Tuesday, August 30, 2011

End of first week with Pip

Introduced Pip to the snaffle bit yesterday. I took the reins off the bridle and put the halter on over the top of the bridle and continued with normal ground work and liberty round penning. She did the typical chewing getting it under her tongue etc. I ignored it all and let her work it out. Oh and I also did the rope around the butt, follow the feel exercise, mixed with some friendly with ropes around her legs etc. This all went according to the book. No big issues.

This morning after the normal warm up; greeting, haltering, flexion, backing out of stall and moving HQ and FQ over, some million dollar moves, and backing in circles. I turned her loose in the round pen, she was full of energy today so I upped the games with her saying if you want to go fast, me too, I like that idea, and by the way let’s see how athletic you can be by changing directions at fast speeds. She got pretty hot and sweaty while I smiled calmly working a lot less in the middle. When she decided to settle and join with me, I gave her a nice long break to cool down. Gave her plenty of scratches and brought her a bucket of water. Then I did a little invisible line driving which was lovely because our connection is coming along very well. I put the halter back on did a few transitions on the circle and she was much more relaxed and responsive. Then I took the halter off and put the bridle on with the long lines.

I started with contact on only one line and slowly progressed to having two, she did really well. Then I started changing directions, she was more resistant when turning to the right but when I stayed in time with her feet using good timing and release it wasn’t long before she softened both directions. Next I started stopping her, again there was some resistance in there but I was able work it out real quick, also aiding with my breath and seat. Went back to some circles and then change of direction all at the walk. I checked to see if we still had a smooth stop before I started working on just a step or two of backwards feel. . This came pretty easy because all the other pieces were in place. So it was time to ask for the trot and do some transitions, she was a pro, looking real pretty with some nice lines, good impulsion, flexion, balance and rhythm. Called it quits on a very very good note.

This all took about 1 ½ hours.

The pm session was the best one we have had yet. She was really acting like a partner the whole time. Did a very short version of this mornings warm up after saddling her. Neither one of us were sweating a bit, she decided it is much easier to just be a willing relaxed partner. No bridle tonight. My main focus was to see if she could transition into the canter on the 22 foot line without any bucking, squirts, and not increase the speed into a gallop. If she could do this, I was prepared to ride her tonight. She did it perfect both directions. This is the first time she didn’t even give a thought to bucking. So to the mounting block we went. Didn’t take long to get her standing exactly where I wanted her. Mounted and dismounted several times. Did some lateral bending and moving the HQ. Walked around a little and by then it was dark, and the bulls were starting to freak both of us out a little. My brother’s bull and the neighbor’s bull were having a yelling match the precursor to a fight and my place is in the middle. I won’t be shocked if the fences are down in the morning.

Anyway, we quit when all was well. The first week is under our belts and I am very happy with her progress. I gave her two days off which is unusual for me but I had to man a booth at the state fair on Friday for the Burwell Chamber, and Sun. before church I took a family trail riding who were staying in the bunkhouse and then after church I took my parents to the horse races in Columbus. However the days I have worked her she has gotten two session each day except for Sat. So far a total of 11 sessions and 20 hours.I am looking forward to the rest of our time together. I am positive we have begun in a way that will set the rest of the month up for success. Her owner is coming on Sat. to bring more hay and take a lesson.

Happy trails,


Thursday, August 25, 2011

3rd Day with Pip

Had a 3 hour session with Pip this morning it wasn't as cool as last night but not as hot as the first day. Again I strove to work smarter not harder. I also focused on pretending I didn't have any tools. How much can I get accomplished with just my thoughts and body? I also slowed way down, waiting for the golden licks and chews often even if it took a few minutes to get them. The more soak and relaxation time I give each horse the more then want to perform me and understand I am on their side.

Started the morning off with where we left off last night; synchronized walking (with saddle on). When way better this morning, she is stopping with my breath and seat now, and it doesn't matter which side I am on, it is equally good.

Then reviewed life up life down, and circle with human in neutral giving the horse 100% responsibility to stay in gait, don't change directions, watch where you are going and by the way keep a float in the rope. Still took longer than I wanted it too, but I remained patient. Aiding her only when necessary, rewarding the slightest tries. Also worked a little on Yo Yo. Being sure that she floated back like a boat moving away from the dock. Lots of soak time on each end of the yo yo, creating sweet spots.

Started teaching backing in a circle. First couple of times she had some brace in her rib cage and didn't feel like bending. But I used the barrel for a focus and she soon found how easy it was to go around the barrel when she softened and bent her body while keeping the impulsion backwards.

