Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Update

I'm shocked at how much time has passed since my last post. At least I'm spending (slightly) more time with my horse than I am blogging. :-)

I was just outside removing blankets (sunny & 25 degrees) and feeding. While waiting for Smokey to finish eating, Guinness & Cody instigated a clicker training (CT) session with me. Cody has finally learned his first behavior taught entirely through CT. He can now "smile" on cue and is very proud of it!! He is well on his way to "shaking hands" (lifting his front leg) and next will be picking up a glove.

Guinness had two triumphs this morning:

1. I can now stand on the other side of a fence, tip my head in the direction that I want him to turn, then raise my opposite hand and make a spinning motion with my hand and he will spin in that direction and return to facing me. It works in both directions!

2. I can gesture at his front foot and tap his hind leg and he will lift his left forefoot high and right hind at the SAME TIME. This is the beginning of a piaffe on cue at liberty!

He will alternate lifting his forefeet depending on which side of his withers I tap. (I need to remember to play with asking him to lift alternate hind feet with a hip tap.) I think that I'm going to expand my cue for the forefeet into snapping my fingers and reaching with the arm that I want him to mimic, while facing him. Then I'll turn and teach it to him while facing the same direction that he is. This should allow us to morph it into a "stick to me" game with extension and/or elevation of the forelegs. How fun!!

While Guinness was smiling at me, I noticed that he has lost one of his lateral incisor baby teeth and another one is very loose. I think that he was showing them to me.

For more information on young horse dentition, visit this website:

I've heard that it is supposed to warm up to near 50 degrees next Thursday, so I'm going to plan to spend the day playing horsey!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Slo-Mo Passenger Lesson

This morning, Guinness and I went for a walk away from the other horses down to my septic field - where the grass is still green. He was overjoyed. There I spent a half-hour or so closely observing his halt-walk-halt transitions, shutting my eyes, and trying to work out where his feet were and how things felt. It was really educational. This is the second time that we've done this and I figured that I'd better blog about it while I can remember what I was thinking..

- It seems that when a hind foot is loaded with weight, that hip rises - and when it is unloaded, it drops. This is totally counter-intuitive to me!

- However, when a front foot is unloaded, the shoulder rises.

- If the rider's weight is back and we are trying to encourage the horse to use his hiney more, shouldn't the rider synchronize MORE with the horse's hind end?

- It seems that the rider should avoid "falling into the dip" created when the horse unloads a hind foot, since it seems that would tend to off balance the horse?? Should the rider strive to keep her own hips even - say at the trot?

- I tend to sit more on my seat-bones, and to stay off of my crotch, while riding. To do this, I tip my hips up. This is ok, except that I had a L4 discectomy after rupturing that disc during a sit-trot lesson about 10 years ago, so I can't over-do that position. In this position, it is natural for my thighs to move somewhat forward to compensate for me shifting my cheeks under me and my weight a bit back.

- To keep my thighs aligned under me, I have to tense the muscles at the juncture of my hip and back of my thigh. This is not pleasant and makes me feel stiff. Thus, my "chair-seat." (I admit that I have chunky thighs and short legs, and this may be a factor!) I can allow my lower leg to hang straight from my knees without having to tense any other muscles..

- If I squeeze my upper thighs a little, it tends to roll my legs from a pidgeon-toed position and my toes will point a bit more straight forward. Is this good? I probably do this without knowing it.

- To cue a HQ yield, I can easily bring my inside lower leg back behind the girth and point my toe downward. To cue sideways, I could use a neutral leg with pressure at the girth. To cue a FH yield, I could squeeze my inside thigh/knee and allow my toe to point a bit in toward the horse which results in pressure a little in front of the girth. Is there any reason not to do this?

I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

It is snowing here.