Our four year old gelding, Irish Gillan HC, started summer camp last week with a really nice trainer named Jenny Jess.
Gillan is third generation here in the Pulque Preservation Program, American Foundation 100%. His granddam, dam, sire, several little sisters and brothers and daughter watched the trailer going out of the driveway two Sundays ago as Gillan left the farm for his trip to Mystic Acres and the start of his 60 days of summer camp.
It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be to turn Gillan into the facility round pen, visit with Jenny about his training and then drive away. As Gillan sped around the round pen, watching us drive off, a huge lump rose in my throat. It was a big moment for Gillan and school had started. But, for me, coming home to his empty paddock was a tough one, even though I am excited about riding him and all of the things that we will enjoy together.
Jenny asked alot of questions about Gillan and what we envisioned for his future. She's an astute trainer, who listens closely to her client's, both human and equine. I know that Gillan is in the kindest of capable hands ... but his empty spot at the breakfast table here at our ranch has been an adjustment for me.
Saturday morning, I was able to visit Jenny and Gillan and watch day six of summer camp. Gillan has learned to trot, canter, halt, change directions, come to the center to Jenny, all without a lunge line. He listens to Jenny's every word and watches her every direction. She says he's a very good student and is very smart and willing (music to a breeder's ears).
Gillan is also learning flexing exercises and is being desensitized to a rope flopping everywhere (one day, Gillan will be asked to do ranch work with cattle, so ropes and such are an important part of his future lifestyle).
I'm simply amazed that the raw pre-K student we took to Jenny is doing a multitude of new tasks, willingly and efficiently so quickly. Well, maybe not so amazed - after all, his pedigree is a star-studded cast of champion performance horses. We should expect no less! And, after all, we are breeding performance horses ...
Passersby are stopping to stare at Gillan, with his glistening golden coat, flaxen mane/tail, four stockings, blaze. All 15H of him exude performance plus - with his substantial bone and proper balance. I visited with the tack shop keeper and he said he loves to watch Gillan in the round pen across from the shop. He mentioned how handsome Gillan is and what a delight to visitors to the facility. You bet, I just loved all of his commentary!
As I patted Gillan to tell him how very proud I am of his efforts and success, I didn't have enough words of appreciation for Jenny, who smiles so kindly and speaks so softly to her young student. All 900+ pounds of Gillan are fine-tuned to hear everything Jenny is saying and everything that she is doing.
Gillan is making me very proud and proving that the Pulque Preservation Program is alive, well and flourishing. He's a fine example of American Foundation Arabian breeding.
I'm sharing a couple of photos, one of Gillan just before he left to go to summer camp (above) and one taken Saturday, working with Jenny. March on Gillan! We are so very happy that you are well on your way to being an excellent student and learning so rapidly.
Our kindest thanks, also, to Jenny and Jan (Mystic Acres), for taking such good care of our boy. We are looking forward to week 2!
It's the beginning of week 3 and I've looked forward to being at Mystic Acres on Saturday morning all week long! This is a fun summer camp for me. I've planned for Gillan's future career for five years and it's all coming up roses.
Jenny told me that today was Saddle Up Day for Gillan. He's made great progress with voice and hand signals and is learning that whoa means stop-stand-still-and-don't-move-until-I-tell-you. What a lovely word whoa is in the horse world. Giddy-up used to be my favorite, but it was long ago replaced by whoa. It's such an important basic word. Without whoa, all the other lessons just don't build on the right foundation.
We carried the saddle pad and saddle to the round pen before getting Gillan from his paddock. Jenny's been working with Gillan with a surcingle this week (with bouys tied to each side to simulate stirrups). He's becoming adjusted to something around his girth and flapping by his sides. But the saddle pad and saddle were still quite a curiosity for Gillan.
Jenny thoroughly sacked Gillan out with the saddle pad, swinging it to and fro while Gillan adjusted to the activity that he'd not seen before. After wearing the saddle pad, Jenny provided the same experience for Gillan with the saddle. He took it all rather calmly, after the initial - are you sure you know what you are doing? Question and answer session with Jenny.
Once Gillan decided that Jenny had the situation under control, he was calm about wearing this new contraption and being girthed snugly. Standing there saddled, Gillan looked quite the performance horse. Wow! All this, just for me? Then Jenny asked for a walk - what, you want me to move now? But this thing will follow me ... is that ok?
