Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How the professionals do it

I went to visit the Horse Protection Association of Florida on Sunday to volunteer and look at a few horses for Kathy. The farm is everything I would have expected from them based on their website and more. FHOTD has me looking at rescues with a more critiquing eye these days and HPAF is a really great example of a well run rescue. Great website? check. Well managed, clean and asteticly pleasing property? check. Happy horses well on their way to recovery? Double check.
I think they said they had 63 horses and everyone looks better than Tie already. We could learn a thing or two from them for sure! HPAF also has a professional trainer to work with the elidgible horses. That is just top notch in my opinion. Check out their website. It is really nice.

In other news Tie got his feet done yesterday. The farrier was impressed with how well his feet were holding up to the lack of nutrition, and thinks he is doing just fine feet wise. I am excited about this as we all know no feet no horse.

A few people have recommended probiotics to see if we can get Tie more regular. Any thoughts? It is worth a shot, and I read some positive reviews online.

Here is Bodhi in his winter garb (red blanket) meeting some new pasture buddies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I have been trying to find homes for the other two horses from the farm that I got Tie from. The girl I have to deal with who originally agreed that finding homes for everyone was a good idea is being very uncooperative and uncommunicative. They are maintaining their weight (though they are looking strange to me showing ribs despite both of them being over weight and out of shape) and probably could on air alone. Their feet were just done via my last endeavor, however that won't last. I want to find them homes before they get worse and it is harder to find them homes if you know what I mean.
I found a home for Gus-- 16 year old quarter horse that is blind in one eye but has a heart of gold and ride very well-- but this girl only wants to do a free lease. In other words she wants to keep the papers. This new home wants the papers. It is a big argument over what I see as a minor issue. What is being left out in all of this is the horse' best interest of course.
She is hard to get a hold of. In fact if I really want to talk to her I need to go to parties, because that is where she is at. When I try and reason with her she blows me off with a series of sures, laters, and I'll get to it's with a few eye roles thrown in for good measure. You can imagine how this makes me feel.

I have a feeling she is going to stop cooperating at all to find these two horses homes. This I feel is because I took Tie, the horse that was most obviously showing her abuse. She has no real reason to cooperate anymore.

I am so frustrated. I want to find a solution for this and I want to get the horses to barns where they will be fed, shod, loved, and cared for but no one will throw me a bone.

I am being treated like dirt by this girl and I stand back in amazement-- you are getting a free pass for abuse! We used to be friends. I am only trying to help!

Are local authorities are completely useless in this respect before anyone recommends this

So I guess this is why I could never do rescue for a living. It consumes me and irritates me to the point or rage.

Thanks for listening hopefully the vent will help me feel better. Here is something to cheer you up. Here is a picture of Tie when we brought him--- and here he is now! An attitude improvement at last! He has also started to gain some weight though his feet still really scare me. We need to have the farrier out to look at him again. A bit of good news in all this gloom.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It is time to get organized.

Our riding schedule has always been a bit lackadaisical, which has worked well for my little baby as my main focus was to keep the riding light, and fun but educational.

Now that Bodhi is starting to show his maturity (new found jumping ability, lead changes etc) I think it is time to a bit more organized in our training. First of all the work is getting harder. I want to be sure to not over work him in any one area, I also want to keep things fresh. Since the work is getting more technical I don't want either of us to burn out. The other reason is if I want to continue to progress we both need to be in better shape. Bodhi is a hard horse to condition, he looks at food and gains weight and he is an energy conservationist by design.

My plan of attack is going to focus on diversity in work. It will keep his muscles and his mind guessing, and hopefully keep him interested. He loves to learn but he hates to practice. He loves to explore and interact so I hope to continue and work off of this. I have not decided on which days I am going to do which exercise but my general idea is this.
Hacking out-This includes trail, and work in the several larger fields on the property. We will start with a sustained working trot work, with canter transitions work mixed in---working up to sustained canter work and some galloping. The little man needs to learn the joys of a good gallop though right now lacks the balance or forward to enjoy it.(Once a week)

Over fences-Work on building his confidence over fences and developing some course work, gymnastics etc to improve his general agility and athleticism. So far he enjoys jumping as a break from other work, but since I want to keep it that way and since he is so young I will keep it low (2ft and lower) and brief.(Once a week)

Dressage-This work has always been our bread and butter. The more technical flat work like lead changes, lateral work, etc... I would like to get to a few schooling shows this year at training level so we have to practice sometime!(2 times per week)

Fun time/Other- I like to spend at least one day trying something new and/or fun with Bodhi. Like riding without a bridle. Riding a dressage test bareback, or not even riding at all. Work on some ground work, or practice with the clicker. (1 time a week)

So that would be 5 days a week. I am thinking, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then the weekends.
It is going to be difficult to stay consistent and focused but hopefully with a plan it will help.
Any insights to which days to put which activity?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monty Roberts: Yay or Neigh?

I know I know corny title but sometimes I can't help myself!

