Friday, July 30, 2010

All Bit and Time with Gem

Had a nice afternoon with horses today. The weather was amazing and I had some good dedicated time to advance some horses.

I started with Gem. I tacked him up and we got started on the ground. He was thinking about the herd quite a bit but he still played nicely with me. He had a lot of forward response to my request for sideays w/o a rail, so we played with that. His isolation of the ends is phenomenal but what's interesting is that it's better on the fore than the hind - which indicates RB. I've always wondered if Gemini is a RB learner and with humans. I think that's learned, though - not inherent.

He did buck several times when I asked for the canter while we warmed up and once he was able to canter depart w/o any emotion, I went ahead and mounted. I coached Chrissy a bit from his back and asked to him walk towards to front pasture. We had quite a threshold very soon! He couldn't make it to the driveway w/o getting tense (we're talking 100 ft). We have a lot of building up to do.

While Chrissy finished up her warm-up, we went into the arena and started with passenger lesson. He can go wherever he wants, but he must maintain the gait I've asked for. I wanted the trot, so we trotted for a while. For the first 15 mins, he was tense! He was very tense. His head was high and he was overly concerned with the world around him. He started to calm down and I did some more coaching with Chrissy, allowing Gem to stand still and get his thoughts together. After about 30 mins, we went back to work and did a full 21 mins of PPL. He was much, much more relaxed this time and I got some nice soft canter departs the last 5-10 mins.

I have my most important clinic of the year in 3 weeks and I'm contemplating taking Gem instead of Z. Tina will go for sure and I'd like to take 2 horses. The clinic is a 4-day, followed by a 2-day. I will ride Z in the 2-day so I'd like to take Gem for the 4-day. I wonder if I can get him ready in time? He will call and call if he's not ready. He will be tense and he'll be likely to buck if I push him beyond his comfort zone. Can I get him comfortable enough in time? I wish I'd started sooner, but I'm going to give it a try. My other option is to take Tina for the 4-day. I'll make the decision when the time comes. For now, I'll get them both ready.

Chrissy had a great session with Cowboy! She is starting to understand "feel". Cowboy is quick to brace and it's up to her to eliminate the brace. Interestingly, when he gets bracey, it feeds her fear. Today was the first day I saw her really connect the brace in her to the brace in Cowboy. This is a huge corner for her to turn and Cowboy is going to really benefit from this. I fully expect riding to become less and less scary now that she feels the difference. I would be edgy riding a bracey horse, too. Chrissy has taken a huge step along her path to good horsemanship! Very cool to see.

Finally, it was Miss Tina's turn. I warmed her up on the 22', asking for isolation, sideways, yo-yo... I've got to continue working on maintain gait at the canter. Her canter is soft and comes from behind nicely, but she doesn't want to do it for long. It's time to build that gait and get her more efficient. Today was also the day I chose to build softness in the bit. We abandoned the rope halter and I committed to a full session of bit training.

Her behavior was typical, playing and toying with the bit, figuring out how to find the release from the pressure. I did everything I could to reward her slightest tries as I want her mouth soft and supple. We focused on bends and I made sure to use my seat cues clearly to help her understand the ask from the bit. By the end, her turns were quite nice and her fiddling was nearly gone. Lateral flexion came simply, now to continue to build soft responses from bit suggestions. She did very well for the first full session with new equipment! Proud of her.

I'm also working on her ears. When she came to me, there was something going on with the skin in her ears. It seemed as though she had sores from ear mites. She did not allow her ears to be touched at all. While she's been here, I've slowly worked on breaking that down and helping her find comfort and relaxation from ear handling. The skin in her ears is much improved as Colorado weather doesn't support ear mites too well. However, there is some residual irritation and I've started using my favorite treatment of all time - Dermafas. I've applied it twice now and I'll put it on everyday for a week or so and reevaluate. If that doesn't make a difference, I'll get the vet out.

Her ears are so uncomfortable to the touch and I think when she had bad skin issues in her ears she developed a huge aversion to anything touching her ears. Now that I'm bridling her every session (have been for about a month), I need to be sure she's positive about bridling and not resistant. So, we're working on her acting like a partner for the bridling process. Having her ears be clean and problem-free is critical. Right now, her bridling is "ok" - meaning she'll allow me to put it on w/ very little resistance. I expect her to nearly seek the bit when I bridle her so we'll keep building this.

