My training journal

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My training journal

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    03-08-2011, 08:32 AM
My training journal

I need something like this for school anyway (training my girl counts a semester project!) and I thought a journal would be great for it I may include things about grades and things, but this is mainly for my horse training.

Getting started:

In December 2009, I bought Shannon from a friend. I was in love with her, and everyone agreed: we were (and still are!) perfect for each other. When I got Shannon, she had a lot of groundwork respect issues. She had taken on a negative of riding, groundwork, pretty much everything that involved a human because she didn't have any good experiences with them. Her main problems:

1.) Groundwork issues - not responding to cues/lack of respect
2.) Moving away from the mounting block when you tried getting on
3.) Cinchy, really bad.
4.) A little firecracker when you rode her. She felt like she wanted to explode with basically any pressure to her sides, especially.
5.) Stopping and not moving. Bulking.

What I proposed about these problems:

1.) Her lack of respect was because she wasn't being respected herself. She used to be whipped/yelled at if she did something wrong.
2.) She hates being ridden. Every time she's brought up to a mounting block, she dreads the ride ahead and will do what she can to avoid it.
3.) I think lack of proper training was the main cause to this.
4.) She was confused. With many different trainers that rode her, she wasn't sure what her rider wanted of her. She's had riders on her back who are trail plodders, others who think horses should GO GO GO, and some who are competition riders - you get the idea. Because of inconsistent training, Shannon wasn't sure what to think anymore.
5.) I could hear her: "I probably won't do the riding correctly, so I am going to stop. I can't do anything wrong if I'm standing still, right?"

Of course, Shannon is *not* a poor, misunderstood horse who is totally innocent. She has attitude, that's for sure, but I have found through time she only gives attitude to those who are not, in her mind, alpha. She tests everyone. And if she's in heat... well she'll give out attitude to anyone who comes within three feet of her. Fast forward December 2009 to January 2011. (It's true I did some work with her during this time, but it was few and far between. We went through a major move so it took awhile to adjust. Plus, I was scared to train her out of fear of failure since my confidence was basically at 0 at the time)

Before January 2011: I mainly worked on small things, like cinching up or doing mild groundwork. I spent a lot of time just getting to know her at this point.

January 2011: I really started working with her again. I rode her a lot and mainly tried to find what would work for our training. Tried out different bits, riding techniques, etc. I did of lot work with her sensitive chest area. She hated pressure on her side. She figured it meant go faster, and for awhile she freaked out when my legs just touched her side. During this time, I was getting her used to riding in general. We also went on a couple fun rides.

Progress: At the end of the January 2011, Shannon was less sensitive to my legs touching her sides. I got to the point I could lay them against her without her assuming it was time to bolt. She also did a lot better with not throwing her head. I also worked on her cinchiness. She was still uncomfortable with the girth and would throw her head while pinning her ears, but it was not as dramatic as it was before.

February 2011: This was the time I talked to my 'trainer' more. I continued what I had done in January and got to the point where Shannon was comfortable with my legs laying against her side. She was much calmer when I rode her. I took lessons for the first time on her and the first lesson went, well, bad. My instructor thought putting a harsher western bit in her mouth would be best for her. I didn't 100% agree, but thought I would go along with it to try it. She did bad because she isn't ready to ride with a loose rein yet and these reins have to stay loose. She is fine with a loose rein until you make her do something, then she freaks out and tries to run. I talked to him about switching back to her kimberwick that she loves and he agreed that I could try riding with her in contact for awhile.

Progress: Shannon improved because she was getting used to riding more. She was more comfortable with riding overall, especially in take cues from me. Still sensitive to some degree. Doing better on cinchiness!

March 1st-7th 2011: The longer I work Shannon in contact with the kimberwick, the happier I get! I put a close contact saddle on her and at first she was a little nervous about it since so much leg was being put on her, but today she was much more relaxed. She took my cues like a pro and even my trainer came along and said how calm she looked. We stayed at a walk and did some basic dressage work and she did so well. I am much softer in my hands after learning to use my seat and legs to turn her instead of my hands. I'm happy with that! I have been improving my seat as well. We had the best ride today we've had in awhile. Also, today (the 7th) I did groundwork with her and was pretty happy with it. I could tell she was showing a lot of respect to me even though she got confused with the canter cue. She kept trying to come into me. She stayed out of my way - I could tell she was ready to work for me today.

Progress: Just in the past couple days, we have made a lot of progress. She was calmer today than she has been in a long time. She was lighter on the reins as well. Not to mention... when I tightened the girth all I got was a 'look.' She was calm about it and took it very well.

Will continue to update this as our training goes on. Thank you for reading, I know it wasn't a short read to say the least. (Hopefully it made sense... it's 2:30 AM here and I'm very tired)

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    03-25-2011, 02:35 AM
March 7th-24th: I've been noticing something while spending time with Shannon lately. It's actually been fun for me. I can't tell you the last time I've had pure fun with my horses because it's been too stressful for me. (The plateaus and training oopsies were too much for me) I just felt like I couldn't do it and that there was little to work towards. My trainer helps me set goals to set me and Shannon up for success. We've been doing really good about reaching our goals.

