Second Try

We aren’t adding any steps, just practicing the ones we are getting. I am trying to add a cue other than my voice. I haven’t settled on what to use. Rusty as seemed a couple of times to work well off a weight shift and light squeeze, I have to be careful though because he gets confused about what I am asking. He thinks I want him to turn on front or hind quarters or walk off.


We’ve been continuing our walks out of the arena. Down our big hill ๐Ÿ˜‰ into the dump.



Out around the yard. I was in the process of worrying whether our walk was getting too predictable and if I should change it up a little before he came to expect to go to the same spot every time, when he trotted off. Apparently it was getting to predictable. It’s a fine line between repeating something until it’s comfortable, and habit. So we took advantage of the trot to work on whoa and redirected our course. We chose a different spot to graze.


After getting some good eating in it was time to meander some more. It is interesting to me that he is so happy to ride through our yard, full of scary stuff. Before his small breakdown I looked at the big open field and thought it looked like such a nice place to ride, away from the scary things. I didn’t ask him what he thought. He has no problem with the stuff in the yard, he thinks the field is pretty scary. Until life becomes less stressful for him and he is riding better I will let him have more say in where we go. I did push him a little today though.

We rode farther into the stack yard and up to the top of the hill by where a large group of cows were grazing. It was new for us and a place where Coyote dreads to go. For some reason he hates that spot. Apparently Rusty feels the same. He was getting tighter and more worried as we got to the top of the hill. His head was up. ears going a million miles an hour, I got off. No reason to get in a fight. He had been good for the whole ride, it wasn’tย  a long walk back. Getting off is almost as good a reward as food.

Heading Out

The whole purpose of this video is that stop. The first one a couple of seconds in. Look at his butt drop. His head goes up just a hair but not because I’m pulling on him. The reins barely even move, when they do it’s my tendency to raise my hands, not because I’m pulling. I think after that we do a very lackluster rollback. But it’s all about the stop.

We’ve had some really good rides lately. I tie him up to groom and saddle, he’s coming around to that nicely. Then we do a little ground work and go for a walk. First we would circle the chicken coup. It’s scary back behind there. Then we started going down the little hill into the dump, make a circle, then come back up the hill. I threw in some whoas on the hill and at the top and bottom for extra interest.

We have been working on our Spanish walk, yay! But after we finish some arena work I’ve been letting him make the loop around the chicken coup. He has started wanting to head that way himself, he wanders around and looks at the scary things. Ever since his total meltdown when I tried to ride him in the fields North of the house I haven’t asked him to leave the arena. Him wanting to venture out was a big step forward and I loved that it was him who asked to take it. Today when I told him he could go he followed the tracks of our pre ride walk exactly. He went to the hill above the dump and asked to walk down it. It is the steepest hill we’ve ridden down and it was a little scary for both of us I think. He did great though and walked on around the branch we go around every time, then back up the hill. I cheered him on the whole way. After that he went on towards the shop, up to the gas tank and sniffed it. I was dishing treats out like crazy.

On our last ride I had given him his head and he walked happily through the yard past all the things I think should be scary and to the “good” patch of grass clear south. I thought the grazing was good positive reinforcement for going out on a ride and apparently he did too. We headed back to the same place. It was a fairly meandering rout, we stopped to look at the other horses, checked out the equipment, spooked lightly at scary spots on the road. I did my best to stay completely neutral in the saddle and let him go. He takes much more steering when I ask him to go home.

I can’t overstate the soft feel of this horse. He is so soft and responsive. Of course he is also as wiggly as a worm when he doesn’t know exactly what is being asked. The slightest little shift and he responds. It sounds silly. It’s hard to explain. He’s just fun to ride.

Moving It Up Top

We have been working on the Spanish walk for a good year now. Lately it’s just to warm up, a good way to make sure his cinch is fit properly and that he is listening. I should be working on perfecting it, I guess we are adding to it bit by bit. In the beginning I didn’t work on it while riding because he has such a strong tendency to paw whenever he gets frustrated, I didn’t want it to get in the way of riding. He is coming along so nicely now that I decided to try to transfer it to the saddle.

For the first try we worked on it lots from the ground. We strongly refreshed his vocal cue instead of physical. Soon he was offering his Spanish walk, we’ll be generous and not just call it enthusiastic pawing, every time I moved. It was now the default behavior. The goal was to get on and have him offer it just as readily. It could then be put on cue and there we have it, Spanish walk.

