Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Entries From My Horse Journal and Teaching Joey the Bow


Today, I really wanted to have another lesson bareback and bridleless; but Joey shifted away from the fence twice when I tried to mount. And though I didn't pay attention when he did that yesterday, I took it as him telling me that he didn't want to ride tonight.
Now that I think about it, he did the exact same thing last night -- I just wasn't paying attention in my eagerness to be consistent with our bareback, bridleless lessons; I quickly slid on before he could move away a second time. And you know what? We rode all the way down to the second paddock, and even half a circuit around it before Joey quit! It didn't feel quite like the connection we had the last time. . .but still.
So it was really tough for me to respect Joey's movement away today as a "no". But, though I had the fear that he'll now say no every time, I finally decided to go with respect instead of "ignorant" force this time.
Instead of riding, I wanted to see if he would walk willingly with me; that's one of my big horsey dreams (besides bareback/bridleless riding): to have a horse that will want to be with me no matter what; even following to the point of running with me. Joey and I walked the entire perimeter of both paddocks. He took some coaxing at only a couple of spots; and I reinforced with bits of cookie at intervals. Not once did Joey's ears go back or head and neck relax; even when he stopped and looked as if he might not follow me, he always looked interested. And I guess that alone (much less coupled with the fact that he did end up following me all the way) is a step of progress just as much as anything we could have accomplished bareback and bridleless. It's all about the attitude and the perspective.

Here's some more really helpful advice from Mosie:

"The best thing that really changed everything for Annie and me was approaching [ riding] not like an expected service a horse must give but rather a gift they are giving you. When you are on him, I believe it is better not to even think of what he "isn't doing" or what is "not right" (of course being safe). Rather, focus on and rejoice in every small gift he gives you. It will make you feel better, and thus allow him to be more receptive, if you aren't commanding/demanding him to turn. Evey thing should be a question - a request. If you ask if he would like to turn and he does, then praise like there is no tomorrow because he is willingly giving you the joy you are looking for! He will be more likely to turn for you again the next time if he knows it is a grateful partnership. With this attitude, if he doesn't do what you ask, it is not big deal - you are still happy to just be with him and because it wasn't a demand, your "pride" isn't hurt and you (meaning whoever!) can stay calm. You want the experience to always be positive :) ... you sound like you know this though ;) This is still how I ride with Annie - every ride is a gift she gives to me - I try to always be very grateful and conscious of that."
Present day.
I've been worried about Joey's fitness lately. The other morning he galloped up from the second paddock for breakfast; and though it was 5 or 6 strides, he had sort of a coughing fit when he stopped in front of me. I remembered a fitness schedule that was published in one of my DK "Horse and Pony Care" books, and decided to start him on that. They start you out just walking for the first two weeks, gradually building up from 20 minute lessons to 45 minutes. No training and gridwork or hacking is involved -- just a pleasure walk on level ground.
So we walked around the only little bit of level ground that we have in a clearing in the woods that we kids have always called the "wheat field" (there's no real wheat there; but the grass grows shoulder-height and turns golden in the summer). Joey tried to be fresh; and I found that there were a lot of things that I need to work on, like staying still and steady through my legs and seat and hands (we rode bareback).
I'm part of a little horse-owning/loving group that Mosie brought together on Facebook. She came up with the idea of doing a kind of group project. We all agreed on the project of teaching our horses the bow. She put up a video of her teaching it to a new horse named Sierra using liberty methods (I also got to see the way she uses clicker training-- something new to me). She really only did two steps in the first video: getting Sierra to lift her left front leg on visual command, and then combining that with a target-touch between her front legs.
I was so excited to do this group project; but Joey can't see my visual cue [of lifting my hand to indicate a leg-lift] and he can't see the target to touch it. But I wasn't about to give up the group project; it's just the accountability I need to teach Joey the bow. So I just shrugged my shoulders and told myself that I would just have to get creative.
Because I'm not a very creative person, all I could come up with was tapping Joey on the leg with my whip and saying "*left". (*My idea with "left" is that maybe Joey can memorize his left and his right? It sounds a lot like "lift"; so if I need to abandon that thought and go with the simpler idea of "lift" just meaning lift a front leg, then we can. :) ) But right off the bat, Joey was backing up instead of lifting; and Mosie emphasized (kinda) be careful what movement you reward.
Now I was torn: I feel that I would really like Joey to think about the training and try and correct himself/figure it out himself; but in the past when we've taken that attitude, he doesn't try anything except  what he did before that isn't working (in this instance, the back up), and then we both get frustrated.
So I opted for the less painful route: I asked Joey to back up to the fence and then I picked up his leg as if I was going to clean his hoof, and said "left". (I should note here that before I asked him to back to the fence, I did try to break it down to me picking up his leg as if to clean his hoof; but even then, for some weird reason, he kept backing.) Then I remembered that we were going to use the whip as an aid; so I began tapping his leg, saying "left", and picking it up. After several gos at this, I stopped picking up his leg and just tapped it and said "left". He lifted his leg! But after that, he wouldn't; so we went back to what we knew: me picking it up. We got to the point where I was gently leaning into his shoulder to shift his weight, tapping, and saying "left", and he was picking it up (for the most part).
I have a feeling that it's going to take us a while to get to the actual bow. But that's ok: slow and steady wins the race; patience is a virtue; and most of all: I'm learning a ton about training horses while doing this, and I am finally clued into breaking the big things down into little steps and working at the horse's pace (both things I've never been able to wrap my mind around and totally understand).
I will note that a couple of times Joey pawed instead of just lifting. The first time, I accidentally rewarded; so he did it a second time, which I did not reward because it wasn't the movement I was looking for. I was excited when I asked for the lift a third time and I saw him thinking hard about what it was I wanted him to do. He tried just lifting his leg like we had been doing and he got rewarded! :P
We had another lesson in leg-lifting after supper. I screwed up my courage and positive attitude (I was sighing a lot, believing that because it was a little difficult the first time, we were never going to get it). Do you know what? I was prepared to lift his leg like we had already done so many times because he seemed like it wasn't connecting in his brain; but I tapped his leg with the whip, said "left", and touched his shoulder with mine as I was bending down, and his leg popped up before I could grab it! You can imagine the praise he got for that! ^.^ I only gave him a second to think about it (Joey tends to lose interest if I let him sit too long without presenting the cue again) and then I tapped his leg, said "left", and touched his shoulder. He lifted his leg again! We did it several more times; and though we were not able to do it just yet with just the voice command of "left", at least I wasn't having to bend over and pick his leg up for him anymore!
I'm beginning to think the bow is possible for Joey and I! ^.^

