A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tis' The Season....

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season
From all of us here at Iron Ridge Sport Horses
May your day be filled with family, friends, and food
And your day be as joyous as you wish it!

And for my Sunday pony friends, looks like the rain has canceled our riding plans yet again.  So stay home, stay warm, and finish off those Christmas Dinner leftovers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas!

It's grey and dreary outside, the weather cooled off, and it actually feels like winter.  In Texas this is what we expect for "winter weather" not that white stuff that people closer to the North Pole are used to seeing.  (Snow is often cause for panic here in the south, especially on the roads!)

But the rain is holding off, so I managed to sneak in my lesson with Hanna today.  Yesterday, we did pretty much a repeat of the day before.  I tacked her up, did some lunging, and then introduced her to the idea of 2 lines off her face (for ground driving).  I lunged like normal with the second line running from the bit, across her back, to my hand.  This gives her a chance to have most things the same, with only one change.

Today, I had intentions of doing actual ground driving.  Sadly, that was not to be.  My entire hour was spent trying to catch Hanna.  With the cooler temperatures, she decided that flagging her tail and running in circles was MUCH more fun.

So, instead of getting upset, stressed, anxious, or anything else that would make Hanna associate my handling with unpleasant feelings, I simply decided to change her thinking.  You might notice that this is one of my prefered ways of training horses.

I offered Hanna a treat, which she stretched her neck out, took, and then darted off (her owner doesn't mind treat feeding).  So, I got more treats, grabbed the halter and lead rope and made them very obvious.  I then proceeded to reward every horse in my way (and all the babies wanted cookies!) only after I had slipped the halter over their nose.  Hanna watched the whole thing.

I honestly have no idea if horses rationalize like that, but it does seem to show them that the "scary object" isn't scary to every one else, so can't be that big of a threat.  I then walked up to Hanna, halter very visible, and offered her a treat.  Before she could run off, I walked away.

Then, I tossed out extra hay to every one.  This kept the kids out of my way (because they are So helpful!).  Hanna wanted to eat, but didn't want to get caught, so she had to choose.  When she would stop to eat at a pile of hay, I simply petted her.  She would walk off, I would follow, and this repeated for a while.  Because I was always right there behind her, she couldn't get to actually EAT anything.

This means that the right response of standing still when I walk up to her gives her an immediate reward - food.  Hanna got this idea pretty quick.

Soon, she was letting me pet her with the halter and rope.  I slipped the halter on, and let her eat more.  Then I took the halter off, and walked away and messed with another horse.  I wandered around for a bit, and returned to Hanna.  As I went to pet her, she lifted her head, flinched her hide, and thought about leaving, but decided against it.  A few good girls, some petting and loving, and she was quickly munching away.

Repeat 2 or 3 times, and that was our lesson.  At the end, I did halter Hanna, take her out, brush her nicely, pick her feet, give her a few treats by hand, and then put her right back where she wanted to be.  Sadly, getting caught is our worst problem at this time.  It's delaying our training, because I have to spend so much extra time trying to catch her, but I think that once this problem is solved, it will be truly gone.  She really enjoys attention, she just hasn't realized yet that in order to GET the attention, she needs one of those big bad halter thingies.

Tomorrow and Saturday are farm holidays, but I will be back to work on Sunday with many more fun stories.  For those who plan to come riding, at this time we will be here with horses ready on Sunday morning, but if it rains, there's always the chance that I will have to cancel.  Sadly, I have a very nice chance of rain tomorrow (80%) and we sure need the rain!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hanna wears big horse clothes

This is Hanna.  Hanna is almost 3 years old, and she's been in training with me for a couple of weeks now.  Hanna needs to learn how to carry a rider.

I'm sure her owner has been waiting for her girl to show up on the blog, and I've just been so crazy I haven't had a chance, so let me catch you up on where Hanna is at.

She began training December 1st.  At that time, she knew how to go in a circle (lunging or round penning), but didn't get the whole idea of verbal commands.  I need those verbal commands on her to start saddle training.  Walk, trot, canter, and especially WHOA are kinda important buttons to have on a horse.Hanna did already have a very nice foundation of training to start with though.  So now, Hanna now knows how to walk, trot, canter (usually, although she likes the left lead a LOT more then the right) whoa, stand, reverse (change direction) and back.  Not bad!

What she doesn't care for at ALL is being caught in the pasture.  Interestingly, I get the feeling it's the lead rope and not the halter.  Every time I've caught her easy, it's been with out a lead.  Every time she gets all flinchy on me, it's when I do something with the end of the lead (even little things like it slipping off my arm when looped, and not touching a horse).  It's not cut and dry enough for me to say it's definitely the lead.  So every day we're working through that.  At first, it took me... about 20 minutes or so to catch her.  Now, less then 5 minutes.  It's all no stress, no fuss type handling.

Here's what I do.  Hanna is in a paddock with her "little siblings" (same owner's 2 weanlings) and 2 of my kids.  I walk in the paddock with the halter and lead easy to see, and head to a horse.  Sometimes it's Dots, as I've been halter training her, sometimes it's someone else, but mostly it's Hanna.  If Hanna runs from me, I simply add pressure as she heads away (lift an arm, etc, very small nuances).  When she comes to me I release the pressure, and act welcoming.  When she walks right up to me, I don't always catch her.  Even if I'm after another horse, I do this with Hanna. 

Now, the kids in there are usually very helpful.  They all head into the run in, and give me a place that Hanna wants to be (in the herd, with every one else).  I can simply stand at the entrance, and wait for her (it's not a large paddock).  If she runs away, I add pressure, if she heads to me, I release it, and if she tries to run PAST me, I prevent it by simply stepping in her way.  Ok, sometimes it's kinda like cutting cattle, except I'm the cutting horse, and she's the cow (and I look like a total moron doing it) but Hanna gets this idea, and it's very low drama 90% of the time.

Once I catch her, I do nice things with her.  A few treats, or a nice brushing, or maybe just hand walking and grazing the yard.  Something that's calm and praise.

After that, we head to work.  Last week Hanna worked her way into a bridle.  As you can see, I have the bridle on over her halter.  I know there's a lot of various ideas about this, but I've always found that the halter under the bridle lets the horse get the feel for the movement on the bit.  If I pull the halter, it will pull the bridle out some, and thus put light pressure on her.  Now, if you look, you can see that she's wearing a rubber D ring bit.  Hanna has a very nice and soft mouth, and she prefers a larger diameter bit.  This one works great for both things.

So, we've slowly worked Hanna up to doing all of her ground work off the bit.  While I don't have a picture of it, I use a bit connector - a strap that clips on the D ring, goes under the chin with a ring on it, and clips to the opposite side.  I can then attach the lunge line to the bit in a way that allows me to react to a bad change of direction, or other things that often result in a horse getting wrapped up with the line is run across the poll.  Attaching the lunge line to the bit gives Hanna the first step of ideas in being controlled by her mouth.  Granted, at this point the only real signal we're using is for slowing (a slight pressure) and reversing (movement of the line, which moves the bit)

Well, today was another big step for the baby girl.  She got to wear "big girl" clothes!
The saddle pads started off on the fence, but of course, she had to pull them off, paw them, step on them, chew on them, and just get a feel for what they are.  There's a black wool pad there, and a lighter tan-ish colored one.  I really believe in allowing the horses to think things through, and Hanna is always much calmer when allowed to investigate.  So she spent about 20 minutes playing with the blankets.  Have no fear, the camera is zoomed all the way out, and I was really within "release" distance of that line in case her pulling the pads off the fence scared her.  But nope, Hanna's idea of "fear" is to get a pathetic look on her face, and look at me to make it better.
And there's the big girl half way dressed up.  Sadly, my pictures of her with the saddle on didn't come out (sun glare) but yep, she was totally tacked up and ready to go.  We had a bit of a fuss when I asked her to move out, but nothing more then "what's that on my back, it's moving funny" kind of looks at it.  We then lunged, all 3 gears, both directions.  The first time she got into a canter the restriction of the girth startled her into a scooting canter for about 3 paces, but that was all the fuss she gave me.  Cinching up, bitting up, and the "normal" problem points she didn't care about at all.

