Friday, November 21, 2008

Hunter -- General

Now that I learned the kids are reading this blog, I must put in a forgotten activity. Nephew Jessie occasionally has been mounting Hunter by this means: He holds the mane and swings up the leg letting momentum carry him onto the horse's back. What do you call that anyway? Jessie will eventually be a trick rider, I am sure, the athletic rascal. Nice rescue lady predicts that Lacy and Hunter will be trick riders in a few years. So, why not teach Hunter to do it? God knows I will never EVER be a trick rider and train it to a horse. Anyway, Hunter was surprised at first, but as usual, took it in stride later. We are not going to do a lot of this, just enough to make sure that Hunter is not shocked in his future. We also plan to do other things such as emergency dismounts and offside mounting, but I am sure nothing will ever faze him, really.

-- Anastasia

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hunter -- 11/16/08

Hunter rode on his 2nd real trail ride again today. I rode Evil Keisha down the road a half mile to join my brother's kids. Kayla rode Mandy, who until I got there refused to take a bit into her mouth. Good! The kids still need me. Because I secretly need them but don't anyone tell them or they will get swell headed. Hunter, as usual, was fascinated by the goings on and was ready for whatever we were going to do.

So off we went. Me on Evil K, the most experienced trail horse I have right now, Kayla on Mandolin, and Jessie on Hunter wearing my English saddle and a halter with dog leashes attached for reins. Now before you knock dog leashes, know this: Hunter does not like the bit at all, but I want him ready for steering/stopping sooner than later for Lacy's sake. He responds well enough with the pressure on his halter to get saddle experience. Dog leashes are nylon, cheap and have snaps on the ends convenient to hook into the halter. Still, I better get him more conditioned to the bit.

We did a warm up by walking for a while up the trail. Then we trotted. Hunter is getting the hang of this trotting on command by watching the lead horse and then responding to the rider cues, but I am not sure he would do it all alone just yet. Have to try it soon. Today Hunter would not take the lead, but willingly followed anybody. When I took the rear I had the chance to observe. I am not feeling that Hunter is as smooth as I first thought, but Jessie says he is. However, our two boys were more than willing to trot with each other happily. Then I lead and cantered. Mandy broke into what I like to call the quarter horse shuffle. She looked classic. It seems like she has been trained to the show ring. Neato. Hunter cantered, too, easily. He seems effortless in this. He looks very collected and his legs are nicely under him. How do I know? I had to turn around and watch while I was cantering. I prefer not to, but Keisha has so improved this year that she was able to do it. HHH, I made this effort for you! It will be one of the few overtly altruistic acts you will observe from me. But back to Hunter. He went at his various gaits and barely broke a sweat. It was maybe 2 to 4 miles we went. Hard to tell out on the trails. Other than not wanting to take the lead, he was darling. Jessie keeps practicing on steering and whoaing and going with him and the boys had themselves a ball. How do I know? They both were grinning ....yah, both. I swear Hunter smiles.

Hunter -- General

I am behind on posts- it is a tough time of year for me workwise. So I am going to glom together some things Hunter has been doing.

He has been ridden by my friend Ann's 2 grade school kids - well, led about really by volunteer Jamie. Although he is always interested in kids riding, this is nothing to him anymore. I am lucky to have so many kids around to do this with Hunter. He will be the best babysitter pony ever.

Tori, my friend Jess' fearless 11 year old rode him - really rode him - in our field. She was bareback with a halter and rigged reins. We worked on whoa and go and steering. I would get Hunter stopped and she would hold him there. Then I would walk off some distance - like 20 yards -while she kept him still. On command she would get him to ride to me and stop. We also played a game where they had to follow in my footsteps as I jogged (OMG did I really jog at my age?) about the field. This fierce little girl was determined to make that pony work with a capitol W. It was neat. It was like they were both learning some hard subject in school, but getting great satisfaction in the mastery of it.

Hunter has been quite the Hoodini and getting out a lot. It was because he is short enough to get through this one spot by walking under the top rail and over the bottom one. It was an odd spot because it was at a creek crossing and the elevations changed funnily. Well, before I figured out where the spot was and after I was exhausted from 5 times in one day of putting him back in, I finally drove the garden tractor and led him while I drove on that. It could be classified as bombproofing training. Yup, it ain't ridin', but it shore is learnin'.

