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Author Topic: Training adventures  (Read 5938 times)

zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #105 on: September 16, 2017, 06:36:28 pm »

Sept 16.  Thursday September 14 is the day I'm going to remember. I hate change and things have really changed. I'm hoping some good will come out of this though, trying  to stay positive. Funny how you can rock along taking things for granted and thinking it can last. You know it can't last forever but you hope it does. Then one day it changes and boom....

I'm trying to ride Amigo every day but it's not always possible. At least I got to ride him today and it was a good ride. It was hot hot hot and neither of us wanted to work so I mostly worked on walking and asking him to drop his head and reach down. If I try to twirl his head....alternating reins directing laterally, not down or back, he will tuck his head to the vertical but he won't reach out and down. But if I just play out the reins he will reach forward and down and he does this at a walk real well. Then when I pick up the reins slowly he comes up with his poll so that his poll is slightly higher than the withers and his head just in front of the vertical. I can't tell if he's just raising his head and sucking back his neck or if he's lifting through the base of his neck though. He's got such a thick naturally arched neck and he naturally carries himself rounded so it's hard for me to tell exactly what he's doing. I'm so used to riding hollow, upside down gaited horses and trying to teach them to drop their heads and round up.....it's a totally different feel. It's easy for me to tell when a hollow horse gets round because the difference is pretty drastic. But with Amigo I think it's more a case of getting a greater degree of roundness....or collection. I don't think he ever really gets hollow, at least not as hollow as I'm used to with the walkers. My problem I think is getting collection without making him contract his neck. I want that neck as long as he can get it. I need some eyes on the ground I think. My tendency is to try to position his head where I think it should be. I think this is a sure way to get him to contract his neck and back...The opposite of what I want. So today I concentrated on letting those reins out, letting him reach forward and then slowly feeling for contact with his mouth. The reins were never tight, I never pulled on him. Instead I would shorten the reins slowly and wait for him to come to me and find his comfort zone where the bit was just resting in his mouth. Then to get collection I closed my legs slightly, not enough to ask him to go faster, just enough to ask him to step up to the bit. At the same time I made sure my position was correct...not leaning forward at all as I'm prone to do. This is all done slowly and carefully because I have to think through every step. I think I'm doing this the right way and every once in awhile it feels like he's stepping uphill. It's a good feeling. I can do this pretty well now at the walk. Now I need to start working on the trot. Today I started trying to trot him on smaller circles than I've done before, about 20 foot radius. He was able to get most of the way around but not totally before he had to drop to a walk. I had him do a couple of figure 8's and then let him rest. This is a really small circle for such a big horse so I can only ask him to do it for a very short time or it can hurt him, and it's going to take awhile before he'll be able to do it. I think doing this small of a circle will help him figure out how to balance better and stay off his forehand without me having to hold him up or get in his mouth. If I do this once or twice every time I ride him I think it will really help him learn to trot collected.

Sept 21   Got another ride on Amigo today. It was very hot and muggy and neither of us wanted to work hard so all I did was walking figure 8's. My goal was to get small perfect circles with a definite and smooth change of bend in the middle. He did pretty well on the circles but the bend change remains hard for him. He did get better as we practiced though and could change the bend within about 3 strides but I had to cue him firmly with my legs and reins. Since this seemed hard for him I only repeated this exercise a few times and then went to the butterfly exercise along the long side. He had an easier time changing his bend in this exercise, probably because the change is more gradual and he can leg yield into it. We did this a few times and then I started doing the same exercise but I alternated between collected walk and long and low walk. I found he has more trouble changing his bend when he's long and low. I guess I need to work more on getting him more responsive to my leg cues. Finally we did some backing up. He first tries to push against the bit, then he gets crooked and moves his rear end to the left usually. All I do when he tries these tactics is just hold my position until he corrects himself. When he gets straight and soft and steps back I give him a release. He eventually got a little softer and straighter. This needs a lot more work. His halt was good today but then it was so hot, halting was his favorite thing to do. I continue to be concerned that Amigo isn't as soft to the bit as I want. I think what I'm doing...giving a release every time he even slightly gives to me....is the problem. I think I need to up my expectations and hold the reins until he does a bigger, more intentional "give". Maybe I'll try that tomorrow and see what happens.

Sept 24  I haven't ridden Amigo since my last entry, it's just been so hot and I have zero motivation. But I have been doing some ground work with him, very low key and slow. Since he's been having trouble with his back up....getting crooked and pushing against the bit....I decided to go back to basics and work on the back up in halter on the ground. First I had him back up with slight pressure and straight...or as straight as he could do. To help with this I had him back through some ground poles set in an "L" configuration. First few times we only backed on the straight parts of the L. But once that got pretty good I started teaching him how to turn while backing up. This is where his confusion was coming from so we went real slow with me asking for one step at a time, then ask for one step laterally with his rear feet, then another step back. What I discovered was he didn't really understand the cue to move his rear end over. I was tapping him lightly on his side where my leg would be if I was in the saddle which is where I cue him for turn on the forehand. For some reason though, going backwards changes the meaning of that cue in his head. So yesterday I started this stuff and I had a saddle on him. He gave it a good try but was generally pretty crooked and at first, had no clue what I was asking for. I just kept giving the cue and he finally figured it out...sort of. So today we repeated the same exercise but without the saddle and he was better. Backing to the left he did great and almost got ahead of me but backing to the right he had more trouble and was very crooked. After one good try I moved him away from that spot and lunged him for just a minute. While doing this something spooked him. He was trotting on about a 20 foot circle around me when he spooked. He started to bolt but then stopped himself, then he started to buck but also stopped himself and then he just halted. I told him to go back into a trot and he did like nothing happened. The cool thing was during that whole spook, bolt, buck....He never pulled on the lunge line. Pretty cool. Once he seemed over his little tantrum we went back to the L and backed through it going to the right and he did much better but he was putting his ears back and got that look, the one that says..." we should probably stop now cause I gave you a great try". So I asked him to follow me around the arena at liberty and then I let him loose. Pretty good lesson. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel more like riding but if not, I may repeat this work with Amigo in his bridle.

Sept 25  Ground work in the bridle today. What I think I'm seeing is Amigo doesn't have a clear understanding of cues on his right side. So I'm going waaayyy  back to the beginning. So with Amigo in a snaffle bit, me on the ground beside his head, I very gently asked him to step back with one foot. He tried to push against the bit, then he tried to step to the side. I kept adjusting until he understood to back up. Then we worked on getting him to back softly with just a very light touch on both reins directed backward. He did get to the point he would back for as long as I asked but he would eventually get crooked. I figured trying to straighten him while backing up would just confuse him right now so instead, I stopped asking him to back up. Then I asked him to stand still, keep his front feet still, and step over one step laterally with his rear feet. At first he wanted to move his whole body laterally. Well, this is what I've taught him so not unexpected. I was cueing him about mid abdomen, right where my leg would be if I was riding him. So far, to him that has meant move laterally. So to make my request more clear to him I moved the cue very far back, literally just in front of his flank. Then I was very particular that he move only the rear legs. Cueing on his left side got a quick response and after a couple of tries, he kept his front feet still and moved his rear end over one step. When cueing on his right side I had to cue him longer and more firmly before he even tried to move over. His attention kept leaving me. I had to remind him we were working here! That's kind of his first little sign that he's not on board with what we're doing. He wasn't mad yet but he was telling me he didn't want to do this. So I just kept everything low key, let him rest and walk forward a few steps between tries. After several attempts, he finally understood. I gave him lots of pets and then repeated a couple of times. He got to the point he would keep his front feet still, move his rear end over one step....With just a very light touch in front of his flank.

What I've found is I can't keep him straight by correcting him with the reins and bit. Doesn't work at all. Keeping his head straight doesn't keep his body straight. So I have to be able to move his body with my legs, cueing him on his sides. I need to be able to move each part of his body separately too. Finally, he needs to learn to bend better through his rib cage. So I'm teaching him these things from the ground first because he doesn't seem to understand my leg cues. Today I started with exaggerated cues...soft touches with a whip placed very far to the rear of his side, close to his flank. I can't reach that far back with my legs when I'm riding, of course. As he learns what the cue by his flank means I can start to refine it by bringing it closer to where my leg will be positioned. Ultimately he'll learn the difference between cues placed only a few inches apart.

Sept 26  I rode Dodah on the tuesday ride today. He did great. It was hot and muggy and the poor guy was sweating buckets but he still was energetic enough to want to gait on the way back to the trailers. I used the parelli saddle on him with the Dixie midnight pad liner and the 1 inch wool diamond (I think that's the brand) pad. That saddle really does seem to work on almost every horse I've used it on so far. It came with a thin pad that you're supposed to shim to make it fit perfectly on each horse. What I'm finding is the thick wool pad works better on Lex and Dodah. Lex has really high withers and kind of an A frame back with a lot of dip behind the withers. Without the thick pad the saddle flops forward due to the width across the front bars. With the thick pad it sits right where it needs to be and doesn't tip forward. On Dodah, the width through the front of the saddle keeps it from pinching his shoulders and the thick pad fills in the slight hollow he has behind his shoulders.  The bonus is he doesn't trip in this saddle....probably due to freeing up his shoulders,  and if I set it just a tiny bit farther back than I'm used to doing, he doesn't get girth sores like he was doing in all my other saddles. It seems his back is changing, maybe due to his age, but also possibly due to saddle pinching in the past....Although I don't ride him very often, still it could be saddle fit. It so I'm hoping his top line will improve now that I'm using this saddle.  Anyway today he did real good and never tripped the whole time and we rode over some nasty trails that had lots of roots exposed after the hurricane. He just put his head way down and watched the trail. I just gave him his head and he navigated it all like a champ. There was one section of trail that was very narrow and real crooked with lots of sharp bends. Dodah is blind on his left side so if I don't tell him to allow enough room for my knees I get smacked. I was guiding him on this trail with my legs because he needed his head to be down so he could watch for exposed roots and washout holes. That was so fun! He did that whole trail and didn't crunch either of my knees! Finally I decided to try riding him in a different bit....In the arena first of course. I've always used an Imus bit on him and he does real well in that bit until I take up any contact. Then he opens his mouth and sometimes pushes on it, especially when I need to slow him way down to go down a steep hill or gully where he needs to go one step at a time. I have a bit that's designed with more tongue relief. It'll be interesting to see if he responds to it better...or softer.

Sept 27  I rode both Amigo and Dodah, today. I continue to be amazed by how easily Amigo learns stuff if I just slow down and explain things to him in terms he can understand. Before I started doing ground work with him to refresh his back up, he would root, push against the bit, get crooked, and just plant his feet every time I asked him to back up. So I spent several days on the ground showing him how to back up softly with slight pressure. I was trying get to get him to back straight but didn't have much luck so I reviewed getting him to step over one step with his rear end to slight pressure on his side just in front of his flank. Today, I started on the groumd. We did back up, walk forward, back up...He did that pretty well but did start getting crooked so I quit that and did some move your hinney which he did perfectly today. Then I hopped on and we did some circles...All walking. I concentrated on keeping him long and low but still bending through his body. He actually did that somewhat better today. Then I asked him to back up. He pushed against the bit slightly the first time and I held my position till he gave and backed up. After that his back up got a lot lighter....still a little crooked but I'll not worry about that right now. Then I did walk, back, walk...what Buck calls the rocker exercise. We did this real slowly because he's never done this before and I didn't want to confuse him. Better to go slow and get it right. He did a real good job.
Then I rode Dodah. For years I've worried about why he seems so uncomfortable in his bit. I tried snaffles, bosals, different curbs....nothing fixed the problem. Today....duh....it finally dawned on me that maybe he needs more tongue relief. I have a curb bit that I've not used on him because it seems to have a port which I figured would be more severe than the imus. Well, not necessarily it seems. I used it on him this morning and he did seem better in it. His mouth stayed closed, and he only slightly pushed against it the first time I took up contact. After that he was halting, backing, collecting, gaiting.....All on a floating rein with no resistance. The test will be how he does on the trail when I need to balance him to go down hill. Also I put the parelli saddle on him today with the parelli pad with shims farther back toward the center of his back rather than right behind the shoulders and it seemed to fit better and still stayed off his shoulder blades.

