Archive for May, 2009
I’m so excited that I have another long 3-day weekend (I decided to close my shop saturday through monday for memorial day weekend) to play with my ponies. Who knows – maybe I’ll be really bad and sneak out early today.
On Sunday I am trying to plan a Polocrosse Scrimmage for the local Pony Club that I coach. I don’t really talk about Polocrosse much because I’m not as active in the sport as I once was. My sister and I were actually very competitive in the Intermediate Pony Division a few years back – earning rights to compete at the National Level, as well as my sister’s horse winning best horse at several tournaments. For those of you that don’t know – Polocrosse is:
A team sport that is played all over the world. It is a combination of polo and lacrosse. It is played outside, on a field (the pitch), on horseback. Each rider uses a cane stick to which is attached a racquet head with a loose, thread net, in which the ball is carried. The ball is made of sponge rubber and is approximately 4 inches across. The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball between your goal posts.
I used to compete with Chincoteague Minnow in the #1 position – which is essentially the scorer, and my sister played as the #3 which is the defender. We then would have a #2 player which acted as a mid-fielder. Most of the time we played under the team name The Flying Cadets. Minnow unfortunately was not extremely fond of Polocrosse. I think because he is so short he didn’t like having to get close to all the other horses that towered over him. Frequently he tried to run off of the field with me – and he actually succeeded once, dumping me to the ground near the sidelines. I ended up bracing my fall with my left arm – which resulted in several weeks of physical therapy and an elbow that still isn’t quite right. But despite Minnow’s protests to Polocrosse, he was actually a very good #1 because he was fast (even with his shrimpy legs) and he could spin rather quickly to get away from the defenders.
I am hoping to bring Boomer and Blitz along so that they can both play Polocrosse in the future. Both ponies have been exposed to the rackets and seem to do quite well, and hopefully sunday I will referee off of Boomer. We’d have an all family team then – me, my mom and my sister – The Flying Cadets shall return again!
So since I strained by shoulders and neck I can’t really ride – big bummer! So yesterday I decided to get out my trick stuff and work with the boys. Boomer was first up and I started working on “fetch” with him. Didn’t take him long to figure out what I wanted – he just needs more practice to get his response faster.
Next I worked with Minnow and his tuff ball. I am still in awe when I see him with it because when I think back to 3 years ago Minnow would have NEVER let me near him with that ball. Now I have it balancing on his back and I can even throw it at him without any negative reactions from him. (btw sorry for the crude filming – I need to figure out a new system to film myself).
As I worked with both Boomer and Minnow, Blitz was close by observing. Blitz has a lot of fear issues (especially with the ball right now). And I really think it has to do with trust as well. He doesn’t trust my mom (his sole rider right now) and me (his trick trainer) to keep him safe. Up until this point in his life I don’t think he’s built a relationship with any one human. Yes I think he knows humans will take care of him, and they are a source of food, and we’re not scary. But I don’t think he’s ever had that one person where he knows “hey thats my person there” and they take care of me and keep me safe and I like spending time with them. Minnow was the same way when he came to live with me. By that point (after coming from a neglectful situation) he had begun to learn that humans were ok – but he had still yet to build that trusting bond with someone. 6 years later and now Minnow and I can read eachother like a book. Minnow sees me coming and he lights up, he’s ready to learn, and he wants any and everything to do with me – its such a great feeling. Boomer I think has had that relationship with someone before, and he’s been quicker to warm up to me. I don’t think he’s quite there like Minnow is, but he’s much further along than Blitz. Blitz will get there someday – but its just going to take him a little longer. He did make a little progress yesterday as he went up and touched the ball – but as soon as the wind would blow it into his leg he’d take a giant leap back. It was interesting to see that he was ok with touching it when it was his decision to do so, but as soon as the ball (or wind) took control and decided to touch him – he was definitely not ok with it. He’s for sure going to be a pony that needs to be allowed to make decisions on his own time, instead of being rushed into something by his handler/rider. Its going to be tough for my mom, because she tends to want results “right away” (don’t we all), but I’ve been slowly teaching her how to take a step back and wait.
My mom and I have very different personalities when it comes to working with the horses. I’m very quiet, slow and methodical when it comes to teaching a horse. I would wait all day if I had to just to get my horse to take one step forward. My mom on the other hand is having a hard time breaking her “show them whos boss” methods she learned as a youth. And the energy she gives off is hurry up and do the task I have things to do I can’t wait all day for you to take a step. I’m trying to help her get rid of this energy – and she’s improving – but its hard to break old habits. My next task will be converting my little sister too….who only knows one speed and its fast all the time and she has absolutely no patience what so ever. She’s definitely going to be a challenge! Maybe I should get into the people training business not the horse training business haha.
So my hulk muscles have come with a price it seems. While stretching my aching muscles yesterday (yes just stretching) I seem to have pulled or torn a muscle in my shoulders/back. Oh it was horrible, I felt like someone had stabbed me. I somehow managed to get myself and the dogs to work (while hobbling down the street to my store very hunched over). I spent pretty much the entire day sitting at my desk in agonizing pain. When it was finally time to leave I went straight home and slept until my husband was very kindly able to give me a very long massage, which actually helped some. I am definitely much better today (I can atleast stand up straight) but I still can’t turn my head without agonizing pain. I guess it was bound to happen with all the heavy (man) lifting I have been doing lately – but stretching? What am I 50 years old? Hardly, atleast not yet…..this should not be happening to me at 25.
