Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Joy of Driving in Company

Finally on Saturday we were able to do something we all have wanted to for awhile, drive both Cobs. Rosemary has been driven with other horses being ridden before, but not with another horse being driven. She was the one we figured would be fine with the process. Comrade was the real question. He is not totally thrilled with driving and has had his dodo moments. So he was the first one we hooked. Peggy drove around with him a bit to refresh his memory. We gave him the lighter cart to hopefully make the experience more fun for him. Once he was settled, Rosemary was hooked up. She of course was ready to roll.

I cringed slightly as I realized the horses had the wrong color harnesses on for the cart they each had. Rosemary had the black harness with the russet accented cart and Comrade had the russet harness with the black accented cart. Good thing we were just driving around the neighborhood. But beyond the fashion error, the horses had no problem driving with each other. While in the arena, they led and followed, passed going the same direction and passed going opposite directions.

When they both showed no signs of worry we headed out of the ring and onto the road. This would be the true test and where Comrade normally has his dodo moments. We started out with Rosemary in front, so that Comrade could see her. I think both were glad to be out of the deep sand of the arena. Soon it was apparent they were okay driving in company and we could enjoy the lovely fall day. I hopped out to try and get a nice shot of them both. Unfortunately, Rosemary kicked in her big walk and out distanced Comrade so they were a bit too far apart.

The day was so nice we just continued down the road with them and let them trot. Comrade took the lead and I was able to get some video. He was not as sure being in front, but he still did really well. As we turned to head back to the barn, Comrade again followed. Heading home can be his problem time. I kept watch on both horses and kept an eye out for vehicles approaching. Comrade actually seemed more responsive and willing with Rosemary driving with him. It really makes me want to see how he does in a pair situation. I did have a "Oh Shit" moment when I looked back as we were trotting to see an SUV on Comrade's ass. I don't know what the driver was thinking, but all I could imagine was Comrade spooking and running into Rosemary. So not good. It worked out okay though. I told Mom there was a vehicle and she slowed. Peggy worried about how close the vehicle was, swerved to the side sharply. Both horses took it in stride while the idiot driver moved by. Then to further test the horses, we came up on a horse and rider. Our social butterflies of horses though they should be able to go and see the new horse. They had to tell them both to get back to work and focus.

Overall it was a complete success. Maybe I can get Rosemary out to some driving events next year. Plus I can't wait till we have all three driving so I can join in too. Roscoe is still coming to terms with the thing that will be behind him. I think we are just going to have to bite the bullet and hook him up to get him over the questioning. But that will have to wait until after our trip to Florida. Hopefully my ponies are not to wild and wooly by time we come back. I definitely see some clipping in my future.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Roscoe's First Lesson

After postponing due to the tropical storm last Saturday, Roscoe and I finally managed to have a lesson. I was torn because my instructor is my farrier's wife and she decided to ride with him when he came to the barn. We do the lesson while he works, all good right? Not quite. Normally I pull shoes and then clinch and finish the shoes, so doing a lesson would take me away from that. My farrier takes about $50 off my bill when I help, so I needed to be able to still do my part. So I agreed to the lesson if the horses would be okay in the stall until I could finish them. My farrier said that would work and the lesson was on.
I pulled Dottie and DaVinci's shoes before getting Roscoe ready. They were in stalls ready for my farrier as we headed down to the arena. My farrier told Mom to go watch the lesson since he could handle the shoeing. Of course little did we know the other red boy would cause some havoc. Comrade decided to open Dottie's door, so my poor farrier had to get two horses out of the stall before he could get to Dottie. So he also ended up finishing her completely since he did not want her outside with raised clinches. Bless him, he never even came to get Mom.

Meanwhile, Roscoe and I were going through our paces. We started at the walk. She told me to make sure he was active, not just over stepping. Then she had me start adding halts. I explained about his recent loss of forward. She said that green horses started as 3yr olds start out gung ho, but as 4 yr olds decide to begin to test the boundaries. My battles are just beginning. Hopefully with occasional lessons I can win.
Roscoe did not understand why he could not socialize with her when clearly she was talking to him. Moving on to trot, his lack of straightness was apparent. We also had to figure out a working pace for him. Soon she noticed that his bit was hanging a bit too low. Roscoe even had his tongue over the bit. So she raised the bit and he was happier. Not straighter though. I don't think we managed even one straight line. I have to remember to maintain contact and boundaries, but if he makes mistakes, correct and forget.

