Monday, April 30, 2012

11 - Not wanting to learn the lessons we need.

I haven't posted lately, because my confidence was a bit shaken by my sweet, predictable mare.  Looking back, I should have known we were going to have a bad day.  She CLEARLY told me that she wanted nothing to do with riding, work, lunging, her pasture mate, pretty much everything.  I've had those days.  I just didn't know SHE had those days.  I've owned her for some time, and, I guess I've just been REALLY lucky that we've not spent any time together on THOSE days.

So, the long story later.  But, the short of it is, there was bucking.  I've never had a horse with a bucking problem.  I've prided myself with starting horses the 'right' way, so that there IS no bucking problem.  And, I've started a handful of horses, so, I thought I had a pretty good thing going.

Bluebird on the fence.
But, just because I don't cause problems, doesn't mean I shouldn't be prepared to handle them.  And, I only had a few tricks in my bag.  I've ridden through bucks enough times that I had no reason for concern.   "Pull their head up, and push them on", has been sufficient.

The last time I can remember being nervous (the kind of nervous, where you wonder if you are going to fall off, not the kind of nervous where you really want to win the class), was when I was just learning to ride.  I was at a very nice hunter jumper barn called Storybook Farms, in Hudson.  I was probably about 8 years old.  I remember riding a little flea-bitten grey horse named Mouse.  Mouse kept spooking in the one corner of the outdoor ring, because there were chickens wandering around in the leaves and trees by that corner.  Every time we went in that corner, Mouse would spook.  I didn't fall, but I lost my stirrups repeatedly, and nearly came off, almost every time.  I remember being scared.  My instructor kept making me go back, over, and over again.  I did NOT like that riding lesson.  I've fallen off more than a dozen times, but, thankfully, there hasn't been that KNOWING that something bad is about to happen.  All my falls have just happened, unexpectedly, pretty much.  I didn't fall off of Mouse that day, and my sweet mare Dottie, did not buck me off.  But, they both succeeded in giving me the least enjoyable rides of my life.  It's all about the KNOWING that something is going to happen that causes fear.

I've had some time to reflect, and I can now thank my sweet mare for her nasty day; she gave me the opportunity to learn.  To become a better trainer.  I can appreciate that now, but, a week of nervousness and anticipation of what might happen on our next ride, was unfamiliar territory for me.  How else can we become better riders, unless we are challenged by our horses from time to time?  Thank you Dottie.  Let's not do it again, though.  I've learned my lesson.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

10 - Back to the lunge line

My latest way to work my horse, since the weather has gotten warmer, is to lunge my horse during my 2 year old's nap.  I put the baby monitor on the fence post nearest the house, and get to work.  I can hear him when he wakes, and, hurry inside, leaving Dottie to graze in the paddock, if necessary.

I am working on figuring out iMovie (I didn't even know I had it, until just now!), so that I can add a voice over, as to what I'm doing with her.  For now, here is the video, and, yes, I should have corrected her sooner, when she didn't walk (from canter).  She walks so well from canter when I'm riding, I guess I didn't realize she wasn't there yet on the lunge line.  That, and the bouncing lunge line (I was holding the phone/videoing AND lunging at the same time), weren't positives for her training. I should have pushed her back into the canter within a few strides, rather than waiting for a whole revolution.  Ahh well.  She is coming along quite nicely.  Compare THIS canter to the canter video a few posts ago.  I was riding in that video, which was actually an IMPROVEMENT over her canter on the lunge line.  She needed me to hold her together at the time, but, she is learning, and her condition is improving, as evidenced here!

Oh, and the grey filly, Irie, tied to the post in the background, is experiencing her own 'training' session.  She is the sweetest horse, but a nervous nellie.  She doesn't see well, due to the lack of a lens on her eye.  She was born with congenital cataracts, and had the lenses removed to save her sight.  You might see her pawing in the video, but, it is a vast improvement over the whinnying and dancing around she did when I first tied her and lunged Dottie.

I'm making a conscience effort to expose my horses to as much as I can.  Even though I don't have time to ride Irie right now, I figure this is something.  I am amazed at all I did with my horse when I was 14 years old, that my horses haven't seen yet.  But, we are getting there.  Maybe I'll try to get a tarp session on video.  That might be fun...but I'm not sure how I'll hold the phone and handle her.  Maybe my 6 year old can help :-)

I'll update with my edited iMovie version, as soon as I figure it out ;-)  For now, here is my advice for anyone working on transitions on the lunge line, use the horse's natural tendencies to your advantage.  I ask for a walk when she approaches the gate (she naturally slows), and, I don't ask for a downward transition unless she looks relaxed enough that it is likely she will give it to me!  Now, for a horse that balks at the gate, you'll have to do the opposite and speed him up, so he doesn't stop when you don't want him to.  But, we don't have that problem.  At least not right now!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

9 - I knew that.

As a stay-at-home mother of 3 young boys, I have found it difficult to work in my horse time, over the last 6 years.  But, with a little determination, and, with my boys growing older, I am finally getting back into things.
Irie, my breeding stock Paint.
A little romp.

Ironically, the more time I spend with the horses, the more 'rookie' mistakes I've been making!  It is funny how, if you don't use it, you lose it.  Not just muscles, but, even my knowledge as to what to do, and what not to do, has gotten a little bit rusty since my horses have been on vacation for the last several years.  Feeding my horses, grooming, and holding them for the farrier and vet have done little to keep my skills sharp.

Dottie in front, Irie behind
If you look carefully at the sky, you'll see a rainbow!
For example, I made the mistake of turning out my dominant mare in the paddock before my low on the totem pole mare.  As I was trying to chase Dottie away, and bring in poor little Irie, Dottie nailed Irie.  Poor Irie.  Better her that me though.  So, I took that opportunity to educate my non-horsey husband, WHY you should always turn out the horse that is lowest on the totem pole first.  They will steer clear as you bring out the boss, but a horse on the end of a rope is in a very vulnerable position.  And, when bringing them in, do the opposite, so that you bring the dominant horse in first.  I knew that, I just wasn't thinking.  Of course, I could work with Dottie on backing off, too.  All in due time.

Another "oops" was during my first ride at the indoor, during colder weather,  Dottie had behaved so well, I decided to have a little 'fun', and lunge her over a small (1 foot) jump that was set up in the ring.   I already had a successful ride, and was cooling her off, why would I start something new?  Shame on me.  But seriously, it was so small, she could have walked over it.  I didn't expect her to balk.  She didn't at first, but, she lazily trotted over it the first two times, but on the second time, she wacked it pretty good.  When she did that, I knew that she would either clear it with plenty of room, or, avoid going over it the next time.  Unfortunately, it was the latter.  I would have certainly ended the session differently, had I set out to work with her on jumps.  She was getting worked up and avoiding the jump with all her might.  She had behaved so well, and the weather was so cold, I didn't want her getting so worked up over this.  I dropped one side of the 'jump', and she finally lunged over.  I left it at that.  If she puts up a fight next time I send her over a jump, it's my fault.  But, I'll start that lesson with plenty of time and energy to finish it right.

Another rainbow pic.  And don't worry, I've since fixed the fence.

It's these little mistakes that keep me humble, I suppose.  Everyone makes mistakes, and luckily, there was no permanent damage done with these little mishaps.  But, its a subtle reminder that we always need to be playing our A game, when it comes to horses, so that we, and they, stay safe (and well trained)!

Anyone else care to share their stupid mistakes?  Feel free to leave a comment (and it's OK to link to your blog, if you already wrote a story; I would love to read it!)

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