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The Walk: An often over looked gait

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So I was eating pie after work, yes pie. Delicious concord grape pie with ice cream I might add, Trying to center,  relax and calm myself. Work was a long day. I spent the majority of the day at the vets with my soon to be retired working dog (nothing serious I promise just a dental) and she had decided she’d rather sleep all day in the warm blankets then wake up and go back into the vehicle to go home.

The rest of the day I spent trying really hard not to let my tongue do the talking around my boss…I mean some days I do great and other days it’s all I can do to save myself a lot of grief for no real improvement one way or another. I was frustrated and frazzled when I got home.

That wonderful rich, handsome, loving, wanna be husband can show up ANY TIME so I can stop working to support my addicting horsey habits….ok back to the pie.

While I was eating my delicious and somewhat nutritious homemade pie, my mom messaged me a link about Walking: The queen of gaits from Dressage Today and as I was reading I was struck by a massive unavoidable thought…..I have been neglecting the walk. REALLY neglecting it and a lot of the issues I have, especially with Cash, could EASILY be avoided if I worked more at the walk.

Now why would I avoid the walk you might ask. Well first and foremost I apparently believe it is boring. If I’m walking it’s usually on the trail and having fun enjoying the sights but in the arena… ummmmmm well it never crossed my mind. I always walk for warm up and then immediately go into the trot. Many times I will work on walk-trot transitions or such but I never stay in the walk.

I also thought my horses would see it as boring. They are highly intelligent and I thought that maybe walking would get their pesky little mischievous brains working on not so happy ideals.

Oh how wrong I am! I jumped on Cash eager to test a theory. Was I just assuming I had good basics or were they actually there AND was Cash listening to them or just guessing at what I wanted and hoping it was right?

So I ask for walk (I’m bareback but with his bitless bridle on) and he starts down his normal path and I use my legs and seat for a turn to the left. He thinks about it a second and keeps going the direction HE wants to go. Not surprising he wants to go where he ‘knows’ he will get a treat and so I gave a tiny half halt on the left rein and I gave him the leg aids again. This time he turned his head and shoulders but decided he’d still rather go in the straight line towards his stall.(shoulder-in anyone?)  So I give a bump with my outside leg near his shoulder (I prefer Buck Brannaman’s way of turning instead of classical dressage style), I shift my weight slightly to the inside suddenly he turns and goes where I want. Hummmmm…..OK…. Was it me or was it him or a combination of both. What did I do differently the third time I didn’t do the first two?

To figure this out,  the rest of the lesson was us walking big figure 8’s around my “jumping” area.  Cash  kept trying to go over my experimental jump (post on that later) because he had gotten a treat for it earlier and just knew if he went over it he’d get another one. But over all as I began to ask again and again switching directions it became as if I could think what I wanted and he would start to turn.

What I found kind of eye-opening about working exclusively on the walk and truly focusing on it was how well I could time my aids. I could give the turning aid with my legs and then realized that my weight was being thrown to the outside and I could easily shift it and that would be the little push he needed to go the correct way. In fact most of the time I was asking for turns I was forgetting to give the seat aid and only giving the leg aid! The seat aid was the key to him turning and not just bending or completely ignoring it. It was in the subtitles like that we seemed to refine and I believe we started creating muscle memory. It wasn’t long before he truly understood exactly what was asking of him and if I was asking it correctly that he got the impression the first time instead of the second or third.

By working at the walk I was able to detect where I, as the rider, was going wrong and clarify exactly what I wanted. He’s a boy. His intuition is not the best (sorry to all the men reading this). How could I expect him to understand my aids in the trot or even in the canter when I wasn’t even giving them correctly in the walk?!

I think part of my mistakes with giving aids has been laziness and not really working on the refinement of the aids at all times. I have been more focused on my horse and not myself when it’s myself that has been causing some of the confusion. Could Cash have understood what I wanted without the refinement? Yes. Was he being a bit stubborn about it? Yes. But Cash is and probably always will be my teacher in many ways.  And for our walking session he was teaching me that I need to get my crap together in order for him to do it properly or he’d just blow me off.

I feel several more walking lessons in our future before we graduate back to trot and maybe even canter. If I can get him going 100% at the walk and I can get myself asking correctly the first time then I think our experiences in the faster gates are greatly going to improve! Now I gotta test it on Jack muh hahahahaha.

So if you have issues with the aids, your horses just are not listening or you’re getting an opposite reaction maybe try going back to the walk and seeing if it’s you who is giving the wrong aids or not enough of parts of the aids (like the seat). You can do almost every exercise at the walk! You and your horse will greatly improve in many aspects I do say so. I know we did here 😀

Until next time

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Going Treeless Part 2!!

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I am here to report my progress with going treeless. I must say it has taken some adjustment but not nearly as much as I expected. I believe that both horses are much more comfortable in my treeless then even my Stubben saddle and I am very comfortable it in as well. (If you didn’t see Part 1, check it out HERE)

I’ve had several nice rides in it now and I’ve tweaked it a bit to fit my boys and all I can say is WOW! The feeling in a treeless is so much….more, which is also a bad thing sometimes. Riding Jack, he’s young and inexperienced being out by himself and in my treeless I can feel the second he starts to tense his back muscles and think about doing something.

It’s wonderful in the fact that I can REALLY get ahead of him before he does something silly. It sucks in the fact that I feel him tense ALOT. Not all of it is “Bah I’m a baby” moments some of it’s just insecurity in a new situation or figuring out what I’m asking so I’m having to learn when the tensing I’m feeling is a spook or buck and when it’s just normal tensing at the unknown.

I’ve found the boys are much more forward in the saddle and I am able to keep my balance much, much better with them throughout all the moments and transitions. I feel like some of this is how the saddle sits me in the seat. Since I am able to adjust where my stirrup actually sits in relation to me I can get an actual shoulder, hip, heel alignment without having to force my leg back. It feels as if my leg is naturally sitting where it is supposed to without any huge thigh rolls. I feel I’m sitting much more correctly on my seat and pelvic bones so I’m able to quickly adjust myself to anything going on without falling out of balance or stabilizing myself with the reins. And biggest of all, I’m more relaxed over all.

Somehow I always ride more relaxed in my body while riding bareback. Since I get such similar feelings in my EZ Fit saddle I think the switch in my brain keeps me more loose. Being properly positioned and not having to fight for my alignment REALLY helps as well.

Now onto the comfort for the horses. Like I stated above both my horses seem to be much more relaxed in the treeless saddle! Cash’s strides are much more loose and forward and I can really feel him using his back and not running around on his forehand or working at the speed of molasses. I am actually tempted to try riding in a bit and see if a lot of his chewing was due to discomfort in the saddle. I get wonderful sweat patterns with him that shows even distribution and spinal clearance. He hasn’t had any back soreness that I have been able to detect. He’s much more excited to transition through his paces and over all just a better ride.

Jack no longer has bucking fits on the lunge line and he rarely throws in a little crow hop in the canter anymore. Jack has also stopped most of his dancing around while being saddled up. I think something must have been really uncomfortable for him even though the fit of my treed saddles seemed correct from all aspects. He actually sighs and stands when he realizes I’m putting the treeless on. I think Jack appreciates the feeling and the clear signals I send as well. Like  I mentioned I tend to get much more tense in a treed saddle when doing arena work and since he’s a young’n he really feeds off of me and the snowballs start rolling.

With the weight of the saddle being only 15 pounds I think it has also helped with my horses workability. My boys are in pretty decent shape but every pound you can shave off will always help them work longer and more comfortably.  Between the weight and not having and tree points potentially digging into their shoulders both boys seem to be giving me the rides of approval.

Now I mentioned adjusting the treeless so I figured I’d show you what the “inside” of the saddle looks like so you can see what pieces you can adjust and why I think it’s superior to other treeless saddles I’ve seen.
Treeless underside
The seat is movable. I actually had to move the seat back a bit so I wasn’t sitting on the cantle. These treeless saddles come with three adjustments. Mine is a medium so I can adjust it between 16 and 18.5′ english sizing. My seat is sitting about 17-17.5 right now and it’s just perfect for me. I could have probably used a small size just fine but beggars can’t be choosers.

