Monday, May 31, 2010

Backyard Bravery

Ok, I know that it sounds silly, but I have a little phobia of riding in my back yard (around the roundpen and hen house).

It started about 7 years ago when I first attempted to ride Smokey there. If I tried to push him beyond the center of the field, he would hump up his back and pretend to be hysterical. After a few times of this, I lost confidence and stopped trying. The funny thing was that I was fine taking him out on trail rides, since the worst thing that he would do was RBI balk! Looking back, I guess perhaps Smokey felt confident enough to exert himself to get back to his herd while on his home turf.

Now that I understand the source of my reluctance to ride back there, it is time to get over it! After all, I play with horses on the ground in that area all of the time, and I'm fine riding in the roundpen. It sure would be convenient to ride at home..

This evening, with the exciting events of yesterday under my belt, I decided to explore riding in my back pasture (paddock?). We started out by playing games at liberty in the roundpen, including circling 5 laps at a walk and changes of direction. Then we tacked up and played at liberty in the entire field, with the roundpen opened up. He eagerly demonstrated that he could get all 4 feet up on the tractor tire.

I mounted up using the stirrup and mounting block. (I have yet to mount him from the ground - I'd like to lose 20 lbs first.) No grouchy face. Yeah! He got a cookie for that.

I brought up my life and he made a bee-line for the nearest barrel. He remembered the "point to point" game, so we played that for motivation. I offered him a cookie each time that we arrived at the barrels in each corner of the pasture. Along the way, he offered to trot, weave small barrels, and to stand on the tractor tire pedestal with all four feet while mounted! We quit after that and walked back up to the barn together.

What a good boy. I sure wish that I could take him to Michelle's with me when I go to visit her next week. Anyway, I believe that my "phobia" about riding at home will soon be history. :-)

PS - Guinness has now been on 6 trail rides, and the only previous time that I've ridden him in the back pasture was on April 1st. I love having this blog to reference.

Guinness & Clare's Wild Ride

Yesterday, bright & early, Guinness and I headed back to our local forest recreation area. We've done so much arena work lately, that I wanted to put what we've learned to a purpose.

The haul over was uneventful, and when we arrived there were no other horse trailers in the lot. After unloading him, some local gaited-horse trail riders pulled in. I've ridden with these folks before - they move fast, but don't seem cruel or careless (unlike some). I decided to move quickly to get a head start onto the trail, figuring at some point that they'd catch up with us.

We started out as usual with me leading and Guinness "hiding" behind me. After a short bit, his confidence increased and he asked to be in front. At that point, I hopped up on a stump and mounted. We walked/gaited briskly down the trail, stopping to play at a creek crossing. About a mile down the trail, the other riders caught up with us.

When Guinness caught sight of the others, he got very excited and called out. I turned him to face them as they approached and then asked if we could fall in behind them for a bit. (They were going to be gone all day, and I only had 1/2 hour until I needed to turn around.) I figured that Guinness could use some experience traveling with other gaited horses to help him to settle into his own footfall pattern. So off we went!

Guinness had his work cut out for him just hanging at the back of the group of 4 horses. They hit a medium-fast pace, and it took G. a while to sort out his feet. He kept needing to slow canter to catch up with them (our first cantering under saddle!). He was wound up (RBE/LBE) from the excitement of the herd, but was still trying to respond to me. I lifted one rein at a time, when appropriate, to rate his speed, but tried to resist pulling on his face. He had only a halter on, while the other horses were decked out in long shank bits - the other riders think that I'm nuts every time they run into me on the trail.. But at least I wear a helmet!

About 2 miles down the trail, we stopped at a creek crossing to water the horses. There, I took the opportunity to dismount in preparation to detach from the group and head back to the parking lot. Guinness took this pretty well, although he did pause several times to look at me as if to say, "I think that you are on the wrong track.."

Once he had cooled down and relaxed, I mounted back up. We passed numerous bikers, joggers and dogs along the way, but no other horses. About 1/3 of a mile from the parking lot, I dismounted and walked the remaining distance (great to prevent the habit of rushing back and also to work the kinks out of my hips and knees).

Tired but happy.

When I untacked him, I noticed that his sweat pattern under the saddle was evenly wet with no ruffled hairs - yeah!! We loaded up and drove home.

He was hot and totally sweaty, so when we returned, I lathered him up and gave him his first real bath of the season. Just before I turned the hose on him, I mixed him up a batch of Equitea plus a little sugar. He was so intent on slurping the goo down that he didn't pay any attention as I washed his tail (a first).

What an interesting morning. Guinness handled himself really well given the excitement and other horses. I would love to find some other PNHers with gaited horses to ride with. In terms of pace, it is such a different experience from trail riding with Quarter Horses and other trotting horses. Boy, am I relieved to have found a saddle that is comfortable for us both!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lesson with Kelly Sigler

This weekend, Kelly Sigler is teaching a clinic at Broadview Ranch, so yesterday Sara & I hauled Guinness there to meet for a mini-group lesson with Kelly, followed by a training trail ride. (The header at the top of this blog is a photo taken at Broadview.)

Surprisingly, Guinness and I were ready bright and early (most of our stuff is still on the trailer from Carol Coppinger's clinic). We caught Sara off-guard and had to kill some time until meeting up with her, so Guinness waited quietly on the trailer at home, at a local gas station, and at our meeting point. Once we got on the road, we stopped along the way for a pit-stop and a milkshake at the Pink Cadillac diner. It was great for his patience and he eagerly looked out the window to see where we were at each stop.

We arrived at Broadview in time to get situated before our lesson. Our group was made up of Sara with Julie's Arab gelding, Sundance (a new partner for her), Tenley with her new young partner, Augie, and me with Guinness.

We started off with an hour playing on the ground, followed by an hour mounted. In the groundwork session, Kelly rotated her attention between each pair, giving us specific tasks and feedback. Honestly, I didn't get to observe much of what the others did since I was focused on Guinness! We played the most with advancing his circling game into a trot/canter and improving his Figure 8 (I need to drive his shoulder more and to spread the cones out further). Guinness had another opportunity to totter on top of a pedestal and this time managed to squeeze all four feet up there for a moment! After that, it was hard to keep him away from it.

We took a break for water, and then tacked up and rode over to the dressage arena. There we played with all of the basic L2 rein positions and tasks: direct rein, indirect rein, sideways, backing, and follow the rail. I believe that I have a good grasp of the theory, but Guinness and I sure need to practice. Part of the issue was the distraction of being in a new environment with unfamiliar horses. But also, it is so easy for me to go "direct line" in a lesson. I tend to start with phase 2-3 and not allow Guinness enough time to process what I'm asking. He naturally responds to this with resistance.

