Friday, July 31, 2009

My 201st Post and I Rode my Horse!

Not a lot of time to post this morning, will try to give the deets later but my session yesterday with T.S. was another great workout and I rode again for a short time! It felt so good to get back in the saddle and it also was interesting to watch T.S. ride Rugby first. I've never actually seen my horse under saddle with another rider!

I'm also very tempted at this point to give my trainer's actual name and post his web page. I'm that pleased with his skill and would like to really give him the credit I feel he deserves. I know that for every trainer there are a bunch of opinions but I've never once heard anything negative about T.S. and he tends to impress those who observe him at work.

And this is my 201st post! How did I get this far, LOL?! So much has happened and changed from my very first post, especially my respect for the Natural Horsemanship training methods. I have enjoyed this equestrian journey and being able to note it and share it with all of you.

More later about the lesson! Happy Friday!

Monday, July 27, 2009

3 days to go...

I have stage fright. This Thursday T.S. is coming to work with us and the goal is to get Rugby ridden. And I know T.S. said he would mount up first, then I will but I'm feeling the knot-in-the-stomach-nerves already. I know this horse is not rank, mean or wild but I've got butterflies.

The groundwork has been moving smoothly, any issues I have been getting very good at catching and correcting immediately. After my last session with T.S., I started doing groundwork with Rugby wearing his bridle over the rope halter without reins. All he had to do was carry the bit - the lunge was always attached to the rope halter and work through the same basic exercises. At first I could see a slight difference in attitude. More of a confusion as if, "Why am I wearing my bridle? What are you going to do with me?" and as I did the same movements we have been perfecting before, he relaxed. After a few days of this I added him wearing his saddle. Again, I noticed his hesitation but he worked with it and relaxed.

I had to miss a few days in between due to family stuff and lousy weather. And when I next worked with him I could see something wasn't right. Not a lameness or illness, more of an emotional shift. He seemed less connected and though he did what I asked, I knew it was just not him. So I let him have a day where he wore no tack, just the rope halter and lunge line and we did a long work session, then rewarded him with 10 minutes in the grazing area. And I was glad to see that the mood seemed to lift. He was less aloof after that and interested in the attention I gave him. I don't like to anthropomorphize too much but I'd swear he was ticked off that I didn't have time to spend with him for a few days.

Over the weekend when I put the tack on and took him out to work, it was as if he was just wearing the halter. His attitude was no different. So I took that as a good step forward.

I'm finding him to be an interesting horse. He's obviously immature. He is generally a very mellow fellow but can become emotional very quickly. I think that's more connected to his immaturity than temper. He's not usually reactive in the usual sense but his size makes him a force to be respected. He is very smart, but he learns slowly with clear cues and once he has them he retains them. I get the feeling that once I win him over completely he'll be an amazing partner.

So I am 3 days away from my mission. And I'm nervous. I just want it to go well. I've been going back through my photo albums and looking at all the pictures of me riding and showing and jumping and galloping over the years on so many horses. And keep asking myself what the hell am I afraid of now? I didn't suddenly forget 35+ years of riding and I'm not a quitter. I will do this.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Honest Scrap

I have received this award from at least three bloggers and have been very lazy about getting this one posted. This has been a crazy-busy summer around here. I never guessed between the rapidly growing boyz and the big juvenile equine delinquent I acquired to fill my stall I'd have so little time to compose my thoughts!

So in an effort to catch up, I'd like to thank those who sent me the honest scrap award. Here are the rules:
--Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
--List 10 honest things about yourself.
--Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs.
--Leave a comment on your recipients' blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award.

I believe this has been sent to me by Go Diego Go, A Horse and a Half and HorseyPants. If you don't see your name listed here and you just know you sent this award to me, I apologize for the omission and will make it up to you in some entertaining way!

Here's the 10 honest things about me:

1) I love cherries. I have clothes with cherries on them, purses with cherries, cherry jewelry, even had a saddle pad with cherries printed on it.

2) I am amazed at the things I am learning doing the natural horsemanship with my new horse. I used to be sceptical about all this stuff but as I'm learning to add it to my almost 40 years of working with horses I see the results of the new tools I'm learning and enjoying the new journey I am on.

3) I love Ford Trucks. I've owned and driven two Ford Explorers through the last 20 years. They each gave me well over 100k miles, have required nothing more than the most basic maintenence and the first one towed my 2-horse trailer almost everywhere. I'm getting closer to purchasing our 3rd Ford. Y'all can keep your Toyotas and Hondas. I'm stickin' Ford tough!

