Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School - Day 4

From Bob, Monday, 9/28:

This was a big day for Diego. His feet look like he might have a little thrush. I cleaned them really well, trimmed a couple of "hangnails," and squirted some iodine to kill whatever might be living deep in the cracks. I was doing all this while he was turned out loose, and he only walked away once.

Diego spooked when I dumped the wheelbarrow full of manure, so I stalked him with it until I could wheel it within a foot of his back legs. He overreacted when I tapped him with the crop yesterday, so I spent some time alternating between rubbing him with it and moving him with it.
I started riding him around the back yard. He always starts out skittish and gets better the longer I ride him. He is getting better at the trot-to-walk transitions, but he is also starting to pull on the reins at the trot. I'm still riding him bareback, and he seems to want to go faster than I can sit the trot.

Dovie came out and offered to go for a trail ride, so we headed out. I got Diego to let me open and close the gate from his back, but it wasn't pretty. We ended up going about a mile and a half, trotting maybe 40% of the time.

Diego did great! LaLa was constantly threatening him, so we just let him lead. He stopped and looked when he saw a neighbor walking her loose dog. No problem. Walking down into a dry wash was no problem. It was almost dark when he gave me his first real spook. He sort of lurched forward, stopped, gave me a tiny buck, lurched forward again, and finally stopped. We composed ourselves and headed home. By this time, he was ignoring LaLa when she followed him really close.

He is a little strong at the trot, but he was really relaxed and well-behaved at the walk. The total ride time was 38 minutes. Dovie says he is awesome!

School and Thoughts from Bob

From Bob on Monday, 9/28, after reading the rest of this blog. His comments are in black, my reply is in blue italics:

We know things behind or above Diego can set him off, so I'm doing stuff in front of him and then doing the same stuff behind him. I had the cart and bike behind him, just out of kicking range. I also sometimes make a point of being boisterous and scary when I'm on him. I'm going to try making sure that Diego knows the difference between casually touching him with a crop or stick and telling him to do something with it. His reaction to the crop the other night was a lot greater than need be.

Good. I try to move around a lot and wave my arms and such too. I was feeling pretty darn confident on him there for a while and really trying new things. Like you mentioned, the more of this kind of stuff, the sooner he'll realize it's nothing to worry about and will get over.

Your blog reinforced an opinion I've had all along. You have more fear and nervousness than Diego has. It's not easy, but at some point, you just have to say, "He's a good boy, I trust him, and I don't care whether he hops and tucks his butt once in a while." That trust makes the difference between Diego forgetting what made him hop and you becoming airborne. I know that's easier for me to say, when I've never really been hurt. But I swear it's true.

I know that a lot of the issue is me. I've just seen him be so explosive and really truly "loose it" a few times now. Just being able to put my foot in the stirrup when I first got him was a huge
accomplishment at the time. He's really 100% better than he was when I got him, but it's the few times when he just blows up that continue to worry me. You may not get to experience that side of him, I certainly hope you don't. Before I had my accident, my confidence was pretty high and I was thinking about how Dig was about as "trained" as Sinatra was when I bought him (in other words, not very but enough to start doing things with). Like Sinatra, I know he'll be a good boy 99% of the time, its just that 1% that continues to worry me for now.
Mentally, I feel very confident and ready to get back on and start doing things, but when "something" happens, I find I do still get tense and worried pretty quickly - which doesn't help Dig out any. I don't mind the little tuck and hop, but I've had it turn into the full out bucking a few different times now, so being able to remain relaxed through the first bit, and not grap up rein and crank on him is an issue I have. With Sinatra, I needed to get him stopped *NOW* when he would do that - so it wouldn't escalate, with Diego I think I need to relax and not react for a minute, because it's me reacting that's furthing the problem. Does that make sense?

One of my... I don't really want to call it an issue, because I don't see it as a problem, but perhaps "hangups" is that I WILL NOT BE JUST A PASSENGER. I want my horse looking to me for guidance and instruction *at all times*. This was my issue with Caramel when I got on her. She's used to being the boss, you can feel it in how she reacts to commands and just her overall attitude. My mom's horse Joe is the same way and I don't particularly like riding him either. Both of these horses are totally safe for their riders (my mom's never come off Joe), but I can't and won't trust a horse that treats me like that. It's just a "me" thing with how I was taught to ride.