There was a bit of excitement at first to Gillan's trotting and cantering wearing the saddle, but he soon decided that this was all in a day's work and that wearing the saddle would be acceptible. No step for a stepper, as they say.
After getting the saddle wearing firmly in hand, it was time to back. Gillan did try to tell Jenny that backing wasn't part of a horse's natural way of going but, he decided shortly that, if backing is what she wants, that's what she will get. And then backing came nicely.
Jenny's been playing a few games with Gillan during round pen exercises this week and he's responding so well, he looks like a cutting horse already. When he changes directions, his head lowers, his rear end comes up under him and he rolls back quickly and efficiently. Bring on the cows! We're headed for a performance career!
The lesson ended with bath time. What a great way to end a successful lesson - with a cool shower. Nothing like a running cool water hose on a hot Texas summer day.
Our thanks, again, to Jenny and Jan - you are taking wonderful care of our boy and we are well pleased with his progress. More to share next week!
In the spring of 1994, we traveled to the beautiful farm owned by Tom and Carol Wood to meet them and deliver KA Golden Bubbles for breeding to Windfall C, a grandson of Pulque++. There are no words to describe the experience of seeing Windfall for the first time. Foaled on Pulque's birthday, Windfall C was the mirror image of his grandsire and was incredible. He took my breath away.
Tom and Carol are delightful hosts and graciously brought out, in addition to Windfall, his sire Windfire, his uncles, Que Natta, Lazim and C Wildfire, his aunt, Burgundy Bourbon. All were magnificent, handsome and beautiful in their own right. I was forever bitten by the Pulque++ charm and decided, on that day, to make every effort to preserve the legacy that was Pulque++.
Over the next 14 years, in a combined effort with my partner, Barbara Siebenhausen, we have diligently bred for athleticism, willing dispositions, substance, balance, usability and trainability, while focusing our efforts on gathering descendants of Pulque++ via the sireline for optimal linebreeding and performance excellence in our foals.
Thus, five years ago, Irish Gillan HC's life was planned in the PPP by the mating of BT Sun Dancer and Lov Que Soraquett. Gillan has been everything for which we dreamed and hoped. He's got it all - presence, balance, substance, a willing heart and quick mind, with a joie de vivre that is obviously and quickly apparent. Gillan loves life and he loves people. He was born to ride.
Saturday, at the end of Gillan's third week of training, five years of awaiting his maturity came to fruition. Gillan's First Ride!!
For those who's kids have embarked on the parent's plan, stepping out with assured confidence and ability - you will know how I felt at this big moment. Jenny has worked diligently to provide Gillan with the skills to communicate with and receive instruction from his rider. The big moment arrived and Gillan was ready.
As Jenny stepped into the saddle, mounting several times to give Gillan ample experience of newfound weight on his back, I found myself holding my breath. What was I thinking? He's bred for performance excellence. He's been raised to be user-friendly and handler-responsive. His pedigree boasts generations of performance champions. What could be my worry? But, here were my hopes and dreams in bigger than life, living color, and the Pulque Preservation Program was about to be PROVEN. Yes, I was holding my breath. This was Gillan's Big Moment.
Gillan never faltered, bless his heart. Jenny sat astride for a few moments, letting him adjust to the carrying weight, then she clucked and Gillan walked out without hesitation. He was calm, collected and accepting. Pulque++, you would have been very proud of your great grandson! I know I sure was! Tom and Carol - Gillan was The Star on Saturday!
Jenny worked Gillan both ways of the arena, switching directions, weaving different ways, circling numerous times. Then she asked for the trot, using the same directions for a variety of movement. Then came the canter ... never a falter from Gillan, never a misstep. He looked like he'd carried a rider all of his four years of life. Within the first few moments of Gillan's first ride, he was under saddle and all was well. Jenny was wearing a very big smile and so was I. This was a moment of true SUCCESS!
As Gillan was receiving his nice cool bath at the end of the work session, I patted him, while having flashbacks of Windfall C, Windfire, C Wildfire, Que Natta, Burgundy Bourbon and Lazim going through my mind. The Pulque++ Legacy is alive and well in Gillan, his brothers, sisters and daughter. Saturday was a milestone for us. We're headed in the right direction.
