Tuesday, June 25, 2019

It Had Been Nearly 90 Days Since My Last Confession.

Holy hannah.... it has been just shy of 90 days since I last posted.

It is amazing how life gets in the way and time just flies on by without much realizing.
I so wish there was some type of app for the iphone, lately all I do is instragram because its quick, easy and only a couple clicks.


Where I am now....

Belle is now just barely backed. I now get on once a week for 10 minutes or so and depending on her mental state, either walk around the indoor, outdoor or around the property to see all the scary things that eat horses (of course :P).

I have trotted her a few times now, half a lap seems to be the best we can do but for a 2.5 year old she doesn't need to do more until she is ready.
At the moment I feel like I am driving in a car with someone who can't drive stick, the jerks and random stalls etc. Makes for a real smooth ride to post.... Not. However, sitting her trot is lovely. Thanks to the spanish blood I assume.

It is funny though, her movement is quite large, especially her walk so I often get this feeling she is about to take off and start a buck fest even though she isn't, I am just used to lazy typed horses.

She is in a way a more forward, less confident version of Solo who was also very sensitive to start, combined with her growing size, she is all legs and lack of balance.

Personality wise, she lacks confidence which she makes up for being bold and a little energetic though a total saint for her age. She genuinely wants to please and learn.

The 90 Day Journey....

I really took my time to introduce Belle to tack, lunging, ground work, getting on etc. 

I knew within the first few sessions she had quick, agile reactions and a mare-tude. All of which is fine with me, I have the time and she doesn't need to be in real baby work until next year.

I wanted to get her slightly backed before she grew, in both senses of the word, in size and mentally.

Some youngsters do best left alone and brought along later and some do best without major change. Introducing the tack and a rider a bit earlier so its not drastic and mind boggling. Belle being the later type.

We have been doing a lot of ground work, emphasis on respecting space, it seems to be a mare thing to get all up in your face I find. Also, ground poles, raised and not, learning to pick up feet and building balance and strength slowly.

I recently discovered in hand dressage and educated myself deeper on Parelli practices which is a ton of fun!

It took about 3 weeks of stepping into the stirrup and back down etc before I swung a leg over and sat on her for a few minutes, lots of pats an praise. At the age of 30, despite having done it times before, starting youngsters looks a bit hairier than it used to. We got it done though.

What Now...

For the next forseeable months ahead I plan to keep gently progressing. We have gone through the last week as a bit of a hot tottee so manners are being revisited.

I plan to work with in three sort sessions a week. A day of plain old ground work with the rope halter, respecting space, moving from pressure and hand walks down the road and around the scary things on property. Then a day of my own version of long lining, which I will explain another day and finally a day of gymnastic lunging, ie. trot poles and raised walking poles for 10 minutes or so combined with 5-10 minutes of walk and depending on mental state a bit of trot.

Athletically, I don't need to work on it, she is a natural, but mentally she is a bit behind in maturity I think so slow and steady lends a good solid horse in the long run.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Week In The Life Of D.R.E ; Tack Progress.

Wow, it is hard to believe it has only been just over a week since I introduced the saddle to Belle.

I was a bit apprehensive after seeing how she reacted to girthing up of the surcingle (I don't have any cheap tack to experiment with). I mean she didn't do anything bonkers but she is sensitive and backed up, trying to nip every time I would apply pressure ... she wasn't getting away with it so I went with her, held it until she relaxed and I would then release.
We did this for a couple weeks before I had the inkling that it might not be the pressure of the 'girth' but rather over stimulation.
The horses would be running around hollering outside, snow sliding off the roof, wind flapping at the arena etc.
So I opted to tack up in the barn, while still using my method of standing on the step stool while grooming, leaning over her back and grooming the other side. The combination seemed to get her used to things on her back, while getting nice scritches.

After getting confident with this I grabbed my new dressage saddle (girth easier to do up with one hand) and proceeded. Belle was a totally cool character.

We worked stirrupless a few days before adding the stirrups to dangle at her side's, just going about our in hand work, including a day where we went outside. Silly baby even tried a buck being so excited to be in a new spot.

