Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Still Alive and Checking In

It has been a busy spring, but that's not my excuse for lack of posts. My excuse is that I'm in the thick of things with Tumbleweed, and I don't know how to properly reflect on it from day to day. I'm trying to get a broader perspective of where we've been, where we are, and where we want to go.

I can say this, and I think it's a big win, when I go out to get him in the pasture each day, he walks to me to be haltered. He wants the relationship, even if he doesn't always love the work. 

There have been some wonderful moments, some scary ones, too, and I will tell you about them all very soon.

I'm enjoying reading all your blogs, and love catching up. Happy Trails!

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Still Working Toward That Happy Partnership

I had another long day at the equestrian park yesterday. It got really hot, upper 80's, but we took breaks in the shade. 

The day went better than Monday, but a little worse than Tuesday. (I Might be Crazy post).  Tweed showed resistance on the bridge, wanting to jump off of it, whereas, I was asking him to walk off  nicely. My solution was to work him in circles when he jumped off, and then let him rest on the bridge. It worked by bringing his emotions down and teaching him that the bridge was a good place to be, and not hot lava he needed to flee from by jumping.

I followed through with my plan to ride him out and then rest him on the trails. I tied him to a tree, and he didn't seem very concerned.

I rode him for 3/4's of our time out in the woods, and walked him about 1/4th to practice really steep, loose rock hills. He went down medium hills, loose rocks, with me riding him, very well yesterday, and didn't get nervous when he started to slide down a bit. He just went with it. But there was another, very long, steep hill that I thought it was better to practice on without a rider first. (I got some very good exercise walking up and down it. I'll refer to it as Heart Attack Hill.) Heart Attack Hill will be a very good hill to work Tweed up and down when he wants to run back to the trailer. 

During the walking portion of our adventure we ran into a deer, and I let him stalk it through the brush just so he knows he is the boss when it comes to deer. When I remounted, we came across some rental horses in a pen. They didn't do anything, but Tweed went on high alert, so I dismounted and worked him around them. He never fully relaxed, so we will going back there the next time down.

Back at the arena I made a new friend. She was there all day with her two horses for the first time, and she moved her trailer over by mine. She was really sweet. 

We have a lot of work to do with our trot and lope. Still getting used to each other.

I still subscribe to Ryan Rose Horsemanship, and received a new training video yesterday when I got home.  It was on circles with horses, (very timely).  He wasn't a big fan of the circles, and suggested better patterns, but as for the circle, he suggested we not steer them on it, and instead let them take responsibility. We should only be picking up the reins to steer them back onto it, but then release again. 

He actually prefers squares or octagons, because he wants them to move out straight and then see how well they respond to sharper turns on the square, or slight turns on the octagon. Same principle. Let the horse move out straight and only pick up the reins if they leave the line or don't turn with your leg and body pressure.

Our homework is to practice those concepts and make a video. The upper level homework is to do it all with no reins.

Why was this timely? Because I was on Tumbleweed's face too much, steering him in the circle, and he eventually started rooting at the bit. 

I have no doubt that he is bored with arena work, obstacles, trails--everything. He has made his preference clear, and it is to be with his mare herd out in pasture. I remind myself that we are only one week into it, at least the regular training and longer days. Even my trainer, Sarah, always has a rough first two weeks with horses coming back to work. It makes sense. 

We leave them alone all winter to fend for themselves as we wave to them from the warmth of our homes.

Spring comes and we're all, hey best buddy, let's go play out where all the wild animals live!

I have high hopes for spending more time with the horses next winter, thanks to the barn remodel. I'll have a room to warm up in while I groom the horses. I can even work with Tweed in the breezeway now that we won't be storing hay in it. That's 60' x 12'. 

Or, there's always this....head south with my hubby and Tumbleweed someday.

Back to Tweed.  My goal is to have him working all the trails from the equestrian area with relaxation, courage, and partnership. There are many hills to practice our ups and downs--and they vary in steepness and footing. There is water, wildlife, bikes, dogs, joggers, a little bit of everything. It's the perfect testing ground for us.

