Cruising Lesson Outside

Lately almost all my training and riding have been outside the arena. This is because, they either been trained enough and don't actually need to be in the arena or their training is now set up outside the arena. Like for instance; trail riding and the obstacle course. Even if I'm doing simple riding exercises I still like to take the horses out to a field where there would be distractions so I could work on both. They're trained enough now to where almost any distraction/spook is very easily handled. But everything had to start in the arena.

The cruising lesson (I've talked about many times before) is really important to me. It definitely helped me get comfortable when I was a beginner rider. When I was really starting out I had a hard time cantering. I've trotted so much that became a piece of cake! But since the horses I started out on hadn't had many miles under their feet my confidence was lost when the horse, instead of taking off at a nice easy lope would usually tear into a gallop. But since I've done the cruising lessons many times it's amazing how easy, gentile and long a horse can go without stopping till you tell them. 

Sugar has an amazing lope! It also seems like she can go on forever unless I tell her to stop. I've been working the lesson outside the arena in a favorite field of mine. I like the field because there's hardly any squirrel holes, there's roads almost surrounding it so there's cars going by often enough, there's a whole set up with a park, lake, community pool, club building and more. Having her able to listen calmly to me instead of all distractions around her is really nice. Especially a horse like Sugar (reactive and used-to-be arena horse only).

Horse Care

Not so long ago it was my birthday, and Gail had given me set of first aid supplies for horses. I also got a book for horse care, so I started reading up on that. I've been learning so much on training horses and understand them too, but their actual care was my weaker point. I'm going to be owning horses in my future and since I work with them daily I should know what to do if they got hurt or sick. 

I'm usually more of a visual learner and a lot of the time I don't actually know I learn something till the time comes when I need that information and I remember it. But it's also easier to hear, listen, feel but most of all see it. When the farrier comes out, I like to watch him as well as read about a horse's hoof from a book/manual. I think I enjoy most of all, when the vet comes. Probably because that certain vet tells me everything he does as well as show me, while the farrier is usually quiet (unless he's cracking jokes). 

In the horse care book I've started reading has a lot of basic cares for a horse that I already know. Especially handling one or their behavior. I'm very interested on how to tell if a horse is sick. I hear a lot about colic and causes of it, so when I'm feeding the horses I know how to avoid it as much as possible. I've talked about colic in the past posts as well as other diseases.

I can't wait to get to the part of the book where it talks about wounds! I think that's the most exciting part about doctoring a horse! 

Training on the Trails

Sugar has been my amazing new trail horse now! I've been training her from a arena horse (her whole life) to a first time trail horse. Let me just say that I can tell she loves being outside of the arena much more! Riding in the arena she'll once 'n awhile get grumpy after days straight of just the arena. She may be getting better in the arena but she's not enjoying and will show how she feels if she's always ridden in the arena (aka it's too dull for her). Early times with the horses I would not have understood how Sugar feels and will probably blame it on her and completely misunderstand her. Before, I never knew a horse could get bored of something or prefer doing certain things. 

For example; in the beginning of Sugar's trail riding experience, she's easier to handle in the arena but when I take her out on the trail it's like a completely different horse. She doesn't walk calmly, spooks at everything, not paying attention to me and keeping her eye on everything else. I would of thought "nope, she hates it, there's something wrong with her and she's way too dangerous to take out", in fact some early trainers who took her once said that same thing and gave up. But when I ride her out, she may be terrified but I can tell she's curious. It was hard for me to see that at the beginning because as she was curious, she was more thinking about running home. I've had a couple of really big ugly spooks with her, but I think we're over the worst. 

In fact I'm so used to controlling a spooky horse! I'm pretty comfortable when they spook and can end it pretty fast. I can act like it never happened which is really good to teach a horse. I also feel like I can stay on a horse. Because after all those spooks, bucking, or disrespectful horses...I've only fallen off once!! And that wasn't because of the horse at all. In fact I was riding bareback and I had lost my balance trotting (cantering is much easier than trotting bareback). So I kinda feel like I can stay on any horse, but I better not jinx myself. Okay enough bragging! ;P

Yesterday I rode Sugar on a short trail ride down to one of the creeks. I knew of a small secret trail I explored on foot a few years ago in fall and it was SO beautiful!! It was by the Sacramento river but when I rode Sugar there it was over grown with black berry bushes so I rode near by till I found an opening to a creek (a branch off from the river). 