It was a great day and I'm looking forward to another tomorrow. Steve got some more fencing done so we'll have a track in the west pasture soon. Yeah!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tina and Figure 8

We had a hard rain and everything was muddy and slick when it was time to ride. I took Tina into the big arena, with a plan to focus on soft turns, and suppling her more. Her responses are getting softer and softer and her understanding better all the time.

We rode for a long time - from 1.5 to 2 hours. I actually was able to help and coach Chrissy from Tina's back, which was great for me. We played with straight lines on the rail and soft turns off the rail. Then we did figure 8's until she got very soft and willing and understood the pattern under saddle. She was so relaxed and willing and learning well. I'm getting a little more firm with her and expecting more from her as we develop her into a mount. She's doing well! This was a great session!

Chrissy was playing with softening the back up and lateral flexion. Cowboy was very bracey to the right for some reason. I coached her along, then offered to hop on her horse. His brace was pretty good to the right so we started to build a soft feel. I rewarded quickly and extremely often until he started to understand that I was asking for so little, it was easier to comply. We then worked on backup and turned it into yo-yo game. His back up got very nice and efficient and after a bit of time, I could tell he was starting to "think" backwards instead of just going through the motions. I enjoy the hell out of that horse! He's so different than my horses.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One-day clinic with Tina, Z and Kime

Had an amazing day with horses! After relatives in town for a few days, it was nice to get back with the horses!

I took Tina and Z with me and started the day with Tina. We had a great 1/2 day of groundwork and riding. I was amazed at how calm she was in this new environment with bizarre things such as llamas (4 of them!), run-away horses (multiple times), plastic bags on the end of ropes and sticks, lots of sticks and strings flying as others worked with their horses... she was such a champ!

In the beginning, she started off tense. I learned from the instructor that a great indicator of worry instead of dominance is the lower lip. A tight lower lip looks like the horse has an overbite. That's a great way to know if Tina is scared or just not "in the mood" to cooperate. It took her all of 5 minutes to relax (better than Z!) and then we got some great ground work going! Sideways without a fence is coming along beautifully. Her circle game is great and relaxed and gait transitions (w/t/c) are soft and supple. I played at the very end of the 22' as much as possible. She could probably advance to the 45' line, but that doesn't mean much for her future so I probably won't go there.

When I mounted, she was calm and cool. She sidled to the mounting spot beautifully (got some nice kudos from the instructor). She stood perfectly still and was a great partner. We worked on softness to the reins and getting acquainted with the environment. She was comfortable and responsive the entire time while I was mounted. There was some silliness going on around us, like a couple horses getting away from their owners and some noisy equipment being managed. She seemed to just take it all in stride. Wow, what a great testament to where her brain is!

Before lunch, we sat in a group circle and debriefed on our morning. Tina stood right next to me, leg cocked, head low, lower lip hanging down, and just soaked in the quiet time. All the students commented on her progress since they say her 3 months ago. Pretty great.

After spending all morning with Tina, I tacked up Z for some freestyle riding. We were planning to video each other for the afternoon and I wanted to show what Z and I can do bridleless. She was tense and tight and her trot and canter were choppy and her ears were back at times. She was sometimes listening, sometimes just feeling impulsive. Our jumping felt good over 2' and our serpentines were nice, but our canter stop wasn't there. Z does not do so great in new environments and it takes her quite a while to relax. However, I was confident enough to ride her in this open pasture w/o headgear or reins, which proves that I trust her and we are partnered.

I struggled with the riding in front of everyone AND on camera, but I started to relax after about 10 minutes. Z was letting me know where she needed help and I was trying to accommodate. We're getting better about being in front of others - an important skill for me to develop.

It was a great, great day and the girls loaded up w/o a single concern for their journey home. I have a tough week of travel ahead, so I hope to get 2-3 sessions in before the weekend with Tina. Still trying to organize a trail buddy for Tina and I to hit the trail for the first time mounted. Otherwise, we have lots to work on in the arena.

