Thursday, January 29, 2015

Missy and I Do Trail Obstacles

Well, some of the things we did you're unlikely to encounter on the trail . . .

I had a busy horse day - Pie and Red got rides in the afternoon, and then Missy and I rode during the Thursday evening horse get together that happens most weeks at the barn.  Tonight there were trail obstacles - poles, tarps, a couple of platforms and a pool noodle obstacle - two jump standards with pool noodles attached all the way up at right angles - think two giant combs facing one another.

And we also tried out a Western saddle - Pie's fit her pretty well with some minor shimming.  I didn't know if she'd ever worn a back cinch, so I left that pretty loose.  She did well with the saddle and it put me in a good position, although it tended to want to slip back - I may need to use a pad with a bit more substance - perhaps one of my Diamond wool pads.

Missy did great with all the obstacles - we started in hand.  The tarp she could have cared less about, although she inspected it carefully before crossing.  She crossed the big platform pretty easily, but got slightly worried about it once it had dirt patches on the top - some snorting but that was all.  Once the dirt was cleared off, she was reassured.  We did some circling around it in hand until she relaxed.

The pool noodle obstacle was apparently a novelty to her, although she approached it readily and went through it with some coaxing - the noodles brushing her hindquarters caused her to scoot a little bit, but after we did it a few times, she was much more comfortable.

We moved on to ridden work.  She looked very nice in her new headstall and the Western saddle - sorry, no pictures (yet).  Passing by the platform - it was close to the corner with not much room between - was a bit alarming, so I got off and we hand walked around it a few times.  I got back on and she was fine with it.  I like how quickly she figures out that things don't have to be alarming.

She didn't want to pass through the pool noodle obstacle under saddle - I kept her directed towards it but she didn't want to do more than put her head and neck through.  So I dismounted and spread the two sides apart, leaving a larger gap between where she would fit without running into the noodles - we walked through several times in hand and she was fine.  So I got back on, and she walked through easily.  I had someone on the ground bring the sides a little closer together - there was still a gap - and she was fine walking through.  Then we walked through the gap to one side so the noodles brushed her - no problem at all.  We did that a few more times, and she was great.

The method of making a difficult problem a bit easier and then easing back up on a higher difficulty level works really well.  Missy also showed again how well she learns - she quickly understands what is wanted and figures out that things that might be alarming are in fact OK.

We also did some trot work - I asked her to be forward and soft at the same time and she was mostly able to do it for me.  All the dismounting/mounting gave us a lot of practice on our standing still for mounting, and her concentration (despite a number of horses in the ring) and softness were pretty consistent at walk and trot.

I was delighted with her and told her so many times throughout our session - good Miss mare - I think we both had a good time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mare Day

Today was a mare day.  The boys and I didn't ride, although they were attended to, and I even went to say hi to them while they were in turnout - they were much more interested in the hay than in me.

Dawn and I had a nice short walk/trot ride this morning - it was still pretty cold - in the 20s.  Yesterday, she'd started out a bit stiff before she warmed up, but today she was sound at the trot from the beginning.  She seems to be off the day following a day off, which reinforces my suspicion that she's developing some hock arthritis in her right hind, which is to be expected at her age.  Probably the lower joint of the hock, which will likely fuse at some point, resulting in consistent soundness again.  Until she's reliably sound each ride as soon as we trot, indicating that her arthritis has either abated or progressed to the point the joint is more comfortable, we'll keep our work sessions short - just 10 or 15 minutes of trotting to keep her joints mobile.  The work seems to improve her soundness, and we'll try to work most days.

When I go get Dawn from the turnout, I always also say hi to Missy.  She always looks up when I call and waits for me to walk up and say hi.  But today she actually saw me coming and walked up to greet me!  She's clearly beginning to know that I'm her person and seems happy to see me (no treats either when I greet her so it isn't food).  She seems pretty content all around, which I'm glad to see.  She has made one mare friend, a palomino QH who's in her 20s.  They hang out together and eat from the bale together.  The other mares also tolerate her, which is also good.  This morning, when I led Dawn away toward the barn, Missy made a bee line for the bale Dawn had been on - even though they're stall neighbors, Dawn won't let Missy eat at "her" bale yet.

Missy and I rode in the afternoon.  We worked some more on her softness in walk, halt and backing, and stretching down, both in hand and under saddle.  And we worked some more on her being able to move her inside hind over in response to my leg.  We started on the ground, and she was really starting to get it - she's quick to learn - moving off my right side aid was harder for her but we kept working until she understood.

