Jumping For Joy

On our quest to find many of the different mounting options a friend mentioned, perhaps jokingly, using a trampoline. It occurred to me that I had one! The next chance I had I drug the kids little trampoline out of the play house to try.

I really thought it would be more difficult. That’s the joy of a clicker trained horse. Or perhaps just of Rusty. Instead of having to work on getting him next to it, then used to the jumping, he just walked up and stood there chewing. I bounced around a few times to be sure. Laid across his back from both sides. Then got on!

 


Careful Targeting

Rusty and I have been playing with all the different way it is possible to get on a horse. Trying to think outside of the usual and come up with unusual, overly complicated methods. It has been fun digging into the different layers of training involved in some of the more interesting ones. It may seem like a silly useless undertaking on the surface but, like with all trick training, the benefits go so much deeper.

Yesterday though, we didn’t accomplish anything. Not what I had intended at least. It is spring and that green grass gets a little distracting. I was trying to get him to walk under my noodle and he was more interested in grazing. Or butt scratches. We did accomplish that.

Completely by accident I taught him to target me with his butt. He wanted it scratched. I, his lowly and loyal servant must comply with his wishes. There is simply no use arguing with someone of his determination.

After that amusing interlude I gave up. He was acting… weird. I don’t know how else to describe it. Other than the eating, that’s normal for right now, he kept leaving. He never leaves. He wants to be with me. If I don’t work him he eats the fence. If you ever wonder why so many boards are gone from the wind break, he is the reason.

I tied him up! And saddled him. The goal was to ride out through the cows, check calves. By the time we got to the gate into the pasture he had convinced me that was a bad idea. Not doing anything bad, just… weird. There was a storm blowing in. Dark clouds had ridden the horizon most of the day. The wind was sucking back into them, determined to take us all with. The warm air from earlier in the day was moving out to make way for cold. I was not brave enough to ride a hot colt who wasn’t interested in working out into the hills.

Once we turned around he proved my fears to be somewhat justified. He was never scary. He was, however, stuttery? He would leap forward with tons of energy, or freeze up and not want to move. The lightest leg was his cue to run. No amount of leg pressure was enough to persuade him to move when he was stopped.It was a good ride though. We did some leg yields, worked on haunches in, loped circles in the soon to be garden, and practiced his Spanish walk. Besides, he mastered targeting me with is butt. What more could I ask of a ride 😉

Here is a quick video of him targeting and, eventually, making around the pickup. Original goal accomplished.

 


April Blizzard

The horses got locked in the barn. I left them out all winter through 20 below temps and snow. It was the same way last year. They were toasty warm until “spring” arrived and they shed most of their winter coats. Last night it rained all night at just above freezing. We knew it was coming. I went out yesterday and, along with all the other preparations, pitched piles of hay into the barn so I wouldn’t have to do it in the snow. I hoped that if everything was ready they wouldn’t need it. Didn’t work this time.
When I went out to check on them they were shivering. They ran behind me as I led them to the barn. Coyote dove in the door with Rusty not far behind. I locked them on one side then went back to coax Onna through the door. Fortunately there was a halter left hanging in the barn from who knows when or why. I used the lead rope to loop around her neck and lead her in. She was not happy about it but I couldn’t leave the gate open. There is so much stuff piled in the door for them to get into. I locked her in and like to think she appreciated it in the end.
The snow stopped sometime in the night. The morning dawned clear and cold. The wind is still blowing. The roads are drifted shut. I walked out to find Coyote happily looking out the top half of a door I left open. Other than Onna, they didn’t really want out and stood in the door asking for cookies.
The guys are out digging their way in to feed the cows. The sun is blinding on the fresh snow mocking and taunting us after the fierce, blinding, force it came down with yesterday.

Pool Noodles

I got my first one. I don’t know why I waited so long. Seriously, they cost a whole dollar a Walmart. Why not bite the bullet, take the plunge, I invested my money.

I tried getting Rusty to target with his knees years ago, one or two at least 😉 It didn’t work. He touched the pool noodle once and I clicked him, he had it instantly. I think the difference here was that the other target was the one we had been working on targeting with his nose. He wanted to bite it and we couldn’t get past that. Between both of us have lots more experience and never having seen one of these things is his life it worked wonderfully.

He does a decent Spanish walk but I want him to have a great one. We are lacking speed, height, and collection. He wants to put his nose way down and his hind legs trail way behind. With the pool noodle as a target he is lifting his knees much higher and chasing after it. Two problems being worked on already. Standing next to him I could see his withers rise. He dropped his nose to sniff the noodle but once done he would lift his head again. I think this is going to help us a lot, I just wish I could remember who’s video it was showing this.


Coyote

I talk about Rusty all the time. This is his page after all. But I think my good old Coyote (Rustc V’s Raisin Cain) deserves more mention than he gets. Coyote is such a good rotten little pony. He’s taught me more than all other horses combined. I may have, mostly, started him but he trained me up the way he wanted me also.
I greatly regret that I didn’t know enough to do right by him way back when. I let some idiot cowboy do some riding on him and he broke things. Coyote is still scared of ropes, he will let me do some roping off him dispite that. He knows his cows and is tough as nails. He is light, responsive, and a heck of a horse. Despite me.
He was out grazing in the yard today. When it was time to bring him in I walked clear out to the other side of the yard with a pocketful of cookies. He came when called and lined up to the feed bunk for me to get on. The video got a little lengthy so I cut it down a little, sped some parts up a bit. I love his beautiful flaxen mane, he is the reason sorrel and flaxen is my favorite color of horse.


Cowboy Dressage?

My husband had the kids. He had gone over to do some work for his sister and they went along to play with their cousins. I had all the time in the world to ride and play. No need to rush back today. So this is what we do for fun.