Off topic - though I feel the need to address it. Different strokes for all folks aside but I don't let my horses buck on the lunge. I want them to know what is acceptable when working with me right off the bat, which translates well under saddle I feel.
Mind you they don't get into trouble but I do apply pressure, much like a more dominant horse in the herd until they behave and I go about my normal business, pressure off. Ie. You buck, I approach you with assertive body language and a good ole' growly 'GEETT'. The babies learn super quickly since they are really sensitive to herd structure and finding their place at this age.

"Ima goooood girl, what chu telling those people"

Anyhow, tangent aside she thought to try it again, got the GEETT and didn't try again since.

The last 10 days have been focused on just short in hand sessions with a good grooming, reinforcing good habits and what life will look like.

I did toss her on the lunge line once, hoping my 'moving the feet' exercise would translate, which it did fabulously. Asked her for a minute or two of trot, (gosh is she ever a big mover when she's balanced). I even asked once for a canter, it was very uphill for the few steps she got. I didn't push it yet, I am a big believer of taking it gradual and not drilling but allowing her joints and brain to build up to be able to sustain the pressures.

"I cannot turn and trot.."

I also started introducing pressure from the stirrups, mimicking in saddle pressure. Moving the haunches this way and that, flapping the stirrups, jumping beside her up and down from the stool, even leaning on her and patting her all over. This filly just does not care and just looks at me like "cookie time now..." with a dose of "wat chu doin' up there Willice".

It might seem like we don't get a lot done in the 20 minute groom and the 15 minute sessions but I am noticing a total change in her trust and confidence. She is still a baby, totally in my face and can't stand still for long but this is the progress I LOVE.

I cannot wait to ride this creature.
While I still get the willies every time I push the envelope a little bit, like leaning over her or hand walking on the trails away from barn safety with a massive baby who power walks like 'a hooker on the prowl' (lmao Lianne), the most important thing when working with these babies, swallow your nerves and exude confidence for these youngsters are watching you for confirmation that everything is safe and okay.

"Alright.... I guess this is alright, right?"

Friday, March 22, 2019


Speaking of plans?

Well, I may have manifested that the universe soil my plans for horse time yesterday via my last post.

Look Ma, I'm a big girl now.

I brought out my close contact saddle, peeled off the stirrups and leathers and brought a dozen different girths because you never know what size baby horse will be.
I knew there was a reason I hoarded tack...

Upon arrival the arena already had two riders so I grabbed my pseudo second horse Thunder, my tried and true guy, and opted for a groom and quick ride. Groaning slightly after seeing the three blankets I had to unbuckle. This guy's mom likes to layer. 
I swear I felt like a little kid listening to the bouncing merry go round music, hastily unwrapping each layer in hopes to find the layer with the prize before the music stopped.

Thunder was crazy clean thanks to layering, and being a late shedder it makes for a quick groom. 

We tacked up and went for a basic w/t/c, landing some killer leg yeilds and getting there shoulder in's.

Thunder - 'Noms!'

The arena slowly grew to five so I called it a day and after grooming Thunder and layering back up, I headed out to grab Belle.

Plans thwarted by the lessoners that tend to ride for hours, I thought 'well, let's make this work for us'.

Surprisingly I came up with some great exercises that can be done in the barn isle!

I have been stressing a bit about how Belle will be to back in the next few months and I want to do as much as I can to prepare her now. (She is A HECK of a lot more sensitive that the other horses I have started in the past)

I got to brainstorming... What spooks baby horses when backing?

- Tiny human's becoming very tall due to mounting block, now very scary!

- Where did human go? Why does my back feel weighty?

Ah- hah! I will grab a stool and groom on each stair and THEN I will gently drape myself across her back while standing on the stool and groom her opposite side, scritching all over for optimal baby horse happiness.

This actually worked famously. Belle was a totally cool cat and it made my confidence rise as well. Definitely something I am working into the repetoire.

We then moved on to setting the saddle on her back a few times, flapping the flaps, general noise making, skipping the girth because she had already been in the barn awhile and all the commotion going on is enough for baby brains.

Lastly, I tossed in bit/bridle in my hand on top of her end of session snacks, making it necessary to mouth the bit in order to get the yummies. 

