Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 5

My camera chose a great night to die! Ha, oh well. I worked Oakley twice today. I am probably going to develop a routine of morning under saddle work and evening ground work. Both are equally important and since I feel so pressured for time I need to work on them together in order to stay sane. This morning I saddled her up again. It took longer this time because I will not have a horse who does not stand for saddling. Even 2 steps backwards is too much, so I moved her feet more each time she decided to step away or back. She figured out that she has to keep her feet planted when I saddle her. We'll see if the lesson sticks tomorrow. Once she was saddled I sent her around at the trot. She still does not care about the saddle on her back. I decided to see what she'd do if I put a foot in the stirrup and stepped up. She was pretty good. The first few times my weight unbalanced her and she had to move her feet to regain balance. I hung on up there until she came to a stop and then stepped down. I did this on both sides until she could stand still while I stepped up and down. The saddle I used was also slipping and it was cinched tight, so tomorrow I'm going to try a different saddle. I don't need her back to be out of whack before I even get a chance to ride her.

I was good with that and put her in her stall so she could enjoy her breakfast. I gave her more grain. It was still there when I returned to work her in the afternoon. Tonight I worked on leading and some more desensitizing to the flag. She needs to find the happy medium between being dull and over reacting. Sometimes the flag isn't a problem, other times she's at the end of my rope before I can blink. It really makes me think about my body language though. Am I asking her to move that way? What about me is causing her to respond one way vs another? The leading practice was the same deal. She was either dragging or rushing past me. We had a good discussion about that and what should happen when she moves past my shoulder and hits the end of my rope. By the end of the night she was right at my shoulder where I wanted her to be. Again, I will see if that sticks tomorrow! I worked again on her feet and held them for a longer amount of time. She still does not relax completely, but she is trying. Oh! I almost forgot! I got the clippers out as well. I shaved her brand. She did okay but she wanted to shake her head. She wasn't fearful, just annoyed. I am okay with that. It was so warm out that I washed her tail too. I didn't use a hose, just a bucket with water and shampoo. She stood pretty good for that. She ended up rolling in the sand though. All my hard work on that tail... ruined. Ha.

Sorry for such a boring post with no photos. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have more to share. I'll have to pick up some batteries though. I got a nice email from a reader today. It sure is nice to have fans :-) The schedule for the Extreme Mustang Makeover at the Horse Fair is not set in stone yet, but I have heard that the competition will start at 8a.m. on Friday and Saturday and then the finals and adoption will both be on Sunday afternoon. Okay... I am off to do some paintings to try and sell so that I don't starve. Horseman by day... artist by night. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 4

I had another good day with Oakley. She has really come around fast. She is still jumpy now and again, but she has it figured out that I am easy on her when she's near me and she has to work when she's away. That really helps in showing her that I'm not all too bad.

This morning I got up early to work her. I had a farrier appointment at 8:30 so I got out to the barn at about 6:40. I wasn't really planning on saddling her because I didn't want to be rushed knowing I had an appointment coming up. Things were going really well though so I figured I'd give it a try. She really impressed me. I thought I'd get a buck or two out of her, but she went around like it was no big deal. The stirrups and saddle strings didn't bother her at all as she trotted around. What a nice girl she's turning out to be! I am now able to lead her to and from her stall instead of having to chase her, which is nice. Tomorrow my project is going to be teaching her to walk with me instead of behind me. I don't like having to drag my horse around.

Tonight I went back and we did some more work on the ground. I started to brush out her tail, but then I thought I'd wait a little longer to do that project because I don't want to rip out any of it. I will need to wash it before I brush it out completely. She has let me touch her everywhere now without much fuss. The only thing I have yet to do is cross over behind her. So far I have just been walking around the front of her from one side to the next. When my farrier was out for my other horses he had asked me if I'd handled her feet much yet, I really haven't other running my hands down. I started tonight with the rope and asking her to lift them off the ground for just a second or two. She was a good girl. Tonight she tried some grain for the first time too. I don't think she really enjoyed it though. She is kind of a picky eater. She hasn't been finishing all of her hay, but she picks through and eats the leafy stuff. I am sure she'll figure it out.

Well I have lots to do tomorrow so I am going to get some sleep! Enjoy the video from day 4!


Saddling was a breeze! I'll have a full update later tonight.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Wow, I feel like I'm dealing with a different horse today! She's still nervous when I approach her in the stall, but she is coming around. We had so many firsts today. I was able to remove all the burrs and comb out and braid her mane and forelock, I sprayed her with show sheen, green spot remover (on her belly), and MTG. She stood while I threw a bareback pad on her. The girth was too long though so I couldn't cinch it up. I hope I have a girth small enough to fit her! She also lead around like a dream... not perfect, but that ponying lesson really paid off. She is so willing to give her head when pressure is applied. You can see in the video when I longe her that her head is always turned to the inside, I like that. It was a good day.

