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!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not so Great News

The showplace just posted my test times..... My first test is at 8:07!
I am the second ride in the big scary indoor arena. Also I saw my old riding instructor's students all over the roster. This means she will be there! This means I will be even more nervous! This is not good!

Great News!

Well so far this week has been rather eventful and my show is not even until Saturday!

First the most important thing... my email to Horse Radio Tip of the day show was read on episode 10! By the way I recommend the horse radio to any of the horse enthusiasts out there. It is brand new so still getting momentum but they have a dressage show, and eventing show, and a show called Stable Scoop that is all around horsey and fun. I enjoy all of the shows and you can download them onto your mp3 player (which is what I do).

On a secondary note I got to have a meeting with my future adviser about my graduate project. Items of conversation included plugging your cars in to keep them warm, something called "block heaters", Polar Bear groupies, and Polar Bear Prison. I think I may be a little over my head here taking on a project with Polar Bears in Canada as a Floridian who has not studied anything larger than rodents, but I think I am up for the challenge.

Something more terrifying then Polar Bears? Local schooling shows of course! Now I am looking towards Bodhi and I's first show. I am nervous as hell and getting more nervous by the minute. Showing used to not phase me so this reaction in myself is kind of throwing me for a loop. Bodhi and I had a horrible tense ride on Monday all because of my nerves. I am hoping to improve it today.

Any tips for finding my zen and focusing a looky pony come show time?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Growing up and growing apart

Bodhi got his nails done today. Once again he got complements on what a handsome boy he is. People always seem surprised when they say it too. He is really handsome! Bodhi the haflinger ambassador! I am such proud mother.
After he got his hooves trimmed we went on a leisurely stroll through the back pasture. It was nice. We are both learning to relax finally. I got to do some thinking and I realized I am moving Bodhi to a new farm for more than just the convenience factor.
The girl who resides at his current digs is my best friend since the 6th grade. She has always been a little hard to connect with and unreliable. She has been that way since we were kids. Well I suppose now that I am transitioning into adulthood I expect her to evolve yet she stays the same static charcter. Things have been exacerbated by the fact that she is the partial caretaker of my precious Bodhi. I used to almost look up to her flippant nonchalant personality but now it drives me crazy. How can she be the same age as me and be ok with where she is? How can she treat people the way she does? It tears me apart.

I guess what I wondering is if moving Bodhi will be the end of it or if I will also move on from our friendship. She has never been the kind to call or make plans, or really put much effort at all into our relationship. I think it will pretty much die if I stop putting in the effort to stay connected. I am torn about it. But I think it may be time to back off and let the chips fall where they may. Is this what it is like to grow up? Realizations not only about yourself but also the ones you used to hold essential?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Golden Goals

With Bodhi and I's first show looming now (July 18th) I thought I would put together some goals for the show season. I am possibly leaving in the spring for Canada (graduate school) So my future with Bodhi is uncertain. I want to get in as much as I can in the meantime both for his education and also our enjoyment. I want to try a little bit of everything but I don't want to push him too hard. He is only four after all!

Goals For the Season
-Intro test A and B at the schooling show on July 18th
*Just get through the test and concentrate on relaxing and having fun! It is his first show so make it a good experience

-Get Bodhi consistent at the the canter both leads

-next schooling dressage show is August 23rd. Hopefully we can try a Training Level 1 test then.

-Get Bodhi some confidence over small fences

-Local Hunter Show September 5th
Flat classes, crossrails, or baby green?

-Take Bodhi trail riding more often. Once a month at least!

-Try a Hunt (Hunt season opens in October)

-Hunter Pace January 3rd 2010. This can be our goal event.

This will all depend on if Bodhi takes to fences at all. If he doesn't no sweat I will concentrate on getting him some Training Level show experience in the Fall. We could still do a hunt as well. I am pretty sure you can go around the jumps. I am very excited about getting out and competing again though I do not know if I have the courage any more. I just get so damn nervous these days!

Get to ride the Bodhster today! I think we are going for a relaxing trot around the pasture today. We have been drilling pretty hard lately and we should have a relaxing ride every once and a while! My ambitions will have to wait.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A horse is a horse unless it's a Jackass

Bodhi and I were practicing puddle crossing yesterday and it brought me back to a subject that has come up again and again since I bought him. Are all horses the same with the only difference being individual variability or are there distinct behavioral differences in breeds?
I personally am on the fence on this one.
Behavior is genetically heritable. Variation in behvior can be genetically linked in many different instances within populations and also between closely related species. Some examples that come to mind are the prairie and mountain voles in the US. Although they are very closely related; one species is monogamous and one species is polygamous. This is thought to be linked to an expression of a gene which controls a hormone which is responsible for pair bonding and parental care. I remember hearing about a cuckoo where female preference is genetically heritable within this one species. Males learn the song of their host family (they are brood parasites) Females prefer males that sing the song of the host she is genetically wired to parisitize(ie she makes eggs that look like the host's). I am not sure if I am explaining this right but it is pretty cool stuff.

Horse breeds can be genetically tested for. At least some can. Behavior(as previously discussed) has a genetic component so logically horse breeds could genetically "carry" behaviors. Case and point are the naturally gated breeds. I do not know a lot about them but I am pretty sure that it is a behavior that some are born with and then perfected by training? Yes?

I think the problem comes in with what is a heritable behavior and what is not. An example is I do not think that ponies are more stubborn than horses. I have met way to many pleasant ponies and stubborn horses to believe this is an actual heritable trait. I think this is more of an effect of bad training or poor communication. Same with Thoroughbreds being more spooky or stupid. I have met far to many trail safe level headed thoroughbreds and way to many crazy reactive quarter horses in my day. Is it safe to say though that the "hot bloods" are more excitable? I think so. They probably have more fast twitch muscles than cold bloods(an interesting research avenue) along with a high set head. They have been selected to be quick and reactive. I think people need not shy away with associating behavioral traits with certain types or breeds of horse. After all this is why we created selective breeding! However I think people need to be more careful with what they are claiming is an inate genetically inherited behavior and what is a learned response.

Back to Bodhi. Teaching Bodhi to cross water made me think of years ago when I had attempted the same task with my Thoroughbred Velour. While Bodhi balked at the water until he was brave enough to test it with one foot Velour simply leaped over the puddle. Even with the tiniest puddle Bodhi never thought to even try and step over it instead he balked or tried to go around. I slowly assimilated Velour to water by making him cross the puddles over and over until a leap turned to a canter to a brisk trot and then to a walk. Bodhi methodically tested the water with both feet and slowly shuffled through the puddle. We repeated the process until he was satisfied that puddles are indeed safe to cross. I think that is a great example of what I want to get across. The breeds are different in their behaviors in that Velour was a leaper and Bodhi is more of a plodder. To say though that one is better at crossing water would be a false statement because that is just training. They both turned out to be pretty good with water!

I would love to hear other peoples ideas and hypothesis on the subject!