Hunter also got moved down to my brother's pasture to be a companion for my niece Kayla's new horse, Lady's Mandolin, who was adopted from HHH. Niece Kasey walked him a half mile down the road while her dad followed in the truck. Kasey even jogged Hunter for a while on this adventure. First time Hunter ever jogged in hand. Wow. He is happily flirting with Mandy until he goes to his new home at Lacy's. Mandy would have been ok by herself, we think, but it is good for Hunter to get experience with changes in surroundings and companions. The grand nephews are now getting pony rides on him. I miss seeing him on a daily basis, but Kayla, Pat, Jessie and the rest of the crowd are taking great care of him.

Oh, and Jessie says I should write in this blog that Hunter is mean, and bucks, and rears and bites. I asked him why should I write that and he answered, "So no one else will want him and I can have him." Hunter and Lacy are are still on. No can do. Don't worry, Jessie-boy. The nice rescue lady is looking for your perfect forever horse.

-- Anastasia

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meghan -- 11/14/08

At this point Meghan's training is simply physical training to get some of that humongous belly off. I like horses with a little extra going into winter, but Meghan has a little too much fat. When the vet looks at her and thinks she's about ready to pop out a foal then it's too much!

So this past Friday when we took a long trail ride on the North Bend Trail I asked Anne to ride Meghan. I'm usually the only one riding the rescues when they are here on the farm so it's nice to get someone else on them as often as possible. And since Anne doesn't care one way or the other as long as she's riding someone, she's often my stand in. :)

The North Bend Trail used to be a railroad so of course there are bridges and tunnels. The three tunnels we went through were between 333 and 377 feet long and had a slight curve to them. Once you're in the middle of the tunnel it's pitch black and even the horses are unsure where the ground is in front of them. Did this stop Meghan from following Willow into the tunnel? Nope! She marched right in like a trooper and it didn't even seem to make her nervous. Same with the bridges. Anne rode her in a halter and had no trouble with trotting and cantering.

Dare I say it, but she actually looks a little lighter today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Radar - 11/12/08

Today was Radar's first real training session. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to teach him what a circle is and how to stay more than five inches away from me when on the lunge line. Radar is the same age as Hunter, but not nearly as intelligent or laid back. The main reason I was trying to teach him to lunge is because he's terrible about having his feet picked up.

Make sense?

I'm all about making the thing I want easy and the bad behavior hard. Whenever I try to pick up Radar's feet he backs away and yanks his leg out of my hand before I even get my hand to his knee. Meghan was the same way when she got here and Jewel still does the same thing. I had great success with Meghan using this method and just haven't tried it with Jewel yet.

Once Radar had the lunging thing down well enough to stay out of my personal space and do a halfway decent circle I tried picking up the inside front foot. As soon as he'd back away or yank his leg out of my hand I'd send him back out on the circle at a trot. Don't want to do as I ask? Then go back to work! I only make him trot around the circle twice before asking for a whoa and trying to pick up his foot again. It only took Meghan about five minutes to figure out that standing there and letting me handle her foot was a lot easier than trotting around in a circle. It took Radar 20 minutes. That was just for the right foot. Like I said, not the brightest bulb in the pack.

As soon as Radar let me pick up the right foot and hold it a few seconds without yanking or pulling away I put it down and let him stop for the night. Tomorrow we'll work on the left foot. The good news is that by the time he lets me pick up all four feet he'll be a pro at lunging!

Megalia -- 11/12/08

Meg's soundness issue in the left hind is only on the lunge line going to the left, which makes me believe even more that it's a mechanical lameness. I'll have Doc look at her again next time he comes out to confirm. If it is, then she should be fine for light riding duties, such as trail riding.

So instead of lunging I did some line driving with Meg. Like Tabby, she didn't care about the saddle and just gave a big sigh as I tightened up the girth. I have always loved training the old broodmares -- they're so EASY!

Meg also has a good handle on WHOA and turning with the bit. What we did today was really a big waste of time and I should have just gotten on her. Maybe tomorrow!

Tabby -- 11/12/08

Today was the first day that I had the time to work with any horses during my "vacation". I started with Tabby, who really didn't care what I did to her as long as it didn't take her away from her hay for too long. I put the synthetic western on her, which she didn't care about at all, even when I tightened up the girth as far as I could. She took the bit in her mouth like it was old hat and she was ready to be hitched to the sulky for a race.

