Wednesday, May 25, 2011

4th Ride with the Colt

Yesterday was just a trail ride kind of day. I saddled the colt, and jumped on cold back. We warmed up in the front pasture, and then headed to the trails, with James riding Lola for company.

We did one of our easier, traditional trails first. And along the way, the grullo freaked a little with some big landscape rocks. You know, the ones that are big to prevent cars from driving on the grass. I guess he suspected there was something lurking around them, because he startled in place, and then was slow to approach them. I HAD been asking him to walk right between them...what was I thinking, huh? But he is a very curious horse, and so he approached and then sniffed and kind of licked the rock. Then he snorted and was quickly over his fear. We then proceeded to weave in and out of these rocks without further difficulty.

We encountered trash cans and trash bags billowing in the wind along the trail, and he encountered each new thing with curiosity rather than fear, and I gave him all the time in the world to check these things out and satisfy himself. Once he had completed his investigation, the object held no further fear for him.

We walked and trotted a lot on this trip. There was no cantering. I was encouraging him to walk faster. He has a wonderfully smooth trot, and I alternated between sitting his trot and posting his trot. Posting his trot is easy and requires very little effort. He is improving daily and moving in a straight line and maintaining his speed.

He kept his head a little higher this ride, due to all the interesting things there were to see. This allowed me to give him some bit pressure and remind him to lower his head to the pressure. He responded well. I didn't do more than ask for it down and then release immediately. Later, I'll ask for longer and longer stretches of vertical flexion from him, but this was a ride designed to get him excited about trail riding, and not a strict training/punishing ride. We did practice our one rein stops and there was plenty of lateral flexion exercises as well to remind him to stay soft.

I'm out of the saddle for the next 2 days, but hopefully he'll get some more riding time on Friday and the weekend.

We seem to be making progress daily.

Monday, May 23, 2011

3rd ride with grullo colt

James was back in town tonight, and it gave me the chance to show him the colt.

I caught the grullo from front pasture. Love how this horse is always walking to me to be caught. No chasing him all over the place.

Tacked him up. I think I finally have his tack figured out. 30 inch cinch is doing the trick. He's a little guy.

Longed him as a warm up. Made him yield hindquarters and square up for direction changes. Quick round pen work just to keep him loose. Giving me the canter more easily.

Rode him in round pen. Trotting and cantering with less fuss, more subtle cues.

James got on him and put him through some paces. Had him spinning! Nice work on his back end. Spins weren't fast, but they were there.

Finished with some nice walk and trot time in front pasture. Had him side passing with energy.

He needs more work at his stop and backing up, but he is doing a little better every day. Sweet riding.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2nd ride on the grullo...

The view from the grullo. My friend Alex on Woody in front.

I caught a break with work this evening, and was able to work with the grullo. I didn't have all the time in the world, so this was going to be a saddle up and ride evening.

He is still dancing during saddle up, so this will need some work. I think I'll sack him out with the saddle pad and just go back to basics.

We warmed up in the round pen. He was poking along with his slow walk. He trotted easily. But he was giving me all kinds of grief about maintaining his trot. And he was resistant to go into canter and stay in canter. I was squeezing with thighs, then calves, and finally heel, but I was getting no response. I even reached back to swat him with my hand, but he would not canter. Finally, I gave him some kicks (with the right leg for the left lead), and I got a response. He gave me 2-3 bucks. I rode them out, and promptly got him trotting again. I don't blame him for bucking. I was kicking him pretty good. But it was all I could do to get him moving. I had exhausted all my other leg aids. At that point, maybe a crop would have helped.

After a few times around, I dismounted and round penned him from the ground, asking for and getting, the canter. I did this in both directions. Then I mounted again and tried for the canter again.

I got the canter more readily, but he has this habit of dropping his head that is a little disconcerting. But I do NOT accept that he cannot read my cues and that he can't canter more readily. With more time, he should be able to read my cues and move out.

We then went to the front pasture and rode around and finally hit a trail. I cantered him a bit in an open spot, but it was still too much work to get it from him.

I'll keep at this. I know he can get it, and was already improving by ride's end. I even rode him some more at the canter in the round pen when we got back from the trail. I do NOT want this to be a sticking point. He and I have many things to work on, but moving out and cantering needs to be second nature. I will not have a horse that won't canter.

I think the lack of ground work after a week off led to some of the problem. But he's sound again, so the work will begin in earnest this week.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Running sliding stop

Not much time to ride this weekend due to work constraints. But I did move the grullo to the front pasture to let him stretch his legs and so I could see him move. He seemed perfectly fine while walking and trotting, and immediately trotted over to investigate the mare next door and across the fence. He couldn't get into too much trouble, though, because the fence is sturdy and the top is an electric hot wire.

