Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting better

At riding bareback. I've finally developed my seat, I think, with my shoulders, hips, and heels (and ears) in a straight line but still balanced. We did a lot of work on changing direction with just shifting my weight, sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn't and then I have to add the rein a bit.

We also worked on standing still, and doing one rein stops and flexing every time he would move off.

I did fall off, but I lost my balance, not a fault of him, held on to his mane and just slid off, landed on my feet. Took him back to the block, got back on, went back to work. It was over all really nice.

I prefer going bareback to riding with a saddle, I think. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Yeah, rode down the road in one direction, he spooked at a squirrel, like he wanted to turn and run, and I made him watch it run away, and then we tried to go around that corner and he did one of his I'm not going in that direction things, and then the neighbors dogs came out of the house at us, running and barking. They blocked off the road the way we had just come, and Siaga wouldn't go the other way and there were fences on either side of us, so I turned him at the dogs and walked him forward. They got to the side, we walked past, though he was skittish to walk between them.

He did his not going that way thing once we got past the house to the other direction, and I had to spank him a few times to get him going instead of backing into the ditch constantly. Managed to get down the road, up and around the hill at the end of the road, and into a field across the main road, around there, and we worked on steering, and I had him changing direction when I would look and tilt my body towards something, it was great. And then home we went, through the woods, it was nice. We went up and down a lot of hills and though going down hill in the dressage saddle was a little scary, it wasn't too bad.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Today Siaga and I had the most successful bareback ride ever. :)

I discovered that the second half of my balance issues was that I had been trying to ride with my legs too far back. I only noticed this time because I felt like I was just uncomfortable with the way my pants were, and I lifted both legs out in front and set them back down and realized I might as well have been riding with a saddle. Only without stirrups.

So we walked around the woods, doing lots of turning and bending around the trees and up and down the road. I should have had my riding crop with me, at the end he decided he wasn't going to do a damn thing but go backwards! I was a bit frustrated and vowed that I would not get off until I got him "Over there" and "stopped properly" and that took about 10 minutes to walk 20 feet because every cue I gave him, he went *rush backwards* or *sidepass really fast!*

During our ride, I felt comfortable enough (yes, bareback!) that I wanted to take him down a steep hill covered in roots, through a ditch, and up rough terrain, but I didn't, because there was the extension cord for the electricity in the barn in the way. :/

Oh well, it was a fabulous ride, and tomorrow is supposed to be nice, so maybe tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cuise control

Siaga and I haven't really learned to ride at the trot. Well, we have, and he has a beautiful trot, I just held back for so long because of being scared of his attitude and knowing the saddle would hurt his withers and shoulders with the trot. But now there is no excuse. I'm not afraid anymore, I feel I have decent control over him, and the saddle fits.

So in a few days when the weather clears up, we're going to go to one of the cleared bean fields, not the corn fields, because of the stalks, and I'm just going to ask him to trot. Just trot. I don't care where he goes so long as he stays in the field. I don't care how fast or slow he goes, so long as he's in a trot. If he slows down to a walk, squeeze, click, spank. Canter, one rein stop, restart trot. Eventually we'll get to the canter, but first it's the trot.

So basically, I don't have to worry about where we go or stopping him, I just have to keep him in a trot and find my balance. I'm really excited. It's time. It might take me a few test trots though, to make sure I can hold my balance in the saddle.

Busy busy

I was so busy at work today, trying to get everything done before it started raining. Managed to get all the normal paddocks cleaned, about a quarter of the inside of the second pasture (Second pasture has a track system around the outside. Think of a box within a box. The horses on the track system have to keep moving and pass over rocky areas to get to "feeding stations" where there is hay and a grassy wooded area in the back) and then I fed and watered the ponies and moved one of the water buckets for Bay.

I somehow managed to strain a tendon in my right hand or something, it hurts. D:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More progress

Siaga is now responding to the bit very well, in terms of direction (combined with leg aid) and woah and back up. We had a nice ride today down the road, and even dismounted to end our ride on the road rather than in the yard, because he kept trying to go in the yard, so I let him go in the yard and then worked him there, rode out on the road, stopped him, dismounted.

We did have a few spooks, including a couple barking dogs and one snarling, slinking dog. ._.

