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Less Really Is More Some Times

Well today I learned a key fact with Cash…Less is more… especially when it comes to navigating turns with this boy. I think I’ve mentioned it several times in past posts where Cash likes to drop his shoulder and go the other way, well working with him today I think part of that may actually be my fault. (light bulb moment)

When working on circles I was always taught that you put inside leg on to bend the horse around the leg and outside leg back to keep him on the curve. Well either I’m really bad at this or it just doesn’t compute with Cash…I’m gonna say i’m defiantly a bit bad about it. I tend to like Buck Brannaman’s version of outside leg forward inside leg back to turn them. It just makes more sense to me on how to move the horses body, but again at anything other then a walk Cash and I seem to get discombobulated. He starts to go the opposite way I use my seat aids to tell him where to go, he trys to turn his neck in, I hold the outside rein and try to use my legs to keep bending him around the circle, and I can usually hold him there until we hit the rail and the rail turns him…usually… Its not pretty and it feels like I’m all over the place with him. This is BEYOND frustrating some days! BUT I do believe I have found the cure and it goes back to my above statement.

Sometimes less is more! On a whim I started trying different positions and leg aids in the saddle to get the response I wanted. It took a few minuets of sitting trot, then posting trot, then two point all with various uses of the legs in different positions until something finally worked.

Which one was it you ask? …..No leg and just slight rein aids! I must ride him with a “Feel” as Buck likes to say. He’s very responsive even to my subtle aids when I focus on thinking about what I want and not trying to use all my aids to get it. I mostly just have to sit there think straight, think perfect circle, just THINK about what I want and it’s amazing how close we get to it. I may have to step it with just a tad bit of rein pressure or a nudge with my foot but most of the times thats all it takes.

I swear some days (ok most days) I over think things. I’ve read so many books, and had a few  instructors that were always like “half halt, outside leg, inside leg, half halt, sit back, use your seat. HALF HALT, inside leg….” (you get the picture) that sometimes I try to do to much.

Cash knows how to go around a circle. Cash is pretty damn good about figuring out exactly where to go without me having to tell him where to put his hooves…in fact he hates when I try to micromanage him….and this is where we always butt heads in the arena….I try to treat him like a submissive dressage horse when he is anything but that. He’s an Eventer and there isn’t much of a submissive bone in his body. We are partners for sure but he defiantly lets me know just how much control I really have.

I dunno why but I try way to hard  in the arena to be perfect and to be that “master of dressage” when in reality all I want to do is go galavanting around the pasture jumping jumps. I must always remind myself that just ride like you do on the trail/cross country. Find a good rhythm, sit balanced and be as quiet as needed and only get loud enough to be heard to adjust our course or stride then go back to being quiet.

It’s really simple and yet something I always struggle with in the arena….its probably why Cash hates the arena (sorry buddy) but i’m working on it!

And as an added bonus Cash even managed to hold himself together when three other horses entered a ring and started a lesson with young kids on the opposite side of the arena. Had he been 3 we would have lost steering and madly careened around the arena sending children flying left and right….so I’m very very proud of him! The only thing that scared him was the kids grandfather who just happened to be reading a news paper on the scary swinging bench! He took a flying leap and a snort but I didn’t fall off and he figured out it wouldn’t eat him and we continued our ride! We’ll be ready for this crazy show rings in no time!!!

Now if I can just get it ingrained to not over think my riding in the arena I’ll be doing great!

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One proud momma

Cash trail
The best sights are seen through a horses ears

 

I am so so proud of the boys! This weekend marked a huge mile stone! We went trail riding for the first time since getting to Washington!

The hubby and I grabbed the boys and on a whim trailered out to a local horse trails.( I did attempt to get my hubby to wear a helmet but he’s choose not to wear one)It started out a bit rocky. The boys saddled up just fine and I was only slightly worried how they would react to a new place so we headed out! Of course about 100 feet from the trailer we saw a very scary power center thingy that happened to be humming. The boys decided that it was to scary to continue. They didn’t do anything crazy like whirl around and beat feet back to the trailer, but they were also adamant that they were not going to move one hoof in its direction. So we both had to dismount and walk them by it. They were sure there was a lion hidden inside and somehow by being between it and them we would shield them should it choose to attack (but weird, it wasn’t so scary going home….hummmmm)

dan and jack walking trail

We walked for about a quarter of a mile before the boys settled down and we got back on. When we finally managed to find the trail head(I knew I shoulda grabbed the trail map but it wouldn’t have been as fun of an adventure)  it was so nice to get out of the blazing sun! BUT awaiting us in the shade was another terrifying obstacle….trees….undergrowth…scary moss…and more trees!