The arena doors were open - it was in the upper 30s, with no wind and sunny - and she dealt very well with that.  Her softness and responsiveness at the walk, including my asking her to move over with my leg, are very good - well above 75%, so today, for the first time, we trotted.  We didn't do a lot of trot work - she needs to build her fitness and she's only been out of front shoes for less than two weeks - but she was great - just what I'm coming to expect from the Miss mare!  I was delighted with her and told her so.

A good day with mares - nothing is better!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Kind of Day

Today was a really good horse day.  I rode all four horses (I rode all four yesterday, too), and each ride was a delight.

I left home at about 7:30 a.m. this morning.  The barn is only about a 5 minute drive from my house, which is really nice.  I hiked out to get Dawn, we groomed (with a fair amount of nose snuggling), tacked and had the arena to ourselves, as usual.  Dawn has been stiff and a bit off during her warmup trot work lately - she improves during our work, which makes me think arthritis - I believe her right hock - but this morning she was perfectly sound from the get go at the trot on both diagonals.

This afternoon, after bring-in, I groomed Red, Missy and Pie in sequence, and then rode them in that order, starting at about 3:00 p.m.

Red was up first, and was excellent - lots of very nice stretching down trot work with good bend on circles and around corners.  There was a fair amount of activity in the arena, but he was relaxed but very nicely forward.  He's completely sound now at the trot on both diagonals and is really using himself nicely.

Missy was a star, as usual.  Yesterday, she'd been startled badly by the big arena door going up directly behind her and scooted a few steps, so today we hand led by the doors and she watched them go up and down - her eyes got big but she didn't move a foot and I think the doors are pretty much a non-issue.  We did some in-hand softening and stretching down work - she's got it nailed, and her backing is much softer than it even was yesterday.  Then we did some in-hand work on her moving over/bending in response to leg - using my hand to simulate leg pressure.  Today, I just got on without any special preparation and she stood like a rock.  Her stretching down and softness at the walk are much more consistent, and we started working on her bending and moving over from my leg.  We also worked on having a good, forward walk - I carried a dressage whip for the first time to reinforce with a secondary cue as needed.  Her stop off my "stopping inside" is pretty much there.  She's softening and backing much better as well. What a good girl she is!

Pie was last, and he was great, too.  We worked on his bending and stretching down at the trot - his forward is very consistent now and I rarely have to use a secondary cue.  We did some very nice canter work, including two perfect walk/canter departures off my energy/changing the rhythm inside, and some very nice relaxed but forward canter work, asking for stretch down.

Can't ask for a better horse day that that!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fabulous Missy

I just had another great ride with Missy - it was our fifth ride.  We started with some in-hand relaxation and softening work, including some concentrated work on soft backing - this was hard, but every time we did it she improved.

We worked some more on our standing for mounting - it's almost 100% where I want it to be.  After I got on, we just stood there for a while on a loose rein while I praised her.

We did some very nice walk work, with soft stretching down, and some beginning to work on lengthening/shortening work off my seat and energy level, getting a nice, energetic, soft walk.  Her halt is already significantly better - I think halt, exhale and place the feet for a square halt and she's right on it.  We did some just standing around on a loose rein watching everything that was going on.

And we did some softening and backing under saddle - again, this was hard at first but by the end of our short work session she was already getting much better at it.  This also will likely be completely right within a couple more work sessions.

Missy got lots of praise and strokes, and she seems to really appreciate that - well, she likes the treats she gets at the end of the ride, too! She is such a good-natured, level-headed, willing and intelligent mare that she's a delight to work with.  She learns very quickly, and is willing to adopt new habits if I'm clear and consistent about what I want.

Fabulous Miss!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Four Rides, and Fourth on Missy

Today I rode all four horses - that certainly won't happen every day, but it was a good day for it - very few people at the barn and lots of peace and quiet.  Dawn and I had a nice early morning ride, with some trotting - she's a little bit gimpy, possibly from the hard frozen ground after her trim, so we didn't ride too long.  She's getting up there in years - she'll be 18 this summer - so sometimes she's just a little sore due to that and some arthritis.

Red and Pie were lovely in our rides, lots of nice stretching down and lifting through the back.  Both boys did some bits of good canter work, too.

Missy was a star.  She's now out full day in turnout with the mare herd, and they mostly seem to be letting her alone - there were a couple of instances where she was nibbling grass near another mare, or a mare was letting her eat hay from a bale the mare was on - she's already making her way into the herd and is happy to be out there.