The Stirrups are adjustable forward and back. As you can see one of the straps forms a D like shape crossed the back of the saddle and one goes over where the typical stirrup line is. This is a pice that really really helps distribute weight of your stirrup pressure, especially if you are a heavier rider. If you’re a petite person you could run them along the same line without much problem. The saddle includes a measuring tape on both sides so you can get the adjustments exactly the same on both sides!

Treeless underside 3That sliver ring in front of the stirrup straps is your front girth ring. You can move those forward and backwards depending on how it’s sitting in your horses girth grove. I find this saddles natural girth position is several inches back from a typical girth location but I find the horses are a lot more comfortable with it. If your horse is prone to galls on the back of their front lets this will help relieve that pressure and prevent more of them from forming.

Everything is secured using heavy duty velcro and then the seat is velcroed down onto the top. I haven’t had any issues with things slipping or coming undone. The seat folds back down and is secured with the buckles ounderside treen the back. The buckles are more of a failsafe on the chance that the velcro releases so I think you would be just fine without them but they don’t bother me at all so I leave them on.

The pads on the bottom of the saddle that create the spinal channel, and also make it possible to ride without the use of a specialized bareback pad are also held on by the heavy duty velcro. I haven’t had any issues with it slipping here either and I love that I can tweak it a bit as the boys grow or fill out/loose weight through out the season AND I didn’t have to spend another $300 on a good treeless pad. I have been using just a regular western pad with no issues so far!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this and if you have any questions on my journey treeless feel free to ask away 😀

Until next time

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Hey Lady, GET OUT OF MY FACE!!!

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He was giving me a stern lecture on how I’m supposed to use my hands.

Well Cash and I had not only a revolutionary moment in our riding, but I must admit I think we have had one of the best sessions I have EVER had with him yesterday.

We weren’t doing anything extravagant. In fact it was just big trot-walk-trot, circles around the big pasture in my new treeless saddle. I wanted a longer more true ride on him to check how everything is fitting and what else needed to be tweaked in the saddle.

The first few minuets Cash felt really fresh and I began to wonder if maybe I should have lunged him first….but I was already on him sooooooo why not give it a whirl? (and hope AND pray he didn’t decide to be a bronc today) Well we started out with just a quick warm up walk before I asked him to move into the trot. Since he was feeling a tad fresh I was making sure I had good contact on the reins “just in case” and a  deep seat. So Cash did what he does best in most situations.

He stuck his nose up in the air and tried his best camel impression! It was quite a glorious one. I could literally see his nose above his ears. I tried pushing him forward at tad and when I asked for that he just flung his head into the air, back down and the back into the air again. I was rather confused since Cash NEVER tosses his head.

He will pull, he will chomp his teeth but he never tosses his head when I’m on him. It was around that moment I realized that somehow I had gone from steady contact to a death grip on the reins and I do Mean DEATH GRIP! Those suckers weren’t moving in my hands. Cash was literally yelling at me in his horsey way “Hey lady,  Let go of my freaking face!!! I’m not gonna kill you I swear but your rubbing my face raw!!!”. Even though he’s in a bitless bidle that rawhide piece can get uncomfortable and probably down right painful if hauled on and he was letting me know I was right near painful!

So I aimed Cash for the far pasture fence and with a big sigh (and a small prayer to the horse gods)  I relaxed my hands and let the reins slide through my fingers until I was at the buckle. At this moment Cash immediately relaxed his head and dropped his neck. He pushed off from behind and for the first time that I can remember I felt him reach forward and lift his back! I could literally feel him engage his muscles and swing his back! His stride grew long and ground covering and I had the most giddy feeling in the world. Cash was in the first step of self carriage! His head was low but he was engaged, and listening. He was soft to my leg, listening to my seat and responsive on the reins. It was like he said “Finally woman! I can breathe!!! You just gotta have a little trust in me”

I didn’t want to breath in case the feeling disappeared. I stared down in stunned silence at his shoulders wondering if I was hallucinating or somehow in a day dream. Could Cash really be truly working on the flat???

To make sure I wasn’t in some weird alternate reality I brought him down to walk and asked for trot again. He did it again, and again. I wasn’t dreaming I really wasn’t!

The second I tightened up on the reins his stride became choppy and he threw his head back up. Then when I realized what I was doing and relaxed he went right back to being engaged and relaxed.  He gave me everything in a way I’ve never noticed before. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have a tree in-between me and him or if for what ever reason I was just more in tune with him but I’ve never felt that engagement before with him. I’ve never felt the currents of power rolling through his back before. There was always a block somewhere either stress, pain, miscommunication, or  fear on mine or his part. But today that had disappeared into the most amazing ride!

I’m still on cloud 9! I can’t even begin to describe the giddy feeling coursing through me right now. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like we truly connected doing flat work. He was so in tune with me and I was relaxed and listening to him. Other than a few times he tried to dodge out of the pasture to his favorite apple tree (He can’t be completely perfect now.) We had the best ride we have ever had.  It was truly a gift today and an eye-opening moment. I swear he continues to have more and more to teach me and the moment I feel frustrated with him he turns around and gives me the world when I just relax and trust him!

Cash is both a friend and a tutor. He has taught me is how to over come my fears and to trust again. To learn to listen with more than just my ears. He has taught me how to speak with no words and to work in harmony and not against a horses nature. With out the lessons he has taught me I wouldn’t be having near the success I am with Jack or even in my professional world working with dogs and even people for that matter. I just have to remind myself to stop and look at whats going on and RELAX! (breathing helps to….ya know the whole staying conscious on your horse thing tends to vastly improve a ride)

Thank you Cash-man for the best ride! I do think my new saddle EZ fit saddle is worth every penny if my rides keep going the way they are going!

Until next time

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Teaching lessons…and getting a few in return

These last few weeks have been quite a blur of activity both at work and with the horses and in-between all the craziness Cash has blown my socks off. I always wondered what I would find that he truly loves.  Well I can say I finally found it in the most unexpected of places and in finding it he  has suddenly given me back something that I have greatly missed.

One of my favorite things to do is teach. I love sharing with other people what I know about everything equine related and I especially love teaching beginners and children. There is something that is just so fun about seeing a kid who’s a little shy and insecure start working with horses and  become confident and sure of themselves and truly blossom. Cash has decided his lot in life is teaching children and I never would have thought he would excel here.

As Cash was growing up I had visions of jumping cross country and galloping through fields and all things adrenaline filled. But as Cash and I began working together we came a crossed hurdles that I didn’t expect. For a long time we clashed personality wise.  There was many a time I contemplated selling him. We are both alpha personalities and it took a very, VERY  long time for us to get on ground we both understood and accepted. I still have visions of competing him but as the days have gone by I’ve started to notice him not enjoying jumping as much,  and well he’s always abhorred dressage.

While I was over in Greece Cash was at home with my family and was mostly a couch potato but he did do some lunge lessons for my mom. I didn’t think twice about it until I got a working student to help me with the chores around the barn…because who doesn’t need an extra hand or five for all the chores?
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On a whim I decided to teach her lunging since she’s never learned how to do it on a lunge line. Cash was an angel. He didn’t put a hoof wrong and in fact took the time to teach her how to do it right.  He was calm and quiet. A gentleman in every sense of the word. If I had been lunging him he would have bucked and galloped and tugged on the rope and yet with my working student he just calmly trotted and cantered in a circle. As she was testing out what I was telling her I could almost hear him going “Now child that’s not right” every time she cued wrong and he’d continue doing what he was doing until  she got it right. Then he’d get this look like  “ah yes there we go,” and do what she asked. It was a heart melting sight and one that kind of humbled me. For once Cash truly said “Trust me” and I really listened and I’ve been payed back ten fold by it.

As he has continued his role of teacher to several people now  he has reminded me that though we have plans in life, they don’t always work out how we envisioned. In fact, many of my plans rarely work out how I planned. But when those plans go awry sometimes what becomes of them is even better then the original outcome.  He’s taught me to laugh and to relax and most of all to trust him. He knows what he’s doing with kids and under my watchful eye and directions he’s slowly teaching a new generation the love of horses. Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 7.00.01 AM

Sometimes a horses perfect place is someplace unexpected and a wondrous surprise.  THANK YOU to my amazing horse Cash for not only giving me back one of my passions but also reminding me that trust and happiness is not far away, we just have to be willing to try something new in order to find it.