Once Hanna was feeling good about how the saddle feels, I began teaching her about the basics of mounting.  We checked out the mounting block (she bonked her nose on it a few times) I showed her how I can move it around, toss it down next to her, and other things that might be scary.  Yeah, scary...sure!  Hanna didn't care at all about them.  I then began putting those verbal commands into use. Step, stand, over... all those words allow me to position her on the mounting block so that I can easily step up.  I slapped the saddle I made noises with the stirrups, I yanked and pulled and did all those things that are known to set off some horses.  Hanna of course was not "some" horse!  She's a good girl!

Don't get me wrong, she's not a total angel.  Hanna has her fair share of stubborn, but today it didn't make an appearance.

In the end, I leaned over the saddle while standing on the mounting block and putting pressure (arm strength only) on the saddle.  Hanna was fine with that, but did let me know that she was going to need another cookie!

I'm not ready to climb on her yet, but I am ready for ground driving.  That's tomorrow's lesson, but the idea of a human stepping up and leaning over will be repeated for a while in our sessions.  Ground driving allows me to teach the horse the bit controls without confusing them by adding too much at one time.  I figure Hanna will totally have ground driving down pat in a few days, and THEN I will be riding her.  So close now! 

Right now, we're running a bit behind my ideal schedule, but like I said, I train at the horse's pace.  Hanna needed extra time to learn her verbal commands (many horses get those in a session or 2, Hanna took a week) and she delayed some of her training with her catching issues, resulting in a few lessons the first 2 weeks on just getting handled with out fear of... what ever it is she's worried about.  But we're at the point where everything is coming together nicely!

And I admit, I'm so proud of myself for remembering to get pictures!

Sadly, the weather is not willing to work with me this week.  Chance of rain on Thursday, and of course, Friday and Saturday are holidays (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will hold off until after I work Hanna on Thursday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Programing Change for the weekend

I am almost caught up with life, and the holidays!  Between working the horses, getting Crash ready for his new owner's arrival, and a few horses heading back home this week, it's been a slight mad house around here.

The Mustangs went home earlier this week.  I'm going to miss those boys, but I really think their owner will adore them.  Rooster of course decided that he was going to play the run away game when his owner arrived, which makes me feel like a liar.  I know that horse is easy to catch when he wants to be... but what horse isn't, right?  I will say that he's SO much calmer under saddle now, and that Huck is going great as well.  The only thing I had left to do with those boys was all play (for me!).

My boarders are almost ready to head home.  Their new home is finished (or nearly so) and they will be leaving me on Sunday.  This means that it's going to be quiet around here for 2 weeks!  I only will have one client horse, Hanna, here to be trained, and my own horses to ride.  I plan to be posting updates on all of those soon.

But, the downside of all this is that I've over booked myself for this weekend.  For all of my pony party friends, I'm canceling Sunday's ride.  If I forget to email/call/text you personally, check with me.   

But unless something drastic happens, this Sunday ( December 19th) is canceled.

So, most likely next week, we will return to our regularly scheduled programing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something old, and a whole lot of NEW!

Well, something old: Rooster wouldn't let me catch him today.  Kinda.  It all started out fine; I went out to catch him, he walked up as pretty as you please, and put his nose right in the halter. And then something happened.  I'm not really sure what it was that happened, but it was something.

Rooster spooked out of the halter (it wasn't buckled yet) and bolted across his paddock.  I have no idea if it was the fact that I had my riding helmet and sunglasses on (both black and shiny today, not my normal blue one) or if it was my coat.  I've noticed that some horses hate red.  My coat is black and red.  My coat also has more zips and velcro on it then you can shake a stick at.  Ok, plus it's thin, form fitting, and kevlar padded in all the right places (made for dirt bikes, perfect for horses!).

What ever it was, Rooster was having NONE of it.  Hey, it could have just been a bad day.  Either way, I spent 30 minutes trying to catch that bad boy.  When I finally did catch him, it was as if it never happened.

And as for the new... well I have a lot of it!  Here's a small example:
This is Bumper.  A few nights ago, Jae heads out to start feeding while I am finishing up my paperwork.  There's a nasty cold front blowing in, and well, I hate the cold, so I wasn't in a rush.  Then Jae comes back inside and says, "we have a problem in the barn, and it's about this big" (holding his hands about 6 inches apart).  I'm thinking, a laceration?  But HOW!

Yeah, it's that cute little kitten up there.  Don't know where he came from, but we can guess.  Feral cats often have litters around our place, and wean the kitties in the barn.  Well, since there's always cat food out, it kinda makes sense.  So the little fuzz bucket was shivering, cold, and VERY vocal about it.  Jae managed to wrangle him up, and come to find out, he's as sweet as can be.  Poor guy was cold too, and shivered for almost 2 hours after making it inside.

So sweet he's cuddling with my neck as I am typing.  He was also in kinda bad shape.  Fleas SO bad, plus ear mites, plus worms.  His little gums were almost white.  Now, after all those are handled, he's eating like a pig, loves all the dogs, and still screams a ton.  Any time the food bowl is empty, he's mewing at someone.  Spoiled brat!  And he sleeps a LOT.  I am pretty sure he was anemic.

He will be properly vaccinated, and neutered just as soon as possible.  I said he's going to be a barn cat, but I'm rethinking that.  This one isn't smart......

Because he has never met a stranger, regardless of species.  Such as the next new thing around here:
Such a deceiving picture!  This is Moose.  Moose's head is above my counters, and he weighs in some where between 120 and 140 pounds.  Sweet as can be though!

See, I've always said that I wouldn't refuse a blue merle dane, but the only problem with danes is that they have tails.  Too many tails in one house, and things get wrecked!  Well.....he is blue merle, he's a dane, and he had his tail removed because he kept injuring it. 

I got a call from Amy, one of the ladies who takes lessons from my mom.  She says "so, I know you aren't into little dogs, but what about a dane?"  Within 30 minutes, I was like, okey dokey!  (Sure didn't hurt that Jae is like, Yeah sure, why not?).  I figure, I am "down" a few dogs, since we've lost a few to old age, and I've been pretty lucky since my standards are "bigger then what I have now".  Kinda easy to rule out 90% of dogs with that.

So, Moose has made his way into my life.  Ok, I didn't need another dog, but... he sleeps on the bed!  He's adorable.  I mean, look at the stupid ears!  I just love that.

And then, there's the new client horse in for training:

This is Hanna.  Not the best picture of her, but she didn't want to be caught AGAIN today.  I tried tieing her up for the picture (hence the halter) and she was only giving me lovely rump shots.  So, here's the best for today.

Hanna is a coming 3 year old paint filly, who's here to be trained to go under saddle.  So far, her main lessons have been in the very basics.  Getting caught, no really, getting caught, standing for all of the normal things like grooming, picking feet, bridling, and such (she doesn't want to stand still) and the very basics of lunging.  Hanna does not like whips, so um, we have 2 speeds: super fast, and stop.

She will be with me for about 90 days, and y'all will get to read all about her progress.

