New Pony Gets Groundworked – Training Day 1

We have a new girl at the barn! I’m calling today (12.17.2015) Day One of training Miss Pony (that is her literary filler name, until we decide on what shall stick and I can do her introduction post) even though I worked with her yesterday too.

While she is a bomb-proof [former] pony ride pony there are some holes in her groundwork. As a result I’m training her through Clinton Anderson’s big green book that I’ve mentioned before, Clinton Anderson’s DownUnder Horsemanship – Establishing Respect and Control for English and Western Riders. As I go through it from the beginning I will mark the exercises I do and relay the notes taken on how she did with it that day. I gotta say this little pistol is way more than just a cute painted pony 😉

Here is the training breakdown of her official Day One in training:

  1. The Hula Hoop (pg.49)
    She had absolutely no issues with this. she stands still and doesn’t care about coming into my bubble. I could touch her nose with the stick at first so I simply backed her up a bit. It was also easy to keep her eyes. Perfection.
  2. Desensitizing to the Rope (pg.51)
    No issues here either. I slung it around every part of her body from both sides. She moved her back legs only slightly once or twice at first but she made no attempt to kick or move. It did not last long and her face/ears were calm the whole time.
  3. Desensitizing to the Stick & String (pg.55)
    Again, no issues. She’d already been familiar with the lunge whip apparently. The stick is used to give praise more often than spank anyway, and she’s rubbed down with it often to keep it positive. No issues with the string. I did not slap the ground.
  4. Disengage the Hindquarters (pg.60)
    Will need more work but she did it from both sides at the end. I’ll need to count my cues with rhythm as recommended and remember the proper order for asking through demanding. She does tend to back up so I’ll need to stay with her behind the driveline. I also need to be sure I’m not settling for the wrong feet movement. She needs to cross over correctly.
  5. Backing Up (pg.66)
    Backs up really well with a rope wiggle now. I did reinforce with gentle taps to her chest or marching to get more steps after consistent single steps.
  6. Yielding the Forequarters (pg.77)
    NEEDS MAJOR WORK. When pressure is applied to her fore-end she comes into my space and shoves her shoulder at me. I need a shorter, firmer crop to use in this exercise so she can’t close the distance before I get a good spank in. If she does not shove into me, and sometimes even after she does, she’ll move to go around me. I did back her up back into place when she did that but perhaps not the recommended 20 steps. I’ll pay more attention to that next time, adding more enthusiasm. The “Common horse problems” solution in the book does not work if I can’t get a good smack in. She pushes against anything, even air taps. She is also not in any position to back up as she’s already made contact with me. More help is definitely needed to master this exercise.

We shall see how our review of these go tomorrow, and I hope to have an introductory post with lots of adorable pictures made out for her very soon! 🙂

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Arizona’s Two Hour Walk And My Near-Fall

I’m sorry blog for I have neglected. It’s been two months since my last entry. I’m back and ready to write about my latest adventure with my Zoni Poni.

Yesterday, neighboring barn buddy Erika and I took Arizona and Whiskey out for a ride around the county roads. We met up at the field short cut between our barns and then continued down a ways, finally stopping at an off-road made of dirt that intersected the two roads. The ditch between us and the road was full of water and instead of going around it I coaxed Arizona through it. The silly horse will plunge into the ocean as far as I’ll let her but balk at a small pool of water on the ground. It was no matter in the end though as she tromped through it like a champ. Whiskey girl didn’t like it at first either but then she too was through it.

We had our share of dogs that day and I myself noticed more than the usual handful. I know which houses has them but some don’t always come out, and I guess I didn’t know just how many each one has. Seriously, each property has at least 3-6 dogs and there are at least 10 houses I consistently pass by. Only 1 or 2 of those properties have their dogs contained in some way so they always come up barking their best at Arizona who usually just flicks an ear and walks on by. Sometimes though if they come up too fast from the side she’ll spook but that didn’t really happen this time.

