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.

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.

GAH!  I WANT TO RIDE!

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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New boarders, New behaviors, and a New horse under saddle

And this time I have PICTURES!

Friday morning I checked my email, and saw that Lady's owner was planning to show up.  Yippee.  No, seriously, she's a very nice lady.  I had a few things to get done before I got onto horses (like picking up the clamps to finish stringing cable on the new paddock, so the fences would be finished!) and I got back just in time for Lady's owner to arrive.  We talked for a bit, and then I realized that I was losing hours quickly, so grabbed Huck and started working him.  Friday's schedule was supposed to be Huck, Rooster, Lady.  I try to work them in a different order every day, so they don't start predicting when it will be their turn and learn problem behaviors. 

At any rate, Huck started off great, then realized that he's a wee bit stiff from all the walk/trot work we had done the day before.  I mean, a few days off due to weather, then right into transitions, and he's bound to be achy.  I know I was!  So, after a bit of walk/trot work, Huck decided to change the subject.  He tried freezing.  No, really.  He wouldn't back, he wouldn't go left, nor right, nor straight.  He totally was taking a nap while I'm tapping his side, and throwing all my "move your feet" tricks at him.  Wow does that make a rider feel dumb!

What it ended up being, was a test.  Who can be more stubborn...... and yes, I won.  Eventually he decided to work with me and be a good boy.  Well, kinda a good boy.  Not nearly as good as he was the day before, just lazy.

After that, Lady's owner asked if she could see her horse worked, so of course I said yes.  I told her that I had not ridden her horse yet, but if she was doing well on the lunge (I had only worked her one day before remember) then I planned to get on and see what she knew.  MUCH easier when you have the owner there to ask questions.  Well, Lady of course was a lady on the lunge, so up I went.  We spent 45 minutes working on walk trot stuff, and learning to accept the bit.  Lady doesn't fight me, but she is a bit confused.  At one point I asked her to back up, and she acted like she wanted to do a rein back.  Now, this is a future dressage horse... what is she doing trying to rein back?  Then her owner reminded me that she had some reining training in her past.  Ah HA!

Lady has lovely gaits!  She's a pleasure to ride, and she's trying to do what I ask.  She doesn't always 'get' it, but she's trying to do something.  Super easy work for me.

Then there was Rooster.  I had this thought over lunch: "what would happen if I treat him like a horse that has never been backed, and bring him up into the saddle a bit slower?"  So guess who tried it?

Yeah, that would be me.  I put a halter under his bridle, put Jae on the end of the lead, and did all the stupid stuff.  I laid across the saddle, and had Jae walk off so that Rooster could feel me shift, yet look around and think it through.  It was like a light bulb went off for that horse!  His tension eased (not totally gone, but MUCH less) and he had a protector there on the ground for him!  After a couple of those, I swung up and over, as sloppy as I could make it, brushing his rump in the process, and he stiffened a hair, but did not go into "OMG it's going to EAT ME" mode.  Nice!  I ended up riding Rooster around at a walk, mostly relaxed, and Jae walked along beside us.  We got further and further away, and Rooster did not get more nervous.  I think Rooster and I are on the downhill side of this issue!

Today was more of the same.  Every one was a bit better, but still worked in the same vein.  Huck was still lazy, but not as bad, and much less stopping and making me out patience him.  Rooster was almost calm, but actually thinking, and Lady was... well.... a lady.  She's giving me wonderful moments of contact, and trying to round her back (she's not at lifting the shoulders yet, but it won't be long before she tries).

AND, just to keep things interesting, since I was tired, I decided to make my 60 year old mother break out the 3 year old stallion.  I mean, sheesh... I was TIRED.

Ok, if you think that was a mean thing to do, you're sadly mistaken.  Mom asked if she could, and it's Scorch.  He doesn't know he is a stallion, and he's better behaved then most mature packers I know.  So, mom tacked him up, and while she got her helmet on and such, I walked him a lap around (I was the ground person for this).  Scorch was like "ok, so.... why am I doing this again? I see the mounting block over there, can't we do FUN things?". 

Headed over, and mom did the lay over trick, and I asked Scorch to step off.  It was the cutest thing I have ever seen.  His eyes roll back so he can see her, and his ears swivel to her, and he took the itty bitty smallest steps while carrying his shoulders braced out to hold her up.  She hopped off, and said "hes' ready".  Now, Leah has already sat on him once, so it's not like he's completely new to this, but that was 18 months ago!

So mom steps up, swings over, and waaa laaa, she's sitting up there on Scorch.  Yes, he's at least 16.0 hands, and mom is a short thing.  No, she's not situated in the saddle yet.  Yes, that big scary stallion thinks this is normal and wants to know where his cookie is.

I love this horse.