I first saw Monty Roberts some time in the 90's at a clinic. My trainer at the time was pretty rough and old fashioned. I- like all children-- viewed horses through romantic rose colored glasses, and was not satisfied with the horsemanship I was being taught. Seeing Monty blew my young mind and set me on the path of horsemanship I am on today. I have never read any of his books, I think I may have seen one of his documentaries on PBS, but later down the line of my education I lumped him with all of the natural horsemanship trainers. What do you think about Monty Roberts? What do you think of the "natural horsemanship" trainers?

My view of the movement is that I am happy that people are moving in that general direction. However I feel that a lot of the good training advise they could be giving is hyped up, mystified and ritualized. I feel like the majority of their audience is missing the point. Chasing a horse around a round pen all the time is not what horses need. They do not need fancy halters, saddles, or carrot sticks either. Some of this stuff is harmless and helps beginner horse people enjoy their animals more, sometimes though I have seen it backfire and make things worse. The other thing I do not understand is how expensive it is! I would love to read into some of these trainers and learn about their methods and really give them a fair shot but why are their merchandise priced like that? When I see the prices on the Pat Parelli website it just screams scam.

Well I digress- My point is Monty the same? What do you guys think about him as a trainer.
He has started a new website with video and audio training instruction. I am intereset I think but for that price, not so much! Am I being cheap here or what? Check it out

Bodhi News
Bodhi has been amazing as usual. We have been continuing our work with lead changes as it has been our only gateway to the left lead. He gets it now consistently with the aid of a ground pole. He has now started to get his left lead from the trot as well with the aid of the ground pole. Right now I am pretty sure he thinks the ground pole is magic so I will have to devise a method of slowly removing it. He thinks he needs it but we know he doesn't!
I took a spin around the arena yesterday bareback and *gasp* bridleless. I attached a stirrup leather around his neck because I am a chicken and I enjoy having an oh "sh*t handle". Overall he was a good boy. He still had amazing halts with out the bridle and he would even give me tempo changes within the trot. We did a bit of canter and preformed a halt from the canter. What a good boy! What he would not do is turn. We will have to work on that! Any suggestions. He knows how to turn using my legs and my body. I can drop the reins and do serpentines. For some reason it is a different story with out reins.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Golden moments

No News to report just a few snapshots...

Tie Explores his new home.

Bodhi running at the ages of 2, 3, and 4. He has grown so much, and is beginning to look more drafty. Over all he has matured quite nicely

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rehabulitating Oldies-Advise?

This afternoon I am going to go get the old horse from my previous posts to bring him to the barn I board at. His vet has given the OK for the move though I am nervous what the stress will do to his already fragile state. The new barn is really close (20 mins away) though I am mostly afraid of how he will take to the change in environment. I will keep everyone updated on his progress but I would love for everyone to pipe in and give me your advise, experiences, and successes on fattening up old horses.
This horse is ancient (30 years or older) though his teeth are in good condition(the ones he still has) and his blood work was fantastic. I am planning on feeding Triple Crown Senior(soaked) and alfalfa pellets(vets orders). What are your experiences with feeding older, or under weight horses?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mugwump Chronicles

I submitted a horse story to the Mugwump Chronicles which was posted yesterday. If you guys are interested you can find it here.
I would highly recommend the blog to read in general though. She is a great horsewoman with some amazing and unique prospectives on training and horse life in general. Also an amazing writer.She also shares letter from her readers on Mondays. A must read blog to be sure-

Have a great Holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A ride in photos

Ok so the pictures are all out of order but this our ride on Saturday. Bodhi jumped his first verticals with me. I obviously need to take a jumping lesson now. I haven't taken one in about 10 years so please mind my position! He got his flying lead change consistantly and I even got him to change to the left going to the right. So counter canter here we come! He is becoming very brave over fences. What do you guys think? How do you like his hair cut?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A great blog-a great post

I wanted to share with everyone a blog that I really enjoy-Ethical Horsemanship. The most recent post is about Klaus Hempfling's take on Rolker. I found it very thought provoking and I think many of you will too! Hope you check it out.

Man two posts in one day. Look out!

Haircuts and scatter brains

I have not been writing lately because I am feeling a little scattered. I am having a hard time finishing a thought let alone a sentence. So I will just keep it simple today and give an update on Bodhi.

Bodhi has been doing awesome. We had a lesson on Saturday and my instructor was impressed in how much Bodhi had improved since she last saw him ( about a month and a half). She said he was really starting to develop suspension at the trot-very floaty. We also showed her how we can jump now and she was just as surprised and impressed as I was. I can not really explain how excited I am to have a jumping Haflinger. I love my pony and but I had already accepted that we would be flightless. Now the idea of going fox hunting and going to hunter paces is back and I am excited about the possibulities.

