Bitless

I did that thing that horse people are infamous for. The cardinal sin that everyone knows, or should know, is wrong.

I didn’t mean to do it.  Didn’t even  realize I had until looking back I realized what had happened.

Rusty and I were practicing for our western dressage test. It was our first attempt, the first time i had remembered and gotten  on the ball. The whole thing was very exciting.  I found and chose a test that suited both of us. It was fun and simple,and nothing Rusty wasn’t capable of. Except it called for some stops.

Rusty doesn’t like to stop. he is a very forward hot horse. If he were turned loose he would go all day. Go fast. I rode him in a halter in the beginning then switched to a snaffle when I didn’t like the communication offered by the halter. Then I got my bitless to try out and really liked it so we’ve been riding in that. Because we ride in the bitless doesn’t mean that he’s quieted down any. It only means that he listens to me and does what I ask because he wants to.

When he was plowing through my cues and not stopping I switched back to the snaffle,  to give a little more oomph to my cue when I asked.

It’s a double jointed French link snaffle. Bits don’t get much softer than this. There was no  twisted wire, long shanks, or gags.

That’s why it took me so  long to realize that I had moved to a harsher bit to get training results in stead of TRAINING. A very gentle snaffle that he is used to is still a harsher bit than the bitless, a wide flat rope around his nose with not a drop of leverage. The point isn’t that it’s a soft kind bit. The point and problem is that I put him in it to get him to listen to me better when I pulled on the reins. That I switched to it because he felt dull and unresponsive when I picked up the reins in my usual bit. That I used it to get more response without changing the way I was training.

It’s the trap so many of us fall into. Now I can see how easily it can be done and with the best intentions.

And when I switched? Were the results magically different? Did he suddenly start stopping when asked?

no.

Instead he was stiff. He was no more or less responsive than he had been before. I was more tense and less forgiving because he should know better!

After a couple of days of that I got sick of the communication we had lost somewhere along the way. I was sick of drilling and fighting to get that stop. I said to heck with it. Riding wasn’t fun anymore. If this was what was required to show then we weren’t going to do it.

I put him back in his bitless and got on determined to not be so determined. I wanted to relax and get our mojo back. I wanted the communication and cooperation back. We didn’t stop great. Instead we worked together, got him loose and responding to me again. We worked on all the other parts of training, the listening, from both of us, that leads to a good stop.

Now, having let go of all  of that, we are getting a stop in the bitless again.

 


Western Dressage

A couple of years ago, or something like that, I joined NAWD, North American Western Dressage and I’m guessing there’s an association in there somewhere. I thought Rusty and I could do the ground work tests. I love to compete and we weren’t at a place where we could do any local real type shows.

We never got it done.

This year I received a reminder that there was a ranch horse show coming up. I looked up the tests, found one we would be capable of, did a very little bit of practicing, and got it done!!

Only life can never be that easy.

Our go felt wonderful. Rusty was relaxed, happy, and he even stopped when asked! It was nearly perfect, or felt that way, looking back at video things are never as good as they feel. Finding that center line is hard! Watching the video I realized how far away the GoPro made everything look. It was set not too far away from the marker but even that looked to be far off in the distance and Rusty was the size of an ant. I sent the video to a friend of mine asking if she thought it would work. She was very diplomatic in saying that no, it would not.

Redo number one.

Riding is easiest when I’m home alone. That wouldn’t work for this. I’d have to corner my very busy husband and beg him to film for me. The day was cool and cloudy. The film very dark. It worked though. We had a run that I was very happy with. Watching it I noticed more little things that were wrong, center is SO hard to find apparently and I needed more bra 😉

I got it cut down to only the parts needed and was ready to send it to the friend again to make sure I hadn’t messed anything up this time. When I noticed that I didn’t trot for the first part where I was supposed to.

Grrrr

Managed to get my husband again. Twice in one weekend, it has to be some kind of record.

Rusty did not feel good. He was sick of this pattern and doing it AGAIN. He was off and running for our first try. We went through it fast! Missed most of our marks. I asked for a redo.

