready for the trail so I could take him on this camping trip.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jen and horses!

I tell ya... I'm just having one hell of a summer doing my horse thing. Today, it was gorgeous weather and Jen and I spent the day showing off for each other and then trailriding. She showed me some things with her horse after her ISC trip for 2 weeks and I showed how Cowboy's doing on the ground as well as some Liberty with Z. Then, after some lunch, we hit the trail for a 5 mile ride.

It was a great time! Z was fantastic for me today, too. In all ways.

Mounting Practice with Nina

I spent some time with Nina. She wore a bit for the first time today. She worked her mouth and tried to figure out how to spit the bit out for about 20 mins. Then, she settled and I removed it. I waited about a min and put it back in. She worked her mouth for a short period - maybe a min and then settled. Good girl.

Then, we warmed up and then I took her into the roundpen. She's doing really well with the games. My sister noticed the difference from just a couple weeks ago. We started playing again a few weeks back and she's really a changed horse from when we were playing 5-6 months ago. I always hear about teaching the young ones and then letting them go back out to pasture with the herd for 6 months before pulling them back in for more training. Interesting concept and now I see how effective it could be.

Chrissy held her while I mounted. I started by bellying her repeatedly before Chrissy came to help. Then, Chrissy held her and threw a leg over. I dismounted and did it again several times. She was a calm and collected horse. I, however, was a little nervous and I didn't want her to bucking off and have a bad experience for either of us.

After about 20 mins, we finished up and I took her back to the herd. It was a very positive and calm session. She's going to be better for it and I'm proud of what we're doing.