Saturday, January 31, 2009

Warm and WINDY weather!

Today was about 70 degrees with winds up to 28 MPH! We got another round bale today and set that up. The last one lasted until last Sunday which was exactly 6 weeks and if he eats about 20 pounds a day that would mean the bale weighed about 840 pounds. Though, we did have to throw out the bottom portion which was about 20-30 pounds.

Anyway, I worked Pete again today. We had a refresher on cues which went well. Then I bridled him and worked him again in the bridle. Then I saddled him and hopped on. He was fine for that. I asked him to walk and he hesitated a little, but did it. His woah was fine, but he would balk and back when I asked him to go again. So, I pushed my hands forward, gave him his head, and squeezed until he went forward. Worked alright, though, once he backed into the round pen panel and actually moved the round pen a few steps. That was a scary moment, I was not looking forwards to going over backwards. Luckily, John stepped in and grabbed him and walked him forward. We just did a few walk/halt transitions and I got off. I was surprised at how little he seemed to know, but I am confident that each ride will get better.
Here is what I wrote in his log:

1/31/09 1 hour

I worked Pete in the round pen as a refresher and he did really well and responded to all of my cues. After about 4 minutes I saddled him and got on. He was content to walk around but had trouble when I asked him to stop. He would stop but wouldn't go forward again. I would push my hads forward and 'free up' his head while squeezing with my legs. This did work, but he needed constant reminding. We will try again tomorrow and see how he does.

After I worked Pete I got on Boomer. I really wanted to show John all that we had been working on. I showed him the leg yeild and it was really great today. I added a hand movement to help with his head after watching this Jane Savoie video.

The idea I took away was to turn my hand like I'm turning a key to get him to flex his head without bending his neck. Guess what? It worked. As soon as I tried that, he straightened up and flexed at the poll instead of bending his whole neck! We also worked on the turn on the haunches, which is still difficult. I guess we will just keep working on it, unless anyone has tips for us! We did more half-halting, which is really not difficult for us at the walk, haven't introduced it at the trot yet. We also reviewed the side pass. I was wondering if maybe it had been a fluke yesterday, because I didn't really 'teach' him so much as I just asked and he did it. Nope, today was the same. He side passes like 5-6 steps in either direction with no problem. We didn't work on cantering which I have been meaning to do, but I think this work is really important as well. Plus, I really wanted to show off for John all of the things we have been learning lately! Hopefully tomorrow will be less windy!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Awesome weather!

It is hard to believe that I was driving in 4x4 in Tulsa this morning because of the icy roads when the weather here at home, just an hour north, is sitting right at 59 degrees and sunny! I rode Boomer today and things were good. Though, I think he gets bored doing arena work. I let him wander on a free rein after one of our exercises and he walked to the out gate and put his head over it. I could practically hear him begging "Please, lets go for a trail ride". I told him that we could work on side passing to the gate instead.

Overall, he is improving. We started with a loose rein walk to warm up. Then we did some walking leg yields and I was impressed at how responsive he is. He isn't quite in a straight line, but he is close. We also did trotting leg yields and once to the left he actually straightened up and was reaching under himself! It was awesome! I could really feel a difference. I let him walk on a loose rein and petted him, but I'm not sure he made the connection. His yields are getting better, he can easily go from corner to corner(I guess that would be 45*?), sometimes the angles get even deeper, which is encouraging.

We worked on the turns on haunches again. He still has a hard time with that. Though he did have a few good steps. His turns on the forehand are much easier for him. Though, I really want him to get good at coming up off of his forehand, and turn on the haunches is great for that. So, we will keep working on that. I also introduced the side pass, which isn't dressage-y, but will help us open gates in the future. Wouldn't you know, he caught right on!

We worked more on walk/halt half-halt circles. He is fine at that. He also is getting the idea of moving faster without me using my voice, just legs. Though I am not sure how to differentiate that I want a faster walk versus if I want a trot. He seems to get really pissy if I apply any leg at all. Once he even went as far as to stop and toss his head in addition to his usual ear pinning. I think he is lazy and is irritated when I 'bother' him. So, I may start carrying a crop to make sure he knows I mean business.

We worked on keeping impulsion at the trot. I would squeeze him forward and then leave him alone with my legs until he slowed down, then I would squeeze him foreward again. Piaffe Dreams describes it like pushing off on a skateboard. You only use your leg when you start slowing down. I'm not sure Boomer made the connection. I know he is smart, but sometimes I wonder if he catches on to patterns.

Another thing I figured out (half-way) is his ear pinning when I mount/dismount. Today I led him up to the paddock gate to climb on. No ear pinning. So, that one was a real sign of discomfort, not just a learned behavior. Ear pinning when I dismount is totally a learned behavior. Because he makes the same face when I jump up and down next to him. So, thats what I did. I jumped until he put his ears forward, then I rubbed his neck. I started counting how many jumps I made until he put his ears forward. It went something like this: 24, 19, 12, 16, 12, 9, 9, 9, 4, 6. Then I quit and gave him some love. More next time, but my legs were some from an hour long ride and couldn't jump anymore!

