Thursday, December 11, 2014


We all come to a crossroads of sorts in life, at one time or another. Do I do this or keep doing that? Do I go straight or turn? Take the path less traveled or the road well worn?  I am at one of those points in my horse life now.

I have been ground driving and doing long line work with my TB mare and she would make a very elegant driving horse. She is fun to ride as well, but I enjoy driving so much more. I have been focusing on riding her, mostly because I have the tack and can do it. Driving would require finding and buying a cart to fit her and a harness of her very own. Cha-CHING! Add in the fact that I'm not even sure she Wants to be a driving horse and then it gets fun.

Another thing taking on this adventure would mean is this- Katman would be on the back burner. I simply don't have the time to drive 2 horses. A side note in his story is that the girls want to begin riding him. For the most part, he's not really broke to ride. Sure I've hopped on him a few times, my nieces led each other around on him a few times (I wasn't there and my sister as expected, caught hell for it!), but he is far from trained to be a riding horse.  

So here's where I'm at with both horses-

MAM the TB mare
-The harness I have is a piece of crap. It is a cheapo nylon harness that marginally fits, but nowhere near like it should. She would need a new harness. Synthetics are around $200, Leather is just under $400 from Amber Hillside where I bought the one for Kat.
-Carts are all over the board. Frontier stopped making theirs from what I understand and they were around $400 for a decent starter cart. Frey Carriage Works has a Sprinter for around $2100 with no frills. There are also a few for sale online, some in the driving club newsletter and again the prices are across the board from $700-$1000.  I also have a cob sized cart I am hoping to sell to help fund this effort, but then again I can have modifications made to it for minimal costs and make it work meanwhile.
-Do I throw all of this money into it and find out she's not a driving horse?  Whatever I buy, it need to fit her properly so that the learning process isn't a painful or uncomfortable one.

-He has become a point and shoot pony. He can sit for a while and I can pull him out, harness up and put to the cart and go. I keep him in shape and ready for action, so no worries there.  Our dressage scores may reflect the lack of work in between, but they aren't anything to sneeze at either. He's doing well and we could possibly move up to Intermediate before long with a bit more work.
-If the girls start riding him, he will need a saddle and tack to go with it, they will need boots and helmets of course and our time will be spent bringing them along as riders, him along under saddle and then of course there will be shows to go to, probably the same weekends as driving events...  and more stuff to buy (clothes) for in the ring.
-They will soon outgrow him (their height) as a mount and likely need something to move up to, IF they want to continue riding. He will be a leadline only pony for a while until a) they prove to be able to handle him and b) he proves to take care of them when they're on him.  Once they outgrow him for riding he will go back to being a driving pony. I don't know if they can ever handle him while driving, especially in cones, but we'll see how it goes with riding first.

So there it is. A lot to think about and kick around in my mind for a while. There's also another major factor in play here that is always in the back of my mind, where the horses will have to take a back seat in everything. The girls are priority, way before them.   

I put the shit-tastic harness on the mare the other night and got it adjusted as best I could for her, for now. She did really well (YAY!!!) and then it rained, the footing is crap (slicker than snot) and she has an abscess in the left hind. She will be getting some time off until that is remedied.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holidays bring plenty of us enough stress in life, getting everything done, making sure we have all our plans in place, we picked up everything we needed for the big meal, gotten everything about as organized as we can get it and know when and where we are supposed to be, what time we need to leave to get there and on and on....

But what are we truly thankful for?

Here's a few things I'm thankful for this year.

While tomorrow will be 5 years ago that I lost my big mare Tess, I am thankful that I had the time with her that I did. I learned from her how to trust my horse. She knew her job, I had to trust her enough to let her do it. When I let her, she was more than willing to pack me around and pop over whatever fences or mounds of dirt were in front of us. Sometimes that was followed with a buck or two out of sheer excitement on her part. Was I happy about or enjoy those bucks or crow hopping? Not really, but they only lasted the first jump or two and she would settle down to business. She was happy though and yes, I was happy about that as long as I didn't come off. Mostly because it was a long way down.

I am also thankful for all of the horses I have had in the past. While losing Pi, Dooley, and Mo was not easy at the time each of them passed, I am thankful for all of the years we had together. Mo taught me a lot of things about life and how to listen when your horse literally speaks to you. Pi taught me that promises are not to be broken, even when they break your heart. Dooley taught me the size of the heart in a horse has nothing to do with the actual size of the animal it comes in. All of the horses I have handled, ridden or shown in the past, each brought their own lessons I needed to learn and for them I am thankful.

Wednesday will be a year since another big change has occurred in the life of my family. I'm not going into details, but the peace it has brought us is something to be truly thankful for. Soon it will all be put to bed and done with and everyone involved can move on in life.

Thursday will be 5 years ago that I brought the Warmblood mare home and have made a friend in her previous owner. While the original plan was to get her going under saddle and her to be my dressage horse, it has been an up and down, off and on, all over the place. I have learned a lot from this mare too, probably one of the biggest things being her namesake, Patience. While the name does not really fit her personality, in a way it does because she will definitely teach you patience. Just when you thought you had it, she will remind you that you might need a little more. lol Everything I have done with her has been on my own for the most part. The one person I thought I could depend on, was no help at all.

I'm thankful for my pony Katman and all of the crap he has endured with me. While he has been fun to train and show, just over the weekend at the last ADT's I had an epiphany of what I need to change and how much he has really put up with and covered my ass on in competition. I will be going into that more on the other blog about training him, but for right now, he has surpassed the status of a saint. He may not have any idea about becoming a riding horse, but we'll get there and I'm pretty sure he will step up and do the job, taking care of his riders without a problem. He just rocks like that!

Most importantly I am thankful for my girls. The oldest will be turning 21 this year and the twins just turned 6. They are each awesome in their own ways and make me smile often. Yesterday we all went for a bike ride to the park and it was a lot of fun. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we really had a good time.

I'm also thankful for my friends and the other blog writers out there for sharing part of their lives with us. You each post about your own trials and errors in horse ownership and what you've accomplished, figured out and how far you and your horses have come. Some of you have taught me things from a distance, just by reading your posts and although we've never met, I'm forever grateful.

So there' my list of just a few of the things I will be giving Thanks for on Thursday. How about you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Good news and bad news

Bad news first- I have tried many ways on many days to get the pic's to load in a way that everyone can see them. It doesn't seem like blogger wants to cooperate. I have tried uploading them, copy and pasting them from email and just about every other thing I can think of and it's not happening. Blogger shows them being saved in the folder on this blog, but getting them to show up? Doesn't seem to work. If I have my email open and the blog open at the same time? Waa-laa. I have pic's in the post, pic's in the preview and as soon as I close one or the other- POOF! *sigh*

In the good news- My WB mare is doing wonderfully. Even when working her loose, she is striding out, overstepping at the walk and when we are done- her butt is sweaty, just like everything else. Remember, the muscles that work are the ones that will sweat. So she's still making progress on her own, even without me up there. She is also rolling into a canter now instead of popping her front end up and leaping into it. She has learned to relax and ease into it, maintaining a comfortable gait, rather than charging forward with the boldness of a bull in a china shop. One of these days we will get there and try it under saddle. I'm betting it will be an adventure for both of us.

Another thing I noticed though is that her right hind doesn't come as far up under her as the left hind does. They should be moving equal or close to it, yet no matter which direction she travels, there's a bit of a shortness in her stride on that side. I have worked on her using some of the bodywork techniques I know of and she does have a few knots in her backend and it is part of the issue. I know my neck, shoulders, back and glutes have been knotted up for some time and when I finally found someone who could actually get everything to release- AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.... It's amazing not having to deal with the tenseness, stiffness and pain on a daily basis. I am going to have to call in someone I know and have her work on my mare to bring her some relief as well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pic's as promised

As always click on the pic's to enlarge.

Quite the blurry mess, but the lines are clear enough to get a good idea of how she's moving.

Although she has the bridle on and the reins are tied up over the saddle, there is plenty of room for her to move her head up, down, right, left or put it where she wants.  They are simple split reins and not tight enough to be restricting her in any way.

She is relaxing a little more and dropping her head, but overall she is moving in a more balanced frame, apparent by the angles of her legs being very close to parallel.

Dropping her head a little more, moving off the backend with more engagement. Pretty well balanced overall and starting to lighten up and lift the front end. this is where we will start to see more reach in her movement and stride.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Room to move

I managed to get the girls down to Cindy's again for some work in the arena and give them some actual s-p-a-c-e to do their jobs. Oh happy joy what a difference it makes...

The TB mare wasn't too sure about things last time. Holding her attention was not easy to do. She was looking around, cutting her corners and cheating her circles on me. Bad, just bad. This time I decided to work her in the lines so she could sort out her own inner demons and get it right on her own. Well, that was not a bad option. She started out pretty good. Still looking around but with the lines I could keep her out on her circles and keep them more rounded in shape. Still looking around and a little high strung, but manageable and not too bad.

