Sunday, January 30, 2011

A great day with my equine partners

And a great week as I've spent 3 days this week developing my horses. After the past 3 months of very little horse time, it's so amazing to get some consistent time. My spirits are definitely lifted.

Started with a trail ride. I rode Z and ponied Rain. We went about 4 miles at the walk. Z left the herd easily and gave me no trouble at all. All the trail riding we've done together makes her more like the kind of horse you can let stand for months and then hop on and go. On one section of the trail, Z was tentative and stopped to listen often. Typically, she gets nervous and moves her feet a lot so I had to smile when she was thoughtful about proceeding. I encourage this behavior in her and in all my horses. If she's wary about moving on, she can stop and think it through - I will always try to not push her through her thresholds.

Rain was lazy and sometimes wasn't very light to the pressure of the halter on her poll. That's ok, I haven't ponied her in a long darn time so we can work on that. I'd like to get her more fit and start doing some trail competitions with Rain this spring/summer. For Z, I want to get her on some endurance rides and potentially hit a 50 this year. We've got lots of conditioning to do, so we'll see.

When I got home, I worked with Gem on the ground. I spent some time going over the self-assessment checklist and the requirements for L4 Online submission and decided to build on our skills and fill in any holes we had. Some items I just wasn't sure we could do. I was pleasantly surprised to get out there and realize while Gem didn't know what I was asking for, I taught him in a few minutes time (lead by the ear, lip, hock for example). We have a good foundation and that helps. Then, I wanted to work on building more gait maintenance as he tends to break down and transition to a walk if he has the option.

He got tense twice on the 45' at the canter on the circle. At his tense moment, he sped up into a gallop and ran "home" (to the barn). I went back to the 22' so I could handle it better when he got that idea. He gave me the opportunity (thankfully) to correct this behavior and I'll have to watch that he doesn't learn that he can do that on the 45'. We might need to stick to the 22' a bit longer until that idea is gone. Otherwise, we made some nice, nice progress on maintain gate and got 6-8 trot laps on the 45' and more on the 22'. it felt like great progress and I look forward to building on that.

I spent some time in zone 5 driving from point to point and then finished with some trailer loading. He's great at trailer loading so now I need to build some distance and some more "sweetness" to the trailer. I'm thinking we should start filming so I can see how we look, where we are and what I should modify and practice. I hope to have a L4 Online submission ready in the next month or two. I'm excited to be setting goals like this! It's been a rough few months of holidays, work travel, family vacations, short days and bad weather.

Chrissy played with Cowboy a bit and he got away from her a few times and headed "home". She did a great job of persevering and trying to set him up to run home so she could get him in hand. Gem ran straight at them twice when he fled the circle and Cowboy took off with Gem.

I also got Gem's rights trimmed. Need to do Cowboy and Starlet and touch up Rio's hinds. Hoping to get those done this week. Cowboy needs a soak.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Picking up kids with Gem

The weather was amazing and I cut out of work early to spend some time with Gem. I decided to tack him up and take him to the bus stop to pick up my kids. I worked on driving him from zone 5 to get to the stop, about 3/4 of a mile away. He did great. I wondered if he would call or get nervous and it wasn't until we got to the bus stop that he started to think about his safety. He was grazing and fairly calm, but I could tell that he was just slightly unnerved. When KK arrived on the bus, she got on and I did a little ground work to keep him with me. D's bus was another 10 mins out, so we just did some nice quiet games while we waited. KK hung her backpack off the saddle horn and I think they worried him for a moment. When D arrived, we started to head back. Heading back got Gem thinking about home and after a few minutes, I had KK hop off so I could get him thinking about me as his leader again. About 5 mins later, he was calm and ready for his next kid mount. I loved seeing Gem handle this new ask. He hasn't been away from home alone much and he never called once. Although he had some nervous moments, he wasn't worried enough to call or get overly concerned. I was proud of him and each positive session like this builds our partnership.

When we got home, D rode him over some barrels (very cool!) with me asking Gem to squeeze over from the ground. Then I rode him in the arena, playing with FTR. We practiced opening the gate a bit and he's pushing it open himself. We need to continue building mounted sideways so the gate opening goes more smoothly. Doing well with this horse of mine!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Introducing Natural Horsemanship

I had the opportunity to show a friend from work my horses, my setup and how I train my horses. It was a wonderful day for both of us. He was enlightened and entertained, my horses were great examples of why this method works so well and he even got to ride Z bareback for a few minutes. It was probably the most fun I've had with horses in a while because I got to spend several hours. I blew off work and I'll pay for it later, but it's ok. I needed to have a day like that for my mental health and well-being.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playin' with Gem

Wow - was he full of himself today! But we played on the 45' and he sometimes does show nice extroversion when he has that much line. We built on backing straight to the end of the 45', snappy departures on the circle, isolating ends at 45', transitions on line and zone 5 driving. Lead by the tail is so soft and light, I'm very impressed by how he's picked that up.

Then, I tacked him up in my english saddle and we rode in the arena a bit. It was very cold and a little windy, so we didn't do much. I played with moving the fore and hind, sideways and FTR. A nice session.

Then, it was trimmin' time. Got Gem's right hooves (he got antsy so I quit after 2 hooves), Zarah, Rain (plus soaked her). I have to catch up Starlet, Cowboy, Rio's hinds and Gem's left hooves.


Got Rio's fronts done. 2 hooves down, 22 to go! :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A little horse time

Rode Gem in the arena. Wow - really offering exuberance!! Had a fantastic and light warm up, followed by some FTR at the trot. It's obvious that I need to spend more time doing that with him - he doesn't understand his responsibility at this point. He's got lots of ideas! However, he felt great and offered up canter constantly. Enjoyed my time with him and looking forward to the next session (whenever I can get it). Crazy life right now...

Did a little frog maintenance on Gem and Rain. Need to trim Rio, Starlet, Gem, Cowboy next time I can.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Riding Gem in the snow!!

Great day! Rode around my property and up the road. Gem was fanastic. Low head, calm and relaxed. He wanted to go further and I actually turned him back a few times. He didn't want to go back - he was confident and ready to head down the trail. I like this horse!

Chrissy and Cowboy - Chrissy showed off some of her excellent ground skills with Cowboy. I helped her tweak her sideways a bit and tried to show her a new way to manage her rope by having Cowboy help her untangle his feet. Also showed her a good way to handle the transitions with falling leaf. She and her horse are doing so great together.

Marla on Rain - Marla rode around with me and Gem. She noticed that Rain felt softer and lighter - which means the tune up I've been doing on her is paying off. It felt great to just head down the drive and up the road a little. I wish we could have gone farther. I'm ready to adventure with Gem.

Fun day in the snow!