Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Charlie gets a lesson in patience

Charlie got his feet done today and he was a particular nutter for the farrier. He usually gets bored about 2/3 of the way through but today he was dancing around from the very beginning. Nothing bad or nasty, but seriously annoying.

The plan was for Dan to hold him while I continued training the other horses but Charlie wasn't having it and was really giving him a hard time, so I stepped in and made him back all the way down the aisle, then walk/stop/walk and turn on his haunch a few times until he started listening and was willing to stand still.

Finally being a good boy
I am soooo glad I got the snow pads put on Charlie, they have been a godsend this winter. It's hard to believe but they are already showing lots of wear from all the ice and snow we've had even though they've only been on for a few months. By the time Charlie's next appointment rolls around in April we should hopefully be into some nicer and more seasonal spring weather so it won't matter that his pads are shot. However, at that point we will have to deal with mud. Honestly, give me the snow and ice any day; I hate mud season :(

On a different note here is a short video from the beginning of our training ride with Coty on Friday. Charlie's still a bit stiff here, working out the coldness and kinks, but he is calm and responsive which I couldn't say three months ago.

Finnagan and Flint riding and driving outside

Both big guys have been doing fabulously lately. Under saddle Finnagan (the spotted one) is a pro: he has an easy "go" button and will walk/trot/canter with no issues in both directions, and he (surprisingly, for such a big guy) turns on a dime, at least at the trot.

His brother is coming along slower. Flint is the laziest horse on the planet, even lazier than Coty. His initially much more dominant personality, though, means that we have been taking it pretty slow with him but his improvement has been a total 180.

This weekend their owners dropped off a harness rig; the cart will be coming the end of this week or the beginning of next so we can start real pulling work. Both horses seem to be having no issues with the extra tack, despite all the jingling, so today we decided to take them outside and try driving them around the parking lot. 

Like any baby, Finnagan had a hard time when we introduced a new stimulus like being outside and suddenly forgot how to do two things at once: he couldn't move forward and turn at the same time. It's funny how that will happen with the young ones. Overall both horses did really well, though, and it was a nice change of scenery to be outdoors.

Edit 9:35pm (the correct video I forgot to include earlier)
Here's a short video showing Finnagan, who loves the snowbanks, deciding to full on scale one snow mound when I first asked him for a trot instead of listening to the cue to turn. What a character!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dan and Colby play soccer

This is what I like to do sometimes with Colby in addition to "training" on cold rainy mornings, and today I got to share it with Dan. I love this little horse :)

Think he can teach Charlie to do that?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Free lunging success!

A bit far away but he looked so handsome
Today I decided to just have some fun with Charlie. So I brought him into the indoor and let him loose while I proceeded to gather every random object I could find: barrels, tarps, a few mismatched poles, a giant ball....then I started free lunging.

At first I had to coax him over the tarp with a lunge line
Guess that wasn't so bad
Charlie was all discombobulated over this jump
He was excited but listening and I had him doing inside and outside turns, going over the tarp and even jumping a tiny jump! For my first time free lunging him it wasn't bad at all and we both had a ton of fun :) Props to anyone, though, who is able to direct a free-lunging horse and successfully videotape him at the same time....the video below was my third attempt and (still!) as soon as I pressed "record" on my phone I started to lose my solid cues and connection to Charlie and he immediately picked up on it and got choppy. I need a GoPro!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snow day fun!

What can I say? Charlie loves the snow!....and I'm secretly beaming that he has learned to come like this when he is called :) (He's all the way at the far end of the field in the center)

Here are a few other post-nor'easter pics:

So pretty! (OK, chastise me now, I do enjoy the snow)
Front lot of the barn: poor Jan was out plowing all morning
That's at least 18+"......in the non-drifted areas....
Come on guys....
Let's go!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day = Craft Day!

Stuck at home during the Nor'easter that's hitting the entire east coast right now means that I actually have some free time to get a bit crafty so Charlie got a new nameplate for his stall. Happy Valentine's Day!

Total cost: $0.25

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Proof that Charlie still exists

I realized the other day that my blog has recently become more about the other horses I've been working with instead of "my life with Charlie." Oops! I assure you he is still here and he's doing fantastic :) He looks like he's spent the winter on summer grass, nice and fat and shiny (except for those rubs from his old blanket). And I couldn't ask for a happier horse. What a difference from a year ago when my goal was "...to canter with Charlie and achieve tantrum-free transitions." (For a recap check out this entry from March 2013 ... around 1:30 into the video is a good example of what I was dealing with at the time).