Monday, September 28, 2009

School - Day 3

Sunday, 9/27, from Bob:

Today we spent some time de-spooking him. I brought out Dovie's horse cart and walked all over the place pulling it behind me. He ignored it at a distance and was a little wary up close. He eventually came over and tried to eat it. I brought out my mountain bike and rode it around the yard. That went exactly the same as the cart.

Me: I’ve tried to do a LOT of de-spooking with Diego at home. I have noticed a big difference, but like I told Bob from the beginning, the #1 thing Dig needs continues to be exposure to new and different situations. My son Taren often rides his bike up near the corral, but he can’t to in a full circle around the corral and behind Diego, which is where I belive the main problem lies. Plus seeing an adult on a bike is a little different than a 7 year old, although I somehow doubt Bob was jumping off a plywood ramp, running over a 2” PVC pipe and/or doing “skids”. =)

Dovie thought moving the garden hose behind him might have caused yesterday's bath incident, so we played with the hose around him a little with the water off. I want to do more.

I spent 14 minutes on him today. He's getting less skittish. He does occasionally hop and tuck his butt underneath himself, but it never progresses into anything dangerous. A few minutes into the ride, he stopped and absolutely refused to move forward. He would back and flex left or right, but he wouldn't take a step forward. He seemed totally relaxed and just ignored me. Dovie got me a crop, and one very light tap on his butt got him moving again. We practiced trot-to-walk transitions. He's doing it most of the time, but it's really messy [Diego does trot to HALT transitions, it’s a pain. When he’s doing better, he’ll trot, halt for 0.5 seconds, then start walking, but still not very smooth]. I made a point of making noise, moving around, and especially fooling with my terrifying pockets while I was on him. He's doing fine.

School - Day 2

From Bob:

Dovie gave all the horses baths today. Something set Diego off half way through the bath. He freaked and then settled down. I wasn't there, so you'll have to ask Dovie for the details.

Me: It seems it was dragging the hose behind him which caused the issue. He’s fine with the hose, I have to drag it in and out of his corral to fill up his water trough, so it’s a common enough occurrence. He’ll stand there while it goes under or in front of him, so I think this was a “something’s behind me” issue rather than a hose issue.

We just got back from a moonlight ride. We did the same ride we did three weeks ago. Every time I ride him, he starts out skittish and then gets better as the ride goes on. Tonight was no exception. He was looking around a lot, but didn't do anything stupid or dangerous. We trotted about 20%. That gave me a chance to practice trot-to-walk transitions and I had good success on the trail. I closed the gate from his back. He didn't seem to understand what I wanted, but the slamming gate didn't scare him.

I'm seeing the fear of monsters behind him that you told me about. I'm going to try to desensitize him to various monsters tomorrow (with nobody on him). He's really fun!

Getting Reaquainted

Since I originally started this blog to have a place for myself to journal Diego's training, I'm very pleased that Bob has given me permission to post his daily updates that I'm getting with how things are going for Diego. Bob and Dovie currently have 4 mares of their own (3 they own and the other belongs to a little girl that Dovie was giving lessons to). This is from Friday 9/25, the same day I originally dropped him off:

Diego was getting along with Penny, so I turned Penny and Surprise out. The girls ignored him until they finished every scrap of hay we spilled this morning. Diego and Surprise did the squealing thing and settled down to grooming each other. Penny ignored him. After I cleaned stalls, I put the girls back in their stalls. Suddenly, I heard lots of squealing and commotion between Penny and Diego. I didn't see what started it. I turned around just in time to see Diego kicking at Penny. He hit the fence and missed Penny.

Me: This resulted in a superficial scrape to his left hind. Bob sent me a picture and we both agreed it was pretty minor and to just keep an eye on it.

I put some Wonder Dust on his scrape. I also very lightly filed/rounded the edges of his feet to reduce chipping. I gave him a nice brushing, cleaned his feet, and put his bridle on, all while he was loose in the yard. He's a good boy. :)

I rode him in the back yard for 20 minutes. It was very much like three weeks ago, only better. We're learning to communicate and understand each other. We trotted more than half the time. I learned that the sound of me searching for a treat in my pocket scares him. I also learned that he goes faster towards the mares than he goes away from them. We have to learn how to go from trot to walk instead of trot to stop. We're making progress and having fun.

