Another Windy Day

chasing a life in the high desert

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

First Horse Show

November 3rd, 2012, the MBHA held a little local show at our ranch, so that seemed like the perfect opportunity for Zeke to be in his first show!

He’s been doing wonderfully in our riding, and the day before the show I gave him his first soap bath. He didn’t mind at all, though his winter coat is coming in so it took a while to get him dry! I polished up our tack, including the nice new bridle he got last month, and we were ready.

As usual, it was me that had all the issues. I worried that he’d get crazy when he heard the loudspeaker, or panic when he saw all the new horses and trailers on the property, or maybe that aliens would land that day and spook all the horses. Who knows. I can always worry about something. I even asked if I would be able to get my entry fees back if he freaked out in the first class and I decided not to ride in any more. Cindy gave me that look, the one that says, “You’re way over-thinking this again.” So I signed up for everything we could legally ride in, all the western classes that were for adults.

ImageAs we rode around the ranch, it was obvious that Zeke wasn’t worried in any way about all the things I worried about! We did have to pause to approach a woman with a stroller as it rolled along, but he got over it once he saw it wasn’t chasing him. The announcer, the new horses, trailers – he thought it was cool. We went in our two trail classes first, and I made a lot of mistakes by trying to rush through it. The second class went better than the first, but I was just glad to get those first ones over with! 

Image

 

Our first arena class was Western Equitation, Adult. We had to ride around the rail, then do a little pattern. I have to say, Zeke nailed it! It was like he suddenly realized everyone was watching him, and he did everything not only perfectly, but with a little bit of swagger that said, “I’m a show pony!” It was really fun, and funny. We took a blue ribbon in that very first class!

Image

 

Image

Image

 

The rest of the day went great. We had a great time, got tired, but finished all our classes. In the end we won three first place ribbons, for Western Eq Adult, Western Pleasure Adult, and Country Pleasure – a real coup since that was was open to both English and Western riders. We took third in Western Pleasure Open, Jack Benny, and Obedience  fourth in both our trail Classes, and fifth in Western Eq Open.

yeah, it was just a little show with not a ton of entries, but it was great fun. And it was great knowing my horse not only took everything in stride, but actually seemed to enjoy and play along with the day! Congratulations Ezekiel!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

See You In September…

Yes, I know it’s already September. In fact, September’s about half gone, and this is my first post since, what, July? Well, at least I can happily say that I have been too busy riding to take time out for sitting at the computer; which I guess is a decent enough excuse, considering!

So Zeke and I have definitely been busy! We’ve been working out the kinks and sharpening up our skills, and we’re planning to do our first little show on November 3rd. The Morongo Basin Horsemen’s Association is holding a schooling show right here at Yucca Valley Equestrian Center, so it’ll be perfect for us! We don’t need a trailer, and we get the experience of showing without the pressure, since MBHA shows tend to be really positive, fun, and encouraging rather than overly competitive.

So what have we been up to? Well, I knew if I didn’t keep up with the blogging I’d forget, but let’s give it a try. First off we have been riding mainly in the wood arena, although this past Wednesday we went into the big pasture for the first time. We’ve been out there before, obviously, but only after a full ride, to cool down and play with the toys there. We just walked, and a little trot. But Wednesday we went straight out there with Cindy and Mac and Helen and BB, and did our full walk-trot-canter like a big boy. And Zeke did very well, though I felt a little…exposed? It just seemed like such a big, free space to me after being in the arena. A few more rides out there should get us both comfortable!

We’ve also managed a couple small trail rides in the past month, a decent length one with 2 other horses, a bunch of small ‘cool out’ ones, and, last week, a full 20 minute ride on our own! Zeke and I stayed very relaxed through the whole ride, and it was quite enjoyable. Then last week someone claims to have seen a young mountain lion out the back gate – someone who knows the difference between a mountain lion and a bobcat – so, maybe we’ll hold off going out alone for a little bit! Seriously, though, it is fairly unusual for mountain lions to venture into this part of Yucca Valley, so chances are it was quite young, and has probably moved on into better, more hidden territory than in the middle of town!

I also told myself that with this blog I wasn’t going to sugar-coat or gloss over anything. I want to show what it’s really like for an average person to train a mustang, so I’m including the road bumps as well as the fun. And during August, we hit one of those road bumps – frustrating, but really not surprising.

