Tuesday, December 20, 2011

back to it

After a short break I got back to work yesterday with Chapiro, relaxing the neck. The reflex relaxation response when the tension releases in his neck leads to him licking and lowering his head which I'm hoping to be able to bring on cue from the ground or when ridden. Basically using the same principle as bitted flexions I'm trying to wing it in a headcollar! It's still very much a work in progress (I have discussed it here before) and it may just be another one of those blind alleys but both he and Moo seem to benefit from this type of work so I'm going to give it some serious consideration over winter. In the second video we are working on the in-hand trot, again trying to keep the neck/shoulders relaxed especially through the transitions. The small circles (I only do this work for a few minutes) also mean that I can easily keep the shoulder lightly 'in' as on this size of circle it would be impossible for him to keep uniformly bent around the circumference.
I might give the in-hand horsemanship a go on interdressage this month if I can up our game in time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

sleep tight

I always knew I'd write this post but never considered it would happen this way. Eight days ago our Cleo walked out of our lives and hasn't returned. We knew her from the day she was born 16 years ago and had hoped we'd be there with her to say goodbye at the end but sadly that isn't to be. We don't know where she went and imagining is too painful but after hunting high and low for days we have had to admit defeat. Dementia is a cruel disease and it isn't my first brush with the monster. Wherever you are my baby, sleep tight, we miss you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

training tricks part 1 Jambette

Last post Di asked how to train the spanish walk so here goes!
I'm not a great trick fan and I know that lots of folks think of jambette and spanish walk as tricks but for me they are an extension of movements that horses can be seen to perform naturally. Chapiro most definitely raises a fore leg and quivers it at Manolo, his neighbour, if he dares to get too close to the fence. I think it also helps create more lift in the foreleg in preparation for passage (which we are some way off, lol) certainly in Chapiro's case I'm hoping it will  help make him more mobile in his shoulders.

This is a brief resumé of how the jambette can be started ;

*cue a leg raise in-hand
this will be different for each horse, a sensitive horse like Chapiro just needs a hint of a touch on any part of his leg to get a response, less sensitive horses may need some help with a hand to lift the leg at the same time as giving the touch or verbal (or both) cue. Begin by rewarding the tiniest try, even a shift of weight and gradually encourage the full lift by both physical and verbal cues. Remember that at some point you may want to transfer this to ridden work and so it's vital that you have a cue that is able to be given from the saddle. In theory though you could use a touch of any part of the leg/shoulder in the early stages but for me the most obvious spot is the upper front of the foreleg.

You can also use mimicry as I did on day one with Chapiro. When he watched Moo getting clicks and treats just for raising his leg he thought he'd have some of that! Some folks (and I have tried this but my right hip argues too much, ouch) do the leg raise themselves to encourage the mimicry.

If you already have target touching in your trick bag then you can easily use the touch cue to get the leg to the target. I am using this as an improvement tool and so far it's working well.

*improve quality and duration

Once you have the leg lift on cue then it's down to refinement, this can (certainly did in Moo's case) take a long time and I would reckon it's well worth taking time on this and doing short sessions to keep the work really sweet. To improve the placing of the leg then the target is perfect, think of getting the upper forearm to touch the target, then progress to the knee and finally the fetlock or hoof. The same with duration, just keep the touch for a split second longer each time before rewarding and end on a good note, always without pushing it too fast.

 *extinguish unwanted tries

This work can become so exciting to a horse that he will offer it at every opportunity and often when unasked, this is quite dangerous and so it's important to work on calmy ignoring these offered tries and unsurprisingly I use clicker for this too, a few minutes at the end of the early sessions may well be all it takes for some but as always all horses will be different.

*progression to spanish walk

I'll cover this as Chapiro works towards it but for now it's just important that he is able to raise a leg and then walk on so that we will be well prepared for spanish walk proper.

Hope this helps Di, any questions and input from others always welcome.

Here's our video's of the early work with Chapsi and some basic leg raising with Moo to illustrate my points.

We are currently continuing our 'homework' from the body worker with Chapiro so it's shoulder circles and jambette.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ministry of Funny Walks

Chapiro seems to have really picked up the idea of jambette/spanish walk from Moo when we had our double clicker session earlier this week. Today I had 'family' duties in the form of Christmas shopping and had more or less written off the day in terms of training but I raced MIL round Limoges at breakneck speed and just got back in time for a second go at the spanish walk preparation. Sorry for the rather gushing sound track but I'm so proud of my clever wee man, wish I was half as clever

