Thursday, July 28, 2016

Love That Booty

This post it is a week late, but better late then never. After my not so good lesson on Tuesday of the staycation, I scheduled another riding lesson for Thursday with a dressage instructor who was willing to come out assess Oak, and was okay with giving us a ground work lesson.

She started off the lesson evaluating his back and hind end for soreness. She found a tender area in the middle of his back on the left side that corresponded with a sensitive and tight area on the croup. She said that made sense because he was over compensating for his weak left side. It also explains why he can be resistant to picking that right back leg up. Next, she showed my some stretches that can help with those areas. I was nervous to the back leg stretches but he was actually really good.

Then I showed her my three saddles (the Duett, Wintec, and western). She was not happy with the fit on either english saddle, but thought the western saddle fit him well. After we tacked up she had me focus only on his hind end when lunging really driving him into the halter. She also wanted me to rub him with the whip on his hind end. We ended the lesson by her demonstrating some croup massages. 

What she is trying to do is set me up with a comprehensive program that will address Oak's physical and emotional issues with his hind end. Getting him more comfortable physically is the first step, followed by getting him to use his hind end instead of dragging it behind him, and then finally spending time desensitizing his hind end because he is oh so very nervous about me being back there. She basically told me to love the booty.

I have been working with him on the exercises for a week and we have made slow improvements. I am looking forward to our next lesson. She is everything I want in an instructor, knowledgeable, experienced, open minded, positive, and encouraging. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A few good bucks

Obviously the water jug fun had stirred up some memories for Oak because the next day we did not make it far before he started bucking again. This time reacting to the stirrups looped over the saddle horn. He was pulling away from me when we did it, so I went back to asking for just small circles at the walk before calling it a day. Frustrating because we had been doing so well, but I was obviously pushing things too fast for him. New rule: introduce new stimuli in the roundpen, so we don't reinforce bolting and bucking when things get overwhelming.

The next few days have been spent back in the roundpen. I increased my reinforcement and started him back on stuff he knows well. We then introduced the stirrups falling, and being hooked on the saddle horn and the walk and trot. No more bucking. Yay.

Today I took him back in the pasture for some lunging. I could tell he was nervous by his over reactions to the stick, but I rewarded him a bunch for his tries, and we were able to have some nice circles at the trot in several places around the pasture.

I also had a riding lesson today at a 3-day eventing barn I have never been to before. I had a riding bio-mechanics lunge-line lesson on a big, sweet OTTB. I loved the lesson material. It was a great work out with a lot of new and challenging exercises for my tool bag. I hope to practice the exercises on a barrel or something to increase my strength, balance, and coordination since I don't have a horse to practice on.

I don't think I will be going back to ride with that instructor again though. She was the kind of person that baits you into making mistakes and then berates you for them. She constantly uses rhetorical questions and sarcasm.... Nobody got time for that. I don't really learn well when I am being belittled and ridiculed (who does), so I was pretty shut down throughout the lesson. I even put my half chaps on inside out! I was shaking at several points, and just kept doing stupid things, because I was so stressed out. I just get so nervous when people start off being so aggressive. I guess I am too sensitive, but I have been in a lot of high-pressure job situations, and had a lot of people yell at me throughout my life, so I don't think I am ever going to get any better.  When I was a kid I would just push through all of those feelings and try to get the most out of it anyways, but now I just don't see the point. I could tell by the way she talked to her staff and other students (and her dogs) that it was normal behavior for her. Not only do I feel she is not the right trainer for me, I think she would be a disaster with Oak. I am pretty sure he would either shut down, explode, or both.

