I wanted to go to a group lesson (the trainer just moved to the area and is trying to figure out how he's going to run it all) Sunday afternoon but my family had to go look at property and I had to babysit the younguns.
Yesterday and today I worked with Tess on poles. She's terrible about paying attention to work her feet are and tends to barge through and trip over things. We even popped over a couple small jumps which she took in stride perfectly. We had a couple little arguments when loping but that was it. She eventually settled into a beautiful collected lope. I'm trying to get her to collect when we ride English. She lacks the muscling in her neck and flexibility at her poll carry her head the right way, also she's an Arab and loves to have her head straight up in the air. If I try to micromanage her mouth she gets irritated too. She likes to be her own boss. But we're working on it. She catches on quickly. Whenever she does the slightest thing right I immediately give her slack. I was able to ride with an extremely light hand and stay collected and I couldn't be happier. Stretches on the ground really help too. I'll take a treat and ask her to talk her nose to her chest to get it a few times. I'll also make her pull her head around to her shoulder to take treats too. It's greatly improved her flexibility.
The only thing I'm really having trouble with is getting on the correct lead. We can manage it at a trot but it all falls apart when I ask her to lope. She lopes on the wrong lead until we go to turn and then switches leads very quickly and the transition is miserable. I've had trouble with this for forever and is an ongoing issue. I've had her checked by the chiro so I just think it's a habit that we've got to break.
A friend took a few videos of training yesterday. A great way to remind yourself how sloppy you are, but it looks cool to the non-horsey folks! In the last one Tess stopped at the person with the camera instead of at the end of the list and I just about went end over appetite.
I think Arabian horses are the most intelligent, powerful, and gentle of all horse breeds. The purebloods, which in my mind are the ones bred for their strength and wisdom rather than the current fashion, are some of the most incredible horses I've ever worked with. There is no forcing them into anything. They must trust you, or they won't work with you. Notice the choice of words. They will not work FOR you, but WITH you. There has to be a relationship. You have to work just as hard as they do because they won’t tolerate slackers. They need someone as strong-willed and smart as they are. They need someone that shares their fire. They need someone who will take the time to understand.
Arabians have a reputation for being crazy. Some are squirrel-brained because of inbreeding to achieve certain physical features, but most are extremely sensible. They just won’t tolerate impatient, lazy, ignorant people. They require a strong partner, or they will become the leader. They are very driven animals and will not wait for you to catch up. They are particular about their humans.
They are often one-man (or woman) horses. They work best with someone they know. I used to read the stories about the Black Stallion growing up and while I knew they took some liberties, I always wished that one day I'd have a bond like that with an animal. It wasn't until I came across a mare with Arabian blood in her that I really understood what it was like to have that kind of relationship.
She had such a rough exterior coming to me, but when I finally stopped giving directions and simply listened, we understood each other. When I finally had her eye contact after years of her avoiding it, something clicked. I don’t claim to be a horse whisperer. In fact, I don’t believe in such things. That being said, her “words” are as clear to me as spoken English. It’s more of a feeling, a silent communication in a language that will never be translatable into human words. In order for a person to understand it they must give up their human ideas of communication and learn to speak in a way that horses understand. How? I can’t tell you that. I’m not really sure. It’s just something that comes from spending most of your life with these creatures. It’s not something you can learn to do by reading a textbook.
Yes, I’m her trainer, but she is my guide. I must change how I give directions so that she best understands. Some horses will take that as indecisiveness and become nervous, but my mare knows I’m looking for the best answer for both of us. There are many things I’ll do with her that’d I’d never do with another horse, because she’s got the smarts to understand what I’m telling her. I’ve learned to recognize her frustration and she’s learned that I am her safe space. Together we are one, and together we are strong.
Be it endurance rides, rodeo events, jousting, showjumping, or just talking in the pasture, we work as a team. Each decision is discussed. I tell her what to do, she figures out the best way to do it. And I let her. These are not animals to be micromanaged. If you give them the chance and a little direction when needed, they’ll go exactly where you want them to. If you’ve already met the aforementioned criteria. They will not be manhandled. They consider themselves royalty, and rightly so. Arabians are the embodiment of what a horse truly is: loyal, kind, headstrong, resilient, intelligent, brave. They are known as the ancestors of modern horses and have shared those traits with their descendants. In my opinion, they are the greatest animals that ever graced the face of the earth.
I've been starting some tricks with Tess. It started out as me wanting to work on softening and stretching on the ground, and now I'm teaching her to lift her feet individually when tapped with a whip. The softening has really helped with her not turning into a giraffe when asked to collect, and the tricks keep her brain busy.