I have been working with Zeke on collection, and of course working in a balanced, energetic, forward manner by rocking onto your hind end and bringing your back up is really tiring for a young horse. They need to build up the muscle to be able to maintain the positioning themselves, but once they do, they are so much more balanced, freer to move quickly in any direction, and have a powerful stride. But…it’s hard. And Zeke is not that into ‘hard‘. He likes easy. Lazy. Effortless.

So his little brain began to work when we really started getting nice collection at the canter. He gave me a day of “Fine, but I’m going to drop my inside shoulder on every corner so my circle gets smaller.” That was unsuccessful, since my inside leg just picked him up and sent him around correctly. So for the next couple days, he tried, “Well, I just won’t canter at all then!” Yeah – he’d walk and trot, and when I asked for canter, his normal light departure became a sullen, cranky, sticky spot. Sadly for him, I have the big girl spurs on now, so he got a polite request, then an insistent tap, then a poke. So that didn’t work our for him, either.

Then he figured it out. All he really wanted was to stop cantering, right? Because collected canter is hard. So as I glibly sat on his back, giving him the loose rein I thought he deserved for bringing his back up and rounding so nicely, he grabbed the right side of the bit in his teeth, ran straight for the fence, then pulled me right (we were going left) as I struggled vainly to stop him.

Oh he got me, good. I stopped him, turned him, and sent him right back on, but he’d already made his point – “You asked me to stop when I did that.” So he did it again. And again. And again. Swearing ensued. He, and his parents, were called bad names. I just couldn’t seem to catch him in time to prevent the pull and turn, and it showed that hole again – the willingness to totally blow off my right leg. The same leg he’d blow off other times he was putting on a show of disobedience.  Darn it – I thought we’d past that, but you see how those things come back to haunt you. 

Anyhow, Cindy showed up at ringside about then, and for the first time since I got Zeke, I was ready to let her hop on and ‘fix’ it for me. I knew I’d blown it by letting him win – several times in a row – and I really didn’t want to create a runaway. But Cindy gave me another chance (okay, maybe 2 or 3 more chances!). She had me shorten my reins to the point that my arms were out straight and up next to his ears (a severely uncomfortable way to ride, but certainly builds shoulder muscles!). When he tried it again – he had 2 corners that by now he’d established as his ‘duck out’ areas – I was supposed to raise my hands straight up to lift his shoulders, then nail him with that right leg to prevent the duck out. And at all costs, keep him going forward, not letting him stop.

It took me about three tries to get it coordinated, but I did it! Cindy said I was that close to her taking over, but I pulled it out. And the cool thing was, I was so determined I forgot to be afraid. And Zeke being Zeke, he never once offered to do anything dangerous, like buck. Like Cindy said, he may be lazy, but at least he’s completely honest. You can see it coming before it happens, there’s nothing sneaky about Zeke.

But anyhow, it took a bunch of rides like that to get things back to good, and each ride he made fewer and fewer attempts. I took to calling out, “We’re going left” before I asked for left lead, so everyone in the ring with me knew not to get between us and the corner – or if it looked like we might run into them, we probably would, so go!

I have no illusions that this behavior is gone forever. It’s going to crop up every now and again, when things get too tough. I just need to be prepared and not allow it to be his best alternative. And in the meantime, we have been cantering around on a slightly looser rein, all collected and pretty for as long as a 3 year old can manage before I have to pick him up again.

This week we really got into our sidepassing. And guess what? He just doesn’t want to go to the left, moving off that right leg. Ugh!!! Here we go again…

A couple weeks ago my mom and her husband Don came out and met Zeke for the first time. Don took a bunch of nice pictures for us, so here’s what we look like these days!

Image

with Cindy on BB and Helen on Mac (the paint)

Image

our back-up is getting nice and round and free

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

 

Imagewe’re getting TOTALLY good at the gate!

Image

on the new bridge

Imagein the dry waterbox. Water will be added when we get some slip-resistant paint

Image

 

with Mom and Don

Image

 

 

 

Stepping Out

Wow – has it really been that long since the last Ezekiel update? I guess it has!