Took her with me to do some other horse chores like putting out hay for my horses, filling water tanks, moving hay bales etc. She was like my partner. I just put the lead in my pocket and went about my work. Let her have a nice drink and a little hand grazing before going to the round pen for our final work out of the day, where the focus was proper posture and free forward movement with some flexion.

Ended in the round pen, instead of starting in the round pen just to keep things fresh and unpredictable, yet keeping my communication and fairness very consistent and dependable. So in other words using repetition for security in learning yet variety for motivation for willingness to learn and practice.

Really worked on shaping her body up while in the round pen, not just letting her run around without purpose, focus and form. It again took longer than I predicted but we were able to quit on a very good note. The lesson for the day for anyone reading this is SLOW DOWN be PATIENT and CONSISTENT, your horse will love you for it.

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pip's Beginning

Pip arrived yesterday. It was hot, humid and no breeze. But despite the weather conditions we proceeded to get to know one another. She is a beautiful three year old appaloosa owned by Donna, who has raised some very fine appaloosas. I have had the privilege of working with a couple of other horses she has raised, one included the sire of this fine filly. Not only is she pretty and built well, she has a good mind. She may be a little snotty and opinionated at times, but for the most part she really would rather just get along and go with the flow. I think she is going to be fun.

We started in the round pen at liberty. I just let her go stood in the middle and watched her, leaving her to just be a horse. I carefully observed where her attention was, how she was moving her body, and what she choose to do when left on her own. She was pretty relaxed, she found a few blades of grass near the edge of the round pen to nibble on. Her attention was quite divided between me, grass and my horses on the other side of the trees out in the pasture. She has beautiful balanced and relaxed movements.

After a while I asked her to move out at the trot, that is when the snotty started, head tossing, shaking, and even kicking out at me. So each time she was snotty I asked her to move a little faster and as soon as she soften I asked her to turn and face me by backing off the pressure, NOT chasing her HQ. She was good at turning and facing but didn't want to move towards me in the middle. So I made the effort to go to her and play some nice friendly game. I also played a backing game using steady pressure, plus moving the FQ a little.

When I asked her to move out again, I was very particular about staying as subtle as possible. I was working smarter not harder. I was choosing to do as little as possible in order to get maximum results from her. It didn't take her long to figure out it was easy to go with the flow. Now remind you it is very hot out, and so I am doing my very best to get this all done without any sweat from either of us. It is working. As she is turning and facing so well, but choosing to stay on the rail, I keep working on the draw. She is finding that I am a darn good deal and choosing me more often. The center has become our sweet spot and we both enjoy our time together there.

When she chooses and stays with me three times in a row, we call it a good day. But I don't just go put her away. Donna says she is food motivated. So I go to the pasture to hand graze her. Here comes my herd to check out the new horse. I use my stick to chase them off and she learns to read me not the stick. We become a herd of two and the magic has begun.

Pips second session on the first day started at 8:00 pm. It is still hot, humid, no breeze and not much cooler than it was this morning, but we press on anyway.

I make sure she touches me first at her gate. I am particular about her lowering and turning her head to me while I put the halter on. Spend some time with friendly scratches. Move the HQ over to position her butt to back out of the gate. Ask her to back out of her pen, which will be her habit for the next 30 days. I put the 22 foot lead rope on and head to the arena. She wants to lead me a bit on the way, so I remind her that we are going together as a team, practicing my synchronized walking. Everything you do with a horse matters. And you are continually either developing poor or good habits for you and your horse. It is your choice, but you must pay attention in order to develop good habits.

Upon arrival at the arena she thinks it is more interesting to pay attention to the other horses than to me. So we play a little attention game and work on the million dollar move (move the HQ then the FQ through). When she has softened and paying attention to me, we begin life up, life down exercises, mixed with friendly game with the stick and string. (Read me, not my stick, read my intentions, respond don't react or escape.)

When she is moving lightly and quickly from life up and slowing down and relaxing from my life down, we proceed to circle game. The goal is for me to do as little as possible to teach the horse it is her responsibility to:

a. stay in the gait I have asked for until further notice.

b. don't try to change directions

c. watch where you are going

d. relax in forward motion with rhythm and a slight bend in the body, keep attention on me and on the circle.

e. don't pull on me, (keep slack in the rope, in fact I want the rope on the ground for now, don't let it come off. I do nothing but stay the same in the middle and only correct when she makes a mistake. Even then I give her a moment to fix her own mistakes if she can. The longer we go the better she is at doing this.)

f. Do all of the above for one entire circle.