She gave a me my list of things to work on filled with the usual suspects of working on changing of bends, keep my elbows back and bent and stop throwing him away at the canter depart. She also gave me a few exercises to work on the flying lead changes. Before the lesson I felt a little wild when I asked for the change like I was looking for the combination of aides that would illicit it but there was really no rhyme or reason to my actions. She wants me to focus on just changing the bend and that should be enough. I think this weekend I am going to work on some more canter transition work, and possibly challenge Bodhi with some jump variety and maybe even raise the height a little. He can do it I am sure but I am a big baby!
Bodhi also got a hair cut. The B.M. gave him a trace clip as he was getting so sweaty during rides. She did a great job! I am debating right now whether to pull or roach Bodhi's mane. It is a mess and he keeps ripping it out! Poor itchy man. I feel so bad for him as he itches and scratches away big patches of hair and skin with his bug allergies but have found no real solution for the problem. If it would just stay cold then he would have some relief but alas we live in Florida!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I ended up calling the mom/land owner. She reacted well, and came down today to meet with the vet and farrier. Now everyone is up to date on feet, wormer and shots! Relief! She said one of the horses feet had giant splits and were curling up! As for the old guy- his vitals look good, and his activity level is good. They drew blood but the vet thinks that he looks good for an old guy and just really needs more food.
This is great news, though a little bitter sweet. It would have made me less angry if there was something wrong with his teeth or internal workings to make him lose all that weight. It really is that he is just not currently recieveing the correct amount of feed and care. I talked with the mom about some posibulities about getting the horses out of there in to new homes. She is on board but will not do it without her daughter's consent. Her daughter and her are on rocky terms and she is afraid it will make things worse (understandable) I am going to try and talk to the daughter about it. I really hope that she is receptive as this will be hanging over my head as Canada looms ahead of me. I would really like to have this all settled.
If she is not receptive the mom talked about hiring people to come and feed the horses. She has already set up the vet to just automaticly come out and do the horses. This is great too, though it seems like a lot of work. At the end of the day it is their decision as a family, I just hope that the horses best interests are condsidered and not just family drama.

This is another great example of moral delama's and end of life horse care. It can really get tricky!

Shew this has been one stressful week! I am looking forward though to my riding lesson on Saturday and the tack sale we are having at the barn.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Roller Coaster

Sorry for the picture quality but I wanted to include photographic evidence of Bodhi's breakthrough!

Well this weekend was a roller coaster ride of emotions! First the good news:
Two of the other boarders rode Bodhi this weekend. It is always nice to see your horse being ridden by other people. He had a bit of a ponytude at first and was doing a lot of bulging and refusing to turn. What a buggar! They reached an understanding soon enough though and got some nice work done. One of the things I wanted them to try was to get that left lead. They were amazed at how balanced he is on his right lead going to the left. He really has an amazing counter canter! They could not get him to pick up the left lead either. Bummer. They however thought to ask him for a flying (why didn't I think of that!) and he gave it to them-consistantly! My four year old can do a flying! I was very impressed. So I guess our new game plan is to practice our flying changes to build up strength on his left side. Hopefully this means the left lead canter will be comming soon. We set up a little cross rail course for him as well, as I wanted their opinions on how Bodhi is progressing over fences (they are jumper people). He did great for them, and is even starting to develop some grace over fences. He took one 2 ft verticle at the end of their ride with no problem. What an improvement to my nervous little clutz. I guess he has a future as a hunter pony after all- and who knows maybe cross country? I am so stoked!

On to the bad news-
I went out to grab a few of my things left at my old barn. I talked a little bit about what happened in this post here. Besides the things I found at her farm I have been taking the end of our friendship pretty hard. It really hurts to be ignored and forgotten and I have been having a pretty hard time of it. I have been trying to avoid seeing or talking to her to save myself the heart ache.

I had not seen her horses since I left in June. It looks like they had not had their feet done since I left. I am also aware they have not seen the vet as the vet has called me conserned. The older fellow who was in bad shape when I left is now worse- I would say a 1 on the weight scale though I am not a vet. He was gaining weight slowly back from his founder episode with a lot of beat pulp, senior and alfafa. I wanted him to be fed three times daily though she was not up for that. There was only senior at the farm now, no beet pulp, no alfafa or even hay. They do have some grass left but not enough for an oldman like this guy. His feet were horrific. His toes are insanely long, and one of his front feet was warm. There were flies everywhere, and the stalls were dirty. I was devastated. What am I going to do now? I think I will call her parents (she lives on their property) or my vet. I have not decided yet. At this point the old man is bad enough to be charged for it. I do not want to be a "tattle", or get her in trouble but this has to stop. I have a broken heart over this, I have not slept since I saw it. Everytime I close my eyes I see the poor old man. I have to figure out what to do and fast. I am so torn.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reinforcement: an Introduction

First what does it mean to reinforce? Reinforcement is a reward for a "right answer" Reinforcement is anything that increases the likelihood of a behavior recurring. What ever behavior is reinforced will then likely repeat. I like to keep this in mind when new behaviors pop up in horse training. "What behavior am I reinforcing and HOW am I reinforcing it"

The How
There are two basic types of reinforcement. Negative and positive reinforcement.
Positive- Is anything added that is rewarding when the appropriate behavior is expressed. Giving a dog a cookie for the command "sit", smiling at your partner and saying "thanks" for doing the dishes, giving a child a gold star on a completed homework assignment- these are all examples of positive reinforcement. Exotic animal trainers(dolphin elephant etc) use positive reinforcement. "Clicker" training is a gaining popularity, and also uses positive reinforcement- a topic for another post!

