Monday, March 31, 2008

Jessie At Liberty

Okay, this should be good for a laugh. We wanted to have a "Before" picture of our at liberty exercises. You can see how much we both have to learn. This was taken the same evening as the last video, March 23rd. It took my a while to edit it down to a reasonable length. It's still long mainly because I wanted it more as a record for us instead of entertainment for you. My goal was to have her do a circle around me without a lead rope on. I could probably say a lot more about this video, but I'll let it speak for itself.


Friday, March 28, 2008

A Mini Revelation

I hope this is the stuff horsemanship is made up of - tiny revelations that help one relate to his horse a little better.

Since talking about the how and when of escalating pressure, I've been a little more focused on it. Jessie seems to be more responsive in our groundwork sessions and even seems to have a greater willingness to please.

In thinking about why this might be so, I believe I was doing something I wasn't even aware of. In doing LFR II for example, when I might have had to whacked her to move off her back end a little more, I think there was a fraction of a second where I was waiting to see her reaction to the whack. It was as if she said in that tiny pause, "You want my reaction? Well, here it is!", and she would kick up and pull back. Now, I keep her in the exercise first, I assume she is going to do it right, and the correction is to help her get it right, not to elicit a reaction.

Or it could just be that the repetition is paying off...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jessie and Mindy are Related...Sort of

My knowledge of horse genetics is severely lacking. However, I heard Rick Lamb talking about the Western Horseman Legends Series of books and he mentioned Jessie James was listed in Volume 2. My Jessie is a great grand daughter of Jessie James. In the Western Horseman book, Legends Volume 2, the entry for Jessie James reads:

He may have been named after one of the most notorious outlaws of the American West, but Quarter Horse Jessie James built his reputation as one of the "good guys" of the early-day cutting horse scene. In fact, he was considered by many of the cutting horse trainers in the 1950s and 1960s to be one of the greatest cutting horses to ever look through a bridle.

According to Jim Reno, the noted cutting horse trainer who owned him for several years, 'Jessie James was a tremendous athlete who could run, stop hard and turn around quickly.

'He was a master at using his head and neck to control a calf. He worked with his ears back, and looked like a striking snake as he reached for the calf. He kept his ears pinned flat to the back of his head all the time that he was working a cow, almost like he didn't have any ears.

'I saw the horse do things that were equal to anything we see our good horses do today, and more,' continued Reno. 'There was no limit to his ability. If we'd worked horses in those days like we do now, and if we'd known how to train horses then like we do now, there's no telling how great that horse could have been.'

Ah, this gives me hope for Jessie, although I think what I'm lacking now is a goal for my training.

Western Horseman's Legends continued with more from Reno:
"Reno also noted that Jessie James' conformation was probably the key to his ability to stop, turn, and block a yearling. 'He was a little bit short in the croup as well as being flat-crouped, he said. 'He was also an extremely straight-legged horse behind, almost post-legged.'

Reno, an outstanding sculptor and student of equine anatomy, has found the latter conformation feature to be true with some other outstanding equine athletes. Two other examples of top cutting horses who were very straight behind were Gandy's Time and Lena's Super Cool.

According to the NWC Journal, Mindy is a granddaughter of Mr Jessie James who was a grandson of Jessie James. Pretty cool, huh?

I'll be adding more about Jessie James in the weeks ahead..

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We had some good workouts over the weekend. Time was a bit compressed because of the holiday so we spent the time in the arena. Here's a video of a quick workout we did on Sunday evening. We had done some riding work Sunday morning and we got back from the family Easter celebration early after eating waaay too much food. I need to move around so we took Jessie and the camera out back.

I present this as is. It's a first take without any editing. The mike is open. I mention this because in watching, I see a number of mistakes and I'm sure you'll see them too. It's a humbling learning experience and I post it here to help me improve. Feel free to offer criticism - that's why I posted it.

My goal was to do a quick run through of several exercises. The eye hole broke on my handy stick so I can't attach the string. So I used hoof picking and my clippers as the desensitizing exercises.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Comments from Thursday's Post

Tuff wrote that she couldn't comment so I'll post our emails here. Hope that's okay Tuff.

Tuff wrote:
Do you think you've changed in your approach to Jessie's training at all to explain the tantrums?

Unless the horse is "off" I typically don't offer them a second chance when it comes to the trailer. For me - it's like a kid saying "no" & then asking them "are you sure?". To me it's not a question of yes or no but instead "yes sir! How fast!". Who knows - maybe I'm too picky. To me trailer loading seems like the one place people start out well and then one day the horse just won't load & they have no clue why.

I know you aren't like that but you know what I mean. If they don't load I might not work the snot out of them but I will do a few sending exercises and then ask "would you like to rethink your original answer?". Most of the time 3-4 sending exercises and they are in the trailer (lapse time less than 2 minutes) and no one is running on adrenaline if that makes sense.

I think you are doing a GREAT job with Jessie but I think you should have your wife video you working her (if a tantrum arises even better) so you can see yourself from an "outside" view. It's amazing what you pick up.

And I replied:
Have I changed my approach? I was kind of thinking about that this morning. It seems with each exercise I learn a little bit more. I don’t have a lot of experience with a lot of different horses so I don’t know how much variance in train-ability there is. I do know that trailer loading has been a place where timing and body language seem to make a lot of difference. Another place has been clippers. She wasn’t clipped before I owned her and I’ve been having a heck of a time with the clippers. I’ve tried working her, approach and retreat, and I could get the clippers close, but every time I tried to cut some hair she’d start flipping her head.