Well, we’ve been working as often as we can, as usual my work time is interfering with our free time. It’s also been dang hot, but evening rides are nice. We’ve been working in the arena just on sharpening everything up and getting more responsive to aides. He is doing better, though he continues to have trouble getting off my right leg. Cues on that side asking him to turn to the left require more effort than the same cues to the right. But it’s coming.

Yesterday was our first time on ‘trail’ – we went out the front gate into the little section of land the ranch owns out there. It’s not the official trails we have out back, but it’s somewhere outside the fence and somewhere he’s never been before. We followed Cindy and Wyatt out, and Zeke was very relaxed through the whole ride. We worked on crossing a piece of wood that was out there (no problem), going through a small ‘crater’ depression in the ground (more of a problem, but we did manage to walk nicely around it), and finally a downhill slope.

I approached the slope with some trepidation; I think I even said to Cindy, “We’ll need to learn how to go downhill,” as we followed Wyatt. I needn’t have worried. Zeke crouched his butt and went down like a pro, prompting Cindy to say, “Welcome to the world of mustangs!” They do have great instincts for terrain!

Today was a fun day in the arena, starting some work on collection. For the first time I felt like we got a true canter going, instead of a slow lope gait. He moved forward without my constant urging, using the entire arena and going at a nice speed. Our only issue came when he decided he didn’t need to listen to my cue to turn left as we approached the end of the arena (not getting off that right leg, again!). He ran straight into the mounting block, and I had to conclude he did it on purpose, expecting me to stop and regroup. So…I didn’t, we just kept going. And the next time we passed the corner, I asked nicely for him to turn, and when I felt his resistance, I popped him with that right spur. He leaped forward in surprise, but magically didn’t try to run me into the corner again! The up side of having a horse smart enough to figure out his own “short cuts” is that he’s quick to learn what doesn’t work, too!

After the arena we walked out our back gate, onto the real trails. We didn’t go far, just stepped out and walked up and down a short hill, then back around the pens to finish our day. Someday I hope to have someone around to take a picture while we make our improvements. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on it!

The Things Fear Can Do

The point, for me, of doing this blog has been to show the ‘average’ person what it is like to adopt and train a mustang. Not everyone is a highly skilled and experienced horse trainer, though if you’re lucky you can have one nearby to help you during the sticky times! But many of us out here have some experience, lots of desire, limited time, jobs, families, what-have-you. I always wondered if it was possible for an ‘average’ busy horseperson to make this work. And I think it it is – but not everything is a fairy-tale. Sometimes we have to deal with our fear, so I decided not to leave that part out of this blog.

Ezekiel and I ended last week really ready to step up and move on to bigger and better things. Really – Zeke has become so bored in the roundpen that he barely puts forth any effort at all to move forward! After all, if there’s no where to go, why be in a hurry to get there? We still go there first for a short warm-up and so I can canter in the smaller space, but then we head up to the wood arena.

Up there, Zeke is engaged, he’s bright, he steps more quickly and looks around. He watches the other horses in the arena with us. He watches…well, so many things that he forgets I’m there! So when he sees someone standing on the ground and decides he should avoid them by bending his body away from them, turning his head to them to see what they might do, and totally blowing off his rider (me), something needs to be done. 

I am trying like crazy to remember to always use my leg, not the reins, to keep his body moving in the direction I’ve asked him to go. If he bulges and drifts to the right, I need to pop him with that right leg to send him back straight. But the truth is, even if I whack him hard, he’s starting to ignore me. So Cindy suggested it’s time to try a little spur or crop, to get him to be responsive to my cues. It’s like a kid who learns that his parent will tell him to go to bed six times before he really has to go – why listen the first time if you have five more chances? With a little stronger aid, he should get the point more quickly, and realize there are consequences. That’s how you teach him to respond correctly the first time.

So today we tried out a little spur, because in the past I have taken the end of my reins and given him a slap when he didn’t listen to my leg – and his response was to leap out of his skin! I thought a spur might work better than a crop to wake him up without ‘upsetting’ him. Yes, I’ve begun to worry about upsetting him. That’s a bad sign.

Zeke’s been so good, and we’re doing so well, that I’m falling back into that ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude. If I don’t push him, we’ll never have a bad incident. Of course, we’ll never accomplish anything either! So I donned my tiny spurs, and down to the roundpen we went to gauge his reaction to them.