Western dressage sounds easy what with being able to do your tests at home and send in a video only once you get it absolutely perfect. In real life it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Getting that perfect run is never easy, even at home. Getting it filmed just right isn’t easy either. Remembering when a show is going on when you don’t have to be there at a certain time is as difficult as getting a couple of weeks to get a test rode and sent in is great.

Our second try of the day was okay. Rusty slowed down a little. I think we mostly found center? The biggest problem is stopping at C. It’s up against the only real barrier in the whole “arena”. You’d think being about to crash into the hay trainer would make it the easiest stop in the test.

Every single time he wants to run through on that stop. Almost only that  stop, stopping is never easy for such a forward horse. We ran over the marker (lick tub) but the rest of the run was good and I did not want to do it yet again. So we  called it good. Now I just need to figure out how to submit the video. Should be simple right? 😉 Except I am incapable of reading directions.

p.s.

No I’m not wearing the same shirt for every ride. Not quite. I may have fallen madly inn love with the shirt and color and bought quite a few of the same one 😉 A solid colored shirt is required so why not choose one I like, over and over again…

 

 

 


Origins

It’s been a few years now. I think it’s time for me to share the story of where Rusty came from again.

I did NOT need another horse. I had two very small children. A small bunch of horses that was perfect for us, older and experienced. I was bored sick. I wanted a horse for me. A young one that I could train on. I was complaining to my mom about it. After I went on for awhile she said there was one that she hadn’t been going to mention to me but maybe I should take a look.
He was on the Forever Morgans Facebook page, he needed pulled NOW. Today. On Halloween. He came with warnings about his behavior and lack of manners, to go to an experienced home only! There were lots of offers to take him, offers to foster and to adopt. How could there not be? He was in that young ugly duckling stage and a plain boring sorrel but his bloodlines were great and even as an  ugly baby he showed promise.

“URGENT!!!!!!! …Foster home needed immediately!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We can’t pull him unless he has a place to go with people who understand he needs training. This horse has ONLY TODAY. If we are going to pull him we need a place NOW. “Rusty” 3 year old reg. Morgan gelding… He is in Washington State. $375.00
Rusty needs someone experienced in handling a young horse who has limited manners. He has a habit of running over people, and showing no understanding of personal human space. That said, he is young, and young horses can be pushy if not taught to understand these things. We are recommending him only for someone who feels comfortable with a horse that needs this sort of training. We are looking for a foster who is willing and ready to help Rusty with his manners which is an important step in his finding a forever home. PLEASE consider helping him – and, again, he has only today. This is a dire situation.

I talked to my husband, figured it would never happen  so there was nothing to worry about and said I’d foster if I was approved. I didn’t even start on the paper work until the next day. The approval took forever, they are fully volunteer staffed and do a thorough check to make sure horses don’t end up back in a bad place after being saved once, I’m not complaining, just saying. All the other offers disappeared somehow. They finally called to say he’d be coming here!

Now what?

I hadn’t really thought I’d end up with him. It was still exciting. We waited for hi to get here. He was on the west coast. It was winter time. Finding a hauler willing to cross all the mountains in the middle of winter was nearly impossible. Finding a break in the weather once one was willing was just as hard.

He finally got here in January. The people hauling him came through ice and snow, sending me pictures of all the vehicles  in the ditches, but they made it safely.

Once he finally got here Rusty was everything they had said and more. He didn’t move away from pressure, he didn’t respond to escalating pressure. He stood there and ignored you no matter how hard you applied….   pressure.
He ran me over a couple of times. Smashed right into me if he spooked or wanted by. Round penning didn’t work. He wasn’t afraid, saw no reason to move just because I asked. I didn’t want to beat him, the only thing that he might consider as incentive to move. We started with the simplest of training, taking long walks down  the driveway. He bounced off the end of the lead, drug me along behind him, wore my hands raw. I was so glad I was only fostering and wasn’t stuck with this horse.

I had started young horses for years. I hadn’t thought teaching this one some manners and respect would be a problem. He was wearing me out.

