Sunday, January 31, 2010
Friday night I spent a long time grooming again. Then I lunged her at walk, trot and canter. She did so well! Her canter is definitely getting stronger. The week she had off was not long enough to undo her conditioning so far, and now that I’ve cantered her and can see that she is as strong as ever I guess I’m feeling like there really was nothing going on with her leg. Then I put side reins on and did some walk-trot transitions, then some collection and extension work at the trot. She is doing so well cantering that I want to give her a few more goes on the lunge line to build her confidence and let her relax before I canter her with the side reins on.
Then I hopped on, and the name of the game for the night was forward. I started out by letting her just meander around the arena but if she stopped or turned toward a wall I just clucked and bumped and made her figure out a way to go forward again. I started this partially to really clearly define forward without mixing in direction, and she got the idea right away that she was allowed to pick her path, so if I got busy she knew that all that was being asked of her was to go forward again. I also did this because she was a little gate sour last time. Slow to walk away from it, quick to walk back to it, and constantly wanting to circle back. So I mad it clear that she could be by the gate if she wanted, but had to keep moving. If she chose to walk circles there she just constantly got reminded to keep going, then when she walked away I was really quiet because she was walking out on her own. I think it was a good start. Then I picked up the reins and kept a little contact and started directing her, first all the way around the arena, then just on a circle. We trotted a bit both ways, and again I’m amazed how put together her trot is. So the second direction I picked up on the contact a little more and she trotted a full circle in a nice frame with a good balanced trot! So great! It really goes to show how much they can learn about carrying themselves when lunged with side reins.
So we quit there. Not much time in the saddle, I kept things varied while I was on, and I got such great results that I figured why push it?
Saturday turned out to be another great night! I free lunged Lola for the first time. The arena is small enough for it to work but we had to work on not stopping in the corner. It was a good continuation of the lesson that forward is forward, so that she will continue past the corners on her own if I am letting her trot around the arena and only focusing on going forward. This also was a good step towards her cantering under saddle. I wanted her to have to figure out on her own how to balance around the turn on the short side. Its easy for then to pick up speed on the long side but not be able to carry themselves through the turn. She did really well on getting the correct lead and keeping the canter through the tricky parts without trotting or losing the lead in the back. She does need to work on picking up the canter without quickening her trot and relax a little more, but that will come now that she’s feeling like she can actually do what I am asking. Lots of good steps forward.
I tacked her up in the dressage saddle tonight, and rode in that for the first time. She felt great, I felt more comfortable, and I think it fits better than the western saddle, so she’s done with western except maybe for trail rides.
We worked on maintaining the bend on the 20 meter circles at the walk. Then we worked on trotting. Again, forward is forward and I’m not interfering too much at this point with either direction or asking her to be on the bit, I just want to have her go forward when I ask and keep going. At the end I trotted her just a 20 meter circle going nicely on the bit, made a nice walk transition, and then a good halt right in the center of the arena, and then hopped of and gave her lots of good pats! She’s been so much fun. We still are only working about 20-30 minutes on the lunge, and about 10 minutes on her back.
Last night I got to be her hero, she now thinks I’m just about the coolest thing in the pasture! She always gets a big drink from the water trough when we get back to the pasture since its right next to the gate. The other night there were horses there, and when I turned her loose she just came right back to the gate with me because I was where she was safe from the horses. So I went back in and chased all the horses away and made then stand back while she took a long luxurious drink. Now its clear that I really do have all the power, and she thinks I’m awesome! Just sort of funny…
Friday, January 29, 2010
Tomorrow night I plan on doing the same thing if I can get to the arena right away after work. Then Saturday the plan is to mix it up a bit, and it will depend on how crazy the barn is with everyone out there. It was much busier tonight than usual. So I spent some extra time grooming while waiting for people to finish up. It’s good for her to wait a bit. Then I lead her around in the arena while the last two horses were still walking around so that she could get used to other horses besides Bear being in there. The next big step for her will be to canter under saddle, but I think she needs some more time balancing herself at the canter on the lunge line with side reins on.
