Sunday, July 31, 2011

Conditioning at Greenland and Laurie meets the horses

Had a great ride at Greenland with Melissa and Kholo. Z was a speed demon and it took her several miles to move at a normal speed. Kholo is a tough trail partner because he doesn't trot as fast as Z and he ends up cantering an awful lot. I worry about wearing him out. We went about 12 miles and covered the miles quickly. Had a great time!!

When I got back, Laurie came over to help me play with horse therapy. I wanted Laurie to spend some time with the horses and I hoped they would help her feel better. She tried to do some liberty work with Z in the round pen and then she rode Rain with me on Z. Rain wasn't very cooperative for Laurie, but Laurie is new to horses and Rain took full advantage. Still it was fun!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A HUGE day for Kris and Rio

... while Kholo was my "coaches mount". During the session with Kholo and while coaching Kris, I worked on bending and more vertical flexion.

With Kris and Rio, we started with saddling, in the barn aisle. Rio was quite reactive and decided to buckle his knees and go down. I had put the Barefoot treeless on him and I guess it felt more rigid than the Bob Marshall. I also may have started with the cinch too tight. I loosened it and he was able to walk off.

I played with him on the ground for a bit, then Kris did. He got used to the saddle after about 10 minutes and got his thinking brain back. He has some serious baggage with saddles, poor guy.

I had Kris do a passenger lesson at the trot and this was so good for both of them. Rio and kris both relaxed into this and I saw some great changes occur. I introduced the idea of bending Rio to get a softer feel from him (snakey bends, sort of). This helped Rio engage his back and lower his head. Afterwards, we went outside the arena and rode in the grassy area by the barn. This was Kris' first time riding Rio outside the arena and it was huge!! She and her horse have made such positive changes and I'm ecstatic to see the progression.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Taking it up a notch with Kholo

Tonight Kholo and I played with more vertical flexion. I want to make sure he understands a soft feel. This, I believe, is critical to bit work. There is a place he can hold his head and hold the bit and we can "hold hands" while I ask for nothing else. He has made an assumption that this feel means to back and although his backing is soft and light now, I don't really want that assumption in play. Amazingly, I was able to help him tell the difference in just a few tries. He's come to really understand my intentions and asks. He's a smart, pliable horse who is incredibly easy to train.

We played with canter transitions, lateral work with isolated ends, sideways, and vertical flexion. I still need to trim the hinds, but I was pressed for time due to rain and an impending date with my 12 yr old. :-)

It was a very productive session, though! He has a week left with me and I've very proud of the changes we've made in 3 weeks. He's shown his comfort with our work and he's bonded to me nicely. Tonight, I tied him in the barn aisle while I grabbed something from my trailer and even thought my sister was sitting in the barn, he called and got anxious when I left. He got calm as soon as I returned. I'm glad he finds comfort with me. It tells me I've been able to build communication AND trust. What a pleasurable horse to spend time with.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zarah and Kholo - not an easy ride!

Zarah hated ponying Kholo! This was our first time doing this and she spent most of the ride telling him to get away. It got a little dangerous once or twice. Z is not the kind of horse to settle when things aren't going the way she wants and I try hard to respect her opinion. Poor Kholo made it through the ride unscathed, but that was mainly because I stayed on top of Z and kept her forward. She had teeth bared and ears pinned 90% of the time! She's funny and she gets so pissed off! I won't ask her to pony Kholo again. My guess is that he wasn't giving her enough respect and she had to continue to make an impression on him. I tried to pony him from 10' (I had a 12' line) and that helped. However, Kholo doesn't seem to know much about being a pony horse and if he had too much line he'd decide to drop his head and graze. Ha - this was a comical ride and I found myself giggling out loud many times.

We kept forward, though. I had Delaney, my son, along on his bike. I wanted it to be fun for him so we kept going. There were also lots of mosquitoes, so stopping or walking was a bad choice. We covered nearly 7 miles, which was ok. We avg'ed 7mph and went 11 mph at our top speed. We were moving along nicely, although probably not a picture of grace with Z's pinned ears and Kholo at the end of my 12' line. Hey, any time with horses is a good time - no complaints!

