Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lily, Norman and Maisie Get Body-Clipped

(Thanks to Melissa at Paradigm Farms for the photos.)

Our three senior retirees - Lily and Maisie and Norman the pony - in Tennessee all have Cushings/PPID.  So, this time of year, Melissa at Paradigm gives them body clips to help them deal with the hotter weather.

Here are some fun photos of the clipping action.

Lily had a lot of fur, as always:

Maisie sticks out her tongue - with Lily looking on:

Norman the pony was pretty furry, too:

And he had to stick out his tongue, too:

Lily and Maisie make their getaway:

It's always a pleasure to see how good they're looking in their senior years.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Missy Gets a Birthday

I've had a number of horses, some very fine ones, with no papers, and therefore no precise birthday.  Dawn, Pie and Red all have "official" birthdays, since they're registered - Dawn is a TB (June 10 - a very late birthday for a TB), Pie is a QH (April 29) and Red is a QH too (May 23).

So Missy deserves a birthday - most horses are born in April or May, so today's the day!  We don't know her true age, but we'll just say that she turned 13 today.  Happy birthday to a lovely mare!

One clean photo, and one dirty . . .

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dirty Missy and Dawn in Motion

I was out in the mare pasture at bring in time today, and got some good photos.

Missy was very dirty, but is looking good:

And I got some rare action shots of Dawn (dirty too, but it doesn't show as much), who's looking great for a mare who's about to turn 18 - you can almost see the racehorse she used to be:

After a stop for a drink at the water tank, she came on in with me.

Nothing better than two lovely mares on a beautiful spring day . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pie at Nine

Today is Pie's birthday - he's 9 - happy birthday to a big, wonderful, guy!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Getting to Good: How Much is Enough?

I've been trying to put together a post on how much is enough - when to stop and when to keep going.  I think this is one of the most difficult judgment calls in riding, and getting it right can make a big difference to your horse, and to your relationship with your horse.

That said, I'm always a bit uncomfortable writing about stuff like this - I'm not an expert, just an amateur like you.  But I've had some training, and some coaching, and I have a responsibility to my horses to get it as right as I know how, right now (I'm always learning from my horses), and maybe you'll find some of my thinking helpful - who knows?

I've been riding a lot lately - all four horses - and as usual, they've been teaching me some valuable things.

Missy has been doing very well, but she came out a bit frazzled one day last week - I've got her started back on a morning rotation, and this was a change, and it was cold and windy. She did some calling and fidgeting while I was grooming.  So we started our work session with some leading - leading to me is a big "tell" about the horse's mindset - it took a while to get things right, but we bridled up and went to the mounting block.

She's been standing very nicely on a loose rein for mounting for quite a while.  But not that day - she was rushing past the block, having trouble standing when I was getting on and rushing off.  Not what I wanted.

This is a good case to look at how I think about working with my horses.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  These sorts of set backs are common, particularly in early days with a horse, and nothing to worry about - provided you work through them to a good conclusion.  If you leave them hanging or don't address them when they arise, they create all sorts of follow-on issues.

2.  I ignore the behaviors I don't want and keep patiently asking for what I do want.  Sometimes I take a step back - with mounting, this would involve breaking things down to coming up to the block in the correct position, standing at the block, standing while I put my foot in the stirrup, standing while I put weight in the stirrup, and ultimately standing when I get on until I signal to move off.  Lots of positive reinforcement for each step, no negative reinforcement except if a horse runs into or past me - this is a ground safety issue and I'm really clear about my personal space boundaries.  (A lot of "make the wrong thing hard" stuff people do is just bogus, in my opinion - it takes your and your horse's eye off the ball of what you want to do, and it also turns asking the horse to do something it has learned to do - say lungeing or "moving the feet"  - into a punishment instead of satisfying work - why would you want to do that?)

3.  I'm not in a hurry - this is absolutely critical.  This allows me to stay relaxed and focussed, no matter how long it takes or even if we get only get part of the way done that day.  My advice is that if you're getting frustrated, or angry, or impatient, either let that go and clear it out of your mind, or if you can't, stop.  Stop now.  Those emotions have no place in working with the horse - they will adversely affect everything you do and lead to poor results.  Never start work with a horse when you don't have time to finish whatever needs doing - if you're in a hurry, the horse will know and it will impair your work.

4.  Patiently, and repeatedly, ask for exactly - not vaguely, but exactly - what you want.  Horses don't deal in generalities, they deal in specifics, and if you're vague about what you want, you'll get exactly that - something vague and not quite right.  If you're consistent, and clear, you'll get there.

5.  Remember to reward each small increment of try/offer the horse gives you, and shape what you get to the end you want.  Don't stop until you get to a place that's better than where you started.  If you stop with the horse worried/confused/agitated, that's what you'll find the next time you take up your work.  Work until you're done and the softness comes through.

6.  But don't drill.  The difference between getting to done, and drilling, is a hard one to define.  Drilling is repeating a behavior the horse knows how to do, for no purpose except repetition.  Horses get bored by this, and they may even decide they must be doing things wrong (because you keep asking over and over again), and start offering up unwanted behaviors - that can really mess things up.  I stop when the horse does the behavior correctly once - in Missy's case that day, once I got on and she stood, we went on to our regular under saddle work - and then perhaps ask again once to confirm that the horse gets it - that day, when we were done working, I asked Missy to stand for mounting again and she was perfect.  And she's been perfect from the beginning every day since.  What I ended with was what showed up the next ride, and so on . . .