Monday, June 22, 2009

Guinness and His Ball & Cody's Magic Shoes

Several days ago, the farrier came out to trim Cody and apply the next iteration of heel expanding pads. (See the EDSS website for more technical info.)

Interestingly, Cody does the best when shod at liberty - no halter or leadline. He stood quietly with hay for about 2 hours and 15 minutes - with a few potty (in the corner of the paddock) and water breaks! When his patience finally gave out, with about 15 minutes to go, all I had to do was halter him and he allowed Dave to finish.

While Cody was having his feet done, Guinness was playing with Smokey. When he got done with that, he entertained us all by chasing his large white rubber exercise ball around the field. It was the funniest thing that I've ever seen him do. At one time he was even kneeling on it with both forelegs. Fortunately it didn't pop!
(See the video below.)



video

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trail Obstacle Competition!

Last Sunday, Guinness and I competed in the Trail Obstacle Competition at Canterbury Farm. I'm thrilled to report that we won third place in the Unmounted division against stiff competition. This was only Guinness' second time traveling somewhere, unloading and then reloading. And, it was his *first* playdate! He was a real trooper and obviously enjoyed himself.

Here is the list of obstacles:
1. Mounting Block - stand still while mount (jump up if unmounted)
2. Circle arena - at faster than walk mounted (1/2 arena if unmounted)
3. "L" in corner with tarps - enter and go through forward, then back through
4. Enter box and do 360 degree turn - don't touch timbers, back out of box
5. Cross tarp with water
6. Stand on pedestal
7. Friendly with noodle - go to fence, pick up noodle, rub both sides of horse and swing overhead, replace
8. Drag drain tile from barrel to cone
9. Cross parallel poles - ok to walk or jump
10. Noodles of death
11. Open gate, walk down slope to cone, back up hill through gate and close
12. Straddle lengthwise pole
13. Back between two barrels and around a third barrel then back through first two barrels
14. Sidepass over pole
15. Groundtie horse on bridge, walk 360 degrees around horse, then back horse off of bridge

He was happy and enthusiastic about everything. We look forward to many more events like this! :-)



















Riding Lesson with Kelly Sigler

Last Wednesday, I was fortunate to participate in a group lesson with Kelly Sigler, 3-star PNH instructor. The lesson was held at Broadview Ranch in Lexington, Va. (The photo featured at the top of my blog was taken in one of their lovely, huge fields.) Three of my fellow Parelli Play Group members also participated in the lesson.

All of us have been having Level 2 riding issues, even though we've all been doing PNH for years.. I had my last lesson with Kelly just over a year ago on Smokey, and unfortunately, I felt as though we hadn't made much progress since then. I can blame several factors including trying to play with multiple horses and feeling burned out by Smokey's seemingly endless RBI issues, but the truth is that I haven't been putting in much time with him.

My friend Sara and I hauled our horses up to Lexington together and arrived sometime after 1:00 pm. Our friends Tenley & Jan were already there. It was about 85 degrees, sunny and humid, so we were all feeling pretty sluggish. We turned the horses out and had some lunch, then went to play unmounted with the toys in the arena. Next, Sara & I took our horses for a little trail walk which seemed to perk them up.

We returned to the arena and turned the horses loose in a small paddock, only to discover that our lesson was in 20 minutes! We scrambled back to the trailer to grab our saddles and then went back to coerce our horses into getting tacked back up again just about the time that Kelly arrived back from a clinic with the O'Conners at the Lexington Horse Center.

Our lesson started with lateral flexion, indirect rein/hindquarter yield, and direct rein/forehand exercises. Then we each practiced figure 8 patterns around small cones while riding with one rein and a carrot stick (all horses wearing halters). Then we tried them w/o reins. Surprisingly, I found that Smokey was pretty energetic following the reining exercises and was eager to move around the cones. I discovered that it was actually easier for me to direct him with just the stick and no reins, then with the reins and stick. (He fights being guided with the reins and I tend to pop out of my seat.) This was an excellent confidence booster for both of us!!

