Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gate success

While on pony, you can open any gate. She's a pro at it. Except, you have to want it.

She's so little (around 14 hands) that there's no bending over and down involved! However, when she starts to lose it, you have to stay right with her and let her know you mean it.

And here is the result of opening that dang gate.

But man oh man, did we work on it until we opened and closed the gate behind us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ask nicely!

I think when riding horses, there is an order in which you should achieve what you want from your horse.

Step one : ask nicely. Say you park your car in the wrong place. And someone comes in and starts yelling at you to move it. Wouldn't you rather if they came in and nicely asked you to move it? Rather than just jumping to screaming at you?

Step two : AFTER you have asked nicely, ask with a little pressure. I really don't have a good metaphor to give you here.

Step three : tell them what you want them to do and don't take no for a chance.

I know many horses that if you spur them, they won't go, but if you just ask with your voice commands and a small squeeze, they will go no problem.

In your relationship with your horse, you expect to be respected by them. You expect them to look to you as the boss. However, you cannot expect to receive respect if you don't give respect.

So always keep in mind that its best to start nicely, respectfully, and add more 'umph' when they don't listen to you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Can't let the bad days get you down!

Well, today sucked.

Lets just be blunt.  I'm having small, stupid, annoying, and a normal relationship fight with the boyfriend.

And lets be honest, it's hard to get yourself out of that funk when you get into it!

I asked my trainer for a bareback lesson, and she said she was available for it today.

You know how when you close your eyes, or when you envision yourself with your horses, there's that one perfect moment you want to have, or one perfect thing you want to do.

Some people may want to gallop through a field of flowers.  Some people may want to be able to do a 17 second barrel run.  Some people may want to jump that certain height jump.  Some may want to be able to gallop through a pasture and jump a picnic table.  Who knows! But everyone has that thing that I'm talking about.

Mine, is to be a great bareback rider.  I want to be able to ride just as well bareback as I can with a saddle.  I don't know why, but since I began riding, that has been the one thing that is sooo important to me.  Stupid huh?

Anyways, I have no problem walking and trotting bareback (depending on the horses trot, the halflinger is terrible!)  Its really the lope/canter that I want to work on.  I've done it on a few horses, but never long enough to settle into it.  Usually just enough to do a quick lap hanging on and then stop before I fell off (or like last January when I stopped because I did fall off.....and broke my tailbone...)

So really, my goal for my lesson was to settle into  a lope while bareback.  I suppose I should have made my expectations clear.  I expected her to possibly put me on a different horse, since the horse I am currently leasing is small, forward and quick.  However, she told me to go get pony and get groomed.  Once we got into the arena, she told me that the one thing with pony is I would probably run into trouble loping her.  She herself hasn't really loped her more than once or twice bareback before (and  she's owned her for 8 years).  Pony has very little surface area, and while she is smooth, she is very forward, and while trotting, she'll slow down if you lose balance, but while loping she is much more likely to go faster if you lose balance.   I suppose, right then I should have told her that was why I wanted a bareback lesson.

However, after the fight with the boyfriend I wasn't feeling up to putting myself out there.  And of course, afterwards, I felt pretty crappy with myself.  I paid to have a lesson to learn stuff I have already learned.  And it was totally not my trainers fault.  It was because I decided not to communicate clearly.

But I guess you can't let one crappy day get you d

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ask, and you shall receive.

Today, I went to ride pony, and it was awesome!

Pony is a 13 year old BLM mustang. She's super forward, and so much fun! The more you get tight and clench, and hold her mouth, the less she responds. So she really is a lesson in using your body to direct them!

She was a bit on the lazy side today (probably because she had been eating when I went to get her!) which is totally unlike her.

So, while loping I asked for a stop. She stops nice. Its not a sliding stop at all, but when you ask, she'll trot a step and take a step of walking and then stop. Which is quite nice for such a forward horse!

However, the next stop I had her do, I didn't release pressure until she had backed up a few steps.

This is totally my favorite exercise with a horse! It is such a simple way to help your horse know what you mean and how to achieve it. For anyone who doesn't know what that does, it basically teaches them to get their butt underneath themselves when they stop. It's easier for them to stop more efficiently, and most horses get it ASAP.

