Monday, March 22, 2010

It’s spring time!!

It’s spring time and the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing, and Diamond is loving life! She had some time off over the winter while I recovered from my knee surgery, and has reconsidered this whole riding thing. She is all good with walking around, and will even trot when asked, but she’d rather kick the crap outa that annoying pressure asking her to canter.

Since I’m not 100% recovered yet, and a toss outa the saddle could set me back too far, I’ve called upon the help of Mr. Cowboy again. Boy, he’s a life saver and I’m forever grateful to him for being willing to hop in the saddle of my stubborn snotty little princess.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known she would do this, she told Linda my animal communicator that she was fine with having some time off over the winter, but when we got back on in the spring, she would probably buck a little bit. She meant every word of it too! And the funny thing is, she isn’t doing it out of anger or pissy-ness, when she’s done with her bronc-fest, her eyes are all lit up and she has the look on her face of “Wow! Isn’t this fun!?!” Umm, I could think of funner things to do... Like go on a trail ride, and get outa the arena, but we can’t do that when she’s bucking!

So, for the time being, we’re just working her in the arena, getting the canter when we ask for it, without a buck, or a head toss, and having fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

They’re as big as she is!

On Halloween, my good friend Mr. Cowboy and his girlfriend Ms. Cowgirl took their horses to a local training facility and participated in the cow sorting. Hubby and I also took Diamond and Sugar to see what they thought of the cows. We got there a little after it started and boy that was a mistake! There were 11 pages of entries before us which made for a long day of hanging out.
Hubby & I pulled Diamond and Sugar out of the trailer and tacked them up, we warmed them up with towels over our saddles because it was raining and hailing... what a day!! Finally there was a break in the rain and we took them to the outdoor arena for some riding. Diamond’s little legs didn’t cover as much ground as the big horses did, and she was not happy being “left behind”. She would trot to catch back up with us. Our Trainer Mr. Cowboy is really trying to get Hubby to understand that Diamond can not make any decisions at all – she doesn’t get to decide the gait to go, or the direction, so they did lots of one rein stops and circles to slow her down. We all waited patiently for them to be ready and enter the arena where we all played around and worked on getting Diamond to respond to the rider’s aids – both leg and rein. Finally we were all warmed up and ready to go to the main arena where the cows were being worked.
Diamond has issues being around new horses because she’s so alpha. She understand that Hubby and I are HER alpha, but she still feels the need to dominate other horses, so anytime someone came by us, she’d pin her ears and snake her head at them. Or even worse yet, she’s swing her hind end towards them. I got tired of fighting her and we finally just had to move her off by herself until some of the morning people headed out and it wasn’t so crowded.

Waiting is so hard to do... :)

About an hour before our runs, we had enough room inside the arena to get Diamond and Sugar close to the cows inside – neither one seemed to care too much about them, and Diamond wasn’t nearly as interested in them today as she was at the gaming show the month before.
Mr. Cowboy and Ms. Cowgirl had their first run on their horses, and all went great, they got 9 of the 10 in before time was called. They then hopped on Diamond and Sugar and waited for the next go.

The first go... Diamond on the left, Sugar on the right

When their names were called, Sugar & Diamond went into the pens. Thankfully the cows were at the far end as it gave the girls a minute to realize what was going on. Ms. Cowgirl cut the #8 cow on Sugar, and Mr. Cowboy had a lapse in judgment and instead of cutting #9, he went for #7 – that run was done and over before it even got started, however all was not a loss. Diamond went into the group of cows – who were just as big as she was, and definitely weighed more than she did – and went to work. Sugar, who I honestly thought would plaster herself against the back wall, actually did great and was having a ball! They waited for their next go and rode Diamond and Sugar again. This time they did much better and got 7 of the 10 cows sorted before time was up. Again, Diamond went into the herd of cows and really enjoyed herself. She was getting into it once she understood what was expected of her.