On another note, I am changing his food a little. Not what I am feeding, but the amount. Right now, he is getting 50/50 Ultium/Horseman's Edge. I think it gives him just the right amount of energy. He doesn't seem to have any excess energy and doesn't act unmanageable or stupid. Which is great when he is a poop machine and not much else. But, as I start riding him 2-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes at a time he NEEDS excess energy. So, I am giving him 5 cups of the 50/50 and one cup of pure Ultium. If that doesn't help in a week, I'll do 4 cups 50/50 and 2 cups Ultium. Which is equal to 2 cups Horseman's Edge and 4 cups Ultium. If that still isn't enough come spring, I may increase the actual amount of food he is eating by a cup.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Progress and frustration

Today was my first ride in a week due to the weather being freaking cold and icy. One day was so icy I had to have the barn owner feed the horse for me!

Our ride today was good. I say that with some reservation because I am a bit frustrated with my self. I really know that Boomer is capable of much more and he is learning so fast. I really want to continue to train him to the best of my ability, but I'm afraid my ability is somewhat limiting. I have recently become fascinated with Dressage, the biomechanics of horse and rider, the subtleties of cues and responses. It is all just so fascinating. Yet, I know nothing about it.

We have been working on the turn on the forehand and haunches. He knows these. He does get a bit frustrated at first and try to go back or forward but as soon as he understands what I am asking, he does it with purpose. Same for the leg yield.

Today we progressed to leg yielding across the whole arena. To the right he can go from corner to corner. To left he can go from center line to corner. Going left seems to be his weak side for that. Although, it is totally possible that it is MY weak side which is cueing him incorrectly.

I also introduced the half-halt. We walked a circle and I stopped him at two points at the top and bottom of the circle. We did this about 5-6 times before he started to anticipate the stop. As soon as I started to ask him to stop (sit deep, close hands), and I could feel him hesitate in preperation for the halt, I squeezed him foreward so that there was just a moment of 'hang time' rather than a halt. That was a really good exercise.

The exercise that frustrated me was this. (I know, one out of four exercises in an hour long ride shouldn't frustrate me) I started on a circle trotting. The first step is to bump my inside leg at the girth in rhythm with his inside hind leg raising to encourage him to step further under himself. (got it) Next step was to massage the inside rein until he flexed in. (no clue, he was already nicely bent, were we supposed to have more flexion? I couldn't really feel any outside rein contact) Last step is to add the outside leg slightly behind the girth, no squeezing, just there. That is supposed to encourage him hind end under him. (we lost it when I added the outside leg). End result should be to have him driving his hocks under himself and staying balanced on the circle. As soon as I started to get frustrated, I quit because I didn't want to transfer the frustration to him. I SHOULD have broken it down and only done one step at a time with breaks in between until he understood what I wanted. The first step felt great once he got it. And he KNOWS how to react to my outside leg on a circle. He is usually great at that. I think the problem is that I don't properly know how to use my hands. I have soft hands from years of riding sensitive Arabians and most horses appreciate it, but I don't really know what to do with them.

So, I have been scoping out dressage trainers. I don't think it is fair to Boomer to flounder like this. He is progressing so quickly, I want him to stay interested in learning. I would havet for him to get bored or hit a brick wall because I have nothing else to teach him. Of course, I would enjoy lessons too. I love lessons! I relish the thought of getting to learn a WHOLE NEW riding discipline! My dad sent me a very generous check for my birthday so I think I will save it to use on riding lessons sometime in the future!

Alright, the weather is supposed to be FABULOUS this weekend, so I should have lots to blog about. For now, it is off to class!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leg Yielding

I have class today and have to leave for Tulsa in about an hour and a half. I have been really excited lately about how quickly we have been progressing. I really wanted to try leg yields and woke up early to do it before class. I rode for about 30 minutes and it was really windy which made Boomer spooky. I really tried to focus his mind on lots of circles, serpentines, etc. He has been seeming a little lazy lately. He always has a springy trot and fast walk when we are on a trail ride, but arena work seems to bore him unless he is actively learning something.

I started out walking on a loose rein to warm up. After a few spooks, I decided to warm up at the sitting trot with lots of serpentines. We reviewed the turn on the forehand. The turn on the haunches didn't seem to stick yesterday and I think it would be best to not introduce the turn on the haunches until he knows turn on the forehand perfectly. I was amazed at how quicckly he had learned the turn on the forehand. It was instant recall when I asked him. I was very impressed. We worked on leg yields at a walk next. (For leg yield to the right)About 10 feet from the 'wall' on the long side of the 'arena' I asked him to walk on, I shifted my weight to my outside (right) hipbone, and squeezed with my inside (left) leg back behind the girth. To my surprise, he calmly yielded over. It was a very gradual movement, and I can't be sure he didn't know he wasn't traveling straight, but we did it! The idea with the leg yield is that he will move forward while also moving diagonally towards the rail. He stays in a straight line facing foreward. His legs cross over each other. Here is a great page describing the leg yield with a diagram of the foot fall patterns. Eventually, the goal will be to increase the angle and be able to move diagonally across the entire arena from corner to corner.

