Thursday, December 31, 2009

A year in passing, a year begins...

I am ambivalent about 2009. It started off about as lousy as could be. My most cherished horse, Monty, had to be put to down from complications brought on by his equine melanoma. Then began the awful process of "horse shopping". When I finally found a horse that I thought would be perfect, he bucks me into the dirt the day the check cleared. Months later, with the input from a wonderful new trainer, we seem to be on the right course but still have soooo far to go. We are doing very well with groundwork, pretty good under saddle at the walk and working on trotting with motivation to move forward.

I have not cantered or jumped anything in a year. I know my physical fitness has gone to pot. I have found a guarded place in my heart for my new horse but just don't know what our future holds.

On the positive, my children have embraced riding with open arms. One is off the lunge line at the walk and trot in the round pen and the other is just beginning to get his independance.

I feel like I'm at a crossroads. I have moments where I see potential in Rugby to be the field hunter I dream of riding. But I need miles and time to get the trust up to where I feel we will take care of each other in the field. I sometimes wonder if I should let Rugby go and find a pony for my children. We are only able to finance a one-horse household. At this point I'm just kind of letting each day unfold to hint at where the future must go.

Maybe 2010 will begin a better chapter. So my wish to all is a sparkling New Year with all your dreams fulfilled!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Things that are not Marketed to Horsemen but Should Be

Happy day after Christmas to all!

So if any of you were given money as a gift and are looking for more goodies to buy, I'd like to give a personal endorsemant to two items that are not marketed to horsemen but should be.

The first is the ROAD I.D. bracelet. Originally designed for road bicyclists and runners who might be miles from home and alone while training and in the event of an accident may not be carrying a wallet with enough I.D. to get them the proper help quickly. This is a great looking wrist band with velcro closure and sturdy nylon webbing that holds a slim stainless steel nameplate, laser engraved with all your vital information. They come in numerous colors, many sizes and the company has excellent customer service.

My husband bought one and got many guys in his bicycling club to order one as well. He bought one for me because he felt when I was out trail riding and so far from the stable, if anything happened it would be good to have reliable I.D. with me.

One of my friends at the barn noticed it and asked me what it was. I explained it and she liked the idea so much she bought two bracelets, one for her to wear and one she attached to her horses' tack. She figured if she got dumped off the horse in the park and someone found him, he'd have I.D. too!

The band and plate are water friendly. You can ride in the rain, slog through mud or wash your horse while wearing it with no ill-effects. If it gets dirty, just wash with mild dish washing soap, rinse well and air dry. If you want a different color band from the one you originally bought, they sell the bands by themselves and it's easy to change the nameplate. The same goes for changing the information on the plate. Get a new phone number? New name? New address? No problem, just order a new plate by itself and replace your old one.

The next item is the Survival Straps paracord bracelet. I have one on order for both my husband and myself. I love the idea behind this item. These are hand made in America. The basic bracelet design is composed of up to 24' of military spec 550# paracord. The company's policy is : if you unravel it in an emergency situation and deploy the paracord, they will replace it. FREE!!!

How cool to have extra, heavy duty paracord handy when working around horses? If you are on trail and a strap on your tack breaks or you need to tie something to your saddle or truck you have that cord on hand including the marine grade stainless steel clasp! Ever have a horse-related emergency that involved wasting time looking for a lead shank or rope? Never again if you have one of these on your wrist.

The possibilities for equestrian use are endless! They are really cool looking bracelets. They are available in over 1,000 color combinations to choose from. Survival Straps also have belts, wristwatch bands, dog collars etc. all made from varying lengths of cord. The best part is, they are very supportive of our troops and even offer soldier care packages. You can buy bracelets and donate them to our troops. Buy one for yourself and send one to a soldier. Great idea!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rugby LOVES the Snow!

I love the snow, too. Brings out the kid in me... after I dig my truck out.

We got dumped on here in NY. In my area, a bit over a foot but I have friends farther east of me and they got 2 ft. or more. Once we cleared our driveway and dug out the Ford, I waited for it to warm up a bit and went to the barn around lunch time.

None of the horses were turned out since the stable hands were still in the process of shoveling and plowing the snow off the driveways on the farm. The stalls were clean and every horse was just relaxing with their lunchtime hay. Rugby was glad to see me. I got the feeling he wanted out today and I was going to give him his wish!

I put his rope halter and groundwork lunge line on, and we headed to the small riding ring behind the barn. I was thrilled that the guys hadn't plowed there yet and we would be the first ones to "break" the snow!

I have always loved first dibs on messing up fresh snow. Whether riding through it on horseback or walking on it, I love being the first to put my prints down. I think Rugby feels the same. As soon as we walked out the barn door he wasted no time walking out into it and then started pawing it in big, dramatic fashion! First one front foot, then the other. I had to laugh. It got funnier when I walked him out to the middle of the arena and sent him out to lunge. He started trotting and picking up his feet in this big, prancey-pants trot. He looked adorable (and totally sound!). Then, when I brought him back to the walk, he stopped and started pawing the snow again. So I let him and watched to see what he'd do. He pawed a bit, then bent his knees like he was going down to roll, but stopped on his knees, took his entire head and plowed it into the snow! He looked like he was diving into it! Then he jumped up, bucked and cantered around on the lunge.

What a goofball! He cantered a bit, then I stopped him and changed direction. He walked around to the same spot, stopped, pawed and this time went down for a good roll! All four feet in the air and snow flying everywhere. Pure joy! When he got up and shook himself off, he trotted around a bit more and then I let him quit with that.

By now, my monster truck of a horse had made a nice lunging path in the snow and it was easier for the next boarder to walk out with her little horse.

But the best, the very best for me was my barefoot horse strolled back into the barn without any chunky ice balls wedged into his hooves!! His hooves were immaculate! I have always HATED dealing with the problem of impacted snow in shod hooves. My fear is taking the horse out to get a little exercise and getting so balled up that they twist an ankle walking on that crap. In the past, I've had snowball pads put on with the horse shoes (I found them to just be "okay" for the purpose of preventing snow build-up) and tried things like smearing Vaseline in the hooves before riding but I see being able to go with nature's design has even more benefits.

I hope Rugby's Christmas gifts arrive by mail from Dover Saddlery before Friday. The big guy made out like a fat rat from Santa. He's getting some flashy new Amigo Horseware clothes, a leather halter, an anti-sweat rug and a peppermint stall ball from my kids. It's good to be a horse in this family! :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A poem about cold weather and horses

I don't like the cold, no sirree.
My horse gets too frisky, you see.
He wants to get bucky which makes my ride sucky,
so I guess it's more groundwork for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pictures of the Big Guy!!!