Sunday, November 13, 2011

bitless flexions

I've been teaching Chapiro the rein actions for some time now and almost gave up when I went to Di's and felt Rem's mouth in a bit! I want the same feel bitless of the neck yielding and the mouth being mobile but Chapsi is a stresshead and keeping it all mobile has proved diffeicult. The last couple of days we've had a bit of a breakthrough and the boy has been chewing and swallowing during the flexion work. Next will be to try and transfer it to ridden. It's still not the finished product but here's the video from yesterday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

redeemed myself

Only in the tech sense! I somehow saved my video of Saturday with Chapiro, not sure how but I'm glad I have a comparison because today he was definitely a step on. I've edited the two vids together and it's pretty self explanatory, nothing smart or clever just reinforcing for him staying at my side, not rushing ahead and stopping when I stop. Very pleased with him today and so tomorrow I think we'll swap from a shaping session to a free shaping session where he can decide what we do...not exactly that he can put me where he wants but more that I'll listen to what game he prefers to play; usually he loves free shaping so we'll see how it goes.
I still have them living out without rugs, they are coming in for a few hours to munch hay and work. They don't appear to be starving when they come in and in fact today the pone didn't really want to come in. I took the other two and then went back for him and rode him up the hill to save my legs...perhaps next time he'll think more carefully about being caught! They all look pretty good so far and we have rug options lined up should they be necessary.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A tale of two horses

November has traditionally been my least favourite month. Grey skies, wind blowing rain horizontally and the diminishing daylight hours are hardly conducive to horse training happiness. Last year the boys were turned away until christmas but this year during the same period I'm going to concentrate on the basic groundwork and really cement the liberty work. I will still ride when the weather suits but it will ease the pressure if I already have my head lined up for groundwork.

With this in mind, yesterday I had a session with each at liberty to re-draw the line and see exactly where we are. Now I was hoping to have video to back up the words but I only have  Moralejo's work on video, owing entirely to my ineptitude with movie maker and having somewhow wiped the footage of Chapiro!

During last week a FB friend kindly sent me a profile chart and I filled it in for both the boys,
unsurprisingly both came out as full on extroverts (bags of energy and forward types) but one being dominant and the other being submissive makes them rather different beasts. I'm going to be very mindful of this as we progress and IF I had both vids you would see instantly what I mean about different. Chapiro won't wait, doesn't want to stay at my side because usually it's HIM who decides where the boys in the field go, HE who stops where and when he wants. My way round this is, as usual, with the clicker. To begin with I'm just reinforcing his being at my side but not in my space, if we manage two strides of walk like this I click, if he romps off at his own pace without me then I turn and take a step away and wait for him to come back to 'position' and then click before walking on again. Yesterday two strides was a big ask but today he was already sussing the game and we managed the occasional ten strides before losing it. I will video asap so that I have a record.

Moo is of course stuck to me like glue! He NEEDS me because he is used to being TOLD where to go and can't really make decisions on his own. Again we used the clicker to focus on keeping him out of my space (ideally he would actually like to be touching me throughout) and slightly more ahead than he wants to be. We played again today and he had definitely got the idea (he is certainly one that does well when he's slept on it).

My thoughts from both sessions are...keep it short, keep the building blocks tiny at this stage and play around with variable reinforcers (ie not necessarily rewarding every try, that's not to say clicking without treating but not clicking each try) I know that this really focusses Moo's attention to detail but I'm not sure yet with Chapiro.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Clever Friends

I have some very clever friends, borne out today by this lovely study of Moo by Sarah Cameron. I can't really thank her enough. It captures my man perfectly, that certain sadness in his eye (so true to him) brought a tear to mine.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I can't remember the last time I long lined but following discussion of the topic and the fact that Interdressage have a class dedicated to it (well anything goes really, lunge, longline, ridden) I decided to give it a try.

To say I'm rusty would be an understatement but Moo was his usual obliging self. Need to work on straight lines, lateral work and keeping the bend correct on the circles, oh and not dropping the lines!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Indian Summer

It's been a real scorcher this last week and everyone, human and horse alike, seems to be happy with the last blast of summer. I've been playing with the liberty again with Chapiro, working mainly on free shaping (successive approximation) where I'm looking for the tiniest hint of him trying to stay with me and rewarding it. It makes no sense to an onlooker but it's already bearing fruit in a small way. There is a small part of Chapiro that stops him from 'giving' himself to me, on a lunge, lead or ridden he can cope but set him free and he can't make the link but it's definitely improving.

Today he was a little 'alert' in the school but by relaxing the neck and asking him out and down a little he finally chilled. We worked on my current ridden project of separating the aids into voice, weight,rein/leg. I started 100% with voice as that was the easiest to transfer from ground to ridden work but now I'm transferring this, firstly, to hand/leg aids (hand says stop, leg says go etc) and then to weight aiding. Ultimately it will be a light weight aid but having a three fold aiding system should theoretically give me  a lot of choice when training different movements.

