Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 61-65: We keep pluggin' along!

Monday: I loaded up Eclipse and brought him to the Wills Park show grounds for a change. It is a great place and great opportunity to expose Eclipse to riding in a covered arena. Once we got there and took Eclipse around to explore the whole place. He was a little leery of the new place but settled in quickly. We walked the fence of the whole covered arena in both direction before we decided to warm up on the ground. During the warm up I rearranged a few of the remaining jump standards from the previous event into a line about twenty feet from each other. Once mounted we warmed up on the rail. Once we got to a canter I would take him down the center line where I had placed the standards. (For those of you who don't know what a standard is, it is the upright piece of a jump that holds the poles of the jumps.) The goal was to weave down the line of standards at a canter and have Eclipse change leads with every turn. The first time the pattern caught him be surprise and he was not expecting the rapid changes in direction. By the third pass he was with the program changing leads as he went from turn to turn. We ended it all by cooling down with some bridleless riding.

Tuesday was easy day. I worked some on Eclipse's ground tying while I taught lessons.

Wednesday I added some thing new to our ground work. Up to this point I have played with trotting in unison with Eclipse, today we worked on getting that in a canter. I taught him that when I skip he should canter. It did not take long for him to catch on. I would skip a few steps and he would then canter a few strides. We will continue to improve this as we go.

Thursday we continued are pursuit of perfecting flying lead changes by working the weave pattern in the arena. I could tell he was more prepared for the task at hand. He started offering the changes with subtle cues from me in the end.

Friday we went on a trail ride with another rider. This was the first trail ride in a month. Because the horse we rode with had not been out on the back property it was up to Eclipse to be the lead horse. I was anxious to see where his confidence was. Last trail we had been on he still depended on other horses to be the leader. It started out slow, he would take a few steps then stop and look around. I would allow this because if I forced him to go faster then he was ready for he would become more skeptical instead of more confident. I was very proud of him, he led the whole way, over water crossings, through ditches, and the under brush. We should be well prepared for the Poker ride at Garland Mountain on Sat Oct. 2.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 50-60: Mustang Madness Open House

As you have read in my last blog, I am now working with two mustangs to prepare them for mustang magic and Makeover competitions. I do have a new blog that is following the progress of my new guy Raven. I would love to have you follow it as well. He will be very different from Eclipse. He spent 5 years wild on the range as a stud! You can find his blog at

Thursday: Eclipse and I rode in the upper arena. Again we focused on yielding the shoulder. As Eclipse gets more comfortable and confident with our relationship he has started to get lax in his responsiveness. This is pretty normal at this stage, but gets frustrating as you are working with them.

Friday to help bring eclipse's focus back on me when I ride, i felt it time to start introducing a spur. This was a pretty easy process, and we spent most of this ride working on leg yields getting Eclipse to understand that if he does not move off of leg he would then feel the spur. It didn't take long for Eclipse to understand to respond when I applied my leg.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I spent working around the barn preparing for the open house the following weekend. Our boarders really pulled together to get the place looking great to showcase our mustangs, my teaching style and the diversity of our riders.

Tuesday I had to laugh at Eclipse. One of the improvements to our facility that we added before the open house was an outdoor wash bay. Essentially it is a bed of pea gravel that is over a drainage holding tank. I took Eclipse over to it to see what his reaction would be when asked to step on it. He dropped his head, stepped in the sinking gravel, walked a circle with his nose to the ground like a dog, dropped to he knees and rolled! Not once but twice.

Wednesday it was back to work. Eclipse tended to disagree. He seemed to like his four day break. As I worked him around the arena on the ground he would crow hop in protest... how dare I interrupt his vacation! Once felt he was with me, I got on and began his workout under saddle. I could still tell he was resistant to the idea, but with in a few moments I was able to get him to follow my lead as we worked on freestyle (loose rein riding).

Thursday I was able to put another ride on Eclipse in the upper arena getting things polished for the Open House Demo. It will be interesting to see how Eclipse works in the arena while Pandora is in there. They have been spending a lot of time together in the dry lot at night, and he definitely knows when she is around.

Friday was busy doing final preparations for the Open house the next day.

Saturday was the big day. We all got to the barn early to knock out chores and prepare our horses for demonstrations. When i came time for our demonstration I tacked up and warmed up. We showed the audience how we could work at liberty on the ground, put all four feet on the pedestal. Once in the saddle we showed some of our rollbacks and sliding stops. Kelsey and I ended it by having both horse lay down at the same time! The crowed was impressed!

After all the hoopla of Saturday, I needed a day off more then Eclipse did!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day: 45-49

Okay, so here is the last week with Eclipse in summary.

I taught a colt starting clinic Sat., Sun., and Mon. so my time was somewhat limited, but I managed to squeeze in a couple rides both Sat. and Sun. after the clinic. Saturday I warmed up in the Round pen and rode in the arena. Towards the end of the ride i caved and let one of my students Allison ride him a little. Until now I have been the only one that has ridden him. It was Eclipses turn to scratch his head. He was a little taken back by the feel of the new rider. The two of them finally got it working together.

Sunday at the end of the Clinic I did a riding demonstration with Eclipse. While I was winding the clinic down Cindy Appling and a friend of hers arrived for the riding demo. She took some candid photos of Eclipse. She also photographed our ride and liberty warm up session. I had to laugh as I worked Eclipse at liberty in the arena, I would draw him in and have the intentions of changing directions and all three times he would just come into me directly and not want to turn away. We had a lot of fun and all were impressed.

Monday he had the day off and Tuesday we were back at it. We focused on getting good shoulder movement at the trot. He struggles staying at the trot in one direction when I ask him to move the shoulder over. In many cases he willstop completly and do a turn on the haunches (hind legs). I slowed things down to help him understand that he can still give his shoulder and stay in the trot. We did have a first in the saddle for him, I was able to ride him up on the pedestal with all four feet! I held my breath as he teetered back and forth to get his balance on the small stool. Soon he will be solid enough to allow me to stand on him while he is up there. We wrappe dup our ride by riding through the woods.

Wednesday Eclipse had a special job. I was scheduled to receive a new mustang for training in the mustang majic competition in January in Fort Worth, Texas. I had such good luck with my happy accident with Eclipse when hauling him back from mississippi i decided to simulate it with my new mustng. That accident of course was getting both of the "stangs" in the front compartment where we were able to touch both of them before they came off the trailer. Once I got the new guy back to the barn in the trailer, voluteered Eclipse to go into the front compartment with the new Mustang to take up space and not allow the new horse to escape my touch. I had to laugh because once in the trailer with the other horse Eclipse was so confident that I had to restrain him from biting the new horse on the rump! He did his job successfully but did not make any friends in the process!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 41-44; Mystery limp is Back and the Pony Cart

After our good work out at Fox berry I decided to give Eclipse the day off Tuesday. Wednesday we were back at it again. I have been doing my ground work warm up at liberty in the arena and things have been going well. He has been doing ground poles, cone weaves, jumps and other obstacles, so taday i thought I would challenge the connection. We ventured out into the pasture play-yard at liberty to see what we could do. The some stuck like glue comes to mind as we made our way around all of the different obstacles. We crossed the teetering bridge, went over logs, stood on the pedestal and Eclipse never missed a beat! We even ventured into the woods to play the extreme obstacles that were there. I could see him mentally struggle to say with me as we entered the woods. The only thing that kept him with me was his turst in my judgement. had he been left to his own devices he would have been gone long before. With a little encouragement he successfully negotiated the bridge, curtain, and tarp. Satisfied with that we saddled and rode. To my disappointment our ride was cut short because our limp was back!

Thursday was a spa day for eclipse. It started with a massage from Tamera Woods, then an adjustment from Dr. Penny. He had some issues in his shoulder area as we had suspected. He also had his right stifle out. So the doc put him back together and ordered another day of rest. In lue of working with Eclipse I grabbed my favorite lesson pony Hercules a Shetland cross and hitched him up to his pony cart and decided to work a few pounds off of him. From Eclipse's stall he could see us make our rounds in the front yard. I was a good distance from him in the cart but I could see the mustang come out in him. Any time the cart would travel in his direction he would turn and try to climb the gait out of his stall! I stopped the cart to come to his rescue. Once I was able to bring to the cart and let him follow it and he realized it was his buddy Hercules all strapped in he decided it was not going to kill him!

