Monday, June 30, 2008

Hot as Hell and Cool as a Cucumber

After a great two evenings of music we were ready to ride on Saturday. Ranae was riding with her friend, Jessie and I were going out alone to find a place to do the find the center exercise. We got an early start (for a Saturday) at 8:30 am and it was still hot. There were only a few hesitations on the way out and I think she thought we were going out to meet the other horses. We found a spot that had a ten foot, 6' diameter pipe in the ground and I first walk the circle, then trotted the circle guiding her around on as much of a loose rein as possible. Once I started the exercise I started my timer and gave us twenty minutes. We trotted around that damn pole for about twenty five minutes before I thought we should move on to other stuff. I was getting bored, I'm sure she was too.

We rode out to another area about 15 minutes away and we worked on collection and some of the drawing exercise on the way there. I found a cone and another rather large area and we tried the find the center exercise again. There was a touch of improvement but I don't think she quite had the concept yet. We tried it at the lope for about ten minutes and, again, a little more improvement, but I still didn't think she had grasped the concept. This is a big area. There wasn't anything but open land for a half mile in any direction. I just think there was too much space. It was hot and we had been out about 90 minutes and she was pretty sweaty so we headed back and worked on some other exercises all the way home. I try not to make excuses but I think it's going to take just a bit more time to learn this exercise without a "proper" training area. I'm going to review the DVD again tonight and see if I can spot some things that will help us.

Sunday, Ranae and I went out and we did the exercise at the same place while she went off and trained on Dusty for a while. There is an area that holds a swap meet on Sundays and we usually ride around that area when the swap is not going on. It's fun because it's an auction yard too and they sometimes have some horses stalled in there to be sold. We wanted to extend our ride and we decided to go around that way. Well, the swap meet was in full swing there were cars everywhere and I thought I knew a short cut through the property. We rode through the swap meet with all the people and tarps and music and noise and smells and both horses did very well. When we got close to where I thought we could get out we dismounted and found that my exit was blocked by a bunch of tightly packed cars so we had to retrace our steps to get out. Again, they were both champs as we walked through the parking lot of people carrying stuff and kids yelling "caballo!" - we were pretty proud of them.

We got back and gave them a bath. We have a very small covered stall that we don't use very often just because of the size. But it was hot and I thought Jessie might appreciate the shade after her bath. She never rolls after a bath in her own pen, but back there she did and she rolled and flipped over and pinned herself against a post. I got back there and talked to her a bit and tried to flip her with her front feet first, then her hind. I couldn't get her quite all the way over. I called Ranae out and together, Ranae on the front, me on the back we were able to roll her over. She stayed calm through the whole episode even though when she tried to roll and didn't make it over she banged her belly pretty good. I left her in there for the afternoon so she could get used to being in there.

The air is clearing a bit so with any luck we may be able to get some more early mornings in. The days are starting to get shorter now...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Live Music to End the Week

We went to see Gary Hoey last night and what a great show it was. The venue was very small and I doubt there were more than 100 people there. Close, intimate, and the music was pretty awesome.

Tonight it's Joe Bonamassa under the stars on a warm summer evening. Back-to-back nights of live music. How great is that?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke get in Your eyes

I wrote this Tuesday but didn't published it(duh):

We rode early Tuesday before Ranae took Dusty to the vet. It was a nice early morning ride. The air is kinda crappy from the fires here in Calif. It's hard to ask a lot from the horses when the air hurts my lungs.

Monday evenings Ranae plays tennis so I have been watching my DVD's. Finally, I get to the "find the center" exercise for helping your horse do a circle without caving in or pushing out. The tips I had gotten from Matt Sheridan were helpful, but I think this exercise will help both of us a little more. The difference is, I think the find the center exercise gives her more of the responsibility to do it right. And, because she has assumed most of the responsibility for doing it wrong, I think this will help her a lot. We've already picked out a few places we can do this exercise (our training area is too small) and I can't wait to give it a try. Like follow the fence and passenger lesson it may require some time in the first session and those are the most fun for me.

I'm really not sure how much riding will fit in the rest of the week. We got tickets for a concert Friday night and I just found out guitarist Gary Hoey is playing here tomorrow night and I would really like to see him. Maybe Jessie could use some time off and we'll let the air clear.