Diamond & Mr. Cowboy sorting the cows

Diamond & Mr. Cowboy sorting the cows

Sugar & Ms. Cowgirl sorting the cows

Diamond & Mr. Cowboy sorting the cows

Mr. Cowboy and Ms. Cowgirl rode their own horses for the last go and got all the cows sorted before time was up.
We had so much fun and can’t wait to do it again. There is a private group who has invited us to join them right before my surgery, so that will most likely be the next sorting we do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Big day off the farm

This past Saturday I took Diamond to a gaming show with some freinds.
We woke up early Saturday, loaded the horses and headed out for our 2 hour road trip. We arrived about 30 minutes before the show started and everyone was in the arena warming up for the day. We got our numbers and headed into the chaos. Diamond was on overload. She didn’t know which horses to snake out at, or to swing her butt to, and despite the fighting between the mares overnight, she still wanted to be with the two horses we went with. She would start to trot to catch up, and I’d circle her back around and begin walking again. She finally figured out that she doesn’t pick the gait, or the direction, and was content to just walk along.
Many of my fellow boarders were there and Diamond took comfort from seeing her barn friends. She never did call out to anyone, but would keep a sharp eye on them when she could.
Knowing that this was Diamond’s first real riding outside of the farm, and that she’s just barely 3 and still has joints that are open, I had planned to spread my events out as much as possible. Since we were already in the arena when the first event was called, we did that one. As they called numbers for Keyhole, I sat wondering what her reaction would be to the white chalk lines on the ground. She has never seen anything like this before, and it’s the one event we haven’t practiced at all. As it turns out, she calmly walked down to the keyhole, glanced at the chalk, walked right through the runway, turned in the circle, and walked right back out and trotted to the start line. WOOHOO!! We had done our first event!!
I brought her back to the trailer, took the bit out of her mouth, put her halter on and gave her the hay bag I brought her. She dove right in and was happy as a clam at high-tide. I went back to the arena and watched the rest of the riders for the event. I kept glancing over to check on her, and I saw her big brown butt turned toward me with her head in the hay bag. About the 4th or 5th time I checked on her, her body was turned toward me and she was in the tack room. I raced over there because I had brought grain and a bucket of treats for her and she was eating them all! She had spilled the grain all over the floor and knocked the treats out on the grass after eating about half of them. I untied her and walked her around for a little while, I didn’t want it all settling in her gut like a lead balloon and giving her a tummy ache. After we were done, I gave her a drink of water and tied the lead rope shorter so that she couldn’t get to the tack room. Just for good measure, I closed the door.
Our next event was poles. I did a little ground work with her to prepare her for being ridden again, and we mounted. We walked away from the trailer by ourselves (Another small victory) and just tooled around for a little while. Since this show was taking place at the Rodeo grounds, there were some cows on the property. Diamond caught a glimpse of them and stood completely still, ears forward, checking those things out. I sat there and petted her neck, talking to her a little bit. I asked her to step forward to get a little closer to them, and she walked about 10 feet from their pen and stared longer. She was so interested in those cows, it was super cool. I can’t wait to get her closer to one and see what she does.
For our pole run, she basically refused to walk down to the end. She was really confused and wanted to weave through them right away. My friend came out and walked in front of her. She followed him all the way through the pattern and did great with someone to show her what to do. (Thank You Mr. Cowboy)
After that, there were a lot of team events, and we weren’t playing in those, so she got a good long break.
Our last few events came close together and I wasn’t sure if she’d hold out for them all or not, and I really wanted to do barrels, so my plan was to play the others by ear and see how she was doing. I would skip one if she was tired so that she had enough left to do the barrels.
As we all were standing in the middle of the arena, with events on both sides of us, she decided to throw her head around and start backing up. She would not go forward at all, so I took my crop and tapped her between the ears. She quieted right down for about a split second, then bolted and had a bronc fest. She bucked a few times and I went to one rein stop her. As she stopped, she also yielded her hind quarters over really fast. I wasn’t expecting it, and I slipped right off her! As soon as I was off, she stopped all movement and looked at me like “Hey, how’d ya get down there?” I got back on, and she was fine again.
We lined up for Key race and she was ready to go down to those poles. She thought she knew what to do, and went through the first two, then took a hard left to weave like she did on the other ones. After we all stopped laughing, I got her back through the way she came out, we finished going through, made our turn and trotted back to the starting line.
That event went quick and we were ready for Cal-Stake. She had no problem with this one at all, we had used poles and barrels many many times in the arena to teach her to turn around something and get a good bend to her body. She trotted down, made a turn to the right. I gave her her head completely on the way back, letting her decide the speed to go. She extended her trot way out and we covered some ground.
I dismounted and brought her back to the trailer for some snacking and a drink. I loosened her girth and gave her a good rub down, checking her legs for any swelling and soreness. She was sound, so we headed out for barrels. There was a ton of people signed up, and we were #35, so we had quite a long wait ahead of us. She had calmed down a lot towards the other horses in the arena, and had stopped mean mugging them or trying to kick at them. Finally, it was our turn, and we headed to the barrel on the right at a nice trot. We made the turn and she headed for the starting line again. I got her corrected, and we took the second barrel and she realized what she was supposed to be doing and went down to the third barrel, made a nice tight turn to the left and we headed back to the finish line. I hopped off, and walked her back to the trailer. I un-tacked her, gave her a handful of treats (the first she’d gotten since she robbed the bucket on her own) and the remaining grain I had managed to pick up from the ground.
We packed up, paid our bill, and hit the road for our two hour return trip. We got to the barn about 10pm, took them all back out to the pasture, fed them some dinner, and went home to soak in the hot-tub.
I could not be more proud of my little girl. She was a good girl, and we both had a blast. I can’t wait to do it again!! Diamond truly is "Tough Enough to Wear Pink"!! (Isn't she just the cutest thing!?!?!)

