Saturday, June 21, 2008

I love my horse, I love my horse, I love my horse!

Just had to say it. I am so fortunate. I am grateful every day to have this absolutely wonderful VLC that is just sensible and reasonable and sweet and wants to do the right things. He is the easiest personality I currently have to deal with in my life - horse or human. We're starting to lope now and it couldn't be easier. He's got this perfect little soft, smooth lope. He doesn't try to speed up. He has never tried to buck. He has absolutely no problem being collected even though he's totally green...he's not on his forehand, he's not leaning, he's just not doing anything wrong. It is mindblowing to me.

(I mentioned this in the comments, but the breeder is downsizing and the VLC's dam and his full sister - weanling buttermilk buckskin filly - need a home. The prices are right to a good home and terms are possible. Email me if you have an interest. The filly will be as nice as he is, guaranteed. I'd be happy to break out the mare if desired, n/c except board/feed.)

Now I have to work on the feet again. I admit I put it off. I get to the end of the evening, which is when I should do it - when he's been ridden and he's tired. But the end of the evening lately has been between 10 and 11 PM and I have to be up at 5 AM. I just haven't had the energy. No matter how motivated you are, we can all only run so fast and so far and I'm feeling it. Last night I meant to get four horses worked, and I got two. I am trying to get on that staggered schedule but some evenings I am just toast after doing chores and can't summon up the energy to ride. I was thinking back mournfully to the days when I used to ride 8-12 a day, no problem...and then I remembered, that was my job then. It wasn't that I had to go to work from 7 AM to 5 PM, and then do chores and start riding. Heck, most of that time, the horses were boarded or I worked for people who had barn help. I didn't have stalls to clean or hay to throw or buckets to dump and scrub. So it's not just that I'm double the age I was then - there really is more actual work to do. I need to stop beating myself up over my perceived lack of accomplishment. I am doing the best I can, and that's all I can do. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way...we all need to stop trashing on ourselves for not being superhuman.

I did ride both the VLC and the Small Spotted Gelding last night. This was ride #6 for the SSG. He is funny. He started out really, really well but when I asked him to circle through the middle, he discovered he could grow roots.

SSG: Trot trot trot...balk
Me: *squeezes and clucks*
SSG: I'm ignoring can't maaaaake me
Me: *boot boot boot* *growl*
SSG: Ha, I am part draft, I didn't even feel that.
Me: (pulls pony nose to side, attempting to disengage shoulders and "unlock" rooted legs)
SSG: (turns pony nose perfectly around to touch my foot. Legs stay rooted. Torso does not even flex. Damn noodle necked pony.)
Me: Flexible little bastard, aren't you?
SSG: What are you going to do now? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Me: (both legs out from sides) WHOMP
SSG: *oooof* OK fine, I'm going, I'm going

It took the installation of the SSG's mom at a crucial point in the circle to threaten his little pony butt from the ground to accomplish the perfect trotting circle before we quit. I believe next time we will be using the long cord reins with the little leather ponybeaters on the end so that I have some artillery.

This is a good time to mention that I hate spurs. I just hate them. The only thing I've ever ridden in them was my old show horse who would run out of steam and 4-beat if you didn't wear them to show in the heat. But that was different, as he was a highly trained horse and I never did more than squeeze his sides. I have never felt comfortable with the idea of installing points on my heels when I may need to use really obvious leg aids on a green horse. I prefer to whomp with a nice flat surface that isn't painful and just sends a message. I'll carry a whip, but honestly, my favorite are the long reins. You can use them as gently or as firmly as you wish - a lot of times all I do is swish them back to the butt to encourage forward motion. And they are convenient - always there without carrying something extra!

I think the SSG is doing fine. Honestly, I think he has just figured out that riding is something that is going to happen all the time and that it wasn't just a crazy idea Josie and I came up with when we were drunk - and now he is not so sure that he wants to work for a living. After all, for 3 years all he's done is ground work and be a big pet. But the nice thing is that he doesn't seem to have a buck or a spook, either, so he will make a great project pony for someone.

