Street trail ride

Yesterday was a beautiful day! Sunny and almost too hot. But everything looked like spring!

Amber and I decided to go trail riding and this time we took the streets for a change. I usually don't ride the streets, and the three biggest reasons: Afraid if the horses spooked into traffic, pooping in front of someone's driveway, horse (most likely from falling) get's away from me and runs home. 

Those are just my main reason why I don't ride through the streets. I'd like to a lot more to help Sugar get experience it. But at least we were able to yesterday!

It's really important (especially for a trail horse) to change the "scenery". If I just worked with Sugar in the arena only she will do very good in the arena. But only in the arena. Each time a horse is introduced to a new environment they're distracted. Especially a nervous horse. They'll see and hear things they may have never seen and heard before. It can get messy and very difficult if you're not prepared. Never assume a horse will act fine when you bring them to a new place. That's why I try to have Sugar work in as many different environments as possible. A arena is very different than being out on the trails. Riding through a neighborhood is very different than the trails. 

We went over a little bridge that goes over a little piece of the lake. It's so cute to see how curious Sugar can be in new environments! There's just a lot more all around her and a lot closer which can be really frightening but she handled it very well. The day before I worked on redirecting her energy every time she got nervous or spooked that when I did this same trick yesterday she calmed down a lot faster and would take a little more time to think about it before really spooking. I think another issue was there are just a lot of dogs around. When we were going down the street a dog came running out of a house to chase us at the wrong time....just when some cars were about to pass. I really hate it when that happens...

She did spook a bit but not too bad. However she did run out a few feet into the street. Thankfully we don't have really narrow roads and there'll be empty lots in between a lot of the houses. That's about really the only scary incident we had. 

We rode to Amber's house where we drank ice water and ate donuts! Then we rode to a little park next to her house that's near the Sacramento river. 


After that we rode around the lake to beach where we rode into the water. I've actually never taken Sugar in the water before. I have had her wade in water maybe up to her knees but never actually taken her in for a swim. I had left her halter and lead on so I could do some groundwork by and in the water with her. But I didn't need to introduce and groundwork into the water. She LOVED it! 
Normally when I take a horse to the water more or less for the first time, I'll do some groundwork instead of going straight into the water. Horses can't tell how deep the water is. So a lot of the time a horse will try to avoid water, even a puddle. And when they're in the water they might get nervous especially getting deeper. BUT they are natural born swimmers! So you don't have to teach them to swim! And in fact, horses in general LOVE swimming! And I can tell Sugar LOVES swimming! She had no hesitation and probably would of swam across the lake! She wasn't over excited either. She just walked in and was very light in my hands and feet. I took my boots off and in my bare-feet she was VERY light. Amber and I thought about unsaddling and getting completely wet but we decided to do that a different day. Although we ended up very wet anyway! 

The way I introduce Sugar to a new object or in this case, water, I use Clinton's method. I'll make the water look easy to be in and where ever she wants to go/the land look hard. What I mean by this is I work her out of the water first. Then when I send her in I relax and not hurry her. If she wants to investigate, that's awesome! She can sniff and even play with it before fully stepping in. But each time I want her to go further and further. When she's on land she has to work again. When she's in the water she get's to rest. 
In Sugar's case however I didn't need to do this really at all. She had no problem walking right in the water. Some horses will be nervous about it at the beginning and some will take right to it. Every horse is different.
When I took Ruby swimming she seemed to love it too but was pretty hard to handle. And seemed picky some days as if that day she didn't care for a swim where as Sugar was very responsive to me obeyed on point. Ruby does need a lot more work but Sugar is my main horse. She's younger, more willing and a bigger challenge!
Ruby is more Gail's horse. 

Spook Alert

Yesterday, when I was working on Sugar's stops and practicing rollbacks, I was riding her past the lake. There was a guy there fishing and he was just getting back into his pickup when both of his dogs saw us and took off towards Sugar. I know that the dogs wouldn't hurt her, they're always more excited than anything else and even if they did get close enough they would probably be the ones hurt. I'd be next. But besides that...

I'm so glad I know how to take control of her even when there are dogs chasing her because that's very terrifying for her. I flex her neck around which basically puts her in a bind. She did move around run a little but overall wasn't as terrified as I thought she'd be. She calmed down right away when I gave her neck back and just stood there with not a care in the world. I think she might of been a little more scared of the man yelling and chasing after his dogs but Sugar only ran a few strides before she calmed down and when he got his dogs back I released her. This all took about 10 seconds. 

I'm so proud of how well Sugar does. When she does spook at something I redirect her energy and start moving her feet. When we stop it's that much easier to stay calm. And when she does actually get scared of something she'll just perk up a little or she does freak out and runs a few yards but then calms down very fast. It's usually something unexpected or far off where she can't make out what it is. I do however might need to put more desensitizing in with different objects and things that makes sounds. I skip desensitizing quite often recently because she hardily if at all needs it. But I want to keep it up and introduce her to new things.  

