Thursday, October 7, 2010
The last three months the feature articles have been relating to an Acronym CAWA, which I am using to teach about my philosophy. C stands for calmness in June and July I tackled this aspect. Last month I explained about second letter of our acronym A attentiveness. I started with the attentiveness of the human and I promiesed that this month I would discuss the attentiveness of the horse. However I believe I will wait until next month to deliver that article and instead I have decided to give a little report on the horses we have in training this month. If you would like to follow our progress you can either join our chat group E-mail Leigh, or you can become my friend on facebook.
Wed. Sept. 1st was our official first day of developing 5 very nice horses for the next 30 days. Alyce's horse Peepers arrived Sat. Aug. 28th. She is a pretty 8 year old bay Arab from WY who already has some training so we are working on refining and finishing her. I have already ridden her a week last year another week this year when I was out at Alyce's beautiful ranch near Lusk WY. She is a very smart and sensitive horse. I enjoy working with her very much. I rode her a little Sat. and Sun. plus did some ground work on Mon. and had her stand tied that day as well. So she has a big head start on the other horses, which are all around 5 years old and haven never been saddled or ridden. Erica (my training pratner, used to be apprentice) got to know Peepers on Sept first and she did a fine job getting her over the bridge and on the pedestal. Then she mainly worked on transitions with her while I rode my horse Sorry. Alyce would like us to also get her used to crossing water, riding with a rain coat and working cattle a little. So we will see what we can do about that. I guess we will go do some beach riding on the Calamus Reservor sometime this month, which is great fun. As far as cows go there are plenty in our country and I am sure we can find some to play with.
On Sun. Aug. 29th Kache arrived. She is also a nice brown Arab mare about 5 or 6. I have been told she can be a handful, however so far she has been real easy for us. I did some ground work on Tue mainly for respect. On the Sept. 1st we put her in the round pen at liberty and that went real well with good join up and direction changes. Had fun with invisible driving reins. Then played put your nose on things all around the property for about 45 minutes, followed by put your feet on things, like a pedestal, bridge, tarp, log, etc. Played some circle game, then friendly with plastic bag and tarp. We then put on the bareback pad without any issues, but when we turned her loose in the round pen and asked her to canter she gave us some good bucks for about 15 seconds, then decided it really wasn't worth it. After that she gave us about six nice canter transitions and change of directions. We decided there was no time like the present since things were going so good, so we got on her bareback and rode around about 5 minutes at the walk. She was super relaxed, calm, attentive and willing. So we left her in the round pen wearing the bareback pad cinched up pretty tight for a few more hours, while we worked with Peepers, and cleaned stalls.
On Tue. the 31st Erica brought a small 5 year old sorrel mare named Punky to start and she did the same as what I did with Kache although she wasn't quite as calm and relaxed when Erica first mounted her bareback, but she came around.
Luan arrived with Wildfire on Wed. Sept. 1st. She is also a 5 year old small bay mare (Skipper W and Two Eye Jack) quarter horse. She is a 1/2 sister to Ace the little black horse we had a couple of springs ago. She has a real soft eye and is a complete blank slate, so we are excited to start working with her.
Arlene arrived late in the evening on the first with Maiden, a red roan Tennesse Walker 5 year old mare. So we have all mares this time. She is a foal of City Lights the Black Walker I had in training last spring. She is huge compared to all the other horses we have this time. Erica's first impression of her tonight was she was a little pushy, however she just got off the trailer from a 6 or 7 hour ride and her life long partner and mother City Lights was in the trailer whinnying for her as she left.
Thur. Sept. 2nd: On the first day of each horses training here in Burwell, all were given their first ride bareback (with a bareback pad). I like putting the bareback pad on first before the saddle so they get used to the girth. Maiden and Punky (Erica's horse) did not buck at all. Wildfire only made it around the round pen once before she gave it up and she didn't really put her whole heart into it. Kache put a little more effort into it but it didn't last one spin around the pen either. None of them bucked until we asked them to canter. However after their initial attempt at getting rid of the girth, each canter transition was without any bucking. So we said, "what are we waiting for we only have 30 days so let's ride." We only did walking and lateral bending but it went very well.
Since it was Kache's second offical day of training we rode her a second time, she still bucked with the bareback pad on the first canter transition but again it didn't even last 10 seconds. After riding her again bareback asking a little more of her we saddled her. After desensitizing to the stirrups we turned her loose in the round pen, she did buck a little longer with the saddle but not as hard as she did the first day with the bareback pad. So we were happy. We let her be in the round pen wearing the saddle for several hours while we worked other horses on the ground (flagging, tarping, backing, circling, flexing, etc.) Every once in a while we went in the pen and asked Kache to move again, no more bucking when transitioning into the canter. If this continues we will be putting the first ride under saddle very soon.
We repeated all that we had done with Kache yesterday with Maiden, Wildfire and Punky. Then we will saddle them tomorrow. We believe that we will be able to ride Maiden under saddle on Friday, and maybe Punky too. But have doubts that Wildfire will be ready until the next day. She may need a little more confidence.