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lots of Stuff About Joey

Time for a new blog post!

But first, an announcement: I am proud to announce that Joey Joey won the honor of Horse of the Day on horsechannel.com on Sunday! ^.^ I was excited; we've been members of the website (and subscribed to the magazine, Horse Illustrated) for three years now and hadn't ever gotten HotD.

An entry from my Horse Journal, 1-16-13

It is Wednesday. I am not kidding you: it has not stopped raining since Saturday night. Really. I've kept careful track. So, I haven't been logging much because it has been too wet (and cold) to do anything with Joey as of late.
Today, to boost my spirits (not really specifically for me), Mosie posted the amazing, dream-attaining video of her and Annie riding bareback and bridleless on the beach -- just like The Black Stallion! I was [jealous, but more] so excited for her! She totally deserves that experience after all of the faith she's put into the dream. Joey and I wouldn't be where we are today without her, so I am truly ecstatic for her! (Here's the vid. You need to watch it.)

Earlier this week, Shelby and I took Joey for another walk in the woods. He enjoys getting out.
And I think back on rain-less Saturday, Shelby and I put him under saddle for a 10 minute walk-halt lesson; but that was all the real exercise he's gotten in almost a week. But that's ok, because it's been super cold and he needs his energy to stay warm in such a damp world.

Yesterday, he and I went on another walk -- or tried to. We got down to the tractor shed and all of a sudden he got it in his head that he knew exactly the way home from there. He took off without me, not seeming to realize it until he was in the front yard, standing on a slope in the drizzle. He suddenly stopped in his march homeward and began looking around anxiously for his herd mate. Of course I was following the whole way, but I don't think he knew that; I called out to reassure him, and he nickered in his relieved tone. Silly boy. Then it was a cookie for comfort, and a squeal and playful head toss + paw combination from him, and then we settled down to graze in the misty rain.