Her trot was light, forward and springy again, just like it has been at home. Cindy agreed she would make a gorgeous driving horse when and if we ever get to that point. Right now it's saddle work, because that's what I have the tack to do. Several laps around and since the mare was doing well both directions it was time to quit. She had worked up a decent sweat so I would end it with a walk as her cool down. Problem was, she just would not settle down. My mare got so worked up about not walking that she was soon wet & sweaty all over. I wasn't letting her stop there. We don't end like that so she pranced and jigged, walked a few strides and pranced and jigged some more. She stopped staying straight in the lines and began to swing her butt in towards me as her mind focused on things outside the arena. Eventually we ended up in one corner and she did settle down some or at least enough to cool off and stop, but I know where the holes are now and what she needs to work on.

The TB mare got tied up to the fence while I rode the WB mare. Aruba is starting to move so much nicer even when I'm not on her as a result of learning how to carry herself properly. She is beginning to overstep at the walk, although I notice she is not quite there on the right side as much as the left. She is striding out and really developing what my friend refers to as 'the storm trooper walk'. It is where the horse is walking so bold and forward it becomes almost like a march. In dressage the walk is usually worth double points and can really make a difference in your scores.

Another thing I disputed with my friend is this mare reaching out and down, as in long and low work. She just never did it, not even loose or when lunging. Well guess what? Aruba found her niche and relaxed into long and low work, reaching out and down while at the trot no less. We made several laps that way going both directions. Although I praised her a lot the whole time I was also arguing with myself in my thoughts with each stride.

On one hand I was thinking- She's doing it, any time would be okay to stop. You got what you wanted, you got what you were asking for, now reward her by letting her stop. Don't push her too long, too hard or too far or it's going to turn to crap at some point and you will lose what you've gained so far. Quit while you're ahead.

Then there was the other side of my brain saying- She's doing it! LET HER! Let her do it as long as she can. The way to build up those muscles is to do this and push for a little more, a little longer each time. Take what she is giving you and accept it. Just go with it.

I was also thinking- Keep your hands wide, give her somewhere to go.... Aruba did awesome and I did end up stopping her while she was going around. She did well enough, why push it too far? That was another thing I have changed- the way I ask her for a stop. My friend had suggested some things, ways to let the horse know something is coming, then ask. Don't just fire off with a 'Whoa' and expect an abrupt halt. Sure my pony Kat does it, but that's a whole different story. He's also a lot shorter and more compact- apples & oranges.

Aruba is getting there. The more we work at things, the better things will get. Although there were no pictures from Saturday nights ride, my friend is still excited for me and glad she could help. I did send some to her the other day with Aruba under saddle. Unfortunately, I am not ON her in them. I can't be on both sides of the camera. Although they are not clear, the details don't distract from the overall and she could see that the horse is moving differently already. If I can get them posted, I will.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Friday night I decided to do some long line work again with Aruba instead of riding her. The last couple of times I rode, after she felt she had done enough, Aruba kept popping up her front end in protest of having to move forward in our upward transitions to the trot. She was also throwing her head and grinding her teeth. She would trot, but obviously she wasn't happy about doing it and kept trying to make it clear. It was clear all right and since there was nothing amiss in the tack, no soreness in her back before or after our ride and eventually she gave up the fight and performed awesomely, it was one of her displays of "I don't want to and you can't make me. Humph!" Insert image of pouting child that doesn't get their way here...

Aruba wasn't exactly thrilled with still being required to work, but she did so much better in the lines. I figured she would, since there would be no weight for her to carry and no confusion coming from me while riding. I admit that sometimes I get thinking about what I AM doing- right or wrong, what I'm NOT doing- right or wrong, what I should or shouldn't be doing.... and it becomes a giant mess for both of us. I'm trying to control my own body and in turn it is also controlling her body and sometimes things get out of hand for one of us and the problems start. Anybody else do this? I know I'm not alone here.

I started Aruba out with the lines through the rings up on top, close to her withers. She did ok and was still a bit reluctant to go forward without the drama, but soon she relaxed and moved out, almost overstepping each stride at the walk. Yay! She was doing pretty well at the trot also when it hit me. I moved my hands out, wider apart to give her more space in a 'channel' between them. Wouldn't this same idea also apply in the lines? DUH!?!?!?

I stopped her and moved the lines down a ring on each side. What happened next was awesome. Aruba really started to work like she should and was absolutely gorgeous doing it. She also acted as if she was Happy about it. Then of course we also worked on our stops. She became soft in the bridle and stopped with her feet squared up under her almost every time. Changes were being made and things are definitely turning around for the better.

I had asked my friend in one of the first emails how much I owed her for the lesson? Since I was seeing some definitive changes in the way things were going, it's only fair, right? She called me silly, said she is still grinning from the voicemail and was actually surprised that I had jumped right in to TRY what she had told me to do. Well if she had the time to type it all out, why shouldn't I at least give it a shot? What did I have to lose? Actually, hers was the email response I was waiting for the most.

Friday, October 3, 2014


After riding my mare Wednesday night and being so totally stoked about the changes that came from a few small things, I called my friend and got her voicemail. The message I left went something like this:

"OMG Girlfriend! I rode my mare tonight and I really have to say- Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!!

I rode tonight and tried to remember everything you said to do and apply it. Keep my hands wide and up, use my leg to ask her to step under herself. I not only NAILED the diagonals going to the left which has always been a problem for me but also Miss Thing responded as if she were happy someone was finally taking control. She was not happy about having to actually work, but she did it. Keeping my hands wide and giving her a channel to go thru and forward? DUH! She's a BIG horse, she needs somewhere to GO! I'm so used to riding the smaller, dinky breeds and keeping my hands low and together. And since I took a hold of her and was using the half halts, she has responded well and is light, quiet and soft in the bridle. So again, THANK YOU! for all of your help and support and telling me what to do. You Rock!"

I slipped in another ride on Friday night and got the same results. Aruba was all kinds of Awesome! This time her walk was much more FORWARD and I hardly had to use my spurs at all to get it. She was even more forward like that just leading her around. BIG change from having to drag her everywhere. Also my friend had said she needs to track up and start to overstep in her stride. "Bah!" I said. "This mare may never overstep in her stride. She is as long as a city bus!" This mare wears a size 90 sheet/blanket to give everyone an idea of her size. Well guess what??? Aruba is either coming close or overstepping herself at the walk, loose in the round pen when warming up. City bus length and all.

I was all set to haul the girls down to Cindy's place again for some arena time on Saturday. Mother Nature didn't like that idea all too well I guess. I had gone up to my moms and was hanging out there, doing some sewing and finishing up a few projects I had half started, some were almost done and was dying to wear everything... About the time I should have headed out, it started to POUR! HARD! I figured I would wait it out and see how long before it blows over. It didn't take long, but then came round 2 and 3, with not much signs of letting up so I cancelled. Then came round 4 and although it was sprinkling when I threw everything in the truck to leave, by the time I got on the road- it had begun pouring down rain again. Riding over the weekend was a wash.

I rode Aruba again on Monday and Wednesday nights. Although it had gone well before, I think she realized she actually has to work and is becoming a bit resistant about it. She has started grinding her teeth when I ask her to trot and throws her head, offers to bounce into the next upward gait and was getting a bit pissy with me. Bringing it back to a walk, she relaxed and lost the attitude. I tried asking for the trot again and before long she was going into it willingly. As my friend had said, her movement will carry you and lift you into the posting trot and you won't be coming as far up out of the saddle as you are in the video. I think one thing that is annoying to Aruba is going around the round pen. It gets boring for both of us, but for now it's about the only place we have to work with decent footing.

Another thing that I noticed in all of this, was that I was able to bring my feet back and under me where they belong. My friend had told me not to worry about it for now. Fix the other things first, the rest will follow. Well it's all falling into place and coming together quite nicely. Now if I can just find the time to drag the girls to Cindy's again and use her arena to try things there. One step at a time. Bit by bit, we'll get there sooner or later...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Actively riding

My last post I talked about how I was riding my mare. Or more like perched on her doing a whole lot of nothing. What I got from her was exactly that. A whole lot of nothing. No engagement, no suspension, no roundness, no flow and a whole lot of crap, crap, crap. Lol

I will post links to the videos since Blogger doesn't seem to want to cooperate. It has been a total turd lately about letting me post pictures or anything so links it is instead of embedding the videos.

Clicky link
Going to the right, her better side. Mine not so much. I have a tendency to twist my upper body at the posting trot. Being a bit 'top heavy' doesn't help either. Check the hands- narrow. Which equals my elbows sticking out to the sides.

Clicky link
Going to the left. My better side and hers- not so much. I have a tendency not to pick up the correct diagonal when starting off at a trot. It has been a long time riding issue for me.

We don't canter yet. We both obviously have things to work on at the trot so let's just not get ahead of ourselves, ok?  I had ridden her in the German martingale before this, to hopefully put an end to the 'Stop & Pop' going on. When I ask this mare to stop, she stops and instantly pops her head up.

Fast forward to a few nights ago.  I tacked Aruba up with her cowgirl clothes because on my western saddle, my stirrups are one hole too long and it sort of forces me to ride off of the movement of the horse rather than rely on my lower leg and the stirrups... I don't post so far up out of the saddle this way either. Also on her western bridle, my reins don't have the little rein stops on them so I don't know how long or short they are, I just know this is working or it isn't. There's no 'cheating' on this. I need to either take up the slack or let her have her head a little and the rein stops don't get in the way for either one.

