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.