I've been deliberating about Moo lately, to the point that it's rendered me useless! The fact that he got tight and sore again after the canter work has really bugged me, maybe it was nothing to do with the canter work but the fact that it winds him up and stresses him makes me think it was. We haven't really done any ridden work for a couple of weeks but this morning I figured that I should just keep the walk and trot work going and just wait and see.
He is such a star that boy, no work for a few weeks and I slapped on the bareback pad and away he goes. I had a real emotional surge sitting on him, I just love this horse. We worked on lots of lateral work, playing with half pass and pirouettes and I didn't sense any soreness or tight areas...onwards and upwards then.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekend Horses

At the week-end Lydia and I were invited to visit about 2.5 hours south for a friendly competition/get together organised by Helen . In spite of a rather drizzly day (can you believe we had not a drop at home even though it's badly needed) we arrived as the riders were coming back from the orienteering part of the Trec, it was great to finally meet all these folks that I've known 'virtually' for a while. After a super curry for lunch the competitors started on the 'obstacles', a couple of small jumps, bending poles, ducking under a line of flags, walking over tarp etc After the girls had finished Lydia was very lucky to have a go on Polo, who was a superstar (thanks Hollie), and then got to play with Gandalph, Chester and Seraphina. It was a lovely day and really fired Lydia up. Thanks Helen and all the gang who made us feel so welcome. On Sunday Lydia and I worked Chapiro and he was a little star, it's hard for him to adapt to her as I use a lot of voice aiding and of course Lydia's aiding is slightly different but he coped well. After some pole work in walk and trot we then raised the poles so he was having to really lift and stretch, Lydia finished with her first canter on him and a daft grin on her face! Good week-end, Lydia and Polo (receiving sustenance from Tanya).

Ali and Seraphina on the course

Big 'G' (Lydia's fave)

A short, badly filmed video (I was too busy chatting oops)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

really showing off now

Yahoo the boy done good! First canter in the school and no problems, two transitions from trot to canter on each rein, every time correct lead and no excitement just calm and business like; I so love the boy :)) I'm so happy that he has a lovely balanced canter and that he seems to enjoy this work, makes me realise that I'm maybe not so rubbish after all as it's only me and him, nobody else's input. Can't wait for more although I mustn't be impatient. Sadly the batteries died on the camera before the canter work but I'll capture it another day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

13th September 2011

Another good session, still a little tense when we start out but relaxing very quickly. A little leg yield and baby shoulder fore and an old exercise I haven't used in a while, basically designed around Kyra Kyrklund's stopping/starting and turning on a square principal (she designed her's from the same place I guess as Udo Burger and others....). Fundamentally you ride a line until you feel the horse trying to control the line (a shoulder leaning, a hind wavering...) at which point you change the line in an equal and opposite way to that which the horse is trying to take. Take as an example the horse throwing his 1/4's to the right, I would change the line by bringing the left shoulder around to the right and thus changing direction by 90° in the process and taking a new line across the school. We ended with some reinback which was improved after yesterday's session. Then we tootled off down the hill and had a trot back up, about half way up I voice cued canter and he didn't even hesitate.....he has such a lovely canter and I think it's nearly time to ride it in the school.

Monday, September 12, 2011

clever boy

I haven't done very much mat work with Chapsi for a while. Not because I don't think it has value (I know many are yet to be convinced) but because I haven't really needed it with the work we've been doing. However, as part of building up his strength behind I want to do more reinback both ridden and in-hand/lunge so I want to tidy up the aids and reaction time. As soon as I threw the mat into the school his eyes lit up! It's quite bizare because in a whole session of clicker work he will only get about two small hands of nuts but it certainly fires him up. Today he was on top form, straight on to the mat and standing square and after a couple of attempts he was backing from just my voice and then we tried a few with me stood at his side (to mimic the lunge position) and me sat on the mounting stool to his side each time he took a couple of confident strides so we called it a day and finished with a stretchy lunge. Very clever boy today. Oh yes and he will now let me spray the anti fly product onto a sponge right beside him and then wipe it over him....still a way to go but a step in the right direction. I was pleased that Heather OK'd my trot position, I've been panicking as the Barefoot is a very different feel to a treed saddle but if anyone is a good judge in these matters I'd say it's her.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

finding the balance

We've enjoyed a good week although, as ever, the weather has been at extremes. Moo has stayed perfectly sound and we started a little canter work again, if it all falls apart again then I know it's the canter causing the problems.

Chapsi has had some good sessions, trotting up our steep hill,  one using trotting poles which really helped him to pick up behind and then yesterday our best ridden session so far. It's a long way from perfect but I'm really excited that the things I've played with have actually worked. Chapsi is a little straight moving behind and so I'm focussing on getting the hocks moving and the pelvis tilting so that we ultimately end up with good lift through the withers and shoulders alongside a soft neck. Ordinarily this wouldn't phase me in the least but this is the first time I've attempted this without a bit. I'm still struck (or should that read shocked) by how many people will tell you that they only work from the back to the front and the hand has the lightest feeling when quite obviously when you see them work it isn't :(  am I being unrealistic thinking that this CAN be achieved without a bit, am I just too darned picky on what the true picture of lightness is?? I think I may cover this in a separate post.