In the evening, after my work day was done, I went to fetch him from the pasture to bring him to his stall for the evening. On my way, the mare next door was brought in by her owners for feeding. This worked up the grullo, who proceeded to run full speed along the fence line. And this is where it got fun. He ran at full out and then stopped on his hind end mere feet before the fence in a sliding stop! He did this twice. It was an impressive sight.

After this display, he calmly walked over to me, and I haltered him with no fuss.

But this is why I bought this horse; this is what I was hoping for. He has athleticism that my other horses don't possess. If he can do that stop at will, it will be my challenge to get that same stop from him under saddle.

Oh, and I think he's over his soreness from earlier this week. If I can get done early tomorrow, there might be some work for him in the evening.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Such a great temperament...

The grullo gelding seemed to be moving better yesterday. Still a slight limp, but barely noticeable. That means he has been steadily improving.

I groomed him, and I have to tell you, it was quite an experience. This young horse will just stand there and fall asleep with grooming. I rubbed his ears, inside and out, stuck my fingers up his nose, groomed his mane, sprayed fly spray all over him, and he just got sleepy and almost dozed off.

Later, while standing next to me in halter, he came over to me and just gently nuzzled his entire face into my armpit. I mean, I had him in a headlock, and he seemed to enjoy it, just standing there with droopy eyes. And yet, if I ask him to move a little, he'll do that too.

I have been picking his hooves daily, and he has improved every day. He is second only to Woody in how well he gives me his hooves. With Woody, I can practically lift his rear hooves to my chest. Woody is that soft and flexible, and he's 17 years old. The grullo is almost that good.

I can't wait for this guy to get healthy so I can work with him again. At this point, I suspect the kicks to the chest that he took from Lola resulted in muscle bruising, and he's slowly recovering from that. At least, I hope that's what it was. I've gone over his joints every day, and there is no swelling I can find. I can't really find any point tenderness either, but I do suspect it's his right front that is the issue, based on how he's moving.

Due to lack of horse work to do, James and I cut down the dead oak tree in front of the barn to occupy our time. That was enough adventure for us, trust me, and a story in itself...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trail ride.

Grullo appeared to be moving better today. I even thought of riding him, until he took 3 steps in the round pen, and it was apparent he is still hurting. I'm going to give him several days, but if no improvement, then he's going to the vet.

I left him tied again today while we headed out on a trail ride. Can never hurt to leave a horse hanging for a while.

Before we left, I tried my gaited saddle on the grullo again. I'm happy to report that it fits him better than I thought. With the right pad, the shorter skirt just fits him. His shoulders look free, and his hips are not running into the skirt. Looks like this will be the saddle he gets ridden in until I figure things out. The skirt on this saddle is 24.5". The most this little guy could probably take is 25". I swear, this gaited saddle has come in very handy. The wider shoulder area means more freedom, and since the tree has the front end of a paso, but the rear of a QH, most QH's ride very well in this saddle.

James rode Lola, I rode the paso, and my friend Alex rode Woody. It was a great ride, and we found a mostly undeveloped hill in the neighborhood to climb. By hill, I mean a big, steep hill. It was a blast, and it broke up the routine for the horses. We cantered plenty, and the horses really did well.

The grullo was happy to see us return, but he didn't look worried at being left. There's that good attitude again.

I'm frustrated the the grullo isn't getting all this great riding time, but I'll just have to wait on him. For now, enjoy the pics.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grullo update

I do not have good news...I introduced the grullo to the herd this morning, after he had been stalled next to them all night. It did not go well. He started running the mare immediately, took several of her kicks to his chest, bit the paso fino gelding, and reared to fight Woody while they both reared and pawed at each other. All this in about 10 minutes. I got him locked away in the back paddock after that, but they were still trying to fight across the fence.

I returned this afternoon to find the grullo limping in the back paddock. I found no cuts, no joint swelling. I only hope he's just bruised up. He'll be staying in the back paddock until further time has passed.

I did pick all 4 hooves. Better today.

I officially measured his height, and he's 14.1HH. Shorter than what I wanted and what was described, but I'll have to live with it. If he's an agile horse, I'll live with it. And maybe he'll put on a little more still; he's only 4.

