Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Peppermints Could Be Horsey Valium

Hey, I've got a question for any that have given lessons to adults and children. Have you noticed with a kid you can tell them to do something, that may be a small series of movements to accomplish one goal...and they can just do it all as one. But with adults it has to broken down into itty bitty pieces?

I've ridden pretty much since before I can remember. So a great deal of what I do I don't even think about. It seems innate. I've really had to stop and think about what I do with my body to explain how to accomplish something to people.

I had one student ask me how I could put one leg on and not the other...and not slide off the side of the horse? I was baffled. It was like, you just do it. I actually had to get on the horse and do it...and break down all the pieces of putting on your right or left leg, and what you do with your seat to maintain your position. I had no idea it could be so complicated.

Okay so my questions are (Oh I'll have more another time. lol). How do we get adult beginners to learn like kids? How do we make it less difficult? How do we make it seem less like some arcane secret knowledge to them and more innate?

In my book there are no secrets. If I know it, and you want to know it...I'll give it to you. I just have to figure out how to explain it in more varied ways. Simplify and take the apprehension and fear out of it. They are going to make mistakes. It's okay...everybody makes mistakes. Quit worrying so much about 'doing it wrong'. If you're beginning, you're probably doing it wrong, or not well. No big deal. Keep doing it. It will get right. (Okay, you need a ground person, but it will get right). You can't learn to ride from a book, or a DVD or tape. You can't learn riding in 45min to 1hr lessons once a week. (Okay, you can. But it is going to take a hella long time). It will take two years to build muscle memory alone. (If you were going to learn to play the piano and you took one hour lesson a week, didn't have a piano to practice on at long is it going to take you to learn to play the piano?)

OH...and who came up with the term half-halt? How confusing is that? Re-balance your horse makes more sense to me. Stronger or steadier contact, legs on (sometimes? Hey there are 50,000 reasons to apply a half halt, and 50,000 different ways to apply it...yeah explain that to the woman that has read every dressage book ever written, and hasn't ridden a single forward stride in her life) feel the give, or the softening and go on. Oh...and it really is in the release, not in the take. (I'll rant about the lack of independent seats another time.)

Okay, can you tell I rode and gave lessons today and feeling like I'm pounding my head into a wall?

OH and get this...I think I need to pack a whip on Top. WTF? A tad to relaxed...I was kicking him to keep him forward (forward hell, going) in the trot. HOLYCRAP...peppermints are very powerful things.

I told Norma about it this evening. She laughed at me. She doesn't think it's the peppermints...she thinks he just turned the corner. (I think it is the peppermints, and they helped him turn the corner).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Yeah, I've been delinquent. Going to try and do a little catch up here.

Top is doing much better. The peppermint horse treats are a miracle. I will be riding him again tomorrow afternoon. Now I'm starting to back off on the treats. He is a tad pushy about the treats now, so he is now learning patience.

There was a Shagya inspection here on Monday. I helped Elaine get her horses bathed and ready, along with two of my students. My favorite of course scored the highest, worried that he price is now going up. Glad I have good taste, kind of bummed she is no longer under the radar. I guess she is high scoring filly in the nation. (Great. Just great). She scored 8.2. With a 9 for her canter. They went and evaluated her dam KB Salim Fahim (Sally). She scored 8. I guess she is now approved for Shagya, like her full brother Omega Fahim. And of course Sally is my favorite mare, has been for a long time. I believe she is 20 now. Elaine isn't planning to breed her anymore. So, Sequoia and Sitka are the last.

I was contacted by a very nice woman regarding Top. She is looking for a horse. I'm not sure Top is the right horse for her situation. She would like a horse that can be 3rd Level this Spring. Top is probably a Training, or 1st level horse at the moment. I'm not sure he can move that far, that fast. He would also have to be shipped to Texas. From past posts, many of you know how well Top hauls. He's 13 years old now. Not the most solid horse I know. I don't think pushing up through the levels quickly would work out real well. Conditioning alone is going to take some time.

She came out with her husband and son. All very nice. The son is living here in Humboldt and she was out to visit. I told her if she hadn't found a horse, in six months Top would be a far different horse, and she should give me a call. She owns a boarding stables outside of Dallas, and gives lessons. Looking at her website the place is beautiful. She used to live in Europe, and rode and trained there. So, it looked like a great home for him, in theory. Not sure if Top would rise to the occasion. It would be awful to send him halfway across the company and it not work out. Unhappy buyer, unhappy horse. Certainly not a win/win situation.

Hey, it isn't like I couldn't use the money. Damn conscience. lol
The mare in the picture is Sally.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Treats! Who Knew?

I rode Top yesterday. Got him out of his pen, he seemed pretty quiet. Once we were to my tack area he was starting to build. I'd purchased a bag of peppermint horse treats earlier in the day.

I tied him up and started to brush him. He was fidgety. I went over and opened the bag of treats and stuffed some in my front pocket. When he started to fidget again I said his name and pet him. When he looked at me with any kind of focus I gave him a treat. Oh my goodness. We can stand quiet to get tacked up.

I led him down to the arena. He hesitated going in. I stopped, pet him and told him to quit being such a chicken and turned and walked into the arena...he followed. As soon as we got into the arena he noticed the BMX racers on the track flying through the air across the field. Now he is on hyper alert. Very tall, very rigid and staring hard at the BMX-ers. Great, Top has left the building.

I pull his head toward me. Brief eye contact and his head springs back up and over toward the BMX track. I pull a treat out of my pocket. No response. He is locked on to the track. I say his name, and pull his head toward me again...he is resisting looking toward me. I wave the treat under his nose. He follows the treat toward me and stretching down. I made him wait a moment quiet and then gave him the treat. OMG....he is cured. I have focus on me. (okay, I know, I have focus on the treats in my possession).