Finally! Riding pictures of Rugby and me! These were taken when I rode him after the hoof trimming last Sunday and it's the first time I've seen how we look together under saddle. I think we make a good team but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

What a good boy! He looks like he's sleeping in the sun after our ride!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Warm and Fuzzy

I am so not a photographer. My dubious talent is only compounded by the inadequacies of my cell phone camera. Due to the rain all day, last night's barn visit was a routine leg/body check and hoof picking, followed by a handful of treats in Rugby's bucket and a smooch goodnight. I decided to snap a shot of him in his new sheet with my cell phone at the last minute. Standing still and posing is something Rugby does with no problem, LOL.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I still don't think it's his Hooves

So the trimmer came to work on Rugby's hooves yesterday. He and his wife listened as I explained everything about Rugby's slight unsoundness. The trimmer (who I'll call A.M.) went with me as I walked to the paddock to bring Rugby in for his trim. He followed us up the gravel driveway and watched Rugby walk. There was no indication that the rocks were bothering my horse. He was not bobbing his head at all at the walk and striding right up into his front hoof mark as he walked. A.M. said if there was any foot soreness or tenderness, the gravel should have brought it out, even just at the walk.

We discussed possibilites of a stone bruise. I told him that the best I could trace it back to was that lunging session 2 weeks ago where the horse got rambunctious and I thought he may have strained something further up the leg. I also mentioned how I noticed the soreness seemed worse when working in the deeper, sand arena than when on the harder blue stone footing. A.M. said he felt quite sure that I was on to something as a horse who is footsore should be more sore on hard ground and yet he seemed better there. A muscle soreness would definitely be more aggravated when pulling the leg through deeper sand footing. As A.M. cleaned Rugby's hooves in preparation for trimming, he remarked on the huge amount of growth that had occurred since he was trimmed 5 weeks ago and he also would carefully check the balance of the hooves. And then he set to work.

My horse grows the bars of his hooves and the wall like crazy. The bars were forming deep ridges by the time he was to be trimmed. A.M. said there was obviously good circulation to the hooves here. There were no signs of bruising as he trimmed the foot and the amount of growth was also an excellent sign. My horse has no hoof cracks and the pronounced flaring he had when A.M. first started trimming him have been greatly reduced and balanced. He did note that before trimming, Rugby's right front toe was more worn down that his left. That told that there was a definite change in his gait and was consistent with my noticing he's more sound to the left than to the right. There was no reaction, tenderness or heat in either front hoof while being worked on. Also a good sign.

So in conclusion, we both felt strongly the problem was not coming from his hooves. A.M. explained that there are so many times when someone sees a horse is barefoot and there is something wrong with the horses' gait, the knee-jerk response is to put shoes on the horse. And that may mask the symptoms for a while but it does not solve the problem. We both decided that if we were to see if the issues were coming from the hooves, boots would be the next step. We measured him for boots and while there are very few options available for big, warmblood feet, Easyboot makes a size 5 that should fit him nicely.

I took the Big Guy out to lunge and ride in the blue stone arena after A.M. left. I was curious to see if there was any difference - good or bad - after the trimming. My conclusion was this:

- Rugby walked sound on both sides.
- He lunged sound to the left at the trot
- he lunged at the trot to the right with very slight, only occasional head nodding
- He rode sound in both directions at the walk.
- He trotted sound under saddle on the long straight sides of the arena in both directions.
- He trotted sound under saddle to the left and almost sound to the right on the turns into the short sides of the arena.
- there did not seem to be any difference in wear to the toes of either hoof after work.

In all, the condition has been slowly progressing to better. It certainly has not gotten worse, even after the trimming. I think the Big Guy strained something and has needed the time to just heal through it. He's not walking out of the stall or from standing for awhile as sore as he was a week ago. I'm going to keep him on the rest/light work/watchful eye regimen for another week and see where we are at by next weekend. I'm curious to see how he is when I go to check on him this evening after work and dinner.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh Sheet!

Well, it was windy and cold here yesterday and most of today. So I figured it was time to see if the sheet I bought off Ebay would fit the Big Guy. When I measured him a little over a month ago, he was an 84. Great - all of my horse clothing is a size 80. (I now have bunch of sheets and blankets soon to be available for sale if you are in need of a size 80 and interested.)

I found a nice simple size 84 sheet for less than $45.00 with free shipping! It is red on the top half and black on the bottom with black trim. I thought it would look smashing on Mr. Black and White. Last night was the night to see what he'd do with it. His former owner had mentioned that she blanketed him but I didn't know how well he tolerated wearing one. He watched me unfold if and I let him sniff it all over as I slowly eased it on his back and spread it over him. I fastened all the buckles and took him for a walk outside in the wind so he could get used to it rustling on him. He very quickly got comfortable wearing it.

So I crossed my fingers when I left that he'd wear it through the night and not shred it after I left or somehow magically remove it from his body without undoing the buckles (seriously, I knew of a horse with this amazing talent!). When I went to work with him tonight, there he was, all cozy in his clothes and not a tear or mark on them. So far so good!

Rugby was just about sound tonight, even trotting. I even rode at the walk for awhile. Tomorrow the trimmer is scheduled to come and I'm hoping we get an answer or a solution.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Be Thankful

Wishing all in the blogosphere a Happy Thanksgiving. Even if it's not a holiday you celebrate, we all have something to be thankful for. It may only be a small something or a positive that has to be seen past an unfortunate circumstance but there is good to be found if you try.

I'm thankful for my family, such as we are. I'm thankful to have a job, a home and some of life's little extras. Speaking of which, I'm thankful to have found my horse, Rugby. Our partnership was not exactly what I hoped for from the start but seems to be blossoming into the earliest beginning of what I hoped for and maybe more.

I fit in some horse time early this afternoon. Just some groundwork before heading back to the chaos at home. Rugby was a lot better today. Sound at the walk, and trotting to the left. Just slightly ouchy trotting to the right. Will see if the weather lets me try a bit of light riding tomorrow. We had fun stepping up on the catwalk with just his front feet only, then asking him to carefully step back off, then up on again. He was licking and chewing the entire time I did this with him and really seemed to like this game. I could see him thinking this one through as we did it!

