Best Days with Sky! : Rediscovering Sky
January 7th, 2012 was a phenomenal day!
I grabbed him from his pasture and he was reluctant to come with so I decided to use more pressure by clucking and then tapping him with the end of the rope and he seemed to respond better. His ears perked forward because he realized that I was in charge, and that for the longest time I forgot I was in charge.. but today I was in charge.
We walked up to the barn and I knew I only had a few hours before I would be picked up by my barn friend. So instead of spending an hour cleaning him, I spent around 15 minutes, making sure his feet were picked and his girth and back were clean.
I noticed his whole demeanor was different. Sky wasn't the happy relaxed horse that I had become to used to seeing.. who you had to convince to do anything instead of cuing and getting a response. His face read different and I asked him why he wasn't happy. His ears were set back as though he was thinking about something with utmost concentration. It was then I decided that we needed to have a ground work day. We hadn't done any groundwork in so long, other than lunging, and there was no one else around so we had the entire barn to ourselves.
So I set upon gathering all of the most wacky and trivial things to desensitize him to. Clippers, blanket, towels, my jacket, whips, rope (oh I should put him in his rope halter today!) So I changed his halter from leather flat to his green rope one. He seemed keen on what I was doing. His ears started to creep forward a little but when I noticed they would fall back again. They weren't pinned.. he was watching me closely.
I piled all of my objects and tools together under one arm and grabbed my saddle and bridle in the other. I only had his lead rope draped across my shoulder, and he followed without being told. He didn't try snatching for grass and he didn't try running away. I threw everything into the arena floor and he didn't move a muscle. It was unlike him.. it was like some tired lazy dead soul settled into my usually lively and loveable horse.
I grabbed his lead rope and lead him around. He was following with very little effort. I stopped and he did the same, paying attention to my body.
I positioned myself next to his barrel, and put a little pressure to ask him to move over. He stood still. I did it again and clucked.. he stood still. I stomped my foot on the ground and he SPRANG to life. His eyes wide and his feet splayed and his tail up. I calmed my body down and asked again. He moved forward. No... wrong answer.. I kept pressure on and clucked again, following him. He was so lost, so confused.. and then.. he took a step over and I released pressure. He took a big sigh and I said "good" and asked again. He moved forward.. wrong answer.. I kept the pressure even and asked again.. he took a step sideways and I said good. I eased up on the pressure but kept it there, and he kept going sideways. I told him good and eased up some more. He braced against my pressure and I clucked and he moved into me. He was testing me. I clucked, keeping the pressure and adding a little more before whacking my leg with the leadrope. He FLEW away in one huge step, my pressure still on his side, and he begun to step sideways. Good! And again... good boy. And again, and again and again. I took all the pressure away and he stopped. Woohoo! I stroked his face. A simple but effective reward for his hard work.
I asked him to walk on, standing by my side. I slowed my paced and asked for a ho.. he kept walking. He wouldn't stop walking.. and then he finally stopped a good meter in front of me. I went back to his shoulder and asked him to back up with steady pressure back on the halter. If horses could roll their eyes... he took a very reluctant step.. a very slow uneven step backwards. It wasn't even a full step.. it was like he picked up his foot and put it down again. I realized my horse had absolutely no respect for pressure, he had gotten so much release.
I filled my body with energy and begun to spin the rope infront of his face. Nothing. I spun it harder and faster and the end bumped his nose. Nothing. I smacked him on the chest and he ran INTO the pressure. NO wrong answer! I turned and faced him, spinning the rope and he marched backwards in very large motivated steps. I made him ho. And he stopped on a dime. I asked him to back again and he marched back without hesitation. Good boy.
I took the rope off, and begun to sack him out with it, letting him sniff it, before rubbing it on his face, neck, barrel, hind. Around his legs, through his legs, on his belly, on his tail, around his ears. Everywhere. He seemed happy with the rope. I folded the rope in half and looped it around his front foot, I added pressure.. he did nothing. I gently leaned on his shoulder and added pressure and he lifted his foot up, happy to oblige. I took the pressure away and he set it back down. I did this on all of his legs and he was a perfect gentleman. Then I took that rope and I spanked the ground with it, facing away from him. He was alarmed, and spooked in place but didn't bolt. I stopped and rubbed on him. I threw my rope in a pile on the ground.. he breathed softly, knowing it wasn't going to hurt him. I patted his neck, his ears pricked forward, one focused on me.