So here is a video of Chapsi yesterday, I admit there are huge holes in his balance, he swings his quarters at times, loses his shoulders and we're not 'round' all the time but the energy and oomph are coming, perhaps we will find some paces in there!!! Oh and excuse lardy bum riding....I AM on a diet!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

la rentrée

Well almost and not too soon might I add! Lydia doesn't actually start until Tuesday as it's her first year at collège and they will be starting back a day later than the others. I would say there is an air of eager anticipation in our household right now but of course it won't last long once the first week's homework has been set.

My rentrée will be diet and exercise based in a huge effort to shift the six or seven kilos that have ungraciously welded themselves to my waistline, I'm dismayed to hear that our step class might not happen this year due to the ill health of the teacher, I really do need to join a class because I'm so darned lazy on my own.

Moo is still good and I'll start ridden work during this week. Chapsi is going well and it's amazing how a year on he seems much better able to cope (mentally AND physically) with the work. He's a little lacking in stamina during the ridden work (well who can blame him with fat momma astride) but we're up to about an hour's work most days and it's starting to tell on his waistline. The fly spray saga is slowly advancing, I basically hold it while I groom him and occasionally give him a little burst...slowly, slowly catchee.....

Today we did pole work on the lunge (well not really lunging, I'm more of a move around the school on the lunge sort of gal) and it really helped him pick up behind, reinback to trot and giravolta type work made up the rest of the session.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

1st September 2011

Tuesday I gave Moo a light warm-up and then some quite deep massage, I managed to get in behind his scapula (point of old problems) and found a very tight spot which he finally allowed me to get into. Yesterday I just did some gentle stretching with him as he seemed quite a bit better and today he seemed pretty good, yay!!! So just a little lunge to warm him up and then on to some stretches and light massage, hopefully I've sorted the problem but we'll have to see over the next few days. Certainly no ridden work for him until after the week-end.

Chapiro continues to impress! A couple of lovely sessions and I've upped the stirrups a hole and moved them forwards about 1cm which feels better, I could show you video that Lydia took but it would make you dizzy, lol, she definitely needs some work on keeping her hands still. I'll go back to the trusty fence posts next opportunity. Anyway, more on what we worked on.
The release when I ask with the unilateral rein is really coming on and aided by the touch of the whip at the shoulder stops an inside collapse. Injecting a little more energy can result in loss of the relaxed neck so I'll be patient on that and wait for him to build a little more stamina and balance before asking more oomph. We've had a couple of wanders about the place with Lydia on foot (she's a good gal) and he is very relaxed with her around and even went up the lane without a thought.
The fly spray saga continues, I can now spray near him or actually on to his rear end but he's a bit panicky about it all. I think I'll have to continue with water in the bottle until we have this thing licked, he was the same with the horse eating hose serpent but now he loves a bath....we'll get there I guess but every new situation seems a mountain for him to climb!

Monday, August 29, 2011

29th August

Aaarrgggh, yesterday Moo was very tight/sore when I brought him in so we did some moving massage and stretching and a short stretchy lunge session. Today he was slightly easier so more of the same, I'm just hoping it wasn't the canter work that exacerbated it; time will tell.

Chapiro was lunged yesterday and he's getting much fitter, I think he's like Fidge and just retains a certain level of fitness whatever work he's doing/not doing.
Today I rode him and again just concentrated on keeping his neck relaxed so that he stretched out and forwards, I'm really pleased that we've slowed the whole thing down and now he can really balance himself even with me on top. I'm downloading a short clip as I type this and I'm pleased with how his neck looks and his general relaxation (flies aside!!) but I can now see that I can let him use his forwards energy as long as I can direct it to the right place ie more lateral work. I can also see I need to move the strirrups if I'm rising to the trot, on Moo I need them further back but Chaps is more slender and the stability of my lower legs looks pants, makes it look like I had to nag with my legs which I can assure you is a long way from the truth. Lots to work on then but another good day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

bring it on

After the monsoon came sunshine so it's been a great day for riding in the school. Damp sand and a light breeze, ah, if only every day was the same.

Well the canter plan worked and whilst it's still not pretty, understatement, it is en route to something better. Video below shows how little we could manage two days ago and how with a few tweaks we can at least keep the canter for longer, we'll keep working on the stamina for a while and then play with the stepping under issue later. Moo and I finished with a walk up through the village.

Chapiro was a total star. The neck relaxation work first and then a quick lunge before riding. The lunging has come on so well, he is so attentive and listens and acts on all his verbal cues and I'm quite proud of the man. The difference in his ridden work is quite noticeable too, he can bend both ways now with just a feel on the rein to get the soft neck and a long leg to get the bend. The transitions are OK but I will work on the upwards transitions being more energetic in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

never rains but it....

....pours. The thing about weather is that it all happens at once. That perfect climate of sun drenched days and soft gardeners rain through the night just doesn't exist. So from Sahara to monsoon it was!

Luckily I got a session in with both of them yesterday and did lots of canter transitions with Moo, blinkin' awful but it is getting better and I've a plan so if it works I'll let you know.