Peepers is doing great too. I rode her last night while Erica rode Dozer. That Dozer loves his girl Erica, he is actually Keith's horse. She got him up on the small pedestal with all fours last night. Wish I had my camera. I will try to take a pic of it sometime soon. Last year she got him up on the big pedestal with all fours but the small one is a real challenge. They are soooooo cute together. Peepers and I worked on a lot of subtle control of HQ, FQ, sideways, and backing. She didn't want to sidepass over the logs but was doing fine anywhere else I asked her to do it. So I spent some time desensitizing her to the logs. It was a lovely evening riding because the wind had finally went down. It was brutal here again yesterday, however, we can count our blessing for the trees around our pens which broke some of it. We rode until after dark, the mosquitos were coming out and we were getting exhausted so called it a very successful and easy second day after 12 hours of work, but a very satisfied feeling was in my heart as we wrote the notes in our training diary.
Day three Fri. Sept. 3 morning
WOW!!! Erica and I are knocking our own socks off. We had the most amazing morning ever with 1st rides under saddle. It is really only Maiden, Wildfire and Punkies second day here. Kache is a day ahead of them, and of course Peepers is way at the head of the class but she has a big head start.
Anyway, we are jumping for joy right now with the peaceful easy morning we had. We rode Maiden, Wildfire and Punky under saddle and it was the first day they had ever had a saddle on them too. Erica and I keep talking about how much easier it is when we have clean slates and that is exactly what these three are.
Here is the process we repeated for each one of them.
A little liberty work in the round pen.
Put the bareback pad back on them. They all cantered without bucking. So rode them bareback at the walk again.
Change of direction this time, and one rein stops.
Saddled them very slowly and gently, using lots of approach and retreat.
Desensitizing to the stirrups.
Move at liberty around the round pen, invisible line driving while carrying the saddle.
Sent them into a canter.
(Amazingly enough only Wildfire through in a few bucks but it wasn't anything we could not have ridden. It only lasted a few seconds, then the rest of the canter transitions were A OK. )
Took all three of them to a bigger arena, I rode Dolly and used my new long whip, to move them around at faster speeds and turn backs. Dolly loved chasing them around the pen and even got down cutting them for me. It was a blast.
After seeing they could really move out, change directions quickly, increase and decrease speeds well without any issues, we took them back to the round pen and rode each one. Only at a walk.
Did a little change of direction and 1-Rein Stops, lots of flexing and called it a very very very successful morning.
3 horses saddle and rode for their very first time in 4 hours without one single issue. YAHOO!
This afternoon we will do the same, with Kache!
Then we plan to take Peepers on a trail ride, looking for water and cattle.
Afternoon of day 3 went exactly as planned. Could not have been better. Kache did great on her first ride under saddle. She did do a little half hearted buck when we first asked her to canter before mounting, but changed her mind quickly about that being a very desirable thing to do. Put her in the arena with Peepers, since they are best buddies now, and moved them around while mounted on horseback, just like I had done to the others this morning. I think my horse Dolly has more fun than I did. Also ponied Kache from her a little.
After putting Kache away, we rode out to the school section seeking cattle and water for Peepers next step in her education. Found both at the windmill and Peepers handled both very very well. It took about 6-8 minutes to get her across the water, and the cattle were a none issue. Next plan for her is the rain coat.
We are looking forward to this month and hope that it continues to go as well and easy as it has been the first three days. We are off to a very very good start and feel confident that the horses will teach us much this month and that the owners will be satisfied with their horses at the end of our time together.
In the middle of the month (Sept. 18th and the 25th) we will have another auditor day if anyone would like to come observe us developing these horses. There is a fee of $35/day and the bunkhouse is available at $35/night if you want to stay more than one day.
We pray that they will continue in the fashion that we have begun with their horses. I thank the owners for putting their trust in us and we will take the best care of these horses and not only gain their respect and trust but we will help them to be more valuable horses. We hope to bring out the potential that each one of them has.
We welcome new apprentices to learn with us next spring as we get another group of horses off to a good start! Or anytime, if you are a serious student of the horse I am more than eager to share my passion with you.
Nila was driving by my arena as I was sitting on Kache the night before and she knew the horse was unhappy and wondered if she was in pain. So the plan for the day was to put her in a pen and watch, I mean really really observe the horse, nothing else. So bucket sitting is where I started with Kache in a medium size corral. I remember Jack Brainard telling me my most powerful tool as a horseman is the power of observation. So I just watched Kache with a very keen eye, not asking her to do anything as I sat on my bucket in the middle of the pen being as neutral as possible. At first I put her buddy Peepers in with her. She is also an Arab with a similar build, I thought that would give me something to compare to. I was trying to see what I had been missing. Is there a lameness issue, I had failed to see? What? What? What is it? They pranced around and played a little bit. I couldn't seem to detect any lameness in Kache, but Peepers was moving with a lot more freedom, and there was brace in Kache's body, plus she was throwing bucks in for fun every now and then and Peepers seemed to just be floating around on the air. After about 7-8 minutes Peepers came over to join me, she just stood there by me for at least 5 minutes. Then she wandered off again for a while, but it wasn't long and she was back by my side. I didn't touch her, I just sat there as she stood close by. All this time and Kache had not even looked my way once. She was mainly doing figure 8's on one side of the corral as far away from Peepers and I as possible.