Friday afternoon it was back to work. I went over to a neighboring barn where there footing was a little softer and deeper, I figured the extra cushion would help his recovery. Once I was in the saddle Eclipse felt good. Happy to move his feet at the trot. Once he was warm and loose I asked for the canter to the right and he got the wrong lead:( I didn't pay it much mind, I am sure he is having to adjust to Dr. Penny's changes. He bobbled his weaker lead a couple more times but more importantly he never limped and that was enough for me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 37-40: A couple more rides and Foxberry Farm

Friday I stayed at Whispering Hills and worked around our facility. In the Make-over competition the compulsories are a in hand portion as well as a ridden portion. The in hand portion usually consists of obstacles like ground poles, backing an "L", trailer loading, bridges, picking up feet among others things. We have been warming up on these types of things during our ground work sessions over the weeks. Today in our session we played with a stick to me at liberty over and around some of the obstacles. One thing Eclipse has learned well is the stick to me exercise. He followed at a trot over cavaletti poles, through cones, stopping when I stop, and trotting when I trot. The connection between us has come a long way in a short period of time. I checked my saddle and mounted to ride. We stayed in the arena mostly warming up in our usual way. Once Eclipse felt with me iI dropped the reins and started to ride our figure eight pattern using my leg and body cues to guide Eclipse. When leg and body were not enough I would pick up the reins to remind him of his direction. By the end of the session we were efficiently moving around the arena at a walk and trot and stopping simply when I quit riding.

Saturday was a busy day as usual but I was able to carve out some time at the end of my day for Eclipse. We touched on everything that we worked on Friday on the ground expanding and perfecting it. In the saddle we worked on more of the same then working on rein-less riding. This time we ventured up to a canter. Eclipse's canter has become balanced and feels more like a rocking horse. He goes as fast as you want him to but is just as ready to stop. He moved around the arena turning easily with just a shift of my weight and focus. Soon we were doing simple lead changes through the middle of the arena. It is amazing to me that a little over a month ago he struggled to get his right lead and now he can pick it up without reins. It is quiet the testament to the trainablitiy of the mustang.

Sunday Eclipse had the day off. Monday was a lesson in patients for Eclipse. I had some barn hopping to do so I loaded Eclipse up on the goose neck trailer and headed out. My first stop was Moonlight Stables where I had two horses that I needed to work on loading. I set Eclipse up with water and hay in the trailer and commenced with my training session. At first Eclipse was a little confused because he usually exits the trailer when we get on location. Stomping his foot with impatience Eclipse came to terms with his imprisonment. After a little while I never heard another sound from him. I finished my sessions with the other horses and Headed on to my next stop, Foxberry Farm where I would be picking up a new boarder. I figured I would have some time to kill before the new boarder could meet me, so I found the office at the Foxberry and asked Kim Abernathy if Eclipse an I could ride at their facility while I waited. I got an enthusiastic yes! It was early afternoon by now and the younger kids in their lesson program were arriving of afternoon lessons. The barn was a buzz about the mustang and How cute he was. I got Eclipse out and let him stretch his legs while pulled out the tack for our ride. Once I got him warmed up, it was requested that he go to the neighboring arena so the kids could see him up close and personal. Eclipse felt like a celebrity! The facility there was quiet nice and we had the privilege of our own arena. We had a good ride even with the distraction of Horses and people walking around the outside of our arena. Eclipse was ready to go home after a good workout and a long day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 35-36: Mystery Stiffness and Cows!

When I got Eclipse out today (Tues) I hopeful that things would end better than they did last ride. We first went to the round pen where we played at liberty. He seemed to enjoy moving his feet and did not seem encumbered with any stiffness or limp. One thing that Eclipse does well is draw in to the inside of the round pen at a canter and change leads as he heads out in the new direction. We played with stick to me as well at a trot. Once we got warmed up, I climbed aboard in my Circle Y saddle. We moved off at a trot and there it was again... the limp! So I scratched my head and dismounted. I approached Tamera Woods a fellow boarder who also happens to be a certified Equine Masseuse and asked if she would look into Eclipse's mystery limp. After a good rubdown she had to report that his right front shoulder is to blame. One thing is for sure, when he gets warmed up and then stands for ten minutes or so he definitely walks off stiff. I gave Eclipse his evening food after his rubdown and decided to re-approach tomorrow.

Wednesday was a little busy with training and lessons and with Eclipse's soreness I felt it was best to do a little ground work rub him down again and let him rest today.

Thursday I loaded up Eclipse and headed to a neighbors property to introduce Eclipse to his first Cow!. My thought was even if he was still stiff in his shoulder I could still work with him on the ground and get him confident with cows. We got to the new barn and off loaded from the trailer and started to explore. It was a quiet cow farm with a cute renovated barn. It had a couple of stalls and a chicken coop with, you guessed it...chickens! Eclipse was not so sure of the chickens, but they were curious about him. Eventually Eclipse dropped his head and sniffed the fine feathered friends that were curiously pecking at him through the chicken wire. After the chicken encounter we went off to the cow pasture to warm up and find our bovine friends. The small pasture contained two, year-old calves, that of course wanted to hang out in the scary end of the pasture. The wooded end! We inched closer to the cows who were laying quietly by the fence. With Eclipse more concerned about the woods behind the cows, I was fearing that when the cows did get up to move I would see an instant replay of the deer on the trail ride, but this time I was on the ground. Bracing for that moment the first cow rose to his feet, to my surprise Eclipse just changed his focus from the woods to the cows. I urged him forward towards the cows as they moved off. We traipsed up the pasture after the calves building his confidence by letting him follow. At this point I was pretty certain that Eclipse was not going to bolt so I saddled up and got on. As I warmed him up I was sensitive to see if the limp will come back today. So far so good. Once i felt I had Eclipse's mind we ventured on to the cows. WE eased near the woods where they like to hang out. As we approached they once again got to their feet and started to move away. It didn't take long for eclipse to figure out this game... follow the smelly cows! I left my neighbors place feeling pretty confident that Eclipse will not be hanging from the rafters of the Murfreeboro Coliseum if cows are a required task!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 30-34: Next couple of rides.

Friday was a light work day. We had gotten a deluge Thursday evening and things were still a little wet and slick for any kind of hard work out. So we kept it to a trot and worked on some trail exercises like the teetering bridge, the pedestal, backing an "L" and other mind bending things. He still struggles to move his hind end around with out taking a step or two in the front first. As we start to refine a few things this will get better. He still has confidence issues with entering the woods. Something about going through that first opening into the woods is a little tense for him. Ironically enough he is not bothered by any of the obstacles in the woods but the woods themselves. Strolling through the woods is now our cool down ritual.

Busy Saturday led to little mustang time, but Sunday we were back at it in the arena. Footing being dryer we were able to work again on cantering. As with every ride picking up each lead is getting smoother and he is feeling more balanced underneath me. We did a lot of canter changing direction some time simple lead changes and sometime flying. I guess being a smaller horse and me not being petite when we are going to the right and I say go left he has two choices change his lead or fall over! Since we have already done the fall over thing and neither of us like that I guess he has decided that changing lead is the best option. Got to love a logical horse! We got several changes throughout the ride and called it good in the arena. We then went out to the pasture rode a little more then cooled out in the woods.

By Monday the pasture was dry enough to canter on again, or so I thought! We went out to the pasture area and started our warm up. When ever I start a ride in the pasture I spend the first 5 minutes or so getting Eclipse to focus in the big open area where usually there are other horses and riders. I continued on are agenda of playing with changes of direction at the canter. It was a good work out for both of us, then we branched our way up the pasture seeing if we could change leads on a serpentine yet. He was not quiet with me enough yet. We slowed things down, talked to a boarder for a few minutes then decided to go back to the arena to work a few more minutes so that I could impression him that we can stop for a few minutes but then it is back to work sometimes. It was then that I noticed it. As we got back up to a trot, Eclipse started to limp! At first I wondered if it was the change in the footing. I dismounted and checked all four feet, there was nothing unusual. I walked him around for a few more minutes to see if he was still gimpy. He continued to limp slightly on the left front. I dismounted and brought him into the barn for further inspection. After a good rubdown and a little anti-inflammatory added to his evening meal I put him up for the night and hoped that tomorrow he would be better.