Chaps is now 'in school' and we're starting with fly spray. Never in my horsey life have I experienced a horse so terrified of flies. In fact he has no regard for his own safety when a bot fly appears and thus no regard for his human's space either. Not only does he freak at flies but he freaks at fly spray *rolls eyes*. So every day we are having a session with the spray bottle and the clicker and one day we will beat it. Any tips or advice on this would be very gratefully received. After the demonic spray he actually worked very well in-hand and then a quick bareback session so that he doesn't forget where we're heading.

Today? Well today was just a monsoon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

two's company

I can hardly believe my luck, it rained overnight and throughout the morning so the school was perfect to trot without causing a sandstorm. Lydia brought Cacahuéte in with Moo and I and we played with a little pas de deux , after first having a super soft and stretchy trot session; love that Moo. We pootled off down the tracks to the bottom field to cool off.

Chapiro did more relaxed stretching in hand following the the sort of routine I've always used with Moo and it's working well for him too. Chaps has this build up of tension (when he finds things hard) and tries to rush off which in turn causes his human to try to slow him with the hand which is obviously a bad move and becomes a spiral of more and more tension. The moving neck massage is perfect to relax him, I start at the base of the neck near to the withers and then move along with the flat of my hand or fingers releasing each area as we go until we get to the poll, it's amazingly effective and has the added bonus of creating good relaxed bend in the neck.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

oh err!!!

Everything's changed! OK so I've been away awhile, heck it's been way too long, but I hardly recognise the place.
We are enjoying a hot spell right now, not so great for the horses but great for lazy days swimming at the lake! It's been a good couple of weeks since I worked the boys and with the school dry as the Sahara (we have a hose ban so can't even water it) today we got back to work in walk!
Moo was a just a star, he has turned into Fidge and just concentrates on the session however long he's been off. We were straight back to relaxing the neck and bending, yielding, rein backing to throughness. My back, which has been a bit dodgy lately, was fine so maybe I just need to ride more, great.
Been thinking lots about Chapiro and I'll try and convey my thoughts tomorrow but he was a good lad too and willing as always.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

stum or mum?

Well today is Mother's day here in France and it's been a lovely weekend, friends, food, wine (possibly too much) and gorgeous weather. The hay was cut, baled and barned. Lydia rode Chapiro and he was very good, a little jumpy to begin with but he settled well. Rain is forecast tomorrow, much needed and hope it doesn't pass us by again.
For the first time ever I was told to keep stum today! I am rarely controversial on forums but when I see someone pushing their horse beyond it's capabilities and being praised by others it pains me and I'm fed up with being quiet. Laugh was on me though, not allowed to tell the truth and my post was removed. Thank goodness on Heather's forum we can speak our minds and give horses a voice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More of the same with Chapiro doing liberty, bit of bareback/cordeo work, walking out in-hand (whilst working on our S-I and travers on our hills) and generally just getting the little man to chill. Finally he seems to be lots more relaxed and so the last couple of days we've put on the tack, obviously the bitless arrangement still and worked in-hand and yesterday I rode in tack.

A little vid of the in-hand just to show how difficult he finds stepping under, he's really getting this now and compared to earlier in the year it's hugely improved but still has a long way to go. I think taking it slowly has been the only way not to end up with a horse screwed up either mentally, physically or both  this (imho) is why so many poor horses have problems because their physical strengths/weaknesses are totally ignored in the early stages.

Don't look at me in the ridden work  sack of spuds comes to mind but I'm SO pleased that my little 'hos can move about with no more than a voice cue to stop and go and can listen to weight and rein aids but still remain relaxed. Most folks will think I'm mad to be holding back this long but I reckon this summer he'll go from strength to strength.

The trannies are a bit abrupt but this is the first time ever I've ridden them from just voice cues, he's wobbly in the turns but not resistant at all and the big test??? I just didn't want to get off! I did but only to lead him down the track and then ride home. It's put u back where we were when I stopped riding last autumn but this time it's all feeling much better. Onwards and upwards then.

Friday, May 20, 2011

oh YES

We have go and stop! The last few days I've been taking Chapiro down the track and stopping in the shade to chill and then continuing in shoulder-in/travers for a few steps and then halting, backing etc, generally high reinforcement CT tasks. He has responded really well and today I took him down to the school and used the same exercises, asking him to keep it very slow and relaxed throughout (by having lots of breaks and praise). It was a real breakthrough session and so I hopped on bareback for a few minutes and hey presto he was very forwards but with the ability to stop on voice this time, very happy with that. Went on to lunge a little stretchy trot and then walked up the lane to the neighbours, again with much stopping and chilling.

Moralejo had a little free jumping session this morning and incredibly my heffalump can actually get all four feet off the ground at the same time, he even made a pretty good shape a couple of time **shock** it does help free him behind.