Side note: surprised to see that several horses look like they need trims already!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Slowing it down with Tina

The last ride I felt a slight amount of resistance building. I want Tina feeling for my body and suggestions from my seat. If I feel her getting confused and not positively responding, it means 1 thing to me: she doesn't quite understand. So, today I focused on soft feel in the bend, being "straight on the circle" and moving forward with a soft suggestion from my seat. She did a lot of blowing and I only once (early in the ride) felt opposition.

Sometimes the right thing is to take a small step back and make sure all the holes are filled in before moving on.

I was very happy to see that as the herd left the barn and headed out to the west pasture, the opposite side of my 35 acres, Tina looked but never felt an ounce of concern. She was happy to be with me, her rider and didn't feel pulled by the herd. What a testament to state of mind!

As I put her back in the pasture, with the horses still on the other side of the property, she chose to stay with me instead of leaving to be with the herd. This is such a special horse who will bond tightly with her human. Nanni - you have such a treasure here! :-)

It was a nice, cool night with a very relaxing, foundational session with this amazing animal. I love this work.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Finally, a film worth sending

Tonight, I managed to get my L3 Freestyle filmed. This has been on my list for a year now. I filmed it last year, but it wasn't right. Then, I was focused on training other's horses and I decided to let it sit. I really lost my motivation. This summer, as I've done some trail competing with Z, I decided I really needed to close this chapter. So, it's been on my mind the last month or so and tonight my sister helped me capture my best version yet of Freestyle for L3. Watching it, I can say that there are things Z and I can do better. However, we hit all the compulsories and I hope the assessors find it a good enough representation of L3 riding skill.

I also started Tina with bit communication. We've been using the rope hack up until now and she's often worn a bit while we do our session. Today, I snapped the reins on and we started working through the communication building for bitted riding. She did the typical things - trying to find the answer and the release from the pressure. All in all, she learned very quickly that there was an answer and she figured things out. It was another lovely session of bringing along baby. :-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Prepping to film and a few failed attempts

I spent hours today with Tina and Z. I practiced getting Z through our audition choreography several times and caught some on film. She worked very hard today and I gave her a long break out of the tack while I advanced Tina.

Tina and I had a wonderful session working on maintaining gait in the arena. Her trot departs were much crisper today! She's moving into the trot with a slight lift of my energy and seat. She's coming back to the walk with the same lightness. She was especially curious today about all the items in the arena (using those for freestyle filming with Z). We worked quite a bit on riding the rail - meaning stay on the track I've laid out for us along the arena wall. I'm asking her to follow my focus on this "trail" along the edge. She seemed to pick that up well! We also worked on transitions - trot/walk and sometimes adding halt. Her attitude is extremely positive and she's interested in what we're doing. She's responding so nicely to what I'm asking from her. I'll continue to expect more from her and possibly get some lesson time with Loma soon to help me steer her towards more dressage type work.

A great day and boy was I exhausted at the end. :-)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Advancing with Z

Focused on freestyle! Also, used her as a ranch horse. We moved the herd, we took tools and materials back and forth for fencing, running to the driveway gate for repairs, then I'd let her graze while I fenced or fixed. She'd always come back for me when it was time to work again - a very positive sign.

We played in the arena for a long time. I would call what we did work, actually. We practiced bridleless circles and transitions. It was extremely hot, so I had a bucket and sponge that we'd dip into to get soaked and stay cool. I was looking for her to really feel me and finally after about 2 hours, she was finally getting there. I expect tomorrow will be much better. I changed my audition series, so looking forward to filming that tomorrow as long as Z's head is in the right place and we're partnered.

Our biggest challenge is canter departing from the trot while maintaining direction. I must be asking for a bend when we canter depart somehow. I'll continue to play with it and try to be as straight while I ask for the canter depart as I can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moving forward with Tina

Today, we warmed up with some great maneuvers on the ground then into the arena. I asked her to put her hind feet only on a tarp. Putting hind feet on an object is always much, much harder than the front feet. It took a bit, but she eventually was brave enough to stand with only her hind feet on the tarp. What a cool moment that was. I also asked her to rock the teeter totter with more finesse, 1 foot step at a time and rocking it a little faster than before. She was great!

