Sunday, November 2, 2014

Harry Whitney clinic

I went to a Harry Whitney clinic a month ago and haven't posted about it! There's so much to tell, but I'll try to keep it short and condensed. We had the benefit of a round pen so I took advantage of it and got some help with liberty work with Mac. The first couple days, Mac was really . . . how to say it . . . not coming from a place of relaxation. And it seems like Harry is all about getting the horse with you and getting the horse to work from a place of relaxation, so this was a great opportunity.

Harry helped me a lot with positioning my body, when to stand still and not drive Mac forward, when to step, where to step, how much to step, and it was amazing how it worked! I've always thought of Mac as a sensitive horse. I've seen the way he reacts to people who have a lot of "energy" or "presence" and he tends to be wary of those people or reactive to them. I didn't realize that sometimes I have more presence than I think I do! Where I thought I was dialed-down, I could still bring it down even more and have my communication be more subtle. It was great!

Mac was a great traveler, he made friends with his neighbors, and he came out to work without having any issues with being barn sour (to his credit, that really isn't his thing anyway).

When we went to work under saddle (in my old saddle, pre-new saddle), I told Harry I wanted to focus on working from a place of relaxation. So we did our ground/liberty work first, then when we were in synch (and it took less and less time each day), I'd get on. We worked on lots of changes of direction and transitions - Harry says to not get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over for too long - keep it mixed up. Of course I know that in my head, but sometimes I get so in the moment that I want to try to perfect what I'm working on and then I go on with it for too long. It was a good reminder.

Harry's clinic was good from the standpoint of getting a real intimate experience. Each person has their own 1-hour lesson and then everybody else audits everybody else's lesson, so there's always something to learn and watch and really get into one horse/rider combination and understand what they are working on. I learn just as much from watching other people as I do from my own lessons.

There was someone there kind enough to take some pictures, so here are a couple. This was liberty work:

I wanted to ride in the hackamore to get some one-on-one tips from Harry. Here are a couple photos from that:

New saddle for Mac

I hesitated posting anything about it while I was trying it because I waffled back and forth between liking it, but Mac got a new saddle!

I got Mac a Heather Moffett Vogue dressage saddle. I've tried a few other treeless saddles over the years and have always found them very comfortable for trail riding, but have had a hard time with them for actual dressage work. My complaint is that they are generally too bouncy and I've always thought it had something to do with the big pads you have to use because of the lack of structured tree as part of the saddle.

Here's what the saddle looks like:

The first day I tried it I did notice the bounce factor, although it wasn't as bad as in the other saddles I've tried. The seat is nice and comfortable, my leg hangs in a good position, and Mac seemed to like it because he was very forward. It made me realize how resistant he was to doing work in the other saddle. With this saddle, I really didn't need any leg to get a forward response, and same with a half-halt or downward transition - he was just very, well, responsive! But, still, there was the bounce. The rep was supposed to send me the smart panel pad to go with it but left it out of the box so I was using the standard panels that come with it - the smart panel pad is filled with little cork balls so it helps with the bounce factor and is good at helping with weight distribution. The standard panels are some kind of latex rubber.

Even though the bounce factor made my equitation horrible, I wanted to do a back-to-back trial of that saddle compared with my regular saddle, so I had Colin video me (don't know why it wasn't focusing well, but you get the general picture):

I showed it to a couple people, didn't tell them which saddle was which, and got some good feedback on which saddle they thought Mac liked and went better in (and they all were in agreement).

Next ride I went for a trail ride. The seat is very comfortable for trail riding, but I found myself being pitched forward onto the pommel. The seat is memory foam so it sort of molds to you once it warms up and I thought that since we were going up and down hills in the forest, that was the problem. Next ride in the arena, though, I noticed the same problem. I contacted the fitter who suggested using thin shims in the panels, and I happened to have some so I tried it and that helped a lot. Not only did it help prevent me from sliding forward to the pommel, it helped the balance on Mac's back and also took away a bit of the bounce factor.

I trail rode with the shims again and didn't have the problem again so that was solved. Still was waiting for the smart panel, though.

I finally got the smart panel and used it twice. In order to use the smart panel, I took out the rubber panels. Instead of two different "panels" that go in the panel-holding-places, for lack of a better term, the smart panel is basically just a half pad. It wouldn't really work with the wool pad I was using so I had to go back to a cotton square pad. I used the attachments on the panel pad to affix it to the rings on the saddle, put the square pad on, put the pad/saddle on, and off we went. Ok, that really does make a difference. The bounce factor was gone, and Mac seemed very happy. Halt-canter transitions were easy. Trot-canter transitions were forward and smooth and lacking ear-pinning or tail-swishing. He feels lighter to me. My position felt much better - more secure, less bouncy, just like in a regular treed saddle.

So I bought it. The quality of workmanship is really lovely - it almost seems too nice to trail ride in!

I decided to sell my Crestridge western saddle because I just didn't like the way it fit Mac, and now my other dressage saddle is for sale, also.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Back in the saddle again!

Well, it isn't like I ever left, but I did take a 2.5-year hiatus from regular lessons. I've been doing clinics in the meantime (Buck Brannaman, the Californios, others whom I didn't like as much and so will remain nameless, and a Harry Whitney clinic coming up), but took a break from dressage lessons. When I quit the lessons a couple years ago it was because the tools I had in my toolbox, and the traditional dressage training that I was doing just wan't doing it with Mac. I needed more. Now that I feel like I've gotten proficient enough in ground work and getting to Mac's brain and challenging myself with new experiences, I'm ready to go back to lessons. I'm sure I've picked up some bad habits in the interim, so back to school I go!

We had our first lesson with a new instructor on Monday and I really liked it. She advocates Kyra Kirklund's method of training so one of the first things we worked on was the ABCs in Kyra's training. The ABC are basically "go when I put my leg on (and let him have his head to go forward), stop when I pull on the reins (and take the leg off), and steer" - it is that simple. In the past I've had dressage lessons where I was instructed to ride Mac "into the contact" and I would sometimes leave with sore arms and an annoyed horse - especially at that stage in his training when he knew even less than he knows now.

So one of the first things this instructor said to me was "lengthen your reins" and I really did say to her "I love you already." We did a very simple warmup exercise of halting and then asking Mac to walk on a loose rein by gently closing my leg - NO resistance from the hand. If he didn't go, I'd kick. Simple, yes? Then back to the halt by using hand and not leg. Then we did it from walk to trot. It didn't take too many times before Mac was nicely moving forward.

After that exercise we did the square exercise whereby we'd walk on a straight line on one wall then halt. Then use inside hand for flexion and outside hand for contact and outside leg to turn (once he flexed to the inside, I would give on that rein and support with the outside rein) and walk on. Halt, repeat. Again, this is so simple and not rocket science, yet for some reason I seem to have been in training programs that try to make things more complicated than they need to be.

