Saturday, July 26, 2014

Nevada Time

Brian, of course, has been doing almost all the direct work with Nevada. But I've been around for most of it, sometimes supporting them from the back of another horse. This has been pretty fun for me, because it's not something I've had the opportunity to do before. Since she arrived, I've done basic yielding work, helped get her used to bumps from feet and legs down by her sides, and deal with movement up above her back, all while riding another horse.

Yesterday, we got out the barn and brought Nevada and Steen up. Brian wanted to work on getting Nevada trotting behind him on the line, but every time he got to the end of the rope she'd start to pull back. I offered to work on getting her into the trot using Steen, so he handed the rope over.

I've only ponied horses off Steen a handful of times, but he's good with it. We had to work out our angles and I had to remember how to get my dally on and figure out how much rope to give Nevada, but soon we had it sorted out. It definitely took a lot more of a pull to unstick Nevada than any other horse we've ever ponied. But Steen was great. He dug in, drove from behind, and pulled until she unstuck and figured out how to come forward.

It only took two or three pulls before Nevada figured out to start trotting before our forward movement took the slack out of the rope. After that there was no more issue. I handed her back to Brian.

A little later in the ride after Brian had mounted, he wanted to get Nevada in the trot. This was his fifth or sixth ride, but he's been going super slow because he's big and she's small and we have all the time in the world. The first time he got her trotting she got just a tad sticky. So this time I trotted ahead with Steen. Brian got in behind us and asked Nevada to trot. Her practice following Steen earlier helped her solve the puzzle. She got into the trot pretty easily, and went forward without any trouble.

So, it's been really fun to watch her come along, and also fun to participate here and there. She is already seeming really settled with a lot of things. Clearly, you can get a lot of things done with young horses without using a more seasoned horse to help, but I do think the extra support can be pretty nice sometimes.

Plus it's fun for me and Steen to have some new and different jobs to do.

Horseback Hours YTD: 141:45

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Polar Vortex in Summer

This winter, the crazy low temps we experienced here in Iowa were ostensibly caused by the polar vortex. And last week, it was here again. But instead of plunging temps from the single digits to the negative double digits, this time it gave us a beautiful week of days that were dry, sunny and in the 70s. For July in Iowa, that kind of weather is unheard of.

We tried to make the most of it, and logged many long, long barn days. Since I've gotten behind on my blogging again, I'm going to do a quick rundown by horse to try to catch up.


Is doing great. Lately, I've been spending the bulk of every ride focused on the simple directive "ride the feet." This isn't a new concept for me. But lately I've been able to keep track of the feet a lot better, and the idea of influencing the feet when they are in the air is becoming more and more possible. My timing is getting better, for one thing, and also, Steen is more and more with me. Or, perhaps, I'm more and more with him. Whatever the case, lately I feel like I can put his feet wherever I want, mostly just using my hips to get it done.

Last week, we had a day that Brian had a lesson and we were trying to get all the horses ridden, plus work with Nevada. We had limited time and a lot to do. Most of the herd was way way out on the hilltop at the far end of the big pasture. Instead of walking out to get Laredo after our first ride, I rode Steen out, taking a halter with me and trotting over the hills towards the herd. This spring, every time I took Steen out into the open and tried to cover ground at the trot, he was just really inclined to want to tip himself into the canter. Since then, we've worked a lot on both canter departures and the canter itself, and helping Steen not get ahead of me when we got going faster. That day, even though we were trotting out towards the herd, Steen stayed with me. So that was a good affirmation that my work on that has helped. We found Laredo, haltered him, and I trotted Steen back in, ponying Laredo. It was fun to have a real (if minimal) job to do.

We also spent part of one recent ride working on backing up some hills.


Brian is still the one putting the rides on Laredo lately, and they are doing really well. The kid is five now, and we're noticing a bit of a change in his overall mental state. He's starting to seem a little less flexible, and a little more likely to look twice at unusual environmental factors, or notice and be a little upset when a pattern changes. Of all the horses we've had and worked with in recent years, Laredo is the least inclined to naturally look to a human for support. Since he's been so unshakeable and quiet through almost everything we've done with him, this has actually meant we haven't had a lot of opportunity to help him through things. So, lately, Brian has been able to get him into situations that make him a little uncomfortable, and help him find a way to be ok with everything. I think this is having an overall quite positive result on Laredo's relationship with us. Our leadership role seems to be becoming more resilient with him.


Brian has now ridden his new filly a handful of times. This is the first genuine colt starting experience either one of us has had. While we've attended clinics and watched scores of videos and done a lot to prepare, it's pretty different watching someone you don't really know climb onto a youngster for the first time, and watching your husband do the same thing. But I consider it a testament to both Brian's competence and my ability to feel confident that I've got a decently accurate understanding of a horse's mental state that I actually wasn't stressed at all when he first got on Nevada. It was clear to me that they were both ready. Considering that the first couples times Brian went to the barn to ride alone, I'd be practically pacing around the house in a nervous sweat, this is a vast improvement for me. :)

And everything with Nevada has gone really smoothly. She's been quick to pick up on the principles from the groundwork. Although she has, of course, gotten a little troubled with things from time to time, her responses are never explosive, and she's quick to come back mentally after a scare. Unlike Laredo, she is very quick to look to a human for support. And man is she cute.


I finished my two weeks with King, and handed him off to Brian. Brian proceeded to have some pretty good times with him. We switched back a few days ago, and my most recent rides have been really quite good. Gone is the heavy forehand, leaning into the bit, pushing through the leg, stopping and attempting to buck, and the nonexistent backup. Lately, we've been working on getting him out into different places and building up his confidence now that we've worked out the behaviors that were causing problems with his handlers at Miracles. Overall, he seems to be much happier. The resentful air that was very present in his body language when he first arrived is gone. Now he actually seems happy to see us when we show up.


We've got Aiden officially for sale now. I've been trying to ride all our horses like I ride Steen, with most of my thoughts on the feet. I have been surprised to find that when I can really get with Aiden, he gets with me in a way that is more refined than any horse I've ever ridden other than Steen. It's not as consistent, of course. He's still likely to be distracted pretty frequently, to look off into the distance and forget about me a little. But when that happens I just bring him back with a little ask of some kind, and typically he comes right back.  He honestly just doesn't seem like the same horse we unloaded from the trailer a few months ago. We've had multiple people ask us in the last couple weeks if he's new. He's just pleasant, relaxing and fun to ride recently. He's also just so much stronger and more fit, which means it is much easier for him to do the things we ask of him.


Oliver has not been getting as much saddle time lately. We've still been riding him a couple times a week, but our focus has been slightly off on our other projects. He got kicked in the chest recently, and had a big knot there that left him a little stiff and sore. So we've been letting that heal. But the rides I have had on him have been good. He is still a bit of a worrier, and can still be inclined to ignore pressure one minute and overreact to it the next. Still, we're getting a lot of good stuff done with him. The other day I played around with ponying and moving Nevada from his back. Nevada and never been ponied before. I don't know if Oliver had ever been ponied off of or not, but they both did great.

At any rate, it's been a pretty fabulous summer with the horses. Every time I think I must be getting close to some plateau with my own learning, I seem to find a new revelation or different way of thinking about something, and the progress just keeps coming. It's pretty darn fun.

Horseback Hours YTD: 136:10

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