Yesterday we had a lovely ridden session and he was able to maintain the stretch in trot with much less support than usual, we then had a lovely walk down the tracks on the buckle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

patter of tiny feet

Well that was my initial thought, that Lydia was up and about at around midnight last night! Ahem no it was ouside and hardly tiny feet but 12 hooves as the three boys came to a halt from galop outside the front door! The boys have not escaped since living here but last night I stupidly forgot to close the gate on the other side of the paddock and by midnight it seems they'd had enough of the gypsy life and came to ask me to sort them out. They were quickly restored to the paddock (thank goodness for an illuminating moon) after being checked over (not one scratch, just Moo and Chaps rather puffed out!).

So this morning we had fairly quiet sessions so that I could check for any stiffness, particularly in Moo.
Chapsi and I did our regular walk down the track, worked on shoulder-in and rein back as he seems much less stressed about leaving the others when he has a job to do. We were out for about 30 minutes and he wasn't really stressed at all.

Moo had a stretchy lunge and he did start off a little stiffly but was fine after some gentle trot work, finished with some in-hand work by which time it was very warm, going to have to start working them even earlier to avoid flies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yesterday made me smile. Chapiro embraced forwards with gusto! I didn't have the cordeo but hopped on with nothing after some liberty work and immediately after his CT for standing well he marched off with purpose! In fact he was so forward we rather forgot stop but heck forwards is good and I'll just go back and refresh the stop....

Thursday, May 12, 2011

bite my boot

Yesterday I tried a more simple bridle system with Chapiro and cobbled some reins onto a noseband. We started in-hand and then I hopped on bareback. I've noticed the way he 'chews' when he is stressed on our outings and sometimes in-hand too so the noseband was the initial fact finding mission. To be perfectly honest it was no different, he wasn't particularly stressed (apart from him being a naturally stressy lad) but on occasion he yawned and chewed.

Today we trialled the cordeo and it was a lot better. I'm afraid the video is rather dull (unless you're me) as I was free shaping (in other words just sitting there and waiting for something to happen) and in a 20 minute session he didn't do lots! LOL. I was very pleased with how relaxed he was and we did get some forward steps and I got to watch the golden orioles flying so it wasn't all bad! In fact it was rather good and I am now thinking this would be the best place to start. I know we can walk, trot and canter, we've got that T-shirt so it's a case of having the total relaxation and building from there. We'll see how it goes.

Moo had a good lunge session today and he's looking rather well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's been a bit quiet on this here blog, not because I haven't been working with the boys but because I have family (or rather OH's family!!!) here and internet time is rationed or impossible!

Moo is great at the minute, there's vid below of us bumbling about in the school the other day and I've had a couple of good ridden sessions and some fat-busting lunge work. He is striding out on the buckle round the tracks now which is lovely, probably has a lot to do with the heat but whatever the reason it's very welcome. We've also fitted some liberty shaping CT into our days and he's getting ever more confident in offering things.

Chapiro has had a couple of lunge sessions and most days we're managing a walk up the lane or down the tracks. Today I feel was a little milestone on this front; we saddled up (I'm planning for the day that I start to ride him home) and went down the tracks, he walked off on my voice aid every time and wasn't at all 'sticky' about leaving the others. When we got a little way I did some short ground tying work and he got a juicy mini-branch out of the hedge as his treat for each click, he rather liked that game. When we got to the hay field he was still very calm and remained so as we took the track around the edge. Every time he got slightly ahead of my stride we stopped and had a scratch before setting off again. When we were nearly all the way round I turned back and retraced our steps, still calm!! Again we stopped for scratches and the odd CT and only had teeth grinding a couple of times. Before heading on the homeward track I again asked him to turn away from home a couple of times and he remained pretty calm. On the way home we used the stroking hand to ask the shoulder fore and a 'pulsing' finger for travers, both reins we got great relaxation and so we stopped for more mini-branches from the tree and ground tying before finally making it back to the yard.

I know these things don't sound much but for my fizzy, dizzy little fella it's just great and his progress is measurable; softly, softly catchy monkey!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I still haven't written my plan but I have worked the boys so it's not all bad. Funnily enough it's working out that I cover at least a couple of bases during each session.

Yesterday I led Chapiro down the track and round the bottom field with a 5 minute stop for a munch part way round, he was much calmer in general and was happy to stop off into the shelter and do some leg stretches etc. We walked back past the yard and off up the lane to the neighbours and then back down to the school for a stretchy lunge. It was a definite improvement in terms of his calmness.
Today was a fatbuster day with an energetic lunge session followed by some in-hand working on the shoulder fore/in  and to finish a little shaping with the CT. I'm not using CT for the energetic lunge work because it just gets too stilted.

Moo had his energetic day yesterday and then some in-hand trot work using some moving massage from my fingers and finished with some CT shaping....he's really funny doing this and it's great to see how he's getting the hang of making his own decisions and getting a reward for it.

