Thursday, July 31, 2008

Groundwork in the Morning - Ride in the Evening

We were able to get in about an hour of groundwork early yesterday. We've been working on the C-pattern and getting those hips all the way around. We also worked on sidepass against the fence, yielding, and, of course, desensitizing.

After work, it was so pleasant (for July) that we went out. It was just Jessie, me, and the oh-so-slightest breeze. We jogged out to our FTC pole and played with that for about 5 minutes (I've decided to work on this is in the smallest increments. Well, really, I guess one could say Jessie decided...) Then we jogged about a mile and turned back on the near side of the canal bank. The breeze was blowing the the six foot high corn (or silage) stalks and with the sun setting and the long shadows, I could tell Jessie was on alert. She kept her wits about her and didn't do anything stupid, even when we were passed by a group of stoner young adults (two on a bike) and their pit bull dog. We worked on opening a few gates at home although she was far more interested in stealing a few bites of grass every time I dropped my guard. We jogged a few circles each time and I got the feeling she felt that was a small price to pay.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Last Thursday my niece was visiting from Utah so she rode Jessie and I rode Dusty. It was pretty interesting watching someone else on Jessie. My niece is 18 and has had some English riding, but still inexperienced. Jessie took good care of her.

We did some groundwork on Saturday and had an early morning ride on Sunday. Jessie did "okay". We worked on FTC a little at each of the two locations we practice. At one she actually did a complete circle. I'm trying to keep the sessions shorter (since the long ones didn't produce much.) Ranae has been working on groundwork since Dusty dumped her again two weeks ago. I'm hopeful this time she will really commit to it and I think she has because she pulled the DVD's out herself. I get to sit out there and watch her and offer my feeble insights. It's helping me learn too.

Sunday, our friends, who Ranae usually rides with, took their new 5 Yr. old mare, fresh back from the trainer, out on a ride. They had ridden on Friday and everything went fine. On this day, however, she dumped our neighbor. One of our friends chased two of the horses back the 2 miles back to our house. We then took the truck to pick up the rider and his wife. I walked home with the other neighbor and one of the horses. This horse is pretty sensitive and they just come out, tack her up, and go. It frustrates me so much, it is one of the reasons I don't ride with them anymore. I guess he bounced on the ground pretty good. He's sore, but nothing appeared broken.

This morning Jessie and I did some GW. We had three or four exercise cards to work on, but she got stuck on chumping me on the C-pattern exercise. It amazes me she still kicks up. Anyway, she made it a much harder workout than it had to be. I hope she learned from it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Little Groundwork

Here's the footage of last weekend's groundwork. She started off a little spicy then we got down to it. We really need more improvement on the yielding 4qtrs. She is moving her back feet waay too much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to Groundwork

All that trotting last week finally got to me and soreness of my rapidly aging body necessitated a break from riding. We took Friday and Saturday off and did some groundwork on Sunday. I took some video which I hope to edit and upload soon.

This was a pretty funny video of Dusty:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Billy Pickett Rodeo

The Billy Pickett Rodeo was fun. Not the best examples of horsemanship I've seen, lots of pulling, tie-downs, and no stopping, but it was a nice evening.

Ranae next to a horse that we estimate over 17H

Getting Ready for The Grand Entrance and The Grand Entrance

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Little Help from Rick Lamb

I enjoy Rick Lamb's blog. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and he actually responds to people who comment on his blog. I recently posted a question in response to his request and got a very insightful answer that I thought I would share here.

Like many horse owners,I have one horse. Good, bad, this is my horse and I'm not the type who can change horses easily. Luckily, I think she is a good horse. You've seen a lot of clinicians. Do you think that a "lay" (for want of a better term) horseperson can follow a dvd training program and get good results? Can a person get experience by training just one horse? And, how much does our "personal relationship" with our horse get in the way of the "it's just business" part of our training? And, do you get confused (a better word might be inconsistent) by hearing the different clinicians?