Anytime I can make these introductions as stressless as possible is a win for me! 
Not to mention, anytime I can teach the big babies that head stays down for bridling is a MAJOR win!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Spring Fever; Nerves of Steel?

You think she is calm now ya?....

Ahh... so spring has decided to take a peak around the corner, and boy have the horses ever caught a glimpse!

While I am still getting to know Belle, I feel like I am starting to figure her out. She really isn't spooky per say though she is a bit nervy, mainly stemming from lack of confidence. Totally normal for a baby and something I did go through with Solo. Yet he worked hard to shove his nervous nature into the deepest and darkest of places. When it did rear it's ugly head, it came unexpected and explosive.

Belle atleast, you know from the get-go where her head is at and she is pretty transparent.

Me - sitting on baby horse, perched, ready to book it!

Working with baby horses can be tough. Especially for me, with my Type A personality. I educate beyond educate myself, observing many different strategies and taking away what I like and combining it with my own ways of doing things. I need to understand the why it works/doesn't, how the horses mind perceives it etc, I won't go on because anyone who knows me, knows this.

Essentially what I am saying is that I plan every ride/training session/experience with my horses.

Me - 'Structure is key. Have to maintain structure. Must follow steps. Do NOT divert..... '

Belle - 'Baby hauses don't follow steps, we hyper, we play, we crazay! WEEEE.... Wait... Did you hear that!? I think you did..... What is it? Do we flee?'

Yeap, I have learned to accept this from the babes, plans fly out the window and you work with the horse you have for the day and improve it.

Monday this was us. It was warmer... a bit windy and all the horses felt spring in their steps.

I had planned on more work with the surcingle, after checking flag response along with noises and a few minutes of 'moving the feet' exercise, which to me feels like a mix of slightly lunging and slightly long reining. Lots of direction changes while I walk along at a 45* angle from the haunches, far enough that she has her own space to be confident and close enough that I can reach in and influence with my whip as an extension of my hand.

Belle, meanwhile, was merely trying to contain the willies.

HOLY BALLS.... do you see that!

We sucessfully reined them in while in the cross ties and grooming.

Moving on, I had some gear placed in the middle of the arena, easy to grab when I need it, Belle thought this was terrifying, despite seeing it ... like everyday and wearing it without issue.

I let her gawk, laughed and snapped some blurry pics. Moved on to moving the feet.

Belle hollered and side eyed everything but obliged to my request to keep moving forward and swapping directions every 10 seconds or so. Keeping the mind busy.

I really didn't think we would get anything accomplished until I just said to myself  'okay miss, I am not asking anything more than usual, baby horses are treated the same as big horses... just in short doses'

So, after getting her mind back onto me, I placed the saddle pad, let it fall a few times, behind her back legs and at her sides, prep for future, then placed the surcingle on.
My plan here is to use the pressure from the girth.
I am recently all about pressure in every form, all over her body. When she relaxes, so does the pressure.

We have used the surcingle, maybe 5-6 times now for a few minutes, even advanced to getting it on in the cross ties without batting an eye. Today, she couldn't quite handle the pressure of her own nerves along with pressure on the body. 

(One fun fact I have learned is that mares tend to be overly sensitive to pressure at the heart girth - just a note for those working with fillies)

Belle, backed up slowly, I let her. Held the billets with pressure, released when she calmly halted and I led her back to where I wanted her.

Oh it's okay now...

On we continued for a few minutes.
She even attempted to nip at me once, though I doubt she will ever try it again, THIS mare also bites back! Hey, they have to try it to learn right...

Eventually she held herself together, I pressured/released the billets a few times before calling it a day with lots of pats and scritches.


As I walked her back to her paddock, I laughed and thought, I really got nothing done but that was ... I think .... more fun....

Did I get anything accomplished? *ho hum- :(*

Yeah I did! I created pressure enough to push her boundaries a bit and say , nuh-uh listen here miss, she eventually gave in. Success! She has to learn what is and isn't acceptable. She is a baby, testing, and I came out the leader.

Success with baby horses are small battles won, the rewards are so instant and minute that sometimes you don't realize you accomplished anything. These baby horses teach us to appreciate even the smallest efforts!



Friday, March 15, 2019

Shopping Bags; Part One - Bates Caprilli Dressage Saddle.