Anyways, it went very well and Siaga is fast becoming a very nice, relatively dependable trail horse.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dream horses

We've been talking about our dream horse a lot at the stable. R wants a bigger horse, probably a paint, who's responsive and well trained. The BO's dream horse, when she was younger, was a certain appaloosa. I admit my dreams are scattered, there's a whole list of breeds that I want to have one of someday, and certainly June (the haflinger mare) was one of my dream horses, the one I wanted beyond measure.

I've put a lot of thought lately (and a lot in the past) about whether or not Siaga could be my dream horse. I've thought about the "Horsey-soulmate" feeling I had with June, and I know I don't have it with Siaga. What Siaga and I have is a working partnership. Or is mostly. What we have, we've worked very hard to get for the past (almost) 7 years. Today, I saw my dream horse in him.

After attending a clinic at the stable just to watch others working with their horses with the trainer/instructor, I brought what I learned home and applied it to Siaga. You wanna know what progress we've made in the riding spectrum? Here's a quick rundown of some of the problems and how we fixed them.

*Wouldn't stand still by chair/mounting block.

For this, I would lead him up to the chair and stop him next to it, with the chair at the appropriate position for mounting in relation to his side. If he stopped a bit before or after the chair, just correct him that one step or two if you can. If he stands still, rub him, and lead him off. If he doesn't stand still, keep trying until he's standing next to the chair. Every time he's stopped next to it, pet him.

At the clinic today, there was a girl with her pony, and they were having the same problem. What the trainer did was have the pony stand there and have the girl rub, back off, come back, rub, back off, step on first step of the block, rub, back off, and repeat until she's on the top step and the pony was standing still and behaving. This method worked, but I couldn't see it working well with Siaga, because he just wanted to move as soon as my foot touched the chair. That was a lot of work on my part, to get up only to jump down and line him back up.

So I made the area away from the chair into the work area, and standing by the chair as a nice, pleasant area. I would line him up, and if he stepped away, I hopped down and instead of repositioning him, I would immediately send him out and lunge him around the chair on the long line, and after I saw a sign of thinking/ relaxing (signs of these are lowering the head, chewing, sighing, yawning, and cocking a hip, though it's hard to yawn or cock a hip when trotting in a circle) I would let him come in, stop him by the chair, pet, step up, and repeat the process if he moved. It only took two or three times of being sent out to lunge before he would let me stand on the chair. From there I gave him a back rub, massaging around his spine and the muscles of his back. He even stepped closer a few times!

I also made sure he was ok with the process of me getting on, laying over his back, wiggling the saddle, putting a leg over. He didn't move, but obviously, I would have sent him out to lunge again if he had. I mounted from there bare back the other day and with a saddle today and he stood nice and solid both times. I will continue working with this until he is reliable with it.

*Not taking the bit.

Complicated. But, I figured out if I undo the cheek piece on the near side to the bit and just put the bridle on and get the buckles done up, I can then bring the cheek piece up, control his head, and with some coaxing, get the bit in his mouth. I plan on augmenting this with a treat after the bit is in, or maybe something tasty wiped on the bit so he is more willing to take it.

*Not giving to pressure of the bit.

For this, I started from the ground with flexing to the left and right in the rope halter. I hold my free hand behind his elbow and ask him to touch my hand, and it's so cute when he finds the slack and touches my hand.

To ask for lateral flexion, say, to the left, stand on his (or her) left side, just behind the ribs, just in front of the hips and back legs. Basically, stand at a 45 degree angle (in and forwards) to the swirl of hair between back leg and stomach. Throw your lead rope over the back of the horse, and place your right arm over over their loins so that you have a sort of anchor to stay by your horse (because he will most likely want to turn at first instead of flexing) and slide your left to about 2 or 2 and a half feet down the lead from the halter, pull your hand to the withers and "glue" it there. The objective is for the horse to give and reach for the triangular shaped place right behind the elbow at the bottom of their ribs, or a hair higher. Only release the pressure when a: their feet are not moving and b: they seek the right answer and reach around to find the slack. If the find the slack but their feet are still moving, do not release the pressure. He has to stand still. At 2 or 2 and a half feet, your horses head might barely be pulled around. After that is down, try it at 1 and a half and eventually 1 foot away from the halter. The object now is to guide the horses head around about 2/3 of the way, and for them to give the rest.

This concept applies with the bridle, also. I asked for flexing simultaneously with the halter and the bridle to clue him in, and then with just the bridle. It took him a minute to stand still for this again, but we got there. I also did this in the saddle, where again he wanted to turn and turn and not flex, but again, we got there.

