dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Steele's First Time

So after our initial meeting I asked the trainer to come back the next weekend while I did my 'homework'. He called me on saturday and we made an appointment for later that afternoon. He asked if this time he could do 'everything'. Not a problem I said.

The remainder is a description of the events as I recall. I may unintentionally misrepresent what the trainer said so please don't take this as his training method but my interpretation of it. I'm also editing a bit so you don't have to read me droning on and on.

I figured he was going to lunge and drive him again. He came with 'stuff' including his own lunge whip (purple), lunge line with chain (I worried a bit about that but more on it later), his helmet and saddle. "I like to be prepared for everything" he said. He also said that it was his job to make sure that this was a good day for Steele, not a bad day.

I groomed Steele and put on his boots. Royce then led him up to the ring. I told him how our week had been including that my leading him through the woods and how he wouldn't spook no matter what I did. he commented that Steele must trust me. Which I would agree with - I trust him as well.

As he started, Royce warned me that it takes as long as it takes. And that he won't hurry the process. That's fine with me. He started in the barn teaching Steele to lower his head with pressure on the poll. The idea is that this is calming to the horse. Once he learned that Royce used it periodically during the session to return to something Steele understood and to help him relax. It was then up to the ring and he hooked on the lunge. He took the line and wound the chain up and over the nose band and through a strap.
The idea of this set up is the the chain does not actually rub or hurt the horse but he can rattle it to make noise as a stimulus if needed. Royce's goals for the lunging were simple- he wanted Steele to respond to his cues to move away, turn, whoa, come closer and follow (but not crowd his space). Initially Steele was quite challenging. He didn't really see why he should listen to this new person. But Royce remained completely patient and clear. He did not run Steele nor did he allow him to run away. In fact any canters were completely Steele's idea not his trainer. Most of the work was mental. By the end Steele was standing perfectly still with Royce 20 feet away and moving in the direction that Royce chose. A few times he had to get very firm (like when Steele challenged his space) but otherwise he was calm and relaxed. He told me that he likes to set up so that a horse can make a choice. Which means that they can make a mistake but when they figure it out they really have it figured out.
Irish was riveted (so that's what it looks like )
at the beginning: "so what are we doing? "
note the listening ears
 He also spent some time rubbing him with the whip. As you can see in the photo Steele is tense and not sure. For the record I do this all the time. I can only attribute it to the fact that he didn't know this guy who was taking such liberties.
note the slack in the line. There was no 'holding' 

Steele relaxed and Irish watching

 this all went on for a while. Then Royce brought Steele over to the gate. I figured that we weren't putting the saddle on next but calling it a day. I was wrong. The saddle went on. He walked him a bit to let him get the feel and then took him to the middle of the ring. He put his foot in the saddle and hopped up a down a few times. Steele didn't move. After a few trials he put his full weight on:

Steele figuring out what was going on Again note the slack in the line
then everything was repeated on the other side

and then he was on. 

He did it so quietly and smoothly that Steele and I didn't notice what happened but there he was. He did this 2 more times and then he dismounted and that was it. Steele was quiet going back to the barn and seemed happy enough to get his hay (after all he hadn't gotten to eat for a LONG time).

That night I took him out to crop on some grass.  I really hadn't thought we were going to get there on saturday. Somehow I expected a bigger a lead up. But I can see how well this went so am not going to argue.

I don't know what he thought about all of this but I know that we are embarking on the next big step of our partnership.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

In Which Steele Meets Someone New

Okay, guys. I am sorry for the simple photo teaser. I was so tired yesterday and I didn't think that I could write a coherent sentence. A little more detail.

As someone pointed out, the person sitting on Steele didn't look like me. Now that Steele is 3 and a half it's time for him to be started out under saddle. As much as I would have liked it to be me I did some careful thinking. I know I have the skills to sit on him and go on if everything goes well. But I'm not a professional trainer and I can't be sure that I'd handle it well if things went wrong. So I decided to put my ego to the side and find someone who could help me start him. Figuring out that would be seemed much like finding someone to date. I made my list:

