Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pony's first snow!

And it was a doozy!

We've been watching the weather forecast, as we were supposed to have a friend come up for Thanksgiving. She was going to drive up yesterday, but the forecast called for a couple inches of snow. In and of itself, a couple of inches of snow isn't bad, but she'd have to pass over Mount Shasta, go through Weed, and then a long, desolate drive from Weed to Klamath Falls, where there's probably no cell coverage, and probably not a whole lot of plowing or help if you need it. So she decided to postpone her trip. Originally we thought she could come today. But after the snow we got yesterday, that's a no-go, as well.

It started snowing at 8 a.m. and didn't stop until about 10 p.m. We got over an inch an hour. I left work early and it took me an hour to get home and I went in 4WD and about 10 mph the whole way. I don't think anyone was really ready for how much snow we actually got vs. how much was predicted. At our house, at least, we got 16 inches or so (give or take depending if you measure under a tree or in a snow drift).

I'm so glad to have a barn full of hay, a heater in the tack room, and hot water in the barn! A covered arena is nice, in theory....

When we went out to tuck in the horses last night, I was able to top off everyone's buckets with hot water, and in addition to the extra hay in their hay nets, I gave everyone an extra loose flake - I know they needed it because all of Mac's hay was gone this morning, and he's the one who only eats what he needs and will leave extra if he doesn't need it.

Looking at Princess Fancy Pants this morning, I had to wonder exactly what she did to get her face to look like this....

Mac was spooking at a leaf blowing on top of the snow this morning, it was pretty cute. This is him mid-day yesterday - we have so much more snow than that!

I hoofed it up the driveway to see if the street had been plowed, and it had (but our driveway has not - we're supposed to be on the guy's list, but....?).

The horses are all enjoying their breakfast, with full buckets of warm water. Thank goodness there's a gate from the barn aisle to the arena that is big enough for the tractor, because I don't know that I could get the tractor out the double doors to the driveway. I could, though, drive the tractor into the arena and then dump the manure on the other side of the wall. We're now wondering how much a snow plow attachment to the tractor would cost!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pony video - ride #8

Brrrrr, it was chilly this morning! I could only stand to ride in my flannel-lined jeans, so I look a bit sloppy, but oh well.

I've done my math and I think this is ride #8 on the pony, and just our third time trotting. Because it was so cold I couldn't stand to put a bit in her mouth, so we're in the side pull.

What you can't see on the video is that to the left of the visible area on the screen is a tarp that I hung over her gate. For some reason she has A Thing with tarps and so I hung it over the gate (it was laying in her paddock) to just hang out there. We did a little ground work ahead of time with a piece of tarp attached to my flag, but that's not so interesting to watch.

I know this isn't the most exciting video ever, but I certainly had fun riding her! Steering to the right is not so great - steering to the left is better. She goes forward and comes back well. Mostly I just want her to get used to my weight and balance with me on her back, and teach her about going forward and back, and straight between my hands and legs. At the end she was a bit wiggly in opening the gate, but we got it done just fine. We went for a little trail ride on the property and came back in one piece with no spooking or anything.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We trotted!

I've trotted on the pony (on purpose) twice now!

The first time, I started out with her on the long lines and did some walk exercises with halt transitions, turning in circles, changes of direction, and walking over cavaletti. She was very calm so I took the lines off, did some more in-hand work to prepare for the under-saddle work, then I got on.

She's very polite for mounting and just stands there until I'm ready to go. We started off at a walk with steering, halting, flexions, and a gentle one-rein stop. Good.

I tried to give her some little kicks to get up into trot, but she didn't appreciate that so I went for more leg pressure, instead, and that worked better. I combined leg pressure with clucks and my voice command to trot, and up she went! The first time I tried posting, she was like "whoa, what the heck is going on!" so I sat for a few steps and walked again. Clucked her back up to trot, sat for a few steps and then walked again. We changed directions, I clucked and squeezed her up into trot and posted the trot and she was fine. Steering was moderately not-bad! We did two more changes of direction, on the last trot we did a whole lap around the arena in a moderately-balanced fashion, so I asked her to walk, jumped off and gave her lots and lots of praise and took her back to her stall.

She was so good! And the even better news is that she has a nice trot that is very comfortable to ride. And the best news is that she didn't even think about any misbehavior, not even once! She's such a superstar pony!!!

Today we did it again. This time I started by lunging first, as I want to work on her canter and voice commands in preparation for cantering under saddle when the time is right. After a brief warm up, we did our other in-hand work (turn on the forehand today, along with me walking next to her and using the reins) and then I got on.

We pretty much did the same thing as last time, but for more laps. Again in the beginning she seemed a bit worried about the posting and she kept wanting to stop, but I kept clucking and squeezing with my legs (while at the same time trying to be light in the saddle) and so she would get going again. By the end we were able to do two laps in each direction and I was pleased with her responsiveness.

I thought I'd give a little cool-down trail ride a try today so I brought her up to the gate to open it from her back. She didn't get it and so walked off. I got her turned around, better positioned, and she was so good - I just reached over and grabbed the gate, put the reins in one hand and my right leg on and she just swung her butt over as I opened the gate, and out we went! We did one lap around the back trail and came back. The ninja neighbor dog came running up to the fence (but not barking) and that startled her so she jumped forward a bit but came right back to a halt. The rest of the walk was uneventful and there was no barn-sourness; in fact, she didn't want to go back in the arena when we were done!

Such a good girl...I think she's having the last heat cycle of the year right now (as evidenced by her squirting and sticking her butt in Mac's face any chance she gets), but was perfectly well-behaved.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A big ask and a big tell

I was hoping Colin could ride with me this weekend and the only day he has time to ride is today, so today it was.

I haven't ridden the pony in about two weeks, so I wanted to get an idea for how she was feeling by going out a bit earlier than Colin and doing some ground work. Pony was great and perfect, so when Colin came out I thought we might try a trail ride. The wind started gusting up and since my options for trail riding were either in the back of our property where the neighbors have some flying tarps and a swingset, or in a natural environment with no flying tarps, I chose the no-flying-tarp option. But this meant that we'd go across the street to the BLM. I've taken the pony over there lots of times, and Mac has ridden over there lots of times, so I thought it would be the better option.