We started out at the walk. I used my legs to engage her rear end and asked her to reach further up under herself with each step. She responded and started stepping out, but also swished her tail at my leg with each step in protest. Going to the right as her right hind came up, I put my leg/spur on her to get her to step a bit further and she would swish her tail to the right. Going to the left it was the same thing. Step, spur, swish. It sort of had a rhythm to it.

*A note on spurs. I wear spurs on her because if I don't? She either leans on my leg or ignores it completely. With the spurs on, I can use just my leg or turn my heel a little and back it up with the spur if she doesn't respond. If I could not ride well enough to manage this- then I don't belong on a horse like her. When horse people speak of "Earning your spurs", this is what they mean. You have learned to control your lower leg and can use them independently with or without using your spurs and you know when they are needed and when they are not.

I had to remind myself to widen my hands. This is a BIG mare (16.2) and she needs somewhere to GO. My friend had told me to use my hands as a channel and guide her new found energy forward between them. makes sense to me.

Raise my hands up off her withers. Keep the straight line from the elbow to the bit, instead of breaking it up and 'blocking' her movement. At the same time though, I needed to shorten the reins and take a hold of this mare, making her work. Give her the steady contact to support her, but don't hang on too tight and get into a game of tug-o-war.  Let her find the happy medium and she will start to balance herself. Use soft half halts with the outside rein to keep her from breaking into a trot, unless that is what you want, then let her pick up the trot. At the trot, keep using your legs to ask for more reaching up underneath with the hind end.

Magic started to happen. Aruba found that sweet spot a few times of soft self carriage. She was balanced and moving really nicely underneath me. Posting was easy as her movement lifted me up out of the saddle. My legs felt like they were still back underneath me where they belonged and when going to the left, picking up the correct diagonal just happened as she started trotting.

As long as I kept my hands up, open and wide, she started to soften and was quiet and steady in the bridle. And once again as soon as  told her how good she was- she wanted to stop. I kept her going, but then this happened a few times without her popping her head up in the air.  She wasn't thrilled about having to work, but she did it without much protest either. A couple of times she got a little pissy and popped her front end up as if offering to bounce into a canter. I wouldn't mind if she cantered, but I'm not going to let her bounce into it like that in an act of defiance either. It will come with time and work. When we get there- I have no doubt it is going to be a helluva ride!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taking it all in

When I hauled my mares down to Cindy's place to ride them, I was hoping to eventually get some decent photos of my WB mare to post in an ad to sell her. I figured this time around would be a test ride of letting the mares get to see the place and accustomed to it so that later when they were working like they should and comfortable there, then we would worry about photos.

Cindy had different plans and her cameras did too. The batteries kept playing havoc on things and dying on her. She did get a few photo's of Aruba after our ride, I got a few of her tied at the trailer with my cell phone and my camera freaked out not reading the SD card. When I rode her, Cindy had to take a call. She was a bit preoccupied with that, so we were lucky to get what we did. No biggie.

I thought Aruba did pretty good considering. I tried to focus on certain things, what I asked for, praising her when she did it...  The feedback I got from a friend of mine though, was a bit of a different story. Things are about to change. For the better of course, in both my riding and how the mare will be working. Hopefully. As long as it all goes well.  *rolls eyes*

Cindy finally got to upload the videos and I have watched them several times over, just about daily.  Studying them, looking at things. Watching what I do right and looking for things I need to change to make it better. There are a few people I have sent links to and waited for their feedback. One of them, a respected friend in the driving club, came back with some suggestions of how to change and fix what needs it, cleaning up our appearances a lot, but mostly how this mare's way of going is and how she's working. Or at this point- isn't.

For one she mentioned my hands are too low and too narrow. My elbows stick out because of this and my reins are also a bit too long. I need to engage the mares rear end and make her start to actually work. This will build her topline from stem to stern. Also use my legs more and actively encourage her to step further underneath herself. This was in one of my dressage books as well, stated in much the same manner, so yes, it obviously does have some merit.  Lose the German martingale and don't worry about my lower leg coming back underneath me more, at least for now. Fixing the way I ride will in turn fix the horse. Fixing the rest will follow later.

So I will be trying these things in my next ride and those to follow, start making the changes that I need to make. I won't be able to get any video on my own, but hopefully I can get another one soon and show the new updated version of how this mare works. I'm excited.

Another thing that has been an inhibitor has been trying to get a farrier out to do their feet. Mine took a few weeks off without saying a word and I couldn't for the life of me get anyone else to commit to coming out, let alone show up. Unless you want to count the farrier across the street.  I had used him in the past and it wasn't so good of an outcome. We have since exchanged a few words on a few occasions and as much as he begged, I stand firm with my decision. No. I still won't be using him. I don't like to, but I will trim my own when need be. It's hard on my back and I hurt the next day, but I know it is done and the horses are good to go until the next time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A ride on my TB mare & long line work

Now this mare seriously lacks confidence to move forward. At home she's fine, a little hesitant to move out away from her comfort zone, but otherwise fine. Being in a new place, a new arena, new sights, sounds and everything else, she did okay. Lunging she tried to cling to one side, one corner of the arena, but we worked it out. When I got on her she froze and didn't want to move. She stood there watching and taking it all in. OMG! So much to process....

I finally got her to walk and we made several circles but still didn't venture far from the one end of the arena.  She seen Cindy and Trax going around, this end to that end, serpentines, circles and everything in between.  Not once did her mind let "Race Horse" mode kick in and she want to take off and follow him, even when they did a canter depart in front of us and went to the other end of the arena. 

I did manage to get her into a trot a few times both directions. She did not want to settle down into the bridle though and pick up her comfortable trot. I tried taking up contact with one rein but still I bounced and it sucked.  We made a few more laps around the end of the arena at a walk and I called it good. It was getting late and I still needed to work Cindy's mare in long lines before leaving to take the mares back, drop them off and feed before coming back home.

Sassy did really well as Cindy told me she hasn't worn a bridle much before. I started her out with the lines through the lower rings and let her move out. She picked up a trot and acted a bit like she was expecting the outside rope to slide up under her tail and give her an excuse to buck. It never did so she just kept moving along and soon she relaxed and stopped. I moved around behind her to keep the outside rein from sliding up as I asked her to turn around and reversed her direction. She walked and soon trotted and did really well. Her head was still a bit high, but each time she dropped it I praised her and told her how good that was. Before long her head came down as she relaxed and moved forward. The contact was soft and steady and gave her support when she needed it.

I changed the reins up to go thru the rings where my hands would be if I were riding and moved her off again. She did really well and again I kept praising her every time she dropped her head and relaxed. Before long she was trotting around on a semi loose rein and looked beautiful doing it. We finished up with a bit of softening work, serpentines and I tried to explain to Cindy what I was doing and how as I did it. Sassy even seemed pleased with herself. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saddle time

I have thought of something to do for a monumental post. Not sure how it will come together and when exactly because I'm still working out the kinks as well as several details. I will keep everyone posted as to when and how and all of that good stuff.  For now though, I have made progress. I was able to haul my two mares over to Cindy's place and use an actual arena. Wahoo! 

This is the first time the mares have been there and they both handled it amazingly well. Her neighbor has goats, a cow, turkeys, a llama or alpaca- I didn't check to see which, dogs and probably a lot more critters I didn't see, hear or smell.

When I got ready to load them at home I showed Aruba the door to the trailer and she said no. I showed it to her again and again she said no. So we went over to the round pen, I got the whip and this time she said "Okay, no problem." as she walked right up and stepped inside.  My TB mare, I have found that if I run a lunge line up thru the ring in the manger and back to her halter, she will for the most part, load herself.  Up and in she went with no hassle.

When I unloaded them Cindy was out in the arena playing on the tractor. When she came walking up, Aruba was on the side of the trailer closest and her first impression of my mare was "DAMN! She's a BIG mare!" Yes, yes she is. At 16.2 she's nothing little to sneeze at. I tacked her up with my dressage saddle and tacked up the TB mare with my western saddle. Since the western saddle has a horn to hang my bridle from I led her over to the arena and tied her to the fence where she could wait, watch and just chill out.

When I grabbed all of my stuff and brought Aruba over to the arena, one thing that caught Cindy's eye was my mounting steps. She joked and offered me a 6 foot ladder.  Back in the day I used to be able to mount a horse like her, bareback with nothing. My gelding was 16 hands and I could fling my leg up and over his back and off we went. Not so much anymore. I can still get on her without the steps if she's wearing the western saddle, but the two English saddles- nope. Besides, after seeing the long term effects on an English saddle tree, of mounting from the ground. I'll use the steps thanks.

Cindy was going to ride, but said her saddles were all in various stages of being taken apart for cleaning and what not. So I offered her one of mine. My close contact was in the trailer, she was welcome to use it....  She politely declined, saying she could hardly stay on in western tack sometimes, to which I told her I call bullshit on that. I have seen her ride and she's not near as bad a rider as she was making herself sound. Besides, I have seen in her words on her blog, some of the stunts her horse has pulled and she managed to stay on him thru all of it and ride it out. So I called bullshit on that, but she still declined the offer.