He is definitely short backed. I tried on every saddle I own, including my gaited saddle with the shortest skirt and the round skirt. That one fit him the best, but still had some issues. He is not going to ride well in a standard saddle. He will need to have his shoulders and hips free, and a short, rounded skirt is the only way to do that. Unfortunately, I'm all out of extra money to fit this horse at this time. Plus, I was hoping to one day rope on him, so he's going to need a short, round skirt in a roping saddle. Good luck on that.

I left the grullo tied and rode the paso fino today while James rode Lola. She is doing very well, by the way.

Frustrating day. New horse is too injured to ride after fights that were all his doing, shorter than advertised, and hard to saddle fit. I hope he makes up for it all when he's working cows.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Horse!

Took ownership of a 2007, AQHA gelding, grullo morning of May 15, 2011. I have been wanting a younger, more athletic horse, and this guy seemed to fit the bill.

He has the mousy brown color of the grullo. And in order to be a grullo, he has to have some dun characteristics.

Definition: Grullo is a color of horses in the dun family, characterized by tan-gray or mouse-colored hairs on the body, often with shoulder and dorsal stripes and black barring on the lower legs. In this coloration each individual hair is mouse-colored, unlike a roan which is composed of a mixture of dark and light hairs. There are several shades of grullo, informally referred to with a variety of terms including black dun, blue dun, slate grullo, silver grullo, silver dun, or lobo dun.

I especially like the bronze metallic sheen he has at the right angle. He is well put together, and well muscled. He has just about ALL of the dun characteristics.

Here are some first impressions:

He traveled well. Some of my horses are weak in the knees after a 4 hour haul. He looked fresh. Maybe it's the new slant load trailer; it HAS to be more comfortable than my old open stock trailer. But he landed with plenty of pep. He is nice and slow to back out of trailer, feeling for the drop VERY carefully. I'd MUCH rather have that than a horse that bolts out and gets one or both of us hurt. I let him take his time, and didn't rush him in any way.

He didn't get all "high headed" the way many horses do when first arriving at a new place. Not a whinny from him. He just seemed starved for the hay and water I offered him. He walked around a back paddock I placed him in, and sniffed at manure piles. So far so good.

I left him for a few hours to acclimate while I did some mowing on the tractor. I got back to him, and he walked up to me to be caught. THAT was a nice change from my other horses. Only Woody, my 17 year old finished horse, ever walks up that readily. Stayed still for halter.

He gave me his front feet readily. A little tentative with the rear. But I pick my horses often, and I really ask them to give me their hind foot fully, so most horses start to get easy after a month or so with me. If not, I use ropes to "soften" their give. But I think time and slow, careful handling will get him better. I was careful to PLACE his feet down, rather than just drop them. That way they learn to place their hooves, and there's less chance they will get shy with their hooves OR step on me!

Good hard hooves. A little bulge in the rears. We'll see what my farrier says. He's never been shod.

He led to the round pen well. I didn't have to drag him, nor did he charge out in front.

Flexed well from ground. Nice give. B+ grade for flexing.

He longed well. He has definitely done this before. Good changes of direction. I didn't push him to, but he made a few good turns on his back end anyway. Small reminders needed to get him to yield hindquarters and face me. Controlled energy. Everything at a trot, which is about all I want when in that tight of a circle so as not to overstress joints cantering in a tight circle. Grade of B.

Round penning was interesting. He was reluctant to canter for long stretches. I had to really keep my energy up. I thought this would be easier, but he may be a lower energy horse that needs a little extra cue to keep up his energy. Took the correct lead every time but once, and then quickly did a flying lead change to correct. His canter needs to come easier. Turns were a mixture of inside and outside. Eventually, I will want only inside turns, but this was more about seeing where he is before getting goal oriented with my training. I quit a little earlier than I usually do, before there were obvious signs of submission, but he just stopped and then walked entire length of round pen to join up with me. I really liked the last part, especially when he doesn't even know me and I had just sent him going. He was really looking for human leadership. Round penning is a hole for him, but nothing I can't deal with.
I'd grade him a C+.

He was doing so well, I decided to ride him. This is more than I had planned for him on his first day, but it was apparent that he was well started and he should be able to tolerate a ride. He stood still tied for saddling. No dancing around. Good. Grade B.

He is short-backed. My usual saddle is neither long nor short skirted, but when I positioned the saddle where I though it should fit him and keep his shoulders free, I was well into his hind end with the skirt edges. I really like a saddle to leave the shoulders and hind end free, and so this may be an issue. I have a short skirted gaited saddle that I will try on him next. He has good withers and held the saddle well. He is trim and lean, and I had to punch new holes for the rear cinch and breast collar. He's really a little thing. I taped his height and he is along the lines of 14.1. He was described as 14.3, but he is well short of that. I will re-measure him with James's help, but I don't think he's going to measure more than 14.2. This is shorter than I wanted.

