She’s A Friend, Lesson Student and Fellow Horse Nut

She is SABRINA!


My dear friend Sabrina is probably the other piece of whatever I came from because aside from our taste buds we could not be more alike or more understanding of one another. It’s invaluable to have a friend feel so much like family. It’s a wonder how I went 25 years without knowing her, and I truly don’t know where I’d be without her anymore! Please enjoy these fabulous shots of miss Sabrina from our first cowgirl inspired photoshoot here as I go through this post. 🙂

Cowgirl Sabrina
One major thing we have in common is an unmistakeable and undeniable complete adoration for horses. The smell, the sounds, the feel and the mere company of a horse often brings us together after a bad or good day and it’s at the barn that we’ve spent many good nights talking and relaxing. There’s a special kind of therapy two friends enjoy when sitting out in a lawn chair, drinking a good beer, listening to the sound of a horse chomp-chomping away at grass next to you.


Along with that I’ve been teaching Sabrina the basics of horseback riding and horse care. She picks up everything as we go along and is quick to recall a past instruction. It’s a breeze to teach her and seeing as how she’s my first official [unofficial] lesson student, this is a great thing for me too. I know not everyone that I have the pleasure of teaching come the future will be this readily spongeable, if you will, but it’s great to have this positive reinforcement while I’m starting to teach.

Cowgirl Sabrina


Thank you girl for being in my life and sharing this great love I have for horses with me. You’re an asset to my barn and my family. Here’s to many more good times!

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Mr. & Mrs. Go For A Ride

Today Orlando and I went for a quick ride before the sun went down. It’s been a long, trying week and tomorrow marks day one of a new future and there’s no better way to face that than through the ears of a horse. I’m only sad I don’t have a picture of the ride but that would be due to the fact that I rode Oreo today instead of Arizona.

Oreo is currently in foal and due next spring. She is a sweet girl and will fall asleep in your arms if you stand at her stall and pet her. Today she was pretty feisty. Hunger, mosquitoes and a slight case of “I don’t wanna” made her a ride I had to concentrate on. She took off trotting back to the barn and I cut her off and made her turn back around. We proceeded to also face a few neighborhood dogs that were all up in our business and maneuvered a few patterns on both sides of the road. I discovered a gorgeous western pleasure trot of magnificence on her though I didn’t ask for it. When I finally let her go back to the gate we stood and watched a giant truck and trailer go by and when it passed her, semi-spooked and swung her hindquarters around so she could watch it more. Overall after my first ride on this girl I’m not pissed off or defeated. I’m looking forward to putting some more miles on her.

Oreo - APHA Mare

Meet Oreo! She’s a gorgeous in-foal paint mare at my barn.

 


 

Also… Yesterday Sabrina and I rode around the pastures with Arizona and Oreo. The only thing to note is that I got Arizona walking through the puddles on the driveway. Hurray for [small] victories!

Powder Makes Clear Progress!! – Training Day 5

Training Day 5 – 60 minutes

Today I had another glorious taste of all the wonderful things horses teach us when we teach them correctly. There’s no better reward for all my sweaty hard work than seeing her get something — that *I* taught her! Nothing will replace this feeling.

First I took Powder into the round pen to move her feet. We’re both doing way better at this. I’m able to keep her driven and she’s able to keep up momentum in the correct forward direction. She is turning to the inside too, which makes me super happy. That’s one major progressive maneuver right there! She is not hooking on but perhaps I’m just not doing it for long enough. I don’t let her stop whenever she wants, she will go until I’m satisfied she’s performed well enough but she just doesn’t come to me yet. When my back is turned now she will simply stand there. She’ll listen to this and that, look here and there, but she is firm. Prior to now if I eased up and turned away she’d just meander off and pick at the grass. At least now, I can tell I have more attention. I see her inside ear on me and I see her understand that I don’t want her stopping her feet in those certain spots, and she will trot through it on her own now.

