Friday, September 28, 2012

One pole at a time

Things are getting colder.  And darker.  Fall has definitely settled in and the daylight is leaving sooner and sooner each day, leaving little time for outside tasks.  No worries though, I finally got the gumption to torture the donkey.

The goal of the session was to ground drive her a little, something we have only done a couple of times, and then if all went well, add a pole to drag around.  To her credit, she is being really good about everything I throw at her because I don't actually work her often at all.  Once a month is all I average in my goal to get her to pull my butt around in a cart.  Unfortunately with lack of time and then my knee recovery, I haven't had the ability to work with her at all since late July when I was showing some of her skills off.
A content donkey is content to have her head held for her

I started to get out her harness, admittedly not that big or heavy of a harness but still, and then got lazy and instead hooked up my surcingle to the App's dressage girth (which made it fit PERFECTLY!) and used it for our work.  While I have been typically bringing the halter out and driving with both the halter and bridle/bit to get her more accustomed to the bit pressure, this time I left the halter in the barn.  My long training leashes (repurposed as draw reins long ago) were repurposed again as driving lines and they fit her pretty perfectly.  We worked on walking,whoa and working towards get her a little more accustomed to the bit.  After several circles going both directions that included directional changes, we finally tried going straight.  It was the more tense part as it opens to door to a take-off, something that happens occasionally when on a circle.  Much to my surprise the donkey did great and marched on with no running away. Yay!

A crappy cell phone pic done at night is better than no pic
Lots of practice is still needed with walking and stopping on command however the donkey is halting with fairly minimal pressure on the bit.  This is a pretty big improvement over our last session where she didn't seem to understand bit pressure at all.  Her only bad habits so far is to continually flip her tongue over the bit and continually gape her mouth, grr.  She is in a plain half cheek driving snaffle, I am sure time and experience will help fix these issues.  She is still learning how to hold and handle the bit, we will give it time before getting something to keep her tongue from flipping around.

Just to give an idea of how she is going.
As the final test, I had a friend drive the donkey around while I started dragging a PVC pipe around the arena, progressing until it was behind her.  She gave quite a few "donkey shuffles" as she wasn't super keen on having this noisy thing being drug around with her but after about 5 mins she settled down.  After she settled I placed the pole on her as she walked and eventually tied the pole to her surcingle as she walked around.  Again, several "donkey shuffles" but after another 3-4 minutes she settled down and accepted that she had to drag this noisy pole around.  Success!

On that note we stopped a couple of times until she gave a pretty nice, soft halt and then disrobed her and put her back in her stall.  I got a couple of unhappy donkey looks but treats appeared to make things better and by the time I went to the house I stopped getting dirty looks.  Looking forward to getting a second pole on her and the trying to hook her up!  Someone needs to pull my butt around in a cart :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The pain of recovery

So I was happy that I had won the division of the judged trail ride two weeks ago and then I got a phone call asking me what would I like my prize to be.  I'm sorry, what?  I get a PRIZE??  Turns out I won a Professionals Choice rope halter and lead rope.  Go us!  I got it in the mail yesterday.  While I am not a huge fan of rope halters, it is super cool I won something and am torn on if to sell it because I don't really need it (already have a rope halter/lead anyway) or keep it because it has a cool story.  At least it is black and not pink or orange or something.

Last weekend was horse camp here and my students had a lot of fun.  The horses got baths, even the unhappy donkey got a bath, we played with ground work and then practiced some trail exercises.  It was my second horse camp this year and it was certainly a success.  Now I have to hurry up and get the donkey ready to pull me around in a cart so at the next horse camp we can go trail riding as a group, they can go riding and I can drive the donkey.  Poor donkey will be so unhappy.  HA!

I have been trying to ride at least twice a week and am doing a pretty good job of it.  My knee is giving me some fits, it is currently a bit swollen and pinching when I walk but isn't super painful.  I can finally ride in the dressage saddle with stirrups so I figured it was time to bump it up.  If nothing else I really need to strengthen the muscles around my knee as I still can't squat down with that leg due to lack of muscle.