It was a BIG ask for Princess Fancy Pants. We hand walked the horses over there and through the gate and everyone was just fine. I had Colin mount up first and stay nearby so that the pony wouldn't be distracted by him moving around taking his turn to get ready. That was no problem. Mounting was great, everyone walked off nice and quietly, and we were on our way.

We started off with Colin in front, but Mac has a very laid-back, pokey-horse walk on the trails and pony has a bigger and more forward walk. At one point she trotted off a bit as we had split up just a bit to find the trail (good news, she has a comfortable trot!), but I brought her back to a walk and she was right on Mac's tail. So we took turns with Mac in front and then pony in front. She slowed down a bit when she was in front, not sure if she wanted that responsibility! At one point, I had Mac go in front again and he did a little startle as he scared a buck off from the trees, but nobody had any problems. Pony was a bit fidgety, but I don't blame her. Then Mac sort of startled again - head up, wanting to turn away. At that point I got off the pony and took the lead by hand walking past whatever was bothering Mac. I know what he'll do when he spooks, but I don't know what she'll do and I didn't think it was a good day to come off! So we hand walked for a bit and then I got back on using a big tree stump.

We leap-frogged a bit more, then walked side-by-side for a while. We startled some more deer in the trees a little farther out and pony did a spook. She sort of startled/jumped in place, did a little two-steps-to-the-side spook, and then all was good and we went on our way.

As we got closer to home, the wind was picking up, pony was getting fidgety, and she showed me her "tell" - like in poker - which was a head toss and a squeal. She humped her back a little bit but I growled at her and we went on. I turned her in a circle because we had passed Mac and we walked on. Another tell of a squeal/shake/hump and I growled at her and we went on. A bit of a trot (comfy), squeal, head shake, and I kept her head up, walked on, and decided that I would hand walk her the rest of the way. Since she had momentarily quieted down, I got off, did some walk-halt-walk-stay-out-of-my-space ground work and we made it to the gate.

The wind is GUSTING right now and the horses are out eating lunch. It was a BIG ask for the pony today, and she did a great job. I was on her back longer than I've ever been - probably two short rides of 10 minutes each as I got on and then off and then on and then off again. I think I might do another short ride tomorrow, but in the arena, and start some trot work since she seemed keen on it and not seemingly thrown off guard or off balance by me on her back while trotting.

Glad I made it off of her back of my own free will!

Friday, October 23, 2015

How does she do it?

How does the pony learn when I'm not actively teaching her anything? Meaning, I didn't do anything with her for a week and a half due to having out-of-town guests and various morning appointments and whatnot - and yet when I got on her on Wednesday, she was so good and so much better at steering and moving off the leg than she was the last time I rode her? How does that work?!

The last time I rode her (or did any type of work other than turning out/bringing in each day) was almost two weeks ago. That ride was our little trail ride out back. On Wednesday, we did a schooling session. It has been cold in the mornings, which can mean a fresh horse. We started with a little lunging. I would have completely understood if she wanted to throw in some head-tossing or bucking in there, but she didn't. She was 100% obedient to my requests. We walked over a couple cavaletti (two in a row instead of one on each side of the arena), which was no big deal. We trotted a few circles in each direction and did transitions without nary a marey head-shake. Oh, and it was all with the stirrups down and flapping.

Next I put the long lines on her and we walked around. Her steering was better than ever and we did a couple circles, a couple tear-drop changes of direction, and walk-halt-walk transitions. Her best work yet.

So I decided to ride again. This time I mounted from the off side. She stood still while I got on slowly, waited for me to get settled in the saddle, and walked on when I asked her to and not a second before. She had a nice marching walk (not the drunken sailor walk we started with a few weeks ago), was responsive to my transition requests both up and down (I do a loud sigh/exhale as a verbal cue for a downward transition, and "whoa" is halt), and I could actually use my legs to help steer and it seemed to work! I tried to focus on my timing as I learned from working with Buck Brannaman, and I think it is so much more helpful to the horse than just randomly using a rein at any old time. We walked over the cavaletti, did some circles and figure eights, walk-halt-walk transitions, and I called it a day. It was maybe a 10-minute ride, but it was so good!

This weekend Colin will ride Mac and I'll ride the pony and we'll go out back on the trails again. She's so much fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm either brave or stupid or lucky

Since Colin has expressed interest in going trail riding, and since I thought it best for Princess Fancy Pants's first trail ride to be with a buddy, today we saddled up and headed out on the little trails on the back of our property.

First we did just a little walking around in the arena to make sure I had steering (as good as it gets for a pony who has just been backed) and whoa. I thought I'd have Colin lead the way on Mac, since he's the herd leader, and have the pony follow him. Well she had other ideas. She wanted to be in front, presumably so he could check out how cute her butt is. After a couple laps in each direction (and walking over a cavaletti while we were at it), I had Colin open the gate and out we went.

And wouldn't you know it, pony wanted to be in the lead! It was pretty funny! I thought for sure we'd follow Mac since I've regularly ridden him out on those trails, and I've ponied the pony a few times and hand walked her a lot, but he's been out there probably 3-5x more than she has. She didn't care, though!

She marched right out in front of him, lead the ride the whole way, and was very brave about it all. At one point some deer went jumping through the brush in front of us (in an area where they hang out, they didn't cross our path but we scared them off) and pony sort of startled and spooked in place and a little cluck and encouragement and she just kept walking! What a brave pony! We did one lap of the big loop in each direction and then went back to the barn. When we headed for the barn she didn't act barn sour at all - no rushing to get back, just an easy walking along just like on the way out.

She got much much praise and lots of cookies in her bucket. Mac was a good boy for Colin and overall it was a great first outing on the trails!

Go pony!!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First riding video!

Here it is!

I'm basically copying and pasting this text from what I wrote elsewhere because I don't feel like typing the same thing all over again . . .

Yesterday was the third time I got on Princess Fancy Pants!

I brought the video camera out and set it up ahead of time and taped the whole thing - lunge, long line, double lunge, other preparations (flexions, bumping with the stirrup to move away from the aid). There were a couple of spooky moments with the neighbor standing outside in a brightly striped shirt talking on the phone, and the dogs being let out of the house and barking, but with each instance, the pony listened to me and didn't really do anything to spook, the head just came up and she looked intently.