I started in the round pen. He took the bridle decently; using a myler snaffle. He stood still for mounting. As soon as I mounted, he flexed to the right. On his own! Hilarious. He has obviously been taught to flex a lot from the saddle. Nothing wrong with that, as that was pretty much my plan anyway, but I appreciated the eagerness. He flexes very well from the saddle, and understood the one rein stop. We did a bunch of those. He walked well, but a little slow. I had to encourage him more than I like to for the trot and canter. He needs to be a little more tuned into my seat. I noticed this on my first ride with him pre-purchase as well. Getting him to canter required WAY too much energy on my part. A little quirt or crop might help with that. But he was also reluctant to canter in the round pen without a lot of energy from me, so he was being consistent, so that means I can correct the issue on the ground, without having to do it from the saddle, and leave my saddle time to be subtle. I don't want to "deaden" him with exaggerated cues to canter from the saddle....make sense? I want him changing speeds with subtle shifts in my energy.

He was very under control while riding. Never felt loose. Decent stop and back up. His previous owner has been working hard at collection, and the horse definitely knew to drop his head with slight bit pressure. He rounded his back nicely. He tends to over exaggerate to escape the bit, though, and his head gets very low. That's OK for now, but I'm going to be working on framing him a little better with his head in the proper position as we go along. Again, this was just a feel out ride, not very goal oriented.

We were feeling good, and I wanted to ride, so I decided to chance it and do a trail ride. He side-passed beautifully from the saddle, and stood still for me to open the gate out of the round pen. And we were out!

We met the herd in the front pasture, and I let him see my other 3 horses from across the fence. He was cool, but excited. No stupid behavior on any horse's part. Good. We hit the easiest trail in my neighborhood. We met people, dogs, other horses on the way, and he took it all in stride.

He does need some work walking in a straight line. He was walking like he had at least 2-3 beers. I've felt lots of young horses do this, and I'll just need to do some concentrated work walking directly to this fence post and that, to show him how to walk in a straight line. This is just a matter of time and practice.

He has a VERY slow walk on the trail. We alternated walking and trotting. I will work on getting a faster walk out of him, because this plodding walk is not going to work for me. We did try a few rollbacks along a fence from the trot. He gave me about 2 out of 6 great rollbacks. The other 4 were marginal. But his previous owner kind of warned me that his rollbacks weren't complete. I think I could have gotten better out of him, but this ride was just all about feeling him out. I didn't push the issue.

Overall, my riding experience was a C+ with him. He needs a faster walk, straight direction, and should require less energy to change gaits. But he was a steady mount and there was no foolishness. That's a great temperament that I can build on.

I was very pleased with him overall. He has holes, and now I know where they are, but so far, I haven't seen anything I can't handle.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lily update...

Well, I've been bitten by a horse bug, so I am close to purchasing a 4 year old registered QH in grullo color. Sale is pending a vet check, so I'll write more later. But it means I won't really have the room or time for Lily, so Breathe is coming to get her later today.

BUT, I did ride her yesterday and wanted to sum up her report from her brief camp with me.

Pre-camp summary from owner: Lily is described as a performance mare, 17 years old, with little work in the last several months, who has become anxious and hyper-reactive. She has never flexed her neck well from the ground. Round pens well with inside turns, slow to join up. Recently started to refuse being bridled with bit.

Training day 1: Horse refused to be bridled with bit. Popped lead rope during attempt, very dangerous move as I was fully engaged with horse. I never like a horse to behave in that exaggerated a manner while I am anywhere near the horse, and in this case, I was not forcing the bit, and I was literally next to and touching the horse with much of my body.

Horse was moved to the round pen, where she was VERY anxious, cantered out of control, sweating profusely, and had very little control to trainer's body language. Join up was minimal at best, even after about 20 minutes and with frequent changes in direction. Horse did not respond to moving in front of her driveline while round penning. All direction changes had to be done with exaggerated body cues.

Did not understand flexing exercises. Wanted to spin in place instead of remaining still for neck flexion. Ended session with small success at just getting her to stand still and give me her head for neck flexion with halter and lead at about 25% of full flexion.

Longed with too much energy. Wanted to canter despite quiet body language asking for trot. Did not square up well, hindquarters drifting. Fairly dangerous exercise with her energy level this high.