She was a great treat at the end of a terribly hectic day!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tonight we did more easy stuff. I just brought her in and curried some fuzz off, then ponied her off Bear at a walk and trot. Nice and simple, we didn't go for very long since it was late already, but it was good for her to have to do it again since its been a while. I'd like to pony her around the property or on trail rides once the rain let's up, but by the time it dries up she'll probably be so well set under saddle I'll be riding her on the trail instead. She also had to stand tied in the arena while I rode Bear a little more. She's very patient.
Tomorrow she'll get the night off. She's really shedding out. I hope to get out there this weekend while its like out to groom her out in the pasture where I don't feel so bad about all the hair on the ground. I don't know though, I bet if either horse saw me in daylight they wouldn't know who I was! Its been ages since I've done anything with them before dark!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Tuesday night was crazy… I only had a little time out there because I had promised that I would go hang out with my sister and the baby. The thing is the Monday storm was still going, and was just getting crazier. I realized how lucky I was to have a break in the storm Monday night to be able to hose her leg down. I left work at 5:10, ended up taking a wrong turn because I’m still not familiar with this shorter route between the office and the barn, and because it was so rainy I could hardly see. So I continued on the road thinking it would eventually connect, and it did, but it added 20 minutes to the drive!
So by the time I get to the barn it 6pm and it was pouring with rain and crazy wind. I trudged out to the pasture, shined a flashlight on Lola’s leg, confirmed it was less swollen than the day before, made her move to another hay pile to watch her walk to verify she wasn't in pain, and trudged back to my truck. I was soaking wet. I’m amazed at those horse blankets, although she was dripping wet on her head and neck she was dry and toasty warm under her blanket! I was not dry or toasty. So I left… Craziest weather! It makes it super scary driving too!
Wednesday and Thursday I just didn’t get out to the barn at all. Other engagements and continually insane weather kept me away. I did check in with the barn owner each day to get an update on Lola’s leg, and it was less swollen each day and she didn’t look lame at all moving in the pasture.
Friday I snuck out of work early so that I could at least find them in the pasture before dark. Her leg looks totally normal again except for a slight swelling right at her fetlock. She is sound as far as I can tell. I was still worried about testing it out, I’m so paranoid about making it worse. I trotted her just a little bit in the arena to see if she was limping so I could make a decision about calling the vet. Not lame, and after cold hosing I couldn’t even tell a difference between legs, so there is nothing to call the vet about at this point! Still I think I’ll keep her to walk work this week and maybe back into trotting next. Oh the stress of being responsible!
Saturday I dragged myself away after dinner. I think it’s been hard to motivate myself to go out to the barn because I am just sort of bummed out about Lola, but also the mud just slows everything down. And I dread hunting for the horses out in pasture when the whole place is 4 inches of water with little lakes throughout! I pulled Lola out first and did a thorough inspection. Still swollen at the fetlock, and tonight for the first time, I could pin point exactly where it was warm. The pastern is warm on the inside of the leg and her hoof is warm. Not sure what that means, but kind of hoping it means its not a ligament or tendon. I really think she must have hit herself along that leg or stepped on her own foot while running. Again, she’s not lame or tender about it, so I’m just not sure. I cold hosed her and put her back out.
So Monday brings the hope for good news. I talked to the vet and since there was no more sign of lameness, very minimal swelling, and the swelling that she’s had is not really indicating a specific ligament or tendon injury, she encouraged me to start her back to work slowly and see if there is any more swelling or heat after some gentle exercise. I lunged her for about ten minutes just doing some walk-trot, and she didn’t show any sign of lameness. So I tied her up and let her eat her sloppy and just groomed her for a while so that I could check on her leg again about 30 minutes after the work. Still no real swelling happened which is a really good sign that it wasn’t worse after the exercise.
I’m glad I gave her the week off just to be sure. It looks like its turning out to be nothing at all. The week wasn’t a total waste for training either. I started bringing her into the barn alone, which was good for her, and she’s had to make the long spooky dark walk from the pasture without Bear to give her confidence. Plus I got to really take time to curry her this week, and that’s going to be a huge part of my evenings for the next month or two because she’s already shedding.