This evening, while he was eating his grain, I piled gravel in his doorway -- it was the worst muddy mess I have ever seen, and I was beginning to get worried about him really hurting himself by getting a leg stuck in the thick mud. I'll have to dig it all out again when I want to close the stall door (which I rarely ever do) (we really just need a gutter) -- but it was worth it (<-- picture that mess). O.O
Then, I decided that Joey and  I aren't going to magically be able to instantly ride bareback and bridleless, no matter how much or what kind of prep work we do. . .right? [Not so sure I feel the same anymore; but we've begun the progress, so might as well continue and see what happens.] So, I tied the lead rope from his rope halter that was hanging nearby into a loop/"liberty neck ring" and draped it over his neck. I got on his back (which, he had the option of walking away from me perched on the fence; I made sure that was clear) and we gave it a go.
I think he did really well (keeping in mind that this kind of thing doesn't happen over night). Whereas before, I had no way of directing him without a bit/when I just hopped on naked Joey in the paddock, I had some more control from the neck ring; which surprised me since it wasn't connected to his face. Let's just say that I felt before that Joey had lost all ability to neck-rein and could not be controlled without reins attached to his nose.
But tonight, even though he gravitated to the gates as usual, we backed and made some turns with only *slight* cues from the neck rope! What a major break through! At some points I found myself really hauling on the rope, trying to get him to go away from the gate. But then I made myself relax and remember that it wouldn't come over night and that this was just for fun. And then just sitting by the gate, or backing a step or two was fun!
But the overall best part that's got me so excited was near the end: I nudged him away from the gate and asked him (lightly and loosely/relaxed) to go out into the paddock, headed away from the gate -- something he hadn't done willingly for me yet. And you know what? I felt him really step out willingly! We walked the length of the barn, toward the second paddock without so much as a slight pick up of the neck rope from me -- we walked there together; he and I! I was ecstatic -- I still am!
It was our first real connection under saddle!

Note: I've also begun giving him free-choice forage 24/7, and I think it's making him feel good/better; he's been more energetic and interested in whatever I'm doing, and it would appear that food is not always on his mind anymore. Yay! ^.^

Back to present day.

Joey and I did another lesson in bareback, bridleless riding last night, after supper. He seemed to be more contrary yesterday; I think he's just tired of all the wet. (For the big finale of the nonstop-rainy week, it snowed two inches yesterday morning, and then melted completely away under a bright sun by the afternoon! What a finish! It was beautiful! ^.^ ) Because he seemed more contrary, I tried to be patient and remember: it's just for fun/it doesn't come over night/"always strive to build good habits and good memories" (a quote from one of my horse training books). So, I did not get worked up about his grumpiness -- which is a big break through for me. ;) And you know what? By the end of the lesson, we had walked willingly the length of the barn (stepping out away from the gate) twice -- bareback and bridleless! I was so proud of him, even though he was being tough for the rest of the ride. And he seemed to perk up a little after I praised him for walking out like that.

As for other business: Last week, I had a moment of discontentment with my horsey situation. (Rather keep the motive to myself.) So I headed out to the barn to do the chore of washing the linens to put myself back in my place, and I ranted to Joey. And do you know what  he told me (more or less)? He said that things happen for a reason -- but then, some things don't happen for a reason.
He said that he has me right now and that I have him right now; and that we might not be famous and/or have the most ideal circumstances (in my mind), but we're learning from each other just the same. And that's the best thing that can happen between a horse and human.
He told me that he's happiest just being able to be a horse and to have good care and good companions -- he couldn't care less about being on the road and/or being some hot shot (like sometimes I wish we were), because that's just not how horses wanna live out their lives. They're quiet, gentle, slow folk.
And when he saw that that didn't quite cheer me up, he reminded me that we'll always have each other -- even into the future, after college.
He's not just my horse or my pet for right now; he's my partner forevermore, even after I get done with my learnin'.
And maybe now is not our time to shine; maybe we just have to be patient, or even just be content to shine through the stories we'll tell when we're old. I mean, how many kids can say that their first horse was a blind one? A young blind one that taught them never to give up in life? That taught them that there's always light in the dark tunnel -- even if it's artificial light you gotta make yourself to keep you believing until you reach the real stuff at the end of the darkness. There's always light. Simply believing that and being friend these past three years is a wonder in and of itself.

