Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why I Love Craigslist

Craigslist is to me what eBay used to be: a good source to sell items (mainly horse items) that I no longer needed, wanted, used, or could afford to keep (many a time I have sold things to gain others). After the eBay fees though, I started to abandon their site for selling, and even very rarely check there for things I need/desire. Instead, I have turned to Craigslist.

I have gained a multitude of items and things from Craigslist; many miscellaneous horse items (most recently, those to stock my trailer with), my horse trailer (also sold my Logan trailer via this site), and even found my current job through Craigslist. Needless to say, Craigslist is probably the first place I go to when I'm looking for something I want, or to sell something. If you havent already, I would recommend checking out the site (buyer and seller beware, however, there are no protections for either party like there are via eBay).

Why, I got my trusty (and now well used) fluffy(ish) bareback pad off of Craigslist for a shallow $5. A leather headstall, reins, brushes, halter and lead, for a mere $25 after shipping. And most recently, I got a pair of leather skid boots for the song of only $7.

I have been searching for a nice pair of leather skid boots since probably October when I started competing in reining. Not one who could swallow spending $60 on foo-foo name brand ones, I had been surfing Craigslist and other internet forums searching for a pair in good shape, and for a good price. I found many advertised for around $25, many with notable wear and tear.

Then there was the intance where I found a very nice set, in good condition, for only $20. I emailed the seller asking the usual things: 'is the item still for sale?' and 'are you willing to ship?' and we had a few email responses back and forth about the skid boots. Seller had agreed to ship so I asked if she would be willing to accept Paypal, as this is the site I most usually pay for online items with. My reply back from her was some capitalized foul words and ending in "F OFF SCAMMER!" (not censored, however). Offended, but deciding it isnt worth getting into an email fight over, and she would be selling the item to me now anyways now believing I was a scammer, I replied that I hope she have a nice day and good luck selling the item. Needless to say, I was furious inside. First of all, Paypal is a highly reputable site. I could have understanded being upset if I offered a cashiers check or something of the like. Then to curse at me via e-mail without even making another thought, was just plain rude. If she really thought I was a scammer she could have just said that the item sold or something. And lastly, I was upset because I really did want the skid boots.

Story aside though, I periodically kept searching online ads, beginning to think I really just needed to buy a pair of new ones. I found some synthetic leather ones new for roughly $18, but wasnt sure how synthetic would not only hold up, but be comfortable as well as breathing.

Then I got lucky and found a Craigslist ad for leather skid boots. There were actually two sets, each advertised for only $7 a pair. I quickly emailed the owner and she helped me determine which of the two would be of the best quality and work for what I needed. What a nice seller!

So the skid boots arrived last night, so I havent been able to try them on Milo yet. But they felt durable and supple in my hands, the underside of the fetlock protection a very soft and cushy leather coating, I almost want to think its deerskin its so soft and supple. I dont have any real fear that they wont fit, as they are adjustable top and bottom.

Photo taken in my truck, I was so excited to open them
 So, not a whole lot to them, but you can see the tough outer side for the fetlock protection, and the soft inner side as well. Pictured is the way they go on, with the larger adjustment up on the leg for better stability.

I think I will start incorporating these into my daily rides, not just for competition. I in no way want Milo to ever hurt himself when going into the dirt, nor do I want him to associate any negatives (ie pain) as a result of tucking up underneath himself. Fellow reiners out there, do you use your skids for every day arena riding, or do you save them for competition?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A New Schedule

This, so far, has been an interesting and different week. Yes, I started back up again with the college. Heres some history:

I was involved in the "Running Start" program through the High School that enabled Juniors and Seniors to attend the community college while still finishing up for their diploma. Some students, if lucky and worked hard, could even graudate High School with their Associates Degree in hand, hence the name of the program giving them a "running start". I only joined this program in my senior year as a half time student, so that option wasnt available. However, I did take advantage of the "free" college tuition while I could (the High School paid). I ended my High School career with roughly twenty college credits.

I had been applying for scholarships and financial aid like mad for the upcoming "sophomore" year at the college. I had been awarded generously by two scholarships: one from the local Rotary Club, and another from the college's Foundation Program. I was able to take another half time year, basically free of charge to myself. In this year, however, I went from a part time job to a full time job, and had a hard time balancing my time and schedule. For the first time in my academic life, my grades were suffering. A graduate of high school with a GPA of 3.5 and making the honor roll, this felt like a huge failure to my perfectionist self.

With my scholarship funds depleted, my desire to not take out a huge student loan I would be paying off the rest of my life, and only 38 credits counting towards the required 90 for the degree, I all but gave up.

I instead focused on my full time job, and of course, my horse.

Its been a good ride now. After nearly three years in the retail and western clothing industry, I finally landed a higher paying job with the company I work for now, as an Administrative Assistant. It isnt my dream job by far, as this is the company's accounting office and my brain does not work in numbers. However, it pays the bills and will help my work experience grow on my resume when the time comes to get a new job. It was grossly apparent, however, when I was searching for a new job just over a year ago now, how imperative a college degree really is. My boss even told me just having that diploma would be reaping me far more money every hour.

Thats kind of hard to hear.

So its with a big sigh and a somewhat level of motivation, to go back to school. My company provides a kind tuition reimbursement program for employees attending school and classes in a way that will better their jobs within the company. Administrative positions reap some amount, while supervisors and managers take more. I fall into the first of course. So that allowed me to go back to school this spring quarter, until I get retroed the money from the college's financial aid program, although I dont suspect it will be too much.

Af far as the coming quarters, Im not positive how they will be paid, as I dont know how much the college is willing to provide each quarter. Im assuming not enough to cover full tuition costs. They do offer a STEP program, where basically you can pay X amount weekly and have it paid off by the end of the quarter - this is the route my twin sister is taking towards paying for her degree. I might just have to step on that bandwagon, I certainly will before taking out a loan.

What does this mean for Milo?

Well, my schedule has changed of course. While I still work the Mon-Fri 40 hour week job, it means some of my Milo time is being pushed aside to make room for evening classes. I scheduled for a class Monday and Wednesday nights, two typical nights I would spend at the barn, and an online class. Not ok with the notion of only getting to ride my horse three times a week (I know, I know, many of you probably can only make room for that much and I should consider myself lucky) I found a way to still make it out there four times a week (plus weekends as I can manage them, ie horse shows, etc), and its not through riding after school.

My boss has been super nice in letting me change my schedule around to meet my horse needs. Fridays for instance he lets me come in early and get off early to accomodate for my weekly pasture cleaning. Now, I offered him the idea of me starting work an hour early, providing for a two hour lunch, and still finishing work at the desired time (phone coverage is imperative), then riding afterwards. This will be on Mondays only. He was fine with the idea and said I could start the new schedule next week.

So, I can ride Monday afternoons (added bonus: less lessons in the daytime), Tuesday evenings, not Wednesdays as thats a school evening, then Thursday and Friday. Im pretty pleased with the schedule, and feel that two hours on lunch break alots for a good ride. I just cant mosey around as much as I normally do. I dont like riding on a time constraint, but even if this only allows me to groom and longe my horse, Im all for the additional day of Milo-time.

I do this all for you, Milo. All for you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So How Did I Do?

Remember back in November when I made a list of all the upgrades and accessories I wanted to incorporate for my trailer? I set the deadline to March 24, Milo's birthday anticipating that to be a good amount of time to get it all done. Now its time to check in and see how well, or not, that I have done.

