Another Windy Day

chasing a life in the high desert

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Coming Home, Meeting Friends, Getting Out

All sorts of fun this week! Zeke had his two days off, then Tuesday afternoon we did a short review ride, which went very well and let me know it’s time to get out of the small roundpen! We can’t do much in there, and since he’s behaving well, and has learned some about steering, it’s time for bigger places to ride.

That Tuesday night was also a “Welcome Home” night. I have been planning to adopt a desert tortoise for some time. His name derives from his rehab number when he came in to work, 2010-62. So he is “62”, and he has a large bladder stone that keeps him a bit compromised and prone to respiratory infections. I wanted to give him a nice home, instead of having him live in the dark, cement cage at the hospital, so have been trying to put it all together for the last few months. 62 finally came home Tuesday night, and he’ll stay here until his bladder surgery later this year. I think he’s enjoying his new home.

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Wednesday found Ezekiel and I working out in the big rounpen – a fun ride with walk, trot, canter, and finally a chance to really do some steering. This pen is 60′, instead of the 40′ one we’d been in, so we could criss-cross around and make some progress. After our ride, we again walked around the outside, even stopping at the wood arena to let people walk up to us and talk and pat Zeke. In the afternoon, Zeke had a playdate – I turned him out in the big arena with Wyatt, Cindy’s mustang makeover horse from 2011. They had a great time together!

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A little game of chase ensued, followed by rough-housing!

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And so we arrive at today, Thursday. A really great day! We started in the large roundpen, working our turns and canter, and this time Helen was nice enough to snap some pictures for us!

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Then for the first time, we went up to the wood arena to ride! Our first time in the arena riding, and also our first time riding with others. Cindy was in there on Sprout, giving a lesson to Joe, who rode Hannah, Cindy’s 2012 mustang makeover horse. Joe is the proud new owner of Hannah, and they are doing a great job learning together. Zeke took it all in stride, nothing at all seems to make him tense!

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Our big thing today was to keep riding longer than we ever have – until now our normal workouts were about 20 minutes or so. Today we rode at least an hour! In the wood arena we walked and trotted only, canter will come when we’re sure of our steering. I tried to keep him off the rail – this was our chance to work on going where the rider asks, and staying straight until asked to go another way. Zeke did as well as could be expected for a first day!

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At first in the large space I really had to kick hard with my legs to encourage him to turn and follow his nose when I asked for a bend or change of direction, but the longer we rode the better he got! I was able to use my hands a lot less, and just use pressure from a leg to turn him, instead of kicking!

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After our arena ride, we went out around the pens with Cindy and Joe – our first mini group ride! I really love the mustang attitude – if it’s not worth fussing over, we won’t waste the energy. He’s just willing and happy!

I Love A Parade

I’m sure there’s a whole history behind why Yucca Valley, California celebrates Memorial Day weekend by holding a yearly “Grubstakes Day”, but I don’t know what it is. I’m just glad they like to have a parade through town that day, and this year the Yucca Valley Equestrian Center rode in it once again.

Tempted as I was to take Zeke, he’s a few rides short of ready! No, today I rode my wonderful 8 year old horse, a “paint that ain’t”, GS Sundown Slim. Slim and I rode in the parade last year, it was our first one, and he did great. So this year I could completely relax and just enjoy the ride with a good solid mount.

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We had a great time riding through town with friends, and even stopped along the route so kids could come up and pet the horses. Slim was fabulous – he is the first horse I ever trained from the ground up (Zeke will be the second!), and I always say he’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden. I hope to get Zeke trained to share all of Slim’s good points, but avoid some of the beginner mistakes I made that first time. So Zeke should be a superstar when he’s finished!

Today was Zeke’s seventh ride in the roundpen. We did rides four and five on Thursday, and snuck ride six in yesterday before the big winds started. All the rides went well, although the fourth one was a little bit of an argument.

Usually on the third ride a horse thinks he has it all wired, and tries to do things his own way. For Zeke that was ride four instead. We got out there and he just said “no” to everything – didn’t want to turn, didn’t want to go, didn’t want to stand still for me to get on. But in the end it all went well, because I kept going past the point where he wanted to quit, and got him to understand that sometimes things aren’t under his control! And he still needs to behave, and he did.