So thanks for reading. I hope you did check out the video of Mosie and Annie (if not, you can always scroll back up and check it out ;) ). And I hope you come back for more and/or decide to follow. Don't be afraid to comment if you have questions or advice or anything to say at all.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Ranting About Lists and Cleanliness


It's raining and muddy and yucky out; so that puts much of a damper on my time spent with Joey. We want to be together; but the air itself is just so wet and heavy that neither of us are enjoying being out much. So, we go out for feed and a rub, but that's about it at the moment. I love to ride in the rain (except for the mess it makes all over my clothes if I ride bareback and my tack if we ride with tack) but Joey hates getting rained on. He sees no point in going traipsing through the muddy woods with wet leaves clinging to him all over (remember our bur problem?).

I do not feel quite myself anyway, what with all the med doses I am having to take with this lymph node problem of mine. What? I didn't tell you about that? Well, long story short: Since Thanksgiving I have had a golf ball-sized lump under my arm; it appeared about the same time as an infectious-looking knot on my finger. Mom and the doc are hoping that it's one and the same thing (my lymph node reacting to trying to get a foreign object out of my finger). Doc prescribed me three doses of steroids three times a day and antibiotics twice a day for a little while and we're hoping that'll take care of it. If not, then it's off to get a biopsy done (ew).
But anyway, the meds (mostly the steroids) are being no fun, making me feel irritable and foggy-headed and nauseous; and to make things worse: I have to take my last dose of steroids for the day at 10 in the evening, so that pushes bed time back a couple of hours (which a horse owner who does enjoy sleeping in can't really afford to do). So yeah. No fun. And messing up the whole routine. Not to mention this weather. *sigh* -_-

So, upon this rainy, muddy, damp and foggy-headed day, I have decided that it is a good day for making lists. Lists of all kinds of things (well, speaking in the horsey realm, of course). It just occurred to me: All my childhood, I dreamed of having a nice, clean, organized barn, even when I just had the one childhood pony. What happened? Did I lose that dream? Because my barn currently does not resemble in any way, shape, or form the cleanliness I had envisioned. I know what happened: reality attacked. Owning a horse takes up a lot more time, effort, and thought than I originally expected as a young girl. Still, my love for the barn work has not been ruined for good; just. . .depressed by the lack of organization.
So, lists it is. Lists of barn chores that I will make it a habit to complete daily; as well as lists of things that I would prefer to be done weekly-- such as rinsing buckets and sweeping up hay, etc. I mean, come on, I was certainly raised better than this (meaning, by the hunter/jumper barn I used to work at during my early teen years). I will strive to create these habits of cleanliness over the next several months and strive to instill them in my apprentice, Miss Shelby Hoskins of 13 years. If anything, I must teach her to run a neat, tidy, and safe barn, even if there is only one horse. The world depends upon it (well, in a way).

During all of this list-making, I am educating myself finally on everything that is usually done at horse farms to prepare for spring. Stuff that we've never done. What do you do around the barn to prepare for spring? I know many horse people compete their horses come spring and summer, but obviously Joey and I can't. But what about barn maintenance and upkeep? Care to enlighten me on your annual routine come March? I dearly hope so.

Note: Took lots of "before" pics to compare with when I finish organizing my messy barn. But alas, blogger is still being a booger head. So we will have to remain patient (although I'm not sure how much more patience I have for this problem. . . I blame the steroids. . .I do with everything else that's been going on. . . -_- )