Keith then brought in my horses and as they gallop by our corral Peepers ran off and Kache and her got excited running around playing a bit more. Then as my horses lined up on the fence by the corral we were working in Peepers went over to greet them, squeal and do horsey things. Kache ignored the whole bunch and did not join them. She kept doing her patter figure 8. Another thing she was doing a lot of is the head tossing in a circle thing that a dominant horse often does. I see my head horse Dozer doing it at the others to chase them away from his hay pile.
After Peepers was finished talking with my horses she interestingly enough joined me again rather than Kache. She stayed with me the rest of the time. A good 45 minutes has gone by now and Kache has shown not even the slightest interest in me or Peepers. I have not asked one thing of either horse, I am just letting them be who they are and do what they want. I decide to walk to the gait and put Peepers out in the other arena. I get up, she follows, I open the gait she walks out with me. I thought for sure Kache would try to follow but she did not. So I went back to my resting place on the mounting block to watch. I sat there for 2 more hours and Kache did not attempt to come to me, ever. As I sat there I kept praying, Lord, show me something that will make a difference for this horse, I only have 5 days left. It is obvious that she has no desire to have a connection with me when given complete free choice. I realize that we are stealing rides on her, and I guess if I were a good enough bronc rider, you may be able to ride her until she quits. But that is not the way I do things, nor the way I feel is best for a horse. It may work and it may not, but I am not willing to sacrifice my body to find out. I've done everything with her and much more that I did with the past 30 horses that I have started and yet, she is
still not accepting the partnership I have offered her. Oh Yea, she is obedient
now when she is on-line, but it isn't the kind of feel that I believe is in there somewhere. I just haven't accessed it yet.
Nila was driving by so we decided to now ask Kache to move around at different speeds in different directions to watch how she moves and handles changes etc. Neither of us believe we saw any signs of lameness or pain, just brace in the mind which follows through in the body. As we moved her around, Peepers was running up and down the other arena and actually putting a lot more effort into her movement. When we stopped Peepers did not have an sweat on her and Kache was drenched. They are both in great physical shape. Another sign I believe that Kache was very emotional and Peepers was moving about with freedom in her mind and body. But Kache is holding in a lot of pain in her mind and emotions. Where it comes from, I have no idea. I have tried everything I know to help her through it. So I decided to go for a long relaxing trail ride on Peepers and think on it. I was gone a good two hours. As I rode her I worked on the relaxed walk her owner desires.
When I got back I unsaddled her and went back in the corral with Kache. As I entered it was the first time all day that she had acknowleged me. She watched me as I walked to my resting place, but the moment I sat back down she began walking her pattern again, ignoring me. I sat there for about 15-20 minutes then left. Caught Maiden and went for a 2 hour ride, worked on the same things I had done the previous day. Came back and repeated the same thing with Kache again. However this time when I walked into the corral she started to follow me to the resting place, but left before I got there. Same thing happened so after another 15-20 minutes I went to catch Wildfire. Rode her for 2 hours, worked on perfecting her sidepass over logs, backing through L's, canter transitions. Leads on line, etc. By this time, Kache had been in this corral for 10 hours. I feed the other horses and by now she really wants out of there. I walk in and she follows me clear to the resting place, but the moment I sit down she leaves. So I watch her ignore me for about 5 minutes, I decide she has outlasted me and I am ready to give in. I pick up the mounting block and move it closer to the gate, she approaches me comes close, stays for about 5 seconds then leaves again. I sit for another 5 minutes, get up move the mounting block closer to the gate, she repeats but stays maybe 10 seconds. I move a little closer to the gate, she repeats. I realize the only reason she wants to be with me, is I am
her only ticket out of here and back to her pen which is where she would rather
be. She is training me to do what she wants. I get clear to the gate, touch it and here she comes. I give in put the halter on and rescue her. But I know in my heart she is not with me. She is using me. Smart horse. When we are walking back to her pen, I know she is not with me, because she is trying to lead me. I put her in her pen and hang with her for another 20 minutes just petting her. Then I feed her and call it a day.
Another very very very long and exhausting one. I have no idea at this point where to go from here. I feel totally defeated and disappointed. I think about throwing in the towel, raising the white flag and humbling admitting that I have met my match. I decide to think on it and pray about it a lot, because it is the first time I have ever wanted to give up on a horse. Sunshine was just as difficult to crack as this horse and in fact was more dangerous than this horse, but I had years and all the time I wanted to develop the relationship with slow progression and it worked. I feel that Sunshine do have a partnership now and if I bucket sit with her, she chooses very quickly to come hang out with me.
