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!