After achieving lateral flexion, it was time to teach direction. Since I could hold his head up with the bit as I could not with the rope halter, it made directions that much easier. Close off and push with the outside, open inside. We did serpentines around the trees in the woods and up and down the road. This is also helping him understand leg pressure.

Then it was woah and back up time. At the clinic, Steph showed R how to stop Georgia by holding the reins and leaning back in the saddle a bit, rather than pulling the reins. I did this with Siaga, picking up the reins in two fingers at the middle and holding them up about face level, sliding the other hand down both reins at the same time to the withers, separating the reins and holding them there, lean back. If these did not stop him, I added a verbal cue of "woah" and he would stop after a couple steps. Release pressure, and from a stand still, repeat the process, holding and leaning back, to ask for a back up. If he didn't move, I was supposed to pump my feet against his shoulders, but I just added the verbal cue, and he would take a step or two back.

*Wanting to graze while under saddle and pay no attention to me.

I think this pretty much fixed itself just by getting him warmed up and the excess energy burnt off first. It was easier to not fight for grass and do asked. I think it is still something we will have to work on, though.

I know this was a terribly long post, but I thought it might benefit others who might have the same problems as I.

Friday, October 14, 2011


While at work this evening, I took it upon myself to run out to the other side of the big paddock and herd in the horses for their dinner. Theres about 7 horses out there and only one stays in the paddock all the time.

Anyways, I went out at a diagonal, swinging the whip and whistling, moving in a hammer-to-anvil direction to the horses between me and the fence to drive them to the paddocks.

They took off running, manes and tails flying, and their hooves made thunder that I felt even from that distance. It was beautiful. Yes, please, let me herd them in from now on, I don't think I'll ever get tired of that.

What, hail?

Yeah, so I got off work at about 11am today, and then mom wanted me to go run errands (while it was still sunny and perfectly clear out).

And I get done with that and it's a little cloudy, so I check the weather channel. Radar is clear, only 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Bring Siaga down, jump the little ditch that he used to have so many problems with, he surprised me and just went right over, I was amazed. Anyways, so we're in the middle of desensitizing to the knew whip, and it starts sprinkling. I'm like "Ok, sprinkles, we can deal with this, I'll just finish this up and we'll go back to the barn.


And then next thing I know, we're being pelted with little arrows from the heavens! (Ok, actually it was small balls of hail, but they stung all the same!) and so Siaga and I ditched what we were doing and high tailed it to the barn.


As for work, I'm loving it. Tomorrow I don't have to work at the stable, but I'm going out there anyways to attend a clinic with Stephanie Phelps, a Natural Horsemanship trainer and instructor here in Ohio, she does mostly Clinton Anderson stuff, but has a blend of Parelli, Lyons, Cameron, Roberts, and other noteworthy NH trainers.

Today was ok, have a double shift, but that's alright. :) I'm loving it to the extreme, not my dream job just yet, but that's ok. I'm loving it anyways. I soak up every minute.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Today, I received many tips on getting Siaga to stand still by the chair so I could mount. Our lesson today was primarily that. I asked R what to do, and she showed me with one of the horses at the stable. Basically, the idea was to lead him up to the chair, and step up, and if he didn't stand still, to hop down and make him work. My theory has always been that if a horse doesn't want to stand still, then don't let him stand still until he's standing still by/for whatever you're working on. So when Siaga swung his butt out away from the chair, I hopped down and sent him out, and he cantered and cantered and cantered and threw in some mighty bucks and shaking his head.

I kept him moving till I saw him drop his head and lick and chew. I then brought him in by the chair and stepped up, and started rubbing his back and giving him an extra "treat" with a back rub for standing by the chair. Whenever he moved, I'd hop down and send him out, watch for him to drop his and lick the dust off his brain, and then bring him back to the chair and the back rub.

Eventually he was standing still, and a couple times, even stepped closer and leaned into my hands for his rub! (See, not even horses can resist a back rub!)

Then we worked on flexing, and where last time I had him flexing his nose only halfway around, today he touched his sides of his own conviction, meaning I only pulled his head part way around, it was up to him to find the slack in the rope. Next we worked on more standing still and not grazing. Not much progress on that front.

AND THEN I brought him back to the chair, positioned him, climbed up, gave him a back rub, swung a leg over, and he stood still!