We did that exercise from the halt to walk, then the walk to trot, then rounded off the corners to a 20-m circle, then expanded the circle more and used more of the arena. Mac did have a couple spooks because it was feeding time for the barn horses (we trailered in for our lesson) and they were running around in their paddocks, but it just gave me more energy to work with . . . as well as working on my brain and not getting distracted and staying in "work" mode and using my inside leg!

By the end of the lesson, Mac was moving so nicely, I really enjoyed it. When he gets on the aids and is forward and over his back, it is the loveliest feeling. I know he's a mustang, but in my head feel like I'm riding Fuego and loving it!

I think I'll probably do a lesson every other week, as I do like time to practice on my own at home. It was nice to have such good instruction and feel like I made a lot of progress in just an hour!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mac and Princess Fancy Pants meet - video!

Here's a video of Mac and Princess Fancy Pants meeting over the fence last week.

I had some amazing rides on Mac last week. I changed up my pre-ride ground work routine a bit and I think it helps loosen him up before I get on. I was able to really be present during our dressage schooling on Saturday. I could really isolate various body parts to give him an aid. For example, to collect his trot I would half-halt with my abs, for lack of a better description. To go forward and lengthen, I would change my seat - I wish I knew how to explain it . . . the only way I can describe it is I sort of sucked up his back with my seat as if I could lift it and move it forward. I'm sure that sounds weird. Anyway, it was really fun and good!

And yesterday we went for a trail ride in the woods and it was just so lovely.

It was just one of those rides where I really appreciate my horse and how good he is. I really feel like we have a good partnership and that he enjoys our outings together.

I think I might try a new saddle on him. I'm waiting to get a Heather Moffett Vogue dressage saddle on trial - I've heard people either love them or hate them - we'll see what camp I fall in! I've had a treeless saddle before (and tried lots of others) and while I found it extremely comfortable for trail riding, I actually found it hard to ride in for arena work. I think with all the special padding that you're supposed to use it creates too much bounce. Mac really seemed to like the last one I tried, but I just couldn't ride in it. Supposedly the HM has a cork panel that you can use that absorbs the excess bounce. We'll see!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hey there, sexy!

It has been a long while since I've posted about Mac! I haven't been riding because of some tennis elbow problems. I had done a couple of cow play nights but my elbow was hurting so I decided to give myself a couple weeks off to prepare for a clinic. But it still hurt so I gave myself about a month off, missed the clinic, and have been playing with the new pony, instead!

Mac goes into modified stud mode when she's nearby. So far I've kept them separated and they haven't even touched noses over the fence. But when she's near (like if she's in the cross ties and he's in his stall), he starts his "huuuh, huuuh, huuuh" talking to her in a low, Barry-White-type voice and arching his neck. So far she seems interested but not wholly impressed. I'm waiting for her to be so ho-hum that when they do get to meet each other it won't be a big deal.

I've been taking each of them out individually for walks in the arena or down the ditch. When she's gone, Mac calls a few times but she doesn't call back. When he's gone, same thing.

Today I rode for the first time in a long time - probably a month! Mac was perfectly good and not at all distracted by the pony. When I was grooming her outside, though, he did come over for a closer look.

I've got a Harry Whitney clinic coming up in October so it is time to get back in the swing of things with Mac!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mac has a little sister!

That's what I'm telling him anyway - I'm telling him she is NOT a girlfriend, but a little sister!

I bought myself a pony. An actual pony, not a term-of-endearment pony. "Annwylid D'Lite" is a registered 1/2 Welsh Cob pony (she's actually 3/4 Cob x 1/4 Morgan) by Pro A Resolute out of Cariad Cosmopolitan (1/2 Welsh x 1/2 Morgan). Oh, and she's a two-year-old filly!

I can't believe I bought sight-unseen. I have a friend who just did the same thing, so I was feeling a bit bold and inspired by her adventure. I did see lots of videos and photos of "Dee Dee" and talked to the seller at length, so it isn't like I went in blind. She had a vet check on Friday and is coming home from Arizona hopefully next weekend.

Here she is in her loveliness.

I'm going to start a blog for her so I can track our progress as I've done for Mac. It is fun to look back and see how far we've come!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bareback and bridleless!

Since I ride at home alone and don't have anyone to really watch (as I used to do in my younger days - I would spend all day at the barn watching people ride), I sat down with a cup of coffee and found some inspiring YouTube videos this morning. Even though I've got some tendonitis in my elbow that I should be resting, I decided a week and a half off from riding was enough and so I went for a ride.

Some of the videos I was watching were of people doing liberty work and also riding bareback and bridleless. Since I rode with a neck rope a couple times before (but not necessarily bridleless) and I've ridden bareback on the trails many times before, I decided to combine the two and ride sans saddle and bridle!

We started with some liberty work which I'm sure would have been better had I a round pen, but Mac sort of cuts the arena in half on his own. I let him have some free WTC in each direction, then decided I might as well hop on! I put the neck rope on but figured I'd leave the bridle off and if I thought I'd need it then I could put it on.

At first I just worked on separating my leg aids - a leg at the shoulder means move the shoulder, a leg back behind the girth area means move the butt, a leg in the center means move the ribcage. We did some small circles and serpentines, some backing, some rollbacks, some TOF and TOH. Then we moved it up to the trot and I tried to do 10 steps walk, 10 steps trot - as we went along we improved as I realized that I needed to prepare a couple steps ahead of time (duh) so that I'd get the transition on the 10th step. This is of course not a new realization, but sometimes I get so focused on one thing that other things fly out my ears.

Once we got sharp with the transitions, I figured why not canter? So we did. And Mac was great! He really gives me such a good place to sit, and he's so comfortable and steady in his tempo that it is easy to stay balanced on him. We did a couple laps, came down to the trot and walk, then back to the canter again. It's always a crapshoot if there are deer lurking in the pine trees that he can't see but hear and that might come running down the hill at any moment, but it wasn't a problem. We did the canter in both directions and I was pleased enough that I called it a day.

Riding like this, though, makes me feel like tack really gets in the way. Bareback I have so much more ease of movement in my legs to direct his body, the communication of energy for forward is so subtle, as are whole body cues. Of course it helps that Mac has a lovely back to sit on and has easy gaits to ride.

I think I'll probably try to do this once a week and see how we can improve. It is fun to just play with your horse and come up with new things to try after being inspired by watching other people!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cow pictures, too!

Ok, here are some pictures I lifted from the video - this was the squirrely cow, so I only took the good shots and left the rest behind!

Here we are warming up.

And bringing the cows in.

And our squirrely cow.

Videos of cow work!