Trailer Makeover/Stock List
To be completed by March 24

ü Water Jug
 Pitchfork
 Manure Bucket
 2 water/feed buckets
 First Aid Kit
         To include:
                o Mercury or Digital Thermometer and Rubbing Alcohol
                o Cutters/Scissors
                o Clean Leg Wraps
                o Gauze and Bandages
                o Vet Wrap
                o Tweezers
                o Disposable Diapers
                o Anitbiotic Ointment
                o Stethoscope
                o Sheet for vital signs
ü Grooming Supplies
         To include:
                ü Curry Comb
                ü Medium and Stiff Brush
                ü Hoof Pick
                ü Mane and Tail Brush
 Duct Tape
 Hay Twine
 Two Blocker Ties
 Two Blocks of Wood
 Add hinged lower latch to rear door
 Add flood light(s) to rear
 Door block/stopper for tack room
 Flashlight
ü Hay Net/Bag - potential: corner feeders
ü Spare Halter and Lead Rope

üLeather Headstall
 Linex on Wheel Well

Alright, so I didnt do the greatest of jobs completing this list. I got the grooming supplies and extra tack from craigslist on a good deal, and I even had the buckets, manure fork, and first aid kit in my shopping cart, but things happened unexpectantly and I couldnt get them ordered. I also had a sneaky suspicion I could get the items cheaper from Cenex and (possibly) pay less. Blocker ties proved to be much more expensive then I anticipated, but I still plan to get at least one. Boyfriend purchased the Hercules (Linex) lining as I had mentioned I wanted to put on the wheel well, Safety Concern, but we havent applied it yet. We even came super close one day to buying the flood lights for the rear, but Napa Auto Parts didnt have the clear ones Boyfriend was after, only the "foggy" looking ones. Hay twine really shouldnt be hard to get, I use it all the time for things at the barn. I just need to snatch a few strands from the barn and just put them in there.

So never fear, I still will keep the list and try to finish it up as soon as possible. Fortunetly, good weather should be coming up which will encourage us to work outside more, and hopefully get that Hercules put on the wheel wells. I will try and keep the blog updated with the larger renovations when they are completed, as well as when the list is finally completed, which I would like to believe would be before the upcoming summer show season.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Chat With The Vet - Parasites

I had a great opportunity to attend a seminar my vet and his hospital was holding at a local boarding facility. I had been planning on attending this "seminar" since late January when I found out about it through the vet's e-newsletter. I had saved the date knowing I wanted to attend, but then came to find out that a friend of mine who keeps her horses at said facility would be attending as well, making me extra eager to attend.

The seminar was addressing Spring Grasses and Parasites. I have always followed the well known method of regular deworming maintenance; that is, rotational two month worming program. This is the widely known and accepted worming method in existence, my vet commented, since the 70s. My vet addressed some of the targeted worms including small and large strongyles,bot larvae, roundworms, pinworms, and tapeworms, as well as the hows and whys on how they get infected inside the horse, as well as why they are a threat.

My vet continued saying that the well known problem of parasite resistance can be linked to the rotational two month deworming program we have all been taught at the proper way to treat our horses. Unfortunately in the 70s when the stronglyes were minute and not considered a large threat, they were basically getting ignored in treatment and now primarily have built resistancy to worming products. In interesting note he added was that these strongyles can actually adhere themselves inside of the intestines and basically "wait for the opportune time to become active". So while we may be administering a wormer to treat them, and while it can flush out those live ones, those "dormant" in the intestine are really just building up immunity to the deworming, and will present itself anyways.

The main point was that it is important to revisit our worming programs, specifically, catered towards our individual horse(s). His proposal is a bi-yearly worming program. Naturally this strikes a sharp chord in all of us, who may have a hard time letting go of our instinct to deworm, deworm, deworm. But in reality, that is only allowing the parasites to continue building resistance. What is the best course of action then? Because each horse while living in similar conditions can vary greatly in their own parasite counts, a fecal examination is promoted, so the vet and owner can better know which parasites need to be targeted, then determined which, if any, resistencies occur.

My vet also added that parasite control is what we are aiming for, not necessarily the implementation that all parasites need to be gone. The goal is to eradicate roughly 80% of the parasite population, and control over the amount is what is most important. Of course there is far more involved then just my simple explanation here, but it really helped to hear the current medical backing behind an industry change to how we manage our worming programs.

I was able to meet the "new" vet at the clinic as well, who came from Oregon. She talked primarily on colic, wounds, and other ailments that require veterinary care, as well as important signs to look for, among other things.

What does this all mean for Milo and I now? Well, I will definitely be working closely with my vet to ensure we are targeting the parasites localized to Milo, and not treating on this two month rotational style as previously employed. I will be collecting fecal in the coming days for a proper fecal examination, then developing a worming regime based off of what we find. My vet also noted it will be important to encourage Jake's owner to do likewise, because as the two are housed together it would be a real shame to "clean out Milo", only to not treat Jake and allow him to deposit the larvae back into the grass for Milo to re-consume.

*I am not a vet and I do not want any readers to take away from this post what "needs to be done" with their horse(s). Please consult your own veterinarian to develop a proper deworming program for your own horse(s). However, I do encourage talking with your vet and discussing the current "industry changes" towards re evaluating the way we address the worming problems at hand. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Stills

Sunday Stills challenge this week is "The Color Blue".

This is an oldie, but one I havent posted before.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunshine, Fridays, and a Good Ride

Not only are Fridays the best day of the work week, but Fridays I get to spend extra time at the barn. While it might be because of cleaning pastures, I still appreciate the extra horse time. Yesterday, the sun was shining again, and I was eager all day long waiting for the clock to strike the end of the workday. I raced to the barn, wanting to strip off Milo's blanket and let him take in some sun rays. And I did just that, then flipped the blanket inside out over the fence rail to let the sun bake on the underside as well, after a long winter of darkness. Milo certainly appreciated his bare self.

I set to work cleaning the pastures, as the BO drove up with her trailer and loaded up Dusty for a trip to the vet for an ultrasound. Her pasture mate (although on the other side of the fence), Gracie, was not at all pleased about this catastrophic event, flipping her world entirely upside down. She raced up and down the pastures, showing off some acrobatic moves and whinnying all along the way.

Milo was disinterested in the world's new positioning, and instead gave Mom a mild heart attack as I feared what could happen...

He replaced the mild fear though with some laughs as I tended to cleaning his water trough.

GASP! Its coming towards me!!! 
Im still keeping an eye on you, runaway water. 
Chores done, I could now halter up Milo and prepare for a ride in the outdoor arena.

Although lessons were done in the indoor arena, I wanted to enjoy the sunshine while I could, and the nice footing in the outdoor. Although that meant the three riders hauling in would be using it, not only do I enjoy riding with them, but the arena is far large enough to comfortably fit the four of us.

I had been thinking about Milo working off the outside rein since our last ride on Thursday. I had discovered a few things about him and how much work would really be needed on both sides, and ended up deciding that I felt teaching him to balance off the outside rein might be better achieved by working in the snaffle. While I like the Turbo Lifter very much, I was not enjoying the amount of contact I was having to put on it, and when I started noticing a gaping mouth, decided that a much "milder" and flexible bit was necessary to gain his trust on the support of the outside rein.