I couldn't pull his head up with the rope halter on, so I just worked on my balance at first. I realized that part of why I have such a hard time staying balanced on him compared to on other horses is because I tense my butt/upper thigh muscles, I brace myself all the time. So I made the effort to stay relaxed, and felt much more secure when I was sitting relaxed.

Another friend of mine suggested, for changing direction, instead of pulling the reins, to open the left and maintain normal pressure on the right, and push with the right leg. In a previous conversation, she had also said to drop the outside hip while pushing with the outside leg but to keep the shoulders level. I had laughed and said "Like belly dancing on horseback, an isolation of the hip!"

I applied all of this. Open left rein, keep right closed, open left leg, push with right, drop right hip... and he moved right around! I tested it on both sides. He's a little slow at it, and I was still pretty unbalanced and probably my nerves blocking his movement, but he did it all the same. :)

And he has a VERY good woah with the rope halter, but absolutely NO back up, and plenty of turn. Gah.

Pictures in new saddle

We have so much to work on, I'm slouching, my hands are terrible, and I keep lifting up my heels. And he was paying like no attention to me at all and kept his nose so forward, but here's some pictures (yeah we were in the western bridle with the hackamore because I had wanted to just ride and not drill stuff, and feel safer with the hackamore than the bit.)

Friday, October 7, 2011


Siaga is now standing quite nicely on a loose lead, even with distractions going on. He will only stand for about a minute, still, but that's longer than not at all! I gave him more applesauce from the syringe, was so funny, he was simultaneously trying to pull away and get it in his mouth at the same time!

I also discovered that while I'm sitting on the edge of the back porch letting him graze on the lead some 6 or 7 feet away, I can disengage his hindquarters from there, and that's really neat. We also worked more on disengaging the front end, he's starting to get it.

As far as work, today I fed all the ponies, mucked two stalls and the pony track and pulled up a lot of Datura. For those of you who don't know, Datura is a very poisonous, terrible little weed. It has usually white, yellow, purple, or pink trumpet shaped flowers and the seed heads are little spiny balls. It's a very powerful hallucinogen and if not handled with care, can result in poison-ivy-esque rashes on the skin from bare handed handling. So what does that tell you how bad it would be to EAT? So I'm on a Datura crusade now, going to be trying to get as much of that as possible out of the paddocks.

The curly dock out there I am not too worried about, there is plenty of other forage and the horses and ponies don't seem to have any desire to eat it.

Today I have a double shift, so I have to go back to work at five to bring the horses in and give them their dinner.

I felt so bad for poor Dot today. She's a 1993 horse, so about 18 or so. She was rounded up in 94 as a yearling, and spent a big chunk of her life with Curly. Curly went to a "retirement" home in Virginia, as his owner said, to avoid having to live through another Ohio Winter. But all the other old horses will have to deal with it too, and it's not like there aren't stalls and blankets available. And poor Dot! She was screaming her head off, calling and calling and calling for her buddy, poor old girl.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ponies everywhere!

And their poop! Spent my day mucking paddocks, stalls, and the track system, and got to ride along on the ATV while R dragged the arena.

With Siaga today, we started working on standing still while I'm standing still. This is a fundamental hole in his training that I should have taught him a long time ago. He's of the mind that if I stop moving and ask him to halt, that he should be able to stop with me, start grazing, and move away.

Not anymore. Today I started asking him to stand patiently, and he's still trying to sneak his nose down to the grass when he thinks I'm not watching but I intercept him.

Then today was worming day, usually this is how it goes, I halter him, hold on for dear life, get the syringe in his mouth, push the plunge, and let him have at it from there.

It's not a pretty sight.

Today however... I took an old, clean syringe and filled it with applesauce and took my time running it over his face and nose and lips, and took my time getting the tip of it in his mouth, and gave him little shots of applesauce. Eventually he was actively pulling it into his mouth, (with about half the applesauce still there) and that's where I gave him his worming medication, then the rest of the applesauce to help wash it down. It was the smoothest, easiest deworming I have ever done.

And then we worked on some lateral flexion, especially on the right side, which he is stiffer on, and then more standing still beside me.

Later I might go out and work with the bridle some and try to get him ok with having the bridle put on him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 2, complete with photos

The above is Dot, the mustang mare. She's 18 or 19ish. She was in her stall this morning, so I didn't get good pictures, but this one is striking to me. She's lovely.