Afterwards, trimmed Kholo's fronts. He had very high bar with some bruising under the bar on left front. Also, there is some good hoof wall separation at the qtrs on all 4. I put a good mustang roll on with hopes he can get some adhesion going. I'll do the hinds tomorrow, I just got too tired to finish.

I also trimmed up Z's so that she'd be back in balance. She does best when I touch her up every 2 weeks or so. Z's body looks the most fit and balanced I've ever seen her. However, she has a hard time when I trim the hinds and I really need to have a chiro adjust her, along with some massage. Her rump muscles seem tight and I can tell she took a kick to her left. I might get on a stool and try to massage her myself until I can get someone out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Dressage

Gem was very forward in our lesson today!! I believe he's really learning that I'm after an energetic trot vs the jog he does naturally (or was he taught that?). Because we've got forward momentum, my instructor was ready to start teaching us some more advanced things.

We worked the most on using the outside rein and inside leg to bend on circle. This is different than the way I ride, so I was tickled that he and I could get it done. The exercise we focused on was spiraling in from 20m circles to smaller and smaller (by 2m each time). Then, we would leg yield back out using the inside leg and outside rein. Cool exercise! We added some vertical collection after we got the hang of things. He was soft and round and forward!

Towards the end, we started working on transitioning up to the canter as we spiraled out of the circle, while holding him in a frame. We'll need to work on canter departs with collection. We fairly consistently got the correct lead though, and he departed into the canter beautifully each time. I actually think Gem is enjoying dressage.

On rein usage: get round with outside rein and maintain the speed. The inside rein is for form.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Windy evening riding

Kendall went back in a rope halter tonight. She wanted to go back to the rope hack after trying the bridle on her last ride. Apparently, it's hard on her because she's very concerned about hurting Rain's mouth. She rode Rain the whole evening while I rode a couple horses. I think by the end of the night, she was ready to go back into the bridle. :)

I started with Kholo in the arena. Then we rode the whole property. His canter was quite nice! He wasn't as willing today to flex at the pole - not sure why, but we'll work on it. We did lots of snaky bends at the trot and canter in the arena and then worked on transitions in the front pasture. He is really becoming such a soft riding partner - I'm thrilled.

Then, rode Gem and tried to build more canter gait maintenance. Really need to do ppl at the canter and see if I can teach him to canter until I ask for the next thing. He was so forward tonight as Kendall and Rain rode next to us. What a great trot he was offering! I was sure to praise him and let him know what a good job he was doing. He seems to really enjoy that and I see his ears turn back to hear my words of encouragement. I think he's had some hard training in his life and he wants to feel like he's doing the right thing.

A really nice evening and we put horses back with the herd just as the sky was turning dark. Awesome!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Conditioning Ride

Ok, it is seriously HOT! It's 80 degrees by 9am. July in Colorado - the hottest month of the year.

Trailered over to Hidden Mesa with Z and did just the 7.5 mile loop. Not a long ride or even a great conditioning ride, but I really needed to get her moving. I'll try to get some more conditioning rides this week and help her get ready for the Happy Jack in late August. I'd like to see if I can have her ready for a 50.

I booted her only on the fronts and the Gloves just kept spinning. Those boots are great and easy to put on, but they are tough to keep on and straight. I need to work on that.

I rode with a friend who brought 2 horses. We moved out some, but it was so hot we didn't push our horses too hard. I love riding that mare! She's amazing.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kholo and Cantering

Today, Kholo and I rode for about an hour around the property. I wanted to focus on cantering and helping him transition between the gaits. I rode him around in the south pasture, which has some nice terrain to help build his strength. His transitions are getting so soft that I can do them with my seat. He could be ridden bridleless in no time at all. He's a smart horse who's very willing to learn and partner. He's just a pleasure.

We played more with isolated ends and that felt improved. He had nice energy today and he was ready to move out. We'll have to get some endurance conditioning going so he doesn't lose too much of his fitness level.

Z, Rain, Kendall and I then rode around the property. Rain was in a bridle for the first time in years. Kendall had to learn how to communicate with Rain this way vs. the rope hack that she's always ridden with. She did great with her hands and stayed soft. Z and I worked on vertical flexion while Rain and KK worked on riding with a bit.