On his back, it worked! Just as planned! Mostly. From the ground he can do several steps in a row, with good forward motion, and some actual semblance to a true Spanish walk. From his back he can paw with great height and enthusiasm, with one foot at a time, standing still. He picked up a new cue for it easily, vocal still and a tap on the shoulder to ask for a side. Maybe he’s mostly offering enthusiastically and working from the vocal cue but close enough.

We will keep working at it and hopefully reach the point we are at on the ground. Until then it going to be fun practicing!

The Aftermath

My husband is brilliant really. He shoved me out the door to work Rusty so that Rusty wouldn’t be left to marinate in the bad memories of our wreck. In the end though, I benefited just as much as Rusty did. More so perhaps.

Rusty seemed mostly unfazed. I had let him out to graze earlier and he wasn’t interested in talking to me. I understood and accepted his indifference. I deserved it. When I went out to work with him I wondered if I would be able to catch him. He was out in the wheat. I walked out to the fence and he noticed me right away. Head up he looked at me. I called to him and he walked towards me immediately. Things weren’t as bad as I thought. We worked on little things as we walked back to the house, whoa and back and good leading position. He looked pretty hard at the yard when we walked past. My husband keeps asking me not to let the horses in the yard. I am going to make a concerted effort to oblige him, that would solve a large portion of the problem.

He did walk willingly past though, clear out around the trees to the back of the house, and, there, at the pickup I tied him. The second of the changes I am attempting. He was not happy. Sticking to the plan though I clicked him as soon as he stood on all four feet for long enough to allow it. I loaded up on hay cubes and kept a good supply in front of him while I trimmed one hoof. I didn’t say I was going to ride him, I said work Rusty ๐Ÿ˜‰ Besides I had convinced myself he was off slightly and his back could be sore, anyway, no riding. He needed trimmed anyway. So, I got one hoof done. He stood tied nicely, not fighting or pawing. My knuckles were aching from the cold and previous injuries coming back to haunt me. After one foot I untied him and we played fetch. Then the second hoof.

We went on like that, rewarding him for standing quietly, fitting other things in between trimmings to give me a break more than for him. I saddled him, no issues there at all. I had to make sure my saddle was really ok. I’ve spent a fair bit of time wondering if a full grown cow or a clothes line posts and all exerts more pressure. The saddle is made to hold a cow on the end of a rope. I hoped that this wouldn’t be able to break the tree or, what? Who knows what it could have done but I can think of plenty of things to worry about. It seemed sound and whole so we went for a walk. Out behind the scary chicken coop. Up and down the hill into the dump. Then up the hill behind it into the trees. That part was really scary and he didn’t want to do it more than once. Then back to finish up his feet.

It was a very simple lesson. Easy for him, I was going to say both of us but trimming gets harder all the time. I’m getting old. I didn’t ask for anything challenging or stressful, just enough to leave him with a different memory than the bad one. And I felt SO much better afterwards.

I hadn’t realized how badly the whole thing had affected me. I hadn’t wanted to go work with him. I didn’t want to do anything with him or any of the horses. I felt sick to my stomach and thoroughly shaken. Now I feel, good. My confidence is, mostly, returned. I am assured that he is fine, I didn’t break him, mentally or physically. We are once again on good terms. We both got back on that horse and life is good again.


Coming Down From The High

It seems like every really bad ride is followed by a drastic leap in his understanding. Unfortunately sometimes it also goes the other way. We have been doing so well together. I can watch videos of him and see how hard he is thinking and concentrating on what I ask. It lots of fun to see those wheels turning in his head. His great try and concentration are some of his finer points, but also a big drawback. He needs constant attention and I need to match his concentration in order to keep up with him.

I shouldn’t have brought him inย  in the first place. I was exhausted, so tired I could barely focus enough to keep my eyes open. The morning had been warm after starting out cool and foggy. The kids lay down for their naps and I finally had a chance to enjoy the good weather. When I got outside it was cold and cloudy again. The feel of snow was in the air. My husband went by with a four-wheeler and stopped to talk for a minute. Snow was indeed on the way and the temps were dropping. I told him I would try to work Rusty real quick before it got worse. The next few days were going to be cold and I didn’t want to miss my chance.