Last week I rode in my jumping saddle and while I can do what I need at a walk, including standing in two-point, I couldn't do much of it in a trot.  Tuesday I rode in the jumping saddle again and after a lot of trying I was finally able to make it one lap around the arena in two point.  Success!  It was also pretty dang painful and I wasn't able to squeak out even a quarter more of a lap but I did finally get a full lap.  Once.  Once I can get a little stronger in the knee I will work on endurance and fitness and then start going over small jumps again.    Just waiting for this knee to finish healing so I can get back to really riding.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TWH and the judged trail ride

On Saturday we went on our first ever judged trail ride.  I had no idea what to expect so I had worked on generic trail exercises the Thursday before.  I rode with RB4 and after getting the TWH loaded up, I picked up RB4's new horse and off we went.  It was only a short 30 min jaunt away so there wasn't a need to get up super early or have half of a day being taken up by driving.  There were already a surprisingly large number of people there when we arrived at 10a but we found ourselves a little place by some trees, parked and got ready.

I registered without issue and my only real heart attack moment was when I realized I had forgotten a saddle pad.  OPPS!!  Thankfully I had some show pads in my trailer and I was able to use that for my ride, how silly of me to forget a saddle pad???  I suppose since I have had show pads in my trailer for a couple of years now that I had fallen out of the habit, hopefully I won't make that mistake again.

We started off and quickly came upon a group of 5 that were doing the first obstacle.  There were three poles extended off the end of a square.  You had to walk in one "tunnel" of the poles, into the square, turn around and out the other side.  As you exited the square, there were 2 poles set up, fanned out so you had to step over the two poles to get to the other "tunnel".  The horses were having a hard time and were tripping over the fanned poles, stepping on the poles that made up the square and getting all worked up.  After about 5 mins everyone had finished and I had my turn, the TWH walked in, turned around, stepped over the poles and walked out.  No biggie, he has had worse thrown at him in the steering lessons I give lol.  For his efforts he got 10 points!

Next was a gate, a clackity aluminum thing that was quite noisy.  The group of 5 let us go ahead first and while the TWH was very concerned about the noisy gate, he stood while I opened it, walked through and then sidepassed as I closed it.  10 points!  We were able to make good time to the 3rd obstacle, horseshoes, where we ended up meeting RB3.  You walked to a line, threw 3 horse shoes and demonstrated the horse would stand.  Everyone did great but I was the only one who threw a ringer.  Lol.  10 points!  The 4th obstacle fairly simple, it was a calf carry.  You walk to a sawhorse, pickup a brown, fuzzy body pillow, carry it around a circle and put it back on the sawhorse.  No spooking or dropping the pillow.  Easy 10 points.

The 5th obstacle was walking under a long pole that was at a slant against a tree, picking it up as you walk under it and set it back down when you get to the other side.  The TWH did beautifully except when he got under the tree he didn't fully listen to the half halt from my seat so my helmet tapped the pole.  I lifted the pole, walked under, put it down and walked away, unfortunately the tap gave me 9 points.  At that point RB4 and I rode away from RB3 as those two don't always get along and we had a great time gaiting the rest of the ride.  The 6th obstacle was opening a mailbox that had a flag pop up.  10 points.  The 7th was the "snake pit", where we had to walk on a tarp covered with hoses.  He didn't even act like it was there, 10 points.  The 8th obstacle was walking through a row of open umbrellas and then onto a sheet painted with black spots.  The TWH looked at the sheet pretty hard but walked on after a quick pause.  10 points.

The 9th obstacle was pretty cool, there was a knapsack tied with a long rope. The rope went over a tree branch and hung back to the ground.  You took the free end of the rope, pulled the knapsack in the air and tied the rope around another tree to simulate tying food off of the ground at night.  A lot of horses had trouble with this one and I was concerned as well, having the knapsack lift off of the ground as you walk away was spooking horses.  When it was our turn I waited until I had the very end of the rope before pulling the knapsack into the air so the TWH would be as far from the knapsack as possible and then walked him around the tie-tree and tied it off.  No spook, no looking, 10 points!

The 10th obstacle was another I was concerned with as we haven't ever practiced it, walking over a wooden "bridge".  As we approached it I just used a lot of leg "just in case" and the TWH didn't show a speck of concern.  We went over it a couple of times for good measure though, 10 points! The final obstacle was back at the trailers, throwing a mini basketball at a mini hoop.  You had to hit the hoop/stand/rim or make a basket while your horse stood still.  I came quite close to making a basket but missed, at least I hit the rim each time.  10 points.

Overall we missed only a single point out of 120, I was very impressed with my boy!  He handled all the new stuff without any concern and was super quiet and relaxed the entire ride.  He had never been to that park before either, so the fact he did the obstacles in a brand new spot was even better.  Then the next day I found out I had won first place in the 19-45 age division!!!  To go from the goal being to survive to finding out you won is an amazing feeling.  I am very excited about future rides, there is another in October we will go to.  Go Sinatra!

