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. 

Building A New Tack Room

Recently we've been building a new tack room in the new paddock!! Gail was able to get two paddocks side by side and decided to make one of the stalls (since we have two now) into a tack room. The tack room is actually designed so the horse can still go in for shelter but part of it is closed off by a gate, that's where we'd keep our tack and everything else (besides the feed).

And since Gail is in charge, it's going to look pretty fancy! In fact it's pretty much going to look like a dressing room! She got a bunch of different decorations for the walls (including a mirror) as well as hooks and shelves for the tack itself. Yesterday evening we worked on painting the walls in the inside a light creamy yellow. She also got some curtains that would drape down to stop any rain from coming in, but will be pushed to the side in the summertime. And of course the curtains have to have rose designs because we're going all out. 

We already have saddle racks that we'll put in there when we finish and some hooks that will be put up on the walls after they've been painted completely. Plus shelves and decorations ;)

The floor/ground started out with just pee gravel but we put down a big wood piece. The gate was welded to fit and it's awesome!!!


Trail Riders

Yesterday evening I went on a trail ride with Amber and her horse Athena. I rode Sugar and since I haven't been riding her in awhile I worked her a little in the morning before we went riding in the evening again. 

We started out on the opposite side of the trail instead of the side we usually take to change it up (the trail we took a loop). Sugar did very well and only spooked once at a deer who was laying down in the distance. But after that she did very well. Half the trail is hills that we go up and down on. This really helped Sugar with going up and down hills and through small ditches. In fact usually Athena (Amber's horse) does better but this time Sugar was basically calm the whole time and Athena was the one who came to a small problem. Athena seems to be getting a bit barn sour or buddy sour now. When we went down a hill she stopped and started backing up. She did this a few times along the trail because she didn't want to go. Apparently she does a lot worse when she's not with another horse.

Halfway through the loop on the trail we decided to check out the Sacramento river! So instead of going straight back we adventured along the river and found some beautiful places! It's so much more beautiful on horseback too. 

About 10 minutes before we got back Sugar started acting up all the sudden. At first I thought she just wanted to go home so bad. She started trotting at first and wouldn't stop and then zig zapping and shaking her head when I noticed how many mosquitoes there were. We all got them but Sugar got them the worst. Not only that but she is very sensitive to them as well. It got hard to keep her in control with traffic (we rode alongside a street to get back) and I didn't want to work her too hard so I ended up getting off of her and loosened her cinch to tell her she did a good job and so it's more comfortable. I felt bad for her, those bugs were really bothering her..

When we got back she was covered in bumps! I made sure to spray her down with bug spray, which I did before we went on the trail as well. But besides the last 10 minuets of mosquito attacks and the little spook at the beginning, she did amazing!! Even when we were riding to the river there were jack rabbits jumping close by and she didn't flinch. She spooks at unexpected things, mostly deer and birds when they suddenly all fly up. On the way back there were both and she only looked up at them. I'm so proud of her!

Spirit (13)

Today is the first day I rode Spirit (besides a little bit bareback). 

The past few weeks were very busy for me, so getting back into working every morning again was nice. But I definitely missed the busyness because most of it had to do with friends from Germany and France coming here to learn English and see America. And boy do I miss them being here...

I was also asked to work Cody (Rose's paddock mate) for a week before he's sold. 

I took Spirit to the arena and saddled her. She has a light weight saddle (but that saddle isn't very good) because she is smaller than an average horse. I did lunging for respect stage 1 with Spirit and practiced putting my foot in the stirrup, standing, mounting and dismounting. Then I actually mounted and flexed her neck from side to side. I didn't use a bridle because of the bit issue, in fact I'm not sure if she's had a bit in her mouth before or not. But I decided to do the first lessons with a halter and clip on reins since I didn't have a colt starting bridle. Although I did see a bridle in her barn, I didn't want to use it for two reasons; 1, it was a curb bit and I prefer a snaffle and 2, because I didn't want to worry about getting her used to a bit just yet. 

We did neck flexing first, then did some trotting. I did cruising with her at a trot and little at a canter. She still has a lot to learn but I know she'll be great! 

The next few times I'll work on a lot of cruising before I do more of steering her. 

Spirit's Training 2 (12)

Every day I've been working Spirit through the ground work. And for fun I even got on her bareback and worked a little on flexing, walked around and then got back off again.

Roundpenning:

Spirit is doing very well with the roundpenning! Her turns are very good! She pays attention and has hardly even complained (besides slowing down when she thinks it's time to be done). She doesn't quite follow me as much as I'd like her too but each time we finish she get's better and better. From just standing there to coming up and soon follow. 