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Grand Day Out

This afternoon, I went out with the intention of riding through our bends and walk-halt transitions since it's muddy. But when I went out to see Joey, he was girth-sore and sleepy, and I remembered that yesterday, after our ride, I had made a mental note that we would take today off from riding since Joey was likely to be sore. Sill me. :)
But I still wanted to spend some quality time with my boy. So I went down to the second paddock and grabbed the blue tarp off the fence and we played with that for a few minutes, eating cookies, and just enjoying being together.
Then I got the grand idea to get out of the paddocks and take a walk on our [only] trail; we hadn't been out in a while. So I grabbed Joey's rope-halter; he came eagerly to have it put on, wanting to know what we were going to do next. We went out the gate; and from the way he "settled in", I knew he thought we were walking laps. :P I grinned and changed the course on him, going around to the backyard. It was a little scary at first (he thought we were going to fall into the pool). We inspected grass, acorns, rotting timber, leaf piles, rotting hay, and old plastic wagon, oil drums, and my dad's goods trailer (ya know: one of those small covered trailers that you can't put horses in?). The trailer was a little spooky, but we managed.
Instead of going down our regular trail, though, we suddenly felt adventurous and turned off of the trail and headed into the woods, down the leafy hill, trying our best to find spaces between the trees and shrubs big enough for a certain large bottom *ahem*ahem*. Joey was just as interested in exploring these new woods as I was; yet, he stayed calm. He had to figure out how and when to reach each hoof up and over in turn in order to get over a tree branch from time to time. And he got his legs into some situations in which I was expecting him to panic; but he never did. Instead, he either calmly worked his way through his predicament, or stood there, patiently waiting for me to get him unstuck.
A couple of these times included there being too much slack in the lead rope, so he would accidentally step on it, pinning his nose to the floor. Each time, he would only sigh and calmly back up, releasing his face. Then I got an idea: why did I need to hold the lead rope when he was following right by my side? Sure, there was the risk that he would spook, bolt, and either run into a tree, or step in a hole and hurt himself; but he had already handled so many other new situations with success on that walk that I decided to risk it (always consider all of the possible risks before doing something out of the ordinary with a horse!). I knotted his lead rope into his mane, leaving enough loose so that I could grab him if I needed to, but not enough so that he was stepping on it. It worked: he followed close behind as we explored our way down the leafy hill, deeper into the strange woods.
Of course, soon we came to the old barbed wire fence that divides the properties. The fence is down in disrepair and buried well under the ground in some places -- Joey and I could have walked across with no problems. But, alas, a large tree had fallen close on the other side of this, and I thought that even the smaller branches looked too solid for Joey to navigate. (And I've always, always had a fear of barbed wire when it's around horses; I've learned the hard way to always expect the worst and the unexpected; especially when it comes to barbed wire fencing.)
So we turned around and headed back to the familiar trail. The only exploring Joey felt like doing after that was of the old, dead grass along the trail. So I went on ahead, trying to see if there were more hidden trails big enough for the both of us away back in the trees. After a while, I threw a glance over my shoulder to check on him, and, much to my surprise, I saw him trot right on past me down the trail, head and tail up, looking like he was searching for me. Suddenly, I thought of how the trail dead-ended at the pond a little ways up, and I came out from "hiding" and he came right to me.
Calm walk home, except for a part where he was once again afraid that we were going to fall in the pool. (I really hope someday we can work through that fear; but I have a feeling it's going to take a long while. :/ )

Aaaand pictures are still not working on blogger. -_-

So I guess to finish up, I want to share something that my friend Mosie told me:

"The difference is (when working with horses) is the intention. It is not about the goal, making sure the horse is "correct", or forcing "fun/activity/etc" - its about the relationship and communication you make on the way. The thing is, the simplicity of it is what makes it so complicated. Children, with their innocence and pure love for the horse and who they are when with the horse, hold the key of trust without trying. The simple connection they have is something people work to get back for years. They automatically possess the "missing piece". Think of yourself, when you were younger - that little girl, the horse-crazy girl who simply loved horses for their grace and beauty (in every meaning of the word), she did not think about what "needed to be done". And she was fulfilled. She was natural with her friend. This is all we need you see... the pure love, the great bliss of simply enjoying each other... this can be the only key. At least that is what I see."

Again, you can view Mosie working through these methods/ideas with her mare Annie at her YouTube page here, or get in touch with her via Facebook here. She's always ready to talk horses, and she's super friendly and encouraging! :)

Thanks or reading; and, as always, I hope you decide to come back for more.


Unconditional Blessings--But Even More To Be Found

Just some thoughts I had the other day that I wanted to put down somewhere:

I think that before, in my spiritual practices, I honestly thought that God would not do as I asked/take care of me unless I consistently read my Bible and prayed for these things. If I was not consistent in my spiritual practices, I honestly thought that as a result, I was more vulnerable to bad things happening to me -- I had not asked for His belssings/guidance/protection, nor had I remaind faithful; so He wouldn't love me. At least, that's how my train of thought used to travel.

But what I've seen over the last year is the opposite. I believe that I have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and therefore I am a child of God, receiver of all of His blessings as well as His fatherly, loving discipline.
Over the last year, my spiritual practices have been sporadic at best. And yet, the LORD has dealt boutifully, generously, and mercifully to me. I have discovered, truly, that God's blessings are not dependent on me. He gives them freely to me without conditions. Amazing, isn't it?
Rather, the spiritual practices are for my own benefit. There are so many "extra" blessings that can be gleaned from reading God's Word and talking to Him that He has hidden there for me. It's like having a treasure in a chest; I just have to take the time to open the chest. That's all. No conditions and contracts attached to taking time to open the chest. And you know what? There are even more hidden blessings to be found in consistency and routinely commiting the spritual pracitces. No strings attatched.
So, if God's blessings are not dependent on the consistency of your spritual practices, and if there are a bounty of extra, hidden blessings to be found upon commiting the spiritual practices with absolutely no strings attatched, why not take the small amount of time it takes to simply open the chest to access the treasure?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy To Be Together (Well, Except For A Lump On Joey's Foot...)

