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 Equine.com 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!