Harvey 10th Go, Yielding To The Rein

Almost done with the videos from this particular time. When I went to put a foot in the stirrup it occurred to me that he should probably know how to give his head to rein pressure first. It’s too easy for them to spook and kick your legs out from under you. If they are looking at you it makes that a little harder for them to do. I didn’t have any reason to think that it would bother him, the reason I was going to start on it in the first place, but better safe than sorry.
I started a little Quarab mare once for my riding instructor, an own daughter of Smart Little Lena I think she was? A very athletic and slightly crazy little mare who could kick the saddle out of your hand as you placed it on her back. After that I no longer think anything is impossible when starting horses and go a little overboard with safety precautions.
She is one of the many horse that I wish I could go back and have a do over with. At the time I had tried “everything”. Now I know how much I didn’t know. My everything was just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait for another twenty years to pass and to look back and see how very much I don’t know right now. It’s awe inspiring to think how much there always is to learn.


Harvey 10th Go, Using -Reinforcement

Another clip from my last time working with Harvey. This one is of great interest to me because it shows the use of negative reinforcement coupled with positive reinforcement for a dual reinforcement of the behavior. He learns from both the release of pressure and the click and treat at the end.
I move the stirrup to approximately where my leg would be when asking for his haunches to move and apply slight pressure. This is his first time doing this, with me at least, we have no idea what he did before but he doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. I hold the pressure waiting to see if he will offer a response. He doesn’t. So I escalate pressure. I take a step towards his hindquarters applying pressure with my presence. I have a hold of the lead, not pulling on it but by lifting it at all, asking his head to come towards me escalating pressure further. In turn he takes a step away from me with his hind end.
I drop the stirrup releasing all pressure while clicking and offering lots of treats.
This is of great interest of me because of the general stance in the much of the clicker/+R world that any pressure or use of -R (negative reinforcement) is bad. That combining the two will only create poisoned cues. Here I combined the two, with escalation of pressure, to make my request very clear to my horse in, what for me is, the simplest, clearest way possible. I am using -R which by definition does require the use of +P (positive punishment). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Applying pressure of any kind counts as +P, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I’m not saying that it’s ok to go beat our horses or go after them in a clinton anderson style fit of rage. I am saying that we need to work on how we apply our aids and learn to work in the calmest kindest way possible speaking to and listening to the horse instead of casting blanket statements over entire communication methods.
Would it be possible to teach this same thing using only +R methods? Possibly. There is the whole thing where I don’t believe it is possible to apply +R without using -P. The whole equal and opposite thing. In order to offer +R we have to first not have the reward there. If working with a horse he gets upset with ears pinned and/ starts mugging you’ve taken the -P too far and they are showing you how they feel about it. As with the +P involved in offering -R it is possible to do it kindly and well or to mess it up and end up with a very upset horse.
I’m sure many people will disagree with me and I am, as always, happy to hear your opinions!


Harvey 10th Go, First Saddle

This is the first time I’ve put a saddle on Harvey. As I’ve said, and guess I will keep saying with each video, we have no idea what has been done to or with him before. There is supposedly a video out there somewhere from the kill pen with someone riding him. To me that is all the more reason to start him from scratch.
The whole saddling part of the video was about ten minutes long. I wanted to leave all the parts where we just stood and hung out until he was comfortable and wanted more food. He would tell me to “stop standing there and get to it. I want cookies!” So we would move on. But even playing in fast forward leaving everything in only cut it down to five minutes so I only kept the pertinent parts.
In the beginning he wouldn’t let anyone get on his right side. Now he is fine with being saddled from the right. This is only his tenth time of being officially messed with. He gets a cookie when he comes up to visit and sees us walking and driving past all the time but since they got here, whenever that was, this is the tenth time I’ve messed with him. It’s amazing how well the lessons stick when its all fun and games.