  1. I wanted somone who's philosophy of training matched mine (not necessarily perfectly but we had to be close), 
  2. Someone who would come to my place. This was for a couple reasons. I'm not a big fan of the '30 days' training as I worry that it could be overwhelming (dpending of course on how it's done) and I wanted to supervise (call me paranoid). 
  3. Someone who was kind and loved horses. It seems weird that I'd need that criteria but I've seen some horse trainers who seem to have no regard for the horses they work with. 
I asked my vet when he came to do the shots and he mentioned a name of a local person. I had heard of him and seen him work with horses. I liked what I saw so thought that I'd give him a call. We spoke on the phone a few times. I told him about Steele and what I wanted. That was back in March. Of course the weather was too nasty to do anything but he gave me some ideas and asked me to call back when I had him started. I connected with him again a few weeks ago and he came out to see us on the Easter weekend.  He watched us work, made some excellent observations about us and gave me some homework. He also drove Steele. I was so impressed with how he handled him and managed to get him wherever he wanted him to go. 

He observed that Steele was starting to invade my space and not reacting quick enough when I told him to get out. My first response was 'no he's not'. Then it was 'well not all the time' and then over the week as I paid more attention and realized that he was right. Steele was starting to be pushy. I also noticed that he was doing the same thing with Irish. Since he arrvied Irish has been the leader but lately Steele is starting to think that this is negotiable. It's all part of growing up (think teenagers). Irish is having none of it. This young whippersnapper is geeting put in his place by Irish. I needed to so the same. It's so easy to fall into that trap- the horse steps into your space and you move without thinking. Next thing you know you're getting pushed around. Of course I never got to that last point but it's good to nip it in the bud. But I digress. 

While Royce was learning about me I was learning about him. This is what I learned:
  1. he seemed to genuinely love horses. He talked about riding being his get away and his face got that far away look that horse people do
  2. he believed in working at the horse's pace. I heard phrases 'it takes as long as it takes' and 'every horse is different' 
  3. He was careful 'I won't get on a horse until I can ride him from the ground'. He told me I should wear a helmet when lunging and he always wore one when riding and training
  4. he was fair. "I can make a horse do whatever I want but there's no point. You have to let the horse learn" which means allowing them to make mistakes and showing them what you want. 
  5. he believes that the whorls on a horse (where the hair swirls) tells you about them. Apparrently Steele's say that he's sensitive, hot blooded and smart. Sounds like a Spanish horse to me. 
He showed me how to teach Steele to ground tie and advised that I also go back to single ties because 'every horse needs to know how to tie'. I agree. I believe that horses need to know how to cross tie too (which he doesn't like but hey, it's my horse). I had a good feeling a wrote the check for the session knowing i got my money's worth. We made a date for the next weekend to carry on. 

To be continued..
hang on Steele your life is about to change

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guess What Happened Today?

And since I'm exhausted from my day and a picture says a 1000 words this will have to suffice until I rest.

But I promise more details are coming.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Steele gets worked twice in one day

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day. I'm so enjoying this spring weather so far. While it would be nice to be a bit warmer when you are out moving around it feels just fine. Irish had a date in the afternoon so I decided to work Steele in the morning.

What I forgot to tell you yesterday was that when we were practicing our driving he was quite relunctant to go down to the 'spooky corner'. I know that I don't have the skills to just take him there but it was important that we go. I can't have a horse that's easy to steer only when we go where he wants! So I put on my patience hat and we slowly and surely made our way down to that corner. Think how a sail boat tacks back and forth. Or that we looked drunk. We probably looked like a drunk sailboat.

So on Saturday I decided that we'd start our lunging session down in the spooky end. I do vary up where I start and where I finish in the ring. We work our way up and down. I also had the pole out for us to practice going over. And he was perfect. Whatever I asked for he gave promptly and obediently and did not spook even a little bit. Even when we heard Irish groaning in the next field. He was rolling and making the loudest noise possible while Steele was being worked. Coincidence I'm sure. I then hooked up the lines to practice driving. Again there were no real issues- other than our steering is awkward. Irish is riveted by the driving: while he largely ignores our lunge work he stares the whole time when I do that.
I believe that if you work hard in one training session and the horse gives you everything you ask for in the next one you should stop early. So I did.