He and Onna were standing at the far end of their pen watching Coyote graze out in the wheat field. I called and Rusty came ambling along to answer. From the first second I let him out the gate I could tell that his attention was elsewhere. He knew Coyote was out grazing and kept thinking hard about joining him. I convinced him to come to the yard with me. He stayed and ate while I curried him, but wandered off while I got the saddle out. I tied him to saddle, something I never do. After saddling I turned him loose again then went back into the house to refill treats.

When I came out he was standing at the clothes line. The saddle horn was just touching the first wire. Heart in my throat I tried to circle out around him so I was applying pressure away from the clothes line. Working him like I would a cow. Looking back I probably should have just walked up behind him. He walked that last step forward and felt the wire on the saddle horn. It spooked him forward further which tightened the wire more. He shot forward pulling the posts over. The force of it knocked him onto his butt. He got up and ran sideways, the wire at the horn not allowing anymore forwards. Finally as he sat fighting, off to the side of the clothes line the last wire broke and he trotted off down the drive. Somehow the saddle, loosely tightened, had stayed on his back. Somehow he hadn’t become tangled in the wires and sawed himself to bits. God was watching out for us.

My saddle, that I love so much, did receive some damage. The decorative stingray trim along the front of the pommel was cut through and there were some scratched and scuffs. I am so thankful that it is, for the most part, ok. It is from another time before kids and with lots more riding, back when I could justify the expense. A custom made saddle isn’t anything that will be happening again anytime soon. The clothes line was a complete loss. My husband did not yell at me, quite the opposite. He was very comforting and claimed to have never liked that clothesline anyway. And Rusty seems to be ok. I think he’s a little sore on his left hind. It is extremely likely that it is just me though. I can’t see that he’s actually limping, although I’ve decided he’s slightly short stridded there. My loving and understanding husband is pushing me out the door now to go work with Rusty while I can. Do I really want to leave him with thatย  memory he says? And he’s right I don’t. For a non-horse person he knows what he’s talking about.

So what am I going to do differently to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Well the clothes line is gone. My kind loving husband got it cleaned up this morning. Figuring how to prevent this exact catastrophe is pointless. Not because the clothesline is gone but because it seems like covering a bigger picture would be wiser than one tiny issue. I think we do need to start tying. Maybe not for saddling, I want his feedback and to make sure I’m not rushing and doing things he’s uncomfortable with. But before and after. The times I am running back and forth getting stuff from the house. he does need to learn to stand tied anyway. If we ever do start showing he HAS to know how. Being mat trained isn’t good enough at a busy fairgrounds or parking lot. We will start small, clicking for one second of not pawing and no fit throwing, and build from there. See if my theory really works.

The other big issue, I think, was me not him. I take full and complete responsibility for the accident. Looking back I can see everything I did, every sign of things to come that I missed, everything he said to me very clearly that I didn’t listen to. The cure isn’t to not let him have liberty but for me to know when I shouldn’t be out working him. When I am distracted or too tired. He requires my absolute and complete attention and as much as I know that I need to heed it.


Last One!

The last video from this ride, finally ๐Ÿ™‚
I said I was going to stop being so all over the place working on stops and roll backs. We were going to stick to one thing at a time. And we did! For a couple of rides we did nothing but stop. While working on stopping that is. We worked on lots of other stuff, but not rollbacks. By the time we took this video he was wanting to stop, anticipating terribly. It was great. With an exhale and sitting back he would slam on the breaks. If I hold position he starts to back. I notice in the video it it looks like I’m picking up on the reins. In fact it does apear that do that exact thing. It is one of those habits that you don’t notice until watching the video. While I don’t believe I am putting any pressure on his mouth, just changing hand position, it is still something I want to put a stop to now that I know it is happening.
In a later ride we ventured out again, out of the arena and around the chicken coup. A grand adventure ๐Ÿ˜‰ We went up and down hills and worked on stopping under different circumstances. I was thrilled to get out of our arena again. We haven’t worked on that much since his melt down. I decided he wasn’t ready and that we would get back to it eventually. He was begging to go out on this later ride and was happy to be there so maybe we can start that again. His stop definitely more work while out and about. But I was happy enough with it in the arena to add roll backs again. But that is for next time.


