Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Abs Moving Out on the Trail

Abs (left), Hola and Me

This morning I took Abs for a longer trail ride than usual. After a 10 minute in hand walk I got on and L (on Ella) and had a nice five minute trot. Abs did listen to my seat and hands but was more focused on sucking on to Ella and following her pace. I really debated whether to just let it be for now or to work on it and so ended up doing a half assed correction off and on (which was the worse thing I could have done.) I hate when my inability to make decision between two training ideas leaves me in a worse position than if I had made the less correct of the two options... does that make sense?. When we stopped and turned around L had a bit of an argument with Ella and decided she needed to take her away from Abby and regain control. I decided to get off and just walk Abs towards home in hand. With Ella well behind us and out of site I did get back on and trot her for another minute or so on a part of the trail she is quite familiar with and she was really good and mentally with me. Another successful day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Abbys 3rd "First" Ride

(Hola having just finished a drink (not drooling)... isn't she just the prettiest red liver?)

This evening Abs had her third "first" ride back. The 1st first ride was when I got on her 45 seconds in December. The 2nd "first" ride was when I started riding her again (for less than 5 minutes at a time and not asking for anything but forward) a few weeks ago. The 3rd "first" ride was this evening when I took her to a friends arena and actually put her to work doing some circles at a walk, trot and lope, some counter bending, one stop and a few turn-arounds. I rode for about 15-20 minutes total, ten minutes of that spent at a trot and lope. She was really soft in the face, easy to guide with my seat and hands and responsive off my leg. Her stop was awesome (from a slow lope I just sat down and let her fold herself up in to a soft but quick stop), her turn-arounds were smooth and fast and she transitioned from a trot to a lope slow and fluidly.

That is all the good stuff.

The bad was that I was incredible nervous. Not that she was going to dump me or do any silly business, but that I was just going to screw it all up. I was really worked up about what I was going to do, how I was going to do it, and what I as going to do if it wasn't going right. I enlisted the help of a friend and trainer to help talk me through it and she was awesome in providing a few suggestions but mostly just reminding me to breathe and relax. Funny that breathing thing, I always forget that part. Abs is so sensitive that she really was pretty wound up for the first five minutes but as I relaxed, so did she. Overall it was an AWESOME ride. I am so excited! After some thought (and conversation with trusted friends) I've decided to continue riding her on the trail but alternate with arena work. I know that it will only benefit her to get out and about and will help her be more relaxed in our dry work.

(note: on Saturday I was too sick with a cold to get to the barn which really sucked the big one because it was a beeeeautiful day out but on Sunday eve I did get Abs out for a 45 minute walk. This evening I also rode Marm in the field with the English saddle again. I cant quite pinpoint it but I like the way she moves in that saddle, maybe something to do with taking pressure off of her loin? I have continued to ride her in the rope halter but would like to do some research on finding her a bit, something other than a snaffle (not harsher, just different areas of pressure). Hola got tied up today for twenty minutes or so. About ten minutes in she thought about chewing on the barn but we talked about it and she decided sleeping was a better option.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Reiner In My Barn- Abby Rides 5-9

I am going to try to keep track of my rides here so...

...as best as I can recall...

Monday was a sick day. I have been having a terrible time with sinus issues, headaches and stuffed up/sensitive ears. It was killing me to miss another day of sunshine. In my part of the country, if you get a sunny day you ride- come hell or high water- you ride. But my man had other ideas. I told him, "Your not the boss of me!" but he kinda is... so I stayed home. Sometimes I have to fake not sick just so I can go to the barn without getting in trouble:)

Tuesday evening I headed down to the barn determined to suck it up but also keep it short, easy and sweet. Abby had other plans....

After twenty minutes of grooming I saddled both Abby and Hola and took them for a walk in hand down the road and a ways down the trail. It was a quiet evening and the trail was open and clear and well, both of them are so good...so relaxed and confident....I couldn't help but hear Abby's saddle call my name again. I knew that I shouldn't get on, after all she only has a few rides and I was by myself... but I couldn't help it. I got on. And I ponied Hola down the trail for just five minutes or so. And then I got off and walked home. I was kicking my own ass telling myself how stupid that was but I guess I'm just a rebel without a cause. Marm and I did a quick loop through the hay field to cap off the day.