That afternoon Irish's young friend came out for a session with him. It went very well- he had a lot of forward that we channeled. It was nice to see his trot get it's bounce back. The nice thing about Irish is that he will always give you what he thinks you're asking for. It helps with learning how to ask correctly. Steele was in the next paddock. He made sure that Irish realized that he was free. First he napped right up by the fence, then he spent some time running up and down the fence singing songs like 'born free' and 'baby we were born to run'. He then rolled, loudly and with gusto:
how do you like it huh? (photo by Cynthia)
Irish did a good job tuning out these antics. When it was time for him to cool out I went and collected Steele from the paddock. I figured that this was an ideal time to teach him that he can work in the ring with other horses. This is, of course, impossible, when I'm by myself so I wanted to take advantage. I was prepared that he would be distracted and want to head to his buddy. He did none of it. He simply lunged like a mature horse is supposed to. We then stood there while Irish went around us. Again he didn't react in any way.

So all in all Saturday was a success.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Very Busy Friday

I love long weekends. It seems that I can get so much done with those extra days. After putting approximately 1600 km on the car the past two weeks for work I was more than ready for the Easter Weekend.

We are starting the spring clean up. Now that the snow is melted we need to clean up the mess. I've been working at cleaning up the pile of hay and manure left behind. Usually I keep the small paddock cleaned up but this winter didn't have any breaks that allowed me to keep it clean. As a result the hay and poop just keep layering on top and freezing. I've been tackling it bit by bit. Today I found ice under the pile. I guess that hay really is a good insulater.

After working at that for a while I got Steele ready for work. He had quite a bit of energy today which was cute. I pulled out a cavaletti to introduce something new. I started by leading him back and forth and then put him on the lunge. We started at the top end of the arena (I usually start in one end and work my way to the other).  I also introduced the idea of halting and then changing direction. At first he was quite confused but caught on quickly. One time as soon as I asked him to whoa he stopped and then turned without me asking. I then worked him down to the cavalletti. It took a few tries to work out how much line to give him and convince him that yes, I really did expect him to walk and trot over it rather than go around. After a few passes we worked our way farther down. This end seems to have a spooky corner. I get it- there's a field with things in the disance on one side and trees waving in the wind on the other. I was impressed on how I could his brain focussed on him and was just starting to feel smug when he gave this humongous spook and bolted. Somehow in this spook he got his front leg over the line so that it was going from the cavesson, down his outside shoulder and behind his front leg.

"well now your in a mess' I said but before I could get out the full sentence he braked to a stop (as soon as he felt the line between his legs) and looked at me to sort this out. He stood stock still as I pulled the line from between his legs. I was very proud. Outcomes are much better if a horse comes to a halt when they get in a mess than if they panic.

After a bit more work I finished and headed into the house for lunch. After lunch Ed and went out to tighten up the fencing. With the ice the tape had some major sag. Some of the posts were loose as well. Because we use Horse Guard fencing every so many poles has a tensioner on it. This requires a drill with a screw bit to loosen. Ed and I have it down to a science. I loosen and tighten the clips and tensioners while Ed is the 'muscle' pulling the tape taut and pounding in the posts. Who says romance is dead? Anyway the horses quite enjoy this new entertainment. Steele is convinced that if could just get his hooves on the drill then the fun could really start. I couldn't resist taking this shot with my phone:
Steele: Irish you distract him and I'll grab the drill.
Irish: I think she has the drill
Steele: dang it!
With help like this who needs enemies.

Once the fence was done I changed and tacked up Irish. He has been so soft in the bridle and fluid that our rides have been a true joy. I now realize what was missing the past few years. However, after about 40 minutes I hit the wall and no longer had any oomph left. I decided to end while it was still good. I left Irish in the cross ties while I got the stalls ready for night time. I noticed that he was restless. I looked at him and then I realized:
Me: "Irish I think you need to pee"
Irish: "No kidding! Hurry up"
I quickly got his stall ready. I then took off his halter and he walked briskly into his stall for relief. I then fed the horses and headed back into the house.

Ed asked what I wanted for supper. I told him that we were going out. We had a lovely supper and beer at a local restaurant- Ed had pan fried haddock with lobster sauce and I had my favourite: Chicken avacado club with sweet potato fries.

So today I worked on my strength, core, flexibility and cardio. Who needs a gym membership? I am now just holding on until I crawl into bed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Voices in My Head

It was a dark and stormy night when I was jolted out of a sleep.
what was that?
It was just the wind.
You should check the horses. 
The horses are fine. 
How can you be sure?
Why wouldn't they be fine? I can't hear any calling or banging. 
Maybe something else woke you. You should check, just to be sure. 
I'm tired and they're fine. 
How do you know? 
Because there's no reason to think that they are NOT fine. 
What if you woke up because something is wrong? 
What? Seriously? I'm not psychic. 
Well there was that research you did in university? 
Oh sure bring that up. I participated in one study in which I predicted a card at a greater than chance. Sitting in a dark room after exams were over-  I was half asleep at the time.
Well you're 'half asleep' now....
No I'm almost fully asleep. If you would.just.shut.up.
What was that?
You should check the barn. 
Oh for heavens sake. 