Our Key Race Ride headin’ down to the poles ~ she looks like she knows what she’s doing!!

Our Key Race Ride coming back through the poles ~ she went straight back through without trying to weave

Our Key Race Ride Heading for home

Our Key Race Ride crossing the finish line ~ looks like we’re cantering, but we’re trotting very very fast!

We’re just posin’ ~ Everyone thought she was so cute & just LOVED her!!

Our Cal Stake race ~ What a nice bend in that body!

Our Cal Stake race headin for home ~ look at that extension, we’re coverin ground now baby!!

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Canter

I have been given the go-ahead to ride again from my Physical Therapist so long as no more emergency dismounts are going to happen. Therefore, Diamonds training is back on track.
On my time off, I’ve started reading and watching Clinton Anderson (damn that’s one hot cowboy!). He is a big supporter of a firm foundation from the ground, and applying those simple ground lessons into lessons under saddle, all with the basic principal that if you can control your horses feet and movement on the ground, that translates into controlling your horses feet and movement under saddle. Sounds almost too simple, but let me tell you, it works! Diamond is picking it up and absorbing it all like a champ, and she’s retaining the lessons, so there is virtually no repeating of teaching.
A friend of mine who has been using Clinton’s methods for quite a while has been helping me with perfecting my cues and body language and he came out to the barn Sunday to watch me work with Diamond and evaluate how we are doing. 90% of our ground work is completely solid, but there was one minor issue with her yielding her forehand. Instead of stepping to the side and in front of her outside foot, she was stepping forward a tad. With my still gimpy knee, I am unable to step in front of her quick enough and far enough to cut off her forward movement, so he worked with that for a little bit, and within 10 minutes, she had that one nailed too.
He began the desensitizing exercises with her, and she was not jumpy at all – so they quickly moved to flexing to either side. This has been an issue for Diamond ever since Hubby took her on the trail ride in April. She does great from the ground - in her halter, with the bit, it doesn’t matter, but once your mounted, her head reaches for the sky. Well, my cowboy friend trains horses all day as his job, so he has worked with this type of behavior on many horses, and knows the best way to fix it, and should something happen (the horse rears) he has two good legs to emergency dismount on.
After working on the flexing from the ground, and with one foot in the stirrup, and more with weight in the stirrup, he finally throws the leg over and does it from the saddle. The first 10 times, her head went up to the sky, but no release until she flexes to the side and gives to the pressure of the bit. Finally, the light bulb went on, and she decided it wasn’t worth the fight, the only release was when she did it right, so she may as well quit fighting it.
I go on to tell him that she doesn’t really have a good “go” to her, and that she’s still figuring out the pressure on her sides means to move forward. She gets stuck sometimes and will just stand there no matter how much squeeze she gets. As I’m finishing my statement, he squeezes, and she moves off perfectly. He asks a couple more questions and we get to the fact that I’ve never trotted her under saddle. Hubby has trotted her on the beach, but that was only once, a few months ago, but that I’d love to get a walk, trot, canter out of her today. Mr. Cowboy loves a challenge so he gladly accepts and begins to squeeze her more and gets a nice trot out of her, he clucks, kisses, and squeezes but can’t get that canter, so he grabs the over/under on my new mecate reins and gives her a slap with it and by gum, she picks up the canter on the correct lead and everything. It’s a beautiful thing, her tail is flowing behind her, her mane is blowing in the wind, and her ears are not pinned!! WOOHOO!! My little girl is cantering. He does the one rein stop and she slows down and stops. She immediately begins chewing and licking.