So, we spent about 15 minutes walking around, working from my commands into hers.  As she picked up control, I would fall back to Scorch's shoulder.  I still had the lead, just in case things went completely bad, but no one really thought they would.  By the time we were finished, mom had Scorch walking off her leg, turning left, turning right, and doing a very very sloppy whoa from only her commands.  And that baby's brain was full for the day. 

Tomorrow is a day off for me, but Monday I'm back to work for makeup days.  Can't wait to see how Huck and Rooster do after some rest (or maybe I'll ride Huck for my pony party... hmm.....).  I'm seeing progress with every one, and I have to say, I like what I see.

Some days I feel like I should be getting more flash and showy stuff out of these horses then I am.  But I have to remind myself that it's not really all about the flashy stuff.  The most important part of training is the part that no one will ever appreciate.  Being able to stand on a relaxed horse and do NOTHING.  Hot blooded horses who fidget with every step are a dime a dozen.  I specialize in relaxed thinking and calm horses.  I've done this more times then I can count, and every time I do it, I feel bad that I'm not working on the fancy things every other trainer tends to work on.  So far, I haven't had a single complaint by returning (or in many cases selling) a safe, sane, and gentle horse.

It's my honest opinion (and you know what they say about opinions: PG version - every one has one) that while mounting a horse and teaching it to stand, only to get off and repeat that over and over might be a bit dull, in the end, owning a horse that stands like a rock when you pull your tired bum into the saddle is priceless.  Having a horse with smooth and gentle walk/trot/canter/halt transitions that can be attained from leg or voice commands is wonderful when you're watching your friends horse balk, and your friend is kicking their legs off just to get home.  Having a horse that feels confident on the trails is SO much more fun then a horse that acts like it's about to hit the moon because a butterfly took off somewhere in China. 

Sadly, I love working on the boring stuff.  I love seeing the horses progress and mature under my guidance.  I love seeing a fearful horse learn a different way to cope (my rider will take care of all, rather then RUNAWAY).  I love the feel of a horse learning to perform a new type of movement.  The feel of a soft mouth and the lift of the shoulders for the first time.  Maybe I'm completely a dork, but I never wanted to be a big name reining/dressage/jumper/cutting/barrel/etc trainer.  I always wanted to be the one to make a good horse.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So I took my camera out today, but STILL didn't get any pictures

I know, I'm horrible!  Sad thing is, it's because I'm having more fun playing... er I mean training the horses then taking pictures of them.

Well, today was a bit rough for me.  I ran out of Potassium Bromide for my dog yesterday, and the pharmacy didn't get the script filled before they closed.  Well, normally I can wing it a bit and just give her a bit extra Phenobarbital, but not last night.  My poor Rowdy has severe seizures, and my blunder resulted in her having seizures all night long it seemed.  I think there were only 3, but each one is horrible, and lasts almost 5 minutes.

This poor dog was one of my rescue fosters.  When she arrived, I carried her up the stairs under one arm... and now she weighs 94 pounds.  A bit on the lean side back then.  Add to her problems was a history of abuse.  Someone did mean things to this dog, and if you yelled in a room she was in, she threw herself on her back and did the whole submissive urination thing.  You didn't even have to yell bad things, or yell at her.  And we learned to never stand up too fast in her presence.  The poor thing would lose it, and try to run into any "safe" spot she could find, even if she didn't fit or would get hurt to get there.

Well, as she gained weight, she also started having seizures.  She was deemed "un-adoptable" because of so many things.  In other words, I kept her, or she went night night.  Yeah, Jae didn't give me time to decide, he claimed her as his own.

So, my point is that I barely got any sleep last night.  (Yes, she got her drugs, and is doing much better.)  I woke up this morning, and started doing some paper work while it's still so cold out, then as I prepare to head outside, I realize that I completely forgot that I had to return Leah's trailer today.  Gah!

I sweet talked my father into doing it, because I had 5 hours of work, and only 6 hours of daylight left.  Thank you Daddy.

And then, there were some great rides today.  Huck was just amazing.  Now, he's not perfect, but he's just moving right along.  I took him to a new place to work today, the round pen (it's a 110' round pen, this thing is HUGE!).  He was so nice and relaxed that I walked him around it, let him look, then climbed right on.  He was still nice and relaxed, so I started working on harder things.  A few side passes, a bit of trot work, and once he was nice and warmed up, we worked on the transition from walk to trot.  This is something I haven't put a lot of work into, because I wanted relaxed basics before I work on the higher stuff.  Now that relaxed is normal, it was time.  Huck of course is a bit lazy, and would blunder into the trot eventually.  With a few simple repetitions he figured out what I want, and started giving it to me nice and cleanly.  By the end of the lesson I had walk-trot nice, halt-trot pretty good, trot-walk pretty good, and we did some yo-yo work (walk, trot, walk, halt, back, walk, trot....repeat).  Didn't take him long to realize that the cleaner he did what I asked for, the sooner I gave him a break.  Huck likes his breaks!  All in all, I have NO complaints about how he did today.  His transitions are 100% better.