Tonight I really do intend to work with the TB mares. I need to get Lucy in a stall so she just gets handled more - she has so many symptoms of broodmareitis, where someone catches them once a year to breed and occasionally to do the feet on and other than that, they run wild like mustangs. Lucy needs someone to just pet on her - she doesn't know what treats are, she's scared you're going to do something mean to her. (If anybody in the Seattle area wants to just come and spend time and love on this poor mare, hit me up - she really needs it and I do not have the time. Or if you're a bit further but want to foster, better still. My feeling is that she needs a month of just being handled, ground work, loved on, groomed and learn about treats before we try to ride. If that's stuff that you love to do, let me know. She is fine with other horses and easy to handle except for being hard to catch.). Honey the Hottie (in more ways than one) needs to get worked as well. I just need to get my spine installed and give her a serious ride and find out if the stuff she does loose happens under saddle. With many horses, it doesn't, but you don't know until you try and I've been feeling tired and wimpy the last few days. She spooks at the pinpoints of sunlight coming into the indoor from holes in the wall. She spooks at the horses in the field. She spooks at things happening in the parking lot. She does great, big, twisting bucks when she's turned out. There's a 99% chance she will be fine under saddle, but I keep thinking about what a bad, bad time in my life this would be to get hurt - and wanting a nice pair of chaps or sticky breeches! Anybody got some medium size schooling chaps for sale or a small pair of Kerrits sit tights?

P.S. A special thank you to my reader Dana who set me up with this awesome, wonderful adjustable tree Wintec for the VLC. FINALLY, an english saddle that FITS him! It's actually broad enough for his broad shoulders and it's super comfortable to ride in. I am sure he is grateful and I know I am. You rock.


Karen V said...

Oh geez! I have a Wintec saddle. I had NO CLUE that it has an adjustable tree! Shesh...I don't even USE it!

Tripple Spring said...

I loooovvvve the Wintecs - especially when I have several different mounts going at once! It can be a bit of a pain to change out the tree that often, but I try to get the same-size horses going on the same days so I can stagger it - and it is definitely cheaper than buying new saddles for everyone!

4Horses&Holding said...

I don't like spurs, either. I have some nubby English ones, which rarely see the light of day.....

I used to ride a lot with a crop, and instead of touching the horse, I'd usually hit my boot or calf (lightly).... that was normally enough to get the energy/movement I wanted.

Dirty Harlot said...

Ooooh, I would love to come out. Where exactly are you? But again, I would have to take my 1.5 year old son with me, so not sure if that would work out ... I'm still willing to do some hoof stuff though :).


ellen said...

VLC I have much better luck with greenie beans that are inclined to balk or blow off my leg if I carry a dressage whip -- or two. It is much kinder, more efficient, and makes more sense to the horse to back up my leg aid with the whip,as the whip is a tool he is used to seeing from the very beginning (I introduce it to my fuzzy babies when they are learning to give to pressure, and it is mainly used to "suggest" -- most often without even touching them with it). Just vibrating the whip, or as 4h&h says, tapping your boot, works very well to reinforce what that pesky leg aid means. If I use seat/energy -----> leg -----> whip the horse will become more sensitized to the leg aid.

The only horse I've ever started that has truly launched me (well, never mind the one that threw herself down on me, but she was a nut case) did so on that 4th or 5th ride, when the "I don't like this game any more" vibe comes out, and I used too much leg to counteract a balk. I am MUCH smarter now!

I find they are far less inclined to buck if I use a whip than if I persist in trying ever-stronger leg aids when they either don't understand the leg aids yet or are choosing not to respond. The whip has meant "forward" since day one, and it's easier for their little brainlocked selves to figure out.

The hard part is to "allow" with your hands as sometimes you get a more energetic surge forward than you want(obviously if you get a blind bolt you've screwed up and either way overdid it or didn't properly acclimate the horse to the whip --but they do tend to accelerate and activate the timid middle aged rider's "holy sh*t" reflex), so make sure your hands are on the saddle where you can steady them and avoid the reflexive temptation to grab face.

Lee_Chick said...

If you're looking for a quick way to get some more grip on a fast/hot horse have you tried the stubben "sit-tite" spray? I use it whenever I'm riding new potentially quick horses without breeches and I love it. Just a warning though - it does exactly what it promises so don't do like me and use a ton of it on your first try - you won't be able to move an inch!
Good luck!

