Thursday, January 31, 2013

Razz

Last week my barn manager got contacted by people who found out that she had arabians.  They wanted to give away their 14yo arabian gelding.  The wife was pregnant with her first child and her husband was being deployed as soon as she gave birth. 

As brand new horse owners keeping a horse in their backyard the wife didn't think she could handle a horse and a baby.  They  had no idea how much work breaking water from troughs in the winter was, or that horses grew so much hair when it got cold.

They had bought Razz from someone that put some extensive training on him, and he hadn't managed to kill anyone so far so I thought he'd make a good horse for kids or beginners.  His owner didn't know a curb bit from a snaffle, what the opening was on the headstall (for his ear), or other things that horse people would consider basic.  They had taken pretty good care of them, they had a shed in their back yard he could stay in if the weather was bad, his feet were decent, and he'd been free ranging in a large pasture all summer. With lots of grass.  Lots and lots of grass.

Razz waddled when he walked. 


It was hard asking questions since his owners didn't really know much.  She plopped around on him in his pasture, some kids that worked at a dog kennel on the property would ride him bareback, and someone had taken him on a solo trail ride to Brown County (the fact that he made it back alive as fat as he was seemed like a good sign).  She had taken him to a show and contested him, but he was scared of the barrels.  Since he had a nice little jog and neck reined pretty decent I surmised that poor Razz had only done showing in rail classes and had never seen a barrel in his life before his beginner owner pointed him at one!  Also a good sign that she stayed on and seemed to have fun.

He did seem a bit spoiled, they stood at the gate and coaxed him over with cookies, and when he pulled away they let  him wander off and come back when he was ready.  He was a little girthy but his saddle fit poorly and he'd been out of work for 2 months.

He rode just fine, very quiet despite the crappy weather, jogged off when I asked him to, neck reined.  All quite rusty considering.  I asked for a canter but didn't get it, but the footing was bad so I didn't mind.  Maybe next time I'll look a little more professional but it was cold!  He jogged nicely in hand so I think someone did some showmanship or halter type classes with him.

The only issue I had was when I dismounted him he tried to leave for his pasture of delicious grass before I was off so we spun in a few circles then I backed him up  hard when he tried to do it again.  He was very surprised I got after him but went right back to being quiet.  His owner said if he did that with her she would have just let him go.  Which probably explains why he does it. 

I always hate to suggest a horse would make a good kid's horse.  I mean they're giant hairy animals who are scared of plastic bags. How kid safe could that be?  What if he bucked when he lost some weight, or something else?  However, I felt fairly confident that he'd be a good kid's horse after a month with a trainer and some lessons.

Cathy and I started networking him and there should be a few people going to try him out today.  He's older but he's quiet and the neckreining and tidy jog should help him out.  I'll keep the blog updated if someone takes him.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brrrrr

Annie has been on vacation for the last couple weeks.

The week after my lesson I spent on Penny teaching her to free lunge, stand at the mounting block, and make it past the scary horse eating door.  First day free lunging she took forever to "join up" and stop running around frantically.  I worked her for half the time she usually works in sidereins and she was steaming.  Second day she "joined up" much quicker and was willing to walk and stop to hang out, she made it further and further toward the scary end of the arena (who needs a roundpen when the scary end renders half the arena off limits).  There were a few OMG! moments when she slowed her roll, dropped her head and neck, and worked over her back.  Wowwza! Fancy mover!  I couldn't believe the quality of trot that I saw.  I think she made a fatal error there, never show me that you have potential for more because I'm going to expect it from then on!

Last week I declared it "too bloody cold to ride" as the high was about 15 for a couple days, then I barn sat the end of the weekend.  I can handle barn sitting and riding if I have a goal and the weather is nice, but by the time I get done bashing ice out of buckets and hand carrying water to stalls I have neither the time nor the desire!  I hope to get back to riding this week. 

I was able to ride a friend's horse last Sunday to school him a bit and it was a refreshing change of pace.  He's kind of like a 2 X 4 under saddle, perfectly straight with no bend in his jaw, neck, or body.  The unusual thing is it was almost a bonus.  Since he was so rigid, and since he was obedient to the leg I was able to do some wicked tail to the wall and head to the wall leg yields and really feel the sideways movement and crossover.  I also got to see how much the suppling exercises I learned from Jane Savoie would help a non bending horse and not just a bendy horse that was locked in the poll.   It gave me lots to think about for when I get back on Annie.  Annie's kind of like pushing a wet noodle up a hill.  You bend her and she squirts out in all sorts of other directions. 