No work for Moo today as whilst I was in the school with Chapsi the heavens opened along with a raucous storm, we are in real need of rain and Moo didn't complain at getting off the hook!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

in the groove

Good week end with more lovely spring weather.
Saturday Lydia videoed Moo and I doing an Interdressage horsemanship test, I hadn't really planned on doing it but as part of my 'planning' theme at the moment it seemed a good way to get some feedback and perhaps push me to do something I wouldn't otherwise do. I was badly prepared (oops) but Moo tried his heart out even if I couldn't quite get my act together! It wasn't a total disaster but perhaps the judge was being kind because I know we could have done better. Really looking forward to reading my score sheet to see if I agree with the judge ;))

Today I spent some time with Chapsi at liberty, he decided we'd work on head down, so we did and then we spent time on neck flexion (again his idea) I'm not sure I got it attached to a cue like the head down but he seemed happy.

 Then I popped the headcollar on and worked in hand. As I mentioned the other day I'm really trying to keep him out of my space when leading and at liberty so I was CT'ing for walk on and halt when keeping a good space between us and again he was obliging. Then on to a little shoulder fore which he seems 'excited' about (not in a good way though), he rushes off at a brisk walk and then we encounter the other 'to work on' problem of keeping him with me. To cut a long thought process short (thank goodness they cry) I have decided to change the physical cue. Currently my  aid is to draw my lead hand  towards me a little (just a thought of a feel really) and then connect with my other hand on his inside shoulder which  brings the shoulder in whilst keeping the movement forward down the track. Today instead of a constant touch at the shoulder I found that a more lightly stroking hand wound him up less. I'll have to see if it was a fluke or if he really does prefer this new aid.

 We finished with some trot work on the lunge and then walked up the lane past the house and up to the neighbours, he was very calm and behaved perfectly.  

Moo was just fab with some slowing of the walk and lateral work, finished after 30 mins and went down the tracks in the evening sunshine, managed to avoid any jogging by slowing the trot on the steep parts of the hill, great end to the week end.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

back on track

Both worked today! I decided to combine things so that my basic plan of fitting certain things into each week will work, perhaps!

Chapiro and I walked down the track to the bottom field and the field shelter, where we stopped for a good ten minutes and worked on some neck massage into head down, walk on, back etc with the lead resting on his neck. He was pretty settled and I felt he was happy enough to stay with me. I did spoil it (doh) by asking him to go round the bottom track which takes him further away from home and he was getting quite stressy so we turned for home and got the calmness back. I will be interested to see how this improves.

 Moo had a very chilled ridden session in the school, slightly sticky when we turned down the track afterwards but he walked happily on a long rein (even past the five nosey cows who were standing not a foot from the fence line) and only tried to jog a couple of times.

Good day all round.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

best laid and all that

That's the things with plans, they go awry! Plan today was to have time for both but Chapsi had a swollen fly bite between his thighs (think golf ball) and it seemed unfair to do anything too energetic so we just had a groom and massage/stretch.

Moo had an energetic session (mmm well an expanding waistline requires a little work) and we had some relaxed trot work, canter transitions starting on the lunge and then free. He was a good lad.

Cacahuète had his second session (just on the yard) of clicker with me and he is one cutey, he's catching on quickly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chapiro plan

I had a brainwave today, only one mind! I was near to the camera so I spoke my thoughts directly to the camera so I didn't forget them. I'm now thinking this could be a great 'cheat' for blogging as it saves lots of typing, lol.

 Following the theme of planning I need to find a viable way forward with Chapiro. I've been having fun playing and delving more into clicker training and learning behaviour but I do need to focus somewhere with all this as I really just want to ride and work with a balanced, relaxed horse who is as happy as can be expected to have a human balancing on his back.

I want to take him out on the tracks or lane at least once a week to improve his confidence. I want to keep going with the liberty work with free shaping being a big part of that, however I will intersperse that with some attached in-hand work to help with his straightness and gymnastic work. He loves pole work and a little free jumping will help him build up his rear end strength and flexibility, perhaps once a week for that and of course ridden work of basic circles, rein changes and transitions.

Oh dear, I forgot there were only 7 days in a week!!!

I'll flesh this plan out more as I go on but here's a fairly dull, if self explanatory, video of today. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I think I need one. So I will take each of the boys and endeavour to create a path that we might tread together.
I will start with Moralejo.
I feel that I have a good relationship with Moo but he's still a little shy and not able to express himself well. This manifests itself as a 'sharpness' and a tendency to spill over all the time. He is embarassed by silence and stillness, trying always to fill it with his excess energy. We've learned to channel that energy but I really want him to find a place where he can be comfortable with us doing nothing.

I've been playing with some free shaping clicker work and he's responded well when we're on the yard but in the school he tends to panic or lose interest. So part of every week's routine will be a free shaping session in the school when Moo can decide what we do. Free shaping is hard for a control freak like me so I feel one day a week is a good goal to begin with.

During the summer months I'd like to get out once a week for a hack with Lydia and after work in the school I want to be able to wander down the track and around the fields on a long rein to cool off. This is directly linked to his confidence/shyness because if he panics it goes pear shaped, so I want to be able to have a plan (other than always having the pony with us and then he's fine) that gets us through the sticky moments.