And oh man, did pony get it! I did that with her once, and the next time I asked for a stop from her lope, she planted those feet in the ground and I NEARLY flew over her neck! It surprised me that she did what I asked for so quickly! After such a great stop from her, we cooled off and she was done for the day!

Here are a few pictures of her. She's very nosy...teehee. I also braided her before I put her back. With the first rain, came massive knots!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don't kid yourselves about providing for horses - if you can't do it, let someone else!

Horses are the most high maintenance animals ever. I don't think anyone that is a horse person can disagree! Please, let me know if you have an animal that is more high maintenance!

With that being said, before you begin a journey into horse ownership, it's a good idea to make sure you can provide for them. There are two huge parts to this: money, and time.

Horses are expensive. It costs to buy them, feed them, board them, shoe them, tack them, show them, worm them, vaccinate them....the small things that really nickel and dime you are crazy! And then, not to mention that if they colic, get hung up in barbed wire, get beat up by another horse, get bit by a snake...all of these things could be so expensive!

So if you don't have money to care for a horse, it's honestly not responsible to buy one. And I'm not just talking short term, think about if you will have the money 5, 10 or 15 years down the road! What if they get to be super high maintenance in their older years? You owe it to your horse to continue caring for them, after everything they have done for you the years you rode.

Horses are also time consuming. You have to drive to the ranch, get them from their stall (or pasture which sucks) turn them out possibly, groom them, tack them, warm them up, give them a work out, cool them down (SOOO IMPORTANT!!!) untack them, groom them, possibly grain them, put them back, do barn chores.... And then repeat, as often as possible.

If you do not have the time commitment to provide for your horse, do not buy a horse!!!! Horses take sooo much time, and obviously it is enjoyable time, but not everyone has that much in their schedule! Horses could be worked everyday, and still be perfectly good. Horses are big and strong, and need to be stretched and made to move, otherwise they can become sour, sore or stiff.

Everyone has weeks when they can only get out once, or twice, or possibly none at all. But if that is your normal, maybe you should consider that it isn't a healthy situation for your trusty steed.

I understand that it can be scary, or sad to sell your horse! So I urge you to consider leasing if you are in either of the above situations. It astounds me that so many people have not heard of leasing. How do you think a college kid like me is able to ride!!

If you don't have the money to provide, consider finding someone who can pay half board+half shoes, or whatnot, and get your horse 3 or 4 days a week. That way, you still have access to your horse, but someone else is helping with the costs!

If you don't have time to provide for your horse, also consider a lease! If you can only get out on Saturday or Sunday, find someone who is looking for someone to ride during the week! If price is not necessarily a concern, that is always negotiable depending on the person you find to ride!!

But really, horses are amazing to us and they deserve to have their needs put up high on your list of priorities!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Young minds and big horses

I'm a nanny. I've worked with kids between 1 and 15 years old, And right now I'm with a wonderful little 3 1/2 year old boy.

Everyday, I pick up my little boy from preschool, and we go to the park. Today is a cold, crappy kind of a day, I left my book at home and am hungry. As a result, I really didn't want to go sit at the park while he played.

Usually, we go to the park every day - unless I get a report from his teacher telling me he was behaving badly in school. When I hear that, we aren't allowed to go to the park. It obviously makes him cry, whine, promise he's sorry etc, but I think it has helped him think about his actions in school if he knows it means he has no park.

So I picked him up from school today, and of course he asked if we could go play. I was about to say no, when I realized that a 3 year old doesn't understand the difference between us not going because he was badly behaved, and us not going because I'm being lazy. So I changed my answer to yes.

The same logic applies to horses...don't take away their reward because of your personal problems etc. For example, if you are trying to have them have more speed, or endurance or whatever, and don't have much time, don't take away their breaks because you don't have time! Work your horse hard, and increase towards your goal a little. But they are still doing what you ask, and trying their hardest, so you need to recognize that and give them their reward.

Otherwise, they don't understand why they don't get a reward. They think that they did a bad job and it wasn't what you wanted and they are getting punished for it.