Desensitizing:

Desensitizing to the lead rope and stick and string. I have to make sure I do this at least once (but twice would be better) every time I work with her. She has never been spooky but she always seems to flinch an inch a few times at the starting of desensitizing. It's the unexpected rope or string that is tossed over her back the first time that she flinches. The only time she moved around a lot in the beginning was 'whipping the ground' beside her. Now of course she doesn't care.

Yielding the Hindquarters, stage 1 and 2:

For the fist few lessons I did the roundpenning, desensitizing, backing up and yielding the hindquarters stage 1 before I went to stage 2. I wanted to make sure she was yielding right and all the way. The first day I got 1-2 steps, the next 3-4 steps and the next day I got her to yield a 360 on both sides. THEN I did stage 2! Which I did for the first time today. It took her about two or three faults before she got it down, yielded and faced me. 

Backing up:

I actually started backing up with her a little at the beginning before I did the rest in order. I did the first method, which is called; 'tap the air'. She is fast learner and is backing very well besides not backing straight (which I wouldn't even ask from her at this early stage). So far I've only done 'tap the air'.


So far those are the exercises I've done with Spirit.

 I've still got: 

Yielding the forequarters

Lunging for respect stage 1

Flexing the head and neck

Sending exercise 

Circle driving

Lunging for respect stage 2

Leading beside

Slap and walk, Helicopter exercise, Head shy exercise


I may have taught her 'Flexing the head and neck' before getting to that point. I got some of the training order mixed up but it worked out great! I thought it was going to be really hard to get her to flex and that's what she made me think at the starting when nothing was happening, but as soon as she flexed once she seemed to understand right away what I was asking for. So that means I'm releasing the pressure at the right time!


Spirit (11)

It's been going good with the new young mustang, Spirit (aka Snickers). The second lesson I had with her I did lunging but on the lunge line because someone else was using the round pen, and sadly there is only one. 

When I took her out in the arena I first went to the desensitizing with the stick and string, rope and a plastic bag. Snickers is much more of a calmer pony than I thought for her age (3 or 4 years old). Yeah she did spook some but not at all as much as I thought she would. She also calmed down pretty fast. 

I also did a little of a backing method with her. 'Tap the air' backing method to be exact. I was some what surprised on how fast she would try to get things down. I mean, she didn't know how to back very well at all (that's what I'd expect out of her) but I could tell she started understanding when I asked her. 

The hardest training that day with her is probably lunging. It took her awhile to understand that I wanted her to lunge in a circle around me. But I also think she didn't want to leave me either. I got a little frustrated with her at the beginning but I kept it up till she knew what to do. After she started getting it down. I didn't have much time to spend with her but the next lesson with her I want to work on yielding her hindquarters. 

So I have;

Round penning

Lunging for respect stage 1

Backing

Desensitizing

and Yielding the hindquarters


And so far this is just the second day with her. She is the sweetest pony ever!


Morning Work (10)

I have mentioned before about a young mustang pony I've been dying to work with. Her name is Spirit and she is about 3 or 4 years old. Had very little training and ridden hardly ever so this will be my kind of challenge. She is also smaller so I thought she would make a great first green horse to work with. But now that I've been working with horses a lot I don't care too much about the size.

Spirit's secret nickname (don't tell her owners!) is Snickers. I'll call her that for now on because it suits her better! XD

I was going to work with Snickers today but her owner forgot to leave a key for me so I have to wait again. I am so glad it's all planned out though! She's a pretty green horse from what I heard so I can't wait to see if I can make a difference! 

I've been asked to work with Rose and work on especially the flexing the neck. She can do it really good on the ground and okay in the saddle. One of the biggest problems is that she keeps walking off right away so I'll be working on that the next time. Yesterday we did a lot of flexing and today we were going to do more but she had something bothering one of her eyes. Rose kept tossing her head and I noticed her eye was very watery and hardly opened. I ended up taking the saddle off and putting her away after cleaning her eye as much as I could. I didn't have anything at the moment to put on but I told her owner. 

I did however take Sugar out. I worked on lunging for respect, backing, yielding and sending for the ground work. Then I worked a lot on teaching her how to rate my seat under saddle. I also did fallow the fence, a little cruising and softening her turns. At the very end I rode her out and went down a street for a little way at a walk. She get's scared of objects, sounds and feels trapped so getting her on a little calm ride was very pleasant. One of the best things about riding on a street is the *click click click* of the hoofs. I think I might end every session like that because I know it will calm her down. 

About That Day (9)

The past two days I didn't ride/work or see the horses because we had company for the 4th of July. But the day before they came I worked both horses from early morning till a little past noon (besides cleaning stalls). I haven't worked Ruby as much as Sugar partly because she had a shoulder issue. That day her health was fine and I did a lot of ground work;

Desensitizing

Lunging for respect stage 1 and 2

Backing (most methods)

Sending

Circle driving

and a little of yielding hindquarters and forequarters.