The boys grew up in colorado and with the exception of Cash riding through some river crossings with trees when he was in California with me, they have never been in such an enclosed, shadowy space. There was tones of shadows and scary birds chirping and just weird sounds. So we decided to dismount again and lead them on a while so they understood it was alright. Best decision ever! This really seemed to calm down both boys and get them thinking forward. Not having to kick them and force them to go on, but walking with them and showing them that everything was indeed alright really did set them at ease.  Again we walked for probably another quarter of a mile and the boys stopped their snorting and began moseying  down the trail like old pros. We mounted back up and continued on and the boys didn’t put a hoof wrong the rest of the ride!

Other then having to slow down so Jack could catch up(Cash’s stride is just a tad bit longer to say the least) both boys were AMAZING! It was the first time my husband got to ride his horse(He’s head over heels in love with him by the way) as well as one of the first times Jack has really been out on the trail and he didn’t even think about spooking! He was defiantly not quite brave enough to lead or get out of line of sight of Cash but he handled it like a champ!  No bucking, bolting or spooking! Just some snorts and for a while he was stuck to Cash’s butt like velcro but after a while he seemed not to mind….or just got tired enough he didn’t care about keeping up…either way he kept his level head! Cash fell into his old groove, and other then being a wee bit sensitive to the rocky trail he was loving life. He even tried to nuzzel treats out of a stranger that was walking his dog.

Dan and Jack

We only road for about an hour an a half over all due to Cash being a bit sensitive to the rocks and I didn’t want to stone bruise him but it was such a good ride! Both my hubby and myself were so excited at how well the boys were. And I think I’ve lost Jack completely to the Western world. Dan says he’s to good to go english (his words not mine!) so I think I might just have to humor him(I did mention somewhere that I bought Jack for my husband right???) ….not to mention Jack seems to like the western world more right now.

I think all four of us needed that outing. For the boys it was good for them to stretch their legs and see new things and just build on the solid foundation of trust I’ve been working with them. I got to relax with my hubby and other then having a fun ride there was no agenda what so ever. The only casualty on the whole ride was my sunglasses….someday I’ll learn to get those neck straps so it doesn’t fall off my shirt….*sigh*

I’m such a proud momma at how well my boys handled the outing! *happy dance* I can’t wait to get back out there.

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So Similar Yet So Different

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Since yesterday was the 4th of July, I decided I wasn’t going to ride the boys today since I wasn’t sure how stressed of a night they had with the fireworks. So I took them out and put them in the arena together. I had one small jump set up in a small vertical just for fun to see what the boys would do. 

While I walked over to get my lunge whip Jack was checking out the jump and decided he wanted on the other side and happily walked over it, careful not to knock down the rail but not wanting to put enough effort into it to actually jump it.  It’s the first time I’ve seen him actually try going over an obstacle without me in the ring and it defiantly made me do a little happy dance.  Cash was nibbling at what ever dried grass he could find.

Once I entered the ring I just started to move them. Cash, being the slightly rebellious one, tossed his head and half reared before taking off like a rocket. Jack loped a few yards before slowing to a jog and eventually stopping to look at me while Cash zoomed around a bit before finding some more grass to nibble on.

As I worked with the boys it made me notice yet again how very similar and yet how very different the boys are temperament wise. They are both moochers and want treats. Some days I swear they think I’m a gum ball machine that just drops treats out as soon as they nuzzle me. But what I noticed between Jack and Cash today is how different they are in their receptiveness of me.

Jack is a much more cautious horse. He’s young and everything is a bit scary to him. He’d defiantly rather spook and get out of the way before looking at it, though he responds amazingly well to pressure when he is scared.  Jack had no problem following my every move and happily diong what my body language told him. If I stepped back to draw him in he happily walked over. If I pushed him by moving his butt away he yielded his hind quarters.  He always pays close attention to me and I must admit it’s quite nice.

Cash on the other hand is a lot less receptive to me and body language. Would he recognize what I was asking? Yes…eventally. It was usually after he finished looking at what ever he thought was interesting or finishing his lap in gallop. He would look over  and be like, “oh hi, yeah I’m coming” long after Jack already responded to it. In watching their reactions it really helps me figure out both ways to train with them.