A while back I wrote an entry about a particular ride during which Arizona spooked pretty bad at the very end, at the property next to ours, when their dog – whom Arizona knows very well – ran up at us from the side. The dog was running fast and took me by surprise too so I don’t blame her but anyway, I digress. This time Arizona spooked in darn near the same spot only there was nothing to spook at! I am not even sure what to call it. I think she skirted to the side and then hopped, because all I can really remember is flying up from my seat, gripping with my legs and losing the reins. I felt myself fall a little to the left and up I went, and it’s funny my thought process had already worked through me landing on the ground and I’d accepted my fate, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t grab the horn but I reached for her mane/neck instead for bracing I guess and on I stayed. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to falling off since I dropped off that bucking pony when I was 8ish… I feel like I don’t know how I stayed on but then again I do think I’m not giving myself enough credit. I’ve always been good about sitting spooks – *knock on wood* – and I think this was just another reflection of decent balance. (Thanks, mom!)

What’s funny is I did just take my feet out of the stirrups and let my legs hang because they were seriously cramped by then, just a few strides before she did that. So not only did I drop the reins by accident I had zero support from my stirrups. It’s not like she ever spooks at stray/dangling tack in saddle or on the ground so I’d be hard-pressed to believe that’s what did ALL THAT. They weren’t even flopping around her sides at the slow walk she was doing. It just makes me laugh (I’m glad I can laugh about it) that the moment I try to relax a bit on the final few yards home all that happens.

Riding Arizona 12-14-2014

Just past the mailboxes there on the right is where it happened both times. To further desensitize her to that area I will probably hand-lead her up and down the road a few times and then ride up and down the road a few more.

All in all it was a great ride. Two hours from mount to dismount and I’m beyond saddle sore today but it always makes me proud. I get to take my horse out and enjoy a breezy Sunday almost every week and she always takes care of me. I’ll take the sore!

Arizona – The Good, The Bad and the Mareish

Today I enjoyed the rewarding splendor of what consistency and patience can provide a gal and her horse. I also received an uncomplimentary reminder that my horse, not unlike myself, is a female.

What I mean by this is…

The Good: I had intentions to ride today, however I happily settled for some bareback ground mounting practice. I know I can get on her just fine with the proper leverage, but in order to improve my body awareness properly I need to work both on and off the horse. Just riding around bareback isn’t enough for me. I finally have to learn this too. Since she was standing much better than times previous I really felt proud and confident that she could take a bit of banging around.

Arizona, showing me the fruits of my labors. Standing quiet, no chewing, no fidgeting about, no trying to pick at the grass... Very good job, girl!

Arizona, showing me the fruits of my labors. Standing quiet, no chewing, no fidgeting about, no trying to pick at the grass… Very good job, girl!

I wasn’t having success actually getting my leg up onto her back enough to get on but I didn’t get too discouraged. I quickly rubbed her down in the areas where I was putting pressure after each attempt and I just let myself focus on the movements I needed to be making. My clumsy self even threw my shin into her hip bone a time or two and she stood like a champ. I was very impressed with her, more than enough to keep me positive about my failures.

The Bad: I wanted to reward Arizona for being such a good girl for me all morning and turned her loose to graze for a while. Sabrina and I took to the hitching post next, for further practicing my form. Just like a horse, a little success builds confidence! And it worked great. Sabrina gave it a try for fun first and third time was a charm! She hit it every time after that.

Well… When it was my turn I greatly underestimated the necessary momentum because of how much shorter the post is than Arizona’s back. I didn’t want to throw myself clean to the other side so I dropped my effort down a notch. Up and over I go only I begin to realize I’m not going to make it. My legs were already hooked around but my upper body didn’t follow enough, and I was dragging myself down. I just held on and let it happen, refusing to accept it, and when I had reached complete upsidedownness Sabrina was laughing hysterically and my arms were in pain. She shouted, “You’re a sloth! You’re a sloth!” between strong bouts of laughter. It was pretty funny to me too but my arms had lost their steam and down I went. After this initial try though, I stuck my landing successfully each time.

And what would my practice fail be without a picture?

Horse life fail.

Horse life fail but practice makes perfect. I’m only glad this didn’t happen with Arizona instead. 😉

A slight wood-burn as a result of scraping my arm down the post to hang on. Some bruising, popped blood vessels and torn up skin but it was worth it.

