Friday, April 30, 2010

Tina and the Big Ball

Spent a lot of time with Tina today. It was her 3rd session of 7 where I decided to commit to only getting her groundwork better and building more of her confidence. Today, I chose the big ball for our session. I wanted her to be able to push the ball around confidently and to carry the ball on her back. The ball is huge - it reaches my thigh so guessing it's about 2.5 ft in diameter.

I started by just asking her to put her nose on it. We played other games (circle game, sideways, squeeze) and then would go back to the ball. Each time we broke from the ball to do something else, she had more confidence when we went back to it. By the end of our session she could move the ball with her legs for a step or two.

I bounced it next to her which suprisingly didn't bother her at all. What really bothered her was when I picked up the ball and began to get her used to it touching her shoulder, neck and eventually ribs. We played with approach and retreat - I would put the ball in a more threatening place (to her) and when she seemed to be coping better, I would pull it away. Over the course of the session, she was able to let the ball rest on her back! This was a huge step for her! I focused on approach and retreat where I never pushed her hard enough to cause her to want to move her feet. She did a lot of blowing, a lot of licking and chewing and she was just overall relaxed. I really felt like we made a lot of progress in her self-confidence and trust in me in this session.

We also practiced the teeter-totter, standing on the tractor tires, falling leaf and change of direction. Her change of direction is beautiful and she floats through it.

A wonderful session!

Monday, April 26, 2010

More building with Tina

Session 2 of 7 to rebuild Tina's confidence and trust in me as her trainer. Another fantastic session! We worked on the 22' line so she is farther away and has more room to move if needed. I'm aiming to make sure she can do all of Parelli level 3 online work. She knows most of the asks and understands the communication so this 7 days is about making sure she can perform the tasks requested of her w/o becoming afraid.

Today, she was even more confident than the last session. She was moving freely, expressing opinions and most importantly offering amazing try! We played more on the teeter-totter. She wants to walk off after she's rocked it and I'm asking her to try harder to rock it repeatedly and step off only when I've asked. She's standing on the tarp calmly and quietly. She can stand with only her back feet on the bridge with ease (tough one). We worked on her putting only 1 leg over a pipe. I want her to calmly cross the pipe one leg at a time. This is a huge challenge for Tina and she was able to stand with one leg over after a few minutes figuring out what I wanted. She's assuming that I want her to step over, so interrupting that pattern and looking for her to ask more questions vs simply moving forward all the time.

We played a game called Touch It. In this game I point at things and ask her to put her nose on them. This is a huge confidence builder and she caught on extremely fast! After a few rounds, she'd quickly touch her nose to the object I was pointing to, then look at me as if to say, "Like that?". Very cool.

We did probably 20 minutes of sideways alone. I still am asking her for more straightness and she had an opinion about that. She tickled me because she really wanted to eat grass and stop going sideways. I stayed with her and rewarded everytime she gave me softness, calmness and willingness. I'd let her eat some grass and then we'd go again. Wow - this had a big impact on her! Her bravery was growing in front of my eyes.

We played with Yo-yo (keeping her draw in tact and advancing her straight back-up to the end of the 22'). We did some falling leaf and quite a bit of figure 8 with objects that were very close together. Having objects close together helps her think through the task because she has to watch her feet carefully.

Another great session and I'm very pleased with the calmness she's developing and the tension that's nearly disappeared. Again, 7 sessions... Horses seem to be able to make a full change in their understanding over 7 sessions. They learn in 3's and 7's. At session 8, we'll see if it's time to mount again or if 7 more sessions would help ensure success. It might makes sense to do 7 session of mounting only until she's completely calm about that before swinging a leg over again.

Anyway, we're back on the right track. I'm listening to the horse and she's telling me she's much happier with this plan. Great!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kendalls first endurance ride!

Awesome! Just a 15-miler, not an official endurance ride (25 is the minimum for AERC recognition). But nonetheless, it's a dedicated trail ride with a start, a finish, vet checks, a route to follow, fellow racers, and competition in the air. My daughter was an amazing trooper and I'm so very proud of her!

We had some interesting adventures and some challenging moments for sure. The weather started out beautiful, but by 10am the wind machine was on and we were riding in 25mph winds. It was tough because we could barely hear each other talk right next to each other. It's also a very urban ride, so we had soccer games with flags blowing everywhere, a golf course with golfers whacking balls next to us, and a shooting range with non-stop gunfire. Whoo! Rain is fairly unflappable with that stuff, but Z had some trouble spots and I had to get her brain working again a few times.