Cindy was off tacking up while I was lunging Aruba. I seen her pop out from around the corner a couple of times while my mare was going around and around and around. The girl can move and it has been too long since she's been out where she can actually move like she needs to. She even rolled into a nice canter for a while and held it for a few laps before easing back into a trot. Usually her canter departure consists of a bounce or leap up and into it, but this one was as smooth as they come.

When it came time to get on, Aruba stood patiently and waited for me to get on and settled. She didn't think she should have to move from there, let alone work...  Cindy had gotten some video of her on the lunge line and whenever she gets it uploaded I will post a link. She was trying to get her other camera to get video of me riding her, but that didn't work out so well, so we'll just have to try for another day. As it was, we had a good ride and kept our distance from the animals next door. 

Then it was my TB mares turn....

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'm getting close to 200 posts for this blog. I know, right. That's it? Only 200? Yep. That's all. Combined total from the 3 blogs, this will be post #400.  Sad but true.  I obviously don't post often or much. I know others out there have done all kinds of contests and giveaways when they reached X number of posts or X number of followers so I am thinking up something to do as well to sort of celebrate.  I'll let everyone know when I do.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blah, mud, yuck, blah

I admit I have been neglecting things online for the past week or so. I also haven't been riding or driving at all so that's why there's been nothing much to talk about here. I have been spending time with the horses as per the usual when I feed and clean their stalls, but otherwise I haven't gotten to ride or enjoy them lately. It's ok though because I have been working on getting things rearranged and straightened out for the better. When I do get back to riding- there will be more room for it and hopefully I can start driving again soon.

So what is it that kept me so busy and out of the saddle? Well at least it is horse related. I have been moving stall panels and rearranging the whole set up where they are now. No my horses are not at home with me anymore and yes the girls and I have moved. That all changed several months ago. Some of you may have noticed I no longer mention any of the horses I used to have or enjoy working and hanging out with, but rest assured they are all in good places, cared for, loved and have jobs. It is what it is and it's what was best for them, so that's all that matters in the end. Right?

My one mare had a shade and the other one did not. I got sick of stinging up tarps as temporary shades and having to either take them down before storms or have them shredded in the process. Kat also had a temporary shade and it was suffering the consequences as well. What I started on last week and have been slowly working on is changing things around so that the mares share the one permanent shade, Kat's stall is again square and now I just need to get a structure for his shade put together and UP! The last part will happen, hopefully tonight or over the weekend at the latest. It's just so freakin HOT though and the rain means it has been more humid too. I get out of the truck and feel like someone soaked me with the hose. It has been that humid. Ick!

In between it all, of course it rained. Now part of the pens are slop and the mares keep reaching thru the fence to get at the feed barrel- dumping the pellets and snarfing on them like they are totally innocent and since being gelded- Kat is pissing the pen up like nobody's business. Everybody now has a slow feed net so the pellets seem to last a little longer, they have hay in front of them a bit more often and things seem better for the most part. I just need to string up some wire to keep the mares out of the feed between feedings an move some dirt into their stalls and level things out so that the water runs out instead of pooling up.

What I have ended up with is a different place to put the horse trailer near a spot to groom the horses and tack up, a bigger round pen, an extra panel left over, a shade for Kat that won't be drooping on his head (or mine when I clean his stall) and hopefully some peace of mind for a little while. It just flows. There's still a few things needing to be changed, moved, removed, improved and sorted out, but it will come in due time. I will work on them slowly, one at a time in the order of most important, but for now the horses will all have shade, and hopefully I can start riding them again soon. I need some time in the saddle as much as they are needing time under it. Yay Woo!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I rode Aruba first and since she has an ongoing issue with popping her head up either thru or following a stop, I put the German martingale on her. She can sort it out with her own bad self and she did try at first. We made a few laps around the round pen with plenty of walk-halt transitions in there and she got the idea pretty quick. Our stops were much cleaner since she wasn't hollowing out her back and looking like a giraffe with her head in the air. Big difference and so much nicer. Now I find that I could use a bit longer reins. The reins that came with it are fine on smaller, more 'normal' sized horses- QH, Arabs and such, but for her there isn't a whole lot of room at the ends for bridging my reins

Then I took her out of the round pen and we walked around the yard a lot. We even moved out onto the street and headed out away from the house. That got my TB mare and Kat all stirred up, but Aruba kept a very level head, both literally and mentally so we walked a bit further away and she seemed to enjoy her trip exploring. She was happy to be out doing something different so hopefully there will be more expansion on this later.

I don't like resorting to using things (especially gimmicks) if I don't need to, but with Aruba the head popping has been an ongoing thing for a while now. While it doesn't change the way she moves, it is annoying to me and I finally decided to put a stop to it. I have tried a variety of methods with riding her and find she also does it in the long lines, so if nothing else the German martingale works wonders for this. Keeping her head down also seemed to help the mares attitude a bit. She was more confident going forward and out into the 'real world' or at least she felt that way.

Then it was time to ride my TB mare. I figured I would try putting the western pad under the English saddle and see how it goes. It seems the dressage and close contact saddles are a tad too wide for her. Although it looked strange and felt weird up there at first, it was enough to do the trick for her and got the pommel of the saddle UP off her spine and kept it there. I know because I kept sticking my fingers in the channel to make sure there was plenty of room in there and no contact. I started with the dressage saddle as it seemed to fit better than the close contact- before padding it up.

I have searched online for a thicker pad for English saddles and while there are a lot of them out there- half pads, pads that allow for shims, riser pads and everything else I found, all seemed to be around $100-$150 and UP. Some were around $200-$300 or more. The shim pad inserts were separate and were anywhere from $17-$35. I certainly don't mind shelling out and paying for quality, but when it is (hopefully) a temporary need- that seems to get a bid ridiculous. At least it does to me.

So for now at least, I will stick to using a western pad under my English saddles and keep looking for something reasonably priced to get the job done. Either that or I will come up with something on my own. Surely I'm not the only one out there with this problem and not in the position to dump one saddle or buy a new one. The square pad sticks out behind the saddle so maybe a shaped or barrel pad would be better suited, but this is what I have to work with and I'm good with that. It's not like we're out there to win any beauty pageants or anything. As long as it is effective and my mare's back isn't sore as a result- it's all good.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A bit of a quandry

I dug my close contact saddle out on Monday night and tried it on my TB mare to see how it would fit? If it would fit? Which girth I need to use? And how gorgeous she would look? One small problem, I didn't have her bridle to complete the 'hunter pony' look. So I improvised and grabbed Aruba's bridle. A few small adjustments and it was going to work, at least for one ride. Other than the bit being rather large and slightly different- 6" French link and she wears a 5" offset D with her western tack, it looked pretty good.

Next came the saddle. It rested just behind her withers which suddenly took on the look and makeup of a shark fin. Whaaaaaat? I took the saddle off, set it back up on her well forward and slid it back into place with slightly the same results. Her withers are way too narrow and the pommel is resting almost on her vertebra. Not good and what a disappointment. I will be rechecking this tonight without the pad to see if padding things up is an option.

I had two different girths in a 48" and then there's Aruba's 54" & 56" girths I went with the 48" in leather, because I told you already- I am a leather snob. It fits her fine with plenty of room for adjustment. Yay!

I put the reins over her head and sent her off to work on the rail in the round pen. The girl is G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. in hunter tack. And Yay Me!! My phone with the good camera was on the seat of my truck so no pics. Damn!

I will be trying the close contact on both mares to see if A) padding it will help for the TB mare and B) if it even remotely fits Aruba. I love my saddle, but if it doesn't fit either of them, it's not going to work over the long haul. I may have a saddle for sale and begin shopping for a new one. Meanwhile the western saddle fits her and I will just go back to using it. The TB mare has a sore spot on her back from the c/c saddle so she will get an extra few days off before I try the dressage saddle on her. She isn't built for it, but she may make a classy lower level dressage horse... time will tell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rain, rain

I enjoy the rain and usually it is very welcome in the summer time. Except when I want to ride. I had hoped to hop on my mare on Friday, so I raced to clean stalls and get things done, leaving plenty of time for it. There was wind, there was plenty of blowing dust, I got two of the stalls cleaned and those two horses turned out and brought in, started on the third stall

...and then it started to rain.

Nice big drops, not a downpour, but a steady rain enough to get everything wet. I wanted to ride in on of my English saddles, either the close contact or my dressage saddle. Being the leather snob that I am, I didn't want either of them getting wet. They're made of sugar and might melt you know... lol

I put a lot into my tack, I generally take pretty good care of it and I want it to not only last and retain it's value, but more importantly, I don't ever want it to fail me and fall apart. Let's face it, if something is going to fall apart or fail to work for you, it will likely crap out at the worst possible moment ever. That's just the way it works.

So I raked up the last stall, horse still in it and she wasn't thrilled. She wanted to get out and roll, stretch her legs and relax a little, even if that meant pacing the fence line in worry because the other horses may get fed without her or something like that. Like that has ever happened or like she has ever missed a meal. Ha!