Thank you, Jenny, for moving Gillan forward, onward and upward. His reining career is in the not-so-distant future, very alive and very well!
The weather lady is saying hot hot hot for her forecast and she is not kidding. Texas in July is hot, there's no getting around it. We've scheduled visits to Gillan at Summer Camp for early on Saturday mornings, doing our best to get the day's activities underway and through before the blast furnace arrives in the afternoon.
My oldest daughter, Katie, went with me this time, to see Gillan's work session at the end of Week 4 and visit with Jenny about his progress. Our whole family is excited about Gillan and Jenny is such a valuable resource. We feel very lucky to have found her - especially so on this day of Gillan's training.
As Jenny was putting Gillan through his flexing exercises, bending, walking, trotting, circling, changing directions, weaving around the arena, after awhile, Gillan faltered, then jumped. Jenny is a certified equine massage therapist, and knew immediately that something was awry with Gillan's behavior. He's not a jumpy horse and Jenny sensed his discomfort. She jumped off, untacked him and examined his back. Sure enough, there it was - Gillan twitched when Jenny's thumbs passed over his hip area. He needed an adjustment. This is a great reason to have a trainer who is also a certified equine adjuster!
Katie and I followed Jenny and Gillan to the barn. We had never seen a horse being adjusted so this was a whole new world for us. Gillan stood calmly in the cross ties while Jenny flexed his hip, rubbed his back, placed her hands on his spine and pop! His back was returned to its rightful position. Gillan's face showed his signs of relief. He'll be back to himself in a day or so. What a relief!
We had never thought about a horse needing an adjustment. Jenny explained that many times, when rolling in the pasture, horses are trying to get their own backs into place. It makes perfect sense, but we had never previously experienced this. We live and we learn something every single day in the horse business.
As Gillan was getting his soapy bath, we were appreciating Jenny and her training techniques even more. What a great experience this is for Gillan and for us.
On to week 5! We are highly pleased with all of the excellent progress. Now we are in the process of determining who will be Jenny's next pupil when Gillan's Summer Camp is finished. We plan to keep Jenny busy with Honey Creek horses.
When we selected our trainers for our young horses, we chose Jenny Jess, to start the horses, and Lin Whetstine, to finish them for performance, for their skills, talents and determination to provide a safe atmosphere to produce a willing, responsive, quiet and reliable riding mount for all of the members of our family.
Gillan is bred for performance plus. He's got athletic ability beyond measure, a willing heart and a very quick mind. He's stout, with excellent bone and he's growing in muscle every day. When I walked up to Gillan this weekend, I could see the obvious change in his physique. He's getting stockier and his muscling up is looking very good. Our Gillan is no longer the Little Lad - he's definitely a big guy now, growing in size and in ability.
Jenny has taken to heart our desire and request for a quiet horse with a good mind and willing responses. This week, Gillan's lessons have been ground work - dedicated to trust and trustworthiness. The end of Week Five was a lesson in laying down with calm acceptance. It began with a hobble.
As Jenny applied the one leg hobble, Gillan was curious as to what the leather strap could be. He did not argue or fuss about it. As Jenny strapped his front leg up with the hobble, Gillan stood quietly (Good Boy, I was thinking and hoping!).
When Jenny asked Gillan to move forward on three legs, he was successful in going for quite awhile. But soon, Gillan decided that laying down might be what Jenny was asking, and he calmly laid down.
Jenny released his leg from the hobble and rubbed all over him, telling him what a good job he was doing. She laid over his back, sat on his side, climbed over him, walked around him, rubbed him everywhere to let him know that this was good. He was doing the right thing!
Gillan was quiet about everything, enjoying the attention and the atta-boys. He took his sweet time about rising again and walked with Jenny as if to say, I'm Good!
After laying in the soft arena floor dirt, a bath was definitely on the agenda. Gillan loves his baths, even enjoying the soft mist on his face to wash the sweat away. On this day, there was plenty of dirt to remove!
The hobbling and laying down lesson will apply to many things in Gillan's future. It shows that his spirit is willing, that he is trusting of his handler. When someone needs to mount that may not be able from a standing position, Gillan will be able to accommodate his rider's needs. If the need arises for Gillan to be treated laying down, he will know how to do so without commotion. The laying down lesson is an introduction that leads to other training with obstacles and advanced behaviors.
