Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Goes The Groundwork?

Whatever your preference of trainers and styles, no one with any horse experience can deny that groundwork is invaluable. Melissa and I have joined and have been renting Clinton Anderson's groundwork DVD's. The exercises seem really simple, but it's amazing the reactions you get from your horses. They teach the horses really simple things; move away from my intense energy, move out of my space, move when I tell you, stand still when I tell you, and most of all: PAY attention to MEEE. All stuff you think you're teaching them all the way along. This stuff makes SO much sense to the horses. Some of them were NOT pleased about the new clear expectations, but they got over it pretty quick.

Some of it is desensitization, another thing that is great for horses. I tried his tying methods and it's been awesome. My horses weren't bad about pulling back to begin with, but it was awesome to try everything I could think of to try to make them pull back. The most surprising thing to me was that my riding horse Dazzle had more hot buttons than Spotless the baby! I never did find anything that phased him much. I ran at him screaming flinging a bag on a whip. He looked at me like I was retarded, licked his lips, and came towards me for a hug.

In 3 sessions he now has a respectable turn on the haunch, a near flawless back, both beside and in front of me, no longer tries to drag me on the lunge line (I had been having to lunge him on a stud chain or with a bit before).

One of the things Clinton advocates is rope halters. I hate messing with them, I love my pretty pink halter I can quickly slip over Dazzle's ears and off we go. But, I dug out a skinny rope halter for the exercises. He says it makes it easier and faster. It sure did! I no longer have to use a chain when working Spotless, he doesn't try to drag me off. It's not just that is hurts enough he doesn't pull that hard, he is actually starting to leave slack in the rope. He doesn't want to hit that halter at all. I'm very hopeful that by next spring Spotless and I will be able to show in Showmanship and look like we know what we're doing. I'm going to start hunting for a Showmanship teacher so I know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

Dazzle was easy to do the despooking with the string on the stick and rope. She only tried to move like, once. That was it. Didn't try to run around me or anything. She's pretty sensible about that. Plus, doesn't have much go. Spotless I had to start with low intensity, but after about 10 minutes he was good. Now he's great. He has more go though, being half TB. The worst one I've worked with is FAITH! Ashley's kid's horse. She was AWFUL. Reared several times, possibly tried to bite me once. She is VERY high reaction and still needs lots of work. But she is getting better.

Yesterday Spotless did so well with all the Clinton Anderson stuff I had him drag a tire. He did awesome. He started spooking when it followed him at the trot so I tugged the rope and got him to halt. Then he walked, stopped, walked stopped and realized it was stopping whenever he did and calmed right down. Even when he was scared he wasn't trying to take off, he just canter really slow around me on a loose rope! Then we switched directions and he was the same calm that way. Then the tire hit something and started to bounce in the air. It started spinning in the air and flew through his paddock fence and back out. It spun and wound the rope up against Spotless' butt. I told him to HO and he did. I unclipped the rope from him and realized that the rope had twisted up into his tail bag. He stood perfectly still and let me untangle it. I was really glad I had done work before attaching the tire with pulling the rope tight around his rear, letting it get up under his tail, etc. and making sure if he was scared he would let me stop him to "save" him. I would NOT do this with Faith at this point. Faith was watching the whole thing and FREAKING out in her paddock. She was snorting and prancing with her tail flagged. Spotless was really relaxed. After I took the tire off his surcingle I walked him around and he was quite relaxed, not upset from the experience at all. It is promising that he will be able to pull a cart later on.

If you have a horse that is pushy or disrespectful on the ground OR undersaddle, get your hands on the Gaining Respect and Control on the ground DVD's. They rock. You don't have to have anything fancy or a round-pen to do them. I have a flat spot in front of the tackroom where we do them and a cheap rope halter and a lead rope to do it with. I don't even have the tie-ring for the tying stuff, I have a horse trailer that is a rock hooked to a truck and I just put the end of the leadrope through the tied ring twice so it can be pulled out like the ring. I don't even use a 14 ft leadrope. I have one, but I am not coordinated enough not to get tangled up in it, lol.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Hitch In The Plans

So, the plan was that when Melissa moved her horses here this weekend she would then trade training on Dazzle for her board. Then her BO at the fancy barn decided to let her stay in the pastures there all winter. Not a deal to pass up; indoor arena, hot water wash racks, etc. So, she is staying there. Which means no trade for training. We worked out an agreement for me to groom and coach for her and we'll trade those hours for training. Definitely not ideal, but hopefully it'll work out for enough hours to get Dazzle ready to show in the spring. We only need those 15.5 pts to get her Dressage COA and that's my goal for her this year.

Dazzle had her first ride in a month. Melissa just got on and didn't lunge. She was awesome. Not even hyper, much to Melissa's disappointment. They cantered and everything and was great. Not a good ride for her, but she behaved. So, after a month of sitting in her paddock she was ridden walk/trot/canter and didn't do anything naughty. That is very encouraging to me that she will be a great family horse eventually. I was afraid she would be awful. Maybe spooky, bolt, buck at every cue she didn't like. But, she did none of that. She gave one half-hearted kick out at a smack from the crop when she ignored leg and that was it.

Dazzle is done venturing into Western Pleasure for now. They are going to do just Dressage and focus on Training Level with eyes towards First. Should be fun. I just hope enough time can be devoted to her to get her where she should be for the show season.