Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Setting Up For Success

After the last blog about unfinished business, I have been trying to organize my day, pick tasks, make a list and see things through start to finish, if only in one small area at a time. Progress, rather than perfection, is what I seek. If I look for perfection, I become overwhelmed and the whole thing grinds to a halt before it ever really begins.

S'anyway, today was one of the gorgeous orange, red, yellow and blue Fall days. Balmy temperatures and it was my blessing to have the day off and be allowed to spend it outside with horses. I had a buyer coming to look at the Thoroughbred colt, and it was time to get dressed. Never good when buyers and clients catch me in my jammies, coffee cup in hand, and not looking my well prepared, professional self, HAH!

Dutifully I made my list. Showing Nic, riding fillies, saddling Dusty . . . wormer to be administered, new horses to be handled and further assessed. Happily the swelling on the new Quarter Pony mare's jaw is half the size it was. Hearing that she likely tangled with a newly discovered mangled round bale feeder gave me hope, as these are injuries that look like they will heal, as opposed to being caused by a secretly rotting tooth. I also needed to separate out my herds. I have been feeding two large groups and they are consuming round bales like the things are free or something. Of course, they are, to them, and their big, fat hay bellies are showing their indulgence and my skinny, weanie wallet is begging for mercy!

The admin parts were first, or they'd never be accomplished, and I saddled colts in between catching, schlepping, worming and grooming. Skipper, broodmare-soon-to-turn-saddle-horse, volunteered for her halter, like I'd handled her yesterday. I need to remember what a nice horse she is and not let her get so far on the back burner she falls off or gets traded away . . .

Finally, everyone is where they need to be. Queenie, the stocky new chestnut QP mare is in residence on the Tree of No Regret . . . that's where you stand tied til you have no worries about it. She's a little spoiled, but settled in easy, occasionally whinnying her protest and a little pawing. Can't hardly hold that against her, but stay tied, she did. The Arab cross who I have christened Phoenix, as I see him rising from the ashes of what his fate would have been, where he a 100 lbs heavier, came in the barn to be tied there. He is a bright one! Alert and really wanting friendliness, he impresses me more every time I handle him. I have a home lined up for him, and I hope he works out there. Need to get a saddle on him, but he will stay with me through the winter so no real hurries there.

It's time to ride the fillies. I rode them for their owner yesterday, in the round pen, but I know Slippin is done with that, no reason to take her backwards. Anything she needs to know, we can work on, out in the world. I have not formally introduced either filly to the wooden bridge, though they live out there, with it, those obstacles take on an entirely different set of features when the horse is asked to actually do something with them! I figure if I am going to ride her in the world, I need to do her warm ups there as well.

The cute gray filly steps out in a lively fashion as I move her around me. Her body stays nice and round, we do hip over, shoulder through and go back and forth in the falling leaf pattern, moving up and down the pasture. I work circles with her on a slope, to get her ready for riding up and down the hilly pasture, if we get that far. We do.

She's not near so shocked that I mount, outside the round pen, as she was the first time I did it. I guess it hadn't really occurred to her that would be an option for me :-). I bend her neck, ask for softness, ask her to look at me from both sides, rub her face. I move her hip over once and we spiral out at a lively walk. I love the exuberance in this filly (the voices tell me it can kill me but I am learning those voices are a hindrance I don't need and they are more dangerous to me than any horse. It's getting easier to shut them off and keep them quiet. Let the healing continue!).

We circle the outside perimeter of the round pen, her sister, Knosie, and Dusty the Paint colt, are saddled and standing inside, awaiting their turns, and it gives her a little comfort (or me) to stay close to what we know. As we come around, she picks up speed, her mind, body and feet wanting to head for the round bale where Jack, Nic and the babies are busy munching away. It's downhill which also challenges her balance and she wants to trot to catch herself. I bend her to shut her down before things can get out of control, but she comes to my hand very easily. Next time, it's just a small bend, and the time after that, no issue. Okay, enough of that, we head over to the wooden bridge. She'd taken a couple stabs at it, during her groundwork before crossing, but walks up on it now, under saddle, like she'd crossed it 1000 times. Dang, I love this filly!

We cross from both sides, and head out into the pasture. The rustling cornstalks that line her pasture, this one, the one she lives in, give her pause and concern. I get an opportunity to work her through some uneasiness but it never develops into a spook and she never tries to leave me. Gaining confidence in both of us, I point her down the long slope to the bottom side of the pasture that lines our neighbor's property. That length of slope challenges her and she isn't quite sure what to do with her feet, but listens to me, and comes back off her trot steps when I ask her to. We traverse the length and width of the pasture, ride through some trees and come up the barn side, and do some exercises in the barnyard. Not bad for her first real tour out of the round pen.