A slight wood-burn as a result of scraping my arm down the post to hang on. Some bruising, popped blood vessels and torn up skin but it was worth it.

And now…

The Mareish: I guess Miss Zoni just wouldn’t be true to herself if she didn’t give me the horseverbial finger every once in a while right? But really Arizona, on such a GOOD day?? She decided that when it came time to get put up she wasn’t going to take it. I’ve never had so much trouble catching her than I have today in all this time. She made both of us run and exercised us good! When I finally caught her (you could just tell she was thinking “Fine woman, whatever”) I made her arse run circles up and down the small hill beside the barn. It’s enough of an incline to wear her out but hey I figure she wants to run, I make her run. And we’ll build up some topline  😉
I was positively exhausted by this point and it took me a good [sad] while to fully catch my breath. Darn her, making me sweat and stuff. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this. To help make up for it I’m going to share a few pics from our last two rides instead!

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Sabrina and Oreo. Her first time out on the roads! They both did amazing . Tuesday, 10/7.

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Sabrina and Oreo leading the way back to the barn. I think they look good together 🙂 Tuesday, 10/7.

Sunday, 10/5.

Letting Zoni dry off some after a really good 1.5 hour ride out on the country roads. It was a good day to be up early. Sunday, 10/5.

Arizona Practices Her Patience

Training time: 2 hours

Today was a much needed day of easy to grasp lessons for Miss Zoni. We worked on patience and to sum it up: she did great.

I started by tying her up at one of our hitching trees. I groomed her right away because she still had week-old caked on mud on her and I wanted that off pronto.

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After she was as curried and brushed as she was gonna get I simply let her stand there. I pulled my chair and water bottle out and sat in the shade, either on my phone or just sitting there, but ignoring her bottom line. We remained this way for a time before I put her saddle on, cinching to varying degrees of tightness as a time, and then the bridle, and then I let her stand there again for a good long while. And I sat ignoring her. Unless she felt like biting at the bark, then I made myself loud and uncomfortable to make her stop.

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Something like an hour passes by time I messed with her next. I pulled her onto the wash rack and tied her close so she couldn’t reach any grass, and I sprayed down the post so she wouldn’t chew it. If ever she tried I made the same annoyance of myself to her and it was a nonissue. Once she was good and chilled I ended this block of time by tightening up the chinch good at finished.

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After a semi-brief while I began putting weight into the stirrup and pretending to get on. Granted, she was still tied at this point, but she remained still – with her feet and body. She could have still danced about with what space and slack she had but she didn’t.

I decided I was going to try mounting her from the ground solo as well. And as luck would have it after two solid tries I stuck it! It’s maybe a trivial success, but a success to me none the less. She is 15.1 and I am 5″3 and stout! This mounting from the ground stuff isn’t new to me but with her it is. I’ve always used a step ladder, mounting block, fencing, a leg up – whatever was easiest just to get on with minimal strain on her back. Well I wanted to take my lesson further by getting into the saddle and what better day to practice doing it from the ground than this?

Yea. It was a success.

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When I got up I patted her down; neck and rump, and told her what an awesome girl she was. I just stayed out and enjoyed the view, and the amazing 80 degree breeze. It’s as cool as it’s ever been since I’ve been here and it was much appreciated after the rotten humid heat. It was a great day to build on my relationship with my horse and her abilities!

When I was satisfied (and now running on a schedule to pick up the kids from school) I dismounted and undid her tack as structured as I put it on, albeit a bit faster. She stood quiet while I put things away and grabbed a few pellets to reward her with.

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Thank you to my girl for being amazing and receptive. I love her. She is a girls best first-horse-since-childhood hands down.

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“Flash back Friday” to the day I truly bought my girl. Signed paperwork and handed over my final dollar and she was 100% MINE!

New and Ever Changing

Things have been happening in this horse-world of mine and it’s time to share.

First of all, I’ve let Powder go. I stopped payment on her and she was sold to Alberto’s good friend and cowboy horse trainer, Art. I deeply enjoyed the time I put into her and I’m sad to say I didn’t even get to say goodbye, it was such a quick ordeal. I will miss her but at least I know I can check in on her now and then. She’s well treated, well trained and she’s in a happy home.