I had scored a deal for a nice quick change western headstall on craigslist that I originally bought for back up in my trailer. But borrowed it from that location for the purpose to hold my snaffle and 5/8" reins. I was somewhat leery on how Milo would respond to the snaffle now that he has been out of it for a few months, because form previous experience, Milo would blow through the snaffle when brought back from a "bigger" bit.

But Milo pleasantly proved me wrong, and worked nicely in the snaffle. I think its safe to conclude that my "training" practices and methods that I were previously employing were the root of the problem when coming back to the snaffle. Yesterday, he quietly and willingly worked off it it, never trying to blow through it, but instead respecting it as I know Milo is capable of.

I was better able to work on training myself to hold steady on the outside rein, and bump with the inside as necessary, incorporating my leg aids when needed as well, especially traveling to the right. Trying to maintain a correct position and looking over my inside shoulder to displace my locked hip, Milo was traveling nicely and holding up the outside shoulder, balancing off the outside rein. We moved into arcing and counter arcing, first at the walk, then up to the trot in both directions. There were a few times when my timing was off and he instead tried to either"crab walk" or lock the shoulder and just move the hip. But with more concentration on the correct timing for the aid, things came together.

Up into the lope, and Milo was still working off the outside rein, and I was getting much more comfortable with maintaining a steady contact with it. Milo was moving nicely, but still requiring quite a bit of reminder to stay fluid through his body without locking up his shoulder and barrel as he most commonly likes to do. I would like to work more on arcing and counter arcing at the lope and have been touching on it a bit since my lesson, but I feel my timing is a big issue for us right now, as Sarah didnt tell me specifically the opportune moment to cue. Nonetheless, Milo worked nicely and even gave a small slide to my seat and Woah command. Good boy! He sure does like the outdoor arena footing over that in the indoor arena.

He did well the other direction as well, and I was really happy for working him in the snaffle, giving him a good opportunity to trust the outside rein. He wasnt noodley, or disconnected through his body as he previously was in the snaffle, but instead was utilizing his whole body nicely.

I was able to work on our halt and into the rollback. I broke it down easily and slowly to really make sure that he was balancing over the right leg, just like in a turnaround, as well as maintaining a steady turn with no anticipation to blow off into the new lead. Eventually, I did ask for a lope right off, but still kept the three part process in a slower and steady manner. It was highly beneficial for both myself and Milo, who was able to execute a solid, slower, rollback both directions.

I also worked on positioning his hip to the inside to begin our turnarounds, to which Milo was responding very well. Still only a few solid and correct steps with his inside leg brought up underneath him, but beautiful nonetheless, and as known he needs nothing but time to strengthen those hocks for a stronger, faster spin.

After a cool-down with walking fencing, I slid off and gave Milo huge pats. He was such a good boy, working so connected and well. There were minor moments where there was some disconnect, but he always came back and performed well. But that is expected when we are learning something new. It was a great ride, all in all.

Now, as promised, I got some better conformation photos for documentation for Milo's seventh birthday.

March 25, 2011 Kinda sweaty...

He looks so downhill!
Really, Milo? Thats the face for posterity?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Raining On A Thursday

Not just any Thursday, but Milo's Birthday Thursday. The weather teased me throughout the day, promising a beautiful sunny day in the morning, then as the clock ticked closer to the end of the work day, the rains came in and drowned out my plans for Milo.

Mom, its my birthday and its raining. Can we postpone the celebration so I can continue to hide in my shelter?
Not that the plans were elaborate by any means, all my extra cash is going towards the saddle. But I at least was going to bring him to the outdoor arena and get current conformation shots. Instead, I got stuck with these:

Hmm, turn on arena lights? Yes?

Mom, I hate to tell you but this birthday party was pretty lame...
I did give Milo a thorough grooming. Curry, curry, curry, scrape, scrape, scrape (Milo's shedding), brush, brush, brush. I even spent extra time on the hair on the underside of his fetlocks. Of course I check them over every grooming, but yesterday I really got all the dirt and mud out. I scratched all of his itchies, and stretched him all out. Milo seemed content with the extra attention.

And I couldnt help it. Lessons had just ended which left the arena open! I know, what a mean Mom to ride Milo on his birthday. But I did. I wanted to take advantage of a good riding opportunity and not save it for Friday where I know there are at least 3 lessons starting when I get there.

Two cones were left out so I was able to work on the same exercises I learned at my last lesson: arcing, and counter arcing at the walk and trot. Milo was moving nicely, and I continued to work on balacing him on the outside rein. It sure is hard for me to not creep up more with the left rein, and slack out on the right, as the left rein is the one I most dominantly want to ride off of. Milo was arcing and counter arcing nicely on the figure eight around the cones, I think in large part because Ive really been trying to stay centered with my cues, time them according to his footfalls, and bring my leg back straight, not curled.

I noticed something very important in that ride. I always thought that Milo tracking to the left was hardest, because that means he has to lean off of the right rein, not the left as he and I prefer. But in fact, as I worked him to the right, I discovered that it is easier for me to hold onto the left (outside) rein, but Milo is not bent through his body properly, and in fact has a very, very hard time traveling correctly this direction. As I would pick up the left rein, then remind him to balance off the outside with the right rein, he just did not want to actually balance off of the outside. He would hold the rein taught, but was not balancing off of it as I have felt him do nicely the other direction. I also found I still have little control over that shoulder (probably due to my position again, where I need to displace my hip by looking over my inside shoulder).

This became apparent when I was loping him this direction, then counter cantering on the same lead. He wanted to toss his head up and flail and fight against the outside rein, trying to blow his shoulder right through it. I eventually was able to get myself into a better body position which allowed him to keep his shoulder upright through the  counter canter. He definitely could not hold the counter canter for more than a half circle (correctly, at least) but what effort he could I would lope him off straight. He seemed to be a bit better on our last attempt at it, but I definitely see that this needs much more work at the slower levels and really get nit picking about him on the outside rein that direction. He did, however, lope nicely the other direction and counter cantered nicely that way as well.

Now you might notice that Milo is in his nylon halter in the last few photos. I hung up my rope halter, for however long, and have gone back to the nylon. I have always noticed when leading him the instability of the rope halter. The weight of the bull snap in conjunction with his movement, causes a somewhat pendulum swing of the lead rope, which in turn moves the halter from side to side. This had always irritated me, but after the Peggy clinic and having the halter demonstration done on myself from Sarah, I could really see the disconnect that the rope halter was creating.

So I put the nylon on, and at first was nervous on how snug it is. This was the first piece of horse tack I every bought, and I had bought it for Koalt, whose head is much smaller then Milo's. So the halter fits on Milo on the last hole. But it does fit more snug around his nose, and not tight around the poll area. It doesnt move from side to side and stays much more secure on his face. I also took my old lead rope and attached it to the right side and have even tried Peggy's "combing the line" exercise on it when leading Milo. I have honestly come to find that Milo doesnt drag behind me like usual when Im putting him back away, nor does he try and walk forward past me when I first lead him up to the barn. He tends to stay right at my shoulder with me. So for now, I will continue to use the nylon halter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Big Seven! And a Trail Ride

The Pacific Northwest enjoyed a beautiful day yesterday with temperatures reaching 61 degrees. It was warm and beautiful with the sunshine out. I had been itching to get on the trail the last few weeks, but every scheduled trail ride got canceled due to rain. Curse you rain! Normally, I wouldnt trail ride on a weekday as I dont get off work until 4:30, however after daylight savings time, the days have been long well into six, even seven o'clock.

