Friday, May 24, 2019

Taking the "Nothing" Show on the Road

Leah was getting into the new training technique--a little work, a lot of resting and waiting.  So, I figured it was time to test it out away from home.  Plus, Beautiful Girl needs exposure, too.  Win-Win.

I called my sweet daughter and asked if she wanted to accompany me (she has been riding with me at least twice a week this year) and on the way to the park, I filled her in on my new training "techniques."  She totally got it, and decided to do the same with Cowgirl, her horse.

Now, alongside my own search for answers, and unique path to get there, Jenna Blumer had mentioned Warwick Schiller.  Kind of sour about clinicians at this point in my life, because I tend to lose sight of my own / and my horse's paths when I stray out to "trainers," but one of his videos popped up on YouTube as I was uploading mine, and I couldn't resist taking a peek.  And,  yeah, he was right on to what I'm pursuing.

One of his videos mentions this exact thing I've been doing--but no techniques--just the philosophy, or idea, of being able to bring a horse's energy up AND back down.  It's the back down part that Leah is practicing in the video above and below.  I work her for short bursts, then park her somewhere new and ask her to rest.

The resting segments can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, but not less.  I'm waiting for her to start shifting her weight around as she cocks a leg and takes a nap.  All of this is great for Beautiful Girl, who is practicing to stand tied away from her buddies.  So, she's getting a variety of scenarios as we change resting spots.

Leah did great except when we went to the obstacle course and rested pretty far from the trailer and buddies, but she eventually settled.  At first, though, she was getting pretty worked up, and I wondered if I'd be able to de-escalate the situation.  The worst spot for her was about 20 feet from the trailer, watching Cowgirl get untacked.  She about lost her sh#@ at that point.

The other idea Warwick Schiller talks about, that I have found with Beautiful Girl, is the "I'm Fine" idea--the "I'm Fine" horse.  Bascially, the horse who seems to be fine, but isn't trusting you enough to tell you they're not.  So, it's up to us to change that dynamic.  I'm trying!!  But Lord have mercy, she's good at hiding it.

While I was at the park, I witnessed two wrecks.  One was a guy who didn't know what he was doing, and he tried to mount his horse, the saddle slipped, he got dragged for a bit before his smart horse stopped, and he got free.  It happened in a split second, and ended with the same speed, but all our hearts dropped (I'd ran into some friends there--thus, the "our hearts.")

One of the friends I ran into was doing the tire obstacle with her horse--in saddle--and it got its hoof caught on the lip of the inside of the tire and fell.  She came off, thank God!!, but the horse fell in such a way that its legs were completely wrapped around the tire.  It was on its side with the saddle underneath it.  She is a pretty smart horse, so she was somewhat still, but they wanted to flip her.  I ran and got my lunge line, but suggested we try to get the saddle off her first, or at least uncinch it--I was worried that flipping over a hard saddle could hurt her back.  As we were trying to get her free from the saddle, she started to flail, and somehow was able to push herself away from the tire and back up. No injuries.  But I decided then and there NEVER to ride a horse over the tire obstacle. 

Back to the nothing training.  People do look at you a bit weird when they see you just standing around with your horse.  So, there is an element of humility needed to accomplish this. 

"Yep, hi there, I'm just doing nothing with my horse here, and calling it "training"!

Oddly enough, most of my friends completely get it.


Cosequin ASU--just a parting thought.  I started Cowboy AND my irish wolfhounds on Cosequin ASU, and I think it is making a big difference. I am  no longer having to give Rimadyl to my 9 year old Wolfhound.  I give Leah the plain Cosequin, and it has also helped her.  But the ASU portion--Avocado, Soybean, is supposed to help regenerate, or at least slow the degeneration, of cartilage. I don't like paying $150/tub, so I'd like to say it doesn't work, but I can't.  It truly seems to work.  (As does Probios, another supplement some people dismiss, but always turns Tumbleweed around when he has loose stool.)

So, that's just my experience with these products, for whatever that is worth.  I have a lot of oldies in my herd, and I take great joy in keeping them going.