Day 29: Simple and Flying Changes

Last Thursday was the first day that I had put a good ride on Eclipse since his trim from the Farrier. For today's ride we ventured to a neighboring Riding facility Rose Equestrian. This would be the third time we have hauled off facility to ride. Once there we unloaded and wondered around the barn area. To my knowledge Eclipse has never been inside a closed building, so he entered the barn with some hesitation. Once he realized that other horses were there and there was hay, he decided that it was not a bad place to be! I unloaded my tack, groomed him up and headed out to the arena. At first I just let him explore his new surroundings. This was a hunter Jumper barn and all the unusual shaped jump standards caught his eye. As I started to work him on the ground, I found it quite funny that in this one spot between the fence and some ground poles, he would canter change lead as he crossed over the ground pole then change back as he went between the fence and myself. He did this very athletically. Once he had scene everything, I mounted and began his workout. We started out following the rail. There were certain spots along the rail that we took our time because I could feel his hesitation. After a few laps the hesitation was gone and it was down to business as usual. I continued to work the figure eight pattern at a trot and eventually worked up to a canter. Today was the first day since his trim that he readily picked up the right lead with out a lot of support from me. His transitions are getting nice, usually picking up the canter in a couple of strides. So I felt ambitious and with Eclipse's nice display of flying lead changes in his warm up, I decided to try one. Using my figure eight pattern, I cantered on the left lead came around the circle picked up his right shoulder then pushed him to the right before he reached the fence and TaDaw! flying lead change in the front and two strides later he changed the back to match! I spent the rest of the session playing with simple lead changes while throwing in a flying one every now and again. The change in his balance since his trim could really be felt today.
Today also marked another first. after our ride i untacked Eclipse and left him in a paddock area while I loaded my stuff on the trailer. Every time I would pass back into his sights, he would nicker at to come get him! I have been waiting for that sound for a month.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 26-28: Trail ride, First Farrier, Four Feet Up, and Dragging an Object.

Sunday afternoon I had promised a friend that she and some of the girls at her barn, Rose Equestrian, could come over and ride at Whispering Hills. They were interested in the Enchanted forest that we have and riding the trails on the back of the property. Unfortunately one of the girls horses was lame and needed a loner so, I grabbed Seren my four year old mustang that got me started into all of this. I turned the girls loose on the trail course while I got Eclipse warmed up in the arena. About the time I got eclipse warmed up enough to feel safe on the trail and the girls exhausted the obstacles, one of the girls hollered for her mom to watch. It was Seren standing all four feet on the pedestal, this was one of her signature moves for the finale in the makeover a year ago. We headed out to the back for Eclipse's third trail ride. He is crossing our creeks like a pro now and getting more confident about his surroundings. He is proving himself quiet sure footed on the hills and trails. We all plodded along at a walk and a trot through the woods and over the terrain and on several occasions ended up cantering to catch up! In past experiences I could feel if I asked for more speed he would forget I was up there and who knows what would happen. But all was good and we had a great ride.

Monday was a Day of rest. Tuesday we had the farrier come by to give Eclipse his first trim. For the most part he has pretty good feet, however all four feet were flared on the out side walls. All this means is that eclipse bares most of his weight on the inside wall of his foot. This is like people... we either pronated or supinate when we walk. Ideally us and horses should hit evenly and break over the center of the foot. We have worked on handeling feet a good bit and he is good with all except his right hind. Aside from taking his foot off the stand a few times during the filing process, he stood like a champ for the other three. The right hind started out as a struggle but my farrier Jim is a seasoned pro and held on until he relaxed. It only takes a few times for a horse to get his foot back by struggling to learn to struggle with the handler every time. It worked out that I didn't have time to ride today either so I will be anxious to see the changes in his movement now that he has had his feet balanced.

Tuesday I had a small window to play with Eclipse. We headed out to the play yard to see what we could get accomplished. He was ready to move out and is continually getting more careful with his feet. He picks them up nicely when he goes over ground poles and logs. One new thing that we introduced today was dragging an object. This could be a potential obstacle in some of our classes. I start this on the ground by leading my horse forward while dragging the object in front of him while he walks. Eventually I allow the obstacle to drop back until it is behind the horse. Today's object was a orange construction barrel. On the ground this did not seem to bother him much even when the rope rubbed against his flanks. Next we played with the pedastal. Up to this point we have gotten both front feet on, even both back feet but not at the same time. So we started with the front and encouraged the back feet to feel their way on to the tiny platform. He understands what I want but hasn't quite figured out how to get it acomplished. HE pretty consistenly steps his right hind on the platform but hasn't muster up the courage to put weight on it. The few times he would he would step down with a front leg at the same time. Then finally the stars lined up! I asked for him to put weight on the third leg and was able to communicate to his front legs to not step down and shazzam! there he was with all four feet on the pedestal! I let him hang out as long as he wanted to. Once he got down I was able to ask him one more time and he was able to get it again. I decided to leave things at that today, time was running short.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 24-25: Introducing the bit (the Natural Horsemans Double Bridle)

Friday was another hot one. I ended up working with Eclipse about mid so there was no escaping the heat. Up until now all of my riding has been down in nothing more than a rope halter and lead rope tied into reins. I have been asked many times why I choose this method so I will explain. Starting a horse begins on the ground with a halter and a lead rope. I use a rope halter for the fact that they are light weight to wear but uncomfortable to pull against, its a great communication tool. The horses geat familiar with this piece of tack and soon start to understand what I am asking with it. When it comes time for the first ride, I am going to use something familiar to them instead of changing something different. Some people wonder about the control aspect verses a bit, and yes you can have more leverage with a bit if things get out of hand, but if you prepared your horse right on the ground you should have that same control in the halter. The other reason I use the halter first instead of the bit is if my young horses are going to fight with me over the control of their nose, I would rather it be with the halter over its nose then the bit in its mouth for the horses sake. Some horses can get panicky and emotional about the pressure in their mouth if they don't understand it. An emotional horse never learns anything positive so most the time the horse learns to fear or dislike the bit instead of accepting it. When I introduce the bit for the first time I put on my Natural Horsemans Double Bridle. In essence I put my colt starting snaffle on over the halter and ride with both sets of reins.

I go back and forth between riding in the arena and various places in the pasture to win my horses respect now matter what his surroundings. Today was a pasture day. I tacked up and warmed him up on the ground then bridled him over the halter and got in the saddle. As always I started with bending him with the reins side to side until he bent nicely with out moving his feet. I did this first with both reins so that Eclipse would feel the familiar cue of the halter as well as the new cue of the bit at the same time. This went well, he was soft but naturally played with the bit some as he was getting accustom to its feel. We then went about working a circle in the lower part of the pasture next to the woods. Still sceptical of the woods Eclipse would counter bend towards the woods each time we would go by. Using the reins and my inside leg I would bend him straight on a circle and continue around. As I started to use the bit and reins more to incourage more bend in our circle Eclipse would wag his head trying to understand the pressure in his mouth. I would simply hold steady on the reins until he went with the flow then I would relax my hand. We pretty much worked the same bending pattern from the previous day at the trot only while working on accepting the bit. Once we got to the point that the head wagging and resistance was at a minimum we relaxed and cooled him out by walking through the woods.

Our next ride was Saturday morning before my lessons. Still working in the "double" bridle I was amazed at how soft and accepting Eclipse was when we started to ride. I always know when I am working with a good horse when I can come back to something the next day and it is better than when I left it the previous day. We went straight into working our figure eight pattern in the arena changing direction by moving the shoulders over first then heading out on the new circle. Even moving his shoulders to the left is starting to happen at the walk and the slow trot. Next step is doing this at the canter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 22-23 Figure eights and the Enchanted Forest.