Not wanting to miss a rare opporunity to jump out on the trail, I texted a friend who keeps her horse only a few short miles down the road from the barn. She was eager to trail ride too and hauled out to meet me. In the spirit of bareback riding, she joined me with her bareback pad. Helmeted, and "saddled up" we hit the trails, anticipating about an hour long trail ride. Just enough to get the horses out, and enough time to soak up some rays.

The walk to the trail head is usually met with a few hurdles: at least two "packs" of dogs, known to chase after people and horses, a cross over a quiet road, two curly horses (the horses always have to gawk at them), two goats, more dogs, and yesterday, a pogo stick.

Yes, we passed a boy bouncing on his pogo stick. Sproing, sproing, sproing. Milo had since passed all the previous death traps, as well as two oncoming bicyclists, but this pogo stick was bouncing up and down, taking the small child for a ride, and belching a rusty, creaking noise along the way. Milo stopped dead still and eyeballed (stared down) the evil bouncing torture device. We walked forward tow more steps, where he then stopped and pivoted around to stare at it some more. Naturally, the kid didnt realize what he was doing to my horse, and merrily kept bouncing along in his driveway. Milo was wound tighter then the coiled springs in that pogo stick. He was prancing in place as I tried to walk him forward from the terror, his every step poised and ready to explode forward if the pogo threat were to become too unbearable.

We did, finally, reach the trail head, but after the pogo incident it took a few minutes to get Milo back "under control" as now every rustle, dog walker, or even corner put him on high alert.

We wound our way through the first small trail, reaching the logging roads thereafter. An inviting slope encourged us to set to work, and I easily trotted Milo up it, still pushing him into using his body correctly to work up the hill, and even working on reaching into the balance of the outside rein. Milo was trotting well on the straight-of-ways, but an impeding corner would cause him to creen his head up and around, anticipating a monster around the corner.

Milo was working well, however, and throughout the ride I encouraged him to work off my outside rein (this being the right rein, as my terrible habit is to ride off the left rein). He was doing very well, and was really lifting up his back and engaging his core. I even worked on some arcing, and at one point where my friend needed to adjust her pad, worked on stepping him up nicely for a turnaround. Milo did very well. This is far different then the typical trail rides we embark on, where its mostly meandering at a walk and chatting with friends. But I had a purpose today in that I wanted him to really stretch out his legs and work up those hills.

Something felt different from the start of the ride and throughout. Nothing felt "off", or "not right" but something was definitely different. Milo's back felt odd. Now, we all know I ride in this bareback pad during every ride (unless its a lesson or horse show, to which I can borrow Sarah's saddle), and have grown very acustom to how my horse feels under it. His back felt, almost, taller, and more strong, to put it into words. He felt like he was really supporting my weight, and simply felt stronger.

We did enjoy a few more trot strides up hills and on straight of ways, then found a winding trail to weave our way back to the head. I had a general trail route in mind from the get-go, knowing these trails would offer hills, turns, and the perfect amount of time for riding. We zig zagged through this connecting trail at an even jog. Milo was working and engaged, breathing in and out steadily. I heard my friend's horse behind me, a bit more out of breath. Asking if she wanted to walk, she said no, and we continued jogging along. Reaching another logging trail and steeper hill, I asked if we could lope, to which my riding partner agreed. We loped easily up the hill, Milo still working nicely. It was only for a few strides until we reached the top and came down to a walk. Milo was puffing a little more now, and we put them on the last trail back to home.

The tree cover was blocking the falling light, and the sunglasses I had on darkened everything as well. We weaved through the trail and reached the large puddle. This is more like a small pond then a puddle, really, as it stays (but drains slightly) year-round. Knowing it would only be just above the fetlocks, we bagan wading through. In fact, after the rain the last two weeks, it was now definitely to the horse's knees. But they soldiered through nicely, I was proud of Milo who only snorted at it at the beginning.

Out of the puddle now and back on the way home, I patted Milo and told him what a good boy he was, allowing the rest of the walk home for cooldown. We walked back home chatting, and still enjoying the warm weather, even with the disappearing sun. I thanked my friend for coming out with me, and thought to myself that I should really try and incorporate a ride such as this one more often, to even once a week as allowed by the weather.

I didnt even break a sweat, Mom!
Now, on to the most important topic of the day, Milo is now 7 years old. Yep, its my little boy's birthday. He's grown up so fast! In honor of this, I have been posting segments of our early days together, I hope you have enjoyed reading the first installments as much as I have enjoyed revisiting those memories.

Happy Birthday, Justa Cool Milo.

Official birthday boy photos to come, as I visit with him after work this evening.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Passive Leadership

Ive talked before about this "new route" of "training" that Im applying towards myself and Milo. Im really comfortable with the ideas and methods that Im learning more about, and trying to incorporate. I dont have to instill fear or pain, or work my horse into a sweat or frenzy, or do anything through force or aggression. It's been (and sometimes is) hard to re-educate myself away from those "inate" responses, or thing that my body learned as a habit to do. But Im trying.

There are a few things I still want to learn about, however. First, I still need to learn how to correctly longe my horse. Doesnt sound like a big deal does it? But with only having "formal" training in Clinton Anderson groundwork methods and exercises, its hard to work my horse on the ground in a manner that isnt overly dominant or "chasing". I want my horse to look at me as a leader, not someone who forces leadership. Mark Rashid wrote a great article on this subject, called Passive Leadership. Its a great read and can be found here. What I want to note most out of it for this reference is the following, items in bold for what stood out predominantly to me:

"There are two types of leaders in a herd situation. The alpha, or lead horse, that rules by dominance, and passive leaders that lead by example. The passive leaders are usually chosen by other members of the herd and are followed willingly, while alphas use force to declare their place in the herd.

Passive leaders are usually older horses somewhere in the middle of the herd's pecking order. They are quiet and consistent in their day-to-day behavior and don't appear to have much ambition to move up the "alpha" ladder. As a result, there appears to be no reason for them to use force to continually declare their position in the herd.

Alphas, on the other hand, are usually pretty far from being quiet and consistent in their behavior. They are often very pushy, sometimes going as far as using unprovoked attacks on subordinates for the simple reason of declaring their dominance. As a result of this behavior, the majority of the horses in the herd will actually avoid all contact with the alpha throughout the day."

"Passive leaders have "earned" that particular title with the other horses by showing them they can be dependable in their passive behavior from one day to the next. In other words, they lead by example, not by force."

"I guess when it gets right down to it, it's more of an attitude than a technique. It's being able to give the horse the benefit of the doubt that they will try and do things right for you, and not constantly reprimanding them for things done wrong."

I very much agree with this attitude, and is something I am striving to display towards my horse. I want my horse to follow me because he wants to, because I am consistent and fair. This rolls over into my work on the ground still, longing particularly. As stated before, I need to learn how to do it in a consistent and fair manner. Sarah said she will help me with this come our next lesson.

All of this attitude falls perfectly into place with Peggy Cummings' Connected Groundwork. I already gave a recap of her clinic I audited and how fantastic it was to observe the changes in the horses as they connected with their owners. I want to connect with Milo. I feel I have a great friendship with him and generally he looks to me for guidance, but I have to wonder: is it because of fear that I have instilled in my early workings with him? or is it because he truely wants to be with me? Interesting things to consider. Of course, you all will be along for the ride as I document our continued journey.