We discuss riding her with spurs, and no, I’m not against spurs in general. I’m against spurs on riders who are unable to control their legs, and since Mr. Cowboy doesn’t have a leg control problem, I have no issue with him riding with spurs on Diamond. I have ridden her with spurs on, but have not used them on her before. I open the round pen gate and they walk up to his vehicle and he puts his spurs on, and into the arena they go. He applies very light spur pressure and she walks off. They get a W/T/C both ways when he gets down and asks me if I’d like to ride her.
I get on, and we flex both ways, just like a champ, she does not throw her head once. We begin to walk around the arena, I ask for a trot, but had to use the over/under to get her going. OMG! That little one can trot FAST! I hung onto the horn for stability just in case she took of into a canter, I did not want to pop her mouth and punish her for moving forward, which is what I asked. There is no reason for her to understand right now how to rate her speed, or which gait I’m asking for – I simply asked her for a faster forward. Mr. Cowboy gets my spurs and puts them on so I can use lighter cues with my legs while asking for turns and such – and to help keep her from pushing my leg into the arena wall. (We aren’t sure if she’s doing it to be snotty and try to rub us off, or if it’s a balance thing right now (My opinion is the balance), but regardless, we want her to know it’s not the right thing to do)
I barely touch her with my spur and she begins to walk off. I again touch her with the end of my spur and she begins to trot. We got about ½ ways around the arena when she slowed down and didn’t want to keep trotting. I asked again with a little leg, but she wasn’t going to move, so I grabbed the over under, squeezed, clucked and went to spank, and before I could spank, she was trotting. She’s getting it – just like Clinton’s horses get it quick, so is Diamond. If she moves off when I squeeze or cluck, she doesn’t get spanked.
I get one good trot around the arena without being run into the walls, and call it a day for Diamond. I brought her into the barn, un-tacked her and gave her a big scoop of grain. She earned it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Walk/Jog class

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and my farrier was taking Sugar to a Western Pleasure show put on by a local saddle club, so we decided it would be a great idea to get Diamond off the farm and out into the real world.
We picked Diamond up at our barn and she had to get into the trailer all by herself. She has always had Sugar in the trailer first, so she was a little unsure about it for a second, and then she just hopped right in and scooted up to be tied and have the divider closed. We got to my farrier’s barn and loaded Sugar and all his tack and headed to the show.
We get there and meet up with TX and her mare. All the horses are tied to the trailers and standing very patiently. Diamond is looking all around her taking in the sights, she really seems to love experiencing new surroundings, and takes it all in stride.
I took Diamond into a smaller covered arena and began to work her on some ground work. The entire time, all three amigos are calling to each other, and Diamond doesn’t want to focus on me and what we are doing. After a few minor reminders that I am the one she needs to be worried about, she begins to listen perfectly. After not working with her for five weeks, it was almost like starting over at the beginning, and we had some tough moments, but finally got through it all. I tied her back to the trailer, gave her a good rub between the eyes, and a drink of water.
In the mean time, TX had been working her mare, and had discovered she was off on her back leg and couldn’t be shown – so she was bummed. This was to be her mare’s first show, and they had been practicing for a while now. I jokingly said “Well you can ride Diamond” and to our surprise, she said “yeah, I can, ok” and that is how Diamond wound up in her first show being ridden.
They call the Walk/Jog beginner horse class and a ton of riders enter the ring, around 20 or so, and TX walks Diamond in and mounts. They begin walking with the rest of the class; they make the first corner when Diamond spots the spectators in the stands and freezes. She won’t move an inch. TX tries flexing her right and left, tries to get her to walk in a circle, and nothing. Diamond is rooted to that spot, ears forward, watching the other horses, soaking in the entire situation. Sugar walks by, and I thought for sure Diamond would follow her, but no dice. The judge calls for a reverse direction, and TX does manage to get her turned around when Diamond sees me and Hubby standing by the fence and she walks over to us and stands in the corner for the rest of the class.
At the end of the class, they were leaving the arena when the judge and a ton of people came up to them to tell TX that she did an awesome job – she didn’t force Diamond to go with the class, she just let her stand there quietly soaking it all in, making it a positive experience for her.

