Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pulling manes

I didn't get to ride over the weekend so I was pretty bummed about that, but I was busy running errands and sewing so it sorta worked out that way. Life happens and it isn't always the way we want it too.

A few posts back when I had mentioned Lynn Palm doing both canter pirouttes and reining spins on her horse Rugged Lark, in looking for a video of it I ended up instead on her video about how to pull manes. I have to say I am not a fan of her on a few levels, but I do respect her for some of the things she has done.

I have never pulled a mane up until recently. I had always worked with breeds where the mane was a coveted thing and the longer the better. Imagine the shock I encountered when the Barn Owner of the Arab farm I worked at for a time realized I had roached the mane on my Arab gelding Tai. He was my horse, he had rubbed out a BIG section in the middle of his mane, so I roached it. I shaved it all off, leaving only his forelock and a small portion at the end by his withers. The rest was gone. She was stunned. I thought it looked a lot better than the ragged mess he had before that and it is hair- it will grow back.

Pulling manes (to me anyways) always seemed like it had to hurt. I know it hurts when some of the hair on my head is pulled out, so it has to be the same for the horse, right? I always whipped out the scissors or the clippers and evened it out. I would often braid the mane for the upcoming show, tie it off and snip off the ends. Afterwards when the braids were out, I would go back and even it up.  The first time I braided Tess, she had a really worried and 'on high alert' look to her when I got up on the stool so I could reach. Only after I started braiding and she realized it didn't hurt, did she begin to relax.

I found this video on You Tube about pulling manes and while it is a rather traditional approach to doing it and the horse only seems bothered at first, it is effective and gets the job done.

(I like the fast forward part at the end)

I have to add in here that there was a piece either on the website or in the newsletter from Ruthann of Lucky Braids, about pulling manes and it said to move back and forth along the mane so as not to focus on one area too long and create soreness there. This makes sense to me if you are doing it as seen in the video above.

Then there is the way LP does it. Letting the horse 'let go' of the hairs in the mane.

She has to be kidding, right? I tried it on Aruba's mane and yes, the horse just seems to release the hairs and the hairs just slip right out.  Please note she said it works better if the horse is warm, as in after being worked and the mane not so much clean so you get a better 'grip' on the hairs that need to come out.

I gave it a shot one night after our ride and Aruba was not bothered at all in the process and stood there while I worked on a small portion of her mane trying it out.  I need to pull a few manes around here and now I know a quick, easy and relatively painless way to do it.  Now if I can just find the time.... 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Horse shows

Horse shows are still just horse shows, be it an 'A' rated or schooling show. The schooling shows are good for teaching the young horses- it doesn't all go smoothly, all the time. Crappy footing, crappy weather, crappy people, lousy judges- it's all part of the game and you will find them all either one at a time, in a combination or maybe all together in the losing lotto part of it all.

When Kat and I were at the CDE in March, it POURED on Friday during the dressage tests. One of the mini's had a loud crack of thunder overhead after a bolt of lightning lit up the sky, right in the middle of her extended walk portion of the test. One competitor had it Hail on her and her horse while they were in the ring. You have the option of 'Retiring' from the competition or withdrawing at any time without penalty, and several people did for various reasons.

One woman retired her horse from dressage and afterwards took him home. She had wanted his first time out to be a good experience for the horse. It just wasn't going to happen that weekend. Another trainer retired every one of his client horses- he did not want to risk injury to them if they should slip in the mud and do who knows what? Another entry had a decent go in dressage, but as the first one out on the marathon things went horribly south for them. She was going to retire, but went through sections A & D, found the footing to be ok so trudged on through E and the hazards thinking it was all good. Turns out it wasn't. The competitor on course right behind her- things were great up until the same point when the first horse had problems. This time, her mini and the cart, literally sank in the mud.

The barn area was buzzing with people asking if you were planning to retire or go for it. I was going to go for it. Even though the upper level people were pulling out, people who have done it longer than I have, maybe know more than I do and are likely far more experienced than Kat and I are in this game- we were there to compete.

