Monday, November 30, 2009

Blossom - A partner for life

Hello everyone,

I love reading about the ground work Betsy and Zoe are doing at Top of the Hill and I have learned so much from reading everyone's notes. I am hoping to incorporate the some of the suggestions in my working with Nevada Blossom and her mom, Golden Red. Here, are a few photos where I am working with Nevada's Blossom but the first obstacle is food.....she acts like she is always starving and insists on grazing I try to get her attention....

Nevada Blossom is not only a beautiful girl but she has a wonderful calm personality. I have been watching the interaction between her and the other horses and she is not in the top of the leadership poll but she is tops with me. I love her softness and desire to please.

Blossom is a fast learner and a great student. Most importantly she is teaching me how to be more confident in my requests. I know she will respond positively if I ask the right questions. I can tell from her movement she is listening to me. I just hope I am hearing her correctly.

Nevada's Blossom is a sweetheart. I love working with her and she is teaching me so much. A few months ago, I was standing behind her and my cell phone rang....I didn't think twice...but I should startled her and rightfully so had only been a few weeks since she was in a BLM holding pen with her mom, Golden Red....well, she instinctively kicked ....and I limped ....for several weeks and we all the smarter for it....It is a lifetime of learning with horses and I am finding it cannot be hurried but instead appreciated for the small accomplishments we make and when we make a partner for life....well that is what it's all about...

Best wishes to all my Curly Horse friends, 

The Right Equipment

Apologies for no pictures, it's raining here, yet again...
I had to share though. For years I've been riding in my much loved, perfectly fits me, Steuben AP saddle, since I like to do just about everything and have a strong leaning towards combined training, doing a little dressage, a little jumping, and heading out on trails now and again, my saddle has done well by me. It also has the added bonus of actually fitting all of my Curly horses, which is super nice.
Over Thanksgiving, my Aunt Gale and Granny, from Maine, came to visit, while they were here, I was showing them pictures of my stud colt's sire, Sandman's Magic, for the fun of it, i showed a couple pictures of me getting the opportunity to ride him, while I was visiting Shelly of Curly Standard Place, in Canada, in order to pick Sandor up. While looking at the pictures, it occurred to me, that I really am never able to get my legs and seat in quite the right place while riding in my Steuben, it was very clear in a couple of the pictures of me riding Sandman, in Shelly's Isabelle Dressage saddle, that I was closer to where I needed to be. That coupled with a recent discussion on the Curly Haven forum regarding dressage saddle, and well, I decided, finally, to get my very own dressage specific saddle.
Actually I happened across a Wintec Dressage 500 in the used section of my local tack shop, which had hardly ever been used, for about half the price, it felt good in the store, to sit in, so I brought it home.
I FINALLY got to ride in it this morning. I have to say I'm pretty well in-love with the saddle. Now if you're looking for a super deep seated saddle that forces you into the right position and then holds you there, this is NOT the saddle for you. But if you are hoping for a close fit to your horse where your legs are naturally encouraged to drape down straight underneath you and where you feel naturally in sync with your horse and as if you can just think of what you want to be doing and your horse "gets it" through your seat, a saddle that encourages a live, easily transmitted and clear conversation with your horse, well, this might be the saddle for you. In many lessons over the years, I've ridden in a number of saddles. I personally don't like the super deep seats, I want to be able to move, I also end up feeling too far removed from the horse's movement in them. So, for me, this saddle is fabulous, I highly recommend it! To top things off, it was raining pretty much the whole time I rode Rhys in it, and I didn't feel like I had to worry, go synthetic!!
Right, so the ride...
Rhys has been living alone these past few months, none of my mares were getting bred this year, and he doesn't really play nicely with Sandor, so, sadly for Rhys and Sandor, they only get to visit over the fence line with each other. The nice thing about this, is that when I take Rhys out to ride now, he has LOTS of energy and he's just begging for a job and something to do with it. Riding in the Dressage saddle, the communication between us was like tapping into a live wire. Today was one of the best riding days we've had together to date. He was light and responsive, and I could feel Everything he was doing/thinking long before it happened. I had merely to think the thing and we were doing it. Granted that was just walk/trot/canter and different combinations and speeds/extensions of each, but still. We went from a canter to a halt, with a thought, no pressure on the reins at all. From the halt straight to a trot, with a thought. We did some seated extended trot, no problem, my body was able to fluidly and easily "bounce with his bounce" as Elaine so wonderfully explained recently. For me it seems like a stomach thing too, letting your diaphragm expand and contract with the horse's trot along with letting your hips relax enough to go with the movement or bounce. At any rate it was absolutely wonderful. I've never been able to do just quite what I did with Rhys today, while riding in my Steuben. I'm thrilled with how today went and am looking forward to tomorrow's riding session! Will have to see how the mares respond in this saddle, but we are still a solid month+ before I'll ask any of them to carry me, they are working hard enough feeding and schooling their foals. :-) At any rate, using the right equipment for the job, really does make a whole lot of wonderful difference in the accomplishing and ease of doing a thing.
I hope you are all having a marvelous day!