And the last thing that even qualifies as new, is a friend's horse that I am working on selling.  This is Nakai:

He's a cute little (like 14.2) black mustang.  Very sweet boy, but a bit of an attitude.  I have been putting time in on him, and so far he's coming along nicely.  He stands good tied now, he just got a trim all the way around, and he takes the bridle like an old pro.  Now that he's safe to work with on the ground, I think I will be adding in some hours to get him riding.

See, Nakai and his owner are just one of those pairs that don't click.  It's not either one's fault, but they need "someone else".  I'm very proud of his owner for admitting this, and hence, am working hard to help her find Nakai his own home.

And soon... I'll have one more new thing to be proud of.....
Hard to see, but if you look to the right of the equipment, you can see a bottom rail being put on the fence line. 
And here it's on the left side.  Almost directly in the center is a small thing in a brownish orange jacket.  That's my dear Jae, working until the sun goes down, to get my fence up!

Not much longer, and we'll start hanging farm signs around the place.  I'm really pretty excited!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Farrier day!

Oh the weather outside was frightful
And a fire'd be so delightful...


Today was farrier day.  And when my farrier showed up, it wasn't too bad out.  Temps in the high 50s, I was able to close the barn door, and get out of the wind, and all was well.  But as the day (er evening) went on, I realized that I had made a big mistake.  There's me holding the filly, in nothing but jeans, a long sleeve, and a jacket.  No gloves, no insulated coveralls, and no hat!

By the time we were done, I basically just wrote the check and kicked the poor farrier out.  Now, how sad is it that he's in a T-Shrt, and just fine?  Bah, northern boys.  Even my Canadian had on a jacket and a touque!

Most of our trims today were client horses.  That lovely little filly up there is Dots.  She's been here for about a month now, and I've been working with her on her halter training.  She stood like a champ for the farrier, and we only had one little incident where she decided that she was bored and ready to go do something more fun (like eat hay).

Of course, being this cold, most of my horses were not wanting to stand still.  Even Ash, my 20 year old mare was fidgeting in the cross ties.  And my rides earlier today were a bit... faster then normal.

Huck and Rooster were both pretty fresh.  They didn't want to amble, but instead picked up a nice marching step.  Again, they were both just as pretty as you please under saddle, and a whole lot of "just what you'd want" in their work outs.... except just a bit faster.  It was fun!  Picking up the canter was easy.  I assume that's because faster means warmer.  There's not much more I can do with them.  While I love having them around, from here on out, it's mostly exercise riding, and making sure that they don't forget what they learned.  I've ridden both with other horses now, and have started adding "fun" things into the arena to play with, and haven't had any bad reactions at all from them.  We've ridden in a few different locations around my property, and it's all just the same ol' same ol.  Nothing but good.

 I'm kinda expecting a blow up or something from them soon, but thank goodness, they seem to have no interest in anything but a few "good boys" and pats!  I mean, a horse can't be THAT good for THAT long.

Hanna on the other hand - who I still need to find some time to write an intro on - has decided that she doesn't want to be caught consistently.  She's fine for feed, but work time, and she's running around with her tail up.  It's not a big deal, and she'll get over it real fast.  So far though, I've learned that Hanna is very tolerant of most things, and probably next week I'll start getting into the real "learning" part.  For this week, it's been a lot of "here's a new thing, how do you feel about that" and finding a base line for her training to start from.

As for me, I'm a complete Popsicle!  I've been inside an hour, and am still not thawed out.  Yes, for my northern friends, it's true, I am a WHIMP about the cold, but I have learned how to deal with it.  If I had put on the proper clothing, I wouldn't be whining right now.  As it is.... there's a bubble bath with MY name on it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's been busy around here!

And now things are finally starting to slow down.  Like, just today, I managed to ride Huck, Rooster, work with Dots and Hanna, post some ads, do some website updates.... and I felt like I was taking it easy!

The real truth to that is, my horses are all easy!  Huck, well, lets see... he almost walked into the halter, stood nicely to be tacked up... oh, but he DID pull his foot out of my hand once... because he was taking a nap while I picked out his feet.  Not really a true "pull" but it was something to report at least.

Got on, did a couple of laps at the walk to warm him all up, then did some trot/canter work.  Around the barrels (set up to weave through, not in a clover leaf) over the ground rails, and the first time around he swung wide at the gate, but a touch of the heel fixed it.  Ok, much of that was me being lazy in the saddle.  I got both leads when I asked, and could get either a hard stop, or a downward transition as I asked.  He stopped, he backed......

Yeah, I have nothing to report.  Huck is great. 

So, I get Rooster.  He walks right up to me.... and then Huck shoves between Rooster and the fence, so Rooster heads off.  Tell Huck to get lost, and walk away from the corner I was in (where the gate is) and Rooster walks up to me.  Tack him up, head out, and my phone starts ringing.  Rooster didn't bat an eye at me digging in my back pocket, yapping to people, hopping off while yapping... walking around while yapping, or climbing back on when I was done.  We did walk, we did trot... both extended and collected trot work....and we did canter.  Ok, so, the first time I asked for the canter today, he was bent wrong, and picked up the wrong lead, but again, that was me seeing what happened if I slacked off.  I got a nice transition, just the wrong lead.  Dropped back to the walk, did all my transitions again, and he nailed every single one. 

By this point, I'm thinking "How do you write an update on this?  So... the mustangs are pretty much perfect, and have been for over a week now".  So I started thinking of things that Rooster used to hate.  The teenager with the glass packs driving past...not a twitch of an ear.  I started falling out of the saddle - intentionally - and Rooster just slows down and lets me get all situated again.  We did barrels, ground poles, and then... I got something.  Heading over the tracks, and down the road past my house was a monster.  One of those trucks with the train wheels to go from street to tracks, with a boom on the back, and lots of clanging.  This was new, and this would be scarry to a horse.  Lets see how Rooster, the horse that used to have blow ups when he was stressed or scared, would act with this.......

I stopped, turned him to face it.......


........................................And he cocks a hip, and takes a nap.

So, I picked up the reins, and we did some more fun stuff.  I had a BALL!  Between the 2 boys, I did not work at all, I just rode and had a good time.  I suppose this is a good thing.  I told their owner that I thought it would take 60 days to get Rooster to be more stable, and here we are, 2 weeks ahead of schedule, and Rooster is wonderful.  Huck is amazing, and while still mouthy (I don't think anything will change that though) he's got a little more go, with out losing his consistency under saddle.  For the next 2 weeks, I plan to just enjoy my time with them, make sure that the training sticks, and have a ball.

Oh yeah, and as I was finishing up, my mother came out to take a break (she was cleaning stalls).  With eyes on, and Rooster being SO good, I decided to push my luck.  As I dismounted, I drug my whole leg all the way down his hip and leg, and goosed him in the flank a bit.  A real sloppy dismount, dragging myself off the horse.  Rooster's response....

He turned to look at me, and wait for a pat on the neck.  I gladly obliged. 

 And, tomorrow Lady leaves me.  I admit, I'm going to miss this girl.  She has been a fun horse to work with too.  I couldn't have asked for a better group this month, and I can only hope that my future clients are as wonderful (the horses as well as the humans).

Lady has the basics she needs, and her owner came by to get the low down on how to work with her.  Of course, if at any time she has a problem, I'm always willing to answer questions by email, text, or phone calls!  Any time! 

I'm excited for them though.  I think that both horse and owner will do wonderfully learning to progress together, and it's so obvious that they have a bond.  All I have to say, is that I had BETTER get an invite to their first show together!  Even if it's just a schooling show training test!