At home, I pushed him to his limits to see how far he will take something before he blows up. A few times he has blown up. One blow up was epic and early on. Knowing his limits, how he handles things, how he doesn't handle things, is part of the game. We have trained in the pasture where the footing is not exactly good. We have shown in arenas with deep footing, pitted with hoof prints and it was beyond bumpy riding in the cart. Then there were dressage arenas with lovely footing, covered arenas without the overpowering sun, lovely breezes and dang near perfect conditions.

The judges have been a colorful spectrum of sorts as well. Showing Kat in hand, I have had judges say "Oh what a KYOOT pony, You WIN!" even though he may be acting like a complete and total jerk. Others who liked his movement, conformation and temperament and placed him well and several who look at his size and think- "He's too small, you can't ride him so Frankenhorse over there gets the prize." Yeah, whatever! You don't always get a fair or unbiased opinion.

A friend of mine took her pony mare to a recent show. She tanked in every class, even when others were saying she clearly should have won. She got to ask the judge why and what his reasons were behind the placings.  He liked her horse, liked everything about her actually, they had executed the far best reinsmanship pattern he had seen and yet still placed her last because her horse was not 'framed up' like a pleasure horse. He advised her to show the horse in driven dressage as if it were a lower standard of showing. Her mare has only recently begun driving, let alone showing and when I asked if she really wanted her 'framed up' the answer was "No. Not like that."

At the end of the day it is still just a horse show. You paid for one person’s opinion of your horse on that day. You may or may not agree with them, they may or may not hold an opinion you respect, but they placed you as they thought best on that one day.

Back when I started driving Kat, I was interested in seeing how far we will go. I would like to hit the bigger CDE's with him, I want to do well. I want people to know him and think well of him. I want people to appreciate how far we have come with little outside help as far as his training goes. But still, at the end of the day, I love him because he is a goofball, doesn't always behave and keeps me humble when I get a little ahead of myself, thinking we are better than we might be in the process. A good friend of mine told me once- "You will do well with him because through it all, you love your pony. Never lose sight of that and the rest will work itself out."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Finding your rhythm

Saturday when I took Aruba out to the pasture to ride, we got no further in than the gate when I noticed we had a small audience. I got a few pictures before this little guy/gal scurried off.

 Best seat in the house

After I sent the pictures from before to my friend who discouraged the western tack, she came back with a whole list of things I needed to try with this mare. Some of it I thought may be beyond the mares level of training, but it's worth trying and see if it works so I gave it a shot trying to remember what I could of all of the info she spilled on me. Since my western saddle was still in the house from getting a well deserved oiling and turning the stirrups, I went with the dressage saddle.

All dressed up in her 'good clothes'

One of the things she said was to drop my stirrups altogether and work for a little bit without them. Raise your knees up off the saddle as if sitting on a chair and feel your spine and seatbones on the saddle. When you put your legs back down along the horses side, let them hang long and low. I did all of this and when I let my legs hang, I took it one further and sat up, lengthening my spine and remembering to breath. Aruba was calm and quiet for all of this. Surprising since once before I shifted my weight in the saddle and it set her off a bit. She has gotten used to it though since I keep telling her "It's not all about you, ya know."

I decided to do our lateral work without stirrups and see how it went. It felt a lot different and Aruba seemed more cooperative than usual. I was getting movement across the arena on the diagonal, almost getting turns while counterbent and things were going well. Towards the end of our ride, I droped my stirrups back to the sides where they belonged and slipped my feet into them. I decided to ask for a trot.

What I got was amazing. Aruba was light in the bridle, balanced and her movement was carrying me which made posting- effortless on my part. I remembered to sit up straight and look up not only where we were going and where I wanted her to go. I didn't have to use my spurs once. My leg was all it took and she moved off it, bent to the inside, a nice steady gait and it was really fun up there. She was relaxed and as we went around and around the arena, I set my inside rein while praising her and scratching her neck with my outside hand. And though I was talking to her, she kept on trotting.