The best advice ever for oldies--

"Keep riding, if possible. Moderate exercise helps keep joints healthy by stimulating the production of synovial fluid and by strengthening the muscles that help stabilize the joints. "We recommend light work as long as it is in the horse's comfort zone," says Brosnahan. "You don't want to work a horse to the point of lameness."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Day 2: Doing a Little Something, But Mostly Nothing

I was supposed to go on a ride today, but everyone canceled, and I ended up doing what really needs to be done--more of a little something, but mostly nothing training.

I started by tying the two girls.  I use Blocker Tie Rings on the 2 setting.  While they stood tied, I worked with Cowboy, ponying Tumbleweed.


Next, was Leah's lesson. I got on bareback so that I could feel the tension in her nerves/muscles along her back, her heart rate, and breathing.  Like yesterday, she wanted to go, but as you can see in the video, I just kept holding her or asking her to back up to the spot we'd started at.

I timed the sections using Siri on my iphone.  I'd ask her to set a timer for 5 minutes and during that time, I stretched, breathed, and petted her.  When the time was up, I took her over obstacles, and then returned either to the same spot, or a different spot, to rest again.

Here she is resting by the gate on the opposite side of the arena. (Gates tend to make her nervous)

The difference in Leah's work was phenomenal.  When we finally moved out, I used only neck rein pressure for our turns.  She was much more responsive in that calm frame of mind.

I watched a short movie on YouTube today, 500 Miles (I'll embed it below).  One of the trainers said something that really stood out--I'll paraphrase a bit--

Horses are prey animals, and we're acting like predators when we're on the edge, always on the go, with a mission critical objective.  You need to slow down and make sure they're okay.

I feel like I'm doing that now with Leah.

I tied her up inside the arena, and got Beautiful Girl.  We worked on the same things, but from the ground.  BG loves doing the obstacles, and is very precise in where she places her feet.  Leah is, too.  Both horses suffer from the same problems--anxiety, anticipation, and overreacting.  Not on the ground, but in the saddle.  

Here's Leah cocking a leg and relaxing.  She has always been good at standing tied.

The horses aren't the problem with this new training style--they're eating it up and excelling.  It's me.  I have a hard time letting go of my predator nature.  I am all about objectives and getting things done.  I'm like A to Z in five seconds--speedy Gonzales.

But I can be trained!

While I transitioned between Leah and BG, I tidied up my arena obstacles and tack room.  That kind of cured my need to get something done.  And, while I did all these patience and relaxation exercises, I had music playing.  (Not as good as having a television, Sarah B!)

A bit of serendipity: while I was uploading my own videos, I came across some videos--one on bucking, where Clinton Anderson highlights a dangerous bucking horse that was trained out of it, and the other on the 500 Mile movie. Beautiful was nothing like the bucker in the Anderson clip.  She showed no signs of bucking in saddle before her two separate bucking episodes.  

I recommend you read Jenna Blumer's blog post today about Warwick Schiller.  What he is doing is very much what I'm exploring now.  He really looks into the idea of a horse who hides their anxiety.

I had previously shared the Anderson clip, but I deleted it, because it isn't representative of where I'm going with my training.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Art of Doing A Little Something, but Mostly Nothing

(Leah on the ride yesterday)

My daughter and I took Leah and Foxy to the state park arena yesterday for work and a ride.  Both Foxy and Leah were hyped up, and each struggled to stand still enough, or let us direct their feet enough, to open and close the gates without a lot of drama.  They were like, "Let's get this show on the road!"  So, we took our time--about two hours--working on very little steps--calming--relaxing--and moving again.  We did obstacles, and we continued to work with several separate gates--opening and closing.  When we'd gotten enough progress, we took a super short ride to end the day.

Today, I read over my past blog posts about Leah and realized--wow, I've been here before!  I have worked on this in the past, had success, and then reverted.  Now, here we are, kind of back to square one--with her trying to anticipate where to put her feet, building up anxiety wondering what I'm going to ask, and getting frustrated being asked to go slow.


I'm going to share a few things I've heard and seen in the past that I think relate to the type of training I'm moving toward:

Exhibit 1: Trainer: "I'd never ride a horse that couldn't cock a leg and relax while standing tied."

