Saturday, April 30, 2016

Climbing Mount Oak

Image result for red mountain
Mount Red Oak

My wonderful husband held Oak today while I achieved true liftoff for the first time. I dangled. It felt like a big deal, but it is really just one small step towards riding. He did spook once when my feet hit the mounting block, and he kicked out once when my hand groped farther back then I had meant too (sorry Oak), but Oak handled it really well. .He was more concerned with mugging my husband for treats than anything else. Great progress. I will repeat the hanging a few more times and then revisit saddling and start working on swinging up!

On a side note: Anyone have recommendations for a fly sheet that fits rotund ponies? Oak is shorter than Bodhi but is busting out of Bodhi's sheet. I am pretty sure if I get him a size larger though that it will be hanging past his knees!

Oak Training Log April 30

Location: Round pen

Duration: 30 mins

Activities: Confidence with me laying across his back on both sides.

Observations: We had a few tense moments, but he did really well. Not a fan of the mounting block making noises, or of my hands going around his lower belly.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Oak's Butt Beard

Butt beard

Oak has these weird hairs on the backs of his legs. My husband calls it his butt beard. He is almost completely shed out, so this is either a permanent fixture or it is the last thing to shed out. I am not sure what I am going to do about it if it's an all year thing. I tend to keep my horses minimally trimmed but I don't know if I can stand having a horse with a butt beard. Any of you drafty, pony, haffy people known of anyone else with butt beards? Do you let them wear it loud and proud, or do you trim it?

Oak kicked out a while I was trying to medicate the scratches on his back heals. Not at me, per se, but just striking out with the back leg I was trying to touch. Without thinking, I barked and swatted at him like I would have done to a snarky, naughty Bodhi to get him to knock it off. Poor Oak went skittering away from me with the look of " I knew she was going to beat me.. it was only a matter of time". I waited for him to calm down and said I was sorry. After we were both calm I went back to handling all of his feet again to make sure I did not completely unsettle him. He seemed fine. I am really kicking myself for being so careless. He is doing so well with learning to trust me. I want to be worthy of his high regard.

Oak Training Log April 28

Location: Round pen

Duration: 30 mins

Activities: Confidence building at the mounting block. Giving laterally to the bit while standing still.

Observations: It is hard to say if he has ever had a bit training by his reaction to me contacting his mouth today for the first time. He had the normal green horse reaction of opening his mouth and then giving to the pressure by tipping his chin. We had a nice start with it. He is getting more relaxed with me over him on the mounting block. You should have seen his face though when I lifted a leg and rested it against his side.... :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Introducing the Bit

I have no idea what Oak's training background is, so I am treating everything like it's new. I have put him in a bridle a few times in the past but then wanted to wait on progressing with a bit until he had his teeth floated. The float has been done, so today I brought back out the bridle. He takes up the bit with no issue and only plays with it a little bit, so I am guessing the bit is not a new concept. In the next few sessions I will start applying some pressure and ask him to give laterally on both sides from a stop.

When I introduce the bit I like to give the horse ample time to grow accustomed to the feel of it without interfering. With Bodhi, I gave him a lot of time to puzzle it out at liberty (supervised of course). I only progress when the horse accepts the bit and treats it like a non-issue. I like to start horses off in a french link snaffle. I am wavering whether I want to do my first rides with a bit or in a halter. I guess it will depend on how well he progresses with the bit.

How do you introduce the bit? What type of bit do you use? How do you start a horse - bridle or halter?

Oak's Training Log April 26

Location: arena

Duration: 30 mins

Activities: Moving away from pressure, working on the long line, backing, target training.

Observations: He is getting more confident, and has begun to move into my space which I have been lightheartedly correcting. He was very responsive on the line, though his back is still pretty tentative. Worked on increasing speed at the trot, which got him slightly excited but he handled it well. Tried to work on targeting, but he was more interested in grass than playing along today.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Progress for Oak and Sick Baby Gray

Grayson has been sick for almost a week with some kind of virus. It is always so stressful when an animal you care for is sick. The poor guy had a high fever and was off his feed for several days. His symptoms were especially scary for me because that was how Bodhi's illness started. I know horses get fevers for all kinds of reasons, but my brain could not help but to go to the worst possible place. Luckily he is on the upswing now, and is recovering nicely. He lost some weight despite my best efforts, so I look forward to spoiling him now that he has his appetite back.

Getting fit and shiny
I have been too busy with work to update Oak's training log but we have had three sessions working on confidence with scary objects (using the ball and a flag) and two sessions ground driving. We also worked at liberty in the round pen on walk, trot, halt, and changing direction. He is prone to both anticipation and trepidation, so I am trying to balance keeping a routine so he can be comfortable, and keeping things interesting so he does not go on autopilot. Every day we work I notice improvements in his confidence and retention of new cues and tasks. I can bump his legs with the ball on both sides without him getting worried for example.

Ground driving is hard. I am not sure l if I am bad at it, or he is green, but we still have trouble traveling in a strait line. I guess it is a worthwhile activity, though I am not sure how often I should do it... or even why I am doing it... other than it gives him confidence with ropes around his flanks and legs and with me behind him and gives us an outlet to practice our frustration tolerance. Not sure if I should keep it up or not.