Today I rode after the parade with Cindy watching, and we had two firsts. We loped, or cantered, for the first time today! He was great to the right, a little slow to get started on the left and had trouble with that lead, but at this stage, who cares? The idea was just “go”, and he did. And I can’t wait until we’re more practiced and can get out and really ride, because his canter is SMOOTH. He has really nice gaits, I got lucky on that one!

Our other big news is that when we were done, Cindy opened the roundpen and we rode out. We took a walk by ourselves around the pens, and Zeke did a great job. The next two days we will be off due to my work schedule, but I can’t wait to get back to it on Tuesday!

All in all, a really great day to end my vacation with.

First Ride!

Yes, it finally happened, the first ride. And it was great! But first things first, I spent the weekend at the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Norco. Cindy and her horse Hannah ended the competition in 9th place, which is a great achievement in itself, but many attendees (both public and officials) stopped by after to let her know they felt her performances should have placed her much higher. She really showed the versatility of the mustang breed in her Freestyle performance, by riding dressage, then jumping, then chasing a cow – all in her dressage saddle and shadbelly! I took tons of photos, you can find them in several sections at my photo site in the Horse Images section: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deserttrailrider/collections/

And then, on Monday afternoon, 5/21/12, Zeke and I ventured out for our first ride. I had taken him out that morning to ground drive, and he did a great job driving all through the big pasture, over obstacles, and around the ranch. When we returned in the afternoon, Zeke’s many fans turned out to watch him go! Cristina, Claire, Cindy B., Jan, Alyce and Ryan, and Kristen and Nathan all came to watch, and of course Cindy was on hand to make sure I did everything correctly! Claire got some pictures as we got ready and rode.

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We went to the small round pen – Cindy said use the large one if I think I will have good control, the small one if I wasn’t sure. I thought I would have good control – but I knew I’d feel like I didn’t for our first few rides, so we picked small to boost my confidence! We headed out there and did a short lunging session, then I climbed on the railings and laid over his back, as usual. Then I just slid my leg over and sat, and he stood still like a perfect gentleman.

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Then I asked him to go forward by using the verbal commands he knows from all our ground work, and a light squeeze of my leg. And he stood still like a perfect young horse on his first ride! Heheh – he didn’t get it, of course, and he showed he was the type of horse to stand still when confused, rather than run off in terror – which was OK by me! So we began with me turning his head to the rail, using my legs as he came out of the turn to encourage him forward. I did this many times to ‘unstick’ his feet, and he did always move, though he never really got ‘forward’ from that.

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At that point, Cindy stepped into the pen and stood in the middle, then encouraged him forward as I asked. He understood someone in the center asking him, so off he went!

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This is pretty typical of a first ride. It takes a little time to transfer the cues the horse has learned from the ground to someone on his back, and Zeke and I did very well. We walked and trotted, turned into the rail a couple times, and practiced a few stops. The main mistakes were mine – once I just plain forgot he was a baby, and I gave him a hard kick because he’d stopped going forward. When he then lurched ahead I snatched my reins back a bit, but Cindy reminded me not to do that and I fixed it quickly! At this stage of the game, the object is ‘go forward’. If I ask for forward, I should never punish for the speed at which he replies! All that finesse comes later, right now, it’s pretty much forward, stop, turn.

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The end of a great first day! Our workouts for the first few days will be short, 10 – 15 minutes, then slowly increase. The goal in the beginning is to have each experience be positive for us both. Once we’ve established the riding basics, we will go for longer sessions – and inevitably, we will have an argument. But by then our basics should be good enough for any argument to be short-lived and resolvable!

Tuesday, day 2 riding was just as good. This time Cindy started off in the arena with me, encouraging Zeke forward and we rode along. Eventually she stepped out – and sure enough, Zeke stopped going! I tried turning and tapping him through, but he still wasn’t sure, so Cindy stepped back in and clucked. After a few minutes she left again, and this time we kept going! We were able to stop, go, and turn without anyone in the center directing him. He was beginning to understand the cues as I gave them from his back.

