Relaxation -Part 1,000ish

Warning: The Following Post May Cause Drowsiness

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As I have been informing the internet since the start of All American Pony, my pony has trouble relaxing. Maybe I have trouble relaxing, too (YES). So it’s both of us that need to work on this, and it’s a weird long, involved process. Right about now, I feel like I haven’t made any progress with Comfort since I got her, and I am beings super down on myself.   Sooooo here is a LOT of relaxation inspiration before my next ride to help me get into the right head space!

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Tips (tips for myself and reminders, that is):

1.Tie a ribbon into pony’s hair. Every time you see the ribbon you’ll be reminded – oh yeah! I needed to remember to let go of my body’s tension! Do a check from top to bottom to make sure you aren’t carrying tension in your body. HIPS OPEN! hopefully I will remember to bring a ribbon (I am Neville Longbottom: I have a rememberall, the only problem is, I’ve forgotten where I’ve put it!)

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2. The pony should be bored. In my case. I would rather have a bored, happy pony than an amped up pony. I need to not death grip the reins. This is only going to confuse her. Then we shall go take a nap.

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3. let’s drop that head! I would love for Comfort to not carry her head so high. I need to circle her and let her know she’s not in charge of the direction we travel and get it to the point where she relaxes and knows that she doesn’t have to worry about anything, because I’ll take care of everything! When I feel her go on the bit, I need to practice loosening the reins and doing ‘stretchy circles’ as trainer bestie calls them. And then, once she’s done that, I need to be finished! I always go too far hoping she’ll do it again. UGH.

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The End! 

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Pawing the ground is not majestic

a lot of times, I’ll ride my pony in the arena and she has short choppy strides at the walk. I decided to mix it up and ride out of the arena. She had a really nice relaxed extended walk. I was so excited!! We made it to her friends and she WOULD NOT STOP PAWING THE GROUND AND BACKING UP!!!

It was really frustrating. She was not a willing partner. Do you think she wanted to hang with her friends, or do you think it was more that she thought being with friends meant we were done with our ride?

I finally got us walking again after hopping off and leading her away from her friends. After a big argument about me mounting her, we were able to ride where I directed her, again. I had to make sure to give her her head, but she was a lot better. I took her back to the barn and jus walked and trotted around the grounds and in and out of the arena. It worked, but I knew she wasn’t happy.

I untacked her and gave her a trea for being a trooper at the end. She GALLOPED away from me when I turned her out.

I am trying to find more ways o get that relaxed walk besides just walking out to her friends. I try to do a lot of circling and moving in weird directions but she just is all geared up and short strided.

So this week I am going to try to come up with other ways I can get that relaxed walk so that I can achieve it in our normal arena practice time. Feel free to chime in with ideas if you’re reading this!!

 

Well hello there!

Hey y’all!

So I’ve been rather absent to say the least!! And while I don’t think I have any die hard followers, I do want to apologize, because I would hate for you to get excited or invested about something you found on my blog only to realize nothing new was happening here! So I am so very sorry.

Comfort went lame and then got this weird flare of white line disease and basically nothing exciting has been happening so don’t fear that you’ve missed out. I WILL, however, give you many many picture updates and the next few posts after this one will go into a little more detail about where we are with training and riding and everything else. In short, all is well, she’s back on track and healthy, and it’s blazing hot outside lately! Of course the last two days have been amazingly cool for this time of year, but I’ve been working all this weekend, naturally!

Here are the latest Comfort pictures! The hoof pictures are the flare of white line disease. I hope you enjoy!

Aaaand We’re Back!

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Comfort and I have been a little derailed by my travel and a training setback or two where she just stopped having her head in the game. I am proud of us for overcoming those minor challenges, and now we are back on track! I could have written about these things, but I think comfort and I both were just stretched too thin, barely hanging in there, and I know I was exhausted, personally, and it was damn hot outside. I think my posts would have been pretty much worthless, because I lost my capacity to think.

Mostly, lately, I’ve been trying to just have short, chill sessions with her and we’ve also had a pretty sub par ride followed by a great ride, recently.

In other news, I went home to Austin for my sister’s wedding which was RAD! And I missed Comfort so much, but both of us needed a vacation, I think. when I returned, she walked right up to me like MOMMY!!!!! And then she let me cuddle all over her. Then when I let go she walked away like NBD, I am in the cool group of my herd and I don’t need a mommy. So I ignored her for a couple minutes and then came back and she was all about the snuggles for round 2! Also, since I’ve last posted, we’ve had 3 bareback rides, 2 which were awesome, and the 3rd which was total %&*$. These are the first bareback rides I’ve had since my fall with Comfort, so I am pretty stoked about that!