Then I read a blog post about a lady teaching her horse to fetch. I thought Rusty could do that. He bites everything anyway. I talked to the lady who wrote the blog. I googled trick training. I found a group that did that stuff. They also did clicker training.

I wasn’t against that. I had a book I bought years ago and started my way through before that horse got struck by lightening 🙁

We started with fetch. Ooops. Later I went back and worked on manners and things like that but we were goners. No looking back.

Suddenly instead of yanking on  the lead to try to get Rusty to acknowledge me, I was simply clicking when he was in the proper position and he worked hard to stay there. He still has some issues. Behaviors that are so deeply ingrained from birth don’t simply go away. Now though, his complete lack of fear works in our favor. His headstrong confidence and determination allows us to do anything instead of making him impossible to deal with. By working with him instead of trying to force him to conform I have found a brilliant, willing horse who will try to do anything I ask.

He is by far the best trick and treat that I’ve ever gotten  on Halloween.



Teeter Totter

We finally did it! I started last year working on getting Rusty to stand on the teeter totter. We haven’t worked on it continuously but often throughout the last year. Having my playground out has helped a lot. It’s always there to play on.
Rusty has no problem getting his front feet on it but following with the hind is always a challenge.
After a bit of the usual struggle he managed though!!


Poppy

I finally remembered to take treats with me to the pasture for Poppy! only the first time this summer
I wasn’t sure she would remember what we had been working on. Turns out I was the one who couldn’t think of anything to do. In the end we worked on manners and targeting my hand.
Poppy was great. Then the whole herd came to see what was going on. She was starting to get protective of her resources and I was starting to get worried about the bull too close.
Watching this now I see (hear) that my click is way late! I’m going to have to work on that.



Showing

I joined NAWD a couple of years ago. (that’s the North American Western Dressage association) I had grand plans.
Nothing ever happened. One of the greatest benefits of it is that you can compete from home with video. Apparently that’s one of the biggest draw backs too.
Without having to get out and go to a show I tend to forget and never get around to doing anything.
I haven’t gotten around to actually doing it yet but so far I am kind of remembering this one. There’s a show coming up soon. I need to go look and see when, that whole just not doing it thing 🙄
I have gotten an arena set up, that I have to put away after every use so people can drive in the driveway. And we have done some practicing.
Here’s our practice run. First go at it. I couldn’t remember the pattern. That’s the long pause in the middle that I fast forwarded through
There’s nothing like a test to find holes in your training and I’ve definitely found places that need work. Mostly stopping. Rusty is NOT interested.
Other than that it was nice to have video.I really thought we had found dead center. Looking back it appears we did not.
Now to get to work! And find out when the show actually happen
s.


Baby Calves

Not sure which ‘calf’ this video is actually about.
I brought Ghost out to play for her first time yesterday. Not her first time in a long time, although it was that too, but her first time out of the corral. Her first time on my playground. Her first time out and about at liberty.
She did great. All the extra help was a bit much for her. If we keep getting this much ‘help’ she wont be bothered by anything before long!
I wanted to work on getting her onto the bridge but it some became apparent that that was not an option with all the commotion. We stuck to simple things, leading, standing, and manners, with a bit of mat training although I doubt she noticed that part.
Eventually she said she’d had enough and couldn’t handle the exuberance anymore. She spooked then wandered off to graze.
I let her go because she gets to say no when she can’t handle something. The child and I went and played in the mud for awhile then I came back and played with her a little more before forcing her to go back.
Like my horses she is going to need to learn about halters for that going back out to pasture with her friends part.


Sidepassing The L

In my playground I laid out two poles in an L, always a fun toy.
I finally got to play with Harvey over it. This was his first go. Not bad for being so out of practice.
We took it slow and easy, only asking for a couple of steps at a time. Eventually we will build up to doing the entire L fluidly and with only one click and treat at the end.

 

This is Harvey’s second time sidepassing the L in the playground. First in this direction though. All horses have a preferred side, this is Harvey’s.
We will continue to build on it and eventually be able to perform the whole movement smoothly and with only one click and treat at the end of the L.