I get up and go downstairs. For all appearances the barn looks fine. But I know that's not good enough. I put on my boots and jacket and head out to the barn. The wind is wild. My female Aussie Belle is at my side. Perhaps out of loyalty but I suspect she has to pee and forgot to earlier when she was out. I slide open the barn doors. Steele nickers.
Irish: What's wrong? Should we FLEE?
Me: No, it's all fine. 
Steele: Hi. what are you doing up? I'm glad to see you. Someone ate all my hay. See! It's gone. I'm awfully hungry.
I give him half a flake of hay. I pat Irish on the nose. I secure the barn doors and head back into the house. Ed is sound asleep and oblivious. I lay down.
See I told you it was all fine. 
But you feel better right? 
Maybe. I'll feel better if I go to sleep. 

I used to joke that the voices in my head told me I was fine. But I now suspect that they are trying to drive me crazy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring is here

The weather is warmer, the grass is starting to turn green and I no longer have to wear insulated coveralls to do the barn chores. I'm in heaven.

Today dawned beautiful and sunny but it was supposed to cloud over later. I decided that it made sense to play first and then do chores.

I started with Irish. When I went to get him he was all worked up over something. No idea what but he was running around. It did allow me to see how sound he was. I finally got him and brought him into the barn. He was still agitated. In the past I would have been frustrated with him and showed it. Now I just spent a few minutes stroking his forehead and talking to him until he relaxed. I then got him ready. With all the time off he's had he has no topline and limited stamina. My goal is to slowly build both back up. I've started timing my rides so that I don't over do it in my enthusiasm. Today I added in more canter work including simple changes through trot. At first going across the diaganal he got a little over enthused and tried to rush the change and invert. I just kept him to trot and made him get back on the aids before we transitioned. On the 4th one he was soft and smooth. I did two more and called that quits. I also added in haunches in and shoulder in at the trot. Two years ago he completely resisted this and became quite stiff. Today it was no big deal. It was hard to not push for more but I didn't want to undo all our good work. After I gave him a nice groom and then decided to clip his head. He always grows long winter fur along his jawline. Now that winter is over I decided to clip it.

Then it was Steele's turn. He headed up to the ring like a seasoned pro. I warmed him up on the lunge and at first he was all calm, cool and collected. I was not fooled. When I asked him to canter it was calm and contained but then decided to have a bit of fun. "Fun" translate into leaping forward trying to fly while not pulling on the line. Fortunately this never lasts long. He's quite cute. When I ask him to halt he stops perfecdtly, arches his neck and then looks at me as though to say 'arn't I perfect?' After he was warmed up I hooked on the side reins. Each time I do this he stretches more and more.

After about 10 minutes I stop and gave him a pat. I then took off the side reins and hooked up the two lines to do some ground driving. This was the second time this year. He's really not so sure about this whole steering thing but I remain patient and try to make my instructions clear and soft. I headed down to the back of the ring. He was not so sure he wanted to head down there and tried to duck away. I kept circling him down that way. When we got down there he was okay for  minute and then gave this big spook and tried to spin and bolt away. I let go of the outside line and just stood still. He stopped immediately and looked at me. I came up to him. The other line was under his feet. This is where all that work of having lines and other stuff waving around his hind legs comes in handy. I could simply stand there and pull it back through his hind legs while he stayed dead still. We circled the ring a few times and practiced turning left, turning right and 'whoa'. It was pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

The last few minutes I spent at the mounting block beside him. His job is to stand still and not move no matter what I do. I practiced climbing up and jumping off the block on both sides. I draped myself over him. I waved a line along his sides. He never moved an inch. I windmill my arms as I jump down. This earned me a look. He then nudged me with his nose. It was like he was saying 'get on with it already'.  I was so tempted. But he doesn't have his saddle yet. I must be patient. Besides there's a lot more steering work to do.