So the plan is to check to see if there is increase in swelling on Tuesday, and if not, then we'll work at the walk-trot for a while just to be sure, but since the majority of our work right now is at the walk, with some trotting on the lunge, there is no reason to keep us from continuing with the training!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I gave my mom a quick lesson on Bear since she’s never ridden him, and I wanted them both to feel safe and confident before moving on since the whole point was to have a steady reassurance for Lola to ride along with. I wanted to make sure she knew in advance exactly what was expected of her. I can’t always divide my attention between the greenie I’m riding, my very young horse next to me, and my super-worrier-but-just-trying-to-help mom riding alongside. We went over our game plan and practiced the routine a bit. I had the barrels and poles (it’s a barrel racing place!) set up in the center in sort of a triangle. All she had to do was walk to a corner and halt. Then turn and walk on. Simple, and Bear got the hang of it right away so that he knew the routine and stuck with it. Then we added trotting one of the side of the triangle and walking or stopping at the barrel. It was a great way to have her successfully trot on him without any worries of yanking on his mouth or getting to quick and unbalanced for her to stay secure. They both felt like they knew what they were doing, so they both stayed relaxed.
So then I got on Lola, and we did exactly the same thing with her following along, first next to him like she would if she were being ponied, and then behind him like following the leader, then with him standing in the middle. Easy progression, no confusion, because we had a plan. I had my dad come out to take pictures, and we got some good ones, so I can do a play by play commentary.
I mounted just like I would have if she were being ponied. I’m sure she thought she was for a while! Notice in the second picture that her feet are exactly where they were in the first picture, she didn’t move an inch.
I love this next picture of their two butts. She is quite a bit shorter than him, but she’s got those great Quarter horse haunches, and such a gorgeous tail in comparison to his little stub! She walked off like a pro.
We stayed side by side until she was trotting out when asked. Notice I had the dressage whip through most of this. The whip was not to beat her or scold her, I had it because she understands that cues from a lunge whip mean to go forward, she’s still grasping the concept that legs bumping means to go forward too, so this helps her to make the connection. I think I tickled her haunches with it once, then she got moving forward, and trotted with Bear each time after.
Also notice that in almost every picture at least one ear is cocked back to me. She was definitely paying attention to me the whole time.
She got the hang of trotting, and went forward well, stayed nice and relaxed, and then transitioned down well. It certainly helped to have Bear setting the example, but she was so responsive that I was just blown away.
I know the trainer I bought her from only remembers her being sat on and ponied once or twice. She doesn’t think she was even ponied with a rider at a trot. I can hardly believe that though, I feel like she must have gotten farther than she remembers. She reacts like a broke horse, not one that’s had two rides on her!
Eventually I went around solo, and just after the first lap the worst happened… someone in the neighborhood started setting off fire works, BIG ones! Craziest thing, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. I was in the middle of the arena, about 20 feet from Bear with the one window in the barn looking on my left. I got a clear view of two fire works going off, and had enough time to thing, “Hmm… fireworks…” then Lola shot forward! I just let her go straight forward to the gate, then used that solid wall to aks for a stop. She stopped just fine, I got off before she could think anything else, and hurried over to make Bear stand since he had turned to face the window and was now nervously watching them and dancing around while my mom kept saying over and over, “Someone come hold him so I can get off!” Really it was a great test to know how she’ll react to something scary. They were both a bit bent out of shape about it, and for a little bit afterwards. I tended to Bear first so that he could return to being the Steady Eddy and good example that he was there to be. We did in hand work making him focus on me and stop when I stop, walk out, slow down, turn, all that until he was relaxed and paying attention to me. Then he went back to standing in the middle, and I did the same work with Lola, then hopped back on. My mom, worrying as usual, kept asking if I was sure I wanted to do that. Maybe it was just better to quit with the success of the in hand work. My theory is that while they are emotional, the best thing to do is work on something simple that they can be successful at. So once she was relaxed and thinking again, why not get back on? If you let a spook be a big deal, then it becomes a big deal!