But anyway, my sore muscles got me thinking about my ponies sore muscles – which I’m sure they have. So I searched youtube and came across a video that goes into a pretty good short description of message techniques that you can use on your own horse at home. Maybe I can talk someone into using these techniques on me later tonight.
Its official – all 3 Chincoteague’s are now moved into my parent’s new farm, Iron Horse Farm. (not to mention their 4 other horsey friends).
Saturday actually started off with a mounted games competition, in which Boomer and Blitz competed in the training division at a local show. We had a few little episodes – Boomer began rearing when the music got turned up – and both ponies thought it was such a blast to be competing again that they wanted to buck all the way to the finish line. Boomer eventually settled (as I clicked and rewarded him when he didn’t buck all the way home) but Blitz had some anxiety. As the day went on he got more and more agitated with my mom – and we knew it was time to take a step back with him. I think part of his anxiety stemmed from the fact that my mom had been riding him in the hackamore for the last few months and for the competition she decided to put him back in his snaffle bit. I could tell he was not very thrilled to have a bit in his mouth again – so I have since convinced my mom to try the bitless bridle I have been using (and its great I might add!). Below are two videos from the competition.
So after the competition we drove the boys over to their new home – and then went back to pick up Minnow. It was such a uneventful move, which I knew it would be, the boys seemed perfectly happy at their new home. I think they all really enjoy their big dutch doors that have a view of the neighboring vineyard. Its such a peaceful and happy place.
On Sunday we brought over the rest of the horses, which included my Dressage horse, Nitro and my sister’s gaming pony Jet as well as 2 borders. Nitro notoriously has trouble adapting to moves (as he sees himself as “herd leader” and takes on the burden on making sure the other horses are safe). And after having his 23rd Birthday on Saturday I think he’s actually starting to grow up a little. He was surprisingly calm (aside from his ear piercing whinny’s everytime he hears a sound in the barn – I’m hoping this will pass). I think Iron Horse Farm just has such a relaxing atmosphere that it instantly calmed all of the horses.
Later on Sunday I decided to show Minnow the new Tuff Ball I had bought for my horses. He instantly took to it, and I can’t wait to put the ball in the ring with all 3 of my ponies. I think they will have such a blast playing with it! I could watch the video I took of Minnow playing with his ball over and over again – I just love seeing him enjoy it. It makes me smile to think of how far he’s come. 2 years ago I would never of dreamed of showing Minnow this ball. It would of sent him running for the hills! Now he’s perfectly at peace as he plays with the ball and my dogs run around him like crazed animals wrestling on the ground. I love my little Minnow.
Anyway so that was my very eventful weekend. I’m now recovering from a pulled shoulder muscle and a bout of poison ivy – but I’m happy that my horses are happy at their new home!
So lately I have become obsessed with learning more and more about training horses and the different techniques that are out there. Honestly I like to use a little bit of everything when I train my ponies, which is great because there seems to be thousands and thousands of horse training “groups” and methods to subscribe to. The ever-popular Natural Horsemanship method – which I’m sure all horse owners have heard of is defined by Wikipedia as:
The philosophy of working with horses by appealing to their instincts and herd mentality. It involves communication techniques derived from wild horse observation in order to build a partnership that closely resembles the relationships that exist between horses.
Lately I feel like there has become this cult of horse lovers out there that are convinced that there is only one way to do things – their own personal “natural horsemanship method”. Now I mean no disrespect by any of this, because if I had to peg myself as some sort of trainer I would have to say I was a natural horsemanship trainer as well. But I’ve noticed that the blogs, youtube vidoes, and horse groups have become flooded by comments from people who say things like “you’re being cruel to your animal”, “I don’t like the tone of voice you use to train your animal”, and the ever popular “the way you train your animal is all wrong”. And the interesting thing is these comments are being added to video’s and posts where I can detect no actual cruelty. For example I watched a video of a trainer working with an elephant in which he used a stern voice to tell the elephant to back up, turn around, and so on. There was no cruelty involved what-so-ever, no beating, no physical pain, the trainer simply had a stern tone in his voice. But this video is now getting comments like this is cruel – “I can’t believe someone would train an animal this way”. So I looked a little further and discovered that the trainer uses clicker training, and positive reinforcement methods to train the elephants – so maybe he did have a stern tone in his voice – he didn’t beat the animal did he? Sorry but this kind of stuff is just really getting my blood to boil, because shouldn’t we all be using our energy to chastise the real animal beaters?
(as a little side note I can’t stand when people give trainers flack for using the word “no” – its utterly ridiculous, that word no doesn’t do any harm but tell your animal that thats not the behavior you want. “No” doesn’t mean it comes entangled with a beating! Sorry just one of my pet peeves.)
I’m hearing the “positive reinforcement trainers” chastise the Parelli people, and so on and so on. Its just simply ridiculous because the way I see it, its all Natural Horsemanship (if you want to put a term to it). No one is beating their animal, maybe some sort of pressure is involved (for example asking your horse to move over by pressing on his flank), but is this animal cruelty? I think not!
I’m just tired of seeing everyone turn on eachother when we all have the same end goal – a positive training method that leaves our horses happy and willing to work with us. Anyway thats my rant for today – I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.