I had a hoof trimmer come out to do Mac's feet since I hurt my elbow and have tendonitis that is very painful. Oh how I wish I had a wayback-time-machine to go back and not do the thing I did to hurt myself! And it wasn't even horse related. :-(

While I was chatting with the trimmer, I mentioned how I went to a cow clinic a couple months ago and how I'd love to do more cow play time. She mentioned that there's actually a cow play date every Tuesday at our local horsemen's arena. So we went!

Here's the first video - it is quite boring if you're not really interested in watching us move cows around, but too bad! The cows were in a pasture area outside the arena so we had to open the gate and go get them. Then when they came in the arena we decided to move them all the way around the arena along the fence line in one direction, then turn around and go back the other way. I'm in my dressage saddle with the bosal. I'm getting more comfortable with the bosal and we did okay with the slow work, but later when we got a squirrely cow I think I didn't do so great.

Anyway, here's the video of us bringing in the cows:

Once the cows were gathered up in the arena, we took turns going into the herd and picking out a cow and separating it from the herd and then moving it down the fenceline. We went first and had an easy cow and made it look like it was the easiest thing in the world!

Our next go I picked the hardest cow because I knew it would take me a while and we'd have to step our game up. Mac was a good sport but I don't think I gave him the best ride; nevertheless we ended on a good note and while I didn't move the cow down the fenceline, I did move him out from the herd (granted he went back a couple times, but I ended by keeping him out on my terms!)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New video #2 - riding with a neck rope

The past few rides on Mac I've used a neck rope. Just in case I did have his bridle on, but for 95% of the ride I used the rope. I edited out a spook, I kept in one part where I used my reins, I edited out our breaks, and it is still a long video!

We're back in the dressage saddle until our new western saddle is made, and it will be quite a while. I do love this saddle - I'm very comfortable in it and Mac is as well.

Mac seems to really enjoy the neck rope work. Some things we struggle with more than others . . . like turning right. I think I keep my legs in the "left turn" position so our bodies are fighting each other because I'm giving him the wrong cues. That darn left leg of mine that has a mind of its own! Backing in a straight line is a little difficult in some instances because I think he's anticipating backing and turning, which is something we usually do, so he's a bit wiggly there. Upward and downward transitions are good, as is carrying the flag.

Working out the reins was a bit difficult. In the beginning of the video I had them tied to my saddle but then I thought they were tied funny and in the way of the rope so I untied them and just had the end looped around my fingertip as my hand was holding the rope. In the beginning, my other hand was holding the flag so that I could use it to redirect Mac's attention (which you'll see a couple times). It also gave me something to do with my other hand so that I wasn't tempted to grab the rein.

It is a fun schooling exercise and gets your brain and body working in a different way. Mac seemed to think it was okay so I'll add it to our repertoire!

Oh, and at the end I grabbed my longe whip and swung it all around then tried to plant it in the ground and do a circle around it - of course one direction was easier than the other!

New video #1 - ground work

Colin was generous with his time today and kindly videotaped my ride. I broke the session up into two videos - the first is this one (ground work). The next will be the ride.

In this ground work video the main thing I was working on was softness at the end of the rope and you probably can't tell, but I was trying to lead Mac and do all the ground work with just a fingertip on the rope. This is a typical pre-ride warmup, although they are usually just a bit shorter. Sometimes I focus on different things, like more bend, or more flexion, or more stepping through, or more energy, or whatever. Today I just wanted to see what I could do with one finger on the end of the rope.

You'll see that there's a part in the half-circle exercise where Mac gets a bit excited - that actually isn't uncommon for this exercise, so a couple times I stopped after one or two half circles and praised him. I tried to not change my energy in order to bring his down. We did leading exercises, backing exercises, moving shoulders, half circles, figure 8s, cavaletti, circles around the arena, etc.

It is long and potentially boring, so kudos to you if you get through it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pictures from the Buck Brannaman clinic - yay!

Here are some of my favorites!

Here we are on day 1 - probably working on the serpentine exercise.

Here's day 2 - working on either a soft feel or backing (or backing with a soft feel!).

Here's day 2 - just walking. Maybe you can notice the position of my feet and how awkward they look. Something about the combination of those boots and stirrups made my feet just ache!

Here's day 2 - Buck talking at the end of class.

The photographer missed day 3.

Here's day 4 - working on backing and turning . . . or backing in a circle. You'll notice that I switched out my stirrups, put my paddock boots on and my english chaps, and have my legs much longer - I think my stirrups are too long but at least I wasn't in pain!

Day 4 again - probably doing a serpentine.

Day 4 - trotting along.

I can't believe it is over - such fun memories!!

Softening a horsehair mecate

When I got back from the Buck Brannaman clinic I decided to go for it and try to soften my horsehair mecate. I had found a blog post from someone who spoke of it, and I also asked a couple other people about how to do it. I decided there's no time like the present and since it was hot outside it would dry in a couple days (the blog I read said it took hers four days to dry).

I filled up a bucket with warm water and put in about a capful of fabric softener. I coiled up the mecate, dunked it in so it was totally covered with water, and left it for a few hours. When it was done soaking, I left it in the bucket and dumped the soaking water, rinsed and dumped the bucket again a few times with fresh water, and once the water ran clear and I thought I got all the softener out, I laid it out on my cement walkway in the sun and told Colin to keep an eye on it while I went to work.

I thought it would take a couple days to dry, but since it was hot out that day and it was out in the sun, it was dry when I got home! And wouldn't you know, it IS a lot softer! I didn't recoil it with so many loops - maybe just made 2-3 big loops - and hung it up in my office. I keep going in to feel it and remind myself that it is soft and I really like the feel. Now to just go for a ride!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 4

I'm home now and it has been a couple days since the clinic. It is weird how time flies - the clinic was something I looked forward to for so long and it has since come and gone. I stayed the night after Monday evening's class and as I was driving out of the fairgrounds I wondered if Buck just packed up and moved on to the next place. Sure enough, when I drove in on Tuesday morning, he was gone. Just like that it was over.

I'll try to recap the last day as best as I can. In the morning class I noticed that when Buck was doing his ground work with Guapo before getting on that he was using a flag technique in the "walking half circle" exercise whereby he used the flag up by Guapo's head. I was going to ask about it, but he beat me to it. (Again, sorry about the picture quality - I only had my cell phone and it isn't good for action photos.)

Buck said that it is helpful, if you have a horse who wants to move into your space during the half circle walking exercise, to use the flag up by their eyes instead of at the shoulder. You actually use it before they turn to get them to back away from you and change eyes. He said he doesn't usually teach it in clinics but since he was using it he wanted to show us the hows and whys of it.

He also talked again about using a rope instead of a halter when first getting a horse started on the ground. He said he much prefers the rope because when he starts the horses as weanlings (with ground work), it is too easy to pull their little heads and necks around and hurt them, but you can do all the same work with the rope as you can with the halter. Here he's holding the rope and he was actually showing someone how to use it to create a halter.

