Not just one, but TWO big announcements coming up next week. I'm excited!
Not saying anything about Aspen with that title--I just kind of liked that movie when I was younger and couldn't resist!
Aspen had a good day today. I put the saddle on her for the first time. She did pretty well--only a couple little bucks when I first asked her to lope with the saddle on. I left it on her so she could get comfortable with it. I'll go take it off in after I'm done writing here.
Horses are a flight animal--in a potentially dangerous situation their first instinct is to run away. As a horse trainer, it's my job to teach the horse, "No, you shouldn't run away. You should stop and wait and ask me what to do." Aspen has a highly developed flight mechanism, so I've got my work cut out for me!
I'm really pleased with how she is starting to focus more on me and ask for direction instead of just reacting. It will take a while for her to totally overcome her desire to bolt, though. She thinks just about everything is a cue to "CHARGE!" Just the other day, I was giving her a second to rest as a reward. She lowered her head in submission, and then got distracted sniffing the grass. I started to take up the slack in the lead rope, something she's seen me do hundreds of times now, but she wasn't thinking about me in that moment. She was thinking about grass, so when the lead rope started moving, she jumped and started to run away before she caught herself and faced up to me again. I'm glad she's starting to stop herself instead of dragging me with her! She's a young horse so it will just take time and exposure to extinguish that instinct to run anytime she is startled, scared, or uncertain.
I've found Aspen does much better when I slow things down for her and give her more time to "soak" in a successful experience. Most horses are ready to move on once they lick and chew. Aspen licks and chews fairly easily, but if I move on to the next thing at that point, she tends to get more nervous with each new thing. If I wait a bit longer, she will usually give some other sign of relaxing (blowing out, softening her eye, lowering her head, or my personal favorite, a long groan like someone flopping down in a recliner after a long day--she's so funny!) At this point, she is truly ready to proceed.
She has really started to shed out--to the point where neither my hand nor the curry comb could contain all the hair. A few clumps floated down and landed partly on her hoof. She snorted and picked up that hoof like "EEEWWW! It's TOUCHING me!" She did that twice. It was pretty funny.
For now I plan to continue to move forward slowly with her, repeating the things I have taught her so far only with the saddle on this time. I want to get her bolting behavior more under control before I actually get on her. I also want to do the Jefferies Method with her some more--I did other things with her the last bit while I had the flu, cuz it was too painful to jump up and down and climb all over her while I was sick.
Zeus will be done with his 30 days tomorrow. I'm really pleased with the progress Zeus has made, but please remember he is by no means a finished horse. When a young horse follows the recommended 60 day training plan it gives me plenty of time to get lots of rides in--even if the horse takes several weeks to meet my minimum standard for successful manners and ground work. Zeus did well learning respect and control on the ground, but it did take the first half of the time he was here to reach that minimum standard, so he's really only had about 15 actual rides.
1. When Zeus arrived he was very pushy and in my space all the time. He very rarely tries that with me anymore, but he will test you. If you allow it even once, he will very quickly redevelop that habit of pushing into you. Watch for little things, like him leaning his shoulder toward you (or even taking a tiny step toward you) when you are grooming him, such that you feel like you need to step back from him. DO NOT step back! Use your thumb to apply direct pressure to his shoulder or use driving pressure to ask him to stop leaning or stepping into your bubble. If you move your feet away from him when he is trying to apply pressure to you, you have just taught him that he is in charge of you. Lot's of backing can help with this also. Try backing him to where you want to go instead of leading him.
2. Lots of Circles and Figure 8's. I don't like to hold a horse on a circle. I set him on the circle and it is his job to stay on that circle at the given pace until I tell him differently. Zeus is still trying to figure out how to stay on the circle. If he meanders off, that's not a problem, I just use a direct rein to get him back on the circle. As soon as he is back on your line, go back to a totally loose rein. Stay calm and repeat as necessary. It will take a LOT of repetition--but he WILL get it and in the end you will have a much more pleasant riding experience that if you are always having to hold him to your line. This is an important "grade school" exercise that he needs to excel at before you move on to teaching him collection.
When he "gets" this at a trot, do it at a lope. Currently, he is more comfortable circling to the right than he is to the left. Try going to the left twice as much as to the right until he gets more comfortable. Also, sometimes directional things like this are simply due to the horse not being totally comfortable being ridden yet. Try doing #3 below.
3. Loping. We've mainly only done a little bit of this in the barn. I've done a few straight lines across the pasture, but the mud is still pretty slippery, so I haven't tried to circle him outside at a lope. He has a hard enough time keeping his feet under him at a trot, sometimes! He still needs a lot of lope time.
I recommend finding a corral or arena with good footing and just asking him to lope for 10-15 minutes straight. If he slows down, no problem, just ask him to go again. You may need a spanker to over-under him so he knows you are serious. I start by gently swinging the spanker across my front and work my way back to his hindquarters, increasing in intensity as needed. Allow him to rest for 5-10 minutes in a spot where he didn't want to go before (not at the gate!) and then repeat.
