Monday, July 27, 2009


This morning, I decided to put off my office work and go outside to play horsey instead.

I have to separate the Rockies from Smokey to eat, since Smokes eats twice as much as they do and they tend to run him off.

Smokey gets fed in the roundpen and before I turn over his food, I've been giving him a task. It is amazing how motivated my RBI has become to jump barrels, show me his sideways, and even canter to me. ;-)

Anyway, while Smokey eats, I've been teaching the Rockies to come to pick me up at the fence at liberty. My friend's 4 year old Arab, Ivan, has been seen to *canter* to her and sidle up to a fence for her to mount (in exchange for a mint). It is very impressive and I confess my envy. So, we've been practicing this ourselves!

Today, I brought out my bareback pad and bridle with sweet-iron snaffle to tack Cody up for a ride. Cody looked pretty skeptically at the stuff, and Guinness was very interested, so I tacked him up instead - including the bridle (without reins). He took it all in stride.

Next, I hopped up on the fence with my alfalfa cube treats. Surprisingly, Guinness pushed past Cody to sidle up to the fence for me! Over several tries, I managed to put my knee over his back and also to swing my leg 3/4 over him, while keeping some of my weight on my other leg on the opposite side of the fence. I clicked him as we did this so that he would know that he was reacting correctly, and gave him periodic rewards. Wow!!!!

I think that wearing the bareback pad cushioned Guinness' back so that he wasn't disconcerted by my poking him a bit. (During previous bareback attempts, he seemed to think that I was being impolite.)

I also think that he has been watching me play this game with Cody and mulling it over. Plus, he has been seeing other horses being ridden much more. Nothing like a little rivalry for motivation.

My camera is still missing. I may have to write it off and go get another one so that I can document this stuff. :-[

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Playing in New Ways

Yesterday evening, I had a chance to play with the horses for a little while and I thought that I'd like to try out some new tools.

All three horses were in my backyard "mowing" so I opened the gate and allowed Smokey to follow me out at Liberty. While I gathered my stuff (45' rope, halter, stick) he had wandered part of way down to the front field - out of eyesight of the other horses. I followed him down there and we played with the 45' for the second time.He circled around about 6 times total, but it was very erratic and included lots of halting, and gait and direction changes (mostly on his own, but a few at my direction). He used most of the 45' which was pretty different for him and when he reached the end of the line he was willing to give to the pressure. Since he is naturally a RBI, we ended pretty quickly on a positive note and then went back to something he is more comfortable with: driving back toward the other horses from Zone 5. That went great.

Next, we used the roundpen for support with the 45'. I stood in the center while he circled around the OUTSIDE of the roundpen. It worked very well and seemed to give him more confidence about staying farther from me. (I'm really glad to have made the top rail of the roundpen smooth so that the rope didn't get caught on it.) When wrapping up, I opened the rope gate and as he circled I asked him ever so slightly to enter the roundpen. He stayed cantering on the rail and sailed easily over a barrel jump. Wow! It was the best ever. I quickly gave him a treat and removed the halter. He then followed me in. :-)

Things I'm learning about the 45' line (lariat-type rope): I'd like to try wearing light gloves, since I'm apprehensive about getting rope burn when the line plays out. I'm also starting to get the hang of managing the coils that the rope curls into, and keeping my feet/body out of them. Also, this is not the tool to use until the horse disengages easily! It definitely simulates Liberty more than the 22' line does.

Next, I brought Guinness down to the roundpen, along with his homemade driving lines (a lighter weight version of yacht rope 22' long) and a close-fitting traditional nylon halter. We played a little bit and then I attached the driving lines to the side rings on the halter. He is very comfortable with me in Zone 5, and I've taught him to move forward when I pat the top of his rear, so I went back into position behind him.

First, he tried to turn to face me, so I pulled the opposite line to straighten him out. This was easy for him since he is good at following a feel from behind and around his rear - we've been practicing this! However, he was still somewhat confused that I wanted him to walk more than a few steps. I recruited my husband to help out and he walked with Guinness for support, but allowed me to cue him. This worked very well. We ended pretty quickly since it was getting dark, but I'm hoping to repeat this as soon as it stops raining.