Joey has been pretty much left to himself in the paddock over the last 2 or 3 days. We've been really busy. But this afternoon, I went out to take his blanket off (it was still that cold by noon O.O ), and then decided that he ought to be groomed (he was looking a little unkempt); and I thought we could both use the time together.
So we were grooming in our new cross ties, having a blast just being together. He's picked up the habit of always wanting to investigate everything before I tough his body with it -- from my own hands, to the saddle, to the curry comb, and even the hoof pick! Yet, as a result of me being polite and letting him be curious (and even respecting him when he says "no" every so often) we are working much better together; and h is willing to follow me just about anywhere and do just about anything for me.
our goal lately has been to get back in the saddle -- to give me practice before riding lesson horses again in college, and to give him practice for patiently teaching siblings how to ride when I'm gone. Even though we were consistent in our thrice-daily walks for about a week, and it's been a few days since our last walk, he was being so interactive during grooming, that we decided to tack up -- leg wraps and all!
Soon, we found ourselves eagerly taking the bit out of my cupped hand as if it were a treat -- first time he has ever taken it like that *gasp*! -- and climbing aboard to set off for a ride. We were both super happy to be stepping out in the "arena" (the second paddock) again.
We were only going out to do a walk-trot-halt transition lesson to tune up the brakes before siblings start climbing aboard (mostly walk; and we had to keep in mind that we are [both] still toning our riding muscles.)
But as soon as we got in the pen, Joey swerved into a ginormous fire-anthill, demolishing it between his back legs. I knew immediately what to expect; and no sooner did I shorten my reins and tighten my seat before Joey went from a standstill to a bucking, galloping, head-tossing, snorting bronc! The pen isn't very big, so I was trying to stay sweet but firm with all of my aids as I tried to get him to calm down while steering him around obstacles (like the fence) and trying to keep my hat on with one hand during the wicked breeze that had decided to strike up (I have got to make a stampede string for that hat. . .). I wasn't sure if he would, but Joey angrily stopped moving long enough for me to swing down and wipe the biting fire ants off of his legs and out of his tail, checking all of his polo wraps, as well.
Then it was calmly and alertly back to our walk-trot-halt transitions -- more walking than trotting, of course. (I do feel really bad for him when it happens; but when the ordeal is all said and done, I can't help but laugh out loud at the pure monster of rage my often placid, sluggish young boy turns into when it comes to fire ants -- and burs; he absolutely can't stand burs being anywhere on him. Which makes riding on 17 acres of country woods challenging at times. -_- )
Shelby (my 13yo sister) had been sent out by Mom to monitor me since I haven't been feeling very well lately. She swung up for a quick ride to work on her walk-halt (we're still working up the confidence to trot ;) ). She's got nice hands and a nice seat, especially for a "beginner" -- hardly any of it having anything to do with me or my teaching, I'm sure. No, I strongly believe that the all-time best teacher for riding is to just get on a horse and ride.
. . .Which means that if I want Shelby to be able to handle Joey without any supervision, I'll have to share. Hmph. ;)

Joey was a sweet baby-face the whole time we were untacking and grooming (and we took our time, let me tell you). And he nickered at me the whole time I walked back to the house. ^.^

We were all three simply happy just being together. <3

I did notice that Joey has a hard knot on his pastern, close to his coronet band. I was a little skeptical about riding, but we decided to go ahead, since it didn't look like it was anywhere super risky. I meant to take a picture to ask if any of my readers could tell me if it looks familiar to them. I've never seen one like this in this particular spot before. And when something out of the ordinary pops up on my horse's skin, then I become a worry wart. I'll try to get a picture of it up soon. In the meantime: can anybody tell me anything about bumps on the front of the pastern? It was maybe the size of a penny. And it was hard and didn't appear to give him any pain, even when we were riding.

*Well, I wanted to post a few pictures I took of my buddy today; but blogger has decided to be a jerk. So we will just have to wait for tomorrow.

