Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I went for it

I went ahead and bought the saddle. it is a big ole' western trainer with a deep suede seat. I am hoping it will help with my confidence and nerves for starting these horses. Even if the benefit is all in my head that is half the battle right there!

I am also glad I made the purchase because Oak was really uncertain about the saddle when I tried it on. It definitely revealed he needs more work on things on his back because just dropping the stirrups made him jump. I am worried it is too big on him because the back of the saddle bounces when he trots. Maybe I need a back cinch? I am so ignorant to western tack! I have a lesson coming up on Sunday and Monday where I am trailering out to my friend's house with both boys so I will ask people there.

We also said goodbye to the free lease this week. Finally. I may write about the experience some day but for now I am glad it is over and she is at a really wonderful boarding barn at the expense of her owner. As it should be. After that experience I will take my dubious craigslsit purchases over well trained, well bred, free leases from friends of friends any day.

Oak Training Log

Location: roundpen
Duration: 40 mins
Activity: Desensitization to western saddle
Observations: Fine with girth pressure and bouncing. Nervous about the bulk of it on his back and the stirrups falling against his side. He held it together though and showed improvement!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

To Sell or Not to Sell

About one year ago I came to the realization that my beloved dressage saddle was too narrow for Bodhi. I started saddle shopping and ended up buying a used Duett Sonata. I had been wanting a Duett since I had found out about them when first researching saddles that work with Haflingers. I found one a friend was selling for a great price and went for it. I got it re-flocked to fit Bodhi well and I picked the all purpose because I was boarding at an eventing barn at the time and was doing a little bit of everything. I probably rode in it all of three times before Bodhi got sick.

Jump forward to a year later. Bodhi is gone, and I have two un-broke horses.  I have put it on Oak and I am not quite sure it fits, I will need to get a saddle fitter out. I am also not so sure it is the saddle I want to start him in. Am I being weanie for thinking I need to get a western trainer to start this pony?

My first ride on Bodhi. You can tell it was really harrowing... ;)

I started Bodhi in a close contact jumping saddle with no issues but I was a different rider and he was a different horse. I am not even sure what discipline I want to do with Oak. We may want to even stick with western if he turns out be more of a trail horse. I would also be interested in obstacles and western dressage. My dream for Grayson is to do some jumping and dressage but I don't plan to back him for at least another year. This saddle may work for Grayson but we won't know until he finishes growing.

So my questions to you all:

  1. Am I being a weanie for wanting a western trainer saddle to back Oak?
  2. Would you hold on to a saddle that you may never use again... just because it is your dream saddle or would you sell it buy more relevant tack for the horses you have now?

Oak Training Log

Location: Pasture
Duration: 30 mins
Activities: Ground Driving 
Observations: MUCH better at steering today! still a little drunk but no pool towards the "barn" at all. Took him all over the big pasture through the woods and by the road and he was a rock star. He just keeps impressing me!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oak has Liberty Work Potential

On Tuesday I did not really feel like working him, so I just went out and played with having him "catch me" in the pasture. He came right up so I decided to ask him to do a few things at liberty. I figured the worst thing that could happen is that he leaves and then I get to play the catching game again. Miraculously he stayed! 

I was so excited about this because when I got Oak in February I figured he would never be a liberty horse like Bodhi. He is so aloof and does not have the natural interest in people or the playful nature that Bodhi did. We still have a long way to go to get to where Bodhi was, but it is beyond exciting to learn that he has potential. I really love playing with horses at liberty, so it makes me really happy to see that I am building that connection with Oak too.

I wanted to document the beginnings of our liberty work so I asked Chris to come out and film a few short videos. He is pretty far away but you can see that we are in a 3 acre pasture and that he is making the choice to interact with me. This is our front pasture that is about to be rested and re-seeded, so it helps that there is not a lot of grass right now. I bet this would not have happened in one of our more lush pastures!

The video above shows me going out into the pasture and asking him to "catch me". This so happened to be the strongest response from him I have gotten yet! He actually trotted towards me! Huge for him.


These two videos show the beginnings of lunging at liberty. I see a lot that needs to be worked on mostly having to do with me. I am not sure why I am clucking up a storm! I need to be more quiet with my mouth and body. I think I am worse than usual in the video because I was filled with nervous excitement.  We had a few discussions about changing direction (to his weaker side), so our cues are not entirely worked out yet. I am also using the whip at several points because he was traveling with his hip to the inside of the circle. He does this on the line too and it is something we need to figure out together. I am just happy he is willing to stay and interact.

Video of Bodhi jumping at liberty. He sure loved to jump. 


Oak Training Log

Location: Pasture
Duration: 20 mins total between two days
Activity: Free-lunging and catching game
Observations: I need to be quieter between cues. I am so excited though!

Monday, May 23, 2016

So Much Progress!

I have been working on a lot of different skills in the past week with Oak and Gray and they have both been awesome. Not sure what I want to write about so I think I'll just make a list:


Confidence with obstacles
Working with walking, trotting, and backing over the tarp and between barrels.