I have been fighting this nagging voice in my head telling me I am at heart a Dressage Student not a hunter jumper for several years now.

My real passion falls in planning my ride for the day, week etc, how I am going to get there, why I do what I do (as a rider influencing the horse), and finally how my horse reacts and feels.
From there I devise and orchestrate my plan and how I ride.

Am I conventional in my approach to traditional dressage? No.

Though am I conventional as a horse woman? Yes, in every way.

What makes sense and is the least stressful on the horse is the path I follow. I know where I want to be, the horse simply obliges to those ‘weird’  requests, it is easier for us to adapt to them. As every student learns differently, we must listen in order to successfully teach.

All in all I admit, I Kaila, am a dressage rider who occasionally jumps sticks for kicks.

Ever since selling my classic old Kieffer saddle, I regret not having it. It was so much easier to relax my pelvis and allow my hips to open and follow rather than the resistance I feel as I fight the forward position my close contact saddle places me in. Great for fences, bad for proper form.

I made it work taking all those dressage lessons in a close contact, because we all know, the saddle does not make a good rider, until now when I ceased my window shopping bit the bullet after a glass or two of wine one Friday evening and sent the money to buy a Bates Caprilli Dressage Saddle.

Why Bates?

Well, my current saddle is a Bates and no matter the fance of other saddles I have tried, from CWD’s, Passier’s to Custom saddles, nothing compares for comfort, durability and stability I feel in the tack.

Not forgetting to mention the ease of the gullet change system. While you argue it may not be a perfect fit, it does however give you the most generous toolbox possible when attempting to mirror the developing young horse.

The CAIR you say?

Yes. It has it’s cons but really as long as you have a good seat as a rider, the air filled panels will mould to your horses back. Is it more bouncy? Maybe a bit, yet if I think about it, I would rather have a lofty bouncy ball on my back that conforms to pressure than a rigid, unyielding slab.
Just my thoughts, I respect all opinions.

The process of getting this baby wasn’t easy, ugh, I could almost say the universe was screaming ‘don’t do it’ yet I persevered and now I think it was simply the universe teaching me to appreciate it when I have it in my hands. Because I mean as far as looks, this saddle is pretty basic.

I scored a great deal. Someone having moved form the USA leaving their horse behind and never having bought another. The sweet lady tossed in Prestige leathers, flexi stirrups, two gorths, a new set of white polos and an extra gullet.
Unboxing, The leather was dry and chalky but cleaned up to a lovely matte and unporous look after from well earned TLC. I swear this saddle was used twice...

I have yet to ride in this puppy, it may be some time yet, though I cannot help myself from propping it up on the saddle stand and sitting in it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Week One and a Half : Spacial Awareness.

Cross tying like a boss.... countdown to
movement.... 5..4...3

Our first week complete and Bellerose is coming along quite nicely. It feels like she has been around for over a month, not just a week!

Part of my starting process is a load of ground work. Short doses built for lasting positive  impression.
And I mean a load of ground work. If you hate all things ground work you will likely not be interested in my posts for awhile, sorry y’all I’ll try to keep things interesting with some purchase reviews for my recent shopping spree. Whoops...

My initial eval of my horses is always temperament and reaction response. Emphasis on reaction response because this is what can cause the biggest issues and injuries if you’re not prepared.

Temperament wise: Belle is so sweet, a little too in your pocket resulting in slight pushy attitude, sensitive, a thinker and accommodating.

Reaction Response: Belle is not overly spooky but she stops and thinks and has one heck of a spin. She can sit on those haunches like no one’s business, thanks Spanish breeding, spinning away from scary things then stopping and giving it the eye. Luckily very little bolt, or worse kick or rear.

I tend to have a list of buttons I push checking how the horses move away from pressure, establishing I am boss mare followed by enforcing foreword movement, always no question.

‘Ohh... edibles?”

Sometimes I push a bit harder just to see what the reaction is. I  want to know before I’m up there.

Once I know where we are, where we need to be and how it can escalate I develop a plan.