Just some food for thought! I find myself giving my horse less breaks etc when we're on a good role, or when they're doing something awesome! But it should be the other way around!

Incentive : how much is needed and when

Everyone has been in that position. Your at the barn, you see someone having a fight with their horse. The horse won't do what they want, so they're tapping them with the crop, or kicking them, squeezing them, and they end up with an hour long ride of nothing but fighting with and irritating their horse.

I am a very confident rider, so when I see this there is nothing I want more than to tell them what to do, or get on their horse and do it. However, I obviously have to use my discretion when deciding if its a good thing to offer help or what not to a fellow rider. And obviously I always present it in a less condescending way than I have in this post. Because everyone has a bad day of riding.

The solution, the way I see it, is to show them quickly that you mean business, be a tad bit harsh, and then, get along the rest of your ride.

For example, I used to ride a halflinger. He was typical pony and draft. He had attitude, he was stubborn, and he could work for hours. But, if you treated him with respect, he would give you everything he had. If you rode him long enough and the right way, he would do anything for you.

I can remember two days in particular that make a great example of what I am trying to explain.

Day one : we were fighting. He didn't wanna work, and I was having a lazy day, and because of that, he was slacking off. I would ask for a trot, he'd give me a few steps then walk. This continued for a while. I was constantly on him, kicking him, urging him, squeezing, and getting all sorts of frustrated. He was never getting a break, because he would trot stop trot stop etc. I wasn't getting a break, because even on my lazy days, I don't want to lose a simple 'keep going' battle. Do you think my horse had fun that day? I bet not.

Day two : the halflinger wasn't exactly there ready to work. He was just there. He gave me a few little 'testing me' things, but then when I asked for a lope, he picked it up then stopped. I asked again, and he did the most unbearable ugly trot ever. So what was my response? I reached my hand back and I smacked his behind as hard as I could muster. From then on out for the rest of our ride, he was an angel. Since he was so well behaved, he got lots of breaks and rubs and scratches and good boys. Do you think that maybe this ride was more enjoyable to him and me?

With that being you think that had I smacked him hard on day one he would have listened? I think in the beginning he would have, but at the end of day one he wouldn't have. He had already realized I was lazy that day. He knew he could be stubborn and I was going to basically pass our trying to get him to work. It was a game for him. (It sucks when our horses are smarter than us huh?)

The moral of my story, is that I feel like it is much more brutal to constantly be nagging on your horse, and much more humane and nice to give them a good attitude adjustment once. Because yes, I smacked him, but lets be honest, it was enough to make him go, but if a horse can withstand a horse kick, me smacking it isn't going to do any damage.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Headstrong and Stubborn

Today, I went to the ranch to ride with an older friend.  She is in her 50's, and is not very commanding of her horse.  She has two horses: a morgan, and an appendix paint.

The morgan is the sweetest of sweet, she wouldn't hurt a fly.  However, her typical morgan personality is intimidating for my friend.  In the arena, they don't have much of a problem, but on the trail she is very hard to handle.  In the arena, she is very forward, and it is somewhat intimidating.  She has smooth gaits, it is just hard because of the intimidating factor of her forward moving.

Her paint is a big horse.  He's that horse that everyone has come into contact with.  He's deemed 'the safest horse on the ranch'.  He's super sluggish, doesn't want to move out at all, seems like he wouldn't hurt a fly, but there's that glint in his eye.  That glint of intimidation.  He's the horse that my friend primarily rides, he's calm and slow on the trail, he's calm and slow in the arena, and she has a very hard time motivating him.  She used to ride with spurs, but wanted to learn to ride effectively without them.  So now she is stuck in this weird in between area where she isn't great at riding without spurs, because she is not strong enough to stand up to him.  She is completely aware of this fact, so she doesn't get into fights with him when she doesn't intend to follow through.

I feel as though if you are not a strong, confident rider, thats okay.  As long as you are aware of it.  If you know that your horse doesn't like to back up over a pole, or open a gate, step on top of something, or pace another horse, then don't get into the fight with them if you don't intend to end the fight your way.  Once you have come to this realization, you will be a much happier horse person! If there is something you really want to work on, or make your horse do, ask for help if you don't think you can end the fight your way.