Yesterday, Missy and I rode alone in the arena.  She was a little bit nervous about that - she's already getting pretty attached to the other horses she's with, in turnout and in her stall - but that's not surprising, and she didn't really do much of anything except try to ease her way back towards her stall.  But today she did very, very well.

To help her with her softening, I tried a bit change.  I already knew from Mary that Miss didn't like single jointed snaffles, and had been ridden in a french link.  Knowing that, I suspected that she might like this bit:

This is the same bit that Pie goes in - a raised Rockin' S snaffle - it was specially designed by Mark Rashid, together with the bit maker, to be a comfortable bit for horses with low palates and large tongues.  The fact that Miss didn't like a single-jointed snaffle made me thing she might be a horse like that, so we tried out the raised Rockin' S to see how she'd like it.  Another very nice feature of this bit is that it doesn't pinch - when pressure is applied to the reins, the mouthpiece actually opens up rather than closing down.

Many horses take a while to adjust to this bit - it lies back in the mouth along the tongue - not falling forward like many double-jointed bits - but Miss took to it immediately.  Her mouth was quiet and her affect was relaxed.  We did some in-hand softening and relaxation/stretching down work, and she was immediately responsive and happy.  We worked some more on our standing still for mounting, and did some just-standing-around work in hand.  When I got on, she was immediately softer and more responsive.  We did some work on our halts (she's beginning to halt off my seat/my placing the feet into halt, rather than the reins), and standing for a while on a loose rein, and she also did some nice figure work at the walk with good stretching down.  She enjoyed her after-ride treats (she says she's used to more!), and was content in her stall - good Missy mare!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Experiments in Relaxation

Over the past several days, I've been adding some of Mark Russell's thinking on relaxation to my work sessions with all four horses.  His focus on relaxation in the jaw (no tight nosebands or cavessons), and stretching down through lateral and longitudinal (front to back) bend, without forcing/holding, in order to get mental and physical softness, has really been a really excellent addition to my work.

The whole point isn't the position of the head, it's the stretching/rounding of the top line and also laterally.  This permits the horse to be physically, mentally and emotionally relaxed and also engages the core for lift and impulsion.  It's the first stage of the work Mark outlines in his book, but it's fundamental and something always to be returned to.

Although there is a lateral element to this stretching, it most definitely isn't what a lot of folks refer to as "lateral flexions".  None of that nose to boot stuff, which I see a lot of folks doing.  I find that type of mechanical lateral flexing completely counterproductive and in fact harmful - it tends to produce a gumby-necked horse who is disconnected from front to back.  Red came to me that way, and it was a pretty difficult thing to work through to get his front to back and back to front connection again. What I want is an even, relaxed curve from nose to tail, with the horse coming through from behind.

Both my rides on Red and Pie were spectacular - they were happy, with quiet mouths, and their impulsion and rhythm were impressive - in fact they both did some of the best trot work we've done.  Dawn and I also had a nice work session at the walk - our first ride in almost two weeks - where she was able to find some good relaxation - relaxation has always been a big challenge for her so this work is going to be very beneficial.  Once things are well-established at the walk, we'll move up to trot. Missy and I had our second walk ride, and we've been working on her softening, in hand and also under saddle, and she's making very good progress.

Friday, January 16, 2015

First Ride on Missy

Thursday evenings, a group of people at the barn regularly get together and do things with their horses - some people do groundwork, some ride, some do both.  There are usually at least 6 or 7 horse/person combos, and sometimes more, so it's busy in the arena.  But it's a nice group of folks, who treat each other with respect and consideration.

I decided that it would be a good opportunity to get Missy out for a work session.  My objective was to get on board, but if other things needed working on more and we didn't get to riding, that was fine too.  It was a pretty challenging environment - lots going on all over the ring - but I thought she'd be able to handle it.  She looked around a fair amount, but never was startled or particularly worried.

We started with some in-hand work - her leading is already about where I want it to be.  A side note - any time I have a new horse to work with, I have a regular program I go through with them to get them to the point that their handle and feel, both on the ground and under saddle, are what I want - I have very precise requirements for leading, ground handling, mounting and feel under saddle.  I just take one thing at a time, and when we're where we need to be, I move on to the next thing - I don't drill or do a lot of repetition, but once the horse gets it I assume the horse is going to offer me what I want the next time, and that's pretty much what happens.  Occasionally we go back and review things specifically, but really we're reinforcing what I want every time we interact so that's rarely necessary.

