Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Of Horses, Hell Hats, Hounds, and Boards


At the heart of rein-free work is the horse's choice to be with you, (and by you, I mean me. ha!) It is their choice to be with you / me when there is no strong, direct connection. What is that, if not liberty work? So, why not go back to that work on the ground, as I did with Leah and the others?

At Liberty work. Or, a word I prefer, Heeding. You can read a little about my work with heeding and getting Leah to be a really fun trail horse. Some more on that here.  Heeding is getting your horse to be tuned into you and wanting to be together.  I had a trainer, Rebecca, who introduced us to the concept of heeding during her monthly workshops, which I attended with Leah.  That work helped us break through some barriers and become partners. I would love to have the same opportunity with Tumbleweed, but she doesn't do workshops anymore. Double damn.

You start by leading them around the arena both ways (in the photo above he is as at liberty with no halter or rope), and then you throw the rope over their neck and let them walk free (kind of like dropping the reins, in that you lose the direct physical connection, but you have something to grab if things go wrong.) 

Something funny happened right after this. We got to the bridge that is supported by 4 tires--the squishy bridge--and Tumbleweed, at liberty, knocked the bridge off the tires, then jumped away, and stopped and looked to me for direction. 

Tumbleweed is by my side, but loose.

He does something naughty, like the 4 year old he is, then jumps away from the mess he created.

Immediately he starts to think about it and chew.

Stops, waits for me to come get him. 

And we go back over to fix the bridge.

This work is a great foundation for teaching them that we can have a connection without the direct physical touch through rope, or reins & bit.  But Tumbleweed is young, and he will still need support in most settings.  It took a couple of years before I could ride Leah on a loose rein. She really needed that constant, "I am here with you" that I gave her through the contact of the bit and reins. She was also very sensitive to my leg, which Tumbleweed is not. (He's getting better.)  They just have such different personalities. Leah is a sweet, sensitive soul. Tweed is a bull in a china shop.


Hell Hats.

I'm going to make a hell hat. The helmet itself does not keep the sun off my face and neck like my hats do, therefore, I need to incorporate a brim. I'm going to go out today and look for a straw hat that I can cut out and attach to one of my helmets. I'll also need to find a band (colorful duct tape, preferably brown, thin belt, ribbon, collar, whatever works) and attach it over the seam. There are quite a few really cool examples if you search them. Each is very unique to the owner. Many of my friends have them, and I've wanted to make one for a LONG time. Sadly, I have donated many great hats through the years that would have been PERFECT to make into hell hats. By all rights, I shouldn't have to go out and buy anything new. No matter which hat I choose, it will be a little painful cutting it up. Doesn't seem right. haha.

Here are a few examples from a place called Rodeo Etc. I have an extra black helmet, and a brown trail helmet, like one seen in these examples.

I have the helmet below.

I also have a helmet like this one.


Paddle boarding.

We've had two family vacations this summer where we rented homes on the lake. One of the homes had paddle boards, and my husband and I went out in the mornings and paddled around together. We loved it. We saw a heron, who let us get really close, and on another day, a family of ducklings, who swam right next to us. We have boats and runners, but they're loud and fast. The boards brought us closer to nature. Bonus! It's good exercise, and it helps your BALANCE. Damn right! I can use that with the horses. A little yoga, a little boarding...forever young. ha! We came home and bought our own. They're inflatable, but just as hard and stable as the solid boards. You can also deflate them and hike into areas where you can't get a car.

We've been out on them twice. This is yesterday's excursion to Hog Lake, a place I often ride horses.

The man who can.

Life is good on the paddle boards. They also work great as flotation devices when you're just sitting around chatting.


Here are some rando photos from yesterday.

My husband and Lucy, (remember little Lucy?) dragging my arena together. Lucy can always be found on the tractor or 4-wheeler with her daddy. Those two are inseparable. 