Some people may not understand why I think its so important to end the fight your way.  This is soooo important because the second you let your horse know that you don't intend to follow through, the learn that they can get what they want.  And letting your horse have what they want, is definitely the right times.  Our horses are great to us, they carry us around for hours, they run, they walk, they jog, they spin. But giving them what they want, should be a form of reward.  They should get to do what they want, give them a break, after they have completed what you asked of them.  After all, you do pay unimaginable amounts to give them a good home, the human should get what they want first!

Anyways, my friend likes to lunge her paint before she rides him.  He is still youngish (10) so she likes to quickly lunge him as a way of waking him up and getting him focused.  She only does a quick few circles, I don't believe in people lunging their horses to tire them before they ride them, only in a few cases.

However, lately since her trainer moved to a different barn, she has had a very tough time getting him to lunge.  He is stubborn and headstrong, and when she asks him to move out, he simply plants his front feet, looks at her, and pivots his back feet when she gets after him with the whip.  He knows she will get exhausted, give up, and he won't have to work.  So today, she asked me to try and lunge him.

He did to me, exactly what he did to her.  He planted his front feet right in front of me, and pivoted his back legs when I put pressure on him with the whip.  He was blatantly putting a huge  'F you' out there, and saying he didn't respect me, or care about what I was asking him for.

Honestly, I was flabbergasted, and had no idea how to remedy the situation.  If I am ever in over my head, I will always ask for help.  But since my friend was having the same problem, I figured turning around and asking her what to do probably wasn't going to be helpful, and I got myself into this argument, and I wanted to get myself out of it with my dignity, knowing I did a good job.

So my first question to myself is "what is the goal?'
The answer? To get him moving around me doing what I ask of him.

The largest problem I saw, was the fact that he was not moving.  He was not doing what I asked of him, so I figured the first thing I needed to do was to get him moving.  Any type of movement is better than no movement, if lunging is the goal.

So, my remedy to the situation? I took off the lunge line from his halter, and I got in his face.  If he was going to stand there in my face, I was going to get right back in his.  I cracked the whip on the ground, and when he started to retreat, I continued until he was actively moving.  Once he was actively moving, I stopped him, put his lunge line back on him, and there we go, problem solved.  He then let me easily lunge him.

This particular problem wasn't all that difficult.  I solved it pretty easily, and I was pretty proud of myself if I do toot my own horn.

In this situation, I think I used great horsemanship.  I didn't hurt my horse, I didn't make him work until he was ready to pass out.  I didn't punish him for the "F you" he gave me.  I simply corrected the situation, put pressure on him until he decided my way was easier, and when he gave me what I asked for, I let him have what he wanted. Which was to have a break.

I feel like that is a demonstration of good horsemanship, and that is ultimately what sets good riders, trainers, and horse people apart from the poor ones.

And here, are the two beauties I rode with today!

About Me

Hey all!

I figure an introduction is in order!

I'm creating a blog in order to talk about my horses, horse experiences, what I've learned, and to hopefully be able to look back and remember things I learned.

I'm Marissa. I'm currently 20 years old, and only started riding about a year ago.  I grew up doing gymnastics, and caught on to riding super quickly.  In the short year that I have been riding, I started with lessons and quickly moved onto leasing and showing.  I have ridden many different breeds of horses, dealt with all sorts of temperaments, etc.  I have so much more to learn! I hope to be able to pass on the silly tidbits I've learned to other people!

I live in central california, and I completely caught the horse bug.  I love everything about them! I really believe that how much effort you put into horses, is how quickly you will learn and grow as a horse person.  I think that good horsemanship is the most important thing to learning and growing!

I ride western, but have dabbled in english and I think I am going to continue dipping my toes into the shark infested waters of prissy english riders. (No offense to cool english riders, I simply hate when they have that stigma of being better than a western rider, simply because we have a different seat or way of riding.)

Hope that gives you a little insight into me!

(I can't find the credit for this picture...if anyone knows let me know!)