Fast forward to Sunday morning devotions and church, a much needed time away from the horses. The sermon is on Job. A man who learned to persevere even in the toughest of times. He never gave up and never cursed God for all the bad things that happened to him. So I will not give up and I will take care of Kache right up until the end because her owner has entrusted me to do that. I will keep up my work in faith and love exactly as I set out to do at the beginning of this month. I will guard this precious horse that is in my custody and give her my very best until she is with me no more. I don't have a great new plan of some super duper technique or magic pill that will solve all the problems, but I will continue on in faith that what I do will eventually work given the right time. When the going gets rough, when I take it on the chin, I will get back up and persevere. It is the diligent farmer who gets the produce. So I will remain diligent. I don't know what the next 4 days will bring, but when it is over, I will know that I never gave up and I gave it my all, even if my all wasn't enough.
I left Kache in her pen all day. Thought it was best to give her and me a day off. What we will do tomorrow morning with her, depends more on her than on us. Repeating the basic essentials over and over can never hurt, so I am sure we will start there.
30 Day Training Diary (The short version)
We had 5 mares in training here for the month of Sept. I shared a detailed description of their first three days in last months newsletter. Here is a shorter version of the diary we kept the rest of the month.
We take the best care possible of the horses entrusted to us, and we plan to not only gain their respect and trust but we will help them to be more valuable horses. We hope to bring out the potential that each one of them has.
Ground work and ride with bareback pad in round pen.
I like putting the bareback pad on first before the saddle so they get used to the girth. None of them bucked until we asked for the canter. However after their initial attempt at getting rid of the girth, each canter transition was without any bucking. So we said, "what are we waiting for we only have 30 days so let's ride." We only did walking and lateral bending but it went very well.
Repeat day one and then saddle.
We let them be in a pen wearing the saddle for several hours while we worked each horse. (flagging, tarping, backing, circling, flexing, etc.) Then we move them all together under saddle.
Repeat Day one and two, plus put first ride on them in the round pen. (Walk, trot, 1R stops, lateral flexion)
Repeat Day 3 plus add snaffle bit and long lines during the ground work.
Canter under saddle in round pen. Pony on a trail ride.
I have discovered that many horses are ok with desensitizing while standing still, but just because you can do things with your horse standing still doesn't mean that you can do it while in motion. When you put a horse in motion they can become scared, or maybe even defensive, especially on their right side in zone four. I spend quite a bit of time with this until a horse doesn’t feel the need to kick out or spin away from the stick/bag when in motion. Spending a lot of time near the right flank and back legs is profitable. It is important to give the horse lots of wait time. Then I do the falling leaf pattern with the bag as my stimulus. I also believe that part of desensitizing is teaching the horse to respect or move away from the object. Interestingly enough the more they respect the object the more confidence they gain. I always put the horse away
on a really good note.
Mock worming and ride out of round pen in a small arena in halter, walk trot transitions.
After a little ground work we mounted up. Well it took a little longer to mount Wildfire. She did not want to stand still. It was windy, thundering and raining. We went slow, because mounting is part of riding and if it doesn't go well, especially with a colt well you can't really expect the ride to go much better. We started with passenger riding, then tit for tat, then some 1 rein stops, and circles. Next we played follow the rail only using reins when necessary. We combed the reins instead of pulling on them to direct the horse. Then we did the same thing with some 360's on the rail and finally some figure 8's. Plus we added a little yo yo (riding forward and backwards).
It was more difficult to get Maiden moving forward than the others. So I had to support Erica from the ground. We feel it is really important to get the forward button fixed from the very beginning. It is pretty hard to teach a horse anything that is difficult to move. Impulsion is so important. You have to have life in the feet in order to direct them.
Kache problems: When we saddled her and turned her loose in the round pen, she went to bucking harder than she ever has. So we went back to square one with the friendly game. We did lots of approach and retreat with sticks, ropes, stirrups, etc.
Again she is pretty fine when standing still but put her in motion and it is a different story. I suppose we could have worked a little faster but I gave her plenty of down time whenever she made a little progress. After 2 1/2 hours she
had made some pretty significant changes. Then I spend another hour and ½ helping her to circle at the walk. Whenever we ask her to go she goes alright, but it is mighty fast and with an attitude. So I didn't quit until I could send her out and she was calm, attentive and willing to walk an entire circle without breaking gait or shaking her head with attitude or bucking. I feel like I made some real strides with her tonight. The truth will be told tomorrow after she has time to think about everything that she learned today. I am confident that she will be a lot better, maybe not totally cured yet, but life will be better for both her and I. I knew we would have just been stealing a ride tonight if we had tried. I want her in the right frame of mind before we mount her again, because I want it to be as good for her as it is for us. The plan for tomorrow is lots more friendly with Kache, getting her to slow down and be in physical and more importantly mental and emotional control while circling. We will ride her only if she is ready.
I know it doesn’t make good business sense to put in 5 hours in one day on one horse, when you are not getting paid by the hour. But she needed it and I will do what needs to be done with a horse. I will to my best no matter how long it takes. I won't push through just to make things happen. I will take the time it takes to get it right before I move on. It is better for the horse that way and safer for us. Plus the results will be more lasting, instead of a quick fix which isn’t permanent.