The Ol' Switcheroo

My friend Sue and I pulled the ol’ switcheroo and rode each other’s horses for a ways at Acadia. AhD and Saturn had a very good sense of humor about the whole thing, and Sue is a very confident and experienced rider, so I had no qualms at all about putting her on AhD. We had a ball, and she LOVED my Curly! She thought he was really cute. She felt like her feet were dragging on the ground. I, on the other hand, felt like I was riding an Ent. My mother told me that if I can’t find anything good to say than don’t say anything at all. I was glad to be back on my Curly, who does not have a 14” overreach in his stride. And, Sue is right, he IS cute.And he did not bite the mini once, even though I think he was sorely tempted. He was such a good boy on this trip, and I notice that when I trailer him to ride in other places, even if we are riding solo, he is better behaved. One would think the opposite would be true?? Anyway, that's what I would think, but I have been proven wrong by my personable and quirky riding partner AhD.
Only one month to go in the 2009 RAC. Like Betsy, I am hoping to hear from you all in December! :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An autumn trail ride with Chester

Hello, As I write this short note, it's rainy and dreary out but yesterday it was perfect for a short trail ride. It was really a beautiful, autumn day and I was able to catch some photos of our critters and neighbor horses for all to see. First, we started out away from the barn and immediately we were greeted by the Golden Curls Ranch welcoming committee, Salsa and Sarita. This mother and daughter jennies are real hams....


We adopted the girls, shortly after Sarita was born, through Habitat for Horses. They are called painted Bethlehem Donkeys as they have a cross on their back.


Next, we pass the pond with the lone willow tree. It is a spring fed pond and with this year's rain it is over flowing. No complaints....'cause next year we may need all the water we can get. The horses love this area and it is great fun to walk by and see the frogs jump into the pond...the only one who is a scardy cat is the big fella Lakota....actually some of the frogs can get pretty big:) Oh, and they make a funny sound like Aieeeee when they go under the water.

Also, munching at the pond were the Llamas. We have three fellas that are around five years old. The white one is Cesar, the brown with neat markings is Carlos and the one who loves to come up to me for food is Coco Le Leche....they are compatible with our other critters but they do not like dogs. In fact, we don't have any coyotes...and our neighbors say they are coming up into their backyards in the daytime....we call our Llamas the "three wise men". If you want to know what's going on...just watch their ears.

Our neighbor has five wonderful horses, two are former race horses and all are very friendly. They love to see us coming near. It's like an old fashion visit where everyone puts away their work and tools to just sit a spell and chat.

We arrive back at the ranch just in time for least that's what Curly J was telling us as he peeked in the barn door. It was a wonderful ride and pleasure to be in the saddle with my Curly Chester on a wonder autumn day.

OYY HummingBird and first time under saddle

In a previous post, I showed our progress with OYY HummingBird in harness -- ground driving and dragging and evener. That work is being continued.. but simultaneously -- she also experienced her "backing day" .. without a hitch - so to speak.

First - we did some bareback work -- getting her used to weight on her back .. lots of movement around her sides with human body parts -- sliding off her rump, etc. At 12.1 hands-- not too tricky to lean on their backs. Or to slide off the rump

She's figuring it out - weight and balance and moving forward.

Saddle up and check in - just to be sure rider and ridee are on the same page :) Seems this is not going to be much of a bother for HummingBird.

That was almost too easy ! Good Girl ~
I think this is one of the (many) reasons I love ponies so much .. smart, short, making training time so much more fun. Of course - it is all good breeding too.. after several generations of trainable horses - it's even easier.
Enjoy ~

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ground Work and Ring work

There are so many good reasons for ground work with horses and one of those is just as Heather pointed out when she was working along with her visiting Aunt. We use ground work as an exercise for our "riders" in the therapeutic program. People can learn so much from this in terms of body language and communicating.

Body language is the largest form of communication between two people. 80% of all “talking” is done this way. Often times when we are communicating with a friend, co-worker, or peer we temper what we say based on the language we interpret from another’s stance, the look on their face, hand gestures, or numerous other body language signs and expressions. For many, this skill is just there, we know how to do it without really knowing how we do it. For some—this ability is not well developed or missing entirely.