Milk jugs! He was cool with trotting around with them attached to the saddle on our first session. Did not expect that! Got the idea from this video
Back Massager. My vet actually recommended this one as a precursor to clippers. Glad I am putting in the time on this one because Oak was uber skeptical of the vibrating noise at first.

Following a feel on the lead line
Remember I was failing at getting him to trot behind me? I watched this video by Stacey Westfall and tried out her technique. It worked! He was starting to trot behind me on the first

Increasing speed at the trot on the lunge line.
This is a precursor to cantering. Haflingers (and other drafty horses) can have a hard time cantering. From previous experience it takes a lot of patience and conditioning to get it right.

Catching Game

Had success in the pasture - our largest area yet!


 We have worked on lunging (he is now trotting almost an entire rotation which is great progress) and desensitization -he is getting pretty comfortable with the massager, but is pretty unsure of those milk jugs hanging off him! We have also played the catching game. Gray has caught on quickly to this as well.

What other skills do you think are essential before moving on to riding work? I have some thinking to do on what I think our next month is going to look like. I think Oak is communicating to me he is ready to progress, but I need to decide what that looks like.

Oak Training Log

Duration: 5/15 - 30 mins, 5/16 - 30 mins, 5/19 - 30 mins, 5/21 - 15 mins, 5/22 - 20 mins

Location: Arena, pasture, roundpen

Activities: See post

Observations: See post

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oak's First Outing

 We took Oak to my friend/trainer's farm for his first outing. He loaded like a champ and got off the trailer calm and curious. After a rather tense walk through her barn (industrial fans, pig-smells, and new horses) we settled right down in her arena. We let him relax in a roundpen for about 15 minutes. He only called a few times and mostly just chowed down on grass.

Sorry Oak...
During our lesson we worked on playing a "catching game" to have him connect at liberty. We then played with her pool noodle obstacle. This is working towards my goal of taking him to an obstacle challenge in September.

The big take home for this lesson was not to nag him when he was not connected or listening -- because that just makes him want to tune out more. I also really need to work on my connection ability away from home. I find I get very distracted and disconnected during lessons. Basically I fall apart whenever someone is looking at me! I need to practice keeping my own focus. Oak did much better than I did in that regard. I think I just get more nervous now because I am out of the lesson habit. The only solution is more lessons!

After the session, we introduced Oak to my trainer's Belgian Rose and got some really cute photos. Biig draft meet wiitttle draft.


Oak's Training Log

Activities: Trailering, paying attention at liberty, desensitization to new places and objects. Listening to cues in new places.
Location: off-farm lesson
Duration: 4 hours
Observations: He did way better with the entire ordeal than I expected!

Activities: Paying attention at liberty, targeting, playing with the mounting block, treat manners
Location: roundpen
Duration: 20 minutes
Observations: He was very responsive with giving me his full attention at liberty. I started to play with targeting on the mounting block, but he got too pushy so we went back to basic food manners.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Pages!

To anyone reading out there I have started three info pages for the blog:

The origin of the name and reason for the blog

History of Oak:

Grayson's Story

Happy Friday!

Oak Training Log May 11

Location: Arena

Duration: 30 mins

Activities: Lunging, stirrup desensitization, giving to the bit.

Observations: He lost his forward during the stirrup desensitization, but that is probably a good sign. He was a pro at everything I asked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

You Frustrating, Beautiful Creature You

Started off the day putting hoof moisturizer on and not getting kicked at! A win! I know, that used to be a thing.. weird eh?

I then brought back the tarp and worked with backing over it, wearing it, and dragging it beside him as we walked. He kicked at it the first time I asked him to back over it which made me giggle. Predictable Oak. He was NOT a fan of it dragging along side him as we walked though he managed his fear well. Gave it the ole side eye. He also figured out pretty quickly that if he stepped on it, it would stop making the terrifying whoooshing noise. So we did that for a while.

Moved on to what I thought would be an easier lesson: trotting in hand. I tired everything I could think of to get him to trot including running in front and pulling and running beside him while using a whip to tap his bottom... well those are the only two things I could think of...  He balked at both. Acted like I was simply crazy.... Oh well. Recruited the husband to encourage with a whip behind and that only made him pay attention to the man with the whip... of course. Obviously we skipped a step somewhere and we need to backtrack. Or it could be like the hoof polish and that he gets magically better about it one day. Let's hope for that.

So mysterious and broody

Why do we need to trot in hand you ask? Well besides lameness exams I was thinking about how it would be fun to take him to a local show and try a halter or in hand class. I have never done anything like that before (obviously) but I thought it would be a fun short term goal to work towards. Evidently we have a lot to learn before we are ready. I missed that part of equine 101. Youtube here I come!

Oak Training Log May 10

Location: Arena

Duration: 60 mins

Activities: Confidence with tarp. Backing over it, wearing it and walking with it dragging beside him. Trotting in hand.

Observations: He was pretty reactive to the tarp dragging beside him and trying to get him to trot in hand was a whole lotta nope.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Playing with the Monster

I know, I am pretty cute...