Great Job TX and Diamond!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hold Please

Diamond's Training is on hold - I was working with Sugar on mounting without rearing, when she did just that. Luckily I was not in the saddle, but had a foot in the stirrup and was leaning over her. As she went up, I jumped back and out of the stirrup, but landed wrong on my right leg. I messed up the knee pretty badly, and the orthopedic specialist is talking surgery to repair a torn ACL, and a 9 month recovery. I should be back in the game just in time to miss the spring shows! Oh well, there will be plenty more years of showing, and I'm refusing to stress over one missed year.
All will be fine in the end. Diamond will get to play the summer away in the pasture while I recover and look for a home that's a better fit for Sugar. Somewhere where she can be a Mom, or even just a pretty lawn ornament. If I owned my own property, there is no question, I'd keep her. She is my first horse, and the love of my life - as I'm typing this, I have tears in my eyes at just the thought of not having her in my life, however, I have to make a choice of keeping my Sugar, and not riding, or finding her a good home, and getting a horse that fits my riding needs better.
In the mean time, her and Dad are just hanging out catching some rays when the clouds aren't too thick... aren't they just the cutest thing?? :)


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too hot!!

Oh my gosh!! It was super hot yesterday, a record breaker, and everyone was feeling it. Instead of riding in the arena last night, we took the girls on a trail ride to play in the river.
Hubby walked Diamond down the hill in hand, we’re still only riding on flat ground until she’s bigger and more solid, and once across the RR tracks, he bridled her up and hopped in the saddle.
We came to a fork in the trail, where part goes through a small patch of woods, and another part continues next to the tracks. This is where we split up. TX, Acacia, Sugar and I went next to the tracks, and Hubby & D (who was in the lead) went through the woods. When we got to where we could see each other again, D had her head turned our way, keeping track of us. It’s funny to see how not-confident she really is... she puts on quite a good front most of the time!! LOL
Getting her out of the arena was a great idea. It gave meaning to the right and left rein aids for turning, she obviously couldn’t walk into a tree, so when asked to go right, she understood WHY!
I first brought Sugar into the water, and she pawed and pawed, snorted and sniffed the water like she had never seen it before... then hubby wanted to ride D into the water. She had been ponied across by Mama six weeks ago, and did great, this would be the first time in the creek by herself. She wasn’t having any of it!! Before it turned ugly, I grabbed her lead rope, and walked her down to the edge of the water and let them go. She walked right in!
(Although she’s throwing her head, and hubby looks pissed, what was really going on is that Diamond is a snacker and hasn’t quite figured out how to eat with the bit in her mouth. The grass gets caught on it, and she can’t swallow it. Once we cleared her mouth of grass, the head throwing quit and she quieted right down.)
By this time TX and Acacia were in the water, so I walked back up the bank to grab Sugar (who thought she was starving... she cleared the patch of grass like she hadn’t eaten in years... yeah, my 1100lb QH is starving!! LOL)
The six of us stood in the creek, letting the cool water run over our aching tired feet. When Sugar would get warm, she’d paw and splash water over herself. Diamond stood as close to Sugar as she could get, and Acacia seemed to care less about any of it. She was just happy to be outside.