We had a detail with the sheriff's posse last weekend. There was a rodeo and the place was jam packed. We did a meet and greet and also patrolled the grounds a little. It was both Friday and Saturday. Saturday, I arrived at the grounds early to make use of the small arena that nobody was using. I let Tess lope some of the trails and then we ran the pattern a couple times. Her form is much better, mostly due to me fixing my own issues and not riding in the hackamore she doesn't like. However, she threw a shoe around the first barrel. She wasn't lame, and there was a farrier at the rodeo who I asked very nicely to pull her other shoe, which he did (and then proceeded to be swarmed by everyone and their grandma asking him to look at their horse's feet). My farrier can't get out to me till next week, but Tess isn't lame. We were able to finish the detail without any sore feet, since we were just walking on soft ground.
I need to remember to bring her easyboots whenever I go somewhere in case this happens again.
I also need to invest in a good pair of bell boots, since every time I haven't worn them, she's done something to her shoes. I will also consider asking the farrier if the shoes are perhaps a little long for her. I'm kinda broke at the moment, but I'm waiting to hear back about an interview, so we'll see. Might have to get some bells before then.
Seriously considering going to an auction and picking up a bit of a fixer upper and putting some finishing touches on them. It is a seller's market right now and if I buy smart I might be able to make some money and give some horses a chance.
I look forward to reading about what horse you chose (if you decide to do this) and how the training went. I hope it is all good.
Personally, I have never had much success with fixer upper horses. I fix them up just fine and get them going great. I used to show them and win some ribbons and foxhunt on them several times. My problem was that after I sold them, they reverted back to their original problems. Then I'd spend hours and months and even years at times trying to help the new buyer get their horse going for them the way it rode for me. Too discouraging. I've owned nothing but fixer uppers (with the exception of Chorro, the horse in my avatar), and I'll just stick to keeping them myself. For me personally, it doesn't seem to work to pass them on to other riders.
I hope it works great for you (I know I've seen others do just fine with it) and I look forward to reading about your success!
I think it'll depend on who they get sold to. The way I look at it, if I'm totally honest, put real time and effort into the horse, trained it well, and the person buying understands what they're doing, it's not my problem if the horse reverts back. Sure I'll offer advice, but if you want me to work with the critter then I'll be getting paid for my time, thanks. Chances are, in the short(ish) amount of time I'd have to spend on the horse to make a profit, the horse will still need a fairly experienced person to work with them constantly. I think most "reverts" are caused by new owners.
And...some bigger news. We're moving. So for the next few months, things are gonna be nuts. I won't have much time to work with my horses, let alone train another. It'll have to wait till we've got fencing and a barn at the new place. We're going back into a much more rural area. We can't stand the housing and people swallowing our little peaceful community. Contractors are flattening areas and then cramming as many houses as legally possible into that area, and because everybody's got their hands in the pot of gold, the county commissioners don't do much to ensure the quality of our little, formerly rural area. Traffic is bad, roads are worn and in need of replacement and widening, and natural creeks and woodlands are steadily disappearing. We're leaving town. The place we're going is only a half hour away, but it's surrounded by woods for miles and then farmland for even further. The place is lovely, it's pretty much heaven on earth. Minus the bugs and snakes. 😉
Old dude's lower right leg (funny, it's usually the left) is swollen and slightly tender upon palpation. Another tendon bow? Just some irritation? Heaven knows. I hope the vet will let me get some bute without bringing him in since they've seen him recently for shots and a hoof abscess and know me pretty well. I know what they'll say and I know their treatment by heart. We've been through this rodeo multiple times with him.
Time to get some more liniment. I swear by that stuff. It helps his sore old joints and tendons and cured rain rot on my mare earlier this year.
Tess and I have a parade tomorrow. I did some groundwork and rode her a little yesterday. I lunged her over a couple poles since we're working on remembering where our feet are 😐. Something as simple as the ground poles helps her focus on her movement and my direction instead of whatever's going on around her. After lunging a little she would settle into a nice lope instead of running, which is what usually happens.
I actually messaged a local barn that I've heard really good things about concerning some lessons for Tess and I. I want to learn a bit about the English world and maybe jump her a little. We've taken a few jumping lessons before but I'm horribly rusty. I feel a little insecure about working with a real trainer, since I haven't for the longest time. I've emailed them and will maybe call them later for more information. There is the option to haul in, which I'm very happy about. I want to work with my own horse. We're partners, and I don't like to leave her out of anything. If I can do it, so can she.
I don't know what kind of murder wasps live in the ground out here but I got stung in the foot by one of them and I've never felt anything that painful come from an insect. I thought I'd gotten bit by a snake. It happened about 11:30 this morning and my foot still hurts. I hope they're not a widespread problem because I'd hate to see my horses get into them. Safe to say I'm never going barefoot again.