The first thing I wanted from Missy was some relaxation, starting with relaxing the jaw on both sides, one side at a time.  I then encouraged her to so some stretching down in response to the request on each side for relaxation.  Only when we had a bit of that did we move on to mounting.

Standing still for mounting on a loose rein until I signal the horse to move off is non-negotiable for me.  I won't mount if I haven't got that, and was prepared to work as long with Missy as it took for that to be there.  It took less than 10 minutes for her to go from walking off when I tried to mount, to standing there like a rock on a loose rein while I mounted and then sat there and fiddled around before asking her to move off.  We didn't repeat the mounting because I think she's got it pretty solidly - I may have to remind her next time but that may not even be necessary.  One thing I really like about this mare is how willing she is and how quickly she learns - both very good things - her response is "oh, that's what you want me to do? yeah, I can do that".

We spent about 10 minutes walking around all over the ring - she didn't blink an eye at anything in the arena, including all the scary stuff piled in the corners.  Her turns are pretty good, although I'd like the feel to get softer.  Improving her front to back softness will be one of our next areas of work, and when I got off we did a bit of backing in hand to begin to work on that.  Once she's getting the relaxation/stretch down more consistently and starting to offer more front to back softness, she'll start rebuilding muscle correctly.  We'll be there in a few days, I think, and will gradually increase our walking time under saddle over the next 10 days or so.  By then she'll be ready to start some trot work.

This morning my trimmer came, her front shoes came off (she had no backs) and she was able to go out with the herd for about 3 hours - the mare herd has about a dozen mares.  There was some running, herding and chasing, but Missy was careful not to get into trouble.  It'll be a while before she's fully accepted by the herd, but so far so good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learning Missy

I'm slowly starting to "learn" Missy.  This has gone a bit slower than it might have, since I've been sick with the flu since before she arrived and today was the first day I felt reasonably well.  It's also been very cold - daily highs well below 20F - and Dawn, Red and Pie have had 10 days off from riding.  Considering that I was sick and couldn't ride anyway, that didn't matter too much.

I'm also not in a hurry with Missy.  All we've done so far is some leading work, some head down/giving to pressure work and a small amount of lungeing so she can stretch her legs - she'll be in a pen and not turned out with the mares until she gets her shoes off on Friday.  The bits of work we've done have been very short, since I haven't felt well enough to concentrate sufficiently for more extended periods - this sort of initial work requires a lot of concentrated attention to exactly what the horse is doing.

Tomorrow I think we'll be able to have a more proper session, since my energy level is finally starting to pick up.

Here's what I've learned about Missy so far.

Physically, she's not in shape and needs to build muscle, particularly in her hindquarters, so we'll be taking it slowly as she gets back into work.  I'd also like her to gain a fair amount of weight - Mary says she has tended to lose some weight in the winter and she also apparently lost a lot of weight on her trip - this is common on long trailer trips - she's already picked up a few pounds since she arrived.  She's getting some Ultiuum (a high-fat feed), and I'm slowly increasing the amount of that as well as giving her as much grass hay as she'll eat.

She has two physical blemishes, neither of which seems to cause her any trouble.  Her left front leg has a large area above the fetlock on the outside which is completely missing hair - Mary told me about that - which looks like the site of an old injury.  Her right hind has a sizable bone spavin on the inner lower hock joint.  Both these features predate Mary's ownership of her, and neither has caused lameness, or changed.

In terms of who Missy "is", she's very calm and non-spooky - completely unfazed by goings on at the barn, strange objects and barn equipment.  She does look around, but in an interested way.  She seems very content in her stall, and not worried about anything, and eats well.  She's also very low energy.  Yesterday I let her loose in the indoor to see what she would do - this is a horse who hasn't had any real turnout since she started her trip last Thursday - and she just moseyed around sniffing things and then decided to just follow me around - no running, bucking or anything else.  Some of that lack of energy could be fatigue from her trip, or due to her weight being below normal, but I think it's actually who she is - she's not a worrier and she's an energy-saver.  The only time she's fussed at all is when I've asked her to trot on the lunge - there was a bit of ear-pinning and a head shake or two, but she complied.  She is quite interested in other horses, but is not pushy about wanting to interact with them.  Other than about lungeing, her demeanor is consistently friendly.