By the end we were doing some turns on the haunches, which she is so responsive to, and then ended with some bending her neck exercises. She was a good girl even after the fireworks meltdown. (I forgot to mention that all the horses in the barn spooked when it happened!) I’m really looking forward to working with her this week and it will be nice to start spending some regular time on her back!
Friday, January 15, 2010
Day two out at boarding school for Lola, its pouring down raining and mid-way through the day I start freaking out that even though her blanket said "waterproof turnout", I did buy it online and if they lied, that warm blanket would have turned into a fifty pound water logged mess! Does anyone else have little freak outs at work when you can’t do anything about it?
It poured just after work so I expected to find two drowned rats in horse blankets when I got there. The worries were needless. I was super surprised to find that they’re heads and necks were totally dry, their blankets were dry inside and out (except that tiny fleece wither guard), and they were warm! It wasn’t all that cold out, so I guess their body heat dried them right off!
I dragged the two in at once; it’s so nice that once I’ve found one in the dark pasture the other is right there too. I would really like some sort of blinking light on them… is that too much? I brought them both in to the indoor arena without much of a plan; it was late already, so I thought about what I could do with 45 minutes. I decided to only work with Lola, and then just maybe lunge Bear a bit in his halter if I had time. The problem was I left my phone in my tack box and didn’t look at the time until I finished, my 45 minutes turned into two and a half hours! Oops!
I just have so much that I want to be doing with Lola and not enough time. Not just training. Now that I have a blanket on her she’s going to stay relatively clean, but she still has months of dust from rolling in mud that is hiding under her long furry coat. So I spent longer grooming than I should have. Then I still haven’t unloaded everything from the trailer to the tack room, so I scurried around looking for things since I decided to get Lola’s English gear set up: finding a bridle, changing bits, testing out the saddle for fit, finding a girth that would fit, finding the dressage whip for in-hand work, all that and I still ended up getting out there without reins! Not that I needed them, no riding will happen until this weekend, and I’m sure I took them off to use the bridle as a lunging bridle, but now I need them back… hmm…
So I lunged her, and she got sweaty. She still needs to strengthen some muscles in order to maintain the canter on the lunge in that tight of space. My rule is they have to canter competently on the lunge without side reins before I put them on for the canter, then they should be able to canter with side reins on before I get on and canter. Going straight is one thing, but they need to be able to support themselves and balance on a circle before I can expect them to support my weight riding in that space. So after some canter departs I put the side reins on nice and loose and she did some walk-trot transitions. Then, and here’s were I must have gone terribly wrong with budgeting my time, since she was a bit sweaty I decided I would ground drive her to let her walk and cool off. She was turning well, and stopping, but as usual with a greenie, straight lines don’t make sense! But it’s a good exercise in following her head where the bit is leading her, and helps her stretch and bend. Then I just got totally carried away and worked on moving away from pressure in hand. She’s really good at it, but I’m trying to really drill it in so that my leg pressure will make sense.
So by the time all that was done I should have thought that since I had spent so much extra time with Lola I shouldn’t work Bear, but I forgot that’s what I had told myself and worked him anyway, just a bit and just in a halter. I was more than surprised when I grabbed my phone on the way out and saw that it was 10:30pm! She’s just so much fun to work with, I can’t help myself!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Lola did so well all week that after ponying her a bit again on Sunday we took the lead rope off and we did our first solo ride! We had done some trotting while being ponied, not much since it was wet and not great footing, but enough for her to start getting the idea that legs bumping her sides means to go forward. We also did some extensions in the walk to make the point. So by the time we let her off the lead she knew forward, and she already knew turning, stopping, and backing from ground driving, so nothing was really new except having to step away from the old mare. We started by walking alongside her like usual, then did a turn away and circled back. Then did circles around her while the mare stood in the middle, and finally walked all around the round pen alone. She was calm about the whole thing. She really does try to please.