This means my foal plans have also changed. Instead of having Powder and her foal, I’m going to be getting first pick out of the other mares…

  1. Scarlet, the palomino, is due first in March and she’s bred to his dunalino stud.
  2. Then there’s Missy, the sorrel tank with a head like Arizona who is bred to his smokey black stud. She’s a looker and I’m excited to see if she throws a black or possibly even a buckskin.
  3. And last there’s Roxy, the smokey cream dun. She’s bred to the dunalino stud as well and she’s actually the mother of the smokey black stud Missy is bred to! I’m more than excited about her color possibilities as among them are just about every color I’d be happy with – but especially – GRULLA.

My plan is to see if Missy gives me a black foal before passing on it but even then I’m really wanting to hold out for Roxy. There are just so many options for her it’s anybody’s guess but my heart wants a grulla so bad. I guess we’ll see. Can’t wait for spring 2015!


Arizona and I are doing well. I do enjoy being able to focus on her more now that I don’t have two to train, and we’re working on basic groundwork (still) and bareback riding right now. The last time I took her out was Wednesday I believe, and Sabrina and I both took some time on her, working on feeling our seats and learning the glue, as I call it. If my mother self-taught all her horseback riding skills bareback and it taught her to ‘stick like glue’ then so will I.

Now here are some pictures to enjoy.

Riding Bareback Being Silly

Taking a pass around Sabrina, doing what I do best. =P

We got in a good thirty minutes at least before we started wearing down the ground in certain places. Thanks to the rain we'd had by then the footing was already starting to go.

We got in a good thirty minutes at least before we started wearing down the ground in certain places. Thanks to the rain we’d had by then the footing was already starting to go.

I wish the photos did this sunset justice. It was beautiful to be out riding that evening.

I wish the photos did this sunset justice. It was beautiful to be out riding that evening.

Working on standing quiet. Yes, even this is work.

Working on standing quiet. Yes, even this is work.

Nothing beats friends and horses! Here is Livi with mama BriBri after taking a walk about the small pasture.

Nothing beats friends and horses! Here is Livi with mama BriBri after taking a walk about the small pasture.

That bareback ass that only equestrians understand!

That bareback ass that only equestrians understand! Being dirty is never something to be ashamed of or annoyed with, it shows dedication and hardwork and payoff!


In other Arizona news, she’s picked up wood-chewing something fierce! Without having a vet come out and draw blood to pin-point if there is some sort of mineral/nutrient deficiency, I’ve been trying other possible solutions. Since this is a new habit, and there have been no changes to her diet in a very long time, I’m left to determine that it’s not caused by her food intake, or lack thereof. However of course, if these snazzy diversions don’t work out it’ll be my next expenditure.

Anyway I firmly believe she is bored and frustrated. She does not get a nightly turn-out with my barn owner’s horses and I’m sure that’s no fun. She’s also been seeing 1 or 2 of the other horses chewing up their share of wood lately and you know what they say about copy-catting. In any case, I’ve been dousing the wood in that anti-chew spray and we’ll see how that works. Additionally I’ve started putting her hay in a slow feeder hay net and I’ve tied a small jolly-ball from the ceiling for her to mess with. Hopefully having something to eat for longer periods of time and something to play with will help. Unrelated to the chewing, I also finally got a fly mask for her, as no amount of anti-fly goo or spray or roll-on whatever has been working to keep them out of her poor eyes. She looks rather fetch, no? 😉

Lovely new fly-mask and salt-lick to hopefully keep her entertained a little.

Lovely new fly-mask. The mineral/salt blocks help to keep her entertained a little, but aren’t much for actual nutritional value.

Small jolly-ball hanging toy and new fly-mask. Here's hoping to a bit of distraction!

Small jolly-ball hanging toy. Here’s hoping to a bit of distraction!

Pretty Quarter Horse Mare

And here’s one last picture of my girl, just because she’s pretty. Look at that gorgeous, slim, powerful QH head!

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!

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.

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.

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.