Here's a picture I took after Buck got irritated because the custodial crew came to empty the garbage and they dragged the can from near the stands all the way out the door. He said it didn't matter to him if it spooked his horse but he wants everyone to be safe and someone could have gotten into real trouble by the commotion that dragging sound created (especially if they were riding at the time). He also commented that he was glad he insisted on no dogs in the bleachers this time because last year it drove him nuts and again wasn't safe for the riders.

To be honest with you, I now cannot remember anything about the middle class, so I'll just skip to my class.

There was a woman there who asked about trail riding and what to do about getting her horse good on single track trails when she's out with other people. I loved Buck's answer. In addition to advising her to do her ground work and get her horse mentally right ahead of time, he said "be careful who you ride with" or something like that. Basically, don't ride out with yahoos who don't consider you and what you may be going through with your horse. And he suggested to her that if her horse is herdbound that she leave the group and go off on another trail by herself and do some work, then come back to the group, then leave again - instead of letting her horse get upset by the group leaving her. Good advice.

I asked Buck about his horses and if his goal is to make every horse of his a bridle horse and he said yes. He said that in his lifetime he'd like to make 30-40 more bridle horses. MORE - sheesh, I can't imagine making even one, let alone 30-40 in the second half of my life.

I also asked him about offering the horse a good deal. I had two a-ha moments in the warm-up before class (more on that in a minute) and so I wanted to ask Buck about the good deal for going forward. I realized that when he was doing ground work with a horse, sometimes he'd pull and hold pressure and offer a release as soon as the horse moved forward. Yet I didn't think he squeezed all the time with his legs, so I asked him about that. He said he never squeezes with his legs, that there's an imaginary bubble between his legs and the horse and that he may put pressure on the bubble, but he doesn't just squeeze and hold. He demonstrated with Rebel (his bridle horse) what squeezing would do. He said he was squeezing with x amount of pressure, x times 2, x times 4, and so on. And Rebel just stood there. Buck said Rebel didn't even know what to do because that constant pressure doesn't mean anything to him. What does make sense is maybe an opening of the legs, or a little flutter, or just the swipe of a pant leg, but it shouldn't be any more than that. He said he's studied classical dressage masters (in addition to his own teachers, of course), and that the leg aids should be so subtle and light, that it is just like the softest indication of direction or movement, just like a dance.

And then I asked him about saddle fit, because I noticed he was riding in at least two different saddles. He said for his young colts when they are first getting started and before they have their withers he uses a saddle that is six degrees wider than the saddle he was using on Rebel. Other than that, he didn't have any revelations about saddle fit - basically he said it is easier to pad up a too-wide saddle, and that a narrow saddle isn't good. He noticed my saddle and thought that maybe Mac was round but I commented that he really has a lot of padding because the saddle wasn't fitting right (more about that later, too).

So, back to the warm up. In the outdoor arena, I had an a-ha moment related to feel that is hard to put into words. When we were cantering on the right lead, I just had this lifting and opening movement on my inside rein to ask Mac to lift and bend in the canter - it was timed with his footfalls in a way that seemed to make sense to him, that got him light and round and properly bent and forward and it felt lovely. And then when we were warming up indoors before Buck arrived, I worked on fluttering my legs (when asking him to move his shoulder over) instead of squeezing (which is what prompted my question to Buck later) and Mac was responsive. It is one of those things that seems to work when you have all the time in the world and no pressure, but when you are being instructed you try too hard and then it doesn't work so you resort to kicking and crude movements. And when I say you, I mean me. Other things we did in the warm up indoors were trot a straight line, halt, back, then turn on the haunches to change direction. That felt great.

At the end of class I thought we'd do the clapping exercise, but we didn't. People clapped and the horses were fine and maybe Buck didn't think we needed a specific exercise to work on it. Or maybe he forgot. Anyway, Mac was fine with the clapping. Actually, he was much better this year with all the people in the stands and the music and the noise and the distractions. He was really, really good!

There are so many more things I could write about, like how Buck talked about using his energy to bring life to his horse and his movement. Or about how he'd single someone out and be hard on them but not because he was being mean (at least to me - it sounded like it to others, I think, but I believe him when he says he's hard on people because he cares and doesn't want them to get hurt and wants them to improve). Or how someone he was being hard on talked back (really?!) to him and got defensive. Or how he has a funny sense of humor and likes to make people laugh. Or how he seemed a bit melancholy about missing his teachers. Or about how he's constantly striving to learn and do better and improve his horses.

At the end of day four, though, I felt like we just weren't in synch. I think Mac was tired or maybe had a tummy ache or was a bit dehydrated because he didn't drink as much as at home or maybe his back was bothering him with the saddle and how it slips or whatever, but it wasn't our best day - I thought day 3 was our best. When I took the saddle off and saw the sweat pattern, I could see why he was leaning into my right leg by how the saddle had been rolling to that side and the sweat pattern was off center. That did it. I'm selling this saddle and getting a new one.

Which leads me to Tuesday morning's adventure. I drove up to JJ Maxwell saddle maker in the morning since they're just 30 minutes or so from Red Bluff. I of course had my saddle, so I showed him and explained the trouble I was having. From the surface it looks like the saddle fits, because the angles look good, but underneath the tree is too straight and there's a portion right under the seat that doesn't really make contact with Mac's back as it should. Joe used the Steele tree forms to find a likely tree candidate for Mac's back (and it isn't a mule tree, after all) and then once we had a couple options he got actual trees to put on his back and after careful consideration decided on the LT tree. So I ordered a saddle. There's a decent waiting list, but I figured it is best to work directly with the saddle maker on getting the right tree fit and ordering all of the things I want vs. continuing to guess and try and try and try a bunch of saddles that may or may not fit. So now I wait. For the chinks and the saddle! In the meantime, I think I'll go ahead and sell my current saddle because - while I don't think it is hurting Mac - it isn't helping him. I've got my dressage saddle which is a good fit and doesn't slip or roll. It is hard on my seat bones on trail rides, but I can get a fleece seat cover that might help.

So I'm getting a new western saddle, custom chinks, got my new boots, I got a rope, and a bunch of cute shirts and some cute belts . . . looks like I may turn into a rawhide Barbie after all!

Oh, and I got some proofs from the photographer of pictures - I ordered them and will post as soon as I get them!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 3

I ache. I ache in places that I shouldn't ache. Yesterday I ached because of the seam of my jeans, if you know what I mean (I wore new jeans for the first time). Today I ache because of the borrowed chinks. While walking around (in the saddle) the past couple of days I didn't notice it, but once we started the long trot today, I felt it. My friend's chinks are custom made for her. She is very petite. The edge of the right leg is too far up near my crotch and doesn't end at where my crotch and thigh connect (or even an inch or so down the thigh). Because of this, for some reason, it was pinching right at my very upper inner thigh. And it caused a bruise. I'd take a picture but I fear it is just too much in the wrong spot for it to be socially acceptable.