Until Next time.

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Best New Grooming Tool: Hands On Gloves

It isn’t very often that I come a crossed a new type of grooming tool  that I like. Most ideas have been tried and done before with just a slightly different shape or material. Well, I just found my newest most favorite grooming tool ever. Cash AND Jack both enthusiastically agree. They are called Hands On Gloves and they are AMAZING! (I do have a video using them on Cash’s muddy butt, but for some reason my phone and computer refuse to talk to each other. One of these days I’ll invest in an iPhone so all my electronics will all talk to each other!)
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You put on these gloves and they have all the grippies of normal plastic groomers but they are on your fingers and palms. I can groom the boys in the most odd of places that I can’t reach normally with a brush or a good scrubber. (Like cash’s favorite of right between the chest muscles or the crease of the leg and chest)  I can carefully get around the boys eyes, ears and all around those weird places on the face and the boys just LOVE IT!  I haven’t seen my horses give me the “oh oh right there….oh please don’t stop scratching” looks so much before. The fact that they are shedding right now probably really helps them love these gloves. And I have drenched them in water and used them just to see. They still work great they just don’t wipe off the hair as easily as dry but they are very good. I’m not sure how long they will last with enthusiastic brushing but if it lasts the shedding season i’ll be happy. I’m really pleased with how much of the dead skin and dirt it pulls up as well. The boys will be gleaming in no time!

*Note* These gloves are a tad expensive at $25 a pop BUT you horses will seriously say thank you! Both Cash and Jack love them and they have two very different tastes for what and how I groom them!

My work schedule has been ridiculous lately and I won’t lie, my time with my horses has suffered because it. (hence my very few posts these last few weeks) and I love just going out to hang with the boys and give them some brushings to get my horse hair therapy going.  These gloves have really helped it for sure! 😀

I think time on the ground just hanging out with the horses is also just as important as riding the horses. I’ve found that when I do work in hand, or I just relax and hang out drinking a cup of tea (or wine) and sit near them while they are grazing really has drastically improved my relationship with my horses. I think in a way it builds their trust with me, and of course great grooming sessions always help, especially when you reach those really, really hard to reach places for them!  Any who I just wanted to jump in and say a quick hello before having to head off to find me some dinner and a really really hot shower before getting ready for my day tomorrow.

Good news! The sun has been shining and I think possibly that summer is almost here! That means a lot more work with the boys since it’s staying lighter much longer! So as long as work doesn’t put me on the crazy schedule I’ve been on the last few weeks I’ll be back to blogging again like crazy!

Until next time!

 

**This is not a sponsored post. I just seriously love these gloves and had to share! Click on the link above or check them out here at handsongloves.com**

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Dressage Just Got Real Part 2


So if you’ve read part one (Check it out HERE if you haven’t) have I blown your mind yet?Well let me show you why lifting the head was essential and how it really helps this second part.

So your horse now understands that when given upward pressure on the bit he has to hold his head up. Remember when I said Carol put her finger in the snaffle ring and gently lifted up and Cash turned his head???  Now you see where we are going.

So once your horses head is up, stand in front (or slightly to the side for safety) and gently lift one side of the bit up and do a little vibration/wiggle by lifting up and down a few centimeters. The horse should turn it’s head. If not Ask, wait a moment, praise or ask again.

Now as they turn their head watch their front legs. Most horses will lean the majority of their weight towards the direction their head is going. They may also have a preferred side that they tend to keep weight on. For instance if the horse is turning its head left they pop their right shoulder out and lean to the right instead of following the head to the left. (IE. Cash popping his shoulder out  and going right to go see the horses BUT I had him turned and bent to go left).

So as you observe them do they transfer their weight left and right to follow their head? or do they move their head but keep most of their weight on one side?

If you have a horse that leans all its weight on one leg, say the right front leg, that’s great for the left leg because it frees of weight and can move any way it needs to.  However, the moment you ask them to move the right leg they literally can not move that leg because there is too much weight on it.

posted leg free legIt’s like leaning against the wall using your right arm to hold your weight.  Your left arm is free to do what ever you want but you can’t move your right arm for fear of loosing your balance and falling.

Now to understand why they do this, a horses head weighs approximately 50 pounds! So when they are moving forward and they’re looking forward it’s easy for them to move that direction but if they swing their head one way or another they compensate with their “strong” side to keep in balance.  Horses have a preferred side just like we do so that it’ s typically the side that takes the majority of the weight when they more their heads left to right.  Some horses will shift their weight to both sides easily but the majority of horses will pick one side over the other.

This brings us to the next exercise:

You’re going to need your reins and a training whip long enough to reach their butts.

Take the reins and put them over the horses head like you normally would to mount. Then grab the outside rein and ensure you have a nice light contact with the bit but are not pulling on it. It’s there to keep the bit steady. You will put the outside rein in your hand closest to the butt,with your training whip also in that hand, and position your hand on the meaty part of the shoulder.

You can see how i'm holding the bit and the reins here.
You can see how I’m holding the bit and the reins here and where I’m holding my hand on the shoulder. Sorry about the sun glare!

The best way to grip the bit  is going to be gripping the top part of the snaffle ring ensuring you only pull up not back and/or down. You can hold it any way thats comfortable but this ensures you are only pulling up.  Don’t be afraid to use the noseband to help make sure you don’t pull down on the bit until you get the feel for it.
holding bit
So once you’re all situated you are going to ask for walk.

Ask, wait for response.  Praise if they did it right. If they didn’t move  ask again while simultaneously using the whip to tap at their side to get them to move forward  and cease all aids as soon as they do and praise.

Then ask for whoa by pulling up slightly with both reins and releasing the upward movement. The release is MANDATORY!  This is your wait for their response moment. If you continue to hold the horse will resist. Give them the opportunity to respond! Then either ask again or praise depending on the response (seeing a theme here?)

When you’re sure you have go and whoa you can move on to the next step. 

Ask the horse to move forward. Now just like when the horse was standing and you asked him to turn his head,  wiggle the inside ring up and down several centimeters. Once you have the bend in his neck praise!  As you move forward walk on a large 20 to 40 meter circle. If needed walk down the rail but it is usually easier to do on a circle. As you do this a lot of horses will fall in with the shoulder. Don’t worry we will fix that next.

Take your hand holding the whip and outside rein and watch the inside leg. As the inside leg ( or the shoulder you’re standing next to) begins to raise off the ground. Push on their shoulder and then release the pressure before it strikes the ground.

Crossing front legThis should cause the horse to step across their outside leg and move their shoulders away from you.  This does take a bit of timing practice and you MUST release. If you do not it causes what is known as opposition reflex. This means the horse will lean into your pressure instead of away. It’s a natural response. Even you will do it if someone pushes steadily against your shoulder.

Make sure to praise praise praise when they gets it right.  Don’t reprimand if they do it wrong or don’t do anything.  Let them stumble on to the right answer. If timed right they understand what your asking very quickly. Don’t over do it. Once they have done it several times repeat the steps on the other side.

You are teaching your horse that they are mobile in the shoulders as well as  how to shift their weight left and right evenly while maintaining bend. That is why having their head up in these beginning steps is really nessicary.  If they have all their weight on the forehand it is a lot harder for them to move their shoulders.

The Final Exercise: 

crossed hind legsNow once they have mastered both the right and left shoulders moving away from the pressure, while still circling at a walk,  take the whip, hold it horizontally a crossed their body  and tap their haunches lightly as the rear inside leg (hind leg closest to you) is lifting off the ground.  This should cause them to step under and a-crossed moving their hind end to the outside. Ask with a tap or two, Wait for a response and ask again or praise. (The pic is a horse at a stand still but it gives you an idea of the moment you are looking for)

Now when asking for this exercise the first time horses will usually try to go faster instead of over. Cash tried to trot forward the first time he was asked.  Just hold them steady. If needed give that slight upwards pressure on both reins and ask for walk. Be patient. This can make some horses a bit nervous to start.  Once they even take a tiny step a crossed to the outside with the back leg praise, praise, praise!  It usually only takes a few tries and praises for them to understand it typically if you’re timing your aids right. I mean if Cash picked it up in about three tries I think a calmer horse would pick it up faster.

