Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I rode her!

First, I have to tell you this - this is so cute. Drama, the POA, had her first jumping lesson tonight, so we had a small x set up with two ground poles spaced in front of it. I was going to see if Lucy would walk over ground poles, so I lowered the x to the ground and learned that not only will Lucy walk over ground poles, she will walk over them following me like a dog! All I had to do at the end was kiss to her and circle and she'd follow me back over. It was adorable.

So, I finally decided to get on her and I used the time-honored Cookie Distraction Method to do it. My friend fed her cookies, I got on. Worked GREAT. She did not move a muscle, even after I was up. Stood quietly, was only interested in my friend and the cookies. Hooray.

Well, bless Lucy, she pretty much told me everything I need to work on in the space of one short ten minute ride. I love it when horses are transparent like that. There is not a whole lot of steering and she massively overreacts to leg (like, spooks away from it like you goosed her). That's a pretty comfortable zone for me - I've ridden a lot of horses like that and don't have a problem staying quiet and leaving their sides alone. She's really gate sour - one moment I was walking past the gate to the left and then, swoosh, we were back at the gate facing right. WTF? Kind of interesting to correct on a horse who won't bend her neck and doesn't like leg. I told her she was going to deal with some leg, but we were going forward and going to the left. She actually dealt with the correction pretty well. I felt like the first time I put leg on her it surprised her and she was a lot better after that, though of course I kept it as subtle as possible.

"Ho" is not a problem. We have "ho." We have a nice quiet stand once stopped.

She wanted to follow the cookie-feeding friend, but she accepted being asked to part from her without any drama. She didn't act spooky or "looky" at anything in the arena.

I didn't want to do much the first time and just keep it short and positive, so I halted (far awa from the gate!) and dropped my stirrups in preparation for getting off. They must have tapped her in the sides because she jumped and tensed up. White eyes, scared again. Hmmm. I quietly recollected my stirrups and petted her. When she had settled again, I dropped them more carefully and slid off quickly. That scared her again, but I was definitely not leaving a foot in the stirrup on a horse that goosy about mounting/dismounting.

She's broke and never felt potentially explosive when I was on her but either (a) she hasn't been ridden since the track except for Stephanie and hence is still adjusting to rider legs being in that position at all or (b) she's been spurred/scared. I did not feel at all like this mare was wanting to do anything bad to me. She was simply concerned about what I might do to her. She would relax pretty quickly every time I petted her and told her things were fine.

So, tonight's ride makes our game plan pretty clear. We're going to do some ground driving to improve the steering and also desensitize her to things touching her butt and flanks. Kind of thinking we may do it in a western saddle so that she adjusts to stirrups bonking her in the sides and comes to learn it's no big deal. I think that she is a fast learner and will come around quickly, but I do think she has a little bit of that naturally panicky nature you sometimes get with Thoroughbreds, so we'll go slow with her.

P.S. Drama pony was AWESOME about jumping! She LOVES it and will not even jump unless it's a vertical...X's are too easy and she trots them. This pony will choose to free jump when loose in the arena and not being chased. She's got a real enjoyment of it and I am sure she will only go up from here!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just one of those times...

I don't have anything to write about because I'm busy working on the new web site and all I do in the barn is chores! My stalls are clean, pails are clean and full, paddocks all got mucked yesterday, aisle swept, old mares got baths yesterday and tails conditioned (boy was the Crabby Old Bat so not thrilled with being tied to a tree to dry off...she got me back by rubbing her nice clean neck all over the tree and getting sap on it) and I haven't ridden anything. I was finally going to tonight, and then the barn owner decided to replace the light bulbs in the indoor arena (for which I AM grateful, as it needed to be done).

So, uh, yeah. So much for the training blog 'cause all I'm doing is barn work and grooming! I hope the rest of you have more exciting things to report - fill me in. On the plus side, Lucy is really starting to like people now...she followed me all around yesterday while I was picking up poop and was nosy and everything. I love watching her start to seek out attention and seek out human contact. She was so "shut down" this summer. I haven't gotten her to make a face for wither scratches yet, but I will. In the meantime, the Crabby Old Bat is enjoying them...