I feel good about where we're at right now.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

I Might Be Crazy

Yesterday I had a lesson with my trainer, and we rode the trails together. My goal was to work on going up and down hills with Tumbleweed, working on his speed, and stopping to rest midway up and down the hills.

I warmed him up on the obstacles, the arena, and short trails before she arrived because he had been left alone for five days, due to us having company in town. Everything was going pretty well, except a big spook for a deer in the woods. 

Rebecca arrived and we stood together letting the horses rest near one another. Everything was still good. Then we took off down the trails, and besides his goofiness riding with another horse he didn't know, he was still listening and trying.

But when we circled around to a hill we'd already done, Tumbleweed decided he was done. He started shaking his head, which we first assumed was a swarm of bugs (it might have started that way) but then it quickly progressed to jumping up in front and trying to race back to the trailhead, which he knows we were pointed towards.

I dismounted and worked him there on the trail. Mounted again. Same thing. It went on like that getting bigger and bigger, rather than smaller and smaller. Basically, I was dealing with two issues, maybe three: 

1. Barn sour (trailer sour)

2. A 2 hour work ethic

3. A coming electrical storm which had all the horses on edge

No matter, the same solution.

I was glad to have Rebecca there. She thought it was important I ride him out, rather than walk him out (which I was tempted to do). She told me to calm down, find my seat again, and direct him with my legs and seat, very little reins, and let him get right up on her horse's butt. 

We did that, but he was still worked up and pissed off, and he took a bite at her horse. I corrected him. Rebecca explained that it was normal, and that he was just taking out his anger on that horse, who was now the bad guy, rather than me. 

We rode like that until we got into a clearing, and then Tweed relaxed and rode further away from that horse on a loose rein.

When we arrived back at the trailhead, I released Tweed into the roundpen because I was going to work him (a new strategy: rest him on the trails, work him at the trail head). Well, he went ripping around bucking and snorting. Rebecca and I looked on, amazed. All that frustration and anger and anxiety was in him that whole time, yet he'd somewhat kept it together. 

This was not the worst of it, because it's about ten minutes later, but it gives you a little taste.

I worked him, then returned to the trailer, where he pawed and eventually pulled back really hard. I was watching the whole thing from my chair in the shade, and called my husband to bring me down a stiff drink to calm my nerves!!

I was in the waiting it out game, and I HAD TO WIN!!

I had arrived that day at 11, got back from the trail ride at 2:30, and left the park at 6:30, but I had, indeed, won.

Tweed had relaxed, his sweat had completely dried, and I took him through the obstacle course. Obstacles he usually balked on, he walked over without hesitation. Something had clicked, and he knew he had to submit in order to get home.

When I got home, I let him free in the pasture, and he ran like a banshee to mama Foxy to tell on me. Later, we ran them back in, and I saw him near the fence mutual grooming with Beautiful Girl. He stopped what he was doing, and he turned toward me as I walked by, and just stared like he had a new respect.

Damn right.


Fast forward to today. Would Tumbleweed let me catch him? 

Yes. He doesn't have to like it, but he does need to respect it. He stood for me to halter him.

Out on the trails today, he made a liar out of me. I ran into several of my friends down there, and I told them about what happened yesterday. Then they watched me working with him--the new plan--work him hard at the trail head and arena, and rest him out on the trail in the trees, and he did everything perfect and quite beautifully. They were ooohing and awwwing over him, and two of them even said that he'd make a gorgeous dressage horse!

One of my friends yelled at me, "You're a liar!!" Then laughed. I shouted back, "Yes, I'm a big fat liar!!"

Here are photos of us resting in several spots along the trail and in the woods.

We have a long way to go, but I am reminded that there are no shortcuts. I'm thankful that I had the time to spend yesterday to win the fight. I spent a lot of time alone (because my husband thought it was boring and abandoned me) and everyone at the park went home and left us there. But I won. Tumbleweed is a smart horse, and he knows exactly what that means : If I ever want to go home, I better do what this crazy lady wants!