My Friend Flicka

Loved the book. The movie is the typical hollywood ruination of all things good, especially where horses are involved. Not just that they made Flicka black, or the star became a girl*. I expected that after they took the beautiful bay Morgan in The Horse Whisperer and made him a plain, ugly, sorrel quarter horse. The horrible part about this movie, one of many that is, was when she took a horse that was really going pretty well, in the round pen, and decided to head out across country without first having a good solid foundation. Putting not only herself, I can only care about that so much, she was an idiot, but what little good training she had done and the future rideability of the horse at risk.

How does any of this apply to Rusty?

Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that I was recreating the very scene I despised so much. I had brought Rusty in and worked him a once on the ground since his time off during our adventure. He was as responsive as ever willing, pushy offering many things I wasn’t asking for along with everything I did. The next time I worked him, after our ground work, I asked him to come to the fence for me to sit on him, he walked right over and sit I did. Then I thought what the heck and asked him to walk off. In a halter, with the lead rope attached to one side for a rein, no saddle and out in the yard.

Unlike the movie he didn’t run off and I didn’t fall off. I like to think that I had a lot stronger foundation on him than the silly twit in the movie. Nobody died, so we repeated it the next day. He seems to like it much better out of the arena, none of the sulling up and refusing to move, no getting light in front or back hunching. He walks off willingly and straight. He gives me nice turns on both quarters and stops to a big exhale. Better bareback than with a saddle but I think the other benefits make a saddle preferable still. So really was it a repeat of the movie? Or a fairly safe move on a horse that is well started and has always been willing to try everything I ask?

We have stayed out of the arena since then. The driveway behind our house is my favorite arena anyway. He had been a little looky towards the chicken coop and that scary spot, for all the horses, where the cousins feed their bottle calves. So we walked back there and did some grazing and fetch with is chicken. Now he really wants to go that way, I don’t so much, lots of scary stuff and tight quarters that I don’t feel up to facing from his back even he thinks he’ll be fine with it. He happily offers to head out the other way too, between the tractors parked on one side and the shop with all it’s scary stuff on the other. I got off the first time right between the scary stuff and we walked down towards the quansit. The next time we made it up to the front of the in-laws house. He was the one who decided it was time to stop, it’s another really scary spot for everyone. Coyote still has a fit every time we go through there. So I got off there and we walked to and through the corner of the pivot that I hope to use for a nice big, open arena until it gets planted to wheat. With any luck that wont be for a while.

He’s even more fun to ride out and about than he was when confined. He seems to like it much better too, no future as an arena horse for him.

No recent pictures of him, riding a green colt, outside, bareback, in a halter doesn’t lend itself to picture taking. But here’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time!

 

*Not surprising with the current fad of strong woman role models, unfortunately that goes hand in hand with a lack of strong men for the boys to grow up with. Why did they have to become bumbling fools for the women to be strong?


Our Grand Adventure

Not about Rusty but related I think.

The children and I headed off to see my family in wide spread and far away places. During the drive we slowed (slammed on the breaks, took major detours) to look at the Amish horses.

The tail end of the trip was spent with my parents in the Chicago area. We got to see my mom’s horses at the barn where I grew up. It was nice to be back, the barn is as beautiful as ever, even if greatly changed. I still think it should be blue but the red is pretty too. The pastures have been sold off and houses built. The horses now graze the hay fields, formerly off limits.

The horses were fat and happy. Skip, nearing thirty and no longer ridden, he’s too hot and wants to go more than is healthy for his age, came in for his grain and petting. Smoke who got too fat for his own good was up front in a dirt paddock trying to prevent further laminitis. He came in for petting if not grain. And Indy, another horse from Forever Morgans. Hugely tall and lanky he was a show horse then an Amish buggy horse and now the only horse mom has that is rideable. He’s twenty four with the most beautiful legs I’ve ever seen and still sound and happy to go.

I took a lap around the arena, tried his trot out. It’s huge and barely rideable, in another life he could have been a pretty fantastic dressage pony. He felt awesome so I gave the kids each rides. Then we cleaned pastures, who says all the fun at the barn is to be had riding.