I picked up the rope and he stood still. I then "sent" him away down the rail, he was happy to do it. He had his attention on me as he took very nice big ol steps forward. I moved to the middle of the arena and let him walk freely. I then asked him for a nice trot and he picked it up no problem. He did it.. but he acted as though it was a chore. "Oh look, mom is lunging me again.. woo... trotting... fun... yawn." He stopped in the corner nearest the pasture. No, wrong choice. I spun the leadrope and he did nothing. I clucked and he ignored me. Silly mom.. she can't do a darn thing! Oh yes she can.
I charged at him, spinning the rope and as soon as he moved away from the corner, I changed my energy level to a 1 and let him move out. He kept trotting, confused as to why I did that.. his tail was in the air and his nose pointing to the Sky. His back hollow and his nostrils flaring. I asked him to walk... and he did it without fighting. But he didn't look at me, he was focused on what everyone else was doing, now that they started to pile into the parking lot. No... wrong answer Sky. I clucked and spun the rope and he kept on trotting, he looked at me with interest. I asked him to move into a canter and he picked up the right lead. Good boy! I let him canter freely, he wasn't hollow and he felt good. He stopped at that corner.. and I gave him a few more chances before I charged at him again. Off he took in a dead gallop, huffing and puffing. I moved to the center of the arena, and kept sending him around and rail. I cut infront of him and softly directed him to change reins. He did it perfectly. Good job Sky!
I let him trot, he was so beautiful and he had all eyes and ears on me. He was begging for me to let him walk. Sure.. let's walk. He came walking toward me, so happy that we were done. As if! He stopped short a couple of feet.. and I motioned for him to come closer. He took 3 huge steps before he was respectfully near. I stroked his face and rubbed his ears and under his halter. He was just beginning to sweat. I walked with him (without the rope) to the pile. "Nope.. I'm not going there!" Sky planted his feet. Wrong answer. I sent him off to work at the trot and he stayed on the rail, without cutting corners. After a lap I told him to walk and he came over to me, huffing and regretful.. he knew that was a bad choice. We tried again, but now a boarder was in the indoor and was whipping the ground and making a mess of things. I didn't care.. he worked with whips before. Off I sent him again, and again he came to me begging for the work to end. He followed me up to that scary pile, without any problems. "Oh it's just all of my tack!" he thought and he sniffed it and stood patiently. I sacked him out with my coat, the towel, the crop whip, and he stood happily and securely still, a new found respect for these objects.
I put the rope back on and tied it to make reins. He stood still as I tacked him up with a dressage pad, saddle, and then his bridle. I put the bridle ontop of the halter... let's try something new today!
I got on him, he wouldn't stop walking like a grandpa so I tapped him on. He did nothing, even with loose reins. I kicked him and he jumped forward. Good. I used a softer leg aid and he walked on well for awhile. He slowed down again.. no! I put my leg on, he didn't listen. I tapped him.. nope. I kicked him, OH! OKAY! I'LL WALK ON! as he stretched and drove himself forward into a nice walk. We picked up a trot, my hands holding both pairs of 'reins'. I first rode with the bridle reins, asking for contact and half halts. He was great, except he kept trying to auto-pilot. No! I used more leg and he ignored me. No! I kicked him over and he snapped his focus. OH! Okay I'll get over. I used a softer leg aid and he moved over. Good boy! I rubbed his neck with my inside hand. We did circles and serpentines and figure eights. He was wonderful! I decided to try the other set of reins, and tucked the leather ones under the pad. As soon as I did, and put my leg on.. he was round, he was forward and he was listening. We trotted around the arena in the most amazing sitting trot I've ever done. I remembered to roll my shoulders back, tuck my bum, and not pinch.. "dead weight" I thought and boy did it work. We did leg yields on and off and track. We did circles and figure eights and rode between barrels without spooking or hesitating. He was so happy... so forward, and I felt like a new person.
I stopped him and hopped off... I took off his bridle and saddle.. putting it on the fence. I got back on bareback to cool him off in just a halter. He was hot and sweaty so I spent time cooling him off, but with that forwardness and impulsion. He was so happy, so round.. he wasn't chomping on the bit or pulling back. His nose was down and he stopped on a dime!
I even stopped him in the middle of the arena, straight.. and we stayed standing still for over 10 minutes (after he wasn't breathing hard and cool of course.)
Sky got some hay in his stall before dinner.. he was so happy and he was different.. in a good way.
