This Sunday Jan and I went cross country skiing with our friends Andrew and Jay. The weather could not have been better. While we were out in the woods, we had home made chili simmering on the stove. I usually saute the veggies on the range top. I had roasted the venison the day before. Then I cut it into chunks and sauted it with onions and garlic, both of which came from our garden. Then when I put it all together, it will finish off for a few hours on the wood stove. We also planned on having tacos, one of our favorite dishes. So I roasted a goat leg and shoulder in the oven. I covered the meat with pepper jelly, and put about a quarter inch of apple juice in the bottom of the pan. The goat meat is great for tacos.
A few years ago I took an old snowboard and cut it in half. I then bolted the halves together to make a platform to kneel on. I made it mostly to help my horse pull in the firewood. I put the fronts of the logs on the platform to keep them from digging into the ground.
Here we are having a little fun while training.
Yesterday I had a great ride with one of my clients. Ruth and I met this summer when her thoroughbred was deemed "dangerous." Now no one should ever take this lightly when dealing with an animal. In the horse world this is not all that uncommon. Horses are large, think for themselves and are reactive creatures by nature. But one should also consider that we put animals in unnatural surroundings and ask them to do things that they are not programed to do.
I have always had a soft spot for thoroughbreds. I first learned to train at a thoroughbred breeding farm in upstate New York. As a young person I was exposed to the sensitivity of thoroughbreds and also their devout loyalty when you won their trust. So when Ruth approached me through the recommendation of a local veterinarian, I was very open mined.
"Pretty" needed a mental relaxation program to first get her started. She was used to taking the bit and shaking her head when pushed too fast. The last trainer tried to overcome these problems by martingales and pulling her head down. I see this equipment as a mask over a more serious problem. So to get to the root of it, I put Pretty in a full cheek snaffle and a loose rein. We worked on giving in to pressure one rein at a time. This encouraged her to flex her head and neck left and right, not a rigid lean against the bit and go. After a couple weeks, Pretty lost that glare in her eye like she was ready for a serious fight.
Now of course Pretty's owner had it burned into her brain that the horse was dangerous. Even more difficult than training a horse is teaching a person. Why in any right would a person willingly get back onto a horse that they had heard terrible stories about. So to convince Ruth that things would be okay would also take some time. Fear is stronger than any steel bars or razor fencing. Even though Ruth had never been part of her horse doing something unsafe, she knew it was a possibility. With me coaching from the ground, Ruth began to trust me and Pretty. We still have some bumps in the road. Both of us realize these are really are minor after all we have already accomplished. Once Ruth has figured out that she really is doing it, and doing it well, then all will be perfect.
I truly enjoy working with people and horses through their problems. Most of my work is more of behavior issues rather than riding lessons. Once a communication is established, most of my clients move on to riding instructors.
Blue Moon is a Bashkir Curly. He was born ten years ago at my neighbors farm Top of the Hill. Every horse has a story, maybe not as exciting as Black Beauty, but just as unique. I find it interesting that this horse ended up almost back at home. To the best of my knowledge, he was trained by the people that bought him from Top of the Hill, shown a little and for most of his life was there. For some reason or another, he was sold to the woman that called me for help. This woman had great intentions, but like many people, didn't realize that owning a horse could be so difficult.
Horses with out a job are like people with out a job, they eventually get into trouble." I like that quote. I think it was said by Pat Parelli.
Blue Moon isn't a bad horse, he just lost direction and focus. He is now at my house for refresher course. Blue Moon got buddy sour, which means he didn't want to leave his friends at the barn. This was too much for his owner to deal with. If every time you get on your horse and he wouldn't leave the yard it wouldn't make for much fun. So basically, Blue Moon has had two years off.
Since I personally don't know how well Blue Moon was trained, I am going to go through the steps I do to saddle break a horse. I will be able to tell what he knows and how much mental capabilities he has. I want him to trust me and quite frankly, enjoy being with me. He will relearn that doing stuff with me is more fun than just hanging out in the paddock. This will help him break his habit of just returning home.
Friday the Second of January I brought Blue Moon home. He willingly walked onto the trailer, this was very encouraging. This was not the first time I met Blue Moon. His owner had called me a couple of months ago to see if I could help her sell the horse. She kept him in a nice summer pasture with a couple of buddies. She was worried when the other horses left he might go nuts and try and follow them. So I offered to lead him the three miles home to his winter pasture. In these three miles through the woods, Blue Moon and I got acquainted. Basically he learned to follow me, not lead the way. He seemed to remember this when we got to the trailer.
Saturday was the first full day at my farm. He is in a paddock near the other horses, but by him self. All horses in training should be alone. This way they only focus on me, besides it being safer for everyone. Day one, I tied him to the barn and brushed him. I paid attention to see how he acted now that the other horses where out of view. He was quite calm and relaxed. His focus was still on me. Blue Moon had good ground manners, this pleased me. I then took him to my ring and lounged him. Just to go through the paces and see if he bucks, charges, tries to run away or calls to the other horses. Blue Moon bucked and was having a blast. He know his walk, trot and whoa commands. Not once did he call to the other horses. This was enough for one day. I was very pleased.
Sunday I wanted to add another element to the mix. I put a surcingle on him. He acted a little girthy, and I expected some bucks due to it, but none. He switched directions well and stood still, waiting for his next command. I used the lounge line to desensitize him. I threw it over his back, over his head and at his legs until he accepted it. I did head bends to teach him to give to pressure and find out his willingness. I have worked with some curlies that had a stubborn streak, he didn't seem like one of them.
Monday I fit a harness to Blue Moon. I wanted to ground drive him. Knowing he was calm with the lounge line, I knew he would be fine with a harness. All tacked up, we went around the ring, and then down the road. Here I would get him off the farm and expose him to traffic. He needed to lead the way, be brave and still listen to me. After I gently encouraged him past a scary spot he was forward and eager. I halted many times. Turned toward home and away. If he tried to jig, we would go away from home until he settled down. Now we are building a bond, he is trusting me, and I am trusting him. All of these important milestones are being done before I even get into the saddle.
This work can be done with a bridle and saddle. You don't need a harness or surcingle. I encourage people to do this with their young horses and ones not being ridden. Don't give them an entire winter off. Keep their minds stimulated.