Friday, 25 September 2015

Running away to join the circus...

Last night I went to see the much talked about show, "Odysseo by Cavalia".

The entire production is quite the undertaking. They travel and build a magical wonderland 'big top' which sets the stage quite literally for what to expect inside.

Pictures from the Cavalia website

Within the first moments of starting, the tone is set with calm, quiet horses meandering with their humans. Such a simple-appearing seen, but full of subtle cues and constant interaction between horses and people.

There is plenty of wow factor intermixed with subtle, quiet moments to take your breath away.

There were many horses that clearly loved their job, and of course a couple of horses that would rather go back to the stall. Considering the quantity of tasks and number of horses on stage at a time, I actually expected more moments of lost attention or horses trying to exit stage right!

Overall, this show did not disappoint. I left the show wishing it were not the middle of the night so I could play with the horses. I can totally see Savvy and I galloping around bridle-less, me in a long flowing princess gown, jumping jumps, fancy piaffing and passaging all over the place...hahaha!...Maybe we could.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Training Shiraz: Part 2

"You cannot build a dream on a foundation of sand" [T. F. Hodge] and so it is with horses, the solidity of their initial training can create a base from which great things can someday be achieved...or at least allow me to putter around safely on my pony!
Weaving cones, combining pressure and drawing, and inviting her to think about the task and be more aware of my body language.

I have continued all of the yielding work from before, and I am now adding in drawing her towards me.

Backing from pressure and then drawing her back

I have been working on lots of ground work, being mindful to push her to improve yet not over-face her with anything. Instead of just simply making her do the things, I am trying to set her up to think and problem solve.

When I send her on a circle I am giving her the task of maintaining the circle until I invite her to stop. Love how she is already starting to stay on task with a loose line and keeps her inside ear on me waiting for her next task.

A little fun at the beginning of trot work!

We have been practicing parking at the mounting block with me leaning over her back and working on both sides equally. Now is the time to get up and begin working on one-rein stop!

Shiraz being a super star at the mounting block.

I worked on one-rein stop for a while on both sides. I am looking for not just the stop, but yielding her head and flexing her neck with softness.

I finished up with basic turns where I am asking with my leg and seat, but use the stick to help her make the connection. So far so good!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Dressage Day Two - magical pony belated update

Better late than never! Slow and steady progress has been happening with Savvy this summer. The Give-It-A-Go Dressage weekend we attended was incredibly useful, presenting Savvy with all sorts of new experiences.

This nose.
Day one was all about just taking it all in and hoping Savvy would settle a bit. Day two would be the fun show with our dressage test scheduled for 1:00 - perfect for an entire morning of warm ups, down time and show prep, i.e. braiding!!

The morning went all as planned and Savvy was really starting to relax and begin to realize I was indeed on her back asking her to do things.

By the time it was our turn to ride the test, I felt as ready as I could be. Savvy is so green yet, my goal was to simply do the test accurately - as in walk/trot/stop in the right spots. And we did! No spooks, no attempted escapes over the little fence.

We are working on properly riding into the bit and because she is soft, responsive and can curl behind the bit so easily, I am taking my time with that and trying to ride her in a way that helps her seek the contact. Right now it is just a lot of head bobbing mixed with fleeting moments of lovely, but we'll get there!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Training Shiraz: Part 1

I am having so much fun with this sweet little 2-year-old! Not all horses are the same, we all know. What I ask of a young horse is pretty much determined by where their mind and body are at. When training Miss Tea, her body was not ready for a rider until she was 4 years old. Her mind at 2 was happy to learn, but was easily overwhelmed. Savvy was also not ridden until she was 4--although her body developed nicely for the weight early, her mind was...well lets just say we are now at 6 years old starting to see she might actually have one.

Shiraz is pretty much blowing me away with her stable mind, ability to stay on task and interest in learning something new. I am not about to let that boat sail and I am jumping right in on showing her all the things.

I have discussed what she has done up until now in an earlier post. Now it is time for some more serious ground work which will be the foundation of all her future schooling. I like to think of it as teaching her the alphabet. All the ground work I am starting with will be the letters we need to make whole words later. Much of the early training techniques I will use, I have learned from Glenn Stewart, a natural horsemanship instructor in Canada. I have mixed that knowledge with my own experience working with horses and have come up with a plan of action that works for me. Horses and people are all different, so it is good to be flexible. If one thing is not working, I am always open to try something new.

Poles help us both work on straightness in the backup
I am starting with basic yielding. I want to be able to move all parts of her body independently with different types of pressure. I am not just looking for a yield, but asking for her to use her body correctly with each step.

Yeilding her forehand - looking for outside front to cross over and put weight into haunches for turn

I will do this type of ground work with her not just now but later in her training to keep her on track with correct use of her body as well as maintaining respect and softness.

Sideways - looking for straightness, crossing legs closest to me over the others. A tough one!
Not surprisingly, Shiraz is doing incredibly well with all I am asking of her so far. She is so laid back, my biggest problem is getting her soft and reactive. She has really lovely natural carriage and conformation; she pretty much walks like a ballerina and it is easy to get the correct movement so far.