For this exercise, you are just trying to get him comfortable loping and to teach him to maintain the gait you asked for until you ask for something different. Don't worry about steering him. Keep the reins loose. If he goes into a corner, just keep asking for the lope. Let him figure out how to get himself out of the corner. As long as he is loping, he gets no additional pressure from you.
This exercise can be done at all gaits, so if you don't feel ready to try him at a lope right away, practice this for 15-20 minutes at a trot. Rest for several minutes and repeat.
Thanks for allowing me to play with your horse. I enjoy him. Call or email me with any questions. Good Luck!
I've been busy trying out a new diet. It's pretty effective--I've lost several pounds--but it's not very pleasant. Side effects include rapid loss of all bodily fluids, fever, body aches and chills and headaches.
I don't really recommend the experience, but if you really want to try this diet you might try lurking in the cold and flu aisle at your local pharmacy. Wait for the approach of someone who looks totally miserable and then grab their shopping cart when they are finished with it. Slide your hands along the cart handle several times, then rub your eyes, nose and mouth to ensure that you get a good dose of the "diet bug." Wait 5-7 days. Repeat if necessary.
Aspen & Zeus owners--I'm sure you guys are waiting for an update. Training has continued and is going well. I should have time tomorrow to make a more detailed post on both horses (crossing my fingers!). Zeus will be done with his 30 days on Friday. Right now I have a headache and am going to bed.
Last night when returning from the mall in Idaho Falls, Kid 1 was t-boned by another car as she went through one of the round-a-bouts on Hitt Road (no pun intended!). Neither vehicle was going very fast, so thankfully, no one was injured.
The impact crumpled both passenger side doors on our van just enough to make them inoperable. I've got my fingers crossed that there is no other hidden damage. Kid 1 had the right-of-way, so the other driver was cited for making an illegal turn.
I'm so grateful to the anonymous Good Samaritans in the car behind Kid 1 who saw the whole thing, pulled over, and helped her through the aftermath. They checked on both drivers, acted as the go-between so Kid 1 never had to directly confront the guy that ran into her, and stayed to provide witness to the police in support of Kid 1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Now we get the joy of dealing with insurance companies and car repair. Anyone know a good auto body shop in Rexburg?
Yesterday there was no snow. Well, all right, there was some snow. But only the left-over humps from where snow had been piled up or in really shady spots.
Today we have snow. Lots of it. I'm not sure how it got here, because I'm pretty sure the weather report made no mention of 5-6 inches of snow in the forecast.
It does not look like the first week of spring to me. Stable Boy reminded me we need to be grateful for the moisture since many of the reservoirs were so low last year. He's right, but I am still bummed. I've been having dreams of green grass and tulips and daffodils and mountain trail rides. I know they will be here sooner or later, but I was really hoping for sooner.
I've been playing with the pre-programmed workouts on my treadmill this winter. I've never really used them. I remember looking at them back when I was marathoning, but at the time, my shortest running workout was at least an hour. The treadmill's programming only goes as high as 40 minutes. Also, the workouts peak at 7 mph pace (8:34 min/mile). My marathon race pace was around 8:12 min/mile. The workouts were both too slow and too short.
I tried one a couple weeks ago. It peaked at two three-minute intervals at 7 mph, sandwiched between three three-minute intervals at 6.5 mph. These were supposed to provide recovery time. WHATEVER! I got done with the three minutes at 7 mph and had to drop down to a walk for a minute to catch my breath before I could continue running. At one time I could keep that pace for 3.5 hours. Now I could barely keep it going for 3 minutes. Kind of depressing.
BUT, yesterday I did the same workout and was able to keep running the whole time! Yea for me! (Never mind the fact that I was sweaty, red-faced and gasping for air.)
This tells me I'm finally starting to get in shape--even if my jiggle-belly says otherwise.
I think I'm going to sign up for The Heart and Sole of Rigby 5K at the end of April. Unlike most of the 5K's in Rexburg-which typically are 1.5 miles uphill to the temple and then turn around and go back down the hill to the start line--this race is supposed to be "flat and family friendly". Sounds good to me!
T., I know you've been waiting for this, so here it is! I brought Aspen into the barn and just let the camera roll until the batteries died. Four AAA's only last for about 21 minutes (I think I need a better video camera--that's not very long!), but it's long enough to see Aspen's progress.
The last couple days, I've taken Aspen out to the small pasture and used it to "round pen" her. I was surprised at how much it seemed to help settle her. It reinforced to her that I control speed and direction while eliminating the tug-o-war with the lead rope. Aspen is learning to face up to me when I yield her hindquarters, but she didn't get that I wanted her to come to me when invited in--she just stayed out on the circle.