Hi John,
All good questions. If you want to be the best horseman you can be, you need experience with many different horses. If you want to develop a relationship with a single horse, you need to spend lots of time with that one horse. So the answer to that one is, it depends on what you want. Training DVDs vary in quality. Some are disorganized, poorly produced, and even present bad information. But even the best give you only an intellectual understanding of the ideas. That only takes you so far. You also need lots of time in the presence of a horse, handling and riding him, putting the ideas into practice, developing some muscle memory, developing a sense of what the horse is saying through his body language, etc. By the same token, hands-on time alone isn't enough. It's the marriage of "classroom" and "field" work that really moves you forward.
Is it best to follow one trainer or look at multiple approaches? When you're just starting out, I recommend picking one system and following it. The major systems are most different in the beginning. When you get farther along in your journey, you understand that they are all saying the same thing in different ways, doing the same thing with different techniques and tools, and spinning it all to make it seem unique and special. At the core, all are using an understanding of the horse's nature to motivate him to do the things we want him to do, in other words natural horsemanship. If you're the type that just has to look at everything, that's fine, but be prepared to be sidetracked with lots of irrelevant concerns, e.g. why does Clinton use a stick and Chris just twirls the end of his rope? Dr. Miller and I wrote about this difficulty in The Revolution in Horsemanship. All the paths take you to the same place. Finally, yes, your personal relationship can interfere with training the horse. Usually this is the result of a distorted idea of what it means to love your horse. I love my horses and my kids, but I wouldn't hesitate to discipline any of them to get across an important point. It's not the easy route. It doesn't feel good to "punish" a horse any more than it feels good to punish a child, but as long as it's not done in anger, as long as it's done with a business-like attitude and your entire demeanor returns to normal immediately, the horse (and child) will not become frightened of you. In fact, it gives both a sense of security, knowing that there are boundaries and that you are there to keep them from drifting outside those boundaries. Final point: don't expect your horse to love you back, at least not in the usual sense of love. He cannot do it and it's unfair to ask that of him. He can become comfortable and relaxed in your presence. He can become "happy" to see you, especially if seeing you always means treats. But the equine species has a very different brain, preoccupied with safety, comfort, and the presence of other equines. This doesn't need to diminish the experience for you. Because having a horse that truly trusts and respects you is still immensely enjoyable.

Moving in the Right Direction

It was tough crawling out of bed this morning and I was running a bit behind schedule. We rode to the pole to do our passenger lesson. It was very encouraging. I think she is starting to get it. She didn't stray as far as she had on Monday and she actually licked her lips while standing at the pole (I think that was a first). Anyway, I think I can say we made progress which is more than I've been able to say in the last two weeks.

Tonight is the Bill Pickett Rodeo. A friend of ours is volunteering so we get in free! So-weeet! He offered to let us ride in the Grand Entrance - we took a pass on that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Knowledge Bucket Emptied

We went out Saturday and Sunday to work on you-know-what again. Saturday we were out at the pole for nearly two hours as I tried to convince Jessie to "get" this exercise. She was all over the place. We must have gone around that pole a thousand times. She was far too interested in everything else (which was nothing I could see) to pay attention to what we were doing. I had my ipod on and was listening to music so and felt that if I just kept doing the exercise over and over she would eventually get it.

Sunday we went out again. We worked on a couple of other exercises, but we were in the same "space" as the pole. I was hoping I could establish this as our training area. After about an hour we still weren't getting anywhere and I was losing my patience so we headed home. I tried to borrow my neighbor's arena, but he couldn't leave me alone, offering me advice on what he thought I was trying to do and that just increased my frustration. So then we went out back into our now much smaller training area and did some groundwork, which always makes me feel better.

Monday I was up at 5:15 to try again. As we headed out to the pole she wanted to go off in another direction so I said, "Fine, you win. Let's go where you want." She took off across this open field to the south. She was traveling in a straight line at a relaxed pace. We got to an irrigation canal and I had to steer her to the west and at her first opportunity she turned away from home and headed south again. She continued for about a 1/4 mile and I think I saw the light come on that she realized she was moving away from home. I asked for a whoa and got it, turned around so home and the pole were in front of us. Again, at a trot, she traveled in a straight line and it was as if I was doing a passenger lesson. We got to a fork where the pole was in one direction and home in the other and I steered her to the pole and stopped there for a rest.

After a few minutes I asked her to go and she took off south again. About a hundred yards away I gently steered her to face the pole and as soon as I dropped the reins she veered away. I let her go until we got to our boundaries and after about 12 minutes we were resting at the pole again.

Everything had been at a trot so far and I could see she was looking for the resting spot. We took off again and she was on her own again. Again, I tried to gently steer her back, but she would just veer in the other direction. 10 minutes later as we reached the fork I looked over in the direction of the pole. She softly veered to the right and headed straight for the pole and a well-deserved break. We had been trotting for nearly forty minutes. After a short break we headed home.