Today I also decided to test Rugby's clipper tolerance. I've been too chicken to try using the clippers on him since I bought him but after the plastic bag exercise, I felt empowered to go for it. He stood like a statue with his rope halter and lead on as I trimmed his muzzle, ears and bridlepath. I was so happy to see that his ears were no issue! I didn't have an extension cord so trimming his front fetlocks was not easy. That and the fact that my blades are getting dull. I didn't do a great job but the point was more to see how he would react to clippers and it was another test he passed.

So, I'm going to go hang out and relax off this belly full of turkey. A Happy day to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still not Sound, but we did Groundwork anyway.

I went to the barn last night to do some kind of training with Rugby. It was already almost 8:00PM so it was going to be groundwork. Besides, I wanted to see how his gimpiness situation was doing too.

On the way out the door I grabbed a couple of plastic grocery shopping bags. I figured it might be fun to play with him with these and see what he did. I was pleased to see when he led out of the stall he wasn't as ouchy as he had been so I hoped for the best. I picked his hooves and gave him a fast curry and brush, then changed to his rope halter and lunge and went out to the arena behind the barn.

Rugby seemed like he just wanted to stay in his stall. He balked 2 times when I led him out the door and then gave a sigh and followed me out. I rubbed his head and promised him it would be a short, easy and fun training session. Rugby lazily followed me around as I pulled one ground pole out, then flanked it with a white resin lawn chair on each end. Being careful to turn the chairs so the lunge would slide smoothly over the arms and not get caught in the molded lip around the edge of the chair, I sent him out at a walk and lunged him over the pole between the chairs.

He seemed a little more interested and didn't hesitate to stroll over the pole and through the chairs. He was walking well but as soon as I asked to trot, he trotted off reluctantly and very slowly into this half-hearted jog and I could see he was ouchy. Okay, this night's training would just be done at the walk. So then I kept lunging through the chairs, changing direction and closing the gap between the chairs each time we changed. I had the chairs 3 feet apart and he just aimed himself for the middle and walked through. I was happy with that - so was he.

Then I led him through some jump standards that were about 3 feet apart at the posts and only 18 inches apart at the base. He lowered his head down, looked at the squeeze and carefully followed me right through. Nice to know this big horse has no issues with narrow places.

I tried trotting again in a different part of the ring and nope, he still wasn't quite right so I let that go. Then we led across the catwalk. That's become his new favorite exercise. This time I halted him about 1/3rd of the way across. He seemed surprised that I asked him to stop and actually had a look of anticipation on his face. Then I gently touched his shoulder and asked him to step back, without stepping off the catwalk. He carefully took a step and then 2 more for me and I released and let him walk forward. I stopped again just before the end and backed him 3 steps. Perfect. So I let him walk off the ramp and gave him big praise and let him just hang out for a minute or two after that.

Then I reached into my pocket and changed the string on my training stick for the plastic bags. Rugby perked up and watched me attach the bags to the loop on the end of the stick. I stepped back and let him sniff the bag on the stick. He seemed mildly interested at best. I then proceeded to touch him with the bag, first on the shoulder, then down the legs then across his back then back to the shoulder. All he did was roll his eyes and look at the bag but the feet never moved. I just did this for a few seconds and released by stopping touching him with the bag and giving him a neck rub with my hand.

We played with the bag and the stick for about 10-15 minutes. He seemed to find it mildly amusing. He never flinched or spooked. I was passing the bag between the hind legs, over his head, under his tail - nothing. I waved the stick and fluttered the bag over his head - nothing. I took it off the stick and threw it at him - nothing. Then I just took the bag in my hand and "groomed" him with it by rubbing his face, ears, legs and body. Nothing.

Okay, so this horse seems not to give a rat's tail about plastic bags. Rugby is so different so far from most horses I've met. Things that should scare him, generally don't. I see such potential for him as the field hunter I hope he will one day become. Now to get this soundness thing straightened out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

But I Like my Horse Barefoot

What do you say when you want to keep your horse barefoot(unshod) and you are getting the, "I think he needs shoes up front" suggestion. My horse has been barefoot since I bought him last March. In the beginning my trimmer had work to do to correct the poor trimming my horse came with and get past some minor cracks and flares as they grew out.

At this time his hooves look the best yet. However, in the last 2 weeks, he has been showing an "ouchiness" when led from his stall or if he moves when he's been standing for awhile. There are no cracks. The walls look strong. The frogs have been shedding a lot and the crevices on each side of the frog are kind of deep but there seems to be no tenderness. No bad thrush, although the paddocks have been very wet from the weather we've been having.

I have watched Rugby as I do groundwork with him and once he's moving he seems to work out of it. Occasionally he seems more uncomfortable going over deep footing or uneven ground or he'll take a misstep if he steps on a rock or twig. The best I can do to trace it back is about 2 weeks ago I took him out to do lunging and groundwork in the polo arena and he was feeling very fresh and in his antics on the line I get the feeling he may have overexerted himself and strained something higher up in the limb. There's no heat or swelling anywhere below the knees. Maybe it's a stone bruise to the hoof?

It hasn't gotten worse than what it is. In fact, he gets a lot of time off during the week and it seems a little better. I figured if he strained something, rest is the best thing for it so I let him hang out. When I worked with him this weekend, I tried lunging/riding him in the blue stone ring behind the barn which has harder but more level footing than the polo arena and he seemed to be moving better on that ground than in the softer sand footing of the polo arena. Hmmm...

The barn manager asked me this weekend if I noticed his gimpiness. I told him yes and that it seems to be getting better. Then he told me the vet noticed it too when they were floating Rugby's teeth last week and he thought maybe I should put shoes on Rugby. That maybe his feet are tender from the wet ground and the shoes will give him support. I listened, said thanks and yes I will consider it. My hoof trimmer is scheduled to come work on Rugby's hooves this Sunday. I want to talk to him about it first and see if he notices anything unusual with the feet and if Rugby is better or worse after the trim.

I want to keep the big guy barefoot. Not just because it's less expensive but because he's got good hooves for it and because I'm not convinced that shoes are the "fix" for this. I was always a shoe advocate but I've had my eyes opened to the benefits of barefoot. If I felt that his hooves were not adapting well to being unshod, I would have him on shoes already. Winter is upon us and my training time is impacted by the weather and footing conditions. Rugby will be getting a lot of hanging out time. I'd like to let him stay barefoot, just leave it alone and see where it goes. The horse isn't being asked to compete or even do more than walk/trot when worked.