We made some progress despite ourselves. Guinness offered to trot several times and almost cantered! And he picked up a trot pretty reliably for me when I quietly asked. This was also his first real attempt at mounted sideways. (He did half-rear several times out of frustration, but I kept persisting while he sorted things out.)

Next, we returned to the barn to allow our friends to join us (Julie on Equinox and Jennifer on Trouble) and we headed out for a short ride on the trails. Guinness was SO happy to be out of an arena. We easily opened our 2nd gate ever while mounted. We meandered in a big loop around the facilities.

Along the way, we encountered several large cement watering troughs - the kind with continuously flowing water. At first, all of the horses were very skeptical, but Augie was the bravest and he convinced the others that it was ok. Eventually, Augie and Guinness were submerging their faces up to their eyeballs in water, and then curling their nostrils as the water ran up their noses. Guinness even acted as though he'd like to climb into trough for a swim.

Another very interesting sight was of a herd of young pastured pigs behind a low electric fence. Our group had mostly squeezed past their enclosure when the pigs spotted us and came running. Our horses turned and faced, then looked and looked, but no one ran. Several folks dismounted and approached closer. After a few minutes, Augie & Guinness were standing right next to the pigs, as Tenley & I scratched the pigs and then let the horses sniff our hands.

As we ambled back to the barn, unmounted, thunder started to roll and in the distance we could see lightening. This was pretty scary due to the vast expanse of pasture that we needed to cross. Guinness and I stopped off at our trailer, where I quickly sponged him off. I got to thinking that perhaps I should load him, so that he could be under shelter until the rain passed. He is pretty comfortable on the trailer and I didn't really have anywhere else to put him.

I tied him to another trailer while I packed up and turned our rig around, as the storm rapidly grew closer. As I put on his shipping boots, we were both getting jumpy! I lead him right up onto the trailer, and I was getting ready to close the doors, then lightening struck somewhere behind us and and he leaped off of the trailer. He had a halter on but no lead rope, and he took off toward the barn about 1/8 mile away!! I jumped into the truck and followed him.

When I arrived at the barn, my friends had already caught him. It started to POUR rain just as I got out of the truck. We all hung out in the barn while the storm raged. Guinness pacified himself in the aisle by gobbling Trouble's hay, but when the wind picked up it was too much for him and Carol graciously offered him a stall. He willingly entered it and spent the rest of the storm staring out the window and watching. (Apparently, he has no more stall phobia..)

The storm lasted for 45 minutes and dumped LOTS of water and even some hail! I was really glad that Guinness was safe in the barn during all of that. When it finally stopped, there was a small river between the barn and our truck. Once Carol had reconnoitered to be sure that the road was passable, we departed around 6:45 pm. The trip home was good - no more rain and we stopped at the Pink Cadillac again for a take-out dinner. Guinness was very happy to arrive back home to his pasture.

One note: As we sat in the truck eating dinner, Guinness hung his head out of the trailer window. A pre-teen boy stopped to look at him and to point him out to his family, not realizing that we were watching him. Then, the boy decided to jab his hands toward Guinness' head to try to get a response. I growled at him in my best "Mean Mom" voice and he scooted away. However, the incident made me realize how vulnerable a horse on a parked trailer really is. Given the nutcases in the world, I going to do my best not to leave any horse unattended (especially with the windows open) while traveling. :-(

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2 More Clinic Photos..

Carol Coppinger riding Legend, and me on Guinness. :-)

Photos by Carol Atwood. Thanks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Circles: Understanding - then Motivation

I get it now. My Circling Game problems have been MY issue. I found it boring and just didn't get the point..

I've finally come to accept that Circling Game is a great way for a person to discover an energized yet neutral position. It is also an excellent way to build a horse's sense of patience and responsibility.

The thing is, I feel that a good Circling Game is probably the most complex and least "natural" of the 7 Games of Parelli Natural Horsemanship.

My speculation is that many folks can bumble through it in Level 1 (and perhaps L2) because their horses were previously "lunged" and have already been convinced that running around in circles is what they are supposed to do. Not so for my boys. I guess that lunging isn't a commonly used training technique for gaited horses!

In the last few days, I have begun to consider Circling in the same light as all of the other tasks that I've taught Guinness, and to let go of my expectation of failure.

Common sense dictates that a trainer/teacher break down a complex task into its components, in order to be sure that all parts are truly understood by the pupil. In the case of the Circling Game, the basic prerequisite skills are: energetic backing, a solid draw, sending the shoulder, and yielding the hindquarters. As Carol Coppinger taught in her recent clinic, there are many simple games that can be played to combine and refine these skills, before jumping into full Circling Game.

As I am becoming a better leader, Guinness is responding by becoming a Super Learner. I attribute this increase in my overall level of leadership to:
  • becoming more particular while remaining pleased with him
  • effective follow-through when he chooses to disregard my requests
  • finding incentives which motivate him to seek the answer to the puzzles that I give him
  • setting him up to "win" each small task
  • keeping things interesting for him!
This evening during a short play session at liberty in the roundpen, Guinness began to offer me unsolicited circles (and sideways, and barrel jumping) in an effort to get me to give him an alfalfa cube. He was trying out all of the new tasks that we've been playing with in order to figure out what would cause me to dispense a treat. He seems to believe that he is training me. :-) Now that he is offering me these behaviors, I am assured that he has internalized the lessons he that we've been practicing. I can now build on this understanding to refine his responses by getting more particular before each reward.

The exact game that we played this evening was: "Back out quickly, then circle at any gait until I call you in by yielding your HQ. If you come in before I ask, I will laugh, stroke your nose, then resend you the opposite direction - but NO cookie!" If he comes in when I request, I click & treat. When sending him, I exaggerate the tension by saying "are you ready?" with my energized body language, and then rapidly tagging the ground 3 times where he was standing. This results in his energized departure and happy body language.

Right now, my goal for him is to continue to circle in the same direction (at any gait) until I call him in. Once he really gets this, I will change the game to have him maintain a specific gait (with and without obstacles). Then I'll probably add in changes of direction, then later changes of gait. I believe that this will be a natural progression of learning that won't get confuse him. (I am open for input on this sequence.)

Tonight, he made it to 5 laps in each direction! He started out with large, fast circles that turned into small, tight circles as he tried to get my attention. After several laps his nose would run into me. Then, I would stroke him and send him back out in the other direction. It was pretty funny. When he finally put some effort into keeping going, I brought him in and gave him the "jackpot" of his dinner grain.

While playing with Guinness, I'm starting to feel as though I'm creating something with a very sensitive tool that I'm just learning to use. I'm trying to "ask" with smaller and smaller motions and the lowest energy, and am continually amazed at the quality of the responses that he offers me. It is very rewarding.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Small Adventure

This morning, Guinness and I went over to our friend Mickey's farm. We played in the arena, then went on a little mosey trail ride around the property with Mickey. It was very relaxing.

