Tuesday, March 27, 2018

As Long, and As Slow, As I Need

As long as it takes, and as slow as I need to get there. 

I was wondering if I have what it takes to raise and train another colt, and that mantra above popped into my head.  I can do anything, as long as I do it on my own timeline and don't mind the journey getting there.  We are making major changes in our practice that will allow me to spend even more time training my horses.

*****

Speaking of which....

New obstacles.

At my request, my husband made me a portable mail box and added a gate on the south end of the arena that opens to the south pasture.  A couple years ago, Leah almost fell when I was training her to open gates and I may have "released" a bad thing--bracing and bolting to the left.  In any case, she had an issue with things getting too close to her and she'd try to bolt.  She doesn't do that anymore, but she does take a couple steps away when we get  next to barrels, mailboxes, and gates. She's resistant to side-passing toward them.  These obstacles will be--already ARE--a great addition to work on that issue.

(Notice the new mounting block, as opposed to the old "mounting trough"?)


An extra incentive--treats in the mailbox, when she does it right.  


This gate now opens to the south pasture--which feeds into the north pasture and the neighboring pasture!  Let the good times roll!  Cowboy--who is a pro at gates--has been taking me on some lovely, long rides.


And kudos to my husband for such a great job!

*****

Neck Reining.

We're making big progress on neck reining, but here is a video I took while I rode one-handed last week.  She isn't at her best in it, by any means.  Usually, she stops on a dime and rounds into her turns better.  That was a windy day and she doesn't like wind.




Here's a photo I cut out of the video.  Lovely, wind-blown, Leah.


She has been showing a real calmness when we ride out in the pastures.  Even more steady than Cowboy.  (We just have to get her past that dang gate opening and closing!  And we will!!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We Are The Champions

Yes, we did it! We moved a cone from one barrel to the next!  

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

That's all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Oh girls, they wanna have fun
Oh girls just wanta have fun.





Last year, Rebecca told us that horses like to laugh and play. It makes sense. A couple years ago, I read an article where scientists found that horses can express 17 emotions with their faces, and humans can express 27. I believe it was "shared" emotional facial expressions, and even more than dogs share with humans. I can't find that exact article, but here is another one that says some of that.






In my herd, the geldings are the most playful, and the mares are bit on the serious side. I blame Cowgirl for that; she's kind of a grump.

But anywho, I'm trying to lighten up my girls.




Teach them that it's okay to look ridiculous.


Or even sexy...with a cone on your butt. It's all about perspective.





And, it's also okay if you let it fall.

Whatever.

It's funny. In fact, it's all fun and games.

Yesterday, Leah got that idea about the cone and barrel.


Ah, it's a game! 



Yes, it is, Leah.
And, once she got that, she began to take me right up, and practically through, the barrel.

Then, we tried on saddles and rode out in them to see how they held up. The one I usually ride in and LOVE is too heavy.

This one is too hard.















And the last one was just right...or close enough.

Leah and I rode together twice yesterday. We did arena work in the am and rode the fields, to try out these saddles, in the pm. We're starting to really enjoy each other. I talk to her and tell her jokes. She laughs with me. (I'm sure of it.) I'm hoping she lightens up and realizes it's okay to make mistakes.

No biggie. Let's just give it a try.

Let's just have some fun.

My new indian native american name:

She Laughs With Horses

For you entertainment, I present the Cone Games Championship Ride!



Sunday, March 18, 2018

Leah Has Heart



1.

My goal this year was to get to Leah's heart, but until yesterday, I was discouraged.  Simple things, like asking her to let me pick up a cone from one barrel and walk over and set it on another barrel was a chore. I mean, really, Leah?  Really?

I was getting so desperate, I even reverted back to her old name, Cia, to see if that would touch something in her heart.

Then, Friday, I invited friends over to play, and they came for a few hours and rode horses with me.  Working the horses, then standing around talking, then working some more, seemed to agree with Leah.  By the end of the day, she showed some softness.  

Don't get me wrong, I have seen this softness before, it's just that it comes and goes.  Sometimes, it feels like she's a million miles away.  It's not an aloof, like Old Red used to be, but still did his job.  No, with her, it was a stubborness--basically, a withdrawal on two levels.

Have you ever seen a horse avoid looking at something it doesn't want to acknowledge?  That's what I'm talking about.  Or, at least, that's what it felt like.  To be fair, I do set a high bar because of Cowboy, Beautiful Girl and my first ever horse, Tanner--all of them heart horses.  I know what connection feels like...and what it doesn't feel like.

I even started to wonder if she would be better with someone else, but came back to the answer of no.  I figure not too many people would put the time and effort into her like I have.

If not me, no one.

2.



Then, yesterday happened.  Our first trail ride of 2018, held at Palisades Park.  I won't lie--my expectations were low.  I mean, I've been riding her almost all winter and getting the bare minimum of effort.  

Leah all winter: Oh, you again. Are you going to feed me? Then go away.  What? The lead rope. Ick.  Okay, I'll stand here. I'll lead.  I'll let you groom me.  I'll walk over the bridge.  But. Not. That. Damn. Cone. 

Back to the trail ride. 

She wasn't perfect.  

I don't expect perfection.  

I do expect try.  

She  had LOTS of try.

1. 20 cross country runners came running at us in a full on pack.  It was definitely an OH CRAP! moment.  But Leah stood and looked at them like it was another obstacle I'd set up for her enjoyment.  Interesting, but kind of a yawner.

2. Walking out. Leah walked out with force and independence.  One of the thoroughbreds with us was prancing and dancing, but Leah again--yawn, yawn.  Ears on mom.  There were four other horses, some of them new to her, but she was with me.

3. The steep descent to the train tunnel and train tracks.  Usually, most horses, including Leah, try to escape this turn.  They know it's steep with lots of loose basalt--and its cavernous.  One of the new horses completely refused to turn into it. (It was his absolute first time on a trail after being on the track--and he did remarkable for the rest of the ride.)  Anyway, Leah turned right into it-knowing full well what was down there.

4. The train tunnel.  The train tunnel is full of graffiti and it's scary for all involved.  A train may go over it at anytime, their feet echo on the concrete, and all of the horses see, and react, to the colorful graffiti--the sight, the smell of paint.  Leah, again, did great.  I walked her through it first, then rode her through it. It was Leah's first time through the tunnel.




5. Walking back to the trailer. Walking back, the first day out, is always a challenge.  Some horses are wanting to run back, and they're all a bit hyped up and hungry.  It was no different yesterday.  Horses were anxious to get home.  One was way out in front of us.  Yet, Leah walked on a loose rein for 3/4's of the ride back.  She tried to trot when she was almost in sight of it, but would easily come back to the walk--then trot again--then come back to the walk.  I made her work for the trot though.  If she trotted, I collected her up and drove her from her hind.  She'd do it for a while, then choose the walk.

6. There were a lot of other things, for example, water--lots of water--and she crossed it without blinking.

The trail is the test. Everything we do is all, eventually, about riding out. Yesterday, Leah gave me her heart and her try.  She was as much a partner as any of my horses have ever been.

I'm getting ready to go out today, and I don't know what to expect, but at least I know it's possible.