Monday, November 23, 2009

Coaching in the barn

I've had Rio about a month now and his owner and I finally found time to get together to show what Rio and I have worked on. Started off with her tacking him up. Apparently, he's shown a lot of anxious behavior when tacked. I hadn't seen it, so I wanted to see if it was related to her. He showed a little nervousness, more than I'd seen but nothing extraordinary.

I asked her to lead him around outside. I wanted to observe their behavior together. We asked him to keep his head low outside too and she pointed out some behavior he showed that made her tense. I saw a horse just checking out his surroundings. To her it was full of negative possibilities. Interesting.

We talked about the behavior I started teaching where I tap his neck near the withers and he drops his head. He needs more practice but I firmly believe it will be a great tool for her if she uses it. Together, they can feed off each others anxiety and something simple like that could break the cycle.

Then, I asked her to hop on. It was too cold and windy outside, so we did it in the barn aisle. We just did yo-yos, with her simply as a passenger. We did them until he was confident and calm. Surprisingly, that took some time! Probably 10-15 minutes of yo-yos, asking him to keep his head low the whole time. I would call him RBE, so I was seeking CALM. Once we got there, she hopped off and we stood and talked with him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flank rope work and liberty

My arm is healing and I'm missing the horses!! I decided to ask Chrissy to give me a hand. I started with Gemini, playing at liberty. We had a great liberty session! His lead by the tail is great now. His draw is strong and he's coming in at the trot. We're working on spins and COD's- which are very fun with Gem. Allow on the circle is progressing, too. I'm having a great time with him.

Then, I wanted to play with Tina. The main goal: desensitize the flank area. I used a flank rope (my 22') to apply pressure to the flank, ready to loosen it when she relaxed even the slightest bit. Chrissy had the 12' lead and we asked to circle us together. We started at the girth area and moved the flank rope back as we progressed. Her flank area was super sensitive! We played with this for about 45 mins and had a drastic improvement by the end. I was so pleased with her progress.

We spent some time relaxing int the round pen, rewarding ourselves with relaxation and soak time. Seemed like Tina's hardest lesson yet. Glad we figured this out and we're getting it fixed. Next I'll be sure she can handle ropes around her legs - another critical lesson!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coaching a friend

Today, I helped a good friend develop her groundwork. This is a good way for me to help someone without using my arm. It was a fantastic time and I saw some great progression with my friend and her horse. She has a very extroverted Thoroughbred who can be left brained and right brained. They've developed some interesting patterns together and we decided to focus on extreme friendly transitions, and a great circle game. In the end, she had an obedient, calm horse paying all her attention to her human. What a cool session!! I love to see progression.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberty with Gemini

Played with a horse for the first time in 2 weeks! Took Gem into the round pen to see just how much I could do with him. It wasn't too bad!!

We played stick to me, circle, yo-yo, cod, sideways. He did great! I was hurting from the activity, but I'm sure my sanity was better for it.

We've also developed the smile pretty well. I started teaching him the spanish walk from zone 2, also. He gets into the trick training. He's a blast.

So anxious to ride again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moving on... Single-handed!

After about three days in bed, I couldn't take it anymore. I just had to go to the barn.I spent several days thinking about all of the things that I can account for the horses with one arm. I can do work at liberty, I can work on desensitizing, create more draw, improve the catching game, undemanding time... my only limit is my imagination.

It's definitely easier to think about the things I can do with my horses then thinking about the things to do with the horses here in training. I feel differently about the horses that are here in training. I can develop things on a much deeper level with my horses because they're here forever. The horses here in training are only here for a limited time. I have to give them the best that I can in a short period. It's about giving them the best foundation that someone else can take to the next level. I want them solid. I want them confident to learn and confident with humans. I want them asking questions trying to give answers.

I decided my best move was to make sure my arm is as stable as possible before I move things forward. On Monday the 16th, I'll get the cast for my arm and that will give me more stability. I'm also thinking to get Chrissy involved and let her be my other arm. For Tina, I'll be focusing on building her confidence by desensitizing with various objects and asking her to touch and explore scary things. I also want to build her catching game. For Nina, I'll wait till I'm better. Nina is fine growing and learning in the herd, and not getting my attention right now.

For Gemini, there is a ton I can do. Largely, I can focus on level III liberty. We have a lot of work to do there. And really if I can get his draw very strong, we'll be well on our way. For he and I, a lot of the work is in building the relationship. For Zarah, I want to build more trick training and increase our general bond. For Rain, it's time to take tricks to a new place. She so motivated and so ready to do more. I want to teach her to lay down with a hand cue.