Oct 1   I continue to work with Amigo on the ground as this is all the time I have right now. With my bad wrist, it takes too long for me to wrestle with a saddle and pad, then ride, then wrestle with saddle again...When I can do the same stuff...or nearly...from the ground. So, I've been continuing the backing exercises, the rocker exercise and move your hinney. A couple of days ago I added spiral in and out. This is done with a 15 ft longe line. I get him trotting out on the end of the line, then slowly take up on the line until he's trotting on about a 8 ft line...so I decrease the circle by roughly half, then I let the line back out till he's back on 15 feet. I've done this exercise in the past both lunging and riding and he's never been able to keep his balance and stay in trot on a circle with a radius less than 10 feet. Now he can do a 8 foot radius. At least lunging, I haven't tried it riding yet. What that tells me is he's getting more supple and is learning how to balance himself better. Yesterday when I did the rocker exercise with him he was starting to shift his weight easier and his transitions from walking forward to backing were a lot smoother and faster. And I have done nothing to ask for more speed, it's just becoming so much easier for him. It's all about balance.
I've been doing the spiral exercise with him trotting but it could also be done walking or in gait. You would need to first teach the horse how to gait on a circle and I've found with my walkers, gaiting on a circle is very hard at first so it needs to be a very large circle to start. Most gaited horses are very stiff, too, so walking circles...regular slow walk...and concentrate on bending, will help with that. Slowly they learn to bend and balance and you'll notice the gait gets better and easier....With Lex this took a very long time. Don't expect things to change quickly. Also don't ask the horse to do endless circles. That's boring and can easily stress their joints. A couple of circles in each direction to begin with is enough. As they limber up you can do more but I never ask for more than 4 or 5 circles at a time, even with my more experienced horses.

Oct 7  Rode Amigo for a few minutes this am. Mostly walking small circles. He was really really having trouble bending to the left. I've been thinking this is a problem for a long time but today he made it very clear both at the walk and especially trotting. I tried moving my center of gravity more to the right, putting more left leg on and lifting the inside (left) rein and really looking to the left with my whole body. All that helped at the walk but trotting he just kept falling in and dropping his left shoulder and looking to the right. This was the first time that I've been so aware of the dropped shoulder. I was trotting him on a pretty small circle, around 10 ft radius. He even gave me some flat head. He definitely thought this was too hard. I kept trying...circle a few times, go on to something else, then come back to circling. It wasn't until I really lifted the inside rein with a lot more vigor that he finally bent. When he did that I could feel how much easier it was for him to trot that circle. He felt it too. I repeated that once more then put him up. I know he remembers stuff so I'm hoping he'll remember how much easier it was to trot with a  bend so next time he'll do it easier and sooner. We also worked on his back up. He still starts out being kind of stuck but quickly gets the idea and then he's pretty light and backs with his head lower and today I felt him get a little round too so progress.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2017, 08:19:12 am by zipeddodah »
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Tachie in east Texas
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #106 on: October 08, 2017, 04:29:12 pm »

I got 2 good rides today....finally!  I put myself on glucosamine and aleve and I feel so much better and have more energy for riding.
I rode Lex early this morning. I wanted to see how his feet are doing because I plan to ride him on tuesday. He seemed fine, was moving freely and reaching nicely with the front legs in gait. Then when I asked for canter he picked up both leads just so easy. I did have to carry the dressage whip...didn't need to use it, just carrying it is enough motivation for him...haha. Anyway it was a fun ride and he was a good boy.

This afternoon my niece came over so we caught Lex and Amigo. She rode Lex and I was on Amigo. Lex was so good. He did everything she asked him to do. She did have trouble keeping him going in canter but not because Lex was being lazy. Years ago I taught Lex to stop if I sit deep in the saddle and boy that his favorite thing to do. Today when Jessie was cantering him she kept losing her balance and sitting back and deep and throwing her legs forward....All cues for Lex to come to a screeching halt.....which he did. It was funny. Once I explained to Jess what was happening she changed her position and things went much better. Lex is so good, he'll give you exactly what you ask for....so you have to be careful what you ask!
Then I was riding Amigo. He started the ride being stiff on the left again. I walked him in left circles until he got soft and bendy, which didn't take very long. Then I asked for trot. For the first time ever he resisted trotting. I just could not get him going!  Not sure what his problem was but once I put him behind Lex who was gaiting, and asked him to gait, he woke up. After that the trot was easy. So I trotted him on a left circle and he tried every which way to avoid bending. He dropped his shoulder...I picked it up. He drifted to the right...I blocked him. We did this for a little while but I didn't let up until he gave and softened. It took maybe 15 minutes and he was bending and circling on a loose rein and no longer dropping that shoulder or drifting out. I really think once he's convinced this way is easier we won't have this struggle. I also did some back, walk, back which is improving. I think that exercise is helping to improve his balance as is the circling as long as I can keep him from dropping his shoulder. My current plan....subject to change of course....is to get him really straight and balanced before I ask for canter. I'm hoping if he can stay balanced at the trot through bend changes and speed changes, he'll have a better chance of staying balanced when we canter, and that should make cantering much easier for both of us. For sure, when he falls on the forehand, he feels like he has to rush and that makes me nervous....nothing good can come of that.

Oct 11  I rode Dodah, on the Tuesday ride yesterday....I finally got to ride in the forest...yippee!!!   Dodah, was so much fun. It was cool and the wind was blowing and both of us felt good. Dodah, did some of the best gaiting he's done in a long time. That parelli saddle with the thick felt pad seems to make him very happy and he was able to really reach with his shoulders and did a great relaxed and fast runwalk. I was riding with a new friend who rides a rocky. Our horses are perfectly matched in their gaits and they both were relaxed....no ideas of racing....and we just tootled down the road. It was a blast. I sure hope I can ride with this lady some more, she likes to ride like I do, mostly walking and relaxing with some gaiting. No rushing, no craziness, no drama. We both like to ride challenging trails but we want our horses to be sensible and relaxed. She's been riding with some ladies that gait their horses all the time, have very little control over them, and spend the whole ride yelling at their horses and trying to strong arm them into submission. Not her idea of fun...or mine either. We're both older than most of the people we ride with and we don't bounce like we used to. We break easier and heal slower and with my husband sick, I can't afford to be laid up with a broken back. Many of our younger friends don't quite understand this. So, yippee....I seem to have found the perfect riding buddy! I hope she continues to ride with our Tuesday group, we all have such fun.

Oct 12  I rode this evening...Amigo in the arena. He's starting to get it! Today I started the ride by walking a modified butterfly exercise.....modified because I do spiral in and out on the circles at either end of the arena. He was bending really well from the get go. So then I asked for trot and he went right into a nice relaxed trot.....don't know what his problem was the other day....  It did take him a couple of tries to be able to bend going to the left but he did get it and it wasn't as hard for him today. Also, the butterfly exercise requires gradual changes of bend and he had no trouble doing this today, in fact he changed his bend when I changed posting diagonals right before I asked him to change. We did this exercise in trot a couple of times and then went on to walk, back, walk. His back up is still crooked but he's not leaning on the bit so much and is getting a lot lighter. Also he's much more responsive to my leg telling him to move his hinney over and he can do one step and keep his front feet still now. So he's definitely getting more supple. Finally I asked him to do small serpentines along the long side. We were just walking. In the past he hasn't been able to do this and he's gotten pretty mad when I tried it. Today he did it almost easily and didn't get frustrated at all....Although I suspect he hates that exercise almost as much as I do. Still, I feel like we're making real progress.

Oct 13  I forgot to add yesterday.....When I was riding Amigo yesterday I was using a fairly long rein most of the time. I'm trying to get him balanced to the point he can bend, change his bend, circle, speed up, halt.....All fairly long and low. He never gets as low as Lex does but for Amigo....long and low is pretty much a level topline. What I'm more concerned about is that he sort of extend his neck rather than suck back. So yesterday I started on a fairly loose rein with just enough contact that I could feel his mouth. Then on the left bend, if he didn't bend correctly I'd take up on the left rein, lift as high as necessary to get his shoulder up but not pull back...The lift is actually directed forward. Then if he tried to drift out to the right I squeeze my fingers on the right rein to block that. The second he dropped his head and bent I released the reins. I repeated this as often as needed. The first day I did this I had to lift the left rein way high, I mean really high....not pretty....and when he drifted out I had to haul back pretty hard on the right rein....again not pretty. But by yesterday my cues were much lighter, lifting the left rein only a couple of inches and just closing my fingers on the right rein if needed....and I didn't need to do that but once.
The other thing....at one point I asked him to gait. We'd been trotting and I wanted to see how well he could bend while gaiting. He went right into a fairly fast flat walk....maybe even a baby run walk....anyway it was a lot faster than he's done before and seemed easy for him. He was able to do some large circles but I didn't push the issue because I was just so tickled at the fast gait!

Oct 15  Today's ride on Amigo wasn't as great as some of our previous rides. He was somewhat distracted and I had a little trouble keeping his attention on what we were doing. I thought maybe the problem was the hunter might be in the woods next door but I never heard him over there. Another possibility was Amigo was getting bored with the same old exercises. For whatever reason he wasn't bending to the right very well today....sigh. get one thing fixed and something else falls apart. So we did lots of bending at a walk but he just wasn't really putting any effort into it so I started trotting and bending. He actually was bending better at the trot than the walk...go figure. Then I did trot, halt, back, trot. His back up was really crooked today, he always moves his rear end to the left. Not sure how to correct this. Today I just let him back into the rail. But I gotta figure out a better way. Moving his rear end over to the right with my leg isn't working. I think next time I'll try directing my left rein out to the side while he's backing and see if that keeps him straight. Finally I made him do very short tight serpentine down the long side....walking. He wasn't happy but he did it. I did, however, have to cue him rather strongly a couple of times to keep him bending. At least he's able to do this now, if not beautifully.

Oct 16.   Lew's last radiation tx today! Yea! Now just chemo twice a week...which is bad enough but at least we're not driving to houston every single day...groan. So no riding today. I was reading an article I saved a long time ago written by a former Spanish riding school master. It just happened to be about training the young horse to bend...timely. Basically he says don't drill, keep the horse relaxed, never force the horse and try to keep the work interesting. I think I'm doing pretty well with all that but I find lately I'm working harder to put him into the bend. This guy is saying don't do that. If you have to force the bend, the horse probably isn't ready to bend that much. He also says to work more on straight lines than circles. I agree with all that and have given Amigo lots of time to learn how to bend...at least it seems like lots of time to me. I only started asking him to trot small circles this fall and then I only do 2 or 3 at a time. Still, maybe he does need more straight work for now. So next time I ride, we'll do lots of trotting and gaiting around the perimeter. The article says don't try small circles until the horse can trot the perimeter relaxed with head down. Hummm.

Oct 19  I rode Lex in the forest yesterday with 2 other friends. This was his first time on the trails in 2 months. I kind of expected him to be a little nutty but he was pretty good mostly. We rode some new trails that I haven't been on in, gosh, 4 years? Ish? That was fun but the ride was a bit longer than I'm used to and I ended up with some back pain later in the day.....so out of shape :(   At one point the trail comes out on a gravel road. As we were approaching the road we could hear what sounded like heavy equipment but couldn't tell where it was. Well, the horses found it.....All 3 spooked at once....synchronized spooking....And poof there was a grader coming down the gravel road. That thing got to the place where our trail comes out just as we got there. The guy driving it was either asleep or didn't care because he never even looked up as he passed us. Lex had a minor melt down more because Sylvia had gotten too far ahead of us than because of the grader. Still, he did his spinning act for a few minutes until I got in his face. Then he straightened out and walked through the gully and up on the road like a sensible horse. We followed the grader until we got to the next section of trail. Once we were behind that grader Lex didn't care about it and just walked along. Sometimes he's so good and so much fun and sometimes I could just pinch his head off. I'm always critical of people that yell at their horses and yet yesterday I found myself doing that to Lex. Sigh. You can train them out the wazoo, but sometimes ya just have to get in their face. Then, too, Lex and I have always had a love hate relationship. He sure knows how to push my buttons! But I gotta say, he's made me a better rider and taught me more than I ever wanted to know so I can't really complain. And yesterday's ride really wasn't bad, just not as carefree as I had wanted. I'm hoping to ride Amigo in the forest tomorrow if the weather is ok, supposed to rain though.