Just for fun, here's a photo of Remington and me from his 4th day of training. Here is Oakley on her 3rd. Pretty cool comparison! (Oakley is much smaller!!)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 2

Well, I am making progress, slowly but surely. She is not what I would consider easy. She is still very fearful. Tonight I hopped on my good mare and decided to teach Oakley a little more about leading and finding the release when pressure is applied. She did pretty good, but in the video she looks rough. She was relaxed and leading on a loose rein before the family that leases one of my horses showed up to see her. I am okay with that though, she needs to overcome her fear of people, it was a good experience for her. I know I look rough too, but I do what I need to to stay safe. My mare also gets an attitude when she's ponying another horse and I'm okay with that. She is doing her job and showing Oakley what is and isn't acceptable. When Oakley rushes forward, Risk lays her ears back and moves forward to try to stay ahead. I ended up having to snub Oakley up to the saddle horn because she was so fearful of the people taking video in the arena. She didn't want to lose sight of them so when we turned away from them she would rush forward. I'm a little apprehensive to post video like this because it may look like I'm pulling on her a lot, but the releases came when they were needed and I wasn't any harder on her than I needed to be. Still a long way from throwing a leg over her!

More Mustangs

If you're looking for a place to find more mustangs competing in the Makeover, here is a link to the facebook page I created for the competition.

I will try to get some links up to trainer's blogs and personal pages on my sidebar later today.

I woke up at 3 and couldn't fall back to sleep, so I went out to check on Oakley. I was a little discouraged yesterday when I left her without being able to slip a halter on. So many of the other trainers were able to accomplish that right away. Of course one of my goals was to not worry about the progress of others, only my own, but it's hard not to. So this morning I decided to work Oakley in her stall instead of the larger arena. I had more success this way even though it can be intimidating to work with such a large animal in such a small space. I was able to rub her shoulder, neck, and head from both sides and get a halter on. I didn't attempt to rub her hip, that will come. I was also able to remove some of the burrs from her mane. The burrs in her forelock will have to wait though. I was out there for about an hour before I decided we had made the progress I was hoping for.

Oakley in her halter!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 1

What a long day. It started this morning at 4 am because I couldn't sleep. I decided to head out to the barn and get some extra chores done before the mustang arrived. I was so nervous, I just had to keep busy. The plan was to leave at 6 am. I would be driving and hauling Jessica Davis' and Tracy Schmidt's mustangs as well as my own. My friend Amanda came along for the ride as well. Everyone arrived on time so we hit the road at about 6. The weather was perfect for driving and we made good time after a small detour (wrong turn). We arrived at the holding facility in Mequon at 8 am. We were the 5th trailer in line.

We had time to go check out the mares. They were all stunning. I liked many of them, and would have had a hard time choosing one if I actually had a choice! Since we were 5th in line we had to wait to get our paperwork until the trainers in front of us got theirs. I was quite anxious to find out which horse I had drawn. My turn in line finally came and I quickly filled out my information. I was handed a piece of paper with my horse's number and description. I drew number 1042, a brown mare with a star and a snip. She is from Murderer's Creek HMA in Oregon.

After I found out my horses number and markings, the search was on. I eagerly scanned the pens looking for a mare that matched this description. After what seemed like forever, I was finally able to locate her. She was everything I had been hoping for. She is small and dark with beautiful, kind eyes.

Oakley and her forelock full of burrs :-(

Oakley is on the right with the big star.

Me, Jessica, and Tracy

Trailer loading and unloading went as smooth as we could have hoped for. I worked Oakley today with the bamboo pole and lariat. She is a difficult horse to predict. One moment she seems okay with me, and the next she is spinning and bolting the other direction. I think tomorrow I will work her in the stall a little before I take her into the larger arena like I did today. We weren't allowed to put halters on our horses, so she is naked right now.

I am beat, so I don't have much time for details, but please watch and enjoy the video I made for today.

I'll have more updates tomorrow! Now it's time for sleep!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Counting Down the Days

Well, only 10 more days. I can't even begin to describe my excitement! I am still apprehensive about getting my hopes up too high. I worry about things. I don't want a big horse. I don't care about color, though I wouldn't mind something dark. I hope that my horse is sound and healthy. A good mind would be appreciated as well.

There is also the question of income. My last unemployment check will be the week after I pick up my horse. I won't get benefits once I complete my certification. I will be able to substitute teach, but I'm not sure what districts I'll be able to get into. I have a lot on my mind, needless to say. I suppose I just have to have faith that things will happen the way they do for a reason... that's never been a problem for me in the past.

Enough about those worries. I have been thinking up names for quite some time now. Originally I planned to name the mustang after another artist (like Remington). Once I learned it would be a mare, my selection of recognizable artists was depleted to only a few. I thought about calling her Frida, after Frida Kahlo. Then I thought about naming her "The Surrealist" and calling her "Surry" or "Dream". Next I thought about the art of music. Maybe calling her "Lyric". Lately though I've been thinking of naming her after Annie Oakley. My uncle does cowboy action shooting in his spare time and he's been teaching me about guns and shooting. I want to get my mustang to the point where I can shoot off of her. Annie's nickname was "Little Sure Shot". I like that name. I would call her Oakley. It all depends though. Just like with Remington, her name will come to me when I see her.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Importance of Arena Work for the Trail Horse

Horse owners often send their horse for training to become better trail horses. They want their horses to get the necessary experience out on the trail in order to be safe, reliable mounts. When I get a horse intended to be a trail mount in for training I spend 75% of my time with this horse in the arena and 25% on the trail, at least for the first 2 months. Owners are sometimes disappointed to find this out because they want their horse to have experience on the trail, but I have good reasoning for my method.

