Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What have we accomplished.

Note: My natural ride bareback pad is still up for auction and open to best offers.

Today as I was out on a leisurely bareback rider on Indigo around the harvested corn field I got to thinking how much me and my little spotty horse have done this year.

It may not seem like a lot but she has gone 365 and a few days without being injured. *knock on a lot of wood*
What does this have to do with accomplishing things? A lot considering she hasn't had to be off because of some large cut, scrape, bump or bruise.
If you have been following this blog for any period of time you will know this is almost unheard of. Indigo, without any injuries? *again knock on more wood*
From spring this year and still ongoing she has been worked 5-7 days a week. Some days we just go around bareback, others we drive a few miles at a trot, working hard and walking a lot.

We came.

Indigo and Sydney

We rode bitless.

Sydney and Indigo

We drove bitless.

Sydney and Indigo - carriage

We won.

Carriage class - Syd wins 2nd

So did lil'red cowgirl.

Walk, trot class

She sure had a lot of fun following us around to horse shows this summer for the opportunity to take my spotty pill into a few classes, who I might add behaved excellently for lil'red and earned themselves some ribbons and winnings.
Photo's by Robin

Lately we have been working on not having meltdowns over little things (like people walking way off in the distance) and shes been doing amazing. She gets a little unsure of things still but instead of teleporting fifteen feet to the side and then assessing if it's a threat or not shes been stopping and staring at whats got her attention. I am much more happy to deal with this and encourage her to walk on when she stops. I want her to know the option to stop and look is there but the option to run away isn't going to get her any closer to home.

I credit a lot of this to my doing. Both causing some of her big spooks and now calming her before she has that spook.

See when I first got Indigo she was ridden by her previous owners husband. He is not a horseman but he wanted to ride with his wife, probably the reason why she was described as "not husband safe". In short if Indigo decided if it was time to trot off they trotted off. If Indigo decided it was time to stop and snack on things it was time to stop and snack on things. So long story short when I got her not only was her reign of terror over but there would be a lot more hard work involved than working when she wanted to (see trotting off).

Naturally being the opinionated mare she is Indigo rebelled. She dove at grass and weeds, yanking the reins out of my hands no matter how hard I made her work because of it. Every last tiny blade of grass was worth the work in her eyes. She trotted off when she felt it was time to trot, leaving me up on her back as a passenger instead of her partner. She took matters of how fast we went into her own hooves but never took off at any fast speed or was ever dangerous for me to handle. She threw a few big spooking fits in there too and got me all flustered.
I hollered, kicked, screamed a few times. "you should not be spooking you have seen -insert one of two: Objects that move and objects that do not- a thousand times!"
I would get mad at her and get after her for spooking. She would smarten up for a short wile but always find something else to be unsure and spooky about. I thought she was trying to get out of work. She thought I was a monster I am sure but put up with me through both of our confusions.

Sometimes this mare is a harder nut to crack than the young horses I have trained. She has some bad habits that came with her and had been doing those irritating habits for many years. A young untrained horse has the ability to be molded by you without the presence of those bad habits in the way.

I've ridden more horses this spring/summer/fall than I have all other summers. It's given me some valuable ideas and information especially towards Indigo.
Indigo is 18. Most of the horses I have broke or finished this year have been 5 or under in the exception to an unbroken 11 year old ex broodmare, a 10 year old gelding and a 21 year old mare that had not been ridden in 12 years. I treated them all the same: like they were a 2 year old being introduced for the first time to things.

So being the perfectionist I am I got to thinking, how come I could get these inexperienced horses to be calm and collected about scary situations, but Indigo would have a fit and want to get the hell out of dodge?
I thought about how I handled it.
An inexperienced horse would spook or become unsure I would scratch it's neck, give it plenty of rein and reassure it that whatever was scary was not going to hurt it and they would usually snort a few times and carry on.

Indigo, I mean she is 18. She should have a been there done that attitude being all the places shes been. I got mad a lot of the time because she would spook at things that shouldn't have been a big deal. Normally I would use some sort of negative reinforcement such as giving her more work for spooking. This only made her more anxious the next time she was to spook.
Finally I put two and two together and started riding her like she was two. Slowly but surely accompanied by some no-nonsense work (as in ignoring shying when we worked or reassuring her it's ok but not letting her stop) shes come to the point where rather than trying to gather up and spook at things she will a) stop, usually more than once and take a good hard look at what might be bothering her or b) make a wide berth around it. This isn't the end of the line but it's better than alternative c) get the hell out of dodge.

With breaking a horse I have said and still say miles and miles of WALKING is what breaks a horse. Not trotting or cantering or galloping. Walking. It sure came true. When we were headed back in the general direction of home and Indigo got a little upset and wanted to jig or trot home I insisted we walked. No thought to it might take us two times as long to get home, we walked, and walked, and walked and if she anticipated a place where we were going to change gait before I asked we walked that whole spot too. Soon she just thought about walking. Walking the whole few miles was always an option and if she behaved and walked until I said so and she did indeed get to pick up the pace.
The result? Well she doesn't anticipate changing gait anywhere other than the odd day she has a little burst of energy but instead of a battle about walking she quietly goes back to a walk and we resume what we were doing.