Exhibit 2: My old farrier buys my problem horse from me (one of the few horses I've ever sold) after bonding with her while she was in training with his wife.  At the time we were all boarding horses together, and I would go there every day and see him just sitting on "Flash".  He'd be there almost all day, watching his wife, helping her out--and sitting on Flash.  Oh, he did a little work here and there, and even taught her tricks, like dropping his steer rope and asking her to pick it up for him.  She'd reach down, pick it up, and hand it over to him.  And, he team roped on her and made her one of the best heeling horses of the group.  But mostly, he just hung out on her.

Exhibit 3:  A friend of mine used to spend his summers working on ranches, and they'd tell them to go pick out a horse--mostly green ones--and "buck them out".  He said that meant they'd just ride them until they stopped bucking and then take off.  That would be their horse for the summer.  They'd spend most of the day in the saddle moving cows around, but a lot of time just sitting there watching other people doing things--or talking.  The horses would turn out pretty solid, pretty quick.


Which leads me to this hypothesis:

There is an art to horse training that can be summed up as doing a little something, but MOSTLY nothing, which fosters more relaxed horses.


As to Exhibit 1, as I've racked my brain wondering how Beautiful can be so good on the ground for me, yet have those two blowups that appeared to come from nowhere--one thing stood out--she never was fully able to stand tied and cock a leg.  I mean it happened a couple of times--in her WHOLE life, but it was definitely not a habit.

So, today--I set up shop in the my Cowgirl Cave, and let her stand tied for two hours.  Hey, I have nothing but time nowadays.

She didn't like it, but I wasn't asking her to do ANYTHING.  I was allowing her to chill and relax--it was her choice whether or not she would.  There will be a lot more of this in her future. I had my husband add a bunch of tie rings around the property so she can have a variety of locations to practice.


As to Exhibit 2 & 3

Time used to be in short commodity in my life, and when I went out to work with the horses, I needed to get things accomplished--or so I thought.  But that has flipped--and now, I have time.  I don't like riding a horse who is all excited and--what do I do, what do I do--gotta move, gotta move.  I want, and need her relaxation.

Guess what I did with Leah today?


Remember last winter--all that yoga I was practicing?  Well, today, I got on Leah bareback, she tried to take off, I asked her to stand--got her relaxed--and then spent ten minutes practicing breathing and stretching.  I even laid out over her back--which make her look around to check it out, but her breathing began to mirror mine--and she was truly relaxed.

I picked up her rein at odd times--not asking her to move--but just so that she knows I can pick up the rein and she can still wait for communication of an ask.

She shifted her legs here and there--cocking them each in relaxation.  She was so relaxed, I made sure to warn her before I dismounted.


Such easy things to do, but they go such a long, long way and tell us a lot about what our horses are feeling.


In Tumbleweed news, I'm ponying him for ten minutes each day on Cowboy--in preparation of ponying on the trails.  He's a bit of a stinker with it.  He'll balk, and I have to put his rope over my horn and pull him forward.  He'll occasionally bite Cowboy, and I have to get after him, but he's learning.

He and I are also working on "facing" his fears.  I wrote before about how he'll bite and run--it's that turning away when he's being naughty.  Turns out, though, that he'll also turn away when he's THINKING about being naughty.  It's like he has a guilty conscience, and can't face me.  LOL.  So, facing me, or an obstacle, is vital for success--not just with him, but ALL the horses.


I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of looking forward to doing a little something, but a lot of nothing in the future. All I have is time.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Daenerys Targaryen: Is Bad Horsemanship Like Bad Authorship?

I am one of those people who believed something good would come from watching Game of Thrones. Year after year, I suffered through beheadings, stake burnings, rape, carnage--all because of one character whom I loved and wanted to see emerge victorious--Daenerys Targaryen.

Kit Harrington, aka Jon Snow, had this to say about those of us who cheered for Daenerys:
"You’re in denial about this woman. You knew something was wrong. You’re culpable, you cheered her on.’”