We have another roller coaster of a weather pattern this coming week but there should be some good riding days wedged in there at least. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bootcamp

Last Sunday I had a jumping lesson with LAZ and I'm just now getting around to recapping it so my apologies.

I knew that this would be a tough lesson (are any LAZ lessons NOT tough?).  I hadn't been doing a ton of jumping particularly because I've been taking it easy, I have not had the money or time, and I've been worried that Annie was lame and/or grumpy.  All these things combined with Annie getting very sucked back and I knew I was in store for Bootcamp.  Which was exactly why it was high time for a lesson!

I thought that Annie was plenty forward but LAZ did not so I had to work on really driving her forward and making her toes flick.  We worked really hard on being straight and the correct bend, especially to the right. I had to hold my right rein short and anchor my hand on the mane to prevent her from popping her shoulder out, this is a bit of an emergency trick as it's like being your own siderein but it really works fantastic for a horse that just insists on bulging its shoulder and ignoring your leg.  It forces the horse to keep its shoulder in line and lets you be in more control.  One of the best riding secrets I've learned hands down.  It really makes the horses angry at first because they avoid going where you want them to by escaping through their shoulders.  Horses steer themselves from the shoulders and neck almost more then by their heads and controlling those things means controlling where they go.

Our lack of forward came into play when we started jumping as well, if I couldn't get Annie forward into the lines then we ate the distance, and if I couldn't swap leads through the trot and get her cantering again we also ate the distance and floundered over the fences. 

We were working on sort of a figure 8 exercise.  Come up centerline, jump a 3 stride down the center, go right, jump the centerline then bend left over a fence on the diagonal, go left then jump down the centerline and turn to jump a fence to the right.  It will make much  more sense when you see the video!

It got worse as she started to get tired and grumpy and she started "talking back" hard to me by doing her usual kicks and angry faces, I had a hard time reacting right because well, ummmm, I was worried about getting flung off!  So when she ignored me I wasn't right there with a correction and that gave her an edge. 

One thing that gave me an edge was "sending her forward into contact"  to ask for the canter and do it with the intention of sending her into the bridle at the canter.  When I could do this we had much better transitions.

We took a long break while LAZ went to take care of something (and I secretly hoped she wouldn't come back) and then she came back for another round of jumping.  I'm not sure if the person after me ran late so I got extra time, or if the break was deliberate because LAZ knew what would happen. 

What happened was Annie thought she was done and had a hissy fit.  We floundered over our first fences, we kicked down the long side, we nailed a fence in the pony legs, and finally we got forward enough and had a good ride.

To sum it all up I learned that I really CAN stay on when she performs her grumpy kicks and I am not being nearly firm enough with sending her forward when she says "no"  it was a fantastic lesson and we were both dripping wet after. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sidereins Monday

Alternative title, "Annie hates Mondays!"

Monday is the only day I have the ring to myself so it's a better day to do anything that might involve me stirring up a lot of dust or running over someone else. 

After a lesson with Nancy where I discussed my difficulty getting Annie to do her canter transitions with her head in a reasonable location she suggested teaching it in sidereins.  She thought that with fixed sidereins and the backing of a lunge whip I could cement the connected transition in Annie's mind without having to worry about staying on!  It also might help with her sulking behind the contact and trying to buck. 

So far it seems to be working, Annie isn't really stretching down into the sidereins but she's not refusing to move or grumping at them either.  She finds the canter transition difficult but she is actually doing it although it's obviously more difficult for her to the right.

One thing that has zero improvement is her downward transition to the walk which she still does by sticking her head up as far as possible and ramming her mouth against the bit.  Hopefully after a few more Siderein Mondays she will get the picture.  Interesting how the downward transition to the slowest gait is the hardest place to keep the contact.  Due to the lack of forwardness?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More blanket, less grump and new horse!

Well, I'm not %100 sure that moving Annie into a midweight blanket did the trick (I also added a few days of work on the lunge in sidereins) but I have a newer and improved Annie.  Or at least an Annie somewhat more like the Annie I had before it started to get cold.  I theorize that the more intense work on contact into the canter wasn't explained right to her, causing her to start to be grumpy, then we added cold temps and not enough blanketing causing her to be tense AND Grumpy. 

With the addition of the midweight blanket I no longer feel like I'm riding a hairy ball of anger.  Yes, she still takes about 10 minutes to warm up and stop snorting, and yes the far end of the arena is still awfully spooky, but after I get it sorted out she's working long in the contact and swinging with her back. I have the left lead canter back, and I sort of have the right lead.  I'm still getting lots of grump, so I think we really did take a step backward there as it's almost like it was when I was first working on getting a right lead at all.  I hope that by the end of next week we're back to normal.