I also rode a normal size horse and did some jumping and forgot what a workout riding can be! My legs were so sore, but it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. Also, I have developed a very very minor fear of cantering a big horse, apparently, which I have full confidence I’ll overcome in like 1 or 2 more rides.IMG_4761

So, back to our training regimen! This week, Comfort and I have a goal to trailer load!!!! I LOVE HAVING GOALS! I turn into a sad, lost sole (EDIT: BAHAHA I am just imagining myself as a sad lost sole of a shoe! I meant SOUL! Too funny!) when without a game plan. I am particularly excited about this goal, because, well, many reasons.

  1. I always improve my relationship with Comfort when we can overcome something scary.
  2. It’s way better if you have a horse that isn’t freaked out to trailer load, obviously.
  3. I kind of want to get a trailer and start getting her off property as much as possible. She’s such a smart pony and she gets bored easily. Going off property would be very very good for us.
  4. WE ARE GOING TO OUR SECOND EVER SHOW ON JULY 8th!!!! And it will be my first time riding her in a show EVER! Even if it turns out to be an ugly, awkward, ride, it will still be so good for us.

This week, I’d also like to work a bit on super zen riding, but we haven’t started, yet. I’ve been pretty wrapped up in the trailer loading thing.

I can’t take credit for this brilliant method of trailer loading, but basically the idea is for Comfort to eat all her meals in the trailer, forcing her to go inside if she wants to eat dinner. This is no easy feat for my pony. She is very scared of trailers and has only had rough experiences with them. She basically only ever rides in a trailer when she’s taken to a new barn, and I think it’s just not any fun for her and it’s scary and sad for her. So to fix this, I’ve been feeding her all her meals inside the trailer. first I just held a handful of grain inside the trailer for her to eat – just barely poking in her head. Then we progressed to her eating out of a feed pan just far enough inside the trailer to get her to stick her head and neck in.

 

Today, I will push the pan back far enough where she has to put in her two front feet, and we will continue in this manner until she’s all the way in and comfortable with the space. I should note, if you want to try this yourself, that Comfort did not want to hang out behind the trailer the whole time, and I think that would have been a little overwhelming for her. When she’d lift her head up and start looking

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Observing during grazing breaks. She kept watch while I took photos of her and leaned against her booty.

around, I’d take her to the side of the trailer and tell her to graze. I gave her the full length of her lead rope so she felt like she could graze and investigate the trailer. She would sigh and blow out and chew and really liked having that break from the inside of the trailer. Then she’d walk up to me and wait, and we’d go back to the trailer and eat more grain. I was really excited about this because we were able to establish a new communication which was – every time you stand facing me and wait, I will take you to get more grain. She figured that out very quickly and would let me know when she was ready to go back. I was so excited she actually wanted to go back to get more grain from inside the trailer!

I hope we can knock this out in a week, because Comfort and I are doing a schooling show on July 8th, and I really don’t want to start off on a bad foot with trailer loading. I just want to take it slow and ride her in a walk trot or go as you please kind of class. I am a very nervous shower; I am getting a little freaked out right now just thinking about it. Comfort doesn’t need that kind of influence, so I want to keep it real simple and easy and just do something that we already have down pat like walking and trotting. Which technically we are still working on but that’s ok. Nobody at this show cares how you look or what you and your pony are doing. It’s just good experience.

I am so proud of Comfort and me, because we’ve really had a nice streak, lately, of cooperation, affection, and relaxation. Comfort always lets me catch her from the field, she has gotten way better about leading, and she’s looking to me for leadership. Also, she’s been backing up really nicely, lately. I am so proud!!!

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Having a Vocabulary for Pony and Horse Training (AKA Things I Say to my Pony)

I’ve been quiet for a few days, because things have not been going my way at the barn! I know I can’t record a manicured version of training, but I also can’t stand hating how a lesson went and then having to write all about how much I hated it. It didn’t seem productive or fun. Now we are in a happy place, and I can look back on the last few days and see where Comfort and I went wrong.

  1. Comfort had too many sessions in a row that were a lot of hard work
  2. I was impatient and demanding
  3. I didn’t communicate enough and wasn’t willing to be very flexible

SOLUTIONS!

