Thursday, June 14, 2018

Do we laugh or cry?

Over all the years I have been with horses, I have to say that while the animals themselves do things that amaze me, it's the people around them that don't often thrill me. Some of them scare me, some puzzle me, I find myself shocked, amazed, appalled, disappointed, disgusted and sometimes I just shake my head because there are no words.

The other night I was on CL and found an ad for horse training. The photos showed a horse in work and all looked well enough that I clicked on it. What I found in the ad, well I'm not even sure what the hell it means.

The person claims to train "using mainly negative reinforcement." Then goes on to say they also use positive reinforcement, but also positive punishment and negative punishment.

Is that confusing enough? What the merry fluck? I can't imagine how the horses learn anything. Positive punishment? Is that when the horse is positively going to be punished?

Most people use positive reinforcement or rewarding good behaviour. When the horse does what we wanted them to- we praise them, pat them, tell them how good they are and let them know that This is what we wanted. This is how they learn what to do to please us.

Trying to figure out what the ad poster meant by negative reinforcement and negative punishement, I can only imagine the ways they make the horses life unpleasant for the moment. In doing this, do they feel proud of themselves? 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How I got here...

In the last post I mentioned that I have been riding a filly at the barn. She's a cute little now 4 y/o, red pinto with 4 stockings and minimal white markings otherwise. She's a flashy little thing for what she is, but some of you may be wondering how this came to be? And that's a good question.

One of the girls at the barn had a cute little palomino filly. Classy was about 14.3 and pretty green, so her owner was going to train her and eventually run barrels on her. At some point the filly scared the girl and that was that. I think what it was, was letting her boyfriend ride Classy and he got into her a lope and the filly bucked.

One time while she was riding Classy and having issues, I asked for her phone.  I had her put it on video so I could give her a clear idea of what was going on and why things were going wrong. She was hanging onto the reins almost like her life depended on it. There was no release and very little give to her hands. Although she felt like her hands were soft and following, they weren't. I had told her several times before to drop her hands, let her go, give her some release.... to no avail. When I had it on video to show her, there was no denying it.

She tried to self correct. She tried to let go of the reins and trust her horse, but the damage had been done. Classy had never made a bad move with her, but after seeing her buck with her boyfriend, she knew Classy was capable of doing it at any time. Just the idea of her horse going all NFR on her had her unsettled. She was beat before she got started.

Classy was up for sale thru no fault of her own and within a short time there was a buyer on the line, cash in hand and ready to close the deal. Problem was, he wanted to see her work under saddle. Who wouldn't? Her owner admitted she was scared to get on her.

I had gotten to the barn that night as she had saddled Classy and had her working in the round pen. "Hey Linda, ya wanna jump on her for me?" Well sure. I had her walking and trotting both directions on a fairly loose rein, and stopping with a shift of weight and a calm, soothing "whoa". As I got on Classy, there was a number of people that started coming to the round pen and gathering on the rail to watch.

The buyer asked if I could get her to back up and when I first tried to, she was a bit resistant. I worked Classy a little more as her owner and the buyer talked and soon I asked for he back again and got it. Classy dropped her head and stepped back as I moved each rein and signaled with my legs. I asked if he wanted to see her lope, but he had already made his decision. Horse was sold and her owner could move on to another horse.

There have been a number of horses come and go since Classy, but this one, she decided to let me start and work on. Funny thing is, I have asked her to get on this filly several different times and she has yet to do it. This filly has never made a bad step, and yet she won't get on her.

I told her the other day that one of these days she's going to get on this filly and that will be it. I won't be able to get her Off and she'll be hounding the Hell out of me to ride her again....

Monday, May 21, 2018

Good Reads

Since I've been riding a filly at the barn and she would make a really nice looking Hackamore horse, I felt the need to read up on the subject. I put together a hackamore for her, piece by piece for a total of around $50. Much less than buying one all put together. Lol

Using the hackamore, I felt it could use a fiadore to help balance the bosal, so I went in search of one and found a book instead on eBay.

My book was $18 and change and going back to get the picture and a link, I see they're up to $19 and change. Still not a bad deal. Reading into this, I soon learned I don't actually need a fiador. It is used sometimes but not when training. The fiador is actually only there to keep the hackamore on the horse when it is being led or tied. Okay? So scratch that idea....The book is co-authored by Al Dunning and while my ex liked to talk smack about him, by not having any personal dealings with Mr. Dunning, I reserved judgement. In reading this book and seeing the proof in the photos, it sounds just like my ex- a case of jealousy and blaming others even though he very well could've done a lot more with his life. Remember people- Talking smack doesn't bring them Down to your level, just like it doesn't Elevate you to theirs either. Apparently there was a lot I needed to learn about bosals, hackamore horses and the training that goes into them. Also some of the things that were used long ago, while they might be perceived as tacky and unnecessary, they had a place and a purpose for their use. There is a lightness in the bridle that can be reached without even putting a bit in the horses mouth. Achieving this also teaches the horse self carriage, both of which we desire.The hackamores were also used to preserve the softness of the horses mouth as the teeth were erupting, baby teeth were lost and the bite changing. All of that going on in the horses mouth can already leave it sore, besides adding a bit, contact and the various pulling and tugging on it trying to get our point across.So what do I think about the book? I'm glad I bought it. There's definitely a lot in there for me to learn and having it in my collection- I can always go back and read it to refresh my memory and change what I'm doing to Fix things, making it better for the horse. Blessed are the horses whose rider is always willing to learn and improve.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


This post has been kicking around in my head for a while and sitting here in the drafts. There have been things happening that have made me think about it and how it pertains to training and riding in general.