The video is too long to load here. Instead here’s a link to the facebook page. Hope it works!  https://www.facebook.com/309985332692651/videos/1820217688083388/


Harvey 10th Go, To Long Didn’t Watch Version

The weather turned decent for a brief period, this fall has been gloomy, cold, and wet, and I took advantage of it to go play with Harvey. The last time we worked, a few weeks? a month? ago, he was so good about letting me put a blanket on his back that I wanted to try a saddle. He is supposed to be rideable. There is, supposedly, a video out there of him being ridden. He came so worried about people and all the things we might do to him that I am starting over as if he doesn‘t know anything. That way we can not only get him over his fear of people but find any holes in his training and fix them.
We spent maybe half an hour all together. This is the TLDR version. I have longer clips of the individual segments but this pretty much covers it. I used my daughters saddle, it’s lighter and I’d rather it got smashed than mine if something went dreadfully wrong. He is on a lead rope for both of our safety. So he can’t take off and so I can keep his head towards me if needed, instead of his hind end and feet. It wasn’t needed and you’ll notice the rope stays loose for the whole thing.
This is far easier on both of us than round pen work. His full attention is on me, trying to please and wanting to work. He took the saddle happily. We cinched it up slowly, showing him it wasn’t scary or going to hurt. I was going to put a foot in each stirrup when I realized that I should make sure he knew how to give his head to pressure first. I like to have them looking at me when I do. harder to kick that way. Then I put my foot in the stirrups before we worked on yielding to pressure from the stirrup to emulate leg pressure. He behaved wonderfully for all of it.
There’s still more to be done before getting on, asking him to give his head with the bit instead of the halter, teaching him to step over to the fence, but it’s getting close. He’s so sweet and getting to be so calm about everything that I can’t wait to get on and see what he does. Now if only the weather would cooperate.


Trail Ride

As in we actually went on one today! There’s a little country church not far from us. We really like it, not sure why we don’t go there more often. Except the lack of children’s church, that’s a big one. And no restaurants between there and home. I admit a big plus of going to church is eating out afterwards. But I digress. They had a trail ride! We try to support them when we can and it sounded like lots of fun, so we went.

The day started out foggy and cold. Not just a little fog but a thick, sunny, dark, glorious fog! It cleared though and warmed up. Perfect weather for a ride.

There were more people there than I had expected. A nice little crowd. It was more horses than Rusty had ever seen in his life. He came with to Fort Rob for the Morgan ride but I rode Gypsy the very nearly perfect Arab cross instead of him for the group ride. She was here too of course with her little people on board. Rusty wasn’t crazed at least. And the hills weren’t as big, that helped although whether it helped me or him more I’m not sure 😉 We walked a few laps up and down the road in front of the church. Then my daughter got on and we made more laps until it was time to go.

A little ways down the gravel then we turned in to someones pasture. Behind us followed a pickup pulling a trailer with hay and the non riders of the group. Rusty was nervous. Wanting to trot. Or stop and look around. Coyote was perfect. He and his little person followed happily. The pickup careful picked its way through the hills and ruts as the horses tried to remember that it couldn’t go everywhere they could. At the top of a particularly large hill we stopped and switched riders on Coyote.

Gypsy got switched to her other bigger person. She had been ponied until then, now they were turned loose. The two of them zoomed all around. He’s a wonderful little rider blessed with a great horse. My son didn’t do as well although Coyote was still trying to be perfect. Rusty had an obvious problem although at first I couldn’t tell if it was nerves or what. Finally he started kicking out with one hind leg and I decided to hop off and see what was wrong. It turned into a bit of a leap as he jumped kicking enthusiastically on my way down. He had a whole ball of cactus in his heel. Poor baby. No wonder he was upset. I managed to get them out. They left blood. He felt mostly better after that. My son was not having fun. Rusty wanted to trot. Or stop. I made him wait until we got to the bottom of the hill we were going down then let him off.

My daughter was having fun on the hay wagon with her friends and didn’t want to get back on. I was dreading the thought of having to keep Rusty calm and make it back alive while ponying Coyote still. Luckily I was able to convince my husband to abandon the children and join me for a ride. It was wonderful! We haven’t ridden together since before our first child was born. He did great on Coyote and Coyote did great with him. We zipped back to the church as fast as two Morgans can walk. A hard thing to do while trying to follow the group leader. Oops.