Do you use ground driving in your training? Do you have any insights or tips?

Oak Training Log April 10 and 11 2016

Location: Round pen, arena, and pasture

Duration: Three 30 min round pen sessions, one 30 minute arena session, one 45 minute session in the round pen and pasture.

Activities: Confidence building with the ball and flag,working at liberty on a circle, lunging in open spaces, ground driving, targeting, and confidence at the mounting block.

Observations: His biggest issue is anticipation.We need to be careful to really wait until he is listening before giving a cue. We continue to work through his lack of confidence with people, and his environment.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Oak Vs. the Ball Round One

my pants are bulging with alfalfa pellets ;)
see the unhappy face
Oak is a skeptical fellow. The person I got him from said he was prone to kick out and she did not feel that he was safe for children or pets. She told me that he had been passed around quite a bit before ending up on his way to slaughter. When Oak is nervous he tends to give these quick low kicks. He is especially nervous when things are near his back legs, but he will even kick out sometimes if something is in front of him. I really wish I knew his history. We have been working with his back legs using many common items including my hands, ropes, and hoof polish (yep scary).

I was doing my second session of desensitizing him to the horse ball when it accidentally rolled into a back leg. Cue explosion of kicking. We then changed our focus to letting the ball touch his back legs. His left side was much more reactive than his right. We stopped when I could rest the ball next to each leg without him kicking, picking up the leg, or moving away. Given his continued guarded expression we have some more work to do before I claim any victories.

He let me put the ball on his back without any big reactions which gives me hope for the future (riding). He was very nervous about it, so we will work with his confidence there too. Oak loves to push the ball around the pen and earn treats. I am using both negative reinforcement (approach/retreat and pressure/release ) and positive reinforcement in Oak's training. He seems to respond well to both, always remembering what we worked on, and always a little bit better each day.

rewarding him for putting up with all that

 Oak Training Log April 10 and 11 2016

Location: Round pen

Duration: 20 minutes on April 10 and 11

Activities: Confidence building with the ball: bouncing, touching him all over, and rewarding him for interacting with the ball. Ended with target training (his favorite).

Observations: He let the ball rest on his back, but was not relaxed about it. He had a pretty extreme reaction to the ball touching his back legs so we spent a lot of time with that and ended on a good note. He enjoys pushing the ball with his nose to earn treats. His left side was more sensitive than his right side. He is starting to cave in towards me when targeting, so I need to be careful what I reward. Also I need to be more aware of my treat delivery.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Oak Training Log April 9 2016

Location: Round pen
Duration: ~ 20 minutes
Activities: Working on Oak's nervousness with the mounting block and people standing next to him. Experimented with leaning on him and jumping around him from the ground and on the mounting block. Practiced the beginnings of one rein stop by asking him to give laterally on both sides while standing still.

Observations: Hard to feel like it is a good idea to hop on a horse who is standing stiff holding his breath every time you stand near his side or on a mounting block.  I wish I knew whether he has any training under saddle (baggage) or if he is just nervous because its new. Either way I am happy to go slow. He seemed pretty relaxed near the end. His better side was mane today.

Practicing lateral flexion on the mounting block is hard because if he moves you have to hop off and follow so you release when he stops. I wonder if me getting off the mounting block is reinforcing on its own though.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ground driving Oak

Are you sure you are doing it right?

Oak is an eight year old Haflinger gelding. He was saved from slaughter only to be put up for sale again because he was proving to be a troubled pony who would probably never be kid safe. I have had him since mid February. I have no idea what his training history is and he is very distrustful of humans, so I have gone back to the very beginning with him. I will eventually update his page "Rowan Oak" with his story.

We are doing some ground driving because his last owner did a few sessions with him already. I think it is a great activity to do with a nervous horse like Oak. It helps him get used to movement and pressure on his flanks and behind him. I don't feel like I am good enough at it to really use it as a training tool to teach aids though. I feel like a klutz.


Oak Training Log

Location: Arena

Duration: ~ 30 minutes

Activities:Brief lunging session, sacking out with the ground driving reins, and then ground driving. We practiced steering and transitions from walk to trot.

Comments: Our second ground driving session was much better than our first. He was not reactive at all to the reins, and was very calm despite the high winds. Our steering was better -- less drunk, but still lacking finesse. I wish I had more experience with driving because it is like the blind leading the blind.

Sleepy pony

Monday, April 4, 2016

Oak Training Log April 4 2016

Location: Round pen
Duration: ~ 30 minutes
Activities: I was out of town for the week so we reviewed things he already knows well:
Standing for grooming,
understanding noise (movement from me, ropes, whips) versus pressure/cues from me,
moving his hips and shoulders,
trotting on a long line,stopping and changing direction, and backing up.

Observations: He ate grass through the first part of our desensitization and I let him because he has been so nervous previously. Once I began asking him to move he was very responsive, but was anticipating what I wanted. We worked on slowing it down and listening first. A little sticky on his mane side which tends to be his tough side. I then went back to desensitization and he had a harder time discerning when my energy was on versus off, so we worked on that until he was settled. I then worked on giving to lateral halter pressure. Again his mane side was his stiffer side.

Super happy that he had a week off, but he seemed settled and eager to work. He seemed to want to show me he remembered everything.