Archive for May, 2009
We had a downpour of rain yesterday just as I was getting ready to leave work and head out to Iron Horse Farm. But I was in luck because the clouds parted and the rain stopped to allow just enough time for me to ride Boomer. I worked on making him into a “western horse” (with english tack). We worked on spins, backing, neck reining and my sliding stop. Boomer is developing a killer stop with all the clicker training work I have been doing with him. I can now ask him into a flat out gallop and by shifting my weight back (and no rein pressue what so ever) he tucks his butt under himself and throws on the brakes. I even had my sister jump on him so she could see how much he has improved over the months. My sister has been away at the University of Delaware up until yesterday, so the last time she rode Boomer he was a kick ride, with no balance and no steering. She was amazed to find that since turning 6 this year Boomer has really “grown up” and he’s definitely no longer a kick ride – now he has speed and more speed (which is good because he wouldn’t turn out to be a good gaming pony if he didn’t know how to go).
I also helped my mom work with Blitz and asking him to move towards the barrels. He has developed a habit of scooting his butt away from the games equipment in order to face it, and we have determined that during some lessons when out instructor placed treats on all the barrels to get Blitz used to it – it completely confused him into thinking now he has to face all the barrels. He’s improved some but I’m hoping some targeting practice with his feet will help. I plan to have him target a mat by placing his front feet on it and eventually moving that mat to the exact spot that I want him to stand when approaching a barrel.
Anyway yesterday was a successful ride for all the ponies. Today I hope to work with Minnow as well and teaching him to stand on his pedestal with all 4 feet.
**hope you enjoy these photos I took yesterday when I left the farm. The neighboring vineyard looked beautiful with the mist that appeared after the rain.
Yesterday after work I headed out to the Devon Horse Show to watch the Grand Prix Jumping. I admit I live about 15 minutes from the show grounds – but I haven’t actually been to Devon in several years. I went a few days ago as well to watch several riders from my local Pony Club compete in jumper classes.
Now the Grand Prix Jumping is something I find to be utterly amazing. We all know (whether we care to admit or not) that the real crowd draw is the crashes. Secretly everyone watching is hoping to see a horse and rider crash through a fence or a horse throw its mount. As morbid as that sounds thats why watching the Grand Prix Jumping is so popular. You hold your breath as horse and rider jump fences at heights you wouldn’t dream of yourself, all the while in the back of your mind wondering when the first “incident” will happen. We’re all in it for the shock value.
As a youth I developed a distaste for jumping – mostly because I owned a stubborn little pony named Oopsie Daisy (makes you wonder where his name came from) who clearly disliked to jump. With each year that passed he hated jumping even more. I crashed and burned more times than I can count. I think I was the only rider jumping an 18″ hunter course that ever knocked down all the fences with their own body. Pretty pathetic. But despite all of my falls I think those tumbles made me a better rider.
When I was about 13 years old I decided to join my local Pony Club. I was dreading the initial rating because I hated to jump – and all riders were required to do a stadium course as well as a cross country course. I was set to take my D-2 rating with a group of other riders – that lets face it – had point and shoot ponies that would jump anything. I on the other hand had a ride him with everything you got – hold on for dear life and close your eyes pony. I successfully made it through most of the fences without a fall – but had pretty much a refusal at every fence – some that I had no luck getting Oopsie over at all. As I waited for my pass or fail results the instructor doing the testing approached me. She explained to me that even though I had a pony that clearly hated jumping and I struggled to get over the courses, I was the only rider in the group that could actually ride. My difficult pony had taught me how to have a strong seat and leg, and most importantly how to overcome challenges (we all know that image of the kid getting dumped and bursting into tears immediately). She told me that I not only passed my rating but that I was receiving a higher rating of a D-3.
Oopsie went through the years of Pony Club with my little sister and I – he even passed both of us up to our C-1 ratings (barely). Oopsie passed away last summer unexpectedly. Over his 30 years of life he accomplished so much.
He was an eventer, a dressage pony, a show pony, a lesson pony, a pony club mount, and in his later years a mounted games pony. He taught my sister and I how to ride. And he introduced both of us to our passion in playing mounted games. Oopsie took both of us to a combined total of 5 USPC Championships in mounted games. He excelled In the Junior, Senior and Advanced level. In his later years he even entered into the fossil division with our mom. Oopsie was just a once in a lifetime pony. And he will always be missed.
I later moved on to my 16.3 hand Dressage horse, Nitro, who seemed to enjoy stadium jumping but when it came to cross country fences became emotional and nervous. He eventually passed me through to my C-2 rating but with a very huge effort. He dumped me about 10 times at a ditch jump and panicked over the tiniest step down fence during schooling. But when I cleared the last big log as Nitro hopped from side to side trying to evade it during my rating the tester yelled out to the group “now that is how you ride a horse through a course”.