Raincoat riding because it is raining. Lead by rope on feet, Ride in larger arena with obstacles.
Well it paid off big time! I am referring to the 5 hours I spent with Kache yesterday. She was a very changed horse today. She was the most relaxed and willing than she has been since she arrived. So we did make the ride as good for her as it was for us. The end to a beautiful day and what we think is our easiest and most successful first week ever, since Erica and I have been working together. It was a peaceful and rewarding day.
Here is our raincoat progression.
Spend some time on the ground with bag and tarp preparing for raincoat. Then work with the rain coat before saddling. After saddled I continued the process of desensitizing to my rain coat. Let the horse carry it. Hang it on the fence, and then I wear it while doing some ground work. I drag it, swing it, and throw it, all kinds of things. Then I mount and ride up to it on the fence let the horse smell it. Next position the horse so that all zones and both sides are close to it on the fence. I then pick it up put it back down, then put it on the saddle and carry it around. Finally I dismounted put it on, then remounted and rode for an hour with it on.
Trailer loading and riding in the rain in the small pasture.
Tomorrow another round of trailer loading just to make sure each horse is confident. We are getting ready to haul the horses to camp this weekend. Remember prior and proper preparation prevents poor performance. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have to go somewhere to see how well your horse loads. It is important to practice trailer loading until your horse is well seasoned in hauling.
Focus on Impulsion, transitions, backing and 1 rein stops. Ride horses in arena by themselves for confidence and to prevent buddy sour issues. Short trail ride in bigger pasture with another horse.
Take horses to clinic this weekend to ride in group situation, plus first longer trail rides.
We were very proud of them as there was a lot of distractions which included: (People cantering around on their horses, a big herd of horses coming in from the pasture, over 50 people coming and going in the lodge for a dinner, lots of cars, etc.) They stayed calm, attentive, and willing during the longest ride we have put on them. Kache is still not quite where I would like her to be this many days in, but we are glad we have been taking the time needed with her. We only rode her in the round pen at the clinic, however it was a good ride. We both feel that once we give her a couple of days off to soak on all of this the progress will begin to go a little faster for her. We are enjoying working with her even though she has been teaching us how to stay patient, giving her the time she needs to figure things out and change her attitude about it.
All horses have the day off while I take one of my horses to the camp. A day off will not only refresh us but them as well. We have over 20 hours in each horse in the first 10 days. Peepers and Kache have over 30 because they came earlier and Kache has needed more time.
5 hour trail ride at camp. They didn't spook at anything and went right across the water and mud. We cantered out on the trail, around hay bales in the fields, went up and down some steep hills. Plus they rode politely in the group.
Same as Day 12
Ride in Snaffle bit for first time. Trail ride at home and ride through cattle.
Practice circling and turning around cedar trees. We like to do a lot of training out on the trail, not just arena work. So from this day forward it is about 60% trail and 40% arena work. We do about 70% riding and 30% ground work. Added the use of a post for change of direction to follow a feel in the ground work.
Kache bucked today. She was goosing to movement of the legs so we spent an extraordinary long time doing friendly game along her sides until she could move with out humping up again. Then we got off and desensitized with the stirrups. Did some more ground work and quit on a good note. She has definitely been a challenge compared to the others and is quite a bit behind their progress even though we have twice as much time in her. But all is well, we will not give up and she will keep
teaching us how to be tip top horsewomen.
Focus on freeing shoulders and disengaging HQ followed by FQ (Dennis Reis call this the million dollar move). Sometimes we support one another on the ground with the stick. We always have fun doing that together Started sidepassing over logs. We
finished up with our square barrel pattern.
I split up Kache's training times today one in the morning and another in the evening. In the morning I really worked on moving her FQ around from the ground for more respect, sort of like lots and lots of falling leaf but without the HQ disengagement. Also flooded her with the stick and bag, in other words more desensitizing exercises than the law allows, being passively persistent. She has been really touchy on her sides and above her. She can take it while standing still but in movement she has a hard time accepting it. I also did some long lining with the bit, which went nicely. Then went back to the stick using it for
porcupine game (move the FQ, HQ and sideways). I did this until she was responding instead of reacting or humping up. That was just the morning session. I want to say that even though she has been a challenge it is a good thing, because she is
teaching us a lot, especially to be persistent because she sure is. Again not a bad thing, she is who she is and we are working our tails off to help her be a calm, attentive willing horse who wants to be a partner with us.
Focus on figure 8’s because our plain circles are coming along well; get up on the big pedestal with all 4 feet while being ridden; work on relaxation and stretching on the circle during ground work.
Again split up Kache sessions into two again today. Still putting twice as much time into her as the other horses, only because she needs it and I want to. All of the horses are still getting 2 hours a day and that is usually more than enough. All horses are different and some are definitely easier than others and some are quicker than others. I guarantee that I will do what it takes with each horse. I do what I think is best for each one to the best of my abilities, and if that means more time, it is just longer hours for me. I don't skip another horse’s time if I need to spend more with one for any reason. I am real happy with each horse’s progress. Each was in a different place when they came and each will leave in a different place, a better one, I am sure. Of course the easiest ones were the blank slates, but that doesn't make them better or more valuable than the other horses, they are what they are, each one of them. It is my job to take what they are and make the most of it, no matter how difficult or easy it is, no matter how much time it takes or how little.
