Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hola Doctoring and Rides 11, 12 & 13

Last weekend was Mane Event (horse expo). I was able to watch almost all of the Sandy Collier clinics (awesome!) but only a little bit of the colt starting challenge which was disappointing because Dale Clearwater had a long record of winning these type challenges and I really wanted to see him in action. I also had a friend riding in the Dee Butterfield barrel racing clinic and wanted to watch her and on top of that another friend was looking for a saddle and so I missed most of the day Sunday helping her try a saddle. All in all I found Mane Event as inspiring as ever and I was really keen to get back to work on Hola on Monday (her fetlock is all healed up).

So Monday afternoon I tacked Hola and decided to put some trust in her and not give her a work before getting on. I really wanted to know how she was going to react to being ridden again after a week off. I thought that if I got on her and she felt squiggly I would just get off and lunge her out. I also decided to go ahead and throw a snaffle in her mouth. I've asked her to pack a snaffle a handful of times before but never under saddle. I started by asking her from the ground to give both ways. Unfortunately, the right rein snagged up on the breast collar attachment and she had gotten her face bumped really hard when I released that side. I was really choked that I had let something like that happen, you only get one chance to get it done right the first time and she was really worried on that side after that painful bump. I decided to work on it once in the saddle so that I could make sure that rein didn't get snagged again. I stepped up on her and she stood quietly. I asked her to walk off and she walked off quietly. I asked her to guide to the left and she went. But then I asked for the right and her feet got stuck and she braced up. Dammit! So I went to work on her having give her face to the right and stuck with it until she relaxed. I thought that I had only been on her for five minutes but in fact that was our longest ride to date (ten minutes! lol) Aaaaand, I got on her in the gravel paddock! (up until now I have avoided it as it is the hardest place on the farm to land). I was really happy that she was really relaxed about walking out. It was a good ride but...

I still worry about whether I'm going to slow. Every time I get on her I have an objective that is slightly different than the time before and she is progressing... so I cant be totally off track, but I have 13 rides on her (most less than five minutes long) and we are at the same place that most people get in one ride. I have all the time in the world but I also want to challenge Hola and I know that my biggest fault to date has been not instilling in her a desire to work and she thinks her life is pretty damn easy. She really can get a pissy attitude about things and I just hate that.... but if I get after even a little bit that "Yes, Ma'am" attitude is right there, I just have to demand that she be better and then stay consistent about it and I have to start challenging her more.

On Tuesday I had a friend come with me to the barn. It was raining hard and there was a real bite in the air so we had brought some tea with us and planned on having a little visit in the barn after saying hi to the horses. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with Hola and so tacked her up, put the snaffle in her mouth, tied off the reins loose and parked her in the barn isle. The goal was for her to stand patiently while I visited. Ha! She was happy to stand quietly... she just wanted to be sucked up to my side, not standing eight feet away. We sat for a good half hour and I kept just getting up and putting her back to where I left her. Because she has had so much time tied to the wall I expected her to give up and go to sleep but she didn't, she insisted on being right there in the middle our conversation. What can I say, she is social butterfly. She was all tacked up and I had my friends eyes there for safety so I had to get on if for only a minute. The rain was stinging cold, the wind was up and there was water all over the paddock. Not a recipe for success. I stepped on her and she stood but when I walked her out I could feel her back was tight and she was a little jazzed about walking through the puddle. I bent her off both ways and did a few loops but she was eye balling the puddles and I knew I was asking for trouble so I hopped off and set her to work. My saddle got soaking wet but she was trotting through the puddles when we were finished. I didn't get back on (didn't want a wet ass!) but I felt like we accomplished something for the day.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I ponied Hola off of Abby in the hay field rather than lunge her... or at least that was the plan. Apparently Hola has decided that her mom is a pushover. I, however, am not. Unfortunately, I didnt get her going as well as I would have liked on the pony line as I ran out of time, (I had my DB coming to barn to be my safety). I threw Abby in her stall and took Hola out to the paddock for a talk. Five minutes later she was in a much better frame of mind. I had her disengaging her hip for a one rein stop (on the ground) and then I got on her back in a rope halter and did the same thing. She went beautifully. A successful five minute ride.

