Thursday, June 5, 2008

What I've Been Doing So Far

I forgot one horse. Neil. She's A Playboy's Buck Fever daughter, out of a Digger's Rest mare. Very big and stout. Three years old, she can pack us around with no problem.
So of course the boss is hoping we can futurity her.
Have I not bitched enough about futurities?
My answer is to work with her at my pace, which is pretty slow, and the boss can do what she wants.
Neil came to us already started by a trainer I don't have much use for. He has hands about as forgiving as my mother used to be when I snuck in after curfew. His hands could win the tractor pull at the state fair. His hands could pull the winning dog sled team off their dinner after the Iditarod.
His hands should not be allowed within 500 yards of a snaffle bitter.
Neil piles around the arena like a freight train off the tracks. No feel, just chug lug lug, chug lug lug. She obviously spent a lot of time in the draw reins because she'll drop her nose and give you some false collection any time you want.
I spent the first three rides just getting up and expecting her to stand quiet. She liked to trot off, and be loping by the time you threw your leg over.
I did this by gathering her face slightly into me, stepping up in the stirrup, and standing up without getting on until she stood quiet. She could huff and puff and fret as much as she wanted, I just stood up there and kept my rein tight enough that she had to circle until she stood still.
When she was quiet I got on, released my rein, and petted her. Then I'd get down and be done for the day.
When they're this young I like to give them one thing at a time to think about.
Now you can get on, and we're working on moving around on a loose rein. I do this by tossing my reins out, sitting loose and quiet, and wait for them to pick up speed. All horses who have been hung on increase their speed on a loose rein. When she steps on the gas I pick up one rein and reverse, pushing her hip through with my same side leg. They have to slow to make the turn so I release the rein. As soon as they speed up I turn them again, and so on until they will hold their speed without contact on the rein.
Neil is willing, but confused, so I'll be doing this for awhile.

Mamie is our Hancock, please let me be bucking stock, wannabe. She started out so quiet and sweet. I had her saddled and ready to go in three days. I was on and cruising in four. She loped on her fifth ride. She took it all in stride. My big fat warning that I did not pick up on was her resistance to any forward movement. She did not lead well. She did not transition up without a lot of forward coaxing. Every day she was muley.

I should know better. A horse with it's feet planted firmly in the ground like an old oak tree has to move somewhere. If they ain't moving forward it just might be straight up.

The day Mamie decided to move without help it was not forward.

It was spectacular. It was magnificent. She was a rocket. It sure wasn't forward.

Luckily I was on the ground longing her.

That girl can buck. For a really long time.

This went on for three weeks.

She would explode into a frenzy of wild, inside out bucking.

I would longe her until she was tired.

Then I would do ground work until I was tired.

My boss would get on the pony horse, drag Mamie around until the pony horse was tired, and then I'd crawl on.

To date she hasn't bucked with a rider.

In my experience, if they don't get you off, you can get a handle on it.

I am reinforcing my strict rule that horses don't buck under saddle. Whether or not I'm in it. We are careful with this one.

Sunny is a well bred delight. She is a pretty palomino, giant butted, slim necked, and a dainty headed little thing. Wouldn't it be the best if men liked their women the same way they like their horses? You know, strong, solid muscle, big butts? Sigh.
She has learned to be caught, quit swinging that lovely big old butt at me, accept a saddle, give me the space I want, lead on a loose line, and walk at ease with me on her. She can stand for the farrier too. Pretty good for three weeks of training. She's a keeper.
Patty is a goofy little thing. Half foundation stock and half fancy Boon Bar Mare. She's into anything and everything. Our first lesson went OK. She led out to the tie rail, accepted her saddle pad and saddle without much ado. I was impressed, since she isn't particularly halter broke.
The second lesson was a little different. Patty didn't realize there wasn't a choice on the leading deal. She planted them square and about pulled me over rather than step outside. So we backed up a little and I swung the rope here and there, moved hips and cleared shoulders. I made the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy. Except it all stayed difficult. Patty was going to knock it into me once and for all just how it was going to be.
So I did what I probably should have in the first place. I got a butt rope, moved her outside and tied her little self up.
That was all we did for that day.
Emma is a dark, typey, quiet filly. The kind you might pass up in a herd. Level necked, low set hocks, yum.
She took to her second saddling just fine. I took her up to our little arena and let her go. She blew around some, but didn't buck, or forget where her feet were. A very tidy mover. We don't have a round pen, so I teach them to free longe around me at one end of the arena.
That means I need my running shoes for the first couple of sessions, but Emma, bless her little heart, picked up what I wanted almost immediately.
Our ground up there is deep, and I don't have the wind I used to. She was trotting around me like a little circus pony in twenty minutes. Gotta love her.
Grunt blew up, dragged me around on the longe line, bucked 'til I got pissed. He got a fairly aggressive reminder of where I want his shoulders at all times, and then longed like a grown up.
When I worked his stirrups and saddle he jumped around like we haven't done this fifty times already. I lost patience and slapped him with the flat of my hand hard about three times, right in front of the back cinch. Horse Whisper my ass. He quieted down, I got up over his back and bounced my knee off his butt a few times. He accepted me, seemed to feel more comfortable with me balanced over his back rather than standing in the stirrup. If anybody had been around I'd have gotten on.
Decided to hold off until Saturday when the boss can pony him.
Then I rode the show horses.
So that was my day. If you guys want I'll keep updating on the baby progress week by week. I'm trying to keep to my plan of not getting on until I'm ready to commit to moving them out.
In Sunny's case, as in all of them, I'm not going to ask them to transition up until they are comfortable carrying me at the gait of the day. Sunny wasn't staggery today, so I'll trot next time I'm up on her.