I love the liberty work but due to his lack of confidence he sometimes needs to be attached in a physical sense so, aside from the free shaping session, if I work from the ground it will start attached only moving on to liberty if the rest of the session has been good. The ultimate aim would be to do all the groundwork at liberty but I'm not sure we have enough years left for that.

It's slowly dawning on me that my 'dressage' in the school has become less important. The fundamental gymnastic training will always be important but the way I want to achieve it is changing. My next task will be to identify where I'm going with the gymnastic work but I'll leave that for now as I'm running out of time.

I'll leave this for now, It's a basic outline and I'll be back to put some meat on the bones shortly.

Monday, April 25, 2011

where does it go?

'It' being time.
Last two weeks it's been school holidays and with fantastic weather it's been great to give the boys a proper bath. This month it's Moo's turn to star in an Interdressage competition and even though I messed up with the video (pressed some button that made it horribly grainy) the organiser is happy to accept the entry.

So it's been a quiet few weeks for me and the boys, Lydia has ridden Moo a couple of times (he is so careful with her) and we've had some fruitful liberty and in-hand sessions. I've been keeping up their massage and body work which seems to be keeping them in good shape and we've been trying some free shaping with the clicker which is really connecting Moo with me.
Tomorrow it's back to school and normal service will resume! Hopefully.

Friday, April 1, 2011

at liberty

As promised some actual work rather than mushy stuff!

I think the captions explain but it's basic clicker training liberty work with Moo, it's taken quite a long time for him to really trust and engage in the liberty work but I'm pleased he's finally come this far.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

honesty in training

It dawned on me recently that I've not always been perfectly honest in my training. Not that I've lied specifically but more I suppose that I've not actually asked myself any of the difficult questions that should have been asked. I've lied through ignorance let's say.
If our horses mirror us then we need to be honest with ourselves before we can expect them to be honest in return. Our horses don't lie, they can't, they reflect their training, they reflect us, that's all.
I like this quote from Sara Paddison <You can't undo anything you've already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness >
So I'm seeking forgiveness and telling the truth and my horses seem to be happy with that.

I've always been amazed by horses, the fact that they tolerate all the things we do with/to them is indeed amazing. As so often before I'm on a new learning curve. This one is sharp, so sharp that I feel in danger of sliding down to the bottom at any moment. Even trying to put this into words feels somewhat dangerous. It's as if I'm teetering on the brink of something fantastic, just a few more steps and I'll be there but what if? What if, as I step into this fantastic world, I lose it all and bump back down with a thud? I think the last week I've decided either a) I won't hurt my @rse if I do end up bumping down to the beginning again so I could dust it off and start again and that, more probably b) the fantastic world ahead is just another step in the right direction, it isn't that nirvana is only a breathe away, lol.

Bearing all this in mind I'm trying to let go in my training, less control (which for a self confessed control freak is a big deal) and more partnership with the boys. It's quite strange because the added bonus with all this is that I've seen it reflected in the relationship I have with Lydia, my daughter. When you let others have the reins (so to speak, no pun intended) and they actually follow the thought process you were having yourself it is magical and it's been quite emotional at times (lol menopause looming!!).

This isn't a sudden change as I've been headed here for some time but this does very much feel like a big break through. The practical side of this current change of heart/mind is that I feel a huge release from the ball breaking job of parameter setting! I am still headed in the general direction of gymnastic training, I truly believe that this is the only method that will nurse Moo into old age without further ceasing up. The way I achieve that gymnastic training will evolve (well I'm hoping so, it already has started to) and I'm going to chart the progress, even if I hate writing it up in such a methodical manner I think it is the only way I won't get lost.

At the moment we are still laying down the foundations, not so much so with Chapsi but with Moo it's very slow but that doesn't bother me too much because his needs are different; he needs to be 'released' which Chapiro already understands. Moo is releasing me too because he is so sensitive I have to let go even more with him, learn to trust him.

I'll write up the last week's work (it's not terribly exciting) when I can find time but this gut spilling has been cathartic.

Just to finish I want to reproduce a verse from Charlie Winston's Boxes which I like because it puts me in mind of where I am, analysing every little thing but I believe that through this comes a place where I can step outside the box again!

As a child with ocean eyes I smiled
At a world existing just for me
Without boxes, borders or boundaries,
I built dreams but like plastic building blocks
They were knocked down to the ground
I grew up to a world of compromise
Analysing what it means to dream
I don't really want to understand everything in my world
It spoils the fun for me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

winter hols

School holidays have been on us for two weeks now and tomorrow it's back to work, thank goodness says Cacahuète, as this means a quieter time for him!
The weather has generally been OK for pony fun and we've managed to school, jump or 'play' in the school most days with him but the ground has been a bit too wet for galops around the fields, oh well spring is surely around the corner. Today he was brushed and plaited before doing a little in-hand work, I'm quite proud to say that mini-me seems to be picking up the knack of flexing and bending.

Saturday, February 19, 2011