I did one test almost-mounting by putting a foot in the stirrup and leaning over and petting her all over and she was fine. But the moment didn't feel right to continue, so I left the mounting block and took a little walk. We just walked in-hand for a bit (me by her shoulder, holding the reins) and then I walked back to the mounting block (which is what you see as the beginning of the video). I got on, sat there for a second to get my reins organized, and then walked off. (I was using two sets of reins - main reins on the lunging cavesson, then second reins on the bit.)

All we did was walk around and do a couple laps and changes of direction and transitions. Steering is sort of there and sort of not, that's okay, it was our first attempt under saddle.

I'm just so pleased with this pony and her work ethic and try and acceptance of new things. She has been so good these three short little times I've sat on her. I was actually hoping to do this with the trainer over the weekend, but I was sick and cancelled our lesson, so I had no ground person and it was just me. When the trainer comes, I'd like to have her lead me out of the arena and on the trails behind the barn/house.

But for now, it is just me and Pony and she is so good! I just had to share. :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pony's first outing

Yesterday was Princess Fancy Pants's first outing away from home! We've of course been working on trailering, but I don't really count those excursions as outings because they were just drives around the block and back home.

Yesterday we went to another barn for a schooling session. I brought all my tack, not knowing if she'd be quiet enough for working with the trainer on getting on and leading around - but better to be prepared!

Well, it wasn't a getting-on-and-leading-around kind of excursion.

PFP loaded up and trailered there just fine (good girl!). When she stepped off the trailer, though, I think she was surprised to be in a new place and very looky! We had a short walk around to see the horses in their paddocks (and there were two adorable minis that she took a hard look at), and then went out to the arena area which shared a fence line with the horses turned out in the big pasture for lunch. That was pretty exciting until another trailer pulled up and unloaded a pony and THAT was very exciting. Luckily, the facility had a round pen, so I put her in the round pen to let her get it out. She leaped in the air, squealed, ran around a bit, and I picked up the lunge whip to use to get her attention (not by making her run forward, but just as a visual/auditory aid . . . along with stomping my feet or jingling my keys - I was trying to remember things from the Harry Whitney clinic I did last year). It seemed to work because she then settled and came to me for some security. I talked to the trainer and decided to just work her on my own for a little while since this was such a new experience for her. I went to my trailer and got my bridle and lunging cavesson and went back to the round pen where she was happy to see me.

She followed me around for a little bit and I gave her pats all over and then put on the bridle and cavesson and had a short little w-t-c lunge in each direction. She had settled down such that she was listening to me and responsive to my voice commands, so I called it a day on that. Took off the bridle and cavesson and gave her more pats and just stood with her for a bit.

I left her to go to the office to pay my haul-in fee and when I came back, the worker-guy was bringing in the pasture horses for dinner, so that was very exciting. I asked the trainer to help me load, just in case (I've heard stories where people bring their horses and they load up just fine on the first leg of the trip, but won't load up when it is time to go home!). Turns out, her assistance wasn't needed. Princess Fancy Pants walked right on the trailer, I closed up the doors and home we went!

She got a ton of cookies and carrots in her treat bucket when we got home and she went straight for her hay I had waiting for her.

All in all, it was a great first outing! I'll have to see if I can do that once a week to get her used to going new places - at least while the weather is still nice!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I did it! I sat on the pony!!!!!

Tuesday I got on the pony!!!!!

It wasn't planned. I started off by doing a little lunge session with her, mostly working on getting square halts and making nice circles at the trot without tossing her head around (which she only does in the corner closest to the barn, sometimes with a squeal thrown in for good measure). We split the work with the first 10 minutes leading and halting and squaring up in the indoor arena, then another 10 minutes of w-t-w transitions in the outdoor arena. I had saddled her for her schooling session and she wasn't acting spooked by the flopping stirrups. I felt like her head was in the game and she was being really good so I took her inside, got my helmet, went to the arena and put reins on her bridle (she was wearing a lunging cavesson and bridle/bit) and walked over to the mounting block. Heretofore we've been working on rein aids with me walking next to her holding the reins and doing basic flexions, turns, and walk-halt-walk transitions. I think I wrote about her disliking an earlier bit, and so I tried a couple others; the current one which she seems to like is a Myler eggbut wide barrel comfort snaffle.

So back to my story. I brought her to the mounting block which is in front of the mirrors (a tip from someone) and squared her up. She wanted to take a step forward and a little "no" with the reins and she stood perfectly still. I put a foot in the stirrup and put pressure on it. Did that a few times. Then foot in the stirrup and stood up and patted her neck; did that a few times and she was still. Then foot in the stirrup, stood up, and leaned over her back a few times. No reaction. Then foot in the stirrup, stood up, leaned over her back and swung my other leg halfway up. No reaction.

Took a little break and walked around the arena with much praise and then back to the mounting block.

I went for it.

Foot in the stirrup, stood up, leaned over to pat her all over, swung my leg over, sat my butt down, put my other foot in the stirrup, sat up. Not a twitch from the pony. She stood there. I sat for maybe 10 seconds, dismounted, gave her much, much, much, much praise and good girls and then put her back and groomed her and gave her a bunch of cookies. I think she was quite pleased with herself!

I've been working with a trainer and we've talked about working toward this and ideally it probably would have been smart to have a ground person, but I was just in the moment and she felt like she was quiet and steady and could handle it.
OMG, I am so happy and proud of my little pony!!!!!!!

I wasn't planning on doing this on that day so didn't have a camera set up to take any video, unfortunately. I tell you, for that 10 second of sitting on the pony for the first time, I was on cloud nine the whole day!

The "hey, you're not supposed to be there" double-take

The other day I put the horses in the pasture for just a few hours as Colin and I had an early evening event to go to. I was rotating them to a pasture that had been resting for a couple weeks and before I put them out, I thought "is that back gate closed? It must be because Colin didn't put the handlines out." The horses were in two pastures that are connected by a gate and they prefer the back pasture; the connecting gate was open so they could have both pastures, but there is also an access gate to the back pasture only.

