Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Horse Work

There was a lady with us on the trail ride I took Dandy on last month. She was interested in buying him, and was there specifically to watch how the horse worked. She came back a few days later to watch us work in the arena. I guess she liked what she saw, because she bought him the next day. The fellow I work for sold him with a 30 day garauntee, and she still has him. Seems like it worked out well for all of us.

The next couple of projects were a speed racking horse, just retired from the race track, and a young walking horse. The speed racker did not work out at all. Her ground manners are atrocious, and she is much too excitable for the experience level of the riders at this stable. She rode well the first time, but had to be held securely while I mounted. The second time up, she was bucking and rearing before I was even in the saddle. Her owner still had her head, but he called for me to bail out. At several decades past the teenage bronc stomper I used to be, I followed his advice. This one is up for sale now.

The young walking horse is a tall, strikingly beautiful, pinto mare. She also has poor ground manners, but that's curable with work. Once under tack, she is fairly well behaved, and works well on the trail. Her owner, and the lady who is leasing her want to put her in the local amateur horse show, so I'm working on her consistency in the arena. I've worked her twice now. She is very responsive, picking up on voice commands and neck reining. She does need to learn to hold her gait until she's commanded to change it.

Tonight, I'm visiting a friend to help him work the winter kinks out of his horse. Life is good.

Trail Ride (Dandy pt 2)

Took Dandy on the trail Wednesday. Before that, he's had lots more ground work, and a little more saddle time. It's been too wet and slippery to try pushing him into a trot. But, I've been anxious to see what the foxtrot is like. We worked on his "walk and whoa" some more, and rode around the farm exploring his new surroundings. He has startled at some new things, but never spooked. After his initial reaction, his curiosity gets the best of him, and it's easy to coax him toward whatever it is. By Wednesday afternoon, the ground had dried, and the weather was beautiful. About a dozen folks gathered at the farm to ride the local trails. We put Dandy into the trailer with the rest and headed out.

He was a little more excitable than usual at the trailhead. But, there was a lot more going on than he has been accustomed to. As usual though, it was a simple thing to settle him down. He stood calmly while I mounted, with other horses and riders milling about. We even caught up a loose horse like he had been doing it all his life. Most of the others were on Walking Horses, and they rode out at a brisk pace. Once everyone was lined out, and we had room to work, I gave the command "trot", and kept the leg pressure longer than normal. Dandy first instinct was to follow the herd and he moved out at a stiff trot. I pulled him in a little, and he fought the bit briefly. But, it wasn't long before he settled into the gait his breed is famous for. I can only describe it as halfway between a good Walking Horse rack, and an easy western pleasure jog. Unlike the Walking Horses, he worked on a loose rein, which I am much more comfortable with in a trail horse. Dandys' youth and inexperience told on him though. He doesn't yet have the endurance to hold his foxtrot for any length of time. I tried to anticipate when he would run out of steam, and give the verbal command "walk" just before he slowed down. This, just to reinforce an association of commands with gait changes.

We crossed three wooden bridges successfully. The first, he tried to avoid. His owner rode up on another horse, and spoke to Dandy. We rode across together, with Dandy stepping gingerly. The second, I gave him his head, and he stepped across willingly, although he kept his head down, investigating the flooring all the way. The third had guardrails, and he hesitated, but crossed it easily as well.

I found out that he has a competitive personality. He doesn't like to be passed on the trail. He's not aggressive, he just moves over and hogs the trail. I had to stay after him to keep to one side while folks went past us. We rode about 8 miles, and worked up a good honest sweat. After 4 miles, he decided he did not need to keep up with the herd after all. We walked the rest of the way.

Thursday, I gave him a good liniment rubdown, and worked on ground hitching. I was only able to spend about an hour with him. By the end of that time, he would stay in place for just under a minute while I gradually moved away from him. Smart horse. He catches on really fast.

Dandys' First Ride

March 11, 2010

Had a good day in the saddle. Dandy is a Missouri Foxtrotter, a breed I have no experience with. He is four years old, and has never been ridden until today. His previous owner did a wonderful job starting him off. He has excellent ground manners. His new owner saddled, and worked him on the longe line a bit last weekend. I've continued his groundwork since Monday. He's gotten lots of grooming and leading around his new digs, getting used to the people and machinery. I sacked him out with an old saddle blanket and a big over sized flannel shirt. Tuesday, he was introduced to the bit. I used a tiny snaffle, and put some grape jelly on it for good measure. We worked with the blanket and shirt again for a while. Then, I stepped into the stirrup and draped myself over the saddle several times. He has stood calmly for all of this.

Today, I gave him a good grooming and saddled him up again. I used a larger, rubber coated D ring snaffle this time. We worked with the big shirt for a while, just to start with something he is familiar with. I draped myself over the saddle a few more times, then climbed on board. He didn't quite know what to make of it, but he is not spooky at all. In fact, he wouldn't move at all. To get him to move forward, his owner led him as I gave a verbal and leg cue to move out. After a couple of turns around the ring, we had transferred the ground cues to rider cues, and Dandy was working without being led. We worked about 2 hours. By the time we were done, He would walk out mostly with only a verbal cue. Occasionally, he would need slight leg pressure. Early on, I could feel the tension in his back. He was relaxed by the end of the session. When he would get bored with the "walk" and "whoa" drill, I worked with the big shirt from the saddle. I can take the shirt off, put it back on, and wave it around while he's standing or walking. We finished up with several mounts and dismounts. Dandy is a very intelligent horse, and a pleasure to work with.