A side note: Z's mane has been destroyed! Not sure how, though. It seems that one of the horses is eating it, but not sure why that would happen after all these years. Z has this amazing, shiny, long mane that is now looking more like a Fjord's mane. Darn, but oh well. It's just a mane. It'll grow back.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Annual Trip with Girls and Horses

Had a fantastic week in the Flat Top Wilderness near Glenwood Springs with 7 great friends and horses. I took Gem and he was absolutely wonderful. The 3rd day, I asked him to take a 2nd ride with a small group and he was clear with me that he didn't want to do it. He showed me by doing a few quirky things like leaving the trail and nearly wiping me off the saddle, backing up while leading the small group and not partnering with me while I tried to open/close a gate. This was a really good ride for us. We worked through a serious relationship hole between the two of us. Gem often thinks he has better ideas than mine and as our partnership grows, I really need him to follow my leadership more. He was not dangerous and this ride gave him plenty of opportunity to buck and take his defiance to a dangerous place, but he didn't. That was huge progress! We grew together as a result and the following ride the next day was fantastic.

The 4th day's ride was interesting. We climbed about 3 miles and when we had the chance and the trail leveled off, it was time to trot. However, Gem was lame! I didn't even bother investigating. I told the group to go without me, hopped off Gem and we walked back. The amazing part was that he left that group with me easily. This was huge. We walked the 2-3 miles back and I hung around his pen and read a book. We did some trick training, I lead him around the resort to graze on the best grass and we waited for the group to return. It was a great afternoon for me and my horse. Gem was absolutely awesome through the week and I'm so glad I chose him for this trip.

During the week, I alternated between my english saddle and my western saddle. I thought it might help if one saddle was making him sore to get a break with another saddle. We rode 10-15 miles each day on tough mountain trail and I wanted to preserve his back as much as possible. The english saddle left a dry spot on the left shoulder. It never does that during our dressage lessons, so that was very bizarre.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Melissa and Kholo

Spent several hours with Melissa and Kholo! It was great to have her feel the changes in her horse and understand some of the techniques I'm using. We spent time in the front pasture with transitions, halting, backing and trot/canter departs. I also had Melissa ride Z briefly to feel the softness I'm after with Kholo.

Afterwards, we loaded up for some trail riding at Hidden Mesa. We went 7.5 miles, but the temp was so hot, we took it slow. Both horses felt listless and drained and we didn't push them. We didn't have water either, so it was a hot and dry ride! However, she did a great job using the bridle to communicate with Kholo and I saw huge progress. We had a really fun time to boot.

Later, Kendall wanted to ride Rain by herself. I had chores to do, but I helped her get Rain safely tacked up and off Kendall went. The rode around, Kendall practiced jumping and rode Rain around the back of the property. I watched while I did chores. I'm so proud of her! She's enjoying riding so much, she just rides around smiling and getting better. Pretty cool stuff.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dressage Show!

Took Gem today to a dressage show! I was helping a friend who was taking her horse to her first show. I didn't want to show Gem, but I thought the environment would be good for him to experience.

It was a rough day because it was super hot. Gem was fairly calm, but if Nina got too far way, he would call a bit. He called some other horses, too. He needs to go to a few more shows to get more comfortable. I rode him some in a warm-up arena and he actually did beautifully! He was forward and responsive and sensitive. Nina had a hard time and actually couldn't show. She was worried and too nervous in the the dressage arena. It's ok, she hadn't ever been in that environment and had not left her barn in over a year.

Then Kholo bridle work with KK on Rain. Kholo and I worked on lateral flexion, some vertical flexion and backing. KK wants to JUMP everything!! Rode the front pasture, then hung around the playground. She rode alone then while I did chores. She's getting more and more confident. Kholo is getting softer and nicer all the time. I'm really happy with his progress!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kholo - Day 3

Today, we skipped the arena and rode around my 35 acres. Kendall came along on Rain and we rode the perimeter, went over jumps a little and played on the playground. Kholo and I focused on transitions, backing and isolation. His turn on the fore is pretty sticky and heavy and surprisingly his turn on the hind has some lightness. He's very tuned in to my seat, so if my seat says trot he trots and when I down transition, he does as well. His backup was much nicer today - not quite gliding and smooth yet, but much improved. I expected him to be more forward outside the arena and he really wasn't. We'll take to the trail next week and see what we've got.