To help Kache more with her nervousness about accepting a rider on her sides and above we sandwiched her between our horses and waved our arms above her, slapped the saddle, and let our feet and legs run into her from both sides for about 2 miles until it was no big deal for her. Of course we gave her lots of retreat, rest and soak time when she wasn't reactive. Little Wildfire rode like a dead broke horse instead of a green horse on this ride, side-passing over to Kache every time Erica asked her, and of course Dolly kept everyone in line as a polite but persistent lead mare should. I was real proud of all three horses. Not only did we desensitize Kache to things on both sides of her and above her, she has learned not to be crabby when riding with other horses on both sides of her, and Wildfire learned some good lessons about that too.
We got on and off Kache about 50 times after our sandwich trail ride. Up and down on both sides, jumping around her, moving legs on her sides, etc. etc. Then I put the lunge line on and she had the most forward moving relaxed ride to date. Whew, it is the first time we didn't think she might explode at any minute. We are sure hoping and praying that she has given up the need to think about or attempting to buck. Our goal is not to have to ride a bucking horse, and not to let her find out it is an acceptable thing to do. If that is all we get done this month I will think we have certainly won the battle. And oh, yea she did some real nice lateral flexions tonight also.
Focus on soft turns, stopping, backing while riding in the field. When we got
back we worked on rounding them up.
A few friends showed up to watch us ride Kache. Doug mentioned we must have the best job in the world, and I do love it even though it can be very physically and mentally demanding when you have the responsibility to get a horse along as
far as possible in just 30 days. I think we do a pretty good job, but it isn't accomplished without a lot of commitment to do what is necessary for each individual horse. It can be challenging and rewarding all in the same day or even moment to moment.
Day 18, A couple of the owners came to ride their horses today. The lessons went very well, everyone was pleased.
I am doing my best to be a real good steward of the horses that have been entrusted to me. Putting as much time and patience into each one as I possibly can. I am giving them each my very best. In the past three years all the horses Erica and I have started were doing very well at the end of 30 days. In fact each client has said they were doing more than they every imagined they would and more than other horses they had sent to trainers for 90 days. However, this time I have learned that a trainer must always remain humble. Because just about the time you think you are doing really well a horse will come along to teach you a few more things. I always knew that being passively politely persistent in the proper position was important, but I now know just how much patience must go along with that little philosophy. I wrote a book on winning a horse's heart and like people sometimes this nearly happens over night and with others it takes a lot of trust and respect building which must be earned over time.
Kache is doing her part in my journey of becoming a better horseman. I have had to be creative, consistent, and try some things I have never done before. Tonight is the first time I have worked with her that I finally felt like I was actually winning her heart. She was so relaxed, calm, attentive and willing and it felt soooooo good to be with her. I hope it felt the same for her. I know I still have to keep up my A game with her and continue building a relationship based on trust, respect, clear communication, which will lead to a horse who wants to be a partner with a human. Her eyes changed tonight and her body was softer as I finally got her to stretch on the circle using the invisible human technique. I don't have time to explain it right now. But if you are interested in it, I recommend you buy Karen Rolhf's book and video called "Dressage Naturally".
Trying to mold what the horses offer us instead of trying to force things to happen. We continue working on rounding them up a little better. Backing through the L, creative riding over the bridge being particular about what feet go where. Ride up on small pedestal with all four feet after getting it on the ground. It is really quite a task in good communication, talking to specific feet of the horse in order to get the job done. It is much easier on the big pedestal.
Here is a quote from Buster McLaury that I really like and I keep thinking about it today. "If the human could just learn to give a little bit, then the horse could learn to give it back. Ray Hunt always said if the human could just give 5% the horse would come up with the other 95%. But it's pretty hard it seems like, for the human to learn to give. Most everybody, they want to take. They get on the horse and they want to take him over this direction, take him over there, speed him up and slow him down. And while those changes in direction and speed are important pieces of the horse's foundation; the trick is to allow them to happen, not force them to happen. You're trying to get that horse to think about the same thing you're thinking about. You let your idea become his idea. It's easy right? But how exactly, do you go about doing that. Horsemanship is pretty simple. It's not easy, but it's simple."
I think a lot of time when you are having trouble with a horse, if we could ask him what was going on he would tell you he was either confused or afraid. Kache has been both with a little bit of attitude and dominance thrown in there. I keep reminding myself that the horse is never wrong. Where she has been coming from in her mind is exactly what she thinks she is suppose to do, or what she thinks she needs to do to survive. To date she hasn’t been thinking with the partnership side of her brain. But I am hoping she will change more in the next few days. She has needed, direction, discipline, understanding, and of course feel from us which was meaningful to her. I think she may be starting to believe that we are on her side
and that we are just taking care of her. Maybe someday she will take care of her riders.