Negative-(not to be confused with punishment) is taking away an irritating, non rewarding, or uncomfortable stimulus. How we normally train dogs to walk on a leash is using negative reinforcement. A new puppy quickly learns that he can remove the uncomfortable feeling of tightness from the rope by walking forward, the same a horse is conditioned to move "off" a leg. The reward is in the removal of the stimulus or "aide" as we riders like to say.
Most traditional and "natural" horse training is primarily negative reinforcement. Leg and rein aides are of course negative reinforcement. You want your horse to move away from your leg, you want your horse to give to reins. This is all taught by negative reinforcement. Also Parelli's Seven Games uses negative reinforcement, along with Monty Robert's join up games. So you see in the eyes of a behaviorist the new "natural" movement is not so new or different after all!

Both forms of reinforcement have their own unique weaknesses and strengths, and just like disciplines have very passionate followers. I plan on delving into the drawbacks of each in following posts...

Bodhi News
The cold is finally here, in North Central Florida and Bodhi looks like a woolly mammoth. He just loves this weather! I am debating what I am going to do about blanketing this year. He is a Haflinger and I do live in Florida. Does he really need a blanket? Is this just to make me feel better? I am thinking about loaning Bodhi's Blankets to two ederly boarders who do not have any blankets. They are two short coated arabs that need all the help they can get keeping the pounds on this winter.

At what temp do you blanket your horses? What role does their individual winter coats weigh in your decision making process?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Decisions decisions

I don't know about you but I am ever skimming horse ads. I tell myself it is to keep up to date on current prices, but in truth I just like to look at the horses and imagine what it would be like if I had endless amounts of money and could afford my very own imported warmblood dressage horse. I always feel a tinge of guilt for fantasizing. Bodhi is not 17 hands nor is he amazingly athletic or well bred but I would not give up our relationship for the world.
I found a true gem on the local craigs list which is really throwing me through a loop. I found a 10 year old registered Holsteiner gelding- sound, trained(dressage and jumping) and healthy for $800 dollars!
What it the catch right?
Well he was taken in by his current owner when he was abandoned and starved. He is now rehabilitated and has been working again under saddle for 6 weeks. He is also really short-- 15.3. This doesn't bother me as Bodhi is 14.2 and I am only 5'4. It is just a bit odd.She is also having financial problems and selling all of her prospects as she has to go back to work and has no more time for training.

I feel like this horse would be a perfect balance for me. Against Bodhi's calm and consistent nature I could have a horse to ride with more athletic pizazz. A horse that already knows the basics so I can better understand how to approach teaching it to Bodhi. Unfortunately there is graduate school.... it is sad that an opportunity like this makes me not want to go anymore. I should just let this horse pass but something is yanking on me telling me that I need this guy!
Here is his picture.... What do you guys think!

Bodhi News
Huston We have liftoff! Bodhi put in an amazing effort our last schooling session over fences! He felt great and my husband could even tell how much improved his form was. We recently purchased some more substantial poles for jumping so I think having a more solid obstacle along with all of our schooling has finally paid off. He may have a jumping career yet! I was impressed. On the opposite end of the spectrum I hopped on him yesterday in the pasture with jus a halter and lead. He walked trotted and cantered for me with no fuss. He is really maturing into one of those trust worthy steeds that I have allways wanted. Way to go Bodhster!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Behavioral experiment

Here is what I am thinking...
I have my horsie side, where I share many experiences with most of you in that I have taken lessons, worked at a stable, trained with many trainers, competed in several disciplines and owned a few horses of my own. I have grown up with "traditional" horsemanship only to question it and try on many other points of view from Parelli to Lyons, to Goodnight, and Hunt. I have had triumphs and failures breakthroughs and break ups- all these things have shaped my journey becoming a horseman.
The other side of me is not as familiar to most of you. I have a bachelors degree from the University of Florida in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, I have traveled to Central America where I have studied singing mice in cloud forests, I have worked in two animal behavior labs both in the field and lab, and I currently work in a Natural history museum. I love ecology and behavior. It is not only my chosen professional goal but my hobby as well. I am very interested in learning theory and behavioral shaping. I am also very interested in the evolutionary role of behavior and that is my plan for study in graduate school in 9 months.
I am constantly contemplating how these worlds relate, and last night it occurred to me that maybe I should write about my "take" on behavior and horses. I am not claiming to be an expert but I feel like I have a perspective that may be new. So instead of just writing about Bodhi and his progress I think I may try and tackle some broader topics relating to behavior. I am not an excellent writer nor am I an expert behaviorist but I would like to give it a shot.

Bodhi News
No news is good news I guess. We still can not get that left lead. Not in the lunge ring nor under saddle. My new plan of attack is to ride almost exclusively going to the left to try and strengthen that side. I think it is my fault that I do not normally pay attention to which side I am working on, so it may not have been a balanced work out until now. I know I do not like the left track nor Bodhi so we have probably been shirking our lefty responsibilities. We have also been working on ground driving (wow it takes a lot of coordination!) and trailing. Add a few jumps and poles in the mix and Bodhi has a varied work schedule which seems to be suiting him well. He has been more forward, eager, and soft lately so I must be doing something right!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Many faces of the Donkey

At Greener Pastures where I board I have been able to get to know two donkeys who serve as guardians of the property.....

Kurly the Jack is quite a ham...

Karma our Jenny is very shy and sweet

Friday, October 9, 2009

Horseback riding is a workout!