I lunged her for about 15 minutes, both directions at the walk and trot. To my complete surprise, she actually broke into a canter when going to the right! What?? A Standardbred off the track voluntarily cantering?? Could I be so lucky? It was short lived, but there it was. I was tickled pink and almost broke into my happy dance. After lunging I put a second line on her and ran both lunge lines through the rings on the front of the saddle so I could line drive her. This was old hat for her as well, but I wanted to make sure she understood WHOA in conjunction with pulling on the bit. Yup.

Her paperwork from the other rescue said that she was not broke to ride, but I think it's going to take only one or two rides to have her at least walking and trotting well enough to have Mikayla ride her. I wanted so badly to get on her today, but was home alone. My one rule for myself is not to get on a greenie or new horse without someone else here. Bonnie is coming over for a lesson on Steel tomorrow, so I might be able to talk her into staying long enough after her lesson for me to get on Tabby.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hunter -- 11/03/08

I am discovering that the worst part about pony training is not being able to ride him. If only I could get on Hunter and polish him up. But I am too big. Even if I lost weight, I would always be too big to break ponies. The down side is that you don't always have a kid that is well trained enough to persuade the pony to do what is necessary.

Take tonight: Hunter got to play with Emilee and Mikayla. We were riding through our pasture (stallion removed of course) on a mini trail ride. Hunter was fine to go with Emilee, but anytime he was unsure of what to do he stopped and stood. Overall, a great trait for a kid's horse, but a bit frustrating for Emilee. She does not have the experience to urge him effectively. Several mini disasters later, I ended up leading Hunter having surrendered my horse, Keisha, to Mikayla who in turn surrendered Old Joe to Emilee. Not that Hunter was bad at all....just a little confused at times.

The thing to focus on here is that a less secure horse may have bolted, bucked, turned around to slog toward safety, etc. Hunter just quietly and alertly stood while he tried to work out what was supposed to be happening. He just needs more wet saddle blankets.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hunter -- 11/02/08

He did it! Hunter went on a trail ride without being ponied. And he thought it was the coolest thing, ever. If a horse could giggle, he giggled the entire time.

Jessie, my nephew, rode him. Jessie weighs 113 soaking wet. If there are any readers that are following this, I have a 27 nephews and nieces, and 14 great nieces and nephews. As soon as a kid starts to weigh too much for riding a pony, my family will output another kid. Anyhoo, Jessie was looking forward to this, as he hadn't ridden for over a year. The delay was due to 4 wheelers, bad grades, football, video games and girls. But he's back and wants a horse of his own. And willing to prove to his dad that he will make riding a higher priority than video games. We'll see.

I rode my good old bad-tempered mare, Keisha, since she and I do very well together and I wanted to be maneuverable if it proved necessary. It did not, at least with Hunter. Kasey, my fairly well-trained niece, rode my new boy, Joma. Her boyfriend, Andy, rode good old Appy Joe. Off we went without a hitch into the woods and fields.

Hunter was great. He acted like a seasoned horse. He outperformed Joma, who was sure there were piranhas in a puddle and had to be ponied by Keisha for a spell. Hunter did not care who he followed, who was in front, who was in back and actually passed Keisha in the lead a couple of times. He stopped when asked, waited quietly when asked and - get this- trotted and cantered when asked!

I wasn't sure how the ride would go, but after I saw how well Hunter was doing, I coached Jessie on how to cue him and we trotted. Jessie reports that he is as smooth as Joe. Believe me, Joe is smooth. After a while, we had a nice, long, easy, uphill slope and decided to ask Hunter to canter. This made me anxious, as I feared Hunter may buck in a romping kind of way. Nope. He acted like an old hand and Jessie said he was just as smooth as Joe on this, as well. Jessie also used the reins to guide him back and forth, left and right, on the wide trail to reinforce Hunter's earlier lessons. Oooo I wish I was not fat so I could ride him, too!

We rode for about 45 minutes or an hour. Mostly easy walking. Lots of stopping to wait on the slow guy, ex-racehorse Joma. Then back home where Hunter again acted like a pro while we pulled up to my front yard where we untacked. Funny thing - it was the first time I have ever seen my little man sweat. He wasn't tired, though. He was a living doll and Jessie is SO disappointed that Lacy has adopted him. Lacy, if you change your mind, I know my niece and nephew want him very very very much! But we know you would never let a dream horse like this slip through your hands.