Work on opening gates, ride the rail (5 times) until we get one entire lap at the trot without any corrections and a solid steady consistent rhythm in the gait. Then we did our favorite thing "Canter Wars" Ride up and down the big arena from point A to B. Resting at each end. Seeing who can get there first and with straightness and relaxation. Green horses can be so darn drunk and this is how we get them going straight. We love it and had a blast. We ended with some million dollar moves.
Again I repeat that when a horse comes to us that is a virtual blank slate they are usually much easier because they don’t have to unlearn any bad habits, before they could start learning. I can make the whole process a lot quicker. I will admit that a great temperament is a big plus as well. All I could think about all day was take care of the horse and they will eventually take care of you. We love this time of the month. Today was the first day we have nearly a perfect day. All the horses were at their best and we didn't have to work too hard at anything to get it accomplished. It all is finally falling into place, as it should.
The end is near, and I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to learn from each of these horses. It has been fun and challenging to get them off to a good start. I think we have accomplished that with each one of them and helped each one become a better using horse than when they arrived. I am sure they have learned as much or more from us. I think they have learned to think things through instead of react, they have learned to accept a saddle and rider, they have learned to be directed by a rider, they have learned to be responsive to the handler or riders cues, they have learned to be trustful and respectful, they have learned to yield different parts of their body, they have learned about moving forward with straightness, calmness, and rhythm. The have learned to whoa and back up well. And they have learned about some lateral movements as well. They have learned to give to the bit, and a little about posture. They have learned to cross water, trail ride, and move through and behind cattle. I am sure there is a lot more. I would have to go back through my diary notes to list everything. But all in all I am very happy with the results as a whole. Of course I am always looking to improve, so I am sure there are some things I could have done better, and I know I will next time, because of the lessons I learned this time. Each horse and each opportunity makes us a better horseman if we are in a learning frame of mind.
I had two new clients come from Blair NE today for lessons. They rode my horses Cisco and Dolly while I spent the whole day playing with and riding Wildfire since she will be going home this Sun. instead of staying until the 30th, due to family travel plans. Just a note to let everyone know that people come to my place quite regularly to take lessons on my horse, or they bring their own. So you don't have to wait for a camp or go to one of my many clinics, you can come here directly anytime, as long as we can find a date that works for both of us. And now we have the bunkhouse for you to stay in if it is a long drive for you.
I demonstrated a lot of ground exercises with Wildfire today while teaching the gals. And then also demonstrated riding exercises with her as well, she was a really good horse today. Then we went on a long trail ride, cantered her quite a
bit out there as we all rode together. Also did circles around trees, stepped her up the mounds, crossed water again, etc. She rode just like a real broke horse. I am real proud of her. She is ready to go home a little early.
Counting down the days now, only 7 days of training left, but I won't give them any slack, I will keep trying to accomplish as much as possible with each one of them.
Erica is gone so I put the first solo trail rides on each horse except Kache. They all did great, a couple of whinnies when we first got out of sight of the herd but nothing else. Then I got bucked off Kache in the arena That is a story in itself.
I didn't get any supper because I worked until after dark with her. I was able to make a good change with her and ride her again a little before I put her away. I remember reading in Tom Dorrance's book that one of his students said, Tom would work through supper well into the night if that is what it took with a horse. I feel like I quit in a good place with her. I went to bed exhausted at 1:00 am after talking on the phone for a long time with my friend Nila. That is a true friend who will just listen to you and support you through the rough times. She gave me a good suggestion to really watch Kache closely and see what I was missing. Let her tell me what I need to know.
This was a very long day, go to my blog to read what happened on my observation day with Kache, it is too long add here.
Arlene came to ride Maiden, and Luan came to ride and pick up Wildfire. Wildfire was a perfect little gem for me as I rode her, and as Katlin, Luan's daughter, who will get the horse rode her. Then Luan rode her on a trail ride. It was a beautiful day as the fruits of our labor were evident as we rode across the sandhills together with a pretty blue sky above us.
I was happier with Kache’s connection today, but I had to cause it by giving her some very clear choices. So it was progress even though we chose not to ride her. We have ridden her 20 times in the last 27 days. We have right at 80 hours total work with her and she has only had 4 days off. We have three days left with her, and we hope to ride her three more times, but I won't steal another ride on her if we feel like she is going to buck again. I feel totally proud of the effort and work we have put into her and I am not ashamed in the least that she is not riding like the other horses who have less time and fewer rides, she is what she is and I am not criticizing her in any way. I know that we have made a lot of positive changes for her and also given her a lot to think about as she learned with us. I have laid out the truth plain and simple. I am not judging or complaining about her or the long hours and effort we gave to helping her. I would not have done it if I didn't care about her, because if I figure our hourly wage it is way less then minimum wage. That is the chance you take, not all horses take the same amount of time or progress at the same pace. After being a school teacher for a lot of years, people are no different. And a good teacher does the best they can with each student no matter if it is easy or hard to teach or reach them. I am happy to have had the opportunity to learn from each of these horses.