Oh! I forgot to mention... During the week and half that Hola was not being ridden (due to an infection from a cut to her hind fetlock) I tried to set a high standard for her behavior during doctoring as to keep moving forward in our overall training. I expected her to stand quietly for a ten minute cold hose (twice a day for the first 4 days and then once day thereafter) and to stand parked (not eating or tied) while I cleaned and wrapped her leg. By the end of the week I was really happy with how patiently she stood and I felt good about not wasting our time "off".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ride #10 & Ouchie

On Wednesday I happened to be at the barn when another boarder was there and so was able to get on Hola briefly while she was lunging her horse (I don't wan to ride Hola while alone on the farm). I decided to try this old light (not high quality) saddle L. has had hanging around the barn forever. I got on her just inside the round pen and the second I sat down in that saddle I wanted to get right back off. It SUCKED! I felt like I was sitting three inches off her back, my feet were behind my hips, the stirrups were slippery and I was being pitched forward. It was awful. I didn't get off. I instead asked her to step forward and out of the round pen. We walked two large circles of the small field outside the round pen (short grass). I didn't guide her a lot as was pretty impressed that she was walking forward so freely and felt so balanced. It was our first alone ride outside the round pen. The saddle sucked. My horse rocked!

On Thursday night I took Abby out to work the flag. My horse rocked! She is super cowy. More on that another day. That night we got home late and so I barely spared a glace at Hola when I brought her in from the field. On Friday afternoon I grabbed her from the field again and brought her in to tack. When I went to pick her back left I noticed her leg was swollen from fetlock to hock. I took her out and cold hosed it for ten minutes and found that what I thought was mud on the inside of her fetlock was a crusty wound. I wrapped it with a wet warm pad and left it for ten minutes then gave it a wash and found an 2" cut that was clearly a day or so old and clearly infected. She was sound but in no shape to ride. The next morning I picked up some antibiotics from the vet. This evening the swelling is almost entirely subsided. I am hoping that by Wednesday I will be able to get back in the saddle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ride 9- *YAWN*

I have been sitting on the sofa sick for three days. I am DONE with being laid up so I hauled my sorry carcass down to the barn and saddled Hola. I put her on the lunge line and discovered that I may have made a bit of a mistake... I gave her three days to think about the ass kicking she received on our last work. While I appreciated her "Yes, Ma'am!" attitude, I was a wee bit nervous about her over sensitivity to any kind of pressure. I had enlisted my Mom to come stand as my safety and so didn't have as much time to get her relaxed as I would have liked. I spent a good amount of time hopping around beside her and mounted and dismounted twice before really sitting down on her but apparently I had no cause to worry as she relaxed nicely once I was mounted. Once again I found myself in that bloody round pen with the shitty footing but we did manage to make a little circuit and the second time around she stopped. I asked her to walk on but she wouldn't and she seemed to be thinking about something... You know how babies get a look of concentration on their faces when they are filling a diaper? Yah well, Hola moved her bowels for the first time while mounted. I hadn't thought of that as being an event but it clearly was in her mind. She gave a big sigh, yawned once and then really relaxed.

Another short circuit around the pen and off she went yawning again...and yawning... and yawning. In my experience Hola yawns when she accepts and processes a lesson. I have noticed this as her "tell" since she was a yearling... I just hope I am not being naive in taking all that yawning as a sign. She is such a funny duck!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hola- Rides 7 & 8

I picked up a nasty cold from my sister over the weekend but I was determined to keep on track and so went to the barn Tuesday evening with the goal to at least get on her even if for just a minute. I am just so pleased that when I step up on Hola she seems happy, relaxed and just totally comfortable with the idea. My DB came to watch and so I sat on her and talked to him for a good three minutes or so and stroked her neck.We were back in the round pen and the footing is just not ideal so I didn't bother asking her to do much besides move forward (even a few steps) when asked and to follow the inside rein a few times. I sat on her for another few minutes while talking to DB and she dropped one hip and stood relaxed. One day Hola is going to discover that an actual ride involves working... and they generally last more than three minutes. What a rude awakening that is going to be!

On Wednesday morning I had the farrier out and pulled Abby's shoes. She has been shod since Jan  of this year and so I just about have a whole new foot (since I got her home in November 2013) and want to try her barefoot for the winter but needed to give her time to acclimate before the ground freezes so they came off. By the time I finished with the farrier and cleaned up I was just physically wiped and feeling feverish.