Kendall and Rain looked great!! Kendall wanted to jump and jump. Rain is a gaited horse and jumping is certainly not her talent, but Kendall was having a lot of fun! As Kendall grows, she looks better and better on Rain - less like a peanut and more like a real rider on that 16hh horse.
I bought a Barefoot saddle and it arrived today. I've been wanting to get a lighter weight saddle for endurance and I pulled Z out to see if she had any issues with it. It needs a few things, but it's got a great feel for my butt and only miles will tell me if Z likes it too. It came with an interesting saddle pad, but I think I'll be using my CSI. Looking forward to trying it out!

Starlet's wound is healing so rapidly. She could really get back to training with me at this point. I'd like to bring her along as a dressage horse and transfer everything I learn on Gem to her as well. She has more elevation and energy than Gem, so it will be a nice contrast for me as a competitor.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kholo - Day 2 in the bit

Kholo and I had a positive, successful session today! He was much more comfortable in the bit and we improved his backwards, played a very little bit with sideways, and worked on trot/walk transitions. I am gently using the bit to encourage his nose down a little at a time, while making it clear what I'm after when I halt or backup. I'm using my seat a lot and his starting to respond to my seat changes. He didn't fidget with the bit today at all, a very positive change. He doesn't hurry or get worried, which makes him a pleasure to teach. We trotted for a good period of time, transitioning to walk every 5-10 strides for just a stride or so.

Tomorrow, we'll leave the arena and build out in the pasture.

I wanted to get a little time with Gem, so I took him into the roundpen for a little liberty. The round pen hasn't gotten much use this summer and it's full of grass and weeds. I let him eat in between a few requests like change of direction and trotting left and right. Then, I left him to his eating to finish my chores. More rain was on the way, so I decided to get my work done.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kris and Kholo

Today was Kholo's first session with me. We both had to get to know each other a little so I took things slow. My back was sore, so I didn't want to do anything overly strenuous. I also didn't want to throw him into the deep end without an understanding that he's safe.

I bridled him and he took the bit nicely. For horses starting in the bit, I follow the bit with a sweet of some type. Surprisingly, Kholo couldn't figure out how to get this treat past the bit so he fiddled with it in the front of his mouth and then gave up. This tickled me! I picked a piece up and put it behind the bit for him. He'll sort this out in time. It was pretty cute, though.

We went into the arena and I started with lateral flexion. He didn't quite understand so I helped him along. He has a great nature - he tries and doesn't over-try. He's confident and calm and he doesn't get worried while learning. I know it's going to be fairly easy to help him understand what we riders are after. We played with isolation of the ends after he started to get a feel for the bit and what to do with the sensations in his mouth. I played the most with backing from my seat combined with bit pressure. Improving his backup will make the most positive changes in his halt. His backup and slow and tentative, so I'll be working on getting his backing motion more fluid and confident.

Kris and Rio were in the arena with me and I coached them along while I played with Kholo. One of the things I've really wanted to get Rio and Kris playing with is passenger riding. Kris has been challenged by Rio's sensitivity and trust has been hard to attain. Over the past year, we've built on Kris understanding how little it takes with Rio and now she can do soft transitions on a loose rein. Rio, in turn, has become a softer horse. He's much less reactive and takes things more in stride. He's pliable and willing to learn. He's a very nice horse and he fits Kris nicely. He has a lot to teach Kris. So, this evening, I was able to get Kris riding as a passenger for the first time. This means, in my large arena, Kris asks Rio to trot. Rio's job is to maintain the trot. Kris' job is to simply ride. Rio can go wherever he pleases and if he breaks gait into walk or canter, Kris responds by bringing him back to the trot. I could tell by Kris' expression when I asked her to try this that she was unsure. I've been waiting to get her doing this type of riding until I felt they could handle it together. It's perfect for this type of scenario - lack of trust in the horse.