On another note I took a spin on Cathy's new horse Penny.  This was the horse I found for Cathy and then took a test spin on.  She's back from the trainer and it's time to get her working.  She seems to be quite a fidgity horse and is quite upset about being worked.  Not "AHHH" someone's going to kill me upset, but not really looking forward to the work upset.  I got on her to feel what Cathy was feeling and to see if I could get her to chill out a bit. 

It's my working theory that you have to ride down a tense and upset horse for a few days.  If you ride a horse like that for 10 minutes or 40 minutes it just remembers being tense and upset, not how long you stayed on.  If it's head is up in the air and its back is dropped and it is braced in the bridle rushing around it remembers that.  If you get on and stay on for as long as it takes for the horse to slow down a bit and lower its head a bit because it is tired then you have a start.  The horse remembers that it ended the ride with its head lowered and that it was relaxed (through being to tired to not relax!) Then the next day you get back on, you have an advantage because the horse is probably a bit tired and sore from the day before and doesn't really feel like running like a fool so it doesn't take as long, and you get off as soon as the horse is relaxed.  After the third or fourth ride you establish a pattern of ending each ride sooner while being relaxed and you break the cycle of nerves.  Then you give the horse a few days off and hopefully it sticks.   It doesn't make the horse fit because you don't keep it up, and although it might make both of you a bit tired for a few days it does no damage. 

In this video Penny has started to get tired.  She's not tired enough to slow down her mile a minute trot or to really process everything but she's tired enough that she's exploring putting her head down at the trot and the walk.  This she will remember.  She isn't doing anything on the dressage table but I can see and feel glimmers of what she will be like once she relaxes.  The next day Cathy got on and she was much quieter to ride and less tense. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Horse auction review

It's been a New Year's day tradition for many years to attend the Rushville Sale Barn's auction on this day.  Usually we sit around freezing half to death, you can get some good deals on basic barn needs, tack, and saddles (if you ride western) and you can pick up a horse.

I think attending low level auctions helps to keep things realistic.  Some people that that nothing but junk goes through auctions, and sometimes they are right.  Some people think that nothing but fancy horses goes through, and sometimes they too are right.  I have seen very very nice horses pass through the sale barns. They appear to be sound, young, nice looking horses.  I have also seen very lame or very dangerous horses.  When you think of the large variety of horses that pass through auctions, and how many will pass through, you begin to realize that the horse slaughter issue is a problem that can't be fixed by lots of luvs and cuddles. 

I would NEVER suggest that someone purchase a horse at an auction unless they really knew what they were doing, it's easy to get something rank or lame.  I think that "pasture pets" are your best bet, nobody's been on its back to muck it up in the mind or make it lame.  If you're looking for an OTTB those show up quite a bit as well, but you don't have the benefit of a PPE.  You do have the upper hand because the folks at Rushville don't take kindly to TBs.  Having papers doesn't really mean much.  They do like palominos, paints, and pretty much anything gaited no matter how ugly it is. 

The price for horses has been about the same, closure of plants in the US has not reduced the number of horses or the prices by much.  At Rushville anything going to slaughter aways goes to the auction house owner under the same number each week.  If you're there and something pulls on your heartstrings you can always wait and see if someone in the crowd buys it, or if #7 does, then you can buy it (for an additional fee of course) later. 

This year was a very small sale and most of the horses were in good condition considering the weather.  I managed to take some pictures and get the prices so here is what I saw.

Bay 12yo Paso Fino mare, grumpy next to other horses. Very rideable but lots of go  $135


16 hand Chestnut OTTB 10yo ridden western, very ribby, $50 to the killer

Black 14hand pony mare 7yo $125 to the killer



15yo Bay Gelding enormous ugly head but had a nice head set and lope, someone finished him out well  $170

5yo 10 hand paint pony (almost mini sized).  Could not bear weight on one hind leg, someone said he'd been kicked by the paso mare.  $20 to someone who felt sorry for him


Nice looking palomino gelding, sold out back under the table for $750


6yo paint mare, very flashy, nice looking horse.  Ridden in  $140


Welsh type bay pony gelding probably a "medium" , last horse in, broke to ride $40 to the killer



4yo registered halflinger mare (Mr J RH as the sire?), did not ride but said to be green broke to drive double.  Owned by an older man who said she was too green.  Very nice sport horse type mare.  Had been in shoes all around but had one remaining shoe on one hind foot.  $400