"Post from the Past"
July 13, 2008
I haven’t written in my horse journal in a LONG time. Primarily because I’ve been busy riding my horses! I’ve been riding Catlow a lot since her first trail ride. I never did take her to Katie’s place, but we seemed to be progressing fine without it. She is trusting me more and more every time we ride. She now rarely gets flustered while riding out alone (which is what we usually do). She flexes softly, she stands still and doesn’t raise her head when I move around her (this used to be one of her biggest issues, trusting me).
She accepts bridling calmly and actually drops her head for me and opens her mouth to take the bit. It has taken a while for her to trot calmly and with cadence on the trail, but we are getting there. I was previously leary about cantering on the trail because if it was toward home, she’d rush and attempt to go straight for home and put up a bit of resistance when I asked her to stop, but she’s over that now. We have been working on cantering on the trail and stopping when asked…we’ve also cantered circles in the field a couple of times and she’s doing well, but there is lots of room for improvement. She will even jump stuff unexpectedly while cantering (unexpected to me), I’ll almost fall off, and she’ll keep cantering as though nothing happened while I clamber back into position…it doesn’t freak her out! She did have a panic moment and bucked me off once, but that has been a long time ago now and there were many factors that led to the buck (tractors on two sides of her, letting her walk off without making her wait after mounting, and immediately straightening the saddle which spooked her and caused her to panic). Once I'd fallen off, she skittered away and stood while I jumped up and walked calmly over to her (no running home!) I ride one-handed and she is almost neck-reining at this point. She moves very well off my leg with only the slightest pressure such that sometimes when I am riding her, I feel like we really are moving as one unit across the landscape…just the slightest touch will send her over to go around a certain bush and such.
She does still have some things we are working through. Primarily cantering more slowly, but I really can’t think of any other major issues that I feel really need to be worked on…oh, she does get nervous and jumpy when I blow my nose while on her back…I can do everything else, cough, sneeze, hiss, whistle, yell at the dogs, but the nose blow unnerves her. I think it is really close to the horse/deer alarm call and it also come from right behind her ears.
She is doing so well, that when my parents were here a few days ago, I put my dad up on Catlow and I took both my parents horseback riding into the canyon. My dad rode Catlow, my mom rode Cody (with me leading her), and I rode Chico. Todd considered coming along and riding Pepsi, but I was actually a little relieved that he decided not to because I was concerned that throwing a horse into the mix that they hadn’t spent any time with recently would put the horses on edge and throw off the comfortable ride with their little cohesive herd unit that I was hoping for. Todd asked me if he would rather I have my dad ride Pepsi instead of Catlow (guess he was doubting how good she’d be), but I really thought that Catlow was ready for another rider (experienced rider of course).
Basically, we saddled everyone up,
then I did a little lunging with each one, just to check attitudes, but I didn’t by any means wear them out. Just a few circles each at walk trot and canter.
watching Kara and chico warm up
warming up catlow
Then I explained Catlow’s buttons to my dad. Then I had him mount her and I led her around to get her used to his weight (he’s about 200lbs). She was a little uneasy when he first went to climb on (wanted to side-step away), but settled quickly with me at her head. Daddy said he could feel that she was tight when I was leading her, but he practiced her cues, then got off while I got my mom situated on Cody. My mom has only ever ridden a horse 3 times before this and once was when she was just a kid and the horse took off on her and she fell off and broke her arm. My dad’s grandpa used to buy and sell horses (many with problems), so my dad learned on them and he’s pretty good with horses. But he hadn’t really ridden in a LONG time (probably at least 12 years).
So, Daddy mounted back up (while I watched from atop Chico, kinda really surveying how she acted cuz I thought that would be the test of the situation).
She was awesome and off we went.
So far so good!
I can’t tell you how proud of her I was. She did so good for this being her first time with a new person (who is much heavier than me). My dad said he really liked her and thinks she’s going to be an outstanding horse, more so than Cody or Chico. He said that even though she didn’t know him, she did everything he asked, around bushes, stopped and waited while he took a picture…and he found out how sensitive she is when a couple of times he asked her to speed up a bit and she leapt into the trot. He said he could feel that she was tense at first, but after about 20 minutes into the ride she relaxed. This is heading down into the canyon.
Chico took advantage of the fact that I was busy leading Cody too and I could hardly get him to stop eating. I also discovered that if he and Catlow walk side-by-side, he wants to speed up and get in front of her. That was interesting. Once behind her, he was fine, but at her side I think he’s got a little bit of the competitive dominance thing going with her. Cody was good, but very busy trying to eat all the grass on the side of the trail, so both my mom and I had our hands full.
Mostly my mom let me lead, but she did try to steer her around stuff…my mom just doesn’t know enough about horses to get it quite right…and Cody knows enough about people that she knows when she can get away with stuff.
Here we are taking a break at the top of a very steep hill.
Daddy is doing good.
My Mom and I.
I was especially proud that Catlow would stop whenever my Dad asked and calmly wait while he took pictures. Here you can clearly see we got pretty far ahead of her.
My parents are so cute!
And on the way back.
So, it went great! I felt like this was the culmination of all the work I put into my horses, that I could take my parents with me on a ride into the canyon to show them how awesome the trails are around here and also show them this part of my life that is so important to me. I did of course lead my mom, but it was still great! It felt really good.
Chico’s cut has almost completely healed up…there is still just a bit of wound healing left (about ¼ inch wound, but all scabbed over and not open at all). I’ve really gotten into the barefoot trimming thing so I’ve been doing that with all my horses and they are all doing great, but Cody is still quite flat-footed and sensitive over gravel so her boots are a necessity for her.
Other than that, horse things are going well and I really enjoyed going back through and rereading my horse journal…after reading this I can see how far Catlow has really come. I can also see how I paid close attention to details when I began working with her. I think I need to continue to do that with her under saddle as I cue her to improve with cantering, steering, and stopping from a canter under saddle. Sometimes I forget to “train” and just trail ride because it is fun and relaxing, but I need to remember that if I want my horses to improve, I need to push myself beyond my comfort zone and trust my horses as I push them in their training.
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