More Advanced Training

I really wanted to have Sugar do rollbacks. And if you don't know, rollbacks are very common in reining horses or cow horses but are also taught for other uses too. A rollback is where you are riding at any gait (usually at a canter), stop, horse pivots on his hindquarters while forequarters do more or less a 180 and head off in the opposite direction or maybe a right angle. Might be a little hard to picture so here's a gif: 

I've watched Clinton show how to teach horses do this. Although I think I need to do more of my "homework" and make sure Sugar knows how to stop better. Her stop is really messy and that's if she stops off my seat..
But today I worked on her stopping, backing, spinning/yielding forequarters and then towards the end I practiced a little rollback stuff along the fence. She actually backs up with energy but sometimes at the beginning when I ask her she get's "sticky feet". I didn't work in the arena this time. I did all this out in a field instead. For the rollbacks, to help her move her forequarters around instead of just going forward and turning, I used a fence to block her from walking forward. I didn't have enough space at that fence to canter her in circles so I went along fences practicing rollbacks going back and forth. This actually helped her slow down especially if when we were going in the direction of her paddock. She figured out we were just going to do more rollbacks again instead of going straight home so she slowed her pace to a easy canter or trot. (I did a little on cantering and more on trotting because I still needed to get her stopping down).

When we're about to (attempt) a rollback, I'll say "woah", sit/lean back, open my inside rein and put pressure with my outside leg near her girth. Usually when I turn I use my inside leg/spur to round her turn but with rollbacks I'm actually asking her to move her front end over. I do have a habit of doing the wrong leg at the wrong time which will teach her wrong but at least I know what to do! More or less since I haven't actually taught a horse that yet. I also want to learn how to sidepass:

But overall I'm not very experienced yet and neither are the horses. I also need to make sure that they know what I can teach them now/the Fundamentals. I don't want to start jumping ahead and not be prepared for it.. :)

Chill, loose rein, no problem

Most people, when going out on a trail ride, like to stay at a nice peaceful walk and if with friends, chat the whole time. So most people don't like a horse that hurries... breaking into a trot, zig zagging on the path and just making for an uncomfortable time. I not only want the horses be able to walk easily and calmly, but to also trot and canter when want to, on a loose rein and a slower, steady pace. They're not in a hurry to go anywhere. I want to feel like we could walk, trot or canter for miles with no sweat. The paces shouldn't change to fast and hurry. 

Either on the way out or on the way back, horses like to hurry right away, more often the hot blooded or younger horses. Or there's the horse who does have a nice steady, easy walk but they could be the lazy ones that have a hard time picking up a pace any faster than a walk. These horses are usually the cold-blooded or/and older horses. With Sugar, she's got more of the first problem. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

In the past she would always wanted to trot off right away. Especially in the beginning she was very excited and nervous because of being out on the trail and not in the arena. I've worked a lot on her spooking and just exploring new trails where there are always obstacles and new objects she needs to learn to go through, over, around, and just be next to without having a heart attack. 

But besides being spooked (which now she hardily ever does at all), I needed to teach her not to hurry. I teach her while I'm teaching her everything else on the trails. Because hurrying from place to place doesn't necessarily mean the horse is nervous. It can mean that, but it also can mean the horse is ready to be "done" with the ride. When they're like this, they don't pay attention to you a lot of the time. 

I work with this problem by moving the horses' feet. If they want to trot, I'm actually going to let them trot! But I'm going to make it "my" idea. I'll trot them in circles and just move they're feet around until it's just not really fun anymore for them. Then I'll walk them again and if they try to trot again I'll bend them around and move their feet around. This is to make it feel like what they want to do is work. Then back to a easy straight line walk, no work. I'm making the walk feel so easy until that's what the horse really wants. Sometimes it takes a lot of bending and trotting around and sometimes it takes once before he settles down to an easy walk. But the more I work with the horse the faster I get the results until the horse doesn't even dream of hurrying off because he knows it's just mean more work again. 

I can use this same technique if the horse is in a hurry to go to a certain place, like to the other horses or back to the barn. I'll work that horse around the barn and make it easy to walk away and rest where wanted to go. This helps with buddy/barn-sourness. 