I love spring. Especially right now when there's no bugs.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Spoonful of Sugar

Sorry, I couldn't resist the title. Mary Poppins is one of my favourite movies (and books when  I was young). The musical is coming to Halifax and I can't wait to see it!

A few weeks ago my vet came out and vaccinated my horses. I am a strong believer in vaccines for animals and people. There are a lot of topics that I will avoid because I know that the conversation will get heated and usually there's no point. Except for vaccines. I will engage in those conversations simply because I can't let such misinformation go unchallenged.

To return to the topic of vaccines. My vet always leaves the strangles vaccine to be administered later. Otherwise he worries that it will get into the wound made by the needle. I have no problem administering it and I always wait a few weeks. I know that not everyone believes in giving the vaccine but many years ago I had a chance to see close up how horrible Strangles is.

I bought my first horse from the people who owned the stable I was taking lessons at. It turns out that they weren't good people but that's another story. They agreed to board a couple horses who were being taken in by a local rescue. Rather than quarantine these horses they put them in with all the others. It turns out that one of them had Strangles and it rampaged through the barn. My horse got very very sick. When the vet came out he mentioned the vaccine. I was so naive in the ways of horse ownership that I had believed the stable owners when they said that they arranged for the vaccines of the horses (when no one was there) and would make sure my horse got his shots. Turns out they didn't get the Strangles vaccine. I was shocked and upset and said that had I known I would have paid for it. Their response was that it was all my fault because I hadn't asked for it. My poor horse was quite ill with high fever, swollen glands, trouble breathing and he couldn't eat for many weeks. I was also sick with guilt and anger. He did recover but he always had a residual cough.  I learned 3 things from this incident:

  1. if I was going to be a horse owner I couldn't depend on the knowledge of others or that they would share it with me. I needed to make sure I gained knowledge and find out not only what I didn't know but also what I didn't know I didn't know. 
  2. Always always always be there when the vet comes. 
  3. vaccinate. not only does it save needless suffering it's also cheaper in the long run
I had the vaccine in the fridge and was waiting for a time when Ed (or someone else) could assist. I wasn't in a real hurry but then  I heard that there is Strangles outbreak so when I returned from a work trip on friday I decided that it had to be done. 
It's quite simple to mix:
  1. I use the needle to poke a couple holes in the powder vial. I remove the saline solution from the other and then transfer to the powder. 
  2. shake vigourously
  3. draw out the mixed vaccine into the syrine. 
  4. remove the needle and attach the long straw. 
This straw needs to go up the nostril of the horse and then you depress the plunger. That's where you need the assistance as horses don't really like things going up their nose and it's hard to explain to them. We did Irish first. He was easy- he didn't even flinch when I put the straw up his nostril and happily took his carrot reward. 

Steele however was not so sure how he felt about all this. We put on his halter and brought him in. He immediately began to fuss and prance but I hadn't done anything so was confused. I then saw that Ed had a death grip on his halter. "Don't hold him so tight" I said. He gave me that exasperated look that only those that live with you can give. I laughed. "I know that I asked you to hold him and now I'm telling you to let go but think for a minute. If I suddenly grabbed you and held your arms tight your first response would be to pull away. So relax your hold unless he pulls back". Fortunately that made sense so he relaxed. However, every time the straw approached his nose he pulled back and shook his head.

'nah uh. stop it'

I tried a few times but he was too nimble with his head and figured out that he could blow the straw out too. It was becoming remarkably similar to trying to get a toddler to take his medicine. He wouldn't even allow himself to be distracted by the carrot.  Hmm. I do have a twitch but didn't want to stop and get it. So I took my hand pinched his upper lip and while he was looking at that put the straw up and depressed the plunger. It was over in 2 seconds. His lip curled up and he blew - right in Ed's face. I tried to not laugh. I had expected that so was off to the side but forgot to warn Ed (don't tell him, k?). He happily took his carrot after that and didn't seem too upset by the whole thing. 

But now they are fully vaccinated and I can breathe a little easier knowing that I've done my best to keep them safe. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Enjoying the Warm Sun

Monday after working with Steele I had lunch. After I headed out to get Irish for a ride. Every time I go outside I automatically look for the horses to see what they are doing. I spied this:

I quietly changed course to the car where I had left my camera. Like any good paparazzi I began to snap photos as I advanced on my target
Irish: uh oh, here she comes.
Steele: zzzzzzzzzzzzz
what? you wore me out and the sun feels so good
I didn't want him to get up but I thought he was so cute. But I should have known- he always comes to me in the field.
okay. where's my carrot? 