Next we all practiced follow-the-rail. We were supposed to do 10 steps of trot followed by 10 steps of walk, but we were having trouble enough just staying by the fence. Smokey decided to argue with me and tried to rub me along the fence against some projecting boards and got the saddle and right stirrup caught. (I immediately had a flashback to my wreck with Parlay where she got her rein caught around my stirrup and bucked me off..) Smokey threw his head up with the whites of his eyes showing, but he stopped dead and asked me what to do. Yeah! I took a deep breath and asked him to back up about 3 steps and he got unhooked. Whew.. After that, he was more willing to let me direct him.

The upshot is that I went into the lesson feeling discouraged and frustrated, and I left the lesson feeling motivated and successful. And I have a new Savvy "arrow" for my quiver - my carrot stick. Yes, I had tried riding with the carrot stick in the past, but now that I'm finally riding in L2 again, it is time to be using it as a serious tool. I was amazed at how LBI Smokey was behaving in the lesson and how easily he accepted being guided with the stick. (Even though he ran into it a few times!)

Today, I got outside early and decked Guinness out in the biggest saddle that I have. We then played on the 22' over several obstacles and attempted to play circling game. (I have to admit I feel frustrated that the 22' rope kept getting wrapped around both of our feet. I have never had so much trouble with it. I think that it is because Guinness tends to stay so close to me. We need to practice more.)

Next, Cody volunteered to play. I took him at liberty into the field to play with obstacles. Then he sidled up to a barrel in the roundpen and I mounted bareback (with him in a halter). We rode around the roundpen and the field playing with obstacles and doing lots of backing and sideways attempts. Not once did he oink or act grouchy! Here is a photo taken from Cody's back.

Later this evening, I got Smokey to join up with me and we did some obstacles at liberty. Then he followed me to the roundpen where we tacked up and he sidled up to let me mount. I rode him without reins the entire session! (His leadline was looped and tied to his halter, but I hooked it over the pommel of the saddle and didn't touch them.) He did great with the carrot stick doing figure 8s and follow-the-rail. He even cantered, stopped and backed. I love riding him this way - no arguments with the reins. We will try again tomorrow. :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More Progress

I forgot to post that about a week and a half ago, I took Cody for a trailride/walk along with one other horse and 4 walkers. He really enjoyed himself, despite the chaos in the parking area (due to the closure of one of the parking lots).

Yesterday, I took him back to the pond by himself. My son came along on his bike to keep us company. The parking lot was pretty empty except for a lone school bus. Pretty soon after we unloaded, about 50 school kids appeared out of the woods! Cody took it all very well. I discouraged the kids from interacting with him (to the relief of the teachers) just in case..

I led him from the parking area for about 1/8 mile, then rode for a bit, and then led him back into the parking lot. He only called a few times, but since there were no other horses, he gave up. He definitely wants to become a trail horse, but he is still tripping a bit. We'll have to wait to see how his hooves/joints hold up. (He is club footed on both front feet with contracted heels, also he has some ringbone in both front pastern joints.)

Meanwhile, yesterday I was alternately leading Guinness backward and sending him forward from zone 5 AT LIBERTY! Plus, I got him to lay down with me in the corral.

Here are some photos of me with Guinness from a few weeks ago, plus one of Cody's hoof and another of Cody sleeping (snoring).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Recent Progress

I need to blog about what has been going on around here over the last few days before I forget. (I've been having significant memory problems for the last year or so!) Sorry no pictures. :-(

Saturday

Cody: I slowly tacked him up (doing lots of desensitization) and then lead him on a trail walk over to the neighbor's house. He had no problem leaving the other horses, even though they were calling him. When we returned, I asked him to come to get me on the fence and I mounted him bareback. No "oinking"! I rode him around with one rein/halter at the walk, halted, and then backed up by bouncing the rein. It was a very low pressure, good experience for him.

Baby: We played in the roundpen. He leads forward by one front leg, and also backward by a hind leg very easily. We also played with bowing which he is very enthusiastic about. I asked him to stand near me while I stood on a barrel which he did with no problems. Then I leaned over him while feeding him alfalfa cubes and rubbing him. He was good with this until I put much weight on him and then he made a small "oink" and kicked at his belly. I wasn't sure whether this was due to me or to the flies, so we played with something else and then quit for the day.

Sunday

Baby: First we played with an exercise ball at Liberty in the field with the other horses locked in the chute. He loves to chase the ball and to move it around. He doesn't care if I bounce it on him or toss it over or under him.