Dusty lameness test went well. He has some arthritis. Ranae got a lot of the answers she was looking for.

It's supposed to be very hot again this weekend...

Thursday AM:

We rode last night and I got to work for about 15 minutes on the find the center exercise. It's hot and the air still is bad so we stayed at the trot. I think she was beginning to figure it out, but it will take more time to get the "concept". It's tough for me not to steer and try and help her out. We'll work on it a bit more this weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Day of Rest

Jessie and I are taking Monday off. This riding six days a week is tough. My back is sore, my butt is tired and I had a crap load of laundry to do. It was 110 here on Saturday. We needed a load of hay so we got our ride in about midday before it got really, really hot. Riding around the alfalfa fields wasn't too bad. We took a turn through some corn that was about five feet high and it stopped all air flow. It was like a sauna in there. We worked on a few of the things we had been doing all week. We did some loping, but because of the heat, not a lot.

Sunday morning I worked with her out back. We did a groundwork session, then a short bareback session, and an at-liberty session. She worked up a pretty good sweat. The at-liberty is better, but she still ducks out on me when she can. We tacked up and did some of the 4-leaf clover exercise and picking up a lead at the canter. Both those exercises are continuing to improve. She's got draw to a stop from a trot down cold and her side pass is improving.

This morning I came in to nine emails from the No Worries Club site saying I had a private message. I am not currently a subscriber so I was curious if I could even see them. The "private" message was actually between JennyC and HistoryRider and all nine copies were the same. I wonder if everyone got that message?

Going to try and go out tomorrow early. Ranae is taking Dusty for a vet check so I'm not sure if we'll be alone or not. Dusty has had some soreness issues and she wants a lameness test. I think it's a waste of money, but know better than to say anything. I don't think she'll get much more out of it than "We'll keep an eye on it". You might gather I'm not really fond of her vet. Did I mention we use separate vets?

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's Been a Good Week

Well, we've ridden six out of the last seven days. Each session included at least 30 minutes of saddle time. I don't know how much more I can take. Actually, it's been fun seeing her change. There's still a ways to go for both of us but, she is becoming more calm and there is a lot less inattentiveness. We rode out alone Thursday evening still working in the same general area. She was much more comfortable and there were only a few places where we needed to do some "feet moving".

This morning we jog the mile out the canal rode and I just tried to control her with my calf, heel, and spur. She stayed the course and, once out there we worked on "Draw to a stop from a trot", bending, side-passing, and backing up. It was good for the most part. Even though it was 6:45 am there were three other riders out there. The Mexicans know how to train their horses, though I doubt we us the same methods. They like to see them dance. It's been in the 100's here most of the week so 6 am is the best time to ride.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

There's Learning Spanish and Using Spanish

Back in 1988 Ranae and I vacationed in Costa Rica (it was our last extended vacation). I had had four years of Spanish in high school and had listened to these tapes for two months before we left brushing up on the language. I even listened to Spanish radio and watched TV to improve.

Even with all that we barely had enough Spanish between us to get by. At one point, I was on the phone trying to make hotel reservations for an impromptu trip to the coast. The hotel clerk/owner spoke some English and I was trying to use my Spanish. As I explained what we were looking for and when we were coming, if I didn't know the Spanish word, I just inserted the English word and kept going. To me it was working fine, but it must have been as annoying as hell to him because about three-quarters through our conversation he said, "If you're going to speak Spanish, speak Spanish. If you're going to speak English, speak English."

I kinda get the feeling that's what Jessie is telling me sometimes - "Speak to me in a way I can understand. Be clear. Be consistent." I respond be telling her, "Be patient. I'll figure it out."

We had another early morning workout. We traveled down the canal much more calmly. Oh, there were some half halts here and there, but we matriculated past the point of yesterday's exercise. I then brought her back and used the area near our access point to the canal road because it has the most room. We did some of the bending exercises, more side-passing, and backing up. We trotted back and forth in front of the entry way and she would try to duck out and head for home. I kept working her back and forth and she finally gave up and we did our exercises and headed for home. It's about 40 minutes worth of work and it's a great time. It is much cooler in the morning and very peaceful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We both seem to be running a lot lately

The store has been rather busy and it's hard to squeeze in a few moments to chronicle our training. Saturday we went out on the trail with Ranae and Dusty. We had a very nice ride. It was rather hot, but we managed to do a lot of loping. We are both getting the hang of it. While it would be nice to just let her run without direction we can't because of the gopher holes and uneven ground and she just doesn't always seem that sure-footed.