For a birthday, Christmas or just because she’s a good mom present my mom got me a lesson with an awesome trainer. Juan Carlos has a stable full of gorgeous Andalusian stallions, one mare and last years foal, sold already to Medieval Times. Who’s head trainer is the trainer he rides with by the way. We got a tour of his little barn and the beautiful horses. A big black stud whose beautiful Spanish name I can’t remember. His long black main was being unbraided by a friendly plump and rather unlikely man who owned this beauty. He was very justly proud of his pony telling us how the horse used to belong to a Mexican movie star whose name I didn’t know and of course can’t remember.

We saw the mare, the foal, a big bay stud all of them with beautiful Spanish names that I can’t remember and a grey stud, whose name I can remember only because it stood out so among the very Spanish names, Winston. We oohed and awed and stared in wonder while the great trainer saddled the big bay for me to ride in the lesson. I felt bad about having someone else saddle my horse for me but also understand not wanting some random stranger messing with your horse. But then, I got to ride him!

A couple of slaps of the stirrup leathers asked the horse to park out allowing me to get on easily. Once on I knew for sure I was riding a Cadillac. A very patient one at that. He and his owner were very patient with me as I tried to figure out how to ride this incredibly well trained horse. Juan Carlos walked along beside us and gave cues, I simply sat there, while the horse, I wish I could remember his name, did the Spanish walk, Piaf, Passage all sorts of wondrous things.

 

 

I had a loose idea of where I wanted to go with Rusty before this. I wanted a good little cow pony who could do cool tricks but I had never seen anything like what the finished product could be. Now I know. Not that I have any hope of ever being anywhere close to this but I can strive for a much lesser version.

After letting me ride his great horse Juan Carlos got on Winston and gave a demonstration of what his horses looked like with a good rider on board.

 

 

 

 

 

After the beautiful demonstration he let me get on and walk around on Winston. He asked me to try for a canter but I failed completely totally and miserably at that.


Lessons Learned

I actually rode Rusty yesterday. He was rotten, or perhaps I was. I’ve always believed that anything a horse does is the riders fault, it’s becoming an even more deeply felt belief lately. He hasn’t been ridden in awhile, other than our little bareback excursion. All he wanted was to stand by the gate, I fell back on the whole force him to do what I ask, if he gets his way he’ll think he won, make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy, oh and throw in a little click and reward. Sure I was able to get him away from the gate. It wasn’t a huge fight. But it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

In retrospect, it’s always easier to see what should have been done than what you should do, I should have let him stand at the gate. He could have seen that it was boring, he wasn’t going to get to the other horses and was not getting any cookies. When he walked away, even a little, I could have clicked and rewarded him.

There would not have been any fights, no thinking about rearing and we could have both felt better about each other. We, the children and I, are going to be leaving on a little adventure soon and are as busy as usual, I really hope to get back on him before we go and work on this. I hate to be gone that long and have this as our last ride.

The entire ride wasn’t a waste, I brought along his rubber chicken and we played fetch. Trying frantically to handle reins on a young horse who is being rotten while carrying a rubber chicken is not easy, once again didn’t die! I tossed it over his head and he went after it. He picked it up and flopped it around, a couple of times he even handed it towards me. I only caught it once. I think he enjoyed the game, we’ll have to keep practicing.

On another bright note our work on a simple bow is coming along nicely.

 


More Ground Work, No Riding For Real This Time

I got Rusty worked again today. Not the first time since the last post with the little kicking issue, I brought him in the next day. It was hot I played with the hose and turned the sprinkler on, he targeted the ball on the edges of the sprinkler a little. Never did become ok with the water. It wasn’t a bad lesson but not a good one either. Since then it’s been in the hundreds.

Today another storm was blowing in, one went through earlier cooling things down enough that I through my boots on over my capris again and went out to play. He didn’t come running, he really didn’t enjoy the sprinkler.