We rode through the cows as usual. Rusty isn’t wanting to take off anymore. He realized that running just makes more work. Now we trot along on a loose rein. As he gets better I am starting to brave the top of “The Big Hill” instead of skirting around the side as we did in the beginning. With time to spare we stopped to play on top of the big hill. His Spanish walk is a bit rusty 😉 We’ve been working on regular riding stuff and the tricks have been ignored. I think we need to get back to them.

 



How A Good Horse Is Made

I believe I’ve mentioned a few times that we are calving. I ride Rusty out to check them when ever I can. A four-wheeler works better when small children are along and goes a little faster but isn’t nearly as fun and doesn’t put any training on my horse. It has been amazing to see the effect it has been having on Rusty.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Riding through the cows and just yanking him around wouldn’t accomplish much. But spending the time on him working on refining his responses and teaching him to be calm and relaxed out and about amidst the cows, going up and down hills, braving the weather; it’s starting to make him into a decent horse. He still isn’t getting the time I would like but it’s better than nothing.

We topped the biggest hill in the pasture the other day, the wind was blowing, the sky was spitting rain, Rusty ducked his head and went into it. I clicked him at the top, just for being such a good boy, and we paused to eat a cookie and admire the view. The sky was a patchwork of dark and light, stormy clouds juxtaposed against bright sunlight. I scanned the fields looking for cows in the far corners of the field hoping to cut the ride a bit shorter. I scratched his neck and told him what a very good boy he was. Only the week before we had pranced nervously through this very spot, now he stood clam and relaxed. We walked on down the other side.

At the base of the hill he lost it, prancing and determined to head home. I let him trot and them lope circles, stopping when ever he wanted but turning him into a circle again as soon as he started jigging. It was kind of a hairy spot to be doing circles, between holes, grease like cow poop, and a line of silage where the cattle had been fed. As he slowed and was willing to walk again we started finding carrots strewn across the ground where they had bounced out of my pockets. He learned quickly to reach down and search the ground after being clicked to find those escapee carrots.

Through the terrifying tunnel of doom, known to some as the gate between the pasture and the corn field, and out into the stalks we went only a bit nervous. Through the wheat stubble we stopped to play find the calf. It’s amazing how they can disappear as soon as they lay down. Then across the corn. From the hill above I had seen a cow out there that I wanted to check. As we came out of the wheat he asked to go. With the long open expanse ahead of us I didn’t stop him.

He lunged into a gallop and we shot across the field. I fought the urge to tighten the reins and let him go. He slowed from a headlong gallop and settled into a traveling gait. He leaped the pivot tracks and stayed on his feet through the rough, jagged stubble. Clear across the pivot he went and was happy to stop at the other side. Then we turned around and walked blowing hard back to the cow we needed to check back towards the middle of the field.

The next day I rode him out again. We followed the same rout. Except coming into the corn field. Instead of cutting across the middle I steered him around the edge where the path was flat and smooth. Asking for a haunches in, something we haven’t worked on yet, he gave me the proper lead anyway. I urged him into a nice, easy, slow lope. With every stride he said hey, lets stop now? I said are you sure? How about we go a little farther, remember you wanted to run yesterday. Not today, he said, today how about we walk? And so we did.

 



Learning To Be A Cow Horse

We haven’t been riding through the cows as much as I had hoped. Some weird thing about parenting. I guess I’m supposed to watch them instead of play with my horse? And it got cold and snowy and wet. Lots of time spent on a four-wheeler.

We did get out once this week. I love the way he walks next to me and stands quietly while I get gates without me having to hold onto him. The first couple of times I sent him through a gate without me I was afraid I’d be walking home but I put my faith in him and he well rewarded me. Once we made it out of the corrals and into the cornstalks he was raring to go. I let him and we loped out through the stubble. Other than a slight drift towards the buildings he went wonderfully. He’s learning to rate himself, he’s not trying to take off as much any more. That helps me to sit him better. I’m relaxing into the saddle and not stiffening and flopping around as much, which probably leads to more bolting from him, which leads to more stiffening from me. It’s a bad cycle that we are managing to break.

After making quick work of the cornstalks we got to the pasture. He was puffing pretty hard. I had hoped he would use up his energy on the mostly flat ground and be more settled once we got to the hills. He is a Morgan though and he was no where near tired. Fortunately we took the time to put a good foundation on him before heading out into the world.

The cows were clustered near the corrals where they had been fed. He found a calf there and since I couldn’t see it’s mother close by I let Rusty say hi. He sniffed and followed and played with it for awhile then we went through the rest of them. Then out around the pasture. Holding onto faith in a horse is easier when it’s not so far down. He did good though, up the big hill and around. He was nervous and wanting to prance. I kept rewarding him for a walk on a loose rein. We made it past the windmill without any issue. Around and down (which always gets C.W. McCall’s Wolf Creek Pass stuck in my head; down and around, and around and down, we run out of ground at the edge of town) and through the corrals then out the gate and home.

Once home and unsaddled we worked on laying down again. Nothing like a hot sweaty ride to make that easier. He did wonderfully a couple of times. I think he gets frustrated with me for ruining his roll. He has to think hard on whether it’s worth the food to pause his rolling. He hasn’t figured out that I don’t want him to get up, he’s welcome to keep rolling. He could stop and eat then roll, eat then roll, then eat. It could go on as long as he wants. He finally stayed down to eat and we stopped after that one. I turned him out so he could roll for reals and hang out with is friends. He thinks I’m punishing him by turning him loose. It’s nice that he wants to come in and ride but it makes it hard to put him away when he really wants to stay. It’s the only time I need a halter on him.