Has anyone else had a situation like this, where you are being told you should go back to shoes and you just don't feel that's the answer? I want to trust my 35+ years of horseman's intuition on this one but would like to hear from you if you have had a similar circumstance and what the outcome was for you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yeah, my horse is a Rock Star :)

So it's been one thing after another. The biggest has been my mom getting sick with pneumonia and being hospitalized. What little extra time I can find to train Rugby was channeled into hospital visits. She was in the hospital for 12 days and now is at a rehab facility getting her strength back. I think she will be home again, soon.

But my progress with Rugby came to a screeching halt. I managed to get to see him just to groom him and play with him in his stall but there was no time or energy to do more. Even on the weekends the weather was not cooperative.

So, since mom is doing so much better, last night I finally made plans to do a training session. I didn't expect much from Rugby and I anticipated a backslide if anything.

Now, there's another part to this I have to explain before I continue. There's been a bit of a "buzz" at my barn over a training device installed for the benefit of one boarder. She owns a Paso Fino who was a show Paso before she bought him. The owner always said she was a pleasure rider and that she just liked the Pasos and always wanted one. When Paso Finos are shown, one of the things they have to do is ride across a wooden "sounding board" (which resembles a catwalk) so the judge can listen to the cadence of the horses' gait to judge how well the animal moves. See picture:

So imagine the other boarder's reaction when one of these "catwalks" was built for her at the barn, right down the center of the smaller riding arena. It's about 6 inches high, 4-5 feet wide and 13 feet long. I heard most people wondered what it was built for unless she was planning on competing with the horse, which from what she said, she was not. So long story short, it's blocking part of the small arena, it's really solid, heavy and permanently built and is seen as an inconvenience and has therefore been the topic of some discussion.

I was asked what I thought since I'm probably the only one who trains after dark in that arena and it would impact me quite a bit. I only said I could offer no comment until I actually tried to work with Rugby out there and to see what his response would be.

So now back to last night's training session. I saddled Rugby, put on his rope halter and lunge line and headed out to the small arena. He must have been thrilled to get some attention because he usually balks a bit before walking out of the barn but this time he willingly followed me right out into the arena.

And of course he noticed the catwalk.

He lowered his head and his ears were pointed forward. But no spooking, he kept walking behind me and just giving it a good look-see. I walked him around it a few times and he just walked quietly around it. So far so good. I proceeded to lunge him at the end of the arena. He did good, didn't forget his cues and even when he got a bit snotty, I straightened him out immediately and he didn't try it again. Then we walked past the catwalk again and I lunged him some more at the other end of the arena. He was excellent. Then I did our usual lateral flexion, backing and moving off the haunches and shoulders. He did okay.

Then I wanted to see for sure the catwalk meant no issue to him. So we walked over to it and I led him around it very close. He simply followed me. Then as we turned to walk around one end, I stepped onto it and kept walking with him. He raised his head and looked at me as if to say, "uh, how did you suddenly get so tall?". I just kept walking along the boards and he walked beside me in the dirt.

When I got to the end, I stopped and extended my arm with the lead and my other arm to send him forward. He hesitated, then figured out I wanted him to walk around the end and follow me as I walked along the boards in the other direction. And he did it! So we did this 2 more times. Then when we changed direction the third time, I stepped off the other side of the board and now he was walking in the dirt on one side and I was on the dirt on the other. We had about 5 feet of catwalk between us and he just kept walking with me. When we met up at the end I praised him very much.

Then I challenged him. I extended my arm in the direction of the catwalk pointed to it and extended my other arm to send him.

And he gently stepped up onto the catwalk and proceeded to slowly walk and sniff the boards as he followed me walking alongside in the dirt!! He walked with me all the way to the end, about 13 feet along, and stepped off like a gentleman.

I was just blown away. I expected him to flat out refuse to do it, or to step off or explode and leap off. I know none of my other horses would have stepped up and strolled along that thing like he did. He had no fear, in fact, it was more curiosity. I praised him like he was a rock star and quit with that. I was just giddy for the rest of the night, it was the same feeling I used to get years ago when I would go to a horse show and ride a flawless jumping round!

(As an afterthought, I don't know what the barn policy is with this thing or if I can even use this at all. If I'm told otherwise, I apologize. We did no harm to it. But - I have the thrill of knowing that he trusted me enough to walk on it, simply because I asked him to.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clinton Anderson's Groundwork for Under-Saddle Success

Clinton Anderson explains how and why groundwork works, from the editors of Horse & Rider magazine.

By Clinton Anderson with Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

In the July '09 issue of Horse & Rider, Clinton Anderson and his student Renee Humphries demonstrate how to desensitize your horse to your ground-training tools. That segment is the first in a series of basic groundwork exercises designed to increase your horse's respectfulness and make him a pleasure to handle.

Here, Clinton gives a refresher course on exactly why groundwork is so effective, plus offers key tips for getting the most out of every groundwork session. Click the link below for the full article:

Clinton Anderson's Groundwork for Under-Saddle Success

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I read this article from my newsletter and decided to share it here. Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to get Rugby trained. My time is so very limited, my motivation is often low and now we are heading into the cold dark winter. If I don't have time (since riding requires groundwork time first - which cuts into my saddle time) or feel up to riding, many times lately I'm just opting to do the groundwork and quit with that. That's why this article was of particular interest to me and kind of made me feel better about my less than awesome training schedule.

I happen to like a lot of what Clinton Anderson does in training a horse and I have his book "Downunder Horsemanship". It's one of my go-to reads when working on a training exercise and I especially like that he breaks down each exercise with all the things that can go wrong for the horse and the handler and how to work through it. My book has yellow highlighter pen markings all over it by now!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lost Ground

Meh. I have been sick since late last week. I missed going to the barn at all for 3 days. Sinus pressure is painfully annoying, coughing is no fun and after the fever and sweats I've about had it. It gets better and then when I take the expectorant to get the gunk out of my chest the crappy coughing starts in until my eyeballs ache. My darling children brought this home to me from school and while they needed all of a day or so to burn it off, the germ mutated and moved in with me. Even my husband is over and done with it as it malingers with me.

I wanted so badly to ride Rugby but after 3 days of no interaction with him and my coughing spells, I figured it would be more groundwork and lunging. Saturday I made up for the lost time by sweating through an hour of groundwork with him. At least if start coughing I can just disengage his hindquarters and let him hang out until I'm ready to send him again.

He came out like a freight train. He's not particularly fast, but he's strong and wanted to buck and run on the line. And I let him, in fact I urged him just a little to make him work at playing even harder. Then we did what seems to work for us when he's all full of himself, the disengage, and send to change direction. And then he tried to stop and change direction without waiting for my cue, so I had to get after him about that but kept at it and worked through it and after 20 minutes or so started to have a more cooperative fellow to work with.

