Little Horsemen

I love to ride, obviously, but I always worry that my kids wont. My daughter is a bit of a princess, she likes pink and ruffles. my son loves forming and tractors like his daddy. I jump on any chance to get them out and riding. So when my daughter got off the bus on a recent warm day and wanted to go ride I was more than happy to oblige.

It was late though and cooling down quickly so we decided to skip the saddles. It would get them on faster and keep them warmer. We’ve talked a lot about why I ride bareback, on good old Coyote if not Rusty so much, and why she has to wear a saddle if I don’t. I keep telling her that she can ride bareback whenever she wants, as long as we are just going around the yard. It teaches such good balance, but I’m not willing to let her go out across the pasture without a saddle just yet. It’s hard enough learning to steer without having to try to stay on too. As for him, he can’t reach the short kid stirrups yet anyway. Might as well skip the saddle.

I lead Coyote but Princess Onna is Ok off the lead, she wont wander far even if her little person might not be doing the best job steering. We meandered about the yard, spent lots of time eating, and even trotted a little. I’m so proud of how good both of them are doing riding, and staying on, bareback!

 

 

 


Cow Horse Wannabe

I rode Rusty today!! It’s been a rare occurrence. The weather has been cold and icy or warm and muddy. The kids have been sick, I’ve been sick. We’ve been busy. Today I was not going to miss out on the warm weather. The snow on the ground hid the ice underneath. If I can’t see it I don’t have to worry about it 🙂

We did a lot of ground work. Walked out through the corrals, did some more ground work, then opened the gate into the bulls pen. First we looked at the bulls. Rusty did some visiting. I’m not sure who won that one but it was fun.

 

Then we made use of their big pen to work on transitions. We trotted some big circles. He does great to the right. Not so good to the left. Did some figure eights, the change of bend was new and a little difficult for him. It was so fun feeling him bend and flex to my legs and to guide him with the outer rein. You read about the importance of it all the time but last time I tried he wasn’t far enough along to know what I was talking about, and maybe our circles were guided more by the confines of the arena than my legs and reins.

I could feel him want to break into a canter so I sat and pushed. He leaped into the canter and bounded along for a couple of strides. I clicked and rewarded him. We did it again the other direction, same over enthusiastic results. We walked, trotted, walked again. Then we did it again. We meandered, we side passed, we went up and down some hills, otherwise known as manure piles. Then we cantered again.

He leaped and bounded. I didn’t stop and reward him for the transition, I sat and pulled up on the reins. I pushed him forward maintaining the canter while staying on and pushing him through the bucking. It was great. It was awesome. He’s such a fun horse to ride. I sat and said whoa once we had a couple of canter like strides. He slammed on the breaks and stopped. My knee was cramping. We had survived. It was probably time to call it good. We had a great ride and I hope we can do it again sooner rather than later.


Hot and Cold

Yesterday it was in the forties. Today the highest I saw was three degrees. Yesterday I got to go out and give Rusty a good workout. We worked a long time. went clear out around the yard and got to see many different things, work with different stimuli. Today we did a short workout in the arena. As soon as I got Rusty out the small children who had been off doing their own thing, happily unbothered by me suddenly turned into needy clingy little monsters, determined to be underfoot.

I want then to be far away when I work with Rusty. He is a very good boy but they’re so tiny. I’ve seen him go after calves, goats, and dogs, it’s worrisome when he looks at a child with great interest. Especially when he is in one of his fierce moods.

Yesterday we walked out around the yard, we practiced walking next to me. When did that become difficult? We went into the bulls pen and worked on sitting on the large piles of manure that got pushed up but not hauled out. All the directions say to use haybales but, I say make do with what’s at hand. We ran up and down the hills, piles?, and worked on standing still, everything I could think of to make it not all the hard sitting work, but fun too. I ran up the steep walls of manure and he followed. We stood still on top to practice. We ran down and went to the next pile. I enjoyed it and got my exercise if nothing else. The sitting is coming slowly. Maybe. He is squatting a little behind if not sitting yet. We walked back and I got on in the arena rode him around for just a couple of minutes bareback.

It’s fun to sit directly on his back and feel the muscles move beneath me. I can feel his back lift when he does a Spanish walk. He doesn’t know what to do with me up there flopping around. I ride Coyote bareback all the time. He’s like sitting on a big cushy couch and easy to stay on. Rusty in lean and taunt and terrifying. The more I worry about staying on the harder it is to do so. Rusty is so responsive that I drive him insane with my inefficient cues making him more tense, making me more nervous. It’s a viscous cycle. If we don’t try it we will never master it though, and putting a saddle on is way to much work, completely out of the question for these short little rides, so we persevere.

The whole thing was awesome and left me floating with joy and satisfaction.