After I rode Irish (it went very well and no sign of soreness so far. 
Later that day at the office water cooler.....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Steele update: Sessions 5, 6 & 7

I promise to stop the counting soon. It just helps me to keep it all in perspective. First of all he's growing (again) and turning into quite a handsome horse. His coat is sleek (even though he's shedding). His weight looks perfect and he's starting to look in proportion. I noticed recently that his whither has suddenly appeared.

As you know I've been reviewing last year's work to make sure there are no holes.

Session 5 was friday. I hurried home from work and got him ready. I wanted to work him before my friends arrived. I locked Irish in the barn and we headed up to the ring. He was alert but not too bad. As usual we had a few discussions about speed. Him wanting to barrel around and me convincing him that he's not a kite. I had to get a bit firm but it didn't take long to get him settled. It never does. Once the initial 'whee' is done he goes to work. I didn't spend too long on it. I then unhooked him and we did some work with him at liberty. We worked on turns on the forehand, backing up and baby leg yields.

He was doing well and then he got distracted by the grass that's starting to grow by the side of the ring. He headed over to eat so I used my lunge whip to get him moving. He doesn't get to pick when he works and when he doesn't. He trotted off and then spied d'Arcy laying by the side of the ring. He decided that he had never ever seen a dog before. Especially a black and white border collie. The one that photo bombs all his pohtos. He leapt in the air - straight up with all four legs straight. I swear that his hooves were 2 feet off the ground. When he landed he took off snorting down to the other side of the ring. I had to laugh. I couldn't help it. But I didn't move from my spot. I just stood there. He slid to a stop at the end and looked at me. He blew loudly. I didn't move. He started trotting down to me and about 20 feet away broke into a gallop and came towards me. I just stood there. He blew by me and I didn't react. He came to a stop behind me and I could feel him looking at me but I stayed still. I heard his footfalls coming in behind me and I felt his breath on my neck. I then picked up from where we were.

Session 6 was Sunday (it rained all day Saturday). The weather was sunny and feeling definitely warmer. I needed to do some chores first which included dragging the ring. I quite enjoy dragging the ring. I'm not sure why but I find it very relaxing.

I got Steele ready and we headed up to the ring. As we approached the ring I could feel him getting excited. I'm not sure if it was the weather, the dog in the next field or the sound of cows mooing but he grew about 6 inches taller and began to prance. Since he wasn't trying to pull away I just kept walking. Once in the ring I got him on the lunge line and we went to work. He was feeling nice and forward. Too forward. He wanted to just careen around but once again we worked on control. It took little time at all to get him settled but then we had the opposite problem- he didn't want to go forward. I asked him to trot and he gave a little shuffle and then back to walk. Um. what? No. That's not what I want. I asked him to trot on again. He halted and looked at me. As approached with the lunge whip to send him forward. He began to back up. I made sure that I wasn't causing it by coming at his head but he still was telling me that he did not want to go forward. Using very strong body language and a snap of the whip I sent him forward. I guess that it makes sense that we'd have discusions about this so I wasn't surprised. Once I had him forward I put on the side reins to get him stretching into contact. He did well at the walk but less well at the trot. He couldn't quite figure out how to deal with the side reins and trot. I let him figure it out but gave him lots of breaks. The reins were not remotely snug but they were another thing to deal with.

After a few minutes both ways with the side reins I took them off. I then walked him out to the middle of the ring where I put the mounting block. My goal was him to stand beside it while I went up and down beside him. I've done this in the winter in the barn but not up in the ring. He was interested in the ring but quite happy to stand still. I walked up one step and then down. After repeating that a few time I went up the two steps and down. He just stood there. I then went up the mounting block and jumped off. This is to simulate the dismount. He flicked an ear but didn't move. I repeated this a few times and he seemed to be Mr. Cool.

Session  7 was Monday. Today it's warm and sunny. There is a definite feeling of spring. I got Steele ready and we headed up to the ring. If you had been watching me you would have been completely bored. He had no interest in running around at all. He was responsive and listening right from the get go. After a warm up in both directions I put on the side reins again. This time his walk was lovely and over the back. He struggled a little at the trot and then he seemed to figure it out. We did lots of walk-trot transitions and then changed direction. After the side reins were done I unhooked them and then hooked on the two lunge lines to do a bit of ground driving. This is the first time this spring. It was a total non-event. I walked around the ring steering pretty well and halting. I only did this for about 10 minutes and then I called it a day. He stood still while I unhooked him and then followed me to the gate.

