Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our long, national nightmare is nearly over

The living room and bedroom are painted, the carpet guys come tomorrow, as does the new bed and recliner. The economic stimulus checks have been spent well before they were received and we've done about everything we could to get America back on it's feet and now we're headed out back to spend time with our horses.

The weather here is just now getting warmer. Storms threatened all weekend and it actually was a pretty good weekend to paint. Saturday afternoon was stormy, Sunday afternoon was cold and breezy, but I went out for an hour and did some GW and liberty. I think she is getting the hang of it. Time to capture some more video because there was a lot less carrying on.

Sunday afternoon was cool and nice and we went for a ride to our usual haunts. I found an open area and tried to work on the instructions I got from Matt. She seemed to lean a lot less and I think I was getting the concept of direct and drive. It'll be interesting to see how she does when I ride her in our little area, which, by the way, we may lose because our neighbors are going to cross fence it. Oh well.

Not sure when the next ride will be. Could be done with household chores by tomorrow afternoon. We still have a lot of little things to do and I have a bunch to catch up here at the store (why am I blogging?), but I'm looking forward to getting out of "project" mode.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A little ground work

It's still windy here. The temps have dropped 30 degrees from a week ago and it's raining right now.

Last night we did the leading beside exercise. It was more of an excuse to just be out there more than anything else. She picked it up pretty quickly. She does take it a little too personal when I have to whack her on the butt. I did a little of the sending exercise and she kept looking away so I insisted on getting two eyes. That was the most challenging and it took about ten minutes before she consistently kept her eyes on me.

This was pretty nice:

I had listened to Rick Lamb's show in a podcast or his TV show or both and there was a trainer named Matt Sheridan. I happened by his website and he had an "Ask Matt" tab. It was a day or two after loping Jessie in that right circle and having her lean to the right. I didn't think I'd actually get a response, but Matt took the time to write me a very thoughtful, instructive email. Here it is:

Q: When loping a circle to the right my 8 yr Foundation/Quarter Horse mare really leans to the center of the circle. She doesn’t do it on a left circle. If I apply a little inside leg to lift the rib cage she just speeds up. If I lift the right rein to pick up her shoulder she shuts down. Any suggestions?

A: Hi John,
First of all, you may have figured out that what you have is a suppleness problem. I would recommend going back to the ground for a little while to retrain your horse to yield to pressure laterally while moving forward. You may only need to do this a few times and for only a few minutes prior to riding. What you are wanting to see if the horse is tracking to the right, is the right hind foot tracking up into the right front foot while remaining round from neck to tail. The basic way to accomplish this is to bump the lead rope twice, then when the hind quarters fall away, drive them up with the tail of the rope. You continue this until the horse steps forward maintaining roundness and tracking correctly. It can be a little frustrating to do this if you have not received actual instruction but if you have a little patience and are willing to try, it will help. I like to get a horse round and forward on the ground when they are really sticky because it is safer. Next, you would work a cirlce under saddle at a walk, trot and then lope. Use your inside leg to bend the body and your hand to pull the nose through smoothly. What you don't want to do is hang on the horses face. Smooth pulls in succession will accomplish more than hanging on your horses face. So, as a quick recap, send the horse forward in a circle, use the leg to round the body, pull through smoothly and repeatedly with the inside hand.

I wish I could show you in person my steps to getting this to work for you. It would be much easier that way. Basically you have a direct and drive problem. It sounds like you have attempted direct and drag to solve your problem. Remember that when you drive with the leg you don't direct with the hand and when you use the hand you don't drive with the leg. Once the horse can move smoothly then you can use both together.

As you told me, your horse will speed up when using the leg and stops when using the lift on the rein. This is why you need to achieve roundness first then work to shape the horse. If the horse speeds up a little maintain a slightly elevated hold on the rein and shrink circle size. Don't worry if the horse goes from trot to a lope, concern yourself with the overall shape and feel created. As your horse begins to understand more of what you want she will slow down more. She probably has more experience with the leg meaning go or go fast than with is meaning get round.

Keep me posted on your progress, let me know if this helps or if I need to try another approach with you.

Regards, Matt

You can check out Matt's website at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The wind came up last night and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. It was pretty windy and still is.It's going to be tough finding "horse-time" in the coming week. We have plans to paint and re-carpet the house. At least we are motivated to get done. As soon as we're finished we can go back to horsing around on weekends.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A very hot weekend

Most of my weekend was spent in non-horse related endeavors(painting). I did get to do a short GW session on Saturday night. I finished my work about 3 on Sunday, had some lunch and took Jessie out back for some groundwork. We were doing the last three exercises on Groundwork II - Leading behind, leading beside, and turn-and-go.

we didn't work very long. After about 30 minutes we tacked up and Ranae and I went out. It was still in the nineties but there was an occasional breeze blowing. We worked a lot on transitions - start at a trot, sit and relax and if she didn't move to a walk, ORS and start again. She picked it up nicely after about the third or fourth time.