Another thing I can do, is when I ask the horse to trot or canter down the trail it might be uncomfortably too fast. So I'll pick a tree out and circle that tree a few times, working his feet, then trot or canter off again. But I won't go far until I circle another tree. Depending on how much of a hurry he's in, I'll circle that tree a lot or maybe 2 times before heading off to another tree. It slows the horse down because he'll realize that each time we come to our destination he has to work again. He'll get a slower and easier pace. I can build off of that by making my distance between trees greater. So instead of just a few strides and another "work zone tree", it might be 10  seconds, then 30 seconds, then a minute or two, staying at a nice steady pace. Then I could canter down the path with no problem. The only time I would work him again would be if he quickened his pace without me asking him or I might circle a tree once in awhile down the road. And the longer I walk, trot, canter, the better. He'll have more mileage under his feet and both of us will enjoy the ride SO much more!  

Trail Ride Training

Sugar has been really showing how good of a trail horse she is! 

Yesterday I worked with her; climbing hills, herding cattle, working on different gaits (including galloping). We were pretty far out in the hills for a few hours. I was with my friend Amber and her horse Athena.


We climbed a steep hills which really helped Sugar. I've noticed a lot though, that she hates walking in mud or water/puddles. She's actually okay it's a stream but mud and small puddles she tries to avoid. She's not terrified but she'll most likely jump over one if she can't avoid it from me. So my new small goal is now to have her get muddy! 
When I introduce something new to Sugar, I start usually with groundwork depending on what it is and how well she is with it already. So for the puddles I don't actually need to do groundwork although that would help a lot too. She does walk through them but more times out of not she will avoid them. Most of the puddles we encounter are on the trail anyway so I don't want to bring my handy stick out there. So if I do do groundwork, I'll leave the halter on and send her back and forth through the puddle. It's not as good as having a handy stick with me but she's good enough at the ground work to know how and to respect me. I'll make the puddle look easy and everywhere or anywhere else she wants to go looks hard until she wants to go into the puddle. 
So basically I work her a lot outside the puddle and then when I send her into the puddle I make it easy for her. And of course for the first few times she'll avoid them but not too long she'll gladly go into the puddle. The next day I might ask her to go into the same puddle and she might avoid it even though the day before we worked on it. But each time it get's easier and easier until it's not a problem at all for her to walk into the water or mud. 
I can use the same technic in the saddle. I work her outside; moving her feet in circles forwards, backwards, left and right. Then I have her walk in the puddle and try to make it as easy as possible. If she stops, the better. I'll rest her in the puddle! She'll find that the rest is in the puddle and there's nothing to fear. Horse have a hard time with water because they can't tell how deep it is. That's why most horses will act like a puddle could be a 100 feet deep. It's my job to prove to them that there's nothing scary, trust me and teach them to obey me if they want to chose a different way out. 

Sugar has been doing SO well climbing hills! She stills needs some work with ditches however but besides that she's a natural! I'll always have her going up and down hills to have her slow her pace (especially downhill). But even downhill she goes well walking and only when she wants to get back home faster will she really start trotting. 

In the past Sugar was terrified of deer and cattle. I mean she used to get REALLY worked up about them! They could be far off and she's in the round pen, but she'll be snorting, tail high and racing around. NOW she's practically touching (if only they didn't run off). I have her chase them and honestly she now seems really excited cows around that I actually have to stop her!

From a arena horse who's never been out on the trails before in her life to a becoming best trail partner ever! I really think she enjoys the trails a lot more than the arena. If we're in the arena I feel like she get's bored after awhile of work on certain things that I have to keep changing it up. But when we're on the trails we're always exploring and just the excitement of it or calmly and lazily walking down a familiar old trail never get's old with the two of us!

Jumping

I've wanted to start doing a little jumping (western style) with the two horses. I'll start with groundwork, jumping over obstacles and small jumps (logs mostly). 

I'm going to start with Sugar. Sugar has a very good body type, more athletic than Ruby but she doesn't pick up her feet enough. I want to teach her to concentrate on where she puts her feet. In the beginning working with her she used to slip quite a bit. She'd get her feet tangled up and can trip on nothing when cantering. Since then she's a lot better! I think especially those hills and ditches I've had her go through definitely helped her a lot. 

I don't have a lot of things to set up for the horses to jump. The obstacle course there is very small and overall....pretty bad in my opinion. I want to set up my own obstacle course in a bigger space and more jumps. If I did it would have to be pretty "natural" looking because it wouldn't be on my property of course but somewhere near enough and where I'm aloud to ride anyway. So I might clear something and set up logs and branches for jumps. 

Yesterday I set up a jump in the paddock and had her jump over it for a little while. I didn't have a lot of time to spend down there so I mostly cleaned the paddocks, ground-worked Sugar and spent the last minuets loving on her with hugs and rubs. 

I haven't been down to the barn for awhile, one of the reasons was because it's been raining a lot. Can't wait for summer...

I think Ruby might like or be better at jumping than Sugar. But in general Sugar is more willing to do what I tell her, younger, and at the moment better on most things because she's been trained more. 

This is Ruby from awhile ago when we went to Nevada: