Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Lesson made an Impression

So, a week after Rugby's "boot camp" session in Natural Horsemanship training, he's still retaining it all very well! I'm impressed with how he is responding to me while I work with him on the exercises T.S. wanted me to work on. I've only been able to work with him on the line two times since last Saturday with the holiday and having a touch of some kind of stomach bug but each time left us with a successful session and me feeling more satisfied and empowered.

T.S. is coming back on June 8th to work with us again. I'm so looking forward to it and the feedback from him that I'm continuing to get this right.

I was going to take some pictures of him to share today but was tired by the time I finished up. I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Training Session

T.S. arrived before 8:00am this past Saturday. We exchanged pleasentries and headed into the barn. I showed him the rope halter I bought and he said it would do just fine. We went to get Rugby and the stable grooms had already taken him out to turn out. So T.S. and I walked down to the paddocks to get him.

T.S. liked the looks of Rugby the moment he saw him. We had been talking on the way to the paddocks about the issues I was having and what he was going to work on with Rugby. Rugby walked right over to us and I haltered him with the rope halter. T.S. then hooked up his training line and we headed off to the polo arena.

T.S. began working with Rugby and from the beginning I could tell my horse was very aware of the different energy being directed at him through T.S. At first, Rugby tried to do the things he would to avoid having to focus and work, such as being distracted by the other horses on their way to turn out, trying to simply ignore T.S.'s requests for a response. But T.S.'s consistent persistence began to get Rugby's attention. It wasn't a simple or short process and they were both working very hard but as I watched, I could see that Rugby was GETTING IT!

As T.S. had explained, he was going to work to increase Rugby's awareness of the cues to move parts of his body - specifically the shoulder or haunch. When he asked he expected a response. No response meant a more direct request. If there was still no response, the request was followed by a "tag" or a flick from the whip. Even a small response was rewarded by a release but continued lack of response got him seriously "tagged". At one point when T.S. slowed down the training to give Rugby a chance to take in what he'd been taught, T.S. turned to me and said, "I'm amazed you even got to ride him at all. This horse is not just green, he's not even broke!"

Into the second hour, he would respond faster to T.S.'s cues and stay focused on him for longer periods of time without letting himself be distracted by other stimuli. At one point, there was another horse being lunged in the same arena and T.S. walked Rugby over to where this horse was bucking and leaping around. Rugby just stood still and worked with T.S. on the softening of the neck exercises! His attention was on what T.S. was going to ask next and not on the actions of the other horse!

The transformation over the course of 2 hours was incredible. As I said in my previous post, my horse went from uneducated slacker to willing student. Even when T.S. handed me the line to show me the basic exercises, my horse was focused on me and what we were going to do next. A different horse walked out of that arena that day and I hope with T.S.'s continued guidance we continue to progress back to work in the saddle. As T.S. told me when we finished and I was putting Rugby back in his paddock, "your horse should progress well. I usually wind up working with the rank and nasty ones that need to be retrained. They always take longer to work with than a horse who just has never been taught at all".

I can't thank T.S. enough, for restoring some of my "nerve" and giving me the help to move this partnership forward. His teaching is clear and easy to understand and I feel so motivated knowing that with all I know, I have found something new to learn!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Training Session was AMAZING

I am sorry to keep anyone following my journey with Rugby waiting to hear how the training session with T.S. went on Saturday. It was a crazy-busy weekend! As soon as the training session was done, I had to teach a lesson and then run home, shower, pack and head off with the family to our weekend vacation plans! There was no computer access where we were staying so I couldn't update the blog. We returned home yesterday afternoon and I was planting flowers in our front yard since rain is in the forecast and the flowers have been waiting for too long to go from flat to garden!

All I can say is it was the most amazing thing watching T.S. work with Rugby. In two hours my horse went from uneducated slacker to willing student. I will post more details later as I am at work but I was just blown away by the change in my horse.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomorrow is NH day!

I am so looking forward to tomorrow morning's training session with T.S. :)

My boys had their riding lessons last night. Afterward I was chatting with my long time trainer, "the Master" as you know him from reading previous posts. I opened up and explained everything that happened with Rugby and what I'm going through about being hesitant to ride him again.

He told me he completely understood how I was feeling about all this. He's going to be 50 this year and has bad back problems. He said that it's harder to just get up on green horses now and ride because he simply can't afford to get hurt. He tries to steer his customers toward more trained horses because he's better able to physically continue to help them with their goals, the greenies are too unpredictable. He agreed that having the NH trainer come to try and sort things out was a good idea.

He said that if any of his students wanted a green horse and thought to make something of it, I would have been the one he most felt could do the job but he told me very seriously, "if you do not feel comfortable or safe to get back on him and ride - do not do it. If you have to move him on to someone else, then sell him. At our age, and with our experience we have nothing to prove to anyone, now we do what's right for us".

He's right. And I appreciate the understanding especially from him. He knew me and trained me back in the day when I rode the rank stuff as well as the good stuff. He knows what I am capable of because he's seen it. He also wanted me to understand I've earned the "right" to choose not to deal with it if I don't want to, now. He supports my wanting to try again and try an approach that I haven't before.

I like Rugby, I really do and when it's "right" he's just the best. I want in the saddle what I seem to have on the cross ties when grooming, that relaxed, friendly communication. Let's see what T.S. can bring to this partnership.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rope Halter is a Big Help!

I have been reading and searching for information about Natural Horsemanship training. Especially on the Parelli training methods, since I am scheduled to have our first session this coming Saturday with T.S., the trainer recommended to me by my friends. I called him yesterday to confirm this Saturday mornings' lesson but no confirmation call-back yet. This was arranged over 3 weeks ago due to T.S.' busy schedule and I hope there are no problems. I have really been looking forward to this. (UPDATE - JUST GOT IN TOUCH WITH T.S. AND HE'S DEFINITELY ALL SET FOR SATURDAY MORNING! (HAPPY!)

I the meantime, I have either avoided the barn (yes, I know, that doesn't solve anything) or gone and kept my visit a brief grooming session. I have to say, Rugby has excellent cross-tie manners. He stands quietly, he has learned to move over and give me room with a fingers touch on his side and the command, "Over". He picks up each hoof to be cleaned when I tap his cannon bone with my hand and ask, "Foot". He has no cranky spots when being groomed - from curry to brushing to polishing rag he stands quietly and seems to enjoy it all. I have even been working on pulling his mane a little each night and he is wonderful about it, in fact, he'll even lower his head as I tug the hairs out with the comb. Not many young horses are tolerant about that and he's exceptionally good. He uses his regular leather halter when on crossties and we have no problems there.

With that said, outside the barn is where we've had our backslide. So, after reading and surfing the web, I decided one of the key pieces of training equipment that I didn't have was a rope halter. Every trainer gave very valid reasons why it is an excellent tool with a green horse when used properly. So I browsed off to Ebay and found a ranch that hand makes them for NH training at a very reasonable price. I bought him a simple, black warmblood sized one. It was shipped to me super fast and I couldn't wait to try working with it.

After I fitted it to his head, I clipped my longest, heaviest lead to it and we went for a walk. He's usually pretty good about leading and we walked the yard a bit when he noticed another horse being led outside. He snorted and started prancing. With a firm, steady tug on the lead, I asked him to "Ho!" and he quit his nonsense immediately as he felt the pressure from the halter! We walked in a few small circles as he settled and then strolled back through the yard to the barn. I was very pleased.

Last night we did some more leading work. This time he decided to try his balking and not moving routine. When he stopped 10 feet from the door and refused to walk out, I took up the slack in the line and began gently but firmly giving small tugs just by moving my wrist. What had taken 10 minutes and a lot of effort with the regular halter to get him to walk forward took about 15 seconds with the rope halter. He felt the pressure and moved forward into the instant release with much verbal praise from me. He tried it half-heartedly before we walked out the door and with one tug to remind him he simply put his head down and came along.

What a great feeling to find a tool that allowed me to get the point across without frustration for both of us! That's also why I'm excited to have this training session, I want to know more and see more by someone who works with this simple equipment all the time. I like to learn new things and like the feeling of gaining a new perspective.

I'm almost fully healed from the fall. I only occasionally feel a slight twinge if I move differently but it's almost imperceptible. I'm more ready now to try again in the saddle. My outlook is getting more positive. I want this to go well, I want to move forward again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Troxel Legacy Helmet - why do I love this color?!

Troxel just came out with this new Ruby red color on this model helmet. I know it's totally non-traditional and don't know if I could see myself actually wearing one but I am LOVING this RED! Maybe a new helmet will motivate me back into the saddle...

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Angel

I can't believe it's 4 months now since I set Monty free from his pain and suffering. I feel the pain every day since he's gone. My Good Horse, I miss you so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Horse is a Left Brain Introvert

I am eagerly awaiting my session with the Natural Horsmanship trainer, who I'll call T.S. He's coming in a week and a half to do a 2 hour session with me. What I know of him is that my friends highly recommend him, and he's Parelli trained. I've had my doubts about some of the Parelli stuff but the basic training has merit and I need ideas.

Rugby is tough. If you do the Parelli Horsenality Profile, he's very much a Left Brain Introvert. The traits for this kind of individual are:

Non-Responsive - (when we are at a communication impasse)
Disinterested - (when he thinks there's nothing in it for him)
Argumentative/Defiant - (not yet, but if he's handled wrong I could see this coming)
Tendancy to Buck/Charge - (well, we know about the buck...)
Unmotivated/Dull - (has pulled this one on me)
Food Oriented - (oh yeah)
Easily Bored
Stubborn - (as in, not moving - talk to the hoof)

I have never dealt with a horse quite like this. I want to motivate him, but not with treats. I try to be creative in working with him on the ground. One of my best sessions was where I used grazing as a reward for moving on and leading. If he followed me away from the grass, I would walk him back and let him have more. If he balked, I would work to get him to lead with me and once he did he was allowed to graze more.

But I need more ideas, from someone who has worked with lots of horses and has handled a big slacker like this before. I don't think he's dumb, but I do think he's not motivated.

I want to try again in the saddle but think I need the groundwork to be better first. What is bothering me is it's hard to find a trainer who has the time to come and work with you each week. These guys are all so busy. If I had direction each week I could be further along. I'm frustrated.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The English Cowboys

My boyz had their riding lessons yesterday afternoon. They just love to ride. I can't get them dressed to go anywhere else without a fight yet if I tell them to get their breeches on for their lesson they zoom upstairs and are ready to go in seconds.

There is a pony named Buddy that one of the boyz is just smitten with. This is a cute, little, fat, white pony who is generally well mannered but still has the usual cranky pony moments (such as when having the girth tightened). To see the look of love on my son's face when he's around this pony gives me such joy. The other boy doesn't care which pony he's given to ride, as long as it's fun.

They have a natural seat, their heels are almost always down without thinking about it and they have good rhythm in picking up a posting trot. I'm guessing we are almost another month or two away from totally independent hands (no "cheating" by holding the pommel of the saddle when posting or using the reins to brace against). They are still on the lunge line and that's just fine but the steering is improving, too.

When we went to the swap meet a few weeks ago they both bought cowboy hats from a friend of mine. Now it's what they wear to their lessons. They arrive in little breeches, paddock boots and half chaps with their cowboy hats on and their helmets and gloves in hand. The helmets go on for the lesson and as soon as they dismount, they ask for the cowboy hat and hand me the helmet. Then off they run to jump ground poles and ride imaginary horses. My English Cowboys.

I wonder if the ones who should have had the next equine in the family are them. Perhaps what I should have bought or leased was an aged pony with a bunch of miles on it for them to enjoy.