Me: Trot to walk was something else I had been working on with him. Try saying "Easy" in a nice slow tone, or "Easy, walk". You may have to say it a few times. That's his verbal cue for slow down but don't stop. It works about 90% of the time but hasn't been transferred to under saddle yet. Like I mentioned last time, since we've been doing so much groundwork I had to install verbal cues since I didn't have the benefit of my legs and not always two reins.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Off to school

Or at least, that's what it feels like to me. Took Diego over to Bob and Dovie's today. He's going to spend a few weeks over there and just get ridden and out on a much more consistent basis than I can possibly manage right now. Bob's excited, I'm excited, Diego doesn't have a clue what he's in for. =) I felt like I was dropping my child off for his first day of kindergarten. Bob has promised lots of updates, I know they have a moonlight ride planned for this evening. ;)

Next weekend is the Comstock Endurance Ride out of the Lemmon Valley arena, about 2 blocks from Bob and Dovie's house. Since I'm managing the ride and will be camping out and staying over there anyways, it's a perfect opportunity to bring Diego over and have him camp out and spend the night "endurance-style". He'll also get to hang out and watch the horses on the ride come in and out of camp for their vet checks. This was something I did with Sinatra early on in his training and was *INVALUABLE* for teaching him to settle in and relax while in camp and at a vet check. After about 6 hours of horses coming and going, trotting out, etc, it suddenly becomes pretty ho-hum and they learn that it's nothing to get excited over and you might as well just chill out and eat since you're tied to the trailer anyways.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

He's Baaaaaaccckkk!!!

Well Friday's excursion with Diego went extremely well, even if it was not according to my original plans. The original plan was for me to take Dig over to friends Bob and Dovie's house and ride Diego in their round pen and around their fenced in back yard. If everything was going well, then Dovie was going to take their kid-proof pony and go out with us on an easy little trail ride. This was to be the first time I had ridden Diego off the property since April, so I was a little bit nervous about how things would go.

As it worked out, I got Diego over there and he was being really good. Got saddled and he was pretty much ignoring Bob and Dovie's 4 mares that were checking out the new guy. I took Diego into the round pen and did some ground work with him. When we were both feeling relaxed, I went ahead and mounted up. Things were going okay until I asked Dig to walk around. I could feel him getting tense, which in turn made me tense, so we stopped and both tried to relax again. After a little bit, I again asked him to walk. He would walk a few steps and then swing his hind end around (pivot on his front legs) and then stop. After nagging at him a few times, he kind of tucked his butt, scooted forward and gave a little hop. I was still on top and doing okay, but I got off and decided to re-evaluate and maybe do some more ground work first.

This is when an extremely good thing happened, Bob volunteered to ride Diego for me. He could tell that I was feeling pretty uptight, not a good thing for either Dig nor I, and he's started a couple of young horses for him and Dovie in the past. So we pulled my saddle, since Bob's legs are much longer and I can't adjust the stirrups down that far, and he hopped on bareback. Bob rides bareback **A LOT**, like more often than not, and had put the first few rides on a couple of horses bareback.

Bob gets ready to mount Diego for the first time

So Bob mounted up and I lead Diego around the round pen for a few minutes. Dig was pretty sticky to start, it was a probably a good thing to just lead him around for a while. It gave everyone a chance to relax and get the feel of each other. Eventually, Bob started taking more and more control and, when he was ready, I unclipped the lead and he rode Diego around on his own.

Getting a feel for each other

Bob was very happy with how responsive Diego was to his sidepull. Bob normally trains with a snaffle, and other than a few bridle-less rides, this was the first time he had ridden a young horse without a bit. Diego actually is very happy in his sidepull and is very light and responsive. I received a few compliments on how quickly he would stop and how he didn't pull on the reins at all, instead yielding softly.
Soon things were going well enough that we opened up the gate and Bob rode Diego around their back yard. Dovie hopped up on the pony and rode around with him. Dig did very well, checking out the new environment and even leading the way around and behind their long shedrow barn. You could see his relax and start to get comfortable with being ridden again. Bob even did some trotting with him, a few steps here and there. He was very happy with how smooth Diego was.