I have a lesson planned with a another trainer on Thursday -- this one is willing to come out to my house! I am pretty excited and hoping that it goes well.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grayson's One Year Adopt-iversary

About one year ago I had been browsing the sales adds on Craigslist and Facebook, and looking into all the local rescues for a buddy for Bodhi for when we moved to our new place. I wanted something that was not expensive because we were in the process of buying our farm, and something that would make a good friend (so nothing super dominant or freakishly spooky). Besides that I did not really know what I wanted. At the time I thought Bodhi only had mild arthritis which meant we were probably not going anywhere competitively, but that he could still be a great trail horse, ground work/clicker training buddy, and all-around great horse for friends and guests to ride, so I was thinking I could get a new project. I looked at a few horses, but none of them really made excited.

Then I saw an add that went a little bit like this:

 "Lusitano/Appendix cross colt. About a year old, was feral and we have had him for two months. Have been working on halter breaking, and ground manners. Family emergency forces sale." 

The add was accompanied by these pictures:
Giant ears, so many cuts.

So derpy

Based on the add (and price) this little guy seemed like he was not in a good situation, and I had always wanted an Iberian horse! I sent the add and photos to my good friend/horse trainer/partner in crime and we decided to go take a look (with a horse trailer of course).

 When we got there and watched him move while the person tried to catch him we actually started to believe the 1/2 Lusitano part! Holy cow! When she pulled him out it was clear he knew nothing, but that he had a good personality (if a little depressed and sullen). It was hard to even tell what color he was because he was so bleached and he was covered head to toe in cuts and scrapes, but his sire was evidently grey, and his dam was buckskin. 

I think I was sold when I saw that trot, but the little guy was just so sad and sweet looking! We traded the woman a synthetic western saddle and a small amount of cash for the ribby, beat-up yearling. He loaded in about 15 minutes which was pretty impressive considering he was hardly halter broken.

Adoption day and now with the husband.

Gray is now an obnoxious, playful, and curious two year old. He has made great progress in his ground manners, and a little progress towards his career as a riding horse. We have mostly been letting him be a baby. I have no idea what our future will be, and if I am even up to training this big-moving, spirited goofball, but I feel really lucky that he came into my life anyways. Love you Gray Baby.

Adoption day and now with me

Thursday, July 14, 2016

End of This Challenge

Husband doing the tacking... So spoiled

Today marked the tenth day, and the conclusion, of our ten day saddle challenge. We did miss two days so it was not exactly consecutive but I did my best. It started off with Oak trotting up from across the pasture when he saw me walking over with the saddle. That felt really good.

My husband came out and took some more photos for me, and he actually tacked him up today. He put the saddle on from the off side, with the lead rope hanging over his neck, and Oak stood still and stayed calm throughout.

I am just going to tie these to you OK?

I decided to end with a bang and brought out the milk jugs. He did not have much of a reaction to them last time so I introduced them to him briefly before looping them on the saddle horn and asking for him to trot around me. About the second time around Oak exploded in a series of bronc bucks which sent the jugs flying off of him. A much bigger reaction than I expected! I calmed him down and got the jugs back on there -- this time tying them in place. For better or worse they were up there.

Right before the bucking. Unfortunately no bucking photos.

Once we started back to lunging we did not see Oak the bronc come out again but he was very tense and snorty. I am sure he had a ton of Adrenalin coursing though his system, but he stayed with me and kept trying which is the important part. We ended with a little bit of targeting. Not our best day, but not a disaster either.

Feeling a bit better about the whole thing.
I feel bad that I had not done more prep with Oak to help him understand the jugs did not require acrobatics, but I think it is also good sometime to push your horse over his threshold in training and see what his natural reactions to things are. I learned some valuable things about Oak today.

1. He can buck hard! 2. He really is okay until he is not, and then he explodes. I need to make sure I do my homework with him every time and 3. He can come back from a big scare relatively well -- but he stays on high alert the rest of the session.