At the church we were treated to hot dogs and s’mores around a campfire followed by music. The children ran off to play and we sat, relaxing by the fire in the coming evenings chill. The horses pawing in the trailer kept beat to old John Denver songs and gospel. The whole afternoon came together to be the best church service ever.


A Coyote Problem

Some not so good news today. Coyote is getting up there a little, still he’s a Morgan so I say he’s only twenty one. I’m pulling for at least another ten years with him. I noticed earlier this summer that he was developing a cataract in one eye. It wasn’t bothering him or impairing the vision much so left it be. Two weeks ago it was watering a little and slightly swollen. They are out in some tall weeds and burrs. The pollen has been awful this summer. He was better the next day. I left him be.
Last week I noticed a small red spot up in there, under the eye lid and hard to see. I started worrying. Still I’ve seldom been into the vet and had them tell me anything but to give it time so I watched it. It kept getting bigger.
We just got back from the vet.
That in and of its self was quite an adventure. I was going to take him by himself.. Horses get hauled alone all the time. He’s a big boy I thought he’d be ok. He was fine when I brought him in and groomed him. He ate grass and hung out. Everything was good. He hopped right into the trailer, turned around and started shaking violently. Calling desperately for his buddies and trying to weave around me to get back out. I tied him so he couldn’t kill himself and went to get Rusty. Coyote was obviously not going to be ok alone.
Fortunately we were early so even with going back for another horse we were still ok.
I know the two hind trailer tires have a slow leak and need to be checked every time we use the trailer. I know I should have done it yesterday but I was sick and just not functioning properly. I hooked the trailer up. Double checked today and everything was good, but I forgot/didn’t think to check the tires. After having to go back for Rusty I was going to skip it and hope it would be alright for the short haul to the vets. After both horses were loaded it was looking pretty squishy. We headed for the quanset and the air hose.
It rained last night. A good freezing rain. There are icy mud puddles everywhere. I crawled around on the ground filling tires that were VERY low. Finally we could get going. Still not too late.
At the vet I lead Coyote into the exam room. He was hesitant and a little spooky. Luckily I had my treat bag along. I don’t care how funny they look at me. I clicked him all the way through the exam. It didn’t take long. She said it wasn’t an ulcer. It wasn’t anything they could do anything with. Not now. We’d have to wait and see. Of course. That’s all vet ever say. I am rolling my eyes a little but I don’t really mean anything bad by it. We are lucky to have some very good vets and I respect them. It just gets frustrating.
This wait and see isn’t entirely bad. The other option was to cut the eye out now. She said it look like cancer eye that we see in cattle regularly. The cure for that is to cut the eye out. I did not see it done once. I’m not squeamish but when they started the procedure I was watching I nearly puked and went to wait in the pickup.
Coyote has a life long history of weird tumors. I had one in his nostril removed years ago. I didn’t have one on his other eye lid removed. They tested and it wasn’t cancerous and said removing it could damage the eye lid enough that he wouldn’t be able to move it and loose sight in that eye. I sure am glad I didn’t this time it’s his other eye.
It could go away like the one on his right eye that is barely visible now and just makes him look a little different. It could get bigger and start bothering him to the point that we do have it removed. At least it’s only an eye. Lots of horses are fine with only one eye. He can still be fine and stick around for another ten, twenty years. So we wait and watch and pray.


Harvey 9th go, and Burdock!!

I brought Rusty in and played with him a little and Harvey came galloping up to the gate wickering hopefully to be worked too. I didn’t bring him out right away but I did work with him on a little something we’re doing in between, while Rusty chewed. Then I put Rusty away and let Harvey out!
He and, well, all of them have found some burdock out there somewhere. Their forelocks are awful. I’m embarrassed to show this video. On the other hand the whole point of what we were working on in this video was to get the burrs out so…
I let him loose to graze a little while I went back to the house for supplies. I’ve been hesitant to turn him loose out of the corral because when he came he was unable to be caught without food and leery of people. I think we’ve fixed that. He was so cute coming nicely when called, such a good boy.
The lead rope around his butt was an accident the first time. It was draped over his back and I picked up the end. Being in the proper position anyway I couldn’t resist trying. I was curious if he’d spook when it went under his tail. He was supremely unbothered by the whole thing.
Then it was time to work on his forelock 😖 He was not thrilled to say the least. I got big chunks out but he kept pulling his head away. Then I remembered something we had worked on once, a month ago at least. I was surprised and so very pleased when I held my hand out and he placed his forehead under it. The burrs still aren’t completely out. There are fewer though and he is happily letting me touch his forehead. Such a good pony.


