Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hours in the day

Sometimes life gets away from us. It seemed I had last posted Wednesday or Thursday, but I just realized it's been almost an entire week.  With the cold chores have slowed down, and sucked up more hours of the day. I also started a new project for a client across town
Allow me to introduce Cody. He is a 17.2h Belgian cross that was home bred by his loving owners Keith and Toby Davis of Ridgeville.  I have the privilege of working with this gentle giant for the next couple of months.  Similar to mustangs, working with drafts requires different approaches than most domestic bred equines.  Cody has already shown me he has a VERY strong flight response which in a 2200lb animal is obviously exponentially more dangerous than a 1000 stock breed.  My first several sessions have worked on developing Cody's confidence and trust in me.   I have the luxury of a covered/indoor arena at this farm, but Cody can still see his herd from the round pen we have set up in the arena.  The first couple of sessions he was more interested in the outside world than what he and I were doing.  Just yesterday we had a break through.  I was making a video for Mr. Keith as a birthday present.  After a few minutes Cody realized I wasn't as able to focus on him as normal.  I ultimately stopped the video in order to correct Cody's independence.  It took me about 10 minutes of asking for heavy work extended trot, canter, and lots of directions changes to get Cody willing to come back and connect with me.  By the end I was rewarded with 10 minutes of him grooming me and playing with the lead rope I was holding.  He was not connected to the lead rope, and had the chance to leave me at any time he chose.  He did eventually wander off to the rail to look at his herd.  Within 10 seconds he was turning and came back to me.  I rewarded this choice by ending our session. 

You can watch the video with full commentary here.
Cody at liberty day 3

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lost thoughts

Yesterday when I went to work with Rose I had formed 4 different topics I wanted to cover on the blog this week.  I intended to list them all for you today, and then cover one each day.  BUT....I got lost in the moment working with her, and when I got done I couldn't remember but one of them.  So tomorrow you can expect I will be talking about baby steps, and cues.  Today  I'm talking about the "moment". As of two sentences ago, my topic just changed. 

"In the moment..." what is it really?  It means that our horses give us the chance to block out the entire rest of the world and escape to place where nothing exists, but love, respect, and understanding.  At this moment many of you are saying..."yeah, but scout does this, or apache is too silly, or Big John threw me yesterday".  If you take anything away from today let it be this.  Disobedience is NOT a lack of love, or resepect it is a lack of understanding.  I do not mean just on your horse's part either.  If your horse is showing disobedience it means that they are not understanding what is being asked of them. More importantly it means YOU do not understand how they are viewing the situation.  The biggest focus of training is just do you minimize misunderstandings.  First develop a relationship of trust, and second take the time to instill the correct expectations in your horse.

I never ask anything of my horse from the saddle that I do not already have a mastery of from the ground.  Let's use the first ride as an example before I get on their back I want to be sure I have each of the following baby steps mastered from the ground. Acceptance of me in their space, forward motion, stopping forward motion, directing forward motion, submiting their head to pressure, allowing me to be above their head (I usually use a mounting block to stand on, or our hay trailer), standing still for startling sounds, and the routine sounds of the saddle.  This may seem like a lot (excluding mustangs) but in a domestic horse I can usually accomplish this in just a session or two.  Everything I do from the ground I do with the intent of asking from the saddle.  For me this means I use artificial aids that will transfer well to the saddle.  If you use a training stick with flag attached do you also ride with one?  If not then you are setting yourself up to teach this skill all over again from the saddle.  Personally when I'm working a horse at liberty or on a lunge line I prefer to use a rope or end of a line to increase energy if I have to go to an artificial aid.  We've talked in past articles about having 5 word questions.  My artificial aid is always the last word in the sentence.  It's the first one I want the ability to delete.  You may ask how a rope will transfer to the saddle. It's fairly simple really the end of my romal, split reins, or macate work in exactly the same way.  If I'm riding with looped reins I typically have the end of a set of romals hanging off of my belt loop or saddle horn to use if I need it. 

And wow...the title of this post is too appropriate.  I started this this morning, then had to go out for a day of trailer loading training with 2 very nice horses.  One arrived here to day for market boot camp.  We're going back to get the other tomorrow.  He's coming to stay.  The problem with this...I lost my train of thought.  I guess that may elicit some comments/questions.  If not I'll finish this later in the week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trail Challenge coming to town

As many of you know I have been very passionate about the obstacle challenge horseshows that Mary Miller Jordan organizes in North Carolina.  High Cotton Obstacle Challenge  I have decided that I will organize a similar series her in Charleston.  I have secured 3 weekends at Mullet Hall.  We will have stalls and hookups available Friday night for move in.  We will then run obstacle classes at 5 levels offering classes both in hand and under saddle on Saturday. For those who like to camp you will be able to stay over and we will trail ride on Sunday. 

This series is open to any equines and their handlers regardless of style, experience, age, or comfort level. There is a class for everyone. We will be offering excellent prizes in all classes, and fantastic embroidered prizes for Championships.  The upper levels will offer payback as well. 

Rest assured, that the focus of this circuit is not on winning, but will be on the relationship you can display with your horse.  Sportsmanship awards will be offered , as well as awards for being gentle with your horse. 
I am attaching sample course maps to give you an idea of what to expect.  In addition to these levels there will e a fourth level that will not be posted until the day of competition.  Pre-entry will be required to allow for designated ride times. 

Rules and more information can be found here. WELLStarted Horsemanship Trail Challenge

Monday, January 13, 2014

This is a quite the bi-polar business.  It seems as soon as everything is heading in the right direction something throws up a stumbling block.  The last two days have been just that.  Just as I was finishing a lesson yesterday my student who for two lessons in a row has been learning how to correctly ride a corner with a 5 word question.  She first worked on this on one of my horses that is very supple and would give her the correct feeling.  Yesterday we transitioned this skill to her own horse who is quite a bit stiffer, and doesn't understand how to yield rib cage.  We were making good progress at the walk and jog, so decided to end.  Just for fun she went to canter her mare across the pasture.  She rode back to me with that 'ah ha' look on her face. "She's stiff..." was all I heard.  So happy that we have started to climb to a new high in this student's riding.

Then the low of the night...I am also actively working a sale mare for this student.  I have developed a nice relaxed working walk and jog in the mare. We jog a nice 20 meter circle, with several steps of low relaxed head set at a time.  I decided it was time to lope this mare off to see what we would have.  This mare historically has had some silliness in her so I was prepared for a bolt, or a buck.  Instead I had a beach ball under me.  The mare was so fearful of forward movement that we weren't going anywhere.  She rounded up and tip toed a few strides at a time. Clearly we need to do some free work developing some relaxation at the canter before I ask for it under saddle again.  This mare is going to mak someone a very special show horse in a few months time.  She is quite the looker, and has a profound desire to please her person.  She has just been so over intimidated by humans she is fearful of displeasing anyone that it paralyzes her at times.  I can't wait to see how far she takes her future human.

Then the final low of the last 48 hours...2 lessons scheduled for today...2 lame horses.  Apparently 1 decided to go rouge yesterday and went running around the pasture.  As a result he was stiff in his stifle today, so he's on rest for a week or so. Then the second horse of the day saw the farrier over the weekend, and was a bit sore so he had a day of easy work in the round pen just walking, yielding, and submitting.