But the way I look at it, I was in denial about the writers--all of them--that they could continue the tragic, beautiful, strong, and marvelous arc of a female heroine like Daenerys Targaryen.

I have read that George RR Martin knew the ending all along--and the fate of Dany--Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains.  I think that was the problem with this whole, ill-fated tale.  Somehow, he stumbled upon a special character--Daenerys, a girl whose father was murdered, she, exiled as an infant, treated like chattel by her brother, sold off to the highest bidder, --and after death, destruction, set backs, being underestimated, abused--she comes out victorious and prepared to take her rightful kingdom.

But she doesn't.  Instead, she sets her ambitions aside and goes off to save mankind from the White Walkers--and loses one of her three dragons.  She doesn't complain, but soldiers on--and for all of that self-sacrifice and accomplishment, how is she rewarded?

(Spoiler Alert) --

she is turned into a monster....and killed off in a matter of 2 or 3 episodes, while the surviving male characters joke about how soon they can rebuild brothels.

In my opinion, out of the many problems with all this, the greatest is that Daenerys Targaryen was more than the male writers and directors could handle.  Instead of seeing where the character would take them--where she wanted to go--what her story was and would be--what  more she was capable of doing to rein in her own ambition--they sacrificed her for the story they WANTED to tell.

It ended the way they wanted to see it end, not the way it should have ended--if they'd let the character continue her natural arc.

As I was out working with Beautiful Girl today, it hit me how alike horsemanship and authorship can be.  We are presented with a unique, special horse, just like a character we are helping to manifest on a page, and with bad horsemanship/authorship, rather than allowing them to grow and learn in their unique way, we see the way we want it to end, prescribe this method, and that method, and this tool, and that tool--and, oftentimes, try to craft that special being into something it is not.

That epiphany framed my work with Beautiful today, so instead of having an agenda, I went with her natural curiosity, and tried very hard to tune into her signals--and validate them all.  When her head flew up at the sound of distant cows, I looked over their direction, too, then patted her and said, "yep, the cows crying."  When she wanted to stop and sniff my outside furniture--we stopped and talked about that, too.

When we were done, I put her back in the turnout and did some chores.

When I came back in, she followed me all over and would not tune into the nonsense of the mares and Little Joe fighting and running around, because she wanted to be in my pocket.  That is success.

Who are these magical horses, these special souls, who are emerging day by day in our unique tales?  Where will their stories go, and how will we honor the natural arcs of their lives?

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Non-Ridden Equine

This has been a year of soul-searching and redefining expectations for me and Beautiful Girl. I've had so many questions swirling in my mind:

             Does she want to have a relationship with me?
             Is a non-riding relationship a worthy one?
             Can we still have goals in a non-riding world?
             Have I let her down by not developing her into a saddle horse?
             Is there still a future for us in a riding relationship?
             What is it that caused our riding relationship to derail so spectacularly?
             Is there another route I've overlooked?

The answers are a work-in-progress, but I did recently come across a Facebook page devoted to "the non-ridden horse," and I have seen some amazing equine work and relationships there that have inspired me anew.

Last week I had a pampering day with all the horses, and BG just ate it up.  She loves being groomed--brushed, clipped, bathed, sprayed with fly spray.  In fact, she loves all those things more than any of the others.  She excels at it.  And she seems to know it. 

It reminded me of our adventures last summer, before the riding incident, when I'd take her to the state park and work with her on the ground over the trail course--she did every station perfect the first time, and she loved being ponied out there.

So, I've made a decision to keep those things up because they seem to be extremely rewarding to her--and me. 

I haven't answered all those swirling questions, but I did answer the first few:

Yes, Beautiful Girl does want to have relationship with me, and she has earned my respect on the ground--and she should take pride in that and see where it grows, and

Yes, a non-riding relationship with her is every bit equal in value to a riding one, and we can still have goals in that non-riding world--relationship, communication, and growth.

Do any of you have horses that are strictly non-riding relationships?  Do you have resources like the Facebook group?  Inspiration?  Goals?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tumbleweed, Turning One

May 16th at 3:00 am, Tumbleweed, aka Midnight Tumbleweed, will turn one.

