Thursday, December 31, 2009

So far so good

The little prospect is so far passing all the tests!

When I went out the first day the owner lunged her for me so I could see what she knew. She popped her over some cross rails, she hooked up the side reins from the surcingle (loosely since it had been awhile), and she was really pretty well behaved for all of it. She had a few "moments" just like any horse would the first time back out on the lunge line, like she bucked the first time she picked up the canter, but overall she just showed that she was really well trained. She doesn't know a ton, but what she does know, she knows really well.

Day 2: I went and got her out of the pasture, and she was easy to catch and had no problems leading out to the barn. She tied quietly while I groomed the mud off, and put the surcingle and bridle on. She was much quieter the second day, and it wasn't until the third day that I realized that was because we had another horse being tacked up and lunged at the same time. I lunged her and got her focused in on me. She listened well, and eventually relaxed and focused. I shortened up the side reins a little more and she did just awesome. I also spent a bit of time leading her around and moving her haunches and shoulders, and backing up. She's very light and responsive to all of that, and always stops right at my shoulder. Then we finished with some bending her neck side to side when I asked with the reins.

Day 3: Pulled her out of the pasture successfully again, hosed her legs off which she was fine about. She was a little more fidgety though, and when we got in the arena she had a hard time focusing on me instead of staring out at the horses in the pasture! That's when I realized why she had done so well the day before. She was still pretty obedient. I was going to saddle her, so I wanted her thinking and not just over-reacting like she was when we started. So I trotted her of the cross rails, and made sure she had time to warm up her back at walk, trot, and canter. She was fine with me putting the saddle on, no big deal at all. (Which is a good sign, since again that's something she has already done in her training, but some horses just don't do well with time off!) I lunged her with the saddle again to make sure she was ok at all gaits, and she didn't have any problem. I ended by stepping up into the stirrups on both sides. She stood stock still for the whole process. I did it twice on both sides and called it a day since she did so well. I'm sure I could have swung a leg over, but I hadn't even grabbed a helmet and no one was around so I played it safe.

Day 4: I had almost no time before dark and I wanted to make the most of it, so we did something totally different. I grabbed her out of the pasture which was a new test because this time I pulled her away while the rest of her buddies were eating dinner. I saddled her up at the tie rail (I had done it in the arena the day before just in case) and she stood perfectly still for it. She was very quiet tied, but I also had put up a bucket of feed since I pulled her away from dinner. Then we took a walk down the road. That's it, nothing physically challenging, nothing challenging training wise, just very challenging emotionally! She was pretty nervous and hot about having to leave the property and walk completely out of site, but she was perfectly well behaved about it. It was probably the best test for what she'll be like when I take her away and she's out of her comfort zone. Plus I wanted to do something completely different with her since we'll be doing more lunging when I get on her. So it was good to mix things up.

Today I'm about to head out and I'm getting on for the first time! Yeah, I finally get to see what she feels like under saddle! This will be limited to ponying or lunging since I haven't done her ground driving yet. Should be fun, and I think I'm close to handing over money and signing sale papers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finally have a good prospect to buy!

I think I've found a horse! I have been scrolling though the local Craigslist ads for a while now and anything that look great for the price got snatched up before I even noticed the ad! (I mean come on, I can't check the ads on the hour and drop everything to see a horse on 20 minutes notice! Craigslist competition is fierce when it comes to a good deal.) The few horses that I was seeing had either questionable conformation, or questionable training. I saw one small thoroughbred mare who was pretty cute, but she wouldn't even allow herself to be caught. Too big of a project for me right now!

So I emailed a local trainer that I've known since I was a kid and asked if she would consider selling any of her stock. Familiar situation to most breeder/trainer combos, she never has time to train the horses she owns or breeds because clients' horses in training always come first. So the two that I went out to look at were both started under saddle a while back, and put back out to pasture. This is great because it means that they'll know the basics I need them to know before moving the one I buy off to a boarding facility: trailer, tie, halter. That's more than I can count on with a lot of the unknown sale horses available. Plus they both lunge with side reins and saddle, and have at least been ground driven and sat on. From there we'll see. I figure we'll need to do a refresher course anyway, but loads better than having to start from teaching the horse to catch and lead!

So I'm heading out now to play around with a chestnut mare that I'm leaning towards. She's a cute 15 hand Quarter cross, and a lovely mover. The other is a taller and lankier gelding, and honestly he has such a sweet laid by personality and relaxed lofty movement that I think he'd be way easy to train. I feel like its smarter to go with the one with a little flash and ideal conformation if I'm thinking of this project horse a resale prospect. Today will tell a lot. We'll see how we get along personality wise.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The new project...

So I am more than pleased with how Bear (see is coming along. It’s been over a year since I bought him and he’s a super horse. But I’m looking for another challenge, a different version of the same challenge I guess. Bear was two and a half when I bought him, so we have taken things really slow. He was nearly three before I first sat on him, I didn’t start his serious under saddle training until he was three, and even then we’ve taken it slow and easy on his body and mind. The result is that we both came out of the experience happy and healthy, and we’ve had great success along the way. I don't plan on taking things any quicker with him, so he's still a long term goal.

I still wonder sometimes if I might be able to eventually train for other people, but when taking on other horses for training you’re making some pretty big promises, and those results are expected to come in neat 30, 60, or 90 day packages! I want to try to put more consistent training on a horse that is the right age for full training, and see where I can get. The next logical step is to start another horse, and re-evaluate myself along the way. I figure its a good evaluation of myself, and a good way to keep fresh things in mind with Bear; each horse offers different problems and makes you think of new and creative exercises as solutions.

So here’s the goal:
• Keep my eye out for a good project horse (also a test of selecting a good horse!)
• Put a real sold 90 days of training on him (or her)
• Get him going well over fences (I’m looking for something that has at least been started, so that I can put a discipline specific finish on him)
• Spend a fourth month testing him out with other riders, and shows
• Find him a good show home early spring

Right now the market is flooded with horses with little to no training, and as much as I’d like to think that with the local auction shutting down they’re no longer being sent to Mexico to become dog food, I doubt that every seller is taking the time to find their beasties good homes. The best way to give a horse a future is giving them solid training that allows them to be a useful and safe companion even if they don’t turn out to be terribly talented at a given discipline.

So this is the goal, to bring a horse from being nothing but a “potential hunter” to the real deal “trained and proven show horse”. If he proves to have no talent, make sure that he is safe and reliable for his new home. And of course, I’ll be documenting each step of the way!