The hardest thing is ensuring you’re not pulling on the bit while asking for the aid and having the correct timing when giving the tap to the haunches to move.  This final exercise teaches a young or inexperienced horse that while they have more weight on the haunches then normal they are still able to move their legs laterally and it begins to teach the engagement of the hocks.

That’s it for my first lesson. A very simple and yet profound exercise. I do ask please keep the sessions short! Carol only worked with me and a Cash a grand total of 10 minuets out of the hour lesson. The rest of the hour was spent just talking and explaining. There is absolutely no reason you can’t stop after five minuets if your horse is understanding it. In fact it is much more beneficial to the to stop after a short but great session.

What blew away was the response in Cash at the end of the lesson. He started out nervously chomping the bit. By the end of the lesson he was still chomping but it was relaxed and much slower. He was calmly standing next to me. Which was AMAZING given the fact it was about 40 degrees with about a 15-20 mile an hour gusts of cold wind. At the beginning I couldn’t get him to stand still to save my life!

Repeat this exercise every day for 1 week or if you can’t do it ever day of week do it as many times as you can for two weeks. Don’t ride your horse at all until the end of the week and let me know how your horse responded. You do not need any arenas to do this exercise either! I do it in my pastures and front yard (yup hoof prints everywhere!)

HERE’S a great little video showing exactly what you need to do once your walking! The young lady is doing the work and Carol is talking to the girl as she’s doing it. I have tried taping my personal sessions since my lesson but my camera decided to hate me( I do think it’s my memory card…hopefully) , but I can’t seem to get the right angle to show you or longer then about 15 seconds to record. I need my own camera crew haha.

If you have any question let me know and I will get you the answers! I hope you’ve enjoyed this 😀

Until next time!

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Dressage Just Got Real Part 1

Dressage arena set up with letters Tower Letters are molded using 100% UV-stabilized HDPE. White with large black letters molded onto all three sides. Letters are stackable with anti-suction tabs to prevent sticking. 10-017 10-018 Wellington Dressage Arena 2-023 2-024 2-025 2-123 920PW 920PWC Wellington Arena Package Wellington Arena Tower Letter Package WATowerp1 WATowerP2

My mind = blown. I never knew such a short lesson could bring about such revelations! Where has this amazing trainer been hiding all my life?!! Now it’s taken me almost an entire week to digest and understand exactly what she told me throughout my lesson. The information I learned will also be broken up into several posts because it’s so much I don’t want to overload  and confuse you.

The camera we were using for the lesson decided to hate my memory card so I didn’t get it on video and I’m attempting to re-create it with my go pro but like all thing technological it seems to never want to work when I need it to…. or I fried the memory card.

Before we begin I want to point out that I put Cash back in a bit for the lesson. I figured that since I was riding with Carol McArdle who has an extensive background in not only dressage but eventing as well, (Check out her bio HERE)  that maybe she would see something that I’m doing or have ideas on how to make him happier with the bit.  I was right!

To start our lesson I got on and started walking around in warm up. Carol wanted to see my typical warm ups and how we worked together on a normal basis. As we were going around the arena Cash saw two horses just chilling on the other side of the rail and decided he REALLY wanted to meet those horses. He did his classic “I wanna go THIS way” move while I was telling him “No go this way” and we were arguing over which direction we were going.

This was literally about 2 minuets into the lesson. It was at this point Carol stepped in. She said

“You have a communication issue. Your horse doesn’t understand what your asking with the reins.”

Now the next bit is gonna sound weird. It goes against almost everything I have been taught but hold out on me. I promise it’ll get a bit clearer.

She then grabbed the right bit ring with one finger and lifted gently straight up and gave a tiny vibration and Cash instantly turned his head to the right.

“The key to a horse is not pulling down and back like you were doing. It’s pulling straight up on the bit. Your horse has never done this before and see what he did? He automatically turned his head.” and  then proceeded to tell me to get off my horse.

Wait…What?!…I froze….What did she just say? Get off my horse??!  Pull straight up???  HUH?

This is the FIRST time in my entire life that I’ve been at a lesson and I was kicked off my horse. I thought maybe she wanted to get on him and show me something. I kinda prayed she had insurance and jumped off.

As I hopped off she put my stirrups up. So I waited even more confused. Did I screw up that badly that we were ending the lesson already? Then she told me we are starting at the very beginning basics.I was still confused. I thought I was at those basics with Cash but she was not talking about the basics in the saddle.She meant starting at the basics on the ground by doing in hand work!

Now in hand work is something I have always attempted/wanted to do. I have about three books on it and I’ve watched countless videos but I never quite understood what they were doing. So she grabbed the reins and began to show me.

I was blown away and secretly grateful that she did this.

The information she told me has completely changed the way I handle a horse with a bridle. So for the next bit I’m gonna break it down to help explain why you do this first evolution by pulling UP on the bit.

All right a little tid bit on some basics of how bits work in a horses mouth varying on how you pull on the reins. This was how Carol explained it to me. I added some pictures to help clarify.

Pulling straight back with the reins: This pulls down on the tongue and possibly the bars of the mouth causing intense discomfort. Think of it this way. When you’re at the dentist and he puts his finger on the back of your tongue and pushes what happens? It creates gag reflex. The same is true in your horse. The pressure is not comfortable in any way so they try to evade it one way or another or brace against it.

Bit pulled straight back best

Pulling down: Puts INTESE pressure on the bars of the mouth and possibly the pallet as well. The bars of the mouth are extremely sharp and narrow. It’s very easy to cause stress fractures as well as bony spurs on the bars with constant downward pressure and severe bruising to the tissue of the bars of the mouth and the roof of the horses mouth. Just ask a vet or dentist if you don’t believe me.

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Pulling straight up: Puts pressure only on the corners of the horses mouth. As the bit moves up it tickles or strokes the tongue causing the horse to lift his tongue and swallow releasing pressure in the poll. It has no effect on the bars or pressure on the tongue and is much easier on the horse. And for horses like Cash doesn’t invoke a fight response to pain. In the picture below you can see the action of the bit as due to the angle of the horses head. The bit is being pulled up along the tongue not down.
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The best thing she told me to remember was “Ask. Wait a moment. Give the horse a chance to respond to what you’re asking. If they give the wrong answer or don’t respond at all ask again! Once you get the right answer praise praise praise!”

DO NOT PUNISH a horse for giving a wrong response. This just adds unnecessary stress and confusion for no reason.  PRAISE is mandatory for a horse to know when he has done something correctly.

As Cash was standing there he was nervously chewing on the bit. She calmly took both bit rings and gently moved them up in his mouth until he RAISED his head just a little bit.Cash went to walk forward and turn but Carol calmly walked with him until he stopped. She lifted the bit again then he lifted his head a tad and lots of praise followed. It didn’t take him long to figure out when she pushed up on the bit he had to raise and hold his head up.

Now if you’re like me you’ve been taught to put the horses head down. That’s why side reins, draw reins and even martingales are used. It is commonly taught that we want the horse’s head round and down and taking contact on the bit for a young horse. But there is a very good reason to teach the horse to raise his head in the beginning stages.

I’m going to explain the biomechanics of the motion and how using a horses natural biomechanics to help train is really beneficial. And why wouldn’t we want to use what’s already given to us to make our lives easier? and easier on our horses? After all the goal of dressage is to teach a horse to carry a rider as naturally as possible and to build the strength in the horse to do the movements we are asking of them. Dressage is nothing but continual training of the horses mind and body.

shift weight picSo in nature as a horse hears or sees something unknown they immediately raise their head. When they do this it causes the horse to automatically shift its weight back to its haunches in case that sound happens to be a predator. This frees up the forehand and allows them to make a rapid movement should escape be necessary. Putting their head up also switches their vision for distance so they can see if a predator is near. How does this help dressage?

When asking a horse to raise his head, I’m not saying raise it to the point where if it rains he drowns.  I’m talking mere inches here. Not even as high as the horse in the picture.  He will naturally raise his head much higher to check something out like above. You want him only to raise his head high enough where you see the small shift of weight from front to rear. And it’s subtle so it’s very easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Now that the weight is more towards the rear it is much easier to ask a horse to more his shoulders left and right.