So with that big step forward, we’re taking a couple steps back. I moved her out to “boarding school” as we’ve named it, and we’ll spend the week repeating everything we did from last week since its a whole new situation now. I’ll be teaching her to pony off of Bear (and teaching Bear to pony someone besides the old mare) so that is a delicate process that needs to be positive for both horses. I’m getting her used to the new arena, and will be able to get back to lunging her each time I work her which will be much better for getting her into shape. I have a safe dry place to continue to ground drive and start making that a bit more challenging. So the plan is to go back to groundwork for the week, and get back on this next weekend. I think it is the best way to set her up for success.
I moved her Sunday afternoon after our training session. She loaded up like a pro, and I’ve seriously never trailer a horse that stood that quietly in the trailer. Bear stomps around like he’s being attacked by a swarm of bees! (Not that he is falling down while driving, he just really likes to stomp and paw and kick when ever we stop, so traffic is hell!) She got out of the trailer nicely and although she was nervous about the new place she was well behaved. I threw her out in pasture right away so she had a while to get situated before dark and the feeding frenzy. She is much smarter than Bear, she kept her distance from the herd instead of sticking herself right in the middle the way he did. She also checked out the fence lines all on her own! The funniest thing is that even though Bear and Lola had never even seen each other before, he took more interest in her than any of the other horses. He chased her down to say hello, and then kept running out to her every so often, then running back to the herd, then running out again to check on her. When I went out to catch Bear last night the two of them were grazing side by side away from the rest of the herd, and the owners tell me they’ve been inseparable since she got there! Super cute, but it could be inconvenient to have two horses at shows that call to each other when ever separated!
So Monday night she had her first training session at boarding school, I was short on time so it was short and very sweet. All she had to do was be caught in pasture, walk around the arena next to Bear while I led him (sort of ponying from the ground), then eat her “sloppy” while tied next to Bear, easy and very positive. I really want the two to come when they are called so I don’t have to hunt down horses in the dark, but since Bear is naturally so mouthy I don’t want to hand feed him treats, so hopefully they get the idea that me coming to get them means food.
I’m excited to start a regular routine with them. Things go better with a routine.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
So I left her tied to the round pen fence while I ran to grab my checkbook. I asked my mom to keep the old mare with in sight since she was riding around a bit (once I convince her to get on her horse its hard to get her off!), and my dad stuck around to supervise. I got talking and suddenly hear my dad say, “Well, what are you doing there?” to Lola. I peaked around the garage to see her with her hoof up over the bar of the round pen panel that is about level with her chest! Just high enough that her pasturn is resting on the bar and the hoof gets caught on the other side. Yikes! I have seen so many disasters like that! She just stood there and looked at it like, “Well, now what do I do?” So my dad walked up, picked the hoof up and shoved her foot back inside. No big deal! What a great personality test! Bad test if she failed since it would have probably greated problems with pulling back when tied, possibly injury, and worst case, pulling the round pen panels down on top of her! She didn’t though, and it shows how she’s likely to react in other situations where some horses panic. She not only thought about it instead of reacting, she trusted the human present to get her out of her predicament.
Good girl Lola! And thanks dad for supervising as asked!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Tuesday morning I got up super early so that I could drag myself out to do a training session with Lola before work. I threw the saddle on this time, and bridled her up. This early-morning-before-breakfast lesson was not much to her liking, but I told her to get over it! We ponied again, all over the pasture. I talked to her and started guiding her with her own reins while I used the direction of the old mare to push Lola’s body around to follow her nose where the reins were leading. She was solid as usual.
Then the fog rolled in… and never really rolled out. UGH! Not only cold and miserable, it made everything darker. So Wednesday morning I couldn’t make myself face the fog. Thursday morning my sister had a baby!!!!! I can’t think of a better reason to miss a training session! It was awesome, and now I’m an aunt and will have another reason not to go out to the barn!