Driving A Barge

I never, very seldom, get to actually ride Rusty. I can get a good session of ground work and tricks in in the time it takes me to lug my saddle out and put it on. And the effort involved! Today I did it though. I had a pretty new saddle pad I wanted to try and the weather was perfect. We did a little bitty bit of ground work, something new we’re working on and a bit of basketball. He likes it and it gets his mind working.

Basketball did not work. He was not in the mood. We never did get the ball through the hoop and he wasn’t having fun. I got on and we headed off down the driveway. He wasn’t charging ahead and wanting to go like usual. We worked on stuff a little bit along the way. I was reminded of how bad I’ve let his turns on the hindquarters get. At the end of the drive I asked for a canter in the corner of wheat stubble. He gave me the left lead beautifully, and immediately dove towards home. I picked his inside shoulder up and put him back on a circle. It wasn’t a smooth relaxed canter but I couldn’t believe the way I was flopping about in the saddle. My seat is gone. It’s very sad. After two laps I sat, he stopped. It was all good.

Then we started going to the right. First at a trot. Then I asked for canter. He picked up the left lead. Over and over again. I tried to keep him calm, lots of walking, not trotting faster and faster into the canter. It wasn’t working. Nothing felt right. I, finally, took a step back. I asked for haunches in at a walk on the circle. He felt like riding a barge. Nothing moved and what did was heavy and cumbersome.  We kept taking steps back. Leg yield on a straight line? Not really. Turn on the fore quarters? Not even that by this point. he had done it great on the way out.

Tossing any thought of cantering away, we went back to the beginning. The driveway on the way home was perfect for leg yields. And the corn field on the side made for a wonderful treat when I clicked him 😉  Beginning with one tiny step. Then trying to curve him into the side step. Then haunches in. His head stayed bent away from the direction of bend I was asking for. An attempt at light contact on the reins had his head curled under and his breath panting. I dropped the reins altogether. Trying for no contact now other than a slight pull to the right asking him to look ahead. I’m the one who needs trained, not him. Or, not just him at least. I always want contact and I need to let it go, relax and let them have their heads.

We got home and I let him go. Instead of the high brought on by a good ride I felt frustrated and defeated. We had made good progress. He had moved away from my leg a few time. It just wasn’t great and then we finished by still not being able to make a basket. He got to go graze in the yard. I had to go do house work.

After school got out both children and I played in the yard still enjoying the beautiful weather. The sound of hoof beats thundering into the yard made me spin around, just in time to see Rusty running up frantically. He looked around as he came, searching. When he saw me he ran to me sighing in relief. That felt pretty good. I took him to the gate and let him back into his pen. Coyote came over and they both got an apple just cause. Something was still not right though. Rusty took his with his head cocked and kept rubbing it on his leg. Then they snorted and pawed at their noses like they do with nose flies and took off, bucking and kicking. Something was not right for sure. What ever bug, and there were lots of them floating about like dust motes, was bothering them I’m glad it didn’t cause all the kicking and bucking while we were riding!


It was only one ear of corn! They’ll never miss it.

Athletes and Nerds

I’m sure I’m the only one who thinks this is funny, but…
This week is homecoming week at the kids school. Every day is a dress up day. Today they were supposed to dress as nerds or athletes. We’re not much of a sports family, I thought I’d dress them both up as nerds. My daughter is old enough to be forming strong opinions unfortunately and was not going to go as a nerd. My son is still rather clueless, he’s the cutest, nerdiest little thing. I wish I’d gotten pictures. There is nothing sports related in the house and I couldn’t find my jersey from high school. So we settled on horse person (cowgirl). That totally counts as an athlete!
I wanted to send my clicker with her so she could go as an athlete and a nerd!!