I’m going stop this post here. Part 2 will be coming soon but just let this idea sit in your mind for a bit. Part 2 will show you how this first step will make everything much easier and how it helps your horses suppleness without anything crazy.….Intrigued yet???

If you want to read part 2 check it out HERE. In part 2 you will understand why lifting the head really helps the next exercises 😀

 

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A Whirlwind Of A Weekend And It’s Only Saturday!

This weekend has been a crazy whirlwind of activity and I’m only half way though it! Cash has blown my expectations out of the water already. (Knock on wood and throw salt over my shoulder!)

Cash trying bitlessI trailered him out to the covered arena and got to try his new bitless bridle thanks to an amazing surprise from my mom! He LOVES it. He relaxes, listens to subtle aids and just seems so happy in it. I don’t even know how to explain how well he feels in it. He was even reaching down into the light contact I had on the reins! No fighting of the turning aids, no wrenching the reins out of my hands!!! It is bliss and I hope it continues. I will eventually re-introduce the bit to him so we can show but for now I’ll take what I’m getting and run!!

I also pissed off Jack today by just trailering out Cash. We have a dressage lesson tomorrow with Carol Lynn Mc ardle!! (Eke!!! so excited can’t even adult!!!) and I wanted to see how he would handle trailering and being ridden without Jack anywhere near. Needless to say he was a tad bit of a space case to start. On the lunge he wanted to pay attention to everything outside the arena. He would listen to my commands but wasn’t really listening if you get my drift. It’s when I got in the saddle that he absolutely blew me away! We probably only rode for a total of 20 minuets but it was an amazing 20 minuets. He was responsive to all my aids! Leg seat and hand!!! It was a huge moment. We even did side pass at the walk and some turn on the forehand left and right!!!

He has decided that the far end of the arena is scary due to a tarped mound of dirt BUT when I asked him to trot towards it he actually picked up the trot and kept a great rhythm throughout the whole length of the arena. He got a little lookie loo at the very end but he circled a decent 20 meter circle and settled down and happily went a crossed the diagonal to the other side and repeated it. He was happy to do walk-trot transitions and only put a fuss up once when he was getting a tad tired! I think what helped is I ensured to praise loudly in a happy voice each and every time he did something well or gave an attempt to do it. He’s a horse that needs re-assurance  that he’s doing something right. He needs verbal praise and lots of scratches (not slaps!) to boost his confidence! If he keep going this way man I can only envision the possibilities!

I mean I’m still so excited about it that I am probably babbling away. The only thing we had issues on was the canter transitions and holding the canter. I think part of our problem is he’s super tight from not moving much in his pen due to the mud and probably a little sore as well. It will be very interesting to see how he does in our lesson tomorrow!!

Jack NappingNow I did mention Jack was mad at me…well I did make it up to him by allowing both him and Cash some time under the orchard trees to graze and Jack took full advantage of the semi-dry ground to take a lengthy nap (seriously I walked out to make sure he was still alive) He even seemed to be dreaming.  I felt bad that I had woken him up!

finish road fenceMy mom also sent me some Wellington boots since my other boots are no longer water proof. (You can read that story here)  I was able to finish ripping out that stretch of barbed wire (Nasty evil shit!) and I’ll begin the other side tomorrow. It won’t be long before I have the new fence up and the grounds dry enough to let the boys graze until their hearts content! The grass is already 6 inches tall out there! If it would ever stop raining I could graze it!!!

Now I did get the death glare from the boys when I had to put them back in their pens and Jack even jumped the electric fence (oh yes jumped!)as I was putting it back where it normal is. I had to run around with treats and a halter and finally corner him to get the halter on. Then he drug his hooves all the way back to the gate. I’ve never known a horse to walk so slow. Poor cash was pouting as well but he’s easily consoled by giving him a flake of alfalfa. Jack on the other hand is probably currently plotting my death.

So I apologize for this post being kind of a ramble. I’m still so shocked and excited and empowered by everything I managed to accomplish today (and I even left some stuff out!) and I wanted to share it so badly that well I couldn’t help myself! Tomorrow’s gonna be even better. A full rundown of my first lesson in over 2 years and my first ever on Cash will be written (and video hopefully)

Until Next time!

P.S. oh and If you haven’t gotten the news the boys and I are now on INSTAGRAM! Check us out if you get a chance 😀  (oh and please do me a favor and ensure you have “turn on notifications” once your following so you can stay up to date with the boys and I!)

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The Water Dragons Got Me!

Do you ever have those moments where you suddenly realize why your horse has issues with something say….water? Yep yesterday was one of those rides. It was a moment that clarified that though Cash may be almost 8 now (gosh I can’t believe that!) He is still very much green broke and VERY opinionated.

A friend asked if I wanted to go riding and of course I did. It was a pretty gorgeous day though the wind kicked up about the time I was hooking up the trailer….I should have realized right there this was a bad idea…But hey I’m stubborn and I had people waiting on me so by golly I was freaking going! So I loaded up Cash, swung around and grabbed my friend and headed to the beach where one of her friends met us.

Now the last time Cash has seen the ocean was when we were in California and that has been at least 5 years. Now the key difference between California and here is California’s are not rocky beaches and the surf is WAY stronger. Needless to say the beach was not his most favorite ride there. I conveniently forgot about this. So we start our ride and it’s going pretty well. And then the ocean comes into view and we start walking towards it.

Why did I think I had to put my horses feet in the water….I dunno… It seemed like a great idea at the time. And he had two lead horses to follow so… off we go towards the waves. We actually get in the waves when in Cash’s mind a HUGE wave starts heading his way.  Cash takes this as his cue that the elusive water dragons are trying to eat him and starts jumping waves and water for all he’s worth! (oh yes there is a video below)

Now I’m gonna pause here… You ever have those moments where your watching a train wreck and you just can’t look away? Well I was having one of those moments except I was the train…And it felt a lot longer then about 3 seconds! As Cash was jumping the water he and I parted ways and I hit the water and the rocks. Luckily there was about a foot or two of water between me and said rocks.

The water dragon has swallowed me whole and Cash headed to the closest thing he can…safety in numbers! He goes to the other horses! While I’m fighting for my life, in his eyes, the nice cowboy riding with us grabbed his reins and kept him in the water while I re-emerge from the gloomy depths trying to get as much salt out of my mouth as I possibly can. Needless to say I was drenched to the bone.

Now Cash didn’t freak out any more in the water. I think he figured out he was taller than it and while the water dragon had swallowed me… it had spit me back out so it was alright for the moment.

Of course I couldn’t leave the ride like that. I really do want Cash to get over his fear of the waves and I didn’t want to have confidence issues. So I got back on, shivering n all and with a cringe for the cleaning I was gonna have to do with my saddle off we go down the beach again.

Cash has decided that the water is still scary though it’s not terrifying and we slowly gain confidence in the footing. He still wants to lag behind and in all honesty if I’d have given him the reins he’d have probably happily walked back to the trailer no questions asked. We finally start to trot and then get to a slow lope. Yup he was doing an amazing lope down the beach.

Well of course the riders with me want to lope as well (that’s what you go to the beach at low tide for). Here is where I made a mistake. I let that mare get ahead of us. Anyone who knows Cash knows he HAS to be in the lead. I dunno what it is about him but he just has to win. (I seriously should have raced him. I’d have probably won a shit ton of money)And the race was on. Now the cowboy dropped a water bottle and riding on a cow horse he can quickly stop and turn around. Cash did not like this idea of stopping and decided that he would show his unpleasantness by bucking. Oh yes bucking. And I’m not talking crow hopping… OH NO…I’m talking full on all four feet off the ground bucks!

Now I want to praise myself here. I was smart enough to ride my western saddle though a tad big for me (ok it was my dads that I stole… sorry dad) I managed to keep myself on between sheer power of will and essentially curling around the horn and hanging on for all I was worth. (I did mention I was soaked in water right before this right? Soaked clothes+ wind= lack of fine motor skills…or really any skills at all)Though it didn’t take long before Cash calmed down and all was right…again… in the world. We did ride calmly back to the trailer. Ok I walked the last half mile because the two I was with wanted to gallop the beach and I was just too cold to deal with any of Cash’s tantrums. Walking to the trailer really warmed me up considering I had about ten more pounds added to my feet with all the water and sand in my boots.