Edit to Add: I had also wanted to add how changing to this perspective have helped in other regards as well. For instance, Milo has always been mouthy. Normally, if he would mouth the halter, cross ties, anything, he would get a pop on the nose. Of course this only seemed to work temporarily, until Milo’s reflexes kicked in quickly and can easily avoid the pop from my hands.

I had an interesting realization the day the new farrier came for Milo, in fact. With anyone, Milo tries to nose himself into their face, lip their clothing, be generally mouthy. And I always embarrassingly apologize for the behavior, always backing Milo up away from the person, or popping on his nose for him to stop. But he always goes right back into trying it again. Generally, people say “Oh, its ok..” and pat his nose or whatnot. But the farrier instead said, “You know, I have found that those horses who are generally mouthy really just want to be touched” as he rubbed his hands on Milo’s nose and muzzle. A content Milo stopped mouthing and just enjoyed the attention.

This got me thinking. Normally, I would see this as rewarding his nosey or mouthy behavior. Of course, a nip, even a playful one cannot be treated by rewarding with a pet, nor can any other demand for touch through being in your space or mouthy. But, selectively, I can offer Milo some physical attention when he is being a good boy.

I have incorporated this new idea into our interactions the last few weeks since the farrier’s visit. Rubbing his nose when he is sweet, not rubbing it when he demands for it. But generally things are getting better. He isn’t desperately trying to get me to touch him, although he still pokes his nose out and mouths to people walking by him especially in the cross ties. And like normal, I apologize for the behavior, and generally wish people would stay away from him so I don’t have to deal with it.

So how can I incorporate being a passive leader to aid in this “problem”? I don’t like calling it a “problem” however, because its really Milo just being Milo and wanting attention. As I think this over, I will continue to add more rubbing and loves when hes a good boy, and think about passive leadership throughout.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Story of Milo III

The Story Begins Here

I needed a real job. One that paid me cold hard cash, not one that just supplemented boarding costs. I let J know that I was looking for a part time job after work, which meant he would need to find a replacement for my cleaning services. I also gave him my thirty days notice. I loved having my horse at Js facility, but I still lived in Bremerton and with the school year approaching I knew it would be another long expensive year of gas costs. I also knew that J and his wife really would like to become a private facility no longer offering boarding. J of course understood when I told him of these two new happenings. And as it were, I was going in for an interview at a department store and hopefully would have a "real" job soon.

A friend was keeping her horse at a smaller boarding facility with nice amenities. I was able to stick a deal with the owner for some partial work for board costs, and we set the date: September first Milo would arrive. I had secured the position as a sales associate at the department store and would be on track to making my partial board payments. This facility was closer to home then Js as well. I also had a car for access on certain days of the week, so this new facility would reduce my gas costs as well.

The day came and we said our tearful goodbyes. We both knew it wouldnt be the end of our great friendship, but did know the closing of a chapter when it was presented before us. J had watched a young horse nutty girl grow up with his horses and her own, I knew it was hard for him to see someone whom he revered as family, now move on as needed in her life. I too knew I would miss J and his generosity very much, but was also excited for the new change that was in store.

Dad hauled the little blue Logan trailer to the new facility for me. The BO was there to meet myself and the new horse. I backed Milo off of the trailer and let him scope out his new surroundings. He would be homed in a modest stall and large attached paddock area. In the drier months, there were a few small turnouts available as well as the arena when open. The six stall barn, converted to four stalls with hay and tack space, had an open aisleway and adjoining covered arena. For the first time I felt I was actually in a "boarding facility". While Js covered arena and stalls were connected, there was no aisleway between and we did all of our grooming and tacking outside. In this modest barn, in my mind, it seemed much more "upscale".

The BO agreed to a light work shedule of three days a week. I could come anytime after noon to ensure that stall times and amounts were consistent day to day (no one person cleaned up after more hours then another). This worked right into my schedule. I was a senior in high school attending half time at the high school and half time at the community college. This allowed me to get chores done in the small amount of time open between high school and college. I was responsible for cleaning eight stalls and runs, as well as cleaning and filling waters. It wasnt a bad deal at all.

I learned even more about this little paint horse at this facility then I did at Js. I had lots of opportunities to advance his training, and with still supplying social time with him through cleaning, learned more about his goofy character as well. He loved to tip the wheelbarrow over when I blocked him outside of his stall with it. He also liked to grab the pitchfork and drag it around when I wasnt handling it. But I also discovered he liked to kick out at people when feeding came.

This obviously was a big problem. J had told me his did this to him once, but never tried it again. It was also the second day he was home, so neither one of us assumed much else besides him being a bit skittish. But now, it was confirmed that he had some food aggression.

I got a big surprise too when I took him to the county fair in August and he displayed this towards me. Automatically pushing him out of my space when bringing the hay net in, he spun around and narrowly avoided kicking me, instead sending the water bucket flying and spewing the air with its contents. I knew we had a problem but wasnt sure how to fix it.

Unfortuntely, I was not the one who fed at the new barn, so that posed a training dilhema for how to correct it. I was, however, able to pull a small flake of hay into his stall to work with during the afternoons. I approached it as it being my flake, not Milo's and he was in no way to demand it from me. I sent him out of the stall before feeding, then dropped the hay in the open door. If he tried to move in, he was sent back out using my training stick as necessary. Eventually he learned that while I was in the stall, he was to be outside until the door closed. This seemed to work for me. I never did really hear back from the BO on if it worked for her, but since I never heard anything I can assume it seemed to work fine.

This method then applied when someone approached with a wheelbarrow. It was far easier to push the cart in and keep the horse outside in the paddock by barocading the door with the wheelbarrow, then clean horseless. Milo picked it up quickly and soon would walk right out at the sign of a wheelbarrow or hay.

It seemed our feeding problems were combated, until it crept up again a year later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Peggy Cummings Clinic

Sunday I had the great priviledge of auditing the Peggy Cummings clinic. Sarah had told me about it in advance with the option of participating with Milo. While I really wanted to jump on that opportunity, I knew that clinic fee would need to be put towards my saddle. Hopefuly it isnt too long before Peggy comes back for another clinic and I can participate in that one then.

But I still was able to audit, which was informational in and of itself. I got to watch three one-hour long individual lessons, one with Melissa and Grace, before getting hungry and cold.

I visually was able to see many changes in the horses, but seemed to see the biggest changes in Melissa and Grace's lesson. Could be because Im slightly biased and know their histroy a bit more, but nevertheless large changes did occur. Dont believe me? Check out her blog and the photos I took for you, the changes are far too phenomenal to ignore!

While Im still green to Peggy and her methods and havent received my copy of her newly released book yet, Connect with your Horse from the Ground Up, I was able to already recognize some of the methods she was using with all of the horses, and how greatly body positioning is, both on the ground and under saddle.

I couldnt help but notice all of the horse's halters where removed and switched into the Peggy halters. These nylon halters didnt secure up behind the cheek, but rather, in front of the cheek, snugly fixed down near the noseband underside. They all also had fleece slipped over the noseband and some with it behind the ears as well. I was also able to observe Peggy as she ran her rope (leadline) through the halter, crossed over the nose, and tied up on the rear metal ring.