When we returned, I let Guinness loose in the arena to roll. There he discovered Mickey's palimino QH stallion, Skip. Boy, was Guinness shocked! He kept staring and snorting, and then he would run back to hide behind Mickey's horse, Thumper (one of Skip's sons). It was pretty funny. He looked so pretty that I had to take a couple of photos!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Safety & Comfort - On the Road

On my way home from last week's clinic, as I was driving along the interstate, I realized that I could barely see in the dim light from my headlights. This has happened previously, and I had thought that my eyesight was deteriorating, so I'd had my mechanic install some brighter headlights. Apparently, this hadn't improved things, so the next morning I took a good look at the situation.

Upon inspection, I discovered that my '98 Chevy truck's headlight lens is made of PLASTIC instead of glass - unbelievable. Over time, the plastic has deteriorated and yellowed, making it look more like a marker light than a headlight. I've been online and identified a replacement headlight assembly (which has a glass lens and utilizes halogen bulbs).

While surfing, I found information from a guy who had successfully cleaned his plastic lenses by sanding off the degraded plastic and then polishing. This afternoon, my DH and I tackled our truck!

Using steel wool (different grades), we scrubbed until the lens changed color. Then I buffed with baking soda dampened with peroxide using an old washcloth. Then I wiped each lens with acetone nail polish remover, followed by a gloss of WD-40. They look MUCH better - but I'd still like to convert them to halogen with glass lenses..


While at the clinic last weekend, Carol Coppinger said, "When was the last time that you rode in the back of your trailer?" The idea stuck with me. Yesterday, very unusually, my husband and I were together hauling our empty horse trailer, when it occurred to me to try it out. He wasn't thrilled but agreed to try it for a short way, as long as I wore a helmet and carried my cell phone. ;-)

One thing that I really wanted to analyze was the air flow patterns while moving at highway speed with different configurations of windows & vents open. (My worst fear was that I was subjecting horses to that "thumping" that happens when you only have one car window open!)

I discovered that the scoop vent above the manger works best when open in the direction of travel, but it could be too much directly air overhead unless the day was really hot. The side window vents don't improve airflow much when open, but do increase the noise level and visual stimulation. (They are probably most effective in reducing the interior temperature when the trailer is stopped.)

The trailer offered a surprisingly smooth ride, with the exception of stopping and backing up, which necessitated a dramatic shift in weight to balance (but perhaps easier for a 4 legged critter than a 2 legged one?) I discovered one poorly-banked turn along our driveway, but the steep hill wasn't as much of an issue as I'd speculated. The padding within the trailer helps enormously with buffering bumps and turns.

There was one annoying noise. Turns out that one of the back doors (the upper part) rattled loudly while in motion. The other door was fine. After careful observation, we determined that we could bend the latch slightly to tighten the seal and solve the problem. I never would have figured this out without taking a ride in the back!

I feel greatly relieved knowing that my horse trailer is comfortable and safe for my equine passengers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

3 Laps!

I confess. I've been avoiding Guinness since Monday evening, when we arrived home from the clinic. At first, I figured that he was probably sick of me. Then I kept "shoulding" myself about all of the other things that I needed to do..

This afternoon, while I was finally cleaning out my camping stuff from the trailer, Guinness kept hanging over the fence begging for attention. It was about dinner time, and I had discovered a left-over baggy of grain, so I shoved it into my fanny pack along with a few alfalfa cubes. I headed over to play with him with a plan in mind!

Here is the plan and how it worked out:

1. Hide grain in fanny pack, so that it would be a surprise when G. earned it - and so that it wouldn't have as much draw as a bucket of grain.

2. Tie G. up while confining the other horses.

3. Release G. and mosey into the roundpen. Allow him to discover nothing in his feed bowl. Find exact center of arena and place bucket there. Draw a circle in the sand around it.

4. Play "fetch the Carrot stick" and Friendly to encourage his mood to play.

5. Play "Snappy Back Up" (per instructions in last post). The cue for this differs from the slow, careful backing that he usually does. It works GREAT and he would even do it from a distance - diagonally-moving legs and all.

6. Play Send-One-Stride-Then-Hide-Your-Hiney in both directions. He was practically leaping out of the proverbial starting gate. Guess this qualifies as doing less then he expected?

7. Next we did, (with heightened anticipation): Snappy Back Up followed by a send plus tagging the ground where he was 3 times (as I was laughing at how fast he zoomed away). The first couple of times we did this, I drew him in before he stopped (not caring what gait he was in).

8. Then we played "keep going until I bring you in or else I will stroke your nose and immediately back you out and send you the other way" a few times. The first time that he made it around a full lap and passed my leading shoulder, I turned and brought him in and gave him an alfalfa cube. The second time, I brought him in at 2 laps. The 3rd time, I brought him in at 3 laps - and he hadn't slowed down yet!!! He won the jackpot of the secret grain in his feed bowl. :-))

When he finished, I haltered him (oh yeah, this was all at Liberty in the roundpen) and we trotted over to a sideways barrel. He jumped it and then we ran all the way out of the gate and over to the grass in my back yard.

All of this took maybe 15 minutes. This was best circling EVER for him. What a great session for us both. :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Carol Coppinger Clinic: Skills & Notes

Here are some notes that I took during both sessions (combined). They are by no means complete. Some of them may only mean something to me and my horse.. And some of them may be incorrect or incomplete. If you see something blatantly wrong, please correct me! :-)


Phases/Pleased vs. Displeased

Carol C. started out the Level 2/3 clinic with a discussion about always starting with the lightest "ask" (Phase 1, hair) and moving up the phases to a Phase 4 using the popper on the rope only. No need to beat your horse to get him to do something - especially considering what a bot fly can get a horse to do and they don't even sting! She also wanted us to feel and then utilize our feelings of being "pleased" versus "displeased" to motivate our horses - remembering to feel pleased most of the time!

Snappy Back-Up
  1. lift rope (no slack so can to direct nose "two eyes", but don't pull)
  2. scoop stick under chest "you'd better move!"
  3. flick what is stuck
Goal: straightness, lowered head, rounded back (vertical flexion) to cause diagonals to move. Direct nose to move butt opposite direction to keep straight.

Circle Game - Priorities: 1. Gait 2. Direction 3. Look where going

"Better back = better circle", be conscious of belly button (bullhorn) energy. "Drift and teeter" to keep extra slack out of rope, but belly of rope on ground is good.

Imagine a clock face and horse moving clockwise. Horse at 12:00, hand and toe at 4:00, stick at 8:00, then touch 12:00 if needed.

3 different methods: 3 tags OR spank 12:00 OR touch what is left of horse at position when asked to move.