Now I also want to add one tiny detail. You know I was soaked to the bone when I got back to my truck I had the sudden realization that I was soaking wet and I had to drive home. Now I get shit from the guys at work (and my family) all the time because my truck looks like a mobile tackroom, minus a saddle (usually). My truck has cloth seats. Wet clothes and cloth seats do not get along! That’s just what I needed to end the day. So with a quick rummage in the back seat I emerged victorious! Cash’s rain sheet was sitting in the back. Rain sheets are water proof! Huzzah!!

So I cranked the heater and off we went to go home. I can say taking my clothes off and sitting in a nice hot bath has never ever felt better! With a glass of wine and a slice of stuffed crust pizza all was well in the world once more!

I have some mighty impressive bruises today that just keep getting better and better as the day has gone on and I’m sure they will be looking like I got jumped in a back alley soon. But hey in the end it was a lesson learned, and now a good story and it was filmed to boot!

Also I had a helmet on and for that I am very,very thankful. While I did land in water I also landed on rocks and my lower back a crossed my spine has the cut and bruise to prove it. It could have been a whole different ride had I not had my helmet on!  Plus it makes a great spot to GoPro from! 😀

Until Next time.

 

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Branding And The Origins Of A Name

I was sitting here this morning drinking my coffee and hoping it’s not gonna rain and the wind would stop blowing when I realized that I never once told you all why I have the name Rocking LR Equestrian. Well the Equestrian part is pretty straight forward, I think, but not the Rocking LR.

As you may know I grew up on a lovely little ranch in Colorado called Legacy Ranch….Oh hey LR….Legacy Ranch…. that parts figured out….Well we have been breeding and rasing horses since I can remember and being a ranch when I was little we (ok my parents) decided that we needed a brand to help identify our horses and just make our amazing bloodlines known as ours. Besides if you’ve ever met my dad he’s about as cowboy as they come!

Well if you have ever gone through the Colorado brand book you will quickly realize that pretty much any and all brands that are not 4 letters/symbols or more are gone. And in case you didn’t know the longer your brands are or the more complicated the look the harder it is to get the brand to come out legibly, and it’s just a royal pain in the ass to deal with.

Brands are flipped so when you apply them they will come out correctly on the horse.
Brands are flipped so when you apply them they will come out correctly on the horse.

Well after tossing around different possible combinations for weeks we just couldn’t decide on a brand. ( and yes my parents let me help in choosing the brand design! It was a family affair after all) I managed to talk them into LR for Legacy Ranch. After much debate we had it narrowed down to a few hopeful ideas.  My dad happened to be skimming through the brand book and saw a beautiful brand Rocking LR. He got the contact info of the current owner of the brand and with a little hope called the owner up. As it turned out he had no use for his brand anymore and was in fact thinking of archiving it (Basically a room of no return for brands) So for some little bit of money and a lot of paperwork we got the brand ROCKING LR! It’s a name that I have fallen in love with and while I am no longer in Colorado I still claim in as mine!

Branding itself is a very controversial topic in today’s world. It’s still very traditional, and many warmblood registries still offer branding when they pass inspections to prove their worth and of course ranches all over the United States still use it on livestock as identification. In todays technical world people belive that there are better, less invasive ways to mark a horse and I do agree there are but is also huge advantage to branding to branding people over look.

Obviously it marks an animal as yours or coming from your ranch. A very successful horse can be traced back to its breeders via a brand if the state of origin is known. So this is a plus to breeders in promoting their stock but I think one of the biggest helps is in deterring theft.

A brand on a horse is a huge identifying mark and one that is usually very noticeable to Cash western copyanyone looking at the horse. (In the picture you can clearly see the brand on Cash who has no other big identifying marks)  The only time its a little obscured is if the horse has a long winter coat. When a horse is stolen if it’s branded you can let the brand inspectors know and an alert goes out to all brand inspectors to watch out for them locally and can even go out nation wide.

I think a brand is a huge deterrent to potential thief’s because it’s so identifying. A bay horse with no obvious markers is much easier to pass off  and sell then one with a brand standing out on its shoulder or hip. Obviously if a thief is bound and determined enough they can probably still get away with it but it really helps!

Also if a horse is lost and someone finds it (such as getting out of a paddock. Getting away from a campsite…ect)  If they contact the local brand office they can usually track a horse through its brand inspections (if it’s been sold) or through the owners of the registered brand and get that horse home rather quickly.

I think other ways of identifying horses such as using a microchip are also great ways to go too. Actually I think it’s a great idea for all animals that are currently able to be microchiped such as dogs, cats and horses. It’s just another tool to help get an animal home safely should they be found lost and alone or suspected of theft. But regardless of people’s personal views on branding I personally am a huge supporter of it.

Until Next time.

P.S. Oh and for those that might be wondering yes I did brand my western saddle too. Well my dad branded it for me 😀

 

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A Weekend Of Bliss

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Cash and Jack think the same part of the property is scary when we were lunging.

Oh man this has been an amazing weekend. The boys have absolutely blown me away. On Saturday, due to having to go into work, I ran out of time to ride so I ended up just lunging the boys and HOLY COW! Jack can trot!

I have no idea where this trot came from. The Jack I know likes to do the pokey halter horse trot, dragging feet and everything but BAM there was a jaw dropping beautiful trot! So there is hope yet that he may think he likes english sports! And it wasn’t a one and done kind of thing he kept it up for the whole time I lunged him! Geesh maybe off time really was the best thing for him! He found his spit-fire! I was amazed by it and the even better thing was I haven’t really worked with him in over a month and he still listened! He did his transitions when asked and was calm minus a few bucks to start.

Cash was his normal crazy self haha. It proves that Jack is the brains of the family and Cash was the brawns because Cash ran for most of the time hahaha.

Today is where they really got it going though. We went for an awesome trail ride! The ladies who live around me and one of their husbands invited me to go riding with them. Now I decided to tempt fate and took both boys out! Poor Jack had some swelling in his right hind fetlock( I think Cash kicked him but I could be wrong) but he wasn’t really off on it and I figured that the movement would be good to get the fluids going.  So I grabbed my western saddle (I’m not completely suicidal now) and headed out with the boys.

The single most terrifying thing on the whole ride…. A tiny little ditch with water in it! Oh yes this little ditch (perfect for a cross-country course) must have seemed like it was full of water dragons because both boys were firmly against going over and in fact did their best mule impressions while I was trying to persuade them from the other side. Regardless that little two-legged me could easily hop over it. But still that water dragon was present so it was a huge no-go.

I finally had to bust out my secret weapon! What is that you may ask?? Why treats of course!! It’s amazing how something as little as a treat can motivate a 1200 pound animal to do something but oh it did! Cash went first with a GIGANTIC leap over it! He was determined to ensure those dragons couldn’t grab his hooves and drag him down to his doom even though I highly doubt he could have fit into the creek with his whole body even if he tried.

Jack still wasn’t convinced that the Dragons couldn’t get him and it took a lot of begging to get him over. I swear he knew exactly what I was saying because I could literally see him pondering it and puffing up at my praise. I seriously think they just play dumb sometimes to get treats. With one last final step he launched himself over and came to a surprisingly graceful stop right in front of me demanding his treat for somewhat calmly waiting for his nephew. (The video of the ditch is down below!)

But boy did they make me proud. They may have done flying leaps but they did go over it! And let me get back on without running off with me:D  Now they were quite a handful on the road to start. Both wanted to be in front and going faster than a walk and once we met the other riders it became a tad bit of a war between the two of who could talk the other into going faster.I did more than a little bit of cussing at the boys. They were seriously trying my patience!

It wasn’t for a good fifteen or twenty minuets before I let them get in front of the group that I realized that’s where they wanted to be. apparently the other horses were walking to slowly….and ya know what? After that Cash even kept Jack in line from running in front of him. huh funny how Cash uses Jack when he wants something and Jack plays all innocent young horse….I feel mischievous plans being plotted between those two.