It's a bit like learning to drive. There is so much going on. I'm trying to be as minimal on the bit as I can, but while I'm checking my balance, wondering what my legs are doing, figuring out where she is going, my hands seem to drift into the mix. We both worked up a pretty good sweat.

Sunday we stayed out back and I set up the barrels again. It's amazing how fast she got the pattern. They are pretty close together and it's tough to lope the whole way, but I got to do a lot of little canters here and there and we just generally worked around the barrels. We also did some side-passing from a standstill at the fence, more bending, and backing up. During our GW I got on her bareback with the halter and lead and my handy stick and tried a few bridle-less/saddle-less maneuvers.
She stayed pretty calm for the session. It's so much easier using my legs bareback.

She got Monday off and this morning we went out alone. I had watched the serpentine exercise last night and when she balked at going down the canal road I tried to invoke that exercise. There just isn't enough room so I had to go back to the bending/yielding exercise. She was getting pretty feisty not wanting to go. Sunday we Ranae and I told each other that we had to lope with a big smile on our face because one can become pretty intense looking and I think the horse picks up on it. So this morning, I smiled and gave out a big laugh and had her move a step. Then she took two steps and stopped. I just kept asking her and after she walked about ten steps I stopped her, let her relax, then we turned around. We walked about halfway back then turned around again. The second time she walked all the way to my predetermined goal (a weir in the canal) so we stopped, I petted her and we headed back. We worked on some side-passing at one of the fences and then headed for home.

As calm as she is around other horses I think it was just too much to expect her to be brave out on her own. I just think we need to build up to it. Once she's out and away from the security of the other horses she looks to me for leadership. We just need to build on that.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Swiss Cheese Training

There are obviously going to be holes in our training. Finding them and figuring a way to correct them are what interests me.

Last night Ranae wanted to work in the garden and I took Jessie out on her own. I knew we would probably have a bit of an impulsion problem leaving and I wondered about the best way to handle it.

Ideally, an evening ride would be down the canal bank for about a mile and down the other side with some trotting and loping going on. I knew, based on the last time we tried this that it would probably be a fight the whole way down the canal. So, I decided that as soon as she started showing resistance I would work her.

We hadn't got 50 feet down the canal and Jessie was looking all over the place. I tried trotting her, but the extra speed just made her harder to control. I stopped to flex her. It was like her head was tied to a post. Normally she's pretty soft at flexing in our training area. Out here she was having nothing of it. I tried bumping her off it but, like the trotting, it just seemed to bring her energy level higher.

After sitting there for a moment and collecting my thoughts I decided we would just stay out there as long as necessary and every time I picked up a rein to flex and she didn't immediately give, I would put my heel in her and make her yield her hindquarters.

After about ten minutes of that she was giving okay so we tried forward movement and she would take a couple of steps and veer off to the right. I put my right calf on her to push her back. When she didn't respond to that, I picked up the left rein. If there was any braceyness(sp) in her head and neck I put my heel in her and we yielded hindquarters again. After about twenty minutes of this she began to get the idea that it was just better to go down the canal. I continued to work right there until I thought I had most of her attention. I thought that was a good place to stop and we were losing our light, though I tried to let her know the moonlight would be enough for me if she thought she need more work at this.

All in all we got to ride for about an hour. I wonder how much of this will stick with her.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The lightest touch

The early morning workout consisted of more bending to a stop and we added side-passing at the fence and backing up. I was trying to use the lightest touch of my calf for the side-pass and using a little riding croup for reinforcement. It was working pretty good. It really showed me how heavy I had been getting with this maneuver on the trail.

The backup was the same way. In my quest to get the backup moving a little quicker, I let my hands become too involved. Jessie was very patient with me and we worked through some, but not all, of our issues. We got about 40 minutes of riding time. My neighbors cross fence our training area soon so we'll have to figure out another solution.