I went and sat in the truck playing games on the phone and waiting for things to let up. It just wasn't going to happen until I left, because that's the way things work and sure enough. I started to drive away and there goes the rain with it. I had already put everything away and called it off, so there was no sense in going back. Not unless I wanted it to keep raining for a while. Hopefully I can get some saddle time in on her soon under the English tack. I'm also hoping to get her into an arena setting soon too and get to work her more at the trot and maybe the lope. She's going so well I'd hate to stop now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back up to speed

I haven't been on my mares for a while now. First it was the holiday weekend, then it has been just life in general- having to go here, be there, pick this up, grab that and be somewhere else all at the same time. We all know how that goes and I do try to plan things out in advance, but something usually happens to throw a wrench in things and screw it up.

The other night I decided to opt out on riding and go with ground work for both mares. The WB mare has been off in the front right from the abscess and is finally starting to come back around. The TB mare, has just been chillin' and relaxing. Why tempt fate and just hop on? Besides, I wanted to make sure I haven't screwed anything up so far and also to try and teach her a little more about counter flexing. To the right she's fine, but the left she wants to cling to the rail and just go on 'ignore' and 'auto pilot'.

I'm finding it is far easier to incorporate something new from the ground and let the horse figure it out on their own, then get on and add leg, seat and weight to the equation. If it sinks in while I'm on the ground and without me getting in their way, it's got a better chance of sticking in their mind and being there to build from later on.

While the WB mare wasn't too sure what I was asking, she managed to finally 'get it' and was showing some really beautiful movement, crossing her legs over both front and back. The TB mare seemed to struggle with the concept a bit more. She has only been taught to go forward and go fast, so all of this lateral work is new to her. She does pick things up rather quickly and with the reins in the lower rings on the side, it helped to exaggerate the cues a little more, making it crystal clear for her, what I wanted.

After a little work with counter bending, I let her relax and just go forward. She picked up a trot that the only word coming to mind to describe it is 'Springy'. She just seemed to bounce with every step and lift off for the next one with lightness and ease. It was quite beautiful to watch and since she was doing so well, I kept it short and let her stop. A few laps the other direction with the same graceful movement and I stopped her there. Again I find myself itching to get on her. I can hardly wait to get her under English tack and see where it goes.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


For a while it seems I lost it. I'm  realizing now, I have had it all of the time. My mojo might have been siting on the shelf collecting dust, but it was there all the time. It was patiently waiting for me to dust it off and own it again.

I own it!

I have been riding my tb mare and last night she had her big girl pants on. We went for a stroll not only around the yard, but down the street. She was beyond awesome. The last time we only ventured out of the round pen and made a few laps in the yard. She was nervous and kept looking across the street when she seen movement. This time, she looked but kept on walking and was totally relaxed about everything. I can't wait to get her into an arena and start working on trotting and loping.

The whole time we were out of the round pen? Miss Thang- Aruba was bouncing off the walls like a total jackass, squealing and whinnying and having a bit of a conniption fit. Apparently the gig is up on her being sore and it was likely a stone bruise or an abscess. Time for her to go back to work too. Part of that may be just making her stay home while the tb mare gets some wet saddle blanket therapy off the property. She is so much fun to ride and I feel both of us improving every time. That's how it is supposed to be. Isn't riding supposed to be FUN?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Yes I have it. It has been so much FUN riding my TB mare. We are both 'getting it' and the progress seems to be coming in leaps and bounds. I've ridden her twice since my last post and I'm looking forward to riding her tonight. We've worked on trotting, maintaining roundness and her mental focus inside the rails, which can be difficult at times with the neighbors cow literally hiding in the bushes...

When I rode her Monday night, I asked for some side passing to start helping to enforce the lateral cues. This mare is soft, but when it comes to side passing, she wasn't sure what I was asking for. It took a little encouragement and I got a few steps in each direction, but I'm not sure she has the idea completely clear in her mind. Not a big deal, just something to work on. It will come with time, just like everything else.

She's getting more and more solid though and I would like to get her out of the round pen and into a bigger arena to work in. Sounds like we need to make a trip to the horse park and utilize their public use arena. It has light until 10pm so I'm sure there is some time to enjoy the cool weather.

Friday, June 20, 2014

This time it was me

You might be thinking from the title of this post that there was a crash, an accident or something. It almost sounds like something went horribly wrong and it was my fault. Rest assured, that is not the case at all. Actually it is quite the opposite. What happened was a good thing.

I have been lusting over the idea of getting on my TB mare again since the last time I rode her. I worked her in the long lines again Monday night and she did really well. Again. Just so powerful and bold, yet at the same time moving in a light and elegant way. It seems odd to me at times, that she can move with such strength, but yet maintain her beauty and grace. Maybe I'm just horribly barn blind or a bit prejudiced here, but that's ok. I'll go with that until someone else tells me otherwise.

Wednesday night I rode her again and it was incredible. We did some trot work and she. was. awesome! For all that she is learning, she is teaching me a lot as well. I call that a WIN! I turned her out while I cleaned her stall and then I tacked her up and lunged her before getting on. Apparently I didn't let her work all of her bugs out on her own long enough, so I stopped her, got off and let her finish.

We did a LOT of walking and later some trotting. At the walk there were plenty things to work on, and not just on her. For one, she needed to feel my legs on her sides. I can sometimes ride with my lower legs sticking way out which is something I learned or a habit I picked up, long ago at the various Arab farms I worked at. At the walk this is an easy fix for me, but sometimes at the trot it can still all fall apart.

I found myself leaning forward and into the turn, essentially slumping over as we went around to the right. I reminded myself to sit up straight, don't lean forward, bring my inside (right) shoulder back where it belongs, bring my hand to my hip and WOW did that ever clean things up. What I felt was my mare 'under' me. She was bent to the inside, stepping up under herself and still light in the bridle. She was also moving over in behind and giving me lateral movement.

I also remembered- You have two legs, not just one. Just because you're asking for something with one leg, doesn't mean the other one just hangs there and is along for the ride. The outside leg keeps the shoulders from bulging or popping out in the turns and also reminds the horse to keep moving forward.

Then it came to my hands- First of all, in the lines, I take a soft hold with the inside rein and give the mare some support. It is not there to brace against, but there is contact. The outside rein is there to help keep her straight and guide her along. It's there for light tugs as half halts when needed and there to change directions and everything is switched. As I pushed my mare forward into the trot later on- I let her go and things fell apart. She wandered, she drifted and it probably looked like crap because it sure felt like crap too. This time I had a flash in my brain that Hey Stupid. When you long line her, you keep the inside rein steady with contact.

We tried the trot again. I sat up straight, brought my shoulders back, took a deep breath to relax and pushed her up into the bridle, and then let her trot. It was a little unsteady at first, but when I quieted my hands, let the outside rein relax, kept soft steady contact on the inside, kept my inside leg on her asking for bend, added the outside leg asking her to move....

She softened right up, dropped her head and BAM! There was that movement I have been seeing in the long lines. That was the ticket right there. I got that trot a lap or two around the round pen, and let her come back down to a walk. We changed directions, got it again for a lap or two and called it good. Both of us had gotten it right, going both directions and it was a good time to quit. It was a solid, good effort on both parts. No need to push our luck, ask for one more and have it all fall apart. Sometimes it is tough quitting on top. Believe me I know! I'm slowly getting used to it though. Some things don't come so quick or easy to each of us. It's another lesson learned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chills in the middle of June?

I have been working my mares in the long lines a lot more lately and I have to say this. My TB mare is just blowing me away. The girl has got some e.l.e.g.a.n.t. movement. Now anybody that knows me, knows I have loved everything about this mare from the day I went to pick her up with only $20 to put towards buying her. I hadn't even seen her yet, but she was mine. And because we all know better than to ever buy a horse sight unseen.... I have never had any regrets with this one.

The other night I worked her in the lines and I got to see something in her that, in all honesty, has been there, lurking all along. Even with her enlarged knee, her movement was absolutely gorgeous. She was light in the bridle and, just, well, yeah. She may be compensating some for the reduced amount of flexion she has available in that leg, but even still. She was just gorgeous. It was almost dark, her being a dark horse and all of that considered, there were times I couldn't see the minute details because the lack of light, the dust and whatever else, but I could clearly see the outlines of her silhouette. Momma was a rockin a great look.

Let me see if I can narrow it down to a few words, to describe what I saw. Bold, forward, strong, light, airy, elegant, classy and as my daughter Vivian would say- stylish. I obviously need to put more work into her for whatever she is to become, but if she can manage the transition from race horse to driving horse... I have no doubt she would be amazing doing it. I have worked with plenty of mares over the years and owned a select bunch, but she is hands down and bar none, at the top of my list of being one of the sweetest mares ever.

I rode my mares last Friday night. Yes plural, I rode them both. Maybe not at the same time, Roman style, but I hopped on each of them for a few minutes in the round pen. I was and still am proud of the girls. While I didn't trot with my TB mare, because this was only the 2nd time I have been on her, or that anyone has been on her for that matter, in the past 10 years she has been mine. Watching her again in long lines last night? Oohh la la. Sometimes she might look like she's moving like a freight train, but she does it so gracefully. I am looking forward to throwing a leg over her again soon. If I can keep her moving under saddle like she does in the lines... I just have to stay out of her way and let her do her job.