Between my schedule and the heat I was not able to do much with Eclipse Wednesday. We did spend some time together working on ground tying. This is a rather time intensive task and I have found it is a good thing to work on when I am teaching other lessons. It pretty much involves putting your horse in one spot and giving him a que and putting him back into the same spot until he gets the idea that he is not to move. The first time I tried this he was all over like an ADD child. Now he is getting where he will stand in one place but pivot to face me where ever I am.

Thursday I had time to put another ride on Eclipse. We worked in the arena starting to play with a figure 8 pattern at a trot. This was the first time I started to ask for body bends as he made his circles. Like most green horses on a circle they have druthers. This is when their circles look more like eggs because they "druther" be somewhere else! Usually it is the gate or another horse. Eclipse is no different. His circles would get a little lopsided towards the gate so I would pick up his shoulder and push it to the inside of the circle until he crossed over with his front feet. To the right we could do this at the trot, but when circling to the left we would have to break it down to a walk to get the step over. Just like us , these guys are born right handed or left handed and it is up to me to help these horses find their coordination with their week side. I would work the circle moving the shoulder over every time he would leak towards the gate and continue the circle until I could go by the sticky spots with little or no correction. At that point I would give him a break and then start the new direction. Once He was staying on a circle well I then played with changing directions by changing the bend creating the figure eight. I did work up to the canter getting simple lead changes. I still have to set him up more for the right lead, but i am hoping as he gains coordination this will get easier. Once we reached a good place with that I left the arena to cool him out in the play yard.
We walked around the obstacles as usual and when we were board with that the opening in the woods to the enchanted forest called our name. We headed for the dark opening taking our time because I could feel the hesitation in Eclipse. I mean he came from Nevada... how many trees are there anyway? Tuesday's trail experience still lerks in the back of my mind, and the silence of the two of us entering the woods put me on edge knowing that any sudden noise could cause another spook. So i decided to sing a lullaby. We went at a slow pace venturing over the tarp, through the curtain, past the exotic creatures and over the bridge to the tune of "Twinkle twinkle little star". I wouldn't say that Eclipse was relaxed but he was on standby. Without another horse to follow I was very pleased with his bravery. A great come back from Tuesdays trail ride.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 21: Garland Mountain and the Mustang eating Deer!

On October 2, 2010 we will be doing our second Mustang Benefit event. Whispering Hills Farm will be hosting a Poker Ride at Garland Mountain. Entry Fees will be $40 a rider and the winning hands will get prizes ranging from training or lesson time with me, discounts on clinics, equine massages, and natural horsemanship tack. The ride will start at 10:00 a.m. and a BBQ lunch will be included. So enough of the shameless plug, but now you know why I did what I did next!

Tuesday morning myself and two other boarders decided to make an excursion to Garland Mountain to check it out and get a game plan for the Poker ride we will be hosting in October. We got the morning barn work done and loaded the three horses including Eclipse on to the trailer, loaded our tack and ventured on out way. We got to the trail head, unloaded and tack up. All the horses seemed pretty laid back about our new surroundings. we mounted up, looked at a map to decide our route, and headed down the trail. Just for grins I went first with Eclipse to see if he would lead. That lasted about 20 yards. We were not so confident about going past the orange mesh silt fence next to the parking area. So we let Adrianne and her horse Eikon take the lead. We walked on for about twenty minutes letting our horses relax into the ride. Once relaxed we decided to pick up the pace to a trot in the less rocky areas. (Eclipse is bare foot but did well with the rocks). Things were going so well all three of us were probably more relaxed then we should have been. We were busy chatting away when all of the sudden Adrianne, who still had the lead, yelled "DEER!" and that is all it took. The flight instincts of all three horses kicked in at once. Both Eikon and Eclipse turned from the trail and headed into the woods at a dead run! As looked at the on coming branches I made the split second decision to bail! Once I hit the ground I took inventory of the situation. All I could see is the hind end of both Eclipse and Eikon heading into the woods, Adrianne still on Eikon. Our third rider Nicole was still on the trail and was able to shut down her mare with a one rain stop. I yelled to Adrianne to grab Eclipse who was running along side of her. SHe eventually hit an open space where she was able to bend her mount to a stop. Just like a good herd mate, as soon as Eikon stopped running so did Eclipse and Adrianne was able to hop down and grab him. Well we were all awake now. We gave the horses and ourselves a few moments to shake off the adrenalin. All three horses never got quite as relaxed as they were at the start of the trail, they were all looking for the horse eating deer. We managed to navigate the rest of the trail successfully with Rosie, the third horse, in the lead.

Hind sight is always 20/20. This was the first off property trail ride for both Eikon and Eclipse and Rosie is not a seasoned tail horse either. To do it all over again, we would have had one more well seasoned trail horse join our ranks to give Eikon and Eclipse a more stable leader to mirror. As it was Eclipse was just following Eikons lead which wasn't as bomb proof as we thought, but until he has the confidence to lead on his own he will only be as confident as his leader. I was probably also pushing the envelope too :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 20; Bareback and a Visitor

Monday, a good friend and long time working student of mine Katie Jensen came over to watch me work with the mustang with a fellow boarder. Katie has watched me start two young horses before, her pony Roses and her friends pony Jupiter. I started both these horses knowing that they were destined to be kids horses and needed to be safe for them. She and her friend must be satisfied because today she brought another friend out to see Eclipse. She is in the market for a horse for her 8 year old daughter who has been riding a year and has shown great potential. I got Eclipse out and worked him on the ground allready saddled. We lunged over logs and barrels to show the perspective bidder his potential as a jumper. We played with putting two feet up on the pedestal, and loading into the trailer with the saddle on. Trying to wedge himself on the straight load trailer with the western saddle on was a little more challenging then when Eclipse is naked! After a few tries he managed enough courage to get all four feet on with the saddle. I decided to start my ride in the grass arena/play yard for a change. The upper arena is only partially enclosed, I guess you can say we started out of the box.

For the most part he did really well. He started out distrackted by all the open space so we started with circle at the trot. Once I felt his mind was more on his buisness we started working the whole arena area. Any time he would get distracted I would circle and refocus him. After about twenty minutes we worked up to a canter and started a clover leaf pattern where I cut the arena in half longways and short ways . This is a great pattern to help teach a horse steering at the canter. One thing that has improved over the last few rides is Eclipse's balance at the canter and him understanding when to stop. He is starting to get really consistent picking up his right lead missing it only once this ride. After the work out portion of our ride we went up the hill to the play yard and worked on crossing logs, bridges and the other obstacles we found there. Just for grins, I went up to the pedestal to see if he would step up on it with me on his back. One foot after the other he put his front feet on and up we went. His confidence and cordination growing by the day. In the end I think Katie's friend was impressed with learning capability that Eclipse had displayed. She will be back more towards the end of his training with her daughter to see if they are a good match. My hope is that I can find local bidder so that I can be apart of Eclipse's transition to a new home!

I came back later Monday evening and got the bug to work with Eclipse again so I decided to put on a bareback pad and see how things would go. One of the benifits of riding bareback is that the horse can really feel every leg cue and weight shift that the rider does. Taking advantage of that opportunity I focused on clarifying moving the front end (turn on the haunches) and moving the hind quarters (turn on the forehand) and introducing leg yields down the fence. Once we did that we went off at the trot. Sencing the different feeling of bare back Elipse actually offered a slower trot then he does under saddle. Thankful of the easier ride, I was able to relax and get into a groove with him. Very cool to feel the connection.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day17-19, Benefit Playday and a Day of Rest

My Friday was spent teaching lessons and preparing Whispering Hills farm for Saturdays Play day event. For those of you that don't know what a play day is, let me explain. Essentially we invite local horse people to come out to our facility to play and ride with all of the obstacles, arenas, and trails for a day fee. Kind of like a horse social. Any way Saturday was the big day for this and I wanted to make sure the place looked good and we were ready for the extra traffic.