Here is the statistical run down of our month so far.
Kache 80 hours, 20 rides, 4 days off
Peepers 64 hours, 21 rides, 4 days off (she came three days early and I worked with her before Sept. 1st).
Maiden 50 hours, 19 rides, 4 days off
Wildfire 55 hours, 19 rides 4 days off
We didn't keep statistics on Punky but it would be pretty similar to Maiden.
Wildfire is gone but I will put at least 3 more rides on the others.
We took some video while riding Kache first thing this morning. Her 21st ride and it went better today, however, we don't feel like she has yet truly accepted the rider, and there is still something funny about her right side. However we were happy with the morning, with some independent riding at walk and trot, some 1Rstops, plus back up and change of direction.
Kache's owner arrived later in the day and so we worked with her again while her owner watched. She did about normal for us, and the owner agreed with us about the right side and that she doesn't totally accept the rider quite yet. I also mentioned that I am sure there are still some bucks in there to deal with. I am sure that with time it will all work out for Kache. She just needs time, patience, and crystal clear communication on a regular basis. It will be important to give her consistency with cues but variety in the work so she doesn't get bored. I look forward to hearing how she progresses through her life. And I wish her and her owner the very best. Sometimes the toughest horses turn out to be the best ones. And Kache has a lot of potential.
We then took Maiden and Peepers for a nice long trail ride and gave Punky the day off.
Each of these horses left in a different place and each of them came with their own issues, experiences and temperaments. I am proud of what we accomplished with each one of them. Erica and I have put our heart and soul, every ounce of effort we had into each horse this month. We have a lot of hours in each one, each horse has only had 4 days off, Erica had 5 days off and I had no days off. Training horses isn't about luck, but about plain old damn hard work, dedication, consistency, persistence, and enough savvy thrown in. Maybe we lack enough savvy every once in a while because it took us some time to figure each horse out, and develop strategies that worked best for them. But nobody can fault us on dedication, consistency, persistence, and hard work, that is for sure.
Trainers also need patience and a great positive attitude. We have been tested a few times this month but because there has been two of us it is great to remind each other when one of us slips a little in either of these departments. We keep each other honest. As teachers for these horses we have kept our cool when things fell apart, and we worked firmly when needed while maintaining a patient fairness with them. We have not argued with then when they chose the difficult roads. As students of the horse we allowed them to teach us being gentle listeners, seeking what was best for each horse according to each situation and adapting our approach with flexibility when needed. You just never know how or when a horse will understand, make a change of heart and turn around for you. So we never give up.
Erica and I had a very lovely morning. What a gorgeous fall day. Erica and I finished our last ride together for the month. She rode Maiden and I rode Peepers. We talked about all we learned this month, the highs and the lows. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Above all we learned that we both are persistent and can endure a lot of different things, and that problem solving involves a lot of willingness to try a variety of solutions until you come upon the one that works best. She is gone now. I will miss her. But we did enjoy the beautiful clear blue skies this morning. What a great ending to a challenging and rewarding month.
We not only worked hard this month, we had a lot of laughs with each other, plus a lot of nice rides too. We had challenges, frustrations, victories, and satisfactions, but in the end it was all good! We are both better people and better horsewomen from the time we have spent the past month. And gals and guys that is a lot of what it takes - TIME! So if you are not happy with where you are as a horsewoman then you just need to get out there. Make time for it.
Notes from people who followed the full training diary on my yahoo group or facebook.
Sherry, the point that keeps coming home to me, after all these years of knowing you and doing some of your photography, is this: the solid foundation that you do put into these horses. You take the time it takes, and that sentence is not used lightly. Your daily journal reports are helpful for all of us, because it reminds us about breaking things down into small pieces for our horses, especially with the early training and then also with anything new. The horses know what they know what they know because you have taken the time to make things clear and simple for them, and you are quietly persistent every day. You don't brush past to go on and do something more "fun". This is a lesson that many trainers glide on by. I'm glad you have had Kache, the tough nut to crack. It's a lot of work for you trainers, but it's an important lesson for us all. Thanks for sharing your journal notes with us each day/each week they have given me insights and inspiration in my own daily work. Sherry--I've appreciated your diligence and your daily writing, for all you've done and all its shown us, living vicariously thru you in this horsemanship journey. Thanks Julie
I've been following your reports all month and I am inspired by your honesty and persistence. What a challenge. Enjoy your camp this weekend, you deserve it.
I have enjoyed every report you sent out Sherry. You two gals worked so very hard...you guys gave it your all & more! I learned some more from your reports Sherry. Now to get out there & apply them. Jan.
I, too, have always enjoyed your posts about the young colt starting. I have saved all of them on when Dusty and then Kai were being trained by you and Erica. They are learning tools and insights into horse’s minds. I have always been thankful, that even though you may be tired, you have always taken the time to keep everyone informed. That alone is something that not every trainer would be wiling to do. Thank you for going the extra mile! Have fun at camp! Sharon