For those individuals who struggle with relationships, understanding cues from others, and in their ability to communicate their own needs~ they can learn through this ground work without having the anxiety that a “person to person” exchange can bring. Since all communication with a horse is done through body language it allows the "rider" to learn about the small movements that encompass communication and expression. Working with a horse on the ground, participants begin to recognize how their stance, posture, attitude, and movements affect another. In their head, they may want the horse to do one thing but through their body they are giving a different cue and can’t figure out why the horse is reacting differently then they want. It's awesome when one of the participant's in the program gets it all together and realizes they cam 'move' the horse with their own body... and not by using force and not by touching the animal.

Ground work is also all about gaining respect, learning to demand respect. I find it to be pretty rewarding myself when I ask and can receive a response that is asked. I know I feel great that I am a decent communicator and can elicit the right response from the horse I am working with - and the chances are, if I can get it from the ground.. I can get it safely in the saddle as well. It's a super tool for all horse owners.

Here's a trail maze set up in the indoor for the lesson riders - Zoe and I use it too when it is set up. It has a small bridge at the half way mark. The horses love these little surprises.

A little extra fun.

Zoe and Elektra and Keri and I got out for a quick zipping trot and then we worked in the big ring. Zoe is very focused on the shoulders in and haunches out thing -- so I followed her around learning some more too. Keri actually started to get it at the walk, but at the trot..well-- let me say; while one is learning, it seems it's best to stay at the sitting trot and Keri was being rather (brattingly) racy. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting to her trot and attempting to keep her SLOW. I was very tired after that lesson ! But when we were done, she was getting the idea fairly well and actually did a little lateral trotting down the diagonal.. Elektra on the other hand - once she stops and listens.. she begins to digest her teachings quite well. Pretty exhausting stuff.. sitting properly, all those cues with your legs pushing over and holding in place... wow.

I tried to get a short video - Zoe and Elektra were doing so well.. my horse was jiggling and impatient.. but here is a VERY short piece. If you look carefully, you'll see Elektra getting it right.. traveling with her hind in the track and her front shoulder in. This is after just 2 or 3 lessons. Anyway-- I'm proud of the two of them.. so bear with the poor video from a bragging Mom :)

difficult to believe it's almost December -- Almost the end of November Battle of the Blogs- I've enjoyed hearing from all the new and long lost posters.. keep it up for December too !

Enjoy ~

Woman's Best Friend...

For Thanksgiving, my Granny and Aunt Gale flew in from Maine for the holiday and surrounding week. I haven't seen either of them in a few years, as I live in western Washington, so a bit of a commute! My Aunt Gale has expressed an interest in horses these last couple of years, which has been something nice for the two of us to relate to each other through.
Today it was finally not torentially raining, and so Gale came out to take a few pictures of the horses. We got to talking about Clinton Anderson and horses yielding, (while the foals were pressing up on us, but, of course, at this point, they haven't done much in the way of yielding training, although some. I offered that if Gale wanted to, we could have an impromptu ground work session with Sandor, who I've done the most of this with, although perhaps Xandra would have been an equally good co-teacher. Rhys is still recovering from a puncture he managed to get in his right front hoof, he's almost 100% sound on it again, but I don't want to risk it with him.
I mention all of this, not because having other people work with my horses is new, or attempting to incorporate Clinton Anderson type training methods into my own training sessions is new, but for another reason. I've never actually had anyone else work with Sandor. I mean, sure, they've led him around, or held him for me while I trimmed his hooves, but I've never handed him over to actually be worked with by anyone else.
Today, I started with Sandor. I went through sending him out and to a direction, switching directions, yielding his hind end and forequarters (which we were both a little rusty on, haven't worked on it specifically in a little while, but we managed it ok). I did a little desensitization, and then offered Gale to work with him.