To speed up:
1. allow horse to pass my leading shoulder
2. turn with horse, stick at 180 degrees
3. Reel in rope and stick to 45 degrees
4. Reel in more and *tag* tail head! (If horse stops, shorten rope and tag nose (?).)

To slow:
1. turn against motion
2. release string
3. step forward
4. step out with stick in front and STOP

Change of direction: (flowing)
1. allow horse to pass leading shoulder (change stick hand)
2. turn with horse (stick pointed at Zone 5) to increase energy
3. draw toward until straight
4. redirect shoulder in other direction

Unmounted Exercises
  • Position horse 8' away, turn and run forward, stop - horse should follow but remain 8' away. If not, turn and back vigerously away.
  • "Power Position Game" tug of war while both people stand on buckets using a 22' rope!
  • Jump the string while circling it with the stick
  • Blow up balloons and practice flicking with popper on Savvy String. Will only pop if you flick it just right!
  • Back horse out to 22' - how little does it take to move just one front foot sideways? Now the other the opposite way? (Widen horse's stance.) Cue: Move my foot. Ask to mirror me!
Advanced games: (If ever horse blows thru my stick, SHUT DOWN.)

Backward "S" Pattern
Builds draw.
  1. Walk backward, in a curve if needed to get a question
  2. Yield shoulder
  3. Cross arms and draw, switch hands
  4. Yield other shoulder
Goal: Flow, don't drop gait, no real disengage

Falling Leaf Pattern (see Level 4 On-line DVD with Pat)
Builds respect and drive.
  1. Walk forward - look off into distance, straight line ideal, move with purpose!
  2. Send/Allow (switch hands by crossing stick under rope - handle first, lay rope on wrist )
  3. Yield HQ (point stick - don't bend over)
  4. Yield Shoulder (tennis swing)
  5. Sideways
  6. Allow (repeat)
Rockslide Pattern (backing while fishtailing)
  1. Back
  2. Yield shoulder
  3. Sideways
  4. Yield HQ
  5. Back
  6. Yield other shoulder
  7. Sideways
  8. (repeat)
Liberty Exercise:
  • all halters off
  • protect your herd of 2
  • move away from rail if lost horse
  • don't panic if multiple horses run, attract last horse in group
  • take own horse with you to push another horse (smootch, swish, GO!)
45' rope tips (at L3, handle often!)
  • Handle rope in over hand position (don't let it cross my palm or will burn), use tips of fingers only.
  • Power Position by turning and bracing rope across hip and under butt cheek - but only for a second or will burn!
  • Coils should be organized to roll off of fingers in direction of toss
  • Thow only 1/2 of coils & let the rest feed out.

Mounted (at L3, "live with that carrot stick")

  1. Eyes
  2. Belly Button
  3. Leg
  4. Stick/Rope/Reins

Review of Basic Maneuvers

  1. Attention (lift rein)
  2. life up
  3. steady squeeze (butt to legs)
  4. rhythmic spank (air, hair)
  5. STOP and start over
Note: Savvy String popper too sharp.

Indirect "Rein"
- my weight should be on my inside leg, close my inside ribs. Inside hand to stabs belly button, nails up. Turn and look at inside hip. The horse's hind legs should cross (hold this position until they do). This is the same as "disengaging hindquarters" and "yielding HQ."

Direct "Rein" - Lift rein, open the "gate" (truckin' position), push with my outside leg. My weight on outside stirrup. Rock weight back and lift. Don't pull horse or will cross hind legs over.

Halt - horse's weight to rear by lifting rein straight up, bend our knees to stop forward rolling momentum.

Backing - Lift rein to rock weight back, suck belly button in and backward
With stick: 1 rein (steady) with stick on opposite side (rhythm) waving from nose to ear. When nose moves, tap shoulder.

Spin - using supporting rein and stick
  1. back horse
  2. lift outside rein
  3. focus forward - stick straight
  4. focus across - tap shoulder if needed and *push* over at girth.

Remember to PUSH through turns - don't pull!

Notes to self:
- don't lift rein so much to go - just a little to give horse notice
- look forward, not down
- move like I am sitting on a swing

"Whatever the trouble, it can be traced to issues with the first three games: friendly, porcupine and/or driving."

Mounted Exercises:
  • Trot circle, disengage in same direction of bend, switch stuff, trot other direction, disengage
  • Circle to inside of arena at walk using outside leg to push (no direct rein). Put stick way out to side 180 degrees, use to direct shoulder if needed, look up and over
  • Leap frog along rail
  • Cross arms and disengage - use to slow gait down. Practice at halt then walk then trot then canter. Teaches to listen to seat.
  • Leg yield - move over, at girth my outside toe out & down
  • Bow Tie pattern

Carol Coppinger Clinic: Guinness

This clinic was a wonderful learning experience for us.

Aside from helping me with my skills, immersion in the entire clinic environment was so incredibly great for Guinness' development into a confident partner.

In the interest of brevity, I'll just list his accomplishments & challenges.
  • This was his first over-night excursion and he relaxed in stall enough to lay down each night.
  • I shut his stall window whenever he banged for attention or got too mouthy to give him a "time out" - he seemed to get the point.
  • He had no spooking problems in the indoor arena, even near doors and with birds, spectators, and many other horses.
  • He sweetly met and played with two mares at liberty in arena. They both thought that he was polite and cute enough to hang out with.
  • He learned to retrieve and hand me my carrot stick with me mounted, saving me from having to dismount to pick up up each time I dropped it!
  • During our waiting time in the arena, he learned to turn in direction of neck pinch (injection preparation).
  • Once, he decided to roll with me mounted with the bareback pad - I stepped off when he was on the ground. (I won't ignore his pawing again.) Maybe in a year or two I'll teach him a cue to lay down with me on him?
  • He rolled in the arena almost every time that I cued him for it by pawing my foot.
  • We practiced lots of patience (and some skills) while waiting for others to complete task with their horses, and patience in his stall and on the trailer.
  • He really bonded with me in our "herd of two."
  • Although he left me for a moment during the group Liberty exercise, he returned as soon as he located me and then stuck with me through rapid turns. He even handed me his halter when we walked back to find it.
  • This was his first long trip in our trailer (alone) since bringing him home a year and a half ago. And he only pooped one time! Only a horse-person would understand my excitement.
  • He didn't react to popping balloons and other weird noises.
  • We practiced riding using one carrot stick for guidance with our reins looped over pommel.
  • He trotted/gaited willingly behind a lead horse, and several times when alone.
  • He showed me an excellent back up, & pretty darned good (for him) circling game and sideways at a distance.
  • We played some awesome Liberty while alone in the arena. I think that the only thing really lacking is a true circling game.
  • He showed no personal space issues with other horses or people.
  • I slid off over his rump to get off, not knowing that Carol was watching. She commented, "Now that is an interesting dismount."
  • He enthusiastically tried to get all four feet on a pedestal, but kept falling off. He even put one hoof up on an adjacent barrel as if to climb up onto it. (Spectators laughed.)
  • He peed on cue.
And best of all
Am I gushing too much? :-))