Training Day 2: Round pen exercises again. Still very little control, and too fast canter for the minimal stimulation the trainer was giving. Still, some improvement in getting her to trot AND canter. Good at inside turns, but there is no "submission" to her inside turns; she is just well practiced at turning that way. Join up still after 20+ minutes, but stays hooked on decently. Very distracted with stimuli outside the round pen.

Flexing better today. Still wanted to spin in place, but "remembered" from day before, and took less time to achieve still body position. Flexion at 50% of full flexion. Need to emphasize quick, obvious release to build on her neck flexion.

Longed with less energy, which is good. Not pushing her to work off her back end when changing directions to avoid over-stimulating, but eventually turns on her back end would be the goal.

Training Day 3: Left her tied for about 90 minutes.

Training Day 4: Caught her and brought her into barn. Nervous and anxious. My oldest daughter noticed "she isn't breathing". My daughter is correct; Lily is only taking shallow breaths. Had myself and my 2 daughters brush her all over to give her "hands on her body" desensitization while taking loud, deep breaths. Lily relaxed and started breathing.

Saddled with minimal fuss, but had to remind her to stand still with praise.

Round penned better. Still too hyper-reactive and not respectful of getting in front of her driveline, but less anxious. Not as sweaty. Better join up, walking towards me about 6 steps at join up.

Flexed better. "Remembered" to stay still with medium-gentle effort. Very responsive to praise and touch. Lots of try in her. Achieved 100% flexion after some time. Not consistent, but much improved.

No longeing today.

Rode her in bosal. Decently still on standing still for mounting. She bent her head to readily accept and place her head in bosal. Walked and trotted well. Good stop and back up with minimal effort.

I attempted flexing from saddle with bosal. At first, mad spinning in place. I was careful to keep legs off her. Got dizzy. When she stopped, I released. After several mionutes, she was flexing 100% to my boot while standing still on both sides. Repeated this exercise many times during ride.

Summary: Lily is an older performance mare with a lot of try and quick feet. She needs a job, and to be ridden consistently. She responds well to praise, and is a quick learner.

Currently, I grade her round penning at a C-. She needs to be relaxed, able to be controlled in to all gaits, including the walk. Needs to be joined to trainer and respect moves in front of the driveline.

I grade her longeing at a C+. She has too much energy and needs to work off her back end more with turns.

Her flexing went from an F to a C+. This was her most improved area, considering her owner said she had never flexed before.

I would also consider doing desensitization work to "sack her out". Also, remember to breathe deeply around her to ease her anxiety.

I estimate 3-4 months to bring her grades into A range, but I see no reason why she could not achieve this.

I also think Lily is best served to be a primary mount. The lack of work likely leaves her anxious and she becomes very undone. If she were ridden consistently and often, I think she still has many useful years of service. Her "try" is very good for a horse her age.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I'm going to use this space to document my work with Lily, a registered quarter horse mare about 17 years old that belongs to my friend Breathe.

Lily is a horse that I have known for some time, maybe about 4 years. I've seen her around, and I rode her once. She is a high powered mare with a lot of "go". She hasn't been ridden much, so Breathe asked me to see what I could do with her.

I attempted to ride her on Sunday afternoon, to join a riding party leaving my house, but she was very much out of control, and I elected to work her on the ground first. That day I tried to ride her, she was very anxious during saddling. She would not give me her hind legs. She was just a nervous wreck. When I went to bit her, she kept her mouth closed and CLAMPED SHUT. I've never seen an older horse do this to this extreme. I tried to use my usual technique to bit her, right hand between her ears and over her head, neck slightly bent, left hand guiding the bit in, but she would not budge her mouth open. And then suddenly, she popped her head back, and popped the lead rope! That was it for me. If I hadn't been using proper technique, she would have broken my jaw for sure.

I abandoned trying to ride her and took her to the round pen. She was a nervous wreck. I just let her run and run. I wasn't prompting her to canter, she was just off to the races. That session, I just let her get used to the round pen. It took a long time for her to even attempt to join up, and we had a few unsuccessful stops where she did NOT join up. She did make inside turns, but they were just well-trained automatic turns. There was no submission in them.

I tried flexing her, and she is stiff and braced. She also didn't know how to flex, and my cues for flexing caused her to spin in place. No biggie, most horses do that at first. After a bit, I got her to understand that flexing means just her neck, and not her whole body. But the flex I did get was very small. I'll build from that.

A second round pen session on Monday was much the same, but maybe slightly better. I longed her both sessions too, and she did decently, but still hyper-reactive.

I think she's a 4 month project, honestly. But I may only have room for her for a few weeks. I'll see what I can get done with her.