By the time we called it quits, I was really tired. I had to waste time before returning him to his stall as there was a truck picking up something in front of my barn and I didn't feel like dealing with any nonsense from him about it so I walked him out and let him graze a bit until the truck left. As I was returning to the barn, my husband showed up with my boys. They made a beeline for Rugby. I gently shooed them back and had them wait until I brought the big guy into the barn and on the cross ties. And then I let the boys play with him.

Rugby loves kids. I mean really loves them. Monty was always well mannered when they were around but I always knew inside him it was a very well-controlled state of nervous. He would allow them to walk around him but when they wanted to rub his nose he always kept it just out of reach. They could brush him but I could see by the way he would stand he was not relaxed, but being very aware of where they were around his legs and feet. He was better when I would give them pony rides on him but I always read his mood first before allowing it.

With Rugby, he just soaks up their affection. He will put his big head to the ground so they can rub and pet his forehead and ears. And he'll keep it there. Since he is not hand fed treats, he's not pushy with them, he knows attention is all he's getting from them. He will watch them move around him (and at this time they are under strict supervision with him and only allowed near his shoulders and chest) but it's more a look of curiosity, not nervous. I even taught them how to move him over using one finger and he will do it for them. He stands relaxed, with one back foot resting and lets the boys brush him. And my children are not quiet, they are chattering and asking questions and talking to Rugby and even the crescendo of children's voices doesn't concern him. He's passing all the tests so far as a great family horse.

Yesterday it rained, a soft steady rain almost all day. I spent the day cleaning house in between coughing and chasing kids. I almost didn't go to the barn at all but my husband tossed me out at around 7:00PM. I'm glad I went. Rugby didn't get turned out as I had hoped and his legs were a little puffy from standing in all day. So I threw on his rope halter and 12 foot lead and did about 20 minutes of walking work with him. I was glad to see some of the puffiness go down from the light exercise. I'm hopeful this cold gets over with so I feel more up to riding.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bad Riding blog

By now, I'm sure everyone knows about this blog. I have stopped by there once or twice before but for some reason I found it compelling to browse through earlier today. Maybe it's my mood, as I got poor sleep last night with both kids and myself being sick, or maybe I just wondered if any pics of me had made it to the site, LOL. Anyway, here's the link. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing and mostly "what the heck?" check out Bad Riding.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where did I go? LOL!

Yikes, it's been almost a month since I posted anything here! Well, it's really all good. Everything is chugging along. Rugby is continuing to do well with his training. We have our challenging moments but I work through it to get to the good stuff and we have been working at the walk under saddle with no resistance. I am so ready to trot again that I've snuck in a short trot stretch here and there towards the end of each ride. I'm trying to get together with Tony for a progress report and to get some more input for what to work on at the trot.

I am a firm believer in "things happen for a reason - we may not know the reason at the time but as with everything else time reveals all". I wasn't happy to have gotten dumped off Rugby the way I did, when I did but it sent me in search of another answer than what had worked before and forced me re-evaluate my purpose. When I put myself on Rugby's schedule and let the training reflect his needs, not necessarily my wants, it has just flowed. My method now is to always begin with lunging and groundwork. As we progress through the session I evaluate Rugby's mood, willingness to comply with my cues and his attention span. I have become good at "reading" his attitude and when I know the time is right to go under saddle, then I mount up. Sometimes the lunging beforehand will only need to be 20-30 minutes, sometimes almost an hour and occasionally we never go beyond just lunging but we've been riding almost regularly now.

A few weeks ago, circumstances forced me out of my "comfort bubble" in the little riding ring behind the barn and I had to go out into the big polo arena to work with him. There were all sorts of stimuli for him to be reactive to - the tractor grading the far end of the arena, horses coming in and out of turn-out and a teenage boy practicing his roping throws while riding his little Quarter Horse. And Rugby reacted, to the point where I figured I'd just forget about riding and just try to get something positive out of him in the groundwork. He was tearing around on the lunge, tossing in a few hump back bucks, and generally not paying attention well. When he ran, I asked him for a little more, then asked him to stop, disengage and then sent him in the other direction. I kept sending, then changing direction to get him thinking and it worked! We progressed to softer, calmer work as the edge came off and ended up with flexing and moving his haunches and shoulders around and backing up as some more riders came in for their lesson. I then walked Rugby over to where the mounting block was and let him hang out and watch the other horses starting to warm up. At this point he was so focused and settled that I changed my mind, we'd give riding a try. I bridled him, mounted up and rode amidst the lesson. Rugby was happy to calmly work with the other horses and we had a great ride!

I am loving this big horse more and more. Dare I say - he's cuddlier than even Monty was. He will even come over to the feed door opening in his stall wall and give a horsey smooch if you make kissy noises while standing there. He gives me a kiss goodnight with his big wiggly snoot each time before I leave.

My children have also made great strides! One boy is now off the lunge line and rides and steers the lesson pony around at the walk and trot and his brother is in the process of leaving the lunge as well. It's thrilling and scary as hell to watch them get their independence. When they are on the lunge, at least the instructor has the last word with the pony, now it's all up to my boys what the outcome will be. It's kind of funny, because almost simultaneously they have left their training wheels behind on their bikes and are now whizzing around the yard on two wheels. They can even kick off from a standing start! To see the look of pride on a child's face when they "find their wings" continues to be one of the most joyous moments of being a parent. (Then of course, reality pokes you in the butt when same child is whining about not wanting to do their homework!)

Homework - ahh, 1st grade has brought more of that. Math every night which they whiz through and then the writing and spelling in which we deal with staying focused in order to get it done. And so far only English, I'm waiting for the Spanish homework but that's my husband's forté, LOL.

So, that's what's been goin' on these days. Below are some pictures of my boys in recent riding lessons. They are riding at the same time, each with his own instructor and in a separate round pen.
Working on the trot. I love that both boys try very hard to post with only their seat and legs, they only touch the pony's mouth when asking for a "whoa".

Working on his position. Nice straight back and good hands! A little more heels down, please!

First time riding off the lunge line. My son and his favorite lesson pony being watched by "The Master". Go kid, go!

My son's boot heels have finally grown past the flap of the saddle. Now he has to learn that when he squeezes the pony he doesn't have to press through the saddle flaps to get a response!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I feel like I'm always training someone

Last night was a different sort of training session. Rugby got a night off. My husband and I took our twins to the park and they both began learning how to ride their bicycles without training wheels. Ah, another milestone.