Heidi the Hick said...

Well, SSG has just demonstrated a good does of PONYTUDE!!!!

I predict that he'll be alright. He'll always test his person to make sure they really, really meant it, but this doesn't have to be nastiness. My opinion is that people get fed up and frustrated with Ponytude and don't understand that you just have to prove it that you're in control here- firmly, gently, and persistently. You handled it well. He's going to be a good critter, I think.

As for spurs- I like them. BUT not ever on a green horse, and some horses are just too sensitive for them. I like my humane spurs. Very short shank and a solid knob on the end. They're not meant to jab the crap out of the horse, but just as a little reminder. A little "why yell (kick constantly) when I can whisper (quiet nudge with spur.)" Also I have short legs. Spurs are like power steering. I hate carrying a crop! I'm too klutzy! I don't want to have to think about that extra piece of gear either. I'd have to agree though; long reins will do the trick, as long as the judge isn't looking!

VLC- again, proof that it's easier when a horse is built for and bred for what you want him to do!

fuglyfuglyfugly said...

Fugly, I just picked up a pair of Kerrits off eBay for 44. Now I just need a horse so I can ride in them...

mugwump said...

I have to admit, I was relieved to hear you get tired.
I try to ride eight a day, settle for six, and often hit four or five.
I have to clean stalls for my horses, and any outside horses in training.We have a fairly busy breeding operation, so there's always a mare somewhere needing to be covered, at least at this time a year. We have broodmares, cattle, etc. to water.I feed the place in the evenings.
Some days I feel like I'm getting nowhere.
All days I feel tired.
I try to remember something the Big K told me.
"Even if all you do is get them out and lead them around the barn, that's more than they knew yesterday."

MsFoxy said...

You definitely get more done than me. I get up at 6:30 and work from 8-5(ish), go home and let the dogs out....and most days collapse in the computer chair before going to bed. I struggle to get anything done. I think I am just overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that needs to be done (live alone, fixer upper house, LOTS of work needed).

I do not like spurs either. I was watching a video somewhere the other day...hell probably linked by you or found via a video linked by you. And it was a kid in his first english riding lesson (I think he had ridden before, in the backyard, but obviously not well) and he had on spurs! He had no seat and no balance and was on a relatively green horse, I believe...and spurs! I hate spurs. I personally gave a horse a spur sore back when I was 10ish? Scarred me for life. I had no idea, I was just a kid who obviously was not a good enough rider to use spurs. Stupid lessons people.

Foxy definitely, definitely does not need spurs. She has all of her gears in working order when ridden. Unfortunately. I wish she was as quiet under saddle as she is on the ground. She is SO RESPONSIVE that I struggle to ride her. All I have to do is cluck once and she is AWAY at a nice long trot.

However, when she was first first being started...she did a lot of balking and a lot of backing. I hated the backing, it makes me so nervous! Spurs on that horse would be an open invitation to another bolting/bucking episode. No thanks! I am halfway temped to tie some hockey pucks to her stirrups. They weigh just enough to have some swing to them and will bounce against her sides when lunged. She does not mind the stirrups flapping, but that might be closer to an accidental kick.

I am hoping to get her saddled tomorrow. If there are people around I may try to ride. If not, I may start at least putting weight in the stirrup again.

I need some direction! Restarting the barely started horse that cannot be lunged heavily first....hmmmm.....not sure how far to go on the first ride back, assuming she does not just throw me immediately, ha ha.

equus said...

Completely off topic, but I am wondering about your decision to link to the FalconRidge Equine Rescue blog. I checked it out today and went to their website. Most of the horses there seem to have been ridden very little and are "mainly out in pasture playing with buddies". This does not sound like something FHOTD would advocate. Thought you might like to know.

verylargecolt said...

>>I try to remember something the Big K told me.
"Even if all you do is get them out and lead them around the barn, that's more than they knew yesterday."<<

Isn't that the truth. Well, tonight I spent a lot of time just communing with Lucy. Stood in her stall, tried to find an itchy spot, and told her she was a good horse. Finally got her to eat something out of my hand (grass). I am considering this to be a perfectly acceptable and constructive training session.

RobynB said...

