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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Introducing: Merlin The Miniature Gelding

Please put your hands and hooves together for the newest member of our family – Color Me Dust Coal. He is a registered American Miniature Horse yearling with the gentlest disposition. Merlin, as we’ve affectionately named him, came to us Easter weekend from a lovely miniature horse show-breeder in Beeville, Texas. My kids and I drove the hour up to meet him on Friday and by Saturday he was at home in the barn with his new stablemates.

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Since then we have done a few introductory exercises for him and Arizona but in the end I’m not sure she is up for having a little brother. She’s become the barn alpha and while Merlin is nowhere near challenging I think she just plain dislikes him. I’ve found her to act possessive, almost like a dog or even a human would, over my attention. If I dare (I say ‘dare’ humorously of course) to scratch another horse out of her stall window she finds herself over by the window too, standing just so she may casually obstruct my reach. Zoni is a funny one with a mind all her own, she knows what she does and does not like and she will tell you. You have only to listen. She may or may not ever come around to sharing her space and time with him but regardless I heart them both.

My immeasurably amazing and beautiful daughter Summer has finally found herself a perfect position at the barn since his arrival. She enjoys working with Merlin, helping him to better learn to lead, tie, and stand still. He’s so good natured and sweet that I can tell he will not be difficult to train and in doing so I’ll more easily and safely get to teach Summer how to do a lot too. She has gotten accustomed to feeding him and cleaning out his stall, as well as other things. Since Merlin has been home he’s already picked up on a couple key things himself, such as the fact that we love to groom and pet around here! We get in his stall and love all over him as frequently as possible and he’s adjusted to all the attention considerably. In fact I believe he looks forward to it now.

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It’s been a great couple weeks now and I still only have good things to say. At one point my friend Sabrina and I gave him a bath and that didn’t go as well as I would have thought but it was the perfect launch pad for further training with him. It was valuable insight about him and his reaction level and ultimately how he should be handled.

And I don’t think I’ve mentioned just how incredibly, heart-stoppingly, adorable he is! He is the type of mini you put tiny shoes on and take him with you everywhere; into department stores and to the dentist. Just kidding, but not about the cuteness part!

Merlin the American Miniature Horse

Merlin the American Miniature Horse

Hi, mom! What are you doing?

More on the little man later as it’s time to fire up the story side of my brain and work on my newest novella series. Until then, here’s one last picture!

Mother Daughter Horse Trainers

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.

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.

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 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

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.