After a while though Jack started getting stiff on his leg again so I figured we had done enough and decided to cut our ride short. I’m sure the boys probably would have been fine but I’d rather be safe then sorry when it comes to them.  They are what keeps me calm and from injuring the mass amounts of idiots I have to deal with on a fairly daily basis. My work schedule is ramping up lately so I’m really taking every moment I can to just hang out with my boys!

They really proved their worth today and I couldn’t be prouder of those two. I don’t care if I ever make it to an advanced 3 day event or not they make every day worth it! (though I do hope we at least get to novice :D)  I just had to have a little faith and a lot of courage  with those two and they gave it back ten fold!

Until Next Time!

 

 

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It’s All About The Personality

A little while ago I was having a conversation with one of my friends and it’s really kind of stuck with me. We were talking about our horses and the different things we do with them and it morphed into talking about preserving a horses personality.

I am a huge advocate to horse health…I mean if you truely have horses at heart you do everything you can for them even if it means eating ramen noodles for a month…but I think alot of people overlook a horses mental health while riding. In alot of disaplines we want that horse to be calm and quiet and do the movements asked but where do we draw the line from calm and quiet to drone? I see so many horses become drones as soon as you put a saddle on. Thats spark goes out of their eyes and they do exactly what they are told because thats the way we are trained to work with horses. They HAVE to do what we ask or we punish them.

At what point to we ignore a horses personality? I agree that a horse should be willing and obedient. But what about happy? I mean truely happy about his work. Where he has confidence and excitment to go out and do his job. When do we take that willingness to please just a tad to far?

I love my two boys and they have very similar but also complete opposite personalities. When I ride I don’t mind those occasional little bucks or the head tossing of an excited horse. I don’t punish them when they are having an exubriant moment because they are expressing their feelings! (This is going to sound a little odd I know but hold out for me just a bit)

Now when I say this if either one of them when bucking down the ring like a bronc I’d get after them but that crow hop of annoyance at doing another canter transition? Meh I might give a verbal “hey quite that” and push him forward a bit to stop it but most of the time I’ll use that to my advantage. If he’s showing his annoyance at what we are doing I might transition into something else I know he enjoys before attempting to go back to what was annoying him. Maybe I’ve riden that circle one to many times and he’s bored, or confused at what I’m asking. Maybe he’s not understanding how I’m asking it or maybe he’s just being a 3 year old and having an “I don’t wanna moment” . I might need to step back a moment and re-evaluate how I was asking and what I was asking him to do and see if I can do it in a different manner to get him to understand. I’ll see if it’s just him being a youngster or if there could be something I’m doing thats causing confusion.

Cash loves to do celebratory head shakes occasionally and sometimes a hop or little buck. He’s expressing his enthusiasm and his pride at completing something he enjoys. I don’t want to correct that and tell him “No you can’t be happy!” I want to take that and praise it (ok maybe not the buck but I’ll just ignore that mostly) . I want him to enjoy what we are doing. I want to build his confidence and his pride in himself. If I want him to trust me I have to let him know how good he’s been and when he’s pleased me. It HAS to be more then a single pat by the way. That doesn’t get anything a crossed. I find telling him he’s doing good and giving him scratches is the best.

If we are jumping he might have knocked the rail down but he tried his hardest and he gave a great effort. We will do it again and if he clears it I will do all the praise I can. Petting and telling him “Good boy oh you’re such a good Cash-man!” He puffs up so big when I do that. I can’t help but do it when he’s done such good things.

Cash will also let me know when he is done with something. And sometimes I’ll ask for just one more of what ever we are doing, but many times I have to realize that I’ve hit his limit for that particular aspect and going any further will just prove frustrating and counter productive and start a fight. I’m not saying let your horses walk all over you and dictate the ride either though. Some days they just want to be stubborn and not leave their buddy (*ahem* Cash this is you like 55% of the time) but know your horse and watch for those signs of confusion, frustration and shutting down.
I’ve seen so many trainers tell riders to get after their horses for the slightest miss step. What if that miss step was your horse saying “Hey this hurts” or “Yo lady. Your leg is blocking my side pass” Just because a horse does something doesn’t always mean it’s malicious. In fact with most horses it’s not malicious at all they are just expressing themselves. Would you want to be yelled at every time you smiled and laughed at work? Or if your back was hurting and your doctor just told you to suck it up and go back to work?

I’m not saying all trainers are bad, that’s far from the truth. And I’m not saying all structured programs are bad. Again thats far from the truth. I just want to point out that taking a step back and really looking at your horse and how they are reacting to the training is a good thing. Do they have that spark in their eye? Do they show their personality in the saddle, or are they dull. Boring. Doing a perfect job with no “Umph” or bounce in their steps.

I find that the more I let my horses relax and enjoy the ride and the more I tailor my riding program to each horse the more willing they become. They are happier when I take them out and the more honest my horses are with me. They definally let me know when they don’t enjoy something and you know what? It may not be what I want to do but in the end it builds an even better bond with my horse and those days when I ask either of them to do that stuff they don’t like they usually conced. (like Cash and dressage haha) I can also tell when something is off to. When he’s not as forward or excited to do his favorite moves. I can sometimes catch things in time before it becomes a huge issue and treat it before it becomes a major injury.

Sometimes we get so focused on reaching our goals and getting to those shows that we loose the bigger picture of the bond and trust with our horses. Don’t be afraid to slow down and let your horse enjoy the ride as much as you!

 

Until Next time!

 

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The First Ride Of 2016!

first ride 2016 e

Whoot! I got to ride Cash man for the first time this 2016! Huzzah.  It wasn’t very long. In fact it consisted of mostly a walk down the road but by golly I was on a horse and it was glorious!

Do you ever have those days where you just need to feel the horse power benieth you? That comfort of the saddle and warm horse smell? Yeah, today was one of those days. Today my divorce became final. Like completly Final. The judge signed off on it and now we are just waiting for the paperwork to be sent to us. Yup that’s right, I’m back on the market officially *dun nun na na nana nana Can’t touch this* No seriously…. I am actually really enjoying my single, horse crazy life at the moment…so sorry boys you’re gonna have to wait 😀

Today was such an odd mix of feelings. It was relief that it was officially over, saddness that it actually went all the way through, and guilt that we didn’t get it to work and happyness of absolute freedom. Not to mention a liberal dose of frustration bordering on anger and finally resignation that that chapter of my life had finally come to a close.

The sun was shining (*gasp)  and the ground was frozen because it’s in the 20’s here now and I just needed to be in a saddle and going some where so I could just forget the world for a while.

first ride 2016 tack up

Now I had to choose my trusty Cash-man. I can’t help it. I have a favorite AND he knows it. Jack usually can’t come any where near if I have treats or I’m dooling out brushing in the pasture…at least until Cash has deemed he’s done with my affections. And Riding Cash is just perfect some how.  I’ve been so many places with him and gone through so many things with him by my side that we just have a better bond.

I wasn’t sure how Cash was going to be. He’s had about a solid month off and He can be a little crazy some days. I grabbed him out of the pasture (He was just a tad muddy as I’m sure you can tell from the picture). I probably chocked on about 5 pounds of dirt and mud that came off of him…..They do say that it improves our immunsystems right? (I should be golden for about 20 years now) I saddled him up in my dressage saddle (it was easist to get to really) and lunged him for a moment both ways before climbing on board and with a prayer above to anyone who would listen we headed off down the road.
Cash is a little tender footed due to it being so wet and muddy for so long and now it’s suddnly hard frozen ground. And he still belives Washington is trying to swallow him slowly, so he’s
very very careful where he puts his feet. This means there was no danger of running away with me back towards the barn we left Jack in his pasture. Cash didn’t even spook at the scary birds that flew up from the blackberry bushes or the heard of horses that took off running next door! I was very proud of him. It was like he knew I just needed so quality beastie time with just him and me. We just went up the road and back. I didn’t want to tempt fate to much today. (I mean seriously there’s only so far I’ll push the limits)

Then I took my time grooming Cash and just enjoying his nuzzles (and occasional nips the bugger) before putting him back up.  It was just what I needed for such an emotional rollar coaster of a day. It was that glorious moment of peace and happiness and a great ride to start off 2016!