Amusingly, Sandor decided grass was much more interesting and that he had no interest in doing anything Gale was asking of him whatsoever! Instead Sandor just dove for grass or stood there looking at her with a mostly blank stare on his face. I felt like Sandor was saying "you're not my Mom, I don't have to listen to you." which I found entertaining, although he's going to have to learn that isn't necessarily the "right" answer. Gale kept trying the "moves" that Anderson applies, but she wasn't getting the energy behind it, she wasn't focusing herself, her attention, her being on having Sandor move. So we discussed the triangle of a horse, (horse's shoulder to you to horse's hip) and being "ahead" of that triangle, ie passed their shoulder and thus in a blocking position, vs. "behind" that triangle, ie closer to their back end) in which case it is a driving position. I also discussed uping her "wattage", projecting energy towards Sandor. Thinking along the lines of plugging yourself into an electric socket, and saying ok lets go!!, Wee!!, etc... rather than just "go.". It was really fun actually, giving Gale a lesson. I got to see some things about Sandor I hadn't thought of before, one being we need to practice a lot more than we've been and need to get a couple of new faces every now and again to remind him to listen to whoever it is who is asking. Gale also really enjoys photography, so she took a couple of pictures of Sandor and I doing our thing, I'm definitely still learning.
I think for some of the things I want to be doing, I need to put a whole lot more time into my guys so they absolutely, without a doubt, know exactly what is being asked, even if it's from a new equestrian just trying to figure it out. I can see how, easily, a person could become frustrated with themselves and give up trying all together, if they feel they are asking, and they mostly are, but still there is no result. Of course a No Grass arena could be helpful too. :-)
All in all it was another fantastic day out with the Curlies!! It was really nice to get to share them with my Granny and Aunt. :-)
Brandon caught this shot of me explaining something to Gale, not sure what it was exactly, I talk a lot.

It was neat trying to have a ground lesson with my aunt though, very, very interesting. Sandor is in for a real treat in terms of the two of us will be doing A LOT more ground work than we already were. Actually the whole process in terms of observing what actually happened and how and why, gave me some food for thought as well, in terms of how I am moving and interacting with my horses. So, we will see, life is all about learning, and I find, for me, that the more I 'learn', the more I realize I don't know and require that much more learning, communicating with horses is definitely on the top of the life long pursuit of knowledge in...lots of people have booshelves with self help books on them, I have bookshelves, filled to bursting with horses and horse/human communication books, most of which I've read more than once.
Here's another pic, just for fun of Ravyn and I. She is finally coming back around to how she was her first two days of life, which is to say super social and people oriented, thank goodness!! Due to her having to get antibiotics injected starting at three days of age, she stopped being quite to social for a while, it's good to have her back. I think, one day soon, I am going to have one incredible little herd of individuals who are particularly talented at being "Women's best friends", Gale kept commenting on how beautiful their curls were and how marvelously soft their coats were to just pet and touch, not to mention how nice it was to have them all just come right up, no chasing them down. :-)


Friday, November 27, 2009

New Territory Explored

Zoe and I decided to ride a new road .. I don't think I have ever even driven my car down this road the entire way. This involved a new loop which will include a stretch of Route 10 - we have ridden plenty of highway in the past, but Route 10 is narrow, twisting, well traveled and traveled fast. For our first experience here - we'll need the trustworthy duo-- Keri and Teasel.

We started out trotting down a few familiar back roads - nothing new here except - wait.. as we pass the opening to a favorite trail ! Is our trail in danger ? Pretty big logging and chipping activity here. I stopped my horses and spoke with one of the fellows working and he assured me .. the trail should remain intact. We'll see.

We trotted through North Springfield on the sidewalks, over the long wooden bridge with echoing clip clops and crossed the highway onto Baltimore Road. I am posting plenty of photo's as usual on my farm blog.

Right on the corner opposite each other - old home, new home.

If I was younger, I would save this old farm house.

Teasel blends in nicely with the leaf littered roadside.

Pretty much the entire trip-- these two trotted and cantered side by side.

This vista reminds me why sailors in ancient times were afraid to navigate into the horizon. It does look like the end of the world.

Our main objective.. Gould Road - here's the start of it. Beautiful hay fields and old maples, plus some nice views.. overcast but still outstanding.

Just a few photo's of the view along Gould Road before it begins to dip down into the forested valley.

Here's the reason why Gould Road is well known in town -- Frank Gould has his own little museum on his property of antique farm machinery and implements. I have seen this sign countless times other places as a guide.. but have never actually passed the site.

These fellows are cute - I told Zoe.. watch out-- now that I have seen this, if I get industrious - it could be everyone on my Christmas list will receive a Green Mountain Tin Man as a gift. But I never seem to eat anything out of a can - so I don't have time to save any up.

A photo of the widest section of Route 10.. as we trot down it toward Davidson Hill Road - which will take us over the hill toward home. We brave a short trail from Davidson Hill Road onto Mineral Springs-- even though there are hunters out- the woods there are posted and it's only about 10 minutes of off-road travel.

once we get out onto Massey Road- it's trot time home.. we pass by one of my favorite road side rocks... first time I have ever snapped a photo of it ! Over the years, the rock has cleaved itself in half and moving further and further apart.

