Get to Work, Little Horse

Today was hot, but it was lesson day nonetheless. I took the time off work, because it’s so nice to have Tarrin come here and work in our environment. There were only a few distractions, such as this extra-cool spider eating a grasshopper! It’s a brilliant jumping spider, and it must have really jumped!

I’m impressed

Apache did very well in his lesson. Since I was ON him most of the time, I didn’t get any photos, but I was really happy that I got to learn a bit more finesse in moving him around. Once I got the hang of what I was supposed to do, I was thrilled to see how well we could do things together. We were trotting around three barrels and up and down the barrel slalom like a pair that knows what we’re doing! He got pretty tired by the end, especially since he’d also done a lot of jumping and trotting over things.

Look, Night Dreamer is up on the wall!

We had to go on a walk, though (and I felt bad about making Tarrin walk, since she’d been stomped on by a young horse over the weekend). He walked down the scary paddock like a pro and even got most of the way back before losing his sh**. He’s getting a lot better! And I coped.

But, I wanted to take a nap.

Drew had a real day, though. He had to wear the saddle again for the first time in quite a while. His rest time is over. Time to build muscle. The saddle may be a bit big for him, but it will be fine for now.

Do I HAVE to?

Tarrin warned me he might have a bit of a baby horse fit about wearing the saddle, but he didn’t have a major one. I was able to deal with anything he did, and he got some good jumping and trotting over the poles in. Then he got to learn a new skill. Poor Drew’s brain. Tarrin taught him how to do the three barrels activity with me sending him around rather than running with him. That’s gonna make things much easier on this chubby old woman, once we get the hang of it. He had a bit of trouble at first and decided that the way to get it over with was to canter the whole while. Tarrin coped, but I sure couldn’t have!

I’ll go fast then I will be done

Eventually, though, that little boy was doing it with a minimum of fuss. You could just see his brain going, “Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” He got tired enough and processed enough that in the end, I was able to do it. Of course, I had to practice all the movements (you have to switch hands, back up the right way AND direct the horse’s movements, too). Minor success was had!

After I insisted on showing Tarrin all the other stuff we have been working on, like standing at the mounting block and backing down a corridor, we decided to hose him off. Poor Drew, I turned the thing on him and it made a scary noise. But he eventually settled down enough to drink out of the hose, so I don’t think he was traumatized permanently.

Slurp slurp, maybe I’ll learn to drink like Goldie. Note the water droplets in the air!

As Tarrin was leaving, we took bets on how long it would take him to roll in the dirt. Well, he was annoyed it took me so long to get his halter off (he stomped, not something he does much), so I knew he wanted to do it. Yep, less than five seconds after he was freed, he was down.

That’s better.

He was so darned happy. I couldn’t hold it against him, since he’d worked so hard!

Hoping I feel better soon and can talk about more deep stuff that’s going on. But hey, horses are always good.

My Baby Made Me Proud

Drew and Aragorn attended a Working Horse Central clinic today with Tarrin. Clinics are always fun because you learn so much from the other students. I’m now glad Apache couldn’t come, because Drew and I learned so much and he was just amazing.

That’s right, I have a clue. A Drew’s clue.

Everything worked out so well! Aragorn was able to canter and do all the new things he was asked to do, even though he’d thrown his therapeutic shoe. I was very proud of him and Sara.

We lucked out and the weather was cool-ish and cloudy for the first two groups in the clinic. We missed most of the first group due to not wanting to leave that early, but we did get to chat with people we’d met before, plus got to meet interesting new folks.

Drew is watching the dremel tool in action, as Julie worked on Aragorn’s shoe

I really enjoyed the second group, because they were doing things I’d never done before, and I could watch and learn from them. They did backing up zig zags, which I now think I could do, walking over a tire, which some horses did NOT like. Both gave me a good insight into how to gently teach new skills. Every single horse made it over the scary tire! Here are some photos of the cool people and their horses in the second group.

Our group was me, Sara, and the woman with the gray Arabian mare we’d met before. By that time, the sun was out, so I was glad for my fancy sun shirt. I was worried that there wouldn’t be much Drew could do in hand. Was I ever wrong!

First we practiced our dressage stuff, and I learned a better way to back him straight, plus we did our circles great. Ha! He got annoyed at me for keeping him out of my space and tried to nip back. That got shut down. I think our next show will me much better.

Then we did obstacles, most of which we’d never tried. That was so much fun. The zig zag backing up was cool because I was supposed to do it from outside the obstacle. We figured it out!

There was a jump, which I had to do from outside the jump, then at a canter. He did so well. We both were confident. I smiled and smiled. And I got Drew to do a zig zag side pass without using a dressage whip to guide him. He turned on the forehand! He turned the other way. He got applause. It wasn’t great but he DID it.

No photos of all this, so here’s my new bougainvillea.

The best one, though, was the dreaded tractor tire filled with sand, which they had to approach straight and then go through. I was surprised that it was so hard for the horse and rider pairs but learned so much watching them work through it. Patience worked! Even horses who were spooked by it got through.

And here’s a dragonfly I saw while waiting our turn.

As for Drew, I’d already walked him over it twice when we were warming up, so Tarrin said I had to do it on the long rope. To my surprise, he went over it repeatedly at a trot in both directions with me just directing him a bit. Everyone praised my rope handling and how I followed him. Holy cow! I’ve really gotten better with all that practice. I used to be so bad at this! I was so proud of both him and me. We are becoming a real team. Drew really seemed to have fun. What a guy.

After the clinic I got to watch Tarrin make a new hoof treatment device for Aragorn. It is very complicated and involves flames, mixing glue compound, molding, and hotness. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Aragorn seemed happy. He really liked a cushion thing he was putting his feet on. It looked very comfy.

And I got to hang out in the pool with Lee later!

We were tired people and horses when we got home, but so happy. I had two wonderful horse days in a row. Wooo.

Book Report: Whole Heart, Whole Horse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Here’s a short book report, since I talked about this book in a recent post already. Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider, by Mark Rashid (2009, 2014) is another book that helps you put a finger on what’s going right and what’s going wrong with your relationship to your horse. And there’s some human-human wisdom in there as well.

As usual, Rashid tells a lot of stories about his younger days with his mentor, as well as stories about people and horses he met during his clinics. One of the things that struck me with this book is how well he combines intuition with knowledge of how both people and horses work. His clinic attendees must really get a lot out of their interactions.

From this book, I learned how important balancing your reactions to things, so that horses can mirror your reactions and minimize their own reactions. His discussion of using energy to cue horses as much or more than physical cues makes a lot of sense to me. I can see where I’ve done my own horses a real disservice, but at least I have a plan for what I can work on moving forward.

We will keep working on it.

I just hope I haven’t ruined poor Apache’s life with all my emotions, fear, and inability to remain calm no matter what. I’m getting better, though, and hope I can be more consistent. That’s the other thing Rashid talks about, how horses learn to trust people through consistency. That has always been hard for me, since most of the time I’ve been with Apache I’ve not lived with him, and have been gone a lot. But you know, I also have to live my own life, so I’ll just do the best I can. I’m sure that’s what he’s doing too.

And I will try my best to forge a good relationship with Drew, now that I am getting more training and have learned more. I guess the oldest “child” is always the one that has to deal with inexperienced caregivers.

Just feed me.

I recommend any of his books to people who want to learn more about how the relationship between horses and people works. The more you learn, the more nuggets you can take and apply to your own life with equines. Plus, you’ll grow to love the horses he has worked with as much as Rashid did.

Taking Time to Smile

Not much time to write, because I was busy working and having fun. I got to check out Anita’s house renovation in progress, and I was surprised to see how pink the bricks are that haven’t been exposed to the elements since the 50s.

Same brick! The ones on the ground were removed to add the window, which is original to the house, but was removed to add a patio door.

Her house is going so great, and I’m proud of the work so far. Heck, the whole town is looking better. Some ugly stucco was taken off a building in downtown and this was revealed.

Old ads.

After I finished teaching, Lee and I went over to a lesson for Apache (because I’m busy this weekend). He seemed in a bad mood, but quickly perked up once we got there. It WAS a bit late.

We had another great lesson in which we both learned a lot. He’s still confused at cantering but was willing to do it for Tarrin. I ran around a lot, but he wouldn’t.

I’ve decided I really like the Western saddle on him. I can feel what I’m doing with my feet better. He started to try to be squirrelly with Tarrin, but she worked with him to get used to being under her lights.

Then I got to try some tight turns and circles, using more “refined aids.” That means not yanking the reins. I figured it out, and was just barely tugging the reins and moving my legs to get him to follow instructions.

I felt so good after improving! I could trot and look correct, even. I think I may become an okay rider after all. I just needed Apache to learn what to expect, then learn to do it. We both are getting a clue.

I even was able to handle him outside the training arena in the dark. Some parts he just did well on, and other parts I coped with. So proud!

Drew and I have a competition number!

I smiled all the way home. I’m so grateful for my great teacher and the chance to keep learning. Heck, Drew and I may even compete later in the year! And Tarrin said trail rides may be sooner than I think. I miss them!

My Horse Is My Toughest Teacher

I’ve always contended that I plan to keep learning new things until I die. I often think of my friend, Marian, who, well into her 90s gets all excited about the new topics she’s reading about, new technology she’s mastered, and new ideas she’s heard. I hope that’s me in 30 years!

And you certainly never know where you’ll find teachers and mentors, or where you’ll find your education. For sure, my neighbor, Sara, who you hear about a lot in my musings, is a great teacher and mentor in many ways. We’re very different, but have similar interests, which makes us a good team.

We are so proud of how Ace is progressing!

I’m sure glad I have her with me when I’m out with my Paint/Arabian mix horse, Apache. Sara has a lot more training and experience, which helps her figure out my problems. I’m also learning a lot watching her work with Ace, the Black Beauty she’s working with. I read this in Western Horseman (SUCH a great magazine) last night:

…when you ride by yourself you perfect your mistakes.

Chuck Reid, quoted in “All-Around Horseman,” by Jennifer Dennison, Western Horseman May 2021, p. 21.

But, are you really alone when you’re riding? No. You always have your equine partner with you! And Apache is one intense task-master. I mentioned last week that his back was hurting. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that the last few times I’d ridden him, he has been pretty scary. Whatever I asked him to do, he reacted by trotting nervously wherever HE wanted to go. He had absolutely no interest in turning right (making me think he was hurting). His head would either be tossing around or down frantically gulping grass. It was not a fun experience, and I even got a bit scared when he started backing and turning sideways.

Big Red says she wasn’t scared. I took this when she and I went on a walk. Yes. We did.

And on the ground, he was patently uninterested in doing his warm ups. He’d walk a couple of steps, then eat grass. It would take a lot of effort to get him to move, back, or pay attention to me. And when he WAS paying attention, he’d stop in the middle of doing something, face me, move his head up and down, and paw the ground, as if to say he was DONE with whatever we were doing. He was trying to tell me something, but what?

Continue reading “My Horse Is My Toughest Teacher”
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