Last Monday was the one year anniversary of buying her. I had reflected I should really be able to clip her by now. I did get to work her almost every night for the last 5-6 days (we were out of town over the weekend) and I have two hand held clippers. I decided to have the clippers a part of every groundwork session until she was clipped. Having that as a goal seemed to take the time pressure off. So, every day I would run the clippers around her face, pole and chin. (Previously I would only work with the clippers about once a month) I still haven’t clipped her, but last night she just dropped her head on her own and almost closed her eyes while I ran the clippers around. I really wanted to clip her but I thought that was the predator in me talking and decided I would just keep doing this for a couple of days.

BTW, the consecutive days work, even though none of it has been longer than 45 minutes has done wonders on her ground work. She hasn’t thrown a tantrum in a while and has been quite willing to do everything I ask. I think a lot of that has to do with me practicing my technique and timing and that the repetition has helped her as well. The video is a good idea. I’ll try and get some trailer loading and we can critique that. Also, I did some liberty stuff that would be good to video just for its comedic value.

One final note. It's probably not a coincidence that I have problems with her when there is a time crunch - trailer loading, clippers, groundwork before the ride (some of the people I ride with don't do groundwork). Even if there is a time crunch I have to learn how to suppress my body language that communicates that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The gentler way..

So I thought it would be easier to answer in a post...

My first horse Tex and I went to trailer loading and it was a chore. I remember working for 2 1/2 hours on a Saturday afternoon after watching Clinton do a trailer loading lesson. Tex was, in a lot of ways like Jessie. They both want to challenge me. That day with Tex he was dripping wet and after an hour and a half I was just looking for a good place to stop. It took me another hour to find it. Now the next day he was in the trailer in about 10 minutes, so I could guess you would say that worked.

I've noticed over the last couple of months that some trainers, Chris Cox and a guy at Equine Affaire were talking about looking the horse in the eye. I think I must tend to do that and the horses take offense....or at least take it as a sign they want to challenge me. In the trailer loading situation I think the easier approach would have been, once she walked out, to just ask her to walk back in. At least give her a chance to be good. Instead, I started working her and brought her energy up and then I had to deal with the energy. Now, if she hadn't walked in the second time I still had the work option to go to and I don't think it would have been substantially different than what ultimately happened.

We did groundwork last night after work and she threw a tantrum doing LFR II again. It was about 60% intense as the last one and 25% as long. I didn't do much except make her back up when she reared and kept her from coming into my space (even when she started behaving). I also tried to focus on looking at her shoulders and feet instead of in the eye when she was looking for a fight.

One of my biggest challenges is to find the lightest pressure and apply it first, before escalating the pressure because I think there is always time to increase the pressure.

Hope that made some sense...

Thanks for the nice comments.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beautiful weather here

Perfect California weather. We rode both days. Saturday afternoon after some groundwork we went for a ride in the usual area. Worked on using my calves instead of heels to move Jessie around. Also, she has a tendency to wander back and forth on the trail and I realized I was, if I wanted to move her to the right, picking up the right rein and then putting my left leg on to push her over. I switched that around and began with the leg pressure and added the rein only if she didn't respond and by the end of the ride I only had to occasionally use the rein.

Sunday morning we did some groundwork and had the trailer hooked up for a river ride. Jessie loads first and she walked right in...then she backed right out. Once out, I made her back up and as soon as I started I knew I had jumped the gun. She got all pissy again. Courtney, you're right about temper tantrums. We worked on LFR II for about 5 minutes and went back to the trailer and she walked in and stayed calm. The reason I say I jumped the gun is because I think there might have been a gentler approach. The end result would have been the same, I just think it would have been easier. Loading up to come home, I had to do some groundwork as well, but it was only a quarter of the time.

The ride itself was pretty enjoyable. We are still working on keeping her attention on me. When she worries about something she gets closer to my wife's horse for security.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Little Early Morning Tantrum

Got up at 5:30 and fed the horses yesterday and at 6:30 took Jessie out for an early morning work out. We went through all the basic exercises LFR I & II, yielding fore and hind quarters with both touch and rub and finger in the air, backing up, and desensitizing.

Then I went to the C-pattern exercise from the last NWC DVD. Our work area is about 200 feet long and we did one length and as we were doing it the second time Jessie started getting all pissy about. She actually stopped a couple of times and gave a little rear which I thought was good in a way because at least she was working off her back end. We did it for about 15 minutes before she seemed to give in and do it correctly the whole length of our arena.

I finished with some desensitizing and flexing and tied her up while I went into take a shower and get ready for work. I started to think about the reaction I got from her and realized it just like a long distance relationship. You know the kind, the one where you might only see someone once or twice a month and you're in love and all is great. Then, when it's time to actually put up with each other on a daily basis, it's a different story.

From Jessie's perspective she's thinking most days that life is good. She just thinks about eating (which she does constantly) and, viola, hay is in the feeder. I come around a couple of times a day and scratch her good spots and rub and brush on her. She must think I have an evil twin who comes out with the stick an string and starts bossing her around. It shouldn't be any surprise that she's going to protest a little bit. A least the tantrums are getting smaller.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Must've Heard of My Work At Equine Affaire...

...because I got the news I've been chosen to help out at the April, City of Industry, Tour Stop. I'm sure Craig Cameron told them all about me. I'm looking forward to the tour. Guess I've got to purchase tickets for Ranae now, since I'm not a member of NWC anymore (although guess I could join for a month and get the free tour tickets). City of Industry (doncha just love the name?) is about a two hour drive. I'm supposed to be there at 6:30 am Saturday morning. Google me the nearest Starbucks.

We didn't get too much riding in this weekend. The weather Saturday was cold and windy. It warmed up in the afternoon and I gave Jessie her spring vacs and worming. Sunday morning she was pretty hung over. She didn't finish her breakfast (which never happens) and she was kind of mopey. We went for a short walking ride. She seemed to feel better once we were out, but I took it easy on her anyway. She was much improved by Sunday evening and looked almost back to her cute self this morning.