Hamish, on schedule, went cross-country schooling today at Carousel. He was pretty good. I really enjoy his wonderful attitude. Drawbacks were his fitness level, but the huffing and puffing might have been due to a really REALLY damp warm atmosphere up there. While it wasn’t really hot, it was very humid. He pooped out towards the end of the school, but there are some pretty hefty hills there, too, and as Lea says, “we’re in Pancake City” down here and it’s hard to condition on flat land. He jumped everything really cute! The only thing he looked at was a log on the uphill but he wiggled, but went first ask. I think I need to jump more from the gallop and good forward canter to help him get powered up over the bigger fences. I jumped a mix of BN, N and a few T fences up there, but the T’s were a bit big for Hamish today, I know he really worked hard! It was fun to go with Lea, who has been an eventing friend a long time! We were quite by ourselves, there were no other horses. We both feel that Carousel is a great facility but so under-used by the horse community. How sad, they could do so much more with it.
“Whoa. Stand still, Hamish. Let me get the picture for your Mommy Susan.”
This weekend we really worked on trying to make the horses happy in the drill of flat work. Both of the going horses have inconsistency problems and actually both sort of don’t like dressage, especially away from other horses out in the front of the house all alone. (Gee, ya think?)
I worked both of them this weekend on just being consistently in front of the leg on the 30 meter circle, and on canter transitions up and down from the trot. I did practice Lucky on the BN dressage test and he was pretty good. His first “canter” dressage test! Hamish got a little different bit for jumping and I like it; he is steering better and not laying on the bridle so much when galloping. He is in the original soft Aurigan french snaffle for dressage (although pictured here in the jumping bridle.)
Do you ever wash your hair right before riding a cross country school (sweat), then get it wet YET AGAIN when it is pouring down rain when you get home? Three times my hair has been soaked today. I think it is going to get moldy…
Tonight is cooking and baking night (Sunday always I get some food ready for the week as I never have time during a work day to do it.) Got cupcakes baked, chili and jello made yesterday, lasagna and corn pudding later tonight and I’ll probably do something else before bed time. Laundry, clean up kitchen, to bed, wake up, feed/turnout/clean horses, then slavery/work, and the treadmill cranks up for the week. Stay positive! Keep going! Try, try, try! You gotta get up and try, try, try….
I am kind of a weather junkie. I watch the weather in the morning. I check it before I go to bed, to see what I need to prepare for the next day. And I check it on my phone probably more than a couple times as I work and manage my farm. That’s because temperature, and rain, or sun, or wind, or anything else that the skies drop on me makes my life either good, bad, or causes me to PLAN. I see now why people want to retire. They have all day to do stuff I cram in four or five hours, broken in between 8 to 10 hours of work. Some days you just have to give up and work with what ever temperature or weather you get. I do that to a point — last week with the 96 degree temperatures (that felt like 112 with the dewpoint) I threw in the towel. This week I am slowly getting back into it by riding just one morning and night. My allergies have returned with all the mowing, too. So while I suffer, the light is going the other way — now the sun is going down a bit earlier each night, and soon,, time is going to be a squeeze with racing daylight to keep the horses worked.
The squat, dark Spanish-speaking barn worker, pushing a big wheelbarrow full of manure, stopped and looked at our buckskin gelding standing innocently enough in the cavern of a stall. “He dig beeeeeg hole,” he said in broken English. Sure enough, he looked about two hands smaller standing in the stall as we looked in at him from the busy aisleway. I don’t remember the name of the horse now, it was my sisters’ buckskin western pleasure horse, and he was sent to be trained by Steve Wolfe , as he began his career as a top trainer in Western divisions. The barn was a small, old place near Bridle Trails State Park, and as far as I know it’s still there. The stalls were built on the backside of the arena with nothing but woods all around and a freeway to the west and the street across from the park on the east. The barn was full to the gills; even back then when Steve was just starting, he had a long list of clients who wanted horses to be trained. The gelding was obviously bored and unhappy standing in the stall all day long, then being worked for an hour a day. The other 23 hours he filled his time as best he could in the dark and boring stall — digging. First one corner, then another. The dirt and shavings mixed together, so the stall cleaners took it ALL out every day, as they had been told to take out all the dark bedding. So he was standing on practically nothing but dirt.
My sister had saved her money and placed him in training to get a jump start on the horse show season; the gelding was just a three or four year old as I recall and had basically not really been out doing much other than a few halter shows as a yearling. He had been in our fields at home with some other horses, hanging out, going in and out of a shed as he pleased. He had a field with lots to see and do each day. We really didn’t think about what he was thinking, or feeling, at the time, but we knew the digging was bad.