So Friday night I got right back out and faced the fog. We did some ground driving in the round pen since that was the only place I could light up with that dense of fog. She tacked up quietly, and I started by “bitting her up”, a lovely little trick to help them get the idea of giving to pressure on the bit and bending all the way through her body. Then we started slowly working her back into driving. Again, she’s learned all this before when she was first started, so it’s just a refresher course. However, you never really know just how they’ll react to these things so I worked her like she was a totally baby and had never done this before. She acted like a pro that had been doing it everyday the last three years! Walk, turn, whoa, all good. She really tries to please, and she still totally knows her stuff. I think as long as I don’t put her in a situation where she is confused, she will always progress calmly. I took off the long lines and did some more work straight from the reins. By walking at her side with my arm over the saddle I can direct her along. This way I can also start asking her to move her shoulders or haunches by directing her with pressure on her side and guiding from the rein just the way I would once I’m on top!
The really important one is to teach her to disengage her hindquarters, I’ve found this to be the easiest way to respond to emotional reactions from the horse under saddle. It works even better when there is a solid wall to turn her towards like I’ll have in the indoor arena. Situation: loud noise behind causes horse to spurt forward. Reaction: outside rein directs her towards the solid wall, outside leg pushes her haunches towards the inside thus making her cross over with her hind legs and taking away her powerful muscles to bolt off. Nothing scary, nothing harsh, nothing that will add to the emotion. Every single time I had to do this with Bear it kept the situation from escalating. Once he past that split second of panic, his mind was back on what I was asking, and he was usually calm enough to turn and look at what was going on. Very early in his under saddle training, maybe the third time we rode in the arena with other horses being worked, we had a horse bolt passed us kicking out at us, dump his rider and gallop circles! Once I had turned him into the wall he got over is initial startle and watched the horse like “What a looney!” Bear has a good sense of humor. But this is Lola’s blog, more on her.
With her ponying and ground driving going so well I’m feeling good about our next step. Saturday morning I tacked up both Lola and the old mare, and ponied her around a bit before having my mom come out and ride the old mare and learn to pony Lola in the round pen. Then I hopped on! We took it slow. I half mounted on both sides, then finally swung a leg over. She stood perfectly still. We walked on and mainly worked on just walking forward and halting. She was great, and the shoer had already arrived, so we called it quits. Quick and easy! More on her little feetsies later!
Monday, January 4, 2010
After going out on the 31st and getting on to be lead around the arena by the owner, I was convinced this would be a great project. She was alert, but not spooking. Overall it was a great sign that she's going to be fine with me. A week of working her and she never once did anything dangerous or rebellious. She's sensible enough and compliant enough that I think she'll make a decent beginner horse once she's been trained and gets some miles under her.
So on Sunday the 3rd I took the trailer out there, wrote the check, and loaded her up. She was a little confused with my step up trailer since she'd only been in one with a ramp, but we took it slow and she got in without and stress or fuss.
When I got her to my parents' property where she'll be staying for the first week she was nervous, but still obedient. She backed out of the trailer no problem, and met the old mare with no squeals or kicks or anything (at least from her, the old mare had to grunt and squeal some just for good measure!) and they settled in amazingly fast! I walked the fence-line with her before finally turning her loose with the old mare. Not a bit of a problem! She was pretty funny the way she stuck right by my side though even when the halter was off. I was trying my hardest to get some pictures of her, but she kept siding right up to me! My parents' took their turn leading her in case they need to handle her while feeding, and they already say they like her more than Bear! How dare they! She is a little less intense, that's for sure. Bear always tested his bounderies with them, but he's only four and she's seven, so although she's not had her under saddle training she at least acts like a solid broke horse in hand.
She settled in so well that I went back out and tacked up the old mare and we did her first training session as my horse. I got her used to walking next to the old mare, and then ponied her around the round pen. She had been ponied before when she first had her ground training done, so this is more of a refresher course, and to let her learn to trust the old mare. They both did great, so we called it a day! Easy-peasy! That's the way I like it.
Monday night after work I jetted out to my parents right after work and turned on all the lights that shine out to the pasture and round pen. I tacked up the old mare and ponied Lola around the pen and then ventured out to the pasture. I wanted her to get used to being worked after dark, since I'll be working her after work most nights, and taking a step foreward by working in a larger area. We even trotted a bit! The plan is to make sure she's super solid on being ponied before I get on her back again.
So far things are fun and easy for Lola, and she is really enjoying it. That's the way we want to keep it!