Image

It wasn’t pretty. We bopped along slowly as normal, and then I asked him to turn and move off my leg. He ignored me, so I popped him a little harder (let’s face it, I was afraid to get him with the spur, so I gave him another chance!). When he blew me off, I took that tiny spur and gave him a poke. Wee! He turned real fast then! He also jumped forward and kicked out with both hind legs, then proceeded to try to run off while I held him to a small circle until he relaxed. Then we continued on with our work, and wonder of wonders, he did well! He even cantered around the roundpen several times without my having to flap my legs and kiss at him over and over. So we moved up to the wood arena.

As soon as we got there, I realized Cindy was working a young horse in the small roundpen next to us. For the work she was doing, it was necessary for her to crack the lunge whip. Often. So we ended up in yet another tizzy.

I can’t blame Zeke for this, because up until I got on, I had asked him to MOVE every time he heard the whip. I also asked him to pay attention to the person standing in the center of the arena, which explains why he avoids people standing around. There’s no reason to think that once you’ve trained these behaviors, the horse will just know you don’t want him to respond to them anymore, because you’re on his back. It’s the rider’s job to convince him of that fact, and today I fell way short!

I have to admit I just wanted to leave that arena as soon as we got there. I knew I shouldn’t, so I tried to keep riding, but every crack of the whip sent Zeke to a bolt that I had to pull him around into a little circle to stop. My job was to let him see that he didn’t have to listen or fear anything that was happening outside of our little bubble, that any reaction he had would just be ended and our work resumed. Instead, I let that fear creep into my head. What if I can’t stop him? What if he keeps running, all the way back to his herd in Ridgecrest? What if he bucks all the way around the arena? Basically, what if I lose control and get hurt?

Well, that’s why we’re in an arena. He can only go so far. He’s never offered to buck, and if I stick to my guns and start working him and keeping his brain focused on what I ask, I should be able to keep control. But…

Yeah, it was a tough day for me. I had to keep going, because Cindy heard me say I wanted to leave and she brought up the point that he would never learn not to leave, and to listen to me and ignore the world if we didn’t start now. So I spent more time than I’d like to snatching at my reins, leaning forward and riding like a scared child, basically.

Luckily, these little mustangs are pretty forgiving. We worked through it, and I finally relaxed, and today we did our first canter in the wood arena. And I’m determined to go back tomorrow and do a better job of being the fearless leader, so he can become my fearless steed.

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.

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image

Image

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

Image

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image

Image

Image

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!

Image

Image

Image

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.

Image

Image

Image

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.

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!

New Shoes

Well, okay, new feet anyhow! Zeke got his very first hoof trim this week. But first things first.

On Wednesday morning, Zeke went through his routine perfectly. He lunged with his head tied, and he found the balance quickly and held his head correctly without fighting. He also ground drove wonderfully, turning in both directions and moving forward in a relaxed way. So we decided to go up to the wood arena and drive in a bigger space, without the rail to guide us.

As with everything else we’ve done, it went really nicely…for a while. We worked at one end of the arena, getting comfortable in the new space, then we started working our way up the railing to the other end. Zeke did well, but after a while he started getting testy, like he wanted to stop. I turned him to the right, his least favorite direction, and suddenly he had a fit. He refused to go, and when I chased him with the rope behind, he went backwards, not forwards, and promptly got tangled in the ropes. He then proceeded to spin around until I had no rope left to hold, and I was forced to let him go.

He ran like a maniac, dragging his ropes, so I picked up the lunge whip and encouraged him to keep going when he tried to rest. If he was going to run free, I was at least going to make it look like it was my idea! When I let him stop, he let me catch him, and we went straight back to work. 

Going right, he tried the trick again, but this time I got him – I was able to move him forward and keep his head tipped right so that he couldn’t back up on me. But then it happened again, and he won again, turning the rope so tight I had nothing to hold. So this time after getting caught, we went back to the roundpen.

Once there, I drove him to the right for another 15 minutes or so, and every time he tried to duck out I forced him forward. We ended that session when he no longer fussed, he got sponged, and stood tied while I rode my horse Slim. Then he got to go home in disgrace. 😦

That afternoon I got him out again, and tied his head to the right, as a reminder that if the bit is pulled right, he must follow his nose! He did fine with that, so we drove again. Again, no problem, so we went back to the wood arena.

This time everything went just fine. Zeke didn’t offer to pull away and run off, and we were able to work all around the arena, and through and between barrels and blocks. A much better afternoon!

Then Thursday was the big day for Zeke: Hoof trim time! Josh Dittmer showed up around 2 with his truck, and I led Zeke into the barn. Josh was really patient with Zeke, patting him and getting to know him a bit before going to work. 

And Zeke did great with it all!

Image

Image

It turned out he had some great little hooves under there, Josh said they were in good shape despite the overdue trim. He made a little display of the clippings for me:

Image

Image

I think he’s about 2 inches shorter now!

Today, Friday, we had time for another short workout in the roundpen, but the arena was being used so we never got to go back there. Even though he was good the last time we were in there, it would be really scary if I tried to drive him while people rode, especially if he got loose again! 

So instead, he stood tied while I helped Cindy feed, and then we got the pink and yellow chick flag of spring out for the walk home. Cristina was on hand to snap a few pictures for us.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

It IS NOT for eating!

Image

Image

Zeke says: Could you PLEASE pay attention?!

Image

I also measured him today with the leveling stick – he is a solid 14.1 hands!

The next few days my work schedule won’t allow me any time for a real workout, so we’ll be back at it Tuesday. The plan is for more driving in the arena, and then outside the arena. I’m going to try to ride after that – scheduling has become tough, but I need to have at least five days in a row once I start to ride, for things to sink in. We’ll get there!

The Good, The Bad, The Fabulous

It was a week of all of the above. Zeke continues to learn very quickly, but he continues to test his limits a lot, too. But all in all, he’s doing fabulously.

We are still ground driving in the big roundpen, this week I put some sports boots on him on Wednesday, which he totally ignored. Some horses make a big deal shaking their feet, but he was cool with them.

Image

Image

What he is not cool with is the whole “pulling on the reins to go a way I don’t want to go” thing. He is still not quite a believer, as Cindy would say. He’s improving, for sure; this week we were able to turn figure eights through the center of the roundpen and increase and decrease the circumference of our circle. But every time it gets to a point where he just doesn’t wanna do it, he fights. His go-to move is the front feet – kicking out and this week, even rearing up a little. On Wednesday he insisted on turning the opposite way I asked, reared up and got the rope around his hind legs, and actually fell back on his butt for a second! Sadly for him, I was still holding the reins, so when he got up he still had to go the way I asked, but first he had to find a way out of the tangled ropes he made! Luckily he’s smart enough to do that, and after we got settled, we could relax again while I played around climbing all over him.

Image

We also took a walk up in the wooden arena for the first time, and encountered many new toys (none of which, sadly, turned out to be for eating). He is definitely curious about new things, rather than afraid, which is great!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

After our Wednesday workout, Zeke has his very first rinse off! He was quite suspicious – not of the hose, or the noise it made, but he wanted to be sure I wasn’t washing him down with acid. He leaned as far from the spray as possible, but when his skin didn’t dissolve, he thought it wasn’t so bad after all.

Image

Thursday’s workout found Zeke packing a new friend along:

Image

Image

You may not believe me, but I hung this raincoat over the rail as I saddled Zeke, so he’d get used to seeing it. Then I placed it on the saddle, buttoning the top button over the horn so it wouldn’t slip. I went to get his bridle, and when I got back, the raincoat was hanging over the railing again. Seriously. He is smart. I decided I’d better tie it on while he worked!

We spent a good long time ground driving, while Zeke looked for new ways to be rid of my influence. He did the rear again. He started anticipating that if I drove through the center, he was going to be asked to turn the other way. So he just started turning on his own – which meant I had to start driving him through without turning, so he’d learn to wait. I appreciate his intelligence, but he’s supposed to wait to be asked! Once he headed right for a white block I set in the arena to drive around, and when I didn’t turn him he hopped up, all four feet off the ground! Unfortunately his raincoat friend didn’t stay with him there, and he had to deal with it hitting the ground. But he handled it all, and all in all had a great day.

After roundpen, he got to have his feet handled by one of our riders, Art. He needed some practice letting guys pick up his feet, because next week is going to be his first hoof trim!

After hoof practice, we walked into and out of stalls and tack rooms in the barn, and since he followed me so willingly, we walked on down to Helen’s trailer, too. And you know what? He followed me right in, and backed out when asked, like he’d been doing it all his life. In fact, he did it better than a lot of horses who have been doing it all their lives! Considering the only time he’s been in a trailer he’s been rounded up and run in, I was quite impressed!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

So a pretty big week for me and Zeke (that rhymed!)

I think another week of driving is appropriate before actual riding – he needs to truly believe that I am right in any situation, and he should unquestioningly follow my direction, not rear, not get frustrated, not run off, and not make his own choices. And that’s a lot to ask of anyone! So we’ll see how he does for the next week while I drive him both in and out of the pen – we do have to start driving around the ranch once I can trust him to listen to me and not run. Then we’ll make some plans for his first 5 days of riding.

Oh – and I was not a finalist in the writing contest. What can you do, right?

Distractions

Not everything goes as planned, but with horses, you do learn to focus on what’s in front of you and nothing else. It’s actually a great thing, to be absorbed. To get wrapped up in exactly what you’re doing exactly when you’re doing it, and not get distracted by what happened somewhere else, what could happen later, or what you wish would happen anytime. Horses are amazingly helpful at creating that state of mind.

I’ve been distracted all day. I entered a story I wrote (and I mean a 120,000 word novel, not a little story) in a literary agent’s writing contest a month ago. The judges have been reading and considering and narrowing the field – but not telling the participants who’s been weeded out. Today was supposed to be the announcement – who made the final round before the winner is chosen. I have been checking that website all day, reading the teasing updates she’s been leaving to torture the 404 contest entrants. She STILL hasn’t listed the finalists. It’s not that I expect to be one, out of so many entrants, but then, I kinda do, you know?

Anyway, I left work obsessing over this contest, and headed to the barn. Yesterday it poured rain, so Zeke didn’t get a follow-up to his ground driving, so I thought today I’d ‘squeeze’ it in. But not everything goes as planned.

Blame it on the cool weather, or anything you want, but the truth is Zeke just wasn’t with me today. He was really…distracted. He spooked while leading, he looked around while being groomed – who knows. I took him to the big roundpen to try ground driving there. Luckily I also brought the lunge rope to warm him up first, because he ran like a maniac.

After the rain we had, the dressage court next to us got a nice tractoring, so the dirt was all swirled up and nice and dark and fresh. I think that was what he was using for an excuse, since he kept running faster away from it and hesitating going towards it. Since ground dirt is always going to happen, I couldn’t accept that excuse, and we lunged a lot longer than I had planned. I started to get a little stressed, because it was my plan to ground drive, not lunge! I didn’t want to be here all night long!

But I knew what to do. As with any good instructor or trainer, I could hear Cindy’s voice in my head, even though she wasn’t there. Is he paying attention to you or just looking around? Is he working well? If not, get his attention, make him work!

So I concentrated on what I was seeing in front of me – I stopped worrying about my ‘plan’. If he went faster in one spot than another, I made him keep the same faster pace all the way round. If he offered to slow down I relaxed my posture and let him, but if he sped up again I pushed him to keep moving. And just like magic, he was suddenly there. His head tipped in towards me, his pace slowed – you could see him focus. It didn’t even take all night! So I decided to do the driving after all.

I hooked him up, and as I started driving in the big pen, he started the same worried running around again. I pulled on those reins to slow him, and he ran through me – and again, the voice in my head kicked in. What was the point of standing there hauling on his face and NOT being able to slow him? Did I want to teach him it was OK to plow through my hand? No. So again I gave up my plan. I dropped the ground drive reins, and went back to lunging until he relaxed, which he did fairly quickly. Then I told him he was good and picked up the reins again.

And you know, it worked. Was he as pokey and relaxed and easy as he was the other day? No – this was definitely a new day. But even though he seemed a bit more wound up, he listened to my cues. He turned when I asked him, he stopped when I asked him (without hauling on the reins, thank you!). When we were done, he stood like a quiet gentleman, like he always does,waiting for time to go back to his pen. All in all, it was a good learning day.

I’m glad I took that time to work Zeke. I was completely focused on him and what he needed, and we made progress. So now I guess I’ll go back to waiting, because the finalists for the writing contest have not been announced yet…

Post Navigation