Blog .:. January 2013 4 Entries

Dexter goes to school

27 January 2013 Comments

Dexter will be trailering out for lessons once or twice a month from now on. Among other things, I want to get him used to leaving the property and going elsewhere.

It didn’t take long to identify the first hole in his training. In fact, we never even made it off the property. Dexter thinks one loads into a trailer by jumping.

Alrighty then. I see some trailer loading practice in our future.

Once at the barn and tacked up (“tack” here meaning wearing a surcingle and pad, just to have him wearing it), we ran through a few in-hand exercises and then did some lunging at the walk and trot.

When I’ve been lunging him, I’ve kept the line fairly short and walked with him so that he wasn’t working on a tiny circle. This causes him to drift a little, so one of the things we did is lunge on a square rather than a circle. This puts the emphasis on straight line, turn, straight line, turn, and helps fix the drifting. Once he is more solid about voice commands I’ll let the line out more and won’t need to walk with him, and then we’ll take this exercise and turn it into spiraling in and out.

Then we put long lines on him to see what he would do, with my instructor driving to start. Once he had the gist of it, I took up the lines.

I have to say that he was really, really good. He did spin around a few times, but at least one of those times was because he is absolutely certain that he’s supposed to face the human when he halts.

My instructor started out walking with him, so he could follow her a little while I got used to turning. But as both of us started to figure it out, she faded out and we were driving around on our own. It went pretty well, considering, and by the end we were going pretty much where I wanted to go. We looked like drunken sailors, but we were doing it!

So we’ll be working on all this at home for the next couple of weeks. Somewhere in here I need to get the vet out to check his teeth, and then I’ll introduce the bit and bridle. He’ll just be wearing that for a few weeks while we work, like the surcingle now—just to get a feel for it and realize it’s no big deal. My plan it to take him back for the next lesson at the point where we’re pretty solid on all this and are ready to start introducing contact (well, “contact”) on the bit.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Dexter, Riding - Lessons, Trailering

“The horse has come to us by chance, not choice”

22 January 2013 Comments

From Joe Fargis’ acceptance speech for the 2012 USEF Lifetime Achievement Award:

The horse has come to us by chance, not by choice. Of all the animals that have naturally come from the wild, there are very few that have shown any disposition to tolerate man and live with him on the terms we impose.

In the mental make-up of the horse there is a quality of submission that has benefited man to no end. The horse will carry out duties without reward. He is a giving creature who asks for nothing. Horses have served as man’s partner throughout the history of civilization, through the centuries without complaint they have served in war, commerce, agriculture and entertainment. They have borne men and munitions into battle, pulled wagons and carriages, plowed fields, provided endless sport: polo, racing, dressage, fox hunting, three-day eventing, show jumping, reining… just to name but a few. Horses are embedded in our culture and our memories.

The horse has an athleticism, grace and power. Beyond the horses physical attributes and his contributions to human well-being I am astounded, above all else, by his inner self, his spirit and his sweet and generous nature. The horse’s adaptability and willingness to serve us has earned them a special place in our hearts.

He is not a conquest of man. It is his nature to accept ‘what is’ with nobility. I think horses have helped give all of us in this room a wonderful life. Thanks to them I have received great personal satisfaction and felt closer to nature. Countless people experience the fulfillment of spending their days around horses. This is one of the best way to use one’s time on earth.

Video of the speech is available on the USEF Network.

Tagged: Horses, Joe Fargis

Ave atque Vale Ro

13 January 2013 Comments

Since her sinus surgery in December, Ro has not been responding to treatment and recovering as she was expected to. My vet and the A&M vet have been working closely together, but last week everyone agreed she needed to go back to A&M to try and figure out what was going on.

The news was not good, and I did not feel that I could fairly put her through any more. She was put to sleep. Even when it’s the right decision, it’s never an easy one, and I am heartbroken.

There are a very small handful of horses I’ve known that I felt I could get on and be perfectly safe, no matter what. Ro was one of these.

She was one of the most opinionated and expressive horses I’ve ever known, but the more we learned to trust each other, the more I realized she’d do anything I asked her to. Even if she thought I was an idiot. Which she often did. And was probably right.

She saved my ass a number of times, including once from the evil llamas across the road. I was oblivious to both their presence and their murderous nature, until I suddenly found myself an acre from where we had been riding with no idea how we got there. But she was kind enough to bring me along when she departed stage left. And she trusted me enough to go back towards the llamas, even though she was absolutely certain I was insane and they were going to eat us all.

She’s the first horse I’ve ever brought along from scratch. I attribute our success to her temperament and forgiving nature (and good eyes on the ground!) more than my innate ability. And there were rides on her that I will always remember, when everything came together and it felt like nothing could stop us on our journey.

She got me back into the show ring, if only at schooling shows. Even at her first show, when she could have been reasonably expected to be green and goofy, she packed me around like a seasoned champion while I froze up and looked like someone had told me they were going to kill a puppy if I lost my class. By our third, and last, schooling show, she’d given me enough confidence to go into the ring and ride—no show nerves, just going in and doing what we came there to do, with the horse I had under me.

And all the other moments, like the time she spooked at a hay bale in a state park or the way she loved to follow the steers when we “helped” (we weren’t very good) the ropers.

I am sorry our time together was so short, but I would rather have had this short time together than no time at all. She was one of the special ones, and as much as it hurts now, I’ll always be grateful she was mine, for a little while.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, In Memoriam

Ringing in the New Year

2 January 2013 Comments

I didn’t realize how long it has been since I posted.

Ro is back from A&M. The bone flap is healing well—in fact, stitches and staples are out and hair is growing back already. It looks like she’ll have minimal, if any, scarring, but she may end up with a little cosmetic deformity as the bone settles. I could care less about that, and she still thinks she’s the bee’s knees, so that’s a non issue. In every way that matters, the surgical site is healing nicely.

We have had a couple setbacks since she came home and I feel like I have spent more time talking with my vet and A&M over the holidays than I did my family, but we are dealing with them. Ro’s attitude improves every day, and she’s getting her sass back. At this point, the things we are addressing are frustrating but not serious.

She’s also back in light work (lunging). She’ll go back under saddle after I get her to a chiro, but the exact timing for that is a little up in the air right now.

The one really good bit of news is that she made it through New Year’s Eve without needing to be sedated and without colicking. For those who have not been following us long term, she had a very bad experience a few years ago with a commercial-grade display going off right over her turnout. Fireworks have not been fun for either one of us since then, but she did fine last night.

So that’s Ro: still recovering, but right now everything looks fairly good.

Dexter, meanwhile, is in kindergarten. Ro has been taking up a lot of my time and energy, so he’s been getting five or ten minutes of work maybe once or twice a week. I’d guess it’s been about 15-20 minutes total at this point, to be honest.

Fortunately, he wants very badly to do the right thing, and he’s the sort of pony that you can do something with, let him sit for a week, and when you come back he’ll do it better than before.

Despite not having a lot of time to work with him, he understands going out to the end of the lunge line and staying out there. Now we need to establish verbal cues. And find a canter, because he thinks that is an awful lot of work.

We’ll probably stay on these short and sweet training sessions for a while. We have a good 3-4 months before I plan to send him off for long-lining boot camp, so he doesn’t really need to progress faster than this. I may take him down for a lunge lesson towards the end of this month, but it’ll be more for the whole trailering out, working, trailering home experience than anything else.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Dexter, Horses - Ro, Injury & Illness

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