And I have decided to give myself 2 weeks "off".  I still have Hanna in for training, to be started under saddle.  She got her "eval" today, and I'm thinking that this is going to be nice and easy.  Hanna seems perfectly fine with anything I want to do.  Hell, we've been washing her head and puting ointment on a cut she received when shipping here, and she hasn't minded THAT (and I'm sure the scrubbing hasn't been the most comfortable).  Today, we did the whole "can I do this, can I touch there, do you mind leading on the offside" type of stuff, and I didn't see anything at all that needs to be addressed.  Tomorrow, we get to see how she lunges!

So, I'll save the Hanna intro for then!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SCA weekend

SCA, or the Society for Creative Anachronism, is a group of people (Average age is around 43) who enjoy dressing up as people in past times, and smacking their friends with sticks.  That's the really simplified version.  This is a group of wonderful people who have a slightly different take on life.  They play, and play hard.  Their games just happen to be historically accurate.  It's similar to civil war reenactment, just a slightly wider range of time, and more to do.

This weekend we hosted about 12 people from SCA here at Iron Ridge Sport Horses.  To start the day, we had pony rides.  My 5 lesson horses, ranging from a lead line pony through the grey Thoroughbred shown who is trained up to second level dressage, and has much more "oomph", all worked hard to make it a wonderful experience for everyone.  From men and women that weren't sure they were brave enough to ride, through riders with a bit of experience, every one had a great time.

For me, this was a teaser event, and I hope to have more in the future.  There's a few reasons for that.  First, SCA is exactly the type of market I breed for.  Seeing my horses at work, doing the jobs they are bred to do, well, it's good.  I can see what training I need to work on, and I hear what my buyer type would be thinking.  Now granted, none of the people who came are in the market for a horse, either from too little spare cash, or too little spare time, or both, but that doesn't mean that I can't use something fun to learn more.

Second, it's fun for all.  My lesson horses get to do something that isn't nearly as boring as the typical lesson.  My staff (family) gets to have people over that they can talk to (since none of us leave the property often).  The people who come over seemed to have a great time.  All in all, it's a wonderful way to blow off the stresses of the week.

And third, well... it works as marketing.  From word of mouth from anyone that shows up, to student wanting riding lessons, to all those cars that drive past and see weird people dressed in weird clothes, and think that it just might be fun.... it all gets my name out. 

We still need to get a few more things added to my facilities, oh, such as a publicly accessible restroom, and I need to prepare my horses for the actual SCA games (which jousting is one!  In a fun and friendly stay on your horse type of way) and then I hope to be able to do this more often.  We will need arena lights, and we need to finish the repairs on certain areas, and I need to figure out a place to fit in mounted archery.  I have Fiacha the Blue, one of our lesson students, and the great mind behind this event, working on getting me more information.

And now, I'm sitting here hoping it warms up just a bit more (currently 40F outside!).  Lady's owner is coming to see how much Lady has progressed, and I think she will be pleased.  I hope so at least.  Sadly, Lady heads back home later this week.  I'm gonna miss that girl (she's a very nice horse most days, and just enough attitude for me to adore her) but I completely understand wanting to put your own training on a horse.  And of course, I'm always available by email or phone to answer questions about the horse's training even after it has headed home.  I think it makes a better rider though, to do the tough work, and learn along side your horse.  Don't get me wrong, a lesson horse is priceless.  Being able to feel the result you want is necessary to asking a less trained horse to perform more complicated work.

So here's hoping that in a few months or years I get an invitation to watch Lady and her owner in a show.  I'm pretty certain that they both can do it, and do it well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday!

Yep, it's that time of year again.  I have just posted my winter sale prices on my website, and given the whole thing a bit of holiday cheer.  I have to admit, adding in some festive accents to my webpage was really rather fun.  It might not be the most professional thing I can do, but I just can't help myself.

I dropped the price on my Appaloosa and Appaloosa Sport Horses, and am offering free board through the end of December for all horses purchased.

On the downside, I have raised the price of training slightly.  The new price of $390 per month will go into effect on January 1, for all new clients.  All past clients in good standing will remain at the 2010 price.  This is our way of saying thank you for choosing us.

Also, I have wonderful news!  Heather Crispin of Livin Large Farms and Stephanie Adame have recently aquired a new Stonewall SportHorse mare.  She is a lovely Appaloosa/Percheron cross mare, and arrived on Wednesday, November 24th here at Iron Ridge.

Cali is their new broodmare, and also is supposed to be a lovely riding horse as well.  I plan to test her out just as soon as I am able to!  She is a very sweet girl, and a pleasure to have at our farm.

Unfortunately, the weather has taken a turn for the worse.  Wednesday, temps were in the mid 70s, but on Thanksgiving day the high was 40!  We're back to "winter" weather, with highs in the upper 50s and low 60s through this week. Ah well... it could be worse!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

To be Thankful

Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on what we have to be thankful for, and personally, I have quite a list.

I am thankful for my family.  My parents who have supported my crazy dream of working full time with horses.  My mother who has become as addicted to the idea as I am, and works just as hard every day for, often, very little back.  My Father who got me addicted to horses in the first place.  My brother, who tolerates my moods, and never fails to surprise me when he gives willingly of himself.  My sister-in-law, who keeps my brother in line, and reminds both of us that we shouldn't kill each other at holidays.

And of course, I'm thankful for Jae.  He is the unsung hero of Iron Ridge Sport Horses.  From pushing me when I need it, to kicking me off the computer, and making me quit working at the end of the day.  Welding fences, driving posts, repairing the latest broken thing - that must be fixed NOW, holding a horse, running a video camera, and all the other myriad of jobs he does, with out ever a word of complaint.  Every time I worry about taking him for granted, I realize that I just can't.  He does so much in so many ways for myself, and my family.

I'm thankful for my friends: Leah, Kris, Sarah.  Y'all keep me sane after a long week, and help me remember what it's like to do the horse thing for FUN.  Any time I feel insecure, they somehow manage to say the right thing and put it all back in perspective, with out ever making me feel like I don't fit because horses are my job.  And of course, a BIG thank you to Leah.... the pies are YUMMY!

And, I'm thankful for my clients.  From Heather and Stephanie (they kinda cross over from client to friends really) to Tony, Erica, Bill, and every one else I have been working with this year.  In the past 3 years I have experienced some of the worst clients ever, and now, I am so lucky to have the best.

And of course, I'm thankful for my lifestyle.  I make my living doing what I love best.... HORSES!  Our business started in 2005, and was going well until 2008 when things got tight.  In 2009, I was sure that the end was near, but decided to give it through the end of 2010 before selling the best of my horses and closing the business for good.

In March, sales began to pick up.  Through the summer, I have never experienced such a busy year, and with such wonderful clients!  August slowed down, and I prepared for the "slow" season, only to be shocked as business picked up again in October!  Currently, I am struggling to fit all of my work into a day, and happy to do it!  I wake up in the morning happy, and get to head out to the barn to ride horses.  That's my JOB!  I know I will never get rich doing this, but each time a client smiles.... from buying her newest horse, to riding a horse he thought he'd never be able to control, there's no feeling like that.  And to realize that I love every second of it.  I am truly thankful for that.

And, well..... I'm also really thankful that I know people who can cook.  From Leah's pies, to Jae's turkey cooking in the oven.  I expect to get real fat and happy this evening.  Here's hoping that all of you are as blessed as I am, and wise enough to appreciate your good fortune.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And we rode like the wind.... except slower

So my dear old Hucky boy has a new bad habit.  Well, he's not mine, and it's not that bad, but it IS new.  When we canter/lope, and I ask him to slow down he's ALL brakes.  I mean, I think we had a slide stop at least once, and a ton of times I got to check out Huck's shoulder.  Ok not that bad, but I can feel the work out in my abs from bracing for it.