I feel different too.. I've awakened. I'm a new woman! With a new horse :)
And I can't wait to ride him and canter him tomorrow! My friend is going to lunge us! :)
Happy riding days, everyone! Hope you've all had wonderful days!
I am SO happy for you! Some horses just work better in a rope halter! or bitless.. I like your groundwork too, letting him understand it, when its right, release.
You're coming on in leaps and bounds!!
Any chance you can get it filmed tomorrow ;D
I want updates like this every day.. it made me want to go back out and ride!!!
Oh yeah he was so responsive.. I think he's just been so mis-ridden (not really mistreated) with a bit that he doesn't understand he needs to give and whatnot. He's coming though.. he was amazing today in his bridle just.. so wonderful in the halter!
Thanks for reading that very long passage!
I love reading, so it was no problems for me ;D
Maybe riding him like that is the way forward? You could try asking in training best ways to teach him, and if you run in to difficulties in whatever way what you can do :D
People still are shocked that I ride without half chaps and spurs and whips. I just can't use them properly.. the half chaps make me unable to feel my legs and what they're doing.. the whip I always end up whacking myself with it or it is really complicated to hold.. and spurs.. well you've seen my feet.. I'd be spurring him constantly without meaning to.
Gotta make do with what I can! But yes, I'm definitely happy with him today.. and myself! More so than the other day! Weeee :lol:
For about a month now I have ridden Duffy without spurs, when I fell I gripped with spurs and skinned my poor ponio a bit, so felt super guilty. Turned out she listened to my spur, not my leg- so used nothing. Can't touch her with a whip, however I hold a tiny, ittybitty one in my hand, just a respect thing. Trainer thinks somewhere in her training, in the 4 other owners that had her in 12 months (apparently not her fault, but I reckon may have been as she's a stubborn cow) that when she's said I don't want to and pratted about, they've gotten off.. two days this week I couldnt get her to do anything but walk, I was devestated, and then I lay the itty bitty whip on her shoulder.. the change.. she works better WIITHOUT the spurs..
Basically, what I'm trying to say is, every horse is different, they all need different things and what works for one, won't work for everyone.. I'm just glad you've found something that works so well for you and it only develops!
Oh that's why you couldn't get her above a walk... my friend's horse (the one I rode today) was trained western pleasure.. but way way way way slower. Like, he would barely walk.. worse than my horse's 'grandpa' walk. I got him to walk really well, which was surprising because my legs were thought to be weak.
I'm glad you are working it through with her! You'll only get better with her! She'll soon realize you aren't going to give in to her antics, and then she'll just become the best horse ever! (Even more so than now :)) No worries, she'll be back to trotting and cantering on your leg alone!
Yes I'm happy I've found a way to get through to him. Definitely agree on the different things with different horses. It's nice to be dialed into him. I just hope that he starts working even better in the bridle than he has been. I just noticed though I didn't have him in his flash noseband (my trainer calls it a drop noseband) and that made a difference. I think I want to keep riding without. It's not necessary for him since he has an eggbutt snaffle anyway.
January 8th, 2012 was a very eye-opening day.
I walked up to the pasture and Sky saw me coming. He gave me one eye but then went right back to eating. Oh boy.. I walked up to him with energy, the other horses peeled away from the hay trough and gave me my deserved space. Mine kept munching, turning his rear away from me. I gathered the halter in my left hand and threw the leadrope at him with my right. The end of the leadrope has a strip of leather, and it lightly poked him on his flank. Sky zoomed off, startled as he turned his head and saw me standing there, inviting him him. He sighed and walked over to me, putting his head down so I could halter him. I stroked his head before, and he relaxed his jaw and chewed.
When I was currying him, he was quiet, deep in his own head. I moved to his face and up to his ears. His ears pinned back and he rubbed hard into the curry. Dust came flying off. He was enjoying scrubbing himself against the curry. How itchy he must have been! I got a few treats and did a few carrot stretches with him.. his neck popped twice! And he sprung to life.. his eyes became alive and his ears perked forward. He definitely felt better. I tried to do a belly lift but he was dull to my touch, so I finished brushing him and got him all tacked up.
I took Sky to the outdoor. I attached his side reins and rechecked his girth. I sent him off to be lunged and he did so well! His canter was a dream boat both ways, and his trot was motivated and very energized. He didn't have an active walk, so I had to encourage him with the whip. He was so confused.. he wasn't sure if I was I wanted him to trot or what. Eventually he understood what I wanted and was happy to oblige. I asked for a ho and he stopped without turning in or hesitating. Yay good boy! I approached him and stroked and rubbed his face. He wasn't the least bit sweaty. Progress.