Saturday morning we headed to the barn early to get the horse fed by the time people started to arrive. We had a great turn out and everyone had a great time challenging their horses with the different toys we had around. I got out with Eclipse and played with the pedestal among other things in the play yard. Before lunch the majority of our participants went to the arena and and played a group "stick with me game". Imagine 20 people and twenty horses in our 90 by 120 arena... now imagine most of them taking off their horses halters and lead rope! The game goes like this, once they are at liberty with their horses, the people start to mill about and in most cases the horses "stick with" their partner. This tests the horse/partner connection. Yes, some of the horses "leave" their partners at times and we work as a group to get them back together. With a full arena this is quite simple. All the other humans take their training stick and drive the lost horse away and keeps the lost horse moving until at last the horse find the one human, his partner, that doesn't drive them away. The horse then starts to associate their partner with safety and the bond strengthens. During the 40minute session only a handful of horses left their partners, and yes Eclipse was one of them. In classic horse fashion he had to test his boundaries and left me. he quickly stole another horse to join him in his search for freedom. He and Storm went gallivanting around the arena meeting pressure from the other participants at every turn. The first time it took a good ten minutes to get him to reconnect with me. He did leave a couple more times, but each time I could see him start to look for me as soon as he realized that he had made a mistake. By the end Eclipse was quite content to "stick with me", it was much safer there!

After lunch we tacked up and warmed up. We had one small struggle in his warm up. I have been focusing on Eclipse's right lead on line. This is his less confident side... he prefers me to be in his left eye. For a moment I got stuck trying to get Eclipse to circle to the right. He would go a half a lap then turn to face me (and to put his left eye on me). After about five minutes of sending and him stopping I changed where I was standing and put myself in a better position to drive him forward. As long as I drifted with him to keep myself behind his shoulder he continued to go forward at a canter. I got a few more laps with him in this position then mounted up to start our ride.

Our goal was to do our first on property trail ride today with the group, so it was important that I had Eclipse's full attention before leaving the arena. Once I felt we were there, we left the arena and headed out to the pasture to work some more. Things were good even with all the distraction of the other horses. We organized ourselves into two groups which ended up being the kid riders and the old folks. As much as I do not consider myself old, Eclipse and I went with the adults. There we were facing 50 acres of woods, creeks and open pasture! Not confident enough to lead we put ourselves behind a more seasoned trail horse. First challenge of the day would be the creek crossing that Eclipse always want to go straight up the embankment instead of taking the narrow trail up the side to the top. So far so good, when we got down to the water he stopped dropped his head, sniffed then walked through, now for the embankment. It helped to have another horse to follow that didn't prefer the straight up route. With a little guidance he took the skinny trail like a pro. We went all over the property, crossed every creek, trotted some, and crossed logs. Save for jumping one small creek crossing, and getting a little impulsive at the trot once we got in the pasture, our ride was quite a success!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 16: First ride out of the arena

Thursday's ride I made count after the demo ride the previous day. We headed to the arena worked on canter online with the right lead. This still seems to be his less preferred lead. Today I introduced the sideways movement to him. This is where I ask Eclipse to put his nose to the rail and move down the rail crossing over both sets of legs. At first this can be unsettling because with the fence in front of him and the pressure from me to move his feet they quickly realize he can not go forward and has to figure out what to do with his feet. He caught on pretty quickly when I was on his left, but when on his right he would try to escape my pressure by turning his tail to me and head straight down the rail. I slowed down on this side to help him understand what I was asking. Within a few tries he was getting a few steps in a row in that direction. I then proceeded to get on and start our ride. Once were warmed up I worked more on the canter. Eclipse is now picking up both leads with just a little support. We had a pretty good ride in the arena, so we decided to branch out. I opened the gait to the arena and walked out to the pasture play ground. I merely walked him around the open area observing his reaction to all the jumps, obstacles, and mares grazing the pasture. All in all he did quite well. I tried to push my luck by heading to the wooded trail leading to the enchanted forest. As I headed to the opening of the woods a branch snapped and spooked Eclipse. After his feet settled I decided it best to dismount and lead him through the obstacles. We will ride it another day!

Day 14-15: Trailer Loading and Mustang Demo.

The heat was back again today (Tues) I decided it would be a good day to work with trailer loading. As you recall for the pick up we used a open stock trailer that is wide and inviting compared to other trailers. My personal trailer, which will be the one that I will be taking to the Saddle up Cobb mustang training demo tomorrow, is a two horse straight load which is narrow and less inviting. We haven't worked on loading directly however, we have been working on ground exercises that simulate some of the challenges of loading like backing, crossing bridges and going between tight spaces. So when I walked over to the trailer Eclipse was initially skeptical at the big metal box but, with a little encouragement he walked up to it and sniffed it. I first asked him to go back and forth between myself and the trailer letting him explore it as he went by. I then opened the doors front and back and asked him to step up into the trailer. At first he rather not, snorting unconfidently at the inside. After a little persuasion I was able to get him to put his two front feet on the inside floor board. To encourage him to get all four on board I walked into the empty slot next to him and encouraged him forward. He initially back out as soon as I walked in but, I was able to invite him in again petting him reassuringly. This time after his front feet were on he made the effort to with his back feet. A couple of tries later he managed to get all four feet on. Now how to get them all back off with out turning around! No problem, I just wiggled the lead rope and just as he has been taught on the ground and he carefully felt his way backwards and out of the trailer. We did this a few more times until he was relaxed. Mission accomplished for today, we are ready for tomorrow... the demo!

Several months ago I was asked to be the speaker for the Saddle Up Cobb meeting which is held the first Wednesday of each month. They wanted me to talk or demonstrate on the mustangs. I kept my fingers crossed that my new mustang would be far enough along that I could do a live demo for the group and I am tickled pink that not only could I do a ground demo but a riding one! I got the trailer hooked up and loaded all of the tack that I would need, then Kelsey and I grabbed our mustangs and loaded them up. I was impressed that we were able to get both horses on in a couple of minutes. They hauled quietly the hour it took to get to Wild Horse park in Powder Springs. Once there we took them off both wide eyed and noses flared at their new surroundings. We both took about 20 minutes to let them explore the park area and get accustomed to the noise of the football teams at practice near by. Both mustangs were on edge, we could tell they were getting more relaxed when both showed interest in rolling in sandy, inviting footing of the arenas. I let Eclipse out on my twenty two foot line to stretch his legs and start getting warmed up. By the time the demo started, both horses were feeling pretty settled in. I greeted the crowd and told them about the Mustang Heritage Foundation and how we both were working to help the mustangs find good homes off the range. I then tacked Eclipse up and continued to prepare him for his ride. Still not as relaxed as he is at home, he decided to give the audience a show and started crow hopping as I moved him about the arena. I told the on lookers that he just wanted to make sure they knew he was wild! When that had dissipated and he looked more rideable, I got on. I could tell that both he and I were both a little on the nervous side. As we trotted off he felt a little faster and tighter then I was used to. We worked some transitions and changes of directions to help both of us relax. I still have not mastered the multitask of talking to an audience and working with a horse. My mounts always know when I am not 100% focused on them. Having Pandora in the arena as well was also a distraction for Eclipse. All in all we had a successful ride walking and trotting only, I didn't feel comfortable cantering with all of the distraction. We entertained questions from the audience about the horses and the program, then loaded up to go home. By now it was dark and Eclipse went on the trailer nice regardless, however Pandora wasn't so sure. It took some encouraging and both Kelsey and I to get her on, but in the end we got it done. I am sure Kelsey who has done a great job so far with her challenging youngster will have her loading like a champ by competition time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 12, 13. Our Pony trail ride, and 1st liberty session.

Sunday the heat continued. I had a few afternoon appointments at the barn that included a trail ride. I opted to tack up Pi and pony Eclipse through the woods a creeks with the group on the 100 acres that Whispering Hills Farm has. I was quiet surprised at how willingly Eclipse ponied around the property. For the most part he stayed right at my knee and seldom put any tension on the lead rope as we went up and down the hill over the ditches and through the creeks. He readily trotted off whenever we picked up speed. There was only one point when he felt hesitant on the line. We were crossing a sandy run off creek, not sure of the footing, Eclipse hung back eying the situation. As the tension built on the line, he was forced to make a decision. As looked back to see the what the hold up was, it was just in time to see him launch himself across the small crossing landing right next to Pi and I. He truly seemed to enjoy the change of scenery.