More fun/relaxed time. Always end on a good note. Don’t go overboard – short and sweet. Put in the extra work to try to understand how my pony feels. Be flexible to my pony’s mood and be willing to take the mental effort required to get creative or hit the reset button.

It’s surprisingly easy for me to get lazy while having big expectations. I’ve got to be conscious of this.

VOCABULARY

The most important solution, though, was vocab!! Vocabulary is what has gotten me out of the bad and into the good again with Comfort. She feels heard, and I feel understood. Win win!

I discovered, this week, that one of the reasons I feel like I have a great relationship with my dog is because we have a vocabulary we share.

Down, stay, wait, come, OK, sit, leave it, in, out, name recognition, heel, by me, let’s go, good girl, bed, etc.

I feel really good knowing there’s a whole language I have with my dog. I feel like we communicate better and are a team. It occurred to me that without a language for my pony, she’s sort of left out of the conversation all the time. The realization actually sent me reeling into a state of guilt for a few days. So, I’ve started to make words for everything we do, and she’s responding SO well!

We have several new words and phrases, now.

  1. Name Recognition – I try to say her name before asking her to do something. I expect her to look at me when I say her name.
  2. Come – I want her nose facing me and her body as close to me as our personal space bubbles allow.
  3. Whoa/Ho-ooooo – either stop right next to me when leading, come in on the lunge, or “stay” and don’t move while I do stuff – sounds like maybe I need to teach her “stay” too. With riding – stop and don’t move.
  4. Walk/Trot/Canter/Other Way (turn) – mostly all used on the lunge. Sometimes with riding.
  5. Slow – for riding, leading, and lunge
  6. By Me  – my nice way of saying there will be consequences if you try to pull ahead of me when I’m leading you. Slow and by me are kind of warning signals for her that’s she’s broken formation.
  7. Eat Grass– this is something I stole from trainer bestie. She taught this to her pony and I think it’s genius! I point at the ground and say this and Comfort starts grazing.
  8. Let’s Ride – I say this when I get on the mounting block to ask her to position herself so I can hop aboard.
  9. Foot, Please – I say this when I ask for her foot to pick her hooves
  10. Touch – I say this when I want Comfort to sniff something/touch something with her nose
  11. Back Up – I am trying to distance myself from the physical cue, but it’s taking a lot of work. I am really tired of having to smoosh her chest really hard, because she doesn’t listen the command.
  12. Walk On – when riding or lunging. I use it as a “let’s get started” command or a “don’t pause there, keep going” command.
  13. In/Out – for stalls, gates, etc.
  14. OK – This is my release command. I am sure it’s a given, but I think having a release command is paramount!

I think that’s everything! Considering Comfort can usually learn a new word every three days or less, I feel like we should have a much bigger vocabulary, actually. Are there vocabulary words you use with your horse that you find helpful? Share them in the comments! I’d love to know all about it!

UPDATE! I found somebody else doing similar work with their horse. There’s a nice running list of comments about how people talk to their horses that I found pretty interesting! The blog is called At Home with Horses. The post was written by Michelle Anderson in 2014.

 

Part V.5: First Riding Lesson Since Starting the Challenge

I’ve now gotten three rides under my belt since starting the challenge and Comfort is still being pretty consistent about being brought in from the field. I am pretty excited about it! I have been making two sacrifices, though. First, I am not mounting from the mounting block when I don’t have a buddy on the ground. Second, I am not letting Comfort sniff the saddle. Since getting Comfort, I’ve had a pretty firm philosophy that her sniffing the saddle is her giving me permission to ride her, which trainer bestie told me about and I really liked. Lately, if I try to let her sniff the saddle, it just gives her a lot of time to think and wonder and possibly worry or even feel like I’m chasing her with it. I’ve decided to let her sniff the pad and get going. Otherwise, she has way too much time to start getting weird on me. I’d really like to go back to doing that, though.

Improvement with mounting! Even though Comfort isn’t really improving with the part where I get on her, the part immediately after has improved dramatically! Usually Comfort always walks off when I get on. The last two rides, she’s stood quietly and waited for me to tell her to go forward. I am QUITE excited! I consider that a win even if she doesn’t have all the pieces together, yet.

