Flying High

I rode Rusty today. After being in the single digits, or well below for a few days it had warmed up to forty. The snow was melting, the ice was slick and so was the mud. Rusty had had many days off. We didn’t let that stop us. No one ever said I was smart.

As soon as I was settled in the saddle he was pulling towards the corn field. Letting him graze on the left over corn has been a great way to get him wanting to go out for a ride. It gave us a chance to work on whoa and walk. He is picking both up nicely. Out in the field I let him go along, nose to the ground, hunting for corn. For a horse that is so dedicated to the job he sure is bad at it. I would watch an ear appear before us as he sniffed along, and as soon as we got close he’d veer off the other direction. A couple of times he walked right between two ears, searching frantically the whole way. Poor boy.

I decided he had received enough positive reinforcement for the moment and pulled his head up. About that time I heard a distant rumble. Like thunder, or and airplane. Looking up I spotted the small plane flying low in the distance. Flying right at us. My daughter and I had met one similarly last summer and out two good older seasoned horses didn’t even flinch. Crop dusters fly over the place regularly at much lower and more acrobatic levels. But knowing it will probably be fine and sitting on an energetic, some times spooky, young horse are two different things. I settled deep into the saddle and waited. Rusty pawed his impatience at standing still. The plane flew right over our heads. I could read the numbers on the side of the little red and white two seater. I clicked when he was right over and gave Rusty a cookie. Rusty wasn’t sure what it was for, but he ate it happily asking if we could please move now?!

I let him go breathing a big sigh of relief as the plane flew off over the cattle and into the distance.

We got back to work. He wanted to trot so I let him go. The footing wasn’t as bad as I would have guessed and we did a circle or two. He really wanted to go so I sat and pushed and he gave a stunningly gorgeous canter transition. Leaping into it without taking off. I clicked him and he stopped to eat. We meandered about a little but before to long I heard another tell tale rumble. Looking up I saw another plane coming! I wasn’t as worried this time and got my phone out. Between my sunglasses and the small phone screen I couldn’t tell if I was getting the plane or not but if we were going to get buzzed twice in one ride I was going to get video of it! 😉

This one stayed farther away and was much less impressive but still made me proud of my pony.

He was still bursting with energy so we trotted, we practiced some vague and barely remembered dressage test. Then we tried for more cantering. He gave e that beautiful leaping departure again, then ducked his head and got really round. Fortunately he’s not good at bucking, I’m sure it would have looked even more pitiful than it felt. I didn’t fall off and instead pulled his head up and we stopped.

After a few more trot circles I wanted to try one more time so I asked and at a slight push from the hips he went. A far cry from our pitiful, fast trotting, enthusiastic kicking attempts in the arena. Neck arched, snorting, and leaping he cantered around our circle. Noisy and animated, and quite beautiful from where I sat until I sat and he stopped. I rewarded him and we started to work our way home.

Once there I began our work on gates and was brutally reminded of all the things we haven’t worked on.

 


With Bells On

I put the bells on Rusty’s legs today for the first time. Actually attaching them had become a big scary thing for me. I’m not sure why except for the build up to it. We had worked on having things around his legs before. He’s been playing with the other bells for a long time now. But to have them attached to him seemed so final.
I took him onto one of the corrals and even put his halter and lead rope on. The two combined threw him off a little but he still behaved. I had only attached bells to one of my straps so we started out one leg at a time.
It was about 5 degrees out, but the sun was shinning and the wind wasn’t too bad around the buildings behind the windbreaks. I had bundled my small child up and sent him off to play in the yard. The other two horses got buckets of feed to give them a little extra to keep warm with, and too keep them from getting to mad about Rusty being fed. I thought it was going to work perfect. As I got Rusty separated and ready to go to work the small child showed up at the gate carrying his hat and complaining that his gloves were wet. I had to leave Rusty throwing a fit about being abandoned while the other two ate and get my child bundled up again. I didn’t want to but, well, I have to make some attempt to keep my priorities in order 😉
Once he was dressed warmly again I went back to my horse. We did a quick desensitizing, making sure he was good with the ropes around his legs for sure. We had done all of this before, and had the straps around his ankles just without the bells, but better safe than sorry. I did a quick under the tail with it while we were going anyway. He was good with all of it. Nothing was left but to attach the bells.
Now all I need to do is actually attach the bells to the straps. I thought I could staple them but it’s to thick for the staple to go all the way through. And I need to shorten the belts I’m using for straps. They are woven leather/plastic fake leather stuff so I will need to prevent the weave from unweaving, it’s not going to be overly easy. Looking forward to it though, I should make use of the freezing cold weather this morning and work on that.
Have I mentioned what all this bell stuff is about? Well, I’m not going to now either if I haven’t. But it’s going to be cool. I hope.


