Thursday, April 29, 2010

Windy Day = Silly Play

The winds of spring are upon us here in the Kittitas Valley. AccuWeather says there are gusts of over 70 mph, and I believe them!
When I went out to let the youngsters out, the wind nearly blew me over when I unlatched Jackson's stall door into the paddock. The first video I took of he and Kate and Maddie careening down the pasture is unusable as I was unable to hold the camera steady free-hand. This video is with my arm braced on the stall door, and I can still barely hold it still--and the effect is magnified when I zoom in at all. So take your dramamine...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Nobody-Got-Much-Done Kinda Week

Well, actually, Al did way more than I usually call upon him to do.
'Cause I was sick.
In bed.
Out of it completely.
I'll spare you the more gruesome details, but suffice it to say I only made it through three hours of school last Monday, then collapsed with body aches and fever and alternating chills and sweats.By Wednesday I could no longer keep even water in my stomach.Thursday the doc gave me some icky tasting but miracle working anti-nausea meds, and by Friday I could sip soup and slurp green jello (which says a lot, since I detest jello, especially green jello).

There was no way I was going to get Jackson to the 4H show Saturday, but I was hoping to find enough energy to go meet and visit with Aarenex of Haiku Farm and her pirate crew, at the Milwaukee Rails-to-Trials endurance ride just north of us at the Boyleston Tunnel trailhead of the John Wayne Trail.
Unfortunately, about 10:00am, Blake from Wild Winds Ranch called. Seems his fire-fighter schedule changed, and he won't be able to show me how Beth's doing on Sunday, as originally planned. Oh, and, by the way, she's almost out of hay.So....change of plans.
Now mind you, Al has been doing both morning and evening chores all week. The most I have managed to do was drag myself out to the barn to let everybody out in to their respective pastures at noon-ish (we're half-way to full day pasture). Al offered to take the hay out himself, but, not only was I hesitant to ask any more of him, I wouldn't ask him to stay and watch Blake and Beth work, as he wouldn't know what he was looking at, particularly. So I bundle up and walk [slowly] out to the barn to show him the two bales of timothy hay I had in reserve for Beth, run the tractor while he loads the bales into the bucket, then unload into the truck, and we're off for the hour drive to the opposite end of the valley.

Blake had said he had other customers coming at 12:30 or so, so he wouldn't get to Beth until 2:30-ish. I figure I may only be up to a brief visit, so I had told him to go ahead and get started with her, and hopefully we would get there in time to see him climb on. But when we arrived at 3:00, he is still on the other folk's horse in the round pen. So we [Al] off-loaded the hay and sat at a distance until they headed out.

Blake worked Beth from the ground first, and noted that getting her attitude "adjusted" was pretty much the first priority in every session. One of the things he made a point to mention was that she was pretty well de-sensitized to the rope around her legs. "You said you had a problem with kicking?" Yeah, sure, but she doesn't kick out of fear--she kicks when she's mad, and sure enough, later in the ground work, when Blake got after her for not yielding her hindquarters appropriately, Beth let loose with a nasty double-barreled shot (which missed the target, thankfully). You can see some of her pissy attitude here.Beth did, however, settle down, and Blake climbed up. The first time or two, she would circle a bit, and Blake would wait until she stopped moving, then drop back down to the ground and walk away, giving her a "release" for standing. She figured out pretty quick to stand quietly for him to mount the whole way (a must-have bit of horsie manners).Lateral bending exercises, first at the stand-still, then at the walk. Beth is listening well to the snaffle. After a few circles, though, another problem arose: Beth had gotten her tongue over the bit. She fussed about it with her head a bit, but didn't do anything naughty, which was good on her part. Blake climbed down and corrected the bridle placement, and got back up. He did a few more circles and figure-eights and called it good.Blake commented that making sure Beth was in the right frame of mind to work was essential, but that it was taking less and less time every workout. If she gets a day off (for weather, or his "real" job) she back-slides a little, but generally she is ready after 15 or 20 minutes of ground work. He likes her athleticism and willingness to learn , once in the right mood. He agrees with me that she needs a regular job to do, and some consistency in her work.