I know. Easier said than done...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some days

I have recently gotten back to ground driving my mares and I'm currently focusing on my WB mare. She needs to go and it will be best if she is a productive member of society before she goes out into the world. Bottom line? She needs a job. She needs consistency and lately she's getting it. I have upped the ante and have started working her 3 days a week with the others. Everybody gets turned out while their stall is cleaned, worked before put away and the order of rotation changes all the time.

Ms. Thing was NOT enjoying boot camp! She was having a serious temper tantrum and throwing a hissy fit almost routinely. Her biggest issue? She is not comfortable with me behind her for ground driving. Part of it may be because I am short and she can't see me back there, Especially when her head is down where it belongs, rather than sky high like a giraffe. . She can't see me over or around her butt, but I am back there making her work. Part of it too is that I'm not on her back, so there is no weight, no legs, no saddle, nothing for her to 'feel' me up there or take her cues from. Instead there is a rope running along her side and around her butt to move her hip over with or to help with the laterals.

Many horses do blow up at one point or another in long lines. They just do and Ms. Thing is no exception, except that maybe she has blown up more than most. When it happens, it is sometimes difficult to avert it or shut it down. Sometimes they just have to blow, to get it out of their system. Their 'fight' mode may include running backwards, pulling on the reins, refusing to give to one side, the other or both, locking up their front end and refusing to budge in any direction or spinning around and tangling themselves up in the lines. Some horses will rear, some will buck, some will fall down, go over backwards, sideways, etc. and when it happens, it happens fast. Sometimes all you can do is stand there and watch, while trying to stay out of their way.

Aruba has tried everything she can to get out of work and when none of it does her any good- she will finally resolve and admit defeat 'this time' and then she is just as pleasant as can be, moves out like she should and is as gorgeous a mover as ever. Her tantrums are shorter, not as severe and she is getting the idea that if she just behaves from the start, we end quicker and she gets put away and fed sooner. Well DUH!

When I move her out to the end of the lines and let her move and work, she is much better. Whoa is not as solid as I would like it yet, but we are getting there. Canter almost always involves a leap forward and up as if she's launching into it. I'm not concerned with that right now, I asked her to canter and she cantered. It's the little things. I want forward, she gave me forward.

A while back, when I first wrote this, Ms. Thing had given me a wicked fight. She was an all out shrew to deal with. She wouldn't give, she wouldn't budge, she wouldn't stop when I asked and didn't want to go until she had to... I asked, she refused. I upped the ante and she blew up. I let her and when it was done, I adjusted the tack a little and asked again in a firm but very direct way. After a while she finally relented and gave up the ghost on being such a bitch. She must have finally figured out that I can be a bigger bitch right back when I need to. What I got after that was absolutely gorgeous movement. She was soft, fluid and just awesome. I was feeling a bit deflated until that, but ending on a good note like that- it was all worth it.

Since I am working the horses 3-4 days a week, after a day off when I went back at it with her again- What a difference! She was compliant, agreeable, accepting and I had bend, give, forward, stop and a lovely walk too. I told her- "THIS! This is how it is supposed to be all of the time. See how much easier, better, nicer it is when we work together?" Because she was sooo good, this workout was short. She deserved it, plenty of praise and a good rubdown. She was an altogether different horse than the last workout.

Then two days later she was sore as could be in the front end. She will be getting some time off while I get this sorted out, but it was nice to end on a good note with such wonderful movement and her having a happy attitude. The vet was out to geld Kat and although he didn't have the time (and I didn't have the money) he didn't think it was anything serious. Most likely a stone bruise, gave me some bute for both horses and said if it doesn't seem to improve, he can come back out (when I can afford it) and we can do a more in depth work up on her and see what's going on.

Meanwhile I am working my TB mare and I am excited. I rode her once several years ago for my birthday. It lasted about 10 seconds and she was awesome. After that- I just never had the desire to throw a leg over her again... Until recently. The more I work this mare, the more I want to ride her. She has always been one of the sweetest mares I have ever owned and I want to get on her. She just moves so nice and I have always liked everything about her. I'm looking forward to the day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ready to learn

All of the softening work that I mentioned in the previous post, that all carries over to riding the horse as well. If you are starting a green horse or bringing back a rehab, getting them soft and giving is where it starts. When you move on to riding them, starting out with the soft and supple work is familiar to them and gives them confidence. You're only asking for something they already know how to do. It also helps you to again, assess the horse you have today. Are they stiff, sore and unwilling, or are they relaxed and ready to learn?

Softening and suppling work is also a way to begin warming up the horse. Keep in mind that pro athletes don't just come out of the locker room and hit the field ready to do sprint work, don't expect the same kind of thing from your horse. Your horse is also an athlete and a good warm up will help prevent injuries, keeping them competing or at least working with less down time. Obviously some injuries are unavoidable and we all know some horses are just accident prone, but the more you can do to help minimize them injuring themselves, the better off you will both be.

Depending on where a horse is at in their training, when the last time they were turned out or even worked, and what their overall attitude is for the day, I may lunge them even before I put them in the lines. It's not like they are going to flip out on me in the lines in the round pen, but if they aren't mentally focused or ready to work, why not give them a chance to blow off a little extra steam and a chance to relax, before we start working.

Now I know there are folks on both sides of the "lunge first or not" debate. Some of us view lunging first as a chance to let the horse blow off that steam, buck, snort and get it all out now, while others view this as only getting the horse wound up and ready to run and buck before I get on kind of thing. I know there are also folks who view lunging as a way to literally wear the horse out so they can control them too. I will say we can all agree to disagree and what works for you, may not work for me. However, I will say that how you handle the horse while lunging them- makes a big difference.

If you are only lunging the horse to wear them out, you are likely in over your head. Horses don't learn much when they are that tired. Their mind has shut down and sure they are more willing to do what you ask, but when they are fresh again and have caught their second wind, will any of it still be there if you were to get on? Would you get on?

If your horse shoots to the end of the rope and races around like a maniac out of control, trying to rip your arms out of the socket or at least drag you all over the place- what are you trying to or actually going to accomplish? Probably not much. The horse is in control by being out of control.

If I am free lunging my mares in the round pen and they start racing around, not paying any attention, I may may let that happen for a lap or two. If they don't slow down and it is only escalating, then I turn them around to go the other direction. If they race off again, I step ahead of them and shut them down, turning around to go the other way again. If they want to go berserk- they can do it on their own time. After shutting them down a few times, the horse should get the idea that they aren't there to bolt and run. As long as they are relaxed and paying attention to me, they can keep going.

In Sonoita while lunging Kat, I didn't have a round pen to use. Instead I had him on the line, but he was wound and being a real twit. He would bolt, run one direction, stop, reverse and bolt off the other direction. That got old really fast. I brought him in on the line closer to me and made his little butt work and behave like he is supposed to.  There was no more running around out of control and there was no more changing direction every half circle.

With him closer in, I took charge and took control back. He had his chance and he blew it. I made him work. I made him trot and when he hesitated and looked like he was trying to stop and reverse, I pushed him on.  When I asked him to stop and reverse, he was all of a sudden happy to do so without bolting to the end of the line. He knew that game was over because I'm not playing.

When lunging my mares on the line, my WB mare would automatically start out at a walk. She would average 2-3 laps around before even considering picking it up a little and jogging. How refreshing! That is something I have worked towards with my other horses since. Now she does have her moments and does get a bit squirrelly now and then, throwing her head and wanting to race around a little, but for the most part she knows, she is not to be jerking me around at the other end of the line.

Her and the others know they are to go around until they are relaxed and when they are ready to stop and go to work, we will. Lunging doesn't usually last too long and we move on. Their mind is fresh, they can focus and are ready to learn something.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Soft & supple

We all know our horses can bend at the poll and raise their head and neck up and down, but what about being soft and having side to side bend? That is where lateral work comes in. This is when using the rings on the sides of the surcingle helps as it exaggerates the cues a bit, making it easy for the horse to understand what you're asking for.  With green horses and sometimes with rehab horses, you want to exaggerate the cues now and then, to make it crystal clear for the horse, what you are asking them. Rehabs- may have gotten confused and just finally blew up. Green horses- are a clean slate. You want to help them move along in their training, not confuse them.

I start all of my work with softening exercises. Bending to the left, bending to the right, walking around in circles both directions to see where the horse is at, both physically and mentally. If I ask for a circle to the right with just a tug of the rein, do they readily give, bend thru the body and make the turn or are they resistant, raise their head, hollow their back and fight it? This will show both under saddle and in the lines.

If the horse raises their head, hollows out their back and stiffens up, it's not a big deal. Just push them forward with a cluck, kiss, 'walk on', raised hand or whatever you use and wait for things to smooth out. Keep them walking and talk to them as you let the horse to relax. As their head comes back down where it belongs, praise them, but keep them moving. Gently tug the rein again and ask for the turn. By roughly the third or fourth turn, the horse should get the idea that you aren't going to be yanking around on the reins and beating them up in the face when you ask them to turn. Some horses pick it up in nothing flat, others it might take a while to sink in, but as long as you are consistent, they will eventually get it.