I thought about taking Knosie out as well. Don't quite have the handle on her that I do on Slippin though, and those long buckskin legs of hers are a little gangly and less coordinated. Decided to work on the handle and freeing up the feet. At least one more ride in the round pen, I thought, and then we'll head out. I did her groundwork outside, though, worked on the slope, she really stretched out into the prettiest long trot I have seen from her yet. Completely relaxed, and just reaching for it. Did the bridge, absolutely no issue for this big, calm minded girl. She is less bothered by things than her Doc Bar bred half sister, though she sure did not start out that way. Knosie's doubts get expressed in her dragging her feet, and getting sticky. Today, I didn't see much sign of that til I used the flag on her saddle, rubbing it, bouncing it a little, she slowed WAY down, head rising, eyes widening. I just kept going with her til she relaxed again. Time to ride!

Once inside the round pen, I did ground work, moving Dusty around, asking Knosie to stay with me, moving out of my way when I needed her to, coming forward, sideways, and backwards. That got a little harried, more than I can keep track of, really. Did lope Dusty around, he's not going to have a lot of problems moving his feet, but he's no scatter brain skitterer, either. Really nicely balanced young horse, in his mind and in his body. Put the boat buoys on his saddle to see if he cared about leg-like stuff bouncing around on him, he does not. Big colt did, however, attempt a couple of times to run through or maybe over the trainer, so I tied Knosie's reins up (she needs to feel her bit, anyway, I think to myself), halter Dusty, and we learn to back up (I already know, so I guess this is the editorial "we") and we learn what happens if we run through the stick. I "rode him from the ground" (Dennis Reis technique), keeping him between my halter rope in one hand and my stick in the other. He did really well for where he was at. When he would lose it and escape, I'd bring him back, put him in position and we'd go again. It didn't take many bumps on that halter rope for him to be looking to me for cues, and following my hands with a really nice lightness. He yields his hips off just the softest ask, and is really happy with his "atta boys."

Good looking bay colt is turning from "not excitable Dusty" to communicative, licking and chewing Dusty. This stuff is all so new to him . . . from Thou Shalt Not Run Over the Trainer to what the heck is this thing on my back and these straps around my tummy, that I think the whole thing took him aback a bit when we first got started. I like him expressive and I'll work him from the top of the round pen tomorrow. Should be on him, soon. Colt starting is turning into fun like it has never been before. Hmm, guess this stuff I preach does really work, in practice, LOL!

Knosie girl was feeling neglected or so I decided she was feeling, and I mounted up. She's so solid, now, I don't think a thing about swinging up on her. Again the same, bend her around, let her see me on both sides, rub her face. Move her hip over and away we go. She volunteers a trot and I take it. As hard as I have been working to get forward motion out of this girl, no way am I going to shut her down now! I encourage the trot and ask her to lengthen her stride. She feels great under me and I keep asking. I start loping, in my body, and she said "what the hey are you doing up there, Terri??" but I keep it up and eventually she picks up a few lope strides.

It was AWESOME!! She's one of those leggy things that is just going to float when she moves. I told Doats yesterday it was such a toss up for me as to which filly I would own if I had the choice, but when it comes right down to it, I think it would be this one. Man, what a horse she is going to be when she grows up!!

We do a lot of trotting, get a few lope strides going the other way and chase Dusty all over. I have Knosie track him and turn him, then use her to get out in front of him in the center of the round pen, catch his eye and have him turn in to us. I use her to move him over and send him the other way. We do this, over and over. I don't know if they are having fun, but I darned sure am. She's getting lighter and lighter off my hands and legs. I am trying to remember to weight my seatbones correctly to set the hindquarters up properly for the turn, and when I get it, I feel her respond under me. Slippin did too, in fact, she was so sensitive that I turned her several degrees more than I meant to, more than once! I am all over the place while we are moving Dusty, leaning out to pop his butt to remind him to keep moving, reaching back to pop hers now and again. Knosie just stays under me and tolerates it all. She put her ears up and moved right out . . . I am guessing she had a little fun, her own self. When I turned her loose, later on, she stayed right by me, and walked with me on her side of the fence. Girl is growing up.

Riding my horses from "back to front" is about having the power and the impulsion come from the rear as it properly should. This is the preliminary for true collection. I was amazed to watch Knosie break at the poll and level her headset while I was asking her to do hindquarters over and shoulders through from the saddle. I am excited about lessons with Missy and can't wait for the next one in November!

I played with Donovan briefly, loved on Moonshine, saddled Hawkeye but ran out of daylight before he was up to bat. I really need to get his ride up to the level I want it to be at, and let that fellow find his next new home. Getting his feet attached to the reins is my top priority with him and getting him to trust and relate to his rider will be a major part of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day to be outside with horses. Work tomorrow, and then I get to do it all over again. The setting up for success is for me and my horses, and it starts with the baby steps. My definition of succeeding might be different than some other people's, dunno and not real concerned. I walked away from good horses that watched me go with trusting eyes, into a house to cook dinner for my best friend, that I just happen to be married to . . . It might not ever get any better than this!

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