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!


  1. What an interesting clinic! Thanks for the review. Yall sure are dedicated, standing around in the snow - brrr!

  2. Nice learning curve! She's looking so good.

    Hey, are you planning to come over to the Milwaukee Rail Trail ride? It's so close to you! We'll be in camp on Saturday only--not bringing horses, just going to work as pulsers to help out ride management. It'd be cool to meet up, I'm thinking!

  3. Even though I know p*ss-all about horses, I find this fascinating. I can almost hear those wheels turning in Maddie's head as she figures things out - and I laughed aloud at her sudden decision to just wade on through! Silly Maddie - gotta make it look like it was all your own idea right from the start!

  4. This was fascinating! I loved Blake's patient but firm, non-emotional approach, and Maddie's response to him. Thanks for a great post. Nothing like video to put you right in the centre of the action. Even though I no longer have a horse, there is much here that can be applied to life with Black Jack, and even to teaching.

  5. Hah! You can just see Maddie thinking to herself..."Well, gee, is this all they wanted me to do? This wasn't so hard at all." Blake did such a great job earning her trust and showing her the right thing was easier and the wrong thing harder. Must have made you so happy to see. :) just started snowing here 30 mins ago...bah! I'm sick of winter!