I went about my business cleaning the house and Colin was outside mowing the pasture the horses had just come off of.

I went out to get the horses a couple hours later and did a double-take as I look across the pasture. I'm counting noses and I see Princess Fancy Pants in the pasture. Check. I see Mac eating grass . . . but it he in the pasture or on the wrong side of the fence??? Then I see Paddy. IN THE POND. Which is on the wrong side of the fence!

I run into the pasture where Colin was mowing (just across the driveway from where the horses are so I can still see what they are doing) and wave my arms frantically. He's got headphones on so just waves back. NO!!!!! STOP!!!!! He takes them off and I'm yelling "Paddy is in the pond!!!" So he gets off the tractor and says not to panic, we have to remain calm. We grab halters and go out there to get the horses. I give him Mac's halter, I take Paddy's and the pony's, just in case she decides she wants to leave the pasture.

There's Paddy in the pond. Chest deep. Standing there and happily munching grass on the rim of the pond. Poor Colin, I think he thought I meant that Paddy was somehow stuck in the pond thrashing and drowning. I just meant help me get the horses out of where they shouldn't be and put them where they should be.

I don't know why the pony didn't join them when they wandered out of the gate - I think because the grass was wet and boggy there and she didn't want to get her princess feet wet, which certainly made things easier for me. But, that also means we need to do puddle-stepping-in work!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Pony and The Pink Umbrella

Yesterday was a good day of schooling, third day in a row of "work" for the pony. First day (Friday) was a trailer ride, and longer than usual. She was great!

Second day (Saturday) was a trail walk in the BLM and she was great!

Third day (Sunday) was work in the arena followed by some de-spooking work. I've decided to move forward with a different approach of working her in the bit since with the double lunging in the last bit she was getting her tongue over it. Since we're using a new bit, I thought I'd try a different approach so as to give her a good experience with it. We started with our short lunging warm-up and I just used the cavesson and headstall/bit (cavesson for lunging, bit for the next phase). She was very good and picked up the left lead canter on her own (with a little squeal beforehand) and I just let her canter since it was a good transition, she wasn't running around like a crazy pony, and she got the correct lead. We did just a little bit on each side and then I did the bit work.

For working the bit, I first asked for lateral flexions and I released at the slightest give to the bit. When that was nice and soft, we moved on to walking forward. My instinct is to walk closer to her than using the long lines right now, so I held a rein (regular reins, not long reins) in each hand and walked at her shoulder. All we did was walk and turn and stop. Oh, and I did have my dressage whip and I used that on the outside of the circle, like and outside leg, so that if I used the inside rein and she bulged out, I could follow it up with a gentle tap-tap of the "outside leg" to keep her straight. It worked really well! When we had a really good turn, I quit on that, put her back in her stall, groomed her, and then let her go out in her paddock for a little bit.

When I came back to let the horses out for lunch, I did a little de-spooking with a pink umbrella I bought just for this purpose. I went into her paddock (it it good sized at maybe 100 x 100, so she has room to move and get away if she's troubled) opened it and closed it far from her. She was pretty good with it until Mac spooked from afar, then she thought she should spook, too. Soon enough, though, curiosity won out and she came up to see what it was all about. Armed with cookies, I gave her a cookie for touching the closed umbrella. Then I opened it and she spooked and trotted away. But then she came back. Eventually, I could open and close it and she'd stand still but spook in place. Then I started walking with it and she followed me (lured by the promise of cookies) and eventually she followed me while I opened and closed it and she didn't run away and kept walking. Good pony! Finally, I wanted to get a picture of how cute she was so I got my phone and hung the umbrella in the tree and got these pictures.

Her neck looks oddly shaped due to the angle, but I'm pretty sure you can see how cute she is no matter what!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Training video

Princess Fancy Pants is coming along nicely and we got our steering back in our last lesson and subsequent schooling sessions - yay! The newest thing to come up, though, that I want to nip in the bud quickly, is her getting her tongue over the bit. I noticed this while I was observing her being double-lunged, which is why I went back to working off of just the lunging caveson for a couple weeks. But when I noticed it again at the last lesson, we decided to change bits. I started her out in a KK Ultra that was used by my TB. Her mouth was quiet enough in it when she would just hold it in her mouth, but when reins were attached (and the more work she did - meaning trot and canter), she would open her mouth and get her tongue over it. We stopped mid-lesson to try another bit - a rubber single-jointed snaffle. She hated it even at a stand still. So we switched to the bit I used when I first got Mac going, which is a KK Duo. She was quiet in that at the stand still and at the walk, and it was time for our lesson to be over anyway, so we stopped on that good note.

Always wanting to improve myself and my feel and timing and training skills, I want to look at what I can do to be better and know if there's something I need to change. I decided to take a different tactic for our next training session. I started thinking about what the double-lunging means in terms of bit pressure in the mouth (or on the lunging caveson, for that matter) and how it affects her way of going or understanding the aids, and what kind of leverage is activated when the lines are run through the surcingle, etc. I am in the thinking and pondering stage, and so in the meantime tried something else yesterday.

We started off with lunging with a saddle on (off of the caveson, not the bit). This is the second time I've done this with her, and even though the stirrups were run up, they still made a flapping noise. The first time I did it, she wanted to stop whenever she heard the noise, so we worked on forward. This time, she carried her head up, ears turned back, and sort of looking around, so she's a bit distracted. But one thing at a time. The goal was to go forward with the flapping sound, and work on voice commands. We just started cantering on the lunge, so adding voice commands for that, as well as picking up the correct lead (she favors the right).

After a brief lunge, I dropped the stirrups and purposefully thumped each at her side, to mimic a leg aid and get her to step over. Great. Only had to do that a couple times on each side.

Next we worked with the bit. I took off the lunge line and attached reins to the bit and worked on little flexions first, just basic giving to the bit. Then we walked - me beside her shoulder, a rein in each hand, and worked on turning with an opening rein and halting with both reins. Did that for a short while in both directions and I was pleased with that.

The last thing we did, which I didn't get on video because of where I was in the arena, was to have her stand at the mounting block while I put one foot in the stirrup and added some pressure. Just enough to be on my tip-toes with my standing leg, not enough to actually stand in the stirrup. I did that on each side and she stood quietly, so I called it a day.

