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.