-- Anastasia

Hunter -- 11/01/08 #1

I think Hunter is part Wookie. When I bitted him up today he made a lot more of those bizarre noises. He is just protesting the bit, but he was not so bad this time.

Today he got the surcingle on and I did what I call line driving. For anyone who is reading this and learning it works like this. You essentially are behind the horse like you are pulling a plow, but there is no plow. You walk behind the horse and use the reins and your voice to control them. This will get the horse used to following commands when he cannot see when you are riding him! Hunter did his best to get me where he could see me, but I kept darting around behind him to be square with his rear. I had the lunge whip with me,but that turned out to be largely unnecessary. Mostly I ended up using it to flip the lines back over him when he kept twirling to get me into his sight.

After he got this business of me behind him where he couldn't see me figured out, we went to go and whoa. Too easy. He had that figured out a good while back. Then we started steering. He had the basics of this figured out from yesterday's lesson. After only 15 min or so of this he was steering pretty well - by no means fluently, but nicely done at this stage.

Of course I stopped frequently and told him how great he was and petted him. He forgot all about how unhappy he was about the bit and stopped making Wookie noises.

-- Anastasia

Hunter -- 11/01/08 #2

Hunter has found a wide spot in the fence and has been getting out. So he got a second lesson on line driving because he made himself so handy. Actually, I probably would have done it anyway to get him ready for tomorrow's planned trail ride.

He took the bit willingly. Huh? He made no Wookie noises. Double huh? Dear reader, this little fellow figured out that the bit equals playtime.

First I should say I forgot to mention in my earlier post today that we worked on flexing the neck from the movement of the reins. When I first flexed him, he thought he should back up, but I blocked his feet moving backwards with either my leg or the whip used as a block. After flexing toward me, I reached over his back and flexed him away from me. He loved this lesson, I am sure, because it gave him more excuses for touching and petting.

We line drove all over the field: left, right, whoa, go. He had a ball. So did I. Since we both thought this was splendid fun, we did this for about 45 minutes, stopping periodically to adore him. Normally on a new horse and/or new skill I limit the time we spend so I don't sour the poor beast. But Hunter wanted to do it, so we did. When I stopped and untacked him, he wouldn't leave and followed me around. I think he wanted even more.

I have only had one other horse as easy to train as him, and I handled her from the day she was born. He has ruined me for the next horse.

-- Anastasia

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hunter -- 10/31/08

Hunter got to be ridden for the first time all alone. I used a Tom Thumb on him, which he has had in his mouth before. He doesn't much care for it, but I know with time and patience he will understand how it works. All in all, he did fine for his first solo.

Jamie, a horsey friend who is skinny, got on him and she gently urged him and guided his head with the reins. He fretted about the bit, lathering it liberally and making a ewwy green paste from the grass he had been eating. He wiped it on my white sweater sleeve. Hope it comes out! Jamie would urge him on by squeezing and clucking and if he did not respond (which was most of the time at this point) I pushed him from behind. I then switched to gently giving him a jump start by leading him with his halter, but I wanted him to catch on to the rider cue, not me. Still, he was ok for this, especially when he was so busy with the bit. We only worked with Jamie on a few minutes and once he moved on cue from her and responded to the reins a little she got off. I tell you he made some pretty weird noises during this time...noises I did not know could come out of a horse. Hunter is such a character, I am not surprised he could produce these groans, gargles, whines, etc. They were dog sounds bordering on human sounds! And no, there was nothing tight on him. I checked repeatedly. I swear he will be Mr. Ed someday and actually talk. He probably was voicing his protest about the bit because he loves people to sit on him now.

Then my niece, Kayla, who is even smaller than Veronica, got on him. Kayla announced recently she wanted to adopt a rescue horse and her dad asked me to make it happen. So she is now starting lessons in earnest. She had had some basics over a year ago, so she was not a total greenie. I took the lunge line to its limit and Kayla clucked, squeezed, then I reeled him in. That was too easy. The last time, he came on his own from the rider's cue. Time to quit. We then led him about still bitted up while he continued to fuss and make occasional audible comments about the situation. He was mollified by the petting and attention but never forgot the bit.

I'm not worried about this stage, because not once did he act angry, frightened or stubborn. He's just not a fireworks kind of guy.

-- Anastasia