I noticed a while back that Powder is afraid of the wash rack and I really want to see her get over that. What I did was walk her toward it so I could gauge how bad of a reaction she really had to it. She would pull on the rope and rear a little bit, nothing major but it was clear she was putting her foot down on the matter. Okay so, I walked her around the wash rack a few times in each direction before I’d ask her to follow me over it again. We continued doing this a few times until I saw her offer to walk around the rack while I was standing in the middle of it, so I turned it into a mild lunging. After more tug of war, I changed my approach and instead of trying to take her directly across it I asked her to simply take the corners. To my everlasting joy she ended up with her two front hooves resting on the concrete corner and I just let her sit there for a good while. I even gave her some praise rubbing on her neck and face and just let her relax and soak it all up. “You see Powder? Nothing is out to get you. And I bet you don’t even notice!” I said to her. After she gave in that little bit I walked her around the rack again a time or two and asked her to cut a little more of the corner. If she wouldn’t I would just readjust myself so that I could pull her in a different direction and then I’d ask again. With confidence, a gentle but assuring voice and not backing down, I got her to walk all four feet across the concrete! She did not freak out as she did it and she didn’t try to run across as fast as she could. I immediately rewarded her with verbal and physical praise and allowed her to stop there. I was ecstatic and still had more to ask of her and she’d been doing so well.

Teaching Powder to Accept the Wash Rack

Teaching Powder to Accept the Wash Rack

It was my first goal today to give her a deep cleansing bath because she had managed to get especially dirty this last week. Her mane was crusted together in clumps of mud and her body was covered in dry muck of the same kind. Girl was over-due for a good sudsin’!

I already know that Powder is shy about the hose. At my barn we have a nifty homemade PVC pipe attachment that has holes drilled up it so that the water sprays out in a line of little jet streams, almost like a shower, if a shower were shaped like a yard stick length pipe. I always start at her front feet and work my way up to her chest/neck area and then go down toward the back feet and up the belly to the flank. She only reacts at the flank, and today especially, because she has a nice little booboo from Scarlet right on the right side of her rump! We played a little doh-see-doh around the spray before she’d quiet down but quiet down she did eventually! After I scrubbed her down with the body wash I brought her back for a good rinse. She was not as busy in the feet but when she did move I persisted and waited her out, and encouraged her to relax a bit more by giving slack in the rope and letting her eat. I gave her permission to do this so she could associate a good experience (getting to eat) with a not so good experience (being blasted with water in strange places on her body.) It worked well and I’m looking forward to seeing how she does next time without the food incentive.

My goals changed from my last entry by the time I’d had her out for a while but that’s okay, I am happy with the steps we took today. I know I’ll have to break down today’s lessons and go back and solidify each one individually and next time I go out there I’m going to single out that wash rack and really get her going over it with no hesitation. I’ll take her around the round pen for longer too because I really want us perfecting that.

What’s the Point of all This?

There are times I ask myself that question, especially on the days when my horse(s) and I aren’t communicating effectively and things go wrong. I may blame her and let my emotions (usually sheer frustration) cloud the big picture; what I really should be seeing and what’s needed FROM ME to correct it. I like that in reading Downunder Horsemanship it’s put into BLACK and WHITE words: If your horse is not performing correctly or is misbehaving, it’s 98.9% always YOUR fault. The bottom line is for me that I always want to learn and improve. You don’t get to the level I want to be at by faking it and getting your feelings hurt. You have to educate yourself and allow others to educate you! Everybody wants something out of life but not everybody gets their dreams fulfilled.

One way I’m educating myself is by reading Clinton Anderson’s and Stacy Westfall’s training books. CA’s book goes into depth about horse psychology which is INCREDIBLY important since you can’t understand the choices you’re making until you know why those decisions are necessary. SW’s book is very exercise oriented and each stage and maneuver is detailed and explained in such a coherent way, which I especially like because cut and dry instruction are easiest for me to follow. It’s a very straight forward method. Both of them are, in fact. I get a great deal out of each of them but I’m not finished yet!

