Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I love this guy!

So aside from the fact that he's handsome, athletic, perfectly spotted and is an ideal 15.1 hands, he is just a good horse! He's my ideal temperament: fresh, forward moving, but SENSIBLE.

I hate lazy horses, HATE having to squeeze as hard as my legs can squeeze in order to get some them to even noticably move their shoulder or hip, or to maintain their gait, not because they don't understand, but because they just don't want to make an effort. I prefer the "too quick" horse, the nervous horse that other people don't want to ride, I love bottling up that energy and making it useful. The problem with these horses is that they are often over reactive about anything and everything.

What I've got is the best of both worlds. Bear is a forward mover and takes huge strides. He naturally steps under himself, and always moves when asked. Out in pasture he gallops around, slides to a stop, athletically rolls back, does flying changes, and can buck his heels higher than the horse trailer! But in hand he's a gentleman, and very calmly accepts new things.

I'm reminded of how great he is this week because I got on him for the first time Tuesday night. He simply couldn't care less! He didn't even give me a dirty look. We did keep things really simple though. I got on him and was ponied from a well broke horse, in a controled environment where he's used to being worked. We did walk and trot and he was a star! I had someone video the whole thing, but it was so dark in the indoor arena that it barely showed up. So its really not worth posting, plus it was just so darn boring! He didn't take a single step out of place.

I'm hoping to video the second ride, this weekend in the round pen at home (stay away rain!). Things will be quite a bit different outside with distractions, so it should be at least a little more entertaining.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Almost ready for the first ride...

The all knowing eye...

Tuesday: 10/14: Line driving for the first time. He did great!

Friday 10/17: Driving on long lines for the second time, he did worse than the first time! Part of this is that it was in the pasture instead of the arena. Its still an enclosed area, and pretty safe, but he's thinking about lunch afterwards and where his mare is, instead of having a covered arena on a Tuesday night when accustomed to be learning and working. Part of it was that I was asking for a whole lot more, and he was showing a little frustration.

Saturday 10/18: More line driving, for a very little amount of time.

Sunday 10/19: Better line driving, still clueless about going straight, and still a little sticky backing.

Monday 10/20: Totally neglected, I worked late and didn't even go out to see the guy.

Tuesday 10/21: Snubbed at class for the first time so this was with a new horse, but he did fine. So that's the last step before I get on him and have someone pony be around next Tuesday!

Wednesday: Neglected again...

Thursday 10/23: So he is line driving reasonably well; walk and trot, through cones, over logs, between poles, whoa and back. So he's at least got some steering, but we're still working on fine tuning it. He's a little extreme still; he tends to turn a full 90 degrees every time he's asked, or he gets stuck and stubborn and stands there pulling against the rein for 30 seconds. So weaving through the cones is helping him understand subtle movements. When we started today he was still very antsy about the whoa, we would walk in place and pull against the bit, then start backing up. By the end he had really gotten the idea. I had to stop him and walked up to him to give him a pat a couple of times before he got the hint that just standing there was exactly what I wanted. My round pen is currently a large square pen on totally uneven ground, so the goal this weekend is to get it set up so that I'll have a safe place to do the next couple of rides after I get on him Tuesday. It won't be perfectly level or good round pen footing yet, but at least it will be a small enclosed space free of trees! I've got my work cut out for me!

Friday 10/24: Still more line driving. Much better on whoa and stand quietly. Starting to transition between trot and walk really well, but steering is pretty wonky at the trot!

Training so far...

Standing patiently at the trailer for his turn at Tuesday night class. Lots of practice being tied to a trailer!

So I guess if this is meant to be my training log, I should bring it up to date, then go from there. Now luckily Bear comes with a great foundation. He had already learned many of the important lessons he needed to learn as a yearling and young two year old before I bought him. When horses can learn to tie, lead, and lunge before they turn into tanks, it makes it easier for them to calmly process the new (and potentially more dangerous) steps we ask them to learn when starting their official "colt breaking" process. I've only had him for a whole month and a half, so I can't take all the credit here. He already knew a whole lot of this, plus he is utterly nonchalant about most things, so it makes even the new stuff seem really easy! At the grand old age of 2.5 years, here's what he knows:

Lead: This means he stops when I stop or say whoa, and then he stands there! No matter what, he's expected to leave his feet in that same place. He's also expected to stop with his feet square, or move them to square up when asked. This is an on going training, and by the time I get on he should be able to perfectly execute a back, turn on haunches, turn on forehand, sidepass in hand, so that when I get on he's only learning a new cue for an old movement, and not having to totally learn what is expected and how to make his body do that. I also fully plan on returning to this to teach shoulder in, and haunches in from the ground before we get there with his dressage training.