We've talked about getting her going under saddle, but I really want to a part of being on her at an early stage and right now I'm injured (not sure what - maybe either a muscle strain or tendonitis in the hip, but I'm working with doctors to try to figure it out) and not able to ride. So I'm thinking I'll be putting off getting her going riding for another few months. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Learning is not linear

Princess Fancy Pants has been making great progress in our lessons with the trainer. I try to combine all sorts of other lessons when I work with her on my own - trailering, bathing, standing tied, being good for trims, etc. - in addition to my homework from the trainer. The last time I did my homework I saddled PFP and did some trot poles and some light lunging, but I didn't do too much in the way of long-lining.

We had a lesson on Sunday and I asked trainer if we could long-line PFP on the trails on my property. I've hand-walked her back there many times so she knows the area, but I thought it would be good to have a "lead" person and a long-lining person just to be safe. So I was the lead and trainer did the long-lining. After one pass on the long straightaway, we took her off the lead but I continued to walk with her. Then I fell behind and pony was in the lead all by herself. She did great! She was so brave and marched right on forward. We did a lap of the loop in each direction and then went to the outside arena. Trainer did some serpentines and turns down centerline and pony was perfect. So she handed the reins to me.


Ok, well not total disaster, just not good. I couldn't steer worth a damn and poor pony was probably getting really confused. It was all I could do to go straight! We finally went in a couple straight lines and halted and called it quits. Her quarter was running out and I was worried that I was just making matters worse.

Over the weekend I worked on the footing in the indoor so it is much more even and less deep and I think pony will like it much better.

Today I did my homework. Ugh. I decided to attach the long lines to the lunging cavesson instead of the bit because if I sucked at it today then I don't want to be in her mouth confusing her. We did a very nice warm up - just two baby shoulder-fores in each direction for a few steps down the long side, then a light lunge doing some straight-aways and then circling so that we used the whole arena, then some with me standing in one spot and doing transitions. It was lovely and soft and nice and easy.

Then I attached the other line so we could do some double-lunging and long-lining. I started off double-lunging to the left. It was really good! Just a few big circles and we stopped and then did some long-lining. Ugh. Again I can't steer for shit! WTH? I think I'm over-doing it on the turns so instead of a turn down centerline, she'd do a circle. We just got all discombobulated and it wasn't pretty. So then we went back to double-lunging in the other direction and it was great again!

I had been afraid of double-lunging because it seems so, well, complicated with two lines and keeping them untangled and using them properly, etc. But today the double-lunging was the easy part and the long-lining (which I had been feeling good about) was the hard part!

So true that learning isn't linear. I thought I had been doing well in one thing and not another and when I went to practice, the thing I thought I was doing well totally sucked and the thing I thought I'd suck at I did well! Go figure!

Pony seemed to like the footing improvements better. She is doing really well when the trainer works with her, so I'm glad I got a pro on board to help me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trailering success!

Yesterday we had great improvement with the trailering!

I figured I could take Paddy with her, but then decided that the sooner she learns to go by herself, the better. I don't want her to get attached to him and then have to go through all this all over again when she travels solo, so we just went solo.

I took out the head divider so she has a wider range of vision and nothing to bump her face into if she started flinging it around for some reason (which I'm not sure she does, but just to be safe).

I groomed her first, we went for a nice hand walk on the trails, then loaded up. I tell you, this pony is so smart and good. She loaded right up. She walks on the trailer with NO hesitation. So we loaded up and backed out a few times, just to practice putting her feet where I ask her to. Then we loaded up and I put the butt bar up and then went up front to give her a cookie. Then I went back and put the other butt bar up and went up front to give her a cookie. Then I closed her back door and went up to give her a cookie. Then I closed the other back door and went up to give her a cookie. Then I closed the ramp up and went up to give her a cookie. Then I tied her, gave her a cookie, and got in.

And she started pawing.

And I just drove quietly down the driveway and by the time I was at the road she stopped pawing. She gave a whinny as we turned on to the street, then she was quiet. She did whinny at each turn (4 whinnies), but NO MORE PAWING!!!! We took the same 10-minute loop and came home and unloaded. She wasn't lathered in sweat. YAY!!!!! We unloaded and reloaded a few times, then I took her out, gave her a little bath, and put her in the pasture for lunch.

I call that a huge success and I was SO PROUD of her!!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trailer adventures

Now that we're settled, I've FINALLY gotten my trailer hooked up again. Princess Fancy Pants took a little spin around the block yesterday. She loads really well. She travels . . . not so really well. I am a very conservative and good trailer driver - I maintain an even speed, am very aware of what is going on around me, I don't slam on the brakes or accelerate quickly. But that doesn't seem to matter to PFP. She paws and whinnies and gets very anxious leaving her boyfriends. We only went for a ride around the block (10 minute drive) so we weren't gone for that long. She did some intermittent pawing and whinnying, but also had some moments of quiet, so I feel like there's hope. I have considered trailering her with Paddy (her brother-type friend) or Mac (her boyfriend), but Paddy paws when close to home and that's not a behavior I want to reinforce, and she and Mac are just too amorous and I don't want to go there in close quarters. I'm hoping it is just one of those things that, with multiple mini-outings per week that always return to home, she'll get over with maturity and practice.

The good news is that after we got home and unloaded, I re-loaded her a few more times in and out so she wouldn't think she could have a hissy fit and then get to come home and go out as her reward. So in and out she went, standing quietly and then backing when I gave her the cue. I'm pleased about that.

We've also continued our homework and have started double-lunging in our lessons, which she's picked up on just as easily as everything else. She's a special and fancy little pony!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Princess Fancy Pants long lines!

I've been working with a trainer now that I'm ready to get Princess Fancy Pants more prepared for starting her under saddle work (which will still be months away). I wanted to get her started on the long lines (she knows how to lunge) and I've never actually done any long lining myself, so we both needed some lessons!