At first I ask for large circles, with only a slight amount of bend, but as the horse warms up and starts to really soften, I ask for smaller circles, tighter turns and more bend. Sometimes the horse may be fine with the larger circles but as you tighten the circles up, you find they are stiff and not as giving. This is okay because now you know what you need to work on. You need to help the horse loosen things up which will allow them to move more freely. Once the horse is loose and relaxed, you will be able to see a big difference in the way they move and how they carry themselves.

Horses may also be one sided too. This can change by the day, since they may wake up on the wrong side of the stall, stiff on the left and cranky to boot. We have our days, they have theirs and sometimes you just have to work thru it. If the horse is stiff or sore, as they loosen up things should feel better and their mood will improve. Doesn't yours when your body gets sorted out and stops hurting?

Softening work is also a good way to warm up as well as cool out your horse. As the horse warms up and the muscles relax, they will move more freely and easily. Once the horse is done working, cooling out at a walk, working on bending and softness- the muscles stretch more easily while they are warm. Stretching after a workout helps us improve our flexibility as well as helps keep the muscles loose, so why not apply the same idea to the horses? A lot of what works for us, works for them and a lot of what works for them, works for us as well.

If your horse just doesn't seem to relax and soften up on one side or the other, or even both, go ahead and stop them. No use in making things worse with no hope of improvement. I often found my pony would be stiff on one side and sometimes he was just stiff, muscularly sore or just being a twit and didn't feel like cooperating. Whenever you can rule out pain as the main issue and the reason behind your horse not cooperating, you want to do it. If Kat is/was having a bad day and not bending to one side or the other, I would do some stretches with him to see if it was a physical block first.

Stand at your horses side and ask them to bend their neck around to that side. If they have no problem doing it or holding it there for a few seconds, it's likely they are not in pain or even really stiff, they are just being stubborn, crabby and don't feel like it today. This gives you a good indication of whether you need to be a little forgiving on that side or get after them a little and let them know you're not putting up with their behavior. If the horse is typically soft on that side and has stiffened up over a length of time, don't expect to fix it all in one day. It didn't get this way overnight, you aren't going to fix it in one shot either.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Body Language & Holding the Reins

Some people feel the need for and will use a whip for ground driving and long line work as well as simple lunging. While the whip is merely an extension of your arm, or leg depending on how you use it, you can use one if you feel the need, but you may find that with your body language, you may not need it at all. It depends on your horse and what you are doing. My horses know that I may hold one in my hand when lunging, but it won't be used on them in a way that will sting. If I need to up the ante to get their attention and respect, a good flick of the wrist, snap of the whip and all is restored without the popper ever touching them.

When I first started doing long line work, back in the day... I couldn't for the life of me keep the horse on the rail. I remember the first horse I worked in the lines and even in the round pen- he was ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. Mad skillz? I had none! ANY skillz??? None of those either! The red gelding dubbed Snooky (Long before he days of Jersey Shore) was confused as hell and had no clue what I wanted paired with me not having a clue what I wanted either.

Scratch that. I knew, wait, I had an idea what I wanted, I just didn't know what I was doing or how to get it. So for everyone starting out- it may not be pretty the first few times, but it does get better. We've all been there and none of us were born with the talent and grace of being good at it. That being said, a few years ago when I started Kat in harness... Honestly? I didn't really want to learn the art of ground driving or long line work. I knew he needed it, I knew I needed to DO it, but I wanted to get to the point of hitching him to the cart, I jump in and off we go. It wasn't until I was talking to another competitor and she admitted she does far more ground driving and long line work than she does actually driving with the cart, that the light bulb in my head came on.

Like everything else, the more you work on it, the more you learn it and improve your skills, the better you get, the easier it gets and the more you see things take shape creating perfection. As you improve your skills and your horses way of going changes in a positive way, it is so easy to get excited about it and you find yourself getting deeper into it. I have actually come to enjoy working horses in the lines and when I see a horse rocked back on their butt, showing some seriously BOLD forward movement, relaxed, reaching under themselves from behind and stretching out and down to the bit- That is some. wicked. cool. shit. Those are the moments you remember. That's what makes it all worth while and that my friends, is what you are working towards both on the ground and in the saddle.

When working my mares or any horse in the lines, when I am ground driving I am directly behind them. I give them about 4-8 feet of space in front of me, enough to be out of range should they decide to kick, buck or even bolt and come flying backwards. It's not a lot of room for the last one, but it's typically enough room to give me time to react and get out of the way without getting mowed down. When doing long line work or even lunging, if you stay more in line with the horses hip, you can push them forward, giving them somewhere to go, without getting in their way and inhibiting their movement or shutting them down altogether. If you keep your movement in time with theirs, you shouldn't be in a position where you find yourself in front of the horse, essentially cutting them off. To push them forward and into the bridle, I simply raise my outside hand (the one closest to the rail) straight out towards their butt. This is a reinforcement to move away from my hand and go forward. If you watch horses in the wild or even in pasture, they aren't 'talking' to each other constantly, whinnying, nickering or snorting to get their point across. Most of their language is body language- a flick of the ear, rolling an eye, tossing their head, swishing their tail- it is the nonverbal communication they use the most.

Some of you may be asking- How do I hold the lines? If anyone remembers back to the first Darby I took Kat to and Gary coming back to the trailer to straighten that out... It has changed for the better since then. I used to hold my lines coming up into my hand from the bottom, looped over my index finger and back down- out the bottom of my hand. This was so I could grip the lines with little effort and they wouldn't slide thru and out of my hand if the horse should pull. This also meant I couldn't as easily slide them thru my hands to shorten or lengthen them either.

Gary asked if I rode and if I held my reins that way when I did? Um, no? The difference of the width or thickness of the reins didn't matter and still doesn't to this day. The fact that leather is more 'slick' on one side and grips on the other- matters only a little. What matters is that with either the long lines or the driving reins is this- I couldn't slide my hands easily up or down the reins/lines, taking them up or letting them out as needed or was necessary. Somewhere in the mix, I was probably also at risk of losing a finger or two should things go south, like they sometimes do.

What I found to work the best for ground driving an long line work is simply bridging the reins. If anyone is unfamiliar with this, it is simply crossing them over each other as if making an X. The top two lines go to the bit and the bottom two lines are in your hands, but you hold both lines in both hands and it gives you a way to shorten or lengthen either or both with relatively little adjustment. The right rein comes up from the bottom and out thru the top of your right hand, in thru the top and out thru the bottom of the left hand. Left rein in thru the bottom and out thru the top of the left hand, in thru the top and out thru the bottom of the right hand.

To widen your hands, simply hold onto the reins and relax your grip on the excess as you slide them apart. To take up the reins, grip the excess and relax the grip on the reins, slide your hands apart and draw yourself in closer to the horse. Changing reins or direction of the horse traveling is similar and just as easy. It's a matter of taking a hold of both the rein and excess with one hand- the direction you want the horse to go, pulling gently on that rein and letting things slide thru the other hand, until the horse is in the position you want and need to use the other hand to keep them on the rail. You might want to make a few turns at the walk to begin training yourself how to do it while also letting your hands feel how it will feel later on.

Keep your hands low and wide, when you pull your horse into a turn, simply bring your hand back to your hip, just as if you were in the saddle. You might also find yourself turning your body with the horse. Their shoulders moving with your shoulders as if you were riding them. You should also be pulling gently and consistently on one rein and when the horse makes the turn, relax your hands and let them go forward again. Cluck, kiss or make whatever sounds you make to encourage them to go forward and let them. When the horse has turned and is again moving forward in whatever gait, praise them for their turn. You asked and they gave it to you. Reward them for it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let's talk about this

What is happening with your hands?

Lately it seems like the comments on all of my dressage tests say my hands are too tense, Kat is fussy in the bridle, gaping in the mouth, etc. etc. etc. They tell me different ways and methods of how to let him go. This is my plan for the next dressage test we do. He's always good at home, but in the ring he can be a total ass and our test is often a fight from start to finish. Judges have told me to 'breathe thru your arms and the reins....' Ok but I had the feeling that we were about to exit the arena at any moment doing mach 9.

In talking to the dressage judge after the days events at the last ADT, she was impressed by all of the drivers and her main question was "How do you get them to do that without the use of your seat, your weight, your legs...???" We talked about how when driving Kat and his epic meltdown, I kept thinking how I would fix it if I were riding him and how finally I had to tell that part of my brain to "SHUT UP! already because You're NOT riding him!" We both had a laugh over it and she was intrigued by the whole process of having to reach the point of 'These are my options, what do I do from here?'

She had mentioned that she has a third level mare at home that she's riding and they have hit a block in their training and can't seem to get past it. I told her I have hit many of them and am finding lately that "I ride to sort out the driving, I drive to sort out the riding and if all else fails, go back to the ground and fix the horse from there." She tipped her head in curiosity and thought and said, "Huh? I really haven't ground driven her much, but I will have to try that. That's a good idea. Interesting... " She is an 'I' rated ridden dressage judge, but it goes to show, you never know what you're going to learn, from whom or where.

