Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trailriding and training

I really wanted to just relax with a horse today, so I decided to take Rain for a ride alone. She and I have covered 1000's of miles together and riding her is like wearing a really comfortable pair of shoes. We went about 5 miles, not very far, on pretty slushy and mucky footing. We have a lot of sand on our trails, so the footing stays decent - but not quite good enough to go cantering around.

There's an area on the trail that washed out badly last summer and requires us to step about 2 feet down into a creek bed to follow the trail. Rain doesn't like that at all. I took my time with her, kept her pointed at the step down and tried to never encourage the try. After a few calm minutes of letting her figure out the answer, she slowly and confidently stepped into the creek bed. I really think it's the look of the ground that worries her. There's some weird vine type plant on the ground and even when we walked the 20 feet or so in the creek bed, she was concerned. Something in her instinctively tells her to tread carefully. Interesting.

Not a lot of horse time and the weather was cold, but a nice ride with my best and favorite horse.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Catching up

Trying to catch up some horse training after a busy week of travel. The weather was pretty good, so I made the most of it. The ground is soft and mushy, so I had to do things slow and keep the horses at a walk or at most, a trot.

Gem - we practiced COD with a huge improvement on his hard side (left to right). I know he was struggling with footing, so I cut him slack. He did notice my draw and begin to make the change with me in his left eye, so a win in my book.

Z - we did a lot of trailer loading and I closed her in, closed the panel, and gave her alfalfa. I left her in there for a while (45 mins?). She was calm, eating, and seemed prepared to take our upcoming road trip. We also practiced zone 5 driving, spanish walk, and the spin.

Tina - Friendly game! With the tarp and the obstacles. We worked on the circle game, asking her to stay on the circle until I asked her in. Her sideways was very, very nice and I'm being much more subtle in my ask. She's extremely sensitive and I want to respect and reward that. I also took her into the front pasture and we played with hill therapy - using the circle over terrain. She was quite calm and thoughtful! I slowed my asks way down from where I've been and gave her more time than usual. It was an experiment to see how a slightly different approach would be received and she was very responsive. I'll start slowing my asks down until she seems more clear on the language before stepping things back up again. Her draw was better than ever - a good indicator that slower is the right thing for now. She was really eager to catch me when I first went out to get her - another good indicator that things are going well in her mind.

Nina - An interesting time with Nina! She was full of energy again today and did some amazing leaps through the air! I swear, she's the biggest, brownest Lipizzaner-impersonator I've ever seen. I stuck with her and we did some falling leaf until some of the play drive was expended. Then we got to work. Sideways, circle, back, back, back, driving the hind and fore... After she settled, I got some very nice, calm responses from her. It was a good lesson and I feel pretty sure that the next lesson will start off much more calm. We just got some good things done and left the arena on the right note.

All in all, a great and productive day with the equines. I spent 10 hours with the horses! Thanks to my family and my husband for letting me catch up some time.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Playing in the cold snow... Brrrrr!

February has been a tough month for horse time. We've had cold temps and snowy weekends. I promise myself to have this situation fixed for winter 2010-2011. Today, it was cold (about 18 degrees) and snowing all day. Dang it, I wasn't going to miss a whole weekend of horse time. Yesterday was bitter cold and also snowy. Today, I bundled up and headed out.

I started with Nina, Miss LBE. We did lots of sideways and back. Looking for obedience. Figure 8 is nice! She started off trying tricks to get away. She likes to try antics such as front feet up or flying through the air like a Lippizanner. She has amazing athletic ability. It never worked and it took her some time to abandon that idea. At the end I was starting to see a horse I'd mount. She was so sweaty, so it obviously took some good energy to get her on the bandwagon.

To be fair, I haven't spent a lot of time with Nina this winter. I have an arrangement with her owner where we trade training time. The short days have put a wrinkle in our arrangement, but I'm sure we'll be picking back up soon.

I found a time at the end where she circled calmly and with obedience. I quit there. I asked her to back straight along the fence to the gate. Her hind end would come off the fence and I'd ask her to put it back. Once she got with the program, she backed nicely and straight. Good girl, great place to quit. I tucked her into a stall with a wool cooler over her and a pile of hay so she could get warm and dry.

