Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bring on the Autumn Wind--and Other Obstacles!

It has been a wonderful fall--full of color, clear days, and horses.

There has also been wind, but wind can be such a great training opportunity.

Last week, on a windy Tuesday, I tied all my horses up to wait for the farrier.  Cowgirl, our big palomino, untied herself and ran around the property.  I caught her and tied her again to a solid ring in a large post.  After about 45 minutes, she pulled back and broke the ring, and part of the wood block, and ran into the barn where the farrier was trimming Bee. She was also a bit grumpy during her own trim, pulling her foot back from the farrier.  I'd like to blame it on the wind--but it's really a lack of being used.

She's my daughter's horse, and my daughter has a busy life, so I asked if I could start working with her.  She gave me her blessing.

Last Sunday I took three horses next door to the obstacle course.

First, I let them run free and explore the arena.

It was another windy day, and you have to click, if only for a moment, on this video, to hear one of the doors pounding away.  The barn owner came in to fix it, but I asked that he leave it be as a training tool.

After they explored, I took turns tying them up and taking one through the obstacles in-hand.  Then, I took turns riding them through in-saddle.

That was the first time I'd ridden Cowgirl, my daughter's horse.  She was super fun. I'm going to steal her.

Beautiful went through the course being driven from the ground in-saddle.  I'm trying to work on making my hands as soft as I can and getting a partnership that is based on the gentlest asks.  Actually, I have been doing a lot of work "heeding" with her, but I'll write about that on another post.

This driving is all done in halter, and we've gotten pretty good at it with a little practice.  My next step will be driving her through the bit.  I think we're ready for that now.  The great thing about ground driving is that it allows them to approach scary obstacles by themselves--as they would if  you were in the saddle, rather than standing next to them.  Believe it or not, it does make a big difference.

Beautiful is becoming a much different and braver horse. She stands tied longer.  She did the best of all the horses with the farrier, and she is facing her fears.  Like facing them.  Putting her nose on them, rather than getting that cloudy, blocking it out, kind of eye.

Here's a very short clip that shows her standing tied quietly, even with the banging of the door behind her.  You can see Cowgirl standing, unhappily, in the back.  She hates standing tied, but when you give her a job, she is rock solid!  Cowgirl isn't scared of anything.

Leah did great, too, but I did have to use a little spur to get her to face up and go through the car wash obstacle.  I use these spurs.

I'll give her a gentle tap, tap, and that's about all she needs.  She responds far better to the spurs than she did the crop.  I wish I'd dug them out of retirement a few months ago.  There was a time I used them every ride, back when I was starting out with Cowboy.  I didn't retire them until maybe four years ago.  Used correctly, they are a wonderful aid.

Today, I'm going back to ride Leah through again.  She is on the cusp of another break-through--the ability to work through some tougher ranch-work skills.  I'll try to describe what I mean by that in another post.  This one is already getting too long.

Happy fall, y'all!  Hope you're getting lots of time with your horses!


  1. That slamming door is loud. My heart skipped a beat hearing it. Imagine a veteran with PTSD having to be in that barn. I miss the days when I'd trailer two horses to the Fairgrounds and do activities with each of them. If I had a three horse trailer I would have taken three. It feels so good to accomplish so much training in a short bit of time.

    1. Training horses is kind of like dealing with PTSD, when you think about it. They are hyper sensitive to loud, surprising noises. Good analogy! It sounded like a big gun going off. We were there for three hours. By the time we left, they didn’t notice it anymore. When I brought them back on Monday and Tuesday, there was no wind and they were awesome through the obstacles.

  2. Noisy door but a great training tool! Cowgirl is beautiful, she reminds me of Dusty. Not afraid of anything but hating to stand around. Beautiful is really coming along what a great girl. Leah is doing so well too. I think the more you work with a horse the more they want to work and learn new things and face their fears. Great job Linda!

    1. Yes, the barn owner said the banging door obstacle was free of charge. 😂 Yes, the more you work with them they build confidence. Horses like confidence. Took Leah riding yesterday and introduced her to cows. She was completely fascinated by them. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. It's fun watching them explore.

  4. Haha, your daughter might be sorry she said you could ride Cowgirl (or just ecstatic for the horse, IF you let daughter ride her sometimes).
    This happened to me actually... I initially bought Padre as a gift to Mr Shoes. When he wasn't riding as much as I thought he should be, I decided to work the horse FOR hubs. Best laid plans... the minute my butt hit the saddle I had a feeling, & by the end of that first ride there was no question that Mr Shoes had lost any chance at my 1st fiery Morgan horse. I bought Padres' full sister the next year, & haven't been disappointed even a moment. Oh yeah, Mr Shoes... he spent a few years "borrowing" Padre from me (because Mr Shoes is a foot taller than me, & Padre is a hand taller than Bella), but it just wasn't right - Padre was born to be mine is how I saw it from that first ride. Then I met a young fellow with a gorgeous black Morgan (another hand taller than Padre) that he couldn't handle &, quick as that, I snapped her up and threw Mr Shoes into the saddle as soon as he got to the barn. They are a perfect match! Now it's been at least 8 years since anyone other than me has swung a leg over my boy, & there is a complete 'no butt but my butt' policy on that horse for life.

    1. Oh funny! That sounds like how I got Cowboy! He was my hubbies for a day or so. Those who don’t ride often, don’t even know their horse has been stole. 😂

  5. Beautiful Girl is really coming along nicely. She's going to be a lot of fun next year.


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