If my horse doesn’t respond to my cues in an arena (a controlled setting), you can bet he won’t respond to my cues out on the trail. The trail offers so many outside stimuli that the horse must process, it is important that he learns to listen and respond to me before he responds to the stimuli found out on the trail. This foundation must be built in a safe environment where learning can occur, such as an arena.

I want my trail horse to know 4 vital skills before he ever sets foot in the open. These 4 skills are: Forward, whoa (including the one rein stop), the start of collection, and yielding to leg pressure. My first priority in training a horse is safety. By practicing these developing 4 skills in an arena, these requests become second nature to both me and the horse. That is why it is also important that the owner takes lessons and learns the cues that I teach the horse. When I need to make the request out on the trail, for example, if the horse bolts, the horse will rely on the prior knowledge he learned in the arena instead of following his original instinct to flee. I will describe each skill I teach my trail horses below and include why it is important to set the foundation for each skill in the arena first.

Forward – Forward is the first thing any horse should learn. I teach my horses forward first on the ground with verbal and visual cues, then from the saddle with seat and leg aids (and the ends of my reins if needed). If I point my horse in a direction and ask him to go forward his only question of me should be “How fast?”. This is usually easy to get in an arena free from distraction. The horse feels comfortable going around, following the fence on nice even ground. The horse learns to carry me at all speeds without worry of losing his footing. He also learns to follow my direction at any speed. It is unfair to ask my young horses to learn to carry my weight out on the trail on uneven terrain. They must first learn to carry me and move forward at all 3 gaits on flat ground. How many times have you heard someone complain of a horse that will not leave the barn? Simply put, this horse is refusing to go forward. This type of horse did not develop a response to the “go forward” cue, or he was spoiled by someone who did not enforce the “go forward” cue. Once the horse is comfortable going forward off of a cue in an empty arena I will begin adding obstacles that I expect my horse to go over. These obstacles can include tarps, bridges, poles, water etc. The horse learns that no matter what is in front of him, he must trust me to move forward at the pace I ask him to go. Now that he’s learned to go forward in a controlled setting, he will have the confidence to go forward out on the trail.

Whoa – Whoa is the second thing any horse should learn. A horse can’t learn “whoa” until he can go forward. Again, I teach my horses on the ground first with verbal and visual cues, and then from the saddle with verbal, seat, and rein cues. I should be able to use any single one of those aids (verbal, seat, rein) or all three together to stop my horse. I probably do not need to go into great detail as to why it is important that my horse knows how to stop out on the trail. Anybody who has ever been on a horse that bolts can tell you how dangerous this situation can be, not only to the horse and rider, but to anyone else who may be in the bolting horse’s path. I teach my horses to be soft, supple, and light in the bridle. If I pick up on a rein, I expect my horse to give me his face. If I move a leg back I expect my horse to disengage his hindquarters as well. Those two cues together are what is known as the one rein stop. If a horse bolts and he does not respond to my verbal, seat, or rein cues to whoa I know I will be able to stop him with the one rein stop. I practice this in the arena. He knows how to give his face and disengage his hip before I take him out on the trail. By taking his face from him and disengaging his hip he has no power left to propel himself forward and bolt. This technique can also be used to stop a bucker.

The start of collection - I say the start of collection because this can take years to develop, but it is very important that a trail horse knows how to give his face, round his back, and use his hind end. Imagine riding down a steep embankment after a rain storm. Would you rather have a horse that blindly throws his head in the air and charges down the hill on his forehand or a horse that gives his face, rounds his back, and sits on his haunches to slide down that hill in a controlled manner? I would much rather have a horse that knows how to collect and sit on his haunches down that hill. The same is true for going up hills. Do you want a horse that scrambles up the hill, practically dragging himself up it by his front legs, or a horse that powers from behind with his rear end and propels himself up the hill. The horse who knows how to use himself will be sure footed on the trail. Horses need to be taught how to correctly carry themselves and the weight of their rider.

Yield to my legs – The next thing I will teach my young trail horses is how to move off of my leg aids. Imagine heading down a narrow winding trail (such as those found at Magnolia Bluff). Trees are on either side of you making the path seem as if it is closing in on you and your horse. If your horse moves off to one side or the other you’ll end up needing a knee replacement. A horse that moves off of leg aids would have no trouble negotiating through a trail like this safely, but if your legs mean nothing to your horse you are in a dangerous situation. I teach my horses lateral movements such as the side pass and leg yield. I also teach them to move their front end independently from their hind end and vice versa. Again, all of this is done in order to prepare the horse to be a safe mount out on the trail.

I teach my trail horse all of these skills before we venture out on the trails so that I truly set him up for success. It would be absolutely unfair to ask my horse to do any of these tasks without first practicing at home. One of the best qualities in a trail horse is confidence and the only way to get that confidence is to prepare the horse for what lies ahead.