Tina - what a great session! She was very calm and offered energy to match mine. She never once got overly excited. Her friendly game responses were fantastic with some nice extreme friendly. I decided to saddle her in case she seemed good for some mounted time. I'm taking it very easy because of my arm. I also want to be sure that her mounted time starts back up on the right track because of our accident. We did figure 8 and boy, she really understands that pattern. The thing is, she wants to please so badly and she's so sensitive that as long as I'm clear with my body she's all over it. If she gets confused, she gets afraid.

I played with the circle and her maintaining her gait. She wants to stop behind me, a typical response. I will help her get past that. We played with squeeze and sideways and she did very well! She surprised me, truth be told. She was clam and smart today.

I took her into the round pen, played with COD, then decided to mount. She was responsive to me getting in that position. Hmmm... She moved away, very clearly telling me not to mount. I decided instead to build her confidence here. I made a lot of commotion with the stirrup, the saddle, flaps, etc on both sides. When she had a calm response, I mounted and just laid over her. I haven't been on her in a while, so I didn't want to do much more than mount. She was ok with me being on her back and I rubbed her a lot before getting off.

I ended with her head down, calm, quiet. We then left the round pen on that note.

I also trimmed Cowboy's hinds, Tina's fronts (what nice looking feet she has now), Ninas hinds. Nina has beautifully shaped hooves. Cowboy has the worlds thickest hoof wall and I'm getting the job done faster with nippers on him. He was extremely well-behaved for this trim and the last couple trims. Makes it much easier and faster to get my work done.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Studying Horse Psychology

A Flashlight and watching each horse's reaction...

I keep a manual flashlight in the barn. It's the type that doesn't need batteries. When you need light, you crank its wheel and it lights up. The more you crank, the brighter it gets. I was using it and decided to try an experiment with the horses. How do they feel about this noisy apparatus? I put it to the test...

Cowboy - first to investigate, least afraid, close investigation
Abby - snorted, but never moved her feet, went back to eating quickly
Rain - next least afraid, actually lipped it
Nina - next least afraid, went back to eating fairly quickly with flashlight in the hay
Z - next least afraid, much more reactive, but very quick to cope, then able to eat from the bin
Rio - next, quick to leave, finally after several minutes, stopped moving. i waited and he looked to me. i touched him while i cranked. my touch helped tremendously! he was not calm, but trying hard.
Tina- the most afraid, initially quickly trotted away with energy. then, eventually smelled it while it was quiet. i turned away, cranked it slowly and she was gone. she would obviously need to most time to adjust.

This was a fun experiment for me. People think I'm crazy, but it was midnught when I did this. There was some down fence and I had to travel the next morning so I wanted to get it fixed. I walked the fence with the flashlight before coming back to the herd and seeing how stimulating the flashlight was.

Some things to consider:
1. How much did the other horses reaction affect the individual horse's reaction?
2. How long would approach and retreat take to turn around the more worried horse's responses?
3. Some horses seemed more brave when I touched them while they investigated. Is that related to the good handling they've had in their lifetime and the way they feel about people? Or is a touch helpful no matter the human history?
4. Does it necessarily mean that more frightened horse couldn't eventually be as confident as the least frightened horse with training and time?
5. Rio and Tina were probably equally concerned about the flashlight. They also spend the most time together. Does that have impact? Does Tina learn to be cautious from Rio? Or would she have acted that way regardless of Rio's response?
6. If I did this every day for 7 days, how much would their reactions improve?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lesson with Kime

Had a 3-hour lesson with Kime today. The wind was just crazy, so we loaded up and went to a friends indoor arena. It’s a little small, but w/o the wind, we were able to get a whole lot done. The important thing is that I can apply all my new learning to the younger horses. Additionally, Z and I are nearly ready for some L4 ground filming. I’m excited to start filming L4!

Z - zone 5 driving
- from both sides, focus where we're turning! Maintain my zone position, try moving from right to left from zone 5, use the correct end of the stick, lower my phases. Be very clear about where my belly button is pointing. Expect her to follow my belly button and be ready to correct. Z picked this up within a couple minutes and I was amazed at how she could tell which direction to go with me in zone 5. We’re nearly ready for L4 Online audition.

We also worked on the spin. In the end, I had a couple nice spins at liberty. I started her on the rail using the line, wrapping it so that it would unwind as she spun. Big Tip – pass the stick BEHIND my back with the draw so that I don’t inadvertently block her. With the last turn away, use enough energy to get her to trot out. She did so great and our relationship was proven. She was trying and happy and not afraid. Love my horse!