By the time we got home, I was done in for the day, so Al did chores and made himself some pizza, and I collapsed for the night.

On Sunday, the only exciting thing I got accomplished was introducing Maddie to Jackson's "herd." He and Kate have been together now a week, and it was time for Maddie to join them. I expected lots of hi-jinx from them when I let them out, as they've been royally silly all week in their separate pastures.
But no.
Poor undernourished things have to immediately feeding their faces.

When Beth returns from Wild Winds, she'll go in with the bunch. I'll still separate Jackson for his grain/supplements in the evenings, because none of the girls is going to give him any slack, just because he's kewt! Mama Misty and RT are both on the south side of the barn with 24/7 access to their pasture. But the girls don't need quite that option: Looking at Kate from the rear the other day, her round butt-cheeks made me think of an illustration from the story James and the Giant Peach!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beth Goes to School

Two weeks ago, when I took Maddie up to Wild Winds Ranch for the KVTR clinic, she wasn't alone in the trailer: little sister Beth came along, and was unceremoniously left behind when we left. She is there for a 30-day start to her riding career. If Blake can put the first rides on her, to the point that she has basic control and we have a little bit off an idea how she'll behave, then I can take over with some "wet-saddle-blanket time" until I can get her sold.

So far, Blake has been working primarily on Beth's attitude. At first he felt it was mostly fear-based, but I knew better: yes, this was her first time off the farm, and the first person besides me to work with her. But once she settled in, Blake learned what a little snot she can be! The first week was sort of a write-off, with snow preventing all but two days work. Then last week they really got down to business establishing respect and expectations for human "space," and Saturday Blake got on her for the first time--mostly just up and down a few times, then a few hesitant walk steps. She cooperated for that, so Blake called it good and put her up.

Sunday, I went out to see her progress. Blake worked her a bit from the ground, to gain her cooperation. Here, Beth has had both the lead rope and the mecate reins come undone from the saddle. We decided to let her go on a minute, to gauge her reaction to the trailing ropes--no problem!
Then Blake climbed on. Beth looks pretty relaxed.
Because Beth doesn't yet know any cues from the saddle, Blake's wife Annette moved to the center of the round pen, to give the "forward" and "turn" cues that Blake has taught Beth. Then he did about 20 minutes of walking, with lots of turns, to establish basic control and cooperation. The one glitch in the ride comes at about 1:20 in this video. Our first thought was that Annette got just a little out of position, and Beth felt too much pressure. But watching the video, I think it looks more like something spooked her from outside the ring. At any rate, she scooted a bit, but didn't really buck. She stood quietly while Blake reorganized, and then went on to finish the ride with a good attitude.
Standing at the "tree of knowledge" to let the lesson "soak."
One worn out pony!

In other happenings from the weekend:
Sunday afternoon Pat rode Rusty down from her place, and I saddled up Kate, and we put Jackson between us for his first lesson in being ponied. Kate's first time as a pony horse, too. Once we got everybody lined up facing the same direction, and Jackson figured out that he couldn't be the leader, we made a couple of circuits of the arena and finished with a good whoa.

I also had someone come to look at Maddie on Saturday, so I got a couple of easy rides in after school last week. Another ride and a bath Saturday morning, and she was ready. Unfortunately, she wasn't quite what the gal was looking for--she wanted a more "floaty" dressage-type trot, not Maddie's western pleasure jog. Oh well. I was pleased with how nicely Maddie worked.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jackson's got a new BFF

I'm just about to start turning everyone out on pasture, so I decided it was time to introduce Jackson to his herd. I particularly wanted him to meet Kate, as I hope to teach them about ponying soon, so I can start taking Jackson out on trail rides with her. Maddie isn't as solid yet out in the open, and, though Kate is still pretty green, she's also pretty steady, so we'll start here at home first--but that's another post.

