Pittsboro, NC

Sooty- 05/10/2019

Had a lesson on Sooty. Worked on flat serpentines at the canter and he was spooky at a pitchfork laying down outside of the arena. It was another great ride on him.

Sooty – 05/08/2019

I didn’t have an intention to work him but he was hanging out by the riding arena fence when I finished with Lena so I thought “meh, might as well do 15 minutes of something with him”. I went to slip the cavesson on him and he was like “nah, I’m good” and walked off.

Sooty and Lena have been staying in the barn yard. I can see them from the house and at any given moment she is behind him marching him around the barn yard. So when he walked off I thought “hmmm, I wonder if I act like Lena…” and I started walking behind him. Any time he slowed down a bit I just took my dressage whip and pointed it at his rump and kept walking into his space. 😉 I couldn’t get up close enough to get on the side of him and change directions but I was wondering if I at least kept behind him that when I did decide to stop would he stop? I took a trip around the lower half of the barn yard and back up towards the barn before it worked. HAHA But when he stopped I got his head gear on and we did about 15 minutes of work in-hand and spent a few minutes on the lunge.

I did send him over a single ground pole on the lunge in the walk and trot and he really inverts his neck and tosses his head back (ewe neck) and almost ‘hops’ his front end over the pole.

I worked on asking him with the cavesson to lower the neck (poll to withers) and articulate in the poll / jaw so his forehead was closer to being vertical vs poking out. He has no clue so he will fling his head backwards or dive his head down (rooting style). I remember a George Morris video on YouTube where he was riding a very hot horse that wanted nothing to do with rein contact. George said to keep the contact light but maintain the line from the rider’s elbow through the bit no matter how high the horse put his mouth. Don’t pull down or try to manipulate just follow where ever the horse puts his head / mouth. So I wondered with Sooty tossing his head high or dodging way low if I made an effort to keep my head ‘present’ on his cavesson, not blocking or controlling but just following his move, if… well if him going above or below and getting away from my hand if that was reinforcing the wrong answer to the question he doesn’t understand.

In the Straightness Training program there is a mantra to ask lighter, release quicker, capture the right behavior with the release / reward. Which I understand. My mind keeps going back to the George Morris video. My hand is just there, and it’s ok that you have an opinion about my hand being on the cavesson. After all horse’s instinct when something touches them, like bugs, is to wave a leg or their tail around to remove the disturbance. 😉 My hand on the cavesson asking a question he doesn’t understand is bugging him (haha). I’m going to pursue the path of trying not to lose a connection with him when he draws backwards or dives forward. It’s just my hand and a pulse on the cavesson. We’ll see how it goes over the next few sessions.

We finished with walking over the raised walk cavaletti set. They were a bit wide for him, set for Lena’s stride but Star didn’t have any problems with them and she was about Sooty’s size. But Star had a swinging walk that was about as free as her round body would allow. Sooty is inverted and sort of rusty looking and not forward. He wasn’t making the stride length, and on top of being distracted about where Lena was he tripped going through a few times.

Lena – 05/08/2019

In-hand / cavesson work and lunging at walk / trot / canter and trot cavaletti. She is starting to get the ‘seeking’ posture more than a dropping and flattening of her neck with her nose poking out to the front.

I tried the haunches-in a few times and I think we were both tired and annoyed by the bugs. I was starting to have feelings of “ugh, why did I stop working with her? Why have I let 2 months go by?” and am sure she was thinking “Ugh, why can’t I just be a pasture puff?”. So I was cycling through a few minutes of in-hand work, going to the larger circle on the lunge and trotting a few minutes, coming back to in-hand work so neither of us got too frustrated. We did manage to pull off about 3 steps that looked and felt good, with her being bent to the inside, haunches off the wall making 3 tracks and I’m pretty sure I saw the outside hind leg tracking and landing about where her naval would be, with none of her other legs going side ways (toes moving forward). So YAY! That is where I ended our session.

I did ask her to canter about 3 circles each way, and she got her sticky lead to the left fine. She wasn’t rushing, falling in badly or pulling but she was struggling. I just wanted to give her a little ‘break’ from the mental ground work.

Sooty – 05/07/2019

This is probably my 3rd time doing any kind of work with Sooty since I purchased him about 6 weeks ago. We’ve been a little consumed / preoccupied with putting our farm up for sale and moving.

The first two times I worked with him was mostly seeing how his basic ‘horse 101’ ground manners were. I also rode him once briefly. One of my students, Lauren, has worked with him once or twice a week though.

Tonight I put the in-hand cavesson on him and got started with the basic concepts such as; walking with the handler in a different position (next to the shoulder vs at his head), handler using a whip, and being in a cavesson with the handler’s hand right near his face. While he didn’t ‘know’ any of this work he really didn’t seem to be frustrated by it. His worse reaction was no reaction at all. So we walked a little down the long wall, did a few circles, a few stops and backing up on the long wall. I also introduced the cue to make the ‘seeking’ gesture in his neck. He was kind of ‘meh’ to that. He didn’t know how to respond so he did fling his head/nose to the request on the cavesson.