Tie: for hours at a time without pulling, pawing, or dancing about.

Hobble: This was a new one for me being an english rider, but I'm totally sold now! I think its so important to teach early, and has so many uses later in life.

Saddle and bridle: As I said he already knew this before I got him, so by now he can have a western saddle thrown up on him with girths and stirrups flapping and I get no reaction. Also its important that he's had a rear cinch on so that God-forbid-I-ever-sell, his first experience with that isn't with some with some poor unsuspecting 4H-er. (Although, like usual, he couldn't care less.)

Lunge: Walk, trot, canter, whoa, with a saddle, bridle, and side reins. Learning to maintain a nice forward gait while on the bit. Also helping him build some muscle on his top-line before expecting him to tote somebody around. Lunging doesn't mean being chased around at top speed while half falling inward for an hour straight. It does mean learning to respond to what I'm asking from 20 feet away despite distractions, collecting and extending his gaits, and learning to carry himself around corners.

Pony or snub off another horse: this has worked great since he LOVES my mare and would follow her to the ends of the earth! He's done this at walk and trot, all across the pasture, up hills, over poles and logs, out in the high brush and gullies of the "back 40" (which is really only 2 acres... but it works great for pretend trail rides!).

Bitting up: Learning to give to the pressure on the bit and bend through his whole body while his rein is tied to his tail. (We had to get really creative on this one because he literally has no tail!) By doing this they learn that by pulling they only pull themselves, not the trainer, and that they can still move while bending. From there he learned to turn by reins in hand, which brings us to...

Line driving: the "training way" with long lines through the stirrups, not with a full driving harness on. He's learned steering, stop and back before having the extra mental and emotional drama of a rider (who has her own mental and emotional drama!).

General obedience: trailering, having a fly mask and blanket put on by anyone and everyone, not running me down and stealing his dinner while I walk it to his feed tub, not biting, bumping, stepping on, or otherwise entering my space without being invited while being groomed, bathed, or clipped. That's where we are so far, and I guess from here on out the exciting stuff starts to happen! I wish I could get pictures of it, but we're mainly working in the indoor arena and you get that snow effect where the flash pics up every single dust particle! I'll have to try a photoshoot on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

The adventure begins...

So August 24th, 2008 I officially bought my own horse! Don't get me wrong I've owned and ridden horses all my life. Like many families, my childhood horses were passed down from my sister or mother as I advanced. Then as a college student I began riding at barns as a working student where I rode whatever lesson horse that was available, and earning my keep working with the youngsters, in-for-training horses, and any and every resale horse. So this is the first horse that I've officially paid for myself, and will also have to foot all the bills for myself. These are the first registration papers with my name on them. Most importantly, this will be the first horse that I will have the responsibility of training all the way through, which is a huge responsibility! But more on that later... Now a little bit about him. His barn name is Bear. He's a two and a half year old gelding. He's out of an appy racing mare who had thoroughbred confirmation but a lovely leopard spotted coat. She has Native Dancer bloodlines, and has been successfully started a new career as an English pleasure mount and broodmare. His sire was breed to be an Appaloosa sport horse, and has had a great start in dressage. He has wonderful foreward movement and a good disposition (BONUS!). He is a great grandson of Secretariat! Both have strong thoroughbred lines, and appy color, and Bear seems to be just exactly what he was bred to be: Tall Dark and Spotty! He is a handsome guy, and although he doesn't have perfect conformation, he is wonderfully athletic, and has such a confident and laid-back personality that I think he could still make a lower level eventer. He naturally does flying lead changes in the pasture, and has great big long strides. And although its not a requirement to success, its so much more fun to have a friendly horse that comes up to you in the pasture for scratches and love. We're off to a good start! Stay tuned for his training progress.