We took them to the park because my husband read in one of his cycling magazines that the easiest way to learn 'em was to lower the bike seats so they could get their feet on the ground instantly, take them to a small hill and let them roll down the hill with their feet up and practice keeping their balance while the bike is moving. Then if they got wobbly all they had to do was put their feet down to stop. As they kept doing it, they got better and better and we kept working towards starting the ride with their feet on the pedals and then having them keep pedaling into the grass field after they went down the hill.

At the end of an hour, they were sweaty and exhausted but had their feet on the pedals and managed to go a while without dumping the bikes. It was awesome! They earned their ice pops from the ice cream truck afterward!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pictures from tonight's training

Tonight's session was much better. I had more concentration from the Big Guy. Yes! I got in some riding tonight! I even managed to snap a few pix of him to share since it's been a long while since I've posted any!

This is just after we finished our groundwork and I switched from the rope halter to my bridle so I could ride. (dont'cha love his scary glowing eyeballs from my flash!) It was good to get back in the tack tonight after yesterday's change of program!

You can never have too many nice head shots of your horse. The fun part of having a paint is...'s good to take a picture of each side since he looks different in each direction!

Ahh, back in his stall and waiting for that all-important after workout treat!

Sometimes, you have to know when to quit.

Ever get into a training situation where it all started out great and then you hit a point of diminishing returns? That was what happened to Rugby and I yesterday. In all fairness to the Big Guy, it was not his fault and I would have expected no less from him at this stage of his education.

The weather here has been very random with all the influence from hurricane Bill. It downpours while the sun is merrily shining, the clouds thicken up and the humidity is miserable, then the sun comes back out and heats it all up into a muggy mess. So my window of opportunity to work with the horse has been very weather dependent. Yesterday, we had a family occasion to go to around 5:00PM and the morning was busy so the only time I had to squeeze in a bit of training was at 3:00PM. Not much time by my standards and too close to feeding time but I figured I'd try.

So I arrive at the barn, shlep all my gear to my stall, walk down to the paddocks and collect my horse and get him brushed and tacked to do our groundwork before riding. He was willing and working quite well but I knew we were running out of time. I could have rushed it and tried to get mounted but something told me to finish the groundwork the way I am comfortable with it and see if I could ride.

Well, I watched it start to unravel as he noticed the horses being brought in from turn-out. He was distracted by them but could be directed back to the exercises quite easily. It was when the Sunday bran mash was being served a few minutes later that I lost him, and not in a bad or explosive way, I just watched my horses' concentration evaporate in front of me! I'd back him up and he kept turning to look at the barn. He'd forget to stand still and wait for my cue to move and then get sent back to stand again. I asked him to flex to the side and then he'd start walking in a circle instead of standing still. I knew riding was not going to be happening. I didn't want to continue to push his patience, especially at this level of his schooling. I knew if I tried to ride he could very well lose it from frustration and it was a scenario I chose not to risk.

So we wrapped it up with a few of the most simple exercises, I gathered up my unused helmet and bridle and walked him back into the barn. He kept it together long enough for me to unsaddle him and lead him quietly into the stall. He even lowered his head like he's been taught to have his halter removed and then submerged his face in his bran mash!

I let him chow down and when he was done, I took him out and sponged the sweat off him. It wasn't the session I had hoped for but given the circumstances, it all went okay. I'm hoping to get there and ride tonight!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Training Happens Anywhere

Still coughing but starting to get better. Thanks to all who wished me a "feel better". I give it another week. These colds seem to just linger lately.

Yesterday was one of those days that just got away from me. My husband rode his bicycle with the cycling club in the morning and when he got back we went out as a family and did some stuff together. We had tickets to go see G I Joe that evening so there wasn't much time to work with Rugby again. In addition, there was rain and T-storms in the forecast and I could tell by looking at the sky they were not far off.

So I went to the barn with about an hour to work with. I decided to take Rugby to the grazing area and let him have some grass. But I took my training stick and used my rope halter and 12 foot lead. I wanted to see how cooperative he would be if I asked him to perform a simple task while he was doing his favorite thing - eating!

We led to the grassy spot. If he started to speed up his walk, I walked him into a 10 meter circle, then sent him back a few steps. Then we moved again, and repeated the same if he did it again. He figured after the 3rd time that he wasn't getting there any faster by trying to force it and stayed just behind my shoulder as we stepped onto the grass. And then I looped the lead at him and let him graze.

For about 10 minutes, I let him munch away, I turned my shoulder so I wasn't staring at him but could see what he was doing from the corner of my eye. Then I faced him and lifted my left arm to point and send him onto a circle and at the same time slightly wiggled the stick in my right hand. He stopped grazing immediately and started to walk in a circle! I could see he wanted to keep eating but he didn't argue and kept walking as long as I kept pointing. I asked for just a circle and a half then stopped him with a haunch disengage, made him face me and keep his head up, not just dive for the grass. It took a few bumps up on the halter with the lead to get him to focus on me and not the turf. When he kept his head up and waited, I looped the lead gently so it touched the ground and let him lower his head to continue grazing.

I gave him a little more time and asked for him to walk the circle again. And again he did what I asked. Then I got creative.

There were two resin lawn chairs side by side on the grass. Some of the boarders like to sit and chat while they graze their horses, so the chairs were left there. I moved the chairs apart so there were about 6 feet between them. Then I gave the send signal and Rugby began to walk on the circle. As he approached the opening between the chairs, his ears snapped to attention and he stopped and gave a snort. I quietly kept offering the signal to send, even stepping slightly to the front of the chairs to "lead" him between. He cautiously stepped between and then, without hurrying finished walking through the gap. He wanted to just stop and graze right after he passed through and I had to get his attention and have him keep walking. He walked around and this time as he approached the gap he slowed, but kept walking and passed through without further hesitation!

I was impressed! I expected anything from him absolutely refusing to try, to him charging through the opening. His alert but cautious handling of the situation and that he trusted my asking him to do it were better than I could have wanted. I let him graze after that. Another few minutes later I sent him in the opposite direction through the chairs and he did it that time as if the chairs weren't there. If I'd had more time, I would have slowly kept closing the gap and having him pass through a tighter opening until he did it smoothly and without concern. But I was satisfied with what we did and let him just finish the time I had left with grazing.

So even with very little time, training can happen anywhere. Working on the grass is great because while it is a distraction, it is also a reward. The fact that he will stop grazing when I ask for a task is a big plus in the respect department where he's concerned because this big boy LOVES to eat!

