Friday, February 26, 2016

Day 7: Riding: Getting Soft

Hello, Everyone!

Sorry I have not posted this past week, I just didn't have pictures, or even the time to write. But now I have some free time (and pictures!) so......

Day 7.
 Riding Ollie. 
Ollie is still getting back into the whole full training portion so I did not bring any new exercise to the table today, and I probably won't tomorrow either, but on Monday (weather permitting) I hope to introduce some new Intermediate Riding skills to him.

Backing up is very important for Ollie.  Being soft in the mouth, rounding the back, and backing willingly is often a challenge for horses. The key is ask the horse to back up, and have him back until he rounds his back and softens his mouth. As you can see in the photo below, as soon as Ollie got soft I released all pressure from the sides and his mouth. 

Ollie backs up with body language most of the time, but I wanted to ask for a few backups and get his mouth really soft, just for a reminder to him. When I ride Ollie I typically back him 15-25 times a ride.

Collected at the trot...still needs a lot of work, but improving! 

Not collected at the trot, but trotting smoothly and still with a smooth mouth. Notice the neck is level with his withers and he is relaxed .
I worked on a very small amount of collection with Ollie in the round pen as well. I want him to be much softer,  but that will come in time and more work. As the same with the backup, as soon as he softened his face to the bit I would release all pressure and as a reward he would trot about 10-15 steps before I asked him to collect again.

I then moved out to the front pasture. I always practice lateral flexion every time I mount, as shown above. Having a soft face and a soft mouth is very important, and so I will flex Ollie between 25-30 times on each side every time I ride him (when in training). 
Look at his tail!!!!!! It has grown a lot since August!!

We did some trotting on the fence line and in circles. Again, this is all about getting soft throughout the whole body. 

We also did some loping. I mostly did this for fun but we loped circles as well. 

Overall, I am very proud of Ollie today. I am excited to learn some new things with him! 


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Day 2: Flexing and Rollbacks On The Ground

Today I got out Ollie once again for groundwork training. We focused today on lots of lateral flexion and rollbacks on the ground (or, Lunging for Respect stage 2. That is what it is technically called in the Clinton Anderson Fundamentals). It was even more windy today so Ollie was a bit jumpy but not as bad as yesterday. Still wanted to be in as close to me as possible without being in my space. He was very responsive and did all of the backing up stages with the slightest amount of pressure. 

Clinton Anderson uses rollbacks to get some of the energy off of the horse. Rollbacks drain a horses energy quickly and get him using the thinking side of his brain quickly because of all of the changes of direction. To get Ollie's mind on me I spent about 6-7 minutes on Rollbacks, and to get him to have a soft circle with a lot of slack on the lead rope I also did some Lunging For Respect stage 1. After he was focusing 100 percent on me I did some light desensitizing and then did about 12 minutes of flexing. The end goal is to pick up the rein with your finger and use the lightest amount of pressure as possible and have the horse bend his head completely to the right or the left. Ollie is better on the left side then the right, so I focused more of my energy on his bad side. He was very soft by the end and I decided to have that be the end of his lesson. In all we spent about 35 minutes together doing groundwork today. I did not have any pictures today, but I hope to get a few of them tomorrow when I work with him again!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day 1: Groundwork

Hello, Everyone!

Well, today it started. I am back to training Ollie. The weather has improved drastically and the horses are starting to shed. (YAY! SPRING IS COMING!)

Anyway, I need to start Ollie off right. It has been nearly 4 months since Ollie was last worked hard and was in training, so I am going to do a week or so of groundwork to get him light and supple, with throwing maybe a bit of riding in on the 3rd day (or this weekend).

Today when I started working with him I noticed quickly that he missed having a job to do. He was near perfect, no buck, rear, pinned ears, or any sign of disrespect. He seemed to say "I am so glad I have something to do now!"

At first I started him off with the Round-penning exercise. This is Clinton's Anderson's first lesson in Fundamentals, and while Ollie by no means needs to do it, I wanted to see where his brain was at. It was a windy day today, and so he was a tiny bit spooky (which really isn't spooky at all for most horses. Appaloosa's are known to not spook..but be stubborn instead. That is how Ollie is) but I used this extra heightened awareness of his surroundings to my advantage. I actually prefer when Ollie is more spirited in his groundwork, because he is more responsive.

In the Round-penning exercise you are supposed to "draw" the horse into you. When a horse does this exercise for the first time, they usually stay to the outside of the round pen, and want to be as far away from you as possible. Of course, as time goes in during the lesson the hose becomes close and closer and starts to show signs of relaxing. The end result is to have you ask the horse to come into you, which the horse would willingly do, and walk around the round pen with you. This is also known as a "Join Up" by other clinicians. Ollie has done this lesson multiple times. Because he is trained all the way up to the Intermediate level of Clinton Anderson, he knows that I am where he relaxes. He gets to rest when he is near me. So, during the round pen lesson he wanted to be as close to me as possible. I had to actually send him out into a bigger circle because he was getting too close (not within my "personal bubble", but close enough to where we were not "Round Penning" anymore).

Asking him to "come in". 

Then I would send him off....

..and he would walk/trot/lope off. Using body language and your energy you can tell the horse to speed up/slow down, as well as using verbal cues/sounds. In the pictures above Ollie is trotting off by my body language. 

When asking Ollie to come into me, I would back up. This increases the "draw", and the horses actually wants to "catch" you. 

Notice how Ollie stops in front of my "bubble", and would not come into it unless I gave him permission. 

Noticed the cocked back leg

I would rub Ollie's face (by inviting him into my personal space. I would not move first, because "Whoever moves first, loses". This is especially true for a horse like Ollie. He tests his leader and loves to play games. It is key to keep the "leader" status for more stubborn type horses. If not, they will go back to being disrespectful. TO BE CLEAR: I am not saying that just moving a step or two or moving first once would ruin the whole leadership. I am just keeping it as a reminder in my brain so I can form a habit of not moving). Ollie would get a rest of about 20-30 seconds before starting again, or starting another exercise.

Ollie and I did almost all of the fundamentals work, but only a small portion of it was caught on camera. We did many rollbacks on the ground, flexing, disengaging the front and hind end, desensitizing (which I do not do as frequently with Ollie as the sensitizing because he is already not a spooky horse) backing up, all with and without a lead rope.

Backing up without a lead rope

Backing up without a lead to the body. I am not touching Ollie anywhere, or using verbal cues. 

Next (from what was caught on camera) I did a lot of "Leading Beside." That may not be the correct term for this Fundamentals lesson, but I am pretty sure that is what it is called. Ollie (from the past summer/fall) has also been taught that I am to stay in zone 2 of his body during this one exercise, and that is where the "comfortable spot" is. 

Walking forward. Again, I never touched him during this whole exercise except for rubbing/rest.

Trotting beside. This also works well at the lope. 

We also did a lot of Disengaging hindquarters, Stage 1 and 2.
These pictures were taken without the lead rope. I put the lead rope on later for more finesse in his disengaging.  

*Ignore the hair. It was a very windy day today.*

I am very proud of Ollie today. I ended up riding him bareback a little (just walk/stop/back up/flex) and he did great. I cannot wait to get back into full training, and I am excited to share my journey with you!!!