There was absolutely no way I was riding today, wind blowing pretty good, thunder rumbling and saw one good lightning strike. I wanted to try for an easy lesson anyway, he was mad at me about the last one I wanted him to like me again. Worked on the mat a little, spooked from thunder a couple times and the door blowing shut. No better time for ground work than when he is so completely on edge like this. We mostly stood still, reassuring and calming hopefully.

Walking back to their pen I asked for a few bows. I’m still getting the hang of this and every time I think I have it my need to catch on to the nuances becomes all the more clear. In all types of training it’s always those nuances that get you ๐Ÿ˜‰

I tend to want to be controlling and micro manage. I was asking too hard for the bow, tapping his foot with mine. He was willing to give what I was asking, extend his foot forward and drop his head, but we weren’t making any progress and he seemed a bit, grouch? Exasperated? Slightly annoyed with my nagging? Whatever it was once I simply gave the cue and waited he offered it without my prodding.

I turned him loose with a couple of rain drops plopping down on us and waited. I’m trying to catch him when he stops to roll after a work out. I click him and reward. Hoping to capture it and put it on a cue. Who doesn’t want a horse trained to lay down? Of course they say you shouldn’t teach any trick you can’t fix, or deal with or something. Who ever cares what โ€œtheyโ€ say anyway. I can see some potential problems with this particular trick though.

On a side note, once you learn something really great who can ever resist using it on everything. I’m clicker training our dog, Daisy. She comes running, looking for a treat every time I go out to work Rusty, she’s crazy about horse cookies silly girl,so I decided to make her work for it. We started with simple things she already knows, sit and down, my daughter wanted to add roll over. She’s getting pretty good at it and without her usual nervousness around food, it’s great.

Pictures from last time.

 


OK,So I’m An Idiot

I wasn’t going to get on. I really wasn’t. I brought him up to work on the mat training thing and bowing. But, the best laid plans…

 

 

But all’s well that ends well. I didn’t die and I know what were going to do next time I ride him “for real”. There are few things scarier to me than when a horses head drops to the ground. Can you see me cowering when he reaches down? Grazing while riding terrifies me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Most of the times I’ve come off a horse it’s been over their shoulders.

We also took some time to work on his bow. It didn’t go well. He was crazed, more so than usual even. The wind was blowing, a little storm was coming in. I was going to leave the one video out but I’m always saying that he is a little rotten without giving exact examples. Well here is a good one. I thought maybe it was my imagination, that he was just after a fly but on watching it I see that he really was thinking about kicking. I don’t know what brought that on, if anyone notices a trigger that I’m missing please let me know.

 

 

It’s HOT out today around a hundred. I want to go work him but HOT. I’m trying to think how I could make us a puddle to play in, wish we had a cheap little kiddie pool. Could work on getting him used to the hose. Off to try something anyway.

Speaking of hot, please excuse the pants! I was wearing my capris, kicked off my sandals and put boots on with them ๐Ÿ™‚


And Back To Good Again

20160716_152824Or at least ok, not great but not horribly rotten. That’s some luke warm praise if I’ve ever heard any.

I was going to work him the day before but had a helper/follower that made ridingย  impossible. However, she was great help and working together we got his feet trimmed. She sat in the back of the pickup and worked on targeting with him while I trimmed. It kept him happy and unconcerned so he could enjoy the trim. Worked perfect.

I found a place to prop my camera and got video of our ride. But it’s about ten minutes of us walking and standing and him reaching wildly, desperately for food. Pretty boring stuff. At least if he does decide to buck me off some day I’ll get that on film, that would be a little more interesting. So I got some screen shots from the video, still boring but quicker ๐Ÿ˜‰

Strangely enough in most of them he’s looking for food.

 

The most exciting part for me was that I was able to capture him offering something and reward him for it. He was even able to figure out what I rewarded him for and offered it again and again. I have been working halfheartedly on a simple bow, reaching a front hoof forward and dropping his head. He figured out that that was what I was clicking him for and I started adding a cue. Don’t know if we can repeat it but the wind is blowing hard enough out there that I don’t think I want to try riding, guess we’ll keep working on bowing.