Friday, September 7, 2012

TWH is losing his fluff

Last night I rode the TWH and did some trail exercises to prepare for the judged trail ride this weekend and I have to say I am impressed.  I have always called him "Fluff for brains" because he tends to forget to think, I am starting to think brain cells are growing and are replacing the fluff!

I started by desensitizing him while on a lead line to a grocery bag, something that he had traumatized him long ago by simply existing.  While he leaned back and thought about losing it, he kept his head together and eventually relaxed.  I then repeated the exercise with a grain bag, once he realized it smelled nice he had absolutely no problems with it haha.

I saddled up and headed to the arena and did a quick warm up.  The first obstacle I worked on was the one I figured would cause the most concern, walking over a tarp.  Why did I think it would be an issue?  Because he hadn't ever been asked to do it before.  I pointed him to the tarp and...he walked over it.  Without even looking at it, hesitating or even flicking an ear.  I was impressed!  I tried even going over at a trot and he didn't care, success!!!

The second obstacle was much easier, 4 poles in the shape of an L to walk and then back through.  This was easy and required virtually no practice, neither did side passing over the L shape.  He has that down.  We then went to the third obstacle, a rope gate.  This was pretty hard for him back in 2009 and it took a good bit of work to get him to understand the concept back then.  It appears as though the work paid off because we opened, walked through and closed the "gate" without a single hiccup.  Imagine me dancing in your head, arms flailing and looking like a dork, that is what I was doing at this point.

The fourth obstacle was also easy, take the rope for the gate and walk in a circle around the jump standard it was tied to.  The goal is to make sure you can walk in a small circle with control, if the horse moves too far out then the rope will pull the standard over.  Easy-peasy.  The fifth obstacle was a bucket on a barrel, need to pick up the bucket and move around with it, simulating picking something up and moving it to another location.  We went around the arena at both a walk and trot before putting it back.  While he had a little problem keeping the speed consistent in the trot, he had no issues with the bucket.

The sixth obstacle was the only one he had an issue with.  It was the grain sack on a jump standard, I was using it to simulate a rain coat.  I picked it up and shook it all around.  For about 5 seconds he stood still but could feel his tension mounting.  Right about the time I felt he would explode I picked the reins back up and sure enough he scooted.  I spun him around a few times until he stood still and repeated it exercise and he stood like a gem each time afterwards.  Success!!

The last obstacle was the other one I thought we would have issues with, picking up the grocery bag and shaking it.  He decided it wasn't worth the effort to burn those calories off and so he stood there like he didn't care.  Yay!

I am so proud of the TWH and am really looking forward to tomorrow's ride.  I am so much more confident that he will do well now that he put in such a great ride last night.  Keep your fingers crossed, maybe the TWH has actually matured now that he is 9!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Success. More success!

We were successful in getting the new winter sacrifice pasture completed.  It is also significantly bigger than anticipated and is better than expected!  When I was making the fence line I discovered a large pile of old branches/brush/trash which caused the fence line to be moved.  Instead of having it come to a narrow(er) point on the left side of the barn it is now a large rectangle.  The original plan in black lines, the actual pasture is now in the blue line.
I am very happy with how it is laid out and if all goes well, we should be able to seed it in the spring and make it a permanent part of our pasture!  We turned everyone out in it yesterday and they stayed outside eating even as it poured rain down in the morning.  Come dinner time I brought everyone in, at night check everyone still had about half of their dinner hay left.  Appears some horses were so content eating grass all day that they weren't even hungry at dinner lol.  I am expecting to be able to not feed even breakfast hay until at least this weekend, we will see how it goes.  They have only made a small dent in the weeds/grass, only time will tell how long they are able to eat off of it.

I am all set to ride tonight and probably tomorrow as I have a judged trail ride on Saturday!  I am quite excited about it, though I have very little idea what it will entail.  It will be a trail ride with 10-15 obstacles we have to complete, no idea what they might be.  I will be bringing the TWH so there is that element of fun too, hopefully his fluffy brain holds it together and we do well.  Mostly though I am going for the experience, I have never been to one, it sounds fun, it is close and it is quite affordable.  I will be bringing RB4 and her new mare, hopefully nothing tragic happens to my trailer this time.