I then rode her in the big arena, starting at the walk and building into the trot. She was great with the larger space. She was calm and checking things out in a way she never has before. I then asked her to maintain a trot gait. She was just a joy to ride tonight! We'll head into the canter next session, then it's time to hit the trail nice and easy. That's where she'll get the true test. I'm excited to get there!

Once we can take on the trail (a few rides), we'll get serious about our precision finesse riding.

She's doing beautifully!

Chrissy also hopped on Cowboy for a bit in the round pen. Tonight was a more fearful night and I gave her some nudging to hop on. She doesn't like riding as the sun starts to set, but Cowboy was rock solid and calm for her. Proud of her for stepping outside of her comfort zone.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Galloping on Z and Trotting Tina

Tina is now getting a little lazy! So funny to me. Tonight, we worked on maintain gait. This means, she can go where she wants but she has to do it a trot. No faster, no slower. I want her to learn to steady her gait more and to stay in it for longer periods before quitting. This is great for her fitness and teaching her some responsibility to maintain what her rider has asked for. We also worked more on isolating the ends (hind and fore). She wore a bit for our session tonight and tomorrow, I'd like to start using the bit for communication. Lots of progress!

Z and I took a quick ride over the neighbors as we are considering purchasing the property. I wanted to check out the 35 acres and that was a much easier task on horseback than car or foot. We rode there and back very fast, often galloping full speed. I remember a time when I didn't trust Z to do this. Now, I don't have a worry in the world when we go that fast. That trust is amazing to have.

I also hopped on Cowboy for Chrissy tonight. She's having a little trouble with him going when she asks, so I rode him for a few minutes to show how I'd get things done. He's such a nice horse! He's so smooth in his western jog and he glided around where I asked with little need for reins. I tried to soften his backup and get more commitment from him going backwards. He was fun!

The weather was amazing tonight - no rain, just clear skies and warm air. Perfect for horsing around.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


More rain getting in the way, but Tina was first on the docket. We had a great ground session to start. The riding lawn mower had her a little unsure, so we followed it around and built up confidence with it. She's so much faster with a confident response to new stimuli! Her foundation of bravery is better every day.

We worked on the teeter-totter more today. She seems to feel good about the teeter totter and she's always happy and eager to stand on it - even if I haven't asked her to. So, we're rocking it more slowly, adding more refinement to the task.

After a good warm-up, I mounted to work on trotting and isolation of the ends. While moving the fore (turning on the haunches), she's not as fluid as I want so we practiced that. She doesn't fully understand the isolation yet. We turned on the fore as well, and it's the same. She doesn't quite understand the isolation. I'd like that to get so soft that I don't need reins to move her that way. That will be when I know she understands the leg aid and following the feel of her rider's position.

Her trot is gorgeous to ride. She is so elevated and yet so smooth under saddle! It's amazing to feel her power. This week we will build the canter now that I know she's balanced carrying me at the trot. Her confidence is through the roof and I'm so proud.

At the end of our session, KK wanted to ride her. :-) She's been watching me develop Tina and I think she was curious. Since I'd already taken her saddle off, I let KK hop on bareback and I just led her around. While she was there, I asked her to fidget and wriggle, just make a lot of commotion to see how Tina was respond. Tina was rock solid. Pictures coming...

A great day of more foundation building with this awesome horse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

CTC #3

Rain, hail, Z calm and then fell apart. Boots rubbed. 8 miles. Yelled at safety rider.

This was our 2nd CTC and it was a big one! There were 3 times as many riders as my first CTC. I went with my good friend Tammy and she drove. Z was a little unsure about getting in a strange trailer, but I gave her a few minutes and she loaded up. Z was so calm when we got there! She was thoughtful, calm, and ready to take it on.

The obstacles were much more challenging than our first CTC. One obstacle was to go through a bunch of strings hanging from a rod in a tree. Tied to the strings were shiny aluminum pie plates. I had no idea how Z would feel about those because I've never, ever asked for anything like that. She went through, but very unconfidently. Something to work on at home! Another obstacle had an umbrella hanging above a culvert. We had to pick up the umbrella and hang it on the other side of the culvert. Wow! Pretty challenging. We had to do cantering on the correct lead, backing up a hill, carry obstacles on our saddle (slicker, rope, hat, etc...).