Building Blocks

It seems whenever we are having trouble with something it is because I skipped over some important basic lesson. I know that if I had started training clicker training from the beginning instead of starting with playing fetch we would have a little better manners. It’s something he could have used anyway, since his main problem in life has been a lack of them. But I didn’t and I don’t want to go back and fix it.

Recently though we have been practicing for western dressage. The six feet on the ground tests to be exact. Although I think by the time the first show comes up in March we’ll be ready for the mounted intro test. But, anyway, he doesn’t stand well for me to switch sides walking around in front of him. He wants to walk off with me.

We have been working on our bell ringing. Getting ready to strap them to his front legs and let him dance some pretty music. He will stand in place and lift each front foot but I want to get further away from him while he does so.

The solution to both of these problems is actually the same basic lesson. We actually worked hard on this lesson, it’s not one of the ones we skipped over. Which makes it easier to go back and use to fix current problems. The cure for both of these is to give him a place where he knows to stand still, where he is comfortable and happy to do so. Where better than on his trusty mat.

I pulled it out from the corner it’s been moldering in for many months now. We had a refresher course before adding any new stuff. He was happy to be playing a game that required standing still and getting food. Held in place by his mat we worked on adding a verbal cue, stand, to the act of holding still. Then I added walking across on front of him and standing at his other shoulder. First clicking as I crossed in front of his nose then waiting until I was past, then as I stood at his shoulder. We worked on crossing from both sides and he settled down, not getting as nervous about me moving in front of his nose. Once he is standing perfectly still every time I’ll take the mat away and try it again. Maybe we will set the mat in one spot so he is used to it, then take the mat away in the same spot. once he has that down we’ll move to different places.

With the practice for the bells the procedure was about the same. Reinforced standing still on the mat. Then I stood at his shoulder like usual asking for him to dance, the verbal cue for standing and lifting his front legs. Click, reward, then move back a step. As he understands and performs the movement I ask I step further and further back. Eventually I will be able to ask for him to dance from a good distance. Eventually I will be able to add the bells around his ankles. It’s muddy and cold, perhaps alternating between the two. I haven’t added the bells yet, that will be a separate training piece of it’s own.

it never ceases to amaze me how each separate thing we work on is related to every other thing we work on. There is nothing new under the sun ( to quote Ecclesiastes) or in training, we are simply repeating things that have already been done. And that is why all the building blocks are so important. Even the simple tiny little ones we work on in the beginning, especially those. We should go back and work on manners.