I work with Charlie pretty much every day after I train the other guys. However "work" is a loose term in the winter. During the colder bleaker months I like to just have fun and do whatever feels good that day. It keeps us both from loosing our minds from being stuck inside.

The video below is from the very beginning of my long line session with Charlie one day. Unfortunately Dan's phone died right before Charlie really relaxed and started working but if you've seen any of my previous lunging videos you can appreciate the change even from the beginning.

Sometimes we do the round pen, other days I hook up some long lines like above. Occasionally I'll just let Charlie loose in the ring and do free ground work, interrupting our sessions with a grooming session or play time, throwing things around (balls and ropes and such) to get him used to weird noises/sights.

Of course I ride too, sometimes getting motivated enough to do a concentrated flat lesson (usually after I watch some particularly inspiring professional equestrian video on Facebook), but I just as often will hop on bareback. I love that I can pretty much just get on and go now without worrying about what kind of horse will be beneath me. The video below was after he hadn't been ridden in a week.

Charlie's canter is so much more balanced than it was even 6 months ago and he's able to hold himself up a lot better and control the impulse. We're still working out stiffness in one direction but it's improving every day.

Happy horse

Saturday, February 8, 2014


We've been battling some pretty awful snow and ice this past week so riding was limited.

Icicles everywhere and several solid inches of iced over slush on the ground

Luckily Dan was able to watch me train a bit this week so (yay!) I finally have documentation of me actually doing something! Here are a few shots and some video clips:

First solo ride on Flint (we need to do something about those reins....
they are way too short for such a long neck!)

It is such an accomplishment getting his head low like this

We also started both horses in blinders to get them used to their driving attire. We'll start adding the harness bit by bit next week, then begin adding some weight. In the pictures here we were working on desensitizing them to walking over tarps and around scary objects with confidence and being able to maneuver around each other when being driven both separately and in tandem.

Finnagan adapted immediately to the blinders, driving like a pro

What a mush muffin

Colby the Chincoteague pony is pretty much done at this point and though his owner isn't paying for us to train him anymore, she doesn't mind if we exercise him so I decided to play around with riding him bareback. He was so much fun!

Tessa was coaching from the sidelines
Colby has a lovely floaty trot, perfect for bareback!

Working at the canter is tricky as Colby tends to be racey and uneven when indoors.
His steering isn't too great, either, but he's got the basic concept now.

Coty's problem behaviors emerge when he's outside so until the weather cooperates and we can get back out there, we're left with just riding him to keep him fit rather than to really train. "Technically" speaking he is perfectly trained and has lots of installed skills (half-passes and the walk and trot, walk-to-canter transitions, turns on the haunch and forehand, etc).

However, he is sooooo lazy! He'll move, but you really have to work for it. Give me my ground-covering TB any day, I'd rather not have to convince a horse to go all the time (but I guess the slowness is preferable for a western pleasure horse, which is what he'll be doing). He definitely gives me a workout, especially when I ride him bareback, but he's really good and he seems to prefer the bareback pad.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Horses that made me: Snowfinder

I was looking through some old photo albums the other day and came across some pictures of me riding when I was little. Looking back at all the horses and ponies made me realize just how lucky I am for all the experiences I had with these horses over the years. So, as the snow falls outside, I've decided to start my first of several posts dedicated to the horses that made me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed looking back :)

I wasn't quite two years old when my mom took me to sit on my first horse at a local game preserve.  

Look at that natural balance :)
It took several more years of asking, though, before she agreed to sign me up for lessons at a local barn. That's where I met Snowfinder and I was instantly in love. What more could you want for a little girl than a little white pony?

The barn wasn't anything to write home about, and there was no indoor, but boy did I learn a lot riding out in the field with my trainer's old blind TB meandering freely around the property after us.
Krupper! haha
Snowfinder was a wonderful teacher. I was eight and he was probably in his late teens, old enough to know the game but still pony enough to have the spunk to teach me how to really ride. We walked and trotted around, worked across poles and around barrels, learned out to start and stop and turn with leg and rein cues. Snowfinder was very patient and I was an eager student.

I lessoned there throughout the summer and fall until winter came and I had accomplished the basics. At that point we started looking for another barn with new more challenging horses to ride. I was hooked.

To be continued...