Also continuing mat training. Even got a mat! Instead of out cardboard lid. He’s kind of getting it, all things in time. Speaking of time it’s occurred to me that although he has nine rides? ten?, somewhere in there, he has less than two hours of riding time. If we ride for ten or fifteen minutes every time, say ten minutes a ride for ten rides that’s just over an hour and a half. I don’t think he’s doing too bad at all. Now I really ought to get off the computer and go play with him while I can!

Here he is with his new mat


And With The Good We Must Take The Bad

Enjoying a good scratch

Enjoying a good scratch

On the bright side it seems like every time he is very difficult it marks a coming breakthrough.

He hadn’t been ridden for at least a week, I don’t think. Can’t remember when it was exactly. I worked with him yesterday on mat training but only ground work. Today, yesterday by now, I had time to saddle him. We worked on the mat a little, left him of the lead altogether, he walked at my shoulder and trotted along with me to close gates and get ready to ride. I thought we were doing great.

He walked right up to the gate for me to mount and walked off happily. I still thought we were good. And really we weren’t bad just not as good. He balled up a couple of times and tried to buck. I said that and my always concerned husband nearly had a fit. Why did I stay on! and so forth. It wasn’t much of a try, he ducked his head and hunched his shoulders. It was a reminder of why I think traditional training has a place even in clicker training. I pulled his head around in a firm one rein stop let him settle and we tried again.

On an older horse, with a few more buttons and levers installed that little bit is no big deal. When riding a wet noddle it’s a little different.

In between we worked on moving off my leg and stopping. Now that he’s going it seems like a good idea. I rewarded a couple of turns and he started wanting to spin in circles. It’s that looking for the right answer, just not as enjoyable as from the ground. He is so light and responsive and intelligent it can be hard to be sure I am asking the right questions. Should I start with only turning one way and clicking so he doesn’t get confused? Or can he figure out turns each way? I know I should have reinforced the time I took a deep breath and exhaled and he stopped. I just wasn’t thinking fast enough and it wasn’t what I had intended so I pushed him on before my brain had a chance to catch up.

He is fun, even when we aren’t on the same page, and I hope to get out to ride him tomorrow but the wind is supposed to blow so I’m afraid it may be awhile once again. Oh well back to ground work.

 

 


Finally Getting A Grasp On This Whole Clicker Training Thing

I haven’t had time to ride for awhile. Wheat harvest is going fully swing, nearly done really, and life as usual. Yesterday I didn’t have time to ride and had some new stuff I wanted to try on the ground anyway.

I had seen this ladies video on mat training horses.

 

It made sense to me. I have watched other great instructional videos on the subject but for some reason this one clicked ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I wanted to try it.

The nuances in clicker training are a little different than traditional and sometimes I have trouble changing old habits. Mind you I said old not bad. Unlike, apparently, many clicker training fans I don’t believe regular training styles are bad, I am just enjoying these a lot more. A combination seems like a good idea. So anyway, with this style apparently the goal is to let the horse think about whats going onย  and figure out for themselves what you are asking. You then click and reward. Giving a cue comes after the behavior is being offered regularly and given when the behavior is done not before. So they associate what they just did with the words/action done at the time. Whew, complicated.

My tendency is to show them what I want and babysit the whole time, helping to make sure they do it right, instead of giving time to think. And to give the cue, lots. With this one I did a better job of staying still and letting him work it out. He tried offering me things I have asked for in the past. Some were things he has had trouble with, fetching objects and bringing them clear to me instead of dropping them along the way, so I rewarded him for it. I said I was starting to get the hang of it not that I was good at it, I suppose that was bad but whatever.

 

 

He started figuring out what I was after, but for the life of him couldn’t figure out why.

 

I love seeing him think. By the end he was getting it repeatedly.