Overall, I was totally impressed with his progress and willingness to learn. Unfortunaltely, my shortcomings as a rider are becoming glaringly obvious. Aside from working on the canter and athletic conditioning, I am afraid it is the blind leading the blind. I don't know dressage and I am taking what small knowledge I have of the discipline, reading and learning, and trying to apply it. But I don't have anyone who can say "yes, yes you've got it!" or "that doesn't seem to be working, lets try it a new way". Honestly, for as educated and soft as my hands are said to be- I don't know how to use them. I know the control the shoulder and my legs contrl the hips, but I feel like a bumbling idiot. Not a good feeling when you are trying to teach a green horse.

The only idea I have is to trailer the horse to Tulsa with me in future semesters when I will have 3-4 days of classes in a row and take one or two lessons a week witha professional. It looks like daily board at most places is between $10-15 and lessons are between $30-40. Best case scenario It would be $60 per week for three days of board plus one lesson. If we did that, I would be happy with putting Boomer in the big pasture for the other days of the week here in Bville for $50 per month. So, it would be about $300 per month rather than $150 per month. I'm not sure I can justify paying double what we are now with me not having a real job. We shall see.

For now, I am going to continue to work on the turns, leg yields, and cantering. I also want to make sure that we go on at least one good trail ride per week to keep the horse happy. When things start to get boring, I want to start working on the USDF dressage tests. Training through 4th level tests are posted here. These tests are the standard for all dressage riders who compete. You work your way up through each test. I am not sure, but I think the idea is that when you score two 60%'s on the same test at different shows from different judges, you are able to move on. I think it is a personally mandated deal, you move on when you are ready. I think it is pretty common to show at more than one test per show. For instance, you may show at Training 1 and 2 for a while and once you have been doing consistently well, you would try doing Training 2 and 3, etc. I also think you can cross levels and show at Training 4 and First level 1 at the same show. It is a very interesting system. There are also Intro tests A and B which are not regulated or recorded. They are walk-trot only. I have those printed off and would like to work on those at home some. It is a little difficult because I don't have an arena, so I have to guess how big my 20 meter circles are. I want to get some lettered cones so that I can have better reference points for movements. The area I am riding in mostly now is about 100' by 160'. A small dressage arena is about 65' by 130' (20 by 40 meters).

Enough for now, I'm off to snuggle with Charley until I have to leave for class.

Turn on Haunches and Forehand

Yesterday we worked on some cool stuff! Turn on forehand and turn on haunches. At first, I tried these up against a fence, which only made Sabumi want to go backwards and up, in some cases. So, instead I used the shadow from the top rail of the fence and tried again. Sure, enough- he got it! It wasn't immediate, but he got it. For turn on the haunches to the right, I put my right leg back and held it, not pressing, against his side. My left leg was active at the girth and my hands were steady, not allowing him to go forward. My left leg pressed at the girth and he would step over. It was slow, but we did it! For the turn on the forehand to the right, the cues were reversed. My right leg was at the girth, still and not pressing, but touching lightly. My left leg was back and active. The hands were the same. I pressed with my left leg to encourage his back left leg to cross over his back right leg. This was also slow and one step at a time at first, but eventually we could make a half circle along the shadow line. I like using the shadow because it is a mental/visual barrier for me but it means nothing at all to the horse. We reviewed collecting and impulsion. I really really wish I had a dressage trainer. I have no idea what we look like from the ground or how to acheive what I want us to look like. Alas, no instructors within an hour radius. And the best trainer around only gives lessons for intermediate- grand prix. We are totally intro/training level and will be for a while. I like learning from books, but there is no substitute for hands on feedback and instruction.

I worked with Pete again and was a bit miffed about a phone call I got the night before. His owner wanted to call me to make sure I would be out there between 3:30 and 4:30 because she had a farrier appointment. Of course, I had nothing better to do but it still rubbed me the wrong way that she just assumed she could use me to stand in for her appointments. To add to that, the farrier didn't show up until almost 5 because apparantly someone else had made the appointment with the farrier and she told me the appoinment was 4:30-5:30. This other girl also knew where the check was for Pete trim job. So, if the horse owner knew that someone else was having their horse trimmed and told her where the check was, why did she need me out there for it?

That aside, Pete seems to be improving. I worked him for about 20 minutes and he is doing well with transitions. He almost has all of the voice commands down. Woah is still impossible unless I step towards him. I bridled him for the last 10 minutes and worked on in hand turns, stopping, and backing. I think I am about ready to ride him as soon as my time and the weather allow. Today is supposed to be 68* and sunny and I will be in Tulsa for class. Saturday is supposed to have a high of 32*. So, I will just have to feel things out. Maybe Friday evening will work out for a ride.
Here is what I wrote in his log:

1/21/09 30 minutes

Pete's transitions are getting better. He is still slow to 'woah' and resists and pressure from a leadrope or lunge line to aid in stopping. I bridled him again and worked from the ground on turns, stops, and backing. He did very well. For yielding his sides I baked him to a fence and moved his shoulder over. This seemed to reinforce the cue w/o allowing his to back up. For moving his hips over, I faced him towards the fence- he was slower to understand this, but he did get it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Impulsion and Collection