If you do it right!

I have been thinking alot about fitness lately. Since I only have one horse to ride I really don't feel like it is enough exercise for me. In addition, for dressage I think I need to start supplementing my practice with off the horse work outs to strengthen my core. I have started doing yoga on the weekends. Wow way more work then I would have thought!

I have heard of yoga and pilates classes specifically for horse people has anyone taken one? Does anyone else work out off the horse to improve your time off the horse? I would love to hear what others are doing to stay toned and in shape for our equine friends!

Here is two links for horsie calorie counters! Wow I can not wait to have something to curry off of Bodhi!


Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Click and Trail

Our First trail ride at the new farm!
Sunday the BM and I went on a short trail ride down the road. Bodhi was tentative though well behaved on the way out. He was doing a lot of stumbling which was a clue to how little he was paying attention to his feet but I could tell he was trying to stay calm so I mostly stayed out of his way. On the way back however he became quite anxious and even began to jig! I could not believe it! Bodhi, Mr. lazy was a jigger. I corrected the behavior with a halt every time he started to prance though he did it on and off pretty much the whole way home. I would have done more complicated busy work like serpentines and circles but I was already slowing poor Satin and BM to a crawl! I am anxious to go out again to see it the jig is a new habit or if it was just the jitters for his first trail ride in a while. I hope that my calm but consistent response to his little dance routine will soon nick this cute but annoying behavior in the butt.!

We also did some clicker work. He is out in the largest pasture on the farm so I brought my clicker, treat pouch, and a bridle with me to get him. I put on his bridle in the pasture and managed to climb on board. Since we have never ridden in this pasture before I knew he would be more forward than his usual ring self so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to work on our walk and halt cues. I am hoping that this tune up will help us on our next trail ride! "Clicking" for relaxed walk after trot, and then only clicking for an immediate response from trot to walk got me a wonderful transition and a intently listening horse in about 10 minutes. I then rode him up to the barn exchanged a bridle for a halter and lead rope and went in to the jump ring for some additional clicker fun. I have decided to teach him to pick things up and hand them to me (So essentially to fetch.) He will pick up his jolly ball and fling it for treats. I picked a small orange cone as our target for this exercise. Using targeting with the lunge whip I had him biting the cone within 5 minutes. It was then only a matter of minutes before Bodhi offered to lift the cone all the way up to my hand level. I grabbed the cone and clicked. He offered the behavior a few more times until he had his perfectly timed extinction burst. Note to self; always pick training objects that over zealous little haflingers can not destroy(why did I have to teach him soccer!) Once I got him back on track and picking it up, I decided to do some free lunging work while I had the clicker out. We were in the pasture with jumps so it is much larger than our normal ring. Once I asked him to move forward in a circle around me he kept going instead and jumped over a small fence! Whoops not what I was after. As I was contemplating what to do next I lost his attention completely and he trotted off to go see the horses over the fence. I went to get a lounge line :). On the lunge he went back to work and I clicked for good stops and turns. I took the line off again to see where we were now on our stop and turn cues. Much better! Now he was free lunging in the big pasture stopping and turning. Good boy! We went over a few of the small fences for fun and called it a day. I love clicker training, and Bodhi does too. I really need to make a point in incorporating it into more of our work together. When the BM showed up I proudly showed her what Bodhi and I had been working on with the cone. He picked up and dutifully handed it to me and I clicked and smiled. I then turned away to talk to the BM for a bit. I had dropped Bodhi's lead (unattached) on the ground and Bodhi reached down picked up and put it in my hand! This horse is such a quick study it is almost a bit creepy! I cannot wait to see if Bodhi's trail behavior will improve with our clicker training. Not only does clicker work create motivation to listen, and a help keep the animal focused in new situations, I think it builds confidence as well. It is great for any horse that is having confidence or attention issues.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Catching those ponies

Bodhi update: Bodhi jumped! Well sort of. It was only set to one footish and the execution was not pretty, but he was clean and careful over each obstacle(100% improvement there!) He was also very eager and did not seem as tense or worried about the whole idea as last time I schooled him over raised objects(about 4 months ago). He seems to be maturing so fast all of a sudden. My good boy is growing up! We have a dressage lesson on Saturday which I am looking forward to. I am also thinking about clicker training him on trail to give both of us more confidence. That idea is still brewing and I have not decided how I will execute it.

Now for something completely different.

My favorite "natural horsemanship"trainer is Julie Goodnight. I really like her practical approach to horse training in general. She does not seem as gimmicky or *magical* as some of the other more popular clinicians. She is also a great example of how competent and amazing a female horse trainer and clinician can be. I guess she has a show on RFD TV though I do not have television. Has anyone else seen it? If any one is curious about Julie she gave a nice short interview on Horse Tip Daily today on an issue near and dear to my heart. Hard to Catch Horses. Bodhi was extremely hard to catch when I first got him though I am proud to say he has made a full recovery from his naughty ways. Now he will either come when I call (though very slowly) Or stand quietly when I come out to get him in the pasture. Julie gives great advise in the show and I recommend it to anyone with that particular affliction. Her website has tons of resources as well.

