Progress, Slow But Steady

And usually not noticeable.

We are gaining by leaps and bounds, even if it doesn’t seem like it most of the time. Rusty is learning so many different things. We work a couple of minutes here and there and walk around the yard. The walking gives us lots of time for Spanish walk, with big breaks in between. Hurrying home gives a perfect time to practice whoa. Walking out to practice cutting along the drive way we get to see all sorts of different scary spots and spend time walking collected. At the house I get out the paint brush and bucket to perfect all the different steps involved in painting. Then back in the soft sod I shovel food into his mouth for as long as he is willing to stay down in a bow.

Little things, sometimes it seems that one thing is going to be impossible but I try to remember the little things that were hard in the past and now seem second nature. I watch him walk with his neck arched and nose tucked and remember that it wasn’t very long ago at all that I was pleased to get a slight head bob. Rusty has been with us for just over a year now, and doing clicker training only since last summer. He’s making tremendous progress!

Ride To The Mountain

I’ve mentioned the book my mom wrote haven’t I? If not, well, I meant to. It was a Christmas present for The Goblin Child but I took it away after reading it to her once. I wanted it.

It was too good, something had to be done with it. So I’m publishing it, more on that here. It is about us, me and the kids, riding to a “mountain” that is down the road from our house. We can see it from the fields where we ride and The Goblin Child has wanted to ride to it since she first noticed it. In grown up distance it’s about four miles away. In riding with two small children distance it might as well be a hundred miles away. The Goblin Child and I made it to the gate once. We can’t go clear to the mountain, it’s in somebody eles’s pasture.

Today the weather was beautiful. The kids woke up early from naps and we went out for a ride. Rusty was frantic as I saddled Princess Onna, The Goblin Child’s mare, he wasn’t getting enough attention or any treats. 8 and I hopped on Coyote bareback and grabbed Princess Onna’s lead rope and they were off like a shot. Some people get run away with at a gallop we get run away with at a walk. Rusty ran a long side and we reenacted the book, short of the making it to the mountain part.

Going down the driveway we were nearly run over by a UPS truck. Then Daisy finally caught up, then Rusty got stuck on the wrong side of the fence. Somewhere in the middle of all that I pulled my phone out to try for a selfie that included all of us, and dropped it. There I was bareback, double and ponying another horse and small child and somehow I needed to get my phone back. Once I picked 8 up off the ground when he decided he wanted up after all, I thought maybe I could do it again after finding a good bank to get up on.

I got 8 set down on the ground when it occurred to me that maybe I could skip the getting off part. With a little coaching 8 got the phone and handed it up to me! Then all that was left was to get him back up. I worry about pulling his arm out of the socket. He grabbed my hand and, as I sat worrying, started jumping happily. He jumped I pulled and he was up in front of me once again.

We went out a little ways then turned back and the horses went insane. They wanted to go home! Onna was prancing, pulling at the end of the lead rope. Coyote was tight and wanting to prance too. Somehow we made it without anyone getting killed. I was sore and exhausted by the time the kids got off and the horse were put back but it was a fun ride, hopefully we can do lots more of them as the weather warms up.

New Goals

My goals often seem to change, momentarily at least, depending on the weather. Or the children. Sometimes it’s to wet or snowy to work on cutting. Sometimes the kids are running around underfoot and I can’t work anywhere but in the yard. Spanish walk gets old, how much can we really do? So I have to think of other things to play at.

I’ve always wanted to train a horse to do search and rescue. I can give you a list of reasons a horse is better for it than a dog. I wont right now though 😉 I can’t figure out how to train it. But I can teach Rusty to target a child and add a cue. We are already adding distance and differentiating between children. It wont do any good for real search and rescue, but if I lose a child it will be a big help.

More like I Expect My Horses To Behave

I shared my delight and confusion when Rusty came at a gallop in front of an audience when I called him last week. Or sometime. Today he acted in a manner that was much more like I would have expected.

We went for a walk. A short little jaunt down the driveway far enough for us to practice our cutting a bit. Then right back into the yard, in behind the wind break. My fingers were getting numb, it was cold out in the wind.