Now it's off to take my [prescribed] steroids dose for the evening and stay up a couple more hours with that coursing through my body, catching up on Downton Abbey. :)

Thanks for reading. Don't be afraid to comment! I hope you decide to follow and/or come back for more.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Ride So Glorious, It Deserved Its Own Entry!

Yesterday, Joey and I extended his walks to a total of eight laps around the yard each time (when before, we were doing only four); and we try to talk these laps at least twice a day. But on our morning walk yesterday, before breakfast, I decided that I could begin to put him back into a bit and ride him bareback at a walk around the yard all eight laps; I thought that maybe it would help tone his back muscles to prepare for the saddle a little better; and it'll help me get back into shape and "relearn" how to ride again (I haven't ridden on over two months!).
He doesn't like the bit. Yesterday he didn't say "no," but he had to play with it a long moment to get used to it again (and I'm sure the metal was cold).
This morning, though, he flat out said "no" to it when I jingled it to let him know what my intentions were. He walked to the other side of the fence with slanted ears; but when I just remained quietly, warming the bit under my shirt, without pursuing him, his ears came forward, his eyes grew soft, and he watched me with an interested look. I talked to the cats a little as I stood there, and he took a few steps closer to me again. I turned and said in one of my sweetest voices, "I guess you don't want your cookie then, Joey?"
I don't know if he understood what I said, or it it was my voice or the fact that I hadn't pursued him and forced the bit into his mouth like I now remember I used to do without realizing it; at any rate, he ended up standing quietly (though without slanted ears) by my side. I let him nose the bridle, reminding him what my intentions were, and giving him every opportunity to say "no." But he didn't. He accepted the reins over his head and the chilly bit in his mouth and me on his back. He knew exactly where we were going, too; and without my having to steer him too much, he began his laps around the yard.
I made an observation, too, while I was riding:

Ob. 6: You don't have to exaggerate your movements in the saddle. A horse can feel a fly landing on him; he can definitely feel every one of my "heavy", "jerky" movements.

One of the gifts I received from my parents on Christmas was a DVD with episodes from a television show that is titled "The World of Horses". I'd never heard of it before, but it's really informative, being a show that is all about the different jobs horses have in the world.

After studying the way the barrel racers rode during training on one of the episodes on this DVD, and then noticing how Joey was stiff in his turns/corners, I decided that we should work on becoming supple in our turns while we were just walking laps for exercise. I realized that Joey is already well on his way to having fingertips control on the bit; but even when I exaggerated the leg motions that went with turning, I found him trying to resist me.
But then, I started out in exaggerated motions; I was leaning too far and stiffening up my legs and seat in expectation of his own "bracing" against me. I tried to keep a positive attitude as we turned to walk in the other direction, remembering what I've heard time and time again about suppleness not coming over night.

Suddenly, my attention was turned back to my riding as I realized that I was instinctively but lightly curing Joey around the turns -- and he was responding like a dream! I tried to figure out what he was responding to, and I think the biggest and most helpful difference I found in my absentminded riding from my super-focused riding was that I wasn't leaning my body at all. I also found my seat to be firm, yet relaxed; and I remembered what one Canadian barrel racer had said on my DVD: everything is worked from the center of your saddle.

As I embraced my new discovery in riding, Joey's ears were pointed forward and his stride had more purpose. His turns were very supple, as well.

That ride, at a walk, and simply for exercise, was one of the most beautiful we've had together! ^.^

A picture I found of us on another ride a couple of years ago. :)

Thanks for reading. Don't be afraid to come back for more entries later!

PS: I added a couple of quotes that I really liked onto my sidebar. Like them? :)


Entries From My Horse Journal And Advice From Mark Rashid On Horses


Joey has been unresponsive and mostly disinterested so far, and it's downright discouraging. The only time he showed real animation was when I went back to using a halter and tying him up and grooming-- "aggressive" behavior with goals [is the best way I can describe it compared to what I was hoping to accomplish with him].

The following are quotes from Mark Rashid's book "Horses Never Lie". I bought it the other night in a desperate attempt to figure out what Joey and I were doing wrong. I think I'm beginning to understand what the problem is now.

"The title ['passive leader'] actually refers to the way the horse is chosen for the role, not what it does once it's 'appointed'.

". . .people automatically assumed that in order for our horses to see us as passive leaders, we must treat them in a passive way. . .
". . .the word passive, by definition, means 'not acting'. How could we possibly train or work with our horses by not acting?"