Oct 24   Fun ride in the forest today. It was cool and breezy and Dodah was feeling good.. we led for most of the ride and Dodah, was walking out at a good clip...not gaiting, just walking fast. Val rode with us on her rocky. Our horses are nicely matched in their gaits usually but today, when we did gait, Dodah, was managing to out gait her without even trying. He was doing a beautiful run walk which in the past has always been slowish. Today he was speedy gonzalas! I actually had to slow him down. Even doing that, her horse had to step pace to keep up. The rest of our group, all on trotting horses, were behind us and couldn't keep up without cantering. I don't know what got into Dodah, but I like it. My theory is he's getting used to the new saddle and has figured out he can reach with his front legs and lift through his back without hurting his shoulders because today it felt like he was really lifting in front and driving more with his rear. He also had his head pretty low and was nodding along and I didn't have to remind him to round up, he just did it. We only gaited like that a couple of times and only maybe a quarter mile each time, when the horses asked to slow down, we let them.
Also, the trail we took today has lots of logs and some little ditches that are just big enough that the horses can't quite step over but too small to go down one side and up the other like they do with the gullies. They're awkward to navigate and they're also hidden in tall grass. Dodah, has had trouble in the past with tripping over small logs and falling into those little ditches. Today he never tripped and he stepped carefully over the ditches. I let him go along on a totally loose rein and he kept his head down so he could see all the obstacles better...He only has one eye and that eye has a cataract.  I think the new saddle has helped with his ability to walk along with his head down where he can see better because it doesn't pinch his shoulders, and it makes it easier for him to lift his front legs to step over the logs.
The past few rides on Dodah, though, I've noticed I tend to get thrown to the right a lot. I have that tendency anyway but on Dodah it seems worse. I feel like I need to keep straightening my saddle. What I think is happening is because he's blind on his left side, he's starting to hold his head slightly canted to the left which causes him to slightly bend to the left and lean to the right. That throws me to the right. So, I tried riding him with my right rein just very slightly raised in order to raise his right shoulder. Don't know if that's the best way to correct him but it did seem to help. I only did that for a little while because I didn't want to restrict his ability to see where he was putting his feet when he was working so hard to navigate the trail. Gosh I love that horse! He's so business like, takes his job very seriously, takes great care of me, and always...always...tries his hardest no matter what I ask him to do.

Oct 25   Another good ride on Dodah. I took him to my friend Val's. We rode on the greenbelt that runs through her subdivision, mostly power lines but some gullies. I think this area will be a good place for Amigo to get desensitized so I'll try to take him there some day when it's kind of warm and no wind. I'll need to be sure Valley understands this will be a training ride though because I think Amigo will have trouble at first going through some of the gullies where the footing is really bad....lots of wash out and exposed roots. Dodah was, as usual, perfect. I could tell though, he was tired from yesterday....He totally didn't feel like gaining today so we just walked

STUPID STUPID SPELL CHECK!!!!!!!!   VAL....NOT VALLEY.   GAITING....NOT GAINING.   DODAH.....NOT DODAY!!!!   SO SICK OF CORRECTING SPELL CHECK.

Oct 27.  Lew started his new chemo schedule today....Once a week....yea!  Last month was intense with radiation daily and chemo twice a week. So nice to only have one day a week for medical torture.

I haven't been riding Amigo because the weather's been so nice and cool, we've been going out in the forest and our little group has grown. I never know who's going to be riding with us and some of these ladies have young goofy horses, and some of them are inexperienced riders. I don't want to get Amigo in a situation where he's exposed to craziness right now. I could probably handle it if he got scared but with Lew sick, I can't take a chance on getting hurt....riding is certainly a dangerous sport but I think not riding a green horse in situations he may not be ready to handle should at least reduce the risk. Also, I know how Lex and Dodah react to surprises, I don't know how Amigo will react. That makes a huge difference.

Yesterday a friend and I decided to work on some of our trails. These trails go through an area that is thick with youpon and brambles. You can barely walk through there and the horses hate it. So we took my Dr mower out there and mowed those trails. We got them widened and rerouted around some washed out spots and wow they look like some professional trail builders made them. In 2 hours we mowed and cleared about 5 miles of trail. We still have 2 more sections to clear, each about 1/2 mile. I can't wait to ride them. So all total we have cleared about 30 miles of trail. In all, we have well over 50 miles of trail in our forest counting 4 miles of fire road and maybe 15 miles of perimeter trail.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2017, 06:01:49 pm by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #107 on: October 29, 2017, 06:50:19 pm »

Yesterday I took Lex for a ride in the forest. It was just me and Sylvia. She rides endurance and loves to get out on those trails and trot or canter the whole time.....A bit too fast for me but she's so nice to slow things up for this old lady. So Lex and I led and we went on our newly cleared trails. I must say those trails look good! Lex was a slug for the first half of the ride, but Sylvia's horse was being a slug too so no problem. However I sort of got bored so I decided to wake Lex up by gaiting when we got to a relative log free section of trail. He did pretty good but had to slow down and walk over every little twig on the trail. That bone head horse just can't figure out jumping. I even tried to canter him over some of the logs....same thing, canter up to them, walk over. Sigh. To his credit, he did kind of semi hop over one log when I really pushed him to canter up to it. Makes me think I need to get a little more aggressive with pushing him in canter. Sylvia was behind me watching Lex canter. She commented on what a nice canter he has. Yep, he does. If I didn't think he'd lose his mind, I'd canter him all the time. As it was, cantering him the little bit I did got him all jazzed up so that on the way back to the trailers he was looking for reasons to spook. At one point Sylvia got off her horse to cut down a little pine tree that was leaning across the trail. Her horse was standing right next to the little tree, totally loose, and grazing....perfectly calm. Lex and I were standing about 20 feet away from the tree and when she started cutting it he got spooked and almost backed into the next county. Goofy horse. He was either asleep at the wheel in the beginning of the ride, or a goofy maniac at the end of it. At least I learned my wrist is now strong enough to handle him in his moments of brainlessness.
Then today we went to the Haras Cup. This is the working equitation premier show....The top show in this country. Wow, just wow....There were so many gorgeous horses there. What we watched today was the speed event for novice through experienced. The Masters speed class was yesterday....that's the class that gets really wild and wooly. Today most of the riders concentrated on getting through the course with a clean run and weren't so intent on being fast...As they should since most of those horses were still in training. The Australian stock horses did real well. Actually the fastest horse was an Aussie stock horse but was disqualified because his rider didn't navigate the last obstacle correctly. Then of course there were the Lusitanos....just beautiful. This sport accepts all breeds and riding styles. We saw a gypsy vanner, several quarter horses, a couple of mustangs, a nacota, and a whole bunch that I couldn't tell what they were. Not one gaited horse. Sure made me want to get out there and give it a go. And now I'm inspired to make some more obstacles in my arena. Sylvia offered to help.....could be fun for sure, and something to do on rainy days.

Oct 30 I thought about the whole Lex issue with jumping. Here's my take on it. I know he has trouble collecting, always has, partly because I'm no expert trainer/ rider and partly because his conformation makes it difficult for him to coil his back....he's slightly sway back, has been since I got him at age 3 ish.  He can collect easily now to the extent needed to do a good run walk but his canter, as nice as it is, is still strung out. So because he's still very much on the forehand, he doesn't find jumping easy. If I just push him more to get over a jump without getting him to come under more with his rear end I'd be setting him up for failure, either he'd have to start refusing or he might trip. Watching the working equitation yesterday got me thinking a lot more about collection and teaching him to collect at canter.  I also know that working circles is a good way to get the horse to collect, but you can't over do it. Right now Lex can easily canter a 20 meter circle. In the past he's cantered a much smaller circle but only when it was his idea, like in a spook. So what I think I'm going to do, if I can, is start doing spirals with him in canter. I'll start with a 20 meter circle and once he's got that real good....can stay on it and stay balanced, then I'll spiral him in to a slightly smaller circle. At first I'll ask for a smaller circle, do as much as I think he can handle, then let him go straight before he loses his balance. Both directions. This could take awhile. Once he can canter a very small circle, say 10 meters, then I can also start asking him for that degree of collection going straight. I'm betting if I can get that, he'll find jumping much easier. It's a theory. Anyway, I'm going to try it this afternoon. I also want to try to ride him again in the Spanish saddle...it's so comfy...and will give me more security for riding small circles in canter. The reason I haven't been using it on Lex is it tends to throw me forward. Saturday, I rode him in the parelli saddle with the thick wool pad and I felt thrown forward too. I think I need to go back to my pad that has shims in the middle that I've been using on Dodah. I can't remember if I've tried that combination on Lex with the Spanish saddle but it's worth a try. While Lex doesn't have hollows behind his shoulders like Dodah has, he does have significant sway. On both horses, saddles tend to slide back and then I feel pitched forward and that really hurts my back. The pad with the center shims works good on Dodah. It keeps the saddle level and up off his shoulders which is very important to Dodah. Lex isn't so picky about his shoulders but I need to keep the saddle level and in place for my own comfort as well as his.

Later, same day. I did ride Lex in the Spanish saddle. I used an English pad as a pad liner to keep my expensive shimed pad clean. Then the shimed pad  then the saddle. I set the whole thing fairly forward and used my English girth with elastic on both ends. Worked perfectly. I wasn't thrown forward at all and felt very secure which was good because Lex decided to be a jerk. He was in the arena away from the other horses, the temperature is a cool 70 degrees and the wind is blowing. I can't think of a better reason to spook! Years ago he would have been doing airs above the ground all over that arena, today he just spooked once in the scary corner that's closest to the woods.....horse eating goblins live there. So when he spooked I made him immediately look in the direction he spooked from, then he had to circle a couple of times then do shoulder fore down the long side, more leg yield, side pass, and little circles. Then I gaited him back to the scary spot and let him rest. Did all that a couple of times and he forgot to be spooky. I kind of thought he was going to be too nutty to canter so I decided to see if he could gait a small figure 8. I had 2 barrels set up about 10 feet apart. This is too small I figured but what the heck, let's see what happens. He was able to gait real well going to the left and could stay on the circle pretty well. He could even change direction but when we got going on the right circle he had to walk. That's ok, I gave him a pat and let him stretch. He was feeling more settled so I tried to canter. First to the left. He picked it up real easy and did a good 20 meter circle. Then to the right. This time he was a little slow to canter but finally picked it up out of a walk with a little extra encouragement from me....but I wasn't carrying a whip which was good, usually he needs to know I have one before he'll put much effort into his arena work. The 20 meter circles were good so I decided to see if he could spiral down to a smaller circle. I'm not the best rider in the world but in spite of me he was able to spiral down to 10 meters. It was easy for him going on the left lead, more difficult on the right...He did it but was more strung out. I'm encouraged though. If he could do this well the first time, I imagine he'll be able to learn to collect pretty fast....or at least as fast as my ability to ride will allow. Finally, after I let him walk and stretch for a minute I took him back to the barrels and tried to gait around them again. This time he was able to do it going to the right. I did have to lift his shoulder some and ask him to drop his head a bit but he did it. And I noticed when I got my legs and seat in their proper places it was a lot easier for him. He's really learning to bend around my leg. Fun ride and I love that Spanish saddle.