Well, they did it and they were great! Rio covered the entire arena after realizing there was no comfort with me and Kholo. He trotted around and seemed to keep asking Kris what he was supposed to be doing. Kris kept him trotting beautifully and a few minutes in, Rio let out a huge blow of relief. I know I had the biggest smile on my face watching this. I'd like her to start each session this way for 7 sessions. She agreed to do that and she was convinced it was a good thing to do. She and her horse have some great times ahead.

Kholo was with me through all of this - feeling of the bit, learning me and beginning to understand. He's a smart boy and tomorrow will be a nice leap off the foundation we built today.
Kris got Cowboy and Rio trimmed after the lesson.

Kholo and the Herd

I don't like to introduce horses to the herd if they aren't going to live here. The herd is a tight knit family with an established heirarchy. Newcomers don't fare well and I keep them safe by separating them from the herd. Kholo had been in the stall and run for 2 days and I wanted to let him out to explore and move. I put my herd in the middle of the track and gave Kholo the track to himself last night. Well, this morning, when I came out to feed, Kholo was with the herd. I'm guessing he jumped the fence as no fence was down. The track is only electrical ribbon on fiberglass posts, so it wouldn't be terribly difficult to get through if the horse didn't mind the electricity. I guess Kholo decided he'd rather be chastised and pushed around by the herd than be on the track alone. I don't know how long he'd been with them, but they were all (especially Rain, surprisingly) telling him to "piss off"! I haltered him out and put him back in the stall and run. He sustained a couple minor bites, but he was fine. All the bites were on the left side, which I found interesting. He also carries his tail to the left. I'll be watching and studying that.

Herd behavior is so fascinating to me. I could watch the dynamics play out all day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dawson Butte

Z and I met friends at Dawson Butte today. Rode 10 really fast miles! Z is such an awesome horse and she's just built for endurance. We did 10 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes, with walking and stopping on occasion. I had a great time with my girl. She loaded in the trailer with zero anxiety and unloaded the same way at the trail head. Her trailer nervousness seems to be settling. The practice we've done at home must be helping, as well.

I also brought home the first training horse I've had in a while. I decided to focus on my horses this summer and an opportunity came along for a 30 day training commitment. Kholo is a very nice Arab gelding that just needs some softness and bridle time. His owner will be riding with me once a week while her horse is here so they can develop some new skills together. This will be a very fun project and this is a really great partnership (Kholo and Melissa).

Melissa and I will be riding 30 miles together at the Happy Jack endurance ride in Wyoming next month. Really, really looking forward to that!

Kris came over and trimmed Rain and Starlet. Rain is shedding frog and had some thrush going on. I will soak her this week. We did not have time to play with Rio, unfortunately.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Focusing on good posture

I played with Z in the arena, then Z and Gem around the south pasture. Zarah and I played with improving her posture in the trot and then trot/canter transitions. She tends to want to get strung out and tip her nose up in the transitions and I believe it's time to help her power from behind and keep her back solid and round. She did make some positive changes and ended up cantering with her head a little lower than I wanted, but I encouraged the change as it will be easier to flex her a little higher. Her canter felt much nicer this way and we'll continue to play with that way of going.

After the arena time, we ponied Gem around the south pasture following the rail. I was asking Z to trot with elevation and be round and flexed vertically. This was more challenging with a pony horse but good to get them both moving.

I really wanted to ride Gem, but the rains came (as they've been doing every... single... day...). The grass is gorgeous and green!! The mosquitos are starting to appear and the track has the largest water crossing I've ever seen. No complaints - it's been neat to see my property this wet.

I also trimmed Z and really focused on the quarters on her hinds. I was a little worried she'd be sore from the change, but she felt fine. Her hinds looked better so we'll see if they function better, as well.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Left Leads and Forward Energy

Rode Gem in the arena and after a few minutes, decided to do our practice in the front pasture. We worked on the free walk, a nice forward trot and then left lead canter. Got some nice lead cantering going! That was a big deal and I could tell he was understanding that left cantering meant left lead over the course of our riding. I was really thrilled with his changes! We got a nice, energetic trot in the front pasture, too.