Mr. Tumbleweed is a product of Shirley's heart- horse, "Beamer" (Isle Be Midnight) and "Rosalee" (Solano N Jac).

He comes from a long line of athletic horses: Mr. San Peppy, Isle Breeze, Dolls Union Jac, and Solanos Peppy San--his great-grandfathers.  Also pictured below is his grandfather, Doll Docsan.

He was born on May 16th at 3:00 am, and "tumbled" into Shirley's arms. You can read about that day here.  And this is what the little angel looked like.

I had been planning on breeding one of our mares, but backed out at the last minute.  Shirley let me know that she did not plan to keep Tumbleweed, and that he would be available to me.

Within a week, I was up in Canada.  It was my first time meeting Shirley face to face, even though I'd followed her blog for many years.  And, of course, it was my first time meeting Tumbleweed.

It was love at first sight.

He was a mama's boy, that's for sure!  (Rosalee was a good mom.)

As the summer went by, I made several trips to see Tumbleweed and Shirley, and got to participate in his training. (Just a little--Shirley did everything!)

But mostly, it was his summer to be a baby with his mom and herd. (Following photos are Shirley's)

Back at home, I had work to do to get him across from Canada to the U.S.--it required a recorded wire transfer of payment so that I could prove to the border agents he'd been paid for.

Soon enough, the day had come, and I was in Canada picking up Rosalee and Tumbleweed to bring  here.

 Loading up. (He still loads great!)
 At the border.

It was a nail-biting trip (for me), but Rosalee and Tumbleweed were actually very calm.  It helped tremendously that we were hauling them together.

They settled right in.

Rosalee was here for only a week, and then her new owner wanted to pick her up early because of the holiday. Tumbleweed was completely weaned and on solid food, but we needed a surrogate mare to socialize him.

Foxy came to our rescue. She's been a mother before, and when she was first introduced to him, that was that--

she was IN LOVE.

It was like they were a real mama and baby.  Still, to this day, even though I've separated them, they are deeply bonded and tuned into one another.  (In two weeks, once the sperm is supposed to be all gone, they'll be back together.)

However, back in October, tragedy had struck, and Tumbleweed came down with what we think was a virus.

I was up with him day and night, rain & wind, but as he got weaker, I grew more and more concerned and really felt like I was going to lose him.  Rather than relying on the sporadic vet visits, I wanted him in the hospital on IV fluid and 24/7 care.

I was alone here during the first week of his illness. My husband and I had a trip planned for the day he got sick, so I stayed back and he had gone on by himself to visit our kids and grandkids.

His time in the hospital gave me a well-needed opportunity to catch up on my sleep.

I believe that IV fluid is what turned him around.  His recovery took three weeks, so if we hadn't given him that boost on day 3 &4, I don't think he'd have had the strength to make it. (I highly recommend IV fluids for EVERYTHING--colic, virus--anything that looks bad.)

But he very much DID make it and was stronger and more beautiful and ornery than ever!

In fact, he was so ornery to Foxy (who would let him do anything to her) that we had to introduce him to the gelding herd and give her a break.  

He fit right in.

He was finally gelded a week and half ago, on May 3rd, and it was extremely easy.  He healed up immediately, and his studdy behavior was gone just as quick.  They told me it may take a month, but it did not.  He has settled right down.  He has even become Cowboy's herd leader.  He acts like he's one going on twenty.  When I go to get him from pasture each evening, he always stands and waits to be haltered, and walks back like a gentleman.

And, our adventures have begun--trailering to the state park, ponying, standing tied, everything half-grown horses are expected to do.

To say this has been an exciting year with Tumbleweed would be an understatement. I feel so blessed to have this boy in my life.  Everywhere I take him, people oooh and awww--and ask, "What are you going to do with him?" 

What am I going to do with him?  Well, for now, I'm going to have fun with him and get him ready for whatever we decide to do in the future.  I'll be ponying him on the trails, loading him to new places, grooming him and working on his manners, working obstacles--yep, we'll be having some fun this year!

Happy Birthday, Tumbleweed!!  And, thank you, Shirley, for raising this special boy!