Today we worked on impulsion and collection at the walk and sitting trot. I had introduced the idea of collection a few weeks ago by asking the horse to stop, then keeping my squeeze hold on the reins until he lowered his head and softened his neck. So, we reviewed that today. Once he had that down and was responding as fast as I was asking, we worked at the walk. He caught on quickly. His first response was to bob his head right back up. We will work on that with time. After a little while I started really asking for a more energetic walk. I wanted some real impulsion. He was good at staying 'up' in the energy level, but would lose some steam around corners or if he got distracted. Then I started asking for the impulsion plus the collection, which tended to make him break into a trot. Maybe I should ask for the collection consistently first and then add impulsion? I gave him a little break and we trotted around a little. I tried to collect him a bit and he readily understood what I was asking for! I was very impressed! So, I would like to work on more walk and trot work with added impulsion and more focus on collection. Boomer has a tendency to carry his neck high in pasture or while riding which has resulted in a ewe neck. Luckily, this is one of the few conformation faults which can be corrected! This is partially why it is important to me to help him collect. I want his to fully use and develop those upper muscles in his neck. I think it will also help him engage and lift his back.

I also worked with Pete again today. I bridled him with a loose ring, double jointed snaffle with four copper rollers on the middle part of the mouth piece. It looks like this but with 3 more rollers. It is very gentle because of the extra break in the mouth so it won't have a nutcracker effect on the roof of his mouth when pressure is applied. The rollers are copper, which is sweet and will encourage him to mouth the bit and more readily accept it. In the past Pete has been ridden in a cheap curb bit from Atwood's and a full spade. First time, he bolted. Second time, he bucked. Here is a very extreme spade bit. Essentially, it is a curb bit (has shanks for leverage) with a 'spoon' in the mouth piece. The idea is that on a fully trained bridle (Western Pleasure) horse the horse carried his head vertically. The spade rests upright as in the picture. The 'spoon' is pointed up towards the horses throat and is not uncomfortable until the horse tips his nose out- then the 'spoon' with contact the roof of the mouth causing the horse to re set his head vertically to evade the pressure. Now imagine putting a full spade on a young, green horse who carries his nose out in front all of the time! Ouch! I don't blame him for bucking the guy off! So, my goal is to reintroduce the bit as something that is not painful or traumatizing. We will work on turns stopping, etc. I hope to be able to ride him in the next 7-10 days because that is where I will really be able to start doing some good work with him.

Here is what I put in his log:

1/20/09 1 hour

I worked Pete in the round pen again and it seems as if he is really coming into himself. He is really beginning to understand voice commands. 'Woah' still needs reinforcement via me stepping towards his head, but he is getting better.
I bridled him for the second half of the lesson. I used a very gentle snaffle. It is a loose ring, double jointed snaffle. This means it has three separate sections in his mouth rather than two which creates a 'nutcracker' effect on the roof of the mouth. He has been ridden in curbs and spades before which are too advanced for a young horse. The snaffle will help him be more responsive. A curb bit is good for gaining leverage for headsets later in training.
He did well with the bit, we did turns, stops, and backing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I don't even know where to start with today's ride. We started off at a nice walk around the arena, warming up in both directions. Then we started a posting trot. It was so relaxed, even, and cadenced! We did serpentines, circles, figure eights and he was incredible. We were on a loose rein with minimal contact. He was soft and supple, responding to each cue calmly. I was in awe! I told myself to remember how incredible this feels because I may need to remind myself after we try the canter. I wasn't expecting much. He picked up the canter on the first ask each time. It was a smooth even canter, not racing or balking. We had a steady contact with the reins. I had to help him balance around the corners with my outside rein and inside leg, but other than that it was incredible. He kept it up for minimum of two laps around the arena. He stumbled once and picked right back up without any encouraging from me. John and I both had huge smiles on our faces! He picked up the correct lead every time. Each time I asked him to walk I gave him lots of neck pats and a loose rein to relax. After the fourth canter I worked on a nice slow sitting trot to make sure he could be calm and relaxed after the excitement of cantering. Oh my gosh, that was the nicest trot I have ever sat. On any horse. It was perfect. It was slow, relaxed, head down. Even stride, effortless to sit. I was in heaven riding him. I actually found myself checking my shadow and working on my posture and equitation because I didn't want to get in the way of this amazing trot!

I also worked Pete before I rode Boomer. I found out today that Pete is about 4 years old. Pete seemed to have thought things over last night and was very good today. He was more responsive. Here is what I wrote in his log:

1/18/09 30 minutes

Today we reviewed the woah, walk, trot, canter, and reverse cues. He was much more responsive today and really started to understand what I wanted. He seems to understand 'walk' as an upward and downward transition. 'Woah' is still difficult. We worked on yielding his sides again also.