I've somehow misplaced my camera, but I'm hoping to post more photos as soon as I find it..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Everyone's Needs Have Been Met - For Once..

Today, I wound up having a really active (yet mostly unplanned) horsey day!

My two horse-girl friends (ages 16 and 10) came out to play this morning and stayed for three hours. The time flew by for all of us. The younger girl played with Smokey, while the older one played with Cody, and I attempted to keep Guinness occupied while helping them out. They are pretty much novices around horses, which is wonderful as they have no bad habits and are totally open to learning Parelli Natural Horsemanship (my chosen method).

We started with each girl attracting and then haltering her horse. Then we went over safe tying and quick release knots. Next, we lightly groomed while looking them over and searching for itchy spots, and picked out hooves.

We then proceeded out to the roundpen to play the Friendly, Porcupine, Driving & Yo Yo games in all different ways. (At this point Guinness was getting bored and naughty and needed to be locked out.) Next, they took the horses out into the larger paddock and played with different obstacles. Some of the tasks that they achieved were: sideways over logs, figure 8 with traffic cones, Yo Yo through cones, stepping on a tire, sending over a small jump, and walking over the "bridge." Wow!

It started to rain so we quickly put Cody away and mounted Smokey. (Riding is the "cherry on top" for these girls.) Each girl took her turn standing on a stump and asked Smokey to come over to get them, which he eventually did. They each mounted and then gave him a cookie. Then they practiced coaxing him to move forward and to go where they were focusing. They both did great. I reminded them that Smokey is a very challenging critter to ride and that they are helping me to teach him that being ridden can be fun.

Both Smokey & Cody were relaxed with happy expressions and lowered heads around the girls. They seemed very happy with all the attention.

Guinness on the other hand was jumping up and down while making "pick me, pick me" faces, so this evening he got his turn. But first, Cody and I practiced his new skill of coming over to the fence to allow me to mount at liberty. He had to weigh his options and decide that it was worth the cookie, then he was very willing - he came to get me three times. :-)

After that, Guinness and I snuck down to the roundpen (staying at liberty the entire time) where we played everything that I could think of! Stick to me, yo yo, circling, jumping barrels, hide your hiney, backing from pressure, lead by the leg, porcupine every which way, walking forward & backing from zone 5, sideways and more. I even brought a hat with us and he picked it up and gave it to me 3 times. He also bowed once with each foreleg. I'm happy to say that his "draw" was wonderful. We had a great time. I'm going to strive to find 20 minutes or so each day to play with him and I'm going to have to get much more creative to stay ahead of him!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Trails

Today, Cody & I went on a wonderful trail ride with a friend and her TB gelding. I hand walked Cody a little way just to be sure that he was with me mentally, then mounted in a huge field. He was an angel - no oinking or swinging around when I mounted. He also stood still while I got settled. (I remounted several more times and he was great each time.)

We crossed both a creek with muddy banks and a culvert with water running under it without any issues.

We used a bridle with the Watts (PNH) sweet iron snaffle using a freestyle (loose) rein. I was happy to allow him to eat, as long as he kept moving along.

I feel safe to say that we both enjoyed ourselves. :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

2nd Trail Competition

Last Sunday, Guinness and I attended the second of the SWVA Natural Horsemanship Club's Trail Obstacle Competitions for this year. It was attended by 8 participants, plus judges.

There were 18 obstacles in two divisions, Mounted and Unmounted:

1. lead horse on loose lead around roundpen
2. ground tie horse and walk around pen
3. join up with horse and walk around pen (no lead)
4. position horse at mounting block & mount (or simulate)
5. go though Noodles of Death suspended from upended hay ring
6. back down incline (20 feet?)
7. enter and exit a dark run-in shelter with steep ledge
8. cross a creek
9. cross a tarp
10. turn a 360 degree circle within a pole box
11. drag a drainpipe (15 feet?)
12. back through a series of fence panels (sort of "L" shaped)
sidepass over pole to mailbox, retrieve small flag and wave it
14. 3 laps around a
15. retrieve and transport large American Flag
16. cross ground poles
17. cross bridge over creek
18. load onto stock trailer

We came in 4th in Unmounted which was cool since Guinness was the youngest horse and the only one not yet under saddle. (We would have done a bit better if I had just led him onto the trailer instead of attempting to send him on.)