I turned Kate in with Jackson on Sunday afternoon to see what would happen. They've only met before briefly, over the arena fence, and Kate has always pretty much been at the opposite end of the barn. Her first (and pretty much only) priority (poor starved thing) was cleaning up his feed tire.
Gramma Laurie, what is this big dun lump doin in mah pen?!?
She smells like a horsie.
She smells like a GIRLIE horsie!
Leave me alone, kid.
Come back! I thin I luv you!
Nock it off, squirt!
OK. But wil you be mah fren?
Ahm eatin, kid. Doan bodder me.

Jackson did make a few half-hearted efforts to mount her, but Kate quickly and gently let him know that wasn't acceptable.

I have a long and slightly boring video of the event, but I haven't quite figured out how to edit my videos and YouTube was not behaving itself yesterday. (I tried to upload it THREE times!) So it will have to wait 'til later.
Anyway, here's to life on the farm...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Over the River and Through the Sagebrush...

Well, we had a blustery cold spring day for the Kittitas Valley Trail Riders' clinic at Wild Winds Ranch, northwest of Ellensburg. We had gotten several inches of snow on Friday, but in town and even at our place farther south, it had pretty well melted off by the end of the day. Not at Wild Winds: they had to shovel out the round pen and drag it to dry it out enough to work the horses.

Blake Coady has been training (and horseshoeing) for 18-20 years, starting out with a background of John Lyons methods, and incorporating other techniques as they came to him. He currently draws a lot from Clinton Anderson's "Lungeing for Respect" and describes becoming the "lead horse" for your horse (rather than either a predator or a competitor).

After a little bit of work with a horse he has had in for training, Blake brought Maddie in, as she had been being quite fussy at the trailer, and we thought it might be good for her to have something to do. Blake started her off with some free lungeing to loosen her up and get her working and paying attention. He considers "air" a good motivator, and after only a few minutes the out-of-shape little girl was looking for some, and more interested in figuring out what Blake wanted.
Back in the halter, Blake asked Maddie to face up...
and started working on having her yield, first her hindquarters,
then, working her between himself and the fence, her forehand.
This was important work that would be a major focus for Maddie if she were there for training: crowding Blake with her shoulders, especially the right, became quite an issue a little later at the creek.
Working first the forehand then the hindquarters, Blake soon had Maddie sidepassing along the fence.
After about half an hour, Maddie was put at the "tree of knowledge" tie spot outside the round pen to think on her lesson (you can see the little bay "Myst" there, waiting her turn in the demo in some of the above photos).

After working Myst and then a great lunch of goulash and salad (and a warm-up in the wall tent with woodstove), the group of 18 observers relocated across the road to Reecer Creek. This was the main issue I wanted to work with Maddie on, after the momentous delay she caused crossing a small creek last summer on a KVTR ride in Robinson Canyon.

First Blake led Maddie towards the creek, to judge just where her "sticking point" was: she got as far as the muddy footing just before the water, about the same as last summer's debacle.
Blake backed off a bit and did some of the same back-and-forth "lungeing for respect" and then worked his way slowly towards the creek again. Maddie got quieter and more cooperative until she got back to that mud. Then, several times, she tried to bully her way past Blake, usually with her right shoulder.
Blake patiently kept at it until she was back the the dreaded mud, then let her rest a bit, when her attitude was quiet, and she was facing the creek objective.
Then he asked for forward again.
Blake had hoped he could direct her into the cold water on her own, but ended up with wet boots when Maddie wouldn't quite go there (literally). [Maddie never got to the point of four feet in a tiny square at the edge of the water, circus-elephant-style, like last summer.]
When she made even the slightest effort, he rewarded her with a brief rest. Notice her positive attitude and willingness to check the water out.
Then, in somewhat of a anti-climax, Maddie just strode through the rushing creek.
And back.
and again. Notice the slack in the leadrope, and her relaxed demeanor. [Also, notice it was snowing on us at this point!]
And a well deserved rest--IN the creek.
And the crowd roared in approval!