Thursday night (tonight) I dragged my sorry ass to the barn and wanted nothing more than to just get on Abs and go for a nice quiet walk in the field. I felt like a zombie. Instead I went to the field and got Hola. *pout* I didn't have the mind to ride but I could saddle her, lunge and then maybe take her for a walk and then, once I had done my duty, I could maybe jump on Abs bareback for a few minutes and go for a nice little wander in the hay field. Hola had other plans. I brought her in from the pasture and parked her in the barn isle to tack. She has been a little bit cranky when I go to cinch her and I have even had to bop her a few times for turning and nosing me when I am doing up the cinch. I don't crank on her and have been more than considerate when cinching so she has no excuse. Well! That spoiled little brat. I am just about pull up on the cinch when she turns her head around goes for it! I had my elbow half way up and so was able to catch her just as she started to nip the back of my arm. Oh, no... that is not going to fly. Hola has never nipped me. Ever. Aaaaaand I am going to guess that she will never try again after the 'come to Jesus' talk we had. And then she got an ass whoopin' on the lunge line. And then she got to do a bunch of circles around me as we walked in the hay field. I went down to the end of the road to wait for L. to come back from her ride. I wore my helmet and took an extra line. I figured it I was still feeling aggressive (riding the wave of my angry bravado) I would get L. to pony me the last few hundred yards home. By the time we got back towards the barn the adrenaline had worn off and I had I was damp with a cold sweat. Damn. I decided to send Hola out on the line to see what kind of frame of mind she was in... I asked her to roll back on my left then my right... and she responded with more than her usual snappiness! She dropped on her hocks, snapped back over herself and launched herself off in the other direction. I asked a half dozen times expecting her to chill out but she was just getting faster and snappier. It was near full dark by this time and she was obviously feeling fresh and a little spooky. I was not getting on that horse! No way, Jose! Not gonna happen! But then I could practically hear Biff (Back to the Future) saying, "What's wrong McFly! Chicken?" *cluck cluck cluck cluck* Dammit! Nobody calls me chicken! (even myself)... well, actually, everyone calls me chicken (especially myself) but not this time Mister! This time I was going to get. 'er. done mo-fo! So I got on. I may have been singing, "Hoooly sheeeeeet, this is a baaaaaad idea. Followed shortly after by "HOLY SHITBALLS" and a high pitched slightly hysterical giggle. But I got on. And I sat there for a minute or two. Hola's eyes were huge as she looked out over the field at something I couldn't see. Her whole body was taunt. I talked to her and (I may have been saying, "please don't blow, this is a bad idea, who's idea was this anyways?" but I was saying it in a nice calm voice and I managed to keep my whole body relaxed and centered. When I got her attention back a little I asked L. to walk us forward. We went a mile or so... HA! No, not really.... we went twenty feet or so when I asked L. to stop. Hola was staring hard at something in the far field and was obviously getting more worried. The crazy part was that she didn't feel like she was going to blow up, at all... like not even a little bit. When L. lead her forward she didn't hump her back, didn't brace up and moved forward freely. When I got off and started leading towards the barn her body stayed in the same posture and her expression remained alert but not spooked. It may have only been a few minutes... and twenty odd feet but it was really successful in that she was very much awake, not relaxed and fresh but still totally unconcerned with the fact that I was on her back. It probably wasnt the smartest decision to get on her. But it was more about me finding my nerve than it was about training Hola.

I am SO ready for our first real ride. And I know she is too. *big smile*

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HOLA- Ride #5 and #6

On Friday (October 3rd) I got on Hola for the 5th time, however, this was mark the first time that she was asked to move out under saddle. I keep telling myself that with Hola I have the luxury of time, I can go as slow as I want and give her all the time she needs to learn and accept this new stage in her life... but... I also have to be careful to not baby her and to make sure that I am asking her for enough that she learns to work and doesn't become bored and spoiled. I also really felt that I needed to give her time physically to adjust to my weight as she is still small for me and I don't want her to end up with a super sore back. When I looked back on the last ride in the round pen I realized that Hola was not stepping out as the footing in there is really rough and she wasn't confident enough to balance my weight when the wood was rolling under her foot. I knew I needed to get her out of that footing but to where? My options were a gravel paddock that is rock hard (Yikes!), a grass pasture that is slick footing (Eeek!) or a unfenced multi-acre hay field (Ehh!). I weighed all the variables and decided my best bet was to have L. pony me on Hola off of Ella in the hay field. It was time to pull up my big girl panties. Big time.