Gem- COD-give him more help on his hard side. Sideways, keep my hand lower for softer phases, raise for high phases. Gems right hip doesn't move, practiced rock slide. For more help, walk up the line towards him to make it more and more clear.

Z riding - FTR, use rabbit ear reins. I was caught neck-reining! Doh! This is what working in a vacuum gets you… bad habits. I wasn’t even realizing I was doing it. Be particular about our track on the rail. Make sure I have straight lines and arches.

Lift my inside hip for the lead!! Don't put my leg on the outside. Lean back and spank. If she doesn't transition down, use a direct rein to take her into circle. She should transition down in 2 strides! Don't let her cut corners. FTR until she's committed. Ask for the lead just before the straight in the arch or corner. She's already lined up for the lead then, and bent correctly.

Gem riding - get the back up w/o reins first! He's RBI when under saddle. This was the most RBI behavior I’ve ever noticed. Deuce was next to us and a couple times he hit the wall with his tail. Gem flinched just like an RBI. He was so stressed. Go sloooow and use 1 rein until the bit is not an issue. His past gets him under saddle, have to build the confidence and trust.
First. Round pen, 1 rein, practice the basics, move the fore and hind, walk trot transitions, backup. I can’t show him this season until we’re past this. He doesn’t trust when mounted. We have lots of work to do. Someone really did a number on him under saddle.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Got Nina trimmed. Tina is due, as well as Cowboy and maybe Gem. Lots to do, lots to do... :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Studying movement and the rail with Z

I had a very educational morning with my dressage instructor today. She and I spent time with her warmblood mare, Nina and Tina. We watched them move at all gaits and evaluated their angles, confirmation, motivation and general way of "going". It was great to spend the time with Loma and better understand what she looks for in a good dressage horse. Tina did well and showed some confidence, but also her underlying wariness. I continue to work with her innately unconfident nature and focus every session on building bravery. Nina, on the other hand, has enough confidence for 3 horses and showed off her extreme play drive. I have played with Nina for quite a while so Loma got to see her horse fresh and full of fun. We had some good laughs.

We spent quite a long time with the 2 fillies, probably 2.5 - 3 hours. I grabbed a little lunch and then decided to spend time with Z. I'm still evaluating the CSI pad and while I really like it, I think I need to switch to the bigger size. It's just too close of a fit for my saddle. If it shifts at all, it's not under the saddle anymore. I've figured out my shims, too. I'm pretty happy with how it's going. Gemini also liked it when I rode him in the dressage lesson the other day. It's well worth the money, just need to get the right size.

I'll start selling my Theraflex pads now.

Chrissy came out with her horse for some play time, too. I had gone out front with Z to ride in the cross country course and I had Kyle rebuilding a jump for me. This caused the horses to run to the south pasture to see what was up. This then caused Cowboy excitement to be with the herd and focused his attention on what they were doing instead of Chrissy. She struggled a little with getting Cowboy's focus again. She asked me to play with him to help her see how to be his leader. What a fun horse!! I've always just adored Cowboy but I haven't played with him in months. At first, he tried to tell me he didn't need a leader. Then he told me I was being too strong. After about 5 mins we had our communication right and started having some fun. I remember how slow he moves and it made me giggle. Compared to my other horses, he's pretty low energy. He's also pretty dominant and not interested in working very hard. I had a good time with him though!! Not sure if it helped or hindered Chrissy to watch us play. She did try COD with him after and got some nice slow, but fairly correct ones.

I also started trimming horses. I'm behind with trims as I have an arrangement with a boarder to trade trims for board fees. It's very tough to get the schedule worked out right. I've got to get caught up on trims w/o her until we get things on more of a schedule. I got Z's fronts done before my arm was too sore to do more. I was cold too. Tomorrow I'll tackle more feet while wearing my arm brace.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dressage Lesson with Gem

A quick, but great lesson. Gemini did well for me. We worked mainly on going more forward and stretching into the bit. We also worked on building softness into the ribs and getting his body more collected. He was a little rigid and not very round tonight. Although, his canter felt especially soft and he really was trying to trot with a nice stride.

My practice plan: serpentines all the way across the arena and focus on maintaining rhythm through the turn, keeping him up through the turn, no leaning or getting heavy on the fore and bending around my leg.

The CSI pad with my english saddle was very nice for Gem! He had a happy back and no issues with the tack setup. Good! I do think I need to switch to the true CSI english pad, though. The sportcut pad is too large for my english saddle.