Next we did a series of baby lateral exercises. Starting with turn on the forehand. She helped us work through the movement. For me the use of taps versus steady pressure was good advice. The time it took for Roscoe to figure things out was less and less each time. She helped with turn on the haunches, a couple steps at a time. Roscoe's shoulders are a problem area. The last was side pass. Surprisingly, we actually did a few steps once he got the jist of it. I was really amazed at how Roscoe took the time to think about what she or I was asking before reacting.

We did have a moment of distracted stallion when another horse walked by the arena, but a turn on the forehand helped regain his attention. Well, then she said "How about canter?" and I said "No I don't think he is there today." Of course she was like ok we shall canter. And we headed towards the right. The last time I asked him to canter, he wanted to travel right but canter left. So she helped me set him up and the transition was better and it was the correct lead. Around the short end where he was bulging his shoulder, she had me slightly counter bend him to keep his balance. Such a small movement that made a big difference. The left lead was rougher and not a great transition. She had me get after him, then forgive and move on.

Overall the lesson was positive and I have lots of homework. She said there was so much she wanted to say. I almost felt bad because I can only afford one lesson a month and she seemed to want to make the most of the time.
My take aways:
1. Make sure he is active, not just over stepping
2. Straight, lots of straight practice
3. Soft, but solid contact
4. Tap with the leg for lateral so he can't lean into the pressure
5. He can drop his head, but not too low
6. He will have more tests for me
7. Sit light for downward transitions to help discourage hollowing

So, I am going to share the videos. Fair warning they are kind of crazy. My mom got distracted by watching and forgot to follow or got lost zooming.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Natural Riders: Pro or Con

First let me say, I am not a Natural Rider. Now my brother, he was a natural. Good thing soccer and girls caught his attention or I would have some competition.

Over the years I have come across a couple of Natural Riders, both teenage girls. The first could ride my Mom's Morgan and get excellent work out of him. The second I just met this weekend and got out of shape Comrade looking show ready. I had a moment of thinking "does he look that good with me?" She also won brownie points by agreeing to ride in the light rain. Sorry no pictures because of that fact.

Little man got a ride the day after

I had no idea how old she was or how much riding experience she had while we were riding. She did mention later she was moving to 1st Level and had been jumping 3ft. Plus her trainer was having her ride a 2 year old to eventually ride in a Materiale Class. That surprised me since she thought Roscoe working was unusual. Uh, hmm its okay to work the 2yr old but not the 4 year old. Must be his small size, makes her think he should not be ridden vs how big some breeds are at 2 yrs old.

Anyway at 13yrs old she really did ride well. But there were things that struck me as odd. She asked as soon as she mounted if Comrade would round. I told her yes, but he needed to warm up. When she did start asking him to round up, she kept lowering her hands. Later she mentioned that her trainer had her ride some horses out on hacks to work on rounding. I told her that the connection comes from the leg not the hand. Occasionally when she would go round and round the arena for a long time, Comrade would try to put on the brakes surprising her. Then when she got on Rosemary she mentioned that she did not have to hold with her knees at the sitting trot. I was a bit confused.

Well everything made more sense when her mother told me she had only been riding for 3yrs. Yep, she was a Natural. It explained how she could ride so well, yet still be caught unaware or make the odd comments. It amazes me that this girl is going 1st level and riding a 2yr old when her basics are not solid. That being said, she does take all the clinics she can and takes direction well. I would not be opposed to her riding some of my horses. She did ask how "sound" Roscoe was. I think she was talking about how safe he was to ride. Definitely angling to ride him. Maybe down the road she could. I even thought about her riding him for pictures. Having a light rider will make him seem bigger. (PS if anyone close by wants to volunteer....)

So has anyone else met a Natural Rider? What do think the Pro's and Con's are?

The Pro's that I can see:
Can instinctively ride a horse as needed
Nice soft hands
Seem to progress quickly
Great posture
Gain opportunities from other equestrians

The Con's:
Though instinctive, they can't explain how they achieve the reactions they get from horses
Gaps in basics
Can react, but not always anticipate a horse's actions.
Give the appearance of being more experienced than they actually are

Puddles, Purple rain boots and Ponies

Now after nearly a week of rain, thanks Joaquin, hopefully we will start to dry out. My ponies are getting bored. We have worked fairly consistently this month. Roscoe and Rosemary go through all their tricks as soon as I am near them. Plus Roscoe has that stare down his nose look and trouble in his eyes.