Oct 31   So much fun on the trail today. I rode Lex again with the Spanish saddle and everything worked well....very comfortable and not thrown forward at all, although I could have placed the saddle a little more forward but it wasn't a problem. Lex was a total slug and didn't want to lead in the beginning but soon worked his way to the front. Before he did that, though, the lead horse took off at a strong trot. The second horse also started trotting. That rider was having a terrible time and had to 2 point for the entire trotting episode because her horse was so rough. Me and Lex were next in line. He didn't even ask to speed up and was content to just walk but when it became obvious to me that the trotters were going to keep going for awhile I told Lex to gait to keep up. He went right into a nice smooth rack which I was able to rate to the speed of the trotters. Fortunately the trail was smooth so he didn't have to cross any logs. We gaited until the lady in front of me begged to stop. I was glad she did because Lex was starting to ramp up and was thinking about canter. So then Lex got in front and we walked the rest of the time until we got to the hill behind Sylvia's house. I started gaiting Lex and he was doing a nice fast run walk until a rider came up behind us cantering. Lex asked politely to canter so I let him and the 2 of us cantered the rest of the way up the hill. Lex never lost his mind. Could it be he's finally getting sensible? Nahhhh.

Nov 3   I rode Amigo in the arena yesterday for a few minutes before the farrier was due to show up. He was a very good boy and seems to be really trying hard to be learning how to bend. He was doing great bending to the right on very small circles both walking and trotting. I hardly had to correct him or even ask him to drop his head and bend, he just seemed to want to do it. Going to the left he had a much harder time. At first I tried to sort of force him to do a small circle by lifting his left shoulder and using a lot of left leg and he could do it but he gave me the snarly face. I remembered that article I just read about not forcing young horses to do circles smaller than what is easy for them so I opened up the circle, about doubled the size, and he was a lot happier. I'm going to let him work things out on the bigger circle being careful to have him bending well and standing up straight and then when he's consistently correct, I'll ask him to try the smaller circle. He'll get it I just need to be patient and remember he's not being resistant, he just either doesn't  understand or he hasn't worked out his balance. Then I spent some time working on his back up. He's much better now about staying soft when I ask him to back up and not leaning on the bit, but he's still backing to the left instead of backing straight. I experimented with taking the left rein more lateral and using more left leg behind....didn't help. I did some more experimenting and tried to watch my hands to see if I was inadvertently telling him to back crooked. I think I was. I think my right rein was actually pulling back more than the left rein. I don't pull back much at all when I ask for back up, it's more of a squeeze on the reins. But it seems that I was holding the right rein slightly farther back when I was squeezing. I sort of exaggerated my correction by moving my right hand forward so that it was forward of my left hand. I also kept my left leg on him behind the girth and he backed up straight! The correction with my hands was only a matter of inches but I guess those inches were important to him. I'm going to need to do this a few more times before I can be sure I've figured out the fix. At least I'm glad I haven't reprimanded him for being crooked...that sure wouldn't be fair if I'm the one causing the problem. This is a perfect example of how hard my guys try to give me what I ask for....If they give me the wrong answer, 99.99% of the time it's because I asked the wrong question!
Oh, and lately Amigo has been stretching down while trotting. If I ask for trot while I have him long and low at a walk, he will pick up a trot with his neck stretched down...ish. Then I can collect him up..or put him on a circle and he will collect by himself. Then if I let him go straight and let out the reins he will reach with his neck down and out but not as much as when he's walking. He's been doing this for awhile but I just thought to make a note of it. I think this means he's getting better balanced at trot. May also be why he's bending better and trotting better on circles.

Nov 5   I finished my obstacle course in the arena. I tried to make everything very portable so I can rearrange stuff or remove stuff. I have a cowboy curtain, a bridge,  Cloverleaf barrels, an "L", a jump, and a gate. And I still have room to practice 20 meter circles, figure 8's, and all my lateral work. Then I got Dodah in a halter and walked him through everything. He just went where I told him to go, no problem. Then Amigo, same thing, no issues at all. Finally Lex. OMG! He couldn't do the bridge,  he couldn't do the curtain....eek, eek. I spent quite awhile waiting on him to figure out that he could walk through the curtain without his head falling off, and it took 3 attempts before he could walk the length of the bridge. All I did was set him up to do these things and then waited on him to figure out how to do them. I never pulled on the lead rope except to keep his head facing the obstacle. Next week I'll attempt to ride them through.
I'm especially pleased with how well Amigo went through the obstacles. He's been over bridges before so I didn't expect any trouble with that one except this bridge is a grate, not a solid surface. I started by just turning him loose in the arena and letting him explore by himself. He went right up to the bridge, sniffed it, put a foot on it, and then put both front feet on it. So I put his halter on and led him across like it was no big deal.  Same kind of deal with the cowboy curtain. He's never seen one of those but when I asked him to poke his head through and then follow me the rest of the way he did it with no hesitation at all. He's by nature a very calm horse, very thoughtful and careful and not spooky but when I first got him he was terrified to step down from the trailer or down a hill. I had to work real hard to get him to overcome that fear. I did it by setting him up to take just one step down. Then I waited on him while he thought about it and when he finally did take that step I rewarded him. I never tried to rush him or force him to do anything. Now it seems he totally trusts me. I really believe I'm creating the most solid bomb proof horse I've ever had by using this type of training. This is the philosophy  I've used with every aspect of his training...never force...just set him up and let him figure it out. It works. I sure wish I could have started Lex this way, he wouldn't be quite the nut case he is now I think. However this is the approach I took with him when I got him and started retraining him and he's so much better now than he was when I got him. Still spooky though.

Nov 8  Today I rode Amigo through the new obstacles in the arena. He did great. No hesitation at all going over the bridge. He was a little worried by the cowboy curtain so I just rode him in circles around it but not through it. Then we circled the barrels and wow he was bending like crazy! I mean he was hugging those barrels. We were only walking but that's better than he's ever done even at just a walk. The only time he shied was as I was trotting him along the western side of the arena and he saw a tall weed moving in the wind. What a goof. He did shy sideways while trotting but it was easy to sit and he stopped as soon as I told him to, and then he faced the scary weed, snorted and blew for a minute and then was ready to walk off as though nothing happened. I really hate going through the learning curve with a young horse when it comes to shying and gaining trust under saddle but I know the more things he's exposed to and the more fears he overcomes with me directing him, the more trust we'll have in each other. So far, so good.
Lex was more of a problem. I didn't think he was ready to ride so I just led him. He did much better with the bridge today, only took 2 tries to be able to walk the length. But the cowboy curtain still had his number. He would only go through if I went through first and then it still took him awhile. But I kept working with him and by the time I finished, I was able to send him through the curtain as well as over the bridge. So tomorrow may be the day I ride him through. We'll see.

Nov 10  I rode Amigo again this afternoon. He is so cool. No warm up, I just saddled up and took him into the arena and started riding around the barrels, and circling the cowboy curtain. I also trotted him a lot, both around the barrels and along the west side where the scary weed is. I found he still can't quite navigate around the barrels on a 10 foot circle, trotting, but if I trot around both barrels, which makes it about a 20 ft circle, he can handle that just fine. So I did that both directions. Then we walked around  the barrels on 10 ft circles and changed direction 4 or 5 times and he's getting much much better with changing direction and keeping his balance. I also did a lot of backing up and he's getting a lot straighter with that. I also tried to get him to move his rear end over and keep his front feet still so he was bent around my inside leg and he did it easily so the next step will be to attempt half pass. Once he can back up straight and he can half pass I think he'll be ready to try backing in a circle again. I think I tried to teach him that too soon and confused him. I finally got brave enough to ride him through the cowboy curtain. Well, that was anticlimactic! He did nothing but just walk through but he had a look on his face like he thought I was losing my mind. Still he did it, no spook, even when I grabbed the supports and made the whole thing sway while he walked through. I need to change his name to Amigo Superstar!
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 07:15:24 pm by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #108 on: November 12, 2017, 03:16:21 pm »

Amigo was a superstar again today. He can now walk the 10 ft circles, do a figure 8 several times and stay nicely bent and light in my hands. Today I decided to up the difficulty a little so I started doing the butterfly exercise in trot. In the past he's had to drop to a walk when we get to the part where he has to trot around the left handed 20 ft circle. He could get about half way through that circle, then lose his balance. Today he did the whole pattern twice without losing his balance and dropping to a walk. So it seems he's finally starting to figure out how to trot and change direction quickly and keep trotting. He can also walk the little sharp serpentine down the long side...my most hated pattern but it's good for the horse..bleh....but he still can't trot that pattern. I also did practice backing straight and he's getting better and now when he does drift his rear end off to the left I can put my left leg on him and he'll straighten out, so that's progress. I also did some neck reining today. I have ridden him one handed on the trail some what. Basically I just let him follow the trail and I neck rein him to reinforce his movement down the trail. Today in the arena he was neck reining pretty well, doing figure 8's and he only needed a little support with the direct rein once he caught on to the object of what I was asking.
Then he was being so good I decided to see how much gait I could get. Usually when I ask for gait I'm happy with a little flat walk but today I thought I'd push him almost up to a trot and see what happens. Wow. He can gait a lot faster than I thought. The first time I asked for more speed he thought about trotting but I told him no so he just kicked his gait up a notch.. I would say he was doing a slow/medium saddle gait....not quite a rack but not quite a run walk. But it was 4 beat, smooth, and faster than he's done before.
In the arena I never ride him longer than maybe 30 minutes....we both get bored....so I quit after the gaiting experiment. I've been thinking maybe I need to put him in a bit with more tongue relief. So far he's only been ridden in a 3 piece snaffle and he does well but he still can get pretty heavy on the bit, especially when he wants to move faster than I want. I put Lex's bit on him after our ride just to see if he would hate a ported bit and he chewed at it for a minute and then seemed fine. That bit is a curb though and I know shanks and a curb strap will be too much for him. When he had Lex 's bridle on today all I had to do was touch one rein and he was responding to the pressure. I think if I tried to ride him in that he'd freak out. Mylar makes a 3 piece snaffle that has a small port and a D ring with hooks so if in the future I wanted to add some leverage I could use those little hooks to create about a 2 inch shank. Hummm....I think I need to start saving my pennies.
So, great ride today. Amigo is bending better, his balance is improving, his back up is getting straighter, and he is getting lighter in the bit, probably because his balance is improving.

Nov 14  I rode Maisey on the Tuesday ride today and she was really good and a lot of fun to ride....for a change. She did jump every single log but her jumping has improved so much that it was fun and didn't jar my back at all. She hasn't been ridden in close to a year so I didn't know what to expect with this ride but she was a good girl. I met a lady on this ride that was riding her new and very green Anglo arab. Beautiful horse. She has been training him pretty much the same way I've been training Amigo but she's been able to progress a little faster with him because she's a bolder rider than I am. Still, she spent a whole year just doing ground work with him so that the first time she saddled him and got on, he was able to just walk off like no big deal. Today he was being ridden in a mechanical hackmore  and he was very very calm and relaxed even when one of the horses on the ride got a little freaked out and kind of spooked off the trail. I had a chance to discuss training with this lady and was very impressed with her philosophy and ability. She suggested I try a new exercise with Amigo. You need someone to help with this exercise. Your helper will be leading the horse. You will drape yourself over the saddle and hang there like a sack of potatoes, very limp. Then your helper will ask the horse to move and she leads him around the arena. She said most horses will not want to move at first and may even be a little freaked out. The theory is, the horse is used to having his rider take care of him. When his rider is limp and not looking out for him, the horse has to figure out what to do. She said that in her experience, and she's done this with several horses now, something sort of clicks in the horse's mind and they learn that sometimes they have to take care of their rider. She said that in every case this exercise has improved the horse in some way. Sometimes the horse rider relationship improves, sometimes communication improves, sometimes trust, sometimes the horse just gets bolder....but there is always a positive result. I think I'm going to do this with both Lex and Amigo, maybe even Maisey. I figure it can't hurt....unless I fall off head first...that would hurt.