Ranae headed home to feed and we are hoping to get another ride in tonight.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reiner's Breeders Clasic

Wild World of Horses had a recap of the Reiners' Breeding Classic. The Limited Open (wonder what that is) Champion was Clinton. He scored a 222.5. They only showed a few minutes, but he looked good.

Also, Courtney, in the June 2008 issue of American Quarter Horse, on page 6 there is a picture of a mare nudging a foal. Her name is Tuff N Christa. Must be a relation.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I didn't get to ride Thursday night. Friday night we worked on the yielding/bending exercise and a few other things just messing with her.

Saturday afternoon we went on a long ride and did a lot of trotting and loping. Most of it in a straight line. I would do the exercises we had been drilling on every time she was distracted or wanted to go her own way. It had a pretty good effect on her. It was almost like she was saying, "Oh, no not that again!" And, she was getting lighter and lighter. We ran into a coyote hunting on our way home. Usually the just run from the horses. This one stood there looking at the rabbits that we were flushing and he let us get pretty close. The horses didn't seem to mind. It was a little unnerving to just ride by with him only about a 100 feet or so from us. Wish I had had my camera.

Sunday we set up some barrels in a pattern. Our neighbors are going to cross fence their pasture soon. They were out of town so this seemed like a good time to try it. First we just walked around the barrels, then we trotted, then we tried going as fast as we could (which wasn't that fast). After that I just trotted Jessie around the barrels as more of an exercise variation to the bending exercise we had been working on.

We didn't spend more than 20 minutes doing the barrels before we headed out on the trail. We went the opposite direction from Saturday's ride and continued to work on long trotting, gait changes, and bending. We even loped a couple of circles once we got to an open area and Jessie was greatly improved. Her pace has slowed and she was much straighter going to the right.

The ferrier was here this morning. Her bare feet are holding up pretty well so it was just a trim and a shape. I may give her tomorrow off just because she is usually a bit tender right after a trim.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Someone is a bit crabby in the morning

It was another early morning workout. Dragged my butt out of bed just before six. We did about ten minutes of groundwork before saddling up. I really just wanted to work on the same two exercise again, get them a little better, then go to work. Jessie tried to cast a vote against early morning workouts by just being cranky. She wanted to hang out by the gate. She didn't want to move. She didn't want to flex and when she did she would open her mouth and nip at my boot.

I just tried to ignore everything and keep her working at the exercises. The yielding-hindquarters-to-a-stop exercise was awkward. I had my spurs on because Clinton uses them in the bending exercise to follow. Mine kept getting hung up on the back cinch. I finally convinced her the repetitions were to help get my legs lighter and my hands softer and she seemed to resign herself to the task. Once we got a good stop-to-a-bend at all three gaits in both directions, I moved her to the middle and dismounted. Because she had been so cranky, I tied her to the patience pole while I got ready for work. Tomorrow's workout will be in the evening (if I can get it in) and I'm anxious to see how she does.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Notes on the weekend

Saturday my nephew and his girlfriend came up from San Diego and stopped by for a ride. We spent a couple of hours coaching them around our "arena". Saturday afternoon we worked on getting the house back in order.

Sunday, Ranae rode with her friends and Jessie and I wen out back for a little GW and saddle time. I set up four cones in a square with one in the middle. We worked on going around the cones (all four) then cutting across the middle. We did it at a walk and trot. When she wanted to veer in we would get to the nearest cone and do a bending exercise around that cone and back in the circle. We went both ways and after she had the concept we did it at a lope. She held the circle pretty good and didn't lean much. I had left my saddle a little looser than normal because I wanted to work on my balance and I feel if the saddle is a bit loose I can feel when I'm leaning. We had a good hour to ninety minute workout and I felt she is loping much more comfortably.

This morning (Tuesday) we started on Riding with Confidence Series II from the beginning. One, because I want to make up some barn cards for the exercises, and, two because I want to try to do them in order through the whole series. So, it was about 30 minutes of yielding hindquarters to a stop at all three gaits then bending to a stop at all three gaits. It really did feel good to just have a few things to work on. We got them in and I think she was showing some very good improvement.

Here is a peek at the barn cards I've made for GW II: