Trailer Loading 101: Don’t Look At Me, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing.

Two weeks ago I decided to tackle the insanity of trailer loading Valeria and Catalina. Sometimes I question my mental health. Valeria is a shady loader to begin with, I didn’t want Catalina following the same sordid path. When I bought V I had Ben in the trailer and she popped in after about 10 minutes, though I was warned it could take up to 30 minutes. The second time I trailered her was also with Ben in the trailer and she hopped in after about 15 minutes. So I was sure that if I put Ben in the trailer again she would go in and then we could coax Catalina in.

Well…you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. They often go awry. Ben is my best trailer loader. He’s literally the self-loading dream. He’ll cram his big frame into the smallest straight load trailer imaginable if I ask because he’s just so chill about the whole trailering process. However, on this day he had a meltdown in the trailer.

I don’t have any media from trailer loading. Please enjoy the majesty and beauty that is a bitchy mare.

He loaded fine, was chomping away at his hay and then as I was getting Valeria and Catalina I heard the trailer rocking and thrashing. He was losing his mind. I don’t know what the fuss was about and he sort of settled when I called to him but he was breathing hard and shaking. I know better than to go into a trailer when a horse is freaking out, so I let him sit for a few minutes while I talked to him in reassuring tones. When he was calm enough to handle I pulled him out and he stepped off of the trailer like it was no big deal. Go figure. I never did figure out why he panicked.

I tied him to a nearby stall for moral support and grabbed Valeria and Catalina. It’s very interesting trying to lead two horses at once when they both kind of suck at it. Suck isn’t really the right word…more like they have their own opinions about where we should go. I’m totally aware that it was a gift from God that the two of them handled well enough for me to lead them to the trailer. Catalina is easy to control because she doesn’t weigh all that much in reality. Valeria is the bulldozing asshole that tries to go where she wants instead of going where I want which causes pulling on poor Catalina who doesn’t always give to pressure right away.

Andalusian? Don’t you mean llama?

But, I was lucky and I got them both to the trailer doors quite easily. I stepped in and asked Valeria to follow. She thought about it for a moment and decided it wasn’t in her daily planner. We played this back and forth game of me asking her to move forward and her moving backwards instead. I’m sure all of you know the dance. It’s kind of like the Hokey Pokey. One foot in, one foot out.

Eventually Valeria did get all the way in but because Catalina didn’t follow right away she motored out of the trailer as fast as she could. It was time to change tactics and give Valeria a break for being a good girl by virtue of getting in at all. I dropped a bunch of hay at the trailer doors and let Valeria eat while I worked on getting Catalina into the trailer.

It starts young. The Vetericyn give her an angry eyebrow too!

Baby moose is way too trusting of me for her own good. Once she realized I wanted her to step up into the trailer she obliged quite nicely at putting one foot up. It was putting weight on that foot that she had questions about. I’m not perfect at the releasing pressure method but it worked fairly well. I’d pull on the lead line and as soon as any of her little hooves moved forward I’d release. She tried putting weight on the trailer a few times before committing herself. I had her half way loaded in about 10 minutes. Which isn’t bad and in hindsight if I hadn’t covered the trailer floor in Bermuda grass I probably would have had less distractions for the baby moose.

Trailer loading is by far one of the most stressful things to teach a horse, in my opinion. It takes a lot of patience and the realization that all the in and out and back and forth is still progress. My favorite part of the experience is when a horse is comfortable with their front feet in but they don’t want to put the rest of their body into the trailer. They’ll stand there all day stretching their hind end without giving and inch. That’s not the part I like. The part I like is when you see them make that choice to step all the way in. They kind of relax and then take those last two steps in. I don’t care if they back straight out afterwards, it’s that moment were they do something for you, not for themselves that I love.

Hard to believe all that mare ‘tude lives under the surface of this cute face!

It only took a few more minutes but Catalina did get all the way in and then proceeded to stuff her face with all the hay on the floor. I coaxed her to the front of the trailer where the forbidden joint swelling alfalfa was and she gladly stayed put while I went to work with Valeria (sometimes I plan ahead! >:) ). Getting Valeria in was pretty simple once she saw baby in. The only small SNAFU we ran into was when Ben unclipped himself and merrily pranced away causing a bit of buddy sourness to flare up.

I asked the pair to get in 3 times (because 3 times is a pattern and training is all about establishing routine, right?) before I sent them back to their stall. The next day I repeated the effort but this time we actually went somewhere which I will save for another post because it was exciting!

Reflecting on that training session I’d say it went much better than it could have. I can’t wait until Catalina is weaned to work with her one on one because she’s a pretty level headed little horse. As for Valeria, I think she needs a lesson in respecting the lead line. I’m not sure how I want to go about it because there are so many tools that can be employed but right now I’m eyeing a stud chain or a rope halter with knots on the nose band. Neither would be long term and they are my last resort. I need a little extra something to stop the 1,200lb hippo until she learns that trying to get away is futile. Any advice or suggestions?

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Bel Joeor Blog Hop: If your horse were a drink…

Sorry for another filler post. I am working on actual posts but it’s taking longer to build the media than I anticipated because I’ve been pretty busy between horses and work. The pressure is on because I’m suddenly the only manager with a very high priority government project. No big deal, right? It’s just the US Navy breathing down my neck. Plus this record heat is kind of energy draining!

Amanda at Bel Joeor asked this fun but difficult question: If your horse were an alcoholic drink, what would it be?

The only horse I can definitively classify with a drink is Ben and he, true to his coat color, is an amaretto sour. Almond liquor is smooth and easy on the palate and looks oh so good in a bottle with that rich golden red-brown color but the sour can really pack a punch and make you reluctantly nurse that drink all night long. If you do end up with a drink that’s more sour than almondy smooth you can always turn to the maraschino cherries which are just as cloyingly sweet as he is.

Valeria is probably vodka. Mid shelf bottles always look classy and refined but at the end of the day they all taste like grocery store brand vodka that comes in a plastic bottle. Which is totally fine if you just want to get the job done and look good doing it but I think after a few more rounds of distilling she could be some top shelf shit or turn into a really nice tequila. Haha.

I don’t really know what Aria is right now. She was gone for 10 months and now she’s a different, more mature horse than before. Maybe I’d peg her as a red ale. Craft beer requires an appreciation for beer that most people don’t have (I’m looking at all you PBR and Coors drinkers out there. Lol). Red ales are a great all around beer and my absolute favorite drink. Crisp and rich with a hint of earthy straw (to match all the hay she wears in her mane). But they go bitter and hoppy when they get stale in the keg. She could have been an IPA but she’s much easier to swallow, so to speak, now that she has an education. Not so skunky anymore. I think she’s always going to be a little on the hoppy side though. Big bold flavors that not everyone can appreciate even if everyone can agree that a cold beer is really good on a hot day.

Catalina isn’t old enough to be a drink yet but I guess we can say that for now she’s an F Bomb. Fireball and Redbull. Right? Right??

Rocking E Cowgirl Summer Blog Hop Series – 10 Questions

I’m a bit behind on this blog hop, but I really want to post something quick since I’ve been so busy. I’m hoping to resume regular posts this week. These questions are courtesy of Allie at Rocking E Cowgirl.

Majestic moose.

1. What is your earliest, clearest horse memory? 
I have a picture from my childhood, I’m maybe 4, and I’m riding a white pony in Bangkok. I think I only remember this because there’s a picture of it. My first clear horse memory that I can currently recall is riding down the Grand Canyon. I was on a nondescript red horse but my dad was in front of me on a black Mike named Elvis that farted the whole ride.

2. Describe the perfect summer day. 

Would be spending the day on the beach in Tel Aviv with my family. But if I go horse centric it would be spending a beautifully warm day with my first horse, a Morgan mare named Hershey. We’d ride out into the middle of nowhere, then nap in the shade, and return home at sunset. Heck the perfect summer day would be any day I could spend 5 more minutes with that horse.

3. Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it! 

I’m reading a study guide for Security+. Riveting stuff. 

4. Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you?

Hmmm. I’m not embarrassed by the celebrities I follow. I only follow Kat Von D, Taylor Swift, and Gal Gadot. I have a few friends that are ‘famous’ in the entertainment industry (don’t get excited, it’s mostly animation) and that’s sometimes awkward to follow because they switch between personal and fandom posts. 

5.What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?

Grand Prix is a goal if I’m talented enough and have the money. If I’m dreaming big I’d love to ride in the Olympics for Israel (because even in my dreams I know I’m not good enough to make the USA team lol).

6. If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order? 

No Starbucks, thanks. 

7. What is your biggest equine pet peeve? 

“Equestrians” who choose to remain ignorant about horse husbandry. Learn to groom. Learn to feed. Learn to tack up. Learn to ice a leg. Learn every chance you get so you’re not just standing there useless when you need something done with a horse. If I pass you a lead rope, please don’t hold it like its a snake!

8.With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between? 

I don’t know how anyone can ignore it. I have friends, relatives, and acquaintances on all political spectrums. It’s very frustrating but also a great learning opportunity for keeping up on what ‘the other side’ is thinking in an effort to understand each other.

9. If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose? 

This one is tough. If it was Ben I’d play Can’t Stop the Feeling by J.T. because Ben really seems to get into the groove of that song when I ride. But for Aria…I couldn’t even say. Maybe something by Enrique Iglesias?

10. What are you most looking forward to this summer? 

Riding Aria all the time, riding with blogger friends, and seeing my Canadian friends!

Catalina – 3 Months

On June 11th Catalina turned 3 months old. In celebration of that today’s post is going to be a photo dump!

Wearing her bedding and food for her 3 month birthday.

The ugly duckling stage is strong.

A little visual of how tall she is. I’m 5’3″ and not slouching in this pic.

Still super rambunctious.

Oh. HAI.

Pouting in baby jail.

Almost shed out of her baby coat.

But she’s still hanging on to some of that orange-y brown.

Derpiest mare stare ever.

A huge change since her first day.

She’ll never be this adorable and innocent ever again.

Lesson post coming next! 😀

Holly Oaks Arena

My last two posts have included picture of the first time I rode Aria when she got back home. However my current riding area is rock hard and not level thanks to El Nino so I’ve been looking for alternate places to ride 4-5 days a week. On my way home Wednesday I stopped by the Holly Oaks Arena that’s about 1.5 miles from my house. It’s been there for years but I never see anyone use it. Naturally I assumed it was because the footing sucked.

Anyone else think the caution sign was an afterthought? lol

Turns out, the footing is actually great. I hadn’t stopped by the place before so I thought it belonged to the housing division that was built behind it but it was actually built by the Ramona Trails Association Volunteers. They keep it maintained regularly too. That’s awesome for me because I had been calling around getting daily and monthly trailer in rates at all the local barns but this little gem is right down the street and free!

It’s huge, which is no surprise. It looks like it was built for running barrels. I think barrels and gymkhana are the most popular activities around here. Well, actually I think people like to trail ride more than anything. The arena is stocked with barrels and cones for running patterns. There’s a bunch of hitching posts littered around the space, a shaded picnic table at one end, ample parking, and a 60’ round pen as well.

A couple of people were riding when I pulled up and I asked them if they would mind if I joined them. They didn’t so I headed home and grabbed Aria. She decided she didn’t want to get into the trailer. With some persistence I did get her in, though she did smash me against the wall once when I tried to clip her in. This is new behavior for her. I used to lead her into the trailer with no issue and now she acts like it’s a scary thing. It’s possible that the quick self-load session we did has made her nervous. It’s something I will have to work on because I like knowing my horse will go in reliably and at the moment getting in the trailer is the only way she’s going to get ridden.

When I pulled up to the public arena the two people that had been riding were preparing to leave. I don’t like riding alone but the arena is well situated. It’s by a road that is highly trafficked during rush hour. It’s also next to several homes that look over the arena. All the hustle and bustle is great for safety and for desensitizing Aria to a lot of different things. I tacked her up and she led into the arena with no fuss, however when the other people left and she started calling for her new long lost friends that she didn’t even know. Haha.

I missed some shavings hiding in her mane!

I started lunging her and other than calling for her “friends” she was well mannered and responded well. She wasn’t stiff so I didn’t ask her to walk for very long. I had her trot for a long time because she was mimicking a giraffe quite well. I had just gotten her working nice a low when a jogger ran by. She bolted, tail flagged, snorting and I just laughed. I’m an awful ‘mom’. I did eventually get out a whistle, her cue that she’s okay and should settle, and she calmed down into a trot for a moment before she saw the jogger again and took off. The second time she settled much better and I didn’t laugh so much.

Once the terrifying jogger was gone—can’t blame her really. Who runs for fun in all that spandex?—I asked her to canter. She moved out willingly and gave a few bucks and jumps but it didn’t take long for her to remember her motto is: lazy. Once we got to that mindset I knew she was good to ride. Our first challenge was the mounting block. It was outside of the arena and the arena gate is on a tension system that automatically closes the gate. I got on her and sidled up to the gate, touching it and moving it a bit. She wasn’t too worried about it but it’s a small space with a trashcan (yes, we did back into it. Twice) on one side and the mounting block on the other. I opted for using my ‘whip’ (it’s a piece of PEX pipe with some electrical tape on each end) to open the gate. It sort of worked and we made it through. Maybe I’ll bring some baling twine next time to hold it open.

Teal is totally this princess’ color.

I only asked her to walk around the part of the arena we lunged in. Once she seemed good there I put her on the rail and intended to do a whole lap before starting. Intended is the key word because half way down the arena we encountered a horse eating barrel. All that backup work that P has been doing with Aria paid off because she motored backwards and it took me a few moments to sit back and push her forward. I made her pass the barrel and leg yield towards it before I rewarded her by turning her back towards the area she was more comfortable in.

We did some busy work to get her mind focus on me and not the scary things in and around the arena. Leg yields, reversing, and turn on the forehand (those are now suddenly gone). When she gave me a good forward moving leg yield I gave her a quick break before picking up a trot. Her trot work was nice. She was rushing and being a total noodle at the start but we eventually worked it out and she was moving forward in a nice working frame by the end. I felt that was a good place to stop because we had already been working over an hour according to my watch.

More rogue shavings to ruin my majestical stoic photo.

A couple of cool down laps around the arena, suddenly the barrels weren’t scary anymore, and I hopped off. For her first time out in a new area she had done really well. I praised her a lot during the cool down and she ate it up. I untacked her and then we wandered around the property to get the pictures I’ve included in this post. Then I had to get her in the trailer. It didn’t go that well but she did get in twice for me. Though I had serious doubts about the second time. Haha. Just means we have some work to do! It was a great first outing. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Aria’s Homecoming Part II

After P was done with her exhibition ride we called R to let him know we were ready to work on obstacles. He took his sweet time so we sat around and chatted with P for a while until he came out. It was actually a good thing because Aria was given a nice long time to cool down from her ride. When he did come out I grabbed Aria and his instruction started immediately because I wasn’t using my lead line correctly. R can be really intense and it’s not everyone’s flavor but I really love his style of teaching. I probably should have warned Alex ahead of time but I didn’t realize R was going to wrangle her into the training session. Haha. Sorry, Alex!

Working on longer and lower. She’s quite good at it but my ability to keep consistent contact on the line prevents her from staying low.

Once I had my lead line on properly we headed back to the obstacles but of course when Aria started to walk ahead of me I didn’t correct her appropriately so R stopped us and he demonstrated how to properly do it. He explained that intent is important when working with a horse. When he asked Aria to back up he waved the lead line in her face but the important thing to remember when doing this is that you aren’t trying to hit the horse in the face. Your mind set should be that you’re shooing flies away, because you don’t actually want to hit the horse but if you do happen to hit them, they’ll understand it wasn’t on “purpose” because you weren’t focused on them.

He also reiterated that my relationship with Aria should always be as an advisor to her, star of the show. I cannot force Aria to do anything (let’s be real, she’s 1100lbs, baby doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to) but I can make suggestions that are in her best interest which in turn are in my best interest. If she abuses that relationship I won’t want to ‘work’ with her any longer and if I abuse that relationship she’ll ‘fire’ me. Despite all the analogy it really is all about building trust.

I need to get a good picture of all the fat on her crest. I think P went easier on her than R and she’s gotten a little squishy in areas. lol

Finally after about 20 minutes (no joke) we made it to the obstacles we had worked on the previous training session. We discussed what I was going to do and how I was going to do it and then he demoed the poles once more for me. Not because I didn’t know what to do but I wasn’t 100% that I was going to do it exactly his way. Spoiler alert: I still messed up when it was my turn.

One thing I really like about R is that he never minds when someone makes a mistake. He’s intense and he’s a taskmaster but he feels mistakes are part of learning and in some cases the only way to learn. Just like training horses, he doesn’t reprimand you and is quick to praise when you’re right. He also doesn’t mind if he asks a question and you answer with ‘I don’t know’ or with a different answer than what he wants. He doesn’t expect everyone’s mind to work like his but I do love it when I end up on his same wavelength.

Wide stance is wide. This is why she walks so much faster than I do. She totally over tracks.

Alex thought she was going to get to relax in the shade but R engaged her in the lesson when he asked questions and at one point even demonstrated his technique on her (sorry again, Alex! He does it to me too). It was a pretty dense training session and I couldn’t remember every little thing I’m was supposed to do when asking Aria to work around me but I did perform the obstacles to his standard by the time I was done. Every time I forgot one component of the task Rwould remind me and I’d start over. His mantra is ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. He so right, though. Aria was a rockstar and did exactly as told so the whole session was really making sure I was communicating correctly.

Towards the end Aria wanted to eat this weed that was on the ground. She kept trying and I kept correcting but I was not correcting effectively. R took over while we chatted and she eventually left the weed alone. Every time she nibbled on the weed R would back her up and then praise her. Eventually she understood that she could lower her head but not eat. Once she got to that point R asked her to lower her head to the weed until she left it alone. Total torture for poor Aria but also a good lesson in self-control. At the end R plucked the weed and let her eat it. A nice little treat for all that effort. Haha.

Everything the light touches is his domain. Nerd.

What I thought might be an hour session with each trainer ended up being closer to 4 hours total if you include the trailer loading work R did. Not that Aria actually needed it but she doesn’t self-load and has to be led in so that was a nice little something extra. My eyes were dry and hurting, the sun was stronger than I’d like, I was dehydrated, and starving but I walked away totally energized. Isn’t that the best feeling?

It was such a long day but she’s finally home! There will be many pictures of her to come.

Aria’s Homecoming Part I

I was planning to have a lesson on Saturday and Sunday but when I tried to nail down a time it turned out that P and R were not working on Saturday because they were going to a waterpark. How fun! I took the opportunity to hit up a couple friends in LA and see a showing of Wonder Woman. Totally worth it and a better idea than riding horses both days because it was 90 over the weekend and I think I ended up at least 2-3 makeup shades darker than I started on Sunday. Which reminds me, I absolutely need to get a couple sun shirts this week, but I digress.

OMG. Look at that big old T-Rex head. No wonder she’s my smallest horse but wears the largest bridle.

Alex offered to join me to get Aria, which was nice because hauling alone can be lonely. Not that I don’t mind the quiet time after a lesson to process and reflect but it was nice to have the company and the chance to share my barn and horse with another blogger. Alex has already met Ben, Valeria, and Catalina so the last one to meet was Aria. I don’t want to play favorites but Aria Catalina is the best.

We got up there around 9:30am and it was already warming up but wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t sure what the plan was for the day except that I was going to work with R on obstacles. I grabbed Aria. She had been sleeping in her pee—so attractive—but didn’t have shavings in her mane and tail which was a first. Grooming was quick work and I took a damp sponge to her face and body to minimize her stinkiness. She’s definitely getting a bath today.

If only she’d square like that when we practice for dressage tests.

She kind of didn’t engage with us during her grooming. Not normal for her personality but once I led her out of the barn she perked up and said hello by bumping my arm with her nose. I’m going to chalk it up to her being pissed about all the breeding that is going on around her. She really wants to fight those mares for a turn with Hans. What. A. Hussy. Haha!

I led Aria out to the arena and started saddling. Aria has turned into a cinchy horse so I didn’t go too quickly. I’m going to have to find out if it’s just being cinched that is pissing her off or if there’s something else bothering her, like soreness or internal troubles.

Working on long and low.

I thought I might be riding but P wanted to show me how Aria had been working for her. That made sense. I should know where she is in her training so I know what to expect from her. Aria looked great, even from the week before. It’s usually very obvious when Aria has had a day off between rides because she starts off very fresh and takes more time to get supple but she was pretty on it and dialed in.

They started working on the lunge line to get warmed up but it didn’t take long because, again, Aria felt good and was in the mood to work. P had Aria stretching to the ground at the walk, trot, and canter. Seeing the stretch at the canter was new for me and I kind of loved it because I know it’s not easy to push from the rear when going long and low. I also know how hard it is for Aria to keep forward momentum while stretching. It was nice to see all that effort.

Flex that T-Rex head!

Then P got on and did some flexion. Aria has been struggling with this exercise because she wants to go-go-go when you get on but it requires that she stands still. They worked on that for a few minutes until Aria gave in, stood still, and stopped rooting for the bit. Then they backed up in a circle. This is an excellent exercise because it’s not that easy to navigate a horse moving in reverse but it directly applies to a good many obstacles in working equitation. I could tell they were working on that a lot because Aria is starting to pack on hindquarter muscle. It makes her look less yoked.

She gave an amazing working trot that even P got excited about because she hadn’t felt that level of movement from Aria before. This was the first time I’ve seen P do so much sitting trot work. It was great because it shows an increase in stamina for Aria. She also held herself together really well and powered down the long sides in a nice shoulder in and shoulder out.

you_doodle_2017-06-07t02_54_20z

My new favorite view.

The counter canter wasn’t as good as we’ve seen in the past but it did offer up several nice flying changes, so there was no complaint from us. She really brought her A game for this ride. Her gaits were great. I kind of felt bad that I was taking Aria home because P always says how much she enjoys riding her and that ride really did show it. It does motivate me though. I can’t wait to have what P and Aria have for myself.

I’ll save the training session with R for the next post because this post is already long enough!

Riding V

I had planned to saddle up Valeria during Memorial Day weekend and test her skills but as it turned out everyone was too busy, myself included, to make time. It was agony waiting to find a time when someone else was around to ensure I wouldn’t be found dead in my arena hours later at evening feeding time. It also didn’t help that L and Alex were asking for updates on how the ride went as well!

I did eventually find time on Tuesday. I grabbed Valeria and tied her to the outside of her stall. I just couldn’t see how I was going to groom and saddle with a free roaming baby terrorist getting in the way. It’s good I did because V was worked up and Catalina was putting as much lead rope into her mouth as she could manage. V gave the saddle pad and saddle a hard look when I put it on her. That totally boosted my confidence.

Her previous owner had told me that the owner before her used V for trail rides and was ridden by an older man. As a realist, buying a horse I didn’t try from an owner that didn’t offer to meet me somewhere with tack where I could try riding meant that anything said was hearsay and highly suspect. So when I was told the previous-previous owner had ridden but not the current I was resigned to buying an unbroken horse. Which was fine because I was really more interested in the foal than the mare.

Rocket was prepared to call 9-1-1 if needed.

I cinched V up with care. She kept turning to look at what I was doing and I didn’t want to meet any teeth if she was cinchy. V can be a hard read because she’s a total bitch but also very sweet. Like those Sour Patch Kid commercials. Lol. She took cinching well though and I think a few more careful but purposeful saddlings will remind her that it’s not a big deal.

Baby jail. Which, surprise surprise, she is trying to break out of.

Then I grabbed my bridle and slipped the bit into her mouth. She took it pretty well with zero drama but it was too long on her after being used on Aria. Omg, HOW??? V is bigger than Aria but I had to put the bridle up 3 holes on one side and 2 holes on the other side. She ended up with her tongue over the bit before I could adjust the bridle, so I snagged it when she stuck it out and moved it under the bit. Turns out it’s not my most favorite feeling. If I never have to grab a horse tongue again, I’ll be 100% okay with that! But she settled BIG TIME once the bridle was on. It was like I had a completely different horse.

Me: Stop. Catalina: nom nom

Then I put weight in each stirrup and bounced around her a little mimicking mounting. I could have been a giant plastic bag on fire and she wouldn’t have cared. She was pretty dead to the world. I got on and she started walking off, so I’ll need to work with her on that. I asked for a halt with my seat and then my reins and she kind of didn’t stop until I was really pulling on my reins but not in a way that worried me about stopping her. More like a horse who wasn’t listening. I grew up on an appy gelding that didn’t like to stop either. It’s old hat for me to really have to pull on the mouth to get a halt. We’ll work on it until it’s as easy as sitting down. 🙂

Working mom. “Working” is used loosely.

At this point Catalina was losing her little baby mind. She was in the arena with us but she was not okay with me riding V. There was much rearing, bucking, and tearing around the arena (I got video but for some reason all that saved is a white image). This was really the only time I feared for my life during the ride. The last thing I wanted was C trying to join me in the saddle. Which was a real possibility because she rears up onto V’s back all the time. At one point she got way too close for comfort so I booted her in the shoulder and she turned around and mule kicked the shit out of V. 1. I will never do that again, 2. V is a saint because she didn’t even flinch, 3. I will start carrying a long stick with which to fend off C from a safer distance.

garrocha cart

Just adding this anti-Catalina garrocha to my shopping cart.

I had to pony club kick V to get her going into a walk and I plow reined her for some really sketchy steering but she was amiable to everything I was doing. She didn’t seem to understand what I was asking though but she figured it out pretty quickly. I tried neck rein and direct rein before settling on steering like a plow horse. I tried every combination of leg cue for turning before settling on teaching her my cue.

Me: Stop it. Catalina: No.

I’m not 100% sold that she’s broke to ride. Or at least if she is, she’s a true trail horse and follows the tail in front of her versus whatever the rider is doing. A couple friends on FB suggested she’s just lazy when I posted about my doubts but I’m not so sure. I did get a FB message from the previous owner that swore up and down she had ridden V before and she listened just fine for that ride and perhaps I should try a bosal instead of a bit for better results.

Me: I said stop. Catalina: But I want to smack my mom with this iron.

Uh…listen, I swear to you if there had been any mention of the previous owner riding V when I went to check her out before buying I would have been riding that horse back in September. So I’m a little befuddled BUT at least I had a good saunter around the property and can start putting some work into V. I’d love to get out on trail and pony C before she’s weaned for the exposure.

Obstacles In Hand

I’ve been gearing up to bring Aria home for months now and at the end of every month something in the back of my mind would tell me to keep her with P and R a little longer. This month however is different. We finally have a good working relationship and are in a place where I can ride on my own successfully. Yay! That’s big progress for me. I’ve gone from being afraid to ride to riding a baby. Granted she’s a trained baby but a baby none the less.

Enjoy pics of my neigbor’s new mini colt. He’s such a peanut!

Because R had back surgery a couple months ago, I actually missed an opportunity to learn a lot of things that Aria knows. She’d been schooling up to second level and was starting on pirouettes in hand. P has actually gotten Aria up to third level movement with the counter canter and I’ve seen a flying lead change but it clearly took Aria by surprise. Haha. It’s not solid but Aria is only 5. It’s more about installing the cue and movement rather than riding at that level. We know she’s capable of higher level stuff but she’ll spend the next year doing training level work with me and occasionally dabbling in first level. Always school higher than you show!

Knowing that I’m wildly unaware of Aria’s full skill set, which is fine because I shouldn’t be asking for movements I can’t even properly ride, I requested a training session with obstacles. I really want to hit up the local Working Equitation clinic at the end of June but I needed to see how R introduced Aria to new things. Now, I happen to know Aria is kind of a rockstar at obstacles because I forced asked her to tackle a lot of scary things when I first got her. R started with a tarp. I knew Aria wasn’t going to have issues with the tarp because we worked on that together and I had her blindly following me while the tarp covering her head when we finished. In true form, Aria did everything asked and we moved on from the tarp in a matter of minutes.

ex1

The final exercise once comfortable: walking through all the poles.

R moved on to obstacle poles next. These are 4”x4” wood planks, so they’re rather big and square versus round. There were four of them spaced about 4 feet apart. He walked her around them so she could see them from both sides and then he sent her through so a pole was on either side. Once she was okay walking between the first set of poles he asked her to walk between the second set of poles and then the last set of poles. This allowed her to navigate around the area and become confident with the footing. It also allowed her to relax within the obstacle space because we hadn’t asked her to walk over any poles, just between them.

ex3

Then R went back to the beginning and asked Aria to walk between the first and second pole. Half way through he turned her so that she stepped over the pole. Aria is notoriously clumsy so naturally she knocked the pole as she went over but it didn’t bother her. With any other horse the result of not reacting to knocking the pole is because the horse understands the space it’s working in due to the previous exercise. In Aria’s case, she’s just a cool cucumber about stuff around and under her feet. Either way she got an A for effort but a D for execution. Which is totally fine because R sent her through again and again at the half way point asked her to cross over the pole. She was more mindful and cleared the pole with no issues.

ex4

They did this a few times to make sure she would mind her feet. Spoiler alert Aria: you have four. Then R took her through the two center poles and asked her to turn half way through to walk over two poles. After she was comfortable doing that he took her over 3 poles and then all 4 poles using the same method. She cheated a few times and actually stepped up onto the poles instead of over them, but that’s okay. Haha.

ex5

Then R moved to the hard part. Now that she could go through the poles and over the poles it was time to get her to back up around the poles. Much scarier and way more pressure because this is where she could potentially get hurt but since she’d walked through them and over them she knew that knocking into a pole wasn’t a big deal. That’s important when backing up through the poles so she doesn’t scare herself. The other trick is to keep the horse perfectly centered when backing up. Not as easy as you’d think so this was a great exercise in how to move the hind end.

ex2

The final exercise once comfortable: backing up between all the poles.

Once Aria had completed backing through every set of poles R handed her to me and asked me to perform all the steps he did. I’ve never worked in hand the way he does but I watched his every move so I was fairly confident I could replicate it. I didn’t do bad my first pass through and I was able to refine my cues quickly to make quick work of the obstacle. Plus, Aria is really smart, so I basically was on cruise control. Interestingly enough, this exercise is an excellent precursor to trailer loading.

Then R moved on to an empty water obstacle, which could just be called a bridge with sides. He asked Aria to cross it in both directions. She rushed it a bit because she didn’t like the way it felt when she stepped on it but after a couple passes she went over just fine. Then he asked her to cross it lengthwise. Much more difficult because she wanted to bail out over the sides. This is where having control over the horse’s back end when going backwards is important because he was able to stop her halfway out and back her into the obstacle preventing himself from getting run over. No coincidence this is also a great exercise to do before trailer loading.

We ended the training session there because Aria passed with flying colors and was calm. There was no need to get her worked up again. R said many times during the session that challenging a horse with something new or hard creates adrenaline which in turn creates nervousness/fear and the key to training is to get the horse to work through that nervousness/fear to create courage. All of which can only be done because of trust. Not necessarily trust in us, but trust in themselves.

It gave me a lot of food for thought and honestly during the session my brain started to understand what R was trying to achieve because when I was questioned about why he did something, I was able to come up with the correct answers. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes I really do sit there totally dumbfounded until R tells me the answer. I’m okay with that because it’s still learning.

R asked me to stick around to watch a trailer loading session and I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I? It’s basically a free clinic. He also knows that I’m hungry for training knowledge because he totally sees me creeping watching him when he works. Of course there are always people watching, like the owners of the horse being worked, but they lounge around and chit-chat while R trains. I probably I come off a bit unfriendly in comparison when I watch a trainer work because I won’t really chat with the other people watching or I brush off any chances to start up a conversation or I stand far away from the other people.

It’s not that I don’t want to laugh it up with them or roll my eyes at the rail birds, I’m just a firm believer that if you’re talking you’re not listening. Too many times I’ve watched Aria get worked by R or P and some observer will distract me with a question causing me to miss something and I’ll hear an admonishing “you missed it!” come from the arena. It never fails! Haha. Plus, let’s be honest, when you’re spending a lot of money on training you may as well be throwing it all down the drain if you aren’t paying attention.

The trailer loading session was great. I mean, I was totally terrified at the beginning because the horse kept charging R and he’s still kind of recovering from back surgery but it was very educational to see a horse not excel at the obstacles. This horse was afraid and his method for dealing with fear was to fight. He had been in a trailer previously but on one of the exits the horse hurt itself and refused to go in again. It took an hour and a half for the horse to graduate through all the obstacles. His progress with R was the epitome of ‘training success is not linear’. I won’t go into the details of this training session because this post is long enough and it’s not my horse to discuss but after they completed the obstacle course R led the horse right into the trailer without a refusal.

It was pretty cool to watch and I was able to ask questions after the session. It also gave me an ‘ah-ha’ moment about the progress of trailer loading an unwilling horse. It was a great day. Also, I know there’s media out there of me working Aria through the obstacles because I saw the pictures but I’m not sure if R will post any of it by the time I post this. So this will either be a huge wall of text or it will be a huge wall of text with the occasional picture! Lol.