Horses are reactive animals, meaning they simply react. They don't think about things and plot out a way to respond, they just react.  Sometimes they resist and sometimes they give us exactly what we ask for, but it's the simple truth of every action warrants a reaction.

There are a million and one little things we can do in the saddle that changes the way of going in our horse and those little things may be what wins us a class. When we put a leg on their side, they either bend a little more, move over a little, reach up under themselves more or maybe change gaits, depending on how the cue is applied, the timing of it and what other cues are given with it. When we sit up a little straighter improving our own posture, it changes the way the horse moves as they shift their own bodies to change the way they balance us on their back. Even the little things like looking where you want the horse to go makes a difference.

Bringing your shoulder back can stop us twisting our upper body and straighten the horses line of travel. If your lower leg seems to be loose or out of position, standing up in your stirrups and sinking into your heel can help put it back where it belongs. Bringing your inside leg back slightly can shift the rear end over, again helping to straighten the horses line of travel.

If the horse is fresh and we come down a little hard on them, they may react a bit explosively. Our intensity in using the cues is comprable the amount of reaction we get from the horse. If we are light and subtle in asking, the horse should ease into the movement we asked for. If we kick them hard and spur them forward, they will likely take off faster than hoped for or maybe even buck.

One of the boarders at the barn, seems to yell at his horse contantly. Combine that with him giving the horse a lot of cues at once- all mixed messages of course- and it's not often they get anything accomplished, let alone done well. The horse I have learned, is pretty well trained so it's clear where the issues lie. This is the same guy that seems to be trying to impress everyone. He's making an impression all right....

Saturday, April 28, 2018

People talk....

We ALLLLLLL know how much people in the horse world just LOVE to talk. When the story is good and juicy? Boy how they love to talk.... Lately I find myself at the middle of a lot of things at the barn. Before everyone thinks people are talking smack about me, they're not. As it turns out, it's the opposite.

Although my mare's weight is up and down and right now she's sore, she still looks good and has a silky, soft, shiny coat. I am proud of her, even if I can only hand graze her at the moment. My little man- people are amazed at him being 19 years old and the one kid keeps asking if I'm going to work him, because he loves watching him go. Part of it is that the kid is amazed I can make him work like that without being on his back.

There has been a few times the barn owner has, in ways, admitted he doesn't know many of the things I do. He has made statements of "Do what Linda did" when talking about treating a horses wound or even told me that the horse I was working at the moment looked really good. Just last night he asked if I would clip his mules.

The other night at the barn, one of the horses coliced. Everyone had their ideas of how to get the horse to feel better. The one guy was literally chasing the poor thing around the round pen (at a full gallop, cracking the whip repeatedly) and had been for a while. I had the meds and know how to use them so after the owner said "Yes, Please!!!!" I gave the horse some chemical relief.  He was able to relax and instead of them running the hell out of him to keep him from rolling, they were able to walk him around. He did go to the vet and was there for almost a week and I'm hapry to report- he pulled thru.

I have been riding and training the one pony at the barn. A couple weeks ago, speaking to one of the ladies in the group gathered under the trees, apparently they had been watching the workout. She told me they love watching the horses workouts and that I ride like the Boss. (Well That was totally different from before- you know, hearing that my ex had been telling everyone he trained my horses for me. Insert massive eye rolling! HAHAHAHA!)

Part of the new group at the barn has been a few younger kids.  One of them has a younger filly and admittedly he is having some issues with her. Last night he was saying he could not get her into the wash rack. at. all. She wasn't going in, no way, no how. I always like a challenge so I bet him I could get her in. I clipped my lunge line on her and he said something about how his filly was probably going to break it. I walked her up to the wash rack and let her stop for a second. When I asked her to step forward and walk in, she did. No issue and I never even uncoiled my rope. He stood there staring in disbelief and said, "You're shitting me, right?"  I put her in the wash rack and took her out a few times and then had him do it. He could not believe the change.

So people don't think I'm feeling all high and mighty over these things, I just always think to myself- there is a better way. There is always a better way to do things. Helping the horse not to suffer thru a human issue is worth it. That's payment to me. And still when people thank me, I have to remind myself not to self depreciate, but to just shut it and accept the compliment.  Ffs- thank them too!  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Good with the bad

About three weeks ago I rode my TB mare and while she did well enough in the round pen, we have hd issues getting just a walk down the driveway. Since she's barefoot and there's some decently size rocks, she had a step or two that hurt. I figured she may have gotten a stone bruise and when we got back to the barn I hosed her legs off, gave her some bute and put her away.  Nothing major, right?