Monday was wonderful! I don't know what happened to the weather but it was a good ten degrees cooler then it had been and there was cloud cover!! I took advantage of the weather and rode every horse that I had in training. Sunday was a good mental break for Eclipse but i could tell he was ready to get out and move. For the first time I decided to work with him at liberty (with out a lead line) in the 90 ft. by 110ft arena. When you adopt a mustang the BLM is very particular about the enclosure that you will be housing your horse in. If it is an adult the fence requirements are six foot high and solid because the horses are not "fence broke". The arena fencing that we have is only five foot so working at liberty would let me know where we stand with the fence breaking process. At any time if I put to much pressure on Eclipse he could build up enough speed to jump out. Now it is still a five foot fence, Eclipse would really have to want to leave. I took the halter and lead rope off and casually invited him to follow me. He dropped his head and meandered around the arena with me, always a good sign. I then upped the ante and started to ask him specifics like moving his hind quarters around and then his front end. He did what I asked even though at any time he could have left. I then sent him out on a circle to the right and watched as he went trotting around the arena and never once got stuck in the corners. One of the responsibilities that I strive to teach the horses that I train is to maintain direction. This means that if I send my horse out to the right he continues in that direction until I give him a new direction. In a square arena this can be challenging because it is easy for a horse to get turned around when they come to a corner. Maintaining direction has been one of Eclipse's better skills. Even in the Round pen he seldom changed it on his own. Once he went out and did a few laps the next challenge would be getting him back. The first few times a invited him back, he would turn and face me but not come in. At that point I would give him a minute to rest and then send him in out in the opposite direction. After a few more laps Eclipse was getting a little tired and started to look for rest. He would turn and face me then finally figured out that if he would come stand by me i would no longer make him work. At this point he was ready to ride so I got on and worked on bettering everything that we have done.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 10-11: My Birthday Ride

Friday was an easy day. Worked a little on the ground but the heat was more then he or I could bare so I decided not to push today but get up early Saturday and get an earlier start before the heat set in.

It was about 9 a.m. Saturday morning and I had about an hour and a half to work with Eclipse before my lessons started. As I was warming him up on the ground I could see a notable difference in how he responds to halter pressure since his ponying session on Thursday. His lack of exercise on Friday obvious as he gladly moved his feet around the arena. I focused a little on cantering on his right lead on line to help him develop his comfort and balance in that direction. Even on line he occasionally throws the wrong lead. I mounted up and started with the back up today. A few rides ago if I asked for the back up with the reins Eclipse would toss his head and resist. He has finally learned that if he drops his head and moves backwards the pressure on his nose goes away. His back up has definitely improved as well as his pivots. We then move off at a walk, and then into a trot. I decided to warm up with a transitions exercise that uses the corners of the arena. As we go from corner to corner making a down transition in each all was going well. Eclipse was starting to make nice crisp stops in each corner. In one corner of our arena we store all the unused toys like barrels, poles and balls. This particular corner is always the spooky corner for most horses. We approached this corner, which has never been an issue Eclipse, and I asked for a stop. As he planted his feet for the crisp stop I was looking for, he threw arena footing into one of the barrels. The unexpected sound caught him be surprise, and he quickly turned from the corner. As he did he lost his footing. Before I knew it we were both on the ground. I had stayed in the saddle, unfortunately the saddle was on the ground with Eclipse. A moment later Eclipse was on his feet looking at me on the ground scratching his head wondering what had just happened and how I got down there! I got to my feet and dusted myself off and looked at Eclipse. Hhmmm. How interesting. I stepped over to the the barrel and kicked some footing on it and watched his reaction. Evidently he had gotten over that initial reaction and didn't seem to care any more. So, I hopped back on walked a couple of laps then went back at it at a trot. All ended well. The horse is fine, but I suffer from a sore neck and a bruised ego!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 10 The Ponying Experience

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term ponying as it pertains to horse training, let me explain. I will take my seasoned gelding Pi and put a western saddle on him and then take Eclipse in his rope halter and I will lead him while riding Pi. So what this does is help Eclipse follow a feel and move off halter pressure. The trick is when I walk Pi forward I dally the lead rope around the saddle horn and if Eclipse is not walking forward off of light pressure he then pulls against Pi who weighs 1,200 lbs. as appose to me (and you thought I was going to say my weight:). This is an effective way to win the leading game. I tacked up Pi, haltered Eclipse and headed to the arena to see how this would go.

We started at a walk with Eclipse off the left side of Pi. Initially pressure from the lead rope caught both Eclipse and Pi by surprise. I encouraged Pi to move on ignoring the pull on the saddle. As Eclipse realized he was not going to win the tug of war, he started moving off at a walk with Pi. Once this was fairly consistent we moved things up to a trot. The faster speed was more of a chalenge for Eclipse because I had never asked him to lead off at a trot. By this time Pi was getting the hang of what we were doing. The more Eclipse would pull on the saddle the more effort Pi would put into moving forward. In a few minutes Eclipse was learning to mirror Pi's speed with little pressure on the lead rope. I changed sides and to my surprise it took longer to for Eclipse to respond willingly off the other side of Pi. When Eclipse finally folded and followed willingly on the new side it was time to ride.

I stepped from Pi's saddle into Eclipse's, adjusted the lead rope into reins, played with some foot control then went off at a trot. As I get to know Eclipse better he does enjoy moving his feet as well as calling the shots. We picked up where we left off last time we rode working on steering at the trot. Now instead of arguing about where we are going, Eclipse is trying to guess where I am going next and turning early. Getting a different responce to the same thing on the next ride is always a good sign even if it is not the right answer. It tells you that your horse is putting effort into trying to figure things out. As we moved up to the canter for the first time I played with steering on a circle. He still perfers the left lead over the right, but will pick up the right with some encouragement. Another successful ride down.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 8 and 9 the Big Arena

Monday night about the time I got back out to the barn the heavens opened up and the rains came down so nothing more to report on that day. Tuesday however I did work with Eclipse. the round pen needed another day to dry after Mondays Showers, so I decided to try out our bigger arena for our ride. I was hoping the bigger area would encourage him to move out at the canter more readily but i was keeping my fingers crossed that he wouldn't take to many liberties! I could tell he needed to get out and move his feet after being up for a day and a half. I allowed him to move about the arena until he was ready to focus. Once he was there I adjusted my saddle and hopped on. (Eclipse is now becoming a pro at standing while I mount) It was a nice evening I and I was joined by other boarders in the arena. I was curious how Eclipse was going to react to the other horses being worked and ridden. To my surprise he wasn't all that distracted by them but more distracted by the grass growing along the edge to the arena. We worked on the concept of following the rail. In the round pen there is not much of a choice about it but in an arena with corners there is a responsibility to learn. Once that was going well I add down transitions to the regimen. These were not as good in the open area as the round pen but after a while he started to get the idea again. Once we got to the point that he felt good and relaxed and with me, I decided to pursue the canter again. I picked a long side that he was offering to go faster on and encouraged it. He took off in a small canter to the next corner then stopped. We played with this pattern a few times to the left until he felt comfortable with it then we changed directions to the right. To the left he picked up the left (proper) lead however to the right he continued to pick up the left lead (improper). I made a note of this but did not correct it. The goal to today was to canter and he did, I didn't want him to feel bad about that by correcting his wrong lead. We ended on that note.