The one picture I did get is of my busted lip. It isn't a huge cut but sore enough and annoying enough that I can't put chapstick there! And I'm addicted to chapstick. The irony is that I bit into my lip because Mac swung his head around when I was leaning in to kiss his nose. I'm pretty sure that's something that shouldn't happen at a Buck Brannaman clinic where ground work and the concept of personal space and moving your horse's feet is a daily discussion.

(Nice wrinkles and the camera angle makes my nose look big and my face look all out of proportion!)

Before I go on I want to clarify something I wrote yesterday about the main hint on the 180/180 exercise. The biggest thing I got from it was the stopping of the hind feet. Yes, check. But what Buck clarified in today's second class is that the stop is more of a pause. When I watched him do it on Reuben, I noticed that he stopped the front feet, took about two more steps with the back feet, and then asked for the crossover in front. He said you still have to have impulsion to make the exercise work. When I tried it in class today, trying to feel for those last couple of hind foot steps, I did get better front cross-overs - but I still have a lot of work to do because I think my hand position is not quite right.

Ok, now on to today's stuff. In the morning class he got out his rope and showed how you'd get a horse trained to stand well for the farrier. He roped his stud colt Guapo's right hind leg (really cute red roan) because Buck said he was a little sticky on that leg in the beginning. He pulled it away from the horse and Guapo didn't like it one bit so he tried and tried and tried to pull his leg away. Buck held it still (he didn't fight with him, just held it) and when Guapo accepted it, Buck lowered his foot to the ground. But it didn't end there. He wanted Guapo to put the leg down in a resting position so he'd still need to balance on three legs. When Guapo tried to put the foot down flat, Buck would pick it up with the rope and try again. I wish I had my phone with me so I could have gotten pictures, but I didn't bring it to any of the other classes. I'll try to remember to bring it tomorrow.

So at the lunch break, what did I do but get out my rope and go to Mac's paddock and do some more rope work. Today I did similar to yesterday but I roped each front leg and led him by it and then roped each back leg and backed him by it. Not a lot, and not necessarily with great finesse, but just enough to get myself started on how to do it and get a feel for the exercise in a confined-but-not-too-small space. Mac was great.

I decided in addition to my hackamore again today I would put on my spurs. Buck talks about people not spurring their horses with every step or every request, and I feel confident enough in using them that I don't think I do that (although I probably go to them more than I should but a bit more about that later). In the warmup before class started, Mac was great. We worked on a soft feel, turns with legs, transitions, and I cantered him for the first time in the hackamore. I knew from the previous class that we'd be doing lots of trotting and so I wanted to get an idea of how he'd feel.

It does seem to me that he lifts at the withers nicely in the hackamore - I wonder if this is a standard by-product of it? After yesterday's class where we worked on a soft feel just a bit and I worked on my release, I feel like Mac "got it" and we made quick progress.

I asked Buck a lot of questions today. The first question I asked him about was getting the soft feel and if your horse goes behind the bit or overflexes longitudinally, does that mean you missed your point of release where you could tell the horse "yes" that he's correct? Buck said yes. He also said it can be an indication of not getting to the feet - the false frame that is created when the horse's energy gets blocked. Either way, he said the solution is to get to the feet and that what helps is working on the backing on the ground holding the slobber straps - that way if the horse overbends, he can be sure he gets to the feet and then releases accordingly. He said that (when he took other people's problem horses) he'd much rather have a bucking horse to shape up than a horse who goes behind the vertical like that.

I think that might have been the only group question I asked. This clinic I was brave enough to ask him a few 1/1 questions. The first was again related to a soft feel. In one of the earlier classes he mentioned dressage horses who are lunged in side reins and how that is such a missed opportunity to teach a horse to get a soft feel and it only teaches the horses to be heavy. Since I've had that experience with Mac, and since earlier in our training days there was a lot of focus on "contact" and taking it and getting the horse to move into it whereby the horse finds his own release, I wanted to ask Buck about that. Mostly because I think it made Mac a bit pissy about going forward. Buck's progression of forward and getting a soft feel is to start on a loose rein and to just go forward on a loose rein (transitioning up from one gait to another). When you are in a gait, you can then ask for a soft feel - but release right when you get it, even if it is very slight. Then you ask for a few soft feels with releases in between. From there you can do downward transitions with a soft feel, but not yet upward transitions. In class today we worked on that a lot. We started with the walk. Fast walk to a soft feel to a slow walk to a soft feel to a halt to a soft feel to backing with a soft feel. We did that a lot. Another person asked a similar question about his horse getting a bit sullen and crooked when asked to go forward. Buck basically said to get him straight and just ignore the attitude.

Related to that question I asked him about contact in the hackamore. He said even more important than in the snaffle is the release and making sure it is timely and complete.

A pointer Buck gave me about the hackamore is to ride with my hands wider. Because I'm not used to the coil in the reins, I tend to ride with one big loop between both my hands instead of a loop in one hand or the other. Buck said to make sure I do only have one loop and to widen my hands to really make sure Mac understands the difference between each rein. I mentioned that he said that yesterday but I wasn't putting it into practice.

The last thing I asked Buck about was my ankles. I don't know what is going on - if it is my boots or my stirrups or my fenders or the general fit of my saddle for me or the fit of the saddle for Mac (which I think has the most to do with it because it rolls I tend to try to heavily weigh my ankles to try to keep it even) - but my ankles are KILLING me! He told me I need to work on riding with my toes out more (great - after so many years of dressage training with a "toes in/forward" type of position) - that way I'll be using my leg more effectively and won't be rolling over the outside of my ankle, which is where all my pain is. Wouldn't you know, when I tried to do that then I was much more able to use my leg effectively and resort to my spur less. I love little tidbits that might not seem like a huge deal but which help a lot!

I'm really pleased with how Mac is going in the hackamore. Buck's pointers will really help and he did say during one of our trot sets that Mac was going well. Oh, one other thing I asked him while I was trotting around was about Mac's neck position. He actually felt good - forward and stretchy over his back, but his head was down in a long-and-low position. Buck said related to the soft feel that Mac's head needed to come up. I've got some things to focus on, like the timing of my release with the soft feel, position of my feet/calves, wider hands, timing for the 180/180, and on and on and on!

Tomorrow we may work on clapping at the end of the day. Well, we won't be clapping, but the spectators will be. The second class today worked on that - they started lined up along the wall farthest from the bleachers and then Buck had people start clapping softly, gradually increasing the volume. Then everyone moved 10 steps forward and they went through it again. And again. And then I had to go get ready for my class so I'm not sure how it ended.