Grazing Time

I know I’ve been posting a lot of boring videos lately of us walking around or grazing. Well, it’s what we’re doing right now and I’m pretty thrilled about it. We got our last ride in today before the weather changes tomorrow. It was in the fifties we had to get out there. The riding is a bit treacherous, snow, mud, water, lots of slickness. All the better to learn good footing in. We went the other way in the corn field today. Down along the tree row where Coyote had his little hissy fit when Tanna was out with us. Much easier without his help. Rusty goes along like a vacuum, sniffing the ground for treats the whole way. Riding through a corn field provides its own rewards.
Going across the field he broke into a canter, the path looked clear. I couldn’t see any badger holes, they’ve been busy this fall! I sat deep and let him go. he was enjoying himself and let out one exuberant little tiny buck. I slowed him down before we got to another one of those terrifying pivot tracks. He is coming back nicely, mostly to my seat, and shouldn’t be too hard to cross water on after all these ditches. They scare him, he’s hesitant, slows down, looks closely, and steps carefully, all good things. He spooked pretty good when we were walking up the fence line. The dogs showed up later, I wonder if they weren’t what he saw. We went under the pivot twice and spent lots of time grazing around it.
I took advantage of the relatively good footing on the wheat ground to work on a few transitions, some leg yields, turns and stops. It took at least twenty minutes to walk the half mile home. Life is slow when you have to wait for treats to be eaten.

 


We Did It Again!

Twice!!

After going out with Tanna I couldn’t wait to get out in the big field again. The weather has been beautiful and even if I’m still fighting the sick I couldn’t stand to waste a day of it. Yesterday we went out and found some calves that had wandered under the electric fence and chased them back in. It was a little scary. He goes after things with enthusiasm. But I was able to bring him back to me nicely and we continued with a very nice ride.

Today he wanted to leave the yard at a trot. I used it to work on transitions a little. Once out on the driveway I steered him into the cornfield then let him go. We had a nice canter up the hill! We whoad once, treated then I actually asked for a canter and we went to the top. I clicked him for such a nice canter and he stopped for his treat. I let him graze a little and we just hung out. I wanted running no to be a big deal and for him to be able to stand and chill afterwards. He did great.

Then we started off across the cornfield. I let him Hoover up any corn he could find as he sniffed his way along. He was very concerned about pivot tracks. After the first few though he started crossing with less hesitance. We made it clear to the middle where the pivot was sitting. I wanted to try to walk under the first section, we would be facing home and I thought we had a chance. He did it with Tanna and Coyote leading but I didn’t think he was over being afraid. I was mostly wrong. He had no problem at all walking under it. Then he wanted to graze right there with it, nearly under it. What a good boy. For comparison, Coyote is still terrified of them. Sometimes. He’s a silly boy.

Then we slowly meandered our way back to the house. It was a good ride! I can’t wait for tomorrow! After that the weather is supposed to turn bad again so we better ride while we can.

 

 


Trail Ride

Tanna was home for Christmas break! So exciting. It was zero degrees and everybody was sick for most of the time 🙁 Oh well, we’ll take the good with the bad. Today, nearly her last day home we finally had a chance to ride.
It was forty degrees. The children were in the house with their father, I didn’t have to worry about staying close or hurrying back. We saddled and rode around in the arena a little bit. I had my new bit on him for the first time and he hadn’t been ridden in weeks. I had put the bit on a headstall but hadn’t put a chin strap on yet. I went to get the one off of my old snaffle but I don’t think it has been off since I got the bit, It was petrified, like wood. I didn’t even try to get it unbuckled. Not having another in any better shape I grabbed some rope that was laying around and tied it on. It worked great.
After our brief warm up we headed out into the corn field. We had done this a couple of times before the cold spell with very good results. This time started out the same. Rusty was relaxed and excited about food. Coyote was rusty in his corn finding skills. We let them brush up on that a little digging ears of corn out of the snow. Going down the middle of the field we took our time, letting them eat and look around.
Towards the far end the pivot was stretched along our path. Taking advantage of the available obstacle we weaved back and forth under it. Rusty thought it was pretty terrifying at first. But trusty old Coyote was there to lead the way. With him in front we were able to walk under it but he’d tuck tail and shoot out the other side. With lots of back and forth and grazing underneath he settled down quite a bit.
Down the fence line to the tree row then back towards the house we went with little excitement. We played leap frog, sniffed the ground checking out the scent of the deer who had been grazing there as we started our ride, and visited. Almost to the house again, on the back side of the trees that provide a windbreak to the buildings Coyote saw something. We don’t know what. We really doubt there was anything there but his active imagination. He was sure he was going to die though. Head in the air he snorted a warning to Rusty. Coyote was our moral support and behavioral role model, if he said something was scary Rusty was going to take him at his word!
With lots of snorting and blowing they prepared for the spook. It’s worse knowing it is coming. I grabbed a handful of mane and sat deep. Rusty ducked and spun. I still had a little control. Then Coyote took off. We were gone. Rusty had his head in the air and my hand in his mane was pinched between his neck and the saddle horn.
The ground was slick with the snow melting in the warm weather. He came to a stop without killing us. Coyote was still having a melt down. Tanna was able to kick him away from the trees and we went towards the middle of the field. At an excited prance we continued on our way.
We were having such a fun ride we decided to keep going on to the mail box instead of going home yet. Letting them go a bit we trotted to the top of the hill. Rusty stretched his legs and cantered a little. They came easily to a stop and we walked out and back.
We made it back to the house without too much further excitement. The horses were sweaty. The riders pleasantly tired. It was a nice ride. It was good to have Tanna back to see us, and to have someone to ride out with us. Hopefully after having someone along he’ll be more confident for the next ride.