Back in the day, I was complimented on my hands while riding, that they were the softest, quietest hands that trainer had seen in a long time. I had always worried about my hands bouncing around at the trot and banging the horses mouth when I posted, so this was a major Win for me. Then this same trainer pointed out the issue I have about letting go while turning and used the bicycle handlebars visual to help me fix it. Somewhere along the way and over the years, it seems like it all went south. What happened, I have no idea. For a while ALL I heard was "Drop your hands" or at least it felt that way. Now it seems like all I hear is You're bracing against him, he's bracing against you, you need to relax your arms and several other variations of "Let go and drop your damn hands!"

Which is kind of funny and ironic in a way, because when I am ground driving, my hands are fine. They are light, low, relaxed and quiet. When driving Kat out on the trails and working him in between events, I have contact but it is soft, following and Kat is not braced, tight in the jaw or resistant in any way. But hook up the cart, throw us in the dressage ring and it all goes right out the window. It's game on and a war from start to finish during our test. Is it any wonder?

Even when ground driving or doing long line work, it is important to have light, soft, following contact. Sometimes you need to take a hold of the inside rein with contact to support the horse, but they need to feel it without you being in their face about it. You want the horse to accept the bit and reach for it, rather than evade it. Keeping your hands low when ground driving is good practice for when you are riding or driving them later on. Now if I can just put that to use in the ring later on.... maybe my scores will improve. In the cones and hazards we aren't too bad, but I am pushing him along, not holding him back- so obviously there's something to that. DUH!

I have also realized that maybe a part of our problem is that Kat rarely sees the inside of a dressage arena, unless we are at an event. Otherwise it is arena fencing, pasture fencing or wide open spaces. Looks like I am going to be buying some PVC piping and setting up a dressage arena to practice in.... Npthing involving horses is cheap.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting started

When starting a horse in long lines for the first time, I like to start them off with a little bit of lunging without anything on them.  I get a feel for the horse and they get a feel for me. I don't like the horse to be racing around all crazy and if that happens, I will quietly step out towards the front of them and turn them around.  It won't take long for the horse to relax and realize they can and should slow down.

When I worked with Cindy and her horse Trax over the weekend, I had her show me how she works with her horse. Her energy level is different than mine and the way each of us does things is also going to be different. If you are looking for a trainer, this is something to consider. Do they expect you to change everything about how you work with your horse, or are they willing to see how it is going and help you build on things from there?  Sure some things will Need to change, but if it wasn't broke- why did you call them to help you fix it?

Now horses will respond differently to each of us and Trax is no exception. Knowing his deep rooted issues with ropes in from his past, my main goal for the day was not to let him get himself into a mess and not give him the option of losing his mind. I started him out with the lines through the lowest rings on the sides of the surcingle. My reasoning behind this was plenty.

1) it is much easier for the horse to understand the concept of bending when you are basically asking them in a lateral way. You can also use your inside line to push the inside hip to the outside, which will give the front end only one way to go which is Into the turn you're asking them for. It makes things crystal clear for them, making life easier on both of you.
2) it would give me leverage in turning Trax into the rail to slow him down if things started to go a little wonky. Let's face it. I cannot and will not ever be able to out muscle a horse. Ever. I may be able to outmaneuver one, but I will never out muscle one. I might be strong, but I'm not That strong.
3) by ground driving them at the beginning, it is also much easier for the horse to understand the concept of forward if you can use the lines on either side of them to move them forward and only forward. They have one way to go and that's straight ahead. If your hands are nice and wide apart, if the horse were to step off to the side one way or the other, it is easy to tug the opposite rein to correct them and straighten them out. As long as they go forward, there is no rein pressure from either side.

Trax picked this idea up in no time and we were soon walking around the pen without issue. At the end of the first video on Cindy's blog, you can see Trax start to hesitate. "Do I stop or do I keep going? Mom is there by the gate, can I go back to her?"  A tug on the inside rein, cluck, cluck, "Walk on" spoken gently to him, he was sorted out and moving on again. When he moved forward and was relaxed doing it- lots of verbal praise. Tell them how good they are, how proud you are, how awesome things are going... Let them know that THIS is what you WANT. This makes you happy.

The way Trax looked in the end of the first video is what he looked like when we started. He just wasn't sure what was expected, what was being asked or what he was supposed to do. With the young horses and horses like Trax that have legitimate fear issues, I like to start them with their head pointed towards the rail of the round pen and them close enough to get a couple of steps before they are actually 'on' the rail and have 'freedom' lying ahead of them.

He took one step forward and stopped. I praised him for it, clucked to him, gently tugged on the outside rein and we got another step. Again, praise, ask, tug on the other rein and this time two steps, praise, ask and before long he was walking quietly and confidently around the round pen. If he tried to turn one way or the other, he was met with a tug on the opposite rein to keep him straight and his only real option was forward. As long as he was moving forward, I let the reins droop a little and he could have his head. No pressure, give him his release and lots of praise, because this is what you want. You can always build from here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In the beginning...

There are a lot of people who use ground driving and long line work for starting their young horses. It is a good way to get them moving properly and comfortably with tack on, teaching them to balance themselves with the saddle on their back, what the reins and the bit are for and what cues and body language mean to them when we ask for different things. It also gives us a visual idea of how the horse is actually moving, since we don't get to watch ourselves ride and it is sometimes rare to get pictures, let alone quality video.

Lately in Bloggerland there are a lot of us finding ourselves, out of the saddle and back on the ground trying to fix things that seem to be coming unraveled... *Raises hand, Been there, done that.*  It seems when I get ON the horse, there is so much for me to think about, so much I am trying to do, things I am trying to remember, focus on, DO, Don't do, work on, let slide and it can get overwhelming. There's too much going on between the ears up there and Unless there is a drastic change in how things FEEL? Forget it. Driving, ground driving and long line work? Take away the legs, the weight, the seat and you take away a lot of the things we as riders may think about when we are on our horse.

So where to start?

First off you need some decent lines to work with. A bridle which you probably already have and either a surcingle or a saddle will do. You'll want to use a snaffle bit as it works on the corners of the horses mouth, is not a leverage bit and therefore more mild. You want something your horse can accept calmly, rather than too much bit, which will show in their reluctance to move forward. You can also use a lunging type whip too if you need something to help motivate your horse to move forward.

My lines are made of the polyester braided rope found at most hardware stores. The 100 foot length will give you 2 lines 35 feet long for working the horse and another 30 foot line for lunging. Snaps and all, you're looking at around $15-$20 out the door. Heavier rope can be used and will give a little different feel to both you and your horse, but keep in mind that the snaps and the knot holding them on, may not go through the rings on the surcingle if you use one.

Surcingles are also another fairly cheap tool to acquire. I bought mine online from one of the many companies  I get catalogs from- Jeffers Equine, Valley Vet, SmartPak, Stateline, Big Dee's, Dover Schneiders... Shopping around you can find them on sale for anywhere around $15-$25 for the basic model, synthetic, lots of big rings, comes with the girth, blah, blah, blah. This will fit a large variety of horses in different sizes.  Mine fits a standard Arabian or QH, up to (barely) fitting my WB mare.

The thing I like about surcingles and why I prefer them to saddles for ground driving /long line (GD/LL) work, is because you have options as to where to put your reins thru them. Saddles you are either stuck with just the stirrups or the rings on a breastcollar. Running the lines thru the rings on the breastcollar works, but it can be uncomfortable to the horse. Any time you have to pull or tug on the lines, it's either going with the hair as you pull or against the hair as you release. Sooner or later the horse is going to become a bit irritated because it will be sore.

Running the lines thru the stirrups on either an English or western saddle, you need to secure them underneath to limit the 'swing' and keep the stirrups closer to the horses side. Baling twine works well for this, but putting it on a green horse or a re-hab horse, can be a little hairy if they aren't used to or don't like things going under their belly.  Depending on how long or short your legs are- the stirrups will put the lines going down and whenever you take up contact, the pressure will be coming from down, not up where your hands will be when you are riding. Saddles will still work, but I prefer a surcingle if available or even a driving harness saddle.  The harness saddle will allow you to run the lines thru the tugs for more lateral work or the turrets for regular work.

I have also seen the terms Ground Diving and Long Lining thrown around almost as if they are interchangeable. There are differences in the two and you can go from ground driving to long lining and back again. Ground driving is basically driving the horse forward, from the ground. You are behind them much as if you were sitting on a cart and you follow them around the arena or round pen, wherever you are working. Long line work is different as they are further out towards the ends of the lines. You can ask for a jog, trot, lope or canter and still control things as they go around you on a circle much like lunging.

For a young horse just starting out or even an older horse going thru re-hab, I like to start out in a round pen. If they are to freak out and lose their mind- they have a place to run and you can quietly wait them out. They aren't really going anywhere even if they happen to pull the lines thru your hands and take off. If they spin around to face you and end up wound up in the lines?  Again, there's not a lot of options for them if their 'flight mode' kicks in.