Wednesday I had the opportunity to work with Eclipse in the morning in the big arena which was empty. We had room to roam! I warmed up on line. Eclipse is getting more skilled at cantering on line and coming to me when I drop my shoulder. He is starting to feel more connected out on the line then he was before. It is always good to see them progress. When he was ready, I mounted up. we warmed up with the exercises from the previous day, following the rail, down transitions, backing and moving the front end across. After that I started into a clover leaf pattern to start to develop better steering with Eclipse. Going to the left went well however going to the right Eclipse was pretty braced. Every time I would use my right rein I could feel Eclipse pull his head to the left in resistance. This is pretty typical of mustangs to be more resistant on the right due to the fact that all of their handling in the stocks was done all from the left which their right eye does not see. It is foreign to them to take direction from their right. With a little persistence we were able to get through this until the right felt as good as the left.
With the arena open, it was the perfect opportunity to do what I call a cantering passenger lesson. This is where you take a young horse and ask them to canter. They choose the lead and direction, my job is to stay out of their way and let them learn how to balance themselves. To my surprise Eclipse was very willing to go forward today, in fact the first time we cantered he cantered almost a full lap and bypassed the one corner we had been stopping in the day before. This was a good sign. We started out in his good direction going to the right. He was good about staying in the same direction that we started in even though if he had wanted to change I would have allowed it. Eventually we changed direction and like yesterday he picked up the wrong lead going to the right. I would let him go on that wrong lead in hopes that he would figure out in the corners that this was a tough way to turn. Eventually he would break gait and I would encourage him back into the canter in the turns in hope that he would pick up the other lead. On several occasions that did happen and I was glad. I have had some mustangs not offer two leads at all through this stage of training. When that is the case there is usually something physical going on preventing them from performing. I was happy with that and we ended our ride walking down the shaded edge of the arena practicing our pivots until he was cool.

I have not left out the Ponying part mentioned earlier. I promise I will be doing that tomorrow:)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 7, Undemanding Time and Water Crossings

It is Sunday and the heat is still staggering. My car thermostat read 99 degrees as I drove down East Cherokee Dr. at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had a three O'clock workshop with a handful of ladies at the barn. Kelsey and I have been putting the Mustangs up in stalls during the heat of the day to help them cope. Eclipse was ready to get out of his small enclosure by the time I got to the barn. I put the 22-ft line on him and joined my class hiding in the woods from the unrelenting sun. We decided to play with some of the obstacles in the wood for the first portion, then ventured out on the hill where there was a breeze to work on the teetering bridge. This was probably Eclipse's favorite session with he stood in the pasture eating grass listening to me talk... he will be doing a lot of this over the next 80 days! At one point I asked him to cross the bridge and my students had to laugh when he got to the other end and started grazing while still on the bridge. Because of the added distance between him and the ground he was having trouble reaching so to solve the problem he got down on one knee and continued to graze!

Instead of riding I opted to take Eclipse to the creek and play with water crossings with Kelsey and her filly who is doing great as well. As soon as we got to the sandy area surrounding the water crossing Eclipse could not resist the urge to roll. He flopped around for a few minutes then it was back to business. When we got to the waters edge he was not to keen on crossing by himself. Instead of forcing the issue I opted to lead him across first. To my surprise after a little resistance he opted to walk through the creek as opposed to jumping it like I expected. The embankment on the other side was a narrow trail up along a steep sandy bank. Now why it is that the steep sandy bank is more appealing the the trail beside I will never know, but sure as any thing both horses on several occasions climbed various uninviting embankments. By the end of the session we had both horses crossing the creek at several points and negotiating the embankment trails in and out.
Next on my list of things to work with ... Ponying... I hope Pi is up to the task:)

Day 6 Transitions and a Little Canter

So, Friday Eclipse had the day off, the heat was staggering, and I was desperate for a shower after camping Thursday night with my campers and having no modern conveniences. Saturday was just as blistering, but fortunately we had a few showers roll through to cool things off in the evening so I took advantage.

Again we started off in the round pen playing on line. Eclipse was anxious to move his feet after being cooped up most the day yesterday. He cantered easily around the round pen, his head snaking only showing up here and there. When I saddled him today with the heavier western saddle and sent him on his way, there was no crow hopping this time. On the ground we focused on Eclipse stopping and coming into me when I drop my posture. He is definitely an extrovert in the sense that he likes to move his feet, as apposed to most horses I have worked with that pick up on the turn and come in part of circling with in a few session. I think the increase in distance between the 12' line and the 22' line causes him to lose the connection but allows him the room to canter. This flaw in his ground work carries over to some lack of stopping habits that he has under saddle, so I decided to start introducing Down transitions under saddle.

Mounting is getting better. He stood quietly while I mounted him from both sides. One thing that I have experienced frequently with newly started colts is their desire to stop as soon as I, the rider, quit putting effort into riding. This is a desirable characteristic from a training standpoint. It tells you that the horse is connected to you from that first ride. But like I had mentioned earlier when Eclipse starts to move his feet like I see on line that he "checks out" a little and I feel it too when I am under saddle. After spending some time working on backing and feet control, we went off at a trot and any time I felt Eclipse become distracted I would change directions bringing his focus back on me. As he started to stay with me more I would then throw in a down transition here and there by relaxing while I exhale and going into a back up if his response was not timely enough. After a few repetitions he started to come to a stop with less and less rein. Once he was relaxed and working good I decided to revisit the canter. I got him in a trot then pressed him for more speed. His first response today when I gripped with my legs to ask for more forward was a cow kick with his hind leg. I ignored it and went on knowing he was just trying to figure out what I wanted. When I tried again he did finally cave and give me two strides then stumbled with his hind legs and through a small tantrum. It must be like learning to walk all over again when you are learning to carry a rider on your back. In the end we ended up catering in both direction a half a lap, and that was good enough for me. We went back to our trotting exercise to end on some thing familiar and now easy for him. Soon the canter too will be easy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 5: The second ride

Warm up on the ground was spent in my pasture play yard at Whispering Hills Farm. Eclipse was anxious to move his feet after being in the pen all night and spending most of the day in the shade of his tying tree munching on some hay. Being in an open area for our online work out was a new concept for him. He was rudely awakened by the 22ft line when he would canter off in a straight line instead of a circle. It was fun to watch him learn what to do with his feet as log obstacles would get in his way. At one point he approached a log long ways and you could see him scratch his head trying figure out how he was suppose to walk on top of the log! After few failed attempts he decided that going over them was the easier answer and stuck with that.
Once we were warmed up we went to the round pen for our second ride. I felt fairly confident that Eclipse would not be flipping over or stomping my saddle into the dirt so I decided to use my full leather Circle Y saddle instead of my synthetic Big Horn otherwise known as the sacrificial saddle. Well in case any of you were thinking to this point that Eclipse was a re-adopt, today erased any doubt in my mind when I turned him loose with the full weight saddle. It was like watching a Dolphin swim around the round pen! He went to crow hopping for several minutes in both directions. Cindy Appling was there to catch it all on camera so I have proof! After his display of ill content, I decided that it would be best if I put the boat buoys back on to make sure all was out of his system!
Eclipse still struggles with standing completely still while being mounted. He is easily distracted mostly by Pandora, the yearling mustang that he came with, when she walks by. Aside from that, today’s ride went great. I started the ride with more leadership asking him to disengage the hind quarters and turn on the forehand several times. Then I asked for a little back up and moving the front end around. Both went very well taking several steps in every direction. Once we moved up to a trot things were a lot better than the first ride. He started out following the rail and doing complete laps from the get-go. His only opinion that he had was slowing down on the side closest to Pandora. Once that improved I changed directions and worked the other side with little or no resistance. I then decided to push my luck and see if I could get a canter going. As I asked for more speed I could feel his hesitation but willingness to try. When he mustered up the courage to try a canter step he stumbled and of course blamed me for his misstep by crow hopping once before I pulled him back to a trot. I tried to ask again but I could tell his confidence had fallen with him so I desisted. It is like jumping off the diving board, if it doesn’t go well the first time sometimes you have to sleep on it and try again tomorrow, and that is exactly what I plan on doing! We trotted a few more laps, then ended with more backing and lateral flexion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 4 The first ride

Today was the day! Once i arrive at the barn, I go first to Eclipse's pen and invite him to have some water while I finish my coffee. I look forward to the day when he nickers when he sees me coming. I go to the feed room and prepare his morning mix of Timothy Balance Cubes, whole oats, Equine Natural Choice herb supplements, and Low starch chopped forage... Yummy! Can't wait to see him blossom under his new diet! Well I put it out there that I would be doing the first ride today and was glad I was able to make that happen since I had an audience! Thank you all that came out short notice to see.