Sizing on chaps varies so much from brand to brand - do you know your measurements? Email me, I have an extra pair of English schooling chaps I'll send you if they fit - I bought a prettier pair when Stateline was closing out their stores, don't need two pair. rbeagle AT earthlink DOT net.

sidoney said...

Out of interest, which model Wintec did you get? I'm looking at getting another saddle ATM and am looking at that brand.

I hope my filly is as easy to start as your boy and the gelding. She will be three in a few months. She's pretty quiet and accepting but can be quick on her feet too (Australian Stock Horse).

Mary said...

My son finally, REALLY, rode his horse last night!!!! Nike was PERFECT! We worked on mounting and dismounting, from both sides. She popped her head up in the beginning, but relaxed faster then normal. We just worked on moving foward and WHOA. Alex was using ONLY his seat for both. We let her wonder where ever with very little concern for direction since we needed to get passed the whole, "Okay, I'm done. Time to just stand here and fall asleep" thing she has going on. He also worked on flexing her to get her to soften a bit.

Before Alex rode his unbelievably sweet little mare, he practiced lunging with Tango. Tango is an old pro that will work on the line with very little direction...unless he knows you're learning. Then he's going to throw all his little tricks into it and to FORCE you to do it right. If you step infront of the drive line, he comes to a screeching halt. If you stop paying attention, he'll try to wonder off or start eating anything close enough. He also will work all day long for you as long as you ask. Point a direction and he goes at a walk. Kiss once, he'll trot, kiss again and he'll extend his trot, kiss again and he picks up his extremely comfy lope. Tell him easy and he'll drop down to the next slowest gait. I mean seriously, how much cooler could that old horse of mine get??? Even at a lope, the line is slacked. He won't pull you around, toss his head or be naughty...God I love that horse!
Lex is FINALLY looking like a loved horse and not some rescue. He's still a bit thinner then I'd like, but atleast I feel like I can work him on the line 3 times a week for about 15 minutes a shot. I'd like to get him going to Alex can work on w/t on a seasoned pro.
I'm going to take Nike out tonight and work on w/t/c. Wish me luck!

which_chick said...

Well, the large ride with lots of strange people went pretty well yesterday. It was hot (naturally) and two of the littler kids we took along pooped out along the way. The ride (six hours) was sensibly designed to have several kid drop-off areas -- the ride crossed the hard road and had cell service so that we could cell-phone an adult back at camp to come get the kids. So, we dumped the kids and led their ponies along. This meant that PH got to practice ponying another horse for upwards of an hour. She wasn't *happy* about it but she also didn't fuss too much. (She would have been better, I suspect, if the rip of a pony hadn't been trying to bite her. I clocked the Rip several times before her manners improved.) PH handled the rope and the extra bumping and the crowding and all of that just fine, so yay!

Also, early in the ride, one guy behind me ran his horse's head up over PH's butt. She kicked him before I could stop her. She's never ever offered to kick before. I know that kicking under saddle is *wrong* but also other people aren't supposed to use my horse's butt for brakes.

Anyway, she let fly and caught the rider right on his kneecap, a solid hit. Nothing was broken but he's going to be gimpy for a week or two. (PH is unshod.) *sigh* Later in the ride, I had a buddy (horse lives in an adjoining field, so not a total stranger) run up our butt and crowd us from behind and PH took that pretty well, didn't hump up or offer to kick, didn't shoot forward. She danced a little -- I could tell she was slightly pressed about something -- but she held her ground and didn't offer to kick.

Is there some other way to teach a horse to tolerate being crowded from behind? (Horse doesn't kick in any sort of sensible handling situation. Apparently she only kicks when asshats without brakes on strange horses run up onto her butt.)

4Horses&Holding said...

- Will Lucy eat apples or carrots if you cut them up and put them in her feed bucket?

If she does, you could stand there and drop a few pieces in her bucket, and then put your hand in her bucket (or over it) with a piece in your hand. Then, once she's in carrot/apple heaven, offer it from your hand further from the bucket.

4Horses&Holding said...


It sounds like she was startled and scared by the first horse, but more confident with the second. I think if she were going to be a kicker, she'd have kicked at the second horse, also.