And we beat the rain! It started drizzling as we walked back into the barn. Mission accomplished!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Another Ride

Have come down with some awful chest cold. Lots of coughing and post nasal drip. Had it about 4 days now. Very annoying, especially the headaches from too much coughing. So I have not been of a mind to do a whole lot with Rugby this past week. I did some groundwork just to keep the ball rolling and tonight I made myself get him saddled up and work toward another ride. We worked in the small arena behind the barn again. All went well. Lunged for respect for about 40 minutes and then into the saddle for about 20 minutes or so to work on exercises of lateral flexion at the walk. And he was a star.

One of the biggest changes I made when I started working with the big guy after the fall was to train myself that this was going to be a new journey. I will miss going on the hunter paces in the fall and heading out to the trails like I was doing with Monty but the only way to give both myself and Rugby a chance was to change my thinking from what I will be missing (for a while) to what fun I will have when this nice, young horse is finished and trained. I decided that my mindset is it will take as long as it takes. If it takes another year before I can try trail riding, that's fine. If we don't attempt to canter or start jumps until next spring, that's okay, too. I see the potential of this young horse and will work at his pace to make him the best beast he can be. And when it's all done, I will have the satisfaction that I did it and I finished it.

He's a big, cuddly puppy of a horse. If he had it his way, he'd want me to hang out with him by his stall door and rub his face forever. You can't show enough love to this big sponge - he just keeps soaking it up.

Some great things to come of all this are: He'll lower his head to the ground for you to remove and put on his halter or bridle. He stands quietly on cross ties with no fidgeting. He'll easily move over for you while on the cross ties by simply gesturing with your hand at his hip. He'll back up with a fingertip on his shoulder. He'll lift his hooves nicely for cleaning and trimming. He will stand quietly for having his mane pulled. He loves to have his belly and chest scratched. He knows that treats only happen after all the work is done and he's returned to his stall and will not mooch on you or try to pick your pockets while you work with him. He leads with respect, he does not crowd you while walking him and if he does, as soon as you stop and send him back, he will back up away and resume walking slightly behind your right shoulder. He's very good at lunging now and will increase and decrease his gait on command. He stands quietly and respectfully while mounting.

Sounds like a pretty nice horse so far, right? That's why I am encouraged to do this at his pace. It's been great with slow but very steady progress.

Another thing I'm loving is his hooves. He's my first barefoot horse and he's got the best hooves I've ever dealt with. In fact, as I am working with him, I think he moves even better now than when I first bought him. My trimmer is doing a great job and Rugby is benefitting from his good, natural hooves.

So, I am in a good place.

Weather permitting, I will try to ride again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I did it again! I rode the beast this evening after a good groundwork session. Rugby seemed in a mellow mood even as I was grooming him but I decided to be thorough and do good groundwork first. He was very willing and unconcerned about all the noises coming from the other side of the fence in the restaurant parking lot.

When the time came to switch the rope halter for the bridle, he just put his head down and cooperated. Then I gently brought him to the mounting block, and slowly mounted up. He was fine. Off we walked and did lateral flexing and a little backing and I let him cruise around at the walk. (and I find it amusing that he likes to walk through the groundpoles, even when I let him choose where he wants to go. I am guessing this guy is going to like jumping when we get there!)

It was all good! No fear.

I tried to recall all the work from my lesson on Thursday. How I did about an hour of groundwork before we attempted the riding. How T.S. set him up before he mounted Rugby. How he connected the feel of the bit with moving the body and how he did not mount first without laying his body across the saddle and rubbing Rugby's opposite shoulder, then when the response was inviting, he swung his leg low and over Rugby's back and into the saddle. Then T.S. proceeded to ask Rugby to begin lateral softening. How he exaggerated his movements on the reins to teach and to soften and give with each try.

T.S. must have ridden him for almost 45 minutes before I got on. And after watching him, all my fear melted away. T.S. had to leave promptly at 6:30PM and asked how I felt about riding. I told him, let me ride while he was still there. He smiled and we switched. And he held Rugby for me to mount up, for the first time in about 2 months. It was so good to ride my horse again. We are to work on our walk for the next month. T.S. will come back and we will move up to trotting.

I love Rugby. I'm also not as sorry for the experience that led to this. I have gained so much, most importantly a level of communication and a relationship with this horse that I feared I might not find. I'm also glad to have been referred to T.S. and I am grateful for his help.

So, it's time to introduce him by his real name. My trainer is Tony Simonetti. Here is his information Natural Horseman Tony Simonetti and here is his webpage L.I. Horse Community If you read his testimonials, mine is right at the top from the first time Tony came to work with us.

It's been a good weekend.

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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

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


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!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Tweet, therefore... I have too much time on my hands

I know, I know. How long has it been since my last post? Too long! Just busy as the school year winds down, work gears up, summer plans need to get in motion and horse continually puzzles and amazes me.

I got myself back to Tweeting again to keep something fresh on the page in between posts. So if you like to read about my progress or regress with Rugby check the Twitter widget on my blog page.

Hope the rain has stayed away from whereever you are (because all it seems to do here IS rain!) and you are ready for a good summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trainers, Coaches, Instructors - Oh My!

We all need a trainer, coach or instructor...whatever you choose to call them. So bear with my thoughts about this topic, then let's hear your take on it.

Of course in the very beginning you must have an instructor, that's obvious. You need someone who knows more than you to teach you what to do so you can at least do it safely and humanely, if not perfectly. Even as we gain skills and independence and perhaps don't need as many lessons as before, at some time or another, we all need another person to call us on our mistakes or bad habits. Even the most experienced riders have a ground man to catch these things and refine their skills.

Sometimes you can be an accomplished rider and very capable of doing things by yourself. You've ridden quite a few different kinds of horses through the years with good levels of success. Then you meet a situation where what you knew before doesn't solve the problem with this particular horse. One thing experience partnered with a modest ego will get you is knowing the right moment to seek the help of someone who has more experience in a particular field than you. Instead of forging ahead and tackling the problem yourself, the plan should include a competent trainer to help you see your mistakes and move you forward with a different path.

Now, to define a competent trainer may take a lot of time or be as easy as 1 phone call. I always suggest watching a trainer do 2 things before seeking their guidance, watch them ride and work with a horse and watch their students ride and work with a horse. Watching the trainer should inspire you and when watching their students at work the key is to study how they solve the problems presented by the exercise they are performing. If the trainer is competent, the students will have a confidence to work through issues that may arise with a good success rate. That is a clue that how the education is being presented is having the desired effect.