Trying To Learn To Trot

The video starts out with a stunning demonstration of turning on the fore quarters. I thought I had video of us turning the other way but when I watched it I discovered that I had done the same way twice. Oops. I’m not very good at directions
Then we moved on to our main goal. Trotting serpintines though the middle of this was easy enough. Maybe not easy exactly, but we could do it. The main goal though is to trot down the center. We’ve been trotting poles, in a straight line, and it was going well enough. Apparently this ups the difficulty considerably. I thought he was going pretty well, that we had some level of control and straightness. We don’t! Talk about wobbling around drunkenly. We need to go back to poles in a line, this is way beyond our capabilities.
I am greatly enjoying working on things that are new to me and trying to figure out how to do them, and hopefully do them properly, is a fascinating challenge.

Hard Patterns


Here we are doing the same pattern Ava was rocking in the last video. We walked it a couple of times then proceeded to trot. It was much harder than it looked. All of this has me thinking though, I spent my life pursuing that headset. I told my husband last night that i had spent 40 years working on it, he said no, I’m not 40 quite yet and even if I was I didn’t start at birth. He likes to ruin my fun. We decided probably at least 20 years though. From the beginning with a really bad dressage instructor, to a really good one who I wasn’t good enough to fully appreciate or make use of, two great reining and cow horse trainers, years of starting colts and now, finally, playing around with clicker training and not working towards any type of showing and hardly even riding. It figures that now is when I finally truly, I hope, get it. All that time spent pulling on their heads trying to drag them into collection. I read that it comes from behind, I pondered it deeply and wondered how in the world. But I couldn’t figure it out. I think I’ve found it. Not that he is “collected” I don’t want or expect him to be at this point, but he is so soft and giving his head to the slightest pressure. I don’t want him on or, especially, behind the vertical. There are a couple more videos from this ride, I split them up to keep them short and sweet, in one of the others he keeps wanting to go behind the bit. I spend lots of time pushing him to go forward and keep moving to avoid that. I am trying to stay out of his mouth as much as possible while still offering guidance and support. And he is spending most of his time nicely rounded. I love it.

Ava And Coyote

I set up an obstacle course for the kids following a pattern shamelessly borrowed from this blog.ย  Looking at it now I see that I didn’t get it exactly right, Oh well, I’ll rearrange a little. Without trying it myself I then sent the kids off to try it. In the blog she said it was hard. I didn’t doubt her, I just didn’t worry about it. They managed it. Or Ava did. My daughter wanted to ride bareback and, while she does a pretty good job staying on, I didn’t want to test it while she also tried to steer. I held onto her lead rope and led her around it.
The next day I got a chance to ride Rusty. We tried out our ground poles. It was hard! Trotting

in a line down them was more than my green little horse could manage. Serpentining around them pushed his limits. But what fun, I’m leaving it up for a little while and we are going to keep practicing.
After this and our little cross rail they were jumping, my daughter is determined to jump things now and was so thrilled when her mare hopped over one of the poles, I am searching for more fun game ideas to keep them interested. I put out queries on the Internets and got some really good ideas. The one most offered was Simon says, followed by a list of others from egg and spoon to dollar bareback and even jousting. I’m going to have to find some targets, that one sounded really fun. Does anyone have more ideas? I would love to hear what people do to make learning fun and keep kids wanting to ride.
I’ll leave you with a video of Ava rocking the pattern and Coyote being a saint. He used to hate kids, like violently fearful. It’s amazing how well he is taking being a lesson horse.



Look closely, the video doesn’t seem like much but it actually captures a pivitol moment in Rusty’s training.

His first canter!

Only a year, and a half?, later, but who’s counting. Well I am but I try not to. I have lots of reasons, he may have been under saddle since last June but I didn’t ride him all winter or most of the summer, I have no real place to work him, and so on but to me they just sound like excuses.
There was actually lots more to the video, we trotted poles, they were combining just beyond the tree row and the wind was blowing so hard it rained corn dust and debris all over us, lots of good stuff. The camera was set in a bad place though. In my constant search for that one good place to set it I was mt once more with failure. I guess I’ll have to stick with the bed of the pickup, I was hoping for a slightly closer view.
The canter was good though. Short and sweet. As soon as he took it I clicked him for it and he stopped for his treat. There was no bucking or running away. We were even, eventually, able to get it a second time and then once going the other way. It was good.