So for any of my readers going through some emotionaly tough times right now you’re not alone but we always have amazing therepists sitting in their stalls just waiting for us to take the time 😀

Until next time!

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Taken Out By A Tree

Yup you read the title right. A tree and I had a fight and I lost with poor Jack caught in the middle. I want to say first that Jack is one heck of a trooper for being only three years old!

So how did I come to battle a tree you ask…. Well it all started with me getting home and deciding, come hell or high water, I was gonna ride my horses.  So I took Cash out for a small jaunt up the road. He did amazingly well considering he hadn’t been turned out and it was a cool windy day. He only had one tiny meltdown but we rode it out and happily ended up back home. Nothing crazy to write home about. So of course I decide I’m gonna ride Jack now that he is finally over the weird skin thing he had going on, and plus he was giving me the ” Please love me,” look that I just couldn’t ignore.

So I grabbed his halter and a lunge line and I took him out to the driest part of my pasture and made him walk, trot and canter. When he was minding his manners he quickly got a saddle and bridle put on and with a few more laps to make sure he wasn’t gonna go bronc riding I got on!

Everything was going great. Horses in the field a crossed the way were snorting and racing around the pasture and Jack kept calm with just an occasional glance in their direction or to Cash’s frantic whinny’s (He has decided he hates being alone and the cows next to him are not the same as horses). Sine he was being so good I decided maybe we would walk down the road a bit.

In order to get to the road, however, we had to pass by my truck with some scary boxes in the back.  All was going well.  Only a snort or two and we were carefully easing our way past the big scary truck with the terrifying boxes.

It was at this moment the neighbors decided to start up their logging equipment. We were half way through when BOOM a loud and terrifying noise that must be signaling a horse eating monster sounded and must have meant that Jack was in the perfect spot to be eaten! Jack, being the awesome horse he is, just hunkered down with his legs splayed as wide as he could get them. His muscles twitched as he debated running but knew it’s not what he should do with a human on board so he froze.

And that’s when the terrifying boxes decided to move! A flap opened up and waved. That was it. Jack couldn’t just sit still and let what ever monster the boom had signified eat him. He was gonna move out and live to fight another day. So sideways we went fearing to turn out backs to the deadly boxes. It was then that the monster struck.

His spindly arms reached out and grabbed on to Jacks butt and smashed a crossed my back and head (Thank goodness for my helmet). He had found us! Jack wasn’t going to freeze again. He ran even faster sideways escaping the mighty claws of the monster named TREE.

But Alas I had not been so lucky. The mighty swipe a crossed my back was enough to throw me to the side. Jack valiantly tried to keep me in the saddle but there was it was no use. I was to far gone. I hit the dirt and it was thus that the battle with the might monster Tree was lost.

On a more real note. Jack wasn’t sure what to do. He kept bunching up and leaping forward and then freezing like he was having an argument with himself of “We run. Run. Running will save us. But the human is over there so I should wait. Run. Stand. Run. Stand.” Until I managed to get back on my feet after a quick check to make sure everything was in working order. He calmed right down when I started talking to him and stood quietly while I grabbed the reins and lead him towards the once terrifying monster.  It didn’t take long before I could walk him through on foot.  Then in true horsewoman fashion I re-mounted and we tried it all over again.

Of course while mounted it’s scarier for Jack. He said that it’s just evil to have to walk through there without anyone to get eaten first in front of him. But with some coaxing and a lot of soothing words Jack finally conquered his fears and walked through. We did it a few more times each direction to ensure that he wasn’t going to die, before we called it a day.

I am going to have some pretty awesome bruises in the morning, I think, but considering all things the ride was actually extremely successful! The fact that Jack tried to keep me in the saddle just shows how awesome of a horse he really is, and that he didn’t run away after I hit the ground. I’m blessed to have such a good baby!

So after painfully completing the barn chores I am now on my way to a nice hot bath to ease the pains of my fall. Lord knows the ground keeps getting harder the older I get!  I think I also jinxed myself this morning while talking to friend  saying “It has been quite a while since I have fallen off”. FAMOUS. LAST. WORDS.

 

Until next time!

Oh and as proof, I captured a photo of the man/horse eating tree and the skid marks from the fall…enjoy!

Tree

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Settling In Horses To New Areas

Cash and jack HOME

For the first time in 7 years I can sit at my kitchen table and relax with my beverage of choice(Okay lets not lie it’s either coffee or wine) and watch my horses graze in my back yard! That is right the boys are home and are settling in just fine! 😀

I can say I moved into the right neighborhood. What is it about horse women that we seem to literally just know when someone new is in the area? I was hooking up my horse trailer to go get the boys and as I turned around a horse and rider were walking down the road. It turned into a fateful meeting of new friends. And funny enough her horse is named Cash as well but he was an older grey gelding. Though I think there must be something in the name because he instantly began nuzzling my hoodie pocket and licking my hand for treats….My Cash does the same thing…..hummmmmmmm…But back to my new horse friend. She even introduced me to two other riders and explained how the trails work around the area and who the neighbors were, and even who the guy is that used to hay my pasture! Talk about awesome friends!

Horse women can either be the nicest or frankly the bitchest of people you meet. Thankfully those I met  are distinctly of the former variety. They are even being so kind as to ride with me to show me all the local bridle paths and trails tomorrow! (stand by for a post on how this adventure is gonna go) Cash better mind his manners!Needless to say I have a fantastic feeling about the local horsewoman here and for once in a very long time I truly feel at home and at peace here.

So on the topic of settling in horses I thought I’d do a little info post. Some standard things when you bring horses to a new environment whether it be at shows or moving to a new barn.

1.) Check the area your horses will be living and working in. Make sure there are no sharp objects or anything that your horse could get caught up in and hurt. If there is fix it before you put a horse in there because, Murphy’s law, they will find it within 2 seconds.

2.) Some horses get really nervous and anxious, especially where they are by themselves or have very limited views of other horses. I have found having their food in their stall really helps. Food quite literally calms horses down, so if you can coax them to eat it will help settle them in much more quickly.

3.) Take the horse for a walk around the area. Let him see the scary sights. Keep everything positive. Let him take his time looking at stuff that looks odd to him. It’s a new place and any prey animal is gonna be nervous to start until they can check their surroundings. If you can ride it do so, if not put on those walking shoes and bring some treats.

4.) Try to keep what ever routines your horses have had before (such as feeding times). Whether by you or the staff at his last barn. Normal routines will help to settle them in. Once they are used to the area then you can mix it up if needed, until the horse gets used to moving (ie. to shows and back)

5.) Be ready for them to need a day or two to fully relax. If going to a show and it’s possible try to coordinate before hand to get there a day or two early IF your horse needs it. If it is not possible(cause we all know it costs that illusive thing called money) then long before the show start to trailer you horse out to different locations and get them used to new areas and going riding soon after you get there. It will make going to the shows a tad less stressful on you and the horse if you’re used to going new places.
-*note*I try to make my trailer a safe place that they know they are ok. If they are tied to the trailer they understand there is treats and goodies in the tackroom, and while they may be nervous  they seem to be more interested in begging for a treats then bolting or pulling back.

6)Take it slow. If it’s their first time out and about be ready for a lot of slow walking or trotting or stopping and staring.
-*note* If at all possible(and really its best safety wise in general to ride with someone else) take a “steady eddy” with you. A good horse that is not prone to spooking and who can act as a guide horse for the inexperienced one. Horses will feed off each other and if one horse isn’t scared the nervous one will calm down a lot more than they would on their own. It also helps to have that horse that will cross streams or ditches that an inexperienced horse would put up a fight over.

7)DO NOT beat a horse with a whip or kick it like crazy to make them go towards something they think is scary. A horse is a prey animal. If you start adding pain to a situation where they are scared that’s when you can induce their “fight of flight” response and create an accident where you and the horse can get hurt.  Give the horse some time to reason out the situation. There are often times where an unsure horse will willingly go forward with just little encouragements and it will be an overall very positive situation. (Check out my post Conquering Ditches to see what I mean about keeping it positive)

 

Have you ever met unexpected friends? Or had some crazy experiences moving your horses?  Let me know in a comment below or on Facebook!

 

Until next time.