I asked Sarah the benefits of the halter affixed this way, to which she gave me the same demonstration that Peggy does. Hands claspsed in front of me, Sarah ran the lead rope around my wrists loosely in a crossed fashion, then tugged lightely on the rope. I was able to feel the insecure and "bobbly" feeling being between those ropes. Then she snugged them all down and tugged again. This time, my hands were centered between the rope and felt much more secure. This is the same effect with the halter on the horse, when snugged down it allows the horse to be more balanced in himself and in the halter, instead of "bobbing around" in an insecure halter. It was really cool to feel the difference for myself.

I got lucky and in the third lesson Peggy further explained this, demonstrating on the horse's owner with the same closed hands and rope exercise. She went one step further and demonstrated the difference between the lead placement. In the center, like we all fasten the lead to the base of the halter, not only can it tip the nose away or towards you, but it also increases pressure on the poll of the horse. This particular horse in the lesson had an extremely abusive background with a lot of snesitivity to all regions of his face but particularly the poll area. She showed on the owner how switching the lead to the side in the same manner that she attaches her lead rope through, gives the horse again a closer balance in itself, but also takes almost all pressure off of the poll. I found this change fasinating and was pondering the benefits of putting Milo's nylon halter back on with the lead on the side.

Im looking forward to receiving her book however, its supposed to come out the end of the month. And at least I can consult with Sarah and Melissa to get be on the beginning track. I encourage everyone to check out her website and if shes holding a clinic near you, to attend. If not for her methods, but her graet insight to connecting with your horse.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Stills

Im following along with the photography challenges with Sunday Stills. This week's challenge is Canine Companions, and here is ours (although Ive been begging for my own dog for months and months and mean ole Boyfriend wont relent).

Angie, enjoying the snow January 12, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cowgirl Jewelry

Ive had an itch lately to make a horsehair bracelet. I surfed the internet of people who professionally made them, but after looking into it, I decided I didnt like their custom price. Sure there were those already made available, for but an additional price I could send in my own horse's hair to be made. That intrigued me, but again not the price point.

Instead, I started researching how I could make one myself. I had already saved the hunk of mane I cut for the bridle path, but I was reading that tail hair works better. Makes sense, its longer, coarser and would probably hold a braid well. It killed me to cut my horse's tail, so I waited until it needed a bang trim anyways, then selected one small dread that was longer than the rest, and trimmed it from the inner center, so the blunt end was not visible. I was also carful to cut it just like I do for mane trimmings, and that is at an angle so it appears much more natural.

With the horsehair now collected, I needed to decide a plan of action on how to make it. It was recommended to use end cap clasps to secure the hair inside with. I decided I didnt want to purchase anything online because it was not only hard for me to gauge what the sizing was like, but I also didnt want to spend shipping costs on a two dollar item.

I went to one of the local craft stores, sure that their jewelry section would have just what I was looking for. It didnt, no end cap clasps. Phooey, that meant I would have to purchase the clasp itself, plus some beaded "cones", then affix the two together. That also meant I would need some jewelry wire. Of course you cant just buy the foot of wire that you need, I had to buy 30 yards of it. After a lot of thinking, standing, and looking in the jewelry aisle (I swear I was there about thirty minutes), I decided on my end clasps and beads. I also had determined I wanted a glue gun for assistance in holding the hair into the cone bead, plus I had a generous 50% off coupon and had been wanting a glue gun anyways.

I arrived home ready to get to work. Boyfriend was already there, and watched as I fiddled with the hair and beads, trying to get an idea of what exactly I was going to do, but also being very careful with the hair to keep it in a workable clump.

About an hour and a half later, a semi-presentable horsehair bracelet was born.

Here were the steps I took to complete this project:

1. Gather necessary items. This includes the horsehair of course, along with end clasps (I opted for the toggle claps because I find them easier to put on one handed), beads, (or if youre lucky and can find end cap clasps go with those), thin wire (I used 26 gauge), tweezers, glue gun, and glue sticks.

2. Brush or wash the hair. I personally only finger brushed what I used, fearful that washing would result in a lot of lost hair.

3. Determine what type of braid you want to use. Originally, I wanted to use the round braid, but had a hard time of it once I tried, so instead opted for the regular three strand braid. At first, I tried to affix the hair into the cone bead and attach the end clasp, then run some wire through it all. Boyfriend watched and snickered, so I asked what course of action he might suggest. His suggestion was to braid the hair first, then attach the clasps and beads at the end. So thats what I ended up doing. With the top of the hair still in the rubber band, I started my braid, then when I felt I was about halfway the length of the bracelet, ran the cone beads in for some decoration.

Photo is out of sequence, but since all of this work required the use of all my hansd and fingers, I didnt have any real opportunities to take additional photos.
I attached the cone beads by simply running the hair through it (wrapped it in wire so the upward direction of the bead on the hair wouldt create flyaway hairs), then applying some hot glue to hold the bead in place.

4. The second half of the bracelet was the hardest because I needed to add more horsehair (mane) for even thickness. As I was now running towards the end of the tail hair it was getting thinner. I decided the new hair would attach the best in the bead cone where the end clasp goes because the larger circumference of the bead would be exposed, not the smaller end. This meant that I had to braid upwards instead of downwards, and I was also going against the grain of the hair. But I managed to make it work and secured the end off with another rubber band.

5. At this stage, I had two braids and the cone beads affixed in the center. Now I needed to secure the cone beads that would place as my end caps, and tie in my end clasps. I wrapped wire around the end of the hair (taken the rubber band off now after wire was tied around) then ran the cone bead down the wire, then followed that with whichever end clasp. After the end clasp was beaded on, I ran the wire back into the cone bead, then quickly applied some hot glue and jammed the horsehair braid into the cone bead. I waited about fifteen seconds holding the hair and bead in place, and it dired quickly and securely.

This left a fair amount of wire exposed between the cone bead and the end clasp. Trying to be quick with the hot glue, I wasnt able to pull the wire tight to bring the clasp and bead tightly together. Using my tweezers, I was able to push the wire strings closely together, and feed it slightly into the cone bead. With a little bit left, I simply twisted the end clasp a few times with tightened it down closer to the cone bead.

6. Repeat step 5 for the second end.

7. With the beads and hair now secured and in place, I needed to address all the extra hair sticking out.

What, the extra hair wouldnt be ver complimenting? I didnt think so either.

I glued down a little bit to make sure that where I brought in more hair wouldt work its way back out of the braid. Then carefully cut all the flyaway ends. I then sprayed some hair spray over the whole thing and tried to pat down some of the remaining few flyaways.

Voila! Certainly not perfect by any means, and I really dont think I can get rid off all of the flyaway hair. But not bad for my first horsehair jewelry attempt I think.

Now, some tips...
  • I think I should have worked with the hair slightly wet, or at least with some sort of conditioner or shampoo washed in it. The product and damp hair would have most likely helped keep the flyaway ends inside the braid better, and probably would have made everything much more handleable.
  • End cap clasps would have made my life a lot easier, but the wire and hot glue gun helped make it work with what I had.
  • A thicker chunk of tail hair would have been easier to work with as well. I incorportated the mane hair because of its contrasting color, but also to add necessary thickness. I believe a lot of stray hairs would have been eliminated had I not needed to add more hair while braiding.
But I definitely had fun with this project after figuring out a course of action. Unfortunetely, I went to put it on this morning and I didnt measure very accurately - it just barely stays on my wrist, coming very close to coming off when my hand is down. Without taking it apart, I dont think theres any way to make it smaller. But it will look nice hanging off my purse or rear view mirror in any case, and is a neat way to have Milo with me anywhere I go.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arcing, Counter Arcing, and ... What?