Trainer has come out three times now to work with us and I think that Princess Fancy Pants is learning very quickly! I'm doing okay, myself. ;-) The first time I took the lines, it was very ugly - wiggling all over the place, couldn't go straight, couldn't move over. Trainer did a very good job (and PFP did a very good job of learning) of teaching PFP what the aids mean; for example, sort of bumping both sides with the lines (and a cluck with voice command) means go forward. A bump with one line means move away from that side. Then there's the whoa voice command and hand aids. She's very good at whoa, so there wasn't much learning to do there. Once she seemed to get it, I got to take the reins and give it a go. Like I said, the first time was ugly, second time was better, and now I've done my homework a few times now and think we're getting the hang of it.

We just walk and turn and stop and go and circle and that's about it. The video isn't very exciting to watch, but it is exciting to me because of the progress we're making.

Princess Fancy Pants seems to have a great work ethic (I think I've said that already). She's ready for whatever we do together and she always tries to figure out what I want. I think our next step is double lunging. I already am daydreaming about what we'll do together in the future - dressage? Jumping? Trail riding? All of it, I hope!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Princess Fancy Pants goes to work!

I can't believe it has been so long since I've posted. We're still not settled in our new place yet. Floors are finally done, doors are installed, but it still isn't "finished," as the baseboards and door trims aren't done. We still have some furniture in the garage, that I was hoping to move in this weekend, but baseboards moved his appointment to Wednesday. Sigh.

Anyway, this is about Princess Fancy Pants.

I've continued to do small things with her on a regular basis. The most recent things we've done are drag a stick next to and behind her with a rope, and go for walks off the property. I was curious as to how she'd handle walking off the property, down the road, and into the nearby trails. It was no big deal. I was really impressed with her and proud of her!

Oh, I almost forgot something really interesting!

When I got her I wanted to be sure I was feeding her properly as a growing 2-year-old. I consulted with an equine nutritionist who suggested I add Nutrena Empower Balance (ration balancer) to her diet. So I did. She had been getting more and more fidgety, not her sweet self, constantly in heat, just generally on edge and not the nice sweet pony she was when I first got her. After doing a bit of research, I found that the Nutrena has soy in it and some horses are reactive to soy. I took her off of it and within a few days she was back to her sweet, easy-going self. She's much happier and more pleasant to be around now.

I got a couple recommendations for trainers to help me start her and went and met with one a few weeks ago. When I was there I watched a lesson with one of her students who was on a TB mare who had been a rescue and this trainer (and her student) started her. The mare had the potential to be a hot little firecracker, but was handled patiently and with tact and went along very nicely. Bonus points is that the person is close to me and makes farm calls.

I had the trainer out yesterday and we worked with PFP on lunging with the plan of working toward ground driving. After a short lunging session she put the driving lines on and stood behind her while I led her from the front. We did a couple laps in each direction with transitions and a change of rein across the diagonal. PFP was so good! Then she did a little work on moving off of what would be leg pressure eventually and PFP caught on to that very quickly. A little baby lateral work in-hand and she was done. She was VERY good and learns very quickly and seemed to really like the attention and work! I think that the preparation work we did so far was helpful - working with lines around her belly, flank, behind her legs, around her feet, etc. - so that she wasn't startled by the long lines. She was not very reactive to the lunge whip, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your intentions, but overall she was a super star!

I'll probably work with the trainer two days per week, and then do my own homework one day a week and a trail walk one day a week. I'm so proud of my little pony!

Maybe next time I'll get some pictures or video...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New neighbors

Well, the water dried up and our puddles are gone - glad I took advantage of them while they were here.

In the meantime...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Training opportunities abound!

Two new training opportunities presented themselves to us yesterday!

The neighbor got his cows & calves! When I met him over the phone he said that he gets cows in the spring to eat down his pastures. I don't know if he just takes them on for a friend or buys and sells, but no matter. We now have a herd of mama cows and 2-week-old calves at their sides. They are so cute! I was riding Mac in the indoor yesterday as they were moving from the back pasture to the front pasture and we just watched them go by. Princess Fancy Pants and Paddy were in their paddocks and had their eyes glued to the cows, but no running around like crazy horses or anything like that. My pastures, barn, and arena are easily within sight of where the cows graze, so this will be a great opportunity for PFP to get used to the sights, sounds, and smells of the cows! Free training!

The same neighbor has some water coming from his property onto our property. I called him about it and it is a problem with the irrigation district that they need to fix. In the meantime, though, it has created some flooding into the back half of our property along the trails where I ride. Another great opportunity for introducing PFP to water and big puddles!

At first, she was like, "you want me to get my little princess feet wet in there?!"

But then she was like, "oh, grass!"

I would have gotten better pictures of her actually in the deeper water, but I didn't want to drop my phone.

So water training was easy-peasy and took all of a couple minutes and then we went splashing through it like it was nothing.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New pasture

While we're working on getting the irrigated pastures to have underground lines (instead of hand lines that we have to move around), we made a Horse Guard dry lot pasture for the horses to go out in so we can keep them off the grass.

It took about three weeks to get this done. I wish I had before and after pictures, but I wasn't clever enough to do that. Basically, all of the juniper trees had lower limbs on them that needed to be chainsawed off - that was Colin's job. Then I stacked them by the edge of the pasture and we had someone come pick them up. But he was sick so had to postpone and do it in a couple of trips. Then I did all the post bamming by myself (that's a technical term, of course) - t-posts in the four corners, fiberglass posts on all the sides, with t-posts then spaced after every 5-6 fiberglass posts. It is hard to get a straight line because sometimes I'd hit rock and have to move a few inches this way or that to get the post in the ground. Then we put the insulators on and ran the tape and hooked up the charger, and ta-da! A new pasture!

There were some native grasses in there that didn't last long. We hang hay nets from the tree limbs so they have something to eat while they are out there; and of course there's a water trough. Supposedly the neighbor brings in cows for the summertime, so that should be interesting (this pasture borders our shared property line)!

In other news, Princess Fancy Pants let me rub a square of tarp all over her while standing quietly so the next move is to cut off a bigger piece of tarp and play with that! I also ponied her on a short trail ride in the back. At first she was nice and quiet but heading back to the barn she had a little more energy, so we had to go back out and come back a few times as well as go back to the indoor and keep working, so she wouldn't learn that bouncing around = going home and chilling with your friends whenever you want to.