Usually quitting and turning a horse out is the best reward you can offer for good behavior, not for him. He acts like I’m punishing him when I let him go. I am going to get him as soon as I finish this, which explains any lack of proof reading I’m in a hurry to go ride! And work on this mat training thing a little more.

 

 

 

 

 


Good Video For Once

Our ball was completely destroyed.ย  My always obliging husband was going to try to put more air in it for me but we found the large hole before we even tried. I grabbed another old slightly flat ball to try. It was too flat and wouldn’t roll around for him to chase. We used it anyway and it helped him get going then he was off and traveling pretty good on his own.

It was a nice ride, that’s all there is to say. He tosses his head up and back searching desperately for a cookie. It will fade with time and isn’t that big of a fault in the whole scheme of things. He walked pretty good, you can see in the video where I clicked him a few times after just getting a couple of good, willing, forward steps. He turns pretty well off his hind quarters, was yielding his hindquarters and giving to leg pressure. All that wet spaghetti noddleness is turning into beautiful suppleness as we achieve forward.

I’ve ridden and taken riding lessons my whole life and it feels like I have just discovered, first with Nev and now with Rusty, what people mean when they talk about the importance of forward. I remember discovering that instead of pulling him back onto his hindquarters Nev would spin so much better if I pushed him forward into the turn. Now I am experiencing it allย  over again with Rusty and the Noodle thing. Hopefully I have learned enough to do a decent job this time around. I think I say that with every horse of mine that I start, with other people horses they were never around long enough, though still great learning experiences and it still applies. If only I had known when I started Coyote, Jerry, even Nev who I felt like I learned so much on, now I can take that and this new fangled clicker training stuff and think of the fun training Rusty is going to be. Hopefully. Then the with the next horse I start I’ll be thinking the same thing about Rusty, If only I had known.

I shouldn’t put all the videos here, there’s a lot but whatever it’s my blog I’ll do what I want ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How We Finally Achieved Forward

Showing off his "brain muscle"

Showing off his “brain muscle”

Or playing with balls. But that seemed a little wrong.

It’s been a very busy day, in the morning we went to play with Tanna at her house with her horse. We haven’t been out to see Jerry since Tanna got her, a visit was long over due. They are doing great together, Jerry looks really good and Tanna is doing such a good job with her. We worked on haunches in, serpentines and lead departures. Jerry was pretty lazy but as responsive as she could be in her reluctance to move.

As I was getting ready to leave Tanna asked about cow work. I had been wanting to work on that with the two of them then completely forgot once we got there. So I played cow. Form the first step Jerry, looked to me at least like she, remembered it. Her laziness disappeared, ears went back and she started working. She did good for not having done any cutting for years, she always has loved to work cattle.

This afternoon I got a chance to work Rusty. Yesterday I did not get a chance to work with him. We had a little weather related issue at the time I would have had a chance and I thought it might be best to abstain.

 

I had been watching a video showing how to get a horse to leave you, some people have trouble getting their horses to come to them I understand, not me. The technique was intriguing and I wanted to try it on it’s own but could also see possible ways to apply it to our riding.

 

 

So we practiced targeting our favorite ball. First with me on the ground:

Then in the saddle. No video of that of course, there really is no where to set my phone. I tried a couple of different places and got lots of video of sky, weeds and the ground with us occasionally walking past. So I got a few screen shots of those brief moments. If you click through them really fast it’s almost like watching a video.

He was happy to chase his ball, he bit it and pawed it and kicked it all over. We made a couple of laps around the arena with the ball bouncing off his stomach and between his legs. I loved it, here we are on his eighth ride doing things many people wouldn’t do on an old broke horse. Granted our forward is still limited but it is improving by leaps an bounds, plus we practiced steering and he was happy and enjoying the ride. Our ball may have reached the end of it’s life, I think he killed it picking it up and flinging it so enthusiastically. My one concern was that I was going to die for sure if it popped while he was standing on it or chewing on it while I was riding him, a real horse ball might be a good idea for this. But it didn’t explode and our two dollar walmart ball served its purpose, I think we got our monies worth out of it.