This is Spanky, the 6/7 year old miniature stud. Was so cute this morning, did a squealing bucking happy dance when I threw him his hay. He's not violent, mind you, he just kinda did a jump for joy with a little squeal and went to attack his hay!

This is Brandy, she's an older paint mare, opinionated and sorta bossy, but she's still a sweetheart.

These two are the red dun mustang Kota and the darker pony, Cocoa.

I couldn't help but give you guys this picture of Clyde, the barn cat. No, he's not vicious, I just took a picture while he was yawning. I have laughed so hard at this cat over the past few days!

The inside of the barn. :)

Horses on an early foggy morning, this is what I get to go see every day. :D Full of nickering and whinnying and hoof stamping, yup, call me dead and say I'm in heaven.

This picture was also too beautiful to pass up. :) I didn't put pictures of all the horses in here, way too many to catalog all of them, but I'll give you a quick run down:

Lexi: 6 month roan paint, I think she'll shed out to a gray paint.
Georgia: chestnut mare, rescue.
Brandy: piebald mare.
Bahara, Cash, and Tilly: chestnut mares, don't know much about them yet.
Chick: brown Appendix QH looking mare.
Dot: chestnut mustang mare.
Kota: red dun mustang gelding.
Perdu: brown... mare? Haven't learned about that one yet.
Bey: brown Arabian mare, looks maybe 3 or 4 ish... but is actually 20.
Tex: big chestnut paint gelding.
Prince: flea bitten gray Arabian.
Teddy: black Appy with white blanket and spots.
Spanky: Mini stud, black or brown
Cocoa: chestnut pony gelding.
May and Maggie (I think that's their names? Not sure): mini mares, one paint one gray.
Curly: Dot's buddy, going to retirement home at end of week.
Crusoe: shares Tex's paddock, a little black and white pony gelding.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yes, thank you, I know I'm wierd.

People tell me this a lot. Even my mom is a little shocked (for whatever reason) that I'd rather shovel horse poop in frigid winter or scorching heat than pace around in temperature controlled, pink, girly, Victoria's Secret.

This is probably why I looooved my first day, why I enjoyed meeting all the horses and giving them their food, why I loved putting up some 400 feet of fencing, why I loved mucking the paddocks, why I loved helping the current (might as well say barn manager) R with treating a nasty bite wound on one of the older geldings.

And this is also probably why I took one look at the mustang mare (caught in the wild) and the mustang gelding (captive but bred and 'raised' wild, no BLM freeze brand) and fell in love, but mostly that mare. Let me paint a picture of this mare for you.

She's about the same size as Siaga, maybe 14.- 14.2 hh, really stocky built. She's chestnut, but it's slightly darker than the normal shade. She's got slight feathers around her feet and a tail that almost drags the ground that is super thick. Her mane is also thick, almost two feet long, laying several inches off her neck on both sides, and her forelock hangs down almost to her nostrils and over her eyes, thick and gorgeously chestnut and white.

I had been holding her buddy while R put medication on his wound, and the mare, Dot, is her name, had been drinking her water, she came over, and I held out my hand, she placed her dripping wet muzzle in my hand and looked at me with those liquid eyes through her forelock and I recognized that moment as a very special moment. I felt, looking at her, that I had found my June again, my horse-soulmate, that one that I feel the pull of. It was a truly breathtaking moment.

The mustang gelding is tiny, don't know how old he is, maybe a yearling, maybe 2, roughly 13-13.2 hh. He's a light dun color with a dorsal stripe. Adorable.

So yes, I am loving my new job.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I start my new job.

Yes, that's right. New job. Well. I start a week long trial period, but how hard can it be to prove that I can shovel manure and lead a horse, even misbehaving horses?

They really liked me, and I love the barn owner, Christine, she's so into doing things natural, and she loved the fact that I studied herbology for a while, maybe next spring, if they stick with me, I can help them get an herb garden centered on horse healing started.

So even though I start tomorrow, it's still not a DONE DEAL, but it might as well be. I'm super excited, so yay.

The girl said the only thing she and Christine were worried about is that I'm quiet and they don't want me to get hurt, and I know some of those horses are probably worse than Siaga, but Siaga is a lot better now than he was when he was younger (I mean, he wasn't gelded until he was two, for crying out loud) so surely it won't be that hard, and I'm encouraged to give horses mini lessons as needed, if they spook at something or are not respecting my space.

If I can (and did) deal with Siagas temper tantrums, then I should do juuuust fine.