I'm pleased with how we're doing to date. I will admit that I'm letting him set the pace to a certain extent. I'm sure that there are times when I could push him a bit harder but I prefer to back off before he gets sore or tired so that he doesn't start to resent the work. It's easier to build on success then repair failure. And if I was a professional I'm sure that he'd be farther along. Which reminds me- time to give him a call...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Irish teaches a lesson

A week or so ago I stopped on my way home from the city and watched a friend's daughter ride in a lesson. The horse she was riding was a cute sorrel QH (I think QH, I could be wrong) but he was so rigid. I watched a horse that was stiff from nose to tail and would not bend. Common enough in horses that are defending their backs and mouths from riders at different levels. The young woman was riding him well and softly but she was hitting her head on a wall getting him to bend.

I thought on what I saw and then spoke to my friend. I was a little worried because I didn't want to come off as criticizing in any way. But what I was thinking that was that Irish also can be stiff. But he knows how to respond to suppling and I thought that he could help her learn some skills to supple a horse that she could transfer to the horse she was riding. Fortunately, no offense was taken and we made a date- friday. And since they were driving from away I figured that they might as well stay for supper. And in that case Dad might as well come to and entertain Ed. I was a little worried earlier in the week because the weather became cold again (seriously, will winter never leave?). However, thursday my ring was bare and soft so we went ahead.

Now Irish has rarely been ridden by others. Not that I refuse to let others ride him but I'm very very careful about it. One thing is that given his past issues and his sensitivity I don't want him hurt. And because he's sensitive he's not a 'beginner' horse and I don't want a person hurt.

On friday, I hurried home from work, changed my clothes and brought Steele up to the ring to work first (more on that later). I then groomed Irish who seemed to have spent a large part of his day grinding mud into his long winter coat. They came just as I was finishing. We tacked him up and headed to the ring.

I really enjoyed it. The young lady was a great listener and tried very hard to do whatever I was suggesting. Irish was wonderful as well. Given that he's only been ridden a few times this winter I was pleased. It's always fun to watch your horse go- it gives you a perspective that you can't get riding. He seemed to take his role as 'teacher' very seriously. When she asked properly he responded as he should. When she didn't he didn't. We talked about lateral and longitudinal suppling, corners and leg yields. I won't bore you with the details but we all had a good time.

Irish was quite pleased to be the center of attention rather than play second fiddle to the baby. The 'baby' was stuck down in the barn and periodically let his thoughts on this be known. We all ignored him.

I was glad that my instincts were correct that Irish and her would get along.

She's welcome back anytime.
no one can resist my charms

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Eat your greens!

If you've read my posts about feeding Irish you know how much I've experimented and thought. And experimented and analyzed and thought some more. And recently I thought that I cracked it.

Recently he started leaving some of his alfalfa/beetpulp mix in the morning. Initialy I didn't think much of it but it began to be more and more. At first I thought that perhaps he had too much. I tried feeding him less hay at night. No change, he started leaving more. I tried giving him less of the alfalfa/beet pulp mix. That helped a bit but it was counterproductive. He was interested enough in the morning grain so I figured he wasn't full.

I know in the past he's gone off beet pulp so I began to wonder.....maybe the alfalfa wasn't disguising the beet pulp as much as I thought. So this week at supper time I left the beet pulp out all together. In the morning the soaked alfalfa was all gone. But one night is not enough to reach a conclusion. So for the past few days I've only fed alfalfa. Every morning it was all gone.


Last night I put in the smallest handfull of beet pulp in the alfalfa. It was about 1/4 cup. I added the water and let it soak up.
This morning there was a small pile left in his feed bucket. I looked at it. It was virtually all beet pulp. It was as successful a hiding peas in mashed potatoes. Somehow my fussbudget spent the night carefully sifting through his evening feed taking only the alfalfa.

I have to face the inevitable.

Irish will not eat beet pulp.

It doesn't matter how I try to hide it.

Oh well. At least he eats the alfalfa. This evening he tucked right in to his pure alfalfa with the most delighted an innocent face ever seen on a gelding.

Outsmarted. Again.
I like what I like. You need to accept that.