Pittsboro, NC

Sooty- 06/08/2019

Had a very short ride (only 20 minutes). Sooty was amazing despite it being extremely humid. I did worked on his groundwork and he struggled a little bit with ‘bring it’ on his left side but after two times asking and him struggling to find the answer, he kept getting it right away. He had no issue lowering his head when I asked and kept stopping fairly square. The ride was very smooth and easy. Did a lot of walk with a few laps of trot and a lap of canter each direction and his canter was just a slow and smooth one, I even had to encourage him to keep going a little bit. Ended with a cool down on a loose rein and worked on some emergency stops.

Sooty- 05/31/2019

We took Sooty and Lena to Raven Rock. Sooty was very good, though quite forward. He didn’t spook at anything and instead had to lead Lena a few times past some “spooky” stuff. I tried to get him to walk into the water, but ended up having to lead him to it and I managed to get him to at least take a drink from it before I got back on and we continued our ride.

Lena – Straightness Training Asymmetry Report

FINALLY, after signing up for the Straightness Training Mastery online course in early November 2018 I am doing my asymmetry report on my TB mare, LenaΒ 

πŸ˜€ . I did start it as soon as it came in the email coaching, but I felt like I didn’t have a thorough enough report, and never completed it. I kept working with my horse, but then I got busy for about 2 months and didn’t work my horse much. SOOOO, here it is. It isn’t fully filled out, but that is a life lesson for me! I suffer from extreme paralysis – by – analysis so I’m posting it here not completely filled out. And I’m going to deal with it! 

Lena – TRT Method, Challenge One

This is from the TRT Method website. It’s their first challenge for their members / online participants. This is the Facebook post. I’ve already been using the TRT Method with Lena for a few months to work on her trailer claustrophobia.

It’s amazing how you THINK you are using yourself, then you see yourself on video and go “OMG! I’m nannying my horse!”.  HAHA.  I need to let her make the mistake and THEN correct her.  I see I’m trying to prevent her from making the mistake of getting too close.  But I’m going to post it here because 1. It’s good to owe up to your imperfections and 2. I think I should get brownie points for training the Karuma (the cat), too.  πŸ˜‰ 



Lena – 05/16/2019

I wanted to do something with her in the last bit of daylight I had left, so I put her cavesson on and we went into the arena to do some ground work and light lunging.

I focused on getting crisp halts from a walk first. And if they were not crisp we did some crisp backing up. Watching the flies bother her reminded me that if she can feel a fly then she can feel my light hand pressure on the cavesson. When she wasn’t being responsive to a light pressure then I used a tap of the whip on her chest. Soon she was giving me very responsive halts from a walk to a light pressure (and not my body language) on the cavesson. And when she gave a prompt halt from a clear, light signal I gave her a soft verbal ‘good, Lena’, a touch on the forehand and a rest.

Lena is fairly sensitive and in the wrong program I could see her being a bit dangerous due to over reacting. I experienced it over her trailer loading issue when I first got her (she was very panicked when it came to the trailer and hurt herself a few times and behaved in a way that could injury a person) as well as her reaction to pull back and panic when being tied. All you have to do is ‘grrrrrr’ at her she she gets wide-eyed.

Just as she is prone to overreact to discipline actions, or overly strong requests to do something, she also does not like overly animated praise. A loud voice, strong patting or even vigorous stroking sort of spazzes her out. For her praise seems to be well received in the form of rest, a firm placement of your hand on her neck or forehead (no scratching or vigorous rubbing, please) and a quiet verbal reward.

So that is what we did tonight (since we haven’t been doing much at all for the past 2 months). About 20 minutes of in-hand type work and a little big of lunging in the walk and trot over ground poles. But the focus was just on the volume of pressure to get that walk – halt transition from a light pressure on the cavesson and an acknowledgement (that she appreciates) for her correct response.

She did a few great halts that were square. πŸ™‚

Sooty- 05/16/2019

Had a good short ride. He had a little bucking fit at the canter, but it was short lived and easy to sit. He had a little “drop” spook at a tree limb down in the cavaletti field while trotting which was also short lived and easily sat. I tried him in a hackamore for the last portion of my ride and noticed he was more stretchy in the walk with it, but still rooted a little bit, and was more inverted at the trot with it. He has very easy steering though and still amazing braking mainly from the seat.

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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ˜‰ 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. πŸ™‚

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).