We crossed very deep water repeatedly (16 crossings) with several so high I had to lift my legs to keep my boots dry! Kendall loves water crossings, so that was fun for her. At one point, we were trotting along and in the high grass didn't see a big ditch in the ground that had colorful pipes in it. Z spooked hard and I went off to the side. I believe Rain spooked a bit when Z did and Kendall jumped off of her! We were fine, Kendall laughed about jumping off her big horse and we got back on and kept going.

Kendall also had a moment where when bolted for about 50 ft - that scared her but she was a champ, dodging branches and staying in the saddle anyway. She had another moment where Rain decided she really wanted to roll in the soft sand. Ha! We had a good laugh over that and Kendall jumped off in time.

The big thing for me was realizing that I'm not as good for Z when I ride with Kendall. I'm so watchful of Kendall that sometimes Z is getting more and more afraid and I'm not dealing with it well. I learned that it is so much better to deal with her anxiety as soon as it appears rather than riding her afraid even for 10 strides. I also want to teach Kendall to ask Rain to sidle up to her on a mounting block or obstacle so she can mount herself. I always help her up, but she needs to know how to get on the big horse herself. It was an emotionally challenging day for me, but I'd do it again in a minute. I loved it!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A huge positive step with Tina

So, so pleased! Her behavior did a 180 today.

I decided over the course of the last few days that it was time to take a step back with Tina and re-evaluate how things are going and how to progress. We were making nice progress in the fall and early winter, but it's felt like her progress has stalled and she's maybe even take a step backwards in her confidence and learning. I've spent some time thinking about why and where it seemed to change. I know our accident has had impact, but I also think her confidence has waned. It's time to figure out how to get her back on track.

The last session we had she was acting very RBI - afraid, tense, flinchy, spooky... not at all in a learning place and with very low confidence. I realize that I've been pushing her hard to be progress in the riding (as well as myself) and it's not working very well. Her time in the round pen was not successful the last 2 sessions and I've got to interrupt this pattern.

Today, I saddled her up and focused on confidence games only! I decided that I won't even consider putting a foot into the stirrup until I feel that her relaxation is back and her confidence is in tact. She needs to be calm, thinking, blinking and learning. I also decided to try a natural calming remedy to help take the edge off of her mental state. She's a typical RBE and she needs to be CALM. Calm is her biggest challenge, trust is a very close 2nd.

We focused on doing things slowly, precisely, calmly. We played with cavaletti's and her thinking through her footfalls to never knock a cavaletti. Jumping with the squeeze pattern (turn, face and wait! Waiting is hard for Tina). We played with the teeter-totter, standing and waiting for me to ask her to continue walking. Standing on the bridge with all four until she could lick and chew and breath a sigh of relief. We did lots of figure 8 pattern (she's gotten so great with that pattern and it calms her right down). And then, tons of Sideways! Sideways is a right-brained horses friend. I ask her for straightness and we didn't stop until she was calm and thoughtful about her footfalls. She can't go sideways properly if she's afraid. That movement really helps her.

This session was so great that multiple times she reached down to eat grass while I was asking for her to try something. She was confident enough to forget about me and eat grass! It's a big deal because the last couple sessions she's been afraid and tense. By me taking the pressure off of riding, she was the horse I had developed before the accident. I'm sorry that we had a couple bad sessions, but I'm pleased to know that she came back around pretty quickly and easily.

We are dedicating the next 7 sessions to advancing groundwork only. She will wear a saddle and bridle, but I will not attempt to mount or ride for 7 sessions. I suspect in the end she'll be ready for the mounted work, but we'll take session by session.

I'm so glad I took the step back. I want to preserve what we've built together and advance it. I don't want a scared horse feeling forced or intimidated. I want a confident and brave horse that's safe for humans throughout her life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Training with Kendall

Great 10 mile ride with Kendall. We're ready for her first endurance ride! I had to ride english since my western saddle needs repair. I haven't ridden english in a while and it took me a little time to find my seat. However, after a mile or two I remembered how fun it is! Z was great as usual. Kendall had a great ride on Rain, too. Enjoying the heck out of the trail time with KK.