Rooster also made some big improvements!  Granted, it might not seem like such a big thing, but it really is.  He walked up to the mounting block, let me step on as sloppy as I wanted to, and stand in the stirrup, lean over, pat his off side, and hop off as freaky as I wanted to, and he never got tense and fearful.  The worst he did was lift his head and look at me.  This is exactly what I have been trying to teach him.  Not that he needs to be a statue to be good, but that he can think about it, and realize that it's just stupid human stuff.  I even mounted from the offside today!  Granted, that was a bit scary, but not like Rooster has been.  Before, Rooster was ready to RUNAWAY at the first sign of anything he wasn't sure of.  Now, he's checking to see if there's a "good boy" and a pet or even a cookie in his future.

I was sorely tempted to start making laps at the walk with him, and just keep on moving, but a glance at my watch told me that we had spent another hour on step aerobics for me, and zen meditation for Rooster.  Today, Rooster was as calm as Huck was when he came to see me.  I think that's HUGE.  And I'm so proud of that red head!

And then there's Lady.  Pretty pretty lady!  This is my National Show Horse that is in for some dressage basics.  She is spoiled, but in a good way.  You know the type:  she likes to be loved on, knows she's lovely, but does what is asked of her to the best of her ability.  She is a bit hot blooded, and the rain delay was probably very good for her.  From the other horses to all the new sounds, Lady has been a bit nervous for the last couple of days.

Today, I started her on the basics of learning contact.  Lunging with side reins.  This gives me a chance to see what she knows, what she doesn't, and what her natural tendencies are.  We of course started with the side reins attached to the D rings of the saddle, and not her bridle (so she will feel them move, and won't get her mouth yanked on if she spooks).  Not a problem for her!  She handled all that like a pro.  What she did have trouble with, was coming back down to a walk, and moving above the trot into the canter.  She'll gallop full out on the lunge (she's a mature mare, so all joints are closed) but she won't do a simple canter.

So, I got her to understand my way of doing things - because all humans do things a bit differently, it's unfair to punish a horse for getting confused at that.  I got a pretty consistent walk and trot from her on verbal/body commands, and then attached the side reins at their loosest setting.  She grabbed the contact, and went right on the bit.  Well, this might just be easy!  Because of the way she moves into the canter, I will not yet ask her to do that with side reins on.

After she proved to me that she can get contact, and won't fight it, or freak out, I took off the side reins again, and started working on a canter.  Around and around she went.  She would gallop full out, or trot.  A few times she flew into this lovely extended trot, but I would hear a click which is likely her interfering with herself.  That's when the horse kicks its front hoof, leg, or sole with it's hind.  Because Lady is shod, it's very obvious when it happens.  I just kept her out of that extended trot if I could.  Tomorrow I will put bell boots on her.

She never did give me a true canter, but she did slow down the gallop a bit.  I got about 2 paces of what I wanted moving into the canter, and another 2 moving back down into the trot, but she couldn't maintain it.  Most of that is back muscling.  This means that Lady is going to get a lot of walk/trot work for the next week or so, until she can hold up her shoulders on the lunge line.

So all in all, I think it was a wonderful day.  I'm ready to get Lady learning, I'm thrilled with Huck, and I'm like a proud momma with Rooster.

Yesterday, Cowboy Magic featured the Sugarbush Draft Horse on their facebook page.  This resulted in about 120 hits to both the SDHR site, and the Iron Ridge site.  I'm so happy that people are learning what these horses are!  We have many new "friends" now, and if this keeps up, I think there's a real future out there for these horses.

And.... AND!  For your viewing pleasure.....Here is a teaser video of the Sugarbush Stallion "O" at his first show last weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's the rainy season I think

It rained all day yesterday, so I didn't get to work the horses.  Lady was still a bit nervous about her new surroundings, and while she loved her stall neighbor (the cute weanling colt Jackson) she didn't like the sound of rain on the roof, the noise of all the horses in the barn, and every thing that is new.  Now don't get me wrong, she was a perfect lady the whole time, but it was obvious that she just wasn't comfortable.

Rooster and Huck were turned out the night before.  At morning feed, it wasn't raining yet, so we left them out.  My weather forecast said rain at 3pm, so as I put on my riding attire and got ready to head out, I was surprised to hear that lovely sound of rain on the roof.  I opened the back door to a monsoon.  Ok, I'm exaggerating, but it was a solid steady and COLD rain.