I got on him and he immediately stretched down. His neck may have been sore from the day before and he was happy to have me on his back. I asked for a nice active walk and he was happy to do so, I remembered to sit on my seatbones and keep my toes in.. my elbows bent and my shoulders back. Oh and I was looking up and enjoying the scenery! I loved every minute of it! I did a half halt and took him into a trot.. he didn't respond right away so I brought him back down and asked again.. hmm.. he still wasn't doing it right away.. but I continued on anyway.
I tapped with my leg and he did nothing.. he was just gently jogging along. I clucked and tapped... woah! The energy from behind, I was actually thrown back a little.. He was on his hind but I messed it up by throwing away the contact and losing my seat. I tried again and half halted, but he ignored me. I tried again, harder.. and he listened but it wasn't the same surge as before. I was happy that he listened though so we kept the working trot into some circles and serpentines and figure eights.
The time has come... I grabbed my friend and we put Sky on the lunge. Canter time!!
I had trouble keeping him from the middle of the circle.. so my friend gave me a little bit of instruction and he happily moved to the end of the line, bent, actively and awaiting instruction. We picked up a very fast trot, like we had been practicing. I pet Sky on his neck, and then half halted to bring him to a slow soft trot. I didn't want him rushing into the canter!
I began sitting the trot and it was very very very bouncy. Immediately Sky fell apart and my confidence was dwindling. My friend noticed how I was bouncing, and she said "hey.. relax those knees.. push them down.. stretch them out!" as soon as I did, my seat came alive and I stopped bouncing. Aha! It was like nothing I felt before! I was so happy.. I felt the weight down my legs and Sky came back into his motivated supple frame. I had no idea I was pinching with my knees.. what a difference!
I slid my outside leg back and kept my inside leg on his girth. Can-ter. He picked it up but then he fell, reaaally badly and landed on his nose. I kept my seat. my eyes open wide. Oh sh-- I forgot to half halt. Sky sprung to his feet and my friend and I were worried he had hurt himself. Nope! He shook himself off and we picked up a trot again. With my new-found stretched knees, I found myself securely moseying along with his active big working trot. I put my legs in position, he picked up speed. No! Wait for my cue! I half halted and brought him back balanced. "Hey remember to keep your weight more to the outside!" my friend told me as I was about to ask again. I shifted my weight and brought his shoulders over. Ahhh much better! I waited a few strides then half halted and put my legs in position. He didn't change.. good! Can-ter! He picked it up in the correct lead and I kept all my weight down into my stirrups. I drove with my seat and kept my eyes up, my shoulders back, and smiled. I breathed deeply and in rhythm with Sky's strides. When I was ready to trot, I half halted and brought him back down to a trot. We took a quick walking break before picking it back up to a trot, then canter again. The second time was even better!
I thanked my friend, hopped off and un-tacked Sky. I put his bridle on and hopped on to cool him bareback. He was so happy and kept his frame. Once he was cooled down, I let him graze with my friend's horse while we both cleaned our saddles. It was the first time with my new saddle soap and conditioner.. boy was it dirty! But now it shined and was soft and smooth.
We then talked about my future and Sky.. my friend has even offered to take care of sky (groom, ride, exercise, even keep him in his training lessons!) while I'm gone for 2 years. I'll have to pay her of course, which I have no problem doing.. but my mom is completely against the idea. Maybe I can work something out with her.. it's a good if-all-else-fails option!
Anyway, I can't wait for my lesson tomorrow and more lunge line cantering throughout this week! Maybe I'll canter the other direction or maybe I'll even go off the lungeline!
January 9th.. well forget those ideas!
He was so wound up. So naughty.. he kept trying to leave the arena (I left the gate open for the other rider since it was coming down hard with snow. It was so cold.. but I was fine since I had 3 coats on! But he was so naughty..
I lunged him in his side reins and he was very responsive and scary focused. But he didn't want to canter without the whip so I had to growl at him. We ended lunging on a good note, and I made sure to give him lots of rubs.
Then I got on his back... oh my word. He was like a bottle rocket. He was SO responsive and had such power in the back. He was a different horse from yesterday. Must have been the snow. He stayed on the bit the entire lesson, he listened to my leg and took note of my half halts.. he relaxed his jaw and gently chewed on the bit. I gave him a little release and scratched his wither.
His trot... was so fast.