Training Pete

Yesterday was my first day working with Pete. Background on Pete is as follows: He is of unknown breeding and of unknown age. He was rescued a few years ago from a place that was feeding him loaves of bread. After this rescue situation, his next owner brought him out to the place he is now, paid the first month's board and then abandoned him. After three months, the barn owner contacted the horse owner and told her that she would absolve all debt AND pay her $100 for the horse. So, now the barn owner is the horse owner as well. His tail and forelock were matted up with burrs which is why he has a bob tail and no forelock, in case the pictures made you curious! She hasn't ridden since she was a kid and wants the horse to be 'finished' before she gets on. The barn owner hired another boarder to 'finish' him and the kid got bucked off pretty much right away. I later learned that he had spurs on and had the horse in a full spade bit. So, owner's husband fired that guy and hired me because he "has been watching me train my horse and knows I can get through to them when they get stuck or stubborn". I am just so happy for the opportunity and experience!

I took him into the round pen and started to longe him. It became apparent pretty quickly that he doesn't know much. Asking for downward transitions only made him speed up, especially if I applied any pressure on the longe rope. He is the first QH I have ever worked with that wasn't fully automatic and dead broke to ride. So, it was interesting to see how he learned. After a few minutes of trying to get from walk to woah and from trot to walk without any success, I asked for more speed. I had him canter around about 5 laps until he was starting to slow down. Then I asked for the walk and got it in like two strides. I reversed him and repeated. So, after he was a bit worn out, he was ready to comply. This is so different from Arabians who NEVER wear out! I pretty much just worked on woah, walk, trot, and reverse commands. He didn't really seem to be catching on, except with the reverse- he got that down! I rarely saw him lick and chew his lips. I don't obsess over licking and chewing, but I do think it is a sign of thinking or a kind of 'lightbulb' moment. Pete didn't have many of those yesterday. Hopefully he will do better today. I also worked with him on yielding to pressure on his girth and hip areas. I like to simulate the leg of a rider from the ground by teaching a horse to move away from pressure. When I press on his girth area, he moves his front feet away, when I press back towards his flank, he crosses his back leg over and steps away. Pete did not understand this. He would lean away when I touched the girth area, but didn't quite get it. I praised him and stopped pressing as soon as he stepped, but again- no lightbulb moments for him. As for moving away from pressure at the hip- no way. He leaned INTO me with all of his weight. I will try the pointy end of a whip today to see if that will send the message any clearer. I also worked on backing him up. He just seems to be a 'heavy' horse. Slow reactions, dead sides... I am working with it, but he sure is reinforcing why I like Arabians!
I am really excited here because he spun on his haunches the second I asked for a reverse!

This is interesting because his ear is on me when I am asking him to 'woah', but he is still moving.

He went a few more steps before I tapped his nose with the whip as a visual/physical cue to stop. His ear is still on me, but no licking and chewing.

John recommends clicking on this picture to get the best view :)

The hind feet were much more difficult to move!

He finally stepped over, so he got some scratches.

I am keeping a log of hours and a journal for his owner, here is what I wrote:

1/17/09 1 hour

I worked Pete in the round pen today to test out what he knows. My impression was that he doesn't know as much as he puts on. While he is fine with a saddle and rider, he doesn't respond to 'woah' or to pressure on his sides.
My goals for him are to have him respond to 'woah', 'walk', 'trot', 'canter' and to yield to pressure on his girth and hip areas before I start riding him. Once I get on him, he will need those cues reinforced, from that point on it will just be a matter of gaining experience.

While I was working with Pete, I had Boomer tied to a tree. He watched everything we were doing. After I cooled Pete down, brushed him, and turned him out I put Boomer in the round pen. He was a bit pissy about being tied up so I worked him until he looked at me instead of over the rail. I tacked him up and went for a trail ride with John and Charley on foot. I wanted to take it pretty easy on him because he scratched his back left pastern a few days ago. It isn't bad but I didn't want it to start bleeding due to a hard workout. So, we walked and trotted some around the big pasture. He was very good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This will have to tide you over for a few days!

  • I am off to my first day of Vet Tech School in less than an hour!
  • Charley has a UTI. He had one about 6 months ago and he had had trouble urinating and had to strain to go. He also had a huge accident in the house. A few days ago I noticed that he took a little longer than normal to find a spot to pee. Then I noticed that he was more subdued and laying down more than usual. Then he yelped out of the blue. I called the vet and I was a bit hesitant to make an appointment because he was eating, drinking, and peeing fine... He just didn't seem right. So, I took him in and sure enough- another UTI.
  • I discovered how to get Boomer to drink in the winter! Fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot water, stir in a cup of feed, and watch him drain the bucket!
  • I was offered a job breaking a horse. It is a little sorrel QH gelding rescue who is probably 4-6 years old. I get the payment knocked off our board. I have been thinking of fair prices and I thinkI will charge $10/hour of riding and $5/hour of round pen work. I think I will put 3 hours of riding on him per week and 1-2 hours of round pen work per week. Sounds good, eh?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Mikey over at Horseshoeing Housewife is conducting interviews... Here we go!

1. How many close friends do you have?
I have never really been a people person. I was the loner kid who stayed in at lunch and read horse books in elementary school. I have always bonded better with animals and never really felt the need for lasting relationships. So, I would have to say: John the fiance and Charley the boxer dog. Boomer the horse is getting pretty close, we are no longer frienemys but I'm not sure we have had enough face to mane time to be considered close.