Rushed out to move horses, and bring in those with out shelter.  Keeley and Jackson were VERY upset that they were getting damp.  Mom grabbed those 2, and pulled them up.  We threw blankets on my personal horses, Ash, Boo, Diesel, and Amber, and kicked them out into the pasture.  They weren't hurting, because they headed out to graze.  Then, we went to grab Huck and Rooster.

Guess who was being BAD?  Here's a hint, it wasn't Rooster!  Huck was bucking and playing and having a good ol' time.  Every time I'd walk up to him to put a halter on, he'd be off running around like a colt.  Jae almost had Rooster haltered, when here comes Huck, zipping up, sliding in the mud, forcing Jae to back out of the way, and slip the halter back off Rooster's head.  Rooster was a sweetie, and steped back up, knowing that he'd get out of the cold icky mess.  Finally Huck decided that while it was fun, it wasn't getting him any drier, so he walked up to be haltered.

The horses were all tucked safely into stalls, and given extra hay to warm them up. No one seemed to mind that at all.  The rain continued pretty late into the night, and this morning dawned bright and damp.

The arena looks like it will be dry by tomorrow, after it's tilled.  Looks like I will be working through the weekend to catch up on rain days though, but that's ok.

Today, Huck and Rooster are out running the length of their paddock, and acting like yearling colts.  They are having a ball.  Lady isn't too sure about the sights (all those other horses she doesn't know) but seems to be taking it all in stride.  I walked Lady around, and got her used to most of the facilities, and she's just so well mannered.  She's interested, and high headed, but besides that, she didn't put a foot out of line.  I can't wait to ride her!  Let me tell ya, I'm chomping at the bit to get back in the saddle.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I have come to a realization - Cloning

I have decided that I need to clone Jae and myself.  And here you thought I was going to talk about cloning horses... ha!

No, it's been one of those weeks.  The type where you have so much to do, but you aren't exactly over worked, and every thing goes just great.  Yeah, those rarely happen, so when they do, you're thankful.  Well, this is one.

I owe people stuff.  From mailing out checks, to returning a trailer, but I think I have kept in contact with every one, and they know I'm still working on it all.  (if not, email me, call, or text, and remind me!!).  Jae almost has the new paddock finished.  I think he still needs to hang the gate and run the cables (a day's work or so)... and of course painting it all.  But still, that means that the horses coming for boarding will be able to settle right in.

And I went to Sugarbush Harley's Classic O's (Yeah, we call him O for short) show.  His very first show ever, and he did great!  I was so proud of him!  I can't claim to be his momma, or his breeder, but I spent many hours with him, and cam't believe how far he's come.  People couldn't help but stop to stare at him!  And the official score card - two first places, one second place, and one third place ribbon!  Not shabby at ALL!

Picked up a new client horse today too.  Her name is Lady, and she's a National Short Horse.  That's an Arab/Saddlebred cross.  This is a very lovely, and very well mannered mare.  She doesn't like loading, and she is a bit spoiled (is being spoiled a good or a bad thing?  I think it's a good thing personally).  Lady is here to learn the beginnings of dressage.  Mostly to accept contact with the bit, and to start lifting her shoulders and bringing her hind legs under her, the foundation for collection.

Lady loaded up pretty easy.  She balked at the step, and would toss her head up, but that's about all.  There was no kicking, rearing, biting, flailing, and no injuries.  Now, once she was loaded was when the issues began.  Lady started getting claustrophobic.  It's a stock trailer... you know, slat sides, easy to see out?  Well, she wanted OUT.  So we locked her in the front section, and left her loose.  This way she could turn around (she did that on the way home) and not hang herself.  With the mid door closed, she couldn't stick her head out the back, and get damaged by road debris.  But, Lady got worried, and started pawing, dancing, and fretting while the trailer was parked.  We decided to hurry up and get on the road.

Just outside of her town, Lady suddenly got very calm, and started hauling like a pro.  The only movements from her were in Denton (about half way), where she turned around twice back to back.  When we arrived home, she was a perfect lady, er Lady.  She let me walk in, clip on a lead, open the mid door, turn her head to the front, and backed out only when I asked.  She wasn't perfect though.  As her back feet hit the ground, she started backing a bit faster then I would like, but not running away with me or any thing.  As soon as all 4 feet were on solid ground, she was fine.

Brushed the poor girl down, and put her in a nice big (12 x 16) stall with fresh water and coastal hay.  This way she can smell the noises, see the sights, and hear all the scary things with out being in the middle of them.  The barn will muffle a lot, and help her with a nice and easy transition.

Tomorrow, if the weather isn't completely gross, I will take Lady out for a walk around the property, a bit of lunging to see how stiff she is from the ride, and if all the stars align, will take my test ride on her.

Hmm, my luck has been too good lately.  I will make sure to ride Huck and Rooster first, just in case I get tossed.  I think I'm overdue for a wreck, so should be extra careful!  Murphy's law and all that.