I have also borrowed a handful of VHS tapes of various CA and Chris Cox training sessions from my barn guy which I’ve only just started watching. I can tell I will need some extra practice watching Chris Cox because he doesn’t have the same flow of communication that the other two do. I noticed that when I watched one of the RTTH competitions recently. He does not allow his viewers to follow along quite as well, he simply takes action and sums up. There’s no detailing what exactly he did, why, or how. This would not matter much to me if I had a better level of understanding of the things I’m specifically watching him to learn, however I will manage this by taking notes and asking questions to those who know better.

Life is metamorphosing before my eyes and I’m going to continue to change with it. I’m taking the road to my training career  more seriously as well as certain smaller scale life goals, and I’m not disappointing myself. I wish I had more pictures to share but that will have to wait until next time!


 

Goals for Arizona’s next refresher session:

  • Groundwork for respect.
  • Groundwork for basic riding cues.
  • Quiet mounting exercises.

Goals for Powder’s next training session:

  • Lunging and respect groundwork.
  • Desensitizing body with hands and rope.
  • Desensitizing the space around us with lunge whip and string.

Powder Gets Refreshed – Training Day 4

Training Day 4 – 50 Minutes

This is actually from two days ago, August 25th. By now my memory is shot and this will be a short and incomplete post, I’m sad to say.

I pulled Powder out of her stall today and I used the approach and retreat method until she would let me grab her halter. Since kicking me that day I’ve noticed when I get in she will head back to that same corner and give me her butt. Although, since I’ve been going back in only to groom and pet her, she has been waiting for me at the gate again. Progress is being made!

When I took her into the ground pen I didn’t try to do too many different things, but instead focused on 1 or 2. I tried to use the triangle method to get her lunging correctly and when she would walk instead of just moving her back feet I’d let her stop. We’d do it 1-2 more times correctly and I’d change sides. Same thing.

Training Powder to Accept Rubs From The Lunge Whip

I also got her super used to swinging the lunge whip around and used it a lot on her body, even down her legs, and around her butt. She did great. I walked her behind me and swung the whip around the pen until she stopped reacting to it and then some. Each way was a success.

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I bought Clinton Anderson’s book, Downunder Horsemanship and I started reading it last night. When I’m finished here I will go head out to take notes so I can get back to it on Thursday.

I also bought Arizona a new saddle pad and I love it! It’s purple and black and seems to be a nice fit. Gotta love that Mustang brand.

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Orlando also came out and rode for the first time since I got her. I haven’t seen him ride but one other time and that was on Magic, the pony I leased back in WA, and it was over a year ago. It should be fun teaching him to ride!

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Oh and the kids also hopped on for a go-round. I only have a picture of Shia handy however.

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Looking forward to Thursday with both my girls 🙂

Arizona Rides the Open Highway

Today was a GREAT day! I took Arizona out for another long evening ride and it was beautiful and fun. Very relaxing and it took my mind off some things to boot. I met up with Krista, from my old barn (where I got Arizona) down by the bamboo that Alberto was telling me about. I’m glad to know where that short-cut is now so I can bypass the pitbull around the dump. Although, Krista says that dog is a wimp.

Arizona and I faced our fears this evening and RODE ON THE HIGHWAY! I’m very excited for us, we did wonderfully. She only spooked one single time and of all times it was right by our barn… by the neighbor dog… that she sees every day… Jeez, horses. We also trotted more than we usually do and it was okay. I’ll keep working on her collection because she’s still bumpy as hell, even though I know that slow beautiful trot is in there!