More tomorrow - can't wait!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 2

Well, I did it! I rode in my hackamore today! I figured before I came that as long as I was coming here I might as well bring my hackamore because it would be a great opportunity to get some pointers, and/or be told that I'm not ready yet. Yesterday I used my snaffle and Mac is being really good with all the commotion, including the mares that he loves, so after hearing Buck comment about the hackamore yesterday and today I decided to go for it.

I have a friend who is riding in the other Horsemanship 1 class and she asked him about trying the hackamore on her horse and he said it would be fine. He said you don't really know how it is going to go until you try it and if you're not ready or you find some holes then you go back to the snaffle and then try the hackamore again after you get some things shaped up. And maybe you go back and forth between the snaffle and the hackamore for a little while, but that's the way the progression goes.

He did list a lot of things that he wants the horse to be good in in the snaffle before moving on to the hackamore, and we've got a lot of those things down, so I thought I'd give it a go so Buck could at least tell me that I'm not ready, or if things look okay then he can give me some pointers.

Some of the things on the list are:

- walk/trot/canter on a "soft feel" as well as on a loose rein
- solid at simple changes
- lateral work (leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, side pass)
- small circles at the canter (in balance, of course)
- cow work
- backing in circles

And so much more that I don't even remember right now.

In the other H1 class he's got Reuben in a hackamore (very early in it) and so he did talk a bit about using the reins and the progression of how you'd use them on a horse who is new to the hackamore with the goal of how you'll eventually use them. I asked him about using the reins and he said to start with wide hands and eventually you'll work toward keeping them in a smaller "box" or "rectangle" and the horse will bend around the rein vs. the rein being used as an opening rein, so to speak (like a snaffle on a green horse where you start with wide hands for basic steering and then eventually you bring your hands closer together and your aids get less and less visible). Sorry for the crappy picture but I only had my phone and I was far away.

So Mac was really good! We worked on flexions, getting the soft feel at the walk, shortening the walk steps and lengthening, the 180/180 exercise, serpentines, backing. He did give a tip on the second 180 in the exercise because a lot of people weren't getting it (front end moving over is the second half - after the back end moves over). Actually, a couple tips. One is that you start by bending the horse and moving the hind legs away from the inside leg (outside leg is off) - the tip here is that the front feet need to be still and your elbow of the inside hand needs to be at your hip. Then to move the front feet around the hind feet, you let the inside rein slide through your hands so that your hand is at your hip (where your elbow was) and you open your shoulder to the new direction, while bringing the outside rein to the neck and the outside leg is on the horse and the inside leg is off. I think I got that right. The hand position and the stopping of the front legs really made a difference for me.

I'm happy that I was brave enough to give it a try! And Buck didn't tell me I was not ready or that I should put the snaffle back on!

In other fun news, I also ordered custom chinks (the vendor was there this morning after all and had some made that mostly fit me except they were a little short and I didn't 100% love the color so I decided to order just what I wanted - bad news is they'll take 7 months!). And I bought a rope! Can you believe it?! I said I'd never get a rope and here I am with one. Buck was talking and demonstrating all of the groundwork things you can do with a rope and so I got one. And I did play with it a bit with Mac in his paddock where no one could see me. Mac was good - I got the rope around his belly (with the free end, not the looped end) and had him walk around me with it. I got it around his butt (looped end). I got it around a front pastern (looped end) and moved the leg and put it down. I got it around a hind pastern (unlooped) and had him give to pressure. Then I took him back to his stall and as we were walking I threw it out in front of him and dragged it behind me and all that jazz. I couldn't think of much else to do and I didn't want to drill him anyway so I called it a day with the rope. I'll have to practice throwing it at home first on my own on the ground, but then from the saddle! But you heard it here - I won't be doing any actual roping!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 1

Boy howdy am I tired! Being in the last class of the day is hard because afterward I'm so amped up that I'm not quite ready for bed, yet I need to get some shuteye, especially since I didn't sleep well last night away from my darling husband.

Let's see . . . there is so much I could write, but I will focus on just my class. First off, I got a paddock for Mac this morning, so he can be turned out during the day.

I woke up at 5-something this morning and by 5:45 decided I might as well get my butt out of bed and get cleaned up and eat breakfast. I turned on the TV to see the weather and it looked bad. Checked and it still looked bad - rain was predicted for the whole day. Could you believe it didn't rain? It was pretty chilly and somewhat overcast, but as long as there was no rain I was happy!

The first class was Foundation Horsemanship, which was the class I did last year. This year's group was farther along than my group was last year and they got to certain exercises more quickly than we did. I think one reason was that there were fewer horses who needed a lot of attention (although there was one who needed a good lesson on basic leading and not walking over her handler and Buck gave us a good demonstration), and the other reason is that there weren't kids in the class like last year.

The second class was Horsemanship 1 and it was fun to watch the progress of people as there were some in that class who were in my FH class last year and they have come really far with persistent effort and continuing with quality instruction. I really admire people who stick with it and don't quit their horses and make the changes *they* need to make in order to improve the situation. One pair in particular had a really amazing transformation! (if you're reading this, you know who you are!)

Oh, btw, here's the arena.

A couple times throughout the day I got Mac out for some groundwork in the arena so he'd feel comfortable when our class came around. And it was a good plan because when it came time for our ride, he was ready and keen but not spooky or crazy or anything. During Q&A time at the beginning, I asked Buck what I should do about Mac's mean faces toward other horses. Buck said that in addition to keeping him in the box, which is what I control, not what Mac controls, that I should take him someplace else. I should always be riding and be aware of what is going on (which I am - probably sometimes too much because I get worried about what other people are doing) and have a couple different plans of action if A, B, or C happens. He suggested finding an open spot (he said that there's always an open area) and ride to it and continue with my work. He said that I need to always take Mac to a good place and that he'll trust me to look out for him. Horses are snarky either because they are insecure or dominant, but either way it isn't good to let them act out on their nasty faces.

There were a couple horses who were herdbound so Buck put two of his guys on them and they separated them and did ground work and then rode. By the end they had settled down and there was much less whinnying than at the start.

The exercises we did today were shallow serpentines, steering with the legs (scissoring - outside leg forward, inside leg back, switch when you change direction); the 180/180 exercise; getting a soft feel; stopping and backing and then going forward and back with the goal of not having any brace; turns to the inside lifting and placing the inside front leg. Mac did so well! I took Buck's advice and rode him to an open spot whenever I found one and soon enough it seemed like I had a whole little section to myself!

I think all the groups this time are well along in their training and it is a good group of people. Buck seemed to be in good spirits (not that I'd expect him not to be, but I can only imagine how exhausting it is to travel the world doing clinics all the time) and was giving more individual attention than I noticed last time.