The next step is to agree with the ethics of the trainer - are they overly rough or too easy-going with either the horses or the students? Someone too accomodating probably won't have students who are polished (because they are rewarded for any effort instead of mainly being rewarded for a successful effort). I have seen trainers stand around and watch their students ride with the occasional command to "put your heels down" or "shorten the reins" but they are not really teaching anything. They will "babysit" the rider while in the saddle but not ask them to grow and challenge them. I've seen lots of little kids posting around in a "chair seat" and not being taught to keep their heels down and their knees bent. Yet the trainers tell them they are doing great and the kids think it's all great - until they go to a show and don't understand why they didn't win a prize when they were doing so "great".

There are instructors who push too hard and intimidate the student. Their students often are afraid to make a mistake for fear of more reprisals and it becomes an escalating series of dependancy (which guarantees the student will keep paying for the lessons because they are afraid to ride without someone watching their every move).

A good trainer is firm and will work you, challenge your skills and make you step occasionally outside your comfort zone. I also like to see or hear of a trainer who will be honest and tell you they can't take you any further and that you need to move on to someone with those skills. (When I taught years ago, I was given the rank beginners as the Master didn't have time to start riders from scratch. I made it clear to my students all I would teach were the basics. I'd work on a good seat, independant and soft hands, mastering the 4 gaits W/T/C/G and transitions and start jumping. If the rider wanted to move up or start going to shows I would then pass them on to the Master.)

I like trainers who are totally focused on you and your ride or on your horse and teaching it as they ride. If they are teaching you as you ride, often their commands come at you in furious bursts. It's as if they are right there in the saddle with you, catching the movement just before you make it and helping you to feel it as it happens. I would rather have a trainer who is focused on me and me alone (LOL, yes, it's all about ME) like this for the duration of our session. And I have found, for me, the best trainers are those who are like this.

In some ways it's like the quality of a stallion is shown in the quality of his offspring - the quality of a trainer is in the quality of the riders and horses they work with.

How did you find your trainer? Or are you looking for one you respect? What are your thoughts on trainer/instructors/coaches? Are you currently a trainer, yourself? I'm sure anyone who's been at this awhile has stories of a few stinkers they've met along the way but let's try to keep this mainly constructive!

Horsey Hide and Seek

This was too cute! Last night I stopped by the barn and did a short groundwork/grooming session with Rugby. We've been having a whole bunch of rain lately and I figured we'd do what we could before it started in again.

All went quite well considering we only did about 20 minutes or so of actual groundwork on the lunge line. I finished up and returned him to his stall. I went out to put some gear away in my locker and when I came back I proceeded to clean up the hair on the floor (he's been a doll about having his mane pulled but I do it in increments so it doesn't become too much with all the tugging. So each night we remove a little more hair). As I'm doing this I see he's standing right at the stall door, watching my every move (waiting for his end of work treat, no doubt).

So when I went out the side aisle to dump the rake full of mane hair, on the way back I stopped and hid behind the wall. I then peeked around and saw him still watching where I'd gone. I quickly ducked back then slowly peeked around at him again. I ducked back again and was immediately rewarded with a deep nicker from Rugby! It sounded like either, "dude, what's UP with you?" or "cut the crap, lady and give me the treats".

Who cares, It was cute to get a response like that. I laughed and put the treats in his pail. I tried it again, this time mimicking his deep nicker as best I could (humans just can't do a perfect horse sound) as soon as I was out of his sight, and he answered me in the same tone! For that he got rewarded with a horse kiss by me blowing softly in his nostrils. He loves that. This is fun.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rugby's Progress

So Rugby and I have been working along, getting to know each other through our groundwork. T.S. came for another session last week. There was a bit of a scheduling mix-up and I had to leave work early to meet him at the barn. So, I wasn't dressed to participate in the groundwork but since he was going to be gone for the rest of the month of June, I told him to do the work with him anyway and I would observe. I didn't want to miss the chance for another training lesson and then have to wait a month before he returned.

Rugby did very well, even with the barn workers doing some construction just outside the arena, he kept his mind on his work and was surprisingly settled even moving past it.

T.S. told me that he wanted me to call him before the month was over to schedule as soon as he comes back because he books up quickly when he returns. He felt, based on what he has seen from us that if all continues well, in our next session he will work with Rugby, then he'll get on and ride, then have me do so. Cool, I am working for that goal!

And I have been trying to continue the exercises and work him with the same direction on my own. It's not easy. I find I walk away from a groundwork session even more exhausted than when I ride! I don't know if it's more physical or mental as I try to stay a step ahead and do each movement with the proper response! I may not be perfect but I never quit until I get what I need from him and everything has been ending well.

I'm very, very pleased with his manners on the crossties. He will now move over from the slightest touch and asking "Over". He picks up all four feet for you as soon as he's asked and does not lean when you hold them up to clean them. He had his hooves trimmed this past Sunday and was just super for the trimmer. He didn't lean or wobble this time and kept each of his hooves on the stand for as long as the trimmer needed him to. His hooves are the best I have ever seen on a horse. In three trimmings they have gone from just okay to perfect for him. No cracks, no thrush and very strong. I am impressed. My trimmer is lovin' it! He's my first completely barefoot horse and I like what I see!

We have ended one of my personal favorite bonding moves and that's hand feeding of treats. I was very quick to just do what I did with Monty and hand him snacks without him needing to earn them. That stopped as soon as I got disrespected and bucked off. Once again, I had to get my head out of my "Monty" mindset and do what needed to be done to properly train Rugby. With several weeks of this I see another change. He looks to me for attention and what are we going to do next, and not just because he wants to check my pockets for treats. I've even had him nicker at me if I'm standing outside his stall talking to someone else because he wants me to take him out and fuss with him. He knows by now I have no snacks for him. That's pretty cool.

I will still place one or two treats in his bucket after we've completely finished our work and he's back in the stall. He knows then he's done and can relax. And he'll always put his nose up to the open feed door to have his nostril blown into softly and get a horse smooch before I go home.

So I'm not back in the saddle yet but I'm ready. I'm going to keep up the groundwork and have no problem waiting for T.S. to return before I get there. The most important thing is Rugby and I continue to bond and know what's expected of each other.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pictures of Rugby

Finally! I brought the camera and took some nice pictures of Rugby! I had already finished my groundwork session, showered him and let him have some grazing time. I figured the least he could do was pose for me in his hunt bridle.

One of the girls at the barn was nice enough to man the camera while I positioned the big moose. So, without further ado - here is my journey horse!

Good thing he's cute XD