She's already paying very close attention to me, and when I've asked her to do things like leading in a way that is perhaps somewhat different from what she knows, she very quickly picks up on what I want.  She's smart and a quick learner, which will make her fun to work with.  She sometimes does things not because I've asked for them, but because it's what she expects to be doing, and is surprised when I ask her to do something different and wait for my direction.  Her responsiveness so far is very pleasant - she wants to please.

A delightful Missy mare - Dawn and Red are jealous and say they are being neglected - Pie doesn't care so long as he gets his share of the food.  I should be back to riding the three of them shortly, particularly as the weather is warming up to the 30s in a day or so.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Missy's Transportation - a Review

I've never had to arrange a cross-country trip for a horse using a commercial shipper before, so I sought the advice of experts - Melissa at Paradigm Farms, who has interacted with many shipping companies delivering retirees to her farm, and my older daughter, who has been involved with shipping horses to and from Florida and also to shows.  Based on their recommendations and some research I did, I selected C and E as Missy's shipper.  They had to use a subcontractor - one they've used many times before and who meets their standards - for the WV/Lexington leg of the trip - Lukens, out of New York state - C and E arranged all of this.  For her layover in Lexington, Missy stayed at Newtown Station Layover - this facility actually has a vet on the premises.  C and E called Newtown Station to check on her for me during the day on Friday.

The experience was excellent and all three parts of the trip were expertly handled.  Communications through C and E were very good, and they were very responsive during the process of arranging Missy's ride and throughout her trip.  She arrived on time and in excellent condition.

Although I didn't interact with Lukens, who did the West Virginia to Lexington leg of the trip, according to Mary they did a great job - very professional and communicated well.  They used a smaller rig, since Mary's barn is not accessible by semi, and Missy had a nice box stall for her trip.  Missy traveled on a semi from Lexington to my area, where she was transferred onto a smaller rig pulled by a 4wd pick up for the delivery to my barn - we'd had some snow and the driveway/turnaround isn't that easy at the best of times.

C and E isn't the cheapest shipper, but they do an excellent job and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again, and my indirect experience with Lukens was also very good.

Sweet Missy's Here! (With a Few Pictures for Mary . . .)

Missy arrived this afternoon after her journey from West Virginia.  From the moment she stepped off the trailer, she was calm and a perfect lady, despite being in a strange place.  I settled her into her stall and spent some time sitting with her and introducing myself - we've never met before - and giving her scratches.  After that, I let her be, as she's undoubtedly very tired from her long trailer ride today.

But here are a few pictures:

She's a real sweetie, and I'm very much looking forward to getting to know her better each day.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Heart Horse Transplant

Missy is on her way to me.  She left Mary at about 1:30 in the morning last night.  She'll be laying over tonight for a rest break in Lexington, Kentucky, and then will come up to me on Saturday.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing her sweet face, and getting her settled in the stall next to Dawn.

Missy is Mary's heart horse.  Taking on someone else's heart horse is a special responsibility.  I've done it once before - Dawn was my younger daughter's heart horse, and when my daughter went to college, Dawn became my special responsibility.

I lost a very special heart horse - Snow - when I was about 17.  And not only did I lose a heart horse, I had no control over where she went or how she was treated or what happened to her as she got old.

I couldn't make Mary's decision to give up Missy any easier, but I could give Mary the assurance that her special heart horse would be well-loved and well-cared for.  I hope in the end that's some comfort.

We're already planning for Mary to come visit next summer, and in the meantime, Mary will be able to follow our adventures here on this blog . . .

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Moving My Horsemanship Forward

Here in these cold January days - not much riding going on due to the super low temperatures - I've been thinking about what it takes to continue to move my horsemanship forward.  I've made a lot of progress over the past 10 years in learning how to more effectively work with my horses, mainly through listening to them and approaching our interactions with softness and respect for the horse.  I've also worked hard to improve my mechanics - how I ride - by improving my posture, relaxation, balance and softness.  A lot of those improvements are due to teaching I've had the honor of receiving from Mark Rashid and his student Heather Burke.  But more and more, I find my learning comes from really listening to my horses and what they have to say about what I'm doing or not doing, and how I'm doing it.

I think the really great horsemen and women know that they're never done learning - there's always more to be learned.  And they also know, and teach, that learning can come from many sources - if you've got a strong foundation of horsemanship, you have the ability to decide what elements from others are appropriate for you - what things are consistent with the moral basis of your horsemanship and its underlying specific principles of how to work with and ride horses.