Spoiler- Things haven't gotten any better. Totally sucks! But unlike my ex, when my horse is lame and hurting, I do what I can and when I can do no more, I take them to a vet.

So after soaking her foot and digging around in the sole with a hoof knife and hoping it was just another damned abscess, having her trimmed and hoping the farrier might find something and open it up.... and she's still lame, I made another appointment for her. I swear she is becoming one of those vet Dream Horses.  The tech that came out today asked "Oh is this the one with the knee again?" Yes. Yes it is. Thanks! Argh

I was getting xrays of her left front hoof. Seemed like it would or could be either founder or the beginning of navicular. At this point I was feeling like if it were either one, the most humane thing would be to put her down. I was at that point not too long ago when she came in from turnout with her 'good' knee swollen to the size of her bad one. That time too, I had decided going in- if her good knee was going to be like her 'bad knee', there was no point in putting things off and letting her suffer.

I'm also beginning to think this mare likes being at the vet clinic for some strange reason. The three times we've been there, she just stands quietly and looks around, twitches an ear this direction and that. Sometimes she even looks like she's about to doze off.  While at home and when hauling to different arenas to ride- she can often get so worked up about being in new place that it's obnoxious and annoying.

After hearing the rundown of everything that has happened and hoping it was an abscess or could be a stone bruise, figure it could be this or that and hoping it's neither one.... he put the hoof testers on her. Nadda. No reaction whatsoever. He agreed that rads would be the only way to find out what's going on inside.

Five pics later... No rotation of the coffin bone- not foundered, no degeneration- not navicular, no real issues to speak of until he got to the last one. Of course she's complicated. She couldn't be a one shot and done, there's your answer now go home, kind of horse. Nope, not her. So while it wasn't either of the two I figured (Yes, thankfully I was wrong!) she still has issues going on with that leg.

No rotation here, latral view,

No signs of navicular but her bones in the fetlock joint aren't exactly straight but he said that was likely from when she was growing up or maybe even born that way. Who knows?!?!?!?! 

This was the pic that explains it. On the top of the short pastern bone towards the back there's what looks like a chip and up towards the middle of the large pastern bone there's a darker spot that is of interest too. I have sought out a second opinion and I will gladly let everyone know when I get the results of that one.

For now she is on stall rest and maintanence levels of pain meds. Oh happy joy. She is not thrilled. Not at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fix the issue

One of the girls at the barn was having issues with her gelding. She said he was and has, "pushed thru the bit" as she called it. I didn't see what was going on and of course there's no video because we can't be on both sides of the lens, but she asked me to work him in the long lines and see what he's doing and what I suggest to do to fix it.

First off I put him back in a snaffle. I had worked him once before in it and he did well then, so why shouldn't he now? She wants to do barrels on him at some point and had been using a bit that worked for her with her other horse.... A we all know, when it comes to horses and training- What works for some, don't work for one and what works for one, doesn't always work for some.

Another thing I did was to drop the bit one hole on both sides of the headstall. No wonder he puts his head up freakishly high when bridling... Also this give the horse the release when you release the reins or lines.  Sometimes she loans her bridle out or uses it on other horses and forgets to adjust it to the horse it is on. 

When he started off in the lines, he would give to the bit and turn his neck, but his body didn't follow. This was the problem she was having when she tried to long line him in the round pen. I used my inside line to pop him in the rear end and push it to the outside. This causes the front end to come into the turn the direction you want the horse to go. When I popped him with the line, he reacted a bit and went forward into the trot. She reacted too, saying that she seen he obviously needed that, but admitted she was hesitant to do it, almost afraid he would do something she wasn't ready for and then not sure how to fix that either. As he went into the trot, he was allowed to keep it as long as he was moving in balance.

I would tug on the inside rein and keep him on the circle and release when he responded. He stayed on the circle and was tracking up in frame, balanced and looking great. I slowed him back down to a walk and turned him around. A slight tug on the outside rein and he changed directions with ease.  When it came to the stops the first few took a little bit to get, but once he figured out that I would give him cues to set him up for the stop before asking him to actually stop, he started to really dial in the part about listening to me and what I was asking of him.

With my own horses, I have started to give them cues of what is to come next. It helps us both to prepare for it, before it comes. I make a softer, higher pitched whuuup a few times then a lower toned whoa. The whuuups let the horse know the whoa is coming and be prepared to stop. With my ponyman, he hears the whuups and starts to shut it down, no matter the gait. With her horse, once he figured it out, he started to slow things down  for the stop.  We quit on a good stop without any use of the reins.

What followed was an exchange between us and another boarder. This is what inspired the previous post abut opinions. The thing is, this person talks a lot about training, but only about half of what they say makes any sense at all.  After they had added their two cents to the conversation, my friend expressed her opinion about how the other boarder doesn't have a clue.  She doesn't take their advice because from everything she has seen of their horse- It's not all that.