Well, we got that all fixed up, and now "Huck" has a new problem.  Except this one isn't his fault!  From all the rides, and all the weird things I have been doing lately, and the cold I've been avoiding, I'm a tired lil girl.  When riding Huck, he informed me that I am crooked (pulled muscle all down my right side of my spine) and hence, he can't figure out how to pick up the right lead canter/lope.  I am SO crooked on him, I can feel it and I can't seem to stretch it out enough to not be crooked.  Huck never faltered... he just gave me a counter canter (wrong lead canter/lope) every single time I asked.

Eesh.  The horse is being wonderful, and I couldn't do a thing to get my body to cooperate with me.

So, I rode Rooster.  Now, Rooster has been pretty good lately.  Like, nothing but totally average (but better trained, and I do NOT get the credit for his fancy moves because I didn't put them on him).  Well, today, Rooster not only met me at the gate, and all but shoved his head into the halter..... he was LAZY for our entire ride!  I mean LAZY.

I kept calling him Huck, he was so lazy.

We had a couple of trucks pass us, some chickens fighting, AND, because I was running out of daylight, I made my assistant trainer (yeah, who is also my mother) ride Lady.  We shared the arena for the last hour and 10 minutes of daylight.  I expected one of the other to object, but nope.... they were wonderful!

Now, to make it an even better day... Lady is seeking out contact with the bit, and she willingly began to round up.  The entire ride, I was working hard to get Rooster into a trot (he just wanted to take a nap, or maybe have some cookies) and I was really enjoying how laid back and mellow he was.  No, it wasn't perfect, but it's a huge change in his outlook on how to act under saddle.  And Lady was just nice and round and working like a champ... except that she wasn't perfect either, she kept wanting to side pass over to meet Rooster.  Mom had some issues with blocking her and keeping her straight, but that's mostly a rider error.  I didn't see a single behind the verticle the whole time!

So, Rooster got ridden with a strange horse, Lady did as well, and Huck was dead on for me.  All in all, these horses are doing great! I have to admit, I have a secret crush on Rooster.  He's just so FUN!  While Lady and Huck are amazing to ride, and really very nice horses, I have always had a soft spot for the problem children.  I think Rooster knows it too.  He can push every one of my buttons... like shoving his head in the halter today.

And now, I have been informed by Jae that I MUST stop working.  Evidently it is not allowed for me to work from 8am until 10pm!  Between the recent interest in the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry (SDHR) and answering inquiries for those, processing registration applications and transfers, as well as planning my own 2011 breeding season... add in the training horses, my own horses to ride, the young filly that we're halter training, and the holidays.... and my poor man says he is refusing to bring me coffee unless I take a few hours off each night.

*sigh* and to think of all the work I could get done.

Monday, November 22, 2010

So I've been bad about blogging....

Because I'm trying to get a cold.  I apologize to the horse owners for not having updated y'all.  Every one is doing great though.

Lucily I don't really HAVE a cold yet.  I just have the annoying symptoms of coughing, sneezing, and being OH so tired.  There's nothing worse then riding a horse while on cold meds, so I just don't do it.  Most of the horses are at the point where I feel that mom can do good with them, so if I relapse tonight, she'll ride them tomorrow, and give me her opinions.  Lets hope that's not necessary.  I'm a real baby when I'm sick and can't ride!  No one wants to see that!

Huck and Rooster have been enjoying the cooler weather, playing and running about in the evenings.  They make sure to give me a near heart attack at least once a day (making me think they are going to run into a fence, or performing crazy turns on the fly), but under saddle both of them have been perfect gentlemen.  Rooster is still a bit tense at unexpected things, and Huck is still lazy, but I have nothing really to complain about.  I really am enjoying riding them, and being able to slack off while in the saddle.

Lady is starting to round more often, and more consistently.  She is accepting the bit rather readily after a brief warm up session (a few laps at the walk to stretch out, and then a lift of the hands to remind her to take the bit).  On Friday, my mother rode her, so I could watch her progress from the ground, and Lady was round more often then hollow.  She's accepting the cues from any rider it seems (YAY, because it's always hard to check that unless you have someone else ride the horse that can give the cues) and my mother is ready to steal her!  We did have an issue with a motorcycle speeding past the arena though.

My arena is next to the road, and while mom was working with her, some punk (aren't all people younger then you and having fun a "punk"?) on a bike came screaming up.  Thank goodness he saw the horses, let off the gas, and coasted past.  Lady did a spook in place, and a calm pat reassured her.  When the young biker came back past, he was very polite, and coasted past as quietly as possible.

Rooster on the other hand is NOT happy about school busses.  He's sure that those yellow monsters are there to eat him, but again, his "emergency brake" is working.  He peters out, turns, faces the problem, and looks to his rider to reassure him.  I haven't yet had any type of bolt or buck from him, so I'm hoping this is a sign that we're past that problem.

Oddly, not a single horse minds the trains, helicopters, or garbage trucks that rumble past.

I admit that because I've been trying to get sick, I have been a bit lazy with working the horses.  I've stuck to the arena, and concentrated on things we knew.  I took Saturday off, instead of my normal Monday, so that I could sleep the weekend away and start to feel better.  Today I'm still a bit groggy, but in MUCH better shape.  So it's back into the saddle for me after 2 days off, and there should be a blog post tonight or tomorrow morning about today's rides.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So, I got pictures!

Yes, I made my poor mother suffer through the cold weather (lemme tell ya, anything under 70 is cold... but today wasn't too bad in the low 60s) and take pictures.  I have no idea why this  is so hard for me to do, but it really seems to be.  I guess because I'm always on a horse, or with a horse in hand when I am outside, and hence my focus is on the horse in front of me, not the pictures I should be taking.  Well, I'm making an effort!

So, today's rides were just as nice as I could ask for.  All 3 of them.  I started with Rooster, then rode Huck, and then gave Lady most of a lesson.  I'm still not used to the sun setting this early, so by the time I finish up all of my personal work and get to the client horses I'm still thinking 6pm when it's dark by 5:30, and 5:30 when it's dark by 5pm.  In all honesty, I can't tell you what time it gets dark, but I can tell you it's hard to tack down a black horse, with black tack, with no lights.  I think she only got shorted about 10 or 15 minutes, and she was working so well for me today, so I can't complain.

So, that lovely boy up there, is Rooster.  Isn't he just the cutest thing?  Although, I admit, I do have a weak spot for red heads, especially that bright of a red.  But, my ride with Rooster started out on a good note today.  I grabbed a halter, and Rooster met me at the gate!  We went to tack up, and I swear Rooster was taking a nap.  Well, except when that big truck went by, I think it was a garbage truck.... he woke up for that.  Well, breifly.

And Rooster spent the whole time before I ride sucking up to me.  I have a soft spot for that.  Big brown eyes get to me every time.  Ok, he wanted cookies, but that's a type of love too, isn't it?

I got on Rooster a few times.  First, I didn't have the girth tight enough.  I have a new latigo, and it's leather, and between slight stretching, and not being well worn, so not slipping over itsself, I admit, I spend way more time then I like trying to get that silly thing properly cinched up.  Wonder when western saddles will adopt the easy English type girths...*daydreams about elastic and buckles*
Oh right, mounting. Well...What do you think, does he look like the same hot blooded thing he was a few weeks ago?

Rooster would get worried and tense when I went to mount him.  So much so, that a few times he tried to move out from under me, and once he did blow up, spooking out from under me.