Today I added Piper to the round penning session, since Piper knows what is expected. Aspen watched Piper and seemed to do a better job of facing up. Also, while she didn't come all the way in like Piper does, she did start to take a couple steps toward me.
We didn't go for too long. The point of the round penning was not run endless circles to tire Aspen out; but to help reduce her anxiety and get her more relaxed and focused. In that it seemed successful.
I put the hobbles on Aspen for the first time yesterday. She was a little freaked out when she first realized she was "handcuffed", but she eventually started to relax. She tripped and fell twice (and gave herself a scraped knee) when she was first trying to get used to how to move with the hobbles on. It's not unusual for a horse to scuff themselves up when first introduced to hobbles. I consider the risk to be minor in comparison to the benefit of teaching the horse to not panic if their legs get tangled up (in a fence, for instance).
Here is the video. I had to split it in two cuz YouTube said it was too long to upload.
So yesterday I got to go to the 5th Grade "Maturation Talk" with Kid 3. I sat with all the other moms and girls. The boys were in a separate room. For some reason, no dads came to enjoy this rite of passage with their daughters. Weird. Although I admit, I'm guessing we'll try to have Stable Boy go with Kid 4 when his turn comes. I suspect Kid 4 would be embarrassed to have his mom there.
As I looked around the room, I realized that this was the third and last time I would attend this observance. It made me feel kind of nostalgic. My little girls are not so little anymore. They're growing up! Sniff. Sniff.
Zeus does pretty good at stopping when I relax and quit riding. Today we worked on stopping-at-the-word "whoa" to add that to his repertoire. I think it is very valuable to have multiple ways of stopping your horse.
We also worked on laying the foundation for rollbacks by turning into the fence at a walk and trot. We did a little bit of loping, but he was slipping enough in the mud that I kept it short. I don't want either of us getting hurt if he fell down!
We did some bending, circling, and worked on straight lines with the follow the fence exercise.
I've got a large post prepped for Aspen. I'm just waiting for the videos to get uploaded. It's taking forever! Keep an eye out. Hopefully I'll be able to post it tonight yet.
It's been a little crazy lately. Drama rehearsals, dance class, wrestling practice, track practice, doctor appointments, speech, birthday parties, dinner guests, church meetings, quadratic inequalities (did I mention I spent an hour on Saturday trying to figure those out?).
Oh wait, did I say lately? I meant always!
Sunday I was called to serve as the 2nd counselor in the Young Women's Presidency at our church. Basically that's a fancy title for "we-need-you-to-work-with-the-teenage-girls." As 2nd counselor I have a special focus on teaching and leading the 12-13 year old girls.
I think it will be pretty hectic for the next while as I try to learn more about the program and get to know the girls, but I also think it is a good thing. Kids 1 & 2 are already in the program and Kid 3 will start when she turns 12 in the fall, so I'll be with all my girls. I'm looking forward to it.
We had our first youth night tonight. It was a combined activity with the Young Men. Since the Young Men were in charge, I spent an entertaining two hours watching teenage boys try to annihilate the opposite teams (boys and girls) during multiple games of dodge ball. Some of those boys are really into dodge ball!
So, the day after my last Zeus post, I tried a different saddle with a slightly smaller girth. The saddle still felt "loose" when I was riding him, so the next day I dug out a 22 inch girth that a friend had given me a while back. I had never used it-all the other horses I've ridden could get by with 30-33 inch girths. It was still had the tags on and was white and pristine. Not anymore! Too much mud around here!
The new girth works great. I still had to hook it up to almost the smallest hole though! Zeus is not very big around, but now that he's been wormed, hopefully he should start to fill out a bit.
Zeus is kind of a lazy horse on the sliding scale of "laziness" versus "psycho-I'm-going-to-run-away-with-you-at-any-moment" type of horse. I kind of like that. It's easier to apply pressure as needed to get him into the desired gait than it is to try to convince a hot and nervous horse to calm down/slow down.
He is a little prone to sulling up (not wanting to move when asked), but he's starting to get over that. It helped to loosen up his feet when we were able to move outside to the small pasture. He's got the idea now of going forward, so I was able to work on controlling direction a bit today. We did some circles and figure 8s and worked a little on yielding the hind and forequarters. He is really soft when asked to back up.
So far I'm having him wear the bit, but I'm just riding with a halter and lead rope. Once he has a feel for following direction, I'll hook up the reins to the bit--probably next week since we are starting to run out of time. Zeus is only here for 30 days instead of the usually 60 since he had some exposure to "pony rides" last fall.
The videos are from Saturday. He is doing even better now. It makes me want to do the video over!
Next is me laying Zeus down. He was a little jumpier when he finally laid down than he was the first time I did this. I think it was cuz Kid 3, aka "The Videographer", kept moving around and he wanted to see what she was doing. Also, the cat was crawling under the tarp by the hay and making a bunch of noise.
If I'm not posting here, I'm probably out horsing around!