I felt like I was just.. zooming along at 60mph. My seat was having trouble staying in the saddle.. but my eyes stayed up. The lesson went really well, my 2-point improved at w/t and I did really great with the leg yields.
Then came the cantering-on-the-lunge
Oh boy... NOTHING like yesterday.
He was hot, hot and responsive and eager. Very eager. He just wanted to go go go and go some more. To make things a little more complicated, I wasn't ready for this bigger-than-ever surge from the hind when I asked for the canter and I got scared and turned him in. He threw his head up and from then on, he was a pain to keep on the outside of the circle. I had made a mistake.. a very costly one.
He tossed his head and bucked a little and pulled my instructor on the lunge. He was very naughty.. and no amount of seat would stop it. I had to kick him, and I did and he picked up a very slow trot. Okay... I half halted and asked for the canter. Better... I followed with my hips.. he moved to the outside of the circle and threw his head up. NO! I kicked him forward and made him trot again. I asked for the canter, he threw his head up, I pushed him forward with my hips and played with the bit. He softened and I released and kept him going. I did not look very graceful on him. Nothing like yesterday.
Maybe Thursday will turn out better...
January 12th... best canters ever!
I got to the barn early and found my horse was very very dirty so I took him into the barn. He started honking and puffing out really deeply.. obviously something was strange. That's when I heard a shuffle and the stall door rattled. I peeked over the door and there was the most ADORABLE Rottweiler puppy with her muzzled mommy. Sky was so scared, but I told him to get over it and it was a cute ol pup. He walked respectfully next to me, he had stopped honking. I cross tied him and he kept peering over his shoulder. Every time he looked, he got more wound up. Finally I got annoyed and started working on yielding his head. I would add even pressure to the side of his face and when he relaxed and gave to the pressure.. my touch would lighten. Until his face was straight ahead. It took a lot of repetition but he finally stopped looking behind his shoulder. At least for the moment.
Then came a group of people.. with a baby and lots of talking and that paired with the crazy puppy antics.. would him right back up. He craned his neck back and I snapped at him. "Sky!" His head zoomed back to the straight position and he puffed. "Oh sh-- I forgot!" was what his expression told me. Poor thing.. but I stroked his neck while they came closer and I let the people touch him. He felt safe knowing that he didn't have to always peek behind him and get worried.. he breathed a huge sigh as I slipped his halter on his neck so I could bridle him.
I got him tacked up, minus his boots because his legs were sooo muddy... I had to towel dry him but there wasn't any hope for getting it off while it was still wet.
I put his side reins on and clicked them on his D-rings. I tied up his reins in the throat-latch and snapped the lunge line on. I grabbed his training fork and my helmet and we went down to the indoor. He was such a goose.. he would not stand still. He just wanted to go go go without me being ready. He wouldn't stand.. he kept chomping and trying to walk away. :/ So I got grumpy and didn't do anything until he stood still.
(Does anyone have tips for this? He just wants to go go...)
We grabbed his whip and I sent him off to the right. The BO came to talk to me about the email I sent him. I felt intimidated but continued to lunge Sky, who did soooooooo well. He picked up the most amazingly soft but together canter on his stiffer side.. he didn't struggle at all. But he was very very forward to his better side and I almost ran into the BO while he talked to me a few times :P
Then the BO left and I gave Sky lots of pats and took off the mumbo jumbo off of him. I untied his stirrups and put on his training fork. I hopped on and he was a dreamboat. Soft but nice trot (not like the runawaytrain trot from Monday) and he was so responsive but he was having trouble keeping on the rail. After we warmed up, he did better.
I kept it short because Sky got a new setting and position on his side reins. He moved from hole 1 at the top of the girth to hole 4 by his elbows. So he was going to be very tired by the time I got on him.
But then we got on the lunge.. my friend was so kind enough to lunge us at the canter. I picked up the sitting trot and it was so good! My seatbones weren't jumping off of the saddle my my bum wasn't all over the place. I put my weight to the outside and then picked up the canter. It was so perfect... he was happy, I wasn't pulling (I think the problem was I was unsure of what to do with my arms but today I kept them by my sides and they naturally moved with my hips...) but he was happy and I stayed with him the whole time.
That was to his left... he did so well (we did it twice for about 36 strides+) and then we did to the right for the FIRST time.. and he was amazing.
I'm not sure if I'm going tomorrow but I'll definitely go again Saturday. Hopefully I'll be lunged again :)
Honestly, I just think my horse prefers being lunged by my friend over my instructor... ;)
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