I hope everyone gets some nice rides in this weekend. Enjoy the cool weather. Bodhi the shagster is sure loving it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dentist appointment

~Bodhi with a hangover and swat in his itchy ears~

Bodhi got his teeth done yesterday. It went well though at first it was a little scary. Bodhi is a cheep date so to speak and really became a little too drowsy with the medication. He fell to his knees at one point which made me grimace but quickly got right back up again. The tooth that was missing from a kick (so the previous owner reports) is probably not going to grow in at all. Evidently if horses lose a baby tooth in trauma the adult tooth fails to form. Poor Bodhi. Besides his MIA tooth he has now officially lost all of his baby teeth! The last one fell out a few weeks ago. Bodhi is now all grown up!

The Vet said Bodhi looked great. We taped him at 1015. She said she would rate him a 5+. This is good though I feel like he could use a little bit more muscle tone. Any advise out there for conditioning my rotund pony? I ride as it is 3 to 4 times a week for about 30 mins to and hour. We work on collection, transitions, and lateral work at all three gates. He does not have much stamina for the dressage work however and gets really tired after 30 mins or less. I don't blame him as it is a lot of work to learn to move his young body in the ways I am asking him to.

On a side note I am always worried about over working him, especially since he is a small horse and I am average sized woman. Now that we have an accurate guess on his weight I feel better...
120+10 pounds of saddle(?)/1015=12.8% or about 13%
I have always heard that horses should not carry more than 17% though I have heard from haflinger owners that they can carry 20%. Either way even if my saddle weighs more than that we are still good. hmmm I wonder...
120*.13= 15.6 So if I was to have a rider in the proportions of my self on Bodhi than I would be carrying a large cat or a small monkey. I think I could handle that!
No more complaining Bodhi! :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bodhi goes bitless!

The Picture is of Satin,my barn manager's horse sporting her new bridle. Kathy said she was a very good girl.

Tried Bodhi out in a Cook's Bitless Bridle yesterday. Overall I give it a thumbs up!

First on the quality-- My barn manager purchased the Beta full sized bridle in brown. It looks very nice and the quality seems to be very high. The bridle fit her 16 hh very drafty type Appy's head as well as Bodhi who is bordering between Arab and Full and measuring in at 14 something.

I did some in hand work and some lateral work on the ground first to gauge Bodhi's opinion on the "head hug" action. Bodhi was in a super lazy sluggish mood so he could care less and was practically asleep so I decided to try it under saddle.

I was very conservative with my contact at first and left him alone to warm up. He did his normal routine of stretching though he was very stiff and sluggish. We then moved on to transitions, some serpentines and then a bit of canter work. Bodhi's bad habit is to stiffen his neck and fall on the forehand making it difficult to turn him. He has a very short neck and he is a draft so pulling is an art form for him! Even at the canter though (which is when his vice is worst) He was very respectable of my leg and rein. I was impressed. The one time he got stiff and stubborn was when I wanted to turn him away from the people at the fence line (We had attracted a few curious on lookers to witness our experiment) I gave him a few good tugs and got him going. He did not seem at all offended by the bridle's pressure so that seems to work as well. The only part I did not like was he was very "up" and I could not get a steady contact or any feeling of give. It may be out of confusion since he had not bit to give to or it could have been an off day for him as far as stiffness in the neck and back. In a bit I would have asked him to take some contact and pay attention with louder aides until I got a desired result. With the bitless I did not know what the cause was so was not about to fight about it.
After our ride I walked him around the barn areas to see how he was in the bitless in his spooky areas. It could have been just the day and not the bridle but he seemed much more relaxed around the hay barn and the quarantine cat pen (which he is terrified of by the way-- maybe it is the smell of cats?). If this does in deed turn out to be the case I think his spookiness is related to my nerves translating through the bridle to him. That has always been my hunch. I do have some nerve issues I am working through so the bitless may be a way to spare Bodhi of some of my more subtle stiffness in my upper body in the meantime. A good thing for sure.

Synopsis: I found that our lateral work was pretty good! He turned well and gave laterally with little pressure. He did great in his downward transitions though he always stops well! I am a bit worried that I will not be able achieve the same amount of contact and lightness in order to practice in a more advanced frame needed for dressage. Another few rides are in order to really come to any conclusions though. This bridle may be a great thing for trail, pleasure days, and also to use when other people want to ride Bodhi.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Liberty work and making friends.

The New barn is a quiet one. I usually do not see the other boarders for weeks if ever. To my surprise when I arrived yesterday there was not one, but two other boarders already grooming and fussing over their charges. One was the boarder my husband has named "crabby Abby" here name is not Abby, though she is indeed a little uptight. The other I had not met before but she seemed sweet. She was the owner of the old TB cross "JW" that I had taken a special liking to.