According to Rashid, the qualities that one must possess in order to be chosen as a passive leader by their horse are as follows: quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, and a willingness not to use force.

I was too passive before. And even though he did it (kind of), I could always tell that Joey was not happy being allowed to "walk all over me" [as I now view what our interactions were like].

Back to present day.

Since the 29th of December, after observing the way Joey perked up and was more friendly and comfortable when I used a halter and had a goal in mind, I decided that he was looking a little flabby. So, we began taking regular walks in the front yard, before meals and, recently, at around noon, even though it's been very rainy and a little on the chilly side. I originally incorporated these walks into our day to get Joey to exercise a little bit. But lately I've noticed that he whinnies again when I come out; and he comes to me me or just stands alertly without taking steps away when I go to halter him. Maybe it's the cookie he gets before and after the walk; or maybe having a consistent routine makes him trust me better -- all I know is that even through the chilly wind, the mud, and the rain, he's still eagerly, yet calmly following me in laps around the yard, now three times a day. On days when the rain stops, I take him inside and groom him every day at noon. Other days, he's too wet.
We're reliable friends again. ^.^

Here are some other quotes from Rashid that I think are really helping Joey and I to understand and work better with one another:

"He [talking about the first horse trainer Rashid worked for] would set things up for the horse to make a decision and allow the horse to make it. He never seemed overly concerned about forcing a horse to do something it wasn't comfortable doing or punishing a wrong decision. He would simply let whatever was going to happen, happen, and then go from there. It was a simple idea, but very effective -- for both horses and people.
". . .he always had a very easy-going air about him. That wasn't to say that he would let horses have the run of the place or that he didn't expect them to behave themselves and have decent manners. But he also made a big effort to allow them to have their say in everything being asked of them. He would listen to them, take their point of view into consideration, and go from there. As a result, all his horses were extremely consistent, willing, quiet, and responsive."

The same trainer from the above quotes explained to Rashid on the subject of "lazy" horses that horses go slow because they are wisely conserving energy that they might need to get away from a predator. Even though there may not be any wolves or lions anywhere about, the horse doesn't know that; the number one priority in their lives is just to stay alive from one day to the next. Rashid claims that this thinking is programmed by Mother Nature and is therefore a way of thinking, to an extent, for all horses, no matter who they are or what they do. As a result, they will not expend energy unless they see a purpose in doing so/the reason seems important to them.
" 'So, what we need to do is find a way to make what you want to do important enough so that she wants to do it with you.' "
Rashid goes on to explain, through the example of his work with this "lazy" mare, that attitude is everything.
"He told me that the way I was riding had a lot to do with how Star had perceived the situation. He explained that I was riding without purpose or direction. Up to that point I had been demanding that she go, but not giving her any place to go. He pointed out that the whole time I was hitting her with the reins and kicking her in the sides to try to get her to move faster, I was also staring straight at her head. By looking at her instead of where I wanted to go, I wasn't giving her any direction. . .It turns out that by constantly staring at the mare's head in such a way, I was actually riding in a sort of ball. . .As far as Star was concerned, my body had the feel of a giant, uncomfortable lump that she had been relegated to packing around. There was no 'togetherness' in how I was riding; I was simply riding on the mare, not with her.
". . .The mechanics of what we had done weren't difficult to understand. It was a matter of not expecting the horse to do the work if I wasn't willing to do it with her. By showing her with my body position and attitude in the saddle that I actually had a clue as to what I was doing, the work became important to both of us (even if it was just going across the arena)."

Upon reading reviews of Rashid's book "Horses Never Lie" before reading it myself, I found very mixed opinions on it. While several people simply stated that every horse owner should have this book in their library, there were quite a few that expressed disappointment at how the book was put together -- they said that it was more of a story book than the training book it claims to be.
Unsure which side to believe, I went ahead and skeptically bought the book and began to read Rashid's discoveries for myself.

I give this book five stars and beyond!
I whole-heartedly repeat what those others have said: if you own a horse, you need this book on your shelf. It has shown me ways of thinking that I never would have come up with on my own; and thus Rashid's "methods" have already given me successful communication with my horse.
There is so much more to it than what I post here. All I can say is that you should definitely get this book for yourself, and your horse. Your equine friend will thank you profusely; take it from a skeptic turned believer.

Thanks for reading. I hope you come back for more!