One thing, as we were first chasing the ball, I saw a large blacksnake exiting the field. Guinness was running for the ball and didn't see it, and I was afraid that it would bite him! I clapped my hands and whistled, then did my best "horse snort" and he came running back to me. I stared at it and continued to snort until I was sure that he saw it. He snorted too, and hid behind me until it was gone. The reason that I snorted and that I wanted him to see it was to try to teach him to be aware and cautious about snakes, but not to panic. I hope that he learned a valuable lesson!

Next, we played at Liberty in the roundpen for a while. His "draw" is very good, and his send isn't bad, but I don't get much sense of "yes, ma'am" from him. I'm not sure whether to expect it from him at this point or not? He bowed very willingly, and also picked up his feet and backed up (to be sure that there is no confusion in cues). He also backed from me lifting some tail hairs!

We also worked on a "go forward" cue from behind. He now tends to think that whenever I'm asking something from behind him that backing is the correct answer. To counteract this, I started tapping the top of his rump and then clicking when he takes a forward step. He caught on pretty fast.

After that, I lined him up next to me on the barrel and tried leaning on him again, and got the same response as the evening before. When he oinked, I sent him away vigorously and then ignored him and went to bring in the other horses.. (Upon further reflection, I believe that he feels that I am being impolite by leaning on him and he is expressing his opinion - much like Cody. I think that I may need to go more slowly and somehow make it more fun for him? Or maybe I need to do the opposite and be bossier?! I'd like him to associate "coming to get me" with me leaning on him, so that when he offers to come to get me that he knows that I will want to put weight on him..)

Smokey: I was pooped and didn't intend to ride, but when Smokey balked at returning to the paddock with the other horses I decided to allow him to stay in the driveway area "weedeating." I tacked him up with the bareback pad at Liberty and then asked him to pick me up from the truck bumper. He was his usual spooky self until he realized that I was going to allow him to continue to eat. We did this for a while and then returned to the paddock. (My husband had locked the other horses in the chute.) Smokey was very willing to enter the roundpen and then was pretty happy to follow the rail on the *outside* of the roundpen in various directions. This was a very successful session for him! I spent some time teaching him how to stick his tongue out for a treat - he is a slow learner compared to the Rockies.

Monday

Cody: This evening, I fed and then put the other horses out and kept Cody in and released him. He followed me back to the barn where we had a make-out session (translation, I groomed him) at Liberty. He was excellent about picking up his feet for me. Then he allowed me to apply flyspray all over his body at Liberty in exchange for 3 treats. He sniffed the saddle pad and bareback pad and then I swung the pad up to his back and boy did he wring his tail! We spent about 1o minutes taking the pads on and off both sides with me clicking when he didn't wring his tail or swing his head around. Eventually, he relaxed about it.

He didn't seem that concerned with the girth, but really seems to anticipate the "saddle" landing hard on his back. I tried something that I heard Linda Parelli say, "whenever the horse swings to bite you, kick yourself in the butt three times." It worked! I also couldn't help but add a "mare squeal" to the motion and it seemed to reassure him that his feelings about the situation were being honored! He definitely wasn't trying to bite me, but rather to express himself. This is a big change for him. In the past, he has bitten several people - but never me. He is a surprisingly sensitive horse and will get "grouchy" when not asked politely to do things.

Next we played at Liberty in the field and in the roundpen. He anticipates being sent in a circle, so I tried to slow things down and mix them up more to keep him guessing. Then I asked him to come to get me, which he did perfectly, and I looped the leadline over and mounted up (using the bareback pad & halter). We did a "pushing passenger lesson" for about 10 minutes and then we practiced some one rein stops and backing from bouncing and from the 9-step back up cue. He made some nice big sighs during the session and was in a great mood when we finished up.

Baby: Guinness couldn't stand it that I hadn't played with him, so I cued him to "smile" and to retrieve my hat and allowed him to earn some treats. Next time, I need to play with him on the 22' rope and do some more serious circling game to balance out all of the treats that he's been getting.. I think that he is also ready to try backing in an "L" shape.

That's it for now! I can't wait for the Trail Competition on Cody this Sunday. Maybe we will even try it Mounted! My friend, Sierra, will be coming to pick us up in her lovely new 3 horse slant trailer with her 4 year old Haflinger gelding, Gandalf. I promise to take some photos of the event. :-)