Dewormed Tina and Rio.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hidden Mesa and time with Tina

KK and I rode 8 miles at Hidden Mesa. Had a great ride! Lots of traffic on the trail (bikers, hikers, other riders) and Kendall handled Rain beautifully. The horses worked hard and we tried to trot/canter the majority of the time. The horses are getting more fit for sure.

I came home and spent the rest of the evening with Tina. I've been worried lately that she's getting more afraid during mounting/riding rather than more confident. Today I watched her and played with her and mounted her and realized she is less confident. I've been thinking it's the wind that's impacting her and I'm sure it's playing a part, but I really believe that she's becoming more fearful in our mounting/riding sessions. I also think she's becoming more concerned about work in the round pen. This is the last thing I want to happen with this mare as she's such a nervous and worried horse by nature. I also realize that I'm putting a lot of emphasis on getting on her and putting mounted time in and she's feeling the pressure. She is going to take time to develop into a safe horse. Her nature is skittish and worried and I want to be sure I don't let her go to that place.

So, after playing with her for a long time and mounting work, I sat down and decided it's time to take a step back and rebuild her confidence with having a rider on her back. It's just going to take the time it takes with her. She needs things to go slowly and she needs the time to understand and process that she's not in danger. I've let that become 2nd priority over the past 2-3 weeks and she's telling me it's not wise and it's not working.

I'll be doing more work with obstacles, with her having objects on her back (bags, ball, etc), always in a saddle when we play, and more rewarding time in the round pen versus strictly teaching and hard work in the round pen. If you listen to the horse, they will tell you what they need. This is what Tina is telling me and this is how we'll proceed. She's too fragile and she'll be more dangerous if I don't change the course of action. She's a fun challenge and I'm confident she'll get to a good place... one session at a time with her confidence and calmness as the most important thing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Flippin' Wind!

Gusting in the 30's today with rain off and on. Lovely.

Today, Nina moved out again. This time was a keeper, though. The new pasture mates were lovely older mares. They were happy to see Nina and interested in a non-threatening way. Nina's confidence stayed intact and she pranced away checking out her surroundings.

It was bittersweet. I guess part of me hoped it wouldn't work out, but only for selfish reasons. I want Nina to stay with me. I know it's time for her to move on.

We then went to the animal shelter to adopt a couple more cats for the barn. Jewel is alone in the barn too much and it feels unfair to have her by herself. When I got home, the air had calmed and the rain stopped. i thought to jump on a horse and get going on something, but the day was nearly over and I had chores to do.

Tomorrow... supposed to be great weather. We shall see!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mounting work with Tina, Trailriding with Kendall

Tina was much less sensitive! Hallelujah! I was able to brush her w/o her flinching and I could touch her flank w/o causing her to jump. Why was today different? There was much less wind, definitely. Otherwise, I don't know. Her cycle is over perhaps? I really think it's the wind, however. She's overstimulated by everything moving and wiggling all around her.

I spent a little time warming her up on the ground and then took her into the round pen for mounting. The other day when I tried to mount her she flinched and jumped sideways. It was windy and she was overstimulated before we ever started. I wanted to see what we'd get today. Surprisingly, she was fine! She let me mount and she stood fairly still. I wiggled around and made a ruckous while I mounted to help build up her tolerance to this sort of behavior. I mounted from both sides repeatedly until she was soft, blinking, flexing toward me easily. I decided to not ride beyond being on her back. I decided to stop here and rebuild her to where she was before. I will start asking her for forward movement on the next session again - walk and trot. I need some calm days where the wind isn't blowing at 25 mph, too. I may start hauling her to my friends indoor so wind is not a factor. She is also proving to be quite a jumper! She could probably clear 3.5 ft from a halt with ease. She's clearing 2.5ft from the halt with at least 18" to spare. At least...

Z was amazing on the trail. I'm enjoying her immensely. Kendall and I rode for about 5 miles at a steady trot with some cantering in spots. Kendall is doing great with Rain. They are going nicely and KK is getting more brave all the time. Z and I practice our bridleless riding on the trail and she's getting better and better. We finished up with a gallop up the hill on our way back. Z was pulling and climbing and KK was giggling and having a blast. A fun ride!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trailering a horse

Today was Nina's day to move out. We did another riding session before loading her up to haul her to her new home. She loaded beautifully and we made sure Loma could do everything herself. She hauled quietly and moved into her pen with ease. The horses she was supposed to live with turned out to be quite aggressive so we brought Nina back until something else could be arranged. It was wonderful to see how how well-adjusted Nina has become and how easily she handled everything.