Bodhi got his feet trimmed yesterday by a new farrier so instead of riding I gave him a bath and then took him into the riding ring for some liberty work. Our liberty work is really developing. Bodhi now stays close to me and will lunge at the walk and trot around me as if I had a lounge line attached. I have found I can turn him by turning my own shoulders into the circle or out to widen the circle or change directions. We worked on cantering down the long side of the ring and then circling at each end at the trot. I try and match my feet to his feet and that seems to really translate well for him. If I want him to trot out I lengthen my stride and if I want him to collect I collect. He has always had a hard time cantering on the lunge line but I have found instead of chasing him with the lunge whip around a circle if I just change my trot to a "lope" beside him he quickly matches it! He even got his bad lead once (with a snarky little buck to show me how much he protested) He stops on a dime when I stop moving my feet and say whoa. I probably look like a crazy person but it is an amazing to play with my horse in this fashion. It is a very proud moment for me. I never thought he would be the type to choose to stay connected and play when he could just go to the other side of the ring and avoid me. He is a clever boy who avoids work like the plague.

I was so engrossed with my Bodhi bonding experience I did not hear JW's owner walk up to the ring until I heard her voice. Bodhi and and I both stopped and looked over to her as she repeated "Don't you want a lunge line?"
I could not shake the feeling of being reprimanded for something-"Oh, no thanks! I'm fine"
"It's no trouble at all I can find you one"
"Thanks but I am doing some liberty work with Bodhi today so I don't need one"
"Liberty work?!"
At this point I had flipped my whip in Bodhi's direction and he began to circle around me at a slow jog. He was stretching his neck all the way to the ground. I asked for halt which he dutifully gave.
"That is pretty good. JW would just run away and eat grass." I guess that was a compliment but I still felt like she thought I was a little crazy. Maybe liberty work is taboo in some circles or disciplines? I am not sure. I always feel like I am the last one to figure these sorts of things out. I felt a self conscious twinge and ended the session anyways. I felt like I was finally breaking down the barriers of communication and on the verge of discovery and she made me feel like I had put my saddle on backwards. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Horses? How I see it

Two blogs that I follow Tucker the Wunderkind and Eye on the Horsee posted some wonderful pictures that illustrate why they choose to have horses in their lives despite the cost in time, money and sometimes sanity!
Here are a few of mine. I hope anyone who sees this will share with me the pictures they feel capture that special feeling one get's with equines.
The Pictures are...

-Dancer, The nervous TB mare, coming up to me after liberty work

-Velour my first true equine partner getting a pre-ride stretch like he got everyday that I owned him (5 years) or rode him (10 years)

-Bodhi caught looking beautiful and wild during a lesson one day.

-Bodhi and I sharing some quality time in the barn isle after a ride

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bareback, bitless and carefree?

Bodhi and I are well. The rain has kept us from doing a lot of riding and the accompanied blues from all these gray days has kept me from posting. Bodhi and I are still struggling with the canter work. We do best bareback so I have ridden the last two times that way and had some nice canter departs. It is really hard for me to sit back and straight at the canter and my trainer thinks (and I think she is right) that it is causing Bodhi to go on the forehand. I think this issue with my posture is the last major cross road I am hitting from my change over from hunt seat to dressage. I have not found my groove yet at the canter so everything just feels wrong! Ech! I am a dressage rider now but it is so hard to let go of the old comfortable ways of riding. Practice is what it will take of course and I seem to find my balanced place better when I ride bareback so I will stick with that.

Since I have been riding a lot bareback I have been getting Bodhi very light with seat and leg aids and really trying to think "reins for headset only" as my trainer always reminds. That got me to thinking why do I need to stick metal in my horse's mouth to accomplish this and would he not be softer if I tried something like a bitless?
SO I am thinking about Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle

It seems well regarded....Has anyone personally used it?

Although it is expensive and I feel not essential (I already have two nice bit bridles for heaven's sake!) I feel compelled to try it. The website offers a one month trial period so if I do not like it I don't have to buy it. Can't lose right?

Friday, August 7, 2009

I miss Bodhi

I think i am obsessed really.... every five minutes a sigh and then the thought I miss Bodhi! Oh boy

Yesterday when I made it out to the farm it was already drizzling and gray. Determined not to let another day pass with out some riding done I got Bodhi out of the pasture and put his bridle on and rode him in one of the empty pastures. There is something so spirit lifting- to ride a horse bare back through the drizzleing rain. He was so light and forward and it felt like every slight adjustment I made he would respond to. I am now confident enough to canter him which is so much fun as his powder white mane flaps as he just chugs along. He has such a nice canter for riding bareback. I love his collected trot the most though when we get it just right it feels like I melting right into the horse.

We had some goofy/fun moments as well of me trotting around with my arms outstretched trying to steer only with my legs. He is getting better with that there may be some bridle-less riding in our future! His steering is O.K. but I have to brag that his stop is marvelous. Just say whoa and he stops, or just sit deep and grip and he stops. He then of course thinks he deserves a sugar. What a good boy.

I am on Cloud 9 and feeling very connected with my pony but we have some hurdles ahead of us before I will claim my 4 year old is finally "trained" or broke or finished etc....
Left Lead Canter- I can not get him to pick it up! Not riding or lunging. I am hoping that with more strength training it will come naturally so up until this point I have been ignoring the issue. We really have not done to much canter work at all on account of his age save for just asking for the correct response to my canter cue. I think now is the time for us to buckle down though. Any suggestions for exercises that could help?
Trail Riding- I think this is mostly my beef. I think he would be a calm mount if I could be a calm rider. I have been avoiding trailing as I feel like I am just going to make a mess of it. I am thinking that I also need to buck up and start working with this as well. I have to have faith that even if my nervousness will make him nervous at first that we can work through it together. It might take longer than it would with a more confident rider but I think Bodhi and I are strong enough partners to work it out eventually. Baby steps.