On Wednesday I saddled Abby and tied her to the wall for a while. I then saddled Hola and, (for the first time) I put on and tightened up the back cinch. And then I watched the rodeo. I really didn't expect her to blow up. She has been worked in a saddle (on the lounge)  no less than twenty times. I have used a rope to simulate the cinch all up and down her belly and loin a hundred times but when I pushed her up to a trot on the lounge and she felt that saddle flop and that back cinch against her belly, oh boy, she just went hee-haw-ing around the arena like a bronc. I was so surprised and unprepared that I actually lost ahold of the line and so she did a few circuits of the arena before I caught her and pulled her to a stop. I worked her for another ten minutes at least until her back leveled out but she didn't relax in to it as she has with everything else to date. She is usually so calm it is easy to forget that horse can move! I then got on Abby in the arena. I just guided her around a little and then unsaddled both and took them for a good 45 minute walk in hand.

On Thursday my head was still heavy but I was determined to get them all worked. I took Abby on the lower trail with L and Ella. L wanted to get Ella worked and so left us after about ten minutes to go for long trot. I had Abby in hand and while she didn't get worked up about Ella leaving us she certainly had her attention fixed on the trail ahead and little to no attention on me. So I gave her lots of little tasks to work on and eventually she started to think maybe she shouldn't worry so much about Ella and maybe she should worry a little more about what I was asking of her. I thought I had her mind so I decided to get on and see if her attention stuck with me. Nope. She walked forward before I was in the saddle, ears fixed straight ahead and quickly broke in to a jog. I pulled her around both ways and set her back to "waaaaalk". No dice. For the next few minutes we argued about it before I decided to just get off and really set her to work for me. About that time L and Ella came back up the trail headed for home. I told her to just ride on past me and keep going. Abby and I continued to "chat" and eventually I really felt like she came back to me so I got on again. We rode home, about ten minutes, and she stayed with me. I was thrilled to have worked our way through that one but knew I had really failed to set her up for success... she is so good I have to remember how little time she has out and under saddle. Having a horse leave us on the trail, twice, was not a good idea but I guess all is well that ends well.

At the end of that ride I did make a note to self that on every ride so far, when asked to stop, Abby has become really restless feeling. She stops well...but the minute she has to just stand I can feel her tension building. She has pawed a few times and will take a step or two to either side. I have left alone for now but thought I should work on it soon.

Back at the barn I saddled Hola and did up the back strap again. She had that backwards look in her eye but went out on the lounge without any silly business... for the first few minutes. She was jogging nicely so I asked for an extended trot and threw the line out at her. She jumped just a little and that saddle flopped just a little... well, she went broncy again but this time for no more than a thirty seconds. She settled back down and flattened out eventually (she was humped up like a rabbit). Man, she sure doesn't like that back cinch. I'm a bit evil when I find out that my horses don't like something- suddenly that something becomes a part of their daily lives. I finished the day by riding Marm in the English saddle for the first time. On Wednesday she seemed to be pin her ears a little when I cinched up so I thought a change of saddle was worth a try.  She seemed to like it but I had loose pants and short boots on which, as it turns out, is not a comfortable combination in an English saddle and so I did little that day but walk the hay field.

And now today, Friday- my sinus infection has become a full blown cold. I'm miserable and so this time was able to keep it short and sweet. I tied both mares to the wall for twenty minutes while riding Marm in the English again. It is to early to call it a success but she felt better under that saddle, looser in her top line and more willing to stretch out. Aaaand this time I had on tight (tight) pants and tall boots. Much more comfortable! I tacked both Abs and Hola. I left the back cinch undone on Hola while she stayed tied as I rode her Momma in the arena. My goal on Abby was to get on and sit there for a few minutes. As I noted the day before, on every ride so far I have asked her to move out just as soon as I have sat down in attempt to help her relax (move her feet). Today I followed my gut and decided to see what would happen if I got on and asked her stand. I had to circle her back to where we started a few times and back her up twice before she really clicked with the idea that I was asking her to stand... and then I waited to see what would happen...