So as far as this year we certainly have accomplished a lot as a horse and rider team even further than showing and spooking. Not only have we accomplished my new years resolutions Indigo has become incredibly tuned into my cues and even more supple to the bridle both direct contact and her new found love of neck reining. Collection is a breeze now, she can feel my cues and I can feel her whole body round up and that lovely swinging motion of her stepping under herself when we ride.

I can only hope we can follow up with this through the winter and all through next year.

So how about the rest of you. What have you accomplished this year with a horse?


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like a very successful year...and you did it all bitless. Way to go!

Apache and I accomplished a great amount of teamwork in training for and conquering new obstacles for Competitive Trail Rides. I was so proud of her because I bought her one month and then just a month later was competing with her. She and I breezed through 3 competitive trail rides....something I never anticipated.

She also learned to trust me enough to trot and canter with me, without wearing a tie-down, a Tom Thumb bit, or being smacked with a crop. All things her previous owner had to use to get her to move out.

I wish she was sound now, though. I sure do miss riding her...


Jeni said...

great accomplishments Sydney!

Oh my accomplishments... Well. I learned how to collect my horses WITHOUT using bridle at all (not bitless yet but working on it) .

I've trained my young draft to the point where greener then green city boy can ride her at walk /trot and I'm confident she won't run off with him.

22 years since my last horse show I decide to show Bonnie in English Pleasure and placed 2nd

I then jumped on a friends Grand Prix level dressage horse and do Dressage Intro's and scored respectable 60's % .

I've taken Rosie out on the trail many times with other green horses, and she was the calmest.

And to top it all off... I stayed in the saddle this summer NO MATTER WHAT !


Rachel said...

Thanks for this great post! This year "we" (my mare and I) accomplished huge strides. She went from NEVER being ridden by previous owners to being ridden more days a week than not! I overcame fear from a bucking incident and can now just sit and ride on my horse with little to no anxiety at all. We learned to trust each other this year! Huge!

Jame said...

That's awesome, all the stuff you've been doing with Indigo. What was your favorite part of the year with her? (Not so awesome flaunting your great weather...sigh, I miss wearing just a shirt outside!...but the horses are quite fuzzy & adorable this season at least!)
I don't think your bareback pad would fit either of our boys or I would snap it up-do you remember where you got it?
One thing I've always wanted to do is get our team to work separately-or at least, to not start screaming like wet cats the moment they are out of sight of each other. Not quite accomplished this year-it's going to take awhile, I think, with what all is going on this winter, but it's a definite goal!

Anonymous said...

This year has been a complete 180 from where we were last year. I actually RIDE my mare now. I feel safe and confident handling her in all situations. I trailer her out for trail rides with groups and as of last weekend just the two of us. She has given beginners their first ride. We are now 100% bitless, and will be entering our first show bitless this weekend. None of that was possible last year, in fact I was having making the decision to sell her or Push through my fear. No longer does she buck under saddle, bolt or rear or kick while lunging. I am SO tankful for our wonderful trainer, without her help nont of which would be possible and who knows where Honey might be today.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I respect your experience. What would you recommend to help Bombay feel comfortable in the trailer? Chris Cox and others say to make him move his feet constantly at the opening of the trailer and only let him rest inside the trailer, so that he gets to the point where he prefers to be inside. He has spooking issues, but I can't get miles and miles on him unless I can get him in the trailer without it resulting in $300 vet bills and months of recovery from injuries he inflicted upon himself when freaking out over being in the trailer. In his case, we haven't accomplished anything this year, but regressed big time.

Ed said...

Congrats, Indigo is one special and talented horse..:-)

juliette said...

Congratulations! You have made Indigo into a truly great horse. I love the photos that chronicle your journey. Of course, the real "test" to me and the greatest accomplishment is the bareback rides around the cornfield. Everyone has their own idea of "heaven" and that is mine. When I ride bareback and bitless, I know that I have really accomplished something with my horses. That is what I hear when I read this post about you and Indigo! Somehow, that makes me think that you two are speaking the same language to "win" rather than her earning ribbons following "Human rules". Well done you and Indigo!

achieve1dream said...

I love this post! I can tell by reading it how proud you are and how much you love her. You've done a lot a great work with her this year. Congrats!

I haven't done much with Chrome this year. Just let him grow and be a horse. We did some walking, hoof care and diet tweaks, but that's about it. Next year when he's two I'm going to start really working with him on desensitizing him to things and walking on the roads more regularly. Maybe next fall when he's two and a half I'll start teaching him to lunge and ground drive. That's when it'll get exciting. For now I'm just letting him do what colts do. :)

allhorsestuff said...

Truly inspiring, I loved every word Sydney!
(can you send me some of that good juju -vibe- for- healing- and -injury free horse stuff my way!)

I ythought it very interesting, and I think i have done the same and wondered the same...why am I so good with others horses and my own, sometimes not.
My expectations of my own, as you too found, does not relinquish the fact that they are not human and need us to be less predator like and more assuring..! ( in thier language!)

Loved all the photos especially Lil' reds!

Be well, and ride often!

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