4) I dream of one day owning a classic, quilted Chanel bag. The kind with the chain shoulder strap. But that's about 2-3 months of horse board or several car payments... 'sigh'

5) I love to live near the ocean. I love to live a train ride away from New York City. I love to drive to the North Fork of the island to be in a place that has changed very little from when I was a child. I love to take my children there.

6) I like to lead by example. I like to choose when to follow. Those who have proven their skills well will get my attention, those who are all talk I will see through very quickly.

7) I have a huge collection of Breyer model horses. I thought I would never give them up, but as I get older, it gets easier to send them on, one or two at a time to another child who dreams of galloping through imaginary fields on a plastic pony.

8) I want more than anything to keep connecting with my new horse Rugby and get back to riding him again. I want us to form that bond that I have been able to do in the past and have a horse who will be as mindful of me as I am of him.

9) I want a really good slice of carrot cake. It's not easy to find the perfect slice of carrot cake but when I do it's amazing.

10) I love my boyz. I just wish they were a little less intense sometimes. I know that trait can mature to serve them well but as a stressed out mom I wish they'd just CHILL OUT once in a while! LOL!

Now for the task of finding 10 blogs to pass this to. So many of my regulars have already received this one! I'll try but if I can't find 10, forgive me oh blogger gods!

The Eventing Percheron
The Aspiring Equestrian
Natural Horse Lover
Tacky Tack of the Day
Breyer History Diva
Braymere Custom Saddlery
Buckskin and Bay
Red Horses can't Jump...or can They?
Writing and Riding
All Around Horses

Have Fun Y'all!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Boyz of Summer...

So the summer is progressing. My boyz have completed the half day athletic camps organized by the school and in addition, I have found lots to do with the kids after work to make it fun. Now I have them going to the little summer camp run by the preschool/child care they used to go to. I know they are the oldest kids there but the teachers are especially fond of them, they are close to home, it's safe and I can afford the 3 days a week they go for half days. I have a good relationship with their pre-school teacher and she's amazed at how far they have advanced since she last saw them.

As well as having fun and lots of free time I'm now trying to steer a little back toward keeping up the academic gains acquired in kindergarten so they don't walk into school in September and wonder how to write a short sentence. So my idea is to have them do "assignments" from the workbooks I bought them for over the summer and their pre-school teacher will check and grade them. She thought that was an excellent idea and I think it's not too much since they are only at camp 3 days a week. The rest of the week they hang out and play at home.

So I pulled out the handwriting workbooks and we played "school" last night. I chose 3 pages of writing tasks and they sat at their desks and I was "mommy teacher" while they did the assignment. When they finished and we folded up the desks and chairs, they asked when I would be lining them up for dismissal. I asked, "dismissal? why" and they told me that when school was over, they clean up and the teacher walks them out to the busses for dismissal. Okay, I played along and they marched behind me outside to the driveway.

Then I told them our SUV was the bus. And they piled in. Now they wanted to know where we were going on our field trip. And I told them to the library. They were thrilled that the "game" had taken on a reality that was becoming more and more fun.

So I grabbed my keys, their book bag for the summer reading club and my husband and we went on a family field trip to the library!

I love to see them learn and am constantly amazed at how accelerated learning is from when I was a child. I know there are all kinds of things marketed at parents to raise a "super-baby" - you know, a kid who is potty trained by a year, can read novels at 2, write a thesis at 3 and by 4 speaks 6 languages fluently. So at work today, I kept hearing advertisements on our studio radio for Your Baby Can Read. And I laughed. If you've seen the TV commercials, it shows a product guaranteed to have your child reading before nursery school. I haven't used the product, my kids are past the age level of the product so I have no way of knowing if it would have made a difference for my boyz. But I just started thinking, "What next? Your Baby can Vote? Your Baby can Drive? Your Baby can figure out your Taxes?". I love my boyz and have always worked to read to them (and they both love books) and help maintain what they learn in school. But why can't kids just be kids and grow up a little slower? Does it really matter if they can read at 5th grade level when they are just finished with kindergarten? I'm not saying hold them back but the world is spinning so fast. Is it so wrong to see childhood not as a competitive sport for parents but as the most carefree and wondrous part of life?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bring It!

It's working! The groundwork session last evening with T.S. was just incredible for me!

I was ready and waiting to get to work as soon as T.S. arrived. He was pleasantly surprised to see I had bought my own training gear while he was away. And he liked the tools that I bought. I will give a shout to E and M Natural Horse training supplies, who make good quality training tools at a very budget friendly price.