Carol Coppinger Clinic: Logistics

Last weekend, Guinness and I attended our first clinic together! (Over the years, I have participated in several clinics with Smokey, and audited many more.) The clinic was two full days with Carol Coppinger, a 5-star PNH instructor, and students studying at Level 2-3. I think that there were 11 of us. (Photo is of Guinness next to Carol Coppinger's horse, Legend)

The clinic was held at the fantastic facilities at McPherson Quarter Horses in Bristol, TN. Mack & Darlene McPherson are just plain folks (like most of us!), but have a HUGE 148' x 225' covered arena to offer, complete with box stalls along one side, a concession stand with restaurant equipment, restrooms with showers, and other amenities. I have visited there several times before, so I had a good idea of what to expect when I got there. (If you live anywhere near Bristol, there is a PNH study group that meets in the indoor arena on a weekly basis. Contact Darlene for more info.)

For several reasons, I decided to haul Guinness down a day ahead of time. The biggest one was that I wanted to give him time to relax before breaking it to him that he was going to be spending lots of time in a stall.. (See previous posts for details about his issues regarding being stalled.) Also, our visit was extended by an additional day, so that I could observe the first day of the Level 3/4 camp also being offered. In total, we spent 4 days and 3 nights there.

I’d intended to pack up ahead of time so that I’d be ready to head to Bristol early on Friday, but instead wound up packing everything that morning. Surprisingly, I still arrived at the venue around 3:30 pm.

Guinness is a very brave boy, however, I decided that with the multi-hour trailer ride by himself, and the odds on me needing to put him into a stall immediately upon arrival, that it would be in his best interest to give Guinness a dose of Quietex before we hit the road. This is an herbal paste that contains Valerian and St. Johns Wart, among other things. The effect wasn’t noticeable, however it seemed to take the edge off of his nerves (and my concern about him).

I somehow manage to pack all of the right items, including some accidental ones! The only thing that I forgot was a hay net, but the stalls have hay racks built in, so it was not a problem. (Normally not an issue, but I was expecting to have to tie him some while stalled.) Darlene made coffee for everyone in the morning, however no food was for sale during this clinic. Instant oatmeal packaged in a microwavable plastic cup worked great for breakfast - and Guinness enjoyed licking my leftovers.

Friday evening, after playing and riding in the arena, I decided to sleep on my cot in the barn right next to Guinness’ stall. I had been leaving him in the stall for increasingly longer periods of time (starting out tied) and he was pretty cool about it, however I was concerned about leaving him unattended the entire night.

Sleeping in the barn was really pleasant and made me feel like a teenage girl in a horse book! I fell asleep to the sounds of horses steadily munching hay – sounding like an army of caterpillars. Before bed, I gave G. an additional ½ dose of Quietex. I awoke several times in the night (nothing new) and checked in with him. He seemed to really appreciate me being there. He must have felt pretty relaxed because he lay down for a nap just before dawn. Sleeping in the barn worked well enough for me to repeat every night, with my friend, Sara, joining me overnight on Sunday.

On Saturday morning, I woke up right as the sun was coming up and the birds started singing - about 5:30 am. I put up my cot, changed clothes, and prepared some instant oatmeal for breakfast. They I did my horse chores and took Guinness out to graze on the 22’ rope. After that, we went indoors for some Liberty in the arena before everyone else joined us. We repeated this routine each day as well.

The clinic started each morning at 9:00 am and ended at around 4:00 pm? We took an hour or so lunch break at noon, and smaller breaks to tack-up the horses, etc.

For dinner, Jennifer (a new friend who lives about 15 miles from me) and I ate at a good Italian restaurant just down the road on Friday & Saturday, and with Sara at a Mexican place in Bristol on Sunday. The rest of the evenings were spent socializing, doing horse chores and getting ready for bed. It was very relaxing.

The trip home was uneventful. I started home later than expected since Carol C. was giving the L3/4 students 15 minutes of individual time with her to address particular issues. This was so interesting to watch that I put off leaving and arrived home in the dark. Thank goodness for my new trailer safety decals. I also realized that the lenses on my truck headlights are plastic and have become yellowed, drastically reducing my ability to see at night. I'll be replacing them very soon.

When Guinness arrived home, the other horses didn't come to greet him. I think that they had given up on his return! When at last they showed up, Smokey charged at Guinness as if he didn't remember him - and then stopped in his tracks. They wrapped their necks around each other as Smokey gave Guinness an upside down nibble-kiss. It brought tears to my eyes. Next, Cody went up and swung at Guinness, as if to say, "Now don't get any ideas - you are still low man around here." Then they all happily went off to eat hay together.

One last thing that I've discovered that was helpful on this trip: Equitea, alfalfa tea mix for horses. This product is made by Equine America. It contains alfalfa powder, molasses powder, and several kinds of salts. Its primary purpose is to encourage picky drinkers to consume water when away from home, however the magnesium in it seems to have loosened Guinness' poops a bit, which has to help to prevent colic. Guinness loved it, especially when I added some extra sugar. I put it next to his water bucket and he would alternate sips. When he first tried it, he had it all over his face and looked so pleased with himself that I wanted a photo, but couldn't find the camera in time. :-) I plan to keep this stuff in my trailer for future trips and trail rides.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Caution Horses

Today, I finally got my new "Caution Horses" decals affixed to the trailer. In preparation, I had used white spray paint to seal up where the original paint has been peeling off in sheets. (Defective primer?) It looks MUCH better now, and I'm sure that it will be much more visible on the road.

I saved $17 on my order using my US Rider member discount.

This past weekend my DH spent some time helping me to get the trailer's tack room organized with additional hooks, bungees, plus a small dresser. My portable playhouse. I can even fit my sleeping bag in it to sleep - and it now locks from the inside too!

Other photos:

"Before" photos:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Much Better Day

Over the weekend, I've been playing "Nothing In Life Is Free" with Guinness during meal times. This tactic was suggested to me by my friend Tenley. Even though it was developed to address dominance in dogs, it is working well for Guinness. It is kind of a "what's in it for me?" game for the human.

One of my big issues with him is a lack of a "go button" - both on the ground and while being ridden. While at the stable, he is typically in RBI mode and will move out when asked, but at home in LBI mode, he is a slug (unless asking him to move toward a barrel with a potential cookie). He is also this way with the other horses - they have a hard time moving him around unless he feels like it!