The father in law had been doing something with a semi. I could hear a four- wheeler running on the other side of the shop as we approached and the sound of voices. Rusty heard too of course. His head got higher as we got closer, his ears pricked and his step got higher. He started to prance then trot, of course I didn’t have anything on him. Finally he took off, ran down to the other end of the horses pen to where the cows come up for feed. The other two boinged across the pen like deer, everybody’s tails up over their backs. With lots of snorting they stopped and looked around.

As the guys watched him leave the father in law turned to me and said “bucked of huh?” I gritted my teeth, thinking stupid dang horse. Walking on down towards the horses Rusty turned and watched as I came. As soon as I got out of sight of the laughing men Rusty turned and ran at me in a flat out gallop. As a precaution I moved out of the slightly icy road into the snow covered grass. Sure enough, he got to me, slammed on the brakes and feet went sliding in all directions.

I could still hear voices, as the guys stood talking unaware that my horse had come running back to me better than any puppy dog. They were left to think I am a silly girl who’s horse ran away. Any normal person would have had a halter on their horse. Well I have news for them, I’ve never been normal! (Of course they probably never gave it another thought and it’s just my insecurity putting these thought upon them)

A Little Comparison

Rusty made it here, to us just about a year ago. He was scrawny and kind of ugly. Poor baby Morgans, it’s just not a pretty stage, those teenage years. I liked his breeding but, well, he didn’t look the way I like my horses to look. And with those bad manners, I was not sure he was a horse I wanted to keep permanently.

February ’16

He shed most of his winter coat. Training was coming along alright. He was a likable little guy. But still wasn’t gaining any ground conformation wise. I had to put my thickest saddle pad on him and still the cinch had to be on the smallest hole. My saddle, made to fit big, wide coyote did not fit him well. And that neck. I wasn’t sure that they were right about the breed, it was definitely more of a quarter horse neck than Morgan.

March ’16

At some point this last fall, before I gave up on riding him for the time being, I noticed that I had to let the cinch down a few holes. Then, later, looking at saddle fit, I traded out the big thick saddle pads for my usual pad I use on Coyote. He looked the same to me, but when you look at someone so much it’s hard to tell when they’ve changed. I have started to think that he’s really gotten pretty. He’s getting so wide and his neck is developing some nice muscling.

January ’17

It’s so fun watching baby horses grow up. His back no longer looks too long and weak through the loins. His hindquarters have filled out. His front end has grown, no more downhill. The V with the withers at the low point is gone. He’s maturing into a very nicely built boy.

Like most Morgans, he’s still hard to get a picture of. He would rather be right in your face.

I remember when Coyote was a baby, at this age. He was the ugliest little horse ever. Maybe a foot wide and look at him now. Built like a tank.

A Great Gift From My Horse

We got a nice snow yesterday. Not a blizzard, we lacked the usual wind, this was a few good inches of moderately wet snow that fell straight down. Today I got back to working Rusty.

When I brought him out we had to skirt around all the various children sledding. I stopped and he stared, but didn’t spook too bad as they shot down the hill behind him. We worked in the general vicinity for awhile, keeping an eye on the children. They didn’t kill themselves in that amount of time so I figured they were probably fine and we wondered farther away.

Unfortunately in our wanders we came across my sister in law shoveling the in laws sidewalk. I started to go on past but felt too guilty and went to help. I gave Rusty the all done cue then left him to hang out while I helped with the last little bit of shoveling. He walked around the in laws yard for a bit. I warned him he better not poop, we’d both be dead meat. The dogs and chickens upset them when they go in the yard, I can only imagine their upset about a horse.

He got bored with that and left. I looked up occasionally to watch where he was going. He came to a stop way down at the cows feed bunks where a few lagers were cleaning up the mornings feed. The sidewalk cleared I started to walk down towards him. My sister in law asked if he would come if I whistled. I assured her he would not but called him anyway in hopes he might start my way.

He looked up from the feed in the bunk, ears pricked, and stood looking for a moment. Then he took a couple of steps my way. The steps became a trot, then he took off running. At a gallop he came up the driveway, a good ways away maybe a couple hundred yards. All the way to me where he stopped and wallowed in my lavish praise, and lots of food.