We went into the polo arena to work. I had told him I've been kind of keeping to the smaller arena behind the barn and he was expecting me to want to go there to work but I told him, no. I want to train in the polo arena while he was here to work with us. Then If I encountered any problems, I had him to coach me through it. T.S. liked that. Hey, I figure if I'm paying for the training, let's challenge ourselves and then when he's not here the rest should come easier.

T.S. also told me this time he was going to watch me work with Rugby and refine my cues. He was transferring the training tools from himself to me. And I agreed, that's exactly what I wanted to do this time, have him watch what I've been doing on my own the past month and let me know if I've maintained or backslid.

Long story short - I maintained everything and even perfected the cues and communication for the "quieter" exercises such as the backing on the line, desensitizing and the flexion work. I have noticed in the last 2 weeks, it has been like it has just "clicked" in Rugby's mind with me. He and I are connecting better than before. There's a level of trust that is blossoming here and I am working like mad to keep it building. I've even noticed my horse likes when you cheer him on verbally. When he's trying and getting it, if you praise him gently in a "happy voice" he will arch his neck and his eyes become "soft". He then gives you even more. T.S. loved that and told me to keep using that discovery to bring the connection closer.

When we moved into the lunging, it started out well. We've got the whole disengage the hindquarters and shoulders, change direction communication down. Then T.S. challenged us and told me to start working all of the arena. It got a bit rowdy when Rugby decided he didn't like the polo goal at the far end of the arena. He was trying to avoid going there and I wound up sand skiing on some of his circles on the lunge line (note to self: Draft horses on the lunge can be like holding onto Superman's cape!) But T.S. kept urging me and encouraging us and we worked Rugby past it until he approached the goal and I released the pressure and allowed him to stop and rest there. And he did! (and boy was I tired, too!) Then we did some gentler work to ask him to move away and approach the corners and goal at that end of the arena.

And it was amazing to me when Rugby followed my cues and approached the objects as I asked, with no avoidance and complete respect. Then T.S. explained something that clicked with me, He said, "You realize that now you are communicating with him from 22 feet away, and he's waiting, listening and focused on your direction. Imagine now how that kind of connection will translate under saddle". I can and I am so excited!!

T.S. complimented me. He explained that part of his training is to watch my body language as I work with the horse and my experience has served me well. He said he liked that when Rugby got rough, I instinctively brought all my energy inward, even bringing the line end behind my thigh with my free hand while continuing to hold with my other hand and "sitting" on the line to act as an anchor until the horse settled. He said you'd be surprised how many people don't figure how to do that and can get their shoulder dislocated or pulled off their feet.

Our assignment now is to continue doing what we are doing, but now Rugby has to wear his tack as we do the groundwork. In 2 weeks, T.S. will come back and we are getting back to riding. He feels we are ready! I know I am! Bring it!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Update!

To those loyal readers who have bestowed awards on me, I am so thankful! I will pick them up ASAP!

Rugby and I are getting along so well. Tomorrow T.S. is coming for another session and I'm psyched!

My hoof trimmer came to work on Rugby's hooves and was impressed at how well mannered he is now about lifting and holding up his hooves to be worked on. Rugby was lifting each foot up by himself for the trimmer as he moved to each one! When I first got him, he wouldn't even lift his hoof and hold it up for more than a few seconds without having to put it down and try again. I take full credit for solving that one.

Now I'm keeping fingers crossed our little run of lovely dry weather holds for tomorrow evening!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I want to ride again

I did some groundwork with knucklehead tonight in the big polo arena. And even though he was feeling good and gave a few bucks and then cantered around on the lunge line, he was not disrespectful and would disengage his hind quarters as soon as I asked and change direction immediately when directed. I lunged him over a groundpole and it was obvious that his attention immediately was on the pole and he settled right to it. In fact, I could see he rather liked the pole and headed straight for it each time, once or twice even jumping it! My heart skipped when I noticed his interest. He seems to LIKE jumping! I need to set up a small raised pole and see what he does with that on the lunge.

And it's another step toward me wanting to ride, again. My trainer, T.S. is back from his campground and he's setting up his schedule. Getting closer to our next session.

And Rugby's collected a new nickname. He's now affectionately called "Tushie". Because I stopped by one uncomfortably warm, muggy night around 10:00pm to check his water buckets and he was laying down, with his enormous rear end facing the door of his stall. And if his butt looks huge when he's standing, it really spreads out when he lays down! When he stood up it was just horse butt as far as I could see. So "Tushie" it is!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Horse Tweet - join up!

I'd like to give a shout about HorseTweet - new horse themed "Twitter" styled site and I'm having fun using it. It's just for horse people! Stop on by and sign up! Look for me there and add me to your subscriptions list and I'll do the same!

HorseTweet