That said, I had a horse who did a lot of fear kicking when I first started handling him. A LOT of fear kicking - anything within 3 feet of his back legs got kicked at. His training story is here (on the FHotD training forum). There is a link in the first post to how I dealt with his fear kicking. Less than two weeks after I finished the work with him, my child tripped, lost his balance on an uneven piece of ground and careened right into both of his back legs. (Yeah, I was freaked) Thankfully, the work had paid off and the horse didn't kick (he flinched, but he did not kick).

(Not mentioned in that is how, when I was teaching him to be saddled later, how I would push the blanket and (colt-starting, 'sacrificial') saddle off his side & butt until it didn't bother him anymore.)

4Horses&Holding said...

which_chick said: "Horse doesn't kick in any sort of sensible handling situation."

I like to expose my horses to insensible handling scenarios, when I am carefully controlling the situation. You never know what another person might do.... I call it playing, but it has had many, many benefits.

My horses think I am somewhat crazy, but just about anything that I do around them is not cause for concern.

SammieRockes said...

I love my wintec! I barely ride in it anymore because BBG HATES English, with a passion, I have a picture of the last tiem I tried and he looks so depressed. Haha, gotta love those noodle necks. My BBG has a very thick strong neck but he is flexible. When I make him stand for a long time, he'll twist his head back and touch my boot or something, to let me know he is waiting for the "Go Command"

The other day I know I said something about parade practice/Drill team stuff, but just wanted to say that again, if you have someone else willing to get on another horse, you can set up a little pattern, it really keeps the horse interested.

June Evers said...

Arh, arh! Broodmareitis! Worked in breeding and dealt with plenty of them.

My old TB mare is 33 now and I prefer the term letting her "return to the feral state." No mane pulling, clipping, etc. Thankfully, she doesn't have broodmareitis, too old for that, and the farrier/vet would be pissed.

Allison said...

Sort of off topic - I was at an A-circuit hunter show a couple weeks ago and almost all the junior riders were wearing spurs (prince of wales, but still) and riding in pelhams or kimberwicks.

Is it presumtuous to assume that if you need that kind of bit in your horses mouth you are not likely having a problem with leg aids?

Manhattanite said...

I like SSG. He sounds like my type of pony. Will test you - a lot - but isn't mean. Just wants to make sure that that's what you REALLY want him to do.

And word on the hating of spurs. Can't stand 'em. I had one regular mount that I had to ride in spurs - he was an old show pony who had been around all the blocks and just needed a friendly reminder every once in a while that he was not a tree. Even then, the spurs were the little nubby pony ones.

I am not adverse to riding with a crop, though. Obviously (or, it should be obvious), you don't smack the hell out of your horse - a gentle tap behind the leg usually did the trick (my instructor would flip out if you used the crop on the shoulder - I was taught that that was okay, but my instructor did have a point. It's supposed to be a supplement to your legs and when do you use your legs on the horse's shoulder?).

Having a full time job plus all those horses to ride sounds exhausting... but come on, would you rather be doing anything else? (except maybe having someone provide for you and you being able to just ride the horses.)

Tripple Spring said...

Not that I am one to defend the A circuit hunters...but, usually, by the time one is an accomplished enough rider to actually use the spurs (which is usually the issue)and the horse has reached a certain point of its training, spurs aren't used merely as a "go" button, but for other leg aids such as collection...spurs should be used more to fine tune the leg aids and feel of both horse and rider...if you are just using spurs to go forward than there are bigger training problems at hand that need to be taken care of.

Emilie said...

One of the things I've been thinking about re: fear of falling is that you need to look back on all your spills prior. I've fallen plenty, but never hurt myself worse than a scrape - caught a rail on the way down. As a result, fear of falling isn't that much of an issue for me.

Yes, you can get majorly hurt on horseback, but harping on that is detrimental - it's focusing only on the absolute, not-very-likely worst case. You've illustrated you're a smart rider - you'll feel a disaster coming well enough to get out of the way.

Focus on all the little falls that were less scary than kind of a pain - damnit, now I have to get back on, and get on now, and show that brat whose boss - than the worst possible scenario that is, if you're lucky, the only worst possible scenario.

Accentuate the positive~! Not that falls are positive, of course, but a small fall is far better, and more likely, than the brush with death you're obsessing over.