Minnow was the pony that followed Nitro and at this point in my life I was winding down my enthusasium for ratings (and jumping for that matter). So I tooled around with teaching Minnow to jump (which he had no prior knowledge of before) but he too would rather dart around the fence than clear it. And honestly Minnow had so many other issues to overcome that my jumping him sort of took a back seat – although I did successfully take him cross country schooling once.
Now if you are noticing a pattern here…I think you are right….I have never owned that “made horse”, the one that will do everything without so much as blinking an eye. But through all these years, and all these horses, I think I gained knowledge in riding and training horses that most young adults don’t have. I wouldn’t trade my crashes for anything – or my horses. Each one of them has had something valuable to teach me and with each new horse that enters my life I am surprised at how much more I can learn.
I am now onto my 5th horse (I didn’t mention my very first pony, Oreo Cookie, because at 5 I have fogged memories of her), Boomerang, and I think I can honestly say he is the only horse I have ever had that does not come with “emmotional baggage”. He’s got a long way to go in his training but his very willing attitude is something I am very not accustomed to. And Boomer is the only pony I have ever owned that truely loves to jump, he clears an 18″ log at a height of 4′. Now I don’t think Grand Prix Jumping is in our future, but I’m looking forward to seeing just how much this pony loves to jump. Perhaps he will be the pony to renew my interest in jumping again, but if spills happen along the way I know that this will only further my riding ability.
Here’s to the high jumpers of the world! It takes nerves of steel and a horse to get you there!
I’ve been clicker training my horses for 5 years now – and I just bought my very first clicker training book a few days ago. Thats really sad. I think the reason I never did it before was because I felt like I knew what the clicker did (it made a sound to signal that my horse performed correctly and would soon be rewarded) so what more did I need to know? I’m slightly stubborn in that I want to feel like I created my own path in training my animals. I’m pretty sure this is why I never really got too involved with the Parelli Method. There is such a HUGE following of Parelli people that it made me feel like I wasn’t going to be anything special if I trained this way and that I was just buying into it like the masses – spending the big bucks on the dvds and special training equipment (this is similar to my reason as to why I don’t go to church – not to mention I’m Quaker).
So instead I turned to the clicker – which seemed very basic to me, and there was no “level program” or training steps that had to be taken. All I really needed was the clicker and some treats and I was good to go. I recently decided to purchase Alexandra Kurland’s new book “Riding with the Clicker” because I felt like she might have some pointers that I could adapt to my own ponies. As I’ve mentioned before I have been training my young Chincoteague, Boomer, how to be a mounted games pony. Since I bought him the end of last summer he has improved with leaps and bounds and responds amazingly well to the clicker training I have been doing with him. I really don’t know much about riding with the clicker – except what common sense has taught me and what I know about horse training. So I finally gave in and bought this book in the hopes that I can turn Boomer into the dream pony I have always wanted (not to say that my previous horses weren’t ever dream horses). I’m looking forward to reading more about how others train – but I still believe the best way to train a horse is by understanding how to communicate with them and then the rest will come. The clicker has helped me create a language with my horses and its up to me what I’m going to tell them.
I recently recieved a few old photos from one of Minnow’s previous owners before me. I just thought they would be fun to share with all of you.
Be sure to check out Minnow’s life story here!
I had a very enjoyable memorial day weekend with the ponies. I did some riding, worked on a few tricks and I even went to the Devon Horse Show with my puppy Ammo (where I saw Bruce Springsteen and his wife I might add – plus I watched their daughter win her division). I mainly went to the show to watch several riders from my local pony club compete – they certainly held their own against many top riders!
So over the weekend one of the main tricks I worked on with Minnow was teaching him to roll out his beach towel (in preparation for his trip this summer to Chincoteague Island). You can watch the video below. This time when teaching Minnow I took a slightly different approach then I normally do. My main thought was to roll treats up inside the blanket and as he unrolled it the food would appear. But before I did that I decided I would see if he could learn how to do it by watching first.
So I put Minnow into his trick halter – I use a specific halter when trick training so that my ponies know that its time to perform, that way I don’t have my ponies offering tricks to me when I really don’t want them to. As soon as that halter comes out Minnow knows its time for tricks. I led him out into the isle and brought out a blanket I had bought for him. The first thing I did was to get his attention and asked him to watch as I unrolled the blanket. I then rolled it back up and placed it infront of him. Minnow looked at me for a second then with one big push he unrolled the blanket. (of course then I clicked and rewarded him). And thats all it took – I swear he simply learns by watching me first. I taught him to paint in a very similar manner. I showed him how when I touched the paintbrush to the paper that a mark was made – and when I handed him the brush he simply mimicked my actions.