Working Anyway

I’m very sick. My husband ordered me home and to bed!

But.

It’s nearly forty degrees outside! After windchill’s that far below zero this is beyond a heat wave. Getting started learning new things is too exciting to not go play just because I’m sick. I stayed in yesterday. Today we had things to accomplish.

I kept it short. Looking at the video from last time I realized I had gone on far longer than intended. It doesn’t seem that long while you’re working on it. I added two more tubs to our pattern. Old lick tubs have got to be one of the best things ever to have laying around. Now there are four, in a circle, as close to a circle as four tubs can be. Last time we practiced walking around the outside of two. This time we walked around outside of all four. After a little pawing and stumbling about he picked it right up on both sides.

I may have to switch to a lower value treat. I have a stock pile of apples that the kids have eaten on slightly. I hate for them to go to waste and Rusty does love them. So I chop them into pieces and he loves them. Too much. His fierceness is great when apples are used. With nose tucked to chest worse than any rollkured horse, ears flat against his head, he walks beside me radiating purpose, intent, and, well, fierceness. I don’t remember him being this bad before?

He is doing good fierceness aside. I click as he goes around outside one tub. Feed him outside the next. After one good round both ways we stopped and went through one test. It was interesting. The tests I’ve watched have all been quiet rather plodding quarter horse types. I don’t mean that in a bad way just such an opposite of what we are. He zips while walking the same speed as me. Not sure how he manages it. There are definitely things we need to work on. That’s what I love about trying new things. You find the holes in your training, things that need improved on.

He was not able to stand still. Every time we stopped he started pawing frantically. I knew we needed work on treat manners, starting in the middle teaching fetch instead of at the beginning has led to a few small issues. I never had good enough reason to fix it before. Like lunging, now I have a reason to. Walking next to me isn’t a problem, stopping isn’t a problem, backing needs some work. He swings his butt out. Manners and precise control seem to be our biggest things and I am enjoying working on them.

Here’s a copy of the test we tried out. It seems very simple, and is, mostly. Can you do it?

