Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Evening ride with full moon

Too hot to do anything until about 8pm tonight, but then we had the full moon to light the way.

My oldest daughter V joined James and I in a ride in the front pasture. Both my daughters are enrolled in a horse camp for the week. They are riding horses bareback, and both have been walking and trotting. My oldest V, especially needed this camp. She has previously ridden in poor balance and without confidence. But the camp seems to be doing wonders for her, because she had much better posture on Lola this evening. She even commented how much easier it felt to ride in the saddle versus bareback, which is exactly what I had hoped she would experience.

I rode the grullo, Joey, and James rode his colt Big Mack. He and I worked on transitions, with lots of walk, trot, and canter. I really opened up Joey and let him run this evening, and he showed me good stamina and a motor. I just love transitioning him from the canter to the trot, because his trot is so smooth, it isn't a rough transition. I sometimes can't even tell when he has broken into the trot. He is almost as smooth as my paso fino; I'm not kidding.

V had a challenge with Lola, because Lola is in heat. She was acting quite the hussy, which was a big distraction to the grullo. But James and I showed V how to yield Lola's hindquarters with her leg, and V thought that was the cooolest thing. That helped to keep Lola focused and it helped V to feel confident. Lola has remembered what James had been drilling into her with all his rides on her over the last several weeks, and V really appreciated Lola's responsiveness.

All told, we had about 2 hours of horse time and bonding. I can't wait to see how my daughters progress in this horse camp. V is doing another week later this month. My hopes are high, but I'm trying to be low key about it and just let things happen. That's a real challenge for me!

Monday, June 6, 2011

It just gets better and better...

What a mug!

Where to begin?

Today I received Joey's (the grullo) papers. I knew his genealogy already, but these were the official papers. It listed the previous owners, and his breeder. I googled her name, and gave her a call. And I heard stories of his life as a foal.

The breeder is Helen Cox with Chance Cutting Horses. She remembered Joey right away, and told me to kick my feet up while she told me stories about Joey. He was always a calm, cool temperament kind of horse. She told me he was one of those horses she hated to let go, because he was that good. He would follow her around while she did chores, picking up her tools and trailing after her like a dog. He was always easy to catch. He was not imprinted, but she did handle him a lot as a foal. He was not a big bucking horse with his first rides, and barely offered resistance. He earned the scar on his right hind end rushing through a gate. That cut earned him a trip to the vet in Fredericksburg, and sutures. That explains the scar!

Looking gangly in this pic..love the low headset.

He was gelded at about 1.5 years. He comes from a lot of cutting blood, with proven money earners. Joey was a very smart foal and learned quickly. His sire is 15.1 HH and his dam is 14.1 HH. She told me that many offspring of the sire grow late, and she advised that Joey would probably grow until he is about 6 years old. That's a good thing, because I'd actually like to see him a little taller. He's a stout 14.1 HH at present.

It turns out Chance Cutting Horses, where Joey's sire and dam still reside, and where they train cutting horses, is only 60 miles from my house! I was invited to come out and see what they have to offer, and I intend to take them up on that. How cool would it be to see Joey's sire and dam, and maybe put joey through his training paces with his breeder?

It was a really neat conversation, capped off with some pics of Joey as a youngster, some of which are included in this post. You can see his sire and dam at the website of Chance Cutting horses. His sire is HOLI CHRISTMAS QUI and his dam is HICK BAR N GRULLO.

So I was definitely fired up to ride him today. James had his horse "Big Mack" back from training, and so we saddled up and hit the front pasture. We cantered circles, trotted all over, worked on stops and one rein stops, and yielding hindquarters. Joey did great, and it was the most I've cantered him in one session. We cantered enough for my abdominal muscles to start cramping.

On the way back to the barn, I rocked him back on his back end, and used the free end of my mecate reins to encourage him to step lively, and put him into a 360 degree spin. It was smooth and nicely controlled, a nice crossing of his front legs, just what I've always wanted to be able to do on a horse. And the best part is that James saw it and can serve as my witness. I was actually dizzy after the spin. It was awesome!

