Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ponying Griffin...and our first ride!

The Midwest Horse Fair is going on in Madison this weekend.  I had planned to go, but then decided that I'd rather spend the time with my own horses than watching other peoples horses.

Today Cody and I ponied Griffin on a long trail ride.  I hadn't gotten him out and saddled him up in almost a month and a half.  That month and a half ago, I had put the bridle on him, but not for that long.  He never quit mouthing the bit the whole time.

Today I saddled him up and put the bridle on again.  Once again, he mouthed the bit the whole time we were out on our ride. He would quit at times, especially when he was listening to the dogs crashing in the woods, or when I was giving him a treat for being such a good boy.  But then he'd start back up mouthing it again.  I think it will take him a while to get over that, as he is such a mouthy horse.  He likes to mouth things.
I tied the reins up with the leather strings from my saddle so that he would get used to the feel of them as we walked along.  We also trotted a few times.  He was keeping up pretty well toward the end, having sorted out where it was comfortable to walk without being pulled on constantly.   I think at first he was so distracted with the bit that he wasn't paying attention to Cody when she would pick up the pace. 

He was sweaty when we got back, and Cody wasn't.  He must be more out of shape than she is!  After I got Cody untacked, I worked a lot more on the ground with Griffin, showing him that he can flex to the bit, and reminding him how to step over with his hinds when I push his side with the stirrup.  Then I flapped the stirrups and started putting weight on the saddle.  He was pretty much planted to the ground by that time, so I stood up in the stirrups and leaned over the saddle from both sides.  I rubbed him a lot, and he was completely unconcerned.  Remember that he was mouthing the bit this whole time too.  He got pretty good as responding to the rein pull asking him to flex even while mouthing.

I was pretty happy with how he was responding, so I took him to the round pen, did the whole routine again, then just mounted up.  I continued to rub him on his neck, his sides, his rump, and asked him to flex back and forth.  When he got really good with that, I started asking him to step his hindquarters over with a leg cue and clucking.  He stepped right over!  So we did that several times, both directions, until I felt like it was pretty automatic for him and he was comfortable with it.  All this was over course intersperse with lots of scratches and a even his first treat from him back!  He was great!  Then I dismounted.  I still have some more groundwork that I'd like him to be solid with before I really ride him around the round pen, but this was a great start.  I definitely feel less confident about starting Griffin, even though I know he has a good mind and is doing well.  It's just that I haven't been able to work with him as consistently as I'd like, and because of that, there are definitely some things I haven't gotten to, like I did with the other two mustangs.  Basically, I like to do all kinds of things that desensitize them to everything they might encounter with me, but more importantly I like to show myself that they really will react well with any thing I do with them.  Some things I do are ground driving, tying full 2-liter soda bottles to the saddle to simulate flopping legs, moving with the breeching (or even a loaded pack saddle).  I like them to know their gaits with word cues, but we haven't quite got there yet with Griffin.  I know not all this is absolutely necessary for a successful start, but it is necessary to give me the confidence that everything will go smoothly, even if something goes wrong...if they know all the basics really well, even in a big spook or something else, they will fall back on the training they've had rather than panic and buck me off!  That's my hope anyway, and it's worked really well for the previous two mustangs.

And the picture below is Griffin's "after" the ride picture.  I had my husband watching while I did all this in the round pen just in case something went bad, but he didn't want to get off his lawn mower to take any pictures for me.  Maybe tomorrow!

Griffin was so happy to get the bit off.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring, back to normal

I've been pretty successful at not getting too far behind on trimming my horses now.  It feels good.  Right now, Kachina is due, but if I get even a week behind, she's not really going too long since I'm keeping on a 6 week schedule right now.  I haven't taken any recent pictures of the horses.  Our spring has been interesting.  After coming so early and really getting jumpstarted with our high 70 degree weather in mid March, it has totally slowed down.  The weather went back to a much more seasonal temperature, with some cool days and even frosts at night thrown in.  All completely normal.  The trees that were on the verge of leafing out just hung there for the last several weeks.  For 3 weeks now, I keep coming home expecting to see the new daffodils I planted under our business's sign to be flowering, but they haven't yet!  For that whole 3 weeks, they've been up with buds on, but they are taking their time.  I think they might have at least one flower tomorrow finally.

I've been trying to have "balance" which means riding horse once in a while, but once again, that has been extremely difficult.  This has been an extremely busy semester at school with exam after exam and many on Mondays and Tuesdays (which means I'm studying on weekends).  All this means that I haven't done anything with Griffin in over a month (aside from trims).  I rode Cody 2 weeks ago on a wonderful ride and I rode Chico today.  My ride with Chico was really nice, but I did get bucked off!  It was pretty warm today (65) and he's fat and out of shape.  He got sick of cantering (really we hadn't been cantering that much, since I didn't want to work him too hard), and the rascal decided he'd had enough and bucked me off.  It wasn't terribly hard bucking, but I cannot ride a bucking horse, so I came right off, landing on my feet then falling onto my butt.  I had a tight hold on the reins, determined not to let him get loose from me and run home.  I was successful, but I got rope burn for it.  I was so glad I'd ridden with my halter and lead rope, because I was able to immediately get to working him HARD on the ground.  He was huffing and puffing.  I got back on and we went right back over the spot where he'd bucked cantering again.  He didn't try anything this time.  I continued on asking him to trot and or canter, then stop immediately to a whoa and one-rein stop, just to remind him that I can stop him whenever I want.  Then we cantered circles in the field before I dropped the reins on his neck and relaxed and we walked home.  He was pooped after that.  Really, aside from the buck, he was a good boy.  His canter circles were really quite nice.  That was only the third time he's bucked me off, EVER and he's never once gotten away from me and been able to run home.  I don't think he has an issue with bucking, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't see it as a solution to solving what he doesn't like about what we are doing.  So I'm not worried about it.  But I was sure MAD when he tried it today!

So, no recent horse pictures, but here are a bunch from around our farm and house.  Enjoy!

One of our newest calves was born to this brand-new momma.  She's a pretty good momma.

I think this calf is so cute...but I think all the newborn calves are cute.  I think I like her white blaze.

My tulips are up and the phlox is flowering.  I love spring.

Kitty sees something in the grass.  What could it be?

Our first toad of the year!  My little helper wanted to pick it up, but it kept jumping away.  At first she got frustrated, but then she started laughing and squealing when his jumping startled her.