Once we were out in a bigger area we did the serpentine and bending exercises. Then I asked for a lope and she did very well as we loped a big circle a couple of laps, came through the center, and then changed direction. she didn't change leads when we changed directions (I didn't ask either) and so in the direction she usually leans, she was on a counter-canter and that kept her more upright.

She was pretty happy to get home and a nice, cool bath.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The balance experiment

We did a little groundwork before tacking up and going out back. We had the twenty-two foot long line and our halters. Ranae was first up. Dusty went off okay. You could see in his eyes he was wondering what was going on. Ranae trotted for a while working on her seat. We did a yield to a stop in both directions just to make sure I had control of Dusty. After a couple of minutes Ranae was comfortable and wanted a LFR stage two rollback. Dusty works off his but pretty good and she thought that was quite fun so we did it a few more times. Then I set him off in a canter. That was pretty good too. He's a pretty good horse.

Jessie was a little nervous about the whole thing. Her trot was pretty big and quick. She kept moving in on Ranae and making the circle smaller. She was also really leaning in when going to the right. This has been a trait I was aware of and trying to work on. Ranae had been offering advice and that and the things I've tried haven't helped. We did a few LFR II rollbacks too then stopped and talked about the leaning issue. I asked Ranae if she wanted to ride Jessie. She got on and experienced first hand the "lean". She was wearing spurs and tried to use them to get Jessie's shoulder up, but to no avail.

It was a fun experience and we'll try and do it again. We discussed some other things to do that might help. One might be to ride a square instead of a circle. That will get her to straighten up a little...I hope.

It's going to be a hundred degrees here today and maybe even tomorrow and Sunday.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Side-passing and Following Behind

Last night we had a little groundwork session. GR II has a different way of teaching the side-pass than what I remember from a CA TV show. So, we tried that method. It still uses the fence, but there are two steps and it's actually easier than the other method. It keeps Jessie a little farther away from me too which made her feel a little uncomfortable. The leading behind exercise was pretty uneventful.

We also did some LFR II and her rollbacks are getting much more crisp, especially to her right. As I was trying to improve the bad side, I did this exercise a bit long because she actually broke a sweat (OMG!) Brought the clippers out just to make sure we hadn't lost that ability. She fussed a little, then acquiesced.

Tonight Ranae and I are going to try and do a passenger lesson on a lunge line. I heard a hunter jumper instructor on Rick Lamb's radio show say it's a good exercise to improve one's balance. We'll see.

The weatherman is predicting hundred degree temperatures this weekend. Don't know how much riding I'll have time for because I'm painting the storefront and sign this weekend.

This was just too funny

Saw this on the Julie Goodnight Blog and had to post it:

Patches the Coolest Horse

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Saturday morning we went to the river with our friends. We went to the other end of town. There's no water in the river, but there are a lot of trees and they wanted a change of scenery.

Jessie loaded reasonably well. Again, once we got there her head was on a swivel. We walked along the trail. I stopped and did some flexing and bending exercises and the others went ahead about 50 yards. She started getting all worried so I kept her feet moving. Unfortunately the trail wasn't wide enough and our friends don't appreciate me coming up to them and asking to trot Jessie in circles around them so I could demonstrate to her that being with the herd meant work. We just kept doing our work about 30-60 yards away.

We finally got back to them when there was a decision on which trail to take. They decided to cross the river bottom. It was very sandy. There was also about a three foot drop from the bank. Jessie was behind Charlie going down and when Charlie stopped to check his footing, Jessie dropped to her side. I stepped off easily. It happened really fast. I got her up immediately. It took about 30 seconds for us to get to an area to work and I started moving her feet aggressively in LFR 2. The sand was hugely deep. She did some her best rollbacks because she was up to her hocks in sand.

The rest of the trail ride was pretty uneventful. I didn't do too much more training feeling I had used up our friends' available patience. When we got back home I did some more trailer loading and finally got her to just want to be up there. I stood about five feet away and pointed and she jumped right in. Washing her off I noticed some scratches on her right hind leg. The foot and leg weren't tender or hot. The trail had been rocky in spots and I do think her bare feet were a little sore.

Sunday we stayed in our training area and worked on loping some circles. Again it wasn't a long workout (she seemed a little stiff from Saturday). We did about 20 minutes of groundwork and 40 minutes of riding. She was pretty sweaty when we were done. I was really happy with the circles. She is continuing to improve.