This exercise is actually very easy if the handler is very very very patient. Don't try to cause it, rather allow it to happen, then it will go a lot easier and quicker. Think and visualize the circle in your head maybe even from birds eye view.

I did reward her a few times before she had completed the circle, just because I didn't want to loose the draw and join up that I had established in the first session with her. Always remember to reward the slightest try and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much harder the horse will try for you.

When she finally gave me the circle that I was seeking for I turned and walked out the gate towards her pen. She joined up and walked on a loose lead synchronizing as my partner all the way back to her pen even though she was leaving the rest of the herd. We have bonded as a herd and as a team. We are off to a very good start. It is dark and my clothes are stuck too me because the air is sweating it is so humid. Even so I had a lovely time with a great filly.

Thank goodness it is a little bit cooler this second morning with Pip. It is still hot and humid, but the difference is there is a little breeze. Hallelujah. I bet Pip is as happy about this as I am.

She greeted me at her gate with a good look on her face, offered me her head for the halter and backed out the gate like she knew it was expected. All signs of a good session to come. We started in the round pen again this morning. However, this time after watching her for a few minutes, I played with the invisible line driving. I drove her to the middle to stop and smell the saddle and pad which were now our next goal. It was easy to stop her at the saddle and she was curious about it, playing with it and stomping on it. Good thing it was my 40 year old saddle. Ha Ha! You don't think I am stupid enough to put my $3000 new saddle on the ground in the middle of a round pen, do you?

Anyway, after some good line driving and a couple of good join ups. I put the halter on and saddle her from the off side. All good, she stands perfectly still. After cinching tight enough so it won't slip, I step back as if it was her first time saddling which it is not, and let her do whatever she chooses. She meanders off towards the gate looking at my horses in the pasture. I let her settle, she walks around a bit. Then I ask her to move out at the trot. She moves out easy but is a little tense, however nothing alarming or extreme. So I let her float down to a walk and rest. Do this a couple more times each direction.

Then I think, I'll bet if I ask her to canter she will show me her true colors. Because yesterday in our first round pen session she was a little snotty when asked to canter. Oh Yea, I am right, when I ask her to canter she goes to bucking and bawling. All my horses come running to see what is the matter. I kick it up a notch with her asking her to go faster and whala, it works like it should she stops bucking and when she begins to relax in the canter, I ask her to come in. She joins up real nice. We have a nice long friendly session. Repeat on the other side, all of the above. She buck each direction one more time, but not as violently. Then the 3rd and 4th times each directions she transition nice into the canter, I don't ask her to stay in it. My goal for now is to just get a good transition. I will ask her to hold it longer later.

This whole thing did not take very long, and each rest session was a little longer than the bucking or moving out session. I am excited at how quickly she comes around to be willing, and she is an extremely beautiful mover. I could see some dressage moves on her real soon, when she gets in harmony with the rider.

As soon as she transitioned to the canter nice each direction I unsaddled her in the round pen, did a little more invisible line driving. Then hand grazing on the way to the barn, gave her a grain treat, brushed her out and applied fly spray, which was not big deal.

Don't worry about the bucking Donna, it is all part of the process and she came around real quick. I predict she may attempt it half-heartedly this evening, however, I am not worried about it. She really wants to please. Plan for this evening is the same and then take her to the obstacles after round penning.

Oh and she did overreach on her right front foot while she was bucking. A little blood on the cornet band on the inside. Just a small scrape, I'll keep an eye on it. But I don't think it will turn into anything. I will also get her a salt block this afternoon.

Already have 7 hours in Pip in the first two days. Well at least it was a lot cooler this evening working with Pip. As I predicted she only gave me half-hearted bucks tonight in
the round pen and we introduced obstacles. She is very confident, got up on the pedestal in 5 minutes, crossed the bridge in 2 and went right through some squeezes no problem. Took a little longer to get the circle to the right tonight. Last night she was quicker to get it going to the left. I work one direction at a time until it is good, because every time you start a new direction you can have a new horse because we are working the other side of the brain.

We also had a little discussion on the way back to the barn about who leads who. Which is why it was well after dark before I was finished, and Keith came looking for me to be sure I was ok. Good hubby. All in all a great 2 day beginning. Don't know that I will be able to keep up with detailed reports like I have already posted as I have a very busy schedule coming up.

Happy Trails,