He did catch on to the request to bring his hindquarters towards me ‘sideways’. We are going to work on teaching him to side-pass up to the mounting block.

I was trying to gather information to start his asymmetry report and did note that lunging to the left was more difficult for him than lunging to the right. And while doing basic horsemanship-101 ground work he seemed to have equal problems stepping under his center of mass with his hind leg(s) and instead was creeping backwards and behind the other hind leg. His default neck posture / shape is his topline is shorter and his bottom line buldges, with his neck tying in at his wither below the wither. Ewe-necked when he is not active in his body.

On the plus side he stops like a soldier with his front legs, nearly 9 times out of 10! Front legs even and under his chest (vs behind or not in alignment with one another). And his conformation isn’t too bad for an Arabian. 😉 His hindquarter angles (croup to hocks) seem good enough to do lower level sport horse activities. He has a nice wither and decent shoulders so the saddle stays put! YAY! And his gaits are pleasant / easy to sit.

I did get on him bareback and we spent about 15 minutes in walk just feeling out his connection in a french-link JP curve snaffle. There was a little rooting (which he did when I went to try him pre-sale) but other wise he was pretty quiet from the ground work and lunging. Lauren has already said he is starting to seek forward down vs root at the reins. He halts pretty good from the rider’s core, which Lauren had mentioned to me the other day, too. 🙂

I’m excited to start working with him and I think he is amateur friendly. My thoughts on his training needs are:

  1. Horsemanship 101 type ground work. Do the TRT work (measuring the leadline / paying attention to the handler’s personal space, and the relaxation pattern of stepping under with / yielding the hindquarters and yielding in the front end by stepping behind with the front leg and then getting the relaxation response from him). Also teach him to ‘disengage’ and turn to face his handler with the ‘shhhhhhh’ voice command and body language / whip or lead rope cue.
  2. Start “Straightness Training” cavesson (in-hand) work and lunging work with him. Get the initial asymmetry report done for him.
  3. Start cross training work with varied terrain / hill work, cavaletti / ground pole work and other work with props like walk – halt transitions and backing-up between two ground poles to aid in his body awareness (crookedness).

Lena – 05/07/2019

It has been a while since I’ve worked with Lena, about 2 months if I’m correct. We’ve been getting our farm ready for sale and building the new place. We still have not moved (have about 3 weeks to go) but I’ve decided to start doing something with the horses, however many minutes and however many days of the week I can.

I started Lena today working on ground work in the cavesson. We were both rusty, considering we had only started Straightness Training in October and then have taken about 2 months off.

We did some in-hand work at walk, working on me getting my line, whip and thoughts (as well as my timing and the aids) clear, and working on her remembering what the heck this is all about. Then we alternated between the close-up work and some lunging at walk and trot.

In-hand we did walking down the long walls, stops and backing up on the wall, and 10m circles. On the circles she was counter bending and coming in on the shoulder, and on the long wall she was too reactive to my hand on the cavesson with her nose coming in and her shoulder falling to the wall.

I was trying to review the Straightness Training ‘asymmetry report’ document in my head but couldn’t remember the details. I do remember some of the basic things when I went through it for Lena back in October.

Tonight I notice that when I was on her left, even on a straight line, her hindquarters would swing out to the right whenever I requested a halt. I changed sides & direction and her hindquarters wouldn’t drift but she’d fall out on the shoulder. The other side of the same coin I suppose.

She did offer some good ‘gesturing / seeking’ posture. Her poll wasn’t too far below her wither with her muzzle gesturing down towards where her front hooves would land VS her nose poking out forward. She did more of this in trot than walk.

She was calm, even when I got on her bareback. I didn’t stay on too long, her wither and backbone. Yikes! We did some walk, circles, halts and a few trot circles both ways. I decided to dismount when she didn’t spook when Karuma (the cat) bolted up the tree on the side of the arena. 😉

Sooty- 04/27/2019

Had a very easy ride on Sooty. Mostly walk with a little bit of trot and a lap of canter each way (including a little arab moment where he tossed his head). I figured out his sidepass button and started noticing he was beginning to root less at the walk and was more stretchy instead throughout the ride.

Sooty- 04/22/2019

My 3rd ride on Sooty. Amazing ride, worked on basics and some one rein stops. Cooled off bareback and while cooling off I worked on him stopping and standing still when a rider got off balance or fell off, this also helped with working at the mounting block as I had to get back on each time I “fell off”. He had no issues with me getting off balance or sliding off, just stopped as I asked him to.


First ride on Sooty. I had a lesson and he was very good for his first ride at the barn. Very fun ride really easy canter transitions and he knows how to lower his head and stretch in the trot, though I noticed he had a habit of rooting a lot at the walk. I gave him a good brushing and got his massive knot out of his mane after my ride.