And, this week she'll have Monday and Tuesday off before we get back to it tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Exercise #20 - Check

A quick early morning workout to do exercise #20: Throw the rope to stop. First, we did some LFR stage 2. We had reviewed the DVD and I noticed I was missing a few minor details. A few things with my feet, the handling the rope during the transition. I think because she was so frenetic when I first started this exercise I got in the habit of stepping back instead of into the shoulder. We only did it for 5-10 minutes. I wish she picked up her front end more, but we got some improvement.

The throw the rope to stop was a breeze. It took her about a circle and a half the first time and about two steps every time after that. We ended with some side-passing on the fence and stick and string desensitizing.

It was only about 30 minutes and I think it was helpful...

Monday, May 5, 2008

As Firm as Necessary

The weekend was warm here and we were looking to log some good time on our horses. We had family commitments both Saturday and Sunday afternoons and we needed to get an early start to things. Saturday as we were getting ready, Ranae asked for advice on what to do when Dusty wants to speed up if we are up ahead on the trail. We went out back and worked on bending to a stop, yielding hindquarters and immediately taking off again at the right speed. Once she was comfortable with those we headed out on the trail.

Jessie gets a bit antsy and wants to be out in front going out. Then, when she realizes she is out there all alone, she wants to stop. There is a canal on one side and a five foot drop on the other side and she thinks she can escape by going down the the drop. Well, I let her down there and every time she did we did trotting rollbacks facing the trail. When that didn't work, we did loping rollbacks facing the trail. After three or four of those she seemed content to staying up on the trail and out in front. That gave Ranae a chance to do her exercises and she reported it was working very well.

We did a lot of trotting and when we got to a very wide road between two fields, we took off on a canter. Jessie stayed in it pretty well and didn't try to veer off like she has done in the past. Later, we rode past the dairy and the cows were moving around and both horses thought that was scary but they kept moving forward. At our farthest point from home there were two ways to get back that met up about a mile away. Ranae took one way and we took the other. Both horses did okay. Jessie was a bit more concerned I think. We did a lot of serpentining. My GPS indicated we had done a little over 8 miles. They were good and sweaty when we got home.

Sunday the girls went out and Jessie and I went to do some groundwork. I had been using the Wahl pocket clipper to desensitize her to the clippers for about a month now. Those work well because the make a louder noise, but they don't cut very well. Today was the day we were getting that hair off. I got my Wahl Arco and after LFR 2 I started with the clippers. She resisted and I tried a couple of things (flexing her by the ear, touch and rub the pole) and they weren't working. Okay, babydoll, we ARE doing this. Every time she raised her head she got backed up vigorously by pulling back on the lead rope. And we backed up a lot. And she hates backing up. After about the fifth or sixth time she looked at me and said, "You wanna trim my bridle path? Go ahead". I was able to do under her chin as well, which had been a constant struggle.

We finished the GW with some yielding, then circle driving, desensitizing with the stick and string, and then I saddled her and we did some four-leaf clover. We also did some yielding hindquarters to start a lead in a circle. We had a little bit of trouble getting the right lead but, we did. Then we worked on some rollbacks. She was pretty sweaty by this time so I cooled her her down with some walking and side-passing along the fence, then gave her a bath and tied her up for about an hour.

Again, I know it was a pretty good workout because my legs and lower back are sore today.

On a side note, the last time I canceled my NWC subscription I was still able to get into the blogs. Not so this time around. It has me pretty well locked out.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Brian Asher

A couple of months ago we saw a piece on RFD's Texas County Reporter on artist Brian Asher. His pencil art looked pretty cool so I bought a print for Ranae for her birthday. It cost more to mat and frame than went to the artist and somehow I just don't think that is fair. It did come out quite nice. The picture doesn't do it justice.

You can check out his prints online at:
Brian Asher

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Two-a-day

Yesterday we had another early am groundwork session. We worked on flexing stage two. That was a new exercise for us and she picked up on it very quickly. Jessie has an annoying habit of looking away after a give. She'll just turn and look in the other direction from where I'm standing. I particularly noticed this on the backup exercises. So, what we did was back up and when I stopped, as soon as she looked away we started backing up again. A couple of times she got the whack because she was off with the fairies. After about five minutes of backing up she was getting the idea of not looking away.

In the evening session we worked on the backup again, flexing 2, and LFR 2 trying to sharpen the work of the back end. We also did side-pass along the fence and that was pretty neat because I was jogging and she was side-passing along the fence.

After about 30-40 minutes of GW I tied a knot in the halter and jumped on. It was a bit breezy and she was trying to be jumpy about everything. We walked a lot and did the circles and bending. I did some trotting and she kept speeding up and I had to shut her down because I was bouncing all over the place.

While I was getting off I laid down on her, a la the Jeffrie's Method. I was rubbing her all over the place and the breeze blew up her tail. She spooked but didn't go anywhere. I was pretty cool. She's off today. Hope to get in some consecutive days in soon...