This was a great CTC! Very challenging and well worth my time and effort. We got caught in a hail storm at about obstacle 4 and my horse changed when the storm started to blow in. She became fearful and "up" and we fell apart on one of the obstacles. I don't expect that we did very well against our competition, but I had a great time challenging myself and my horse.

When I got home, I did a session with Tina. I tacked her up and we played on the ground in the arena. I don't spend a lot of time with her in the big arena, so I want to start building her up in this large and flat space. We typically ride and play in the round pen and in the playground. She was fine, though. We did a lot of cantering on line with all that space and no obstacles in the way.
I mounted her after the ground work and we worked at a trot for a while. I'm looking for her to maintain the trot I ask for (surprisingly, she falls out of the trot quickly). I'm asking for her to turn in the trot and change directions. We're doing figure 8's and I'm also building the halt from my seat as well as a few strides of back up (increases the halt). We also started working on isolation of the ends (turning on the fore and the hind). She's a little bracey with this maneuver so we'll keep building the understanding.

She's calm and learning wonderfully.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rio and Kris play, Prepping Tina for larger spaces

Rain and Tina trimmed. Rain has thrushy frogs. Kris did the trims.

Played a while with Tina - thunderstorms brewing and horses all "up". I planned to ride Tina, but she was quite excited (all the horses were) as a very ominous storm was brewing. There was lots of thunder getting closer all the time and I decided to just work on the ground. We did some new things like fly spray (she was champ - no big deal for her!) and dragging objects (the tarp). She's doing so well, she's starting to put her mouth on new things. I'm happy to see her become more investigative all the time. That will come in very handy when she encounters scary things in her life! Her jumping is beautiful and I had another friend who visited say she'd make a great hunter/jumper. She can do anything. There was a time where I thought she'd be limited, but now that she's changed and developed confidence I believe she can go any direction.

Kris played with Rio and they are looking good! They are starting to build a relationship. That is what I like to see. That's what it's all about to me. A horse learning to trust people and people putting value and dignity into the horse.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Coaching, Gemini, Tina and Trimming

Coached Kris. Great progress on disengaging the hind, groundwork, relaxed in the saddle. Love what I'm seeing. Rode Gem during the session - he did great. Need to get his hindqtrs disengagement better from the saddle. He assumes sideways.

Tina - progressed ground work (touch it, send over obstacles, sideways). Wanted to ride, but she was very "up" due to a menacing storm moving in. The high winds and lightening cause all the horses to get a little excited. I'm learning to let those times go and stay on the ground.

Trimmed Gem.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hitting the trail

Ponied Tina in a western saddle - it was nothing for her. Did 8 miles and rode Rain. Tammy and Drew with me.

Rode Z doing patterns in the arena. Question box is working beautifully. We worked on circles to the right (our tough direction). Practiced bridleless jumping.

Chrissy on Cowboy in the arena. He spooked at one point and really scared her. Hope that doesn't set her back too much.

Trimmed Cowboy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

12 hours with horses!

Today was excellent.

Started with Amy at Hidden Mesa. Rode a bit with Lynn and Nancy there. Rode Rain and began the retraining. Amy needed help getting Molly across water and bridges. Had a successful session helping you see how to be successful and to stop blaming the horse!

Lynn and Nancy came over. Rode in the rain and lightening! Z out front and rock solid. We moved out fast and Z wanted to canter instead of trot a lot of the time. I think I went faster than Lynn and Nancy wanted. Oops! Deuce got scared of the thunder and I asked him to hop up on my saddle with me. That was funny - everyone got a giggle out of my big dog in my lap on my horse.

Rode Tina - lots of trotting, turning, disengaging and started moving the fore. She's doing beautifully.

Rode Gem - bucked a lot in the saddle before I mounted. Then, he was great! Helped Chrissy with passenger lesson at the trot.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


A shorter session with Tina. Long work day caused me to get a very late start with horses.

We worked on turning, halting, back up. I was forced to keep things short with Tina, but it was a nice progressive session. I'm so pleased with how thoughtful she's becoming.