  1. Definitely keep us updated on the babies, please! It's fun reading, and for me, it really reinforces how each horse's individual quirks and mental readiness to learn (on any given day) can play as much of a role in what and how they learn as their physical readiness does.

    Your goals for may ultimately be fairly similar or radically different, but reading about how you're tailoring those first lessons to each horse - and their reactions - is a treat, and great food for thought, besides.

  2. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog, your writing style, your sense of humor, and your training stories. Thanks for making the effort to write this all down.

    Glad to hear that you didn't throw a leg over that horse when nobody was around. You gotta look our for yourself =)

  3. Please keep on with the updates. Love being a part of your progress "virtually."

  4. Please do share your training stories. They're the next best thing to standing at the rail watching. I know I'm learning something valuable I can't get anywhere else.

    And thank you for taking the time to write.

  5. "Mamie is our Hancock, please let me be bucking stock, wannabe"

    Now that gave me a chuckle, thanks!

    Please keep sharing your training stories as well as your "insider" stories. You're very entertaining and I learn something too!

    Also, sorry to have pestered you so much but thanks for the advice on my blog! (re Quinn)

  6. "They're the next best thing to standing at the rail watching."

    Yes, please keep posting. I may not always comment but I check every day for an update.

    Your writing style is easy to understand and visualize what you and the horses are doing.

  7. love it love it love it!!!
    I may actually have to go get a "real name"

  8. Pictures, pictures, show some pictures! :D

  9. Yes, Yes! Keep us updated on how the babies are doing! I miss the daily grind of seeing a horse take shape.

    Although there are the days you dont want to get on, there are also the days you dont want to ever get off :)

    lol either because the ride has been sooooo good, or because you know its going to be soooo bad when you get off :)

  10. Please keep the updates coming, I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your blog.

    I'm having trouble getting 'forward' on the ground with my un-started 3yr old American Saddlebred filly, she just stands there, feet firmly planted, while I'm asking her forward and then wheels round and tries to bite me. Once I've explained that biting is a definite no no, she'll move forward but when we stop and try again I get the same reaction. She is better going to the right albeit with ears back and threatening to bite with every step.

    I should mention that I'm doing this at liberty in a round yard, she'll move forward with a halter but I want her to move forward from a cue near her girth, I don't want her to simply move forward from pressure on her face. Oh and you should see the reaction I get when I ask her to go backwards!!

    Gonna be a while before I even think about getting on this girl but I'm interested in how you solve the 'I can't possibly move forward' issue.

  11. Great idea for teaching horses to stand still after you get some weight on them! Every one of the horses I ride out at stoneybrook will stand still at the mounting block, well, mostly. Not every one, but many of them, want to walk off with me as soon as my weight is close to centered on them. Sometimes its not so much walking off as trotting off. I hadn't the faintest idea how to go about stopping that until now. I'd just been stopping them once i got on and then making them sit there until I was satisfied. That doesn't really work all that well, apparently.

    Its really a privilege to get to "watch" you start/train these horses. I love learning new things from you. Even more than I love reading about you doing some of the same things I would. ;)