What happened was I felt that restlessness rise up in her again. I took a deep breath, relaxed my stomach and seat and sat deep. She stilled. But in a keen way... I realized that she was poised and listening. I felt her whole being just tuned right in to my seat. She was waiting for my cue and that restlessness I felt, that was her locked and loaded and ready to get to work. I shifted my weight in to my inside stirrup, took my hand across her wither and closed my outside leg. She dropped on one hock and spun a hole in the ground. Just like that. Damn, that mare is just pure gold.

So what I learned today was that my plan needs revised. I wanted to get her fit on the trail before asking her to work in the arena. But the whole point of leaving her unridden for all the years she was broodmare was to make sure that the last rides she would recall were the ones wherein she was being asked to do reining maneuvers by her reining trainer. That plan paid off. She still has her training... I knew that but what I didn't factor was that in her mind she is still a reiner... not just a horse with reining buttons. A reiner's job is to stay in tune with it's rider at all times and to wait, poised and at-the-ready for that next cue. Abs remembers the maneuvers but she also remembers her JOB which is to pay attention at all times. In that first video of me riding Abs you hear L comment that she has "all ears on me"... I thought that was because she was like "what the hell are you doing up there?!?" I think I was wrong. I think from that first ride she remembered her job. And that is so freaking cool. I have a reiner my barn. Fancy that. *huge smile*

Monday, January 20, 2014

Abby's First Rides, .5 then 1-4

While Abby is "sound" I found that years of standing in a field, having foals, and eating enough hay to stay "fat as a tick" did not combine to keep her feet in good order. To get riding and get her fit I knew that shoes would be the ticket and so I gave her a month to get some weight off and scheduled an appointment for January 14th.

Now back in December I did get on Abby for all of 45 seconds. I had been working with her a little trying to refresh her brain (lounging a little on soft ground, tying her to the wall, brushing, saddling etc.) but had no intention of getting on... but one very very cold and sunny afternoon, I had saddled her up and left her tied up for a while when, as I went to untack and put her away, that saddle just called my name. I tried to resist. But it was just too damn tempting. So I got on. Abs backed a few steps and seemed unsure so I pushed her forward a little. Her first steps were tight and she felt a little locked up so I bent her around and we walked in a circle. I sat down and let go. She stopped. I got off. An impromptu first ride that could barely count as a productive "first" ride back but a success nonetheless. I count it as a half first ride. And so I left off again and waited for those shiny steel shoes.

Jan 14th came around faster than I had anticipated. She was a great for the farrier and stood like a gem for nearly 2 hours. I left her for the night and made a plan to ride the next morning. I barely slept that night I was so excited. I was worried that I would be too jacked up to be on point for that ride but when the time came I felt relaxed and confident. I started by tying her up for 10 minutes and brushing. I then untied and brought my tack to the middle of the arena and took my time saddling. I had done some lounging and saddling over the past month so she was really relaxed about it but what I hadn't done was put a bit in her mouth. I was really surprised, given how relaxed she was about the saddle and responsive to cues on the lounge line that she acted like she had never had a bit in her mouth. She licked and chewed and cranked her mouth open and tried to wiggled it loose. The first few minutes I wasn't concerned but this went on for a good ten minutes! I left the head stall on with no reins and put the halter over. I then put her on the lounge line and asked her to walk for a good 4-5 minutes each direction and then trot 2-3 minutes each direction. She was completely relaxed, moved off and slowed down when asked and had bright eyes and perked ears. I brought to a stop and clipped on some reins. The video says it all. She was happy, guided off my seat, stopped and just acted like it was no big deal. The only thing that I felt was really not there still was her response to the bit. I wanted to keep the ride completely positive and relaxed so just left it alone for the day.