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So today, ride 3, I went out to the round pen alone. Cindy was riding in the wood arena right next door, but it was just the two of us in the roundpen. We lunged, I got on, and…we went! We walked and trotted by ourselves, Zeke understanding and responding correctly to everything I asked of him. We started making some small circles today at the walk and trot, and changing direction through the center of the pen. He did really well, though he has a tendency to stall when asked to trot through a turn. By the time we ended our session, he was trotting through with just a bit of hesitation left.

Tomorrow and Friday we plan to do two rides each day, to really get us off to a good start before I go back to work on Sunday. On Saturday I will be in a parade with my horse Slim, so Zeke will get his ride after that! Then it’s two days off, Sunday and Monday, then right back into a daily ride schedule! I’m looking forward to it!

Teeth and Makeovers

So, why no post this past week, you may be asking? Well…not much to tell, at least where Zeke is concerned.

We didn’t get to work much at all, due to my work schedule. Then I ended up spending one of my days off having what was left of a tooth pulled. Yeah, stay away from Milk Duds, is all I can say! Pulled my crown off with part of what was left of my tooth. The dentist said it couldn’t be saved, so out it went. Too bad they don’t give you some kind of credit for returning the crown, those things are expensive!

Anyhow, what did go on with Zeke? He had a fun turnout day, which he really enjoyed, and one work day of ground driving that ended in an argument. I asked him to go past some stacked white blocks, he said no, and fighting ensued. When he grudgingly went past them – both ways – without trying to run or tangle up the lines, we did a last trip around the arena and called it a day.

Good news, though – his registration papers with the American Mustang and Burro Association (http://www.ambainc.net/) came in, and he is officially registered now as “Ezekiel”. We didn’t have to add any qualifiers or anything, though I had put “Clover Mountain Ezekiel” as the back-up, since that’s where he’s from. But he has a nice certificate now, and should we ever decide to show in any discipline, he can earn points.

This weekend is the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Norco, CA, and Cindy will be competing with her Makeover horse, Hannah. It will be great fun, and I’m looking forward to what Cindy, and the other trainers will do. It is amazing what a mustang can learn in a short time. Info for the Norco event is here: http://extrememustangmakeover.com/emmcalifornia.php

So with that busy schedule ahead, I will leave you with a picture of Zeke partying during his turnout, and hopefully NEXT week there will be big updates!

What’s Happening Next

Despite having less time to work with Zeke over the past week, we really did get a lot accomplished. I also came to the decision that I would not be taking my first ride on Zeke until the end of the month – not because he’s not ready, but because I have too many more weeks of little time coming up. He’s going to need some consistency at the beginning, and I want to wait until I can give him that.

On May 18th and 19th, the Yucca Valley Equestrian Center crew will be headed down to Norco to watch Cindy compete in the Extreme Mustang Makeover. I plan to be there to watch the events, cheer on Cindy and her Makeover horse Hannah, and take photos to complete this year’s Makeover chronical. You can see what Cindy’s been up to at our website, http://yuccavalleyequestriancenter.com. The week following the Makeover will be me and Zeke’s first week of riding!

This week we did more ground driving, in the roundpen and then in the wood arena. On Thursday I felt he was doing so well in the arena that I opened the gate and drove him out! We drove around the barn and back to the grooming area, and though he was reluctant to enter without me going in front, we did manage to drive through the barn, too! Cristina took some photos for us.

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Zeke doesn’t have trouble with getting the ropes tangled – only I do!

After our workout, Zeke got his yearly vaccinations, and he was very brave.

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On Friday evening, he was still showing a little bit of reaction to the vaccine. Nothing big, he was just slower-moving than normal. Rather than do a whole big workout, I saddled him with a ‘real’ saddle, and just took him for a quick lunge in it. The saddle we’ve been using is tiny and very light-weight, made of cordura material instead of leather. Now that I know he’s fine with wearing the saddle, and not prone to throwing himself over on his back when he doesn’t get his way, it was time to try out the full-sized leather saddle. Despite the weight difference, he didn’t mind his new gear.

After that short work, we spent some time with me sitting and climbing on him, then called it a good week.

 

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