Now, he's, well... taking a nap I think.  I got on him from both the mounting block, and from the ground today, and he couldn't have cared less about any of them.  I have been rewarding a relaxed and calm attitude, and ignoring or dealing with his tension in non-stressful ways.  Basically, I just want Rooster to know that when a human is around, good things happen.  As an interesting side effect, ol' Rooster here, has become a complete sap.  He loves to be loved on.  He loves to get pets and scratches, and to be talked to.  Any form of affection is good for him, and lets him know that he's right on track.

And he has become such a wonderful little horse to work with.  He's still not dead perfect, but he's close enough that I'm willing to start pushing him a bit, and tackling the terrifying stuff that's out there.

We had some lovely work today, and our problems were well... laziness!  He was tootling along, and didn't really have a whole lot of get up and go in him.  Now, if I asked, he would give it, but if I slacked off, he went right into lazy pony mode.

I think most of us agree that having a bit of "I'm just gonna plod along until you want me to do something different" isn't a bad thing in a horse.  For me, when I want to move out, I want it NOW, but otherwise, a whole lot of slow is good for when things do not go as planned.

And we worked on crazy human tricks.  Yes, in this picture I am leaning very far to the right.  I know, and I meant to.  I also shifted the saddle, flopped my legs, and fidgeted with the reins.  I try to do all of those unexpected things that can spook a sensitive horse, but that we riders sometimes do with out thinking.

Does he look very stressed at all about it?  I didn't think so.  I did find though, that Rooster does NOT like to have the ends of the reins slapped around.  That got him all tense and stressed again.  Yeah, so guess what I did?

I normally ride in a single rein, but today I had split reins.  They have a leather popper on the end of each.  So, it was those that he didn't care for, and it will be those that I ride him in from now until he doesn't care about them.

Besides that, we just did some walk trot and canter work, and didn't have a single real problem.  I'm so excited!

And then it was on to Huck.  Have you ever wondered why there is no lovely and elegant way to get on a horse?  Yeah, I always wonder that when I get pictures of me doing it.  But hey, the horse looks great!

And see, there's that mounting block.  And there's the Huck-meister standing at it like nothing at all.  Our ride was good today.  He was dead on!  Well, he was, but I made 2 mistakes that I almost thought were gonna get my face in the dirt.

Twice, at the canter, I asked for a downward transition, and I got a woah.  Neither time was I prepared for it, and both times I ended up leaning forward.  Both times Huck realized I was pulling a stupid human trick, and stepped forward allowing me to "catch up" to his momentum.  I think it was the curb chain.  I hadn't been riding Huck with one, because he was so light on the mouth, but put one on today, and got some serious stops from him.

Now, I stop from my seat more then anything, but with a light lift of the hands.  Well, I guess in Huck's mind, that's all it takes.  He was dead on with all of my commands.  Ok, well, the trot and canter work I had to get a crop for some incentive, but after that....

See, here's how this pretty boy worked out for me:
Yes, I'm taping his side there...... to get......

Click on any picture for a larger view.  And horse owners are more then welcome to save a copy for themselves.

And lastly, my ride with Lady.  Well... second verse same as the first.  It was almost a repeat of yesterday's lesson, with out the broken bridle.  Lady was lovely, she worked hard, and had some lovely moments of what I wanted.  She's coming along great, and has no interesting or exciting stories of acting up to tell.  And yeah, that's a great thing!

I have to admit, I know how lucky I am to have this trio in the barn right now.  I adore every one of these horses, and really look forward to riding them.  Days like today make me stop and appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living.  I might not be a big name trainer who sends horses off to be big name super starts, but I work with some really amazing people, and their wonderful pets.  I prefer what I do to any fame or fortune I could be offered.

Ok, maybe not the fortune part.... I mean, if I was rich, I would have an indoor!

Training a horse to round

So, this weekend has been a busy one for me.  Sunday I rode Huck with my "Pony Party".  For those who don't know, Pony Party Sundays are when we invite friends to come up, and either ride one of our horses that matches his/her riding ability, or to bring their own.  We all practice in the arena, with every one sharing tips and knowledge in a friendly and informal way.

For me, this is great because I get ideas from those who are not "in the business" and always hearing "faster!".  Leah, Kris, Sarah, and my mother are the most common participants.  Well, I chose Huck for this Sunday, and Huck was PERFECT.  He didn't mind all the new strange horses with him, he did what was asked, and he even was a gentleman and showed off his "tricks".  Ok, not true tricks, but we did side passes, half passes, and just had a grand ol' time.

I think Rooster was even jealous!  He stood there watching us the whole time.  A little Jealousy won't hurt him though.  And my next ride on him was amazing.  He's working his little heart out for me.  I haven't had a serious tension issue from Rooster in almost a week.  We did have the car backfire/revving episode - where my neighbor made scary noises on the car, but Rooster just slowed and looked, but that was the last of them.

So, this week, I hope to get Rooster into some crazy new situations, and well, have a whole lot of fun with Huck.

Then there's Lady.  She's a lovely mare, and very easy to work with under saddle.  Her problem is that she's a bit confused about what we're asking of her.

Her owner plans to use her for dressage, and someone put a bit of reining training into her.  Well, and her natural inclination is to work on her forehand, with her head well behind the vertical, and her back hollowed out.  None of those are good traits in dressage.

Now, Lady is a good choice as a dressage horse though.  She does have a good talent for it, but she doesn't have the muscling to do it right, and at heart is a very pampered lady who doesn't believe she needs to do those "hard" things.  She has some evasions, but they are all very passive and very minor.

And yeah, all horses have evasions, it's their way of saying "I don't wanna!".  Bucking is just one example, but balking, head tossing, and even just those little annoyances a horse does when you ask it to work all fall under my category of evading work.

So Lady has been doing great.  I think I left off with her after our lunging session.  She decided that she did NOT want to work, so went into "I'm trotting and not paying attention to you" mode.  This is an evasion that is easy in the endurance bred type horses, like Arabian crosses, or Thoroughbreds (and many more, but you get the idea).  They trot because they don't have to think.

Well, I showed Lady that it's just so much easier to do what I ask.  If she wouldn't walk, then she cantered.  For me, that solves 2 things.  First, she learns to work at the pace I set when I set it (necessary for dressage) and second, her "punishment" of cantering helps to build up those back muscles that she needs to round her back and get on the bit.

When I took her out yesterday, she was dead on wonderful.  She walked when I asked, reversed when I asked.  Trotted.  Went back to a walk.  Cantered.... it was simply wonderful.  Then of course we had our "oopsie".  As I brought her back to a walk, she asked to stretch.  I let her.  She lowered her neck, and stretched all of her muscles through her back, but then she did something unexpected.  She swept her front legs out while walking to also get a good stretch in the shoulders.  I was slow, and....

Her foot clipped the lunge line, just stepping on the edge of it, and pulling her bit.  She stopped in a heart beat, tossed her head up, and my bridle did exactly what it is supposed to.... broke.  Right at the buckles for the cheek pieces on either side.  Her bit fell out of her mouth, and the bridle disentegrated in front of my eyes, and Lady turns to look at me as if to say "what did I do to DESERVE that?"

Ah, my poor baby.  I of course hurried over to reassure her (and get a hand on her since everything was now in pieces).  I checked to make sure she hadn't hurt her mouth, and luckily I had in a nice soft mellow bit, so she was fine.  A few cookies, a little pampering, and she was ready to change head gear.

Pieces together another bridle from what I had in the barn (most were too big for her dainty head) and got back to work.  Being the Lady she is, she never once held a grudge for the incident, and infact, got right into some wonderful work.

Now, to show you what I'm doing with her, I got pictures!  Here is Lady's favourite way to avoid getting contact with the bit.