After that ride I really felt like my priority should be getting Abs fit outside of the arena. I cant ask her to do anything or really see how much of those reining maneuvers she still has in there until she is fit enough to not hurt herself. If I stay out of the arena and ride in an environment that doesn't require a lot of guiding or transitions I should be able to get her fit without having to hit on any of her rusty buttons. So the next day I took her for a walk, saddled and in hand, on the dyke with my friend L on Ella (who is very calm and confident). We went about 20 minutes until there was a section where there isn't much at all except the path (about ten feet wide) in front of her and blueberry fields stretching off in the distance. I was actually pretty confident about getting on her there because I knew she wouldn't want to leave Ella and there really is no where to go. I wanted to get on up there is because the path is wide and straight and all I would have to do was sit up there and ask her to move forward, I really wouldn't need to guide at all. So I got on and did just that. And for the next five minutes she happily packed me down the road. I got off and walked her home in hand. It was as easy and simple as that.

Abs on the dyke Thursday morning
On Friday I wanted to leave her off and so next ride was Saturday. I wanted to take her back up on the dyke but didn't have the time and didn't want to push it by making her feet sore. So I lounged her again and decided to put the rope halter on and see if I could just get her to bend a little each way and give her face. I got on and walked a few circles then stopped (she still wants to stop hard) and just lightly picked up on the lead rope and brought my hand around, asking for her nose. Rather than really give her face she walked forward in a half circle, I went to sit down and let go to start over when all of the sudden BOOM! Once second I was facing East. The next second I was facing West. Or rather... she was facing west and I was facing the ground! I just about went ass over tea kettle. I guess the combination of my hands and seat hit the "spin" button because what she did was set her hock, drop her ass and in one fluid motion complete her turn around. I wish I had a video. I was pretty confident from my past rides that her training was still in there but that took away any of my doubts. I couldn't be happier this mare. She really is just the sweetest, kindest and most willing pony.

Yesterday I took her for another walk in hand with Ella. About ten minutes in I got on and we went for a 2-3 minute trot on the soft section of trail. She was all ears forward and just happy as a clam. I got off and walked her home. Just as simple as that. Over the next few weeks I am going to continue to taking her out on the trail (extending our in saddle time) so I can get her fit without farting around with her face or buttons too much. I am hoping that by the first week of February I can bring her in the arena and see what's still tucked away in her big rusty box of tools. I am feeling very blessed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The RULE of Buckskin, Palomino, Dun, Gray and Roan Horses

A few years back I wrote a post about Horse Color genetics in an attempt to lay out the basics in such a way that was easy to understand. You can find that post here. This evening I found this website which does a far better job than I ever did in explaining the often puzzling rules of horse color genetics. Here is a link.

Also, I just wanted to note a horse color mistake that I often see come up in horse ads. Sellers will often claim to have a solid colored mare (bay, sorrel, chestnut, black etc.) who produces colored offspring (palominos, buckskins, dun). This is genetically impossible. In order for a mare to produce a palomino or buckskin one of the following MUST be true:

1. She is a palomino, buckskin or smoky black (she carries the crème gene)
2. The stallion she was bred to must be a buckskin, palomino, or smoky black (he cares the crème gene)

The crème gene is responsible for producing palominos and buckskins can not skip a generation. This is also true of dun, roan and gray.

 The most common explanation for why it may appear that a solid color mare produced a colored foal is that either the mare of the stallion is actually a colored horse but it is just reeeeally hard to tell. I have a friend who had a buckskin mare that looked bay (she was a sooty buckskin) and palomino mare that looked like a sorrel with flaxen mane and tail (her coat color was a light sorrel and her mane was more yellow than white). Both mares had been genetically tested so we knew their true colors but a lot of people would have been fooled in to thinking that they were solid colored horses.

There are all sorts of other color genes that can change the way a horse appears or make it impossible for the human eye to even determine the true color of a horse.

The easiest way to think of horse colors is to picture a horse as having a base coat of either red, black or bay. The wildest colored horse you've ever seen is essentially either red, black or bay under all that chrome! Crème genes, dun genes, sooty genes, roan genes, gray genes, rabicano genes or a combination of two or ALL of the above is possible!! But if a horse is dun, crème, gray or roan either it's dam or it's sire also carried the gene for that color.