Of course you do one direction and you have to do the other. We had been going to the right which is her better side, but not mine. We reversed and went to the left (my better side- hers not so much) only to find the same steady, slow, balanced, easy pace. It was the steady rhythm and free flowing movement that made riding- easy.   

Don't I look Fahbulous Dahling?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Turn on the fore

I only got to ride once over the weekend and here we are on the downhill slide for the week before I am even posting about it. lol We worked on lateral movement and bending, moving the shoulder over and we are still effectively working on it or at least working on getting it every time. Sunday wasn't a great ride as we did a lot of walking and working on the laterals. We didn't get to do any cow work or play with them as it was getting dark as we finished up.

We did work on moving the hip over though, as in turns on the forehand. Right leg back and asking her to move her hips to the left, yeah we still need to work on that. Left leg back and ask for the hips to move  over to the right, Bam and Done! We all know horses tend to be left or right handed just like we are. One side is easier for them to do things than the other. Aruba is no exception to that rule.

Adding to the difficulty level of it all- she was in heat. We are slowly working on this mare cooperating while she is working during her heat cycles. It's cool though, I understand her plight and those days I try to keep things light while we gradually work towards more.

As we were finishing up and I was asking for the hip to move over to the left, she was getting irritated. At one point she stomped her right hind hoof in protest. She clearly didn't want to move off my leg on that side. At least not that day. But we walked forward a little to change things up. Moved to the right, doing a nice 180 degree pivot. Walked forward a little to change things up and asked her to move the hip to the left again. She wasn't going to budge. 

Well she was, but she was trying to walk off and moving her front feet all over the place. No, stop and stand still. Then she got a bit nervous. I could feel her bunching herself up underneath me. Not good, so I turned her to the left and let her walk off. 

When a horse bunches themselves up like that because they are confused or not wanting to cooperate- walk them forward or do something to let them relax, but make them move and then let go. Let the horse recover for a minute. If you don't, all of that energy is going to go somewhere when they go off. A still horse has the advantage here as they can go off in any direction and you may not be ready for it. They may buck, rear or both as well as a whole host of other things and bad habits are started...   When I finally got a few steps to the left, without the front end moving around, I praised her and got off. We can work on it more later on, like this weekend and next when she's not in heat anymore.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

The air up there

Blogger is being uncooperative about loading photos again. What a pain in the butt! 

Here are the pics from last weekends ride from on the back of my mare and when we were playing with the calves.  Not to worry, the calves are good sized as in, almost as tall as our Betsy girl already.  As always click on the photos for the larger version and complete pic.

We start our lunging with walking.  Beats having them bolt to the end of the line and race around ripping your arms out of the sockets.

Aruba cuteness as a western horse.

Reverse and trot

Riders up

Head down where it belongs

Me and my shadow... I look like the stem on top of the pumpkin in the shadow.

Le moooooo

Boo there little guy. These are both steers, once bull calves.

The herd on the other side of the fence where the calve belonged too.  Betsy is the 3rd one in from the right- the horns and little bit of white you can see.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lateral aids

We didn't have them before, but we do now!

Ms. Mare didn't think she was supposed to listen to me. At times she still doesn't. It's ok though we're getting there and reaching more and more agreements of who says what and who does what. As we work, there is less and less of the annoying sound of her biting her tongue.

We walked and trotted, we turned left and right, but for the most part- there was some things missing in our work. She didn't so much move her shoulders this way or that, didn't so much bend or give and at times just went forward not responding to a whole lot and almost doing as she dang pleased. She did listen and stop, did respond and slow down if I said "Slow it down", but at times if I put a leg on her she ignored it. Other times we moved waaaay over away from it.

We stopped and learned to side pass. The last couple of rides have been working on laterals- half passes left and right, serpentines, some circles here and there and always changing it up. I did get some pictures last night of her on the lunge line, then from her back. She really is a good horse and wants to please. We even ended our ride with being near the neighbors cows that share the pasture. It was kinda fun and she got to test out the idea of being a cow pony. And when the cows came back out to the pasture, we walked our way back out to the front gate to leave.  She seems to be enjoying the work and stands quietly while I get on and off either side.