Mark put it very nicely in a recent blog post:
Before we can even think about mastery we must first get to the point of simply being able to practice. Before we can practice, we must first focus on developing our own individual skills. We do that in part by finding a teacher who not only helps us understand and work on the feel and mechanics of what we are trying to accomplish, but who is also skilled enough to be able to teach us how to learn and think for ourselves. At the same time, we, as the student, must also be willing to want to think for ourselves, to take that next step in our learning and be able to move out of our comfort zone so that true growth (and perhaps even mastery) can begin to take place.
Now, I'm not one who spends a lot of time watching videos of various horsemen, or attending clinics. I think there's a risk in doing too much of that, instead of just working with your own horses on a regular basis - the risk is of ending up with a mishmash of ideas/techniques/approaches that can be confusing at best and inconsistent at worst.  I have learned a lot from the wisdom of the Dorrences, Ray Hunt and Harry Whitney, although I never had the opportunity to work with any of them.  I don't follow their techniques directly, and don't consider myself part of the natural horsemanship camp, although what I do overlaps to some extent with some of what the best natural horsemanship people do, particularly the emphasis on the development of feel and timing.  Part of this is due to the fact that Mark specifically rejects the NH label and his approach differs in a number of respects from the approach used by many NH trainers. At my barn, there are several groups of folks - some pretty traditional in their riding/training, and some much more towards the natural horsemanship end of things.  Although I don't do the same things they do, I generally find that I usually (not always) have more in common with the NH crowd, and my barn friends are often drawn from that group, although I'm friendly with most of the people at my barn.

Several years ago, Mark challenged me to do two things:  develop my own horsemanship style - not just an imitation of his; and to ride all my horses consistently.  (Mark says it's easy to fall into the trap of riding each horse the same way its last owner rode, rather than presenting each, different, horse with the same feel from the inside of you.)  This is still a job I'm working on - my consistency between rides and between horses in terms of how I present myself to the horse has improved, and this means that my "style" of riding is becoming my own.

This puts me into the position of being able to examine some other horsemanship ideas and make a principled decision about whether to build them into my repertoire and style.  There are a lot of ideas, and trainers, and training techniques that I have zero interest in, both inside and outside the NH world  - they're either morally inconsistent with how I approach working with horses, or they are primarily just mechanics.  I'm interested in fundamentals - relaxation, balance, blending with the horse, feel and connection.  There are certain mechanical aspects to these - things to do or avoid doing - but at this point I'm only interested in mechanics to the extent they lead to improvement in my fundamentals.

I've recently found a book that intrigues me - there are also some articles.  They're by Mark Russell, who studied classical dressage with Nuno Oliveira, but says that he has his own approach that is informed by, but not identical to, Oliviera's.  I've recently gotten Russell's book (with Andrea W. Steele) Lessons in Lightness: the Art of Educating the Horse, and so far I like the emphasis on relaxation, throughness (allowing the power of the hindquarters to carry through the whole body) and also self-carriage (without driving with seat or leg or restraining with the hand).  All of those principles are consistent with how I try to ride.  I also like that Russell is shown riding in both Western and dressage tack - Russell started out as a Western trainer - this is something I do myself and I believe good riding and good horsemanship should be the same no matter what tack you ride in or what disciplines you and your horse do together.

So I'm intrigued.  I've already gotten a couple of interesting ideas - some of them in hand work - to try out with my horses and see what we think.  One of the things I really like about have several horses to work with is that having feedback from multiple horses gives me good perspective on what I'm doing and its correctness in terms of our mutual principles and fundamental goals.  These initial ideas of Mark Russell's all relate to the development of mental and physical relaxation in the horse.  Relaxation - my own and that of the horse - is something I really want to improve this year.  I like Russell's idea that the horse's inability or resistance to doing something we ask - assuming there isn't a physical problem in the horse's body - is due to lack of relaxation and the blockages this creates in the free flow of energy through the horse's body - the throughness.  Lack of mental relaxation creates lack of physical relaxation.  This is very consistent with the learning I've had from Mark Rashid.

Dawn sometimes has trouble relaxing mentally, which leads her to rush and worry.  Pie gets tight in his body and braced when he isn't relaxed, and Red gets "jangly" - super responsive and compliant with apparent softness, but he's nervous and over reactive and not really soft at all.  So if we can improve our mutual relaxation, all sorts of good things should flow from that.

So this should be fun!  Have any of you seen/worked with/tried out Mark Russell's ideas?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Great Pics of Missy

Mary is a great photographer - I'm hoping she'll teach me when she visits next summer.

In the meantime - here are some very nice pics of Missy strutting her stuff.