After a while longer, Bob, Dovie, and another friend Tammy decided to go ahead and go out on a little trail ride. This was the largest "group" Diego has been out on the trail with. We've ridden with two other horses in the arena, but not out and about. This was also his *THIRD* trail ride ever. He did extremely well and I was a very proud mama. I followed along and took some pictures. Here they are riding past the neighbor's house to the little open area (single and two-track through sagebrush) where they ended up riding.

Diego actually lead the pack for most of the way. Bob complimented him on having a nice, mostly relaxed, forward walk. He wasn't overly balky and didn't want to rush. When he would get nervous, his tendency was to tuck is butt and scoot forward a few steps, then turn to look at what startled him (Diego that is, not Bob). They successfully trotted for a short distance out on the trail, were passed by, and then re-passed the other horses.
It really gave me a lot of confidence to see Diego perform so well. Bob is now officially the second-ever person to ride Diego. I am very grateful to him for his help and assistance, and am looking forward to going out there more often in the upcoming weeks and months. Bob wants me to do some ground-work with his young girl, Surprise, to help get her more soft and supple, and he'll ride and work with Diego for me while I'm doing that. I'm sure we're all going to have a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Headgear and Saddle Mods

Diego got a new sidepull from Crazy Ropes. I LOVE it!!! Debbie Hanson is the owner and she did a fabulous job. It's exactly what I wanted. Diego still needs to have a dental appointment, his wolf teeth are starting to erupt, so I have only been using the snaffle really sporadically for now, preferring to use a sidepull. I also have found that I get less resistance with the sidepull and he will yield with lighter pressure. Whether this is a result of some teeth issues, or just a training thing and he prefers nose to mouth pressure will have to be determined in time.

It has the marine-grade rope with the two extra pressure knots on the noseband. She then adds a really pretty overlay that is knotted/weaved on with a color you can select. She also has a couple of different base colors you can select from, if you don't want basic black.

You then add your own curb strap. I bought this one a while ago and it was a bit too long to use with the snaffle bit (a safety measure), but I'm glad I decided to hang onto it. It fits and works perfectly with the sidepull.
The curb strap attached to one set of rings, and the reins to another. The reins are the black strap you see running up along his head in this picture. This is installed on my biothane halter bridle combo that I purchased at the AERC Convention. Another item I dearly love.
I also am fortunate enough to be borrowing a Bob Marshall treeless saddle from a good friend of mine. It didn't have any stirrups though, or the modified Bob Marshall fenders/leathers that are somewhat of a custom item for these saddles. I know a few people who make do with nylon dog collars. I looked around in my trailer tack room and low and behold, child-size Wintec Webbers! I zip-tied them onto the saddle D's and then put my EZ Rides on. Perfect and so easily adjustable!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going Riding

A friend and I have made plans to get together for a ride on Friday. I've been riding Diego more and more at home lately, but still just inside our small corral. I have a larger area outside where I have room to lunge and ground drive, but it's not fenced and the ground is really rocky and hard - so the possibility of something bad happening should we have an issue is a bit much right now. I have ridden Diego out there a few times in the spring, before my fall, but I just haven't got up the nerve to try again.

In other good news, a neighbor about 4 houses down is finishing up building a fairly good sized arena in their back yard. Diego, Taren, Molly (our puppy) and I were all out for a walk the other day and he invited me to come over and ride sometime. In a twist of fate, he's the off-duty EMT that was one of the first responders when I broke my arm at Bartley Ranch. He was the one there on a walk with his wife. She's the one that has horses in their family, he as a dirt bike (just like in my household). =) I was surpised he still offered once he knew who I was. I was joking with my husband that having an EMT on site would be a good thing. =) I guess when I was hurt, this guy was the one that called AJ and let him know. When AJ got the "I'm calling about your wife" he (AJ - my hubby) said "Well, she either fell off her horse or hit you with the truck, which is it?" LOL As you can tell - I'm a teeny bit accident prone. But it would be wonderful if they get the arena done and it's okay for winter riding - would beat having to worry about getting the truck and trailer out in the snow.
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