I was glad to have her come back. She's such a part of my barn and my herd. I'm going to miss her terribly.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Everybody plays!!

Nina and Loma - spent time getting Nina ready to go to her new home with Loma at the training barn. I played with Nina and we did some filming for her sale vid, then we did a lunge line lesson with Loma riding. Nina did great and Loma got to feel her wonderful gaits. I was proud of Nina! She's been a great student and partner. I trimmed Nina too, so she'd be ready to wait a few weeks for her new trimmer to get to her.

Z and Rain, KK and me - we hit an 8 mile trail ride first thing in the morning. It was a great ride until about mile 6 when Kendall's jeans started to chafe. I think she's finally convinced that jeans are not good long-rider's gear. :-) We went later to a shop for 3 new pairs of riding pants. She's a happy camper.

Gem at liberty - had an amazing session with Gem at liberty! Very cool! We started in the big arena with him showing off and running around. He would then come trotting into me (marvelous!). Then, in the 60ft round pen, we played with COD, cantering until asked to do otherwise, stick to me and other cool stuff. He loves liberty!

Tina - flagging and flinching - I had intended to hop on Tina, but she was not ready for mounting. She was flinchy, even during grooming. I kept thinking it must be the wind. The wind was blowing and gusting up to 40mph at times. I played with her and started to mount her for a ride. When I put my foot in the stirrup, my boot hit her under belly near the girth and she jumped sideways a few feet. So, I decided I wasn't going to hop on, but work on building more bravery. I got her used to my foot going into the stirrup various ways - to help her get used to sloppy mounting. That went well. Then I decided to use the flag to build up some more confidence. For a horse that I've taught to wear a tarp, she did not want a single thing to do with that flag. Although, I doubt she would manage a tarp in that wind either. We spent a good hour getting better at understanding that the flag would not be her demise. She got better and better until she could trot around with the flag in the saddle. Good girl! It was a great way to end it. The next calm day should be the day for riding.

Cowboy and Chrissy - hind feet: Chrissy was having some trouble with Cowboy's hinds. He was making her nervous when she asked him to pick up the hinds for picking. I gave her some tips and she was on her way. She played with her horse for a while, too. He wasn't interested in kicking up his hills in the arena like she thought he would, and I think they had a good session.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trail time, Tina and Trimming

Good day! Started with some time with Tina. I wanted to see how she felt about things after yesterday. She was still very sensitive, but much less than yesterday. We squeezed and developed more sideways. We also played with COD some. I didn't have time to do more. I was glad to see her not so sensitive and looking forward to a full day tomorrow with horses and some good time with Tina.

Then moved on to a trail ride with Kendall. We had a very fun ride! We trotted the bulk of the ride and did a bunch of cantering. I'm trying to help Kendall find her seat in the canter. She's still a little stiff, but so darn cute! Her posting in the trot has come a long way and she's got great rhythm now. We had to boogie back because the sun was nearly gone by the end of our ride and she was begging me to race her and Rain. I declined! The girl has the need for speed.

Z was a great partner and she was happy to walk when I asked and even happier to move out when we were ready. She wanted to canter off and I kept thinking about DE telling me to canter her for 30 mins longer than she wants to. I wonder if I took her on the trail and let her canter, how long would she go before stopping? I've very curious and I may take her to Sharptail - the perfect trail for finding out.

Finished with trimming Nina. She moves out on Sunday and I want to make sure she goes with her feet in good shape in case she doesn't get a trimmer looking at her feet for a few weeks.


Last year, I started a new approach to deworming my horses. I began to base my decisions on fecal tests for deworming versus just putting my horses on a schedule w/o regard to whether they needed it.

This spring's test was amazing to me. Zarah's test was negative - meaning she has too few to justify a count. Rain and Gemini have traces of strongyles, but such a minimal amount that deworming is not warranted. Cowboy has even less than Gem and Rain. Nina has slightly more and could be dewormed, but she'd be fine w/o it. Tina has more and I will deworm her and recheck her to ensure it was effective. Rio has a very, very high count - highest I've seen. That could explain his coarse looking coat and bloated belly.

