Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ready for Spring

What's that? Volcanic ash?
Nope, just snow.
Things in Annie-land have been slowly chugging along. Very slowly. The days of meaningful schoolings have gone out the window until next year (unless the 3' of snow we've accumulated melts... but I won't hold my breath) and I find myself regenerated for a new season of learning and adventures.

It can be difficult to remain positive every step of the way in a young horse's journey - especially if this young horse is the first young horse you've ever really dealt with. Sure, I've hacked out friend's green horses and been tossed up on a few young ones, but I've never been solely responsible and in control of that animals training 100% day in and day out. Aside from Spud (who came home after 60 days with a trainer), I've never had much exposure to true "greenness" and have a newfound appreciation for what it takes to get a horse to become completely amateur friendly and "fool proof".

Mounting from the back of a pick-up truck 'cause why not.
Also - when you haven't ridden your greenie in weeks just
go ahead: mount up bareback and hack around the neighborhood
all alone. You'll be fine. (Spoiler alert: we were more than fine!).
Since the days have become shorter and the snow and rain just won't quit, I find myself letting the horses take a bit of a back seat in life. Work is insane for the moment, so I am just holding on for the next three weeks until the craziness is over and some normalcy is reintroduced.

It doesn't stop me from having fun with the horses when I can tho.

Mare's blanket matches the color of her soul.
(I kid, she's actually quite sweet haha).
Sometimes that fun is just puttering around in the back field through the snow, and sometimes it is a quick hack around the neighborhood. I managed to put in a more productive ride this past Sunday after a short day at work. I was keen to go back to the basics with Annie - using the smallest amount of pressure and gradually increasing it as she settled into work (typically for the first little while of our schooling she is very receptive to the aids and almost too sensitive).

I was able to even throw in trot-walk-halt-walk-trot sets down the asphalt road. I didn't do too much, considering the concussion of asphalt on horse's legs isn't the greatest, but I wanted to see how sound she felt in her back and loin area - which felt GREAT. I mean, until I get to sit the canter again, I won't know how much the adjustment and supplement has helped, but she feels so much stronger in her back albeit weak in her balance (if that even makes sense). She's lost a lot of muscle tone from the year, but she feels sturdier than she did when I brought her home.

I found myself verbally praising her a lot more than I had been, which seemed to make a lightbulb go off in her head. I don't even realize how little I verbally praise these days, but made a mental note to use it more in the future. We did a lot of walk-halt transitions since these are not her favorite thing to do because WE ARE ON A HACK WE MUST GO PLACES AT ONCE. But once she realized I wouldn't use the reins and instead focused on my seat and vocally asked her to "whoa", she kind of just gave up and reluctantly obliged.

Practicing the halt with verbal cues only.
She takes about 3 steps after the cue is given (you'll
notice her ears flick back when I ask her to whoa).
We've continued to practice our farrier-routine in hopes that the next time my long suffering farrier comes to put shoes on Annie is more amicable and agreeable with his efforts. We've made some huge headway and I'm quite proud of how reliable she's become in the last few weeks. I'm not too certain what her issue was on that particular day, but it seems to have sussed out (after a minor snafu wherein Annie yanked her leg away from me and promptly set back in her rope halter... She hasn't pulled back since the Trailer Fiasco back in February... Regardless, homegirl learned realllll quick that pulling back in a rope halter = face hurties).

We do a variation of different things with the "farrier" routine - pulling the leg forward, holding it between my thighs, banging on shoe with a "hammer" (I just use a hoof pick) and more recently I have been incorporating each exercise while she is ground-tied and while she is eating her grain. The entire purpose is that when I ask for your foot - I want your foot and I get to do whatever I want to your foot no matter what you are doing.

Aside from general ground work and pivoting the haunches and shoulders, we've also dabbled with ground-tying for longer periods of time and with me at greater lengths away. Mare already knows to stand quiet for conformation photos, but this should refine the cue and make it more reliable. I am hoping that down the line if she ever were to get loose while being tied or panic when being tied (b/c horses), I could use a "STAND" cue and have her stand quietly for me to catch/ remediate the situation.
As always, I can't forget about The Potato - he's been happier than a pig in shit and I've been trying to find a non-rainy day to throw his rainsheet on because he is completely filthy and disgusting. Of course, every time I got to the barn he's completely soaked from standing in the rain... He's got a thick winter coat, so I don't imagine it bothers him too much - he just looks like he's very homeless.

And as a last tidbit of fun; three years ago today Spud finally came "home" - long-time readers will remember that I officially became his owner September 17th. After I had purchased him, he spent two months with a driving trainer before coming home.

Getting Spud's trot sets in, lol.

The whole "going nowhere fast" kind of applies here - the time with the horse's is on the back burner and I'm kind of playing catch up with a lot of things training-wise. Naturally (like the whole shoeing thing), some training has backslide a bit so I've had to go back and readdress. Which, is totally fine, but also can be a bit of a downer. Of course, consistency and repetition is the key so we just keep plugging along as we normally do. 

She's a good egg and altho the steps we make are at a glacial pace, we are having fun doing it which is what really matters.

As a sidenote - anyone else ready for Spring?!


  1. So ready for spring, though puttering around bareback in the snow is pretty fun!

  2. Ugh it's so hard to hunker down for winter. Blah. Sounds like you're making good use of the limited resources tho. I'm personally a huge fan of the praise train - esp for young or green horses. How else will they ever know what we want if we never tell them when they are being good for doing things nicely?

    1. It can be hard tho, because you are used to the horse stopping nicely or doing X, Y, Z with pretty good consistency. But time off can kind of bring you back to Square 1 and you have to reaffirm that yes stopping means you're a good pony!

  3. Groundwork and desensitization is definitely a worthwhile pursuit in the young horse journey. Come spring you'll reap the seeds you've sown.

  4. I would like about one week of 3' of snow before it can immediately turn to nice spring weather. No more time with snow than that, thanks.

  5. ugh snow. no. we have been lucky with decent weather so far with cold nights but that snow. BRGHHH....Aren't you lucky to be able to ride her up and down bareback at least to get some riding in. And Spud is still the cutest. LOL. I could watch him trot all day. I hope the thaw comes quickly for you. Ha ha on her blanket matching the color of her soul I may have guffawed at that one :)

    1. We get SO much snow here. Once it rains it's game over because it turns into hard, thick blankets of abysmal doom. :(

      She is pretty good to me - I am lucky I can just hack her around bareback :)

      And yes aha, Spud is pretty cute. Need to get his booty into shape!

  6. I totally get how hard it is when winter comes. However, what you are doing with her is so beneficial with her and is great training too.

    1. Thanks, Teresa!! I am itching to canter around in an indoor tho!

  7. Happy Spudiversary! :D

    I've recently had the same revelation, re: verbal praise! It just kinda dawned on me that lack of correction or scolding =/= praise. My gelding soaks it up and learns freakishly fast if I just shower him in praise for doing what I want!

    1. Thank you!!

      It's so funny because I am usually pretty quiet when riding, but when I drive my gelding I can't shut up lol.