Nov 16  I've been communicating with mylar about bits for Amigo. So far he seems to think more tongue relief would help. I have 2 curb bits with mouth pieces that are jointed and have small ports similar to Mylar's #33 bit. Mylar suggested I ride Amigo in one of those bits to see how he reacts before he makes a recommendation, so I did that today. I used Lex's bit which is sweet iron and has a leather curb strap. I set the bit just touching the corners of his lips where he seemed most comfortable and loosened the curb strap a notch so it didn't engage quite so fast. I did some gentle ground work first, asking for flexes and back up and that all went well so I got on. Amigo seemed pretty much OK with the bit at first. He seemed to be bending and staying very light and his halts were good.  So I decided to ask for trot. He trotted right off, didn't try to rush and halted when I told him to. But then things started to go south. He got crooked when I asked him to back up so I tried to straighten him and he started to curl behind the bit. I held him until he brought his head back up but I hate to think this bit is going to cause him to start doing that again. Later I was gaiting him on a circle and he pulled his old trick of falling out and slamming me against the rail....or at least he tried. I was able to correct that a lot more easily than with the snaffle and he didn't try that again. As time went on his back up got straighter and softer so maybe all he needs is practice. I didn't try to trot circles in this bit. I think he needs to work out all the kinks first at a walk. I'll try to ride him again tomorrow if the weather isn't too bad. I figure I need at least 3 rides before I can tell if this is a good bit for him.

Nov 17  Turns out my 2 ported curb bits with mouthpieces similar to the mylar #33 mouthpiece ARE mylar #33 bits. Haha! I cleaned off some of the dried on grass debris from Lex's bit and there it was..."mylar". Funny I don't remember buying those bits...who knows. Anyway I rode Amigo again today in Lex's bit and he seemed better. We just walked but he was bending much better and his back up is a lot lighter and softer and straighter. The one time he tried to fall out on a left circle, I was able to correct him easily. He never once tried to get behind the bit so I'm happy with that. I still think something about the bit is too much for him. I need to start trotting him in it to know for sure but the feeling I get is if we're out on the trail and he does something that causes me to over react or react too quickly, it may cause him trouble. That's why I need to trot him. With the faster speed, things happen faster and so do corrections. Also my balance and control isn't as good as it is at a walk. So if he can handle me flopping around and sometimes getting in his mouth, he can probably handle any stupid thing I might do on the trail. I went ahead and ordered the mylar #04 with dee rings with hooks. This mouth piece has a little less tongue relief so I'll have a bit more bite should he need it and the hooks on the rings will give me some leverage if I need it. It'll be interesting to see how he does in it. I'm thinking it may be good for Maisey  too. I still haven't found a bit I feel comfortable using on her.

Nov 18  Third ride on Amigo with Lex's bridle. He did even better today. No warm up, I just hopped on and started walking circles and trotting. A cold front is coming is so it was pretty windy and Amigo was watching for buggers but he never did anything and he felt real solid to me. It took him 3 tries but he was finally able to trot the 10 foot circle to the left. Not only did he trot it, he was very forward...not rushy at all, just freely moving out as though trotting that small a circle was easy for him. Go figure. I didn't try to do any abrupt direction changes though, I was just happy to get the small trot circle. I also tried gaiting  him and he did pretty well. I found he could gait better on a very loose rein because if I held much contact he would try to collect too much and then he would want to trot. Once he figured out what I wanted he was able to do a nice gait and it was light in front too. His halts were good, very soft, and his back up was better, still a little crooked but very soft. Pretty much everything I did with him was softer and easier. He never got behind the bit, never leaned on it, never dropped a shoulder. He was quite distracted by something in the woods but still behaved himself. I also was able to do some shoulder fore, and some collected walk, stretchy walk.
Here's the thing. I have always felt more secure riding with a curb bit. This is what I grew up doing and it just feels better to me. I've been using snaffles on all my horses that I've either retrained Lex,  or started...Amigo...because they give a more clear signal and are in some way less harsh due to the lack of leverage and the quick release. But they put a lot of pressure on the corners of the mouth and tongue. Lex did well with that but I guess Amigo doesn't.  I think he was expressing his discomfort by leaning on the bit. He's always been a very quiet undemonstrative  horse and his signs of pain or displeasure are subtle....ears back, slight head shake, squinty eyes. I learned you need to pick up on these signs and change things because if you don't,  he'll reach his limit of patience and that's when bad stuff happens. So rather than continue to force him to bend and get off the bit by strong arming him, I decided to try to find out why he was having trouble and fix it. I hope this bit change is the answer. But there's another aspect to this...my degree of confidence. I think because I feel more secure with a curb bit, I ride with more confidence and that's bound to give my horse more confidence. I have to fight the urge to "bit up" all the time and I struggle with using a curb on Amigo at this point in his training. That's why I ordered the snaffle with hooks of the D rings. I figure that's a good compromise between a curb and snaffle and the mouthpiece will give him the tongue relief he seems to need. Anyway I'll find out when the new bit gets here.

Nov 19   4TH ride with Lex's  bridle on Amigo. His back up was great today, straight, head down but not behind the bit, soft, no pushing against the bit. All I had to do was fix my hands, slightly lean back, just a tiny amount, and walk backward with my seat...and he backed up. I never pulled on the reins, in fact they were draped the whole time. I did some loose walk with reins on the buckle and then asked him to collect some and then with my legs I pushed him up to the bit even more and he did it and I got that sensation of riding uphill without ever pulling on the reins. This was all at a walk and there was only very light contact with his mouth. I love that. Then I let him reach long and low and while he was stretched down I asked him to trot. He did , but he had to bring his head up to a neutral position to do so. Still I was able to trot him on 20 ft circles with draped reins and then I took up a little more contact and he collected his trot some more but he started making a grunting sound which I interpreted to mean he was struggling to do what I was asking. So I had him go collected for several steps then let him walk and stretch again. He still struggles with trotting small circles so I didn't ask him to do much of that today. Even so he isn't leaning on the bit. What he does now is just fall in. He'll almost run over the barrels if I let him, so to correct that I just raised the inside rein and used more inside leg. He corrected easily and still without leaning on the bit. The last thing I did today was to work a little on neck reining. I held the reins with one hand totally as loose as possible. Turning to the left I used my left hand and leaned the right rein against his neck. If he failed to turn I lifted the left rein with my little finger by twisting my hand. This gave him just enough direct cue to get him to understand to turn left. Going to the right I used my right hand. I had to give him a direct cue at first but he caught on pretty quick and before long he was neck reining on a very loose rein with his head down and relaxed. This will need a lot more practice of course, and eventually I'll switch to using the same hand for left and right turns.

Nov 21  Lex was a total slug on the Tuesday ride today. I had to carry a little branch...whip...The whole ride to keep him moving. He was doing his quarter horse crawl imitation.  He was good other than that. I think maybe his feet were sore again. He was a little ouchy on the gravel road but the other thing he did that was concerning was the way he walked down the sides of the gullies. He would put his head way down and take little tiny slow steps. Although I like my horses to go downhill this way, this was out of character for Lex.  Overall, today he seemed tentative,  not fearful, just very careful. Not sure what to make of this but I'm considering putting him back in shoes to see if he gets better. He's also been refusing to load in the trailer...has done so the last few times out, very unlike him. Something's wrong just not sure what. Hopefully he's just got the lazies.
I almost rode Amigo today but chickened out at the last minute. Sigh.

Nov 24  I finally put on my big girl panties and rode Amigo in the forest with several friends. Well, actually I did hedge my bets and selected people to ride with that I know are exceptional horse women, who were not likely to do something stupid and put me in danger on my green horse. I chose well. Everybody was very careful to give Amigo some space and not come crashing up on him. One lady had sleigh bells on her horse....it's hunting season here....and Amigo was pretty worried by that but she stayed far enough away from him at the beginning of the ride that he never reacted to the bells and gradually as he got used to the noise, she brought her horse closer until she was right behind us. Amigo did great. He only made one mistake and we rode about 8 miles over some of the most challenging trails. His mistake happened on the last gully. Going down the side was very very steep. Amigo tried to rush down, lost his balance, tried to recover by cantering, tripped as he got to the bottom, and tripped up the far side. I'm sure he couldn't have looked more klutzy. I just held onto the saddle horn, gave up all hope of halting or directing him and just hung on. He didn't fall all the way down but he was sure off balance. I just stayed passive and let him figure it out and when he got to the top of the far side he halted by himself. He never got scared and neither did I. I kind of half expected him to buck his way up the far side but he didn't.  He was calm almost instantly too. Gotta love that. He did spook a little at a log as we were just starting the ride. He just kind of side stepped but didn't panic and I had no problem staying with him. Later on he saw another scary log but didn't shy, he just kept his eye on it as we walked past. I was riding him in his old bridle with the 3 piece snaffle. He never leaned on the bit which was nice, and I was able to ride him on the buckle most of the ride and even neck reined him most of the ride. The only problem was when he wanted to eat, or that time he tried to rush through the gully, I couldn't do anything about it. I could keep him from eating if I caught him early but once he got his head down, all control was lost. I didn't use the curb bit because I was afraid of hurting his mouth if I accidentally yanked on the reins. Can't wait to try his new bit, should have gotten it 2 days ago. Sigh.
All said I'm totally over the moon happy with the big boy. In spite of his little mistakes, I think he was a super horse out there. Once he gets more miles and I feel more comfortable with his ability to handle scary stuff and obstacles, I'll start trotting him more out there and I bet even let him canter some. For some reason I'm more comfortable cantering a green horse out on the trail than in the arena. He did offer to canter a couple of times today on some parts of the trail that were slightly up hill and I let him do several steps. Oh yeah, he half jumped a ditch too....very smooth jump so now I know he can do it.
Absolutely beautiful day, wonderful ride on my baby horse. I really shouldn't call him a baby, he's 7 yrs old and 16 hh, and built like a tank....so not a baby, just very inexperienced. I think he was born more mentally mature than Lex though.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 08:24:42 pm by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #109 on: November 26, 2017, 02:15:34 pm »

I got Amigo's new bit yesterday and tried it out on him today. It's a mylar 04 mouthpiece with dee with hooks. This mouthpiece has less of a port than Lex's bit which is a mylar #33 and the hooks allow for some curb action but not as much as the real shanks on Lex's bit.  I have to say I didn't like it as much on Amigo as Lex's bit. Amigo started leaning on it right away, he didn't feel as snappy in his halts and when I asked him to back up he got real heavy and refused at first, then he got crooked. He was able to trot fairly small circles but he didn't seem happy at all and finally he didn't understand to neck rein at first. Once I kind of explained it to him he got better. I rode him in it for awhile until I thought he'd had enough time to get used to it. Then I swapped it out with Lex's  bit. The difference was pretty obvious. He immediately started halting off my seat. His back up was straighter and on a loose rein...but he does drop his head way down and curves under a lot but doesn't quite get behind the bit. He felt steadier if that makes sense. This may just be me feeling more confident with a curb bit though. Then I trotted him and he did that better too. He stayed in trot through several direction changes and small circles and seemed more able to stand up and not drop his shoulder. So far I'm liking Lex's bit better. I'll try the new bit again tomorrow but if it's not any better than today, I'll either send it back or see if maybe Maisey can wear it. I still would rather not use much leverage on Amigo if I don't have to. I may order the 33 mouthpiece with dee rings and hooks. At least I know that mouthpiece works well on him.