Now when I enter Powder’s stall she retreats to the corner and gives me her butt. This is UNACCEPTABLE. Instead of pissing her off though I have been doing the approach and retreat method and I’ve been able to get close up to rub her in the end. I didn’t pull her out and do anything today because Krista was ready to ride but next time I will put her back to work. I didn’t want to start anything I couldn’t finish. She’s not going to get away with testing me anymore though so I hope she realizes her kicking days are done!

I love this girl though. She’s an awesome mare and will make a great rider someday. We’ll get her there 😉

Arizona and I out on the county highway road, doing wonderful together!

My gorgeous view from atop my amazing horse. It was a great first time out on the busy and loud country highway road!

The bruise I got after being kicked by my Quarter Horse mare Powder.

The bruise I got after being kicked by my Quarter Horse mare Powder.

Powder Gets A Trim

Today I had Jessica out to trim Powder’s feet and I was looking forward to seeing how she did. She’s BTDT with trims but I had yet to see it. Well, the minute I got into her stall she had ears pinned and had me backed into the stall wall and kicked out at me. Luckily for me she didn’t do it with intent to damage, because she could have. I’m a little bummed that for my first kick (I hate breaking my track record) I don’t even get a nice bruise.

ETA: I did bruise a day or so later!

The bruise I got after being kicked by my Quarter Horse mare Powder.

Wait. What?? Are we talking about sweet little Powder?!

I was stunned but it goes to show you how an animal is an animal, bottom line. She’s the sweetest horse I’ve damn near ever interacted with but she turned a dime and essentially flipped me the bird. I wonder what was up her ass though.

Jessica drove her around her stall after that. She turned her attitude around well enough and gave no trouble for her trim. I even put on her new, radical halter and rope and stood her for some pics. Next time I’ll get better ones.

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Cremello Quarter Horse

I also learned that Cheri from the feed store is friends with Alberto and actually was the one to convince him to buy Powder! I told her I was buying the rainbow tack for my new cremello mare and she said “Where’d you get her? Because I only know of one around the city and my friends got her.” I told her I got her from a private breeder named Vega and she gives me that look… “Albert? You got her from Albert?” Small world, Corpus.

She confirmed she’s had no training and supported my ground-zero breaking methods for her. She said she’s a great mother and she knows of at least two foals so far. It’s all pretty interesting to me.

I do love my girl Powder. A little at a time, a little at a time.

Powder Gets Ground Worked – Training Day 3

Training Day 3 – 50 Minutes

Today I tried to lunge Powder again but it’s increasingly clear she does not get how and I’ll have to take baby steps to get her there. I worked on directing her to walk out and forward instead of just moving her butt around me and keeping me at her forefront. I quit making her move and made her face up when I was satisfied she was really walking and not just making circles. We did this on each side and ended on a positive.

I need to get advice on the video I took while trying to free lunge her. Maybe the problem is that I’m trying to free lunge her at all but I’m really just trying to drive her so she’ll hook on to me, but it’s not happening. She stays distracted and slightly lazy, as even at my most large and dominant she does not take the correct action. She will take action and even pick up speed but she cuts across the pen, does not turn to the inside, and does not keep up her pace. Basically I’m not able to direct her well enough yet. Someone on my forums will be able to tell me what I’m missing.

Between that I desensitized her with the lead rope. I stood in front of her with my hand up to steady her and keep her out of my bubble, and I swung the end of the rope around with my other hand. Small circles at first, then when she settled I did larger circles, and then louder, harsher circles, and then at last I did huge, noisy circles. Again, this was done on both sides with success.

Additionally I threw the rope around her body and legs at a stand still until she tolerated and then accepted it willingly. She did great and this went by fast. After that was done I wrapped the lead around her back legs and pulled the other end, forcing her to follow her nose toward the pressure to release it and thereby spinning on the haunches. She was slightly reactive turning toward the left but I did this 2-4 times on each side and she was great when we stopped.