I didn't get back to the hotel until 8:30 or so after tucking in Mac and just had some oatmeal for dinner. That's all I can muster the energy for.

I'm sad to report that there were no chinks for sale so I'm going to have to order some when I get home!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 0.5

Today is arrival day, day 0.5. The weather is grey and cloudy and it is chilly and raining with thunder and lightning. Not what I like! Thankfully I got here before the bad weather rolled in and got Mac all settled and let him have a little run-around in the outdoor arena and did some groundwork in the big indoor arena.

There's lots going on - lots of people milling about, lots of horses whinnying greetings to each other, the guys delivering hay and shavings, Tina checking people in, people parking trailers, people riding, people doing groundwork, whew! I ran into some friends I met last year already, a friend from the cow clinic two weeks ago, and am looking forward to catching up with them and watching and learning.

My plan for tomorrow is to go early and feed Mac, get him in the indoor when the people for the first class are warming up (just so I can get him in there with commotion before any classes actually start and the first class will start with ground work), maybe have a short little ride, then do some shopping and watch the clinic ALL DAY LONG!!! What could be better!?

Mad props to my husband who is holding down the fort at home. Without him it wouldn't be possible for me to come here and do this.

There's a photographer here who will be doing the classes, but I'm on my own for getting candids . . . and I think there will be a lot of selfies, too. Here's one (I haven't quite mastered the technique!).

And one more - am I a total dork?

I'm back to update after unpacking in the hotel room and then going out to check on Mac before going to bed. I had to take some pictures of my shirts. I brought a lot of shirts. I'm here from Thursday - Tuesday morning. I brought six long-sleeved button-up shirts, three long-sleeved cotton shirts, three short-sleeved cotton shirts, and two tank tops. I also have three pairs of jeans and a pair of sweatpants and a new jacket that I got at the thrift store (shown in the picture above). So here are my shirts in the closet.

And this is my favorite shirt - another thrift store find! I've been saving it for months just for this occasion and I haven't even worn it yet!

I gave Mac a little massage tonight when I went out to tuck him in. I think he might be a little sore from the cow clinic, as he's been resting his RH more than his LH, but I can't find any heat or swelling, he trots sound, and he doesn't drag his foot or take any short steps. I might just be crazy, but I thought a little massage around the stifle and butt and shoulders couldn't hurt. He seemed to like it a lot, as we were standing in the dark outside the gate of the outdoor arena when one horse and then another got turned out and ran around bucking and farting and playing and Mac didn't flinch or startle or make a move. Actually, I've actually just put him on a magnesium supplement because he's got a thick, firm crest and from experience with a previous horse I know that Mg can be helpful with muscle soreness and tension. One of the good things about this venue is that there are turnouts for the horses so I can put Mac out during the day tomorrow so he won't be stuck in a stall the entire time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pictures from the clinic!

I got the first batch of pictures from the first day of the clinic - thank you so much to the spectator who took them, I am grateful!

Here's a picture of Dave working a cow after he (from the saddle) took off his horse's bridle.

And here's me being wowed by watching him (wow, my hair is long!).

Here's the group holding rodear (did I say that right?).

Here are the cows in their pen before they opened it up. That cinnamon-colored cow was a bit squirrely and I got that one on my second try of the first day.

Here's Mac being impressed by something - either a cow or his girlfriend (he falls in love very quickly and right away had his lady picked out).

Here's an artsy shot of my leg - I wore these chaps on the first day and since we sat around and watched a lot, my knees were killing me at the end of the day. I ended up lengthening my stirrups for day two and borrowing my friend's chinks - time to buy some new chinks of my own!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cow clinic report - what FUN!!!

I spent a weekend at a cow clinic with Dave and Gwynn (Turnbull) Weaver. OMG - what fun! They are great clinicians and their clinic style is really good - since both of them are teaching, one will work with the group and the other will take aside anyone who wants/needs individual attention.

Yesterday we started with some basic lateral exercises and in my 1/1 with Dave I had some a-ha moments about bending and turning and moving the ribcage over without being too heavy in the hand and changing legs to change bend and direction. Of course that is how one is supposed to ride, right? But as with most people I go for hand before leg, or more hand than leg, and it was a really interesting and fun exercise that I'll have to add to my toolbox.

We did a little flag work before working an actual cow, and Mac didn't really think that it was a good idea to get too close to the flag. When we got to the actual cows, though, he was great! Gwynn and Dave have a "formula" for working with the cows (there was a herd of about 10 cows - yearlings maybe? - and we had to separate one from the group). Go into the herd and separate a cow (actually, I can't really describe how to do this, as we just did it without much trouble but other people got the whole herd scattered - I think it is because we picked one off of the end and others went straight into the middle), then "pitch it out" and get it away from the herd. Here's where I can start to mention the formula.

Ok, so once you've got your cow, you move with your horse being at a 45-degree angle to the cow and your horse shaped like a banana, "cupping" the cow in that hollow space. If/when the cow stops, you stop. Then when the cow starts to move again, you back up and draw the cow and load your horse's haunches, then you do a TOH to change direction (I got stuck here a couple times - you back and turn in one move but I was backing and then hesitating and then turning), and then you change the banana bend so that you are again cupping the cow. Lather, rinse, repeat. Of course it is such a dynamic exercise that it isn't that formulaic IRL, but they did stress getting down the backing and turning over working the cow. If you lose the cow, it is okay because sticking to the plan in order to learn/master it is the priority.

Yesterday we were second-to-last to go, which - despite his fussiness because he had to pee - was really good. We got to watch everyone else go first and because of where we were positioned in the rodear, we actually got to "help" the others with the cows by keeping them from running out and facing up with them and moving them forward a bit, or drawing them back if the main rider needed a little more space. It is amazing how the correct positioning of the horse keeps the cow drawn to you or allows you to keep it separated vs if you bend the other way it allows the cow to run right by you. Really cool stuff.

When it was our turn, Mac was SO GOOD!!!! He marched up to the cows like a champ, we actually separated one with little effort and were able to hold it and head it off in one direction. One direction was harder, which was not surprising given his preferred direction/typical unevenness, so we have something else to work on. Of all the things I've done in my horsey career, this is one of the most fun! Mac was really confident with the cows, not scared at all, and I think that considering it was both of our first times, we read the cows pretty well even if we couldn't perfectly execute the maneuvers.

Today I picked up on something that Dave was doing when he was demonstrating turns, so when we went off for the warm-up exercise Gwynn gave us, I asked Dave about the turns. What I observed in him was that he got a horse to turn by using the outside leg back at the haunches, not up by the elbow. When I asked him about it he said that it is because the haunches is the engine and the engine initiates movement and everything else follows. It was kind of a head-scratcher for me based on other things I've been learning, but I thought I'd give it a try and lo-and-behold! Mac had much cleaner TOH-type turns! I practiced that a few times and when I got some good turns, finished on a good note and then it was time to get to the cow work for the day.