Today we were playing outside in the cold and snow, the children and I that is. They were off climbing and digging and whatever else children do in the snow. I foolishly thought that it would be a good time to play with my pony. A silly thing to think. I got a bucket of cake for the other two, a little something extra in the cold weather, and pulled Rusty out of the pen. As soon as he was loose in the yard the littlest of the children showed up and wanted to play. I ordered him back to play with his sister. And led Rusty off the other direction trying to escape. I was tense and getting grouchy. He was overly arched, lips curled back and teeth bared. Fierce.

Rusty is a double whorl. For those non whorl reading people, he has two whorls/swirls/cowlicks high on his forehead. Double whorls mean that a horse will display two personalities and switch back and forth between the two. Also that they will mirror their riders mood, capabilities, and temper. I know that in a scholarly sort of way. Thinking back after we finished what was a fairly good if not fun and relaxing session I pondered the differences in the days. The main thing that popped out was the difference in my mind set. I was relaxed and having a blast one day. Tense and worried about the kids the next. Rusty was enthusiastic and playing one day. Fierce and ferocious the next. Was it a symptom of his whorls? A natural occurrence for any horse responding to his handler?

The first day, relaxed and playing:

 

The second day, imagine him as the sorrel minus the headstall and doing this at liberty. Silly pony


A Different Sort Of Proud Parent Moment

Have  I mentioned lately how proud I am of Rusty? In the last couple of months he’s turned into a grown up horse. He went from prancing and wanting to bolt when we left the arena to a very confident horse who is scared of very little and really wants to go out and do stuff, explore the country.

Today is supposed to be the last nice day for a week. Snow is expected tonight through Monday. The clouds are rolling in, the barometer has to be dropping like crazy. All things that usually make a horse slightly mad. To top it off Rusty hasn’t been ridden for a week or so. The footing is still ice covered mud. AND the guy is here to grind hay today. For anyone who hasn’t seen a hay grinder, the big kind, I did not take a picture. I didn’t seem prudent. But this is what we’re talking about…

So, since I had a minute, we went for a ride 🙂

Rusty was practically leaping away from my leg when I asked and wanted to strike out at a trot when we left the arena. Unfortunately I had to ask for a walk. With all the above mentioned factors in play I didn’t think it wise. Plus it was a good time to work on transitions. We rode past the guys with the payloaders and the grinder and rode to the bull pen.

Inside we quietly followed a bull or two around. I’ve seen Rusty circle and turn the goat when they are in the pen together, it didn’t take Rusty long to figure out that this was the same thing. I had to keep him held back, both to a walk, so we weren’t running the bulls or running ourselves on the slick ground, and to keep him from biting them. One even walked back and forth so we could practice working him nicely. We trotted a couple of big badly shaped circles on what dry ground we could find. Then I got off and we worked some more on sitting. The big pile of manure pushed up in there, I’m hoping, will make a good spot to train on.

Once done there we went back out and rode over to the stack yard, where they were grinding hay. And there right next to the grinder we worked until Rusty settled down. he did wonderfully. First the airplane now the grinder, our next big step is to haul off the place a few times and make sure he still does alright. Not as easily done as one might think.


Proud Parent Moments

It ranks right up there with taking their first steps. I am so excited that I was able to get it on video! My daughter opened her first gate horseback! She had been watching us, Coyote and  I, do it and we had talked about how she would be able to someday. Today she did it!

We had gotten to go sort the bulls out of the cows. My daughter on her good little mare Princess Onna and me on Coyote. Rusty was screaming and having a fit about being left in their pen alone, but he’s not quite ready for this.   Princess Onna always got overly excited when she and Tanna moved cows together so I was hesitant to let them try it on there own at first. But I’ve lead her a couple of time on the lead and they’ve been fine, not near as excited, so they got to go on their own today.
We were sorting out of those same cows Rusty and I have been enjoying riding through. Special note was taken of the bull that was nursing but hard to say if he will be going anywhere. My daughter was good help, some of the time, just happening to be in the right place at the right time. Not near as difficult to work with loose as she is on the lead. Onna was ok walking along by herself and I could duck back and forth behind her to get the job done. They stood quietly behind us once as Coyote got down and did a wonderful job cutting the bull who didn’t want to go out the gate. Of course the reason we were having trouble at all was because she and Princess Onna had gone ahead of us earlier to stand IN the gate we were trying to go out. Oh well, it takes time to learn.

I am very proud of how good she is getting at steering and getting Onna to go where she wants. It’s good for now that Onna will stay right next to me, I don’t want them going off too far on their own. The little bit that they do go off away from us they do a good job.

After doing a wonderful job of helping she wanted to go for a ride. We went back up the lane to go out in the pasture. She walked ahead of us to the gate declaring her intent. We had ridden through this gate yesterday and I told her it was an easy one to unlatch, in one way, and really hard too because it’s in a corner though. I was thrilled to let her try and hurried to get my camera ready. It took a few tries to get lined up and bent into that corner but she stuck with it and together they managed to get it! What very good girls, the both of them.


Broke

I don’t believe I can even begin to tell you how thrilled I am with Rusty right now! Ever since our ride out with Tanna how ever long ago that was he has turned a corner. Before that he was nervous about leaving our “arena”. Now he trots out wanting to go explore, and eat in, new places. He is my fearless charger, fierce in conquering his surroundings. He’s riding almost like a broke horse!

