Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lesson of the Day...

...brought to you by Bombay. While free-lunging Bombay in full tack, I neglected to water down the round pen surface ahead of time and he wiped out. He full-on slipped and fell on his side getting dirt all over him and my good saddle. I inspected him after he got himself up, and he was fine. However, when I attempted to mount him, he kept lowering his head and tugging at his splint boots. I realized that he probably had dirt in them, so I removed each one, shook the dirt out and brushed off his legs. I then put the boots back on, mounted him, and away we went.

I probably had the best ride of my life. He cantered and cantered without slowing down or speeding up. Because his pace remained consistent, I was able to concentrate on my seat. I became aware that I was putting more pressure on one stirrup, so I rebalanced myself. I then became aware that I was leaning into the turns, so I sat straight up. I noticed my hands bouncing around, so I steadied them. Before I knew it, I was keeping my butt tight in the saddle without bouncing around and the ride was quite relaxing.

For years I always felt that I couldn't canter Bombay because he had such an uncomfortable up and down motion. He collects himself really well, but was still a hard ride. However, today I realized that he actually has a very comfortable canter. I just couldn't get my act together as a rider. Once I cantered him for a long enough period of time, I was able to concentrate on myself and make all the corrections needed to seat myself correctly.

The real lesson of the day came at the end of our ride when I removed his tack. I found tons of sand and dirt under the saddle pad and cinch. I realized that when my horse fell, I should have immediately removed all of his tack, cleaned it off, brushed out the horse's hair, and put it back on dirt-free. I felt bad that I rode him so hard when he was probably very uncomfortable. I'm sure it was like having sand in your bathing suit. Poor guy. He didn't say a thing to suggest there was a problem.

Some of you asked me to report on how the two-rein backing technique worked for me. At first when I pulled back on one rein and said, "Back" while squeezing with my legs, he wanted to move forward and turn. I put the emphasis on the verbal cue, and he took a step back. I immediately released that rein and tugged on the other. The other leg stepped back. At first it was awkward, but by the third try Bombay was backing up immediately with big, responsive steps. The technique worked like a charm. I like it better than pulling back on both reins evenly and having the horse hesitate because he doesn't know which leg to move back first.

Bombay and I also worked on trailering. In years past I let him self-load and turn around when it was time to get out, however I now know that is dangerous. A horse should back out of a trailer in a controlled manner, and not jump out head first. So, I worked on having him back out after putting one foot up into the trailer, then back out after putting two feet into the trailer, then back out after putting three feet into the trailer, and finally back out after putting all four feet into the trailer. Just like Chris Cox promised, with each attempt my horse backed out in a more confident, controlled, and precise manner.

Gabbrielle was my next victim. We did our ground driving in a different bit that is supposed to be gentler, but it was really too big for her, so I'll have to switch it out with a smaller gentle snaffle bit. I read that a bit should not extend beyond the edge of the mouth more than half an inch on each side. This bit exceeded half and inch slightly. I then worked on all the ground exercises that I've learned that move the horse's feet in various directions. She was backing up very smoothly on a loose lead with nothing more than a verbal cue, so I thought she was ready for practicing backing out of the trailer.

Even though I kept walking facing forward and clucking, she continually stopped at the back of the trailer and refused to budge. So, I simply backed her up and walked her forward to the back of the trailer multiple times. I then stood inside the trailer and patted my chest while clucking. When we are on the ground she always comes to me when I do that. Amazingly, she put a foot up. I backed her out and praised her.

I tried the same technique again, but it didn't work. I had to tug on the lead rope and release each time she lifted a foot. I was so involved with the process that I didn't realize that two hours had passed while I was playing tug-o-war with my filly. Eventually, when I took the pressure off, she decided to put that one foot up again. I praised her and backed her out. When she got two feet in, I halted her and petted her, then backed her out and called it a day. She wasn't nervous at all. She was just stubborn. I've got to do everything in baby steps with the baby.


Abraham Lincoln said...

Love this photo. I do visit and I do comment and I was here. I did look at your picture(s) and I did read what you wrote about them. I could say how great you are and how beautiful your work is but alas I would soon run out of things to say on the next blog I visited, so I just left this to prove I stopped and said a few words on Sunday.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

abraham -- Thank you for letting me know you were here and for the various compliments you have left. It is because of you that I have taken a more serious interest in photography. After seeing what you have done with your photos of nature, I'm inspired.

Since you are one of the few male visitors to my site, I hope you aren't offended by our talk of male behinds. Women can get silly about such things.

I'm not really good about leaving comments on other people's sites, though I do visit them. A lot of times if I can't think of anything clever to say, I just keep silent. I probably should leave something, even if it's as simple as "Hi." I'm sure everyone looks forward to reading comments. They are like little gifts.

Shirley said...

I think it's great that your trailering lessons are getting good results. Remember that this training process works for many other things with horses. Keep up the good work!

Lulu said...

Awesome!!!! I'm so pleased to hear how you took your time and did it right!!!

I sold a yearling filly this weekend, and the buyers pulled onto the place with ONE HORSE TRAILER!!!!

My filly had only been in and out of a stock type trailer, but I was confident she would be a good girl.

Since I had taken my time and did things right (like you), the filly stepped in like it was NO BIG DEAL!!

I was so proud! And even more importantly, the new owners saw that the filly was exactly as I had advertised!

Momma / Cowgirl said...

What a great read. I enjoy hearing of others adventures with their equine loves. I wish I had the time to do more work with my horses. Especially my 2 year old colt.

keep up the good work.

happy horsin' around

Twinville said...

Boy! I am so behind in reading your blog. I can see that alot has been going on, too.

I just want to say good for you in your trailer training efforts.

My neighbor friend, with a bit of help from a trainer, finally found the key to getting her Arabian Mare to trailer. The first is using a panel or a person to keep her straight, She tends to move sideways walking towards the trailer opening.

And the second and most important thing she does is keeping the foward momentum going, using light taps on her rump and not pulling on her head.
Her mare is very sensitive to having her head pulled on, so the light tapping with a whip does the trick.

Her mare is still fearful while in the trailer and her legs shake. But her stable mate loaded with her seems to help alot, too.
She sure has come a loooong way.

But like you said it's all about baby steps.