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.