I am having a riding lesson tomorrow for the first time in almost a month! That will knock me off my not so high horse so to speak! Hopefully Katie will also have some ideas on what to do about the lead.

I hope everyone gets in some nice rides this weekend!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Online entertainment

I am the type that just loves to multi task! I love to listen to a book on tape while I drive, or a recorded lecture from a class I have not taken while I work or clean (Berkley posts a good deal of courses online) I have found many online horse information sites and thought I would pass them along for those who also like to learn while you do mind numbing tasks like curate and catalog museum specimens!

Horse Radio Network
I have mentioned them before; They offer a short tip show daily, an all around entertaining show called stable scoop, as well as a show on the 2010 games, dressage, and eventing. They are free and a lot of fun if you ask me!

The Horse Show with Rick Lamb

You can subscribe for free and there are some great interviews on their no matter what your interests are. I am really enjoying this show and learning a good deal about a variety of different disciplines.

Horse Hero
Is free to join as well and has videos how to's from training to rider fitness to nutrition... it is a great resource. Also has rider and trainer video diaries.

These sites are my first three clicks when I am looking for online horse education and enrichment. Please tell me about your favorite sites!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Slowly getting back into gear...

Got to work with the horses finally on Wednesday after a crazy weekend and car trouble on Monday

Worked with Dancer for the first time in the roundpen. I did an evaluation of her cues, her sensitivity to pressure and her hang ups. Synopsis: Very responsive and eager to please. She stayed relatively calm through the work though she is very easily distracted. As with most horses she is most sticky in the the forehand/shoulder though was willing to do a few changes of direction through the shoulder so I was impressed with that. Got a little resistant with backing so I got to see her obstinate side as well. I think it is going to be a good learning experience to work with her as she is very different from Bodhi. They will compliment each other well and will hopefully round me out as a trainer. One thing however; I really can not explain it but mares *feel* strange to me. Almost alien. Almost empty and without personality. I guess it is because I can not read them as I can geldings. I never knew there was such a large difference before but truthfully I have never really worked with them much. I am hoping to crack the code so to speak with Dancer. She seems like a nice horse.

Bodhi is doing well too. We also did ground work only with side reins working on lengthing and shortening at the trot. He really started to get under himself and push with his hind end. After that I got on and did stetching exersises at the walk while practicing a few turn on the forehand and halts using my seat only to keep the cool-out interesting. He stayed very relaxed and seemed to get that the undersaddle work was a reward for the great in hand work. I like it when they agree to have a nice relaxed walk about. Sometimes youngsters miss the point! :)

All and all a nice communication day with the horses.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Meet the Crew

I have been posting now for a while (my 12th post!) and I thought it would be beneficial and fun to show anyone reading my cast of characters...

1st Picture is my dog Stella and me.

AKA stellardog, B-dilly, B-dunk, stinky and deamon spawn.
She is a Catahoula leopard dog/goat cross I adopted from animal services. She is a destructive force of nature, a danger to other dogs and small animals, and an absolute cuddle muffin.

2nd Picture is Chris my husband

AKA The Horse Husband and Moogers
His interest are football, history and teaching English as a second language. He is a tolerant guy of my horse habit and is actually quite helpful around the barn.

3rd picture is Dancer
You may begin to hear about her as I am getting money off my board to work with her. More details to follow though she is a 13 yr old TB Mare with some issues.

4th is of course Bodhi!

AKA Bodhster or Bodhzilla

This is my family! Thanks for looking in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our First Show

Our first show was a total success! I was little worried about it because on Friday there were a few problems while schooling. We went to the show grounds Friday afternoon to school in the big scary indoor. I was heartened by the fact that I was not the only one schooling horses afraid of the judges box. Bodhi was not only spooky but agitated as well; biting at his side and stomping his feet. I jumped off and checked his tack and decided that it was the saddle pad. I took his saddle off right there in the ring and he instantly relaxed. I did not have another pad. So I decided to finish our schooling sin saddle. He was awesome and we had a great school. You should of seen the looks I was getting however from the other schoolers they thought I was nuts! Bodhi and I however were very pleased with ourselves. It was a big step in our relationship. I trusted him not to take advantage of the situation and act like a crazy bat and he really rose to the occasion and gave me a smooth and relaxed ride. My trainer thinks that riding bareback showed Bodhi that I was not worried about the indoor or the box and that convinced him finally that he should not be either. Go team!
The day of the show was uneventful. He did a great job. We got a 66.5% on Intro test A and a forth place. We got a 67% and a third on Intro test B.
Things we need to work on.
*More Forward. He was obviously a little nervous so was not being his usual forward self.
*Going deep into the corners. As that was where all the scary stuff lurked I let him get away with that one.
*Circles needed more bend. We need to practice our circles and make them more accurate and round!
I am so proud of the Bodhster. We got some 7s and 8s on our free walk and halt. Bodhi also got 7s and 8s on his movement. One judge commented Nice pony! The other said cute pair. I think that is a good start!