At feeding time, I have been allowing Guinness to eat a few bites of grain, then I ask him to back away (no problem), and ask for a behavior. We've been mixing in lots of driving game on a 12' rope, including circling.

We have also played driving game, at liberty, in the roundpen. At first glance this looks like classic "roundpenning," however the wooden rail of my roundpen is under 3'6 tall and could be jumped by a motivated horse. Also, the two rope gates would pull free with a small amount of pressure, so the boundary is mostly visual. I am being very conscious of using only enough pressure to get him moving, and then backing off (but not all the way to neutral). It is working wonders for his attitude toward me.

He hasn't offered to rear since the incident in the barn. I even took him to the indoor arena this morning and tied him in a stall for quite awhile (with the door open). Tying him was another of Tenley's ideas, and since he ties great, it seemed to anchor him mentally & emotionally. I've also been tying him at feeding time (using the tie rings on the posts by the roundpen) and having him wait to be fed last. This is doing wonders for his patience.

Today we played at liberty in the indoor arena. This was probably our best liberty ever, with him sticking to me even while I directed his nose with the carrot stick! Then we practiced the weave pattern as I walked in Zone 3 using the 12' rope and carrot stick, being conscious to change the direction of my body and energy, prior to bringing the stick into view. He is really getting it.

Next, he picked me up at the mounting block. He gave me some ugly-face as I clambered aboard, but that was about it and then I played lots of friendly. Then we rode using the 12' tied into reins and a carrot stick. We practiced tipping his nose toward the fence to "whoa" and also for lateral flexion (cookies added incentive).

When I dropped the stick, he picked up it for me several times, but I couldn't quite reach it to take it from him. Boy, would that be a handy trick! I slid off over his butt to retrieve the stick, and remounted using the fence. I was much more graceful mounting from the fence and he was much more pleasant about it..

He wasn't having any trouble moving into a walk and even considered trotting without me asking for it. He licked and blew out many times during the session. There were no spooky events (the back door was closed again), and we ended on a high note. Our usage of the indoor arena has now expired.

This afternoon, I'm planning to fix up my trailer. Only three days left until we leave for the clinic in Bristol. I'm feeling good! Knock wood..

PS - Check out the comment from "Sarah from Parelli Central" below! Michelle had mentioned that they had visited her blog site as well. :-)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

To "throw down the gauntlet" is to issue a challenge. A gauntlet-wearing knight would challenge a fellow knight or enemy to a duel by throwing one of his gauntlets on the ground. The opponent would pick up the gauntlet to accept the challenge.

This evening, as I was preparing to feed, Guinness actually reared up and got his hoof hung for a moment in his wall mounted feeder! This PROVES that his rearing is a dominance tactic. I was amazed that he had the chutzpah to try this, since for the past year or so our routine has been for him to back out of the run-in and wait for me to feed him!!

The cool thing was that I happened to have a carrot stick next to me and I managed to whack the rail just in front of him right as it was happening and drove him out of the run-in. Next I fed Smokey, and G. attempted to run him off of his feed, so I drove Guinness all the way out again.

I grabbed his chow and trotted out to the roundpen (in the field) with him following at liberty, then locked the gate. I dumped his feed into a rubber bowl in the center of the arena, and played "if you do what I want, then I'll let you eat a little bit of dinner." Surprisingly, I think that he actually enjoyed the challenge.

He offered to speed-back until his rump hit the rail (30'), then I allowed him to come in to have a bite, then backed him out again. When he stopped at about 6' away, I moved quickly through phases 2 & 3, then flicked his chest with the string and he zoomed back and waited with both ears pricked forward. After waiting a minute, I drove him in a trotting circle 1 lap around, then brought him in. We repeated this with different variations, until he completed dinner.

Toward the end, my husband released the other horses and I defended G. as he finished his dinner. He showed absolutely no concern as I tossed the string over his back as he ate.

I'm going to aim to do this at every meal for awhile. I'd bet in a week or so, he'll be offering to canter multiple laps in Circling Game.

Boss Mare controls the food. I accept your challenge little horse!

Resolving Rearing Online

This morning, my L3/4 friend came out on short notice to give me an online lesson in an effort to address whatever is going on in Guinness' head and to bolster my confidence!

The first thing that we did was to analyze saddle fit - since his rearing started when I was riding in the Wintec 2000 with a thin pad, and heading downhill. She didn't like the appearance of the Wintec on Guinness' back (gullet too narrow, even with the wide interchangeable gullet inserted).

Instead, we addressed shimming with the Theraflex and used it under my Abetta endurance saddle (QH tree). We played around with the shims and determined that two fat shims would likely work. (The one furthest back goes in first, layering toward the front, "toe" forward; valves open to saddle up, then close to mount.)

We went out into the roundpen to warm up. I was feeling frazzled this morning and was extra fumbly.. The we played with driving game from Zone 3 with preparation for riding in mind.

Driving Game, Zone 3 tips:
  • I should stay just behind the girth
  • he should take the first step and then I follow
  • stick on my shoulder, rope over other arm
  • to stop - phase 1: I stop, phase 2: put stick horizontally out in front of him as cue to stop (or slow), phase 3: tap rope, phase 4: pull rope
  • to go - phase 1: energy up, lift rope, phase 2: lift stick over his rump, phase 3: tap the air, phase 4: tap the hair
  • be sure to do on from both sides
He was fairly pissy with tacking up, and during the Driving Game, and it carried over into me mounting and riding. My friend pointed out that I'd tolerated too much of this on the ground and I need to address it there first. He is very interested in coming up in the "herd" when at home. Funny how I don't see much of this when we are away at the indoor arena!

After our lesson, she wanted to check out how the saddle fit while mounted, and I went ahead and tried a few things riding in the roundpen. Sure enough, he offered to rear in the same slightly downhill spot. By experimenting, I figured out that if I shifted my weight even further back, he wouldn't follow through with the rear. Also, he would move off a bit better if I directed him a little off to the side, rather than straight forward.

However, he was still balky and would periodically reach around to BITE at me. This started yesterday. This time, when he did it, I held his head around and grabbed his lip and said "no" firmly. Sounds silly, but he seemed to get the point. Anyway, it is clear that he feels pretty annoyed at having to carry me around at home..

We left the roundpen and I rode him a little corner to corner in the back field with a cookie at the corners. There was much less resistance. Was this due to the cookie motivation, or to us having more of a purpose (and therefore less evil thinking on his part)?

It is definitely time for me to push his LB buttons more while in a familiar environment and for me to expect him to be more respectful of me and my space. He is acting like my teenaged (almost) son!! I plan to do much more Zone 3 driving over the next week.

PS: In a later conversation with my friend, we explored the connection between his rearing while in the stall, rearing (and climbing onto the other horses) as a means of dominance in the field, and his new tactic of rearing under saddle. Very interesting! Certainly something to run by Carol Coppinger..