Did I ever tell you the horses love my husband? They do. Here is little Epona. She's a tall yearling, but I think I have finally got the right mineral balance with Rejuvenaid supplements. She had a rough start, being weaned from her mom. Then, rapid growth when she matured enough to eat well on her own. That rapid growth gave me a bit of a scare, but it has all evened out now.

When we call in the horses, Lucy chases them in for us. 

Have I told you Tumbleweed can be bossy?  He can. He has an aggressive streak that would probably make him an excellent cow horse. Yesterday Cowboy kicked him in the chest and tore a little skin off. Tweed deserved it. I think he knew he deserved it, too, because he didn't retaliate. He just stood there until I came back and put SWAT on the wound. 

This was taken at the end of the day, and Tumbleweed was telling him he couldn't come to me. 

Yep, I'm a bad ass.

I keep the girls together--mama and Epona--because I don't know if they will be going to a new home yet. If they do, I want them to be their own herd. Epona is good at leaving mama to do things with us. She is 100% sweet.

Here's her kissable muzzle.

Walking off to see her human grand-daddy.

The grandpa whisperer.

Update on my Give 'em Hell Hat:

I found an old hat that I wasn't using anymore in my closet, a pendant on a necklace I never wear, and some other materials. I tried the old belt, but it was a bit too thick of a band, so I went to the store and purchased some gingham ribbon with lace and some stick-on rhinestones. I had leather and beads for stampede straps, which I added at the end because there was a little seam between the helmet and the lace. I like stamped straps. This will be good for summer, and I can change it up with a black brim in winter. 

Final product:

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Learning to Ride With No Reins (Photos)

As I continue to work on the project from Ryan Rose Horsemanship, riding a clover pattern at the trot, without reins (or, on a loose rein, but only use them if leg pressure fails), I have progressed to dropping the reins and steering with my legs and stick (if needed) at the walk, in the full arena. (His videos have a lot of information about how to achieve this.)

This has been hard because Tweed is very young, and is going from plow reining to no reins. He is going from leg with spurs to leg with no spurs. That's a big leap. It's a great leap. I've always said that I want to do the most with the least amount of pressure. This is it.

I'm going to share the photos and a little video. When you see me use the crop, that means the leg pressure failed.  I start with the crop out, away from his head, and bring it toward his nose. If he keeps walking into it, that is his choice, though it might look like I'm smacking him. I'm not. And, at no time did he ever get flinchy with the crop, because I used it to rub his head when we were walking. He knew exactly what I wanted, but sometimes he wanted to do the opposite, thus, the wall / stick.

Also, I never picked up the reins, instead, I dropped them over his neck. That is, until the end, when I asked for the trot and he ignored my leg and picked up speed. Those will be the last 3 photos.  Instead, if he picked up speed at the walk, I stayed with him, stick out, until he slowed down or stopped. If you take away the stick when they speed up, you teach them to speed up when you lift the stick. So, we are supposed to keep it there until they slow down. It's a bit awkward, as you can see, but I did my best.

Walking straight was a big hurdle, and you will see some photos where I'm not asking for a turn, but I am blocking him with the crop. That means he wasn't listening to my leg asking him to straighten out. He was choosing to go against the line and toward the gate.

After the work here, I did work with him at the lope (with reins), and when we finished that loping, which he found exhausting, he did much, much better at the walking work without reins. I didn't have to use the crop once. Yay. That tells me I need to push him a little harder and then step back.

However, this is the beginning work, in all its glory. A work in progress, but we are definitely getting there.

Look where I want to go. Open inside leg. Pressure on outside leg. He doesn't turn.

Stick comes up.

I get nothing. So stick comes down.

Stick goes away.

Ignores turn again.

He wanders off, toward the gate.

Turn left. No stick needed.

Let's trot!


Tweed picks up speed toward the gate. (Next time try it away from the gate).

Back to the gate. I'm happy and laughing. This is fun.

My husband watched and took photos and videos. His assessment afterward, "I think Tumbleweed loves it."

I think so, too. So do I.