After the morning work was done, I gathered up my equipment and arranged it in the round pen in preparation for the first ride. The more I work with him on his yields and circling the less he is tossing his head and expressing himself, always a good sign. I saddle up and tested the waters with my buoys again and there was no crow hopping, so all looked good. I played with mounting from both sides, hopping up and patiently until I could mount Eclipse from both sides with out him moving his feet. Once we got that accomplished we then we worked on lateral flexion. Now for the scary part... moving forward. He offered to walk off and I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. He wandered around the round pen for a few minutes, not sure what to think of his current predicament. In fact he felt like he was looking for a place to roll. Once I felt him relax and move out at the walk, I tried our luck at the trot.

As I suspected we spent a lot of time going back and forth in front of the gait... the closest point to the filly's pen. When I do my first ride I work on one thing at a time. For example if i am working on the concept of go forward then I don't work on, in what direction. Well I mustered up the courage to ask for more and got it. The first few times he would trot he would go a few steps and stop because he was unsure, but as he grew in confidence he would go for longer. I know I was moving on the right track when his confidence turned to cockiness. That head toss that I am so familiar with was my warning that attitude was soon to follow. He would twist and crow hop for a split second until I picked up the lead and shut him down by bending him. This went on a couple of times, we were struggling over the pants in the relationship. We worked the round pen at a trot until he willingly did a couple of laps at the trot and called it good. I dismounted and took the saddle off and let him roll.
There is nothing like a good hosing and a couple flakes of hay in the shade at the end of a good work out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 3 The enchanted forest!

Ok, so I have campers all week and it is cramping my mustang time! Didn't get as much time with Eclipse but we made the best of it. At Whispering Hills we have what we call the enchanted forest. It contains a variety of spooky obstacles to help further our horses confidence. I took my campers and Eclipse and headed out to the forest for our morning session to see how things would go. The first obstacle would be our wooden bridge and the small ditch it crossed. Definitely, not something he wanted to do with out encouragement. The ditch came first, then the short side of the bridge. Once we got those down it was like he knew the long side of the bridge was next and just went right over. One thing I can say is he has a lot of try. We were off to the next obstacle, the curtain, but first we had to pass all of our woodland creatures. These would be wooden stand ups of various wild animals painted to the nines by past campers. They didn't rattle him too much but he definitely shot them a funny look as he went by! The curtain was more of a puzzle to him then anything else. He didn't understand how to move the shreds of the curtain out of his way, or why he should when he could just go around. With a little encouragement he got it figured out. Our final challenge of the day was the tarp. At first he didn't know what to think of that blue, crinkly, square on the ground. When the going gets tough you call in reinforcements, so i had one of my campers have their tried and true lesson ponies walk over first. This helped him a lot and before to long he would go over both ways on his own.

Our mission was accomplished for this morning so I offered him a drink from the trough and found a nice shady place in the woods to let him spend some time learning to be tied. It will take some time for him to learn to keep his feet still, but it will come. I plan on doing a first ride tomorrow during my morning session with the campers as a special treat. Check in tomorrow to see how it goes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day two introducing the saddle.

Today we reviewed are leading skills. As I suspected with these mustangs they pick up the next day better then where they were the day before. We led successfully to round pen where we perused teaching my mustang to circle on line. He seemed glad to be able to move his feet and what a beautiful floaty trot he has. Still he struggles with have something around his head. He went floating around the pen tossing and twisting his head so ticked he could not get it off! We introduced backing and he took to that readily. He would do anything to get me to quit shaking that halter. Now that I have good control of his feet, it is time to introduce a new toy.... the saddle.

What's another toy? I got the saddle out and tossed the pad over rubbing him with it head to toe. Within a few minutes his feet started to grow roots and we were making progress. I grabbed my sacrificial saddle and let my mustang look it over, chew on it, paw it... or whatever he felt like. Once they were acquainted I tossed it over him from both sides then let it rest on his back. I tightened the girth then asked him to yield the hind quarters around- no reaction! Well i went for broke and asked him to go in a circle, he took a few steps then went to crow hopping. Nothing to serious, just testing to see if the saddle could come off. To add another element to the saddle once he got comfortable with it, I brought out my boat buoys and hung one from either side of the saddle to simulate legs. That went over as expected, he bowed up several more times as I worked him in the arena. By the end we were both hot and tired and sweaty...the perfect opportunity to introduce the hose. Once he got passed the sound of the running hose, the water was a welcomed sensation.

So we are still debating on a name for my mustang and I am currently leaning towards Eclipse and the yearling being named Starlight...what do you think/

Day 1 Halter Breaking

Getting up early to go out on a Sunday morning is usually not my favaorite because thats my morning off, but this Sunday was different! Everyone seemed to be out at the barn this morning especially if they weren't there yesterday for the arrival. Both mustangs seemed calm and relaxed as we marched the other 30 horses past their pens for their morning feed. I prepared my mustangs feed a, mix of hay cubes whole oats and chopped forage, and brought it to him to see if he was as accepting of me as he was when I left last night. To my surprise he greeted me at the gate and nudged my hand as I walked through. It wasn't a dream I could still touch him! as much as i wanted to grab him right then and progress him further duty called and I did some work around the barn.
Rhonda Newman of was in town to do energetic evaluations of our new horse and many of the ones at our barn to determine their nutritional needs. She is one of the secrets of my success with all horses. Bottom line act and perform better and her herb line Equine Natural Choice is that key. About midday I haltered my horse for the first time with little trouble and she evaluated him. He was needing support to his nervous and immune system, needed a blood cleaner and support to his structural system. I expert to see big results in him in just a few weeks!
Once haltered the learning has begun. His first reaction to the rope halter which is light when they are not leaning and apply pressure when they do lean was interesting. He reared in the air and pawed at his head as if he was going to scrape it off! It didn't take long for him to start to understand the concept of giving to pressure. he would yield nicely then once he figured out what I was looking for then he would challenge what I was asking. I would patiently not back down until finally folded and the lesson was learned. By the end of the session my mustang was yeilding the hindquarters and the front end, and moving forward from the halter with the occasional rearing. It was a good day. Even led him out of his enclosure and into the feed pen where the water trough was to let him drink. It was a good day!

The pick up (cont.)

The next hitch we ran into transproting the mustangs home was actually a blessing in disguise. Our stock load trailer had a center divider that divides the trailer into two square compartments. We loaded one mustang into each compartment as planned only to discover on our first stop to get gas that I had not secured the devider properly the horses had married themselves into the front of the trailer! Oops! My bad. Well because they were side by side in the trailer, it afforded Kelsey and I the opportunity to touch our mustangs without moving away. So that worked out. The next hurdle would be separating them as they off loaded into there own pens.

It was great to arrive at the barn to most of my boarders anxiously awaiting our arrival. Shoots had been set up for the offloading process. Like I suspected, the mustangs were now like Velcro to each other. With a little finagling were able to get the two separated into their own pen. Once we got them settled in Both Kelsey and i took some time hanging out in their pens. My mustang readily accepted my touch and I was able to groom him from both sides before I went home for the evening. Kelsey's young mare on the other hand was still pretty skeptical of people and would eat from a bucket that she was holding but wouldn't allow her to touch her yet.

It had been a whirlwind trip, we were all tired and excited at the same time. We hung it up for the night only to return early tomorrow for our mustangs first day of training.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The pick up

This Blog is about my latest journey with a BLM Mustang that I will have 90 days in which to convert from wild to wow! He is a three-year-old gelding that I will be competing with in the Tennessee Extreme Mustang Make Over. After a six hour journey to Piney Woods, Ms. (which didn't even come up on GPS) my students and I made it to the pick up point where we would be getting two mustangs. One yearling mare to be gentled in hand and one three year old to be started under-saddle. Both were randomly preselected. Both of our mustangs are black, the younger a mare and the older a gelding. We were only slightly unprepared for this adventure. The BLM will halter the mustang for you if you supplied the halter. As we found out too late the breakaway halter that i brought was too big and the yearling breakaway halter broke away when the gentleman tried to put it on. So we loaded our mustangs into our trailer "naked" and hoped for the best when we got back to Whispering Hills Farm in Canton, Ga.