He didn't lead very well - instead of being by my shoulder he hung back. He ground tied well. He wasn't too interested in "joining up" (not something we've practiced much) preferring instead to wander around. He stood at the mounting block (no halter) and did fine with my leaning over his back. No problems with the Noodles. (See photo.) He backed perfectly without being touched. No problem with the run-in, creek (although he doesn't enjoy mud), tarp, 360 turn, or drag. His backing through the "L" was perfect, as was his sidepass. His Circling Game was lousy and we lost points there. No problem at all with the large flag, ground poles, or bridge. Finally, at the trailer, he had done everything so well (except the roundpen stuff & the circling) that I attempted to send him onto the trailer. He went in catty-cornered with his front feet up and then stopped. Oh well.

We had lots of fun! I also tried to convince him to get into a pond with me, but he wouldn't have anything to do with it. We will save that for another day. :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

This morning, Guinness experienced his first parade. We unloaded amongst several antique cars, then located the other horses among the pre-parade chaos.

One member of our Parelli Play Group carried the flag to lead the parade on her horse, April. Next came a large group of flag-bearing Boy & Girl Scouts. Then came me leading Guinness. A member of the SWVA Natural Horsemanship Club and her young student rode behind us, followed by kids on bikes, 4-wheelers, wagons, than antique cars and firetrucks. It was a noisy, balloon and flag-filled procession!

We ended the parade at a little park which was very crowded with floats, vehicles and kids. We turned and watched all of the vehicles come in to the park. When the firetrucks with sirens blaring passed by, Guinness began to frantically eat and tuned them out. What a wonderful coping mechanism. :-)

Guinness did great! He was a bit nervous, especially about the rolling things behind him. He didn't mind the flags or balloons at all. He eagerly sought out all dogs and kids lined up along the parade route. I allowed him to grab a bite of grass whenever possible to get his mind on something calming.

We returned home safe and sound. I turned the abnormally well-groomed fellow out with his buddies. Now he has something to ponder for a few days until the trail competition next weekend.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Volunteering at a Clinic & Cody Hits the Trail

Last Saturday, Guinness & Smokey "volunteered" as practice horses Gene Ovnicek's Natural Balance Hoofcare clinic held at Canterbury Farm.

They both handled the experience very well. Smokey stood like a champ without being held or tied while three ladies doted on his feet.

Guinness wasn't quite as patient! I held him and kept him distracted while three other folks focused on his hooves - which Gene pronounced "great feet"!

They wound up standing a total of about 3 hours - and Guinness only got cranky the last 15 minutes or so. We got through it and I think that it was a great learning experience for him. Nothing hurt him and he had to exercise some patience in an unusual environment.

Last Monday, Cody and I went for a ride on the New River Trail at Foster Falls with some friends and my son (on his bike). It was a gorgeous day and we spent about 4 hours moseying down the trail and back.

On the way back, we took Cody & Gandalf down to the river to cool off. Neither horse has ever seen so much water. They barged right in and began to splash. Gandalf acted as though he wanted to roll, so we took the tack off of both horses.

Neither one rolled, so when we got bored we tacked back up and walked back toward the trail. Suddenly, Gandalf dropped to his knees and then rolled completely over - crushing his owner's new thermos and denting her helmet. Fortunately, she was using a "soft saddle" and it wasn't harmed. Cody also dropped and started to roll but I caught him before he smashed my saddle! Silly boys.

We walked back to the parking area and ate lunch. Cody discovered that his new favorite treat is peanut butter & honey on whole wheat bread. ;-)

We loaded back onto Gandalf's trailer and headed home.

All in all, Cody was very alert but didn't spook or balk at all on the trail. He started out stiff on his front legs due to his ringbone, but seemed to warm up over time. He never seemed to be sore. We all had a great time and hope to do it again soon!