Also, she suggested that I practice bringing my life up by whacking a barrel, and then bringing it back down to Friendly.

I'm going to try to get her to come out again early next week. It is wonderful to have her as a resource!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our First Real Argument..

Ok, there is definitely some LBI in Guinness' horsenality too..

This evening, after feeding, I went to play with Guinness at liberty in the back field, with the intention of doing a little in the roundpen and then potentially really riding him around the field (corner to corner).

Liberty went pretty well - he was very treat-oriented and had a lot of energy. For instance, he leapt onto the tire pedestal with all four feet. When he did leave me, he went into the round pen to see if Smokey had left any dinner.

At that point, I closed the rope gate and we played circling game at liberty in the round pen. Nothing great, but he was making it around about 2 1/2 laps at a trot before pooping out. In hind sight, perhaps I should have asked him to go really slow instead?

I tacked him up with the saddle at liberty, then fooled with him some more as I tightened the girth. Eventually, I asked him to come to get me. He was pretty pushy and kept bumping me off of the mounting block, so we did this a few times.

When I did mount up, he made a face and swished his tail, but I figured that was probably due to me putting weight in the stirrup, which he isn't that used to. I lifted my energy and allowed him to walk, but it took him a few moments to move. We walked along the rail about 1/2 way around and he stopped. I waited a second and then asked him to walk forward escalating up to using the savvy string to "spank the air". At this point he did a very slow motion, LB rear! I thought perhaps he misunderstood me, so I asked again. Again, he reared at when I spanked the air and added a little hop with a sour face.

This pissed me off. My reaction was probably a combination of fear and "how dare you"! Fortunately, as I swung down I thought, "I'm feeling a bit hot headed, so I'd better stay fair." I undid the 12' line that I had been using as reins and made the boy work a little bit! He looked at me like "Shazam" and lowered his head.

I took him back to the mounting block and darned if it didn't happen again, in almost the exact way!! This time, I didn't dismount. Instead I cranked him around into strong lateral flexion and had a heart to heart talk with the chap (both sides). He didn't give me a hint of resistance. He looked just like a teenage boy who just called his mom a bad word and knows that he is in for it.

After a couple of minutes (probably not long enough), I asked him to move forward again. This time he did, but I didn't want to push it and dismounted after 1/2 a lap. I walked away and he kinda barged into me, so I sent him away. After a minute or two, he came back with lowered head. As he started lipping my arm, I looked him in the eye and told him that if he bit me he was dead meat, so he began to lick instead.

I couldn't resist that and started grooming him back. Hrumph. After several minutes of that, I opened the roundpen and he cantered up to the gate where his buddies were. Then I turned them all out into the big field for the night.

I guess that things aren't as simple as they had seemed. I'd be that our future LB battles continue to happen at home, where he feels more confident and is trying to move up in the herd.

Taking Time

"Take the time it takes.."
- Pat Parelli

These are truly words to live by.

This morning, Guinness and I made it over to the indoor arena. This was our 3rd to last session over there. My written goals were:

On 22' line:
  • pick a gait and circle
  • weave
  • fig 8
  • sideways
  • influence zone 1 from zone 4
Mounted with carrot stick:
  • lateral flexion
  • HQ yield
  • FH yield
  • follow the rail/corners
However, upon arrival we discovered that the far door to the arena was now also open, revealing a whole new landscape! This, plus the short but ever-stimulating ride over (lots of gravel hills and sharp turns), caused Guinness to go into wide-eyed, shallow-breathing RBI mode.

After thinking a moment, I decided to address this by casually leading him around the perimeter of the arena on the 12' line, letting him check things out and giving him small tasks, such as circling the barrel at the corners. We did a couple of huge figure 8s, and I encouraged him to stay as far away from me as he was able to be.

Once his head lowered and he started licking & chewing, I aimed him toward a vacant corner stall with the intention of sticking him in there while I set up some obstacles and loaded up my treat bag. This was probably not the easiest idea for him at the time.. He immediately became unconfident again. I stayed with him awhile, and we played some games. Then I left the stall and began to walk across the arena.

As soon as I did, Guinness started searching for the "release" in a very LBE way by backing and then looking to see if that was what I wanted, coming forward, pawing, half-rearing, etc. Whoops. So, the moment that he stood still, I began to walk back toward him. If he pawed I stopped; if he reared, I *ran* backward! He seemed to get the point, but was still pretty unhappy about it.

I reentered the stall and attached the rope. Then I backed him away and opened up the stall door. I stood casually inside as he played approach & retreat and squeeze with the stall doorway. When he came back in and was mellow for a moment (looking for treats), we exited.

By then we only had a half-hour of time left, and realized that my stomach felt very tense. (I am somewhat concerned about housing Guinness in a stall in an indoor arena at the clinic 8 days from now..) I prudently decided to abandon the riding idea - part of me wanted to push on, but the other part was relieved!

I released him into the arena at liberty. He immediately began to explore and I encouraged his idea with the carrot stick. This simultaneously got his thinking-brain going, and brought his life up. Something to do with his remaining adrenaline! We played at liberty with jumping, various obstacles, and yo-yo.

When it was time to go, we did some gate work from the ground, and then I tied him to the trailer to put his boots on. He loaded right up and stood tied on the trailer until he blew out loudly, and started to calmly eat hay. I drove the longish way home, and then left him tied in the trailer with the doors open. After about 15 minutes, I unloaded him and parked him in the front yard to graze with his hobbles on while I started to blog. After 20 minutes or so, the bugs got too much for both of us and I returned him to the herd.


Upon reflection, I'm starting to let go of the idea that Guinness is at all LBI. He is food-motivated, but that is about it.. I thought that he was easily bored, however that is probably more a lack of patience and the need to move his feet. I believe now that he is innately a mild, motivated LBE and a confident learner. However, in new environments he tends to go RBI and becomes moderately tense, quiet/obedient, hesitant and clingy. If pushed and/or over-stimulated his adrenaline comes up and he becomes high-headed, bracy, and can't stand still with a tendency to bolt/rear.

My job as his leader is to recognize when he is going RBI (subtle!) and guide him back into LBE mode.

Signs of Guinness going RB: (check out the old photo above)
  • any pooping
  • frantic grazing or frantic treat-seeking (pacifier)
  • lack of blinking, prominent eyebrows
  • shallow breathing
  • raised head, stiff neck, stiff ears
  • hiding behind me
  • hesitation, balking
His release of adrenaline looks like:
  • blinking
  • breathing, blowing
  • head lowering
  • shaking like a dog (if big release)
  • calm eating
  • showing me itchy spots
  • willingness to be out in front of me
Goals for LBE*: Positive action with respect.
Me: I need to be quick, decisive and firm, with smile on my face.
Strategies: Play with mouth, food, redirect focus, back up, drive FH, do the opposite times 2!