The vet came out the other day for her WNV vaccine and commented on how gorgeous Princess Fancy Pants was. She also calls her Princess Fancy Pants when she emails me her visit notes! :-D

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Training videos

I worked on ponying Princess Fancy Pants yesterday and set up my video camera to get some footage of how it went. We just ponied around and the walk for a while, doing circles and changes of direction. In theory, ponying should be easy, and I suppose that once the three of us get the hang of it, it will be easier. But there's a lot that's going on in such a simple, boring-looking exercise.

First, Mac has to be good. The horse you're riding has to be well-behaved and not try to kick the horse it is ponying. This is to me a "dominance" or leadership exercise. Mac is the leader of my herd. He will not hesitate to back his butt up and double-barrel to get someone to stay away from him. So while I'm riding him, he must listen to me and over-ride any annoyance at the other horse and mind his manners. He also tends to be interested in the ladies. This was actually my biggest worry with PFP, because she's so darn cute and probably sexy, too. So this is an exercise again in him minding me and not flirting and trying to act studdish around her. After that, he's got to do the basics of following my aids and going in the direction I tell him to go - forward, back, side to side.

The next thing that's going on is I've got a lot in my hands. I've got reins attached to Mac (this day he was in the hackamore) and a lead rope attached to the pony. While the reins are one loop, there are two sides (obviously), so I've got to manage those in order to be able to give signals to him (no wonder turning with your legs is such an important skill to have - if you can only steer with your hands and you've got other things to do with your hands, it is kind of a mess!), and I've also got to manage the lead rope in order to tell PFP to keep up or slow down or turn.

Then there's the pony to manage. Trying to keep the right pace is hard. Sometimes she gets too far ahead, sometimes she gets too far behind. It is something that we'll just keep on practicing until we get it right, then we'll practice some more (this was only the second or third time I've done this with them).

So that's all to say that while you're looking at this boring video of us walking around, there's really a lot going on!

The next video is of me on Mac working with PFP with the flag. Again, this looks boring, but in the beginning I also had a piece of tarp attached to the flag handle (it fell off halfway through) due to an earlier Scary Tarp Incident that I'm trying to help her get over. During the Scary Tarp Incicent, I had put a tarp out in the arena for her to see and get used to from her paddock. She watches Mac when we ride, so Mac and I rode over it and it was no big deal. Then I brought her in the arena and introduced her to it and she was doing great - until she stepped on it and got herself into a tizzy. So now I'm combining the flag and a small piece of tarp. Then I'll introduce a bigger piece of tarp - and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But for now I just want to be able to touch her all over with the flag and tarp piece without having her get really scared.

In this last video it is probably hard to see what I'm doing. I've got the lunge whip and I'm swirling it over their heads, around their bodies, around her legs, around her belly, along her back and butt, in front of her feet, etc. Again, not too exciting, but just another thing for her to get used to.

That's Paddy you can hear screaming in the background. We also have two ravens who have a huge nest in the rafters and they make all sorts of noises and fly in and out of the arena.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Up the butt, Bob


For those who don't remember the old Newlywed Game, that was a response to a question from Bob Eubanks when he asked the contestants (wives) where the strangest place was that they had the urge to make whoopee.

Actually, her answer used the word ass, if I can guess from the blooper.

Anyway, what could that possibly have to do with Princess Fancy Pants? Well, she met her new vet on Thursday for spring shots. The vet was very thorough and did a brief exam on all the horses, including a thermometer up the butt. But Princess Fancy Pants would have none of that!

So what was the next thing to work on with her? A thermometer up the butt. Good thing she's compact because I could both work on getting a thermometer, ahem, where the thermometer is supposed to go and give her cookies as a reward at the same time. I'll just put that on my list of things to keep working on.

In other news, I've put my new lunging cavesson on her along with a headstall and bit in her mouth and I've taken her for walks around the arena and back on the trails. She played with the bit a little at first but then had a very quiet mouth.

This morning I decided to take it one step further. Cavesson and headstall on - check. Saddle and pad on - check! She was very blase about the saddle and the only thing she did was to turn and sort of sniff and look at the girth. I walked her around the arena a few times, played with the flag (to which I have added a square of tarp due to a previous tarp scaredy-cat incident), took her picture and a short little video and that was that!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

The pony learns to be ponied!

As I'm sure I mentioned, Mac loves the ladies. One of our early issues was his distraction when working around mares (because I didn't have them at home so seeing one was very interesting) and his nickering at them and making googly eyes at them and acting a bit studdish.

For the past couple months, all the horses have been out together during the day. There's minimal drama, as Mac has decided that he's not falling for any mareish baloney and he's not really romantically interested in her. This pleases me very much.

Our new place has a small indoor arena and on one short side (on the other side of the wall) is PFP's paddock. I just started riding this week and have been riding Mac indoors so that PFP can watch. Like all horses, she learns by watching, and so I thought it a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the set-up I've got. I'll ride around with my flag and if she's being a busybody and pawing at the gate that opens to her paddock, I'll give a little wave of the flag. Or I'll grab the lunge whip and just sit on Mac and swing it around his head, around his sides, whatever. She watches. I've sat on Mac, lined up along the wall and sort of threw the lash end of the lunge line in PFP's paddock and she'd sort of perk up and give it a look and then I'd drag it away and she'd walk after it and she'd stop and I'd stop. Or I'd sit on Mac and swing my rope onto the ground and drag it. Stuff like that.

So I've then been doing ground work with PFP and she seems less reactive, which is great. On Friday I used an extra lead rope to drag along the ground, or swish it on the ground so it looks like a snake, or lay it on the ground and have her walk over it, or throw it over her back, flanks, butt, etc. She was great.

Friday was the day I decided to pony her . . . off of Mac . . . who has never ponied another horse before.

After my ground work with PFP, I tied her to a big post in the arena, tacked up Mac (while she tried to paw her way to China), and did some ground work with her watching. Then I went to get her. They tried to sniff noses and play a bit of kissy face but I would not allow that. Then I had to get all my various lines sorted out (get-down rope, reins, lead rope) and get to the mounting block, while still not allowing kissy face. Mounted up and stood there and again said no to kissy face games. I gathered my reins in my left hand (squaw reining, I guess it is called, where you sort of use two fingers for one rein and two for the other?), had PFP's lead rope in my right hand, and off we went.