Usually if my horses are going to do something in front of an audience it’s going to be bucking me off or ignoring my requests. I don’t think there’s anything better a horse can do for their person than exceed expectations. What a good boy.

Cutting Practice

I propped my phone on the ground, up against a post, with my glove underneath to keep it out of the dirt and got some great video of a blade of grass. There’s a little of Rusty doing some very nice cow work too, but mostly a weed. Oh well it’s hard to judge what will be in the frame while trying to get the phone set up with Rusty looking, and nudging, impatiently over my shoulder.

I always give him, and any other horse I do this with, a get ready to start playing cow cue. It’s much harder to watch yourself do on video. I look like a crazy person. Rusty was really into it though, I love the little hops he threw in. It is still mostly simple back and forths, asking for a little speed in and out of turns but in the end I like to add a, very, little bit more technical stuff in.

And to finish, the I’m not a cow anymore, no more chasing me cue. It’s the same as my “done working, there will be no more treats cue, I really need to come up with something different for one of them. He was a very good boy and I need to try for more, better video.

Going For Walks, Again.

A year ago, when Rusty first got here, we started his training by going for long walks down our driveway. He bounced and pulled at the lead, or tried to run me over, depending on his mood. I often dispared of getting anywhere with the rotten, disrespectful pony.

Now here we are, right back where we were. There are a few differences. He has a halter on but I never touch it. It’s a safety since we are going out a ways, just in case I need to get a hold of him. And he is no longer running over me, I like that part. Now instead of our work concentrating on manners we are working on Spanish walk, trotting along with me and tucking his nose. I like it out there with all the distractions.

Today I hopped over the electric fence that runs down both sides of the road and we played cow. Out there amid the cows 😉 The fence was nice for a barrier, much less of one than the big fence in their corral. I was so proud of him! We’ve been working on trotting in and out of our corners and he started trotting along side me as soon as I walked off. He still turned the wrong way on his first turn to the right, away from me instead of facing, other than that he was really getting down and moving properly! We quit after two turns each way with big rewards and lots of praise. Hopefully we can go do it again tomorrow.


A New Goal

When we joined Hippologic’s course on setting, and achieving, goals with our horses I set our goal as Figuring out Spanish walk. I can’t say we have it mastered, not by a long shot, but we are much better than we were! He is offering many steps in a row, someday we will transfer it to his back. Someday when I’m back to riding and can figure out how to transfer it.

For now we set a new short term goal. Ever since I saw Alexandra Kurland’s video of her horse doing a beautiful collected trot with nothing on him and never having had a bit in his mouth, I have been dreaming. I want my horse to do that. So we are starting, small. At a stand still Rusty is happily tucking his nose to his chest. I have to watch our form, we definitely don’t want an over bent, nose to chest sort of carriage. Nicely rounded would suffice. I would hate to accidentally teach a bad habit.

Now we are working on holing his nose tucked a few seconds at a time and adding walking. He is happy doing this with me on his right side but quite stressed when I walk on his left. That’s interesting because I started working more on the right side because he was only comfortable with being worked from the left side. Difficult horse.

Our longer term goal, learning to be a cutting horse, is coming along nicely. I think. I’ve done some cutting, years ago, but have never trained specifically for cutting so I’m not sure where exactly we should be, if we were training traditionally.

He has been tracking me nicely for awhile now. We stuck with it to make sure he had the idea down. Now we are starting to add speed. First we worked on trotting out of turns. He is willing if not enthusiastic. Now I am asking him to trot into the turn as well as out of it. The first time he gave it to me we stopped there, rewarded generously and went on to easier things. Today we practiced it a couple of times each way. Coming back away from the other horses, turning to the right, he kept wanting to turn away from me. When he finally gave me a good turn we did just one more and stopped.

I hope to move on to using posts, laid on the ground or on cement blocks to start, instead of the fence as a barricade to keep him back from me. Unfortunately, all the posts are froze solid to the ground right now. That may just have to wait for spring.