Goals for RBI*: Confidence without excessive thinking.
Me: I need to keep the pressure low, with extra dwell time (long phase 1).
Strategies: Horseman's handshake (target fist), slow rub/stroke, hold head under arm, ask to lower head, don't push - wait for him to offer, perform familiar patterns, hide hiney

* based on p.81, Savvy Times, November 2009

Our job as leaders to facilitate bringing life/energy up, and then to bring it back down again. Never leave a horse in "up" mode or it will build anxiety for the next time (per Linda in the Liberty section of the Circling Game SC DVD, issue 49).

The good news is that when Guinness is in RBI mode, it is a great opportunity for me to offer him the leadership that he is seeking. :-)

Regarding the upcoming clinic: I need to accept that it is 90% likely that Guinness will be in RBI mode - at least for the first day or so. While in this mode, we don't need to be trying a bunch of new things. This is probably cool for me too, since I am likely to feel a little nervous myself. I need to be careful not to push him over the line into RBE mode. As we both mellow out, I will switch over to the LBE strategies.

I am so grateful that I will able to take the time to focus on "just us" at the clinic. I'm planning to arrive as early as possible on Friday afternoon, so that we have time to adjust to the surroundings before having to put him into the stall. (I will bring a tube of Quietex herbal paste along, just in case.) The clinic will be on Saturday and Sunday. The group will be split in two, alternating with some watching while the others participate. On Monday, I'm hoping to just hang out and audit Day 1 of the L3/4 camp. This format should allow Guinness plenty of time to get into the groove without pressure.

Now I need to remember to print this out and take it with me!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Evening in the Roundpen

This evening, I planned to play with Guinness at liberty in the roundpen.

First, I put the three nags in my backyard to mow for about an hour. Then I dished out dinner, and went to bring them back in. After they finished, I let Smokey into the "sacrifice lot" and then let G out into the field and locked the gate. This kept the other guys away, and G's belly was full, which left his mind free to focus on me.

I've had some time over the past few days to review Alexandra Kurland's clicker training book again. Lots of ideas jumped out at me, and I decided to play with a few this evening:
  • using my fist as the target for him to bump his nose on
  • teaching him to "freeze" when I hold my hand up like a policeman saying "stop"
  • using "ok" as a release word
  • having him arch his neck and hold his lips *away* from me to get his treat
  • retrieving a rope from the ground
He caught on to all of these ideas really quickly (most weren't totally new to him). Nothing like a Cheerio for motivation!

I also "dosed him" with some molasses in a dewormer syringe. He was thrilled. Soon he will be mugging me for syringes to put into his mouth!

We alternated intense clicker-training moments with circling at liberty. Guinness did some amazing backing (fast, straight, and about 30' away) with very intense focus on me. However, he was a bit skeptical about returning back to me (targeting my fist & treating helped to overcome it). I also consciously increased our dwell time in proportion to how much effort he put into the task. There was a good bit of licking & chewing.

His sends were very exuberant, but there were many changes of direction and gait. I believe that he needs more consistent practice time.. (The newest Savvy Club DVD about Circling Game is certainly timely.)

We also took a minute to refine lining up at the mounting block at liberty. He was somewhat out of position, so I placed the stick over his neck with the string dangling on the off-side, and he immediately yielded his FH toward me to come closer!!

Guinness had a great time - motivated and relaxed. I will try to plan for more of this sort of session with him. :-)

PS - Click here for a free guide to getting started with clicker training. Works great in conjunction with Parelli Natural Horsemanship. It is very helpful for both LBI (motivation) and RBI (gets them thinking) horsenalities.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Online Session

This afternoon, a L3/4 friend came out to give me an online coaching session.

We went out into the large field with Guinness on the 22' line, and Cody's owner as a spectator.

Things we noticed (as compared to our previous session a month ago):
  • he was unconcerned about the other horses
  • his backing has improved
  • his send with rhythm has lots of energy - but he switches between the higher gaits (canter/trot)
  • his Figure 8 is much improved
Things to practice:
  • 4 laps circling, without stopping, at consistent gait
  • weave at distance
  • influencing Zone 1 from Zone 3/4/5 using carrot stick

After our session, I rode a little in the roundpen with one rein and a carrot stick.

Things to work on:
  • lateral flexion with the carrot stick
  • stopping using the rail for support
  • not squeezing to ask for "go" (he leaps!)
It was very informative and lots of fun!

I'm hoping to get back to the indoor arena this Thursday and Friday mornings.

PS - Isn't this the cutest painting? Click on the image to go to the artist's blog!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Swollen Sheath & Sticky Stifle

Recently, I've made two calls to my vet regarding Guinness, and I thought that I'd share what I'd learned.

Yesterday, I called her regarding his sheath appearing somewhat swollen. About a week ago, I noticed him peeing on his front legs, which is unusual. It seemed to be due to his not relaxing enough to allow his equipment out. A couple of days later, it happened again, so I checked things out. When I pulled his sheath back, out his pecker popped along with some trapped air. Weird. It happened again two days ago. Yesterday, the whole vicinity looked somewhat puffy.

Her response: She has seen horses go for a long time (years?) without lowering their bits and consequently peeing up inside their sheath. It doesn't seem to hurt them, so don't worry about that part. The swelling could be due to lots of things including the high pollen count and/or fly spray. She suggested to give him some cool sponge baths with a little white vinegar diluted with lots of water. Also, perhaps to give him a little Bute to see if it helps. She thinks that his whole body probably has a tiny bit of edema right now, but that since his sheath is a low point, it is gathering their. He has a runny nose too (pollen) so this makes a lot of sense..

The other issue was that during our second trail ride, which was on a firm, flat surface, I noticed Guinness having a little "hitch in his git along." Some corner of my mind whispered "locking stifle." I got home and started to research it, but had to get ready to head out of town for a week.

Here are a couple of links to good info about it: Part 1 Part 2 Good article (The diagram at the top of the post is of a stifle joint, the equivalent of a human knee, found in the rear legs.)

What she said (plus a little of what I learned through research): Age, lack of fitness, and straight hind legs are the biggest factors for stifle issues. It is common in young horses and in gaited horses.

Things that should help:
  • trimming with shorter toe in back/little higher heels
  • decrease small circles until more fit
  • hill and ground pole work is good (and seems to have helped him already)
  • increasing his overall fitness level

Previous symptoms:
  • Hopping into trailer with both back feet? He is over that now.
  • Hopping over log and catching back foot (landing on fetlock). Better now.
Fortunately, if he is truly having trouble with his stifles, it is very mild. After a good trim, I didn't notice it all during our last trail ride.