When I first moved here - these rocks were almost touching.
This was a fun ride - I hope everyone else had a super Thanksgiving ...
Enjoy ~

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Riding Curlies with my son, Andrew

Hello everyone,

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was wonderful. I had a special treat with my sons visiting and was able to get our middle son, Andrew, to jump in the saddle and go for a trail ride today. Andrew rode Jubliee's Curly J and I saddled up with Chester. It was great to ride a few of my favorite Curlies with a wonderful and fun son on a beautiful sunny, Texas day.

First, we warmed the fellas up walking around the outdoor arena while chatting and catching up on each others lives. Soon we were walking together on the trail in a brisk pace. It's great riding with younger folks. They have so much energy and are interested in the leaning more about the world around them. 

They also see things differently and helps remind you of how you saw life you when you were their age.

Thankfully, the young ones, Andrew and Jubliee's Curly J waited for the older ones, Chester and mama.

I really enjoy the moments I spend with my sons and enjoy sharing the exciting events in their lives. I will always cherish these times.
Best wishes from our family to yours on this wonderful Thanksgiving Day...


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Less is More with a Hackamore

Hello all,

I have started using a Hackamore with our Curly Stallion Man, Chester and he really seems to like it better. A few days ago we saddled up and I thought ...what the heck let's try a hack. The results were amazing.

I have seen Sidepulls work great on well trained horses in the past and I feel Chester is coming along well in his training. He is a responsive horse and has done well with voice commands and leg aids. Coming from an English background my training techniques include a lot of leg aids. He is a very fast learner and intelligent so a little goes a long way with him.

On our ride he was pleased with the hack and due to the new bosal pressure I was aware of needing to use a very relaxed hand. He didn't shake his head like it has with other bits. He seem to be please to have less invasive metal in his mouth. As you can see from our pictures he is wearing a bright blue, one ear head stall that goes well with our red barrel racing reins:)

I feel this is a good transition and is working well for us. Our new goal will be to graduate to the bitless bridle. Beside we like the idea that less is more and its working well with using a Hackamore:)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Horse Shadows

I've been thinking a lot about the change of seasons as Betsy mentioned. Even photos taken near noon time are full of shadows, and evening lasts about 10 minutes. AhD and I have to be careful not to be too far away from home when the sky turns dusky.On Sunday, we probably reached the big field at top of Sanitorium Hill before 2:00. There's not a cloud in the sky, highly unusual for November in Maine. I'm not complaining, mind you.This photo was taken maybe 45 minutes later. Look at the size of the shadows here! We had a blast trying to position ourselves just so to get the tall horse shadow effect.
Later this week, I hear it is finally going to get cold. AhD is ready; his coat is covered in fluffy warm curls. He even has a bit of a mustache. Me? I plan to add an extra pair of socks and fleece and find my winter gloves. That extra natural layer of insulation I'll probably have after Thanksgiving may even help when I hit the trails with my beloved Curly pony. Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow RACers!

My favorite things..riding and showing off Curly horses!

Hello All,

Now a days, my favorite thing in life is riding our sweet Curly horses. My second favorite thing to do is tell folks about our sweet Curly horses. So Sunday was the best day ever in my book. I was able to do both my favorite and second favorite thing at the same time with good friends.

My long time friend, who has a heart big as Texas, Marion, had her warm, friendly sister, Marsha, visiting from California for the Holidays. Marsha had never ridden a horse before and was excited to get in the saddle and ride with Marion and I. When I asked  Marion which horse should we saddle for her sister she immediately suggested Chester. Now, if it had been any other horse breed I would had been looking at her as if she was crazy to putting a first time rider on a stallion but knowing our calm, wonderful Curly station, Chester, I 
 just smiled and Oeekee Dokee.

After spending time brushing their soft, coats and cleaning their feet we chose tack for each fella. I suggested my new barrel racing saddle for Marsha since it has a deeper seat. Marion enjoys riding in the  Dressage discipline so she chose Dressage for Cinnamon River which is perfect for his long extended walk and trots and I was trilled to try out a new roping saddle on Jubliee's Curly J.  


A quick note about sweet Curly J....Marion and I drove our trailer about six hours in a monsoon back in April to pick the boy up from a rescue in Luchenbach, Texas. Here is a photo of his first meeting with Marion....Curly J was known to crow-hop when we first met him. Today at three years old is proving to have the wonderful personality of his great granddads OB Pinto and Dixie D. He is a cowboy(girl)/rancher's dream come true.

We mounted our fellas and had a great ride. I laughed at the look on Marsha's face when Marion told his sister she was riding a stallion. Wow, but I added you my new friend have met our wonderful Curly stallion, Chester! And...seeing is believing when you meet a Curly friend.

Best wishes to all,