I had another lesson with the fabulous Sarah last night. I initially wasnt as "ampted" for one as I usually am, unfortunetely letting the drama from the last week effect my overall demeanor. But we had scheduled and Sarah was gracious about hauling Milo up to DHR for the lesson, so I couldnt cancel just because I was feeling down. If Sarah was recovering from pnuemonia and could give a lesson, I could certainly buck it up and pay attention.

I led Milo into the arena and saw two large traffic cones set up about fifteen feet away from each other. Sarah checked Milo over, complimenting on his well balanced feet and even mentioning that his posture looked better then the last time she saw him. She gave him a few adjustments and all seemed well. Instructing me to hop on, I did and began warming up.

Normally, I run a play by play of my ride or lesson, to better document exactly how I asked for something and the response. I like to think of things chronologically so it helps keep me organized. I dont think I can follow this route today because there was far too much going on to try and remember each part, and describe in detail - it would make this the world's longest blog post. Instead, I will address the important details seperately.

My position is off again. Just when I start to think Im getting it, turns out I really havent been as spot on as I would like to think. Sarah made me fill in the hollow of my back again, and when I just couldnt seem to do it, she told me to hunch over. Hunch over in the saddle? Isnt it all about sitting up straight and letting the water flow up and down easily inside of me? But I got her point to really emphasize in my body that the small of my back needs to be rounded. With a reminder to lift my sternum up and roll my shoulders back while holding a round back, I was finding it difficult to breathe, and somewhat painful to my lower back which always carries a certain amount of pain. But the change, Sarah said, was dramatic: my horse's stride from the rear was drastic as he really reached up underneath himself and formed beautiful "Vs". I could feel that he felt somewhat taller underneath me, but was concentrating so hard on holding this position, I was having a hard time recognizing anything else.

We moved onto arcing and counter arcing in figure eights around the two cones. We concentrated first on my legs independently and their aids. To the circle around the right cone, Sarah had me tip Milo's nose towards the cone and push his hip out. Coming around for the figure eight to the left cone, she had me tip his nose towards the cone and push his hip towards it as well. This proved to be hard for Milo (and myself, who was having a hard time breathing and concentrating on my position, as well as falling off center when reaching my leg back for his hip). She told me to ask for his hip when the opposide shoulder was just touching the ground. I knew what she was saying but just couldnt time my cue to ask at the right time. Poor Milo tried hard though even though I wasnt asking at the right time, and Sarah would tell me when he was tracking correctly, but I was having a terrible time being able to feel it towards the left. She addressed this because my body basically rides comfortably to the right. Of course she phrased it better, but I cant remember the exact wording.

We had to bring it down to a walk for me to work on my timing, which of course changed the right time for the cue. Instead of waiting for that front foot to touch the ground, I had to cue when it was just starting to leave the ground. I felt I was starting to get it a little bit, but was still frustrated that I couldnt feel when he was doing it right. If I only know he did it right because Sarah told me he did, how the heck am I supposed to work on this at home? I was starting to shut down a bit, and as I heard Sarah saying lots of things I know she was trying to help me understand better with, I wasnt absorbing any of it. There was so much going on I was required to do: sit correctly, ride off the outside rein (which I was doing wrong still, more on that later), time when Milo's leg was moving in accordance to my leg cue (but not look right down at the shoulder cause that would drop me out of position, one I was having a hard time holding anyways).

When Milo did an exceptionally nice arc and/or counter arc, Sarah had me send him out of the cones for a few strides, then halt and back up. At least I could show her that my lower back hinge was working well for stops - Milo stopped under himself nicely and  backed up straight and balanced. Woot! Compliments from Sarah.

I tried to get it in my head that unless I freed myself of this frustration over the fact that I couldnt feel what was right and wrong to the left side, or that I was frustrated because I didnt know what I was asking for or what I was supposed to want (thats the way it is though when your learning something new), I finally was able to decide that there was no point to my being there in the lesson if I wasnt being there in the lesson. I tried to push the drama from the last week, and the feelings of inadequecy out of my system, and tried to focus on the words that Sarah was telling me.

She had me move him into a arc to the left and once established, half halt with the outside rein and tap with the outside leg to rock him onto his inside leg to start a spin. With reminder to ride his body, not just positioning his head, she helped me gain more control over his shoulder and barrel to allow him to travel around in the spin correctly. There was a moment where he brought his inside leg forward then planted it and traveled around it for about three strides, Sarah said. I had felt the improved footsteps, and she asked what I felt differently. He had lifted me right up. She told me to walk him out when he does that nicely, as we dont want a lot of steps at it right now - we need to strengthen that joint.

Now we tried to repeat this the other way, but it was much harder for Milo (Im sure I was in the way too with my drifting hip). Trying to establish a correct arc to the right was difficult in and of itself. Milo wanted to move his head into a different position and as Sarah put it, "post his hock". With a reminder for me to ride the body and establish control over the shoulder, we finally got a good arcing circle. A small half halt with outside rein, and driving forward, we wanted him to plant that inside leg up under himself and rock himself around it. But tried to post his hock, whereby he keeps it directly under his hip, not up underneath himself. A reminder that this was the hock with the beginning arthritis in it, we knew we just needed to build strength into it. But Milo gave two small nice steps on it, and I walked him right out.

For my own sake, Im going to define what the arc, counter arc, leg yeild, and half pass are. Only because If I dont before moving forward I might confuse myself. I associate movements by themselves, and generally not with their titles.

The arcing circle is the harder of the two arcing types. Arcing on the circle sounds basic because its where the nose and hip are both going into the circle, and the body bends like a banana. This sounds like basic circle work, and while it is, it still is taxing and requires concentration. Sarah made it clear (yet again) that the bend is through the body, not just where the head is positioned. So Milo essentially needs to wrap around my inside leg, tipping his nose to the inside, and with my outside leg back, tucking his butt in and reaching up under towards the inside.

The counter arc is the opposite of the regular arcing. The nose is to the outside, and the hip is pushed to the outside, but the body is tracking towards the inside. I dont think I described that very well, and Sarah, please comment if I got this wrong.

Leg yeilding is when the nose and hip are going two different directions in a forward motion. So Milo's nose is tipped towards the right, and the hip is moving into the left.

Now the half pass is much harder. The half pass is where both nose and hip are traveling together in a forward motion, much like a sidepass, but forward. So tip the nose to the right, and push the hip that direction as well, and drive forward. The half pass was where I discovered what happens when my horse thinks he cannot do what Im asking.

Trying to keep my hips even with my shoulders and centered, not falling off to the side with the leg aid for the hip, Milo was working in a trot. The idea was to come around one cone pushing his hip out in a counter arc, then when at the top of the two cones with a pathway from one to the other across the center, half halt with the outside rein and half pass across the diagonal of the cones. Milo did a nice pass through half passing to the left (body curled towards the right). I could feel it that direction, and after opening up my mind to absorbing the information, was now much more capable of feeling all of the footfalls that Sarah was so diligently trying to get me to understand.