I spend a lot of time scratching my horses, and would actually really love to learn equine massage. My best friend does it professionally and I love watching her work on the horses. They all look so darn happy. I figure anything that helps them relax around people and enjoy human company, particularly if they're rescues or horses with questionable past experiences. I was told that the COB was originally trained by a girl who implemented a training device known as a barbed wire necklace. I thought that had to be an exaggeration, but a little investigation and I learned that this training trick actually exists - you use a piece of barbed wire, one would assume wrapped on the ends so that you can hold it, around the horse's lower neck/chest, to force them to rock back on their hocks. The mare is so psycho about having her chest area touched that this story makes perfect sense. Blanketing her takes two people because she will chomp you when you go to fasten the neck. Now I know why. Yes, the more I hear about some people's training methods, the more I understand why there are so many crabby old horses out there who have just had enough, thank you very much.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things I used to know about riding...

And still know, but seem to have lost the ability to implement particularly in the split-second when I need to do it!

1. OTTB's don't stand still. Just get your toe in the stirrup, grab a good handful of mane and haul your ass up there as they trot off. It'll be fine!

2. Of course the pony is going to be better if you ride 6 days a week as opposed to 3, dumbass. Why are you acting surprised by this? This is how ponies have been since the dawn of time. Did you forget?

3. They can't buck if they're going forward so all you have to do is boot them in the ribs and they won't be able to buck hard enough to launch you if they can buck at all. If you hunch over and freeze the moment they start bucking, yeah, you're gonna eat dirt.

4. Oh, and LEAN BACK if they buck. You knew this when you were 16. It was second nature. How is it that now you hunch over? Do you think that will work better? How's that going so far?

5. In your entire riding career, you have been spooked out from under all of twice. So why do you get nervous when they are spooky? You have taken cutting lessons, and did fine. They don't spook any harder than they dodge following a cow. It is the exact same motion.

6. Taking the easy way out doesn't get the horse trained. Bailing while you know you can still safely land on your feet when a horse is brewing up an explosion may be the easy way out but it doesn't solve the problem at all. (Who else has developed the "emergency dismount" response? I particularly have it when trying to trail ride. If they start jogging or being stupid or acting like they want to go home, I am on my feet beside them in half a second. Then I regret it and think, you moron, how is that going to fix it? Ride it out. But then I can't get back on because they're jogging and being stupid and I'm not coordinated enough to get on jogging, stupid horses anymore...*sigh* This is why I mostly stay in the arena, where I feel safe. And I know it's mental because I feel safe in a pasture made of one strand of hot tape, too. You KNOW that would not actually stop a horse, but it stops my fears. Go figure.)

OK, I know I'm not the only one. What have you forgotten that you used to know (or just forgotten how to make yourself do?)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Working with Nervous Nelly!

Lucy is a 14 year old Thoroughbred mare rescued from the Enumclaw Auction this summer. I took her on because I'd just placed Petersburg Knight, and as they say, nature abhors a vacuum. A friend of mine had her all summer and put some rides on her, and now she's back for me to continue with.

Lucy is interesting. She's broke. She got ridden around all summer, no problem. But the horse is scared. She's truly nervous about people. Oh, she's 500x better than she was when I first got her - back then you could barely touch her head and she would not take food from your hands, not grain or grass or anything. Now, she only gets upset about her head if something happens like the reins hit her in the ears as I flip them over. I can touch her everywhere, she will lower her head and snuggle, and she was even letting me pet her ears today. She knows all about cookies and carrots now, will seek out attention, and is getting easier to catch.

Now I'm trying to fix her fear of mounting. I get on the block - she swivels the other direction. I have someone stand there to block her, and she stands but the head comes up, the whites of the eyes show, and she starts breathing faster. She's genuinely scared. Why? What was done to this one? I don't know, but I'd like to fix it. So I have been tacking her up and just going out to the block and standing there, and petting her, and scratching her withers, and leaning over her like a green horse. She seems to be less nervous but I still feel like she's waiting for the ax to fall. Very interesting.
If only they could talk, right? Well, I've got all the time in the world...we'll figure this out!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sorry for the lack of updates...

As you Fugly blog readers know, I am nose deep in developing a new web site. The VLC is still looking NQR so he is on vacation and doing nothing more than rolling in the mud and playing with his gelding friend. I have not had time to ride at all in a few days and am going to regret it when I have to get back on the Drama pony.