After a month, he came home. He was definitely broke better, and easier to ride, and well on his way to a good performance career, but he developed a lifelong digging habit, and if left alone in a stall would basically begin construction. A shod horse can do a lot of damage in only a few minutes to a dirt stall floor. How well we had that fact learned. As soon as rubber mats began to be available for stall floors we purchased two of them for him and they went with him to shows and at home, too. I don’t remember all of the things we did to break him of the pawing habit, but it was certainly annoying.
I think horses do learn to stand quietly and live comfortably in stalls. My ex-racehorses seem to know how to get along with themselves in a small box stall, mostly because they are raised in them, and their early training involves being in stalls nearly full time. Right at the most impressionable time of their lives, they are introduced to box stalls, and I think they learn to be secure in them. Many other types of horses, however, have to learn as mature horses how to stand in them, and depending upon how an owner has their barn set up, horses can learn bad habits.
I’ve found how a stall’s doorway is arranged makes a difference. If a horse is used to a sliding door, a person would step to the doorway, slide the door open, the horse comes to the doorway and is contacted, then handled, as the person stands in the aisle — and the horse stands in the stall. The drawback to this set up is when you have a horse in a stall that requires the door to be opened by hinge, either in, or out. The horse needs to move back if the door (or gate) opens in, or stand and not run out if the door is opened out and needs to be fastened back on the side so it doesn’t swing and hurt his hips as he passes through the doorway. A horse that learns to walk right out of a stall when the person approaches the door has to relearn a habit.
A horse that is in a stall with an inside door and an outside door to a paddock also learns to run in and out at will; when the outside door is closed, they panic because they can’t get out of the stall or see outside. A horse with a stall that has open top doors, or bars on the sides and back that allows viewing of things will also be anxious when put in a stall with high walls. Some horses stop eating and stall walk if they can’t see other horses, after all, they are herd animals.
Some horses just can’t stand the inactivity of a stall, so they make their own….digging, stall walking in circles, weaving (standing in a doorway usually shifting weight from right to left front foot), cribbing or windsucking (grabbing a sill, counter, doorway with their front teeth and sucking in air), chewing the walls, knocking down buckets and feed tubs, banging on the gate especially at feed time.
Unfortunately box stalls are necessity today. We can’t always allow horses to stay outside year round. At horse shows, box stalls are the easiest option for stabling competition animals; just think of the amount of acres needed if 300 horses each needed a paddock to themselves! Teaching a young horse to stand quietly and be comfortable in a stall is a necessity, I think, because we are losing agricultural ground every day to development. We can’t always guarantee horses are going to have wonderful old-turf pastures to romp in. While that’s ideal, it’s not realistic. If we want to have horses and continue to enjoy them we have to teach our young horses how to stand in stalls and behave for their own good.
I wrote a blog post today for Horse Junkies United. I hope it wins a little contest. The prize is an Ipad. However, I was pretty happy with it when I finished it. It’s a “bare your soul” type of post and I really like it. I think it might be one of my best this year.
The heavy, heavy rain yesterday (and a one inch shower today) has really, really, REALLY got the ground soft. Good news – lots of “water” schooling available! Puddles everywhere. Bad news – supposed to be in the nineties next week, so that means mosquitos and bugs will be hatching like crazy.
There is a lot of work in the barn and house to do, so keeping posting short and sweet this week. Today I finished cobwebbing stalls, sprayed for spiders and bugs in all the swept stalls, starting sweeping the barn one stall forward at a time, cleaned out the floor of the tack room, put garbage away in the cans and lined a couple with bags, picked up all over the barn, cleaned some tack, (more needs to be done), sorted out some things I am taking up to the new consignment tack shop on Monday and cleaned them; and rode three horses and bathed them all, cleaned stalls, turned out for the night. And fed the cat.
Just a couple quickies from the Jill Henneberg cross country clinic on Sunday at Olde Hope.
1. Jill is FANTASTIC. She knows her stuff. She picks up stuff. She can teach. Do not hesitate to ride with her. Book her for a clinic today. There is no substitute for serious big time long term experience in eventing, jumping, and cross country riding …. she has it. Others may be more famous, have better press, etc., etc. but this instructor brings a wonderful background and to – the – point directness that helps and fixes it. We had at least one horse, possibly three, that had light bulb moments that should continue for future riding.
2. Falling off a big horse has its consequences. Don’t mess around in a water jump without water. Gravel hurts when it is driven into your knee, and both elbows. Better to fall in soft grass.
3. You have to fall off every horse eventually. You just hope it’s not the 17-hander. Sigh.
4. Lucky was PHENOMENAL on his first cross country school. I have my prelim horse.
5. Hamish is getting a lot stronger at getting to the base, and he is slowly but surely improving his ability to understand the aids and compress. Fitness however is an issue.
photos with my camera by Debbra our auditor
6. Bringing two horses is a lot of work in the heat, so glad I had friends Laurie Gandy to assist who was fabulous.
7. Be grateful. Thank everybody.
8. Need a new XC vest. I also need some ties on the trailer and Laurie has to go and help me EVERY time.
10. There is something peaceful and wonderful about Olde Hope even when the combine starts the wheatfield next to the parking field!!!