Fun ride, but short. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dressage Lesson #4

Wow, today was hard! I can feel the instructor expecting more and more of me and Gem. It's exhilirating and challenging!


1) Keep my lower leg QUIET! I should be working from the knees up and the lower leg should only activate to make a request. This is brand new to me and very difficult.

2) Motivate him for faster gaits, but immediately go quiet. Do little bits until he understands that I want lively movement.

3) It's all about FORWARD!! Even when leading, be more particular about getting forward with the slightest request. I don't need someone to tell me how to get forward when leading, so I need to simply fix it and not waste her time with that. It's a hole in my partnership with Gem - he creates a nag in me - an ineffective one at that. I must do better to give him the responsibility.

4) KC rode him to start the lesson. She showed me how she gets forward more energetic. Gem did well with her, which was nice to see.

5) Left lead canter - we worked on this for a while. I need to make sure I keep his head turned slightly left and don't ask too much with the outside leg. Use the inside leg more.

6) I rode w/o my stirrups so she could help my find my leg position. I realize my riding style is pretty far off from what she wants to see. Riding w/o stirrups helped me be there more easily, but it was challenging!!

What a lesson!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hidden Mesa with my sister Marla!

Had a really fun time today taking Marla to Hidden Mesa for a 7.5 mile ride. She rode Rain and I took Gem. Gem was a great horse today, albeit a little slow going out. He picks up the pace once we turn back towards the trailer, so only half the ride I try to give him a reason to have a little pep in his step. The second half, he does that by himself. :)

Rain and Marla did very well and I tried to share some of my knowledge on better riding. It was neat to see her feel the difference that a few tweaks could make.

Great ride!

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th - Camping Trip

no riding today. Went white water rafting and came back for a hike with the dogs before we packed and drove home. Not a ton of riding on this trip. Not what I was expecting. Still it was nice to have the horses around and be able to take care of Starlet

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 3 - no riding

I had a great day of hiking, hanging at the site with the family and then later in the day, some riding. I pulled out Gem and Rain and helped Chrissy work on her riding with Rain. This was interesting as she was unable to get Rain to do some things. This was eye-opening for me as Cowboy sometimes responds to Chrissy the way Rain did today. That tells me Chrissy needs to keep developing her cues so that Cowboy continues to get softer. We just stayed on the campsite, but it was fun to ride Rain and play with her before Chrissy got on. I rode Gem around the campsite a little too. It wasn't a trail ride like I planned, but it was nice to ride 2 of my horses before the sun went down.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 2 of Camping

Marla was sitting out the horse ride today as her headache was painful. Kendall wanted to ride, but only after she did some other things she wanted to do. So, I hopped on Z and ponied Gem out for a ride by myself. We went about 2 hours, mainly at a walk. Rain and Starlet called a lot and Gem occasionally called back (or initiated the calling!). However, he never got silly. Z was my trail horse extraordinaire, like always. The mosquitoes were very bad and we couldn't stand still for long. I tried to give them a few breaks to munch on the grass, but I needed to keep us moving so the mosquitoes would be bearable.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 1 of Camping

Phew - 3 dogs and 4 horses is a handful. I would have brought only 2 horses, but my vet wanted me to bring Starlet so I could care for her wound every day. I brought another horse so that she could be left behind with a buddy. I couldn't figure out any other way.

We decided to try to head out with the whole group: Kendall on Rain, Marla on Z and I was riding Gem. Starlet was our pony horse. Kendall immediately was having some trouble with Rain's energy level. All the horses wanted to hurry down the trail and everyone's adrenalin was up. About 1/2 mile in, I called it. It just felt like an accident waiting to happen. Rain was starting to get light in front and Marla was learning how to handle Z's very forward nature. My hands were overful and it seemed dangerous.

We went back and Marla and I headed out, me on Z and Marla on Rain. We had a nice ride, about 2 hours in the gorgeous mountains. Marla was struggling a bit with the altitude and I think the riding may have exacerbated the situation. I'm glad we got to ride, but the first ride of our trip was less than simple.

Later on, I pulled Gem out and just rode him around the campsite. I was trying to further develop his left and right circles. It was just 30 mins, but I enjoyed him.