For Tina, I'm hoping I can get Chrissy to help me desensitize her flank area with flank ropes and cinches. I'm feeling very positive and I'm determined to not let this setback bring me down. I'm going to use this time to develop my imagination. And focus on some of the games that maybe don't get enough attention when I'm well and riding. It's only a few more weeks and we'll be back in action.

To keep things interesting, I'm working on all that's required to get the indoor arena built. There are things like financing, permits, project details, bids for work to prepare for the installation, etc. I'm also hoping that the horses feet can go for five more weeks so I can trim them myself. I have a backup trimmer to call if I need to but I like to just do that myself.

On Saturday, I spent a little time with Zarah, teaching her to do the Spanish walk from zone two. When I lift my leg, she lifts her leg. It's cute and fun, and it's an easy for her to feel like she's doing the right thing. She's never wrong. She knows how to do the Spanish walk from zone one, and when I'm back in the saddle that's our next place. Spanish walk from the saddle. Should be a breeze with all of the ground prep work we'll have done.

Horses are getting along well, the herd is settled. One week down to five weeks to go. I'm back to doing horse chores with my one arm and I'm about to do a whole lot more while wearing this cast. It's good to be back in the barn.

For tracking: Kris trimmed Tina's hinds for me today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rear cinches and tarps

Today, I started with Rio. Kendall really wanted to ride him. I thought it would be a good idea to use him for her riding lesson. He has lots of go and is a great listener. She likes him cause he's smaller and less intimidating. I warmed him up on the ground first and tacked him up with my endurance saddle. We went to the round pen and started with the walk. I tried to help Kendall keep her feet parallel to the ground. I also want her to stay on her balance point. She was holding the cantle and I asked her to hold her arms out. She enjoyed her arms straight out and felt like she was flying.

We did a lot of circles at the trot and canter. Her seat got better and she seemed more confident. Rio did such a great job being the lesson horse. He did everything I asked.Kendall really likes him and I imagine she's going to try to talk me into keeping him. We don't need another horse! lol

When she was done I went for Tina. I already had Tina tacked in my Western saddle for the first time. She has never worn a rear cinch before. I planned to spend extra time preparing her for that pressure. She is very sensitive, and I expected her to worry about the rear cinch.

We also worked on desensitization. I had the tarp and I played with her confidence by asking her to smell it, step on it, wear it, and let me stroke her neck with it. It was obvious that she had never done this kind of thing before. So I took my time and we spent about 90 minutes with a tarp and a savvy string. It was all about the friendly game.

She bucked several times while I was working her on the ground. But she seemed to be getting more comfortable with the groundwork and the tight rear cinch. By the time I took her into the round pen, she seemed calm and ready for some riding. I went to mount her and she seemed worried. So I played with her at liberty for several more minutes at all gaits.

She then seemed ready. So I asked her to stand for mounting and she did. Calmly and, it seemed, confidently. Once I was up there, I played with lateral flexion before moving off. She still seemed fine. I then followed the rail and asked her to move the fore. Eventually I asked her to move the hind and that was when she fell apart. My gut instinct is that the rear cinch hit her in such a way that really scared her. She bucked like a right brained horse! And as I laid on the ground after going off she was still fighting the sensitivity on her flank.

I realized right away that the reins were hanging down and just waiting for Tina to put in a hoof them. I asked Chrissy to try to grab the reins before Tina got stuck. Unfortunately, Chrissy got there a moment too late. Tina came up fighting the reins around her leg and landed a my ankle. Ouch!!

I knew my arm was broken from the fall. I hoped that my ankle wasn't broken. I couldn't really move but I tried to stay calm. Chrissy took Tina back to the barn so we could talk about what help I needed. I didn't need an ambulance, but I knew I needed to go to the hospital. She got the horses tack off and took me to the ER.

I have run the series of events through my mind 1 million times. What could I have done differently? What will I do next time? I know a few things. From now on I will always prepare with a flank rope for the rear cinch. I will also play on the ground with the rear cinch tight at least three times before I try to ride. Her reaction really surprised me. I haven't seen her react that emotionally in all her time here. Was it the wind? Was it the detachment from the herd? Was it simply the flank sensation? I may never know.

I realize that this is the stuff that colt-starters are made of. It's not easy. It's dangerous. But when it's done right the dignity of the horse is intact. That's my goal. And that's where Tina and Nina and Rio and all the horses I work with will be in the end.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Closing down a rough week

Phew! Survived it! Hubby was out of town all week and I played "single mom" for 7 days. By day 4, I was developing a twitch in my left eye from not riding a horse for son long. I decided to take Friday off of work to start filling my horsey time bucket. I have hooves to trim, wounds to tend to and horses to train. Luckily, my sister helps so much with the chores - the barn was under control.