2. If you were a car, what would you be?
El Camino... wait, wait... The Ranchero- Ford's version of the El Camino! And because you know I can't resist the opportunity:
El Camino, El El Camino
The front is like a car, the back is like a truck
El Camino, El El Camino
The front is where you drive, the back is where you...

3. If you had the opportunity to switch gender for a just a week, would do it? Why or why not?
Who wouldn't take the opportunity to open the pickle jar all by themselves for a week?!?

4. In a news story about your life, what would the headline be?
I have no idea and I hope we never have to find out!

5. What's your biggest fear?
Not being in control if something were to happen when someone else was driving. I am what you might call a 'nervous passenger'. John and I joke about how I don't travel well. I think it mostly has to do with the Semi-Truck drivers though. They make me wish I had some Hennigan's for the road. Mmmm, That's Hennigan's- The no smell, no tell scotch. Oh, just go watch some Seinfeld, would you?

New career and more school!

I start vet tech school tomorrow! I have Intro to Vet Tech on Thursday evening and Biology on Friday morning. I will be staying with John's sister in Tulsa overnight. I am super excited!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weak shoulder at the canter

Mindy asked in the comments section about working with a green horse who falls out at the canter. A horse who falls out on a shoulder at the canter will drift towards the lazy side, creating a weak shoulder and a weak gait. It is not pleasurable to ride a horse in this habit.

This is an interesting problem because it is often the rider's posture which creates a horse that 'falls out' on one shoulder or another. Generally for a horse to fall out on the right shoulder, they will be on the right lead and you will be cueing with the left leg. Often the rider sits too deep with the left hip and has inadvertently moved the horse over. For some horses this becomes habit. For other horses though, one side is weaker than the other and horses are inherently lazy and will cater to the weak side.

No matter the situation, a good fix is to focus on keeping your seat bones right next to each other, not 'pumping' with your seat, and keeping one hip from drifting forward. At the same time, you can provide a counter balance with the rein on the offending side. So, you may ask for the right lead (this works best traveling in a straight line in an open space) Then focus on your hips, you want a level even seat. Steady the horse with the right rein- squeeze with your right hand while bringing it down and in and low by the withers. This will create a minimal bend in the neck and will bring the shoulder up under the horse.

Checkout Glenshee Equestrian Center for a good series on rein aids. The Indirect rein of opposition in front of the withers is similar to what I describe. The illustration is an exaggeration of what I described also. If you imagine the horse in this illustration is cantering on the right lead and drifting right, you will be able to straighten him by forcing his right shoulder back underneath him.
Also, Mugwump has a series going right now about cantering, leads, and the one sided/crooked horse. The comments on the entry Balance are useful.

Good luck and I would love to keep up to date with you or anyone else who is having a similar problem.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cantering work

Today was a pretty good day. We started out by working on sackingout with a pink pool noodle. He was spooky at first, but got over it and let me touch him all over with it. He did have a hard time when I moved on the ground and crossing it. After working for about 10 minutes, he would walk over it, walk over it while I rolled it around under him with the longe whip, and walk over it while it was on the platform. He was great about it and even stayed calm as the wind blew it around under him while he was on the platform going over it!
As I was tacking him up, he was ground tied and wandered off, so I chased him around a bit. Then he did it again, so I chased him BIG TIME. He was running and bucking and I was making him change directions a TON. Eventually he got so worked up that he started cantering and before he knew it, he was headed for the platform. I held my breath and he sailed right over it. Easily a five foot spread! Lets just say that after I finally told him "woah", he walked right up to me with his ears up and didn't move an inch while I finished tacking him up :)
I rode him in the paddock/arena for a bit, working on collection at the walk. We trotted a little and he wasn't moving out as well as usual but didn't seem 'off' or lame at all. After our warm up I asked for the canter and got pinned ears and a really fast trot. I had John get my riding crop and we tried again. The first pop didn't phase him, but the second one did the job. After he started to realize that I meant business, he started cantering at the first ask. I was really happy. He couldn't really stay in it for more than a lap or two, but that is totally fine for now. I thought it was so interesting that he just needed that little reinforcement a couple of times and then he 'got it'. He did buck on two different occasions when I was asking him to canter. It was just one buck each time and I stopped him easily and spun him in a circle to the left then right, then made him get back to work. As long as I am not bareback and riding without a bit out in the open with no helmet or supervision, his bucks don't scare me at all. Imagine that :)
I am really happy with him so far! I think I will keep working with him on the trot in the arena and alternate those canter days with trail rides. After a few more days of cantering, I think he will really relax into it and we will be able to really start working on leads. Oh, what a canter he has. He relaxed for about 4 strides on the left lead and I loosened my reins and let him have his head and his canter was beautiful. Smooth, floating, huge. Oh, it made me fall in love with Arabians all over again :)

Hangin' with the big kids

I let Boomer out into the 16 acre pasture for a few hours yesterday to stretch his legs and relax a little. I thought he could use a mini vacation, plus it was too cold to ride.
I turned him out with another boarder's horse who is also kept in a small paddock. Though the two usually fight over their paddock fence, they ignored each other and went straight to grazing. After about 30 minutes, the three other horses in the pasture came to meet and greet. Everything went well for Boomer. Though, his neighbor friend was promptly put in his place by one of the pasture horses. He continued to stay on the fringes of the herd after that. Boomer made fast friends with Pete, a chestnut rescue horse. They grazed together and wandered around.