You can see that she's horribly behind the vertical, and that is NOT what we want.  Notice my hands are open and high, this is encouraging her to lift her head while maintaining contact with her mouth.  In other words, ducking away from my contact like this doesn't do her any good, and so takes away the desire to try.  It ends up being more work then it is worth.

She used to move like this almost constantly.  Now she does this a bit in our warm up walks, and every so often through out the ride.  I have more time of a decent contact with her then I do with her behind the vertical.

And her next problem is that she hollows out her back.  See how her body is almost making a U shape?  Yeah, we don't want that either.  Horses who move like this are straining their back, allowing their hind end to fall out behind them, and often they are heavy on the forehand.

You might also notice that I have Lady in some fancy looking bell boots.  That's because she CAN overreach, and clip her front hooves.  Because all this rounding stuff is new to her, she isn't yet as graceful as she will be.  I think a lot of the reason she hollows out is because she's worried she will hit herself, and so keeps her front and hind ends as far apart as possible.  She really likes the bell boots, and has already learned that hitting them is no big deal.  It's saved us a lot of worry about leg injuries.

So, what does it look like when she's working like I want?  Well, it's a lovely picture indeed.
Isn't that a pretty Lady?

At this time, she is doing the hollowing out and ducking behind the vertical in her warm up work, and I don't mind that.  Not for this stage of her training.  She has to get her muscles all ready before she starts doing her gymnastics.  I have the walk pretty much where I want it.  When I get her in front of my leg, she is now taking contact and moving out.  She's not as forward as I want yet, but when asked, she tries.  To me, it feels like she has trouble with remembering to round, take contact, AND move out all at the same time... it's too much for a pony to remember!  But, she sure tries to do anything I ask of her.

And when she starts to lose that frame (a frame should come from the back and hind end, not the head!) we just back up until she lifts her shoulders, and do it some more.

Now, trotting.... she's better, but not there yet.

Here was our moment of glory.  This is what I want her to do at the trot, but she has trouble maintaining.  Well, I'd love to have even more, but we must build muscles.

At this point in her training, I feel confident that her owner will be able to put her into dressage lessons, and learn how to ask this of her, and actually get it.  Not 100% of the time, but often enough to move forward.  And that's the real goal.  

From here on out, I believe that I need to get her muscles up to hold this lovely frame at the walk and trot, and to start holding it at the canter.

Yeah, Lady's canter.  It's up... well, she has one now!  When she arrived, there was no canter.  She would almost fall into a gallop, until she tired, then drop back into a trot.  Right now, I can get a canter consistently.  It's not a pretty canter at all, but it is a canter.  She's very heavy on her forehand, and very hollow.  The more trot work she does though, the better the canter will get, with out allowing her to get some very bad habits, so that is what we've been working on.

I also have to mention here that as we finished up out lesson, a cold front was blowing in.  That means wind, dust, scary noises, and I wasn't prepared for it.  Lady was lovely and didn't care at all, but me!  I was cold when we finished.  I'm wearing a second layer under my riding attire there, but I had taken off my gloves because it was so nice when we started.  

And in case you're wondering about my awesome looking riding shirt there, well.... I'm gonna let the world in on a secret.  For cheap riding attire, that is designed not to creep up, but also is casual enough that you aren't feeling silly when you go into public, check out dirt bike riding gear.  Those shirts are amazing.  They are vented (which didn't help me, but are great for fall) are made of a lovely light weight material that doesn't seem to attract dirt (and I am ALWAYS dirty) and are often as cheap as 15 bucks if you get the out of date styles.  Oh yes, and color... wow, dirt bike riders LOVE colors.  I started stealing Jae's because I hate having my hiney hanging out, and found that they are wonderful to ride in.  

And, for Lady's Owner... here are a few more images of your pretty girl from our session yesterday:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rain rain, go away, come again some other.....week.

Yesterday we got swept with bands of rain.  Nothing too bad at all, but it left the ground pretty wet, and kept raining solidly every so often.  Kinda weird weather really.  It would be sunny and nice, then get cloudy, rain like the dickens, then clear up and repeat.  So, no riding yesterday.

This morning I got up, and the arena was "almost dry".  Nice, just need to till it, and away I will go.  Of course, I'm out of diesel for the tractor.  Boo.  Get Diesel, fill tractor, check arena.  STILL almost dry.  Trim horse, wait an hour, check arena... no change.


No, really.  I'm craving the feel of a nice working trot, or a lovely mustang loping along willingly, or even my baby Scorch.  I haven't managed to ride him myself yet!  It's sunny and nice.... and I'm making trips out to check the arena footing for slipperiness.

So, currently mom is out tilling the arena.  I have 1.5 hours of day light left, and it looks like once it's tilled it just might be ride-able.  I'm just about to call it a "rain delay" and work Monday instead.  No way I'm gonna get 3 client horses, plus my own ridden in an hour and a half and give any kind of attention to them.

Know what I'm doing instead?  Paper work.  I hate paper work.

I swear, my next purchase is an indoor arena.......

Right after I win the lottery.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taking the good with the bad

Today I had the most diverse set of rides.  Lady was bad.  Very bad (for her).  She decided that she was going to spook at pretty much everything, and when she wasn't doing that, she was trying every evasion she could think of to get out of work.  I ended up working her on the lunge more then I rose her, just to get her to move forward.

First it was the truck that drove past.  Then it was the boarder's filly playing.  Basically, I think she's a bit achy from building muscles, and decided that evading sounded like a better idea then working.  She tried to duck behind the vertical, she tries to trot instead of walk, and walk instead of canter (on the lunge).  Now, I ended up working her harder then I wanted to, but it really wasn't my idea.  I asked for a canter, and she would gallop around me as fast as possible.  When I asked her to slow back to a trot or a walk, she ignored me, and kept right on galloping.  By the end of the lesson, she's figured out that doing what I ask really is easier, and that I can out evade her.  She was willing and working nicely by the end.

And I had to walk her out for about 15 minutes to allow her to cool off, then followed with hosing her lathered and sweaty body off.  Thank goodness it was a nice warm day, so she didn't get chilled.  And to think, all I had planned on was nice stretchy work!

Huck, well he was just about dead on today.  I mean, his transitions are still a tad sloppier then I like, but all in all, not a thing to complain about.  He went when I asked, he stopped when I asked, and he stood when I asked.  He didn't give me more then I asked for, but I sure am not about to complain about that!

And then Rooster.  Well, a few things came up, and I climbed on Rooster just as the sun was trying to go down.  With a riding lesson in the arena, we took the round pen, and got to work.  First off, my saddle slipped (SOMEone forgot to tighten up the girth before she got on.... no idea who that would be) and my favourite red head just turned to look at me like, "Hahaha, silly human!".  No fuss, no fidget.

Ok, so I got that all fixed up, and climbed on.  Stirrups were WAY too short.  Gah.  Off again.  Changed the length, fussed, checked the girth, and as I was about to climb back on, it dawned on me.  Rooster hadn't tensed up, hadn't taken a step, and seemed to be really happy about the whole thing.  Like, he was completely willing to work, and glad to have a job!

So I climbed on.  He moved out like I asked, he trotted, he went back to a walk.  He went from a walk with one trot pace into a canter, and was just dead on.  Now, he did veer out to the gate in his circles, but a seat or a leg aid put him where I wanted with no fuss.

And then my neighbor decided that it was time to work on his car.  It's supposed to be a race car I think.  I know that it doesn't have a muffler!  He'd REV the engine, and then it would backfire.  Then he'd do something else that made big scary noises.