It's a joy to watch Gillan grow in knowledge and abilities. Jenny teaches with a soft hand and a quiet voice. She's preparing a very good student for his reining performance trainer and we are well pleased. Irish Cara HC is at home, waiting in the wings. She will be Jenny's next pupil in just a few short weeks.
Jenny is a very good trainer. Gillan responds to her with just her slightest touch and softest voice. She has the ability to encourage horses to have the desire to please.
Gillan's riding days are going well and he's continuing to complete trust and reliability lessons. Jenny worked, on Saturday, with Gillan in the outside ring riding and the inside ring on non-spook exercises.
Gillan is adept at changing directions with slight signals. Stopping and backing are coming more easily. He's displaying the athletic ability that he will utilize as a reining horse, even showing the ability to already spin on his haunches. His natural carriage is that of a performance horse, with good balance and a willingness to quickly respond to cues. Because Gillan is built for performance, his ability to carry a rider comes easily.
Gillan is learning, with press-and-release exercises, to lower his head for halter and bridle fitting. It's going to be nice to have a horse that lowers his head because Gillan is 15HH now and is still growing. It wouldn't take much for him to be too tall for me to bridle, if his head was too high in the air.
This week, Jenny has been providing the actual "sacking out" exercise: a grocery bag tied onto the stick, flapping around and touching Gillan's sides, legs, head, neck, etc. Gillan is learning that the flapping bag isn't a horse-eating creature and he's allowing Jenny to rub his body, neck and head with the bag. He's not sure why she's asking, but he's accepting the situation - which is excellent - though he seems to be saying "What good is a bag if it doesn't hold horse feed? Who would want one?"
We are delighted with how Gillan is growing and maturing with the riding lessons and the usability exercises - flexing, backing, changing directions are all good for muscle development and balance control. He's getting taller and filling out really well. Gillan has two more years to grow until his maturity, thus the riding is helping that process along immensely.
We have received numerous responses on Gillan's work and have to say that we are thrilled with Jenny's teaching. We wish everyone had a trainer nearby just like her! She's a wonderful resource.
One of the items which is at the top of our Wish List for Horse Training is a quiet, relieable mount when the summer camp is finished. Jenny is paying strict attention to de-sensitivity lessons with Gillan and he's doing very well. He graduated from a small plastic shopping bag to a large tarp and, even in the breeze, stood well for his lessons with Mr. Tarp.
First, Gillan met Mr. Tarp in the middle of the round pen and investigated the odd blue thing thoroughly. When he decided it wasn't going to jump up and chase him, he was calm about approaching the tarp. He walked over the tarp several times. Then it was time for the tarp to touch Gillan.
Jenny swung the tarp in the air all around Gillan, letting him get used to the flapping noise and the large moving object. Then she touched him with it all over on both sides (utilizing both the left and the right way of Gillan's thinking). Then, she swung the tarp up and over his back, letting it rest a little longer each time until Gillan stood quietly to wear the tarp all by himself.
After Gillan realized that the tarp was just noisy, it did not hurt, he was calm about having it flapping everywhere and over his back. I expected more alarm with the tarp in the air, but Jenny has prepared Gillan every step of the way to become used to noises and motions, even when it's large, blue and flying through the air.
This exercise is so important for all aspects of training. It's teaching Gillan to accept unusual things (Native Costume, yes indeed), to remain calm and relax the Flight Instinct that horses have naturally and immediately. Someday, when we are carrying the flag in a parade, Gillan will already be accustomed to large flapping material whether it's on his back or on another horse's back (even more important).
The sacking out process is such a vital part of training for a reliable, quiet riding horse. Gillan and Mr. Tarp are adjusted to one another now. Such good basics are being covered in Summer Camp and Gillan is passing his courses with flying colors (blue ones, too). We are well pleased.
We measured Gillan last weekend. At four years of age, he is 15HH and still growing. His bone structure is substantial. Gillan is a purebred American Foundation Arabian horse, 100%, Saqlawi-Jidran pure in strain. He's a product of the Pulque Preservation Program.
So much to report in these past few weeks. Gillan is doing alot of trail maneuvers, jumping 50 gallon containers, doing some reining work, being ridden in all sorts of situations. He's coming along so nicely and we are so very well pleased.
Jenny will be starting another young horse for us soon as Gillan moves on to his reining trainer, Lin Whetstine.