PURPOSE: Tests provide the horse and handler
the ability to develop a partnership as they begin
the first steps in building a foundation to perform
Classical Dressage maneuvers.
Leading from the left side, walk 4-6m
(13-20′) in a straight line
-Straightness; balance; quality of the
walk.
Halt, Salute
-Straight, willing, balanced & square
halt
Back horse 5-8 steps, halt
-Lack of tension, diagonal pairing of
footfalls; straight, balanced & square
halt
Perform a 360 degree turn on the
forehand, moving the haunches away
from the handler
-Willingness; balance; correct footfalls.
Halt. Switch to the right side of the
horse
-Straight, willing, and balanced halt;
immobility during change
Leading from the right side, walk 4-6m
(13-20ft) in a straight line
-Straightness; energy; quality of the
walk.
Halt
-Straight, willing, balanced & square
halt
Back horse 5-8 steps, halt
-Lack of tension, diagonal pairing of
footfalls; straight, balanced & square
halt
Perform a 360 degree turn on the
forehand, moving the haunches away
from the handler, Halt
-Willingness; balance; correct footfalls.
Straight, balanced & square halt
Walk a 6-7m (20-23ft) diameter circle
clockwise and halt where the circle
started
-Size and shape of circle; Quality of
walk. Willing, balanced, and square halt
Switch to the left side of the horse
-Immobility.
Walk a 6-7m (20-23ft) diameter circle
counter clockwise and halt where the
circle started. Salute
-Size and shape of circle; Quality of
walk. Willing, balanced, and square halt

A New Direction?

With the cold weather lately I’ve had time to sit and read a little. I’ve read about Cowboy and Western dressage for years and have heard about virtual shows but never thought much about it. Recently something sparked. I checked out the website, of the North American Western Dressage association that is. Then read up on the Western Dressage Association of America. I stalked their facebook pages. I watched every video I could find on YouTube with the judges comments. Then finally I did that thing that I so seldom do, I spent the money and joined NAWD.

They offer the virtual shows which was a necessity for me. They have classes with ground work, six feet on the ground division, that I think we are ready for now. Mostly. And we can do them at liberty! Now I will have reason to teach him to lunge. In the earliest, easiest 😉 classes the horse needs to go around handler in a circle 10 feet away. The rules say that “artificial aids are allowed such as a whip, crop, lariat, or training stick”. A treat bag is an artificial aid and shouldn’t count any differently. It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, so we will submit video with the clicker to start with and point out that they didn’t say we couldn’t if they complain.

They offer riding classes beginning with the most absolute basics, in regular dressage, ranch, and trail divisions. We might be able to manage those before too long and it will give me a concrete goal to be working towards. I like that.

It is too cold out to work with Rusty at all right now. I’m willing to work in cold weather but when the highs are around zero with wind chill, I’m not doing it. I should have waited until it warmed up and tried the introductory levels before donating but I know I love dressage, I know I love to train, I know I have great desire to beat my personal best, so how could I not like it? It seemed like a safe bet. If we don’t end up doing anything I’m only out a few dollars. If we do compete entry fees for the “shows” aren’t neat as bad as I was used to for ranch horse stuff way back when. I always thought it would be fun to go for year end awards in something.

We are not stopping the trick training. I love it and there is so much to learn, not to mention a rather large project in the making right now. I’m very excited about it 🙂 Riding has been the main goal all along though and this is another step in that direction. If anyone knows more about this than me, which doesn’t take much, please chime in. I would love to hear what you have to say and any tips or pointers!



Christmas Isn’t Over Yet!

I got a package in the mail today! Two of them actually. One was a new bit for Rusty, that was pretty exciting. But the other was even better. It was from Australia. In and of itself that is pretty cool. I never get anything from overseas. My husband does, computer stuff from England and China, but not me. It had papers from customs and our address included that it was in the US.

I took my time opening it, getting pictures all the way. Inside the tough outer wrapping was a large, flat, carefully, and prettily, wrapped package. I gave up on not tearing it and ripped my way inside. Knowing what was coming didn’t make the excitement any less. I had expected a painting. And it was there, in my favorite colors! Along with it were pictures of the artists and a lovely card. I immediately found a place for the painting to set in the house. It looks lovely but made me realize how badly I need to dust.

But why am I talking about my beautiful new painting here on a horse site?

Because the artist is a paint gelding named Monty, he gets help from his person but he does the work. A good friend of mine taught her horse to paint. They have been doing a wonderful job of it. He knows many other tricks too, kiss, hug, and bow, but this is a fun one that gets to be shared with friends! Here’s to a very talented pair. Thank you so much for my Christmas present!!!