The tree row that terrifies Coyote? Not a problem, he wants to walk alongside it. Slick footing, all mud and ice? He is happy to slip and slide across it in search of new things. Walk out through the cattle pens with calves or cows moving all around him in tight slippery quarters? He just wants to eat the cows. Cold windy days? He is happy zip through them. Not that he doesn’t try to buck and act like a young horse is supposed to during them but he’s not good at bucking and doesn’t try very often. And he doesn’t spook just gets all big and looky. He’s a typical Morgan, he acts spooky and wants to go fast and lots but is so very trustworthy.

Last time I wrote here I think I had tried some gate work with him. Coming away from it I had realized all the things I hadn’t worked on with him yet. Usually, way back when, side passing and turns on both quarters would have been worked on pretty early on. And we have, he does a pretty good turn around the front or the back. Not a drop of lateral work though. He will give to the outside on a circle but I hadn’t taken it any further. He had no clue what I wanted when we got to a gate. Not just the sideways, it was hard for him to figure out standing next to it and the holding still part.

I did what I should have done in the first place and went back to the basics. We started learning to sidepass. It was slightly tricky at first. There are no good fences and it’s slippery along the ones there are. He is a smart boy though who has learned all about moving away from pressure and being able to click and reward him so he knows exactly what he did right works wonders. He is sidepassing, and leg yielding!, nicely now. And now we have the gate thing kind of figured out. Again the clicking worked its wonders. I feel much more like we are where we should be!

Riding out into the cows has been fun. He really wants to chase them. I wont let him. It’s not good manners. I will let him chose one cow and follow her at a WALK. He has trouble remembering the walk part but comes back down nicely. Mostly I’m taking advantage of the new place and commotion to make sure he’s willing to listen with everything going on around us. And he is. It’s going to take some time for him to listen as good as he does in our calm quiet arena but he’s well on his way. At this rate we might survive some little rodeos this summer and maybe even the big Morgan horse ride at Fort Robinson this fall. Gulp. I might be the one who’s not ready for that one.

And when we were out riding through the cows we found this naughty guy getting himself a drink. Don’t let anyone tell you that cows milk is only for calves 😉

 


The Villain

It is cold and snowing out today. Not a bad snow, the wind isn’t howling. Not here behind the windbreak at least. There is a fair bit of it though, we should get the five to seven inches predicted. The result of all this though is that we are mostly stuck inside. We went out earlier and fed chickens, checked the horses, and pulled the kids around behind the four wheeler in their sled. Once they got cold and wet it was back inside. We’ve taken advantage of the cold, and the naps, to watch a bit of TV.

After watching Blazing Saddles, again, the other day other western parodies were brought up. So today we watched one  one I had never seen. It’s the same age as I am! It was good, silly, goofy, and staring some great trick horses!! As we sat down to watch it my encyclopedia of a husband informed me that the horse was played by eight different horses so I would want to be watching for differences. Of course he was right, it made it even more interesting to me Looking for the differences.

I noticed right away that one horse had an unusual whorl on the left side of his neck and a long feathered one on his forehead. From then on I was looking closely for those whorls, so closely in fact that it took me an embarrassingly long time to notice the biggest tell between the two main horses used. They had completely different bits on! One was a simple curb with very plain, flat, squared off shanks. The other had round shanks with a ring at the mouth piece. I started checking out the saddle and other big things. If I missed one that big, there had to be others.

The reason any of this is relevant is the skill of the trick horse who played most of the scenes. It may have been why I missed the bit for so long. The tricks were excellent, performed smoothly and proficiently by the horse. He was even listed in the credits, a black Thoroughbred named Ott. Apparently because he was famous in his own right. He was in a whole list of movies and TV shown through the seventies. He has his own page on IMDB!

I was enthralled by the tricks. It’s more fun to watch knowing how they are done, watching for a cue or to see where the cue is coming from. At first I was amazed at all the tricks one horse knew, then I began to realize that there were two horses, although one didn’t get credit, (obviously the other six didn’t either, but I’m assuming they had pretty little parts like the time the horse in the movie needed to buck very well) and they each knew different tricks. Put together they had an impressive array. I did enjoy thinking that Rusty could do many of them, I thought perhaps he could do the movie horse thing. Then I though of the difference between knowing how to do a trick and being able to do it smoothly and on time with all the people and distraction of a movie set. Those horses were both incredible.

There was lots of nodding, smiling, coming when called, neighing, backing, carrying things, and sitting. It became possible to predict when sitting was coming up because a random pile of dirt would appear. It gave me an idea on teaching sitting besides using bales of hay. I didn’t figure out the bit thing soon enough in the movie to be able to see exactly which horse was doing which tricks. I may have to go back and watch it again so I can figure that out. If you ever have the chance to watch The Villain Keep an eye out for those wonderful trick horses!


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.