I again positioned myself in the same spot, but it meant that again I was one of the last to go...and we didn't break for we waited probably 3-4 hours for our turn at the cows! My knees are killing me from spending 5-7 hours in the saddle each day and between yesterday and today I lowered my stirrups, switched from my full chaps to my friend's chinks so it was a little better.

Mac was even better at the cows today than yesterday, and yesterday I was really happy with how he did. We got a cow right away, moved it appropriately away from the herd (if you move them too far away, or allow them to pull you too far away, they've suckered you into moving far enough out that you lose control), got our "draws" much improved on our turns from yesterday thanks to what I learned from Dave in the morning, and Mac really seemed to be happy to have a job to do and to work the cows. We got to finish one and let it go, have a short rest and good-boy pats, then got another one (different, squirrley, tricky little red cow!) and worked it. We got it to a point where it stopped and we could "defend the herd" and I asked if I was done and Gwynn said to do just a little more so we did and it was great fun! Mac was so amazingly good! Gwynn seemed very pleased with our work and commented that mustangs aren't particularly athletic, but if you ride them right you can do good work (paraphrasing).

It was interesting to watch the other participants, too. There were some people who had horses that were either bred for cutting or who had a history of cutting and while the "formula" was the same, you had to approach the work a little bit differently because of what the horse knows. And there were some people who had high energy who wanted to chase the cows and people who had quiet energy who got the work done slowly and methodically. I'm a visual learner, so it was great to watch all different approaches.

Now for shopping - I have new stirrups coming (should be here in a couple weeks), I'm going to buy some chinks (maybe purchase at the Buck Brannaman clinic) because full chaps in the saddle for so long makes my knees hurt, new cowboy hat (of course I do ride with my helmet on) just for the heck of it, new boots (wore them today - they are so pretty!), oh what fun!!! But you won't see me with a rope on my saddle. I just can't do that, as I don't rope and I don't want to be a poser.

If anyone has a chance to do a clinic with Dave and Gwynn, I'd recommend it highly. Their clinic schedule is on their website: They are excellent horsepeople, great teachers, they are kind and patient and everyone gets lots of attention.

Someone was taking pictures yesterday - I hope I can track some of them down!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More rides in the hackamore!

Well I've had four rides in the hackamore this week - yay!

My first two rides were in the arena - the first one doing walk work only. The second ride I set up some cavaletti and after doing a bit of ground work over the cavaletti (trot circles), I used them in my walk warm up. You'll see in the photos below how the cavaletti were set up, and I did a "cloverleaf" pattern over them.

I think the bosal fits Mac's nose better since using the shaping block, but I didn't get as good a tie-back of the hanger as I should have in this ride.

I did video myself on the second ride where I trotted in some circles, but it is too choppy (as I spent half the time out of the view of the camera) to show you, so you'll have to settle for some pictures, instead. Here we are just walking.

And trotting.

I got some advice about working in the hackamore. One piece of advice is to let him get used to the equipment before asking for too much, which is kind of like "duh" but it was a helpful reminder, since the action of this is different from working in the snaffle. I was told that the horse needs to learn to find the balance of the bosal and to find a "neutral" position where he'll carry it naturally, then when I signal him, picking up a rein will actually mean something.

Here's Mac at the halt (you can see the cavaletti set up in the background - we used these in our warm up - there are lots of fun exercises you can do).

The other good advice I got was to take him on a trail ride in the hackamore so we can just walk along on a loose rein (that neutral position) and he can get used to it and we won't have to turn all the time like we would in an arena. I will admit I was nervous because I don't really feel like I have a lot of control with it because I'm not really educated on how to use it. But then I reminded myself that I've ridden him bitless on the trails plenty of times and many times I'll just loop the reins over the horn and not use them at all - plus, he's better on the trails than he is in an arena.

So we went on a trail ride yesterday. We mostly walked but did a little trot and canter and some leg yields and bending - it was a lovely ride! Because he was great yesterday, it gave me confidence to go again today. I worked on focusing on that "neutral" position and then noticing when I needed to use an aid and then trying to use my legs first before hand. If you didn't know anything about riding and you saw me you'd think I was just chillin' out on a trail ride, but there was a lot of thinking going on!

Here's another cute picture - this is after we were done at home the other day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New saddle pad!

What could be more exciting? ;-) Well, lots of things, actually. I love the pad I got from Riding Warehouse, but was of course intrigued by the same pad with "ultra-cell" inserts, so I bought a Coolback pad with the inserts. My arena has finally dried out enough that I could ride in it (although there's still a big puddle at one end) so today I did!

Here's Mac's new pad.

As eager as I am to try the hackamore again, I thought that it is better to be safe than sorry and since I haven't ridden in two weeks, I'd go for the safer bet of doing a bit of ground work first and then riding in the snaffle. Ground work was good, we did about 15 minutes of checking in with walk and trot circles, figure eights (love that exercise - thanks to Bryan Neubert for teaching it), head lowering, backing, and me asking Mac to just look to one side and then the other with just a suggestion of movement from the lead rope (while I was standing facing him).

Got on and had the usual warm up with circles and moving the haunches and then the shoulders, then moved into the trot. For some reason, Mac really wanted to walk through the big puddle at the end of the arena. We did it once, but then I had to actually pull him away from it after that!

Did some trot circles, some shoulder in to haunches in back and forth, had some great canter work, trotted some cavaletti (and after our SI/HI, he was so supple that we could really to a narrow turn in a balanced fashion - fun!), and finished with some nice transitions. It was a surprisingly nice ride - I was prepared for some antics, but he was perfectly behaved. Could be because it was pretty warm today and he's shedding his winter coat so didn't want to act goofy.

Or, it could be my new saddle pad!

Maybe I'll be brave and try the hackamore tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shaping the bosal

As I mentioned in my last post, Mac's bosal needs to be shaped to his head. It should fit like a hat - not tight, but with even contact all around and snug enough that it wouldn't just fall off his nose if there weren't a hanger there.

I took a romex wire and measured the shape of Mac's nose. Then I traced that shape onto paper. You can see how his nose is narrower than the bosal.

I laid the bosal over the tracing for a better view.

Being the wonderful, fabulous husband that he is, Colin took the tracing and shaped a wooden block for me.

You can see where the gaps are on the sides. Colin was also kind enough to lend me one of his hockey skate laces, which are very long, to tie the bosal to the block. The requisite cat inspection is evidenced below.

It has been a couple days now, so I'll untie it tonight and see how it fared. Unfortunately (or fortunately, because we are in a drought), we've had so much rain that I haven't been able to ride since last time (well, that's an obvious statement) - almost two weeks now. I've got a few days off from work coming up so hopefully the weather will cooperate and I'll get back to my training!