I will be giving us both a day off tomorrow, but I will be back at it on Saturday! Maybe another 10 day challenge is in order? What do you think it should be? Should it be desensitization with movement, objects, and sound on the saddle? Maybe I'll do five days at a time. That seems more sustainable. I don't work him hard everyday. In fact most days he does not work at all I just put the saddle on and off and he gets a treat. Making myself work on something consistently for ten days straight really did bring noticeable improvements. I think switching to tacking at liberty also contributed to the change. He is the kind of horse that really needs a choice if he is going to feel comfortable.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Grayson vs Pine Tree

Today we completed day eight of our ten day challenge. We actually missed a day on Friday due to Grayson deciding to skewer himself on a tree limb. I will spare you the actual photos but it reminded me of this toy I had when I was a kid.
Grayson has dino damage

Grayson is okay, and according to the vet will heal up just fine. He will probably have an ugly scar from it though.  Oh Grayson-- and he has already jumped out of his paddock once since being put on "stall rest" because of turkeys. Sigh. Turkeys. Definitely worth jumping a five foot fence with a gian laceration on your side....

Why did I decide an Iberian horse was a good idea? He is so sweet, but definitely hotter and less likely to use his brain on a regular basis than the haflingers.

The injury has him out of any kind of training for the rest of the month. Except for sit still while I slather medication in your hole training of course. He will be very medically broke by the end of this.

Back to Oak -- He has been great. I have been continuing to tack him up at liberty and I try to do something new everyday. Sunday I played with him at liberty in the pasture with his saddle on. Today it was tie a rope to the stirrups and swing them around while I lunged him day. I could tell he was not happy (who would be with a stirrup flying around) but he either just kept trotting or he would stop and look at me. Big improvement from the initial reaction I got a while ago when I did it in the english saddle. Tomorrow I am thinking of bringing the jugs out again.

Any other things you guys could think of to sack him out with associated with the saddle?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 5 of Our 10 Day Challenge

On day one (the inspiration for the challenge) I noticed how tense Oak was about his new saddle. I was feeling discouraged because I thought we had worked on it quite a bit already.  I thought it may be because he had so much time off since I had been traveling, but I also wondered if he would even let me put a saddle on at liberty.

On day two I tried to tack him up at liberty in the paddock. He spooked at the saddle and hid in the corner. So the answer is no. The paddock is big and has a run-in to hide behind so it is not the ideal place to work on advance and retreat work. I moved us into the roundpen slowly desensitized him to with the saddle until I could tack him up in the roundpen. I probably should have just started off this way, but I wanted to work on more interesting things other than saddling. Cutting corners never pays!

Day three I tried in the paddock again and he let me put the saddle on with little fuss. Day four he was waiting for me where I tacked him up last time and he was great again so I played with the mounting block too.

Here are some pictures from today (day five). I wish I had pictures of day one,but it has been amazing how much change I have observed when I let him make the decision to stay or leave and when we just work on a little bit more each day. I am excited to see what day ten brings!

Belly scratches

More belly scratches

Oak says "Oh no I can't look"

A little tense but he is staying and getting more relaxed each day

Cinching up!

Mounting block work. he still walks away or turns to face me a lot and I think that is OK. I just try again.

Relaxing together after a job well done
How are your challenges going?

Training Log July 5-7
Oak : 3 saddle training sessions, two mounting block sessions, and one lunge session in the yard. Even though it was the first time I lunged him in the yard he did really well!
Gray: 3 handling sessions, hung out in the yard, wore a saddle pad, and today lunged in the paddock. Adding clicker training to lunging has really helped him get over his resistance.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Back in the saddle

Well I am not *IN* the saddle at all yet but hey I am back home from a long business trip and back to work with my two boys.

I tried to tack Oak up at liberty and he showed me he still feels very unconfident about his saddle, so I am issuing a ten day challenge for myself. Put the saddle on Oak TEN days in a row. I don't have to do anything in particular with him, but he needs to wear it ten days straight. So far I am on day two with eight more days to go!

Is there anyone else who would like to issue a ten day challenge with me? Something you want to make a habit (does not have to be horse related)? Put in the comments if you want to join in!

Training Log

July 1-4
Worked with Gray for 15 min each day and Oak got one 20 min, and two 30 min sessions.