Practicing mounting block parking...ya, the you think I got on? ;)

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Wicked is as wicked does

Meyla the wonder pony is slowly revealing to us all her wondrous and impish traits.

What? I'm perfect.
First of all, her love of grass is surpassed by nothing. If there be grass--head be going down!

Second, she knows the difference between an adult rider and a beginner rider--and does not hesitate to take advantage.

First lesson for Aiden and Meyla was a rough start: Aiden had a really hard time getting Meyla to go. Lesson number two went better as we brought a crop. Forward movement happened. But then Meyla had an idea. How about lying down?  Yes, she did. Forget that Icelandics are supposed to be called a 'horse'. She is P.O.N.Y. through and through!

Some tears and hugs later, Aiden got back on (Yay!!) and I stayed close by for the remainder of the lesson, just in case.

My son is deep in the trenches of learning to ride on this creature. If he comes out on the other side still riding, he is going to be one hell of a horseman!

Friday, 4 September 2015

First Rides on baby Shiraz

These are exciting times! Although Miss Tea is driving me mad with the struggle, there are positives in my back yard and one of them is named Shiraz. It seems like just yesterday baby horse joined my little herd. Her remarkable behavior that day I brought her home certainly set the tone for what a great horse she will be. As a 6-month-old, she stood quietly tied in the trailer while I finished preparing things in her paddock and talked with my boarders about her. Then she led off the trailer and I could lead her around lnbd.

Baby Shiraz - approximately 4 months old
Her first year here my training plan was to show her all the things, keep her respectful while still showing her people are good, but most of all just let her be a horse and get growing.

Momma - Thoroughbred/Draft/Quarter horse cross
My goal was to nourish her laid back attitude and help her stay mentally flexible. That involved moving to different paddocks, with and without a buddy and keeping her training time with me short, varied and interesting. I also took her for long hand walks and showed her my "play paddock" frequently.
Pappa - 'Rosebud Casino' - Registered Quarter Horse
Now is the exciting time to begin 'big horse' school. I can't wait to see how she handles this next step!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Eating Dirt

The last time I fell off my horse was this spring. I don't really count it as falling off though. My horse slipped in the snow and fell completely on her side and I really had no choice but to go down with her. The injury was bad though with a torn meniscus I am still dealing with today.

I wasn't left with any riding fears though thank goodness. Really, I got the message and know snow does not make for great schooling footing.

I had the opportunity to take in a small hunter/jumper schooling show and felt excited to have something to take Miss Tea out to. She has been a bit neglected since I started working so much more on Savvy. We are also quite short on affordable hunter/jumper shows in my area and I just can't justify the expense right now.

It all started out great--Miss Tea was relaxed and listening well. We warmed up and started popping over small cross rails with the rest of the group and all was going great.

The thing is, Miss Tea trips. A lot. She is sound. Her feet are fine. She is just long, conformationally heavy on the forehand, and naturally clumsy. When her hooves are getting a bit long, or the ground is uneven, or if she is tired, it is worse. Canter is NOT her favorite gait and tripping happens much more then. When we do canter, I can hold her in balance, but if feels like every muscle in my body is making every step happen correctly and I can only make it around the arena once like that before I am huffing and puffing.

I came over the cross rails with the show organiser/coach helping and working on small issues as I went. One particular jump went well and the canter on landing was soft and lovely so I eased off and let the reins slightly loosen.

She stumbled. Most times she stumbles I can pull her head up and recover. This time the initial stumble was so bad her head was already down between her legs and I could do nothing. The stumble continued and continued (it seemed like a really long time because I had time to think about where I was, where her body parts were, and what might happen next). I had time to hang out on her neck as she continued to flounder and wonder where on earth was her head anyways, and then begin the air time, losing track of what was up versus down and then realising I was going to land directly in front of a falling horse. The landing was surprisingly not that bad. I guess her neck was so close to the ground by then, there wasn't far to go. As I ducted and covered waiting for the hooves to impact or a horse body to land, nothing came. I opened my eyes and saw she had stopped, dazed with a sand covered face.

We can canter sometimes
Luckily we were both okay. I was able to hop right back on and continue with the schooling show. She tripped a few more times that day. It was so hot and she is not in the best shape but I couldn't help getting discouraged as I watched other horses canter so effortlessly around their jump courses. Can Miss Tea ever get there?

Right now I am just stuck deep in a funk that my horse is still unbalanced at the canter after all the work I have put in. I have struggled with this horse. From dealing with her hot-headed spookiness, a year of laminitis from a trailer ride from hell (my fault for hiring an unknown person for transport), followed by six months of not being able to load her (not her fault for now being afraid of trailers), a full year of bucking at the canter, and then this summer she started head shaking when ridden outside (which is still undiagnosed). I have gone to hell and back for this horse and we have grown and worked through our fears together, but it always seems to be a struggle with this girl.

I don't want or need 'easy', I just don't want to be back in fear again.