Boomer also met a hot wire fence for the first time. He sniffed it, touched it, jumped/scrambled back and snorted pretty loudly! Then he trotted off and grazed a bit before going back to the fence, stretching his neck until he was about 3 feet away, snorted and spooked again! It was pretty funny! The horses ran just a bit, not as much as I expected. The transition really went smoothly for the herd.

When we went to catch the two horses and bring them in, I had John take a treat bucket to distract the other pasture horses (just for curiosity, he didn't feed them any). They followed him around like little puppy dogs!

Just for good measure, here is Charley in a sunbeam. He naps in this same sunbeam every morning while I check my blogs and emails!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Well, it was ugly but we did it. Working on cantering is something I have been subconsciously putting off, especially since I got a wild ride last week. Yesterday I went out around 3pm and tied the horse to a tree. Then I did my chores, saddled the horse, and left him tied. Then I started taking apart the round pen. Another boarder talked to the barn owner and explained that the round pen was unusable for weeks at a time due to a low spot that floods. So, I started taking it apart and moving the panels. They weren't too heavy and John showed up shortly after I started, so that made things easier :)

Boomer stood tied to the tree the whole time. He was a bit grumpy about the situation, but never pulled back. He was tied for over an hour.

I took him to the 'new' round pen and bridled him up and rode him around a little. He was really good but when I asked him to canter, he just sped up and leaned to the inside. I really think the round pen is too small for him to properly balance. I measured the diameter- 35 feet... Not exactly ideal!

I took him into an empty paddock to use as an arena and worked on trotting serpentines in there while he loosened up. Of course, the horses in the paddocks on either side were running and bucking along side us, so we just stayed at a nice slow trot until the other horses lost interest. Boomer was really good about that. He pinned his ears at one horse, but never rushed or felt out of control. When I asked him to canter, he sped up his trot and got a little fussy with his head. I brought him back down to a sitting trot and worked on circles more. The second time I asked, I got just a few strides. I gave him a pat on the neck and let him walk on a loose rein before trying the next side. The only other time we have cantered was in a straight line in the big pasture (and when I almost died last week). As you may recall, Boomer has a hard time balancing at the canter on the longe, unless he is in the round pen. He needs those walls to tell him when to turn or he sees the fence approaching and panics, putting on the breaks. So, I was happy with just a few strides. After getting a few choppy strides in both directions and then relaxing for a few minutes, we tried again. This time we got about one and a half laps to the left around a 50 foot circle in the arena. I gave him lots of praise and we relaxed again. To the right, we got two laps. I really had to hold him in it with my legs, squeezing the whole time. I also had to steady him with my hands. I have a tendency to revert to my saddle seat riding position when he gets racey because his head comes up. This is much preferable than his head going down... followed by a buck! So, I had my hands higher and helped him balance around the turns. Though it was ugly, unbalanced, and fast I was happy with the effort. After all, what in our training so far hasn't started out ugly?

After that, I called it a day and cooled him out, loosened his girth, and tied him back up to the tree. I took his saddle off, brushed him, and watchced another girl work her horse for a while and then put him away and fed him. I bet he spend almost 2 hours tied up today and he never even offered to pull back!

Charley also had a grand time yesterday. He discovered an abandoned Jolly Ball and played with it for at least an hour without interruption!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trimming hooves

I have been reading about trimming hooves for a few months now. Barefoot for Soundness and Ironfree Hoof are both great sites. I have had Boomer trimmed three times since I got him. He seems to do best with a bit longer trim every 6-8 weeks. He develops flares in the same places- inner heels on front and back and outer heels on front if they grow out too long. I have learned about the basic mechanics of the hoof and one thing I have learned is that flaring is caused by the hoof wall contacting the ground and bearing weight. To prevent this weight bearing contact, you should give the horse a 'mustang roll'. Esentially the process is this, or a variation of this, depending on who you ask: Start by filing the bottom most edge of the flare perpendicular ot the ground. This is done with the hoof stretched out in front, resting on my knee/hand. Do not file the whole flare off or this can weaken the hoof wall. This step keeps the flare from contacting the ground as the hoof grows out. Next, hold the (well cleaned) hoof like you are picking it out. You can put it between your knees or rest it on your knee. Now, rasp the hoof wall at a 45* angle from the sole of the hoof. Start at the toe and rasp around to the bars. Essentially, you rasp the wall down until you get to the white line, which seperates the wall from the sole. Now, rasp straight across the heels. Leave them a bit longer than the heel area on the sole. Trimming the heels too short can cause soreness when on gravel, which Boomer has had difficulty with. Now, turn the hoof back over so it is in front again and use the fine side of the rasp to round the angle you made earlier. This is the mustang roll and it prevents more flaring from occuring due to hoof wall bearing weight.

I like to do each step to each hoof before I move on to the next step so that he will be balanced should I need to quit before I am done. When I was finishing up the back feet, boy was I ready to be done! My arms were so sore! The left one especially at the tricep and forearm!