Now, Rooster doesn't like to get scared.  And once he's tense, he tends to blow up.  Er, I should say he DID.  Today, when that car made awful noises that even had my lesson horse acting a bit funny, good ol' Rooster just slowed down nicely, stopped, and turned to face the noise.  He did all of this with only a moment of tension, but then stood nice and relaxed.

This is my "emergency brake" that I try to put into all horses.  When scared, stop and calm down, and the human will fight off the bad things.  In Rooster's case, it's "when scared, slow down and stop, and the cookie will enter your face".  Yeah, he really loves those cheap treats.

I got him moving again, which he did nicely.  We worked through a few revs, but then the back firing started.  It was pretty darned loud, and even made me jump!  Guess what Rooster did?  Yeah... he slowed, turned, and waited calmly.

Holy..... well... you know.  I think Rooster had a break through!  Lets see how he does tomorrow.  I'm not going to count my chickens, er I mean Roosters, before they hatch!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cool, Windy, and Sunny..... In horses that means acting up, right?

It's just a bit warmer then the last few days.  The wind is blowing annoyingly (sand in the eyes, YUCK!).  And, the sun is out.  In my history, that has always meant "time to be bad" in any horse's mind.  So of course, this morning the owner of The Mustangs calls me and says he's coming out to see how they are doing.

Gah!  The weather is set up for my failure!

So, I finish up my paper work (i.e. inside chores) have some fun playing phone tag with Verizon (now they are billing me for services I'm not getting) and head out to the barn.  I finish up my chores there, and it's still morning.  Since the Mustang's owner won't be out until after noon, I get Lady ready to ride.

Well, I tied her to the trailer (My trailer is acting as my tack room during the most recent renovations) and start to groom her up.  Yeah, she's acting all flighty.  Won't stand still, keeps trying to paw, and swinging from one side to the other.  Looks like a great chance for a lesson to me!

I grab my dressage whip.  No, don't freak out yet.  As Lady would paw from frustration, I would use the whip to touch her leg, and give her a negative noise.  For me that is the "annnhhhhhhh" sound, like a seagull makes.  The touch shows her what she is doing wrong, the negative noise makes her not like it.  She decided that was no fun.  So we had to deal with stepping over, and then back and then over.  I simply made her stand where I wanted, and when she tried to swing into me, I just pushed on her side.  When she stood nicely, she got praise and a cookie.  When she pawed while standing straight, more bad noise, and a touch.  Within 5 minutes, she was being a very good girl.

So, I groomed her up, tacked her up, and grabbed the lunge line.  After a bit of laziness (windy, cold.... isn't she supposed to be spooky?) I got some canter work on the lunge.  With her fancy new bell boots, she didn't over reach and hit her self, so could think about how to not hit herself.  I saw moments of a lovely canter!  She's weak in the lower back, so can't round very easily (yet) but she gave me moments!

So I hopped on.  What a lovely ride!  She was right there for me.  Now, Lady tries to evade contact by ducking behind the verticle.  Lady is going to be a dressage horse (and a good one) so this is BAD.  I rode around with my hands up near my chest to prevent the ducking, and kept asking for more forward.  She gave it to me more times then she didn't.  By this point I'm thrilled.

Then, to work on strengthening her back, we did yo-yos.  This is a simple exercise that in my opinion is not used enough because it's a bit boring.  We walk forward at a nice march, then halt, and then back up.  When a horse backs, it is natural for the horse to lift it's shoulders, round the back, and bring its legs under.  In other words, it's collected.  I would immediately ask Lady to walk on, and to maintain that frame.

Let me clarify.  By frame, I mean her back and body, not her head.  A rounded neck is not a sign of true collection.  It's just a sign of a rounded neck.  Lady was able to carry herself properly for 5 to 10 paces, then she's start to lose it.  We would again yo-yo, and get a few more steps.  As she tired, we walked out, and worked on accepting the bit with out ducking behind the vertical.  I would say that we spent an honest 45 minutes doing this, with much walking on a loose rein in between.  By the time I was done, Lady was just starting to accept the contact (light contact, but still!) and was walking with a nice rounded back (shoulders weren't truly up, but she was trying) and stepping out.  And she was one tired girl!  I expect her to be a bit sore later today, and have my brushes and liniment ready to go.

So, I ended up with a few moments before Huck and Rooster's person arrived.  I grabbed Scorch, and gave him some loving.  I figured if I got him tacked up, I'd get my chance to ride, and if not, then I'll ride him tomorrow.  Well, just as I got his mane braided and out of my way, I saw the Mustang's Owner drive past.  Patted Scorch, and said "tomorrow bud".

Keep in mind, I've already tempted fate.  It's "bad horse" weather, and I had a great ride.  By this point I'm expecting the mustangs to be basket cases.  It's Murphy's Law after all!  So, the first thing the owner says to me is "I want to see you catch Rooster".  Ha!  My buddy?  My pretty lil red headed man?  Sure!

I grabbed a halter, and headed into their pen.  Now, normally Rooster walks up and meets me half way, so when he didn't, I completely expected him to decide to run off and play instead.  I'm thinking "this horse is about to make me look like a Liar."  But nope.  Rooster was just talking to a bud over the fence.  He let me walk right up, put on the halter, and walked out with me as calm as can be.

We tacked him up, and I tried to remember every bad thing this horse still needed work on.  Of course, I'm like a nervous mommy by this point, waiting for her kid to perform on stage.  They aren't mine, but that doesn't mean I don't love these horses!  Well, The Owner gets on, and Rooster is just a bit flinchy still.  Bummer.  He's been so good about that lately.  Then again, it's a bad horse day.

Owner rode off, and I could tell from his seat that he was ready for the worst.  Rooster started to get nervous too, and here I am with visions of a blow up.  Then the owner relaxed, and it went beautifully.  No, not perfectly, but very well for my little spit fire.  Got Huck out, and tacked him up, and the owner's friend rode Huck.

The boys did good.  All of my training stuck.  While it wasn't perfect (Huck was lazy, Rooster wasn't as calm as I'd like) it was still in the "not too bad" category.  I hoped on to ride Rooster at the owner's request, and I'll be honest here.  The stirrups were about a half hole too short, and when I asked for anything over a walk, I was riding as if I was bareback.  I'm not that great without my stirrups!  But no one seemed to notice, and every one seemed pleased with the horses.

I of course have a whole list of new things to work on.  First, and biggest:  When the horses were in the arena together, they gravitate toward each other regardless of the commands given.  That needs to change.  I watch Rooster try to cut Huck off, and Huck kept swinging over in his circles into Rooster's path.  The rest were little things that I've been working on, that still need more work.  Huck's transitions are SLOPPY, Rooster needs to relax more still.

And let me mention here that I simply adore the owner of these horses.  Right now, I am so happy with my clients.  I have two really super people who really care about their horses.  The Mustang's Owner is a perfect gentleman.  Old school type, you know, the kind that doesn't come along any more.  And Lady's owner is a wonderful person ready to learn anything and with her horse's well being above anything else.

So, the day ended with me not having to work as hard as normal because the owner did.  I get a few hours to sit on my bum and drink coffee!  I like Coffee.  And, it looks like my - er I mean THE Mustangs will be with me another month. 

Now, if I can just figure out how to get pictures while I ride.  Ok, truth be told, I actually have a plan.  I am going to try to video my rides, and get some short clips of the work sessions.  I'm not sure how much of the arena I can cover from a still video camera, but I figure it should be interesting at least.  If nothing else, it will be great to see things from a different point of view.

Oh, and that weather?  Yeah.... maybe it's only MY horses that act up in this type of weather.  The client horses were so good.