My guess is that this exercise is so difficult because we've missed something up til now. He lack of attention to me is frustrating and, even though I worked the snot out of her at the lope and trot, it doesn't seem to make a difference. I hope this new direction with this exercise will help.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Extreme Heat Advisory

The "Extreme Heat Advisory" was lifted at 6 am this morning. It's only going to be 103 today. The air is still pretty bad.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Okay, Officially Too Hot

It was 104 yesterday and expected 109 today. The smoke from two nearby fires make it unhealthy to breathe for both of us. We are hopeful it may cool off and clear up in the next couple of days.

Monday afternoon I came home to find Jessie's automatic waterer (not a Ritchie) had broken the supply line and both 40 foot square pens were filled with 3" of water. Dusty had a high spot, but Jessie's was quite flooded. I moved her into the small pen and fixed the waterer. The heat and humidity and the smell of wet manure make it a lovely site. Jessie's revenge.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Find the center revisited

We rode a lot this weekend. I had to come to the office for a short time on Friday and as soon as I got home we went out. We found ourselves near the Little League field and there was a tournament going on so we went over and had a soda at the snack bar and let the horses cool off a bit. Some of the kids came around to see the horses. They enjoyed their time in the shade. It's pretty hot here and Jessie and I had been working on the find-the-center exercise (again).

We rode by the dairy and the cows gave us all a thrill. The horses kept their eyes on them, Jessie more than Dusty. I tried some roll backs into the fence to regain her attention. It's so difficult. Sometimes I get the feeling she doesn't even realize I'm on her back.

We tried the FTC exercise again on the way home. Still no hints that she is getting it. Saturday we went out to the stables by the river and rode with some of Ranae's friends. It was a nice, easy ride with some different horses and I think it was good for them. Ranae's friend's horse spooked at a squirrel and Jessie took one little start and then stood there. Their horses hadn't been out much and they had their dog with them and so they headed back early. We went a little farther out and then Ranae and I split up. Jessie gets very worried when she knows there is another horse out there and she can't see it. This is quite different than when we go out alone and she is just not paying attention to me ;>) We were separated for about 5 minutes (Ranae did a loop around a grove of trees), when we got back I loped Jessie around them for a few circles and took her away to rest. I really don't think it made an impression.

Back at the stables we used one of the arenas for more FTC thinking that an arena might help. It didn't. I had Ranae watching me, I've looked at the lesson on DVD three times, it was 95 degrees and I was loping her and she wasn't paying attention to a thing "we" were doing. I stopped and let her rest a couple of times at the center cone thinking she would connect to it, but to no avail.

Sunday, the girls went out for their ride and I took Jessie to one of two FTC workout spots. I decided not to use my spurs and see if that made any difference. It didn't. We worked for about 25 minutes at the first spot then worked on transitions and vertical flexion to the second spot. We worked on FTC for another 25 minutes and there were hints of getting it but still nothing I could say was an "I got it" moment. We worked on some backing up and side-passing trying to end on something she does well, then we headed back. She was pretty sweaty. So was I.

Even though it was a bit disappointing, I have every confidence she will get it. This is probably the toughest exercise we've done so far. She had a pretty tough time with yielding forequarters and eventually she got it. I'm sure she'll eventually get this one too. Sometimes I wonder if I'm working her too hard. We rode pretty good 5 out of the last 7 days. Then I hear this little Aussie voice whisper in my ear, "If she's got enough energy to do the wrong thing...".

This week they've scheduled some incredibly hot weather so the best times will be our early mornings. I gave her Monday off again and I'm hoping to ride early Tuesday and Wednesday if I can drag my ass out of bed ...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Find the Center

Here's a video from yesterday morning's workout as we tried once again to find the center. I've shortened it considerably for your viewing please (but it's still boring).

Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Riding in the Back Seat

We grew up in LA and as a kid I remember riding in the back seat of the car with my brothers and sister. I didn't have a care in the world as to where we were going, just let me know when we get there. As I got older I had a lousy sense of direction because I rarely paid attention to where I was going. I really had to work o my map reading skills and have gradually improved and now, I think I have an "okay" sense of direction. My grandnephew, I understand, at age 5 knows when his mom or dad takes a different way home and asks what street there on.

I bring this up, because on our ride this morning Jessie was looking all over the place, which is quite different when we go out with another horse. With another horse it's like she's riding in the back seat, semi-oblivious to where we are going. When we are out alone it's like we are seeing everything for the first time. She's getting much better moving out though.

We rode out to our pipe in the ground to work on the find the center exercise again. I watched the DVD last night and got a few pointers to take out with me. We worked on it for another 15 minutes or so and let me just say the progress is slow, but I'm confident the light will come on soon. The interesting part is that all the other exercises we do on the way out and back are improving quite nicely.

And, it's great riding early in the morning...