I hook the lunge line to his bit and start lunging him. Now, Top very often goes on 'auto-pilot' when lunging. He checks out, and just goes through the motions of lunging. When you say, "Whoa" you often get no response. You have to go bigger, and step forward, pull on the lunge and say it more firmly with a tug, then he trundles to a halt and looks at you vaguely.

He's trotting along on the lunge. I keep redirecting his nose to the inside of the circle. He is not present. I ask him to halt. No response. So, I make him halt. I drop the line and the whip, walk toward him telling him he's a good boy, and give him a treat. I walk back to my whip and the end of the line and ask him to go again. Have him trotting along and ask him to whoa. He keeps trucking along. I ask again, give a little wiggle to the line and he halts. I walk back out to him, telling him what a good boy he is and pet him, and give him a treat. We start again. He's trotting along, keeping his nose more in the arena than gazing out. I say, "Whoa." Top my have a future as the worlds largest reiner. He buried his butt and halted. I walked out, and gave him treat.

We made a couple more circles both directions and I led him over to the fence to get on. I get on, and my stirrups are way too short. (HMMM...interesting). So I have a student stand in front of him while I adjust them. (Oh yeah, he'll a heartbeat). I get adjusted. Stand up to see if I'm where I want to be, grab a treat out of my pocket. I pull his head to the left and hand him a treat. I ask him to move and he walks off quiet, no tension in his back. Seriously, none. He's never been this soft, even at Carrie's. So we walk around, trot around doing random patterns, he's actually hearing just my seat and legs, my hands don't even move and we are doing figure eights, leg yields. He is on. He got a little tense when another horse showed up. I halted, stood in my stirrups grabbed a treat out of my pocket. He lifts his head and nickers at me. Good lord. He is on this new program quick.

To my watching student I say, "Man, he caught on to this really quickly." She says, "We're talking about Top here. He didn't learn it quick, this has been done before." Uhm, yeah. Probably. I'll bet she's right. It would explain his inability to stand at the halt when I first started riding. He was looking for his treat. Who knows for sure. I'll just have to mix it up, so it isn't automatic. Can you see him in a dressage test...'halt at X'...and his head pops up and he nickers for his treat? How many points would that cost? lol

So, while I have issues with this method it is working. I will do it for awhile, or sporadically. I don't want it to become 'Pavlov's Dog'. This is a leg up for him...not the fix for his issue. It is a step in the right direction for sure.

Thank you Kestrel.

And yes I know, I'm collapsing my right side in the picture. (CRAP, I hate when I ride poorly).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Okay So I'm not Completely Nuts

One of my ex-students came out to try Top. She was thinking of taking him for the winter. She's a good rider. Rides probably 5 days a week on many different horses. She works for a dressage/training facility. So, she's not a chicken, or looking for issues. I told her most of what I'd experienced with Top.

I have her go get him, and tack him up. Figured she should handle him from beginning to end. I wanted to see if she was comfortable with him, and he was comfortable with her. Everything went well. She laughed at 'how small' he is. lol Top is an honest 16.1 to 16.1 and a half. Little in her world now. I told her he was about as big as I was willing to go anymore. It's not the size while riding so much as the on and off. lol I climb on the fence to get on Top. I can mount from the ground, but I read something about that being hard on them. So, I try to mount none of them from the ground anymore. I'm getting used to is harder for me to get on from the fence or mounting block. 40 years of getting on from the ground builds some muscle memory and habits.

She lunged him, and he was really quiet. He did have shots the day before. She did note that his quietness wasn't 'real'. She was watching him close. She was trying to figure out what it was...I told her, "He's holding through his back, don't believe his quietness now." She laughed again, "Oh, I'm not. We're going to go around a few more times and see that go away before I get on."

She gets on. Hates my new saddle. It pushes you toward a chair seat...I thought so too, but so many people kept saying, "No, it looks good. You look much better in this saddle." I don't like it. It doesn't give a hugely secure feeling if things get 'western'. It also may be that it is new to me. I'll keep riding it and see.

So, she's riding Top around. He looks good. He looks calm. I figure, 'okay, it's me. I'm creating monsters where none exist.' About the moment this is running through my head she says, "I get what you mean about the timebomb feeling." Kind of a double edged sword there. Glad that I'm not nuts, but bummed that he is such a mess. Now, something I never mentioned to her, or anybody else is he does this funky thing with his neck. It is kind of behind the vertical, but not. It is an empty feeling with no contact or control. It is like he isn't there. She pipes up, "I can't deal with the weird neck thing. I feel like I've got nothing...that if he does something there is nothing I can do." Uhhhmmm YUP.

So, she rode for awhile. I then got on. He was actually having a pretty good day. I didn't have any moments of 'oh man, what's he going to do'. He went along really well for Top. We weren't riding in drawreins.

The deal is, I have 30 to 60 days to get him lined out. She doesn't feel she is equipped to deal with his issues at this time. (So, the old fat woman is up) So he needs to be going forward between my elbows and knees, staying in his 'box' and respecting boundaries without checking out...and not feeling like a timebomb. lol If I can do this, he'll have a great winter with her south of here. Getting ridden through the winter, taken out on trails, and she may ride him in her lessons. He'll be in a dressage barn, where things are quiet and sane. I am concerned about trying to keep him in town this winter. With the woman that antagonizes him, I'm not sure he can go in his stall. He panics in there now. Which is a real bummer. He loved his stall...his little secure happy place. (Hoping for Karma on this one in regards to this 'trainer'). So, I have to have him going decently before the rains come.

I'll be riding him today.