Rio's wound is looking much better. It's going to need a few more weeks to close up all the way, but there's not really risk of infection anymore. The stitches came out easily (about 9 of them) and didn't hold very great after about 6 days. They were worth it, the wound got a jump start on the road to healing with the stitches. I think he'll be ready for an easy ride this weekend.

I promised Kendall I'd pick her up from her bus stop with horses so we could ride home together. I took Z and Rain (ponied Z) to her bus stop and waited while the horses grazed. That just made her day!! I put her backpack on my back and off we went. She was all smiles.

Z's face wound is looking better. I managed to get it cleaned up (which she HATED!) and put a lot of ointment on it for healing. It should be better in another week or two. For now, no bits. Rope halter or bridleless only. I took her into the arena and we did about 30 mins of passenger lesson at the trot and canter. I'm so confident with her now, I don't need ever need head gear for her - which is so nice. Her disengagement with just my leg pressure is fantastic! We are also working on backing up with no rhythm in my legs. I want her to feel me sit back and lift my knees and start quickly going backward. I have to make my phase 4 very effective. We got some nice backing moments.

Chrissy came into the arena with Cowboy while Z and I were finishing up. I helped find an even softer lateral flexion response from Cowboy. She's feeling fearful, so just did a few things. After flexion, I tried to help find a softer backup response. Perhaps knowing she has great brakes will help her feel more confident. I suggested she just focus on the backup and the flexion getting softer and softer and not worry about anything else until she's confident she can lead him with confidence. I think if she feels like she's always in charge, her fear will be less potent.

Afterwards, I got Rain's front hooves trimmed - I left her heel too high when I trimmed her last and it was really bugging me. I also got one of Cowboy's front hooves trimmed. The hay was going out when I started trimming and he was quite agitated to be tied up with me futzing with his feet while the hay went out. So, I finished one and set the boy free. :-)

Busy weekend ahead - Tina's first trail ride Sunday, hind feet trimming for Tina and Nina, teach Rain to lay down, ride Gemini and continue L3 online with him, ride Nina with a bit, see how KK feels riding Rio slowly in the round pen, Z - trailer confidence. I also want to work on my "Herd of Two Horses" list - a compilation of all the things a horse can do if he's been in training with me. It will consist of everything I think is foundationally paramount to a horse succeeding a human world.

Oh - got kitties for the barn! They are the cutest and meanest little things! We can't pet them. Oh well, hopefully they'll be catching mice soon.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pics of Tina in the herd (for you Nanni!)

Nina has gotten along nicely with this little QH gelding named Rio. He's only here for a couple months, but she really bonded to him quickly. Cute!

Here, several from the herd are soaking up the warm Colorado sun. I like to see Nina feel safe resting while the others stand guard. Rio is closest to her, Cowboy is my sister's gray and Abby is behind him. Abby is the mare that Tina has buddied with since early on.

This is a nice shot she and Rio. Rio is covered in mud! The snow is melting too fast for the ground to absorb, so it's been a slosy, muddy weekend.

This is just such a nice shot of her laying alone. My sister gets great pictures! I love this one. I can almost imagine her snoring - she seems so relaxed and peaceful.

Another day of catch up...

Gem first - cod, sideways, stick to me, sideways in the saddle, riding around the property, a scoot spook near the basement, a nice time. Quick ending for some filming with Tina.

Tina - filming her progress and getting pics. She did great - friendly game is much much improved. She can now manage extreme friendly. Nice figure 8's, good circles, some falling leaf, some sideways. Then, riding - practicing turns, disengaged hind, moving the fore, backup. Too wet and soggy to go more than a walk. She had another great session!

Nina - filming her progress and getting pics. Rode her for a long time. Started in the arena - skipped the round pen. Figure 8's, follow the rail, back up, she's doing fantastic. Warm up was fun - over the barrels, falling leaf, had to walk - footing is not good with melting snow. Seeking soft response to rein pressure. She likes lateral flexion and will try to use that to slow things down. She likes to stop, too. Interesting!

Gemini - pulled him out again. Practiced the smile trick and then started spanish walk. Had him bring his hind over for mounting and he had no brace about it. Pretty cool! We went over to the kids playing and took pictures. Then, sideways for quite a while - trying to get him soft sideways. Also, worked on backup and trotting little bits (again, footing is an issue). Practiced spanish walk (very beginning of that) and some more smile. Now, need another trick. He learns tricks so fast.

Z's new wound is ugly. Keeping her separate from the herd now. She's getting in trouble too much with the herd. I'm going to create a 2nd herd soon and she'll go back into a smaller herd.