Nov 27  We played musical bridles today. After riding Amigo in Lex's bridle in which he was able to trot a 10 ft figure 8 for the first time, halt off my seat, back up straight and on a loose rein and neck rein, I decided to just give that bridle to him. He just seems over all happier in that bit. So then I had to find another bridle for Lex. I put him in my other mylar bit. It's exactly the same as his old bit except the mouthpiece is stainless and the old bit, the one that Amigo likes so much is sweet iron. I rode Lex in his new bridle and he did great. I couldn't tell any difference and, in fact, today he did several canter figure 8's on 30 meter circles with a simple change in the middle. The simple change was easier than it's been in the past....probably due to me being more confident cantering him...I don't think I'm any more accomplished at lead changes than I've always been....which is to say I think I know how to do flying changes...but knowing and doing are two different things. I got to get my timing better. Anyway, Lex is now fixed up with his new bridle.
Then, what to do with the new bit I just bought? Dodah has always resented his bit....it's an Imus bit. He's always opened his mouth a lot and pushed against the bit with contact. I tried him in snaffles thinking they would be milder but he hated them. I tried him in a bosal and he got very dull and unresponsive and even ran away with me once, so that was no good. I got to thinking maybe he needs more tongue relief sort of like Amigo. So I tried the new bit on him. He tried to push against it a few times but he was keeping his mouth closed the whole time. He was pretty responsive in it and seemed comfortable so then I had to find a headstall that would fit his big old head and that I could fit through the small English sized holes in the bit. I found an old English bridle and I was able to adjust it to fit his head so it all worked out. So now my 3 trail boys have new bridles.
I'm thinking about riding Amigo on the ride tomorrow. Could be interesting. But I also need to test Dodah in his new bridle so not sure which to ride, guess I'll decide in the morning. Amigo sure was fun the other day....

Nov 28   Amigo went on his first Tuesday ride today. He did great. I used his old bridle with the snaffle bit because I was worried about yanking on his mouth if he should shy or have trouble navigating a gully. See the Nov 24 entry where I tried to describe how Amigo rushed through a particularly steep gully and sort of  fell down. Today I was ready for him. On the first gully, which was a little steep but not really bad or challenging, Amigo tried to rush and tried to lunge up the far side. I had to correct him fairly strongly. My plan was to get him to walk down slowly and then halt in the bottom for a few seconds and then slowly walk up the other side. Right away he tried to rush down. I had to really pull hard to get him to slow down and stop at the bottom. He actually didn't stop until he was half way up the other side so once he was stopped I made him back down the hill until he was at the bottom of the gully. Then he had to stand there until I told him to walk up the far side. This was a pretty strong correction, not asking, I was telling. Well, after that, he would listen to me on every gully and would walk slowly down, stop at the bottom and walk slowly up the other side.  After awhile he did it without me having to tell him to. When we got to the gully where he fell on his previous ride, he seemed kind of worried. He stopped by himself at the top and had to give it a good look. When I told him to proceed, I told him to go slow and he did one step at a time till he got to the bottom. There I told him to stop, gave him a good pat and then had him go up the other side real slow. I was pleased that he listened to me the whole time and that he wasn't afraid to cross that gully. I half expected him to refuse to go through it but he was a champ. On this ride he led some of the time and was placed in the middle of the group some of the time. He had horses coming up behind him and didn't seem to mind. He also had to deal with 2 horses that were wearing sleigh bells and that didn't bother him. Once when he was in the middle of the group the 2 horses in front of him took off trotting and Amigo didn't care, he just kept walking. I didn't ask him to trot to catch up because I knew those horses would slow down before they went too far and Amigo has a fast walk so he would catch up soon enough. The only time he got very concerned was while we were walking on one of the forest service roads. All the horses spread out and Amigo felt the need to watch them all. He got insecure enough that he wanted to place himself right behind his buddy. I let him get right behind that horse and he stayed there until he figured none of those strange horses were going to do anything scary. Then I moved him so that he was walking beside a horse he didn't know and his buddy horse was farther away. He did fine. He also was being ridden with a mare he didn't know. He didn't know whether to cozy up to her....He likes the ladies....or whether to stay away. I made him stay away because that horse's rider is an idiot and I didn't want her to do something that would scare Amigo. He eventually decided to ignore the mare. In all there were 6 horses, the most he's ever gone with. When we got to a section of trail that has good footing and few logs, I asked him to trot. We were in front. He was happy to trot, never shied and didn't mind when the other horses trotted up behind him. I'm a proud horsey mama today!

Nov 29   I need to get over to Vickie's for a lesson. I rode Lex today and I wanted to see how well he could canter a small circle. The object is to help him collect his canter more. Going to the right he was stiffer and his circle was bigger but going to the left he could canter a 10 ft circle pretty easy. At first I had trouble keeping him going without constantly pumping him with my legs. I got a whip and that helped but I had to spend some time letting him make the mistake to slow down and then correcting him before he would canter without me having to constantly push him. Once I got that, then I could get him to canter the small circles. I think if I can get my balance back just a little ( I always tend to lean forward a bit) and get him collecting some more he'll be able to do a canter pirouette,  at least to the left. But right now we're a long way from that. He just has so much trouble coming under and using his back. I think Vickie could help me with this and I know she can help me figure out flying changes. Lex can canter out of a walk now and get the correct lead every time and sometimes, when he's really motivated he can canter out of a halt.

Dec 7   Jessie and Eddie came over this weekend and we rode in the arena and did some obstacles.  Eddie rode Dodah.  His accomplishment for the day was to learn how to back through the "L" without Dodah anticipating and either turning too much or not enough while backing up. It took him 3 tries to get it but once he figured out how to cue Dodah just enough but not too much, he was able to do a perfect back up. Jessie rode Lex. Her project was to learn how to bend him around her inside leg. I wanted her to get him to slightly flex his neck to one side, the bend should be through the whole neck, not just at the base of the neck, and there should be just enough bend that she could see the lateral aspect of his eye. Then she was to move his rear end one step to the same side. The trick was he couldn't move his front feet. Lex does know how to do this so when he didn't do it correctly, I knew it was pilot error. She worked on this for quite some time but all she was getting was a kind of crooked turn on the forehand. I finally stopped what I was doing and watched her and I discovered she was lifting her inside rein but then she twisted her hand so that the rein was crossing the midline over the horse's withers. I corrected that, told her to just lift her hand, don't twist it and don't cross over the neck. She made that correction, literally no more than an inch difference, and Lex did a perfect bend. Jess was gobsmacked. It's hard to really grasp how sensitive and responsive these animals can be until you ride one like Lex. You for sure better know what you're asking for because he will always give you what you ask for.....and if you get the wrong answer, it's because you asked the wrong question.
After we finished riding we got Scarlett out and did some ground work with her. I haven't done much with her for a couple of months so she was not very well tuned into me at first. I showed Jess how to ask her to go out on a circle and change direction. We also did a little spiral in and out. Finally I got the whip and just slapped the ground some and threw the lash over her back a few times. Scarlett was amazingly tolerant of all that. She got a little upset when the whip landed over her rump from the right side and she kind of scooted around for a few seconds. I just let the whip rest there until she stopped, then I took it away. I repeated that a couple of times until she was ignoring the whip. Then I used the whip to tell her to walk off again on the circle. She is starting to understand the difference between intentional cues and unintentional cues. Then Jessie took over and did all the same stuff and Scarlets did very well and Jessie really enjoyed working with her. When they were finished, I told Jess to remove Scarlett's halter and see if she would follow her. That little horse followed Jessie all over that arena and even through a couple of obstacles. We plan to do some more ground work this weekend. I expect to get her doing some leg yields, turn on forehand and haunches and shoulder in. If we can get all that, maybe we'll try some obstacles....cowboy curtain and bridge should be challenging.

Dec 8   SNOW!!!!! It snowed last night!  It never snows here...well almost never. We had a light dusting during the night and it's already starting to melt. Today is chemo day for Lew and I'm hoping all the white stuff is gone by the time we have to get on the highway. Sure is pretty though....and cold.

Dec 10  Jess and I were supposed to ride in the Montgomery Christmas parade yesterday. I decorated the saddles, painted snowflakes on Dodah's butt....not highly recommended btw....and changed their head stalls out to the blingy red ones. Both horses got all groomed and pretty....except for the aforementioned  funky snowflakes...and loaded into the trailer. We got to the appointed parking area and it was jam packed with cars....cars, people, trucks, people....everywhere. then I saw the horse trailers parked out in the pasture that we were trying to avoid because of the recent rain and the likelihood of getting stuck in the mud. I refused to drive out onto that soft ground so we just came on home and turned the horses out, painted butts and all.
 So we had a whole morning to find something to do....it wasn't hard. Jess went and caught Scarlett and we spent the morning working with her. First we reviewed what we did last week. Scarlett remembered everything and did the lunging, direction changes, spiral in and out, all perfectly. So then we started teaching her some lateral cues. Scarlet has always been very sensitive to being touched by a person's legs when  being ridden. Just the slightest bump would freak her out and send her into a whirlwind of running and bucking. All of her dangerous behavior was a result of not understanding what leg cues meant. So my theory has been to teach her those leg cues. Once she understands a rider can put a leg on her and it isn't going to hurt her and she knows what is expected of her by way of response, all the freaked out behavior will stop. So starting those lessons, I showed Jess how to cue her lightly with a short whip back near her flank, and how to release and praise her for the slightest try. It took quite awhile but she finally figured out how to respond by stepping over with her rear legs. We didn't expect perfection at this point, just some kind of soft calm response to the cue. We did this on both sides.
After that lesson, which too a fairly long time, I thought Scarlett needed to do something else so I had Jess remove her halter and ask her to follow Jess around the arena. That went well. That little horse really wants to be with her human. She wants to do the right thing, she just doesn't know how. So to foster even more trust between Jess and Scarlet, I decided it was time to have Jess teach Scarlett how to go through the cowboy curtain. I made this curtain out of pool noodles. A horse can see through the curtain but when they walk through the noodles bump them on the head and back. I figured this would really scare Scarlett so we went real slow with her because I sure didn't want to scare her. What I wanted was for Scarlett to learn that Jess wasn't going to ask her to do something that would hurt her or scare her. Jess started out by walking Scarlett up to the curtain. She asked her to approach until Scarlett said she was worried, about 3 feet away from the curtain. Then they just stood there in that spot until Scarlet relaxed. At that point Jess moved some of the noodles, touched Scarlet on the neck and when she relaxed, asked her to take just one step closer to the curtain. Repeated the noodle touching until Scarlet got bored. Then another step forward. At this point Jess was on the other side of the curtain and Scarlet had her nose through it. Jess just stood quietly and after a few minutes Scarlet asked if she could come closer to Jess and Jess just backed up and let Scarlet walk through the curtain. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes and Scarlet never got scared, never even startled when the noodles bumped her. It was a very cool thing to watch. Jess was over the moon. Then we decided to see what would happen if we asked Scarlet to walk on the bridge. That little horse first had to paw at the bridge for a minute and then she followed Jess right up and over. So sweet.

Dec 11 More work with Scarlet yesterday. We repeated all the stuff from the day before and she did well with all of it except the exercise with a cue on her side to move her rear end over. She still doesn't get it but she was a little better than yesterday. This is a kind of turn on the forehand. Right now I just want her to move over in response to a very light cue. Once we get that we can start to work on perfection. Then we lunged her and asked her for more than walk. We were able to get her to gait..really pace...without freaking out too much. She did finally figure out to transition from walk to gait smoothly without jumping. We did this also with a saddle on her, one with long strings and some added streamers hanging down. She was fine with that. Finally I bridled her. I started with a plain snaffle first. Her previous owner used an Imus bit on her which I never thought she was happy with but owner needed to feel like she had more stopping power. When I rode her I used a bosal. Scarlet seemed fine with that but teaching lateral work is a little more difficult in that head gear. So, looking for a suitable snaffle. We tried several and Scarlet seemed uncomfortable in all of them. Finally I tried the mylar bit I just got for Amigo, which he hates. So Scarlet was a happy puppy in that bit so yea. She totally stopped chewing the bit, got real quiet in her mouth, and when I asked her to flex she was nice and light. I also asked her to drop her head and she did with a very light touch on the bit. I think we're ready to kick her training up a notch.

