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! 🙂

Arizona Gets Back In The Saddle

Sunday marked a momentous occasion for myself but mostly for Arizona, as she made an amazing return to the working world after an extensive eight-month long break. Because of seasonal illnesses, the flooding, a bad case of thrush, family obligations, and in general – life – Arizona had not been ridden since January. This weekend I was presented with the opportunity to ride with my barn owner and friend, Alberto, and quickly became excited knowing this was to be our comeback!

After such a long break I was worried of course for my own safety and anxious to see how she would handle herself. She has never been a BAD horse, no obstructive habits, no crazy bolting episodes, but she does spook sometimes. Some rides there are no scares and some rides there may be 1-2. When I first bought her last year she hadn’t been seriously ridden in about four years. Once in a while someone would hop on or even take her out but nothing serious or consistent. That first ride on her the steering was a bit rough and she didn’t enjoy being worked at all. She also had a huge spook right out of the gate. We kept at it and she got better and better.

This past weekend was flawless! We rode for about an hour 1/2 in the fields on a route we haven’t even gone through before. There were no surprises however we did ride with one of her barn mates that is fresh out of 30 days of training. Even she was wonderful. The unused fields were serene with a decent breeze. It was still pretty hot for 8:30 in the morning but at least there were no mosquitoes!

I’m beyond proud of my girl. I think she may have even enjoyed herself this time, being happy to get out and explore a new place with her horsey pal Luna. (Beautiful buckskin mare pictured below, ridden by Alberto.) Either way she sure takes care of me and I couldn’t love her more ❤

Arizona The QH Mare On A RideArizona The QH Mare On A Ride Arizona The QH Mare On A Ride

Arizona Gets Mud Fever

It’s a sad time out at the barn for my Zoni Poni as she begins a four-limbed battle with bacterial fungus of the pasterns, aka, mud fever. Each leg is affected and the back two particularly are in some discomfort as they are slightly inflamed. The mud in the pasture has reached an all time high this spring and it’s just beginning to –slowly– dry up. I’m not sure how much good it’ll do us though since we’re expecting three days of stormy rain weather again this week. It’s getting to be pretty miserable out there for our horses and I hope none of the others are affected as we truck through it.

Mud Fever On Arizona's Legs

This was when I discovered it. Monday morning I hand washed the mud off her legs and there it was.

Mud Fever On Arizona's Legs

And this was from earlier today. All dried up and being treated with Banixx spray.

And so my poor miserable horse is confined to her stall until it clears up, which could take weeks up to the entire month. I’ll be going out to hand walk her for a little bit each day and hopefully getting some grass will help cheer her up. She was visibly depressed today when I went out there, as last night was the first night she was refused turn-out. If today is any indication of her spirits it’s going to be a rough few weeks for her, but as her human I will be doing my best!

Pretty Arizona's Profile

After our little walk/graze I sat in her stall for a while, just dozing off and enjoying the breeze and her company.

Arizona Scratches

Her favorite itchy spot!

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!

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.

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 🙂