Dom Schramm, in his latest Evention video on training off track Thoroughbreds, says of jigging: “We’ve all been there — we all hate it!”
I’d like to give you my thoughts on jigging. Not to brag but I have been very successful with breaking this habit in most of my OTTB’s. Probably because I take forever to get them right (I ride one horse for years before I can get them really broke, unfortunately). But anyways, here’s a few details on breaking the jigging habit. First, jigging is a two beat gait, a mini trot, which is often slower than a walk — because the horse is anxious and being held back by its rider. They cover little ground, they lift the feet in the pattern of the trot (diagonal pairs) but the stride is short. Thus, a “jig” up and down, almost in place. It’s an anxious horse’s way to speed up a walk and get ready to go faster. Jigging for the horse is not very much work so they can do it for long distances and periods of time. Nervous horses do it when alone, or when in with a group of horses and they want to keep up with everyone else. There are other causes, but its the same annoying habit.
First of all, a young horse or untrained horse is the best candidate for breaking this habit. Older horses that have been doing it a while are difficult to change and you have to be used to it. Some people don’t care about jigging, and let their horses do it so much the horse doesn’t have a flatfooted walk any more. Jigging is annoying to me because it tires my seat and upper body and leads me to bad equitation habits, so I’m against letting a horse do it constantly.
The key to breaking the jigging habit is to train the horse to walk, trot and canter. I’m not being snotty here — what you want to do is the ALWAYS, NEVER training principle. Always encourage three good gaits with no mixtures of gaits or creative gaits in between. Never allow variations from three good gaits. In other words, correct every deviance; leave alone every correct gait. When the horse gives you a walk, anywhere, anytime, a good three beat walk, even if its just a few steps, praise.
Second to the Always, Never principle is to teach the horse to relax. This means paying attention pretty carefully to his state while on his back. Are his ears pricked or flicking back and forth? Is he paying attention to you or something else. Is he breathing slowly, or fast? Is his head high, or low? Encourage relaxation by speaking to him in a calm, direct, low voice, and pet him gently. See the big picture with your eyes, lift your chin, look around you and soften your diaphragm. Breathe – three deep breaths — and encourage your horse if he does the same. You can teach a horse to do darn near everything, so why not teach it to relax?
Your posture is important. Wendy Murdoch once, in a short seminar, showed how your seat bones affect the horse. In your hard chair right now tip forward with your shoulders. Your seat bones leave the chair. Now, sit straight up – your seat bones contact the chair. By tipping forward we release the horse’s back to go forward. But then we grab their mouths and say, “no. stop.” It’s clashing the aids that makes a horse anxious. Soften your back, point your belly button to the sky. Push your shoulders back. Soften and noodle your elbows and make your hands buttery. Lift your chin and push the back of your head towards your spine. If you sit UP and breathe, then soften your hips, a jigging horse will not at first respond, but eventually they will if you are consistent.
Along with your equitation, it’s important to THINK SLOW. Put the walk rhythm in your head. One, two, three, four. Slow everything down. Patiently correct your busy jigging horse with first one hand, then the other, avoid pulling on the mouth with both hands. Occasionally, gently halt, release one rein if you can, and pet. Speak to them. Walk forward, with a gentle aid, and encourage any walk steps with praise. It is important, as Clinton Anderson says, to “reward the try”. The way horses learn is by absence of punishment. Remove the incentive to jig — nerves, the tipped-forward rider, the restraining hands – and the walk becomes more natural and the jig less forced. Encourage forward but in rhythm.
While asking for the walk, move the haunches around, yielding left and right, or ask for flexion right, and left. Concentrate on your connection, the softest you can achieve. Put the flatfooted walk rhythm in your head and look for it. If you are soft and tall in the saddle you will also notice when the horse is attempting the walk because his back will soften a bit. If you are tipped forward it’s harder to feel this.
Pulling on the mouth to get the head down is counterproductive,
but it’s true that you stand a better chance of getting a good walk when the head is relaxed and the poll is nodding downward. Be careful it isn’t you pulling on the reins making the horse bow his neck and put his jaw back towards his chest to avoid the bit, but that he wants to stretch and relax. Give the rein, with just one hand, and see what you get to check if he’s ready to stretch and relax.
I hope this helps with the jiggers. Train three gaits; reward relaxation; soft seat, upright posture, think rhythm; don’t pull with both hands; ‘think slow’; reward the try; move haunches or ask for flexion to break the pattern; concentrate on connection. Good luck!