Jack needs the reassurance that he’s doing the right thing. He’s more nervous and needs a calming presence to help guide him and tell him everything ok. He’s a horse that I think would run himself to death for me if I told him to.  If I stay calm and quietly ask for what I want he’s happy to oblige in the best way he knows how. It doesn’t take him long to pick up things but if I get angry with him he will get nervous and try to flee. My utmost priority with Jack is staying calm and quiet.

Cash needs a calm presence but also a loud one in a way. He needs to be reminded “hey you! listen mister” without getting physically dominant and thats the hardest part with Cash. Being loud enough he listens but not letting it boil over into anger. When Cash gets tired or frustrated he very much shuts down and does his best to ignore anything and everything and goes his own way. You have to have patience. Stop, calm down. Give Cash a break and then try it again and then he usually gets it. He’s a horse I am constantly learning to figure out. How he reacts on the trail is ten times different then how he reacts in the arena…he defiantly keeps me on my toes.

Jack and Cash have similar mannerisms but entirely different mentality when it comes to work. They both love to paw in frustration, they both love to get treats and they both have similar tendencies in their learning curves but they both react to stress completely differently.  Cash will fight, Jack will flee.

The biggest thing I (and hopefully  you as a reader) try to do is to work each horse individually. They are just like us, some learn better one way then another. Some can’t handle getting yelled at and another you can spank them and they’ll just do it out of rebellion.  I don’t believe there should ever be cookie cutter training systems because each horse is going to pick up skills differently. What one horse learns in 30 days another may learn in 10, where one excels the other struggles and so on. Always work a horse with a clean slate. Don’t let frustrations from one horse bleed onto another either. And that can be a challenge in and of itself when riding horses back to back!

 

Until next time!

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Trust and Confidence

Man, I’m still living off my riding high from yesterday! Yesterday I hands down had the best ride I’ve had on Cash in AGES! He was such a good boy! and I can say the only thing that was holding him back was me. Quite literally I might add.

I am an Eventer by heart. I love jumping, I love the rush of cross country…I suffer through dressage…and I love every second of it. There’s nothing more amazing then the feel of a horse galloping underneath you and the thrill (ok with a liberal dose of fear sometimes) of heading towards a jump.  Its addicting and I’m defiantly an adrenaline junky!

So why have I been sticking to the arena? Well ok, its not quite so simple as that. I don’t have great trails to ride right now that I feel comfortable riding just yet and by this I mean no one to ride with to check out said trails. Honestly I think the main reason is the fence for me has become a safety net. On the off chance I fall off it will stop my horses. And I won’t lie, since my accident I’m still building trust and confidence in myself as well as Cash.

This week has been one of those weeks that I just kinda wanted to bang my head against the wall. I can’t go home for the 4th, the hubby is away working right now, and stuff at work just didn’t seem to go right. So yesterday I said “To hell with it all” threw on my western saddle for some security and off we went to the pasture.

I think Cash knew what I was thinking. He was amped up from the start BUT he listened to me. He walked when I asked, trotted when I asked and finally galloped like a champ! We just rode like there wasn’t a care in the world. I embraced the feeling of the power underneath me and I gave him his head. He took off like a rocket and it was just the thing I needed (and I think he did to)! And ya know what he didn’t put a hoof wrong! He just ran and I rode with him and it was such a wonderful feeling. For the first time in ages we were riding like we were one!

In that moment I realized what was holding me back was ME! It’s amazing how cathartic horses can be!  Yesterday Cash proved I could trust him to carry me safely but I had to give him that trust first. I had to have confidence in myself and him for it to work out! Isn’t Cash the smartest horse ever?

I think we both needed that moment. He needed to know I trusted him and I needed to know I could trust him. Ya know what gave me the confidence to do it? The western saddle. Being just a tad bit more secure in case he pulled any antics and ya know what? Not a single one was pulled.  Granted he didn’t really want to stop but hey neither did I. Though the farmer wouldn’t have been happy if we’d have plowed through his fence and my wallet wouldn’t have either.  We both went back to the barn a little sweaty and covered in dust but so much happier then before. It was perfect and probably a moment I won’t ever forget!

Have respect and trust and confidence in your horse and he will give it back ten fold!!!