My last lesson, Comfort and I had a little incident and I fell off. She and I were having a PERFECT ride and we were trotting around the corner when she suddenly did this weird left right left lightening dance move all in .5 milliseconds, and I came off. I really don’t know what happened. My friend says maybe she got worried about how well the ride was going and freaked out. My instructor says she’s a pony and that stuff just happens with them, and I’ve got to stay vigilant. I know Comfort isn’t mean. I am just really unsure what that was about. I didn’t see anything she could have spooked at and neither did my instructor. Whatever the cause, I don’t think I made it happen, but I do think I made it worse by coming off. Sometimes, it’s just out of your control. I need to be prepared for it to happen and be balanced when it does but not anticipate it happening and make her nervous. It’s hard for anyone to stay balanced on Comfort, and I’ve been getting a lot of “you have really good balance” from friends and my instructor, lately, so I think I’m definitely improving, even if I don’t personally see it. The only indicator I have is when I get on other horses. I think – gosh this is easy! I really don’t feel like I’m going to come off at all! Even if a horse took off with me, I’d feel super stable up there. There’s so much more horse to wrap yourself around.

My instructor told me that at the rate we are going, I’m really going to feel great about where we end up by the end of the summer. I hope she’s right. That would be so exciting. I feel like we are really making good progress! I know falling off sounds bad, but other than being embarrassed, I really didn’t care. I felt like it was an extremely successful lesson with Comfort offering things on her own that completely exceeded my expectations and overcoming things that have traditionally been hard for her. I’m really proud of how she did!

Oh and on our second ride she improved on a difficulty she had in the last lesson and also put the bit in her mouth all on her own! One point for bridling! She was a little stiff, worried, forward, and distracted, but she tried SO hard for me. It was late, it was about to rain, the horses were being turned out left and right, the humans all left. I mean… I’d be stressed out too! Despite her feeling this way, she really tried to do her best for me. We did some great lunge work and I felt good about the ride.

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So, a quick overview!

Bridling wasn’t on the graph, nor was standing after mounting, so I’m pretty excited to be making new headway and not just getting better at the same old stuff, although some of that has been improving, too, yay! The only thing we haven’t started with is standing quietly at the mounting block for mounting (which she used to do, but I am not going to get sad about it, I just need to keep moving forward). I feel good about the progress we are making, especially since the thing that is working out best is the most foundational – getting her from the pasture. This makes me feel like every day as we work on all these little things, she actually wants to do it and be with me which has probably been the most meaningful thing I’ve gotten out of the challenge so far.

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Just as a visual to see where we’ve been I thought I’d include some previous graphs.

Last time I checked in on the left and the time before that on the right.

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Well that’s it! Next I’ll have a relaxed day with no riding. Just some basic leading practice and some standing still and doing nothing practice. Maybe I’ll practice some other stuff too like a quick lunge to work on downward transitions. We shall see. Until then!

Part V: Still Consistent After Reintroducing Riding – A Good Sign!

Ever since starting the “honest assessment challenge,” I’ve been putting aside riding to get some of the basics back. I finally reintroduced riding into our routine, and Comfort was almost the same in the saddle as she was on the ground! After our ride, she was calm and quiet. She blew out when I hopped off and received lots of pets and love. I also kept her on a loose rein the whole time! She has a couple spots in the arena where she prefers to trot. This didn’t change and she still tried to trot there, but it wasn’t a battle with us, just a quirk. I think she enjoyed the ride. To me she looked relaxed and happy. At one point, she stretched down into the contact a little, which was exciting!

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As you can see from my technicolor dream graph, Comfort is doing better and better all the time. When all these get to 10, it’s going to blow my mind! I can’t believe the improvement we have had with catching from the pasture. Since we’ve begun this challenge, I’ve only had trouble catching her twice. The first time she wandered off and then decided to be caught. The other time, she was more feisty, but it was much less running around than it used to be. Most days, she will come up to me or at least let me come up to her. She’s been very consistent.

Leading has also been way better. I have a new system now for corrections. When we halt, if she goes past me, I back her up by pressing her chest. If she goes past me at the walk, I make her walk circles around me, but I don’t move my feet. So basically I make her use her head and she has to actually think in order to self propel on her own which gets her to calm down. She also thinks it’s boring and is more than willing to re-engage with me when I make her do the circles.

That’s pretty much it. Today I have a riding lesson, which will be the first since the challenge and only the second time riding since the challenge. I think she’s going to do pretty well! Watch that blow up in my face.

 

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Just a side note, this is my first time making my own gif. This is a gif of my sister’s cat, Finzi! 🙂 I am going to attempt a gif of my pony at some point in the future!