Dec 12  I couldn't help it I just had to work with Scarlet yesterday. All I did was put her in her bridle and flex her some. She's quiet in the mouth in that bit...mylar#04 snaffle...but as soon as you make any contact at all she starts chewing and pushing against the bit. I was hoping that was just her getting used to the bit, maybe expressing some recent poor riding experience...but over the 15 or so minutes I worked with her it didn't improve much. I spend some time working on her back up. Every time I picked up the reins she'd push against the bit and throw her head down. Better down than up I guess but I really want her to figure out to move her feet and soften to the bit. I think I'll try the rocking s snaffle tomorrow and see if that helps. If not I may have to assume this is learned behavior and will take more time to retrain.

Dec 13  worked with Scarlet again this am. I put her in the rocking s bit. She chewed for a very long time...really chewing and grinding the bit. I was beginning to think that bit wasn't going to work at all but then she quit chewing and got real quiet in the mouth. So then I asked for a flex and she chewed some but was very light and didn't push on the bit. I did the flexes for awhile and then asked her to step back one foot at a time. She did it with a very light touch on the reins, she chewed but again didn't push against the bit. A couple of times she reached down and out but still didn't push against the bit. So then I tried turn on the forehand and she did it with a light touch on her side. That went so well I tried leg yield on a circle and she did that and let me morph that into a leg yield. I got greedy and tried shoulder in but that was too much for her so I quit. She still chews when I pick up any contact but as I worked with her that got less. Another lesson tomorrow. I'm hopeful this will be the bit she needs.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2017, 11:13:07 am by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #110 on: December 13, 2017, 03:08:54 pm »

Scarlet makes me smile every time I'm around her. I couldn't wait till tomorrow to try the bit again so I had another lesson with her this afternoon after the horses got fed. She hardly chewed at all, even when I picked up the reins. Her flexes were butter soft, her back up also soft and light. She got stuck a couple of times but a little touch on the front leg reminded her what to do.  I'm hopeful I have her bridle needs figured out so Jessie can proceed to work with her and maybe they can progress to mounted work real soon. I'm so excited to see how that will go. The horse and girl have bonded so well, I can't help but think they're going to be a perfect team and Scarlet will finally have her heart person. I know they are going to be great teachers for each other.

Dec 16  Well, this is weird. Yesterday I went to a friend's house because she had an animal communicator coming over to "read" her horses. I've always been very skeptical of this so I wanted to see for myself how this person communicated with the horses. Mostly I was very unimpressed. The things she told my friend were, for the most part, things I would have told her...common sense stuff based on astute observation of the horses involved. A few times she guessed at things and my friend had no idea what she was referring to. Then another friend showed up with a picture of her horse....The communicator can use pictures....  This friend told the lady nothing about her horse and the communicator had never met her or her horse. She came up with really nothing useful. She kept making guesses, all very reasonable given the look of the horse, but nothing was right. She finally blamed the lack of information on the horse not wanting to talk. Again, I was totally unimpressed. Finally I brought out pictures of Scarlet and Amigo for her to read. She started with Scarlet. All I told her was Scarlet's name and age. She guessed Scarlet was a mare....before I told her the name...but not hard to guess since Scarlet is very feminine and petite.  Then she guessed that Scarlet has a vary complicated personality and loves to be around people. True. Then she guessed that Scarlet had a particular bond with a young girl...about 14 ....who had some kind of problem, maybe with drugs. Hummm.....no. wrong on several counts. But then we talked and she said the image she got from Scarlet was of a small girl who was in need of support, maybe emotionally. Well, my niece is a very tiny person but is in her mid 20's so I give her a pass on that. She had been under a lot of stress lately due to her job and working with Scarlet has helped her deal with the stress, so I guess that could be considered needing emotional support. Not sure where the thing about drugs came from. I think that was a guess based on how common drug issues are with young people these days. Good guess but wrong. The upshot of all that was that Scarlet is very fond of this girl and Scarlet knows she's helping her. Then she told me Scarlet is worried about a heart condition.  She recommended her friend who is a vet that practices alternative medicine. Again, hummm...... Scarlet has never exhibited any symptoms of heart problems that I know of but she does have an unusual sound to her breathing when she's excited or has been running.....so?  In a nut shell, I wasn't totally convinced. Most of what she told me was stuff a good observer of horses and humans could have guessed, and the rest was stuff she drew out of me during our conversation. The question I wanted answered.....Is Scarlett happy with the way we've been working with her and does she understand we won't hurt her....was never addressed although I asked several times. Still, I'm keeping an open mind and will have the heart thing checked out, can't hurt.
Next she looked at Amigo's picture....it was a shot of him sniffing some poop on the ground, not flattering at all, and only his head and neck in the shot. Immediately she kind of gasped and sat back and said...he's an old soul..He makes good decisions and he thinks about things. She said he told her this is not his first rodeo and that he and I have known each other before. Ok, that kind of gives me chills. Amigo has always been calm and thoughtful. He is very unflappable and even when spooked he doesn't react much. I've always felt that he's more mature than Lex even though Lex is at least 6 years older. Amigo has always been more like Dodah in that regard. I've always said Dodah is an old soul too. Anyway my question for Amigo was....does he realize that he scares me when he canters on the forehand and gets rushy and that's why I don't ask him to canter. Can he please slow down for me. The response was....you need to get your balance better. Well, duh, that's not helpful at all. I already knew that.

Fast forward to today. Both of those horses seemed a little distant to me. I bridled Scarlet and did some flexes and backing up and she was pretty soft, not much chewing, but not really feeling the love. I asked her to follow me and she ignored me.....not like her at all. So I spent some time hugging her and petting her, listened to her heart....which sounded fine, lungs too....and after that she got to be her normal chummy little self. I wonder......
Then I saddled Amigo. He was attentive but not quite as interested in my actions as usual. So I saddled him and then I picked up both of his bridles, held them in front of him and asked him which one he wanted me to use today. He literally pointed to the curb bridle. True. So I bridled him and we went for a ride. He was neck reining pretty well, trotting easily right off the bat, trotted real small circles, changed direction many times, was forward and interested in what we were doing. His back up was crooked but got straighter as we practiced....but it was so soft and he never pushed on the bit. He seemed real interested and focused so I decided to try trotting leg yield. He wasn't perfect but he did it...Both directions...and when he started leading too much with his shoulder I could correct him. He would have done this exercise much better if I  could ride the trot better of course but I think he realizes I'm learning too. Then I asked him to do trotting shoulder in and he gave me a few good steps both directions. Yippee. Maybe this was the answer to my question....today he was for sure taking care of me. We didn't canter but I wonder if I may be getting close to trusting him enough to try. I know I'm holding him back, I just hope he can stay patient with me. The animal communicator told me I am extremely lucky to have Amigo.....well, duh....I know that!

Dec 21   I rode Amigo today....not a great ride to say the least. I asked him to choose which bridle he wanted and he chose the snaffle. Well, I had such a good ride on him the other day using the curb that I wanted to use the curb again today so that's what I did. He was horrible!!! He tried every trick in his repertoire to get me to quit riding him. He fell out, he dived in, he refused....REFUSED...to go forward and trot. He bowed his neck and a couple of times I thought he was going to buck. He got mad and really let me know. We'll I didn't let him call the shots, I kept telling him to straighten up and go somewhere! I finally got him to trot and once he did that it was like he gave up arguing with me and just did what I asked but he sure didn't like it. Now I don't know if he was really having a hissy fit because I wouldn't let him use his chosen bridle....how weird would that be...but he was sure upset about something. But....All the other horses were being goofy too so maybe there were some hogs in the woods or something. Anyway I'm going to conduct a semi scientific experiment by letting him chose his bridle and then either riding him in his choice or using one that he didn't choose and then comparing how well he behaves when he gets his way vs. When he doesn't.  Could be interesting. I'll also randomly change which hand holds which bridle to correct for any chance he has a preference for one hand over the other. If he does it'll become obvious real quick and that will probably mean he's not actually choosing a bridle but instead is pointing to his preferred hand. Anyway, here goes.....

Dec 22   So the record of my experiment will be recorded here. Dec 16: curb in left hand, snaffle in right. Horse chose curb. Rode in curb, great ride.
Dec 21  snaffle in left hand, curb in right. Horse chose snaffle. Rode in curb, terrible ride.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2018, 07:19:23 am by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #111 on: January 01, 2018, 03:40:00 pm »

Jessie came over and we worked with Scarlet and Amigo. She started the lesson with Scarlet by working her at liberty in the arena. That went pretty well with Scarlet mostly paying attention to her. The few times Scarlet lost focus, Jessie was able to get her attention back by increasing her energy just a little. Scarlet was cantering circles around her very calmly and with no intention of spooking or running off. Then we put the saddle and bridle on her and lunged her on a 15 ft line. Jess asked her to canter and she got another calm soft canter in both directions....sweet. I had hoped we could get Jessie in the saddle today but when she was standing on the mounting block Scarlet got a little worried. So instead of getting in the saddle Jessie started patting the saddle, flopping the stirrups,  waving her arms and jumping up and down. Scarlet was pretty worried but she stood there. Once she settled down a little Jessie hugged her and petted her. Then I repositioned Scarlet up to the mounting block so that Jessie was standing on her right side. Again Jessie started flopping the stirrups, waving her arms and jumping. On this side Scarlet got so worried she had to move away from the mounting block. I went with her until she could stop. Then I brought her back to the mounting block as close as she could get before she started getting fearful again. So she was about 2 feet away from the block. In this position Jessie started waving her arms again and jumping and flopping the stirrups. As Scarlet got less fearful I was able to move her closer to Jessie on the mounting block until she was standing right beside the block and Jessie could  pat the saddle and wave her arms and Scarlet stood still. She was still worried but at least she wasn't trying to move away. We decided that was enough for today. We may need to do this several times before Jessie gets on her. That's fine. We both want to take this slowly and give Scarlet plenty of time to learn how to not be so fearful. She may never be much of a trail horse but Jessie is interested in trying to do some dressage with her, not to compete though, just for fun. I think that will be good for both of them.

I didn't want to ride today but I did want to try to work with Amigo on the lunge line. I was interested in seeing if I could get him to canter on his right lead, something I've never been able to do. I started by trotting him both directions. Then I asked for canter to the left and after several "asks" he finally got the message and cantered. Then, for some reason he spooked, took off and bucked! He never pulled on the lead though and stopped as soon as I told him to. I just told him I thought that was a stupid move and then we went right back to work as though nothing happened. That's what he does on the rare occasion that he spooks. It's over as quick as it starts. So I asked him to canter again to the left and he did perfectly. Then I changed direction and asked him to canter to the right. Again it took a few "asks" before he tried to pick up the canter. He did canter but on the left lead. I stopped him and then set him up to try again. Again, left lead. We did this several times and I was about to give up but decided to try one more thing. Knowing he needed to strike off on his outside hind leg and bend slightly to the right, I shortened the line until I could ask him to almost do a leg yield on a circle so that he was stepping under pretty far with his right rear leg and bending quite a bit to the right. Once he was stepping under consistantly and staying bent, then I signaled for him to go out on the larger circle but still keep stepping under and canter. He picked up that right lead the first time! Wowsa! Success!!!!  I'm so happy! Maybe now we can start to make progress toward cantering under saddle. I want him to be able to do a slow collected canter, both leads, on a fairly small circle on a lunge line before I feel comfortable riding him in canter. Now that he can trot very small circles, I hope he's going to figure out the canter pretty easily. We'll see, but for now I'm just ecstatic that I got him to pick up the right lead. Yea!!!!  Also, just a note, he was able to do that right canter slowly but he was a little on the forehand. He was on the forehand going to the left too so I expect he'll need to canter smaller circles in order to figure out how to collect better....maybe. will have to experiment with that though.