What's even more amazing is I have now gone 1.5 years w/o administering dewormers to my 3 horses. This is a controversial subject among horse owners and I'm really comfortable with how I'm doing things now. Note: a fecal test does not detect tapeworms. I may administer a dewormer to ensure tapes are not an issue, however in Colorado tapeworm is not prevalent (our arid climate gets the credit, I'm sure).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It takes the time it takes

Today, KK and I hopped on for a trail ride. We are going to ride an endurance ride soon, so we're trying to get the horses ready. We're doing just a short ride, Kendall's first (15 miles). She's pretty excited, as am I. We did a 5 mile ride with some trotting and cantering and had a fun time! Z was calm and happy as long as she was leading. We need to do more practice in the back. Rain was her usual, great trail-horse self.

When we got back, I wanted to put a ride on Tina. It was windy and chilly. It was interesting - I realize the wind makes the world much more stimulating to a horse, but Tina was so on edge today. She couldn't stand still for grooming - something she usually enjoys. She just wasn't the calm horse she's become. Then during warmup for riding, she was bucking from the feel of the saddle. I decided not to ride her and instead to focus on getting her calm and then using her energy to do some neat things.

We played for about an hour and at the end she was better, but still not as calm as she's been. I've fed a little alfalfa lately and maybe she can't tolerate it. I know she's stimulated by the wind, but this was much more than the wind. I'll play with her tomorrow and see how that goes. I'll also make sure she doesn't get any alfalfa for a week and see if that helps.

On the bright side, she did some amazing sideways trotting and her s-pattern was very good! I was impressed with her jumping, too. She's jumping 2.5 feet freely and efficiently. Her canter is loosening up, too. I will spend the next 3 days (Fri-Sun) building her up and expect a much different session by Sunday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dental work

Frustrating since I haven't ridden much yet in April, but today I bypassed a riding opportunity to trailer the horses to a very special equine dentist. After having an equine dental student look in a couple of my horses mouths, it made perfect sense to take the opportunity to get them to this dentist.

I hauled 4 horses (my 3 plus Cowboy) to get a "natural" float. This dentist does not use power tools. He carefully hand rasps the teeth and pays special attention to balancing the horses mouth. Z had very limited movement due to bad floats in the past. The others just needed routine dental work but Z had an overhaul.

He explained to me that I should expect a drastic change in her way of going. Her range of motion with her head and neck will be better and she will be feeling much better in general. I'm looking forward to seeing/feeling a change!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A quick trail ride

Managed a quick 4.5 mile ride with Rain and Zarah. Z was in a hurry, as usual. I wanted to ride Tina and Gem, but it was so windy. On the trail, I can ride in the gully - out of the wind. In the arena and round pen, I don't have wind shelter.

It's going to be snowy week, too.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A sore back and groundwork

Played with Gem, Tina. Coached Chrissy for some time with Cowboy.

Tina was great with the groundwork. She's telling me she's ready for more advancement. So, we worked on squeeze over the barrels from a stand still. I also asked her to stand on the pedestal with all 4 and then we played with loading into a 2-horse straight load trailer. She surprised me by getting into the trailer within 5-10 mins. For a sensitive horse, she showed so much sensibility today. Maybe the most I've ever seen. I would have liked to put some riding time in with her, but my back is very sore from a muscle spasm I've had the past few days. I should be able to mount up tomorrow. She's ready for the next level.

Gemini - I used Gem to demo some things I wanted to get Chrissy playing with. We did some on-line "cutting", asking our horses to get light on the fore and go back and forth. Gem actually enjoyed this! It was cool. I'd like to get it on video. Cowboy and Chrissy did well, too! We focused on being in charge of the front feet. I really wanted to ride but my back told me I needed another day for my back muscle to relax. Gem and I then did some liberty work and he was so fun!! I really think he was enjoying himself. Pretty cool. We started flc's and transition to back up. I'm going to start one-rein riding with him and focus on getting him settled and more trusting with a mount. He's ready.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trimming and dental work

Finished Gem's hinds and did Rain. Checked Rain's teeth and tried to check Z's. Z's jaw was too tight. Poor girl - time to get her some good dental help. Taking 4 horses to see the dentist on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010