Back in February, a few weeks after losing Bodhi, I tried to lunge Grayson and he had a meltdown. I was not in the right mind frame, I pushed him too hard, and we were out in our pasture instead of an enclosed space (stupid). Since then, I have been slowly building back his confidence with circling around me at the walk on a line. I never leave him out on the circle for more than a few steps before asking for a halt or change of direction. Today, for the first time since that day I asked for a trot. We were in a roundpen and I rewarded his tries (instead of pushing him) and I got a few strides of trot. Good enough for my coming two year old.

Grayson could not be more different than Oak. He is very confident, naturally pushy, and playful ( read: full of himself). The two things that work best for him are positive reinforcement (clicker training) and staying really interesting. What I mean by staying interesting is I change things up quite a bit and never drill him on one task. He has an amazing memory and can be very fun to work with. He is also very mischievous and stubborn, and loves to be a bother to horses and humans alike. With Grayson it is always a game -- it's just better if it is a game you made up.

I have made a page dedicated to Grayson's story. I got him as a skinny, feral colt, and it is already so neat to see how much he has grown and filled out.


Oak Training Log May 8

Location: Roundpen

Duration: 60 mins

Activities: Confidence with the ball and wearing tack. Giving to the bit, free lunging, and targeting.

Observations: We did some targeting with me on the mounting block which I think really helped Also some saddle desensitization on the mounting block which he was very reactive to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Right Lesson at the Right Time

I was talking to a horse trainer friend of mine about my preparations for getting Oak ready to back when she asked "have you worked on movement when he is moving? Like moving the stirrup with a rope while you lunge him?" I had not done anything like that, and thought why not? I am always happy to add more steps to the backing process if it means I can avoid a bruised petunia later on.

So today, I tacked him up with a bridle and saddle for the first time in about a month and he did not bat an eye. I started with our normal routine of lunging in the arena as a warm up. He was pretty bratty. Actually reminded me of a haflinger for the first time since I got him. Kept trying to steal bites of grass and then getting huffy when I insisted he get to work. A little pushy and back to his habit of anticipating what I want instead of listening. I am starting to sense this is what he is like when he is bored.

SO I made it more interesting. I attached a second line to a stirrup and asked him to circle at the trot again. I got a few jumps and snorts as I began to flap the stirrup around and a big buck and scuttle across the arena when I managed to flip the stirrup over the saddle. After the interruption of bucking, I got him back on a nice circle and started flapping again. This time he was a little less reactive. When I managed to flip the stirrup over the saddle again, he stopped and faced me which I rewarded. I was so excited to see him do what I had taught him to do when he encountered a scary object during our ball/tarp work. Yay generalization!

For the next 15 minutes things just got better with less and less reactions as I slapped the stirrup around on both sides. We quit when I flipped the stirrup over again on the other rein and he did not react at all. We ended the session by practicing giving to the bit on both sides. He seemed very thoughtful.

Judging by his attitude in the beginning, I am really happy I stepped up the training today. He obviously needed a reminder that I am a pretty interesting person, and it felt good to test out his behavior when the adrenaline starts flowing.  Despite some obvious initial nervousness, he never became inconsolably upset, uncontrollable, or over reactive. Great news for the times ahead because horse training is hardly ever a completely tranquil process. Glad I have a pony with a good head on his shoulder for the bumpy road ahead.

 Oak Training Log May 4

Location: Arena

Duration: 40 mins

Activities: Confidence with stirrups flapping while moving. Giving to the bit.

Observations: Some fireworks, but huge progress within the session. Very soft in his gives to the bit.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Sweet Spot

She makes it look easy...
I watched Karen Rohlf's video on finding the sweet spot on line today at lunch and thought "hey maybe Oak and I are ready for some refinement in our on line work. I should see if I can get him to "find his sweet spot"."

The bad news: I am not sure we found any spot really. Definitely did not get any stretching down. He even fell on his face once too -- so not so balanced either.

The good news: He was very good at maintaining gate without nagging, and he was very calm and responsive. In my search for the elusive spot we also did more trotting than ever before by a long shot. Good for building stamina. He was very calm and took on the extra effort all in stride. We don't have stretching yet, but I know we will.

April Recap

We put in a total of 7 hours of work in the round pen, pasture and arena. We worked on building confidence in objects and movement on his back and behind him/near his back legs. We also worked on building a set of cues for working on the long line on a circle and while ground driving. We started working on wearing tack, giving to the bit, and bearing my weight draped across his back. Our biggest issues this month were anticipation of cues and reactiveness with his back legs.

In May we will continue to focus on our longing skills, and start building towards backing by working more on saddle/mounting block confidence. We will also continue working with the bit, but I am not sure I will use it for our first few rides. 

Oak Training Log May 2

Location: Arena

Duration: 30 mins

Activities: Playing on the line with sustaining the trot working on relaxation and rhythm.

Observations: Great progress on sustaining the trot. Not much stretching yet.