Casper went home to Cowgirl Spirit to begin competing in drill this season and I wish her much luck. We had begun cantering before she left and she was wonderful on the straightaways and (I LOVE this description my friend came up with to describe those greenie legs-everywhere moments) an eight-legged huffalump on the corners. But she is a baby and she will get it! Other than that, she was a total success story...riding like a champ, no bad behavior. I am very happy with how that one turned out!

Lucy came home and I need to ride her too. She is looking good and much less head shy so I'm very pleased by that. Updated pics very soon. She is available for adoption so if your barn might need a cute black 14 year old TB mare with four socks and a blaze, let me know. Stephanie says she's great to ride and has no issues other than a bit of ongoing headshyness.

OK so someone else entertain the troops...what's your best green horse story from this summer? Funniest/silliest/dumbest moment?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Maybe it's not fear. Maybe it's common sense!

I heard something VERY interesting on the radio the other morning about how the human brain doesn't fully develop until age 25. Until that age, people have problems with impulse control and poor decision-making not because they weren't raised right or whatever, but because their brain simply isn't mature. So I started thinking about that in relationship to riding as I drove along...what if we're all here wondering why we got chicken as we got older, when really all we did was develop better decision-making and that's what keeps us from riding as fearlessly as we did at 21?

Certainly food for thought!

Anyway, the update here is that the VLC pulled his stifle. Probably did it playing in the mud - he does not see the presence of mud as any reason he shouldn't gallop and slide stop and do rollbacks. So he is just taking it easy and I'm hoping he's back to 100% to go to training in November but you all know it'd just be Murphy's Law of Horses that he won't be...

On a better note, the two training projects have made major progress. Both seemed to turn a corner into the land of cooperation quite suddenly. The lazy little paint filly has developed forward motion and barely requires any leg now! I'm so excited. She was always this amazingly smooth and sane ride, but she went through this "no I WON'T" stage which involved a lot of ear pinning and cow-kicking. Thanks to longeing and "ground support," she caught on and is now just a joy to ride. She is heading back to Juliane's in a week to begin her drill team career, and I am getting Lucy back on the same trip - an adorable black Thoroughbred mare with 4 socks and a blaze that was rescued from the Enumclaw sale this summer. Lucy is doing great and it sounds like she's pretty much ready to adopt out, but I do want to work further on her headshyness issues. She appears to be totally convinced somebody is going to ear her down, even though that has certainly not happened since she left the auction yard!

The headshaking POA mare has calmed down considerably. She still plays with her head but she's not rooting and having a fit, and the spooking and propping episodes seem to have been worked through. (Good thing. Propping ponies are hard on the ol' back.). There's another POA show toward the end of this month so I'm hoping we'll get her to that and see how she does. Her owners and I had talked about hanging on to her and finishing her further but I think right now the decision has been made to sell, so if anybody wants a pretty darn fancy medium pony prospect, let me know! (put PONY in the subject line so I don't miss it.) I am going to try to get some video soon. She really is a wonderful mover.

I have my next project all picked out, if Lucy gets adopted and I have room. A Thoroughbred breeder I know has this to-die-for gorgeous 17 hand broodmare for sale. She's only ten so she's plenty young enough to have a riding career, she's a Northern Dancer granddaughter, clean legged and sweet and a whopping $300. So with any luck I will have space for her soon!

I'll also be getting in another POA to work with. This one is very well broke but pushy on the ground and needs finishing under saddle. She is much more classic POA type than the other pony - this one is a big, substantial thing. She is going to be interesting as she has a truly problematic ground issue - being SO aggressive to other horses that she will actually go for one while you're handling her. If we can fix that, she has the potential to be a terrific show pony - but the challenge is, how do you 100% fix that so that a kid will be able to handle her safely? How do you drill through the pony's head that she's just never, ever going to do that ever again? This should be an interesting challenge. She is a rescue and probably for that reason as I'm told she's a bombproof machine to ride. I'm looking forward to her arrival and would also love to hear everybody's bag of tricks for curing aggression toward other horses (both on the ground and under saddle - I don't know if she'll go for another horse mounted yet but I'm assuming she will).

So that's the update here. How is everybody else doing? Horses sound or lame? Behaving or not?