I worked her up and down hills, ridges, ditches, logs and the creek. I dismounted by the creek and practiced sending by and in the creek. It was nice that she was sweaty and a little hot from the ride there because the creek felt nice to her to cool off. At first she avoided the water but then went in pretty fast. This is actually the first time she's been in water like this. I've taken Ruby to a lake and swam with her but this was Sugar's first time to experience water. After some groundwork I mounted and rode her in the water. She seemed hesitant going in the creek a certain way but went right away the other way. I only let her in up to her knees (I didn't feel like getting wet) but she was ready to go further. I'm really proud of her! I'm so glad we both love exploring!! 

She's going to be an amazing trail horse! I've been learning so much from her! I'm planning on going back and riding down the creek. I'll have to take my trail riding buddy, Amber with me too! 

And of course Sugar isn't a "perfect angel" yet, she always has spooks here and there. But each time I tell her and often prove to her if I can that there's nothing to be afraid of. If she hesitates a lot of crossing a ditch, I'll turn her around and make her cross it a couple of time until she's comfortable with it. If she spooks at something, I'll have her work around it until she's close enough ton touch it and will stand still dozing off. But it's harder if it's a moving "monster" like a deer or birds. So at the least I'll have her stop and face it. When we're at the stables and I see a bunch of deer I'll work my way up to them and now have her follow them. Now she doesn't get bothered by them very much anymore. She mostly get's nervous if she's not sure what it is or can't see it clearly. 

Obstacle Training

Yesterday I worked on Sugar's obstacle training. I wanted to set up a couple of jumps but I wasn't able to find the ones I wanted so I started with sending her up and down little hills. She was very good at it, except for rushing down the hills a bit too much at the starting. Rushing down a hill is actually a lazy way for a horse to climb down a hill. Taking time, picking their way and walking is using their thinking side of their brain. It's good to have them pick their feet safely down a hill rather than rushing. 

When I first brought out Sugar I could tell she was a little reactive and energetic since the last time I took her out. I started with the C Pattern and backing all the way to the obstacles. The C Pattern has her constantly having her think on the 'thinking side of her brain'. Sending her in a arc, yielding her hindquarters, giving me two eyes and sending her back in the other direction. I could do this and move from place to place. 

Backing is a huge lesson for respect. Clinton says if he had to pick only one ground work exercise it would be backing. I did a lot of backing with Sugar. When we moved to a different obstacle I would either do the C pattern or back her there. I was able to back her at a pretty good rhythm and cadence in her feet at a distance. I also checked on steering her backwards. I could tell I need to go back and work a little more on yielding her hindquarters (especially at a distance). 

Working on the little hills I have her collect her feet and I'd say she did very well! I would let her stop and rest on the highest hill whenever she stopped, to let her rest where she feels the most uncomfortable. 

After working a lot on the hills I made my way with her to a gate and a bunch of pens where the cowboys worked the cattle. She always seemed to be afraid of something over there so I had her do a lot of sending, desensitizing, resting and letting her know there's nothing to be afraid of. She was a bit jumpy and started rushing but quickly calmed down and knew from experience that if she stopped where she felt most uncomfortable, I'd let her rest and I did while I 'flogged her with kindness'. After a bunch of sending she didn't rush and even got too lazy when I asked her to go. Near there is a archery range so I did the same there. She wasn't too sure about some of the colorful targets but very soon didn't care so we moved on. 

I eventually went to the actual obstacle course. There were jumps there but mostly logs. There's what's called a cowboy curtain, teeter totter, circle logs, log jumps, barrels, mail box, gate, and some boards.  

The teeter totter and the cowboy curtain are probably the most scariest obstacles for the horses. Especially the teeter totter because the ground moves under their feet and that really frightens a horse. Sugar is really good at going over this so we did the circle logs because she isn't very good at picking up her feet. She's in general kinda clumsy. She did very good going around the circle logs. I sent her back and forth in both directions after a few full circles ending with good cadence, rhythm and she pick up her feet with no argument, fear or laziness.