First, I established the same routine as in our previous rides. I brought Hola in, saddled her, and then tied to the wall for a good fifteen minutes. I then lunged her very briefly to get her focused and tied her back up while I set up my ride.

When I stepped n Hola in the hay field she didn't move or tense up. The idea of someone sitting up on her is NBD (no big deal). I asked Laurie to take a few slow steps forward... which was a great idea in theory. But Ella doesn't really know how to walk slowly. Hola has been ponied a lot. She knows the drill. As Ella stepped away from her she went to step forward and I felt her body go, "Eeek! Ella!! Hold up!! I got this crazy thing on my back! Ella, wait! Help!". And my body went, "Eeek! Ella! Hold up!! I 've got this crazy thing under me!! L, wait! Help!". For the first time I felt Hola's back hump up. I felt her bum scooch. Her neck scrunched up. Her poll tensed up. I thought, "Holy. Shit. She's gonna blow!" Before she could follow through with her threat I pulled my only defence....

I yelled at her. Well... I didn't yell so much as growl. One thing all my horses learn is that when I shout, "HHHHHAAAAIIIIRRRRR!!!!!" (yes, I said "Hair!") shit is gonna get real, fast. My good friend's Mom, Nancy, is a born and bred Wyoming cowgirl who would growl, "Haaaaaaair there mare" when any of their horses got naughty. I picked I up as a teen and have found it surprisingly effective. My quick growl stopped Hola in her tracks. She didn't relax and her back did not level out but she didn't blow. We did a small loop of the field. Every time Hola was able to walk beside Ella she relaxed a little and leveled out some but when she lagged behind at all I could feel her back start to hump up as she thought about having to trot to catch up. A few times, when she felt like she was ready to blow I would growl at her again and she would quit and I would ask L. to slow Ella up and allow us to catch up. I then asked Laurie to walk straight forward out into the field and to try to keep Ella at as slow of a walk as possible. We went a hundred yards or so and I felt Hola start to stretch out and relax. I asked L. to stop and we sat there for a moment. Hola yawned. Yawning is Hola's tell, she will yawn a dozen times in a row when she learns something new. So I sat for a minute, relaxed my whole body, pet on her a little and then got off. It felt like we had ridden for about ten minutes. In actuality it was less than four minutes. Four minutes wherein I did not get bucked off and my horse learned something. Success, no matter how small, is sweet.

I went to my sisters house to celebrate Thanksgiving over the weekend so wasn't able to do anything with Hola. This evening (Monday) I went to the farm and found Hola dripping wet with sweat. I had a moment of panic before B (a boarder) said that the horses had just finished ripping around the field and that Hola had been the ring leader. Sweet! She worked herself! I brought her in and let her cool out a little before tying her to the wall and tacking. I noticed that she is in season and acting pushy so I did school on her just a little on a lunge line to get her brain working. I planned on having L pony me in the hay field again but I really don't want her thinking that the horse in front of her is the one leading the show. Ponying was the safest way for me to get her moving but I didn't like that she was so sucked on to Ella and I was just a passenger. However, because there is no small area for me to ride in (with good footing) I don't feel confident enough yet to just get on and go... so I split the difference. I had L put me on the lunge line. This was the first time I have stepped on Hola from the ground (rather than a stool). No reaction. I sat on her for a moment. No reaction. None at all. I clucked to her to walk forward and she went. Not once did she hump up and she while she wasn't totally relaxed she felt pretty damn good. The only problem was that she was really wanting to cut in and suck up to L in the middle and stop.  I was trying not to guide her at all but was trying to be in the one in charge of her forward movement. I rode her for maybe three minutes or so before her head dropped, her neck stretch out and I felt her relax. I stopped her, waited a minutes or two and sure enough she yawned again. I got off and dropped her cinch.

I feel like I am doing too little and yet Hola is clearly learning to accept a rider. I need to start guiding her some in my next ride... I just need to figure out where to ride her. I can make things work for now but eventually I need to get her in an arena with proper footing. If I think too far in the future I get stressed so I will continue to just focus on the tiniest of baby steps and take it one ride at a time.