Starting the lunging with Ruby I did after desensitizing her and saddling her. I knew she would have a little bit of an attitude because she hasn't been worked recently. I've noticed that lunging for respect stage 2 is where she (or any horse who already knows it) would show the most kinks. She did buck a little when I asked her to change directions. This is almost the only time she would toss her head, kick or buck (Ruby isn't dangerous :P).

I rode her as well. She does her stops much better than Sugar does and rates my seat okay. But she doesn't keep her gait the same steady pace as Sugar does. She often slows or speeds and most often takes a gait down. So I need to work with her on that.  

Sugar I did the same training. Except with her I did a little more. I love Sugar's long smooth gaits and she never changes it, slows down or speeds up unless I ask her. She doesn't stop very well and that is probably on the top list of things I need to work with her on. I also did the obstacle course with her too. As far as fear goes Sugar is doing amazing. I still need to work on my lining up with jumps or obstacles and when to keep my feet still. 


For fun and for training (but mostly for fun) I stood on the horses. I also can lay down on them and jump or slip off them from any side of their body. This helps the horses with trust and desensitizing. Whipping the ground and walking around the horses while they stood there is also great desensitizing. I just need a bull whip now! Man can those things make noise! 

Summer Heat! (8)

It's so hot now these days! I've been gone camping last week so I recently got back to blazing hot weather. It's 112 degrees that week and this week. I didn't get to hang out with the horses since I was gone camping but now since I'm back I'm ready to go! 

The early mornings are the coolest times of the day so that's when I'll go down to ride for the first time since I came back from camping (it seems like weeks since I rode, but only about 4 days). 

While I was gone the girls got new shoes AND water misters! I went down to clean the paddock and say hello to the horses the other day and got to stand under the nice cool misters with the horses. It definitely makes a difference! I didn't even mind when I saw that Sugar rolled after she got wet and ruined the perfectly clean horse I made her into a couple of days ago. 

I am planning on swimming with them too since it's getting hotter. Unfortunately the spot Amber and I picked doesn't have any shade at all...   We might find another place that's equally good but with shade there or at least near by. It get's to be a desert out here!

Trail rides will be fun too! There are some trails I'm not interested enough to go on because of how hot the sun gets on the trail. I like ones with lots of shade or near the water. I'm glad we have our rivers, lakes, pools, and creeks (ponds and streams are usually dried out if they're seasonal). 

I've been talking so much about the heat, but one partly good thing comes out of it. Horses are more lazy in the summertime heat so trail rides are going to be easier to train them on. Although I wouldn't get to gallop them as much...

Adventuring (7)

Yesterday I rode Sugar along with a friend (Amber) and her horse, Athena. Gail and I are trying to get both Ruby and Sugar out on the trail more. Last Sunday I rode with Amber and Gail on a really cool trail! 

My last ride with Sugar yesterday was interesting. I came down a little late so I fed Ruby and took Sugar and saddled her. I didn't do groundwork because I was already late. Then Amber and I rode out together to my grandma's house by going through the hills and woods. It was a shorter ride because I didn't have time for a longer ride. 

Sugar had been eating alfalfa and in general had some energy in her. I did some work on the trail with her but not enough as I should have. Especially since she's very new to trail riding. We were almost to my grandma's house, in between two steep hills behind my grandparents' house where it meets up to the main street. I was have Sugar go in circles before taking her around a gate when a neighbor's dogs started barking. In general Sugar is fine with dogs but she was in a jumpy mind and the sound of the dogs and couldn't see them spooked her. She felt trapped between the hills and decided to the crazy thing of running up the steepest park of the hill (which I didn't know she could do). She scared me to death, I was so surprised and was afraid of her slipping and rolling down the hill. She did slip a lot on her knees but I turned her back down and was able to make it to the bottom without any of us falling or getting injured. I then got off her and started moving her feet back, forward, left and right. I did mostly sending and backing. I worked her on the ground around the gate, up the little hill, onto the main street where it was even scarier for her because of all the houses, people, cars, sounds ect. She's never been or showed signs of been scared of vehicles of any kind and as I worked her down the street the results were amazing. She calmed down very fast and was had her focus on me. Only at the starting did she keep trying to run into my space ( I had her back out of my space immediately). I did the sending exercise down the street with ease and the best part of it was that there were dogs barking on all sides and she didn't care a bit about them. When we got to our grandparents I let her rest and desensitized her. I loved how it all turned out! 

Sugar only spooked slightly when she saw some children come running out to play. I want her to get used to that. Children especially she get's scared of because they are always coming out of the middle of no where and are usually yelling or on fast bikes that make Sugar jump. I'm glad they're there! She needs to get used to that, being a arena horse her whole life.