Do yellow jackets hurt that bad or was it something else? I've been stung by wasps before but nothing like that. My whole foot swelled and turned red. Not a pleasant experience. How to get rid of them if I find out where they're coming from before the horses get out here.
Yellow jackets don't hurt as much as wasps do. Body chemistry does change and it is possible that you have become more reactive to insect stings than you used to be. If you find out how to get rid of them, I'd like to know too.
My foot is still feeling it today but not badly. Must have been a wasp then or some kind of murder bug because that was crazy. I hate that about Florida summers. All the mutant bugs come out. Horseflies the size of hummingbirds (exaggerating only a little there) and mosquitoes bigger than your thumb. And of course, the fire ants. I hate them more than any other bug on the planet.
Attended posse training today. The deputy had a flat tire so sent another trainer/old time member of the posse in his place. We worked on some very simple things as well as some more complicated maneuvers, such as turning 180 degrees in a column of fours all while keeping boot to boot and shoulder to shoulder. It was interesting but once the horses figured out what was going on they did great.
The one thing Tess didn't do well at was stepping over an obstacle. It was a 4x4 laid across two other posts, so that the horse had to walk between the two laying flat on the ground and step over the one in the middle. She plowed through it and didn't want to collect and actually step over. I also discovered that I've developed a bad habit of looking at the ground when going over and obstacle and may have caused some of the problem (which is often the case with our issues, lol. What's a problem for one is a problem for both). That's an issue we have at home too. She doesn't like to be on the bit and step over something at the same time, for whatever reason. I'll bet she's got some muscle imbalances and needs to work on flexing her neck and topline to be able to carry herself a bit better. She likes to hollow out instead of pulling her legs under herself. But hey, at least I isolated an issue that I can work on at home now.
I also got permission to bring another horse to training and see about certifying him as a backup. My grandmother's walking horse, Teddy, is a bit of a numbskull. He doesn't get ridden much and is spooky and jumpy, so I'm not sure he'll be good for this, but he might get there. Worst case scenario it doesn't work out but he'll still get some time exposed to noise and other horses and strange things to get him used to being out and about. He really just needs time in the saddle. He'll figure himself out if he just got ridden often. He's broke enough to do a lot, he's just very inexperienced, which is why I still consider him green.
Hope to get a little time to ride today if it doesn't pour. Though the epoxy filling on the side of my mare's hoof where there was a significant crack fell out, so not sure if I should ride while she's imbalanced like that. It's always gotta be something. I could do some groundwork and just work on collecting her at a walk, since we really need to improve there.
And also, my foot is now poulticed with honey and calendula because it's still swollen and hot. Still salty about that wasp.
I love how my horse and I communicate. We've just kind of figured each other out. Tess and I love on each other by just standing side by side and breathing. It's relaxing just to sit and absorb each other's presence. She'll lower her head and rest a hind hoof and sigh. She's comfortable with me and it's enough to just be there. And sometimes, if I really need it, she'll step out of her little love language of quality time and let me love on her. She'll full on let me hug her face, especially if I'm upset. Even if I just lean on the stall door she'll look over and sniff me every so often just to see that I'm there, and I'll touch her neck or muzzle. I think it's reassuring to her that I'm not always there to push boundaries and can spend time with her in a natural, noninvasive way. She used to be so weird about spending time with people, but she likes me, and I'm honored. Just like a human relationship, it's important to understand how they communicate. Tess, like most horses I think, isn't overly affectionate. But the fact that she looks up when I call her name and will come over and hang out of her own will sometimes is just the best feeling. Because I know her, and I know that's how she likes to spend time with her amigos. There's something that happened in her brain when she realized I wasn't going to try and force her to communicate on my terms. It's so incredibly important to realize that horses are their own being and that it's beautiful that they think and have individual personalities and ways of doing things.
I'm not the boss of her and I could never be. We're partners. I used to try and tell rather than ask, and it wasn't until I quit that I really started to understand her and she finally let herself be vulnerable. She waited until she knew I was there as a friend and not as a bully. It took a couple years for her to open up to me; that's how long I took to learn to shut up and listen. No amount of exercises or work or changing bits can get you a good relationship with your critter on their own. It takes time above all and a willingness to humble yourself and realize that these animals think and feel and that those thoughts and feelings need to be considered when working with them. And some of them especially won't tolerate you being a jackass. This is one of the reasons I hate it when people use one "method" to train all their horses rather than adapt to each one, using bits and pieces of different methods modified to meet that horse's needs.
I was reading something about the electromagnetic waves of horse's hearts and how they naturally set the rhythm and calm us humans, and while that may be a load of tripe, I know for sure that being around these critters is certainly somethin' else.