Joey is the 7th horse I've purchased in my lifetime. I've been trying to step up my horsemanship along the way, to be able to appreciate a really good horse when he came along. So far, Joey has fit the bill. It's pretty apparent that the only limit to Joey is going to be me. I am looking forward to the challenge.

The end

Voice command in round pen...

I am not prone to teaching "tricks" to my horses. But I do find myself vocalizing for gaits, as it seems to remind me to use a different rhythm in each gait. For example, I think 1-2-3-4 for the walk. I think 1-2 1-2 for the trot. And I think 123 123 for the canter. And I try to ride with that rhythm and ASK for that tempo while round penning.

I also say "WAALK" at the same time I ask for a walk in the round pen. I say "tRRROT" for the trot. And finally, I say "canTER" for the lope. "Woah" is reserved for stopping. Everything I say is accompanied with the appropriate change in energy and position relative to the drive line, to achieve the desired gait, followed by a release of pressure once the horse is in the appropriate gait. Make sense?

And while I don't think I want my horse responding to just my voice, it does seem to help us both figure out which gait I am asking for. It helps to lead to consistency, in my opinion. Also, I'm not incessantly kissing to my horse for more energy. I just repeat my voice command. And it is more readily apparent to me if I am asking more than once for a gait when I vocalize the gait I'm after, instead of realizing after the fact that I've been kissing for the canter for 3 revolutions around the round pen! I want my horse to go into the gait I've asked for the FIRST time I ask for it, not the 4th or 5th time.

Well, the grullo has really picked up on this. Yesterday, I was too pooped to ride, after mucking stalls and spending 2 hours on the tractor spreading manure. But I did want to work a horse, so I round penned the grullo. He is round penning MUCH better, and yesterday was his best effort ever. And he was going into gait on my voice. We did a lot of gait transitions: walk, trot,canter, trot, walk, canter, etc. He is maintaining his gait much better and with a good tempo. Afterward, we did some longeing, and he is yielding hindquarters better. Overall, he is showing REMARKABLE progress. Truly, he is one of my "quicker" horses.

Friday, June 3, 2011

3 more rides on the grullo

I've worked with the grullo about three more time since last post. He's round penning much better. I have control of all 3 gaits now, and he is MOSTLY connected to my energy in the round pen. I'm beginning to be able to read him, and can sense when he's a little "fresh" and might benefit from a round pen session before the ride. Today was one of those days, and he threw a few cow kicks in the round pen, but settled in after that. And we had no mischief while I was mounted and we were cantering.

I think he still needs time and practice to balance me while we canter and trot. He's such a little guy, that he really has to focus to carry me without losing his balance. I'm doing my best to stay centered, but he's a little "loose" anyway, and he struggles. That's my perception anyway.

I continue to flex him to keep him soft in the face. He is longeing MUCH better, yielding hindquarters for changes in direction and not quite as dramatic in his direction changes. He does fight the halter pressure a bit, and can try to run out of the trotting circle while longeing. I keep giving him little corrections to encourage him to keep looking inside while circling and to stay in an arc.

Rode in front pasture and worked on transitions: walk, trot, and canter. He's still needing reminders to stay straight, and can move like a drunken sailor. I try to keep my shoulders back and just look at a target off in the distance and let my hands and legs do the rest to keep him moving in a straight line towards our target. I can report improvement in this area, but not mastery.

He wolfs his food like no other horse I've ever seen. I put rocks in his grain bin to slow him down today, and that worked. Until he figured out how to just pick up the rocks and remove them from his bin. I'm going to have to start feeding him from a hay bag, because he's finishing his ration of hay in half the time as the other horses.

He's a very quick study. Show him twice, and he's got it. He really "searches" for the answer. Good boy.