I was so proud of Boomer. I put the rope around his neck and he stood there calmly the whole time. He pulled back when I had his hoof between my knees, but was fine if I held it any other way. He was very interested in the rasp and nibbled on it a bit! He liked rubbing his lips over the fine side of the rasp!

I plan to do a check up trim every four weeks or so. I didn't take the hooves down as much as a professional would have. I also was not sure if my 45* angle was quite 45*. I did feel like I did a pretty good job, though, I wouldn't pay me to trim someone elses horse!

My hope is to keep a barefoot horse who has strong hooves and can do most trails without hoof protection. Ideally, he would not need any protection ever. But, he lives in a grass pasture and has limited access to gravel. So, the fact is that he will never develop a truely hard hoof in his current living situation where he encounters gravel twice a week in 50 foot intervals. I would like to try riding as many Oklahoma trails as possible without boots to gauge his progress in hoof hardness and learn what surfaces he can tolerate over what distances. When he does need protection I plan on using Renegade Hoof Boots. They, like Easy Boots, are expensive($169/pair) and useful. Renegades are easier to put on than EasyBoots, they attach lower than the coronary band which can keep rubs from occuring, they have open backs which allows water and debris to exit, and seem to last about 500 miles, and they come in cool colors! Though, after doing the math, they really aren't that expensive. Renegades are maybe $20 more than easyboots per pair. As for shoes, to shoe a horse for 10 rides (500 miles) it would be about $50-$70 per ride making a total cost of $500-$700! I would say that $340 over the course of a year or two would be a really worthy investment over putting metal shoes on my horse at a huge expense! Plus, I like knowing that I can be responsible for my horses feet. I don't want to depend of a farrier to care for my horses health!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


We have been keeping up with the platform. He walks over it going both directions with me on either side. He will stop, back, up, and come back over it with no trouble. John had the idea of putting more posts under it to raise it another 4" to be closer to the height he will have to step to get into a trailer. Right now it is about 5" high. We haven't worked with the tent again yet, that seems to be a weekend project with the sun setting so early. I have been leading him from the off-side more frequently. We have also been working on trotting in hand. He doesn't get it yet. I start him off by having him trot around me on the end of the lead rope for about a half lap and then I start jogging next to him in a straight line for about 15-20 feet. He mostly looks at me a little confused. He hasn't gotten it yet, but he also hasn't gotten frustrated, which means we are pretty close!
I am really getting excited with the thought that this could be my first ride year for endurance! First things first, we still need a trailer and I need to work on making sure I am confident in my control at the canter. Outside of that though, I am SO READY to haul out to local lakes for fun practice rides as well as competitive events! The first event within a reasonable distance this year in in the beginning of April in Collins, Missouri. Other than that, the only other rides this year which are not in Texas are in September in Oklahoma and in October in Missouri again. There are many rides throughout the season in Texas but they are all a minimum of a 7 hour drive. Last years results show that there were many more rides in Oklahoma, maybe they just haven't been listed online yet?
Either way, it will be a really great learning experience to trailer the horse around the state for training 'runs'. That is so totally my idea of a fun weekend!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My man is like my horse...

You can look, but you can't ride!

That's a bumper sticker John and I saw today... We just about died laughing!

We decided to take advantage of the 75 degree weather today (???) and spend some hours with the horse. We saddled up and rode out in the big pasture for almost an hour. We walked only. I wanted to make sure that the ride following the mega blow up was nice and calm. We will work on cantering again some other day. With people around. And helmets on. The ride was wonderful. Nothing exciting, which is good :)

Standing tied to himself, he is getting very good about standing still. Notice his ears forward while I rub his girth area.

Still being pleasant while we tack up.

Neck massage. He really loves being petted. His forehead is his favorite spot, closely followed by his upper neck area.

Walking on a loose rein.

Walking by the pond.

After the ride we decided to work with the platform. I rode him over it once, which was easy. Then I fed the horse and we set up a pop up tailgating type tent over the platform. For the last few days, I have been walking him over it and he has been fine. When we introduced the tent, Boomer mostly wanted to look over the top of it, but wasn't tall enough. I worked mostly on keeping him calm. He was hesitant at first, but eventually walked under the tent and next to the platform. He did that twice and then the third time under, he walked over the platform! He is still having trouble with me leading him from the off side, so we are focusing on getting 100% on the near side, then when he is more confident that the tent won't eat him, we will work on the off side.
Checking things out. The wind was blowing and John was holding the tent down. The noise was still scary.

A really great crossing! I am so happy with how calm he stayed this whole time. He really never got excited, which is the key for training him- I think. He must never get excited, as soon as he does, he loses his marbles and reacts without thinking.

Occasionally, he would balk at the tent/platform. As soon as he put his head up and leaned back, I backed him up and made him side pass, etc. Then I would lead him forward and he would calmly walk under the tent. I was really proud of how calm he stayed the whole time!

Here is the result of our first attempt. We backed up and the tried again.

Here is the first time we crossed over the platform.

Here is another crossing. I asked him to 'woah' in order to get a pause from him. He didn't stop, but he did hesitate. I want for him to be comfortable enough to stop and stand eventaully. This is a good start!