Recently, my trainer has been emphasizing how important it is to help a horse see that s/he can move his or her hindquarters and shoulders separately. Shannon is reluctant to engage her hindquarters. It's a lot of extra work and she's very unbalanced. In the wild, an unbalanced horse is a quick snack if they manage to fall over. We've been doing a lot of backing to encourage her to use them better. At first, she wouldn't back for anything. My trainer even took a short lead rope and waved it around to make her back - nothing. The second day I put a harsher bit in her mouth and rode bareback so she could feel my body better. At first she didn't understand what I wanted but tried anyway (she always tries for me) and when she finally took a good step back I praised her. A little more of that and I called it quits. The third time I used the same bit and had her backing as much I wanted until I released pressure. Since she knows exactly what I want now, she'll do it until she falls over.

Recently I've also been riding her bridleless. She can't really neck rein but I ride her with only a small rope around her neck and use my body to cue her. She is so good at it! It was only the third time I've ridden her bridleless and she would stop, turn, back (with only a string around her neck!), walk, and even gait.

Progress: She has been improving leaps and bounds. At the start of March Shannon wouldn't back almost at all, and now she backs as much as I want her to. If she knows what I want she will give me everything she has. She is also really great bridleless too. It takes a lot of communication and trust for a horse and rider to ride without the aid of a halter/bit and saddle.

Goals I really want to keep working on backing and bridleless riding. I am also excited about teaching her to do a sliding stop. I may try doing some barrel work at the walk soon, too.
    04-05-2011, 05:41 AM
How about some pictures?

These were taken a couple days ago. (They were actually pulled from a video, so the quality is bad) Not only is Shannon improving, but so is my position.

I'm not really serious about jumping her right now, we were just messing around and having fun.
    04-27-2011, 01:24 AM
March 25th-April 26th: Shannon is doing pretty well. We haven't had an actual lesson in a few weeks and I am starting to feel the affects. I wouldn't say we're doing bad or anything, but I miss having something to really work toward under guidance of an instructor.

Anyway, I've been using my legs on her a lot more. I used to heavily depend on the reins and now I use my seat and legs to give her commands. To stop, instead of pulling on her mouth, I sit deep and say whoa. She usually stops without me having to pull on the bit. She also backs when swing my legs back and forth and sit deep. It's an unusual way to ask for a back but it seems to work and it helps her not be confused. I don't ride her with a string around her neck much anymore. Instead I just drop the reins. She is great at turning left, not so much right.

I rode her up the rode and I can tell she enjoyed it. She is so bombproof! Dogs were barking and running at her and she was completely fine.

This is not part of our riding training, but I have been teaching her how to bow. She goes all the way down on her legs and looks really pretty. It takes a lot of trust for a horse to do that, so I'm confident she feels safe with me.

Progress: I am starting to use the reins less and less. Shannon is responding to leg and body cues, which I am thrilled about. She also is holding her head well and not fighting my bit when I gait her. I have taught her to bow.

Goals: Work more on calming her down. She is much better than she was, but I'd like her to be even more calm. I also want to do more cantering with her and get her to collect at the canter.
    04-27-2011, 01:39 AM
Nice. She seems to be coming along nicely. That is great.
    04-27-2011, 01:40 AM
Thank you equus
    05-24-2011, 05:09 AM
Non horse entry:

So guess who is going to have the best summer ever with all her friends? Yep I can't wait! Finally something is looking up for me. It's about time. I am so stressed with school and other problems that I need a vacation from my worries. It should keep me going until I get to visit them again soon. I am so tired of dealing with grades right now I tempted to drop out sometimes. What really stinks is I was an all A+ student first semester and now I have trouble holding a C in some classes. (Pre-calculus) I guess part of it is pure laziness but I'm honestly not a lazy person and usually I stay motivated on my school work. What happened?

Oh well, I just need to keep looking ahead at things I can look forward to.
    06-11-2011, 07:48 AM
April 27th-June11th (2011)

One thing I can confidently say about Shannon is that she has wonderful ground manners. She amazes me every day, most of the stuff she does I haven't even 'taught' her. For example, when I lead her back to her small paddock (sometimes without a halter on) and I open the gate I just stand there thinking she'll just go through, but she doesn't. No, I have to walk in first and only then will she follow me. I never dedicated any training to her stopping and waiting at the gate in particular, but she has learned to respect so much to the point she won't go ahead of me, even if it means getting back to her paddock. I love her for that.

She has made great progress in her lunging as well. She used to pin her ears at the trot and throw her head. Now she just moves forward nicely, ears forward and backwards, constantly listening to me. She also will change direction, walk, trot, canter, and come in on command. Our sessions are almost always short because she does everything correctly the first time I ask. (Mostly, though I will admit she is not perfect)

As far as her moving her butt away from the mounting block, that's a thing of the past. Sometimes she'll try it once, but after a quick lunging she'll stand all day waiting for me to get on. It's so convenient, I forgot how wonderful it is to have a horse to actually stand while you get on, but she does now!

Shannon is really interested in barrels and poles. I've tried a little jumping with her but I can tell she doesn't really like it. Barrels, on the other hand, she enjoys. She gets hyper when we go around which I'm still trying to work on, but I can tell she is for the most part enjoying her job. I like it too. I'm glad we finally found something we can both work on and progress in together. She turns on a dime, too. Natural talent. (:

I'm still battling with her rushing habit. We kinda worked through it but she is starting to do the same thing again.

Progress: I'm so happy with her ground work. I think it's safe to say she is finished when it comes to ground manners. If at any time she does something I don't like all I have to do is go "Eh!!!" but even that's rare. Crossing my fingers she doesn't start in bad habits. I'm still going to continue ground work with her to make sure she stays like that.

Goals: I am going to do a LOT of slow work with her. I'll probably set up an obstacle course to go over with her. She needs to learn patience and the obstacle course will help her.

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