Coming around the next cone's corner, I swapped leg aids, and was now pushing his hip in a counter arc to the left, preparing to half pass across the diagonal to the right. Milo gave a few trying steps, but as I half halted with the outside rein, he blew right up into a bouncing temper tantrum. Never really trying to get me off, he leaped and bucked in place, telling me just how hard this was and he didnt wanna. I picked back up on the outside leg and drove him fiercly back up into our trot, back onto the counter arcing circle to the left a few times. I prepared to half halt and half pass, and with the half halt from the outside rein, he threw himself into a second tantrum. Driving him forward once more onto the counter arc circle, and really telling him to give me that hip and shoulder together, he finally did a half pass to the right. Good Boy! Sarah exclaimed and told me to send him forward out of the cones. I did, we then stopped and backed. Milo was puffing with his head dropped. I could feel him accept that it wasnt impossible, he just had to use his body in a way I had never asked for before.

You think that was the breakthrough wasnt it? The climax of the lesson? It was an important part and a mental breakthough for Milo, but the real wall for me was coming up. We still hadnt loped. Sarah laughed saying she could work on these arcs and counter arcs all day, as they are a great and important tool for everyhorse, and especially for Milo who has never been asked to carry himself in these ways, and will be pivotal for our lead changes.

Coming across the diagonal of the cones again, Sarah had me leg yeild through them, then half halt and lay my outside leg back for a lope departure. I have a terrible habit of throughing my reins away at the departure, I think in an effort to help balance Milo for the lope. I figured, if Im not hanging on his head, he can find the most comfortable position for himself to lope off. Good idea in theory, but not correct. More on that later though. The idea was to establish a nice arc around the right cone, then with my leg still holding his hip into the right, come across the cone diagonal again and drive him around the next cone in a counter canter, hip out. I could already see how beneficial though will be for lead changes. Milo did the first attempt very well, but lost his drive halfway around the next cone. I established a right lead lope again, and brought him across the diagonal, driving to keep that hip to the outside and counter canter around the cone. Again, he came apart, but this time a mere two strides into the counter canter. I could feel that I was hindering him, but I didnt know how.

First of all, I need to stop leaning forward into the lope departure. That right there is a cause to why Milo lifts his head up into the lope. He's basically telling me, as Sarah put it humorously but I unfortunetly can't show you her hand gestures (and btw I find it hilarious to watch her half pass around like shes a horse, then arc and sidepass, hehe), to get off his forehand, lady. This was a contributing factor to not only the lope departure, but also in this counter canter exercise. When I needed to keep driving him up across the cone diagonal, I was leaning forward and asking for more. Of course he was breaking to a trot, he couldnt balance with me driving forward like that. Sarah tried making that clear, but it really didnt hit me until I was driving home.

But we did finally get a full circle of counter canter and I was able to bring him out of the cones for a small reward again. We didnt, unfortuentely, get to work the counter canter much the other way because there was just one imperative problem from me that Sarah was just dying to get me to fix before we could continue.

You know how Im always saying I need to pick more outside rein, more outside rein, and still, more outside rein? I get that, but Im still not doing it right and heres how she made me realize it.

She made me grab hold of that outside rein and plant it down in the center of my thigh. See, with all this issue of Milo always tipping his nose to the right and bulding into the left, I try and compensate by just like, always holding onto that left rein. I need to be riding off of my outside rein, always. The inside rein just gives gentle reminder to stay straight and on the outside rein. So with my hand glued to my thigh, when Milo would try and yeild to it, I had to bump him back straight with the inside rein. The whole time Im thinking, but this isnt working, hes bent to the outside, more outside rein makes him bend himself that way. Sarah persisted with me though, and made me hold it, bump with the inside and continue. Finally, he was traveling straight and balancing off the outside rein. "Is your horse bent right now?" Sarah smartly asked. "Well..." I tried to fight for an excuse but came up empty. Sarah proved me wrong. The counter intuitive thinking was actually correct. "Now, holding that outside rein, do not let it go, pick up the lope". Oh my God, I thought. Im tired, my horse is tired. But I knew we had to break through my habits and Milo's traveling style (due to my habits) on this outside rein.

Into the lope we went and my hand was still affixed to my thigh. My horse was fighting it and skittering up and down. I bumped with the inside rein, but knew I had to hold my outside rein solid. Driving him up as needed, trying to stay centered (but at this point my total positioning went out the window as I just could not mentally or physically hold it anymore, but at least I was trying to stay off his forehand), we loped around circle by circle, and then the magic happened. He was traveling off my outside rein. He was straight, my inside rein was slack, and I had never felt my horse move like that before.

"I've always liked this horse," Sarah said, "but he never knocked my socks off. Tonight, he did that. There is so much potential in this horse."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lets Just Get a Few Things Straight

I started this blog with the intentions of having a location to document my work with Milo. May that be the lows that we all face with dealing with horses, or the incerdible highs when something has been accomplished. I also wanted to track all of the work there in between. I write on a blog because it allows me to save and share photos and video, something I cannot save into a handwritten journal. I like the way that blogs can be organized to store posts, and I treat my blog very much like an online journal. I never have expected many people to find interest in what I write, and find it fasinating that people even chose to or "follow" me, so if they do then I hope they can learn about the things that I have experienced works or does not with my horse, and that they can share their opinions and thoughts with me as well. After all, I love to learn as much about horses as possible and one can only learn from the knowledge of others.

That being said, nothing that I post is intended to cause harm to anyone or anything. I post merely first hand accounts towards myself and my horse. I purposfully leave the names of certain individuals or locations out to protect their privacy. In no way do I mean anything malicious in reference to anyone or anything. Unfortunetly, that has not always been taken as the case.

Wednesday afternoon was the first time in just over a year and a half that I felt severe anxiety towards going out to the barn because I knew that there had been backlash against what I had written on this blog. I had been confronted about it, and decided that I would remove the offending paragraph in order to stop any additional upset it might cause. I believe I have been well inside my rights to post my feelings and opinons about things that directly effect myself and my horse. I dont feel that I need to censor my posts to keep other people happy. But I edited the post, and reposted it to Facebook, hoping that those who might have read it before could now see that I edited the post in such a manner that could not be taken negatively. This was done for their benefit, not mine.

This unfortunetely still didnt seem to clear the air about what had been previously written, and as I reached the barn I was immedietly attacked by those who deemed what I wrote as "disrespectful" and "offensive". Needless to say, it jeopardized and invaded my chances on having a serene and personal time with my horse. I was upset enough to consider dismounting my horse and leaving, but ended up clearing my mind and pressing onward.

What I posted was with the intention to show that I was truely happy about having total access to the arena. I did not post with any intentions of making it out to seem that certain people are unbearable to ride with because that certainly was not the intentions behind it. Everyone who reads my blog knows that I get extremely frustrated with the fact that I pay a substantial amount of board money to have access to the arena and when other people limit my abilities to use it, my frustration builds. I always clearly state my mind when I am happy to have the opportunity to do what I please no matter what that may be. The post that caused so much stir was truely with that intention in mind. I was simply expressing how I was jumping up and down in side, itching with the excitement that I might actually be about to work with my horse as I wanted to, and not cater towards the current traffic in the arena. I also hope that anyone who reads can also see that I am very greatful for the facilties that I have access to.

I am very sorry if that intention was not seen. I also profusely apologize for any upset that my blog has or may have caused towards someone because those intentions have never been made. I write from the bottom of my heart, and from what I truely believe in. Milo is why I write. Milo is how I get my sanity out. Im sorry if it was taken across that the post was not in my ordinary line of humor, but it had abosuletly no malicious nature rooted into it. I hope in the future any readers can read the words that I write for what they are, and not read past them to what isnt there.