At first she was confused about what to do, but I kept putting pressure on the lead rope and when she'd lead up I'd release. We just went around and around in boring walking laps, but she soon got it. We next tried turns - Mac and I would turn in her direction so she'd have to make a small turn and cross over her front legs, turning more on her haunches. Then we'd make turns away from her so she had to walk bigger to keep up. We did some serpentines in this fashion.

Next was changing sides. I stopped Mac with her on the right. I backed him and fed out her rope so she'd stand still. Then I flipped the rope over his head and turned him so she'd be on his left. Then we walked some more circles. This side was harder for her but she quickly caught on and kept up better. Did some more circles into and away from her and called it a day.

Wow, I was so proud of both of them! They got lots of praise and pats and a cookie at the end. Mac was a real trooper for his first time ponying, and pony seemed a little confused at first, but she caught on to the situation soon enough.

I will comment that I love riding with a purpose. I mean, I love riding, but Mac really seems to get more interested when he has a job and we've got something to do (like cows!). It is so interesting to me - when we're just riding to ride (not on trails, but practicing in the arena), he just seems not that into it and it is sort of a mental challenge to get him to that place where he'll be "submissive," if you want to put a dressage term to it. Today he was right there between my aids. I could use my legs to steer and he was totally right there. He didn't feel like he was leaning on one shoulder, he didn't feel like he was laterally unbalanced, he just seemed *right there*, ready to do whatever was needed. It was awesome! And we only walked!

I think I'll do this a couple days a week and mix it in with my other ground work with Princess Fancy Pants. The goal in a few weeks would be to go for short trail rides around my property, but we've got to establish the basics first.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The work begins

I think our arena is going to be perfect for getting Princess Fancy Pants started. Her paddock is just outside the covered arena so she can watch me work with Mac and Paddy. So far she's a bit nosy and likes to come to the shared gate between the two spaces and paw at that gate. So I just ride on over with my flag and shoosh her off. She gets to see me do ground work with Mac using the flag; she gets to watch while we walk, trot, and canter (and he's being great, by the way - not reacting when she kicks up her heels); and when I'm done, I'll go stand by her gate and swing a rope or a lunge line or the flag and let her see that Mac doesn't care and those things are no big deal.

The other day I put a bit in her mouth (with the headstall) and put her halter on over it and we just walked around in the arena while she played with it in her mouth. Then I brought her back to her paddock and let her eat some hay with the bit in (I was holding her lead rope so she couldn't get the bit caught in anything).

Yesterday I tied her in the arena while I went to get some stuff from the trailer. Ravens and pigeons are always flying around in there so that's another good desensitization thing. We did some ground work with the rope: leading by a foot, giving to rope pressure, picking up the foot with pressure from the rope; looping the rope around her neck and leading her that way; looping the rope around her chest/withers and leading with the lead rope on her halter and moving the rope around; looping the rope around her haunches and letting it lay across the backs of her legs and butt. She was great for all of it!

I think I may try flagging her in the arena while I ride Mac next. Then after that I'll try ponying her.

Such fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

We moved!

I haven't updated in a long while because I am superstitious and didn't want to jinx anything . . . and then it happened. We moved! And then again I haven't updated because, well, we moved and moving is a pain in the ass and I haven't had a lot of time.

Anyway, we moved to another state and left so much of what we love behind. We loved our neighborhood, our neighbors, our property, our friends, our volunteering, our community activities. But we took the opportunity to move to where my family is to watch my niece grow up and see more of my parents.

The great news about it is we got a bigger farm! We went from 5 acres to 20 acres. Oh, and a covered arena and an awesome barn and irrigated pastures and little trails on the property and across the street. The horses are so happy here!

I could type about all the stuff we've been through to get here and since we've been here, but I'll just post some little videos of Princess Fancy Pants and then try from here on out to update more regularly.

Here she is in her new pasture (just one of them!).

And here she is in the indoor arena trying to figure out who the beauty in the mirror is.

She's been so good so far. She's great when I take her for walks away from the boys in the barn. The property has little trails dragged throughout so it is a nice place go for a walk and check stuff out. We've done a little bit in the covered arena, and I've taken her out with me and worked on patience in standing still while I pull weeds in the outdoor arena.

The horses all go out together in the pasture and are quite happy to have room to move around and grass to eat. Everyone gets along great, but Paddy screams when I take anyone away.

I'm trying to turn one of our house cats into a barn cat (not too much of a stretch because he was feral when we got him) and so far he's happy living in the tack room - much happier than he was living in the house with the other cats who picked on him and the dogs who scared him.

I'm sort of at a stopping place unpacking-wise as we wait for our new floors to be installed, so now I'll have more time to play with the ponies!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Joint breakfast

After last night's initial meeting, I left all three of the horses out together for an hour and then went back up to put Mac in his stall per the usual dinnertime set up.

This morning, I decided to put PFP out with the boys for breakfast to see how that goes. I'm sure she'd be much happier being with them than alone in her suite, so I put all the hay out and went to her stall to get her. She was very polite, stood quietly to be haltered (not that this is anything new, but I thought if she figured she was going out with the boys she might be a little antsy), walked quietly out of the barn, and bypassed Mac to get to a pile of hay. I put her hay net out in a new location so each horse has one, and there was absolutely no drama, no squirting, no flirting, no nothing.

YAY! I don't like keeping the horses separated if I don't have to, and I think it is much better for a youngster like herself to have companionship and learn from the other horses. Mac is very clear in his leadership and tends to fly solo, so there likely won't be a lot of kissy-face interaction, but he'll do his job to protect everybody and keep them in line. She can continue to do joint back scratches with Paddy. Just letting her be with the two of them will I think be comforting for her. Plus, Mac will teach her some manners if she thinks she's all that!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Video - Princess Fancy Pants and Mac get turned out together

Well, today was as good a day as any! PFP wasn't acting like she was in heat when I put her out with Paddy. She didn't immediately run over to where Mac was in his paddock when I let her out so after I got back from an afternoon yoga class I decided to let him out so they could be together for the first time.

And here's how it went.