Lastly I used the lead rope to squeeze around her belly to introduce her to the feel of a girth and rubbed my bright pink bareback pad on her. She gave it a good sniff and I rubbed her all over with it. When I eventually put the pad on her she stood still for it but when I began to walk her out she turned into a little hopping bronco and did a lil jig for about 10 seconds before she quieted. I did not ask her to continue walking, but I let her rest for a minute before I rubbed her and took it off. Next time I will do each step a little longer and make her move around more with it on.

Overall this was a productive day!

Today was also a good day for miss Arizona! We all had a little ride around the round pen with her bareback pad on and she was wonderful. We are all strengthening our leg cues and not having the saddle junk in the way is excellent. Plus I like to keep her working even if it’s just a little bit, to mix up our routine. She wasn’t worked much and hardly had sweat on her when we left, but it was a no-big-deal kind of day and she needs those to. I don’t want her thinking I either expect too much or nothing from her. She’s such a good gal.

One of the best feelings in the world is to dismount your horse at the end of a work out and feel stiff, sore, satisfaction 🙂Riding BarebackRiding bareback Learning to rideKids on horseback

Perfect Evening For A Ride

Krissy and I went riding tonight and she introduced me to a new riding buddy named Erica. She has an adorable mare named Whiskey. We took the horses up and down the lovely county road. The breeze was amazing so our ride was nice and cool. The horses did some light spooking but nothing terrible. I was rather impressed with Arizona! She handled the neighbor dogs almost perfectly and didn’t spook at any of the traffic. I’d like to build her (and myself) up enough to get out on the main roads. I see cowboys up and down them all the time but we just aren’t there yet. From the experience we had today I’m thinking I may be best off doing it by myself too and not trying to go with a group, because the group spooked more than she did! She ‘herd-spooked’ once or twice off of Sable (Krissy’s pinto Arabian) and Whiskey (Erica’s bay mare) but I know she wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s interesting to observe this.

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Yes, I was very happy with her performance today. We did a little trotting and she gave me her sweet western trot for a while but then decided it was time to stop. When I asked again she gave me her bumpy Ichabod Crane maneuver. (Am I the only one who uses this as a reference? I tried finding a YouTube video with no success. Gunpowder is one bumpy ride!)

Anyways… I’m looking forward to seeing how Powder does with her feet. We have an appointment with my friend and farrier Jessica, on Tuesday before work. She’s in serious need of a trim! And still a new name… I think once I make a payment or two on her I’ll feel more confident about name changes. I am also watching every Clinton Anderson video I can get my hands on and taking notes to carry with me when I take her out next. I need to work in working her out into my barn schedule. Currently I’m riding Arizona every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Time to go watch more videos. I’m re-watching 2007’s Road to the Horse competition DVD! Side note about that year: It’s awful watching someone as amazing as Stacy Westfall tank so badly >.<

Powder Gets Lunged – Training Day 2

Training Day 2 – 45 Minutes

Today I met with my horsey pal Krissy at the barn and she helped me do a quick evaluation of Powder and even she’s concluded she’s one hell of a mare. I have lead her, bathed her and tied her up until today, and now that I’ve taken her into the round pen and worked her a bit I have more confidence that she will be a breeze to train. (I’m taking my own comment with a grain of salt.)

To my knowledge she’s never been lunged and when we got her out there she in fact did not know what to do. She was also not afraid or threatening. I sent her around me and tried to keep her out of my space – this is one thing we’ll need to work on going forward. She does not make circles around me yet and will often just disengage and face me then walk forward instead. The lunge whip does not bother her even when it touches her rear and this is a great thing.

I also gave her another rinse bath. She moved a bit more this time but I made sure to stop at the right time. After she’s able to lunge properly I’ll introduce more specialized desensitizing techniques like the plastic bags.

In other news, I’m going to rename Powder as soon as the right name sticks! All I can think about is that horrible movie about the albino boy and it doesn’t inspire good memories. Right now I’m thinking about Gypsy or Opal or Sequoia. Hmm.. I’ll be thinking on it.