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. 

I have a new horse to train!

Last week I was asked to train a quarter horse using the Clinton Anderson Method.  I've taken care of feeding Rose and her paddock mate, Cody, when their owner Gary left on vacation. Now, Gary would like me to use some of the methods to help his horse Rose.

Cody (a Bay horse) has gone through the Fundamentals training method with Sarah (the trainer in Reno). Rose has not had any method training. Rose needs to learn respect and Gary and his wife would like to have a better trail riding experience with the horses.

My plan is to work Rose a few days a week. I will report on Rose's progress.

In the works of Ruby

Yesterday (Wednesday, April 6th) I worked Ruby and planned on working on her buddy sour issues.  I got her out and for fun and to test her, I took her lead off. I am able to get her to follow me around in the arenas and paddock without any lead. On the way I stopped, had her back up, and then if she started to walk away I would just look at her hindquarters and she'd yield and face me. I could back her up pretty well by adding some pressure when I'm facing her.  Or if we're side by side I could lean back and walk backwards. I could usually get her to trot by leaning forward but she's a little sketchy so I sometimes need to help her. 

When we got to the arena I decided not to work on her buddy sour with Sugar but just worked her in the arena, especially backing, lunging for respect stage 2 and the sending exercises. It was a little windy/cold and at the end it started to rain lightly so Ruby was energetic. 

CA method groundwork: 

Backing (all methods)


Circle driving

Lunging for respect stage 1 and 2

Yielding forequarters and hindquarters (1 and 2)


Flexing from side to side

CA method in the saddle:

Yield to a stop

Rate my seat

One rein stops


Follow the fence 

Tight circles

Gate sour


Flexing from side to side

While I was working on follow the fence a little bird on the ground started chirping at us from the ground. Ruby spooked a little bit but the next time we came around I could see that the bird was on her eggs and this time she came flying at Ruby. Ruby spooked a lot this time but thanks to the method, instead of falling off or Ruby running/bucking off wildly I had her yield her hindquarters while making our way away from the bird. I kept her busy moving her feet while turning in circles until she calmed down. If I hadn't brought her head there's a good chance I wouldn't be in the saddle and she'd be running off. So I loved how well it worked when she spooks! 

Last days with Shelbi

There's been a lot happening with the horses lately. But I'm going to talk about the last few days I had with Shelbi before she left for her home in Wyoming. 

For the first part, we started in the paddock. I met up with Gail and we talked about the lessons while we groomed and desensitized the horses before Shelbi arrived. My little sister stayed a little bit for the grooming and was excited to brush "the white horsey's tail" (Sugar). When Shelbi arrived, she had Gail start on the lunging for respect stage 1 and 2. I had completed that and a couple others and all I needed was practice on the sending exercise. After a bit I took Ruby to the arena and left Shelbi and Gail in the paddock while I saddled Ruby up. Ruby is very impatient when it comes to being tied up, so it will be my goal to fix that. 

I rode Ruby in the arena for bit and worked on one rein stops. I also worked her by the gate where she wanted to stay, and I rested her at the farthest end of the arena, until that wasn't much of a problem. By that time Shelbi and Gail were there and saddled Sugar (Gail got a beautiful new saddle!!) and they did some more lunging in the arena. I circled Ruby around them for awhile and rested her at the farthest end of the arena like I did with the gate. I do this because I could feel that Ruby wants to go where she thinks the ride is over (for instance: the gate or to Sugar because she's buddy sour). So if I work her there she doesn't want to go there as much and won't argue with me. 

I actually rode most of the time outside the arena. I took Ruby out of the arena, leaving Shelbi and Gail to their lessons and rode Ruby around the arena for a change. Then I rode out in a field nearby and practiced the one rein stops. Gail and Shelbi moved to the round pen where Gail was to be more comfortable to learn the one rein stops without worrying about steering. I worked Ruby near the round pen and rested her out in the field (repeatedly doing this). 

I've mentioned in the past posts that there's a girl (14) who has her horse there. She has a horse named Athena and her mom has a horse named Duncan, both of which I take care of when they go on vacation. Amber (the girl) took Athena out and we both ended up riding and talking together while Shelbi did the last lesson with Gail. 

Gail said that in the past Ruby doesn't take to other horses and can be unfriendly towards them so I kept that in mind while I rode with Amber. But Ruby did mind Athena and they both got fine together. In fact they were "too fine", Ruby especially got attached and didn't want to separate from Athena. So while Amber walked Athena I trotted or cantered Ruby around them and rested her a little ways off. But I only did this when Ruby tried going back to Athena on her own. We had had fun cantering both the horses in the open fields and took turns going over this little hill (more like a big mound). Amber pointed out that Ruby had very fast gaits compared to Athena. She made me laugh when she said that when Ruby walked, Athena had to trot just to keep up! 

I love how Amber can just take Athena out and ride her very easily. I can do that with Ruby, but for Ruby and Sugar's buddy sour, they don't like to be separated and they whine about it. Athena and Duncan aren't buddy sour which is so lucky for them! ;P

Amber commented on how she wished Athena could tight turns and back up as well as Ruby could. Tight turns I think are easier once she can flex from side to side. Backing up was challenging with Ruby. She's a very testy and pushy horse and she hates backing a lot. Her early stages were not that pretty. Sugar is a lot easier to back up. I'm sure Athena will be a lot better than Ruby for sure and maybe better than Sugar if she had the same training. 

Fundamental Riding lesson: One rein stops

My last lesson with Shelbi was on Thursday the 16th. It was also the last day before the weather got worse (except for one partly sunny day in between). We did riding this time! We did ground work for the first half and then we rode. Shelbi had me practice the one rein stops at all three gates. We actually ended up doing almost only one rein stops because Ruby and I still had a lot to learn. Ruby was rusty and I wasn't very balanced when I did one rein stops at a canter. In fact, I don't canter as much as I should, so I needed to loosen up and go with the flow. 

We did the riding in the round pen with Shelbi in the middle. At the starting lesson of the canter she wanted me to get used to it so she lunged Ruby.  There was no one riding her and I had to rub all over her while she cantered around. I don't sit up straight enough in the saddle (especially at a canter) and I don't keep my heels down in the stirrups all the time...

If Ruby doesn't respond to me relaxing at a walk (cue to stop) then there's no way she's going to respond when cantering. We got a few good stops at a walk and a few slow downs trotting but other than that we didn't get anything better (which is normal). 

In the past when I rode her I was actually able to get really good stops just by relaxing in the saddle. Ruby even took a few steps back on a few of them. She did some at a trot as well but since I didn't canter as much, I didn't get anything out of that. The more I ride, the better the both of us will get!