So far this plan consists of quite a bit of spacial awareness exercises including standing still when asked. #marebabies 😒
For instance yielding the haunches with inside bend and inside hind stepping in front of outside hind (important aspect, otherwise they are not actually accepting the pressure), yielding shoulder again inside bend and inside front stepping behind outside front, moving out from pressure (like lunging but I walk along with her driving her forward keeping her on a 10-12ft length and I’m at a 45 degree angle to her haunches - I like this the best out of all. Also toss in a few steps of trot as we go, always using arena to avoid strain), “opening the gate” (where you park the horse between you and the wall - ask the horse to go through the ‘gate’ while you stand still. Etc etc. So many!

Along with ‘sacking our exercises’ with plastic bags, whips spanking the ground or swirling in the air, saddle pads, cones, jumping up and down, leaning on her side, poles etc etc. Anything and everything I do it, mind you never drilling only enough to get a relaxation response, I accept small progressive efforts of licking, chewing, head dropping or a relaxing of the haunches, remove pressure by stopping and turning away with praise. I typically check response once more on the same side before moving into next eye and again never drilling.

While my days are short, 15 minutes of grooming and between 10-25 minutes of ground work - always finishing on a good note, they are very productive. Most of my barnmates also questioning my sanity as they see me leaping around like a fool, snorting like a horse to mimic a relation response of another herd member, or shouting my praise in soprano like fashion. But hey that’s baby horse life!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Coming Home.

“I come hang out there with you? It is scary in here...”

Belle is beginning to settle in after a few days out in the herd now. I was originally thinking based on previous herd match ups she was roughly middle of the pecking order. It was immediately pretty evident she is actually pretty darn low, if not the lowest out right now.

Despite the icey conditions in our area right now we got pretty lucky at my BO and the conditions were decent enough for turnout.

Based on that we opted to separate some of the herd and start the introductions.
As soon as we turned her out the two weather twins, Storm and Thunder teamed up in near tandem fashion and herded her about, not meanly but ‘were the bosses out here miss’. Belle was happy to get the heck out of their way and attempted to do her fancy Spanish horse moves, in hopes to woo them over I am sure, ha.

The twins kept their game on but also let the mini gelding in on the action.
Belle’s initial reaction was sheer terror at the tiny moving fluff ball attempting to double barrel her but not quite tall enough to meet anything but air. Not to mention his old man muscles don’t run at full speed anymore. It was really quite hilarious.

After observing the herd for a couple hours I thought it about time to head home and resume some of my weekend chores. Just as I was about to pull out of the driveway I see a blur of black at the corner of my eye. Mmm that should not be there....

The twins must have put the run on her and caught her in a corner and Belle decided to gazelle the five foot fence with a grace you wouldn’t expect from a stand still and with ice under the snow.
Naughty pony.

I was able to catch her easily for the most part. Luckily she has been well handled and despite being a two year old she is respectful for her age.

The day after BO opted to stick out Granny, a 23 year old brood mare who loves her babies and doesn’t take a lick from the other horses. The two of them bonded up near instantly, Belle now having a bodyguard who happily throws her body between any oncomers. Adorable.

Thus far, I have started pre school with some respect exercises using my dressage whip to lengthen my arm and a 10ft lead rope.
In the cross ties, Belle is super relaxed. In the arena, it seems she expects it is time to run around and show off her movement for potential buyers and gets a bit up and nervy.

While she did attempt a few dominating tricks like raising her head above mine and moving into my space or not moving away from pressure, rather into it, she only took a few minutes to understand ‘oh maybe this human actually means business. She’s scary’.

I think back and compare her to Solo and Paloma before, trying to recall how they were. While they were a bit older they had the same reactions, Solo more panicked and Pal very bullheaded and dominant.
Belle sums up to about normal for babies. Especially with the attention span of a gnat when she catches a glimpse of the door.

I also started sending her away from me, it took  a good amount of pressure at first. At one point I thought she might have a mini meltdown but that’s good. I want to see what she does when very pressured. Does she blow up? Kick out? Rear etc. Instead she did a little quarter spin and proceeded out the area of least resistance, good girl, immediately I released the pressure, gave her a pat and tried again.

As I start to get to know her, I am getting a good feeling that while she is lacks confidence now, she will be a mellow mannered adult.

Welcome home Belle!