Jan 3  The last time I did much painting I was in college 40 some odd years ago....sigh.....and except for painting a portrait of Blue a couple of years ago I really haven't touched a canvas since....until last fall when Eddie talked me into painting a couple of pictures for Jessie for Christmas. He had taken a picture of these 2 little paintings they saw while we were on our trip last summer. I told him it would be easy to copy them for him but I found I was more interested in copying the idea but actually altering the painting to suit my sense of style. So, I did 2 paintings that were darn close to the originals. Jessie thought they were the originals when she got them but soon realized they were slightly altered. Then I did 2 other pics on canvas that were vastly altered from the original but still the same style. They turned out great. The one I did on the black background was my favorite because the colors popped so much. Fast forward to today. I decided to experiment with a new painting technique I discovered by accident on utube. I didn't have the right kind of paint, didn't have the right kind of medium and didn't have a canvas and didn't have the proper tools. Well, that didn't stop me. I used the wrong kind of paint, extended it with elmer's glue and water, and used an old canvas that I had used to experiment on with Jessie's paintings, grabbed some plastic cups and knives and made a tube out of an old ball point pen. Long story short.....it worked! I did 3 flowers on the big canvas. The flowers aren't perfect but they still look good and the colors are gorgeous.  I had some left over paint and I found another old canvas and painted another flower. This one was better but there's still room for improvement. Fun technique. I applied the paint in layers....several different colors piled up in one spot, then took my pen tube and blew the paint around until it kind of looks like flowers. The paint blended and made lots of colors, kind of looks marbled. I think it would work better if my paint was thinner and if I had used a medium that liquifies the paint and slows the drying time better than the glue and water.  And if I add some silicon I could get better marbling. Once the paint is dry I'll go back and add details to make the flowers look more like flowers. This is fun! Painting has always been a stress reliever for me and since I'm having a bit of stress in my life right now it makes sense I'd take up painting again, I just hope I figure out how to use this technique to paint something other than flowers.....could get really tired of flowers!!

Jan 4  I tried to repeat the good ground work that I had with Amigo. It seems that success I had at getting the right lead canter was a fluke. Today we tried and tried and to give him credit Amigo tried his hardest but he never was able to figure it out. I may not have let him warm up enough first so next time I'll let him do more trotting before we try the canter. I'll also do some leg yields and especially leg yield on a circle to get him a bit more limber before I ask him to canter and maybe that'll help him. He sure tried hard though today. He was cantering to the right on the left lead on about a 10 ft circle. He'd pick up the wrong lead, I'd tell him no, he'd drop to a trot and then try to canter again and get it wrong again. We both were working pretty hard and getting discouraged but he never got mad at me which I was grateful for because I was positioning myself within kicking range while trying to get him to bend and strike off with his left rear. He could have clocked me pretty good if he'd tried. But he was very patient. Such a sweety. So I finally gave up, I just can't justify drilling a horse. If he's trying and can't get it I think drilling just creates more frustration for both of us. So I finished the session by getting him to do leg yield on a circle and shoulder in with as much bend as I could get and insisting he step way under with his right rear. I figure it can't hurt to try to get him more supple on his right side.

Jan 5  Lew's in remission!!!  Yea. But now they're saying he'll be ready to get his transplant late Feb or early March. Too soon!! I'm not ready!  I'll be so glad when this is all over and I know Lew will be for sure. Anyway, so far so good on the cancer front.

Not so good on the canter front however. Amigo tried so hard today but he just couldn't get that right lead. I tried everything I could think of....warm him up first, do leg yields and shoulder in on a circle, expand the circle and ask for canter as he goes out, contract the circle to 10 feet to force him to bend, I even tried to yank him off balance once. I tried lifting my leading hand, dropping that hand, directing it forward, directing it backward.....literally nothing helped. Amigo was so good, he'd take a few canter steps, realize it was wrong, drop to a trot, then try to canter again...Over and over. I hardly had to tell him anything. Nothing worked. When Vickie was working with him, she did it at liberty in the round pen and even then it took him a little while to get the right lead. I'm wondering if maybe the slight pressure of the lead line on the halter when I'm lunging him is enough to torque his head and/or make him stiffen up against the pressure such that he throws himself off balance.  Tomorrow I'm going to try to do this with a lunging cavason if I can find one, or his bridle. Maybe then I can get him to bend better.  The one good thing we accomplished today was to get him doing shoulder in and leg yields easier. Now he will do the lateral stuff with me standing pretty far away and just touching him on the side or on the rear leg. When I touched his rear leg he really stepped under a lot so I think I'll be doing that some more because that has to help him get more limber and also strengthen his left rear.

I experimented some more with my new painting technique today. I'm learning how to mix the paint to get the results I want and boy is this fun. I now have 4 finished experimental canvases.  None of them are good enough to hang on the wall or give to friends but they don't totally suck. So I'm having fun and maybe eventually I'll be able to create something pretty.

Jan 6   Today's experiment with Amigo was sort of a bust and sort of successful. I put him in a side pull to which I attached a strap that went under his jaw and another one that went under his chin and tightened them so that the side pull would act like a cavason. Then I ran a 15 ft line through the side ring nearest me
And proceeded to lung him in that. I started him going to the left since that's his easy side....or so I thought! Trotting he was great, kept the line slack, stayed on the circle, didn't rush. Then I asked for canter and he immediately sped up his trot and fell out to the right. He really pulled on me too. I got him stopped and immediately put him back on the circle and asked for canter and he did it again and this time he nearly got away from me. Again I corrected him, and started over and this time he did pull away from me. Going to the left, his easy side!!!!! Brat. He never did get that left canter either. Well then I tried him going to the right. In this direction he trotted just fine but would not even try to canter. So then I decided to put him back in his rope halter because with the side pull he was learning he can pull away from me. In that halter I have more leverage and a little bite so when he's circling to the left and dives out to the right I can pop him back around to face me....which I did, and then sent him quickly off going to the right. Guess what....He picked up the right canter!!! What??  Thinking this may be a fluke I set him up again. I sent him around to the left and when he tried to fall out to the right and pull away from me I was ready with a hard yank to pull him back around to face me and then quickly popped him on the right shoulder to send him off to the right. He kind of lifted his front end off the ground and pivoted to the left and then struck off in a right lead canter on the right circle. I had him do several circles and then let him stop and rest and get petted.

I gotta say I got mad at him. I was wanting to beat the snot out of him but instead I channeled that anger into something productive. I corrected him with authority....well, more authority than I usually use, which is to say I got bigger and quicker and demanded quicker responses from him. I popped him with the whip too which I never do. Usually I just gesture with it or touch him on his side. Today he got smacked on his shoulder, not hard like I wanted to do but enough to get his attention. He seems to clearly define fairness. When someone uses a whip, even lightly, on him when he's trying really hard to do what he thinks you want he will lose his temper and then watch out. But if he's not trying and is misbehaving, I can correct him and he doesn't get mad....or at least not mad enough to retaliate....and he eventually gives in. So I learned a couple of things today. First, it makes no difference what kind of head gear he's wearing, he still can't get his right lead, but if the head gear doesn't have enough "bite", ie, isn't either a rope halter or bridle with a bit, he'll soon figure out he can dive off to the right and get away from you. Second, he can't get that right lead because he isn't freeing up his right shoulder. When he rocked back and lifted his shoulder to pivot, that freed up that shoulder so he could strike off on a right lead. I need to set him up by putting him on a left circle, disengaging his rear end, step toward him to make him rock back, get him to change direction quickly so he lifts his shoulder then ask for canter. Whew.  Finally, I learned I can get mad at him and sometimes that's not a bad thing because I can channel that anger into raising my energy level to get snappier responses from him. I also think he gets more respectful when I do that....He learns I'm not a total pushover. But I must never act with anger. When I get mad at him I can't ACT mad. I can increase my energy, I can put more pressure on him by getting bigger,  and even using the whip more assertively,  but I can never cross over into punishment. Hitting him out of anger is never justified and he will know the difference and he will not respond favorably.

Jan 13  Another workout in the arena for Amigo and Scarlet. We started by repeating all the ground work with Scarlet and then started some lateral stuff. Scarlet sort of knows how to do leg yields but Jessie is just learning so it was slow going at first until Jess got the feel of how she needed to position herself to get Scarlet to do what she wanted. Mostly we were trying to get Scarlet to bend and soften on her right side. She was pretty stiff today but after awhile she did start to soften just a little and bend. Then we worked on getting her to stand still at the mounting block while Jessie waved her arms and flopped the stirrups on the saddle. Scarlet was having good none of that today and we spent quite a long time with poor Jessie standing on the block waving her arms while me and Scarlet walked circles around her. Finally Scarlet relaxed enough to be able to stand about a foot away while the arm waving was going on. Once she could take a deep breath and drop her head a little Jessie stopped and hugged her. Whew, what a lot of work!
Then Amigo got his turn in the arena. Mostly today I wanted to see if he was still hell bent on falling out to the right when lunging to the left....He only tried it once and I popped him and put him back to work and he stopped that nonsense. I also wanted to do a lot of bending and softening to the right, lots of leg yield and shoulder in and I wanted him really bent and so soft I could have a drape in the lead line. He's actually getting better at this. Then I lunged him on a circle and changed direction and asked him to be snappy about moving his shoulders over. Snappy is not in his vocabulary.  But I still got more than his usual slow step over Ho hum....  I also worked on turn on the haunches, something I've not done on the ground. He knows this under saddle but on the ground he got kind of confused. He did do it though sort of. It'll get better. What I want is for him to start to get the idea to free up his right shoulder so he can start to get his right lead. As far as cantering I finally got him to canter to the left on his left lead....His easy side. Not sure why he was having such an issue with that last week. But going to the right we had no luck with the right lead....again. I really need a round pen.

Jan 14 Maisey got sick last weekend....bad snotty nose, yellow thick gooey snot, and a bad moist deep cough. She didn't act like she felt too bad and was eating ok. I started her on uniprim and she was a lot better the next day. A week later, almost no cough and no nasal discharge. I'm going to keep her on meds for a full 10 days. Lex and Dodah  came up coughing this morning so I started them on the uniprim this morning. Great. 3 sick horses, a solid week of lab tests at the woodlands hospital for Lew and, oh yeah, ice and snow in the forecast.  Yippee.  We're not equipped to drive on ice and snow, sigh. At least my car has 4 wheel drive and hopefully by the time we have to get on the road the bridges should be de iced by all the traffic....I hope.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 05:59:00 pm by zipeddodah »
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zipeddodah

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Re: Training adventures
« Reply #112 on: Today at 02:34:22 pm »

Thanks to the horrible crappy weather I haven't been able to ride or even work with a horse in what seems like forever. Tuesday we had a low of 16, freezing rain sleet and snow.....weird for South Texas to say the least. Lew had scheduled all his tests to prepare for his transplant this week of course. We were able to cancel the tests on Tuesday and reschedule them for next week but we didn't have a choice, we had to make the tests for the rest of the week. Luckily, the roads were better Wednesday and my little all wheel drive car did just fine on the ice so we were able to get his biopsy done. Good news! No myeloma cells found! Still waiting for the rest of the report but so far everything looks good for the transplant.
Lows in the teens and highs in the low 30's through thursday. I had to break ice for the horses 3 times a day until Friday when the highs finally got in the low 40's and the waterers thawed out. Then Roger seemed to go downhill. I saw him laying down almost all day yesterday. At first I figured he was just resting after dealing with all the freezing weather but when he continued to lay around and he wasn't grazing, I decided he was in trouble. He's the oldest, and has lots of physical and mental issues so he doesn't compete well with the other horses. I brought him up to the barn and fixed him up with some hay so that he could eat uninterrupted and out of the rain. He dove into that hay so I figured he at least wasn't going to die right away. Roger has always gotten pretty sick when he needs worming so on the chance that he was wormy, I gave him some ivomec. Today he's feeling better and has scarfed down nearly a whole bale so I guess he's going to survive.
Next week after Lew is done with all the doctor stuff and the weather warms up I hope to be able to ride Amigo again. He needs it and so do I.
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